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Finally, “What the Hell?” Part II

15 Aug

It has taken me quite a bit of time to actually get to writing this Part II of “What the Hell?” because, well for one, in my free time I usually don’t want to be in(or on) the computer typing. And two, when I contemplate this Part II it has been while riding my bicycle with the wind in my hair and dark glasses on my face, heading somewhere close to the ocean (or in it); and then by the time I return home I’ve forgotten that I had mentally prepared this piece and the distractions of life interrupt me (concocting new recipes for gluten-free eating, frankenstein sewing my clothes since my menopause body is throwing me curve balls, and generally anything other than being on the computer). Even getting myself to land this morning to FINALLY FINISH this thought has been like herding cats (something that I’ve honestly never tried to do), or should I say more appropriately, like nailing down a hyperactive toddler to learn how to sound out vowels. So without further procrastination, let me get to the meat of this long dragged out WHAT THE HELL?!

A Book Review and anti-racial Introspective

Eight years ago I was under the impression that women got the right to vote through the 19th Amendment in this month of August in the year 1920. I have been hailing this fact, or slinging it rather, whenever the opportunity presented itself: “Don’t you know women got the right to vote in 1920???” emphasis on the year to drive my point. That said, I won’t be seen marching in Washington, DC, however I am actively engaged in conversations that challenge systems of oppression; equity/equality for women being one of them. So here I have been all these past 3 decades of my life (yes I’m omitting my childhood count) hailing the women’s right to vote as in-your-face fact for progress. You know like when teenage boys attempt to exclude their female peers from having a voice at the table, I tout “don’t you know women are part of the conversation now? Remember August 1920!” And I have used this weapon of knowledge proudly because I’m not great with retaining historical facts, but this one has stuck with me and it allowed me to feel empowered in furthering the effort for equality.

"My private thoughts, shared in a public journal"

Fast forward, skip and jump to this past COVID-19 year when due to lockdowns, events went online. One such event was a live music performance sponsored by the San Diego Jewish Community Center (SDJCC). As a virtual attendee I was alerted to a prize drawing so I inserted my name. The next week I was notified I was a winner and my prize was a bounty of newly released books each written by a Jewish author. My literary nerd prize lights went off with bells ringing and metaphorical confetti flying, my enthusiastic winner dance could have made one think, just by looking at me, that I had struck gold (or oil or major bitcoin advantage). I stopped by the SDJCC and was so surprised in that the richness of the literary works were beyond my expectation. I slowly devoured each one as often as I could, which as a migraine sufferer isn’t too often!

In my bounty is a cookbook titled, “All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food and the Battle for Women’s Right to Vote” by Laura Kumin. Now I have spent the last several years growing in my understanding of systemic racism, how to be an inclusive leader, and my own unconscious and conscious biases toward all kinds of things (that I am actively in process of disrupting). So here I was, sitting by the pool my husband so lovingly tends for my benefit with my new cookbook that celebrates women’s right to vote, no migraine upon me and the whole day ahead, and BAM right at the start and in my face I learn an unexpected truth. The leaders of the suffrage movement were racist. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women who I’ve looked to as sources of inspiration due to their fortitude and commitment toward the goal, were blatantly and overtly against extending the right to vote for people of color. They believed the right to vote should be for white women before black men, which in effect left the black woman out of the story completely. And my reaction to this reading (especially after investing additional hours of researching and fact checking, my spinoff from reading the cookbook) was, “What the Hell??!! How come I am just learning about this right now through this cookbook??!! Why the Hell wasn’t I taught this in school?? And, What the hell do I do now??

Left with these ponderings and the results of my inquisition into fact checking, I turned once again to the cookbook in hand thinking that perhaps Laura Kumin experienced the same type of internal conflict now facing me. Sure enough she had. She doesn’t just leave her reader at the “drop and go” point of knowledge, she offers up her own wrangle with the sordid history by answering questions such as: how do I reconcile the good and bad of these suffrage pioneers; how do I fit in as a white woman; a Jewish white woman; a woman interested in the work of social justice, inclusion and equity for all (equity, not just equality — the difference being access in our systems and structures such as the right to vote = equity). Outside of a classroom, outside of a workshop or seminar, and outside of my own expectations, Ms. Kumin grew me up just a bit more. She took my hand and said, “Ok Rivka since you look at life through the multiperspective lens, here you go now sit with this hard truth a moment. And now that you’ve done that, let’s go further and learn to value the good and be honest with the bad. And now Rivka, you are better equipped and more ready than you were to step in and step up for others, just as you are and within your own story.” And in the truth of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton we will find two tremendously strong, intelligent women who wanted progress for women’s equality, who even in their disregard of others, were working to move the needle forward (resource: Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum). So now when I talk about women getting the right to vote, my rhetoric includes the sordid history of the 45 year delay for women of color — could you please pause on that a moment? Forty-five (45) “frick’n” years until Black women in the United States of America gained the right to vote — That is appalling (resource: Library of Congress)! And believe it or not, has moved me closer to understanding my call as a “Jew for Jesus” and the example of inclusive love extended by Y’shua that astonished so many during his time teaching on earth.

With an overflowing emotional appreciation for Laura Kumin, and also a funny kind of ironic disbelief, I acknowledge that I’ve gained so much from this unexpected journey into what I thought was a simple cookbook. It’s like the perfect adage offered up in the children’s story, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” my process started by deciding to attend the COVID-19 lockdown virtual performance and I wound up here. AND, I still haven’t even made it to her All Stirred Up recipes yet…Oi Vay and mazel tov!!

Check these books out for additional insight:

  • Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Everyday White People Confront Racial & Social Injustice edited by Eddie Moore Jr., Marguerite W. Penick-Parks & Ali Michael

“…real philanthropy leads to systemic change, charity often amounts to Band-Aids that help people simply get by day to day without changing the structures that contribute to their oppression.”

Alan Rabinowitz from Everyday White People Confront Racial & Social Injustice

Hello Beauty

25 Sep

My title suggests I’m writing about something good. Well, I’m sorry to report this story is wrought with humanity, and more specifically, my humanity.

First let me begin with the scripture that challenges all justice, human justice and my own justifications:

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 New International Version (NIV)

So for a few weeks now I have really been struggling with a particular person. It doesn’t really matter the who of this equation, though I will shed light that this person has caused me a great deal of pain in one way or another for several years now. But most recently the irritation scale has hit new limits as I have been made the object of their angst. As such, I’ve had to endure harsh words, harsh tones, and a few accusations in between–not fun, I can assure you. And though I found myself wrestling with this circumstance for quite a bit, I have since been able to release it…or so I thought. The other day I saw this person approaching my direction and in the most sarcastic tone I could muster (insert your own audible sarcasm to get full effect), I uttered under my breath, “hello beauty.” Now for just one second I felt empowered over their perspective of me, but only for one second. In that second I had the fantasy of being superior and felt my quick-wit well played. But then my heart (or spirit) caught hold my humanity and the next second I felt small. Small minded and small hearted. In that moment of “next” I was offered a turn, a merciful turn and a loving turn. Essentially I was offered the chance to see beauty, real beauty like from G-d the Father of all. The spirit voice inside me asked if I was interested in remaining “small” or if I’d like to partake in the solution of good. I took the latter and this is what came forth:

Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to the beautiful morning.
Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to a new opportunity.
Hello beauty, I feel you
Hello to the fresh air.
Hello beauty, I see you
Hello to the sun and living things.
Hello beauty, thank you
Hello to love around me.

It is really a small and quick moment, the mental/spiritual exchange I had, but it was powerful. It moved me closer to love and further away from the ugly side of my humanity. Hello beauty, welcome–welcome back to me, my heart and where I want to live.

Today hanging on the wall in the office of my colleague I read the following quote by Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Only Love Today. I think it the perfect compliment to my own desire.

Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response…my gut instinct…my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.


Thanks for taking the time to read and partake. #onlylovetoday

Undulations Ahead

17 May

Yesterday I worked late. Yesterday I was joyful with the people I encountered, who encountered me. Yesterday I thought I would be OK today. Yesterday I was wrong. I awoke this morning, May 17, 2017 and was instantly hit with the flashbacks to this day four years prior. The day I lost my son. Being hit with flashbacks is not a new occurrence; they come often. The difference in today is that the mere fact of the date takes me down. If I use a fighter’s analogy, I am quick on my feet and able to dodge the hits, normally. And then today’s date comes around and I am laid flat–it is the one swift blow. Back to the drawing board of training, but first I must make it out of my bed.

Today I struggled to eat. The struggle is result of knowledge battling feeling. I know my body needs nourishment. I know if I don’t eat a migraine will be triggered. I know these things. And yet I feel only sorrow and somehow it tricks my body into believing it’s nourished. I feel the headache and yet the flowing tears beg more attention than the aching in the cranial region. I avowed all day long to get my self out of bed and take a shower, brush my teeth, get something done. In bed I remain, even as I type.

Flashbacks don’t always give fair warning; they sometimes hit out of nowhere and command the fierce attention of reverting back to the scene of the pain. So many moments to revert to. Too painful to even write them down, even just the slightest. It is the dodge of the hit that compels me forward. I cannot handle the pain (quasi nod to Carly Simon here), I cannot live in its presence. This just might be me; others might have a different method or capability. But mine is the inability to dwell in the place of remembrances—can’t do it and live. Hence my stay in bed today, my swollen eyes and my bad breath (courtesy the omission of tooth brushing in bed). *my apologies to those who sat with me in my bedchamber today, the odoriferous scene was not a pleasant one.

At least this date gives a fair warning of its coming, much like the signs I read as a kid in my Aunt’s Sacramento neighborhood, “Warning, Undulations Ahead” – the word undulation has since intrigued me, what a beautiful word. Did you ever consider the letter “u” could be so fancy? I just love it! That there, folks, is my best attempt at getting up. Dodge the hit and counter attack with a distracting nonsensical statement. You see the sun is setting and I am looking into the eyes of tomorrow, when I will again get up and resume the fight. So though at present it seems the referee will make the count to “three” alongside my repose, I am actually still in the game and so I must shakily forge ahead—undulations and all.

I hate today. I hate this story that is mine. But tomorrow I will love, and joy again I will find.

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:12-13

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