Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Blogger in the Disability Community is About to Leave us

I have devastating news. A member of the online disability community is very close to passing to the other side. BrainHell is a blogger who has been living with and blogging about ALS for several years and now his life is coming to an end.

Please, if you are a friend of mine, a member of our disability community online, or just someone with a good heart:

Go and wish my friend good luck and sweet dreams. Let his wife and kids see how much of an impact he's had on the lives of others.

BrainHell: What if they discovered a disease and nobody wanted it?

Fun With Doctor Sweetheart

I went to see my general practitioner (regular doctor) today. The nurse thought that I was there because I had a cold but, when my doctor came in, she asked me about weight loss right away.

Maybe I'm in denial but I didn't think it was that noticeable. I mean, I had on a sweat suit that The German had purchased for me from out of the boy's department at the mall (He knows how much I hate tight clothes, especially when I'm not feeling well). I thought that I was going to have to tell her about my continued weight problems but she could tell I'd lost more weight even with the baggy clothes I had on. Do I look that bad? I've seriously been thinking about posting pictures of my naked body on my blog just to get some feedback. Of course, The German thinks I should hold off on that idea.

At the appointment today, the doctor prescribed a Medrol Dose Pack (methylprednisolone) because it helped once before when I was having GI-tract issues. I have to be careful about how much I take because I've had some very bad reactions to higher doses of prednisone in the past, including one psychotic break that resulted in my being hospitalized for several weeks in the psychiatric wing of Charity Hospital. The doctor also prescribed a drug called Robinul to help with the chronic diarrhea I've been having. The pharmacy didn't have any in stock so I have to go back on tomorrow to pick it up.

She also set me up with an appointment to see the gastroenterologist again. This time she wants me to have a colonoscopy. She also gave me a stool sample kit to bring back to her on tomorrow. Isn't that fun? Ah, actually, I don't mind so much. I'm used to all sorts of pokes and prods and scans and tests. I just hate feeling as if other people probably find my life totally disgusting.

I'm really glad that I have a female GP. I think it would be a lot harder to talk about this stuff with a male doctor. My oncologists have all been men and the one that I have right now is so empathetic that having him is like having a female doc, so I can't complain. It's just, I wish more people had access to the sort of doctors that I have.

This cold is still kicking my ass, so I'm going back to bed now. Maybe I'll be back tonight or tomorrow. I'm enjoying the comments on my other post about disability unity and I really want to respond to them this evening.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Geek Girl Part VIII: Building a Bristlebot

I just so happen to have all of the supplies needed to make one of these. Maybe VanGoghGirl and I can give it a try next weekend.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Housing Prices and the Effects of Post-Katrina Conditions

Natalie over at Almost Interesting Musings on Life has a post up about re-signing her lease and the plans she and her partner have to save up for the purchase of a home. The German and I have been living in our apartment for five years and in another year or so, we should have enough money to afford to buy a house.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, housing prices shot up to unbelievable levels. With so many homes destroyed, people from the metropolitan New Orleans area scrambled to find homes to rent or buy. Apartment complexes and new houses sprung up in the surrounding cities to meet the demand, at a premium, of course. Some people had no other options besides paying these prices because their homes were destroyed or in disrepair due to flooding and/or wind damage.

Thanks to a combination of situations, the prices of new and previously-owned houses have now dropped a bit, especially in the areas around New Orleans (Laplace and Baton Rouge, in particular). Many post-Katrina homeowners affected by the storm have been cheated or stalled by their insurance companies, so they've been forced to switch to being renters because adjustors made bogus claims about what caused the damage to homes in order to avoid paying out. Some homeowners have rebuilt or repaired their homes in New Orleans and are now seeking to sell the houses they bought shortly after the storm. A lot of pre-Katrina New Orleanians have decided not to move back to the city and they're trying to sell their old homes so that they can start over in a new place.

When we buy, it probably won't be anything huge, but here in southeastern Louisiana you can buy a previously-owned three-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood for around $175,000+. I know it doesn't sound very nice but, by waiting a little while longer, we can take advantage of the housing market crisis and buy something larger than we would have been able to do for the same amount of money a few years ago. It's an example of how some people can profit from the imposed poverty of others. It makes me sad to think about how the cost of the house that we will buy is directly related to the way that the government has allowed corporations to renege on the services that lower-income and working-class people paid for in the form of homeowner's and flood insurance.

Disability Unity and Acknowledging Systems of Oppression

Well, it's official. I have a cold. I'm pretty sure that I picked it up while at the cancer support group event on Sunday. It isn't exactly a surprise.

Immune-compromised body+large crowd=high probability of catching airborne viruses

Oh well! To tell you the truth, I'm still glad that I went. Even though it can be really difficult to get myself together and go out some place, I think that attending events like Sunday are important part of maintaining my mental health. It's a time when I can let my hair down and not have to worry about pretending to feel great when I don't. The members really do care about each other in ways that I don't usually see outside of that setting.

There are women wearing diamonds on their hands and ears, kids missing limbs, Nascar dads, emo-kids, and teens in hip hop gear, Asians, Latinos, Blacks, and Whites, Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Buddhists, and atheists. Despite all of the differences between individuals, I have NEVER witnessed an argument take place--seriously, not even one. I'm sure that political affiliations vary within the group but it's never stood in the way of us getting together and supporting each other.

I know that none of these people exist outside of the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ablist systems of the world. However, there seems to be a greater awareness of how problematic these hierarchies are for everyone. On Sunday, one of the (white) mothers was talking with me about where we were considering sending our same-age daughters for high school and she brought up the fact that racism is a problem at the school where she had sent her older son a few years ago. I mean, how often does a white person in this country initiate conversations about race or racism outside of the context of claiming a person of color is "playing the race card" or engaging in "reverse racism"? It's certainly pretty rare for me to hear around here.

Right now I'm sitting here wondering about how disability unity affects the blogosphere. For instance, I can't remember ever feeling hesitant about bringing up something pertaining to race on the blog of someone who identifies as a person with disabilities. I can go to Crip-Power or The Gimp Parade and talk about being black, multi-ethnic, or middle class without having to worry about whether I'll be told that my issues are irrelevant or of less importance than what someone else is experiencing. Why is that? I mean, Blue is white and Miss Crip Chick is Korean but they seem perfectly comfortable with conversations about race even when it isn't involving to their own.

I've also never seen a blogger who identifies him/herself as a person with disabilities write blatantly transphobic, fatphobic, or homophobic posts. I've certainly met my fair share of non-disabled people who are marginalized in some way but still proudly cling to bigoted, hierarchical views (e.g. classist Blacks, racist lesbians/gays, and sexist heavy-set people). However, people with disabilities seem to be less likely to use their status as a member of a marginalized group as an excuse for engaging in the marginalization of others. What is it about disability that makes people with disabilities more accepting and more willing to acknowledge the significance of other forms of oppression?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Family Help With My Weight

My oldest brother has come down to stay with us in order to help me with my weight problems. He's been cooking up a storm ever since. In the past week we've had

red beans 'n' rice

baked chicken
seasoned rice
spring peas

spaghetti 'n' meatballs
toasted garlic bread
cooked spinach


homemade roast beef sandwiches with gravy

grilled cheese sandwiches
homemade beef stew with carrots and onions

Biblical References to Bones

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, one of my old college friends who is very religious heard about it and wanted to help me find some spiritual comfort. She sent me a letter with several different verses from the Bible that referenced bones. Before that, I never realized just how many times they were mentioned throughout the book. It was really comforting to read them and I don't think I could ever explain to her how much her letter meant to me. Maybe they'll bring comfort to someone who reads this blog, too.

I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way
I am wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
As my soul is very well aware.
My bones were not hidden from you
When I was made in secret,
When I was woven in the lowest parts of the earth.
Psalms 139:14, 15

Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese,
clothe me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews?
You gave me life and showed me kindness,
and in your providence watched over my spirit.
Job 10:10-12

Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.
And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
In his great power God becomes like clothing to me
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
Job 30:15-18

a man may be chastened on a bed of pain
with constant distress in his bones,
so that his very being finds food repulsive
and his soul loathes the choicest meal.
His flesh wastes away to nothing,
and his bones, once hidden, now stick out.
His soul draws near to the pit,
and his life to the messengers of death.
Yet if there is an angel on his side
as a mediator, one out of a thousand,
to tell a man what is right for him,
to be gracious to him and say,
'Spare him from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom for him'-
then his flesh is renewed like a child's;
it is restored as in the days of his youth.
Job 33:19-25

Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long?
Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
Psalm 6:2-9

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.
But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
Psalm 22:14-24

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Psalm 31:9,10

My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"
hy are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:10,11

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
Psalm 102:1-3

The LORD is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones.
Proverbs 15:29,30

A wise man's heart guides his mouth,
and his lips promote instruction.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:23,24

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Club Cancer

Today The German, VanGoghGirl, and I went to the monthly cancer support group activity. This month it was held at the local skating rink. I met a new girl while I was there. She's a couple of years younger than me and she has pancreatic cancer. I first saw her while she used her walker to get to one of the rooms that the support group was using.

I was surprised to see her because most of the people in the group who have cancer are either kids below fifteen or adults over forty. There are only a few people close to my age who aren't just there with a relative with cancer. I was really excited to see her because she's also a woman of color.

Since she isn't very ambulatory right now, I went over to where she was sitting with her kids while everyone else was either chatting in another room, skating or standing around somewhere else. The new girl was recently diagnosed and had back surgery a couple of months ago. She has also lost her hair, thanks to the chemotherapy she's taking. Fortunately, she still has her eyebrows. She's really pretty, too. Her makeup was really nice. A lot of the women I've seen tended to pay a great deal of attention to their makeup when they lost their hair.

Seeing her there brought back a lot of memories.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Power to the Palestinian People!!

I don't know when BrownFemiPower became a better source for news than CNN but it certainly is the case now! I've been a bit lethargic and unable to get up the energy to come and post on my blog very much but when I visited La Chola today and saw her post, I dern near jumped for joy!

A few days ago, the Israeli government cut off all aid to Gaza. They even stopped the United Nations from providing the food, medical supplies, and other humanitarian needs that 1.2 million Gazans (86% of the area's total population) rely on to survive. In fact, the border crossings on their side are still closed and guarded by armed members of the ultra-violent Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

This isn't just a case of one nation protecting itself. This is part of a concerted effort to starve the Palestinians into non-existence. Over the years, Israel has bombed so much of their infrastructure that Palestinians are forced to go into next-door Israel just to get the normal services that a city would provide for its people. Homes have been destroyed. Orchards have been uprooted or confiscated by Jewish "settlers". Water sources that supplied Palestinian homes and businesses have been redirected to serve Israeli communities. Fuel needed to keep Palestinian power plants has been severely restricted.

If you're an unemployed Gazan and you want steady employment, you will likely have to go and work in Israel. If you need chemotherapy, surgery requiring anesthesia, or antibiotics, you will have to rely on whatever Israel decides to let into the country or hope to God that they will give you a permit to seek treatment in Israel. Often times they refuse, even when the person needs emergency treatment to save their life. If you need to buy food for your family, then you will be dependent on whatever goods the stores are able to get Israel to let them bring into the city.

A few days ago, Israel decided to completely close its border crossing, thus creating its very own version of the Warsaw ghetto, with the hopes of literally starving the Palestinians into submission. This created a desperate situation for the population and Gazans began to implore the media to bring attention to what was going on.

As usual, the television stations in the USA have said next to nothing about this crisis. Thankfully, because we live in the Youtube generation, this hasn't prevented the news from spreading out across the internet. Today it seems the ever-resourceful Palestinians have found a way to circumvent Israel's plans by crossing into Egypt and getting the supplies they need. I don't think I can stress how amazing this is. You simply have to see it for yourself. Thanks to AljazeeraEnglish, there's video coverage. According to the Middle Eastern Times

"Arab commentators say that Egypt's coordinated border searches with Hamas implies a tacit official recognition of the movement as the legitimate authority in Gaza. This could now lead to a new border agreement that would include a role for the Islamic group, as well as a renewal of Egypt's request to deploy more Egyptian troops on the border, something that Israel and Washington have rejected."

Viva la Palestina!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Ugly Truth About Hillary Clinton

This whole election has brought out some of the ugliest truths that I've ever seen exposed in politics during my lifetime. Clinton has no problem making use of the stereotypes that have historically benefited whites; the poor white woman being attacked by the big, black brute routine is more than tiresome. It's downright offensive.

In response to a question about how New Hampshire voters who liked her résumé but were hesitant about voting for her due to the likability factor she said, "Well that hurts my feelings" and batted her eyes for the camera. She can cry on camera and show her emotions--please excuse me if I'm skeptical about how spontaneous that little episode was or wasn't-- but then we see her surrogates turn around and complain about how she's not taken as seriously because she's a woman.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weight Gain Blues

I just got on the scale. It read 109 lbs. I'm only a few pounds heavier than my preteen daughter. If this doesn't change soon, then I could be dead before the summer time.

Hot Cancer Survivor's 2008 Calendar

I am so excited! Today, I was visiting the Planet Cancer website and I found this:

Hot Cancer Survivor's 2008 Calendar

This is so awesome to me! All of the women are survivors of different kinds of cancer and they all appear with their scars showing sans airbrushing. The best part about it is the fact that one of them is a Chondrosarcoma survivor! Check her out below!

“I would never have dreamed, in a million years, that I would be a bikini swimsuit model for a calendar the year I turn age 50, especially given that I haven’t been able to bend my left knee for almost 20 years – and what exercise I can do involves intense pain as well considerable physiological challenge.”

Chondrosarcoma is a resilient disease, but fortunately Cindy is a resilient woman who’s come back to beat it three times: once at age 15, again as a high school senior, and for a final time at age 30. Each time she went into an operating theater to treat the malignant bone tumor in her knee not knowing if she’d still have a left leg below mid-thigh when she woke up. On her final trip into surgery, doctors completely removed her knee and fused the remaining bone in order to allow her to keep her leg. For the past 20 years she’s been unable to bend it at all.

Now, 20 years later, she’s a wife – and a stepmom to two teenage boys – as well as a successful businesswoman. She’s also active in support of a number of causes – including rights for the disabled and improved child protection laws – as well as being involved heavily in mission work with her church.

“My motto is, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ I believe all of us have the capacity, with God’s help, to overcome our challenges, however great they may be.”


*Next year the same woman will be producing a "Beefcake 2009" calendar featuring male cancer survivors*

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An Everlasting Love

This is the sweetest case of graveyard love that I've heard about in a long time. It just goes to show that love never dies, even though creatures do.

Via Alas, A Blog

A pet dog missed the family’s dead cat so much that he dug up his grave and brought the body back into the house.

When Oscar’s owners woke up the next morning they discovered the dog curled up beside Arthur, the late cat, in his basket.

His owners, Robert Bell, 73, and his wife, Mavis, of Wigan, Greater Manchester, believe that the dog had licked the cat clean before falling asleep.

Mr Bell said that the two pets were constant companions. Arthur, who was a large cat, used to help Oscar to climb on to the sofa.

Oscar, an 18-month-old Lancashire Heeler, had watched Mr Bell dig a grave in the garden and then lower the cat into the hole.Mr Bell said: “He had managed to climb out through the cat flap in the night, obviously with the intent to get Arthur back. Bearing in mind that Arthur was a huge cat, Oscar must have used all the strength he could muster.

“Then he pulled him into the basket and went to sleep next to him. Arthur’s coat was gleaming white. Oscar had obviously licked him clean. It must have taken him nearly all night.”

Arthur is now reburied in a secure grave. And Oscar has a new playmate, a kitten called Limpet.

Courtesy of The Times Online

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy All-Year 'Round Celebration!!

I'm kinda forgetful when it comes to the holidays so I try to remember to post this at the beginning of every year. ;)

You THINK it's a Game

I don't make a big deal out of it here but I think folks still don't understand just how seriously people take LSU football out here. If you thought what they did to the kitty was bad, then check this out:

Free Image Hosting at

Shedding my Class Privilege Denial

Over at the Education and Class blog, Jane Van Galen has a lot to say about the Social Class Awareness exercise (created by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka) that has been making the rounds on the blogosphere since last November. She laments the lack of diversity among those who have written about it and points out how some people seem to have completely misunderstood the purpose of this project and chose to use it as a means of denying their privileged backgrounds. She also wonders why this particular exercise has suddenly become such a hot topic for so many people.

Even though we can never be sure, I think that one of the reasons why this exercise went viral is because it was created for college students and many bloggers are within this age group (or slightly above it). It seems to have brought out some really intense emotions that cut to the core of what people in this country truly value and see as worthy of being rewarded.

I suspect that the nearly universal denial that she witnessed may have something to do with how we (Americans) are taught to envision ourselves. We're supposed to be a nation of hard-working, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps pioneers. We are constantly fed the idea that the "American Dream" is attainable for us all if we just work hard enough.

Somewhere along the line, I think people started assuming that those who do seem to have achieved the "American Dream" must have gotten there because they worked hard, which isn't necessarily the case. I think it's easy for those (of us?) who are enjoying the American Dream to imagine that we somehow earned what we have because acknowledging the alternative--that what we have isn't necessarily the fruit of our own labor--might threaten our ability to enjoy the privileges that we've come to see as necessities.

This exercise is a real eye-opener for me. Yes, I'm black and I have multiple disabilities (cancer, lupus, asthma). My mother and father divorced, so my siblings and I were all latch-key kids and the children of a single-parent family for many years. I had a child out of wedlock just out of high school. Like my mother, I was also a single parent for many years. However, these facts don't even begin to tell the complete story about my privilege.

My maternal grandfather had a college degree. How many black people in his age group were able to attend and graduate from an university? He came from a family that was fairly affluent, especially for black people. That probably helped a lot. Of course, that isn't the whole story either. From all that I know, my grandfather always considered himself black, end of story. However, most people today would probably consider him white. In fact, even back then, his claims were considered rather tenuous.

At one point, the military dishonorably discharged him because he wouldn't follow orders and say that he was white and not black. The reason why his race became an issue for the military is because he was promoted several times and, eventually, he had attained a higher rank than some of the white soldiers that he worked alongside. However, no one was really noticed the fact that his records had him listed as "black", so he got rank promotions that he never would have received if he had been known as a black soldier. The military decided that they simply couldn't have a black soldier ordering white soldiers around, so they tried to force him to claim the records that stated he was black were all a big mistake, an error. That would be easier to deal with than it would be to try and explain how this had all occurred in the first place. When he wouldn't go along with it, he was dishonorably discharged.

He had to fight for many years in order to get that dishonorable discharge changed to an honorable discharge and this took a huge, permanent, emotional toll on him. However, his life still involves a great deal of class privilege.

My grandfather could pass as white. He had the education and looks that made it possible for him to achieve things that other blacks couldn't (or couldn't do as easily as he was able to). As a result, he was able to pass on some of the benefits of those advantages to his own children. My mother and her siblings had a college-educated father at home throughout their school years.

On my paternal side of the family, my father's parent's owned their own home and their own business. My father was raised in a household where there was plenty of food and a focus on getting an education. My paternal grandfather never got the opportunity to even finish middle school because he had to go to work to help his parents support the family, but he managed to go on to become a successful businessman despite those humble beginnings. I never saw the fact that my grandfather owned his own business as a big deal because that business was towing and salvage and, in my mind, that meant "hauling trash".

My grandmother is the shrewdest woman I've ever met. Ever since I was young, she's talked to me about what it takes to survive in this world as a woman. There isn't a single thing in the world that my grandmother doesn't consider practically. When it came to how to deal with school, with men, with my disabilities, with my out-of-wedlock child, everything she told me was grounded in the unflinching reality of the situation.

My grandparents fed everyone. My grandmother was always inviting people over for dinner and then telling them that she had bought a bunch of this or that food and now she had too much to keep in her pantry. She would say that she didn't want to be wasteful and wondered if they might mind taking it home. She would do it with us, too. It was just the way she was. Even now, you can't go to her house and not leave with groceries. I think it comes from experiencing so many years of want as a child. She was one of the oldest of her siblings and after their mother died, she stepped in and filled the void. She has a lot of health problems now and I suspect that a lot of it has to do with all of the strain and deprivation she experienced when she was younger.

Eventually, my grandparents got out of the towing business and started buying property. Right now they own houses all around New Orleans and they even own an apartment complex. That sounds so privileged that I want so-oo-oo badly to "explain" that it's just a single building with four units and it's in a rough part of town and they don't rent for much so it's not like they are making a lot of money off of them. But you know what? I'm sure that just sounds like a whole lot of denial of privilege. I mean, who am I kidding? My grandparents only have two kids: my dad and his brother. My uncle doesn't have any kids or a wife, so there's a very good chance that me and my siblings are going to end up benefiting from this stuff at some point.

And even though I can say that I never receive any money from my grandparents and I'd never ask them for any, that's a sign of privilege too, isn't it? I mean, if I were poor enough, then I'm sure I'd change my mind about that "I'd never ask" stuff. Furthermore, simply having them to fall back on means I'm privileged.

Even if I were no longer able to afford the apartment that I live in, with grandparents who own property, do you think there's any chance I'd ever be homeless? Judging from some of the antics that have gone on with some of my relatives, I am very certain that there is almost nothing that I could do that would result in my family allowing me to live on the streets or "couch-hopping" (I don't know what term other people call it when you are basically making the rounds, sleeping at each of your friend's houses a few nights at a time and then rotating to another friend's place).

If I was wanted for murder, they might let me stay some place for a few days while they helped me find a lawyer, but their religious and ethical beliefs wouldn't allow them to house me on a permanent basis if I was a fugitive from the law. Of course, if I did get in trouble with the law, I'd still be able to benefit from my class privilege because, on my dad's side, we have family and family friends that could possibly help to mitigate the situation in some way or another.

Once when I was a freshman in high school, I got the bright idea that I would steal some cute novelty ink pens from a store in the mall. The store owner caught me and called the mall security. Security called my mother and let her come and pick me up without calling the police. They just told me to stay out of the mall until I was eighteen and left it at that.

What if I had a parent that couldn't or wouldn't come down and assure the security that I'd be dealt with harshly at home? What if I wasn't a nicely dressed girl that obviously could have afforded to pay for what I was stealing? The point is, I didn't have to find out. I know lots of kids who were sent to Juvenile Hall for shoplifting stuff that they actually needed. There's no reason why they didn't deserve a break like the one I received.

Lastly, it would be remiss of me to leave out the fact that I am a citizen of the U.S.A. by birth. I was born here and that gives me a huge advantage over those who, no matter how hard they work and how smart they are, are not recognized as deserving of the same treatment that I have a legal "right" to. I can wake up every morning without having to deal with the very real threat of being shipped off to another country against my will.

I know it's just a start but I wanted to create this post as a way of acknowledging my class privilege and recognizing how it has helped me get to where I am today. I welcome any thoughts about what I've said, even and especially those that are critical of what I've written.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More Class Privilege Markers

The Paper Chase has added some new markers to the Social Class Privilege exercise that I tried out back in November. The guidelines are the same. Mark in bold those statements that describe your experiences from childhood to the years traditionally associated with college attendance.

If your body does not bear long-term signs of malnutrition. (For example, my teeth are marked up from poor nutrition when they were forming.)

If you had orthodontia.

If you saw a doctor for anything other than emergencies or school-mandated shots.

If you heated your home with clean-burning fuels or had properly vented heating.

If you grew up in a house without vermin.

If you had running water.

If you had a basement or foundation under your house.

If you had an indoor toilet.

If your parents and immediate family were outside the criminal justice system.

If you yourself remained outside the criminal justice system.

If your parents had a new car.

If you never went barefoot so that you could 'save your shoes for school.'

If your parents never argued in front of you about having enough money for food to last out the month.

If you ate hunted and fished meat because it was a recreational activity rather than as the major way to stock a freezer.

If your laundry was done at home in a washer rather than in a lavandaria. (Laundromat)

If your hair was cut by a professional barber or hair stylist instead of your parent.

What does it mean that I feel a bit upset by the idea that I am the recipient of a lot of class privilege; I scored 13 out of the 16 new markers that Chaser added. I mean, I'm black, disabled, and from the south. How the hell did I get to have more class privilege than someone who is white, non-disabled, and from some place that I associate with being rich (The Hamptons, Beverly Hills, Manhattan)?

In the past, I've mentioned my sister-in-law and her family but I'm not sure how much I've really said about her. She was born and raised in the swamps of Des Allemands, Louisiana. The first time we (me, VanGoghGirl, my parents, and The German) went to visit her family was when we found out that she and my brother were expecting a baby. We wanted to go and meet her and reassure her family that my brother would act responsibly towards her and this child.

We met at my mother's house and decided that we'd all ride down to Des Allemands in one car, since my mom and dad's SUV was big enough for all of us. No one, except for my dad, had ever even been to Des Allemands before. As we rode, my mom was on her cell-phone with my future sister-in-law getting directions to the house. I remember seeing my mom's eyes growing wider and wider as we got further and further into what southerners call "the country" (i.e. any rural area). We laughed nervously about how this was no place for a car full of black people to be riding so it was a good thing we had The German with us to talk to the police in case we got pulled over.

When we got to her neighborhood, the streets were no longer paved. It's all just loose gravel. We were in shock. I mean, I don't know what we expected but this certainly wasn't it. My sis-in-law was outside waiting for us and her mother welcomed us inside.

They were really great people. My brother's girlfriend had already explained to my mom that her parents really hated black people and were none to thrilled about the idea of their daughter giving birth to a black child. We weren't really surprised about that. I think the average white person down here feels the same way. That's why my mother really wanted to meet them.

She wanted them to see that my brother comes from a decent family, with values and expectations. I'm not saying those aren't problematic views but it's how she saw things. Anyway, the result of this was that my mother made sure she was dressed in nice clothes, had her make-up on, and was wearing tasteful jewelry. The rest of us were dressed nicely too. I did my best to make sure that VanGoghGirl was looking really cute so that they could see that we take care of the children in our family.

So, there we were, all dressed up and sitting inside of this family's house. It's not like they didn't have paved floors or decent furniture. It was a nice two-bedroom home with a carport and a backyard. It was clean and comfortable. It's just that it was, in many ways, very different from where my family tended to socialize. It was a small home and it only had one bathroom. The nearest Wal-Mart was in the next parish over. The nearest hospital was in the next parish. If she continued to stay with her parents, my sis-in-law would have to drive a very long way to the hospital for her obstetrical visits.

I was really glad that my step-dad was with us. He hunts and fishes and there wasn't much conversation until he started talking about gaming with her step-dad. That's when things got a lot better. It seemed like they warmed up to us some then. It really broke the ice because it was the one thing that our families had in common. My dad can speak with authority when it comes to Louisiana wildlife and so could her mom and dad. By the time we left, they had invited us to return and made us promise that when it came to be time for the yearly catfish festival, we'd be sure to go.

You know, I'm embarrassed to admit the fact that I noticed a lot of this stuff. To be honest, I'm not even owning up to it all here. For instance, I happened to notice the fact that my mother had even lighter skin than her mother's. At the time, I kept thinking to myself, "She has the nerve not to like black people and she looks blacker than my mother does!"

Oh yeah, while I'm telling a little bit more of the truth, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that they were white. It's not that my family doesn't know any white people. It's just that we don't really have any close family friends who aren't people of color. In New Orleans, things are kind of odd. There's the white middle class and the black middle class. There's the white upper class and the black upper class. And then there's the really economically-disadvantaged people; I can't bring myself to call anyone "lower class"--it just sounds too elitist. At the bottom, the races inter-mingle quite a bit. As you get further up the ladder, the separation becomes more pronounced.

In racist America, I don't think anyone would be surprised to find out that rich white people don't really want their kids marrying black people. However, I think it may surprise some white people to find out that the more economically-advantaged black people are, the more they don't want their kids marrying white people. I'm just speaking about my own observations. This isn't based on any studies or anything.

Anyone who knows my family well might find what I'm saying to be really ironic. After all, it would be rather difficult for me to be a direct descendant of this guy if my family was just black. But down here, it's not that simple. Even though a lot of people of color have quite a few white ancestors, most will identify themselves as just black or perhaps, Creole. I mean, there are so many folks I know that look no different from any white person walking down the street but they would curse you out from A to Z if you called them "white".

My relationship with The German is complicated. Because my family first got to know him as my friend, I think it was easier for them to accept him as my romantic interest once we started dating. Still, my mother had more than one talk with me about whether I could deal with the sort of racial/ethnic issues that might crop up during my relationship with him.

Maybe the fact that The German and I came from similar economic backgrounds made a difference.He was college-educated and so was his mother. His mother owned her home. They all drove nice cars and had jobs that didn't require them to ever work outside or break a sweat. None of his siblings had any children outside of wedlock nor were any of them inside the criminal justice system. Would they have accepted him as a part of our family if he had been raised in a family that was more economically-disadvantaged?

Even after trying out Chaser's addendum, to the Class Privilege exercise, I don't have any more answers about this stuff. I really don't know where to go from here when it comes to understanding my own class privilege and what should I do about the fact that I may have had more advantages than I feel like I had.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Smart Financial Advice for Savvy Women (and Men)

Black Girls Rule has a great post about finances that I think all smart women should read. She makes several smart suggestions that would make for great New Year's resolutions.

My partner and I are renters and, like others in our age group and income bracket, we would love to own our own home...eventually. Fortunately, we saw the writing on the wall with regards to the subprime loans debacle. Boy are we glad that we waited! We've committed to waiting at least another year or two before buying so that we can put down a significant deposit and notes that will allow us to continue saving regularly.

I don't have any Prada or Coach or Jimmy Choo in my closet. It's all shopping mall prêt-à-porter for me. I've even been known to wear clothes from *gasp* Target or Wal-Mart. However, our lifestyle allows us to keep our commitment not to amass any credit card debt. In fact, the only debt we have is the remainders of our student loans. To me, it's definitely worth it. I don't have to spend my time worrying about whether our world may come crashing down around us.

The health insurance suggestion she made is one that everyone should listen to. I was in my early twenties, I was diagnosed with bone cancer. A lot of people who are that age don't bother getting coverage even when they can afford it. It's a hell of a risk to take. In fact, I don't think it would be too over the top for me to say that it's right up there with Russian roulette when it comes to risky behavior.

If I didn't have health care coverage, we'd be homeless right now. My yearly treatment costs are more than some people's retirement funds. Over the years, I've seen plenty of people who have lost their home, their cars, and even their relationships as a result of the financial strain caused by medical treatment costs. Please believe me. You do not want to be them.

People should also consider the fact that once you develop a serious health problem, it may be virtually impossible to get health insurance. Many health care plans don't cover preexisting conditions for the first year of coverage, so you'd be stuck paying out of pocket for your condition during that time. During that period, you'd still have to pay for the insurance plan just so that, in a year, they may start paying for a percentage of your treatment costs.

However, that's not all! Because you already have a serious health condition, the price of your plan will be higher because covering you would be considered a greater risk than if they were covering someone who has no history of serious problems. You may find out that the cost is more than you can afford at that point when it was something that you could have easily paid for, if you had joined before you became ill.

Hey FuckEyes, It's Just 72 Hours from Ass-Kickin' Day!

Via Mr. Sauerkraut's Sour Blog:

Punkin the Tiger Kitty (LSU Tailgating)

Just for the record, I don't agree with what they did to the cat but ya' gotta admit that it was hella creative!

It's a Girl-Girl Love Affair

Picture 578
Originally uploaded by bint alshamsa

I've been meaning to post this set of photos to my flickr account for months. I can't believe I was actually able to photograph this. Most of the time they act like arch-enemies and when I do catch them grooming each other or cuddling, they scamper off once they see me. This time, they decided to let their love shine for all to see. What a tumultuous relationship they share! But who am I to judge true love?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mom's Make Everything Better

I talked to my mom last night. She may be coming to visit this month so I had to tell her about all of the weight that I've lost since she last saw me a few months ago. She was pretty alarmed and sounded very upset for a minute but I could see she didn't want to show it. Her advice was to steer clear of the drama going on in my sibling's lives--both good and bad. She thinks I worry about my brothers too much.

She's probably right. I'm always feeling like it's my responsibility to help them out whenever they're in need of something. They've always turned to me when they got themselves into trouble that they didn't want our mom to find out about and I liked being in that role. Now it's usually not even an issue of hiding anything or fixing their mistakes. I just take on too much. I'm always offering to babysit my nieces and nephews and my friend's kids too, even when I'm not really in the best of health. The German says I overextend myself.

My mom did say something else that I think might be helpful to think about. She said that my weight has hovered around 110 lbs ever since I was a teenager. Maybe I just need to accept that this is the weight is the norm for my body and that I've just been losing a lot of weight because, for once, I managed to get quite a bit above its usual range. She reminded me how I gained the recommended 40 lbs when I was pregnant with VanGoghGirl but, after delivery, I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight within a month.

That was kind of comforting. Maybe my body will just settle down a bit now that I'm at this weight. I can't afford to keep losing the 5 lbs a month that my body has been averaging.

The German went out and bought me some hummus and khubz arabi (arabic bread that kind of looks like pita) and I've been munching on that for the past few days. He also sautéed some shrimp to go with it. He also bought some granola cereal for me and he's still getting the whole milk which seems a bit thick to me since I'm used to the low-fat kind. We also had pizza the other night and I loved it even though, later on that night, I felt like it was trying to burn a hole through my stomach.

I'm really proud of myself for trying to eat more. I think I'll get The German to make me some scrambled eggs when he wakes up. I haven't been to sleep yet. My insomnia has been keeping me company all night. I'm going to try and lie down now.