Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Good" Night, Alt-Right

"Good" night, alt-right
"Good" night, car that bites (driven by maniacal alt-right white)
"Good" night, equality fight (we rest now, for tomorrow, we rise and roar)
And the red blood on the hands of the alt-right white.
"Good" night, stares (of innocent onlookers and peaceful protesters)
"Good" night, chair (sat upon by a killer white 'neath lightbulb bare)
"Good" night, kittens of the KKK ("blood and soil," you say . . . just go away)
"Good" night, mittens (that house the hands of vengeful bigots)
"Good" night, clocks (that have stopped)
"Good" night, socks (peeled from privileged alt-right paws)
"Good" night, house (of mine in white suburbia low in crime)
"Good" night, louse (the man who in "denouncing" took his time).
"Good" night, comb (as I draw you through what hair may still be there)
"Good" night, brush (almost missed you, mind still in a rush)
"Good" night, alt-right (with guns that kill and teeth that bite)
"Good" night, and SHUSH
"Good" night, to the alt-right (who are doing anything but "whispering hush")
"Good" night, stars (whose light is dimmed because of killer cars)
"Good" night, air (she who marched in peace no longer there)
"Good" night, terror--everywhere.

It is anything but a "good" night.



On race (don't go back to sleep)


Today, they finally came. The tears, that is. The Big Fat Sliding-Down-My-Face Tears. I was ready for them, but, being an "extreme empath," I was surprised at the time it took for them to get here. Especially after Saturday. Especially after being thrown right back into the 1950s. I am groping in This Darkness, looking for light. Not there yet, but I'll get there.

I feel as though I am living in some fucked up dystopia, and I can't believe how bad things have gotten since 45 took office--and how quickly they became that bad. I do not support 45 or his childish, egotistical, child-pouting-in-a-sandbox, "mine-is-bigger-than-yours" ways. That is no way to lead a country. He has taken us down a path that has given white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other extreme right-wing idiots the permission, the validation, the bravado that they have wanted/needed in order to go more public with their underground racism, their bitter battle to beat down the brown-skinned ones, the gender-fluid ones, the non-white ones. It makes me SO MAD and fills me with such hopelessness but also rallies me to a new awakening and reminds me to not turn my head away and pretend that this doesn't affect my white privileged ass, because it does. I CAN and WILL make a difference in this fight to denounce racism, to strip away the supposed strength of the alt-right movement who feel so protected and coddled and supported by the baby-man who they think they're in bed with, who they think they can trust. HAH. OK.

I am seeing my friends (some of whom happen to have brown skin) speak up and rise against this, and I join them in resistance. We cannot let this stand. We cannot go back to sleep. We must wake, and rise, and ROAR, and fight for the freedoms of EVERY person, regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sexual preference, gender identity. It is in this way that we can truly make a difference and pull ourselves up out This Darkness and into the light. Right now, I admit: I'm having a lot of trouble seeing The Light, but I know it's there. And I know what I have to do to get to it.

The other night, after camp, Matthew handed me a piece of paper that had his new friend Ramses' name on it, along with his mom's name, Christina, and her cell phone number. The boys had taken it upon themselves to exchange contact information. I said, "That's so cool that you met a nice friend! I'll call his mom and we'll set something up." I went on to ask Matthew, "How do I pronounce his awesome name?" Matthew replied, "Well, I think it's "RAM-SIS" but no, maybe it's "RAM-SEEZ"; I don't know; you might have to ask his mom." I said, "OK." We continued our discussion. I asked questions about his new friend. "What kinds of things does Ramses like to do? Does he have straight hair, curly hair? Is he tall, short?" Matthew paused and said, "Welllll, I don't want to offend anyone, but . . . " And I helped him along. "Is this about the color of his skin?" And he nodded reluctantly and said, "Yessss. He kind of has . . . um . . . brown skin?" Looking at me with that questioning look of a child, like "Is it OK for me to be saying this?"

I assured him that it was OK for him to say that his friend has brown skin. AND it opened up a (shorter than I wanted but I'll take it) discussion on race that I was admittedly a little unprepared for, but I rallied fast. I explained to him that we all have different colors of skin and that beneath that skin is a unique, individual person--a human being!!! And that the color of our skin is just one beautiful way that defines us. And that, in our world, there are times when people with brown skin are not treated the same as people with white skin. He paused, made a frowny face, and said, "That's not fair." I said, "I know. And it's not right. But it does happen. And many people, mommy and daddy included, are working very hard to try to stop it from happening."

He was nodding vehemently by that point, and I could see his shoulders kind of relax as he became more comfortable with the conversation and found his voice in this mom-son exchange. I could tell that he felt "held" in this conversation.

As much as I want to shelter him from all the hate that is in this world, the only way to get past that hate and to change this country for the better is to talk about it. To admit that "it" exists! And to take action. And teach HIM how to reject it and embrace the incredible diversity of our world. To face the hate head on and say "Fuck you."

And to Love. Love big, and lots, and with gusto, and grace. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. That is the thing that overpowers hate.

 And work hard to make things better for everyone. To squash the racism and inequality from the get-go. Show them that our numbers vastly dwarf theirs. Work hard to make it stop being an "Us/Them" world. Where's the "We the People," people? Where'd it go? Did the "we" ever exist to begin with? 

Sometime, in the next week or so, two eight-year-old boys will get together to discuss, I don't know, power rangers, Star Wars, how to get to the next level in Terraria, and whether they like to jump off the diving board or toss a ball when they go to the pool. One boy has Asian skin and a single red hair that likes to poke out from amidst the crown of Busan black locks, and a name that means "Gift of God" (Matthew) and "shining jewel" (Seong-jin). The other has brown skin and a beautiful name that we will learn exactly how to pronounce.

Will the race question come up? Probably not. But, it's there. It's always there.

And as parents, it's our duty and our responsibility to discuss race with our children. How people are treated unfairly, even today, based on the color of their skin. The inequality that exists in our society. The white privilege that we, as white Americans, MUST acknowledge and admit that we have. Even if (and especially if) we live in small towns with little diversity. It's easy to think that racial injustice doesn't apply to you if you don't see diversity all around you.

It's our responsibility as parents, as human beings, in big cities, exurbs, suburbs, and small towns, to do the hard work that we must do to ensure that Black lives, and Jewish lives, and transgender lives, and the lives of all those still persecuted MATTER. We have a tremendous ability, as a race of HUMAN BEINGS, to overcome this. To rise above. To stay woke.

But it starts by not going back to sleep.

 And sometimes, it comes in the form of big fat fucking tears streaming down your face on a Tuesday. As you sit at your desk, head in hands, crying aloud for a country that feels lost, dis-eased, unfamiliar. All the time asking God, "why my country, why this world, what universe am I LIVING IN?" God hasn't given me answers yet, and even THAT is complicated in and of itself. (sigh)

 STAY WOKE. DO NOT GO BACK TO SLEEP.

"Busy" But Back!

So, yeah. I'm back. I know, I know. I have two blogs going, maybe three, and for as many years, they've been inactive. I've been, well, you know, "busy." (That's what I'm supposed to say, because that's what everyone says. And it's bullshit. "I'm soooo busy!" is a lousy excuse for {fill in the blank here; perhaps it's not keeping up with your writing, not doing the things you love but instead the things that you think you HAVE to do, not spending enough time with friends, not exercising, not eating right, and the list goes on}. But that's another topic. I'm changing this blog a little bit, even though it has an adoption/parenting title. I'm making it more about just "Kathleen's ruminations on life." I haven't been writing enough to satisfy my inner self and to soothe me and to bring myself up out of what I've started calling (as of Saturday) The Darkness. So, yeah. I'm back. Look for my next post today. I'm writing it now. But I just wanted to say hi first. Hi! Kathleen

Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's been a long time since I've blogged. Welcome back, me. This whole motherhood thing is keeping me pretty busy.

So, I'll plunge right into a "deep" topic here. 

It was a warm night in June 2014. We were eating ice cream with Jeff's parents at the Baskin Robbins in Olney, sitting near the fountain watching families chase after their kids. One woman, who was Caucasian, was supervising her two children walking on the wall. The children were of mixed race. It was clear to me that she was their mom--not by the way she looked but, rather, by the way she WAS with them: Her attentive guidance as they walked proudly on that wall. Her loosely holding the little one's fat little hand. Her intimate laughter with them. Her telling them "no" when they pushed it too far. Her hair, slightly mussed, because, when a vital piece of your heart and soul is walking alone for maybe the first time on a concrete wall, you don't much care what your hair is doing.

Then, Matthew said to me, "Mommy, if a kid's skin is different from the mom's skin, does that mean she's still his mom?" Without hesitating, I said, "Yup. Some kids' mommies have a different skin color, but they are still the kid's mommy. Like you and me." [Many times already, we've had the "you-are-my-son-but-you-didn't-grow-in-my-belly" conversation.]

He paused for a moment. Then, after much reflection, he said...

"Do you want to try my ice cream? It's really good: peach. What kind did YOU get?"

I will never forget that moment. There is nothing like a nice, deep talk...however brief, with a side of ice cream.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Diversity and The Conspicuous Family


My employer, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA for short) is so awesome, in so many ways. One such way is their commitment to diversity. ASHA has an entire Diversity Team, and for the month of September 2011, they are doing a Diversity Museum, where people can display items from their various cultures/backgrounds. I plan on bringing in the hanbok (formal Korean outfit worn at special occasions) that Matthew wore for his 1st birthday, as well as various other Korean cultural items (and adoption-related items) that we have begun gathering, as the multiracial family that we are!

As part of the ASHA Diversity Museum, I participated in a video montage in which the Diversity Team interviewed me about the ways in which I and my family are diverse. I talked about adoption and the Korean culture--about being what is known as a "conspicuous family" (I'll revisit The Triangle Stare in a minute; I'm fairly certain I've touched on this in much earlier blog postings) and about the value that we place, in our family, on the country/language/culture of Matthew's birth--something that means the world to us.

I talked briefly about the adoption process, what we went through in bringing Matthew home, and the fact that we are a family, despite the fact that we may look different from one another. If we seem to be functioning as a family, we ARE one! People often give us The Triangle Stare: Stare at Mom, move gaze across to Dad, move gaze down to baby, then pause, and look up at the mom again, across at the dad again, and down at the baby again. (And then, depending on who you are and how sensitive to you are to people's privacy, you may or may not ask us if we are Matthew's parents.) I work to reduce instances of The Triangle Stare all the time, although, honestly, I believe that people mean no malintent...we are all products of society's slight unwillingness to truly embrace the diversity of family and just accept the fact that if a group of people seem to be functioning as a family, it's pretty darn tootin' that they ARE one.

Here are some notes from what I prepared for my little interview. I showed lots of photos of Matthew, obviously. I've posted some recent photos of Matthew at the end of this blog.

Our “Conspicuous Family”

Kathleen Kelly Halverson: 50% Irish, 25% German, 25% Slovak
Jeffrey Brian Halverson: 25% Irish, some Armenian, some Russian
Matthew Seong-jin Halverson: 100% South Korean
Matthew’s Birth City: Busan (SE Korea)
Matthew’s “Foster City”: Seoul (NW Korea; capital city of South Korea)
Dialect of Busan: Gyeongsang
Languages spoken by us: English, basic survival Korean (we all hope to take classes together someday!)
Korean Alphabet: Hangul (derived from Chinese)

How does Hangul differ from Chinese?
[excerpted from http://www.korean-language.org/]

Originally written using “Hanja” (Chinese characters), Korean is now mainly spelled in “Hangul,” which consists of 24 letters—14 consonants and 10 vowels—that are written in blocks of 2 to 5 characters. Unlike the Chinese writing system (including Japanese "Kanji"), "Hangul" is not an ideographic system. The shapes of the individual "Hangul" letters were designed to model the physical morphology of the tongue, palate, and teeth. Up to five letters join to form a syllabic unit.

Korean is spoken by more than 72 million people living on the Korean peninsula. Although it differs slightly in spelling, alphabet, and vocabulary between the two regions, Korean is the official language of both South Korea and North Korea. Outside of the Korean peninsula, there are about two million people in China who speak Korean as their first language, another two million in the United States, 700,000 in Japan, and 500,000 in the Russian regions of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The Korean language has five major dialects in South Korea and one in North Korea. Despite the geographical and socio-political dialect differences, Korean is relatively homogeneous, being mutually understandable among speakers from different areas.

English/Korean (some basics)

Hello

Annyong hashimnigga
(formal; means peacefulness, well-being; literally translated, “Are things peaceful for you?”)

Annyong haseo
(informal, I believe; my Korean friends use this to say “hello” rather than the above formal phrase)

Good-bye

Annyonghi kyeseyo
(said to someone who is staying)

Annyonghi kaseyo
(said to someone who is leaving)

Nice to Meet You
BAN-GAP-SUP-NEE-DA (phonetic version)

Mother
Omma

Father
Oppa

Thank You
Kamsa hamnida (pronounced KAM-SA'-MEE-DAH)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two recent videos of Matthew

I so want to keep up this blog but just can't manage to find the time to write. I'm going to start posting photos and videos in an attempt to keep everyone current. I will write as I can!

Here are two videos of Matthew from this month (August 2011). In one, we discover our favorite Cars character on the side of a country road in PA (my apologies for the sideways nature of the video. First time I used the video function of my iPhone...argh...will try to fix it but did want to get this up in the meantime).

In the other, Matthew discovers the joy of water fountains...and we realize that you don't need bathing suits or even barefeet to dive into the pleasures of life.

Best,
Kathleen

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wondering Where I've Been?

OK, I'm officially halting my hiatus.

My only explanation is that I have a two-year-old. Need I say more, fellow parents of toddlers? I've been having the time of my life with this kid (I am loving this age, and the language explosion, and the cute things he says!), but my old 42-year-old self running around after an extremely active 2-year-old leaves little time for anything else (including writing). Let's see, was it the swim lessons (a whole story in itself) or the intro Little Gym class (where he wouldn't participate in circle time and wouldn't let go of his matchbox cars)? Or the continual tantrums that occur every night after daycare? (Why do I get the most miserable parts of the day and my daycare provider gets him when he's all cute and cuddly? But hey, at least there's bedtime, which is Matthew and my magic moment together. It is so awesome! But I digress...)

I've vowed to get better about blogging again. There will never be the "right" time, or "enough" time so I have to make the time!

I have some good news. More details to follow, but...I am about to be published! It's been ages since I wrote professionally. Well, I took the plunge and wrote an article and submitted it to an adoption e-magazine called Adoption Today. I was thrilled to find this e-mag because it addresses not just adoption but, specifically, international adoption. I love all my adoption magazines and the broad spectrum of adoption types that they address (e.g., Adoptive Families, The Adoption Constellation put out by Adoption Mosaic, to name a few), but I am admittedly thankful to have landed on a link that is so immediately relevant to my life and our family.

Having edited other people's words for so long, I have allowed my creative spirit and writer self to be somewhat stifled, so between the blog and now, the published article (which is slated for the September issue), I am over-the-moon happy that my writing is seeing more sunlight, so to speak. I'm used to it hiding between the covers of a personal journal, or buried in the "My Documents" section of my computer, under "Creative Writing" (read: "private...do not touch/read/open"). It makes me feel extremely vulnerable, but I suppose that's a good thing. And once you see my topic, you'll see what I mean. I'm taking a risk publishing it but it's a risk that I've decided is well worth it.

I'm going to leave it at that, for now. Once the September issue comes out, I'll share the link to my article and you can read it for yourself. It's on the sober side of the adoption journey, but it's an article that is so necessary for so many parents, whether they are waiting for their kids or already united as a family.

Oh, and I have to pat myself on the back for my recent weight loss: 10 pounds, baby! A lot more to go, but I am slowly getting there, with a lot of hard work and perseverance. Wish me luck as I continue on yet another (different kind of) journey! I'm always on a journey somewhere, aren't I? Thank goodness for that quote that says something like "it's not the destination but the journey" or else I'd be in trouble. I am constantly on journeys and rarely ever staying put at destinations! :)

Love and hugs to you all! Sorry it's been so long since I've written.