Lessons on School Integration

It is hard to admit as a future high school teacher, that I did not like high school. I was not a stellar student. I had roughly a 25% absence rate. I did not feel challenged. I did not engage in my classes. This is common for students. They do not feel challenged at school, so they do not go or they disengage. It is important that teachers know this and challenge their students with rigorous academic content that is relevant to their lives. 

Beyond being disengaged, schools are complicated for many students, especially students of color. Joel Spring notes: “While 83.1 percent of public school teachers are white, only 55.5 percent of students are white. Whereas only 7 percent of teachers are black, 15.5 percent of the students are black” (Spring, 2018, p.175). Additionally, white teachers often view students of color, especially English Language Learners, through a deficit lens, not acknowledging the contribution these students bring to the classroom (Gandara & Rumberger, 2009).

As a future educator, and a white woman, I think about this dynamic often. Am I prepared to teach to the rigorous standards students need? Am I equipped to be an anti-racist educator? There are a lot of things that students face in our society. Using the Broffenbrenner’s Ecological Model (Ordoñez, 2020), students have indirect connections with the news (the Exosystem). They read social media. They know the global issues and our domestic problems. 

Students of color have a more complex relationship with our society, especially with the increasing visibility of Black deaths at the hands of the police. Further, you cannot separate them from the larger context of historic violence and oppression people of color have faced in this country (the Macrosystem). With this in mind, I wanted to design a unit that specifically showcased the historic aspects of the African American community’s fight for equal rights in this county. 

When preparing lesson plans, I kept going back to the concept of our education system and the historic fight African Americans undertook to have equal access to education. It was not that long ago that schools were segregated. My grandmother was just out of high school when students in Little Rock, Arkansas faced angry mobs as they struggled to enter a historically all-white school. That brought me to grade eleven US History-Social Science Standards, specifically standard 11.10:  “Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights” (California Department of Education, 2000, p.52). There are many nuanced elements to this standard, not all of them addressed in my lesson plans. However, there is much to unpack in this standard relating to the fight for school desegregation. 

I designed a unit called Moments of Equality — Units on Fight for Educational Equality. In my first lesson, titled What is Equality?, my aim is to establish the context for the fight for education equality. Here, students will explore the landmark Supreme Court Case Brown v. The Board of Education where the court ruled that the concept of “separate, but equal” is unconstitutional. In addition to learning about the case, students will explore primary source documents. The two pieces I selected are “High Court Bans School Segregation; 9-to-0 Decision Grants Time To Comply,” which appeared on the front page of the New York Times the day after the decision, and “Southern Manifesto on Integration,” which 97 congressmen signed opposing integration. By focusing on primary sources detailing opposing opinions to integration, my hope is to challenge students to understand the historical context of this case and add to the rigour of the lesson.

After providing the framework for the fight for integration, my second lesson features a documentary called Eyes On The Prize (Part 2): Fighting Back 1957 1962 America’s Civil Rights Movement. This video shows the struggle nine African American students in Little Rock, Arkansas had just to attend a historically all-white school. This documentary is important as it allows students to hear and see what students experienced. It also highlights the opinions of white students, politicians, and community members who fought against integration. In my lesson plan, I indicate multiple areas in the video where an educator can pause to ask students critical questions regarding major themes presented in the film, such as the concept of integration moving too far and too fast. 

For my final lesson, I was informed by the state of our current educational system. Robin DiAngelo notes in her work with pre-service teachers, most of whom are white, that many do not think race has much meaning or, worse, claim that they do not see race (2012). At the same time, students of color experience higher rates of disciplinary action than their white counterparts in a process called the School-to-Prison Pipeline (Annamma, 2014). Additionally, our schools are becoming increasingly more segregated, despite the Supreme Court ruling that such segregation is unconstitutional (Oakes et. al, 2004). As such, I created a lesson plan where students have the opportunity to investigate this issue. 

To start the lesson, I present a short piece from The New York Times on school busing, a relatively successful attempt at school integration. (2013). This, pared with articles discussing busing and the ways that schools are becoming more segregated based on wealth (and whiteness) (Browne-Marshall, 2019; Mervosh, 2019), students will spend the rest of the class session investigating the racial makeup of schools and opportunities presented in them. My hope is that they will think critically about these issues in context to their lives, education, and future prospects in a world that claims race no longer matters. 

Though I am not sure if I am ready to teach and support diverse students, I am committed to this goal. This topic is vast and ever changing. New stories appear daily detailing oppression and injustice people of color face in this country. I aim to be an anti-racist teacher who challenges her students with rigous and relevant content so that my students will be empowered to challenge the systems that have yet to properly serve them. 

To access detailed lesson plans, the articles, and additional resources, click this link for a Google Drive Folder.

References: 

Annamma, S.A. (2014). Disabling Juvenile Justice: Engaging the Stories of Incarcerated Young Women of Color with Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 35(5)., 313- 324.

Blackside. (1987) Eyes On The Prize (Part 2): Fighting Back 1957 1962 America’s Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bb76CK3Cwc&t=3467s 

Browne-Marshall, Gloria J. (2019, September 19). “Busing ended 20 years ago. Today our schools are segregated once again,” Times. Retrieved from: https://time.com/5673555/busing-school-segregation/ 

California Department of Education. (2020). History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve. 

DiAngelo, R. J. (2012). What does it mean to be white? Developing white racial literacy. New York: Peter Lang. 

Gandara, P. & Rumberger, R. (2009). “Immigration, language, and education: How does language policy structure opportunity?” Teachers College Record, 111(3), pp. 750-782.

Huston, Luther A. (1964, May 17). “High court bans school segregation; 9-to-0 decision grants time to comply,” New York Times. Retrieved from: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0517.html 

Mervosh, Sarah. (2019, February 27). How much wealthier are white school districts than nonwhite ones? $23 billion, report says,” New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/education/school-districts-funding-white-minorities.html 

New York Times. (2013). The Battle for School Busing. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sld722slarw

Oakes, J., Rogers, J., Silver, D. and Goode, J. (2004). Separate and Unequal 50 Years after Brown: California’s Racial “Opportunity Gap.” Retrieved from: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1rr6d06h 

Ordoñez, Patriccia. (2020, July 30). “Teachers of color and schools.” Education in a Diverse Society.

Southern Manifesto on Integration. (1956, March 12). Retrieved from: https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/sources_document2.html

Spring, J. (2018). Chapter 6: Student Diversity. American Education, 18th ed. 

Dangerous and Defiant: The Lens of Antiblackness in a Post-Racial America

I remember the first time I heard the term “post-racial.” It was 2008. Barack Obama had just been elected to serve as our next president. I was in my parents’ kitchen. Someone said that America is now post-racial. My initial reaction was confusion. How could anyone think this? I refuted the claim. We were not living in a post-racial county after the election of our first black president. Over tens years later, we are still not. While some folks may want to claim that America is post-racial, the recent surge in Black Lives Matter demonstrations, as well as the overall discrepancy between Black and white experiences in this country shows that America has a specific kind of racism, one that is antiblack.

Antiblackness is a form of racism in that forces Black people to demonstrate in the streets to fight against violence against and killings of Black people, such as Mike Brown, age 18, George Flloyd, age 47, Eric Garner, age 44, Tamir Rice, age 12, and Breonna Taylor, age 26, all of whom were killed by police officers. Or one could point to the killings of Trayvon Martin, age 17, who was walking home from a convenient store, shot by an armed man who thought he looked suspicious in a black hoodie, “Jordan Davis, age 17, sitting in the back seat of a car with a group of friends, shot dead by a white man who believed they were playing rap (that is, Black) music too loud; Renisha McBride, age 19, shot and killed through a locked door by a white homeowner who said he feared for his life” (Dumas, p.12).

Antiblackness is a form of racism where “the Black is socially and culturally positioned as slave, dispossessed of human agency, desire, and freedom,” and allows whites “to assert their own right to freedom, and right to the consumption, destruction, and/or simple dismissal of the Black” (Dumas, p.13). Antiblackness actively discouraged blackness. It creates a binary in which white equals good, safe, beautiful, and pure, and Black is inherently bad, dangerous, ugly, and evil. Even more, “[t]he Black cannot be human, is not simply an Other but is other than human […] Instead, antiblackness marks an irreconcilability between the Black and any sense of social or cultural regard” (Dumas, p.13). In this context, it is no wonder there is so much violence against Black people. Police and armed civilians don’t see humans when looking at Black bodies, but something that is dangerous and antithetical with (white) humanity. 

Most (well intentioned) white people acknowledge and oppose the violence against and the killing of Black people, especially when it is documented and shared online. Even still, there is systemic oppression (a form of violence) of Black people in other areas of society that are harder to see and therefore reconcile with. Antiblack racism is present in all of our society’s institutions, especially in our schools. Subini Annamma’s research documents the detrimental impact of antiblackness in education which results in the incarceration of Black girls through the juvenile justice system. She notes the School-to-Prison Pipeline, or the ways that students are funnelled from school into the criminal justice system, and the disproportionate rates that students of color are targets of this system. Additionally, students with disabilities are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system, and that “[s]tudents with an emotional disability label comprise almost 50% of incarcerated students with disabilities (Annamma, p.313). 

This fact is troubling. Instead of receiving educational support or mental health services, Black children are locked away in a system that prioritized correcting students’  behavior over education. She writes:

They were subjected to socializing practices such as running from one place to another (they may not walk), entering the classroom in silence, and sitting up straight with their feet together and hands on their desk in silence for 5 min (no slouching). After the first 5 min, all girls were expected to sit up straight with their feet together for the entirety of the class. Both teachers and security staff enforced these rules. There were multiple times during every observation when a security staff would open the classroom door, interrupt teachers or students while talking, and direct a student to follow these rules. In one 45-min class observation, class was interrupted for enforcing these socializing practices 18 times (Annamma, p.319).

Such militarist practices do nothing to support the growth and development of children, especially those with disabilities. Instead, they control the movement of Black bodies. They serve as a form of antiblack racism that teachers need to work to dismantle. Instead of seeing Black children as defiant, they need to unpack the reasons for student behavior. When reflecting on their schooling, “students recognized poor classroom management and instruction as factors” leading to their discipline and noted “family detachment, economic pressure, and school failure as factors contributing to the Pipeline” (Annamma, p.314). Teachers need to recognize the struggles students are going through. They need to support students and families, and not allow Black children to receive the label of defiant simply because they cannot see or relate to the Black experience.

It is difficult to argue against Dumas’ claim of antiblackness in our society, especially when examining the racial breakdown of the most powerful institutions in America: “US Congress: 90 percent white; US governors: 96 percent white; Top military advisors: 100 percent white; President and vice president: 100 percent white: US Freedom Caucus: 99 percent white,” (DiAngelo, 2019, p.31). In 2012, 80% of America’s teachers were white (DiAngelo, 2012, p.13). These are the most powerful people and institutions in our country. Educators must come to terms with these numbers and the disparity between white and Black education. But part of the problem is that white Americans continue to insist that they are part of a post-racial, or as Dumas notes, an antiracist society, one that opposes explicit forms of racism in things such as segregation, and feels that because these practices are allege, racism is therefore a thing of the past (Dumas, p.15). This stance allows them to ignore the subtle forms of racism that allow for Black children to receive an inferior education, receive labels such as defiant and dangerous, be shot and killed in our streets, or be locked in prisons.

Not only in this country heavily invested in race, but have moved to one that the abolition of slavery, the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and the election of a black president have not been able to end. It is a form of racism that is harder for white folks to point out, but it is ever present in the society. It is a form of racism that discourages Blackness, Black bodies, and Black lives. Educators need to name this antiblackness if they are truly committed to dismantling it and work toward equitable education and the dismantling of the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

References:

Annamma, S.A. (2014). Disabling Juvenile Justice: Engaging the Stories of Incarcerated Young Women of Color with Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 35(5)., 313- 324.

DiAngelo, R. J. (2012). What does it mean to be white? Developing white racial literacy. New York: Peter Lang. Chapters 1, 2, and 10.

DiAngelo, R. J. (2019). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. London: Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books.

Dumas, M. J. (2016). Against the Dark: Antiblackness in Education Policy and Discourse.

Hey white people, it’s not about us. And that’s okay.

A few years ago, my husband and I took a Lyft from downtown Portland to our nearby Airbnb. It was February. We took this trip right after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The previous week, the U.S. saw millions of women participate in marches in major cities across the county. In the previous years, we saw the development of the  Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement after black men and women were killed by the police. More and more people were able to witness these events, either in person or through new outlets and social media. It was amazing, but even some progessive white people felt uncomfortable by the shift in the dominant narrative. 

That night in Portland, our Lyft driver started a conversation.  He was friendly and asked us what brought us to the city. Somehow we came to the topic of the Women’s March and BLM. He was, I should point out, a white man. He casually told us that he supports these movements, but he doesn’t know where he fit in. He didn’t feel like he could have a voice in those spaces. I tried to gently inform him that he doesn’t need to have a voice in all those spaces. That it wasn’t about him. That he could be an ally. But I got the impression that what he really wanted was to be the center of a movement (maybe one for down-and-out 30-something year old white dudes who have to drive for rideshares to make ends meet? Shall I suggest reddit?).

Recently, our country has seen a surge in the BLM movement. There have been many people of color (POC) angry at even more killings of black people by the police. Many have taken to the streets to demonstrate against systems of power that have oppressed them, and their parents, and their grandparents. White people have joined in these demonstrations or have shared messages of allyship on social media. They, too, are angry at these very visible examples of how our society hurts and oppressive POC. But these injustices don’t just happen in the streets or in their homes. There is a long history of institutional inequalities that white people need to grapple with as well. We need to also examine the less visible spaces where POC are unequal, such as education. 

UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access published a report in 2004 detailing the ways that the California educational system has not done enough to desegregate our schools after the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Here are some of their findings:

  • California students are racially isolated, with Latinx and black students more segregated than any other state
  • Schools serving predominantly low-income students of color often lack the fundamental things they need to learn, such as qualified teachers, stable faculty, adequate instructional materials, and adequate and safe facilities 
  • These unequal conditions lead to disparities between Academic Performance Index (API) between white students and students of color (Oaks, et al, 2004). 

These “opportunity gaps” underestimate the ability for black and brown students to achieve success in school. Not only that, they limit their ability to graduate from high school and move on to higher education or a successful career.

While we have seen some trends toward racial integration in our schools, there is more racial segregation than before. A newer report found that California is the most segregated for Latinx students with 58% who attend “intensely segregated schools,” with only 15% white classmates (Frankenberg et al.). Additionally, we have a president and Republican platform that wishes to deny educational access to undocumented students, with statements such as “In a time of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs, the presence of millions of unidentified individuals in this country poses grave risks to the safety and sovereignty of the United States” (Spring). 

Not only are our students segregated in our school, learning a “Eurocentric curriculum that is unresponsive to the needs of students of Color,” but their teaching staff is also overwhelmingly white, even when the students themselves are not (Kohli, R; Nevárez, A; & Arteaga, N, 2018). How can we expect our students of color to succeed when they are in segregated schools and lack the necessary equipment to learn? How can our students succeed in life when they aren’t receiving a quality education? As a future educator, I need to be critical of my own teaching practices and find ways to engage and support my students with a curriculum that is culturally responsive and equitable. Just as POC are finding their voice within marches and demonstrations, I need to support my students of color as they find their voices in my classroom and within the educational system. White people do not need to center themselves in this political movement. It’s our time to be true allies. 

References:

Frankenberg, Erica, et al. (2019) “Harming Our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown.” Harming Our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown – The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/harming-our-common-future-americas-segregated-schools-65-years-after-brown.

Kohli, Rita; Nevárez, Arturo; and Arteaga, Nallely (2018) “Public Pedagogy for Racial Justice Teaching: Supporting the Racial Literacy Development of Teachers of Color,” The Assembly: A Journal for Public Scholarship on Education: Vol. 1 : Iss. 1 , Article 3. Available at: https://scholar.colorado.edu/assembly/vol1/iss1/3

Oaks, Jeannie, et al. (2004) Separate and Unequal 50 Years Aftef Brown: California’s Racial “Opportunity Gap” UCLA/IDEA Instituyte for Deocracy, Education and Access. 

Spring, Joel H. American Education. Routledge, 2018.

The Year of the Selfie!

2018 will be the year of the selfie!!

I’m sure, like, officially, 2015 or something was declared the Year of the Selfie. Whatever. I’m not speaking Nationally or anything. I’m talking about ME!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every day until I die: I love New Year’s Resolutions. I think they’re awesome. It’s a fresh start! A set date. It’s completely arbitrary. You can resolve to make changes in your life at any point. You also can fuck up and get back to it. So when people say they’ve failed at their resolutions the second week of January, well, that’s a defeatist mentality.

I have a few new resolutions this year.

  • Read more books than I did last year (going great so far)
  • Write more (fingers crossed I actually do this one!)
  • Save money
  • blah
  • blah
  • blah

But one that I’ve been enjoying (and crushing!) is taking a selfie a day. It’s pretty simple. I take a picture of myself every day no matter what. If I haven’t washed my hair or I haven’t done my makeup, it doesn’t matter. Take a selfie. I’m keeping them all in an album. It’s going to be so awesome when it’s been a full year!

Challenges so far:

  • I’m goofy as hell. I can’t seem to keep a straight face.
  • I’m hard on myself. I have acne scars. I have a wide face. My hair is flat.

I’m hoping that by keeping up the selfies that I will be less hard on myself. I’m pretty okay looking. Pus, I’m hella smart and funny.

Wow. 2017 was a NIGHTMARE

It’s 2018…seriously. I hardly wrote anything last year. Sorry about that.

Last year SUCKED!! I honestly can’t keep track of the last year. It somehow flew by and also felt like it lasted 100 years.

TL:DR

Did I accomplish my 2017 resolutions? No. Not all of them. I did do fairly well with my mental health. In fact, I graduated from therapy! Sort of. It got to a point where I didn’t need it anymore. I learned enough to sort things out of my own. Not to brag you guys, but I’m smart.

And I read a lot of books. Mostly good ones. Some that weren’t very good. We don’t need to dwell on that.

Some of the best things I did in 2017:

I joined a bookclub! That’s where most of the good books I read came from.

I went to Portland. You guys, it’s cold there in February.

I graduated from therapy. I already talked about that…

I’m having trouble finding more awesome things I did. I’m sure there were good things. But honestly, 2017 mostly sucked. I’m happy to see it go. I’m hoping to make 2018 better, because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is trying.

 

 

Welcome to 2017

 

So far, I am not impressed.

Let me refocus.

So far, 2017 has been a tough year.

Someone asked me recently how I was doing. I hesitated. I had just finished a pretty intense workout. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but for me it was. I felt like garbage. I hadn’t been to the gym for about three weeks. I’d worked out in that time, but only running. No strength training. No high intensity intervals. So getting back to fast-paced circuits with moves that I’ve never done before (weighted mountain climbers. Seriously, go fuck yourself), it was tough.

It was also particularly difficult because I’m fighting off a cold. This reality seriously upsets me. I normally don’t get sick too often. Maybe once a year. But I’ve been getting sick frequently lately. I got sick in October. It wasn’t too bad. I did a decent job of fighting it off and getting over it within a few days. Then in December, I got sick again. I think I’ve blocked that round of illness out of my head for the most part. I just remember that the recovery part sucked. The few days after not really being sick anymore were filled with being gross and snotty and lethargic.

Two colds in three months. Not great. But now, new year, I was fighting off a cold again. I was almost concerned. Had my immune system plummeted so low because there’s something seriously wrong with me? Despite my homebody tendencies (or maybe because of them?!?), had I somehow weakened my immune system? Should I be concerned?

No. You’re fine, Yvonne. Here’s what (most likely) happened:

You’ve been traveling more.

You’re around young people more.

That’s it.

Okay, I’ll add stress to the list. You’ve been more stressed out lately, and that isn’t helping anything or anyone. It’s okay. I think we all are.

Last week, I traveled to San Francisco. I now do that from time to time. With my (amazing) new job, I get to head up to our National Headquarters (it’s seriously, like, ten people, but it sounds cool) and touch base with my coworkers IRL. It’s great because I like the people I work with, I get to see everyone, and I get to check out a little bit of the Bay Area each time. This trip, I stayed in an Airbnb with not-so-subtle gay erotica peppered through the place.

On my flight, there was someone coughing behind me. I was immediately infuriated, then I got over it. My flight was also delayed, so I got to spend more time in a stuffy airport. And, when I arrived at SFO, it was pouring rain. Like the smarty-pants that I am, I decided to walk a half-mile to this hella hippy grocery store so that I could at least have something fresh and green and leafy during my stay.

Maybe because of the sick person on the plane, or the stressful delay, or the weather, or all of the above, I was then fighting off a cold.

It could also be the super stressful 24 hours that preceded the trip…

 

I flew up to SFO on Sunday morning. Instead of the relaxing day of doing laundry and packing and hanging out with my Johnny Lovely before my trip, I spent three stressful hours making pureed soup for my poor father who won’t be able to solid food for at least another week. Why? Because he nearly bit off his tongue!

That feels weird writing that. It’s weirder saying it out loud. It’s even worse, I imagine, experiencing it for one’s self.

Here’s how I experienced it:

On Saturday, Johnny Lovely, Betty Jane Grace (my puppers), and I went for a walk. We went through our neighborhood to the base of a hill where there is a nice trail. We took that trail around to our neighborhood and back home. It was beautiful. Great weather. So on and so on.

When we got home, I noticed I had a ton of missed text messaged and a few missed calls from my sister. Reading through the texts, a few words stood out: ER, blood everywhere, awful.

I called my sister to learn that during a bike ride, my dad had an accident. His bike lost traction in a puddle of water, he fell, and he bit through his tongue. At the time, they also thought that he may have broken his thumb and cracked a bunch of teeth. Thankfully, it was only a bad bruise on his hand, and he only chipped one tooth.

But his tongue you guys! It was bad. Thanks to my super gross brother, I got to see a picture of my dad, in shock, with his tongue dangling out of his mouth, held together by a small piece of tissue. It reminded me of how some people cut their tongue in two so that it looks like a lizard tongue, but somehow in the process the person sneezed or the guy cutting the tongue tripped, and instead of a nice clean cut it was a fucking disaster.

Talking with my sister and the many texts later, I learned that my dad would probably be okay. A plastic surgeon was called, and he stitched my dad up real nice. I wanted to be there, but I had to get ready for my trip the next day (laundry, pack, and so on). I felt terrible. So I did the one thing that I knew would be helpful: I made my pops a ton of soup.

Since his mouth was a nightmare, my dad couldn’t eat. He couldn’t even talk. Everything hurt. So I made sure that he would have something to eat with veggies and beans and grains, all pureed so that his nightmare mouth could handle it. Tomato and white bean. Roasted and potato butternut squash. Black bean, corn, and quinoa.

That night, after three hours of cooking, two loads of laundry, packing, walking around the house making sure I had everything, and writing myself notes of things I needed to pack the next morning, I got to bed late. I was a nervous wreck. I needed many hugs from Johnny to make me feel better. I felt guilty for not going to see my dad. I felt bad that he was in so much pain. I felt anxious about my flight the next morning. But I knew that I had done something valuable for my dad by making him a whole week’s worth of food.

The next day was my flight. I left the house in a rush. I remember vaguely that I got frustrated with John for something (probably stupid since I don’t even remember it).

I left the house later that I wanted and decided that I could make it on time if I speed the whole way there. No big deal, but I rarely speed, so this was a commitment.

But then, I got a flat tire on the way to my parents’ house (where I park and get a ride to the airport so that I don’t have to pay for parking). I BARELY made it to their house with my flat. The light came on not even half way. I pulled over to check on my tires. They seemed fine. I kept driving. I decided to drive slowly the rest of the way, but after a while my nerves kicked in and I started to speed again. I figured the light was a signal for something else—change your oil…eventually!

When I got off the freeway in Ontario, I began to hear the vibrating noise of a flat tire. I went slowly the rest of the way. I parked. Got out. And saw that the rear driver’s-side tire was flat. This marks the third time that I’ve gotten a flat, and it’s always that same damn tire!

Oh well. I could deal with this later.

I grabbed a ride to the airport, just making it on time!

That’s when the nice man behind the United counter told me that my flight wasn’t for another 12 hours. I booked the PM flight on accident.

BUT I was in luck! There was one seat left on the AM flight, a flight that is normally over booked. He switched my flight, and I rushed through security. I got to my gate safe and sound to learn that the flight was going to be delayed four hours due to maintenance. FUUUUGH!

You know what. It was okay. I can wait four hours. I’ve done that before. I’ve had nearly every single flight I’ve taken out of Ontario on United delayed. I can relax, grab a coffee, and settle in with a book.

So I did that.

About an hour into my four-hour delay, United had an announcement: they had a new plane we could take! It would be there in 10 minutes. And so, I got on a plane, flew to San Francisco, and landed (without difficulty) in under an hour.

The without difficulty note is important. At the time, San Francisco was experiencing a BUNCH of rain, enough to pull them out of the historic drought. Half of the airport runways were shut down. So many flights were delayed because of the weather. But I was able to get in just fine. I was able to get a ride to a Burmese restaurant, eat some awesome Burmese food, and get to my Airbnb without much difficulty. I was okay.

It was difficult with my frantic morning and my nightmare-by-proxy Saturday, but I was fine.

Here’s what’s up you guys: I started writing this post, like, three weeks ago. For one, it was difficult to write about my dad’s accident. It was pretty traumatic for me, and I didn’t really experience it.

But then, I experienced fairly debilitating depression. Donald F. *rump was sworn in as #notmypresident. I couldn’t sleep. I had difficultly doing work. I felt like screaming and crying all of the time. And I did cry about a week into his presidency, after he signed the not-a-Muslim ban.

Writing became something that I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the energy for. I wanted to write about the Women’s March that I attended. Maybe I still will.

I want to write about the trip to Portland, OR that I just took with Johnny Lovely. I went to Portland guys! It was great.

Three weeks ago, it was just too much. It was too difficult to write. It was too difficult to think clearly. It was too difficult to do anything really.

But, I do want to reflect back on my trip to San Francisco. A lot went wrong. A delayed flight. A flat tire. Booking the wrong flight because my ADHD makes it really difficult to pay attention to details. My dad’s tongue!!

But I was okay. I somehow managed to make it through everything. I held it together. At the time at least, I didn’t let the situation drag me down. I refocused. I gained better perspective.

It’s hard to do that a lot of the time. Most of the time.

I didn’t let those difficulties drag me down in San Francisco, but I did when I got back. Fighting off a cold (and a new president) was overwhelming (debilitating).

This is me fighting through. This is me fighting for perspective. 2017 still isn’t great, but I can make it better. We’ve all heard the phrase “we create our own reality.” I kinda hate this phrase because we don’t always have control. We can’t just change our jobs or have enough money to pay our bills. Some things are shitty (like a lot of what I wrote above), but we can change the way we perceive them, and we can work to make them better.

I think it was Buddha who said: “What you dwell upon you become.”

So let’s refocus. Let’s not dwell on the negative. Let’s try to find some of the positive, like how the United guy helped me get on the right flight or how my dad’s tongue is doing better!

It’s going to be difficult. But there’s another phrase I like. Maybe it was Jesus. Or it could have been Mae West: “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”

Let’s get to work.

 

 

2017 Resolutions

As I stated in my previous post, I like New Year’s Resolutions. I love the idea of a new year and the possibility that year holds. I like to visualize the year ahead like a map, each month a stage in my travel. Who will I be at the end of the year? What will I have done? What will I have accomplished?

Sometimes I’ve set very simple resolutions, ones I know will make me happy: pet more cats. That’s always a good one. And it can be a challenge. You don’t always come across a cat. Dogs? Yes. But a cat? A friendly cat? One that will let you pet it? Good thing I have two cats.

I like to write my resolutions down so that I can reflect on them later. Did I do the things I hoped to do? Did I pet more cats this year? Hard to tell. I don’t know how many I pet last year. But it feels like more.

I’ve never really planned out my resolutions. Some people do. Real go-getters. They set dates and deadlines, benchmarks for progress. That’s good. That probably makes it easier to accomplish your goals. I however, have not done this.

Instead, I’ve written them out, in some detail, below. These are just some of my resolutions for this year. I have more, like: save money; travel; pet more cats. But below, you’ll find ones that are important to me. Ones that I’ve thought about a lot. Ones I felt compelled to share.

I’ve written them in the style of a debate brief. I don’t know why. They’re not up for debate. I simply like the style. It’s clean, straightforward, and clear. I hope you enjoy them and, if compelled, please share some of your resolutions with me. I’d love to read them.


Resolved: Yvonne Lorraine Lovely will read more books in 2017 than she did in 2016.

Background: Yvonne Lorraine Lovely, hereafter referred to as Yvonne, loves to read. She reads nearly every night, as least one chapter of a book from the stacks (yes, stacks) of books on her nightstand. She loves to read so much that she used to work in a bookstore, one that no longer exists due to progress and technology and a shitty economy (so it goes).

Therefore, Yvonne will read more books in 2017 than she did in 2016. In 2016, she read 30 books. Good. Great even considering that in 2015 she read something like 14 books. She more than doubled her reading list. While I do not insist that she double her list for this upcoming year, I stand solidly in favor of her reading more than 30 books. 31 perhaps?


Resolved: Yvonne will write, weekly if not daily, in 2017.

Background: Yvonne created a blog in 2016. This blog, the one you’re reading now, becoming evielovely, is a chronicle of her mind and her development as a person. She has a few (possibly three) readers. Thank you.

In 2016, she wrote, but not consistently. We will absolve her of any ill feelings because, we understand. She was going through some shit. In 2017, however, we highly encourage her to write more. Write her feelings. We know she has plenty of those. Write her thoughts. She’s always in her head. Get some of that out. Write about your work, your development, your progress, and your struggles. Write what you know. Get it out and share it with the world.

Write creatively. We know you have it in you. Write a story. Write a poem. Whatever it is, just write.


Resolved: Yvonne will continue to work on her mental health.

Background: Yvonne has had a rough few years. Honestly, her whole life has been rough. She can’t truly recall any time in her life when she wasn’t depressed. There may have been a few good years as a child, but she’s blocked many of those years out. That’s okay. She doesn’t need them anymore.

The past, say, four years have been really rough. She’s been depressed, everyday, after the death of her aunt in 2012. Or maybe it was the moment she heard her sister say, through strained teary vocal cords, “Aunt Jolene has cancer.” That moment changed her. The phone call four months later changed her. The call that expressed, like a confession, like a brick to her stomach, that it was over. She passed. Yvonne hasn’t been the same.

She wasn’t the same after receiving a text message, what, a year and a half later? It came through on a rainy day in November. An awful day that was grey and dirty and exhausting. “Kaylee committed suicide.” Her breath caught. How?  Why?  Oh god.

She wasn’t the same after a phone call nine months later. Something’s wrong. An attempt at suicide. Days in a hospital. But then, in a flash, it was over. She was okay. Everything was okay. Nothing had changed.

But it wasn’t. And it had.

After that, Yvonne knew she needed to take care of herself. She knew that her depression was becoming too much for her to hold on to on her own. She developed an anxiety disorder. She started having panic attacks. Life became overwhelming. Answering the phone was too much. Opening email. Responding to a text. Her head became heavy. Her arms were like weights. She’d cry just turning a corner. Her life halted. So low. So sharp.

She’s doing better. She sees someone about it. Two someones. A councilor. A psychiatrist. She’s medicated. The panic attacks have lessened. No more crying jags. She has good days.

Keep working, Yvonne. Take their advice. Take care of yourself.


Resolved: Yvonne will work on her physical health as much as she works on her mental health.

Background: Yvonne has, for most of her adult life, worked out. She’s learned to love to run. She’s gotten strong. But it’s been tough. With mental health issues, the ability to move one’s body becomes impossible sometimes. There have been good stretches of time where she’s been able to be consistent with a workout routine. There have been mornings she’s been able to wake up early (before the sun once or twice) and run. There have also been times where the thought of getting out of bed was too much, so she didn’t.

Some people argue that exercise is good for depression. They’re right. But they need to shut the fuck up about it. I’ve read many articles about natural ways to fight depression. That’s great. I get it. Eat well. Move your body and all that. That may work for some people. But if you’re using all of your energy just to stay alive you may not have any more to spare for a quick jog. That’s okay.

Unfortunately, for Yvonne, and many more like her, with depression came weight gain. I’m not here to judge. Fast food is still food. Frozen dinners provide a quick, warm meal. But if she’s doing better, I argue that she can improve her physical health as well.

Let’s not measure this is pounds. Her body is fine no matter what weight it is. Be strong. Be capable. Do pushups without wanting to die. Get to a point where your heart rate can soar without feeling like you’re going to have a panic attack (because exercise and panic attacks can feel quite similar).


Resolved: Yvonne will create beautiful things in 2017.

Background: Yvonne used to be an artist. She used to paint and sculpt things out of clay. She was never really that good, but it felt good.

Yvonne will create things this year. She will use her favorite tools. She will create beautiful meals to share with her family. She will create memories with her friends. She will create laughter and love and beauty. She will use to hands. She will use her mind. She will use her voice. She will, hopefully, touch people with her creations. She will bring beauty to those around her. She will create space for more people to share their beauty with her.

Hey Yvonne. Where have you been?

…Dealing with some shit.

I know it’s been a while. I’m sorry you guys. Some great stuff has happened since my last post (SIX MONTHS AGO!!!).

And some not great stuff has happened to all of us.

First: the good stuff. I got a new job. That happened back in September. I started the interview process in July (right after my last post. I guess that is what kept me from writing, at least initially). I now work for an awesome organization. I work with wonderful people. We have a great mission: engaging with young people and helping them get involved in politics and civics. Be the People. Do something. Give a shit.

I am no longer in a toxic work environment. I no longer work 10-12 hours a day with little support, where everything is my fault, and I can never do enough. I’m out. I can’t believe I lasted so long.

Despite being in a better work environment, I’m still dealing with a lot of anxiety. I wonder why? Maybe because I got to witness this country poorly handle racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and Islamophobia and xenophobia. I’ve seen dick heads justify sexual assault, violence, hatred, and more. And I got to witness our least qualified presidential candidate win an election in, what I feel, was a knee jerk reaction to marginalized people having more access, having a voice, due to social media and smartphones.

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. Jobs are scarce. Wages suck. The world is…not doing great (are any of us?).

But, ultimately, fear won. Racism won. Sexism won. Hatred won.

Before the election, I felt lots of anxiety. After the election, I felt lots more. I don’t have an eloquent way of expressing it. It was hard. It was difficult to understand it. It was difficult to know what to do about it. It was difficult to do anything at all.

Now it’s January First. It’s a New Year. There are Possibilities involved with that. There is Hope.

I know many people don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. Well, fuck them. Thanks for being a bummer.

If you don’t like resolutions, that’s fine. Don’t do them. And shut up about it please.

I like resolutions. I’ve been doing them for a while now. A couple of years ago: eat more vegetables. Great job, Yvonne. You’ve been eating more veggies since!

Another year: get better at folding laundry. Well, I have. I now, almost always, fold the laundry within 24 hours of taking it out of the dryer. ::high five::

Almost every hear: read more. Last year I read 30 books. The year before: 14. The year before: 16. It’s been rocky, but not too bad. This year: read more than 30.

So, I will work on a new set of resolutions. I plan to include in them writing more (weekly my lovelies!). I plan to keep reading. And I plan to work: on fighting racism and hatred and fear. I plan to keep working on my self: on my anxiety and depression, on my physical and mental health. And I plan to keep working at this new organization. With these new amazing people. With amazing young people. To educate. To engage. To do something. To fuck shit up.

Putting Yourself Out There

I’ve been super spotty with this blog. Sorry about that. I’ve been super struggling lately with a lot of things. As you lovelies know, I struggle with depression. I have for a while. It sucks. It REALLY sucks.

I had an idea to do a piece about depression—what it means to have it. What it feels like. What it looks like. Because, guess what, it’s a lot of things. It’s different than just being sad. It’s more than just being sad.

I still plan to do that piece. I promise. I’ll get to it. But I’ve been distracted lately. I’ve been depressed.

Without getting too much into it (mostly because it’s complicated and I don’t want to share something that’s I’m still working out because blah blah blah whatever), but I’ve been “putting myself out there” lately. Not in a sexy sense. I get now that it might come off sexy.

I’ve been putting myself out into the world, putting my brain, my skill set, my experience, my personality, out into the world for people to look over. For people to evaluate. For the express purpose of changing a huge aspect of my life (for you smarty pants people, you probably know what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t, I’m sorry. I was hoping to have news, and when I do I’ll write about it. Then you’ll get it).

This process, the searching, the actually putting of myself out into the world, the waiting, the hoping, the daydreaming, the practicing in my head, the constant conversation I’ve had in my head, the dreaming, the wanting, the waiting, the scared feeling, the hopelessness, the exhaustion, the wanting it to all be over…really sucks.

The time. The energy. The draining of my energy. The draining of my hopes. The feeling that I’m not worth it. The feeling that I’m flawed. That I suck. That I’ve messed up. I took a wrong step. I REALLY messed it…sucks.

The need to keep looking. The daily feeling to not being good enough. The constant refreshing of my emails. The constant search. The need to take a break. The need to calm down. Take a breath. Clear my head. Get outside. But not having the energy to go outside…fucking sucks.

The distractions. The time of Facebook. Refreshing. Checking for something new. A new cat video to distract myself. From the constant feeling that I messed up. I’m messed up. I’m not good enough. New distraction. Searching. Daydreaming of a new life. A new location. New conversations in my head. Hoping. Hoping that something will change. A new distraction. Any distraction. Because this feeling sucks.

Putting yourself out there sucks. Whatever way it may be. For me, it’s one thing. It’s been that one thing for over a year now. Two years now. Will be another year. Probably. Fuck. I hope not.

For you, it may be another thing. It may be a sexy thing. It may be a school thing. It may be a work thing. It may be a personal, physical, mental, psychological thing. It may be anything. But it always sucks. The waiting. The hoping. The pretending.

I’m so sorry it sucks. I’m so over it sucking. I’m so over putting myself out there. But I’m still going to do it.

I’m not going to setting for this. I’m not going to stay with this. I’m not going to continue doing something that I don’t enjoy doing. Something that drains me of my self-esteem. Something that makes me feel stupid. Something that made me drink too much. Something that made me have to stop drinking. Something that makes me feel so so so so worthless.

I’m going to keep searching. I’m going to keep refreshing. I’m going to keep writing because it makes me feel good. I’m going to keep trying because I know I will find something.

There are two phrases that I fucking HATE, but I keep thinking about them.

  1. Things always happen for a reason.

No they don’t. Sometimes dumb things happen. Sometimes stupid, pointless, sad, scary, mean, terrible things happen.

  1. When one door opens, another one opens. (note: sometimes it’s a window).

This is also dumb. Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes you’re trapped.

I am not trapped. These things just happen.

 

It’s All About Love

As you weirdos may remember, I do martial arts. I started doing it last summer. I’m currently working on my purple belt (I think. I have trouble remembering what colors go where in the system). I started off with one coach (Mark #2). Now I have a new coach (Mark #1).

My new coach recently told me that the marital arts are all about love. He heard that from someone, and he admitted that at first it was difficult for him to understand. It’s fighting. How is fighting about love?

What he failed to realize at the time is that martial arts is about self-defense. As a person learning martial arts, essentially learning how to fight, you learn that you don’t get into fights. You don’t WANT to get into fights. They teach you that if you’ve gotten yourself in a fight, you’ve already lost (as a women, I see flaws in this line of thinking, but I understand the point).

Here’s the idea: you want to do all that you can do to not fight someone. You walk away. You de-escalate a situation by talking. You avoid certain situations to begin with (dark alleys and the like).

But if you end up in a fight, it’s all about love.

I understood this concept when Mark #2 presented it to me like this: Do you think you could defend yourself?

Umm…

::gurglie noise::

Did it just get REALLY hot in here?

::shrug::

Mark #2: Imagine someone was attacking your nieces. Do you think you could defend them?

Fuck. Yes.

There’s the love.

That’s how the martial arts are all about love. You will do anything to defend the people you love. You will fight like hell to protect your family. I don’t have kids (#childfreebychoice), but I have people in my life that I would do anything for. If someone tried to hurt one of my nieces, one of my nephews, my sister, ANYONE in my life, I wouldn’t hesitate.

But why did I hesitate when asked if I could defend myself? I do love myself, but it’s something that is really tough. Thankfully, I’ve always had very supportive people around me. My parents loved me. They told me they were proud of me. They’ve always encouraged me to do the things I’m passionate about. They never told me that I was stupid or not good enough.

But I’ve told myself that I’m not good enough. I’ve told myself things like that my whole life. I used to stare at my thighs and pinch the fat and think I was gross. I’ve spent countless hours staring at and obsessing over my pores. It times, I was convinced that I was fat. Ugly. Gross. Unsexy. No one could ever like me. UGH!

Soon, that transitioned into not being smart enough. Not deserving to be in college or graduate school. I had the feeling that I was an imposter. No way I could have actually earned a degree (or three) based on MY ability. Someone must’ve not been paying attention. I slipped through the cracks. Really, you guys, I’m not supposed to be here!

My evielovely project, my writing, my therapy, and even part of my martial arts are all things that I’m doing to get over that. That negative talk. That imposter feeling. That self-hate. I’m working on building up my self-esteem and grow my love for myself.

My next post, I’m going to write about my depression. I wanted it to be this post, but I took me a while to figure out HOW I wanted to write about depression. What does that word mean? What does it feel like? What does it look like? What does it do to me? Someone recently asked me about it, and I struggled to explain it, in part because it’s personal (jeez, dude! It’s kinda none of your biz-nessss).

But then I got to thinking that I may be really helpful, and therefore REALLY important, to explain what that word means. Because it means a LOT of different things.

I couldn’t just jump into a post about depression, my struggle with it, what I’m going to work through it, and so on. So this is my start.

It’s all about love.