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Archive for the ‘Soapbox’ Category

Battle: Part 2 of 3

I have been 35 for nearly a month, and it has not looked like anything I imagined.

I am part of a large cohort of humans whose 2020 looks much, much different than they had planned. I was supposed to have lost more weight instead of gain back what I lost at the end of 2019. I had scheduled to race in Austin and Philadelphia and remove them from my bucket list of running in America’s 50 largest metropolises, rather than rehabbing a knee injury via Zoom physical therapy. For the first time in my professional life, I am unsure of my job security as an educator, as I suspect that any job cutting may come at the expense of specialists. My family has had biennial reunions since 1992, and now only God knows when we will reconvene with our matching shirts and high decibels in a hotel lobby. I lost an Uncle to Covid 19 whom I typically only saw at those reunions and have yet to be able to properly memorialize him because of stinking Covid 19.

What do I care about? How do I honor God from my couch? I hate to say that I want to be true to myself because my best self honors God, but He made me with certain strengths and weaknesses; if He made me a square I’m not supposed to mess with circle business, you know?

Yes, I care about being healthy, especially given the pandemic and my proximity to my parents and grandmother, but I do not have the emotional energy that I had last August to go ovaries to the wall with a disciplined eating regimen. I am volunteering to do some data entry with a campaign I support, but you know what? Sometimes I just want to take a nap. I was asked to step into leadership with a professional organization, and listen to this – while I am the first to advocate why my existence as a music teacher is essential, for some reason when I think about doing the work that facilitates student experiences, I think to myself – how important is this right now? There are people calling for the military to be in the streets; maybe the concerto competition can wait?

As I read my own words, I see a common thread. I’m not trying to tickle my own ivories, but come on – apparently God has blessed me with the spirit of a helper. Isn’t my moral responsibility to my family first? Can I really serve them if I am not my healthiest self, which means I gotta be right with God and perhaps not ordering baklava and pralines and eating with little restraint? Or am I being too hard on myself? Life has come at me pretty freaking fast in the past year, and I cannot fight every single battle that comes my way! I think part of adulting is accepting that my arsenal does have limits – but isn’t part of growth increasing my arsenal?

I WILL help – after I get a cookie.

cookie monster

Normal: Part 1 of 3

“You’re not normal.” – Mommy

Life on earth for the past few months has been weird, and according to my mother, I am no different. Her reaction was to my attitude as I described loving time at home, going to doctors’ appointments via telehealth, only venturing out for groceries. I’ve had happy hour with my besties on Zoom and celebrated my Aunt’s 75th birthday in the same manner. Frankly, the only thing I can’t wait to do is hugging my 100 year old Grandma, which I cannot bring myself to feel safe doing.

Yes, I understand that I am blessed to have a job (for now!) that has enabled me to work remotely. Though my husband is not working at the moment, I expect that he will return within a month. I don’t take for granted that my situation is among the rosier caused by Covid-19.

Can we finally admit though, that normal is kinda overrated?

For my home – normal is being home one full day together out of seven to see each other – and that day is filled with the things that help prepare us for another cycle of work. In 6 of those other days, we are driving over 50 miles – each – to and from our respective jobs. As much as I enjoy my work, it takes a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep doing it. While I do have what I feel is a robust life outside of work, my fitness pastime also takes work. It’s called WORKING. OUT. It’s in the name. 🙂 Who among us thinks they are paid enough for what they do? As an educator, I’ll have that fight with just about anyone aside from a nurse (thank you, thank you!).

It wasn’t just my mother that called me out, though – my priest did. I’ve been worshipping via Livestream on Sunday mornings and he was lamenting how he missed communion. “People can worship from anywhere, but communion is something done in person.” He got me. People take energy – whether it’s the ones in your house, or the ones on the street. Covid has quieted the most tiring part of life for me – and the indictment from my couch via the pulpit didn’t feel good. “Now I can donate my money and learn and not deal with humanity!” I’ve written here previously about how much effort it is to interact with others, but not quite badly enough to wipe out over 100,000 of my fellow American citizens, not to mention the other million or so in the rest of the world.

Reverend A.R. Bernard says we are to develop our strengths and manage our weaknesses. I would like to say I’ve been using this time for both, but in truth, I’ve just been enjoying the relative quiet. What could be more normal than that?

spongebob normal

She Ran Her Best, and I Can, Too.

I’ve never been more excited to vote than I was to vote for Elizabeth Warren.

If you know me, this may not seem like much. I am what people in politics call a “supervoter,” in that since I  pre-registered to vote when I was 17, I have NEVER missed an election. I even voted in the 2008 Florida presidential primary, when my vote literally did not count because apparently Florida violated the rules by moving the primary. I have been fascinated by the process since the Supreme Court decided the election in 2000. My mother once told me I was talking in my sleep about Bush tax cuts as a high schooler.

However.

There has never been a candidate that has moved me in such a personal, literal way. When E Dubs took out Bloomberg in that first debate, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I have been struggling with knee pain ever since I took on the Clearwater Causeway on January 28 and I thought to myself, “Dammit, if Warren G can take on a billionaire, I can handle a few miles!” I have never felt so inspired by someone to whom I have zero personal connection. Her plans. Her wisdom. Her wit. Her determination.

I have admired Senator Warren since the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her work marks the first time that I have seen the national political process make a difference in my every day life. When she entered the presidential race, I knew I would have to give her careful consideration. Everyone likes to pretend that their political decisions are 100% rational, but here’s the thing about me and Liz – my heart AND my brain believe she has more to give America than anyone else running right now.

Nobody can tell me God isn’t real – I got my campaign t-shirt in the mail today and I’m wearing it as I sip my rum and cola and type. I love that I voted for a woman whom I believe will continue to fight for me, even if it looks different than I had hoped. I love that I voted for someone who was the best candidate, without paying attention to worthless polls. I love that I voted for a genuine, human being – one who is perfectly imperfect. I love that I voted for another teacher!! If only she had a plan for me submitting my lesson plans on time…

I have been mad as hell as I’ve watched the corporate media erase her from the narrative. I am confident that if she were Edgar Warren with the same credentials, she would have the nomination LOCKED. UP. RIGHT. NOW. I wish I could blame my ups and downs with running on misogyny and the corporate media. MSNBC or Fox doesn’t want me to foam roll and stretch to avoid injury, amirite? I know she wants me to check my cart at Amazon.com because I added her book in both hardback and paperback and she would want me to just choose one because that’s prudent. But dammit I know Elizabeth Warren hopes I wrap up this post really quickly so I can go to bed, dream big, and fight hard another day. Believing in her helps me believe in myself. What greater gift can a person give another?

I stan a legend. I will NEVER regret voting for her and I am thankful for the opportunity. I made my voice heard and I will continue to do so.  I will vote for the Democratic nominee, but I stan only one. This is my race day shirt for the rest of the year. I hope Liz and I have a lot of races ahead to run – and win. ❤

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The Good Fight

My two previous posts notwithstanding, I don’t tend to dwell on this element of our relationship: 

 

I must confess that there is one time I am given a stark reminder of our cultural differences. Any guess? I’ll wait while you think. 
Would you care for a hint? 

  
Our radio presets, naturally. 

I feel it’s important to note before I proceed that I do not believe in “white music” or “black music” in the stereotypical sense of music belonging to certain listeners. Of course music originates from different cultures, and even subsets of American culture, but all cultures share a need to express feelings through music. I do not think it is inherently bad that people like what they know. Problems occur when we are judged for listening to music that is not “ours.” That’s stupid. Know that when I write “his music,” I am referring to his preferences, not his culture.

I am happy to report that I really dig Adonis’ music. He loves Greek music, classic rock, and soft rock. He enjoys my music as well – soul, funk, Caribbean, classical. We share our music with one another, give our honest thoughts, and have fun taking turns. I’m thankful that our presets will likely never be something to fight over. I do wonder, however, about what our presets represent and how we will handle it as a family. 

Now, I can hear your palm slapping your forehead. “Joan. Maybe music is JUST music,” you think to yourself. But all of us come with all kinds of presets, and most of us think that they are good and worth keeping. Adonis can listen to greek music in my car all day but I’ll be damned if he changes one of my presets. I have a feeling he feels similarly. We are proud of who we are. Thankfully, as American ethnic minorities, there’s not the pretense of thinking that either one of us is “normal,” which, of course, does not exist.

I want my offspring to not just embrace both of our cultures but to be as we are, enjoying exploring outside of their box. I ask myself how I would feel if they rejected my presets. Would that mean they didn’t appreciate that part of their heritage? Am I okay with indifference? Would I be okay if it were the reverse, that they were not into anything Greek at all? All of those potential things perturb me, but not as much as the idea of them feeling like they have so many presets they aren’t comfortable anywhere. I am ‘just’ ethnically mixed (as opposed to racially, at least for the most part) and sometimes it is a fight to feel like I belong anywhere. I think one of the reasons Adonis and I work is because as an immigrant, he has had to fight for the same thing. We’ve found belonging with each other and it is beautiful. I will always fight for my family to be at peace within ourselves and to help foster environments where others are made to feel at peace with us.

Party Politics, Part II

Apparently, Adonis and I had similar takeaways from the dinner party, but mine was more analytical and his more personal. 

Me: Wow. Prejudice is everywhere. Everyone is the same. Heh. 

Him: I can’t believe my friends were not accepting of you! 

Huh?

Initially, this caught me off guard. I suppose it was because the party had a different purpose for me than it did for him; I wanted to be with him and get to know his people. Honestly, the reverse didn’t even occur to me because I do not open up if I do not trust in the exchange of ideas/emotions. I ask questions, I politely engage, I actively listen, but it ends there. 

I reflected upon my bringing Adonis around my circle of friends. I can’t think of an instance where anyone close to me hasn’t made an effort to get to know him and be excited for us. I guess finding the love of your life and an upcoming wedding IS dinner party conversation if you haven’t seen a friend in a while, but it didn’t come up. He lamented that he believes it’s subtle prejudice and that he thought the people he knew were different. “Why?” I said. “The whole conversation last night was about how some people are better than others.” 

Adonis’ reaction reminded me why I get more excited every day to be Mrs. Katsopolis. I hate that he was upset, but I love that he knew there was something over which to be upset. I love that we can be honest in a non-threatening way with each other despite our different backgrounds. While the idea that we live in a post-racial society is complete nonsense, when I am out and about I am likely to assume mistreatment/lack of interest is due to self-absorption or insecurity, a lot of which I saw last night. It’s just not a far leap to think that if you think you are the best thing to happen to civilization that I would be looked at as inferior. Solomon said it best:  

“A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I think it really sucks for Adonis that by choosing to marry a black woman he will likely not be able to show me off in the way he wants to. He’s losing some of his privilege by choice! How amazing is that?! He sees things in people he wouldn’t have seen if he were not with me. I say this because it humbles me – he is proud of being with me and wants others to appreciate me, too. It’s not that the feeling isn’t mutual; I think life has just taught me to expect less from people. No matter what is on my inside, I’m simply not going to be seen as a catch by society. Not everyone in my family grasps what a catch I have, either. The only difference between he and I is that I was prepared for this. I’ve been prepared all of my life for this kind of foolishness, from all sides. I know that I’ve hit the freaking jackpot, but if you don’t see that it’s really not my problem. What can we do other than that get married and start making cinnamon babies to piss off more people? 

 N.B. I feel like Adonis would want me to tell you that he is actually taller than I am. Don’t let my heels fool you. 

Party Politics, Part 1 

I did something a little crazy on Friday night. 

Per usual, I was talking to Adonis throughout the day when he drops this bombshell on me: 

We’re invited to a dinner party. Tonight.

  
If you know me, you know that 1) I am the type of person who plans her spontaneity and 2) I am not one for large, non-family gatherings. Make no mistake – this is not because I am uncomfortable around a lot of people, as someone recently surmised as I turned down a different invitation. It’s that I like real, intimate, BS free conversations with individuals and it’s difficult to get past small talk at these parties. I get that it is an important way to show love to people, but it burns me out. Moreover – what’s with the 6 hours notice? Clearly we can’t be that important to these people. That being said, Adonis rarely asks me to do anything like this, and he accompanies me to fun things like races and concerts, so I didn’t put up a fight. Though we’ve been together quite some time, I haven’t met too many of his people because of his crazy chef schedule, and I knew this was a golden opportunity.

Because the party was located in between us geographically, we met there. I also figured that I would be able to leave when I needed to in order to sleep on time; I hate being held party hostage! Basically, nothing was of note until the after-dinner conversation, which turned to politics. “Finally!” I thought. “Some action.” Greeks are like Jamaicans, in that every conversation eventually turns to politics, so I was very comfortable. 

For the next hour and a half, I think I spoke maybe – 5 times? 10? I sat mostly in silence. I am one not to speak unless I feel it will be productive, and it was the type of conversation where I knew it would not be. It’s quite normal for people discussing politics to have an agenda and not really listen to what the other persons are saying. Basically, it seemed like a d*** measuring contest. I smiled to myself as I earned good fiancee points and listened to his friends talk about everything wrong with Greece and all the people they blame. 

My favorite part of the evening was when the conversation turned to “good people.” They were talking about “real” Greeks and how people on certain islands are no good and how their not being “truly” Greek explained it. I laughed inwardly. People everywhere are the same – everyone thinks they are the best and everyone else is second class. 

As bedtime approached, I excused myself for the night. Adonis said he would follow soon after. Not gonna lie, another reason racing is one of the best things to happen to me is that I have a legitimate excuse to escape social foolishness. However, I can’t say it was a wasted evening; in fact, it was quite interesting as sociological experiment – the way I believe a dinner party should be enjoyed. 

See all this melanin? I STILL got pre-checked by TSA. Racism must be dead: Part Two

So, I went to Jamaica and ran. The trip was exciting to me from the get go, y’all. I looked at my boarding pass and saw something I had never seen before: Pre-checked by TSA! Pre. That seems important. As I walked toward security, I noticed that there was the line for the proletariat and the line for pre-checked. Friggin’ sweet. I was through the line within moments instead of wondering if I was going to make my flight. Ah, the good life.

If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone, right? I mean, I AM darker than a brown paper bag. If you see “Lady J” on a flight manifest you probably won’t think ter…see. I don’t even want to finish the word because I want to be pre-checked again. I know y’all are watching, WordPress. Of COURSE the government doesn’t screen people based on race, sex, or religious affiliation. Because people are fair everywhere, right? Especially those with power.

I found it ironic that soon after I was in the air, I watched the video of Eric Garner’s death in sheer horror. Apparently, selling loose cigarettes warrants paying with your life. I say this is ironic because I know with great certainty that like my amazing TSA pre-check, that would not happen to just anyone. There are classes in this country that are simply more privileged than others. Who is the most uncomfortable with this? The privileged.

It’s like the feeling I got today when I was getting my nails did at the salon. My tech and I come from VERY different backgrounds. I am definitely more Hilary Banks than Florida Evans and the tech was talking about not having earned her GED. I don’t want to pat myself on the back for not having pat myself on the back, but I will say this – I understand that many things were in place for me to be able to achieve what I have. The vast majority of those things were completely out of my control – the family I was born into as well as the way my parents raised me. Yes, I absolutely have free will and I’ve made some pretty good choices. The environment was set up for me to do so. It is by God’s grace that I am where I am. If tech were to say to me, “Lady J. I could be where you are if I had had the opportunities you did,” what could I say? “Probably.” You know what I wouldn’t say? “Where you are is your fault.” I don’t have enough knowledge to say that. However, I DO know enough to know that I, Joan, am incredibly blessed.

Why is it that many who purport to follow Christ have such a problem admitting they benefit from things over which they have no control? I thought when you accept Jesus into your heart you acknowledge that there’s no way you could receive grace and mercy by your own doing. You know why some people were less disturbed by the video of Eric Garner’s death? Imma tell you why. Because some people KNOW it will never be them or their child whom the police would kill like that. And it’s not because no one else’s child is above selling loose cigarettes.

Those of you who insist you have everything that you do because you’ve pulled yourselves up by your own bootstraps seem to take for granted that you were given shoes in the first place. Not everyone gets Pre-Checked, y’all.

And perfect eyelashes, apparently.

And perfect eyelashes, apparently.

 

The muzik teecher hoo whishes she sang gooder: Part One

Sic. Sic. Sic sic sic sic.

There was this one time I wrote about wishing I had a nicer voice so I could, like, totally wow Jesus with it in church each Sunday. I mean, why shouldn’t I be golden-throated? This music teacher has received thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of training over the course of her life. That means I should be able to sing any note in any song, regardless of whether I’ve heard it, immediately, amirite? Really, that’s the whole point of going to church – to prove that I’ve earned the Master of Music that puts a few extra bucks into my paycheck. Worship. Meh.

The music education that I’ve received not only entitles me to some rights (yes, my dislike of Justin Bieber means more than the average civilian’s) but also comes with some responsibility. No, I don’t have to sing perfectly in church, but you’re probably not going to see me there sporting a “Certified Music Teacher” t-shirt either. I understand that certain things are expected of me because I am a formally trained musician. Not only should I be skilled at playing instruments and singing, but I am also expected to be able to share that knowledge in a way that is most likely to encourage learning and retention. If there is a piano at a party and someone who took lessons for six months because mommy said starts playing heart and soul, they will get all the claps. If I sit down and do the same thing, I will get some funny looks. Why? Because more is expected of me. This is not something about which I should complain. The horrendous spelling in the title of this post should not come from a teacher of any kind. Why not? Because more is expected of me. It is my job to set an example. I embrace it and walk humbly.

I say the above to say that it puzzles me to read things to the effect that people seem to care more when civilians, regardless of alleged crime committed, are killed, than when law enforcement are killed. I will always be more upset when the police screw up than when a criminal (not saying those who have been killed are criminals!) does because guess what? That’s what criminals do. They commit crimes. They are doing their job and doing it well. A policeman killing someone wrongfully is always going to be more unjust because of the responsibility of the badge. The life of the criminal is not worth more, but the screw up of the cop is more significant. Why is this so difficult to understand? Don’t parents lecture older children more harshly because “they should know better?”

My heart breaks for the families of the two officers that were killed on duty in New York. My question – why aren’t more people upset that this dude killed his girlfriend as well? She didn’t swear to serve and protect so to hell with her? A lot of these jokers shouting “All Lives Matter” don’t seem to be too concerned with hers. Why are the people who chant this seem unperturbed by young black men being shot for absolutely nothing? Perhaps it’s like Animal Farm where the pigs eventually confess that while four legs are good, two legs are better…

Now THAT – is sick.

 

More than any other musician. Yeah, I said it.

More than any other musician. Yeah, I said it.

Bada$$es need love, too

As the peak of triathlon season approaches, I am feeling many things. With less than two weeks remaining until my “A” race, what I am feeling most is doubt. Doubting that I will finish within the time goal. Doubting that I will finish at all. Incredulous that I belong among this group of people who do things like swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles. In a row. This is my first race of this distance – it’s normal to feel some anxiety, right?

Evidently, I am not the only person who will show up at his or her race with these type of feelings. I have found myself sympathetic with other beginning triathletes who question themselves similarly. However, I have caught myself being judgmental with anyone who has more than like, 5 minutes racing experience than I do.

I’ve been there.

I know what you’re going through.

and the worst –

I. Am. Right. There. With. You.

The f*** you are.

You have been doing this a long time OR completed this same distance or even same course before. You’re so much faster and stronger than I am. Why are you even talking to me? You make me sick.

And then – I am reminded of my relationship with music and my music babies. One of my favorite exercises is to have them raise their hands if they suffer from stage fright. I always raise my hand with them because indeed, I still get very anxious before I perform. Invariably, at least one student responds, “No. Way.” I tell them we are all growing musicians, but I’ve just been growing a little longer than they have. And they actually buy it.

I applaud my babies when they are brave enough to play 3 note songs for each other. As I age, I think I am even more proud of the risk I take as I share music with others. In some ways, greater experience brings greater risk. You’ve delivered results in the past and success becomes more normal than not. As you expect more of yourself, others start to believe in you as well. “Man. People think this is going to go well. What if it doesn’t?”
Dammit, if anyone DARED to question why I was nervous as my recital last month was approaching, I looked at him or her as though s(he) had two heads. “Why wouldn’t I be nervous? Dumbass.”

Oh. Heh.

I suppose that if I am allowed to be nervous on stage, despite having performed since I was 4, people who already call themselves Ironman can be nervous too. While I haven’t read the USAT guidebook lately, I think it’s a safe bet to say that only humans are allowed to compete in races. To be human is to be fragile. Having the will to test your limits, regardless of your experience level, is to always be admired – never judged.

So uh – for all the thoughts that have ever run through my head about you – my bad. 🙂 I am praying for your progress, just as I pray for my own.

13 days.

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7:30.

“I’m predicting under 7:30,” she says.

She, of course, is Coachie. 7 hours, 29 minutes, and 59 seconds – or less – is now officially hanging over my head as my goal for my half-ironman. I had just said to her that I think I will finish in time (I have until 5:50 PM and I start at 9:12 AM) but apparently, triathlon coaches design plans with specific goals in mind for their clients. And share said goals with their clients. Who. Knew.

At first, I was bummed for a couple of reasons: 1) Now if I finish in 7:30:00 or longer, I didn’t meet my goal, 2) 7:29:59 or less is slow. So like, even if I make my goal, I’m still slow. Gross.

I confided in 3M that Coachie gave me a time goal. She asked me twice what it was and I wouldn’t tell her for the reasons I stated above. She then said regardless, she would be at the finish line waiting for me. Of course she will. She’s 3M. That’s what a 3M does.

After I bid her good night, I immediately regretted not telling her. I reflected on a post I saw on Facebook about a bike ride. “Easy ride,” the post read. “40-50 miles. 17-19 mph.” I laughed when I read it. “Easy for you, perhaps,” I thought to myself. When students in my class say bullshit like that, in an instance where they grasp something more quickly or are more experienced than another, I am in a place where I can reason with them and say “Hey. Maybe ‘easy’ wasn’t the best choice of words. It might not be a big deal for you but how do you feel when someone says something is easy when it is difficult for you?” The ones with no signs of conduct disorder reply sympathetically. With grown ups on Facebook, I just dismiss them as assholes. Then I make a second choice.

I. Will. Never. Be. That. Person.

I refuse to be the person that causes another person to be discouraged because I either A. Feel like I am not as good as I could be, whatever the hell I’ve made that out to be or B. do something with relative ease.

There are some who would rather die than finish a half-ironman in 7 hours and 30 minutes. I’m not worried about them. I thank God that I did not encounter some of these jokers before I got into racing. Not because they are faster than I am; don’t get it twisted, I’m no hater. I’m concerned with the people who are on the fence. The people who wonder if they have it in them to do things of which they never dreamed.

In 18 days, I have the privilege of trying something I never would have dared even a year ago. The only thing that could be more awesome than that is helping someone else to do the same.

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NB: As my race draws nearer, I’m going to use my blog to give props to specific people in my life that are making this possible. You’ve been warned.

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