Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm a Fixer. Like Olivia Pope. Only not. (a Stitch Fix post)

STITCH FIX! So fun! Let's talk about it!

Friends have been using this service for awhile and I didn't really see the value in it for me. It seemed to be for women who:
A. Didn't like to shop
B. Don't know how to shop
C. Didn't have time to shop.

None of those are true for me. I'm obsessed with clothes, for better or worse. There's a reason that my offerings of time and talent to the foster/adoptive community involve…clothes.

However…The one thing they *can* offer me is unique pieces. Delivered to my doorstep. Hello Convenience, don't you look saucy today!

Here's how it works:

You create an account and a style profile. A style profile includes not only your sizes but takes you through a series of styles, asking you to share your opinion.
(this part was my fav!)

You choose what type of clothing (casual vs business, etc) you want your fix to focus on and give an estimate of how much you'd like to spend on pieces. Finally, you choose how often you want the fixes delivered and it's all set. Each fix charges you $20 for a styling fee BUT! if you end up keeping any pieces, that $20 goes toward your purchase. You can get them delivered as often (I think as often as every two weeks?) or as little as you'd like.

You get 5 pieces in your box. With each piece you get suggestions on how to wear it, dressed down or up. Here's an example of my first fix:
(The fifth piece was a necklace)

My pieces ranged from $28-$78. I chose to keep just one this time around but asked for a different size on a second piece.

You try your pieces on and you get three days to return it in an already provided self-addressed stamped envelope. I literally folded up the pieces I was returning, put them in the bag/envelope provided, sealed it and stuck it in the mailbox. Done and done.

Here's the thing: I'm a bargain shopper. I can find the most amazing deals and have to stop myself from bragging about how little stuff costs when people compliment an item I'm wearing. Price was my biggest hesitation on this endeavor. However, I'm not using this service to find a whole new wardrobe. I'm not using it to stock up on basics. I have all that. I do have a hard time finding unique pieces. I don't get (nor do I need) to just stroll through boutique shops finding cute one-of-a-kinds. But when I do find something like that, it's usually more than what I'd spend on a V-neck from Target.

I'm really happy with my first fix and hear that as you provide feedback (hated this piece, this one was too long, etc) your stylist gets better and better. I have a feeling I'm going to become their biggest fan! Ha!

If you decide to try it, feel free to use this link to sign up and I'll get a one-time referral credit. Holla! Or if you have a friend that's already doing it, ask them for their referral link. Whatever. Just go get cute stuff!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your white friend is telling you that white privilege is real.

*Deep Breath*

First of all, I have no business writing on this topic. It's way out of my league for one thing. Secondly, I'd venture to say we've globally heard enough from the "white mom of a black son." This isn't a blog post for the world though, I'm not trying to be the voice for this group or for this issue. It's mainly for MY peeps, MY community, the people I grew up with, the ones we used to attend church with, go to school with, work with, etc. I need you to hear this from me instead of an article by a person you don't know.

St. Louis is a mess right now. It's disrupted my faux-utopia and I can't stop thinking about it. I can't even begin to touch on the realities of what's happened to Mike Brown and in Ferguson or what it all means going forward.

And before 8 years ago I could have acknowledged it with a "this is awful" and moved onto something else. We're physically far enough away from Ferguson that I could get away from it all.

But now I can't. I have two brown boys that I love more than anything. And they won't always be holding a white lady's hand or being carried on her hip.

A trend I'm noticing as shrapnel of this whole event is the validity of white privilege. Not to distract you from the main issues of the main story, but I do want to address it.

My fear in all of this on a personal level is that everyone has filled in the blanks of the story already, no matter what facts come out. My fear is that people stop listening to those who finally have our attention, writing them off because of bad behavior. My fear is that the behaviors of a few have somehow cemented your beliefs (via your grandparents beliefs) of the many. My fear is that you don't believe in white privilege because look what "they" are doing to themselves.

I wrote an article about my process awhile back and never published it. Rather than rewrite my thoughts, I'll just post it here, even though it's a little dated.
“What color are you?” I asked my 6 year old latino son after he brought up an innocent story from school.
“What color is Dez?” I pointed to his african american brother.
“Dark brown.”
“What about me? and Daddy?” I asked gesturing to his white parents.
“You’re pink. And daddy’s hairy.”

When we started the adoption process for Desmond, the social worker finishing our home study asked how comfortable we were creating an environment for success as a trans-racial family. Feeling confident we knew what we needed to, we nodded and went to the next question. We got this, no problem.
How to Succeed as a Trans-racial Family in 4 Easy Steps (as we understood it):

1. Don't dress Dez in anything with monkeys on it.
2. Provide toys and books with matching race of each child in our family.
3. Learn how to work with his hair/skin.
4. Keep positive role models of his same race active in our life.

For the first 18 months, that was all we needed. Then Trayvon Martin was shot. Media exploded with story after story of how racism still exists. I stopped reading about co-wash products for 3B/4A curl types and started reading about The Black Male Code. I couldn't process it. I couldn't wrap my mind around those realities, those conversations. And I couldn't put my finger on why I kept getting so overwhelmed until I read an article on White Privilege.

It clicked.

I was sitting in the dissonance of my white privilege and Dez's black male code.

My boys will encounter struggles where I encountered favor.

Like a lot of adoptive families, I'd never really looked at either issue. Now parenting couldn't move forward without wrestling them both. I don't think I even realized that white privilege was a real thing. (Another example of my white privilege.) And my childhood only addressed racism in history class.

Our boys are growing up constantly hearing how amazing they are, how beautiful their skin is, how great their hair looks. They're hearing about successful people of all races in national news and local stories. They're being raised to be proud of who they are in every aspect and to love this country. They're growing up in a diverse school in a diverse neighborhood. The people they're practicing their dinner table manners with are of all colors.

But they're also being raised in a time when some don't think Marc Anthony should be allowed to sing God Bless America, and Nina Davuluri shouldn't be allowed to become Miss America. In a time when twitter and Facebook are places where racists find friends. They're being raised two miles from a zoo where a woman this week walked her children around the primate house pointing out how the animals look just like President Obama. In a city where a white policeman wrote a threatening, racist letter to a black policeman. Near a city where another foster mom accidentally booked a hotel for a getaway the same weekend as a KKK rally. It's still here, this racism crap.

As a nation we've come so far yet I'm still incredibly nervous to send my children out into it.

The balance will be tricky, teaching them to be mindful of their surroundings, about having to prove to strangers what type of person you are, about how their white friends can wear certain clothes that they maybe shouldn't, how they could get singled out simply because of their skin color while simultaneously keeping them from bitterness, anger, suspicion and paranoia of the general public.

At some point in their lives they will get pulled over, they will go to the mall with a group of friends, they will stay up late having fun with their friends, they will walk down a dark street (Or a street in broad daylight as was the case for Mike Brown), they will want to return an entree at a restaurant. These are all situations where two clicks into a google search, you could find articles on race being a factor of what went wrong. And these are all situations I've encountered and had no issues. I've spent my life easily getting out of any trouble I've brought upon myself, authorities seem to giggle at this silly white girl and send her on her way.

Like the scene in The Butler as they watch their eldest head off to college, no longer under their protection, I feel uneasiness about the times when they will no longer be with us. And honestly? I wondered if that was because I felt they receive some sort of extra protection being carried around by white parents. Like a racial version of an "It's okay, he's with me" card. I found myself wondering if that's why I hadn't wrestled through white privilege or the black male code yet. Like I'd subconsciously assumed the boys would escape racism because we had.

White privilege doesn't make it dangerous for my boys to walk down the street but it's evil twin, racial profiling, does.

At this point, they don't get it. Eliot thinks Dez will make a more successful ninja because being darker allows him to hide more easily. (And Dez? As I type this he's putting a piece of toast into the air conditioner, so we have other things to work on before we get to this.) They don't care about flesh-colored bandaids when a Batman one is also an option. They're not trying to get a job or date someone. Eliot didn't even notice that this photo op was odd:
I know the conversations are coming but they're not for now. And they may not even be for just us. They need a safe place to ask questions, questions that their white parents will not have the experience to answer.
We have storehouses of love for them, but we will only get so far as a trans-racial family if we don’t acknowledge aspects of their life that will be harder for them than we ever knew, if we don’t acknowledge our own perspectives being created through white privilege. And we know we’re just scratching the surface of what being a trans-racial family means, besides being pink and hairy, of course.
When my black son turns 18 and is walking down the street with a friend, I desperately need St. Louis to be a different place by then. The only way to get there is by educating ourselves and taking a hard look at our hearts to see what's in there. What have you said out loud in front of your children about the rioters? About the cop? There's a lot of unhealthy on both sides here.

I needed you to hear this from me because I need you to realize it's true. Once you realize it's true you can start listening, REALLY listening to the voices begging to be heard. It's not to make you feel bad or to assume all other races hate you because you're white. Open your eyes, open your ears. Use your privilege to stand against injustice.


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Given that it's, ya know, half way through 2014, I decided to add myself to Bloglovin'.

Miss you, Google Reader…It's taken me this long to grieve you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This House.

We rented this apartment thinking we'd only be here a year.

That was SIX years ago.

In the meantime...

Eliot turned 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Dez came home to this house. And then turned 1, 2, and 3.

Russ was in a band for three years, a graphic designer for two, a free-lance designer for at least five and a worship leader at two churches for all six.
I ended my successful Arbonne business, and worked in the electrical industry (??) for two years before Dez came along, making me a SAHM.

ReSource was started here and after only a year+ we've served almost 200 families/children. (and given out 7 bikes already!)
We struggled with 5 real Christmas trees in this house, getting into a fight every year.

Russ and I celebrated our 10th and 15th anniversaries here.

We packed and unpacked for/from 6 trips to Guatemala in this house.

We helped plant a church.

We've accumulated 8 tattoos while living here…
I've trained for 4 half-marathons in and out of this house.

Eliot learned how to ride a bike, tie his shoes and asked what a "crush" was here.

There's been 6 teeth lost, 8 family photoshoots, 3 baseball seasons, 4 soccer seasons, 5 first days of school, 5 stitches in a forehead and a newly super-glued nose.

We've lost a great grandmother and a grandfather during this time.

There were date nights in and babysitters for nights out.

Two boys were successfully potty trained here.

We've completed 4 home-studies, fostered one kiddo and had one infant adoption fall through.

The hardest two years of our marriage were in this house.

I finished writing a memoir. It took almost all of those six years.
We said goodbye to one sweet dog and hello to another.
In this house we decided we were finished trying for biological kids.

Traditions were started in this house.

There was countless dinner table moments, dozens of cookies baked and burned, snowmen built, water guns fired, pancake breakfasts.

Uncounted time-outs served, band practices, wrestling matches, baseballs hit, Friday family movie nights.

Two boys born 1700 miles and 5 years apart became brothers. In this house.

A man and his wife fought for their marriage. In this house.

It's been great, 38XX Shaw. Thanks for hosting us.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

7 things you shouldn't say to people struggling with infertility. (as told by my memory) (and also my friends)

See this cute couple snuggling on the Goonies beach? They were only 2 years into their 7+ years of infertility. They had quite the road ahead of them and couldn't have made it out to the other side without their community. But it also wasn't without the deflecting of hearing the wrong things on the regular. Here's a cheat sheet for those of you with friends on that same journey. Hope it helps.

1. "Oh my gosh, this pregnancy was a total surprise! Can you believe it? We totally weren't even trying!" (other variations include: "every time he looks at me we get pregnant!")

This might be the worst one. I know that I know that I know that you're trying to say "I didn't do it on purpose, I didn't get your dream before you on purpose" but that's not what we hear. We hear "Why is this so hard for you? it's really not that hard."

What to say instead: "Yep, we're pregnant! Due in ____. How are you guys doing?" Move along. Nothing to see here, folks.

2. "Please come to my baby shower?"

For the majority of women I know who struggle with infertility, other people's baby showers are the worst. The worst. It's not that we're not happy for you, it's the extreme isolation that comes from those events. It's impossible to compartmentalize our trauma. Even though we're no longer in the thick of it, I still try to avoid them. That may seem harsh but it's one of the worst triggers. Even after we adopted Eliot, I thought "I'm a mom now, I can handle baby showers!" but no. So uncomfortable with all the conversations about birthing plans and breastfeeding and how pregnancy affects your body. I just kinda check out.

What to say instead: "Ball is totally in your court on this one. If you want to come, please do, we'd love to have you but we understand if you wanna skip this one. If you don't come, let's go out to lunch this week instead."

3. "Sorry I didn't tell you earlier, I was scared you'd be mad."

Finding out someone (that you're somewhat close to) is pregnant in a big group announcement is rough. We can't hide our reaction. There were times I was legitimately happy for a friend but that happened to be the day we found out we *weren't* pregnant. There's no way to hide that. I never wanted to take away from their joy of that moment. We're never mad at you for getting pregnant. We're suffering and struggling with our own pain.

What to do instead: Opinions vary on this but I always told friends that an email was the best way to tell me. An email before the public announcement. That gives me space to receive the news and compose myself in private so I can join in the joy when the public moment happens. You rarely know where the friend is in their fertility steps and springing the news on them can often fall during a rough patch.

4. "It'll happen. Hang in there."

Um…no. That's 100% not true. You don't know what you're talking about. You probably don't know what else to say so you're just trying to make it better. A bandaid to make the bleeding stop even though the wound calls for something so much stronger.

What to say instead: "That sweater looks great on you!" Just kidding, but maybe don't worry about what to say as much as just listen. We're often nervous that people are weary of hearing our same ol' sob story. Especially after years of it. The wounds get deeper as the months pass and we just want to be listened to sometimes. A good ol' fashioned "That really sucks, I'm sorry you're going through this. What do you need right now? A night out for drinks? A hard run? A ridiculous chick flick? Say the word and I'm there."

5. "Want my kids? Jeez, they're getting on my nerves."

That's really not comforting. I know you're frustrated with your kids, that's the nature of them. Maybe vent to another mom about that, not someone spending all their money, time, emotions and strength desperately trying to even just get one. Downplaying the joys of motherhood for you doesn't take away the extreme desire to experience it for us.

What to say instead: "You look so tiny! Have you lost weight?"

6. "You should totally adopt."

Again, no. Not everyone should adopt. NOT EVERYONE SHOULD ADOPT. That's another post for a different day, just know it's not the answer to everyone's infertility problems. Adoption is complex and too many couples get into it as the solution to their problems. It makes the adoption about them, not about the child. The years of hard work trying to get pregnant can create a sense of entitlement once the adoption process starts. It's not healthy for anyone involved. We struggled with it and seen so many other couples struggle with it.

What to say instead: "I'm so sorry this is all happening. What can I do for you?" Stop solving. Start listening.

7. "You're still young, you have plenty of time!"

Every doctor visit, every month charted, every shot given, pill taken, our soul gets more deeply invested in becoming pregnant. Every month it doesn't happen feels hopeless. It is a constant roller coaster of deep feelings. This comment seems comforting, seems to offer perspective but really it's just dismissive of the legitimate pain we're experiencing. If we buy into that? Guess what happens every birthday that passes?

What to say instead: "I'm so sorry. Do you want to talk about it more?"

Some people don't get it, don't get social cues, etc. But most of these honestly came from people who truly care for us and just want to help. I don't fault them for their intent. No one ever intended to cause pain. Hence, the reason for the post. Hopefully educating and preventing further use of these common responses.

I hope you're noticing a theme. Stop defaulting to phrases that try to solve or dismiss or take away our pain. We can be hard to love, I get that. My needs from you changed daily, sometimes hourly. You're always safest to just say "That sucks, I'm sorry it's happening to you guys, what can I do? Here's some ice cream, you've gotten too skinny."