Still breathing

I feel like my last post needs some kind of follow-up.  I have a back-log of “regular” posts (at least in my head), but jumping right into, “and here was my experience making soy milk,” doesn’t quite seem right.  So, here we go . . . .

Claiming that one “doesn’t see color” is a cop-out.  First, unless you actually have some type of visual impairment, it’s total B.S.  Claiming that I walk down the street and don’t notice the color of a person’s skin would be like claiming that I don’t notice whether that person is male or female.  Our brains automatically take in and process this information.  Noticing skin color is not good or bad.  It just is.  It’s what we do with this information that is important.

Second, claiming to be color/race blind actually undermines progress in addressing racial disparities.  This article in Psychology Today breaks it down well:

Colorblindness creates a society that denies [minorities’] negative racial experiences, rejects their cultural heritage, and invalidates their unique perspectives . . . . And if you can’t talk about it, you can’t understand it, much less fix the racial problems that plague our society.

Claiming to be “colorblind” insulates us from wrestling with difficult topics like white privilege; disparate police practices, like racial profiling and unequal use of force; and a broken justice system.

White Privilege
Back in September, I requested a copy of Shelly Tochluk’s Witnessing Whiteness.  I was not able to be part of the YWCA-led group that was reading the book.  I started reading the book, but I just couldn’t get through it.  Not because I disagreed with Tochluk or struggled with the concepts, but more due to the writing style.  I think having a group would have helped a lot, in large part because the book just felt so academic.  I wasn’t expecting a “fun” book, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I’m wondering if Tim Wise’s White Like Me, would be a better starting point.

That said, I think one of the better analogies for thinking about white privilege is running a marathon (would like to give credit, but don’t remember where I heard this).  We’re all running the same marathon, but white privilege means that you get to start the race at mile 10, while someone else, just because his/her skin is a different color, starts at mile 0.  And then maybe your course looks a little different as a white person: fewer hills, or at mile 20, you get a “skip to mile 22” card.  Or maybe you’re white and born into poverty, so you don’t quite start at mile 10, but perhaps you start at mile 5 and experience some of the other benefits along the course.

Police practices
Objecting and speaking out against minority deaths at the hands of police officers doesn’t make one “anti-law enforcement.”  The reality is, we have serious problems.  This is not one “bad” officer, in one city.  This is a systemic problem throughout the United States.  The expectation that law enforcement exist to “serve and protect” should not depend on the color of one’s skin, but it does — here are the names and faces.  And it’s enough of an issue that it’s caught the attention of the United Nations.  We have a problem.

In our current “justice” system, police officers are often treated as if they are above the law.  There is little incentive for trying to diffuse situations rather than immediately resorting to force.  If you follow one link here, please read this article, written by a former St. Louis police officer.  It speaks volumes about the issues we face.

If you want to take action, sign this petition to reform how we investigate police misconduct, so police officers are held accountable for their actions.  There are legitimate alternatives to using lethal force (including avoiding escalating things to the point where it’s even considered), but it is becoming clear that without real disincentives to using lethal force, police have little reason to discontinue business as usual.

It would be nice to live in a cozy little world where “police aren’t the bad guys.”  Have I benefited or received help from police officers?  Absolutely!  But your experiences, and the degree to which you agree or disagree with the statement that “police are the good guys,” probably depends in large extent on the color of your skin.  That’s white privilege.  That’s racial injustice.  And it needs to change.


I can’t breathe

As I read the news from New York City yesterday, about a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death, after the coroner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, my chest was tight.  I recognized my body’s reaction and reminded myself to breathe.  Because I could.  Because no one’s hands were around my neck, cutting off the oxygen that these human bodies require to live.  And with that thought in mind, it was pretty hard to get rid of the tightness in my chest, the rock in my stomach.  As well it should have been.

I don’t know where to start, so I’ll share some words from my friend Dan:

‘To all you people who think of Mike Brown and say, “just don’t assault a police officer and you won’t die,” I give you Eric Garner.

To all you people who think of Eric Garner and say, “just do what the officer tells you and you won’t die,” I give you John Crawford.

To all you people who think of John Crawford and say, “he should not have picked up that gun that was for sale at Wal-Mart and he would not have died…”

To all you people who think of [12-year-old] Tamir Rice and say, “he should not have played with a toy gun…”

I am tired of you waiting for the “perfect” case to understand that this is real. The people that you see protesting are not making this shit up. It is racism. It is real. We have a problem.’

Photo credit: D. Stout

On Saturday, I participated in a small demonstration at a busy intersection in South St. Louis City.  This peaceful action, organized by a local Unitarian church’s “Standing on the Side of Love” group, took place in the same ZIP code where I live: the whitest, wealthiest ZIP code within city limits.  At midday on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, this intersection, near a Target, Schnucks, and other retail locations, was hopping.

Within minutes of gathering, a woman stopped at a red light told us that we needed to “go back to Ferguson.”  She continued to try to engage those in our group, blocking traffic in the right travel lane through at least two light cycles.  How dare we bring this issue to her nice, quiet, monochromatic neighborhood?!?  How dare we stand there quietly on the sidewalk making her feel uncomfortable?

Not long after that, the police swarm began.  My friends who were walking to join us saw ten police SUVs speeding down the street with their lights on.  Before long, our group of 30 or so demonstrators had attracted an equal number of police vehicles, each vehicle carrying multiple officers, for a likely ratio of 3 [fully armed, riot-gear equipped, zip-tie handcuffs at the ready] police officer to every 1 demonstrator.  Oh, and some National Guard thrown in the mix, just for fun.

Two officers came over to talk to one of the organizers.  I don’t know exactly what was said, but I guess they decided to “let” us stay (on the public sidewalk, where we were breaking no laws), though they had no intention to de-escalate the police presence.

It was an interesting ninety minutes.  We received a number of friendly honks (as a bicyclist, you get good at discerning these) and waves, but there were certainly nasty looks and comments (shouted from the safety of cars) as well.  These, to me, showed that the organizers had picked a good location for this action.

We had a single incident of a very riled-up man (red sweatshirt guy) jumping out of his car to confront us.  The following minutes were tense.  Most of the group wisely chose to not engage, leaving the discussion to a well-prepared organizer.  Red sweatshirt guy finally calmed down, and before he left, I overheard a fellow demonstrator sharing his story, his experiences, of being a middle-aged black man, harassed by the police (on multiple occasions) for no reason.  Red sweatshirt guy actually seemed to be listening.  I have hope that, just maybe, a tiny seed was planted.  Face-to-face encounters, where we actually listen are SO important.

As planned, the demonstration ended after ninety minutes.  As Matthew and I walked back to the library, where we’d left our bikes locked up, I couldn’t help feeling a bit like one of the disciples, waiting for someone to say, “Were you with [them]?  I think I saw you with [them].”

I’d naively assumed that most of the police that responded had quietly slunk away, but no, they were just one parking lot over.  We had to walk right by them.


This photo probably shows about half of the police vehicles that responded.  The rest were staged across the street in another parking lot, with the National Guard.

At the time, I had not yet read about police response to demonstrations after the no indictment decision, including injudicious use of tear gas (a chemical weapon).  Amnesty International has sited some specific concerns about police use of force against protestors here, based on reports from their trained, on-the-ground observers.

These first-hand accounts are also important:


At best, the system is broken.  At worst, it’s working as designed.  Militarized police acting on decades of inherent racism, wielding weapons against unarmed people with impunity. My chest is tight.  But I can still breathe.  Unlike Mike Brown, unlike Eric Garner, unlike Tamir Rice, I can still breathe.  And so I will continue listening to stories that are hard to hear, will continue to feel uncomfortable with the privilege my skin color confers, will continue to feel sick at the injustices that just. keep. coming.

Potty learned

As I mentioned in my “Deceived by EC” post, we’ve made lots of progress with the potty since the 16-month update.  I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some of the details, but better late than never!

Months 17-21
Sir’s ability to climb onto the potty by himself, which developed right around the 16-month mark, did indeed prove to be a big step in his potty-learning journey.

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • No diapers (i.e., bare bottom) around the house when awake
  • Thin cloth diaper under his bottom in the booster chair for eating
  • Diapers when out and about, with potty along also
  • Diapers for nap time (pinned prefolds with Thirsties covers)
  • Diapers for overnight (pocket diaper, once we discovered that their “feel-dry” material helped him sleep longer)

Despite our consistent use of the ASL sign for toilet, he never picked communicated potty needs in that way.  That, along with his continued [slight] speech delay meant he did not have a great way to let us know when he needed to use the toilet.

He rather quickly reached a point where almost all of his at-home, pants- and diaper-free-time pees happened in the potty.  Having the time to be home with him and offer all of the bare-bottom time definitely helped.

There were a few challenges.  He had a hard time staying dry while eating, perhaps because he didn’t have free access to the potty.

Bowel movement timing was often such that he would use his diaper right before waking up in the morning and/or right before waking up from his nap in the afternoon.  In addition to the frustration of this happening in the diaper rather than in the toilet, the timing often led to shortened sleep.

Month 22
By this point, Sir was staying dry at most meals, in addition to his regular success when around the house.  So I started getting brave . . . .

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • Same as above, but halfway through the month, we started to go out wearing underwear (not training pants) instead of diapers

I figured that at some point in all potty-training processes, you call it good enough and just start venturing out in underwear and pants, bringing along a spare in case of an accident.  This went well overall, with very few wet “unders.”

Also around this time, bowel movement timing shifted just enough to give Sir time to wake up and get to the potty, which meant almost zero poopy diapers — awesome, though we still had to clean his little potty.

Month 23
I decided it was time for Sir to verbalize his need to use the potty.  Since his vocabulary was still limited to one-syllable sounds, mostly a few consanants followed by a short “a” (e.g., Mama, Dada, Papa, Baba), we didn’t have much to work with.

Though a “p” sound for “pee” and “poop” would have been intuitive, it was already taken (Papa).  Instead I picked “t” (for “toilet” and “tinkle”), and emphasized that he was going “ttt, ttt” every time he climbed on the potty.

In less than a week, Sir added “ttt, ttt” to his repertoire, and he finally had a way to let us know that he needed to go.

He learned this just in time to take advantage of it on the road trip to Florida, quickly realizing that uttering “ttt, ttt” was a way to make the car stop.  Eventually, in the interest of ever getting to Florida, Matthew had to hold his hand and encourage him to “use his diaper” when in the car seat.

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • No diapers when awake, either at home, others’ homes, and in public
  • Diapers for nap time (pinned prefolds with Thirsties covers)
  • Diapers for overnight (pocket diaper, once we discovered that their “feel-dry” material helped him sleep longer)
  • Diaper in the car for road trips

Despite our using simple, not-to-tight, elastic-waist underwear and pants, Sir cannot pull his pants down on his own, so he still very much needs our assistance in the potty process.  For this reason (as well as habit), we continue to do mostly bare-bottom at home.


Month 24 — Present
More of the same, with the added twist of Sir starting part-time daycare.  I feared that he would regress in the using-the-toilet department when in a new setting, with a new caregiver, and other kids around.  Not so.

I informed Mrs. L about the meaning of “ttt, ttt,” and my little dude handled the transition like a champ.  In two-and-a-half months there, he’s wet his pants only twice, and neither time was in the first few weeks.

In July, we took another long road trip, employing the same method of encouraging him to use his diaper in the car, though of course we offered the potty when we did stop (and we were stopping at least every two hours due to Matthew’s blood clot).

Naps and Nighttime Sleep
I really didn’t/don’t have a plan for this.  For me, Gabriel sleeping well is MUCH more important than him staying dry during those times.  Plus, I really have no idea how you teach a child not to pee while sleeping.

However, several weeks ago, he started waking up from some naps with a dry diaper.  At this point, we’re close to 100% dry at nap time.

Two or three weeks ago, he woke up dry in the morning.  Since then, I’d say we’re over 50% for dry nights.  I find this particularly amazing since he sleeps for ten to eleven hours at night.

We’re still using diapers for both naps and overnights, and I’m not sure when I’ll feel comfortable giving it up, especially at night.  I really dislike the idea of a middle-of-the-night bed sheet change.

At both sleep times, offering the potty immediately before putting on the diaper seems to increase likelihood of waking dry.

We are exclusively a Baby Bjorn potty family.  We received the Little Potty (now with a slightly different design and called the Smart Potty) as a gift (one of the few items on our very, very small baby registry), and I purchased their potty chair and toilet trainer insert from Craigslist.

Due to the low profile, Gabriel could easily climb onto (think, walking over it from the back and sitting down) the Little Potty by himself, long before he was able to stand in front of either potty and sit down on it from that position.

He doesn’t seem particularly interested in the toilet insert, and, since he can’t climb onto the big toilet unassisted yet anyway, I am perfectly happy with him continuing to use the small potties (though I won’t miss emptying the poops).


Rant ahead

Just found out that the case against the uninsured AND unlicensed driver who hit my husband was, “dismissed on payment of court costs.”  Ah, our justice system at work, complete with sleazy traffic lawyers.

I wonder how much the court fees cost.  I’m paying over $800 a year to drive my car around legally, but I might be on to something here — drop the insurance altogether and pay the court cost if I happen to be caught driving without insurance.  And a driver’s license?  Apparently I don’t need that, either!  If you can’t beat ’em . . . .

Meanwhile, our SUV driving friend, who SHOWED NO REMORSE when he hit a bicyclist, is probably out there driving around, right now.  Watch out, St. Louis!

Think you’re safe where you are?  I recently read that, nationwide, at least 1 in 7 (and possibly as high as 1 in 4) drivers are uninsured.  Now, my thoughts on car insurance (cough-SCAM-cough) would be the subject of a whole other post, but the fact that some of us are buying into it, while a large chunk of people are not?  That’s just wrong.  And I wager that most of the uninsured drivers are some of the least responsible and most dangerous vehicle operators out there.

Now I must go take deep breaths and think happy thoughts to reign in my blood pressure.  Good thing it’s ridiculously low to start, or I might really be in trouble!