Alphabet Soup Challenge: K is for “Karen”

I feel pulled to write about race, but I feel like I’m out of my league. I’m white and privileged. Ignorant in so many ways. I’m certain that I’m ignorant about what I’m ignorant about as well.

I don’t like how that feels.

I believe I’ve always been a person who has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. But I can’t ignore the implicit bias my whiteness entails: my thoughts and feelings about race have been informed by the messages I got growing up about Black people.

I honestly don’t know where else to go with this post, but I will be discussing Karen.

Do I share the stories of what was said in my presence growing up about Black people that I ignorantly chuckled along with because I didn’t want to be the odd one out/was a kid/didn’t know the right words to say? Do I share the story of that time at work a few years back when I felt like I was being called out for being racist and how upsetting that was to me (aka in hindsight how offended I was)? Will people hate me for it? Will they think I’m a complete idiot?

You see, I don’t want to come across as a “Karen”. You know who she is, right? Well if you don’t know about “her” she’s fucking awful. I’d share clips from my Twitter feed from when I searched for “Karen” but you don’t want to see it. Trust me. It’s troubling.

The collective “Karen” is, in a nutshell, the lowest form of middle aged white American female there is. I think someone hurt her bad, because that’s the only way I can fathom how the anger she spews formed in her heart. She’s mean spirited and hateful. She thinks Black lives don’t matter and I presume, neither do Black futures. She’s the stuff of nightmares.

That’s what I’m scared of. That what I will say about race and how I say it will come across as tone-deaf. Clueless. Racist even. But then again, maybe I need to be open to the possibility that I will be “schooled”.

Listen, I’m evolving. Or striving to at the very least. I can’t help that because of systemic racism, the American education system failed me (and the rest of us Americans for that matter) by not teaching us about the historical moments that shaped Black America’s history. That’s not on me. I can’t help that I laughed along when “jokes” were told about black people during my growing up years in Small Town USA. I didn’t know any better.

But now I do.

Alphabet Soup Challenge: Y is for Yola

It’s not a big secret that I am a huge fan of music. Lots of different genres, old and new, blues and pop, alternative and (some) country, rock and roll. I’ve written perhaps ad nauseam on this blog about my adoration of the music I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying throughout my life.

So for this entry of my Alphabet Soup Challenge, I’m choosing to introduce you to someone new (to me anyway) in the music world: Yola.

If You Knew Yola: Meet the UK Sleeper Agent - LA Weekly

Yola’s music is hard to categorize. I think that is what makes her so special. She mashes up country, folk, blues, pop, gospel, and rock and roll in a way I’ve never heard before. And man, she has some serious pipes.

The first time I heard her voice, she was covering her fellow Brit Sir Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Wow, I thought to myself, who is this person? I needed to know. I needed to hear more of her.

So of course I googled her. And listened to the entirety of her album “Walk through Fire”. A-freaking-mazing. This song is a stand out. Then I listened to several tracks from her debut album, “Orphan Offering” from 2016. I love how she commands the lower notes with such bluesy, soulful swagger. But turns out she can hit those high notes as well. Hear what I mean below:

Yola was nominated for several Grammys last year as well and should have one them all IMHO.

She’s played with many of my favorites, too. She jammed with the Highwomen and Dawes at the Newport Musical festival last year. She contributed vocals to the Highwomen’s debut album alongside Sheryl Crowe as well. I look forward to seeing her live someday, assuming we get back to being able to attend live concerts again.

I think she is just getting started too. I believe her immense talent is going to be enjoyed for generations to come. She’s only 36, after all. She’s to play Sister Rosetta Tharpe in an upcoming movie about the life of Elvis Presley. Tharpe, I’ve learned, is thought of by many as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll”. Another black musical artist we all ought to learn more about.

Hopefully, Yola will get an opportunity to cover this one in the film:

The snippet of the lyrics to this song that you see below is apropos to these times of racial unrest, don’t you think?

There are strange things happening everyday
If you want to view the climb
You must learn to quit your lyin’
There are strange things happening everyday
If you heal right through the lies
You can live right all the ties
There are strange things happening everyday

Alphabet Soup Challenge: S is For Summer and Spirit Animals

It’s shaping up to be an interesting summer.

I’m marveling at how much my life has changed since last summer.

This summer we have our youngest kiddo and their cat living with us.

This summer we are limited in what we can do and where we can go because of a little something called Covid-19.

This summer we have our own camper which allows us to safely explore parts unknown (aka campgrounds).

And this summer my role at work is morphing into something unexpected and potentially very interesting.

Right now my spirit animal, the one I requested the in-house artist to create for me, is in a state of flux. Behold the Squirtoise.

The squirrel part is pondering creative ideas to bring into my new work project. She’s chewing on how best to support the kiddo in my house with the challenges they are currently facing, as well as the other kiddo who’s single-momming it over in Wisconsin. She’s spinning her wheels trying to figure out what needs to be said and what doesn’t need to be said within this blog.

The tortoise part is doing what she can to slow the squirrel’s roll. She’s firmly opposed to being rushed, particularly by outside sources. She’s soaking up the summer sun and pausing to listen to and appreciate all the other creatures in her midst. She’s the one to blame for this post not being published today instead the usual, Wednesday morning before work.

As you can see, my squirtoise is at odds with herself. She yearns to find a balance between attempting to do great big scary things in this world and enjoying the simple blessings of summer. That sweet balance between activity and relaxation. She needs to sort out when to let the squirrel be in charge and when the tortoise has to take over.

You could say the squirrel part of my spirit animal represents my enthusiasm for life. And probably my ADHD tendencies. The tortoise represents the wisdom garnered by my somewhat advanced age and desire to take things slow and live each day with intention. It’s not unlike a child/parent dynamic.

Any way you and I look at it, my squirtoise guides me as I write, work, parent, love, learn, play, and everything in between. Much like my personal Mantronym. For better or worse I suppose.

Do you have a spirit animal? What does it look like? Is it a real-life animal or person, or a mashup like mine? Please share in the comments!

Alphabet Soup Challenge: D is for Distractions

I could just as well have used the letter “F” in this blog post. As in “F” is for Focus. Or “F” is for frustration. I say that because I’ve been frustrated and distracted these past couple of weeks, leading to a lack of focus on this blog of mine. Hence the reason I failed to publish a post last week.

But back to the word “distraction”.

When I googled it (you know, to help me to focus), I found two definitions: 1) a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else, and 2) Extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

These days, I’m relating to both of these descriptions.

That’s because there is something, something very good mind you, that in this past week has prevented me from giving my full attention to blogging.

But in this post I can’t not talk about the turmoil going on out there in our country and our world. The “something very bad” distraction. The distraction that is exemplified by the extreme agitation of my mind and emotions right now: more black lives being extinguished by whites. The thought of Covid-19 cases spiking everywhere with all the protests that resulted from the sheer and justifiable anger of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis (and the multiple murders by police and white supremacists in other places in recent years). Chaos everywhere with more to come. And a completely inept administration at the helm.

It’s overwhelming and heart wrenching for all of us, most notably the black community. I’m working out how best to respond, because I feel it’s imperative to do so. To find a way to be a helper. To support the fight for racial justice and combat racism in America. I will donate financially to the cause. I’ve signed a petition online to demand an overhaul of policing in this country. And of course, I will keep praying about it. And I will remain open to suggestions on other ways to respond in a useful way.

So putting out a peppy little blog post last week wasn’t in the cards for me. And this week it’s a challenge, but as you can see, I’m doing it anyway.

The “something very good” distraction for me (and Hubs) right now, is that in honor of our 30th wedding anniversary and because we were itching to re-connect with our outdoorsy sides, we bought a new camper.

Yes, that one, physically tangible thing that I’ve had a picture of on my vision board since I first created it. It’s ours now. A second home, just on wheels.

Our view in our camper before bed on our first overnight-spent in our church’s parking lot.

So in the midst of this unprecedented moment in American history, we are blessed with the ability to be able to pack up our camper and head out to explore the wonder of nature in Colorado and beyond.

This is the part of the post where I was going to wax on about the responsibility of owning a camper. The time, physical, and mental energy that we have spent on obtaining it, getting it set up, and trying to find a storage unit for it as well as a campground that actually has openings in the age of Covid-19.

But in the scheme of things, that would be fucking ridiculous. I am white. I have a roof (now two) over my head. Gainful employment. The ability to safely exist in public. Health care. Essentially much of what too many in the black community don’t have. Which is completely unfair and needs to change.