Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Here's the Thing About #BlackLivesMatter that I Think You Missed

First of all, I fully acknowledge that the following has nothing to do with fitness or health or nerd culture and does not belong anywhere near this blog. But until I bother to make a new blog specifically for political commentary (not gonna happen), this is my soapbox. There's a little "X" icon somewhere at the top of your screen if you're done now.

Today, as I scrolled through facebook (my only real connection to other human beings or world events), I saw the following:

I'm going to operate under the assumption, given the context, that in this circumstance BLM does not reference Bureau of Land Management. I'd love to tell you the story of how I gently or forcefully educated the strange who posted this comment on the meaning of #BlackLivesMatter and implications of the movement, but being a privileged white person, I just rolled my eyes and scrolled on (not my proudest moment*.) Unfortunately, I didn't get too far before discovering yet another story about police shooting an unarmed black person, this time in El Cajon, CA. Like every story we've read or heard (or watched), it has its idiosyncrasies for those looking for the "whole picture." Like every story, it boiled down to an innocent person shot to death. Yesterday I told myself that the next time I heard about one of these shootings, I would say something. I didn't think it would happen in less than 24 hours.

When the tragedy in Ferguson took place, and the fatalities of innocent blacks which were reported thereafter, I was able to say to myself that the man (or woman) who pulled that trigger was not actually a police officer. Police officers are sworn to protect and serve (it turns out not every police force has adopted this language, so that is ignorance on my part). Someone who willfully kills an innocent person obviously isn't protecting and serving us. Therefore that man is not a police officer, he is an impostor, a bully who happened to lie his way into a uniform, a threat to our safety, a murderer.

But as the fatalities continue to be reported on a more and more frequent basis, I'm beginning to fear that I am wrong. I think these men and women (do I call them police officers or not?) are firing their weapons with the belief that they are protecting and serving civilians in accordance with their oath. They are eliminating a threat and thereby ensuring the safety of those they serve. The question becomes, "Who are they serving?" Read the article linked above. The victim's sister called 911 because he was not acting like himself, and she feared for his safety. When he was shot, she was heard crying, "I just called for help, and you came and killed him." Can the officer who pulled the trigger honestly say that he served and protected the victim and his sister? What about the officer who shot a man in Tulsa, OK, as he walked away from her? What about the officer who shot a man in Charlotte, NC, (who may or may not have had a weapon) as the victim backed away? Was it protecting and serving the family, the bystanders, or the community to pull the trigger?

It takes courage to put on a police uniform. Officers are killed during routine traffic stops and when serving warrants. A few months ago, I called the police to report a domestic disturbance in a neighboring apartment and was surprised when three officers in body armor arrived at my door. It seemed like overkill to me. Only a few weeks later, not ten miles from my apartment, an officer was shot to death responding to a similar domestic disturbance call. In retrospect, the body armor made sense. I strongly believe that Blue lives matter. I would like this nation to reach a point where police officers do not have to fear for their lives when they respond to calls, where police deaths are unheard of, or close thereto.

I would especially like to reach a point where police officers do not have to fear every civilian they encounter. Because right now, I'm beginning to wonder how safe I am from those who are sworn to protect and serve me. After all, they were sworn to protect the innocent civilians they killed in El Cajon, Tulsa, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Ferguson (etc. etc.) If I say the wrong thing at a traffic stop, will I be the next victim? Do I need to fear for my life if I commit the slightest infringement of the law? If the answer is yes, then we are living in a Police State. If the answer is no, that is because the only difference between me and the weekly victims of this problematic system is skin color. That, Stranger on Facebook, is the meaning of #BlackLivesMatter. It is not a belief that blacks are somehow better than whites. It is a plea, from whites and people of color alike,  that blacks receive the same treatment, the same protection, the same service from police that whites do. We are all citizens of the United States. We pay the same taxes. We follow the same laws. We deserve the same right not to be shot by the police.

*I'm going to reply to that comment on facebook with a link to this post.

Monday, September 12, 2016

It Turns Out My Grandmother was a Total Badass

I feel like you don't really know a person until they die. Before then, the only view you have of them is your own. Maybe you hear stories of them from one or two others, but it's not until they're gone that we make an effort to collect all the memories from all the people who saw all the various aspects of their life and create a complete picture of who this person actually was. It's not fair.

There are things I want to say to Grandma now, having learned so much more about her after her passing. Things that I will never have a chance to tell her. Things like, "Holy Shit, Grandma, you were total fox. Like, Bond Girl levels of smoking hot. Jesus." But she's gone, and so I'm left writing a blog post with a vague sense of disappointment in myself for having spent the entirety of my life related to this amazing person without ever having asked her how she managed to be such a badass.

So much of my childhood can be summed up in the gleeful screeches of the grandchildren, the smell of chlorine, and the woman who never chose to drown us.

As a child, I knew her as the woman who would hold me in the pool and sing, "Ba-dumpty-dump, ba-duptity-dump" while slowly spinning in circles. She had a freezer full of Popsicles. She would let me wear her jewelry to church. As I got older I learned more about her, but never enough. I learned, for example, that she helped out with YWCA, and that one day, in an attempt to explain that the programs needed more initiative, she mixed up two metaphors, announcing to the board of directors that they needed to grab the bull by the balls and run with it. (It's one of my favorite phrases to this day, and I almost said it at work a couple weeks ago.) I did not learn, until her passing, that my grandmother was the YWCA Athletic Director at the time, or that, in addition to offering what can only be described as extremely poor bovine management advice to a room full of men and women who had the collective sense of humor of a sack of human bones, she also initiated volleyball and basketball leagues, swimming for all ages, and Lynchburg's first gymnastics program. I knew that my grandmother broke her wrist at some point in her forties practicing a back flip from her bed. I did not know that somewhere around that time, she spent a week at circus school, possibly learning how to do back flips in a less disastrous manner. I knew that my grandmother was physically active. I did not know she ran a mile and half every day, even after having five children.

As I've learned more about who my grandmother was, I feel this mix of despair and hope. Despair because, by the time I started following in her footsteps - teaching silks, running a ten-miler, incurring various self-inflicted injuries - her health and her memory were failing her, and I never got a chance to sit down and listen to the wealth of advice and hilarious stories she probably had to offer.

On the other hand, when I hear about everything she accomplished, I think, my God, there might actually be hope for me yet. Lately I've felt like I've reached the end of the race and I'm not that happy with my time. I've felt like my prime is over, and everything I've left unaccomplished or abandoned is dead and gone. But my grandmother obviously did not reach 30 years of age and decide she was done. She kept pushing, as an athlete and a community activist. She probably endured hundreds of set-backs, from men telling her she was too sexy to be an athletic director (I haven't heard such a story, but by God I know there is one) to bones inconveniently breaking on her when she needed to work on her back flip.

I'm not sure I'll ever be the woman she was, but learning about her life tells me that I have the ability to make more of my own. It's not easy, but nothing in life ever is. I just need to grab the bull by the balls and run with it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


With the busiest time of year at my work finally coming to close, and other random events settling (or in certain cases, still wreaking havoc, but wreaking havoc in such a way that they are not time consuming) I found my fingers itching today to write a blog post. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm ready to start writing again. It's a big commitment and involves exposing certain sections of my soul to the anonymous public, both concepts I have come to fear. But I logged in to my blog account, and lo and behold, my last post (never published) was drafted on 9/4/2013, which means it has been almost three years on the dot since I quite suddenly dropped this project in the midst of turmoil in my life. Add to this lovely bit of serendipity the fact that I'm on the edge of beginning a few health projects (each with varying chances of success and associated levels of excitement), and I feel like maybe it is time to brush the dust off this blog and go at it once more- at least until Christmas destroys me and I give up again.

So here we are, blogging. A lot has happened in the past three years. I started teaching silks. I stopped teaching silks. I ended a long term relationship. I switched jobs. I switched homes. I lost weight. I gained weight. I ran a 10-miler. Recently, I bought a house, and I moved into that house with my boyfriend and his four kids, who live with us 50% of the time. My life, to put it way too mildly, has changed a lot. The last few months have been particularly rough for my health and wellness. Buying a house brought with it a ton of new responsibilities for which I wasn't 100% ready, and everything from cleaning to fixing faucets to digging a patio has devoured my spare time in a manner evocative of the rip-tear-munching of the Stranger Things monster. On top of that, things at work got hot for a while, and I spent more than a month clocking 10-12 hour days, so I found myself going for weeks without any time to do much of any physical activity at all besides maybe an hour-long class here or a few minutes working out on my own there. And of course, while living with kids can be really fun, it also means that I need to make 50% of my dinner meals "kid-friendly" which has resulted in more carbs and fats. and pizza. Jesus Christ, the pizza.  

Anyway, I'm now a substantial 145 lbs, and while I haven't lost ALL my strength, my push-ups are pretty disappointing, and I can't do many of the things I used to do in the silk. I spend most of my time feeling slow, tired, and fat and nowhere near the young healthy person I used to be. But in good news, I've signed up for a weight training class which I'm really excited about it (we meet tonight to do our first "weight-trainy stuff" [that's a technical term]). I've also got an elliptical trainer sitting in my basement now, and have rediscovered the immense joy I find in reading a book (Ready Player One) while moving on the elliptical. Add to that the fact that I've signed up for a soccer team and I'm hoping to continue ballet (holy shit I suck), and I actually have some legitimate reasons to believe that this fall will see some positive changes in my health. Who knows, maybe in the near future I might actually submit another blog post rather than letting this poor thing atrophy once again. (All right, let's not go too crazy with the optimism, kid.)

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, Internet, I need to pack up and head to class. Best of luck with your own adventures until we meet again!