I recently returned to school, part-time.
Unlike my earlier dalliances with school, I am deeply passionate about what I’m now studying. Instead of slogging through the motions for the degree at the end, then, I now wake up on Monday mornings ecstatic at the prospect of being able to explore the new week’s content.
(While sitting around reading is illuminating and I do a bunch of that, engaging with others on the material is partly how it truly gets “in the bones” for me. Chatting with professors and classmates, I am able to move away from abstract understandings and instead link up everything I’m learning with real life. It’s lovely, and inspiring!)
And yet: I come to my now-formal studies of public health with certain … perspectives. As much as being informed by all I read, these perspectives are borne from my own lived experiences with poverty and the various violences, both structural and interpersonal, with which they are correlated.
So when I began reading chapter 2 of the intro text for one of my courses, I felt a gut-level antagonism to its focus: Continue reading “because: evidence.”
A few weeks ago, my six-year-old and I planted seeds in paper cups.
We stuck the paper cups outside and committed to watering them. Daily, ish.
With such a vague “commitment,” we watered them every few days. In the intense heat of August in SoCal, the seeds failed not only to thrive, but to show even the merest hints of growth.
Last weekend, my six-year-old and I planted new seeds in paper cups.
We planted green bean, watermelon, and tomato seeds. We committed to watering these each and every evening. Continue reading “to reach for the sun”
One of the formative experiences of my life—testifying, as a child, feet away from a home-wrecking pedophile—taught me a great many things. The most important thing it taught me was:
You’ll only be believed if you behave, and speak, exactly right.
Four years ago, I realized I could state what I believed, but that I’d never be believed without cold, hard facts.
Maybe, I contemplated, I’d be believable with them?
I started reading. I read more than a hundred books annually to learn not only the cold, hard facts, but also to learn their contexts: the very specific histories in which they were birthed.
Continue reading “to become learned”
Early yesterday morning, I took my sons for drive-through hot chocolate. Rather than heading straight home afterward, I drove surface streets for a few minutes before hopping on the freeway.
Even for a Friday morning in pandemic times, traffic was unbelievably light. For a few miles, then, we got to do one of my favorite things in the world: unhindered by bumper-to-bumper traffic, fly down the freeway in SoCal sunlight.
My heart soared, despite the outward mundanity of the act.
I grinned as I told my kids how much I loved the feeling. I’d only just voiced curiosity about the source of this feeling when I found my answer, which I shared with my kids. Continue reading “possible”
One TV show has had an outsized impact on my life.
That impact continues today, almost two decades since I first watched the show.
While studying law (as much as I could study law, given my profound and ever-present anxiety about my inability to pay for my studies), I frequently worked as a TV extra: Continue reading “much to learn (forever)”
Many with privilege can recognize, in the abstract at least, that poverty and the suffering it creates are a scourge and that we should work to end them. But without ever having lived in poverty, they may not appreciate its wiles, how it penetrates every aspect of a life. Many more do live in poverty, but because the nature of poverty is to disempower and distract, the burdens of their daily lives limit their capacity to act. Few have both an intimate understanding of the day-to-day reality of poverty—the suffering it causes—and the privilege to address it. The profound responsibility of those in this last category abides.
— Abdul Al-Sayed, Healing Politics
After I gave birth to my younger son in early 2014,
I suffered profound postpartum depression.
With grim determination, tears streaming down my face,
telling my husband that I only kept going because
my children needed my income to survive …
and I remembered, oh how I remembered,
how the kids across the street suffered
when they lost their dad to suicide.
“Your kids need more than your income from you, Deb,”
my husband told me.
At that point,
no part of me believed it.
I’d grown up the poor oldest daughter
of four poor children of a
poor single mom; Continue reading “love can win”
I grew up very, very poor. There were times I ate from food boxes,
times I ate from other people’s trash, and
times I simply didn’t eat at all.
The last couple years, my husband and I got our finances mostly squared away. We worked diligently to get our debt down to only my (granted, significant) law school student loan debt.
One of my sisters and I have talked about the money-related trauma left us by our childhood. That trauma lingers, though most my debt does not; Continue reading “every. single. day.”
In 2009, my Black now-husband told me the baby I was carrying–our baby–would experience racism someday.
I laughed him off. Racism? In Los Angeles in 2009? Was he confusing here and now with 1960s Arkansas? I figured it more likely he was hyper-sensitive than that racism was a broad present-day concern hurting brown-skinned people every single day in the U.S. of A.
Since then, I’ve seen and learned more about racism than I could ever hope to fit in a series of books, let alone a single post. I won’t even try, though I will tell you my oldest son was only three when I first saw him subjected to overt racism, and that he was only three when he started making statements reflecting that he was internalizing messages from classmates on darkness equaling badness. Continue reading “Believe”
My mom didn’t have to die, and she didn’t have to suffer so deeply for so long before she did.
I summed up her final years in a tweet yesterday:
My mom suffered untreated, serious mental health issues for years before she succumbed to cancer treated too late. Why no treatment for either illness? Simple, in her own words: Literally living off other people’s garbage, she could never come close to affording the care.
I’d written about this at greater length in 2011, in a blog site since deleted.
In “Dead Moms Can’t Care,” I wrote some words that have been reverberating through my soul the last couple of days: “Think the cost of helping her through that minor infection is high? Imagine the costs of caring for her four motherless children.”
COVID-19 has gotten me thinking about all the moms (and dads) who, lacking appropriate governmental protections, must choose between potential exposure to illness or feeding and providing shelter for their children. Forced by economic realities to show up at work, they potentially risk their own longer term futures for short-term survival, yielding so many tragic losses–for them, for their children, and for the society that loses all their creative contributions that could have, in a more humane system, been.
In 2011, I thought my mom’s death was an unfortunate outlier, despite a nurse friend telling me how pissed off she was watching many of her poor patients traverse the exact trajectory to death my mom did. Continue reading “Dead Moms Can’t Care”