Category Archives: Appetizer for Life

Wordless Wednesdays: The 80s Strike Back

Our ’80s party.

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Crossing More Racial Barriers In The Frozen Food Aisle

I don’t know what it is about my grocery store, but I had another incident involving race. This time I was the one struggling with how to phrase the awkward question.

I first spotted them by the shredded cheese. A 40ish white woman pushing a truck/cart that had a dark chocolate squirming 2ish year old. And the poor girl’s hair looked… Off. It was a misshapen, dull colored, tight fro. The woman and I locked eyes, I threw her my warmest smile. I didn’t want her to think I was judging her, a white lady, for adopting a black child.

Some people have a problem with interracial adoption. I don’t. I have a problem with kids who don’t have a home.

The woman smiled back and walked closer to me, trying to peer into Ethan’s car seat. I shimmied my cart closer so she could take a look. (Whenever we go to the store, people are always craning to sneak a peek of him.)

“He’s cute.” She cooed.

“So is she!” I said nodding toward the pair of big chestnut eyes.

We stood there looking at each other, saying nothing. My mind was racing, I know how challenging it is to handle black hair and I know many a white mom who has struggled to manage our kinky locks. More so I know many girls who went to school looking crazy because their white mom couldn’t do their black hair.

And by the looks of this girl’s fro, this lady was struggling too. How do you start that conversation? “Need some advice on your daughter’s hair?” No that won’t work. I thought about giving her the name of my beautician since I’ve seen her gently instruct white moms how to do their brown girl’s hair.

The silence between us was growing uncomfortable, so I flashed her a smile, said “Have a nice day!” and rushed off. Immediately I regretted taking the easy road. I scolded myself thinking here I went and passed up a great opportunity to have a teachable moment to help a little girl. Wimp.

I vowed that if I saw them again, I’d say something. In the frozen food aisle, who should round the corner? The lady and the toddler. If that white man could walk up to me a couple weeks ago and ask me if my son’s father was white or Asian, surely I could find the gumption to ask this woman about her daughter’s hair.

While she looked at frozen veggies, I reached in and grabbed some corn that I didn’t need. I turned to the little girl, “What’s your name?”

The woman said “It’s Grace.”

I opened my mouth to ask her about how she’s handling the hair situation when she blurts out: “I’m just watching her for a few days while her mom… takes a break.”

My mouth slammed shut and I just nodded. I was relieved I hadn’t said anything and even mocked myself for creating a whole adoption backstory in my head.

Then she said: “Mind if I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“What kind of comb should I be using on her hair?”

And so it began. I walked closer to Grace, asked the white lady if she mind if I touched the fro. When I did, I expected a brillo pad, but it was very moist and soft. Good, she got the moisturizing part right! I demonstrated how to comb out Grace’s hair by sectioning off pieces. We talked about combs (apparently the employees at Sally’s had no clue what to do with the girl’s hair either, so the woman bought four different combs.) I told her that when combing Grace’s hair, it will never feel like it does when the woman combs her own hair. A wave of relief flooded her face. “Oh I didn’t know if I was doing something wrong. I’m afraid her mom will have to cut off all her hair when she comes back.”

I explained that those snags aren’t knots, they’re naps. We talked about texture, moisturizing and how to keep the 2-year-old occupied while doing her hair.

Ethan started to get impatient, so I had to get moving. She thanked me, I wished her luck and told her she’d be fine.

Walking away, I was really glad we talked and then I wondered are these conversations happening more frequently to only me? Or are other brown folks in these predominately white suburbs having more honest discussions as well?

Regardless, I’m thankful for the experiences. My only regret? I wish I’d gotten her name.

News of Bin Laden’s Death Brings Another Defining Moment for Twitter

It looks like we’ve got another “Where Were You When…” moment. Where were you when you heard Osama Bin Laden had been killed. For millions of us, the answer is: Twitter.

The micro-blogging site had a defining moment yesterday. First there were a few Tweets that President Obama was set to make an announcement and some wondered what it was about and others complained it was going to interrupt their TV watching plans.

When it became clear how rare this announcement was to be, the speculation Tweets kicked into high gear. Libya? China? Gas Prices? Aliens?

Some did suspect that it was Osama Bin Laden related and that notion caught like wildfire. The mainstream media outlets could only say something big national security wise was on the horizon, but that’s it.

My Twitterfeed was frenetic. I stopped Tweeting and started ReTweeting and finally I just sat back and watched it unfold. It made me wonder, how can mainstream media win the race to be first to share information when it’s going up against something like Twitter?

By the time President Obama made the announcement, it felt like old news. Yeah, yeah, we know Osama Bin Laden is dead. Now tell us the details.

Of course all the details can’t fit into 140 characters and that’s where the starkest distinction between crowd-sourced-information-spreading and mainstream media lies.

With micro-blogging and blurred lines of expectations, the information game has drastically changed. Into what? I don’t know, but I do know that having TweetDeck up on my laptop and CNN on my big screen TV was like looking at the difference between a typewriter and an iPad.

Finding My Way Out Of A Funk

For days, I had been in a bit of a funk and what annoyed me is that I really couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I’m sure you’ve been there before too.

It led me to do some navel gazing. Running down the list of obvious reasons for happiness: My health? Check. Healthy kids? Check. Good husband. Check. Financial Stability? Check. Great Friends? Check.

Not to mention I’m on a glorious maternity leave that feels like a very long vacation. Well then, what the truck is wrong with me?

Who knows. The funk seeped in last Sunday, I thought a good night’s sleep was in order. Come Monday, my attitude still stunk and I felt like Eeyore. I was growing perturbed because before when I’d get in a funk, it was largely work-related stress, that was understandable. This time I had nothing to really pin it on. … Well that was something else. I set out to battle my blues.

I tried to find a drinking buddy for Tuesday night, nothing like a little girly time to bring on the sunshine. Then I decided I was long overdue for crossing items off my Chicago bucket list. I chose to hit up the Garfield Park Conservatory and emailed many of my mommyfriends to see if anyone wanted to come along.

First, my hopes for a date with my gal pal fell through and then the monsoon season struck the Chicago area that night. I considered staying in, but thought no, I need this Me Time. I’ll feel more like Me once I get to spend time with Me.

I swung by the store to pick up the latest Vogue, sloshed into a Latin-fusion restaurant and enjoyed my table for one.

At the Garfield Park Conservatory.

None of my mommyfriends were up for making the trip to the city on such short notice to visit the conservatory, so Ethan and I headed down alone. It was great to take my time and absorb the only place in Chicago where Spring existed.

Also I simply love being in the city. It’s got a steady hum of excitement and possibilities that somehow grounds me. I get twitchy out here in the suburbs. (Granted there’s a lot of comfy perks out here, but I still get a little antsy.)

On our way home, Ethan slept and I let my mind roam. I thought about being happy and how I’ve spent these past four months in a wonderful family bubble. And now that I’m on the tail end of my maternity leave, it looks like my bubble’s about to burst.

Even though I was initially disappointed no one could come out and play with me, I’m glad I still did what I intended. Spending quality time with me, myself and I was just what the doctor ordered.

Bowling For Jesus… Um, Kinda

This Easter morning we woke up late like usual. We got all dressed up and headed out to spend a couple hours with strangers. Instead of sitting in the pews, we were lacing up our bowling shoes.

Despite the look on Logan's face, he had a great time.

Yep, this Easter She’sWrite went bowling. There’s an awesome bowling alley not too far from our house called Pinstripes. It’s not the typical alley that’s decked out 70s style and serves greasy pizza and plastic-cheesed nachos. This spot is trendy, has tasty food with great presentation and offers high-end wines.

What’s best is that it’s not pretentious. They understand that kids will be kids and make messes and throw fits.

When my friend told me about their Easter brunch, I thought, what a great way to spend a special day with family. We don’t have a church home and weren’t up for dealing with a crowd of people and praying neither of our kids lost it while we listened to the inspiring words about The Resurrection.

We arrived around 11 a.m. and were first to get assigned a lane. Tons of people were already there, but most of them were sitting at tables with fancy centerpieces. Me and my brood plunked our stuff down on the couches by our bowling lane. A mimosa quickly arrived for me along with a Peroni for Hubby and lemonade for Logan.

One look at the buffet tables and I knew my diet had to go on pause. It was over-the-top, like they have on cruise ships. One side had everything you’d want for breakfast and the other side had everything you’d want for lunch. There was even a chocolate fountain. (Hubby and I were very proud that we at least abstained from that bit of decadence…)

Going for a strike on a previous trip to Pinstripes.

The bowling was fun too. Hubby and I have always enjoyed competing with each other, the only thing better than winning is the smack-talking, but we’ve had to tone it down now that Logan’s older. Good thing too because I suck at bowling.

We were using bumpers because of Logan, but it’s good for me too. I’m so bad I’ve managed to perfect a bank shot off the bumpers that knocks down an amazing amount of pins. I’d like to think that being able to develop such a move requires talent.

Though we didn’t go to church this Easter, I loved that we spent the day being just us.

God is love.

Wordless Wednesday: A Slice of Serenity

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A quiet morning along Lake Michigan.

A Little Norwegian Help On Taking A Vacation

My husband complained to me that it’d been too long since we’d gone on vacation. I thought he was being ridiculous since we last had a weekend getaway in November. Then I remembered ah yes, it’s the Norwegian in him.

The view of Lake Como.

Hubby was born in Norway and moved here when he was 19. In his “muthaland” as he calls it, the law requires that workers have at least 25 paid vacation days and there’s 10 public holidays.

In the U.S., employers are not required to provide any paid vacation and usually large companies allow for 15 vacation days and 10 paid holidays, according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the U.S. was dead last when it comes to the world’s richest countries. Twenty of the richest countries require companies to provide paid vacation days. Not ours.

I don’t mean to bore you with statistics, but wanted to give some perspective on our different viewpoints. Our trip in November was the last hurrah as a family of three and my seven-month-pregnant-self rocked a bikini at a waterpark in Lake Geneva, Wis. (Me to hubby: “You can tell I’m pregnant and not fat right? <insert eye roll.>)

This past weekend we went back to Lake Geneva. We like the area because it’s close to our home, yet the culture is so different that it truly feels like a getaway.

Our cabin at Duffy's.

This time we returned to a privately owned batch of cottages steps away from Lake Como. It’s called Duffy’s and Hubby and I were excited to go back because we had a great time there with Logan two years ago, plus across the street from the cottages is Duffy’s pub, so being the lushes that we are, we were happy not to have a designated driver.

We left on Friday early afternoon and came back Monday afternoon. We didn’t do anything fancy, but we enjoyed ourselves. We grilled yummy grub, went on walks, stayed up late, played board games with Logan, and after the boys were down Hubby and I talked.

It felt so good just to talk about nothing with him. We’re so rushed with responsibilities and pressed for time that our conversations can seem task-oriented and feel more like a business meeting. “I’m working late on Wednesday and Thursday this week.” “I’m going to the store, what do you need?” “The bathroom sink is wonky again.” “It’s time for an oil change.” “Logan has soccer on Saturday…”

And it was a good vacation. We got away from our To Do lists, focused on our family and we’re all better for it. We all recognize the importance of getting away, but all of us can’t, won’t or just plain don’t do it. I’m glad I’ve got a Norwegian to help me to stop and enjoy life.