Formation

I know I’m a week behind the rest of the world, but in my defense, one of my kids woke up in the middle of the Super Bowl halftime show and I missed Beyonce’s performance. I also hadn’t watched her new music video or heard the song until ten minutes ago so I only had a vague inkling of what all the fuss was about. Now that I HAVE watched it, I’d like to add my two cents to the conversation. Because that’s what this world needs, more opinions. (Especially mine.)

(If you haven’t seen the video or heard the song, you can check it out here, but be advised that the lyrics are explicit and therefore might not be safe for work or appropriate for young children.)

I loved the song, and I loved the video. I know a lot of (white) people didn’t, and that’s okay, I’m used to my musical tastes being disagreed with and even ridiculed. I can’t tell you what the song/video “means” because I’m not the creator. However, I can use the skills I learned in AP English and art criticism classes, and I can listen to what other people (specifically: Black people, the people this song was written for) have said it means to them, and I can offer what I think is a valid interpretation.

I imagine that in 2016, a Black person in America would be tempted to see their race as a liability. I imagine that it’s terrifying to hear story after story of unarmed Black men, women, and children being killed and their murderers walking away without even a slap on the wrist – and to know that could happen to my husband, wife, child, mother, father, sister, brother, friend. I imagine that it would be tempting to hate who I am and what I look like because it puts me in danger.

white-privilege-is

And I imagine that it would be so refreshing to hear this song and hear Beyonce declare proudly that she loves who she is, she loves her features, she loves her family, and she’s not about to apologize for anything about herself that someone might think is “ghetto.” I imagine it would feel so good to sing along with a song that says, “I am who I am and I don’t care what you think,” in a way that is specifically, explicitly, Black. To see my identity as an asset, something to be celebrated, instead of something to be ashamed of.

But for some reason that seems to bother (white) people. Even though decades ago Barbara Mandrell sang “I Was Country (When Country Wasn’t Cool)” and David Allan Coe wrote the N word into the chorus of “If That Ain’t Country.” For some reason it’s okay for white trash to be proud of being white trash, but we don’t want Black people to look like “thugs” (i.e. wear hoodies or saggy jeans, things that middle-class white boys do ALL THE TIME and don’t get, you know, killed for) or wear their hair in braids or dreadlocks or talk about how their lives matter. For some reason America is supposed to accept the Confederate flag as a piece of history, not a symbol of hate, but it’s NOT OKAY to have a Black performance artist dress up as a Black Panther.

stars-and-bars

Do you hear what I’m saying? If not, I’ll simplify it into two words: Double standard.

A complete and totally different issue here is the fact that people flip out over provocative words and images in pop music, forgetting that music is still art and art isn’t always supposed to give us warm fuzzies. Art should challenge us and get under our skin and make us think. Some art will give one person a warm fuzzy and totally piss off another person. Does that mean the artist has done something wrong? No, that means the artist has done something RIGHT. As a white person, yeah, I find it uncomfortable to talk about racism – especially about how it’s still very real and very dangerous in America in 2016. But artists like Beyonce remind me that being uncomfortable is a good thing sometimes. Being uncomfortable means my assumptions about the world are being challenged and that I have an opportunity to learn something. After all, my reality is not the only reality.

For further (better) reading on this subject, I recommend Awesomely Luvvie’s About Writing While Loving Blackness and Hurting White Feelings and Everyone Wanted to Be a Black Girl until Beyonce Dropped Formation at The B3 Chronicles. Both express what Beyonce’s song and video mean to them as Black women. And since Black women are (presumably) Beyonce’s target audience, I’d say that their opinion on the song is ultimately the only one that matters.

Oh, and by the way, this blog is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship. I pay the web host, so I get to decide what comments stay and what goes. So if anyone leaves a comment that I think is in poor taste, I reserve the right to delete it. If you think that’s not fair, please feel free to get your own website (it’s easy! it’s cheap!) and talk about what a jerk I am over there.

Promises

the-butterfly-promise

It’s raining today. Hard. Yesterday was warm and breezy and beautiful, a perfect day for going to the beach or the park (though, true to my hermity-climate-control-addicted self, I did neither); today is one of those days that’s only good for “ducks and newlyweds,” as a friend of mine used to say.

Summer is here, FINALLY, after a winter that did not want to let go. How do I know it’s summer? Because just a few days ago I was driving around town with the windows down (Caitlin LOVES having the windows down when we’re in the car) and I could smell honeysuckle. The scent of honeysuckle always means summer to me.

And, of course, I know it’s summer because we had an awesome thunderstorm the other day. And after the storm, a rainbow.

If you know the story of Noah, you know that supposedly the rainbow is a promise from God that he will never wipe out humanity again because of our sinfulness. Which is a nice promise, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a little bummed that it’s not a promise for something different. A promise like, “You will never ever have to put up with terrible things happening to your family and friends” would totally have me stoked.

But Jesus actually promised the opposite: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” Thanks for nothing, Jesus. He tries to soften the blow: “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Still sucks.

Yesterday, Jon and I attended a memorial service at CHKD, where Garrett was treated before he died. I cannot say enough how wonderful this hospital is, how comprehensive their caring is for each and every member of the family during the entire hospital stay, and afterwards, too, when the outcome is not what you prayed for. The memorial service was part of that care: an opportunity to remember and honor the children who passed away in the year prior, as well as a reunion of sorts between the families and their caregivers.

The social workers who were assigned to our case were incredibly gentle and kind, and seeing one of them as I walked in the door before the service immediately put me at ease. One of the Child Life workers (who, among other things, are tasked with helping the ill child’s younger family members deal with the many questions and confusing feelings that may crop up) recognized us immediately and commented on how much Caitlin looks like her brother.

That people see Garrett in Caitlin makes me very happy. She is her own little person and I learn more of her unique personality every day, but she is most definitely Garrett’s sister. That’s why I dressed her in her “little sister” onesie for the occasion: although she won’t have a chance to hug him and talk to him, I want her to know that Garrett loved his “baby seester.”

little-sister

It was an evening filled with emotion and activity, but I didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. First, we gathered with two other families in the Tribute Garden, where a butterfly sculpture and brick pavers all around it honor the children who gave the gift of life through organ donation. Jon and I were invited to set the paver that acknowledged Garrett’s gift.

butterflysculpture

At this point I have to make a shameless plug: please, PLEASE, consider becoming an organ, eye, and tissue donor and making your wishes known to your family in case of an emergency. I know several people whose lives were saved and improved through the gift of organ donation, and Garrett’s life continues on in three different people (that I know of, there could possibly be more), one of whom is a three-year-old little girl. If your family is ever faced with the terrible reality of your untimely death, let them at least be able to take comfort in the fact that another family somewhere is being blessed with the gift of life.

After our time in the garden, we went upstairs for the memorial service. Prior to the service, the hospital had organized an arts-and-crafts event that I thought was sheer brilliance: all sorts of scrapbooking materials were laid out so we could make a page that represented our child’s life and personality. The pages were gathered together in a book for the hospital staff to look through so they could get to know the kids better, and share in the families’ good memories – not just the bad.

garrett-scrapbook

The scrapbook page I made for Garrett. I only wish I’d had some Brobee and Cookie Monster stickers,
but Mater and Elmo did just fine.

Jon and I left immediately after the service, even though it meant missing a reception featuring “light refreshments,” and I almost NEVER pass up cheese-and-fruit tray. But we were both ready to go home and relax with our little treasure. As I had told several people at the memorial, Caitlin has been an incredible gift during this difficult time. Even at my lowest-of-lows, I can look at her and appreciate the incredible person she is, unique and darling and full of joy.

catilin-red-blanket

The red blanket that Caitlin is sleeping with in this photo is one of Garrett’s security blankets.
He developed and unexplained and almost unhealthy attachement to this blanket,
so I cut it up into several smaller squares so we’d always have one clean and ready for him.

Someone – not sure who – once said that “a baby is God’s way of saying that life should go on.” And I do believe that this is true. Jesus himself told us that life would be hard, but he also promised that through him, we would overcome hardship. The rainbow is God’s promise that although rain will fall – on the righteous and unrighteous alike – it doesn’t have to wash our joy away.

One of my favorite moments during yesterday’s celebration was when the transplant coordinator shared the story of a ten-year-old girl who had received a new heart at CHKD. There was a rainbow in the sky the day of the girl’s surgery, and ever since she has believed that whenever she saw a rainbow it meant someone else was receiving the gift of life. This girl never had a chance to thank her donor family, so she asked the coordinator to thank us, to tell us that each recipient recognizes that their joy comes because of someone else’s sorrow, and that we should never think our child is lost or forgotten.

That is a promise I hold fast to.

Garrett, you will never be forgotten. You were a joy to us in life, and you continue to give joy to others even in death.

garrett-minion-diner