A White Race Scholar’s Reflections on Ferguson

In the wake of the grand jury ruling in the state of Missouri v. Darren Wilson – and, to me, it is a wake in which I mourn the loss of another young, Black man at the hands of the police – I find myself thinking a lot about my students, Black, White, and Brown.

I am a White woman who teaches African American Studies.  I have been a student of this discipline for over thirteen years.  Teaching others about African American history and culture is a privilege.  I believe my students should not only learn about what it means to be Black in America, regardless if they are Black or not, but also that they should put this knowledge into action to effect change because change is still needed.

I, like many of my colleagues who study race, was not surprised by the grand jury’s decision.  Saddened, of course.  Angered, most definitely, but surprised, no.  The historical record shows that a Black person’s life – and a Black man’s life, especially – does not hold the same value as a White’s in this society, especially a White man’s.  Ida B. Well’s scholarship on lynching supports this record for the turn of the twentieth century.  Michelle Alexander’s work, The New Jim Crow (2010), is a heartbreaking reminder of the constant surveillance Black men face at the turn of the twenty-first.

What did surprise me in talking about the case was how angry some White Americans were about “the playing of the race card.” The belief that Wilson had wrongly been singled out and victimized by the Black community (despite the presence of non-Black protestors) who was playing up its race to unrightfully garner national attention.

I have a diverse group of friends and a diverse group of White friends at that, many of whom were outraged by the verdict.  I am as proud of my German-Catholic heritage as I am my B.A. and M.A. in Black Studies.  Still, it surprises me that in 2014 we, as White Americans, continue to dispute that race matters, that racism exists, and that it impacts the very fabric of our nation: the making and enforcing of laws.

White Americans are not wrong in questioning rioting as the most appropriate action.  Black Americans are too.  (Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) is about this very question.) But in invoking “the playing of the race card” Whites prevent nuanced conversation on how Blackness and Whiteness were created to uphold systems of power.  “Playing the race card” presumes a Black person is playing up his or her race to gain an inexplicable advantage.  This phrase obscures European Americans’ actions in the dealing of this hand.

Blackness, like Whiteness, was constructed to determine a group’s access to power.  In the United States this category was put into law in the 1890s to ensure the subjugation of the slave population.  Through the law, Black people were positioned as permanent slaves, differentiating them from indentured servants.  Their race ensured subsequent generations would remain property; stereotypes surrounding their Blackness allowed White slave owners to treat them as animals.  It was, in fact, early Americans of European descent and then White Americans (as Europeans became White) who played the race card, stacking the deck to ensure White power and privilege through the Slave Codes, then a set of laws known as Jim Crow, and, in contemporary society, through unjust laws that inform the filling of prisons.  The disproportionate arrest and incarceration of people of color is a result of the problematic link between Black masculinity and criminality fostered by historical racial archetypes.  The archetype of the Black Brute (the inexplicably aggressive, hyper sexualized, physically domineering Black male) makes the positioning of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown as criminals (not just young men participating in criminal activity) to be common sense.

As a White person in America I have the privilege to never have to talk about what it means to be White in America.  I cannot remember a time that my White friends or family have sat around and talked about how our Whiteness impacts us emotionally, physically, socially, or economically (unless I as a race scholar have brought it up).  I never have to think about my race card at all – played or not – because I live in a society where Blackness (and Brownness) is racialized.  Whiteness is normal.

It is in this lived reality that my heart breaks most of all for the family of Michael Brown and for White Americans enraged for Officer Wilson.  In their rage, White Americans turn Officer Wilson and by extension themselves into victims, exonerating both from guilt.  The White race card is played in the presumption that Officer Wilson should be innocent before proven guilty while accepting the Black “perpetrator” as guilty before proven innocent – a stereotype that Wilson plays up in his description of Brown as “demonic” and thus beyond redemption.  With Brown, like Martin, sadly we will never know his account or, if in fact a troublemaker, he would have rehabilitated himself.

What we do know is that another young, Black man is dead in a system where Black men are harassed and die disproportionately at the hands of the law.  We, as White Americans, do not have to apologize for our past (although we must participate in righting historical inaccuracies).  That is the misconception of White guilt.  Effecting change requires, instead, that we question our privilege, come to terms with how we benefit from it, and seek to make the system more just for all involved.  To do so, we have to see race, others’ and our own.  Not as a card to be played but a lived reality that still has devastating consequences for many Americans.  It is only in trying to understand White privilege that we can begin to see Black pain.  It is only in trying to understand Black pain and fears and how they may manifest as aggression that we – unlike Officer Wilson – can help save Michael Brown.

What to Expect When You’re a Parent: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

In a few months, I will be an aunt again.  My sister and brother-in-law are expecting their first, and I am beyond excited.  As I am preparing things for her baby shower, I cannot help but think about all the advice we received as my husband and I prepared our house and lives for baby.  It was all pretty standard stuff: “You have no idea how much love you’ll have to give!” “Get the baby used to noise early so he or she will sleep anywhere.” “Breast is best!” and “Just remember during tough times that this phase shall pass. So enjoy it!” All (somewhat) true.

Thinking about this advice also got me thinking about the conversations it sparked between my husband and I, about those naïve (but oh so fun!) pre-baby pillow talks where we determined the kind of parents we would most certainly be and the rules we would no doubt enforce.

Two babies in I am not quite as naïve nor do I as willingly believe all the advice I am given.  I have to say that nowadays I often find myself rolling my eyes at some of the standards said to me or that I stumble across on the internet. I do so not because I know so much or because I doubt the very good intentions of the giver but because what I have discovered in the messy world of motherhood is that it’s the not-so-standard advice, the less cliché “This shit is hard!” wisdom from other parents that I relate to, and frankly cling to, the most.  The truths that are not as uplifting or endearing but that remind me I am human.  The advice that knocks me upside the head in an effort to show me that parenthood is a marathon not a sprint and that I am not the only one who has fallen flat on her face.  (I often do so while running after a baby who is not buying into the parenting philosophy we had so beautifully planned out.)

In that spirit here is some of the not-so-standard wisdom I wish someone had shared with me:

“You have no idea how much love you’ll have to give, and, yet, how selfish you’ll remain.” The first part is a standard because it is unequivocally true.  You cannot fathom how much love you’ll have for your child until he or she is here.  It is a crazy kind of love.  The best crush, alongside the feelings you (hopefully still) hold for your spouse, you will ever know.  Regardless of how “cool” a parent you think you’ll be, there’s a reason there are so many discussions in real life and on the internet about parents who over share.  It’s because those little beings suck you in, and despite your best intentions to be cool, calm, and collected, you will at some point find yourself (over) sharing about her first movement, word, smile, bowel movement, etc. to someone who frankly may not give a damn.  It happens.

What the standard fails to articulate is that this grand love does not erase selfishness.  It may ease it or help you to elevate beyond it at times, but you’re still human.  When you become a parent you will love that child fiercely to the point where you will give her or him your last bite of dessert or feed that child before you feed yourself.  But this does not mean that you will always like it or that you will do so without having your own adult-sized tantrum in the process.  I love my children; I would die for my children, but dying to self for my children has not been so easy.  There has been more than one time when I have gotten up in the middle of the night to tend to their needs that I have complained, quite vocally and sometimes through tears, to my husband about how tired I was and how that being that I loved so dearly needed to get her shit together and sleep through the night already because it was affecting my life.  I love them, but I also love sleep.  I’m human.

“Get the baby used to noise early so he or she will sleep anywhere, or so you think.” The premise behind this piece of advice is a good one.  What the giver is saying is that babies inevitably change your life but that you shouldn’t change everything for baby.  If you put everything on mute (literally and metaphorically) to appease the little one, you are creating an unrealistic expectation for the baby and yourself.  Your children will rock your world but they also have to be taught how to live in it.  In short, they have to learn how to be flexible.

What this standard fails to articulate is that some habits can’t be taught.  Or at least not to the degree you have envisioned.  There is a reason there is a nurture versus nature debate.  For example: Our first was a light sleeper.  My husband and I cursed ourselves for months about how we should have blared music near her room to teach her to adapt to noise.  Then along came baby number two.  She has had noise around her in the form of a very vocal and involved older sister since birth.  We have not limited this noise one bit, and, to our even greater dismay, baby number two is an even lighter sleeper.  The moral of our story: sometimes shit happens.  Sometimes your baby is a terrible sleeper, eater, communicator, etc. because he or she just is.  It is not because you did something wrong or because something is inherently wrong with the child.  It is just how he or she is wired.

On the flip side, sometimes your baby is a great sleeper, eater, communicator, etc. because he or she just is.  Our first slept through the night at six weeks and still (which we have discovered is pretty rare for a two-year-old) loves going to bed.  She has never fought us on it.  I mean almost literally NEVER.  Just as we cursed ourselves for her light sleeping, my husband and I often high-fived each other over her unusual bedtime habits.  We must have done something right we told each          other.  Despite cultivating a very similar routine, our second has no interest in going to bed, in a crib or otherwise.  She fights us on it EVERY.TIME.  I mean almost literally EVERY.TIME.

This advice is not meant to say that you cannot nurture good habits nor excuse parents from working hard to curtail the bad.  It is to say that as you are human so are your mini-mes.  Their habits like their interests will often differ from your expectations.

“Breast is best!” This one, unlike the others, may have you raising your eyebrows at my above description of a (somewhat) truth.  I understand your skepticism because the health-benefits of breastfeeding should make this a slam dunk.  The problem with this standard is that there is so much more to the realities of breastfeeding than your desires.  Much more than you can possibly appreciate during a pre-baby pillow talk.  Breast is best, yes.  But until you have a child you cannot fully come to terms with whether breast is best for you and your baby.  I had every intention of breastfeeding and tried with both my children.  After weeks of trying to get my first to latch – weeks of meetings with lactation consultants and a breastfeeding support group and a tube taped to my breast so she could learn and long conversations with other mothers and the reality of my first not gaining weight or filling her diaper appropriately – I realized that breast was not best for us.  What was best for us was a healthy daughter and a happy mother, which we achieved through formula feeding.  Thankfully alternatives to this standard exist everywhere on the internet.  Many women have bravely shared their stories and insecurities when breastfeeding or natural childbirth proved not to be an option.  Still, it bears mentioning time and again to new parents that if you can expect anything as a parent expect plans to change.  The change is not the equivalent of falling flat on your face; holding tight to your expectations even when change is necessary is.

“Just remember during tough times that this phase shall pass.  So enjoy it!” I end with this standard because it is the one I most appreciate some days and the one that, on others, drives me the craziest.  I know that having children is not promised and that seeing the loves of your life outlive you is not guaranteed.  So, of course, whenever possible (and probably most when you feel it’s impossible) take a breath, have some perspective, and try to focus on the positive experiences of each phase.  That being said, what this standard fails to articulate is that there are points of parenthood that aren’t all that enjoyable.  The terrible twos come to mind.  While these points differ for each parent, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who loved every moment.  Parenthood is an incredible high, but there are more than a few lows mixed in.  Those lows often come when reality doesn’t meet expectation, when the child doesn’t oh-so-easily buy into that beautiful list of rules or lifestyle bullet points you had printed out and signed in blood before he or she was born (let alone her siblings).  The not-so-pretty truth is that sometimes you won’t like your child all that much (although you will still love her or him), and the even harsher reality is that sometimes you won’t like the person or parent you are around your child (although hopefully not all the time).  What the standard calls for is perspective, which is true.  Part of having perspective is recognizing you are human and so, too, is your child.  You will bring out each others’ strengths and weaknesses.  You will make each other laugh and cry.  Good parents do learn to dance in the rain but good parents also aren’t afraid to admit that while dancing they may also be crying or screaming or dancing so wildly because of the effects of a much needed stiff drink.

Pride and (a Mother’s) Prejudice: #bestillmyheart

As previously mentioned, I love lists. Like a lot of parents (and people in general), I make lists for a variety of reasons: to-do lists, grocery lists, lists for short-term and long-term goals.  I realized that what all of these lists have in common is that they are focused on the future.  While it may be the immediate future – a grocery run or a daily to-do list, for example – I rarely, if ever, make lists that focus on the moment.  Lists that highlight the present for when it will all too quickly become my past.

I have a dear friend who regularly uses the phrase “Be Still My Heart” in photo captions of her children on Facebook. I adore this expression.  It is an old, English expression of excitement, one that often describes an act of swooning by a suitor over his object of desire.  Considering this definition, I find it even more perfect that my friend pairs such words with simple, everyday childhood moments frozen in time.  For parenthood is a continuous act of swooning.  The relationship between a mother or a father and her or his child contains a deep, profound, wildly irrational kind of love that grabs a hold of you instantaneously in a way that makes it difficult to ever completely, solely focus on anything or anyone else again.  Your heart is literally stilled the moment the little one enters your world and any room thereafter.  It rises and catches in your throat when he or she coos, moves, smiles, or weeps.  Your meaning becomes an extension of your child’s.  Your failures and victories become an extension of theirs.  It does not mean who you were before you fell hopelessly in parental love no longer exists.  You are still, in human form and want, you.  But the reality is that never again can your heart be fully disentangled from theirs.  You will never again be defined in a way that does not, in some part, include your role to them.  Your heart is reborn the moment your child is born, and your soul’s desire becomes, in no small part, to help that child save his own.  And regardless of where they go or what they do, you will long for them in the stillness of your heart.  You will desire a relationship with them and will more fully understand God’s relationship with you through their and your merciful love.

It is in this vein that I decided to make a new type of list. Not one that looks to the future but a list, in the moment, of the things my two-year-old, Patito, and eight-month-old, Osito, do that still my heart.  The things that give this mother great pride and further swell my prejudiced heart.

  1. #bestillmyheart When Patito hears her sister cry and runs to console her.  Her first thought is to grab a toy or anything, really, to make her happy.  It swells my heart to know that, as sisters, their hearts are forever intertwined.
  2. #bestillmyheart When Osito snuggles her face into the crook of my neck.  Every night before bed we spend a few precious moments together.  I rock her and sing to her or talk to her, and each time she leans in and nestles her face into me.  It swells my heart to have her faith, her trust, and I pray that she always leans in to all life has to offer.
  3. #bestillmyheart When Patito says, “Bless you, Mommy,” when I sneeze.  She is such a mannerly child.  I believe that “manners maketh the man,” and it swells my heart to see her thoughtfully use good manners and exercise gratitude regularly.
  4. #bestillmyheart When Osito smiles. She has the sweetest, most welcoming smile that she wears without regret.  It swells my heart to see her know joy.  Experiencing her and her sister’s joy and helping to facilitate it when I can will always be one of my greatest accomplishments.
  5. #bestillmyheart When Patito does the sign of the cross.  Each night we pray together.  I love that she knows Jesus and Mary and that she ends our prayers with the sign of the cross and the kissing of her thumb.  It swells my heart to see that she is learning not only our family’s traditions but the traditions of her church family.  I pray that her and Osito’s joy ultimately comes from knowing him.
  6. #bestillmyheart When I see my girls with their Papi.  I know that one day they will choose partners based on their partnership with him.  It swells my heart to see Patito run into his arms when he comes home, to see Osito reach for him and bounce excitedly, to see them both long for his embrace and to see him give it so willingly in return.
  7. #bestillmyheart When I hear Patito sing passionately along with Frozen.  Watching her interests unfold, seeing her take part in them with gusto swells my heart.  Years from now I will always remember the tiny voice from the backseat singing each, sometimes self-created, word, begging for “Let it Go, Mommy.” Her ability to sing with abandon is a profound lesson for me daily on how to let go.
  8. #bestillmyheart When I witness both girls’ love of music, which is important to our extended family.  My heart swells when Patito sings the words of a song my Mamaw taught me – “You Can’t Get to Heaven” – that she now knows by heart and at the way Osito rocks on her arms to the rhythm.  At the fact that both of my girls’ moods can turn on a dime when a song, especially the right song, is played.  Right now for Patito that is anything Frozen and for Osito it is “This Little Light of Mine.”

This list, of course, could go on and on. These are moments I wish, like a picture, I could freeze in time.  They are moments that quiet the chaos of my everyday life, and in that stillness remind me that my heart is full.  Full of hope.  Full of grace, and, when I look at my girls, full of the promise of tomorrow.

If You Give a Mom a List

I have always loved lists.  The idea of lists excites me.  For the Type A personality that I am, they are a way to create order and keep it.  For my life as a student, they are a way to establish goals and track progress. 

Everywhere I look I see lists.  On my refrigerator.  In my phone.  And, now, on the internet.  “The Ten Things Every Married Couple Should Know.” “The Three Ways to Write a Publishable Dissertation.” “The Top Ten Lessons For a First-Time Mom.” I have never been much of a follower, but it is hard not to want to jump on this bandwagon and take it for a spin.  (Have I mentioned I LOVE lists!) So in the spirit of order amid the glorious chaos that is motherhood here are the five things I wish for my daughters, and, in truth, for myself.  I hope they use this list to help dis-order their lives every single day.

I hope my children obsess over their bodies.

I have spent way too many moments, hours, days, and years obsessing over how my body has failed me.  My thighs are too thick.  My nose is too long.  My teeth are too crooked, and, of course, noticeably so because they are much too big.  What I am saying to myself and my daughters with every wasted minute that I think such thoughts aloud is that not only has my body failed me but God failed me by giving me this body. 

I, too, pray my daughters obsess over their bodies.  But, instead, I hope they recognize their bodies not as punishment, shortcomings to be itemized, but vehicles, beautiful entities entrusted to them in which to honor God and through which to fulfill His purpose.  I hope they obsess over all their bodies can do.  How their minds work; how their hands create; how their hearts feel; how their feet and limbs help them connect, help them literally move forward.  I have a dear friend who has spent the last five years battling a mysterious and debilitating illness.  He said to me recently, “I would give one of my five senses to have overall good health back.” I hope they appreciate every day all their bodies do for them, the health they have.  I pray they obsess over how their bodies serve them and don’t waste a single moment, hour, day, or year focusing on its (mis)perceived imperfections.  These misconceptions detract and distract time and attention from the way they can use their beautiful bodies in service to others.

 

I hope they lighten up.

I come from a long line of people who love to laugh and do so loudly and with abandon.  I have always loved how at family gatherings laughter quite literally fills the room.  I, on the other hand, have quite the serious streak.  I do not laugh loudly or, sadly, all that often.  What I hope for my girls is that they lighten up.  While I pray they find something (and honestly many somethings) to be serious about, I hope they never take themselves too seriously.  Laughter is a form of communication.  It communicates to others how you see and experience the world.  Laughter is medicine.  It is therapy, and it is hope.  The ability to laugh when others and we show us the worst is an ability to hope and believe that the worst never wins.  Love wins; joy wins.  Laughter is the grace that brings joy to the world.

 

I hope they embrace change.

Did I mention I LOVE lists?  I like order and stability and structure.  What I hope for my children is that they learn to live with order but are not defined by it.  To this day, I have adult-sized tantrums when I am surrounded by too much change.  Moving darn near sends me over the edge.  I don’t like mess, literally or metaphorically. I pray for my girls that they learn to live with boundaries and rules but that amid the structure they are able to embrace and welcome change.  Change is perhaps the only certainty there is, that and my and God’s love for them.  Things change my sweet ones.  Rules change.  People change.  I read somewhere that someone found it silly when people said they were getting divorced because their spouse had changed.  We should expect change, he said.  It would be more detrimental to the relationship if we didn’t.  (Perhaps the way they changed was harmful to the relationship but that’s another story.)  I hope my girls, too, see change as inevitable, necessary, and exciting.  Change is necessary for growth.  When circumstances fall apart, I pray that they do not.  Instead, I hope they are able to play in the rubble and then find the tools to build something better.  Change happens.  Change your expectations.  Change your attitude.  But do not let change alter your ability to appreciate the world. 

 

I hope they are passionate about ideas.

Okay, honestly I hope my girls are passionate about everything.  My mom used to say she wanted her tombstone to read: “I may not have lived perfectly, but I lived passionately.” Amen.  I hope they are passionate about learning and hobbies and travel and a number of other things, all defined by themselves not by what they believe others want for or expect of them.  But most of all, I pray that they recognize that passion for all these things comes first from a passion for ideas.  True passion for ideas is recognizing how to respect others’, even when different, while never losing sight of your own.  One of the things I love most about my big brother is how excited he gets about ideas.  Every family get-together is a chance to brainstorm something new.  I hope my daughters look at their uncle and also become passionate about what ideas can do, from changing their own perspective and the world to stimulating rousing family discussion.  I hope they think, question, wonder, and read aloud.  And I hope they do so without fear of the unknown but in deep, thoughtful pursuit of it.

 

Finally, I hope my girls connect.  Connect, connect, connect.

I hope they are passionate not just about ideas but about the people who foster them.  I hope that this passion evolves from their great love for each other.  I know the world is moving faster.  There are more ways than ever to entertain one’s self at the touch of a button.  I know we are culture always redefining personal space.  My wish for them is that even in their embrace of the personal that they never lose sight of themselves as citizens of the world, as a part of ever-changing and ever-evolving public spaces.  I hope they never tire of good old-fashioned conversation, of face-to-face interaction.  I pray they learn to give and receive a good hug, never lose sight of the importance of a firm handshake, and never fear touch.  We live in a society where we worry about how touch may be interpreted.  I hope they respect others’ boundaries but, still, learn how to appropriately buck their own, to call when a text will do or reach out a hand when the person on the other end seems less inclined to reach back.  Connect.  Connect.  Connect.  It is what makes us human, and I dare say, it will be what keeps us so.

 

This is my list.  My lover letter to my children.  Finished: never.  Imperfect, of course.  But that is my great hope for my girls: that they will learn how to make their own lists – imperfect as they may be – and that they will be courageous enough to rewrite them. 

Love in the Time of Baby

THE RESEARCH:

I have had a lot of time to think as of late.  With a teething seven-month-old, I find myself up in the wee hours of the morning wondering about serious “world issues” like why on earth Osito (little bear) hasn’t slept through the night yet, drooling aside. 

Last night I found myself thinking, in particular, about perspective.  As Osito chomped happily on her teething ring, I mulled over a recent (and all-too-often) argument my rock star husband and I had over being tired.  Or, I should say, about being overtired.  The argument pretty much went (and always seems to go) like this.

RS (Rock Star): Are you okay?

DM (Dr. Mom): I’m tired.

RS: I know.  Me too.

DM: Well, I’m EXHAUSTED (with pause for effect).  It’s EX.HAUST.ING (drawing out every.single.syllable) doing this ALL BY MYSELF (cue background music, preferably the Celine Dion version).

The lamest part about this overplayed (and really one-sided) argument is not merely my flair for the dramatics, but that after turning who was more tired into a competition, I followed up my attempt at game, set, match with the snarky suggestion that I was more tired because I was going it alone.  This unfortunate word choice, which I bring off the bench all-too-often because it gets the desired rise in temperature, minimizes just how much he does on a daily basis to make this house work.  One glaring example being that he works 60+ hours a week outside the home, in addition to what he helps with in it, without complaint.  (Hence the nickname: the rock star.)  

Yes, there are days when I do far more than my husband around the house.  But even on days when he is gone ALL DAY I still know that at some point he is coming home, if not to actually hold or feed or change a child because they are already asleep, at the very least to laugh with me about something awesome that happened or hold my hand while I cry.  And let’s face it crying and sleep deprivation seem to go hand in hand around here.  Or I know he will walk in the door soon with wine or another overlooked but much needed dinner item so that I don’t have to take two children who ALWAYS it seems need to be changed, fed, or held during the day (with no fault of their own I might add; they are two and under) to the store.  On top of that, I do not even have to leave the house when worrying about major life issues like holding or feeding or changing two little ones because the rock star is out there making money so that I can work at home as a mom and Ph.D. candidate in training.

THE LESSON:

Does this mean I should never complain about the reality of parenthood and feeling exhausted and sometimes alone?  Nope.  I am mom.  It can be a lonely, thankless, tough as nails job (worth it, of course).  There’s nothing wrong with admitting that to me or the rock star but not always to anyone else who’ll listen.  My apologies to the woman behind me yesterday in the checkout line. 

What it does mean, I believe, is that perhaps amid the chaos that is life the best defense to not losing one’s cool and self altogether is to have a little perspective.  This is where the smelling of the roses advice comes into play.  It means amid the changing and feeding and bouncing on repeat that I need to stop and take a breath (heck, just bring the oxygen mask) and realize that, yes, parenting is exhausting and, at times, lonely but I am blessed to have a stunningly cool partner in crime to share the load.  Even if not always physically there, knowing he can be often keeps me from diving head first into insanity.  I imagine so it goes for all people, parents or not.  We need each other.  We need support.  And the reality is that community is all around us, within or outside of the home, in a variety of forms.  It is waiting to be had.  Wanting to be asked.  Willing to hold our hand or high five it.  We just need to recognize it, to appreciate it, and to cut it, like ourselves, a little slack when it doesn’t meet our expectations.  Most of all, we need to hold on to the knowledge that it is there when we feel most alone, like in the wee hours of the morning when perhaps we’re up bouncing babies praying for sunlight.