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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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friday took his time
knowing how long
i've been waiting
to see his face

he played hard
pretending he didn't care
to see me again
but really, he longed to feel
my lips against his
warmth. you see

friday needs me
as much as i need
to see him comin'
my way,
strolling slow like
i've been waiting
all week
to see him


every black girl
needs a theme song
a song that curls
up inside her
feeding her dreams
with the fruit of possibility

every black girl
needs a theme song
to echo the dreams
she is afraid to share
with the world
which tears down
faster than it can build

every black girl
needs a theme song
to sway hips, confidently
tossing shoulder back
head up, knowing
that no matter what
she can handle it

(c) me, just now.
read. savor. repeat.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:01 AM 9 comments

Being Raced

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

“The only difference between African slaves and European or British slaves was that the latter could run away and melt into the population. But if you were black, you were noticeable.”

~Toni Morrison

i have always wondered what it was like to be white.

i have always wondered what it's like to navigate a world that is not suspicious of your presence, to be able to blend seamlessly into the background without much notice. i wonder what it's like to not represent everyone that looks like you. i know, white people have their own issues & crosses to bear, but growing up as a Black girl in America, i was keenly aware that no matter where i went, or how i behaved...eyes were always watching and judging.

early on, my parents--slightly militant--told me i always had to be on my A-game. they instilled in me an intense determination to achieve, not only for myself, but for each member of my family (and race) who did not have the opportunity to "make it." if i didn't make a good grade in school, my grandmother would tell me about the trouble she had attending school in rural Arkansas. she would say how she had to wake up early to work the cotton field, go to school, and come home to continue working the fields, all while she and her family faced racist Jim Crow laws. she would recount having to attend segregated schools in subpar environments, all to illustrate her point that i had it so much better and had no reason at all NOT to achieve.

i have always carried this idea in my head, that black people must be better than. while i know that i am not able to represent all black people, i do know that for some, i am the only (positive) representative that they see.

i was listening to NPR the other day and Toni Morrison was discussing her new book, A Mercy. her book deals with issues of slavery, but without the slaves being "raced," meaning, she is taking a look at slavery across racial lines, before any sort of racial implications were used to delineate types of servants. as i tried to wrap my mind around the idea of being "raced," or rather NOT being raced, i listened to This American Life as they traveled through Pennsylvania with both presidential campaigns. unsurprisingly, Obama volunteers were finding some resistance to Obama, not on issues of the economy or the war, but solely on the issue of race. in September, The Wall Street Journal reported

Barack Obama’s race could be the deciding factor if the presidential battle remains a dead heat on Election Day, according to an Associated Press poll released today in conjunction with Stanford University. The survey finds that many white Americans — particularly Democrats and Independent voters — still hold deep-seated reservations about African Americans.

The survey of 2,227 adults has a 2% margin of error and showed one-third of white Democrats hold negative views of blacks.

as i listened to both broadcasts, read countless articles, and overdosed on political news, i started to think about ways in which race is applied and used as a tool suppress achievement.

there is no secret that this country was founded on the basis of systematic white supremacy, which coldly annihilated the indigenous population and treated Africans as chattel. instead of bestowing the right of citizenship to enslaved Africans, our forefathers thought up the three-fifths compromise, which essentially resolved that African-Americans were less than human. despite great gains in civil rights and racial equality, this institutional supremacy has continued to permeate all aspects of our society. the inequality found in our schools, our communities, and our legal system are just reminders that the playing field is not level.

as we sit on the cusp of possibly electing an African-American president, i am both hopeful and suspicious of what this will mean for our nation. will we use this momentous act as catalyst to once and for all deal with the racist systems still in place in our country? or we will act as if all has been healed, and that the election of Obama will represent reparations for all that has been done to America's blacks?

as Cornel West once stated, "A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue." despite all of our imperfections, i am still hopeful that we can/will continue this honest dialogue and move past the issues that continue to impede our progress.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:40 PM 11 comments

I Survived!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

so, i survived throwing my first kid birthday party! and now i know why the munchkin hadn't had one up until now: it's waaaaaaaaay too much work!

yesterday we hosted the munchkin's 3rd birthday party in the backyard of my grandma's house. perhaps it would have been less stressful had i put more time into planning the event, but i'm a procrastinator, so i only had about a week and a half to pull it all together. my goal was to create a fun, no-fuss, low-maintenance party, and i think i pulled it off, in spite of the tight timeline and mounting expenses.

the munckin is a HUGE Curious George fan, so that was our theme. i had a Curious George cake made, picked out some key character accents (hats, napkins, banner, etc), and just decorated the rest of the yard in George's colors (from the 99 cent store) to save money. it worked. the yard looked festive, and no one cared that the backyard wasn't draping in Curious George. as a matter of fact, i doubt they noticed.

i'm not the conventional party planner, so i nixed the games and just made sure the kids had something to do. we had a jumper, a cheap lawn bowling set (a previous gift), and i brought out the munckin's big wheel and soccer ball. the kids ran, played, got super dirty and enjoyed themselves. i couldn't find a pinata i liked, so i sent all the kids home with a FABULOUS grab bag full of candy and cheap toys (bubbles, play dough, and whistles).

all in all it wasn't as bad as i thought it would be. i definitely won't be throwing him a party every year, but we can do it every couple of years. the most important part was that he had a BALL! the whole entire time he only sat still to eat. he played HARD, jumped till his little legs got tired, and enjoyed playing with all the kids.

so my job was done, and today, i'm still recuperating LOL.

how was your weekend?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:46 PM 3 comments

Undecided: What is Marriage Anyway?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

i am sure of who i am voting for for president. i am pretty sure of how i will vote on farm animals, and non-violent drug crimes. but i am not at all sure of how i will vote on California's proposition to ban gay marriage.

i am the granddaughter of a Southern Baptist minister. i spent my ENTIRE life in church, sunday school, revivals, and the like. to me, the Bible is sacred and i believe deeply in God, but i am not sure how i feel about amending our state's constitution to ban gay marriage.

perhaps it's because i haven't resolved my feelings about homosexuality. while i don't feel it's necessarily "wrong", i do feel some kind of way (i know that saying sucks) about homosexual couples & marriage. part of me wonders why i even care what two adults want to do with their life, and in all honesty i don't. but another part of me sort of twitches when i think of the institution of marriage and homosexuality in conjunction with my Christian upbringing. my mother, my grandmother, and my church are firmly against allowing gay marriage. i am wavering. but then again, i have wavered a bit from the teachings of my church. while i do believe in Jesus and the trinity, i also believe that the big three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are all talking about the same God. but i digress...i am not the only one struggling with this issue. Black churches all over Los Angeles are debating this issue.

Fred Price, the pastor of one of LA's first Mega-Churches, commented that, "Marriage is between a man and a woman," and urged his audience to "stand with God in saying the definition of marriage must not change."

A few miles away at Lucy Florence Cultural Center in Leimert Park, a much smaller group of ministers -- three, as it turned out -- spoke against the measure. Among their arguments: that African Americans, given their history of discrimination, should not be taking away rights.

while i haven't resolved my feelings toward comparing the struggle for gay rights to that of the civil rights movement, i am clear that any type of discrimination, be it on the basis of race, class, gender, or sexuality, threatens us all. i have always considered myself a progressive person, but yet, i am struggling with this issue. why? in the essay, "Homophobia in Black Communities," bell hooks explores the inner struggle of (some) black folks when trying to think critically about homosexuality. she writes,

Black communities may be perceived as more homophobic than other communities because there is a tendency for individuals in black communities to verbally express in an outspoken way anti-gay sentiments. I talked with a straight black male in a California community who acknowledged that though he has often made jokes poking fun at gays or expressing contempt, as a means of bonding in groups settings, in his private life he was a central support person for a gay sister. Such contradictory behavior seems pervasive in Black communities. It speaks to ambivalence about sexuality in general, about sex as a subject of conversation, and to the ambivalent feelings and attitudes toward homosexuality. Various structures of emotional and economic dependence create gaps between attitudes and actions. Yet a distinction must be made between black people overtly expressing prejudice toward homosexuals and homophobic white people who never made homophobic comments but who have the power to actively exploit and oppress gay people in areas of housing, employment, etc.

although i agree that black people--and people in general--are, at times, ambivalent about homosexuality, i don't feel that we (black people) should be given a pass on our thoughts/feelings simply because we do not "have the power to actively exploit and oppress gay people," especially now, as we are faced with this constitutional amendment. as i think through my own ambivalence, i am struck by my ability NOT to have a clear stance on the issues. i have never thought so hard in my life about a singular ballot initiative. while i am not totally comfortable casting my vote in favor of gay marriage, i am not at all comfortable adding this amendment to our state's constitution. i am usually able to make up my mind rather quickly, but i'm struggling. it's like my religion, politics, and personal POV are all wrestling...and right now, i'm not sure which one will come out on top.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:01 PM 6 comments

good morning

Saturday, October 18, 2008

sun rose           red
eyes blinking back night
yawning cool like Coltrane
at the blue note

i welcome him           early
even though it's saturday
and our date is usually
pushed back

sun spoke warm
hellos as he rose
past night
to greet me

(c) me. just a few minutes ago. don't bite. savor.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:03 AM 6 comments

It's Gotta Be You

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.
~Audre Lorde

it is only october, school is in full swing, the first set of grades have gone out, i have a firm grasp of who my students show themselves to be, and i've noticed some troubling things: the girls in my class are dangerously mean.

my female students are consumed with spreading lies and rumors about each other and fighting at the drop of the hat because someone said something wrong about them, oft times to the detriment of their schoolwork. their relationship with each other is very twisted and convoluted. my group, my intervention group, is hard to get a hold on. one day they are friends, having sleep-overs and hanging out at lunch, and the next day they are on the verge of tearing each other's hair out. it's taxing. the mean behaviors exhibited by my female students is nothing new. women have always found it difficult to get along because we are socialized to compete (for jobs, men, scholarships, etc), but it seems to be getting more and more intense, and i am not the only one who has noticed it.

in 2006, Kristen Norwood, a graduate student conducted a survey of women for her graduate thesis. this study took a look at the behavior women display toward other women they have never met. she found,

The participants freely admitted that they often feel other women are being "catty" or spiteful in a petty way toward them and admitted that they behaved the same way. They cited several reasons, the most common being jealousy over physical attractiveness and attention from men. Other reasons included competition and jealousy resulting from self-esteem issues and from perceived similarities or differences with other women.

The issue of self-esteem, or lack thereof, is a major issue in my class. i often tell my students that people who speak negatively about someone else are really just trying to mask something about themselves. to that, i've heard groans, and the usual, "i don't got nothing wrong wit me!" but their behavior and history speak otherwise. the girls in my class have a lot of issues. many have lost parents, were abused, and don't know how to really feel anything other than animosity toward others.

i have quickly learned that being a teacher also means being a psychologist and a social worker. everyday i navigate tricky emotional landmines and put out fires before they become explosive. i am struggling, though, to impart wisdom and a sense of self-worth to my female students. i know that for me, just being represented through the material in class went a long way to provide positive images of self. conversations about self, about how to deal with others, and about the options that are afforded with education are also a must, but is that enough?

how do we teach our girls, and our boys, that they are enough?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:10 PM 9 comments

getting boxed-in

Friday, October 10, 2008

(created with Wordle)

it's friday night & have nothing to do...and i absolutely love it! i've been running for the past few weeks/weekends, always feeling like i've not fully rested when monday rolled around and it was time to go back to work. tonight i am surfing the web, reading political news sites, disgusted with some of our countrymen, and happy others are moving above the fray. i can honestly say i am worried that some people's true colors, the colors of hate and bigotry that have stained this country, are starting to bleed through. but i don't want to write about such things tonight. i would rather busy myself with frilly, fun things...

...like John Legend's new song, "Green Light". can i say that i LOVE this song? the fun, fast beat is perfect for dancing (which i'm doing as i type) and working out (which...i need to start doing again!).

looking for a fun way to kill time?

try this! tonight, i stumbled across Wordle.net, a site in which you can make your own word collage. so i searched my brain for words to describe myself & poof...it came out so cute. if you have some time, make your own, post a link & share (warning: it gets addicting!).

be blessed & enjoy your weekend.

(collage i created about Sen. Obama--i told you it was sort of addicting)

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:08 PM 3 comments

the stock market is going crazy. today, the same day the market experienced record highs last year, it plunged 678 points, marking its lowest rate in more than 5 years. people are scared, worried about their homes and their pensions, and the future of our ability to exist. for the first time i am worried about my own 403B, and how my district is investing the little bit of money i have saved over the past few years. my state is on the verge of locking up. we need $7 billion from government just to make payroll, and businesses everywhere are having a tough time raising the funds to keep going. but with all of this uncertainty about our economy—our future—the McCain campaign is trying to distract us with personal attacks.

i am not going to rehash them. you've heard them all. invoking "questionable" relationships with “terrorists”, or invoking Senator Obama's "foreign" name, or implying he is a Manchurian candidate. it's all a distraction, and what really matters gets lost in the noise.

what matters to me is if i'll be able to buy a home at a reasonable interest rate when i'm ready. what matters to me is that my grandmother’s home of 40+ years, which she refinanced a few years ago, doesn't put her upside down on her mortgage and force her out on the street. i am worried i won't be able to afford college for my son, that my district, my employer, will not be able to sustain our workforce & start cutting from the bottom (*ehem*, new teachers like me), and that our whole system will plunge into total disarray.

these are scary times, in which many people are offering few concrete solutions. the last thing we need is scare tactics and innuendo from political candidates. we need clear-cut solutions and a vision to get us out of this mess.

if you could speak to both Obama & McCain, what would you tell them? what advice would you give them to get us out of this mess? What are your worries and fears?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 2:39 PM 0 comments

My Quarter-Million Dollar Baby

Sunday, October 05, 2008

so, i've been toying with the idea of throwing the munchkin a birthday party in a few weeks. to date, he hasn't had a "real" party. he's had some birthday dinners, but what does that really mean to a 2 year old? my argument has always been that he would never remember a party & it would mean absolutely nothing to him anyway, but apparently, those around me are looking at me like i'm depriving my child of some sort of right of passage.

as i sit here and search for a site (Chuck E. Cheese?) for a party, the sheer amount of money people spend on these celebrations is sort of daunting. first, the venue. i don't have the luxury of a backyard, so having it at home is out. there's Chuck E. Cheese, which is fairly cheap if you have the party during the week, and a bit more expensive on the weekends. then you have your specialty places such as The Little Gym or Kid's Concept which is asking approximately $500 for the venue and a "party attendant," which just sounds absurd to me. and finally, there's the park, which is my personal favorite, but seeing as the kid's birthday is close to the end of October, the weather can be a bit dicey. i'm on the verge of just buying him another FABULOUS birthday cake & calling it a day.

all this talk about paying for a venue, and party favors, and a gift brings me back to the cost of raising a child on your own. because i like facts, i googled it and i found this:

(click to enlarge)

according to msn money's central, it will cost me approximately $250,000 to raise my son (which doesn't include the cost of college). when i think about that amount my mind is blown. it's so hard for me to wrap my mind around the money it takes to provide for my son, and going at it alone is even more stressful. i don't want him to miss out on anything simply because we are all we got (for right now), but i can't spend carelessly on gifts and parties either.

i was listening to This American Life the other day and they profiled Geoffery Canada and his project, The Harlem Children Zone. a friend of mind used to work there, and i was really intrigued and inspired by their work. Mr. Canada's mission is to provide education to the kids of Harlem from birth through college in the hopes that focusing on the child (not the parent) will help raise kids out of the cycle of poverty. listening to the broadcast solidified in my mind that no matter how much money you make, what matters is how much time and energy you invest on the things that actually count. reading to your child, letting him explore his world, tempering discipline, all of these things will mean more in the long run than how fabulous his 3rd birthday party was.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:06 AM 3 comments