Saturday, October 29, 2016

Think before you pull out the red pen

The world has become more sensitive to aggressions based on race, gender, sexual orientation, faith, and nationality. There is also classism. Here is a story.

I was in a gifted-and-talented program in the Houston public schools from age 9. My first principal begged my parents to put me in it, because he said his school couldn't handle my intellect and he didn't want my potential wasted. (Thanks, Mr. Bruce!)

My father was a school teacher before he moved into the trucking industry. Several of his sisters were teachers. My mother's mother and her great aunt were also teachers; my mother was a school nurse. There are doctors and architects and businesspeople on both sides of my family. So -- I come from a family of college-educated people who read for fun.

However, Houston also is affected by classism (as well as racism and sexism). My story is one about classism.

My test scores were never in doubt. My grades and ambition were easily verifiable -- until I got to high school. A specialty high school, with hand-picked teachers with masters' degrees and academic counselors to help us get into college.

One of my favorite teachers stopped being my favorite when she asked me, in front of the other kids, why I was so much smarter than someone whose father was very prominent and powerful. I didn't know what to say, and so I didn't say anything. What did someone's parent have to do with his/her intelligence? Why would she ask me such a thing?

A year later, my parents separated -- and rather than start smoking and drinking and having sex in the hallways, my siblings and I buckled down and turned in our best grades, coursework, and test scores. The counselor called me in to ask why we were excelling when our parents were divorcing, rather than flunking out of class. I knew, because of the classroom gossip, that SHE was divorcing her husband and was having a custody fight over their little boy. SO I ASKED HER WHY SHE CARED ABOUT US WHEN HER MARRIAGE WAS FALLING APART and then left her office. (I'd clearly developed more moxie since sophomore year.)

I have no idea where that teacher is. The counselor recently died after an illness, and my former classmates all mourned her on FB. I didn't mourn her; I figured cancer was her karma. It stung to have people I trusted and respected question my intellect and drive. But you know what? I did what my parents expected me to do, which is go to the best schools possible and earn my degrees and build my career. I wasn't "high society" enough for my public school educators (which is its own special irony), and I'd like to think that my life is a pair of middle fingers to them and their small minds.

But that's looking back. Today's teachers undoubtedly have experienced similar stings -- and should be called out for perpetuating this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where the hell is my vacation?

Need to do a better job of managing my off time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Damn right I knit.

I have a blog post of my own to write, but let's get something straight:  I knit so I don't kill people.

I have two Ivy League degrees, and I cover US diplomacy and military strategy for a certain (sometimes controversial) international television network.  That means I get paid for putting tough questions to US policymakers and for writing and presenting policy stories to an international audience.  I've traveled around the world.  I like my scotch smooth and neat -- my men a little less polished.

Damn right I knit.  I need the cleansing palette between thinking about military budget talks and diplomatic maneuvering and political shenanigans.  Knitting reminds me that I can create in real life, and not just in my rather excellent brain.

I sew too.  I think about the women in Southeast Asia and Haiti and China who make almost nothing to produce the suits I wear on the air -- and I try to right the moral balance by making some of my own clothes.  I also give money to organizations that help women create their own businesses across the developing world.  That's what this "soft" woman with a tough job does with her time and her money.

As for "have women become soft?"  My great-grandmother couldn't go to high school; her father told her all she'd only marry and bear children, making the hard-earned tuition a waste of money.  She made sure that her one child -- HER DAUGHTER -- my grandmother -- earned two college degrees.  Her daughter -- my mother -- earned a college degree.  As an African-American woman with this kind of family history, it is ridiculous for me to think that I've become soft.  If anything, I've earned the right to do something once afforded only to middle-class and upper-class white women in this country: to control my mind, my bank account, and my time, without interference from anyone else.

By the way -- you need more than Boston Phoenix bylines if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist. It's a fine paper, but really, why aren't you on the NYTimes or WaPo opinion page?  That's where the power is in this country.   Just a bit of career advice.

Friday, February 11, 2011


What a day.  Mabrouk Masr.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Quick list of 2010

Dad died.  October 19.

Became staff at AJE.  November 27.

Finally started the novel.  November 1.

Digging out.  All year.

Surgery.  September 7.

Sushi in a Yokohoma mall.  November 14.



Improved knitting and gardening skills.  Not so much on the photography or videography.

Signs the midlife crisis is imminent: Thinking about taking up electric guitar.  Hanging out in the toy section of Target with nary a thought of my nieces or nephew.  Wondering if my anti-Botox position is too much protesting.

A renewed acquaintance with the written page, cold lemonade, sunblock and a maillot on the back porch.

Realizing it's time to shed my skin, just when I'm feeling most vulnerable.

See ya, 2010,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Time to take account

It's been a long hard slog these last four months -- but perhaps there is a good light waiting at the end.  Update shortly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


P080910PS-0356, originally uploaded by The White House.

This photo is freaking hilarious!