My Identity: A Journey – Part Two

I finally got my Ancestry DNA results! Scroll down to jump into a video where I talk about it. I began this journey a long time ago but I only just started documenting my process. The first part of this series is here for your reading pleasure.

Ok…so first, my sincerest thanks are in order. Activists for Ancestry gifted me this kit. The organization raises funds to purchase DNA kits for activists engaged in social justice work. I am humbled by the prize and excited to share my results.

Ancestry DNA is nothing new but for those curious about the process…

The kit included a collection cup for my sample, a mixing solution, and the return shipping packaging. You spit into the cup, mix it with the solution, put it into the envelope and box and send it to the lab. There was email communication throughout, I was notified when my sample was received and when it was sent to the lab for processing. Once complete, I received an email notification with a link to my results. All and all it took about a month to receive my “Ethnicity Estimate.”

Which is a breakdown of your DNA by region.

My breakdown was as follows:ee

ee_reg

I expected there to be more Spain/Portugal but surprisingly, Italy/Greece is most prominent. I also anticipated much more West African and much less native American DNA. So while there was nothing very shocking about my results, there are a few surprises!

My mix is interesting and I’m still trying to figure out what it means and how I can use this to connect some dots. While this has certainly given me some answers, it leaves me with many questions too.

Ireland? Where does that even come from?

I don’t know my biological father and I never cared or needed him. I have always had a beautiful foundation and safe place to land in my parents. My journey toward self discovery was never a journey to finding or knowing him or “that side” of myself. What I am looking for he could never provide anyway.

I am looking for wholeness. I am searching for the stolen pieces. Language, traditions, undiscovered spirituality and an ancestral home.

Where did I come from? What am I made of?

With a little spit and some solid science, I have actual answers…my bits of DNA tell me my personal history. This has given me something I’ve searched for always, a place to start with plenty of breadcrumbs to follow.

Ok! My video…My thoughts were rushed and scattered and I’m overly excited. I don’t apologize but, if you have any questions ask away in the comments!

On Living Life in Survival Mode

I have been sitting here for a full five minutes trying to figure out how to lay this down without sounding like a bitter bitch! How can I truly capture the edge of my seat existence without sounding every bit as angry about it as I am? Years of societal condition has taught me that failure at finding financial security is because I just haven’t worked hard enough.

Bootstrap mentality has made it so my worth as a person is tied to my financial success and poverty is attributed to my own failings as a human being and not the parasitic corporate structure sucking the life out of good, hard working people like my husband and I.

Hard work and gumption will makes your dreams come true is the mantra of the bootstrapper and he picks himself up and dusts himself of with his trust fund money just to prove his point. I believed that too though. I truly believed that. I started working as a teenager and I have not stopped since. There has not been a job beneath me. I have bussed tables, slung wares on the street, cleaned toilets, dedicated countless hours to hard work. My corporate career is no exception. I have built an incredible network of colleagues over decades. My resume is legit. Not a single lie on it!

I’m a hard working woman, I should be a millionaire.

Hard work + “gumption” is not a secret formula to economic prosperity.

I’ve got both and all it’s given me is a stubborn and persistent will to live. It keeps me surviving.

I think about that a lot. In fact, I’m obsessed with it. I can’t stop doing it.

Surviving.

Lord knows that looks different for everybody. Surviving for me looks like happy children not feeling the weight of our financial stresses.

survival-chart-1That takes a ton of masterful surviving. I am an artist at surviving. I make it look effortless. Like a ballet. Balanced and finessed, the perfect lighting, full of flair. A masterful show intended to make all the heavy things feel light as air. It’s slight of hand. I recognize the extra I have to be to pull it all off and I put the spotlight there, instead of my pain over never having enough. That’s the trick to surviving. Making the pain wait until there’s time. The pain believes me but what a fool because there is never time for that. Survival mode means there is always something to do, some plans to make, some move to orchestrate to make it through the day.

I know what you’re thinking…but, I promise you, I love my life and I regret none of my choices. I am not in a happy deficit. On the contrary…I laugh easily, I find joy in every place…that’s another trick of surviving…forcing yourself to see joy in things most find annoying.

The wind in my hair. The rain on my face. The chaos of raising six kids.

Incredibly gifted, insightful, intuitive and compassionate kids. They are my super power.

The truth is living in survival mode is bitter business. The absolute truth is, hardworking people are always one illness or catastrophe away from falling apart. I envy folks who have it “together.” All their entire needs met always and consistently without thinking too much about it. The truth is, I’ve had a few periods in my life where the work was abundant and I didn’t have to worry about silly things like bills. I had free time then too. I made plans.

I know many, many people in my circle who can relate to this. They are brilliant, intelligent, talented people. None of us getting what we are worth. That’s exactly how I know existing in survival mode has less to do with my own personal failings and more to do with the deck being stacked unfairly against a working, woman of color like me.

That’s just the truth and it was a truth I am grateful to have come to, cos that’s the last trick to living life on survival mode, knowing my worth and holding to it without compromise, without apologizing for my existence ever. My basic needs can’t be met because society is flawed as fuck and uncaring and critical of my poverty.

That’s not my fault. I’m fucking fabulous. Fight me!

Beware of these Buzzwords

Life has become a series of buzzwords and hashtags we all regurgitate back to one another through RTs and shares, all day, everyday. I love language and for the most part I am mostly unbothered by them. In fact I use a few myself from time to time.

However, there are some buzzwords that are meant to manipulate rather than actually communicate. Continue reading “Beware of these Buzzwords”

A Woman’s Worth

Raise your hand if you work in corporate America and have spent time trying to, “prove your worth.” Employers love to question what their employees, “bring to the table,” rarely offering up any real gourmet dishes of their own.

Spoiler Alert Corp. America: Healthcare is my right as a human being, your benefits package isn’t *really* impressive given that context. If you are a black or non-black woman or femme of color there is even less at the table for us.

Continue reading “A Woman’s Worth”

My Self-Care Check List

I rest on the seventh day. Sunday, fun day is my self-care day. Before I go into what that’s all about, I’ll give you a quick peak into a day in my life:

Up at 6:00am (sometimes before if baby hates me)

High Schoolers out before 7a

Middle Schooler out before 8a

Third Graders up – their morning routine begins – out the door before 9. Continue reading “My Self-Care Check List”

Open Letter to Pantsuit Nation

Dear Pantsuit Nation,

You definitely don’t know me. I have been a silent observer of your closed and mostly “private” Facebook group for a few weeks now. Watching you grow into an influential collective. Over 3 million members strong! Your brand is storytelling, especially post-apocalypse. It seems now that the Orange Menace is inevitable…you want to amplify voices affected in the aftermath. Continue reading “Open Letter to Pantsuit Nation”

Smart Media Consumption and My Kids

Long-time Smarties know I’ve got six whole kids! They range in age from 10 months to 16 years. Technology has been a huge part of their lives. They literally can’t comprehend a world before smart phones. They giggle at the inconvenience of telephones with chords and vinyl records. They laughed through the original Ghostbusters and it wasn’t at Bill Murray’s quick wit. It was in response to the “cheesy special effects.” Continue reading “Smart Media Consumption and My Kids”

My Identity: A Journey in Three Parts

Part I – My self.

I grew up in a nuclear household. A mom, a dad, a sister, and a dog (or two). On the outside looking in, we were a perfect American family. Working middle-class, public school, salt-of-the-earth folks. My dad bought a house in a Queens suburb with a yard and everything short of the actual white picket fence. Continue reading “My Identity: A Journey in Three Parts”

Talking to my Kids About the Orange Menace

Lets get a few things out-of-the-way, shall we?

This entire blog is op-ed, in this space my voice reigns…supreme. I’m Smart Media Mom and I’m not here for your approval or your clicks. I’m here to be free. I’m here to be unapologetically me! I created this blog so that I can create the kind of smart content I crave and is in scarce supply around the internet. If you don’t agree with me, you are welcome to comment but please remember, keeping it moving costs zero dollars and zero cents.

In my universe Donald J. Trump is an Orange Menace (OM). In my universe white people elected an ego maniacal, white supremacist, who is lining his pockets while filling the white house with other ego maniacal, white supremacists to create, what my husband has called, “the Voltron of corruption.” I’m not arguing this obvious point. History and publications more worthy than mine have proven this fact. If you voted for the OM, please, and I mean this with all due respect, Fuck. Off.

Today I am here in the aftermath to talk to fellow parents, who aren’t seduced by bat shit insanity, to figure out how we talk to our kids about this mess we call American politics!

Hate crimes are up and on the rise.

Don’t believe me, do the research. Start here and here.

Emboldened by OM’s win, people are popping right out of their racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic closets. Proudly announcing themselves, “here!” for the white pride party. Exit polls will tell you, it’s not just the usual suspects like the KKK, alt-right, neo-Nazis, or whatever those kids are calling themselves these days. Nor is it just red-necked yokels with poor educations and even poorer hygiene. No, the hate is coming from suburbanites who shop at Michael’s too.

Unfortunately kids are boarding the hate train as well.

In Minneapolis, middle-school boys leaned out of a school bus to yell, “Grab her by the pussy!” to a man walking with a female colleague. – Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)

I have had multiple conversations with my children throughout this election. I’m no monolith as a parent and my way is exactly that, my way. My way is to talk about it, confrontation can be healthy. I think it’s important to talk to our kids about what is going on. They already have an idea, they are talking about it on the playground, trust me.

The next four years are going to push well past the boundaries of decency. I’ve accepted this inevitability. So, here is how I am talking to my kids about the Orange Menace:

He’s a bully…a quick trip to his twitter page will completely validate this fact. Whether he is threatening to jail or deport (to where idk) protesters who burn the flag or insisting the press refrain from criticism, it is clear his character is devoid of traits like compassion, empathy, diplomacy, grace and from where I’m sitting, he seems to have a love and joy deficiency as well. My kids understand what a bully is, they have been taught both at home and in school how to spot and handle a bully.

When I explained OM in this way, they immediately agreed and then asked why anyone would want a bully as president. Kids are smarter than all of us by the way.

My response, “The fact is bullies don’t always suffer consequences for their behavior, especially when others enable and reinforce the negative. They sometimes even win. It doesn’t make them less of a bully nor more likable, nor worthy of anyone’s respect. Life isn’t always just or fair.” That’s the truth, tell your kids the truth.

Our values and beliefs did not change just because a bully was elected into office. Just as we have always stood up for the most vulnerable among us so we will continue to do just that now. Probably even more diligently than ever before. That’s what the world needs most in my opinion. People willing to fight the bullies of the world.

I am trying to raise kids who will champion the marginalized. This becomes more difficult with every day the OM and his minions transition into office. I imagine it will get worse before it gets better but I refuse to allow hate to be normalized in my home. Despite the fact that millions of people across this nation welcomed that into their homes by voting for this bully in the first place.

Be honest with your kids about racism and all the isms and phobias that are lurking around every corner. Call it out in your community, in the media, in front of them, let them see in real-time what inclusive, inter-sectional activism looks like and I promise they will follow suit.

I wish I could end this on a lighter note but the way my reality is set up I can only ask, how are you talking to your kids post-truth? How do  you explain the Orange Menace?

Five Ways to Spot Fake News

I’m going to rant a little bit today. I find myself arguing with otherwise reasonable people over fake news. It’s an issue. So much so, I have to talk about it here and probably more than once.

The onslaught of fake news and websites dedicated to producing click bait grows by the day. My news feed is consumed by hyperbolic headlines that are complete bullshit. We have reached a pinnacle of, ‘feelings as facts’ reporting. It is more important for publications to get clicks than to do their due diligence. For most people this seems ok, as long as the content reinforces their own ideology. Those people can fuck off.

In fact, post-truth became the Oxford Dictionary international word of the year in 2016. Defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

In the information age, objective facts have become less influential than emotional and personal belief. This is ridiculous, reckless behavior. Please know, I do indeed judge you harshly if you are the type of person to put your personal feelings in place of factual information.

Journalistic integrity is dead and that feels tragic to me. The press is supposed to exist as a checks and balance to those in power.

They gave the First Amendment as a way of giving a fourth branch of government — in fact, the press — an ability to question those in power in any of those three branches of government. -Ken Auletta, Writer, The New Yorker

The irony of it all is, we have the power to debunk, dismiss, and denounce this practice, by using the power of the internet to research any given topic, at any given time. What is the point of having access to all of the information in a device that can fit in your pocket if you are going to exist with your head in the sand, gravitating only to content that soothes you and affirms your personal dogma?

Dear friends – get your heads out of your asses and start digging in deep…our very lives depend on it. I am here to help you, help us end the business of bullshit news and teach you how to spot a fake.

#1 – Trustworthy writers credit their sources

Any writer of worth knows they are nothing without their sources and reference materials. I have seen writers of all visibility use the words of others as their own, claiming content mysteriously appeared to them without citing even an anonymous source. A good story has a lot of breadcrumbs that the reader can follow. If an article or news source is stingy with sources, chances are it’s fake or plagiarized. Please understand fake news and bullshit writers can exist within real news publishers.

#2 – Reliable reporting is balanced

Above all else, news is meant to inform, not delight us. There is no rule that it cannot do both but it must do the first thing…inform. If it is not an op-ed there should be no slant to the reporting. Balanced news does not take sides, it reports the facts and tells the story without any bias. If you are reading something and it is heavy on the hyperbole or it doesn’t present all sides, chances are it’s fake or propagandist news.

#3 – Authentic publications have a track record

Fake news often comes from publications more interested in getting you in front of their advertisers. This is how they make money. Pay attention to the website you’ve landed on. If it is full of advertisements and pop ups, chances are its existence is to get you in front of sponsored ads and not to report the news. Pay attention to how long the site has been in existence. Check their archives and research their body of work. If there is little substance, it’s a good sign it isn’t a reliable source.

#4 – Poor editing is a huge giveaway

As stated above, fake news exists as a way to bait you over to the site so they can sell you things. They don’t much care about the quality of the content. There is no editor working tirelessly to ensure the story is accurate, never mind proof reading. They only want your eyes on their advertisements because this is how they are profiting off serving you fake news. If the content is full of bad spelling and even worse grammar, it’s fake.

#5 – Misinformation and skewed facts

In a lot of cases the news has becomes a propaganda machine. Post-truth, feelings have replaced facts. Many fake news sites intend to misinform and change the narrative to fit their ideology. Check your facts, if a reporter cites a statistic, look it up. If you come across enough conflicting information, chances are your news source has an agenda other than giving you accurate information.

Bonus tip:

Keep in mind that technology to manipulate photos and videos exist. In this day and age, a good rule of thumb is, “question everything and do your homework.” In this way you can be your own reporter and get to the bottom of any subject on your own.

Too many times we are so quick to hit that share button in order to get some type of information out. Do a little homework before hand.Sharing a fake story can often have the opposite effect of raising awareness and instead cause more confusion.

Here is a comprehensive list to help you weed out the less obvious offenders.

fakenews