Three years ago, Steve and I rented out our house in NC and moved to London. His company has an office there and he accepted a two year assignment. We went over in August to secure a flat and set up our bank accounts. HSBC had a branch office just below Steve’s company and so we popped in to get the accounts set up.
We arrived, looking like two American tourists – blue jeans, sneakers, no name brand nothing. After a few minutes, we were escorted back to a a very nice woman’s desk. We explained why we were there and what we needed. She handed us some papers, then asked for Steve’s contract letter as proof of employment. He handed it over, she glanced at it, and she started on a profuse apology rant as she nearly climbed over her desk to retrieve the papers she had handed us.
“I’m so very sorry, I should have looked first. Of course, you will be a premier customer.” She produced a gift box from under desk. The lid featured two beautiful people with dark skin and hair wearing designer clothes, expensive jewelry, and dining by candlelight. Steve and I cut our eyes at each other and snorted. We are neither dark-skinned, nor mysterious, nor used to Premiere status treatment. HIs salary was barely enough to support the four of us (who lived in three cities, one paying Central London rent and still carrying an NC mortgage), Then, she went on to offer to set up our off-shore accounts “for tax purposes.” Let that sink in – an off-shore account to hide our money from taxes.
Steve and I have often referred to that encounter as “what is wrong” with the banking industry and people in general. The anti-tax mentality goes beyond the US border and banks are complicit in helping people hide their wealth from the governments that provide those very people with the safety, security, and most importantly, here in the US- the opportunity to even have that wealth.
My heart soared just a bit today when I read the headline about HSBC being raided. I hope the officials are quite successful in finding each and every entity that has illegally evaded paying their fair share, but moreover, I wish regulation would forbid off-shore accounts all together. It is time for international business laws to favor international governments and cooperation and not individuals.
Yesterday I turned out to join the Rev William Barbour, NC President of the NAACP and hundreds of other organizers and tens of thousands of other marchers to demonstrate in protest of recent NC legislation that brought national attention to our state – not because we are being incredibly innovative in solving issues, not because we have ended unemployment, or cured a disease – nope, because Jon Stewart found fodder for political satire and parody in the lunacy. Yes, NC is the brunt of national attention because of the litany of bills that were passed and signed into law in our state that set progress back fifty years. My favorite sign at the march read, “Too many issues for just one sign.” That’s how I feel – there is just too much that went wrong in one legislative session to pick it apart. Rev. Barbour spoke for a five solid minutes just running down the list. But for me, it comes down to one issue: one point that so salient in my mind, and so offensive to my heart. One idea that conjures up every ounce of patriotism and passion in my soul. America is a democracy. It is founded on the idea that the government derives its power from the consent of the people and without that consent, the government has no power or authority. When voting rights are infringed, in any way, it is an affront to our democracy and a call to action. Every single citizen in this country has a voice and that voice is heard at the ballot box. Every effort, every new law, every new technology should be used to make sure that each and every voice is heard without long lines, without government issued identification, without any obstacle between that citizen and the ballot box. That single issue is what got me to my feet, sent me out on a cold morning after a long week of work, and into the streets. If the politicians think they are representing the people, then make no move to block those people from the ballot box. And people, get out and vote. There is a lot of work to be done.
I was sheltered – charmed, if you will. I was spared my first real experience with losing someone I knew well, someone I loved, until I was nearly 29 years olds. That was when we lost my father-in-law. Framing it as such – “my loss,” was and remains complicated. I was relegated to the shadows because it really and truly was and is still my husband’s loss. To lose one’s father – if you were lucky enough to have had a good one – is a huge, unexplainable, bottomless pit of a loss. I think it is second only to losing a spouse, or a child or maybe a brother or sister. So, for me to struggle to make sense of the loss of my father-in-law, to grieve for the first time as an adult dealing with death full on…let’s just suffice to say, I was a novice. Tears were plentiful but inadequate.
In the years that followed, I lost my grandmothers, my husband’s grandparents, an aunt. All of these losses were sad for me, and I empathized enormously with the children and spouses of the deceased. But nearly four years ago, I lost my father. That’s when I became an expert on my own grief. One can only hope to unravel their own grief as it is a different beast with each loss, for each person; therefore, having had a father with whom I could have a real relationship, the loss was deep and multi-faceted. There was the initial shock and heart-ache, the panic, the worry over my mother, the longing for one last conversation. It still creeps up on me and stings my eyes with uninvited tears from time to time. My dad was at times an ass, and a pill, but mostly he was a treasure, an icon, a dear, and I miss him terribly.
So, as I take a moment to appreciate the Day of the Dead, I am sorry for my Anglo-culture that pushes death aside and leaves it buried in the graveyard. I know I could create some ritual for myself and my family to purposefully and properly take note of those who have left us. Instead, I pick up my computer and muse hoping to strike a cord with my living loved ones who know the empty echo in their hearts created by loss. It is a weak and feeble gesture, yet a deep felt nod of appreciation for those who have passed on, for those who are gone but not forgotten. Now that I think about it, maybe I just need to add some tequila.
I think that when most people do something for the first time, they feel a little foolish, slightly hesitant, definitely self-conscious. I certainly felt all those things on Tuesday when I participated in my first Twitter book discussion, Teach Like A Pirate, hosted by Faith Howell. Tweeting is daunting for an English teacher who recoils at abbreviations and leaving out punctuation because of the character limit. Trying to be concise and still cogent and interesting, was a challenge. When it was over, Faith tweeted a reminder to me to use hashtags – that’s the pound symbol, for those of you who don’t Tweet, or the little Tic Tac Toe for those of you who are still using a rotary phone ; ) – The hashtags are supposed to ensure that my comments stay linked to the conversation and not just out in Twitter land where Tweets float. What I learned is that the hashtags will help (yes, help and not guarantee) that your comments get grouped with the right topic, but in order to make sure you see the entire discussion, you need to be following the all other participants. It was not until Faith listed the participants and I clicked to follow them did their comments show up in my feed.
While I love the book, and think Dave Burgess is contagious, I found the experience of trying to have a discussion in Twitter less than satisfying. I had the feeling a few people were in the same room with the host and they were having the pleasure of talking in person. As an extrovert, I prefer to be in person. Then it was confirmed that because I had failed to use the hashtag a couple of times, some of my comments were not seen until the discussion was over, I felt a little embarrassed. In retrospect, that might explain why I felt like I was on the periphery of what was happening. I am very glad that I had the experience and finally broke into Tweeting. It has helped me form my opinion: just because you can have a discussion in Twitter, doesn’t mean you should. I think a group skype call, or a threaded discussion within a blog would be easier to access and follow. That being said, since TLAP is inspirational, and we teachers need as much inspiration as we can muster, I think we should Tweet about our revelations when they hit us and also try to have a support group that meets for 5 minutes at either the beginning or end of each day to remind ourselves that we do have kindred spirits close by – we are all teachers because we love our profession and figuring out how to do it a little bit better each day makes it all the more fun.
23 years ago, I became a mom for the first time. It was the first and only time in my life that I recall feeling 100% sure that every single little thing was as it should be. This tiny little person was absolutely perfect and I could not have loved him one ounce more than I already did. Being Aaron’s mom has been quite a ride. I have agonized over him, ignored him, over-indulged him, and threatened to have him arrested. I think most of it comes with the territory of being a parent – but he definitely brought his personal set of challenges. We dubbed him our “complex carbohydrate.” He has taught me a lot about kids and growing up – stuff that has helped me help other parents who are stumped by their kids.
Being Aaron’s mom, has affirmed for me that love wins. Love prevails and it is the single most important thing that we give to our children – unconditional, unending, unhidden love…not money for bail or booze, not approval for any and all shenanigans, not permission to be a jerk – but love that demonstrates kindness and respect. The kind of love Steve and I were both lucky enough to grow up witnessing. Here’s to my baby being able to create it in his future.