SARcasm











Since the events surrounding the shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO (details on the incident can be found here and here), I have wanted to write a piece about the realities of raising young black men in today’s world – the world where Brown’s death, and the death of Trayvon Martin remind us that racism still exists, that it is still far more dangerous to be black today than white. But for a number of reasons, I haven’t really felt able to. For one, I have just felt too strongly about it to really be able to string my thoughts together into some narrative whole – it’s been easier to share others’ perceptions that I have found right on.

But perhaps on a deeper level, ultimately, what it has come down to thus far has been this: while our (adopted) boys are mixed-race (born to a white mother and a mixed-race father, is our best understanding), my husband and I are white, and can’t even begin to comprehend the realities they might have to face. While we can make vague claims to having been bullied or mistreated in our youth, in light of recent events in particular this feels woefully inadequate – the reality is, neither of us have ever had racial epithets flung at us. We will never know what it is like for people to assume we must be up to no good, simply because we are (a) young and (b) … well, Not White. Sure, as a woman, some of the bullying I’ve experienced has taken on a sexist/sexual connotation at times, and Ari has had some systemic issues and assumptions to deal with in terms of being Jewish, but let’s be honest – this is a whole different ball game.

That said, today my friend Anne Theriault (who is a phenomenal feminist blogger who writes over at http://www.bellejar.ca) had this piece, on teaching young children about racism, published at the Washington Post today, and in the ensuing discussion she mentioned that she would be interested in my husband’s and/or my perspective on raising children of colour. And while I can’t say I have any more of a cohesive perspective or message than I did beforehand, I thought I would accept her invitation as a challenge, and at least put to proverbial paper the (admittedly jumbled) thoughts in my head on this issue. This isn’t going to be the most eloquent piece I’ve ever written, but roughly:

  • First, I want to second just about everything Anne says in her piece. We are blessed to live in a neighbourhood that isn’t colour-blind, but diverse, and where our boys are ‘different just like everyone else’. Being “brown” can mean you are native, Arab, mixed-race, Indian, or any other number of things – there are a variety of cultures, religions, languages, and just about everything else in the rainbow that is their school, and just that exposure, in their lives, in the media they absorb, in the world they inhabit, is an important step to teaching the ways in which we are all both the same and different, and wonderfully so. In terms of the ramifications of these things – both privilege and marginalization – frank, age appropriate discussions of the ways in which they, we, and others are sometimes lucky, unlucky, and the struggles people can face for being different, can happen as needed and appropriate.
  • Recognizing my own privilege without becoming overly cynical or jaded. I grew up privileged to be able to trust the police. I was always taught that if I was in trouble or lost or scared or needed help, that the police were helpers and I could turn to them. And don’t get me wrong – I know there are good cops out there and it is a difficult and important job, and there are few people I respect more than a good cop who takes their job seriously and does it well. I want my children to be able to believe in those police officers, and trust in them to serve and protect. But the reality is also plain – perhaps plainer now than it has been in years – that this isn’t always the case, and especially for young men of colour. The reality is, someday our cute little brown boys will become brown teenage boys (although this unbiased mother assumes they will still be adorable), and this in itself can create distrust, fear, and yes, let’s call it what it is, hate. Racism. It might not even be conscious, but it’s there. So who do I teach them to trust, to look to for help? At the same time – I don’t want to raise them to inherently DIS-trust police either, or to be belligerent should a situation arise where a police officer might legitimately just be doing their job. But then, just being able to say that feels like it smacks of naivete, and brings home more than ever how I have never and will never live the experiences my sons might.
  • I take some comfort that we live in one of the most diverse areas of one of the most diverse cities in Canada, whose racism at least feels less dangerous, less charged, somehow than that which exists in the United States. But again … I don’t want to be naive about just how far that gets us. Even in Canada, black males are still disproportionately stopped by police in comparison to other members of the population. And even outside of the realities of law enforcement, boneheads exist here too. FACT: someday, somewhere, our boys will experience being called the N-word. Neither Ari nor I ever have, and there in some ways is nothing we can do to prepare them for that day other than breeding a strong sense of self in them, and keeping the lines of communication open – that we are there for them, and that we recognize we will never fully understand their experience, but we will ALWAYS fully try, and we will always support them.
  • And I guess that last is the ultimate thing I would add to Anne’s list. Expose the boys to multicultural and multiracial media, for sure, and ensure that they have friends from all walks of life, not just racially but economically, religiously, ability-wise etc. – but recognizing in the case of our family in particular education won’t be a one-way street. There will be a point where THEY communicate to US their own experiences of race – their experiences of being black children, and eventually, black adolescents and black adults. And it is our job to listen, to understand, to believe and accept the experiences they share, and not allow our privilege – the privilege of our skin colour, of our age, or what have you – to colour our perceptions of their realities. And on that score – the willingness to have our privilege and assumptions challenged – I think we’re on the right track. At least if the gut punch that Ferguson was to me is any indication – both in terms of disappointment in an institution (law enforcement) I’d always been brought up to respect, and more especially in terms of bringing home very potently that it can be dangerous, even fatal, to be a black man not that much older than my very own babies
My boys, ages 4 and 5.

My boys, ages 4 and 5.



{August 11, 2014}   RIP Robin Williams

Today, the world lost a great comedian and actor in Robin Williams, as he committed suicide after a very difficult battle with depression. His wife and children lost a husband and father. He will be missed very deeply. In a lot of ways, I share his wife’s desire that as time goes by, we can remember the joy he brought to so many, the laughs he shared, as opposed to his sad end.

But I also hope that a part of us remembers how he died, also … remembers that depression is a disease with a high mortality rate, and it is every bit as real as cancer, as real as heart disease or any other illness. We owe it to ourselves, and to everyone else, to recognize the suffering of mental illness, and to live with compassion for it.

For those suffering as Mr. Williams did, and as so many of us have, please: you are valued, you are loved, and you deserve the world, as the world deserves you. Make a phonecall, send an email or text, please … it might not feel like it, but so many people out there want to help, if you’ll trust us. And for those who know someone suffering from depression … please don’t wait for them to fight through their illness and come to you. Please be there for them, love them, and let them know that with every fibre of your being. You just might save someone’s life.

MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS LINE (CANADA): 1-866-996-0991



Despite being woefully late to this dance I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the last 10 days or so; as this blogging absence has not been the typical ‘busy and distracted’ absence. As I’m sure we all know, last Monday, there was a terror attack in Boston at their annual Marathon. The week that unfolded, as three people died in the initial attack, a police officer was later killed, and a 24-hour+, city wide manhunt resulting in gunfire and explosives Thursday/Friday kept the city, the nation, and the world riveted, frightened, and confused. You could not write a week like Boston just had. And I wanted to write about it – to write about anything else would seem trite and inappropriate – but I had absolutely nothing novel or creative or original to offer. How awful? What monsters? This is surreal? A warning against condemning all Muslims, to not jump to conclusions and assumptions? Lamenting the woefully inaccurate coverage on CNN? It had all been written.

It is now ten days later; it turns out two self-radicalized brothers were the perpetrators. The eldest is dead, the youngest in serious condition but in police custody and answering questions. Memorials and moments of silence have been observed. For all intents and purposes, the nightmare is over, and I have been silent. Here, anyway – as anyone in contact with me on Facebook knows, I have offered thoughts, prayers, condolences, and shared practical advice offered by others for help in a crisis. But nothing of substance here, out of some self-conscious, self-absorbed desire to produce something smart, pithy, emotional, ‘right on’. And now it feels like it would have been better to add even unoriginal words to the chorus, than to have said nothing.

On the other hand, perhaps I can put my tardiness here to good use. As so often happens, there is also the risk now that ‘The Story’ is over that people will go back to their lives while there were still – as of Monday – at least 50 victims of the bombing still in hospital. And more to the point, even as Boston recovers, there are others all over who are ill, injured, organizations which do good work, help that can be given. So I think at this point, I want to offer the following:

  • Let’s not forget the victims mentioned above, and whether or not there might be tangible things we can do to help. Donations to the American Red Cross, donations of blood, etc. are all worthy causes. ‘Thank yous’ to the men and women who kept Boston safe I’m sure would also be appreciated. Just because a week has past and the news cycle is (or shortly will be) moving on, doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there whose lives will be changed forever; they still deserve a place in our thoughts and prayers and – where appropriate – actions. And remember, there is always a glut of donations, both monetary and in terms of volunteer time, blood etc. – to organizations like the Red Cross in the process and immediate aftermath of tragedies; it is often times like this, where there are still people in need but the rest of us are moving on – that it’s most critical to donate. So please give what you can in that regard.
  • While I will by no means and in no way get on any kind of sympathy trip for the perpetrators of this crime, I am thankful that justice seems to have worked out here, that a day in court will be had. In the meantime though I want to express my condolences to the Chechnyan community in particular and the Muslim community in general who I fear might be in for a renewed hard time in light of recent events; I want to praise the many I saw on Twitter in light of this incident reminding us all not to demonize the Islamic community, and I want as well to pray for healing for those in the Tsarnaev family who were innocent – in particular Tamerlan’s 2-year-old-daughter whose life has been changed so much at such a young age by her father’s despicable choices.
  • Let’s not forget the lessons all events like this teach us – the lessons that life can change in a heartbeat, to pursue our dreams and goals, to hold our loved ones close, to spread compassion and to help one another in times of need – Boston exemplified all these things beautifully over the last ten days and have set an example for us all as a city which handled a horrible situation with class, grace and justice. Let’s all strive to be Boston Strong!

Be well. XOXO



{March 25, 2013}   On Rape

So – I’ve been sitting on this blog entry for about a week now – I just haven’t had the time to do it justice (I can’t even describe how ill I’ve been, really for 3-4 weeks but the last week in particular). I’m still sure I won’t. But I have to say SOMETHING on the Steubenville rape case. I’ll leave it to you to check out the details of the case elsewhere, but the short version of the story is a 16-year-old girl, upon getting drunk to the point of passing out at a party, was raped by two members of her school’s football team while people watched, joked about it, took pictures and video, and it ended up posted online. Upon this case opening up, arrests being made, going to court etc., the sympathies towards the ‘good student’ footballers, the judgemental approach to the rape victim who drunkenly ‘must have asked for it’, etc. stirred up a firestorm of controversy. My thoughts:

  1. I’m not going to say underage drinking is smart. Nor is it smart for anyone to drink to the point of passing out with people they don’t know well or don’t trust. But stupid doesn’t equal criminal, and stupid doesn’t equal asking for it. I have known, and know, plenty of boys and men whose first response to this would be to make sure she got home safely, had some water and aspirin at her disposal for the undoubtedly painful wakeup the next morning, etc.
  2. I do think it’s important for everyone – men and women, girls and boys – to know how to make good choices and do what they reasonably can to be street smart and avoid crime as possible; however, at the end of the day, it is up to potential criminals to, you know, not commit crimes. If I’m walking alone down a deserted street with a wallet full of cash, is that a smart choice? No. But does that mean it’s OK for someone to rob me because, well, my judgement was too poor to deserve otherwise? Absolutely not. It’s time we focus less on teaching girls how to avoid rape, and more on teaching boys not to rape.
  3. Sympathy here ultimately needs to rest with the victim of this awful crime, and the display from CNN in particular and other news outlets in general of sympathies with these boys whose ‘bright futures’ have now been destroyed, is ill placed. Look – I believe we can make mistakes. Huge mistakes. And I believe we can all learn and grow. I agree 16, 17 years old is awfully young to have a lifelong label to carry around with you. HOWEVER, they chose these actions. They were old enough to know it was wrong, they did it anyway, no one else did it to them or for them. If their futures were ruined that is sad, but nowhere near as sad as the long road to recovery their victim is facing. There’s still a lot of time and room for growth and learning and I hope these boys avail themselves of that. There is still potential for ‘I was incredibly, monstrously, criminally stupid at 17, but this is what I learned and how I got my life back’ – but they need to earn that. It’s not incumbent on us to just hand them that.
  4. We need to teach the skills required to avoid these situations in school – this is why abstinence-only education doesn’t work. First and foremost, boys need to learn what consent does and does not look like, they need to learn to respect it, and they need to learn to respect their partners. Women do need to learn what kind of behaviours to accept and not accept from friends, partners, strangers, how to react to it and deal with it, what resources are available to them etc. Bystanders need to learn how, well, not to be bystanders – perhaps the most disgusting part in this case is the number of people who stood by and did nothing – nay, perhaps even enjoyed the show. And parents need to learn how to be comfortable discussing these things with their children – teaching people can be loved without sex and it’s OK to say no, that it’s absolutely imperative to accept no as an answer, and to ultimately enter any interhuman relationship with clear communication that goes both ways – clear messages and clear listening.
  5. RESPECT. This should not be that hard.

And I want to leave you guys with a very short but sweet video on the above that says everything I’m trying to say in one neat and tidy package, far more eloquently than I have here. Please watch, and share widely. Look after each other, and yourselves. Be well. XO



I can’t even begin to process my thoughts on this tragedy today, in which a gunman left 26 people – 20 grade school students – dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT. There’s not much I know. There’s not much I can even imagine.

I can’t imagine, first and foremost, as a parent, getting that horrific phonecall.

I can’t imagine, as a teacher, having to face that situation and remain calm, despite having participated in numerous lockdown drills over the years.

I can’t imagine those whose first priority is heading into defensive mode over the ‘gun rights’ that have gone way too far in the United States.

As un-politically correct as this might sound, I can’t fathom, when the gunman ultimately killed himself, why on Earth he had to take 26 others with him on this death spiral. I know this lacks such depths of the Christian empathy and compassion I struggle to embrace, but I have no patience for people who insist on dragging others – innocent others, completely uninvolved in their own personal tragedy – down with them. I have tried to consider and pray for compassion today -for understanding that for this person to commit such inhumane acts his own pain, his own derangement, must have been so great … I am not there. I’m not sure if the world is there.

I do, however, know a few things.

I do know that the discussion about guns in the United States needs to change. Period. That is not politicizing a tragedy. That is ensuring a tragedy does not occur in vain. If this is not ‘the time to discuss it’, then when? And on this day of all days, when in stark contrast to this mass murder, there was a similar mass attack at an elementary school in China. Similar numbers of casualties come up in that case – 22. However, the weapon in the China incident was a knife. The number of casualties actually dead as opposed to wounded? Zero. These are cold hard facts in regards to gun violence. Yes, “guns don’t kill people, crazy people kill people”, in the tactful and tasteful words of Richard Dawkins today. However, crazy people with guns kill more people than crazy people with knives. Those kids in China will no doubt be traumatized by their experiences; but they at least get to go home and hug their parents, have some hope of working through it. They get to live. And anyone who thinks their right to own a gun trumps a kindergartener’s right to attend school safely is themselves in some serious need of introspection in terms of their values.

I also know that I believe in the words of Fred Rogers:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” I look forward to the stories of those who saved lives, those who helped, those who are reaching out to these families. Through all this, may we recognize those who deserve to be recognized, and may their names stay with us long after that of the perpetrator of this evil act.

Lastly – and this might seem small in the wake of all the tragedy, but it bears remembering – let’s remember that the most vulnerable victims here are small children, most not even in the double digits of age. To see, just hours after what I am assuming is the most traumatic experience any (most) have faced in their young lives, reporters interviewing third graders about the tragedy at their school just makes my stomach turn a little. Again … I know it seems small … but please. Let’s not buy into whatever media hype and spin is about to come of this. Let’s let these kids process this and heal in peace, while we focus on the important issues here – comforting the families directly affected while taking a big picture view on issues like gun control, mental health, school security, etc., to at least ensure SOMETHING can come of this, as cold comfort as it might be. And that does not come in the form of the sensation a frightened little 8-year-old might cause with her firsthand eyewitness account of this shooting.

May God provide comfort and healing to all those affected by this tragedy, and may those mere mortals among us – particularly those who make our laws – who are actually in a position to do something about it here and now, please do so.

Hug your children close tonight. XO



et cetera