Always, Always Under One Sky

It started last week.

LittleBrother brought home a project he had worked on in school. Let it be known: I am not an overly sentimental mother. My husband and I have often wondered aloud to one another if our children will be angry with us as we have not kept every card they have received, every art project ever created. In fact, we have kept very few of anything. I mean, it’s not as if I haven’t done anything to preserve memories. See also: This blog. But for the most part, I keep some holiday things to use as decorations and very little else.

So when I pulled a white piece of paper out of LittleBrother’s backpack the other day, I didn’t expect that it would catch me off guard. That I would want to hang it in my office. That I would feel a surge of pride in a few blue sequins glued to a piece of copied paper.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of equality and… peace.

Then BigBrother got home from school. Rinse repeat, but with colors and words he wrote on his own.

“Hands are lots of different colors. You can be friends even if you have different skin. Every body can be friends.”

Later, I read through his homework with him — a book about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. An advanced book, it delved a little deeper into the topic than his art project. I found my heart catching in my throat as my seven-year-old read to me about the racial injustices of our country’s history. More than simply “I have a dream that kids will play together,” he read the words and gave voice to the scars of our collective history. Hearing it from him, however basic in his understanding of what he is reading and saying at this age, made the hair on my arms tingle and dance.

But, it’s just a water fountain, Mommy. Why couldn’t they drink from it?

Discussions have popped up over the past week about things like rights and water fountains and kids in his school and, finally, a verbalization of the simple fact that his sister’s skin tone does not match his own. I breathe slowly and answer carefully, hoping I am setting the foundation of a greater understanding.

Today’s inauguration seemed fitting.

As Richard Blanco read his amazing poem, my tears fell. The beauty of his words mixed with the truth and weight of those same words hit me hard. We’ve done so much, and still have so much left to do. And yet, we are always — always — under one sky. Together. To teach my sons this concept, that we are together under that one sky trying to do what we feel is right, is something I don’t take lightly. It is a responsibility I hold dearly, that I aspire to — for fear that if I don’t get this one right, I will have let down future generations. I want to teach them to respect, to honor.

I look at their faces and I feel the weight of the dream, the charge to do better.

Peace and Love

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to teach them to be the light, to be the love that this world so needs.


Dear Mitt Romney, Here’s My 47% Story

In 2003, I was unexpectedly pregnant. But, oh, I was in love with my child.

I began working at a low-paying job, at all kinds of stupid hours, so I could provide for my child, for myself. I did sign up for Medical Assistance through state assistance because my employer did not offer (affordable) insurance, but I didn’t sign up for Food Stamps or Cash Assistance through the state of Pennsylvania because certain groups of people made that a shameful action. I believed I was stronger and better than people who needed such things. I was going to Make It in the world, without help, without assistance.

Ah, how pride cometh before the fall.

At 18 weeks pregnant, I was at work when I started to feel a little woozy. My back hurt horribly, and not in an “I’m Pregnant and Achy All Over Way.” I wasn’t even showing yet, so it wasn’t even an “I Gained Too Much Weight Already And My Back Hurts.” I knew it was different. I felt whiny, but I left work early, ate a sandwich, and took a nap in my modest, self-funded apartment. I woke up with a fever of 104. After calling my doctor, I went straight to the Emergency Room.

What follows is a story that no young mother expects to live. I went through an emergency surgery on my kidney. I was placed on Level III bed rest, suddenly unable to work or even get out of bed to shower everyday. I had to go on Cash Assistance to make my rent. I had to sign up for Food Stamps in order to eat. I was kicked off assistance three times during my pregnancy because I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t drive myself to appointments to keep that assistance. I had to fight to keep enough money coming in to eat food — food that I couldn’t get out of bed and prepare for myself.

Due to that craziness that ensued because of an undiagnosed kidney disorder and the panic of not being able to work, not being able to keep assistance, I relinquished that baby — my only daughter — for adoption.

Needless to say, I did not earn enough money in 2003 to be required to pay federal taxes, like the 47% you chastised and called entitled. I also didn’t spend all of my Food Stamps that were allotted to me in that year. Nor did I use all of the Cash Assistance. I simply couldn’t go out and spend the money. It was a year of bare necessities, a year of bare minimum. I only gained 19 pounds that pregnancy, partly because of my health and partly because I couldn’t get up and get food, make food, find the energy to consume food.

As for my “entitlement” to the health care that I received during that pregnancy, I felt no such entitlement. I simply needed it. I felt shame then, and it angers me that you are still shaming me now, nine years later. Without that medical coverage, Mr. Romney, I would have died. Plain and simple. My life was on the line twice during that pregnancy. But you see, I paid taxes before that pregnancy and have paid taxes every year since that pregnancy. I have worked my ass off. And, even if I hadn’t, even if legislation and economy failures and poor choices I could have made would have kept me from finding stable employment and building my life — even if I hadn’t wanted to do right by my daughter and prove myself to be more than a failure — I believe that my living, breathing self was worth your tax dollars. I believe that the doctors working hard to save my life, to help keep my unborn child safe from my own toxic body, oh, I believe we were both worth it. Especially her.

I will vote for a President who doesn’t make me feel guilty for signing up for Medical Assistance when I needed it. I will vote for a President who doesn’t villainize me for a health condition that we didn’t know about, that landed me flat on my back and in need of help from others. I will vote for a President who doesn’t make me out to be the bad guy for accepting that help. I will vote for a President who doesn’t throw me under the bus in the name of campaigning. I may not have paid taxes in 2003, but I can assure you that I will stand with those who need assistance, who need help, and vote for Obama in 2012.

Obama Plate


This post originally appears on The Chronicles of Munchkin Land, my now defunct adoption blog.


This post was syndicated by BlogHer on September 18, 2012.