Being. With White Skin. And Change.

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As I move further along my journey, self reflection for me as a person and as a Social Worker is important. Why? Because the way I relate to the world isn’t how others relate to the world.

I am not talking about shared human experiences right now. I am talking about privilege.

Being able to move within the world without thinking twice. Just doing. Because I can.

Reflecting back. Way back. I was always surrounded by whiteness. Not much diversity in small town Southwestern Ontario. I was always surrounded by the Catholic faith. Side note: Jesus is brown? Mind blown.

I didn’t feel uncomfortable at the Pow Wow. I felt uncomfortable in Gr. 2. The first black boy in my class. I remember his name. I remember he was on the spectrum (but I didn’t know that then). He was weird. He was in foster care. And then he was gone.

I think I unconsciously became aware of my whiteness then. Around the age 8.

But life went on and I seldom experienced feeling uncomfortable around someone that didn’t look like me.

It was hard to put a finger on the discomfort. I didn’t have enough self-awareness.

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The thing that hit me. That woke my white ass up. I was newly graduated with my undergraduate in Social Work work and working on a First Nation. In child welfare. (Another post, another day).

I was the minority. I was hated. I was uncomfortable. My job and my skin were one. I had to drive over a bridge to get there. I would hold my breath and when I was done for the day I would fly so fast over the bridge. I couldn’t wait to get onto familiar ground.

It’s been just over 10 years since that experience. I reflect a lot on it. What it meant to me. What it meant to them. How I made them feel, just by having white skin. I was the outlier. And uncomfortable as fuck.

It humbled me. It made me sad. It made me ugly cry. You mean to tell me that racialized people feel like this everyday. In our society? How utterly ignorant of me.

And then I learned that race was socially constructed. Mind blown. Again. It made sense. Of course it made sense. Fuckin’ white people. We need to do better. All of us.

What can I do to stop this? There has to be something. I can start by acknowledging my own privilege and the ways that I’ve messed up.

I can try to bring awareness…without taking away from the words and voices and the pain of my fellow human beings. I can listen. I can help. I can acknowledge my whiteness.

Karla

Love is…Remembering.

“What is lovely never dies, but passes into other loveliness”

Thomas Bailey

I sit sometimes and think about my first memory. It always comes to me. I am around 2. We were outside on a summer day. Side door to the garage. Old lawn chair with an Orange Crush underneath it. I remember the black dog too. Chopper. Then I don’t remember anything. I still have a few faint scars under my right eye as proof. I think Chopper was gone after that.

I remember having a knit sweaters and getting to pick out the colours and pattern. You would let us do that for almost every grade.

Fruit Loops in the mornings, bread, salami and gouda for lunch or we could choose mouse turds if you had them. Margarine. I think it was called Blue Bonnet.

We always got cookies. That was a given.

New school picture? Had to run it over to grandma’s house.

Running away? It was to grandma’s house.

Wanted a cookie? Guess where I was going?

I remember trying to beat Nintendo, in Uncle Mike’s room. We ate all of his snacks, and then some. Pretty sure we left peanut shells all over his bed.

Later I remember WWF stickers on Uncle Mike’s furniture. Then his bedroom was in the basement.

Speaking of the basement, there was always lots of cool stuff down there. Ponies, He-man. I am pretty sure we wrecked the pool table.

WWF must have been entertaining. Because I remember watching it there a lot.

Pigeons were always in the silos unless someone paid to come shoot them for meat. No one ever told me we were eating a pigeon. *If this has changed, I don’t want to know.

Peacocks were running all over the place. That was cool.

I remember going over there once, no one was home. I wrote a letter with markers. “Grandma, I was here. If you get this, call me right away”. I took a few cookies too.

I remember going to the place where we made rosaries with our cousins and other older women. And we got holy water. I wish I could remember where this was.

And of course I remember the Pow Wows at Kettle and Stoney Point, followed by the Grand Bend flea market which seemed way cooler back then.

And I remember being so tired at Gerry and Irene’s. You played cards and spoke in Dutch while we fell asleep on the couches.

As you got older, I remember helping you with painting and wallpaper. You said to me that you weren’t young anymore and couldn’t go up and down the ladder like you used too. I didn’t mind. I liked helping you.

After, I moved to London I didn’t see you as much as I should have. After your stroke, I came over to play cards with you and you wanted to show me your pictures as a little girl in Holland.

In 2005 when you got sicker I went away on a vacation down south. I wish I hadn’t. Even though I got to see you before you died. I still wish I had spent more time with you. Perhaps this is always the way.

Miss you grandma. xx

Karla

Am I a Good Mother?

“If you’re a mom, you’re a superhero. Period”

Rosie Pope

Am I a good mother if you were not conceived in my bed, but conceived in a dish?

Am I a good mother if you were not born of my vagina but extracted from my womb?

Am I a good mother if you did not drink from my breasts but from a bottle?

Am I a good mother if you ate pre-made instead of fresh pureed?

Am I good mother if I used diapers instead of cloth?

Am I a good mother if I dressed you in hand-me-downs instead of brand new?

Am I good mother if I bought your cake instead of a perfectly themed party?

Am I good mother if I was too tired for crafts and reading?

I am.

I am.

I am.

Karla

Eastern Healing vs. Western Medicine – No judgement either way.

I have been on my own healing journey for a number of years now.

In that time, I have been profoundly touched by the teachings of yoga, meditation and developing my own sense of spirituality separate from the dogma of Catholicism that deeply troubled me growing up.

Later, as I continued on my healing journey I came to appreciate the inter-connectedness of the universe but first I needed anti-depressant medication.

In 2005 when I first became sick, I knew something was wrong but I had no idea how deeply debilitating mental illness could be. I could not function and no amount of “snapping out of it” or talk therapy was going to work. I had a wonderful psychiatrist who prescribed me Effexor XR and to date, it has helped me save myself more than once.

Within about a month of taking Effexor, I noticed that my sleep had improved significantly. The anxiety that had plagued me my whole life was different. I felt better. Therapy had also helped me in combination with medication.

I didn’t find yoga until around 2016. I felt like I had found what my heart had been missing all along, me. I wanted to get to know this person. As I immersed myself more in the spiritual community the outcome was primarily positive until I encountered what I had felt in the religious community. Judgement.

Yoga meant so much to me, yet how could I stand to take anti-depressant medication that simply masked my symptoms? What about my thyroid medication? Was my body attacking itself?

The thing is, I live in this wonderful body that I get to call my own. I know what is helpful and what isn’t helpful. Instead of judging, try listening. Try compassion. Eastern healing is not better than western medicine. There is room for both.

I did learn however, that judgement doesn’t discriminate. Neither does love.

You are spiritual enough even if you eat meat. You are spiritual enough even if you take western medicine. You are spiritual enough even if the only yoga pose you know is downward dog.

You are spiritual enough because you are enough.

Karla

Mantra – Mangala Charan by Guru Arjan

Aad Guray Nameh (I bow to the Primal Wisdom)

Jugaad Guray Nameh (I bow to the Wisdom through the Ages)

Sat Guray Nameh (I bow to the True Wisdom)

Siri Guru Dayvay Nameh (I bow to the great, unseen Wisdom)

By chanting this mantra, you become surrounded by a field of white light and protection.

Chanting can feel weird when you first start. Especially if you aren’t used to using your voice or feel awkward and vulnerable. That’s okay. Try it out alone or in the shower. The vibrations are healing and can help to relax your nervous system. I love a good yoga class with chanting afterwards.

Enjoy, Karla

On Friendship

“Friendship is the purest love”

Osho

Can you imagine living life without one of the simplest joys? Friendship. I have been grateful to have a few wonderful friends, whom I know I can pick up the phone at anytime and call.

The good ones are the ones that know the gut busting laughter, the ugly cry, and the inside jokes. The phobias, the messy house and the need for a blanket, a tea and good book. You can always feed me too.

As humans our need for connection is part of what makes life so wonderful and is intrinsically woven into our need for survival. And yet there can be so much that gets lost in translation.

In my life there have been friendships lost and friendships that no matter the distance or the time, we pick up right where we left off. These are the best.

Take note of the friendships that not only hold space for you but the ones that also celebrate your successes. True friendship should want the other to fly as high as they can go but be willing to give you a reality check and bring you back down to the ground when needed.

It’s a mutual give and take that not every friendship can withstand. To the friends in my life, that make my world a better place; I hope I do the same for you. And I hope that everyone reading this has at least one good friend.

You don’t want to leave home without one.

Karla

A Love Letter to my Children

Reese and Maeve, Summer 2020

In the midst of growing up, in between the bandages, the falls, the laughter and the birthdays, I hope you know just how much I love you.

In the midst of the running around, the bedtime stories and the tears, I hope you know that you are special just the way you are.

In the midst of the holidays, the dirty clothes and the sticky hands, I hope you know that mom and dad always have your back.

In the midst of Barbie, Paw Patrol and wanting to go to Disney just one more time, I hope you know (someday) that memories are only as special as the people you get to spend them with.

I love you everyday. Always. My darlings.

I hope you know that.

Motherhood and Covid-19

I know that I am not alone, but in between the goldfish crackers, the sticky hands and the mindless scrolling it feels heavy.

There is an element of wondering if this will ever end. It has to though right? Life has to move on, things have to go back to normal. But when?

Activities are cancelled, playgrounds are closed and there is only so much I can do in a day. More heaviness.

Screen time has been at an all time high at my house. (If you are reading this, please take comfort – you are not the only one!) Limits are enforced but in between the goldfish crackers, sticky hands and mindless scrolling sometimes it just doesn’t happen, you know?

Go easy on yourself mama. The kids are being fed. The clothes are being washed and the love is still there. Things will get better. We just don’t know when.

Until then – the grilled cheese needs to be made and the hugs still need to happen. Make sure you give yourself one too.

Karla