It is 2019 and I am now 49 years old. When I’ve described to people who know me only as an adult what I looked like in high school I tell them that I looked roughly like a stick figure with boobs. At the time I didn’t really pay too much attention to what my peers thought about me, but I now realize that a lot of people thought I was pretty. I’ve been told enough times now that I have a pretty face that I can even see it myself sometimes. It helps that I can see my own face in my kids’, as well. They all have really beautiful faces.
Despite being pretty, it was not unusual for people who didn’t know me to mistake me for being a boy all the way into my mid twenties. It’s the truth. And I did sense a little discomfort around me at times because of my lack of traditional femininity. My earliest memory I have of this was when I was about five. My mom took me to get my hair cut short for the first time. She had short hair and I wanted to look like her. My mom is pretty. I was so excited and I was really excited to show my dad when he came home from work. I remember my mom painted my nails red that day and I also remember wearing a new yellow summer nightgown. I remember that I felt pretty that day. But when my dad came home I knew he was disappointed. “Why did you cut off her hair, Jane? She looks like a boy.”
Don’t worry. I was fine. I promise. I love my dad. He didn’t hurt my feelings. I sensed that he may have hurt my mom’s feelings is the thing I remember feeling. I knew damn well I looked good. Confidence is one of my gifts.
I know that when I was a kid, I was identified as a tomboy and I was proud to own it. But I don’t know that I ever thought too much about it until I had kids of my own. These kinds of things just never really bothered me. Being mistaken for a boy didn’t embarrass me. I never corrected people. I just kind of noted it and then moved on with my life. I suppose I had a strong enough sense of self not to let it bother me. I really got lucky with my early sense of self.
These days, I wonder a lot what my gender identity would have been if I had been born now instead of 1970. Even today, I’m not the most ladylike person. I’ve worn my hair short for most of my life or in styles that I didn’t have to do anything with it. I prefer to wear comfortable, simple clothing. I’m kind of direct and assertive by nature. I’m built to be athletic and strong. As a child, I played sports, but not the “boys” sports necessarily. I mostly played tennis and soccer. I do wonder if I was growing up now, would I be non-binary? I have no idea. I kind of wish I did know though. It’s fascinating.
One of my kids is non-binary. They describe themself as androgynous. I like that description. They are androgynous. When people ask me what that means, I just say. “You know, like Prince. Like David Bowie. Like a fucking rock star!” It’s the truth. My kid has always seemed androgynous to me. Even if people didn’t recognize it themselves. That’s how I saw it all along. Nothing has changed about my kid. The thing that’s changed is people’s awareness. If you think about it, what kid isn’t androgynous? Children are all just little humans, aren’t we? There are no real gender identifying characteristics visible to others in our youth. Our gender role is assumed based on how we adorn ourselves, choose to wear our hair, what sports we play or interests we have. What talents we have. Whatever the doctor at our birth decides we are at that moment.
They are just words, people! Why do we do that to each other? That pains me.
Badass (4t1t3s). I looked it up. There are a plethora (1s6c7m3sd) of definitions when I search the word on Google (7c7s6s). Personally, I prefer the definition provided by Urban Dictionary, which is “someone who becomes mentally stronger despite having lived through adversity.”
This word has been coming up for me a lot. After a fair amount of consideration I have to say I’m a fan. Please consider my use of it to fall under this definition.
I’m not ashamed to use it. Forgive me if you’re offended. It is what it is.
I wrote the following on March 24, 2021 in support of a bill championed by colleagues working with the Invisible Disabilities Association.
My name is Lisa Weiss and I am the director of advocacy programs for VALIDEAF, a national non-profit with a mission that serves the diverse deaf community. I am a proud native and resident of Colorado who has invisible disabilities myself. I am also a juvenile and disability rights attorney and education policy expert who has worked in public service for the last 22 years. I am writing in support of Colorado HB 21-1014 that will make a difference in helping save lives and raise awareness of people who are deaf or are living with disabilities, particularly those that are invisible or misunderstood.
As a person with invisible disabilities myself, I am concerned about others like me who may at times need accommodations related to physical access even though we may not appear to have a physical limitation to others. Living with a persistent medical condition does not always look like what people assume. It remains an unfortunate myth that all people with physical disabilities require a wheelchair. I have seen this in action when airlines pull up to the gate to assist my deaf colleagues with a wheelchair. I have also seen this in action when my friends with invisible illnesses are harassed for parking in spaces assigned specifically for them when they don’t exit the car with a wheelchair. The truth is that the person themself is in the best position to determine the accommodations and access that they require for their daily living, work, and community needs. Sometimes a person simply needs to park closer to the entrance of our workplace so that person doesn’t exhaust themselves before they start their workday. I worry about all of these people every day.
And as the mother of a young adult who is Deaf, I cannot tell you how many people still ask me if deaf people can drive. This is another persistent myth that is based on a cultural misunderstanding that hearing is necessary to be safe. It is not. But there are laws in place to ensure that peace officers take appropriate steps to communicate effectively with deaf people because access is the issue for safety. This obligation does include providing sign language interpreters and auxiliary aids, but beyond this there is a clear need for peace officers (and the general public) to understand how to communicate with members of a diverse deaf community.
This is where it gets tricky and I have found this problem to be twofold. One is based in a general misunderstanding about what it means to be deaf. I have found over the last 16 years as a mother navigating the world with a deaf child that there is a persistent myth that all deaf people only communicate using visual language. This is simply not true. The truth is that some deaf people only communicate with visual language. And these people need access to communication in the visual language that they prefer and are able to understand. The second is due to the lack of awareness about how prevalent deafness really is. I often wonder who in our world doesn’t know someone who is deaf (or going deaf) since I know that EVERYONE is becoming deaf. It is difficult for me to imagine knowing this and knowing that approximately 15% (or 37.5 million) American adults aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing and that one in eight people in the United States (13% or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing exams. I worry about all of these people.
My point is, this bill is intended to promote awareness, to provide training, and to ensure the protection of our community. Not just for a few people, but for most people. It is important that the public servants who are called on to serve our community are able to do so and that means being able to identify needs and provide appropriate accessibility depending on the person, the circumstances, and the setting. I hope that this bill will move forward with due diligence and without undue interruption.
Peace and solidarity always,
Lisa A. Weiss, Esq. Director of ValidADVOCACY Programs
The following is an oral presentation about Cued Speech that I wrote in 2018. Or was it 2019? I can’t recall right now. Life is a blur sometimes. In any case, I was offered an opportunity by Janet DesGeorges, who is the Chairperson of the family advisory committee for the national Early Hearing Detection and Intervention conference to lay out Cued Speech for the group. I remember at the time it felt like a big deal that Cued Speech was being offered a place at a table. Any table. It’s difficult to get people’s attention for this highly valuable mode of communication that is also an extremely effective natural language and literacy building tool that I am blessed to know so well.
I happened upon a hard copy of the “speech” I prepared for the lunch group that day. I want to be sure to give credit to one of my deaf mentors, Benjamin Lachman, who helped me to write and prepare to present the critical facts in my plea for EHDI system support. Please understand that there is a growing list of Cued Speech resources around the world so this writing does not provide a complete list. These were the noteworthy resources that we identified at that time.
Finally, if you want to find me working on Cued Speech related projects in any kind of a “professional” capacity, please come find me and my family and friends doing Colorado cultural digging and game playing. I intern as a private educational interpreter and community activist for our independent Deaf family based School to Work Alliance Program that we named Solid Ground Denver because that’s what we need most right now here.
I believe Cued Speech builds a human bridge. I see the Deaf community as I see every other segment of our population. It is part of the human diaspora where we all belong. I call this the deaf diaspora.
At your service, in our community and in 1m3s (peace) ✌🏼 always,
Lisa A. Weiss, J.D. Cuer, Educational Interpreter Intern , Mediator, Public School Policy Expert, and Activist
EHDI Family Advisory Committee Cued Speech/Cued Language(s) – A Place at the Table
What is Cued Speech?
Cued Speech is the system that constitutes the mode of communication that visually conveys cued American English (and other spoken languages). It was created only five decades ago with the singular purpose of supporting literacy in Deaf and hard of hearing people. Today it has grown into 60+ visual adaptations for other spoken languages around the world and has found multiple benefits beyond the deaf and hard of hearing communities.
What is cued language?
While Cued Speech is the *system* of conveying language, the actual act of cueing a language is often referred to cued language. There’s a small but marked different between Cued American English and Cued British English, for example. We are not saying that cueing is a language, we are saying that a language is being cued. The fundamentals are highly adaptable to phonemic based languages. There are some exceptions but the majority of languages are feasible.
In my experience, the reason Cuers aren’t loud is because we do well. There isn’t a lot of discontent. Many of our kids do well in school and go on to do well in life. We are often invisible because we blend right in. We don’t “appear to be Deaf”. But we really do need this voice. And sometimes we do get angry because sometimes we really do get hurt. It’s when we don’t get the communication access or the recognition that we deserve. It’s the same as those who are loud about ASL. We just don’t have any support. Cued Speech is a redheaded stepchild. Cuers are left on our own to educate and advocate for ourselves. We build our own resources. We do our own research. Outside of our community, Cued Speech is a complete mystery to almost everyone.
There are many myths and false perceptions that have been perpetuated as Cued Speech became stuck in the LSL vs. ASL debate. But the cueing community is not the tiny minority most people think it is. It is difficult to know for certain just how may people are using it, but we are very aware that there are many more of us out there who we don’t even know. It is adaptable. It’s diverse. And it’s growing. The 2017 NCHAM EI Snapshot Report showed that almost half of the survey respondents only use one mode of communication and 12% of those people are cueing (49% LSL only; 3% ASL ONLY). It can be, but is not required to be, a stand-alone strategy. The overall deaf community is diverse and the cueing segment of our community is no different. Cuers span the breadth of it. This is because cueing is what you make of it. It is complementary to both LSL and ASL. By definition, it can and already does work in parallel with Listening and Spoken Langauge as well as in a bilingual program with ASL.
The issues we need to address:
It’s not difficult to learn. Families are able to learn it in their own homes and may never connect with another person who cues. The EI Snapshot showed us that 10%+ of families are choosing to use Cued Speech in their homes. It also showed that families reported fair to poor access to information and resources about it. This is the primary issue we need to address.
The majority of pre-service higher education programs for DHH teachers still don’t include Cued Speech in their coursework, there is indeed a larger segment of DHH educational professionals than people realize in the public education sector which support and have implemented the use of Cued Speech.
There is a prevailing belief in the greater DHH field that Cued Speech has only been used when parents like myself have made an isolated request for it for our children and that there is no data proving its efficacy. This isn’t true. Cued Speech programs are localized with various hot spots, which means the majority of cueing services requests are in school districts that do not have existing programs in place or any knowledge about Cued Speech at all. In addition to the available empirical research about Cued Speech, these programs have actual data; they have years of experience and student performance data proving the efficacy of Cued Speech on English language acquisition and literacy.
School districts are under the impression that it’s difficult to integrate cueing into a mainstream setting. This isn’t true. They just don’t know about it. Many families like my own have to bring cueing into their school district and work with the district to develop services that work for that student and the community. This is a huyge burden on families like my own and the school districts where we live often don’t know where to begin. We couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve heard people say, “we have an oral program and a total communication program here in this district. Choose one of those.”
What do we need?
We need exposure. We need support. And we need inclusion.
We have to address what the EI snapshot report highlighted, which is that “the majority of families are receiving excellent or good quality information about communication options except for Cued Speech.” 76% of famlies reported excellent to good information about LSL and 67% reported excellent to good information about ASL. Only 43% reported excellent to good information about Cued Speech. The Cued Speech community has developed the resources, but we are stretched awfully thin.
Once a child is identified, if a family is interested in cueing, they could start giving their child access to the language of their home as quickly as within a few days of starting to learn to cue. The hope is to offer the infrastructure to do that and the awareness that the infrastructure exists. We are here to serve everyone.
We need families to be provided with consistent and reliable information about Cued Speech along with all of the options for language development. We need to develop a plan to systematically provide training and materials about Cued Speech and the diversity of the cueing community to states’ family based organizations (e.g. states’ Hands and Voices Parent Guides and states’ EHDI networks).
We need parents to have access to free training in Cued Speech on the NCHAM website similar to how parents have access to free training videos in ASL on their website.
We need states supporting efforts to expand current adult Deaf ASL mentor programs for parents to also provide that for cueing.
We need early interventionists to receive instruction and training in Cued Speech. Training for state level EHDI coordinators on how to communicate what Cued Speech is and what its purposes are.
Audiologists and EI providers should at the very least have some working knowledge of what its purposes are.
Audiologists and EI providers should at the very least have some working knowledge of what it is and what its actual purpose is. That information needs to be developed by people who are deeply knowledgeable about Cued Speech.
We have a ton of great resources already. We need support to keep growing and we need them infused into the systems that are supposed to support us all.
Here are our resources
National Cued Speech Association CueSign, Inc. – Fully inclusive programming with ASL and Cued Speech Cue College – online platform (cued speech instruction and tutoring services) Daily Cues – free learning resources TECUnit – skills assessment unit INSCert – Instructor workshops and certification Language Matters, Inc. – transliterator training and agency based in North Carolina
This piece was written by my son, Cole, as I was starting up my LAW Access Education LLC practice with the support of my cohort in a program called Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice. Cole is now officially an adult at 19 and is studying photography and archaeology. He was 17 at the time he wrote this and he gave me permission and his trust to use his writing however I thought it could be useful. If you are lucky enough to know Cole you may already realize that he is an incredibly generous and kind soul and that he also has a wonderful way with words. Cole also trusted me to use his picture of a sunflower that he made in the 4th grade. This original picture has hung in my office or home since 2014 where it has provided me with a daily glimpse of bright light and hope and a reminder of his innate inner strength and optimism. It has been used as the catalyst for a few other projects and actions myself and my husband (and other individuals and organizations) have taken in an effort to spark a bit of Cole’s gift into the world around us. Cole and I hope that you enjoy both of his works featured in this post.
Peace and love.
Lisa and Cole
“In Japan, lapel badges hold special meanings relating to law. These badges are called kisho. Most renowned are the badges worn by trial lawyers (bengoshi), and the one we will focus on today is the one used for defense attorneys. This badge is a 16 petaled sunflower with an imprint of scales in the center. The scales are an obvious symbol of law and justice, but the sunflower here is what we will be focusing on. I will get to that in a bit.
Legal badges in Japan are lent to lawyers by the JFBA, or the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. These badges are an easy way to recognize lawyers, and are taken very seriously. They are to be interchanged with anyone and are to be returned if the lawyer in question is disbarred, convicted of a crime, bankrupt, or dead. Badges are easily lost in things like laundry, and are a pain to replace as each badge is stamped with a specific serial number. These badges are taken as identification for a lawyer, contrasting us in the United States who don’t get fancy cool badges.
There are two types of trial badges, the sunflower and the chrysanthemum. The chrysanthemum is known as the Imperial Seal of Japan, and is representative of a prosecutor’s status as a government official. The prosecutor’s badge known as shuso retsujitsu, has white petals, golden leaves and a red jewel in the center representing the sun. The name means “autumn frost, scorching sunlight”, and it symbolises the poignance of punishment and the upholding of the principles expected of a prosecutor.
But the sunflower I write about today is a perfect contrast to this extravagant government badge. This type of badge holds no allegiance to the government, only the law. The sunflower petals represent the pursuit and celebration of justice and liberty, and the scale in the center of the badge refers to fairness and equality. Both the trial lawyer and the prosecutor both pursue justice but are there to promote different principles of it, and ideally should reach a fair conclusion.
Hope and recovery from strife is also part of the sunflower, though it does not refer to any sort of legal connotation. Sunflowers have been noted to be able to extract toxic elements from soil, and have been specifically sought after for their ability to remove radiation from soil. Ever since the Chernobyl Incident, the Ukraine has used sunflowers to absorb radioactive elements from the soil. So Japan used sunflowers after their nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daiichi, had a series of core meltdowns and explosions on March 11, 2011. After harvesting the sunflowers they were decomposed, and the radioactivity in the soil was lessened.
Principles like these seem to be present in my mom’s job, so I recommended the sunflower for a symbol, since her job is about justice, fairness, hope and moving on from tragedy. Plus it’s nice and yellow, a sunny color that suits this optimistic view.
I don’t really know how to end this document, but I hope my mom serves you well and does the best she can to help you guys. I don’t think I can do much for you since I’m still in school. But I wish you luck. Have a good day.”
Cole Jackson Tucker, Age 17 (Independent Private High School Student)
I just spent the last four days in Vermont performing a critical task that I will not be writing about right now. Perhaps someday I will find a way to write about it, but not now. It’s too raw. What I want to write about is you. Boston is where I flew in and out of in order to perform my most important task.
The last time I was in Boston was almost twenty years ago. It was the fall of 2001. I think it was less than a month after the 9/11 attack in New York City, which was a pivotal moment in my life. That’s for sure. That day changed the course of my life.
I’ve already written a bit about my 9/11 experience on Stuck in my Bra and I’m not really thinking about that so much, except that it was actually the only reason I ended up in Boston in September 2001. The truth is if I hadn’t been in Boston that weekend I’m not positive that I would be a mother. I take that back. I don’t believe that I would have been the same mother. I wouldn’t have the same kids. I guess I’ll never really know for sure if that’s true, but that’s what I believe. Nonetheless, I am grateful that I have these three beautiful human beings in my life and for that reason Boston holds a very special place in my mind and my heart. It reminds me of my kids who hold my heart together.
I spent the last 24 hours in Boston and I am now on a flight back home to Denver. Admittedly, I spent most of the last 24 hours barely holding it together. Like I said, my task was painful. I would have had a difficult time containing my tears and my sobs if I wasn’t alone, so I’m glad that I was alone even though I know that the people who care about me wish I wasn’t. The truth is that I have a difficult time expressing my feelings and letting it out full throttle would have been too difficult for me if I was with anyone else. It’s a lot for people to handle. They want to make all the pain just go away. That’s impossible.
My human design is to hold it together and hold it in even when it’s not good for me. I’m working on that all the time, but I am grateful that I was alone this time so that I could let it all out when the feeling came up. I am also grateful to have so many people who love me and care about my wellbeing. I am grateful to have parents who worry about me. I know how much my mom worries. We share the white hair worry gene and hers went white a long, long time ago worrying about me. I am grateful for my husband who worries for me. Jason is a godsend.
Anyway, Boston in September 2001. The reason that I was in Boston is because my boyfriend at that time had been relocated temporarily for his job. He worked on Wall Street. Technically, his office was located in the World Financial Center on 9/11 and Lehman Brothers (which is the company that he worked for at the time) wasted no time relocating him so that they could keep their money machine operating. My boyfriend’s life at that time was all about money. That’s the name of the game on Wall Street. Money money money. More money money money. There are people who believe that money makes the world go around. I’m thankful that I am not one of those people. Go ahead, call me foolish. I stopped caring what people think about me a long time ago. Call me whatever you want. I know what’s important to me and that’s all that matters.
My boyfriend and I were shacked up in Brooklyn at the time and I had stayed back. I don’t remember ever considering going to Boston with him at that time. I also don’t remember if he ever asked me to, but I don’t think he ever did. It’s been so long that I can’t actually remember what I was thinking or feeling about him going to Boston, but what my mind tells me now is that I was probably relieved that he was going and I was also emotionally numb. It’s a fair conclusion given that I was mostly emotionally numb back then and I had also just been shell shocked by 9/11. I also know that at that time I had put my law school loans on hold to save up money so that I could afford to move myself back to Colorado. I had registered to take the Colorado Bar Exam even though I was already licensed to practice law in New York and was doing well in my career. I liked my job and had friends.
But I had decided that I didn’t want to live in New York City any longer. I couldn’t afford to live there alone on my public servant wages and I didn’t want to get stuck in the relationship. Stuck is the worst. So at that time I was mentally preparing myself to break off our relationship. I couldn’t see a future that I wanted with him.
What I realize now is that I have always been resistant to people who focus their life decisions on money. Unfortunately, working on Wall Street had made that my boyfriend’s focus and I was repelled. Silently and subconsciously repelled, but repelled nonetheless. It was making me sick to my stomach so I knew I had to free myself from this relationship with a man who I cared about deeply. I loved him and I was also repelled by him. My gut is always right.
I think that the reason I went out to visit him when he was in Boston was because he invited me out for a weekend with one of his client/friend’s family who had a vacation home on Nantucket. I think it was Nantucket? I can’t even be sure now exactly where it was, but that’s why I took the train to Boston that weekend. His client and their family were really nice people from Milwaukee and I enjoyed spending time with them. I knew my boyfriend did, too, and that’s when we were at our best together. When we were enjoying ourselves with other people. That was one thing that was enjoyable about the Wall Street life. It allowed us to touch the lifestyles of the wealthy. Some of those wealthy people were good people and they had good lives that they shared with us. For that, I was grateful. I never would have had those kinds of experiences without him. Anyway, we had a fun weekend despite the trauma we had both experienced just a few weeks before.
That is the weekend that our beautiful twins were conceived. That’s it. That’s why I love Boston.
When I was in Boston this time though I couldn’t help myself from thinking about a dear friend of mine who lived in Boston for many years. I’ve wracked my brain to think of someone else I know who lives in Boston and I can only think of him.
My friend Josh Libby was a gem. He passed away recently and it really hit me hard. Most people probably didn’t even realize we were close, but he was special to me. We had reconnected again recently and were on Facebook messenger a lot discussing life and Cued Speech history and drama. Josh was one of my favorite people. He was easy to be around. He was charming and playful and authentic and just a good all around human being. We confided in one another. We were like cousins. I miss him a lot. He was one of my favorite hearing free mentors and I have had plenty.
I first met Josh when he was the President of the National Cued Speech Association and I was just a baby board member. I had been recruited onto his board because I am the parent of a Deaf native Cuer like Josh and also because of my professional skillset. They knew that I could be invested in the mission and probably hoped that I would be useful. Maybe I would even fight for them. Of course I will. I don’t see it as a choice. Its my call of duty.
Now my Deaf child is grown. She is a Deaf leader. She has always been my Deaf leader. Whether anyone else recognizes that fact or not, I don’t really care. It’s the truth. That is what I learned by knowing Josh and other people like him. That is what I have learned from my own kids. That is what I’ve learned as a person who has sometimes become disabled myself. The truth is if we don’t take the lead we may not survive in this audist and ableist world.
Here’s the truth about me.
I am repelled by greed. I get fired up by discrimination in all of its forms. I really do love Boston. I love my family the most. And I always choose love. I don’t see any way through this life if I didn’t because I believe that it is love and not money that makes the world go around.
Four years ago I didn’t have a pussy hat. It wasn’t a thing I would have imagined so many women wearing. I know lots of people who thought my little group of friends in college were disgusting girls for wearing tampon costumes on Halloween. We just thought it was hilarious and provocative. But then shock humor comes naturally to me.
Four years ago I was worried that someone whose rhetoric smacked of so many things we’ve learned throughout history eventually results in genocide might become our next president, but I still assumed that our systems would work. And I still believed that more people cared about each other as much as they cared about only themselves.
Four years ago I talked to people who worked in the Colorado public school system every day. Kids were getting hurt in the school systems for sure. Especially the kids I look out for. The hard truth is that they always have. But something shifted in people four years ago and it was obvious to me within days after the last election.
I have worked with public school system administrators to resolve conflict for many years and I had only met a few who raised the hair on the back of my neck. One who was purely politically minded and offered to get me a job as a school district superintendent even though I had absolutely no experience or interest. (Um, what?!!!). And one who spoke disgustingly of a kid who clearly needed accommodations and wasn’t getting them. (That’s just wrong. Time to find a new field.)
Four years ago red flags became a huge wave in my line of work. I could feel the energy shift in our environment the morning after the election on my way into my government office. The darkness and gloom on the streets was visceral. I could sense the fear all around me all the time for the first time I could recall since September 11, 2001. I didn’t even have to talk to anyone to feel the fear all around me.
But my first actual red flag came less than a week after the election when people I actually knew began showing their true colors. I was talking to a school district administrator when the first red flag came up in my job. I’m an attorney working as a mediator and a special education policy expert and complaints investigator. This administrator was someone I had worked with as I investigated discrimination cases in their school district for several years. I knew them to be funny, charming, and I thought compassionate. I was either very wrong or something had changed. All I know is a regular friendly and professional conversation turned into what sounded to me like a school district witch hunt against a kid’s mother. She wasn’t doing anything but her job. It’s a parent’s responsibility to protect their children’s right to a public education. It is the law.
My 18 year old is a natural born linguist. When Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away and everyone was saying her name it got him to thinking. He was thinking about what the word ruth meant. He said everyone knew what ruthless meant. (We sure do.) But what did the word ruth mean?
On Merriam-Webster.com the definition of ruth is: compassion for the misery of another OR sorry for one’s own faults: REMORSE.
We have lost our course as a nation, people. We have lost our ruth.
Find your remorse. Find your compassion. Show your true colors as if you are not afraid. Show that you care about someone besides yourself and your small circle of people who are the same as you. That’s my best advice.
I am 50 years old. I am a native daughter of Denver. I live with my family in a small house that is pretty much smack in the middle of the city. Our house rests on the south edge of Park Hill right off of Colfax Avenue. I have a story.
Yesterday I was running around delivering boxes full of eggs that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on and I was rushing home just before noon to make myself some eggs and spend some time with my family when I remembered that we were out of milk. I stopped at the 7 Eleven around the corner from our house for a quick grab and go where I usually love talking to the people who work there, so I was kind of looking forward to that part. It’s an easy quick shopping stop. This time was anything but easy. As I touched the handle to open the door to the 7 Eleven I could feel the electricity in the building. What I had walked into was a ticking time bomb. It took me only a few seconds to sense what was happening inside that store.
When I walked in an older woman was being harassed by a man who was behind her in line. Apparently, she had jumped the line straight to the counter and he was angry. She seemed scared and I’m guessing she was confused. It’s difficult to understand the lines in the stores these days. By the time I grabbed my gallon of milk and made my way to the end of the 8-10 man line behind those two I heard the man angrily call the woman a bitch. It had probably been 20 seconds? Everyone in the store seemed frozen, unable to react. The men in line were all just watching and probably going through a similar thought process to mine. I know I was considering how I could help the woman. I was so afraid that she was going to be physically attacked.
As I took my place at the end of the line, a younger man walked in. I’m guessing he was in his early 40s, but it’s so difficult to recognize people with masks on. The man took his place between the woman and the man who was verbally assaulting her. The man began standing up for her, telling the man that you can’t talk to people like that. Yes. But it was also making the situation scarier. Now the two men were engaged in verbal conflict. Oy.
At that point I felt like someone had to do something. I just didn’t know exactly what that was. I couldn’t fully view any of the people from the back of the line and I was starting to feel more fearful that maybe none of us were going to make it out of the store at this point. My life started to flash through my mind. My life insurance policy. I need to pay that bill.
I got out of line and went back to the cooler where I got my milk to put it away. I was considering maybe going outside to call 911 or whether I could text 911 and stay at the front of the store. I really didn’t want to see any physical violence added to the verbal violence that was escalating rapidly now as her protector stood up for what was right. I walked to the front of the store to face the line. I quickly observed both men. The woman’s aggressor was about a 40 year old caucasian man who was not wearing a mask. He had piercing blue eyes, a shaved bald head, and tattoos covering his face and neck. I was trying to figure out why his eyes were so scary. Was it drugs? It was definitely anger. The woman’s protector was black and he was wearing a mask and looked a lot like my friend, Steve, who is one of the kindest, most sensitive people I know. And I know that throughout his life he also has stood up for a lot of people. I know because I am one of them. I’m lucky to have him as a friend and I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance. Good trouble.
The woman paid for her things and walked past me out the door. I spoke to her quietly. I told her I was sorry and that I hoped she would have a nice day. I didn’t know what else to say. She looked stunned. That’s when I turned to the men who could not take their eyes off of each other. They seemed to be sizing each other up. The protector said again that you cannot disrespect women like that. The aggressor replied that she couldn’t just jump in line. It felt to me like it was about to erupt into violence. All I could sense was anger and fear in the building. So I spoke. I raised up my hands to them and I looked the two men in the eyes. I asked them to please give everyone here some peace. The aggressor looked at me for what felt like minutes and said something again about the woman jumping the line. I shook my head up and down and I calmly asked again for some peace. They both tried to state their arguments to me again. I shook my head up and down that I understood their positions and I asked them to let it go. I said let’s all please have some peace.
Luckily, it worked. The aggressor walked out of the store. I picked up my milk and went to the back of the line. The protector got in line in front of me to buy whatever he was buying and I started sobbing as quietly as possible. Big fat tears running down my cheeks. The protector and I spoke to each other. I thanked him. He explained that he would have stood up for anyone. That it wasn’t right. I told him that I knew that. The we are the same.
I hope that the rest of the day went peacefully for everyone else who witnessed what happened in our neighborhood 7 Eleven yesterday. I know I was pretty shaken all day and also just so incredibly grateful that I hadn’t witnessed anything worse than what I had. Grateful that I got to come home to my family.
It’s chaotic out there. Please remember what and who you are fighting FOR. We are one nation. One people. I hope we can remember that we are all representatives of the UNITED States of America. I believe we must.
“The woods are lovely, dark , and deep but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. . .” Robert Frost
Turning off emotions that don’t serve me is something I have thought about a lot during my adulthood. I realize that I may have always been quite good at shutting some of my emotions off and I suspect that I became quite adept from an early age. Sometimes I wonder if this is how I was born or if it is learned behavior. I suspect it is a combination of both, but I really don’t know and I guess it doesn’t really matter. The truth is I can turn off some of my emotions automatically. People say I’m stoic. This is a quality that I’ve come to understand about myself after years of seeing it reflected back to me. After years of feeling misunderstood. Like everything else in life, there is good and bad that comes with stoicism. That’s life.
The downside. I have a poker face. So my words are important and I don’t always choose them carefully enough. And people are not usually very good listeners. I am frequently misunderstood. My facial expressions sometimes don’t match my feelings or the words I may be using to express myself. Sometimes I laugh when I don’t mean to at all. This results in miscommunication, hurt feelings, bad blood, disconnection, and feelings of abandonment. It causes me to turn inward to avoid hurting others. And then that hurts them, too. It’s a no win situation really.
The upside. I have a poker face. The only time I really cannot control my face is at times when I am feeling really angry or sad. At these times I might appear to have a little smirk on my face that is misinterpreted as flippancy. This was something that a good friend pointed out to me in high school. I might have gone years longer if she hadn’t pointed this out so kindly. Thank you, Kelly. 💌
Becoming a special education policy expert over the last twenty years means that I have studied evaluations about children as a job, I know that the assessments are helpful for identifying the root cause of some of our challenges. I do think that it will help some people to understand me better if I identify myself. I am Autistic. I have not yet been evaluated. The truth is I found out as an adult that when I was a child there were teachers who suspected that I was autistic, but I was never identified as anything by Denver Public Schools other than gifted and talented. I am that, too.
That is irrelevant. I identify myself. What I do not relate to is my human design characterized as a disorder. It’s just my human design. I am hoping that by knowing this people may be able to understand me better and maybe even understand children better. And I am also hoping that they will forgive me for my miscommunications or other challenges that being in relationship with me might present.
It’s the 4th of July. That’s a day I have always associated with fireworks, swimming pools, the mountains, barbecue, and playing with my family into the night. Nostalgia is an interesting thing. No matter how hard I have tried in the past few years to recreate that experience, it’s been difficult for multiple reasons. Mostly environmental, but I’m just going to put them all into the category of “Life”.
Anyway, national holidays seem like they have kind of become a bust. Everything gets diluted down to how much money we can spend instead of what is the original meaning of the holiday. What does it mean to anyone anymore if not for a good day to relax and celebrate with the people you love? It’s got me thinking, that’s for sure.
Right now I’m thinking a lot about education. To be honest, that’s pretty much all I think about. it’s taken over my life.