Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black mothers, "the talk" and grief

On many levels, I identify with the anguish, frustration, and grief now being experienced by the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen who was recently gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  I saw the images of Michael as he lay dead for several hours in the middle of the street.  His family and friends saw him, too.

Over the years, I have gotten to know many good police officers.  Some became friends.  When I worked in community relations for a previous employer, part of my job was to work with police officers on a regular basis.  I even sat on a board made up of mostly law enforcement.  My parents and grandparents taught me to respect the police, and I instructed my own children to do the same.

At the same time, I'm a mother who sat each of her children down for "the talk."  As each of my sons received his driver's license, I sat him down and let him know that they might be pulled over fairly or unfairly -- that the officer might treat him justly or unjustly.  Here are some of the things I advised my kids in the event that they were pulled over:

  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Let down your window when instructed by the officer.
  • When the officer asks you questions, give him or her only the information requested.
  • Make sure your tone is respectful.  Say "Yes, Officer" or "No, Officer."
  • The police might speak to you in a disrespectful tone.  Don't respond in a like manner.
  • If you believe the stop was unfair, talk to me about it when you get home. Let me deal with it as an adult, if necessary.
  • Do not pull off until the officer tells you that you may do so.

By the time my daughter, my youngest, received her driver's license, I felt compelled to give her the same talk her brothers received.  Call it mother's intuition.  As life would have it, my daughter has been profiled as she has driven to and from college campuses in white neighborhoods -- or to her job in an affluent municipality.

When I was a little girl, police officers stopped my father and my brothers multiple times.  Not because they did anything wrong but because they looked "suspicious."  In those days, officers would ask who you are and where you're going.  They often would insist on searching  the cars and patting down my family members.  It's called DWB -- driving while black.  

My dad spent the last 20 years of his career working as a housing and health inspector for St. Louis County.  His job required him to travel throughout the county to perform the inspections.  My dad wore a shirt and tie every day, and he was a safe driver.  Nevertheless, whenever Dad had to go into predominantly white and/or affluent communities, he would often be stopped.  What's your business here?  Who are you?  License and registration, please.  Dad would comply.  He'd also pull out his St. Louis County photo identification.  Eventually, he'd be permitted to be on his way -- to inspect a home, check on an asbestos case, or work as part of the team dealing with dioxin contamination in Times Beach. 

I've been following the case of Michael Brown and the protests since day one.  For me, the element of grief is multiplied. My oldest son died several years ago at the age of 20.  The circumstances surrounding his death are different than those involving Michael Brown.  Nevertheless, the grief is still there.  I know how it feels to lose a son.  So many memories rushed back as I saw Michael's body lying uncovered in the middle of the street -- as I saw his mother and grandmother crying -- as I saw frightened children and adults looking on.

As a teen and young man, son #1 was pulled over countless times.  It deeply disturbed me, but my oldest never wanted me to worry. Neither of my sons did. 

Recently, I learned that son #2, now an IT professional and writer, has been pulled over by police more than 50 times since receiving his driver's license.  I am certain my oldest son was stopped by officers even more frequently.  I remember begging him to stay out of certain neighborhoods unless he was going to school.  His school was located in one of the areas in question. For those familiar with North St. Louis County, son #1 attended middle school in Ferguson and high school at McCluer North, located in a neighboring community.  Sadly, my oldest didn't live long enough to see his siblings graduate from high school and college.

I now live nearly 2,000 miles from my kids.  Because of busy schedules, it may be a while before I see them again face-to-face.  But when that time comes, I know I'm going to give them the biggest hugs a mother could ever give.

                                                                           My sons

                                                             My daughter, son and I
                                                             at high school graduation

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't Shoot: Flashbacks

As events in Ferguson, Missouri continue to unfold, I try to be mindful of what I post on social networking
sites, especially my Facebook page.  It's my intent to post only information that others might find useful.  It serves no useful purpose to agitate what is already a volatile situation. That said, I think that documentation can be a good thing, especially since the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the aftermath have the makings of an important case study. There's a part of me that still thinks like a journalist.  I try to strike a balance, but it's a juggling act. 

Now -- I want to talk about a video I just viewed that really disturbed me.  The video shows a police officer pointing a gun at civilians in Ferguson and shouting "I will f***ing kill you!"  The officer, who is from another North County municipality, pointed a semi-automatic rifle at peaceful protesters during a verbal exchange.  The police department where the officer is based released a statement, confirming what happened and added that the officer has been "suspended indefinitely." I'm not one who frightens easily, but just looking at this video made me very uneasy.

I raised my kids only a few miles from Ferguson.  One of my children used to like visiting a mall in this municipality, and I remember that I hated driving through the community because law enforcement had a long history of harassing black people.  My mother, who was fearless and had a smile for everybody, even warned me to stay out of the area.

I haven't thought about any of this in a very long time, but a lot of memories rushed back today as I watched one video clip.  I'm not going to post the video because it is disturbing, but I'm glad the officer in question is suspended.


Saturday, August 02, 2014


 Image Credit: NASA, ESA, H. E. Bond (STScI)

As soon as my eyes caught a glimpse of this photo of the star V838 Mon, I was mesmerized.  When this photo was taken in January of 2002, the star was experiencing an unusual outburst.V838 Mon expanded to the point to where it suddenly became the brightest star in the Milky Way Galaxy.  Researchers witnessed a "light echo."  For scientists, who had never seen such a phenomenon, this was a big deal.

As my eyes continued to rest on this vision, I remembered the many visits I made to my neighborhood library as a little girl.  It was not unusual for me to check out three or four books on astrology.  I was a little girl who loved to daydream about space!  Fast forward several years, and I was the young announcer at a classical music station who loved to find an excuse to play Gustav Holst's "The Planets."

I'll probably daydream about space for the rest of my life.  Thank God for space and for libraries where I can continue to explore the final frontier.

Source:  NASA

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Translation agencies offer clarity in global trade

When presented with the opportunity to live in South Korea nearly three years ago, I thought long and hard before I made the decision to go. I never regretted my decision, but I remember being a tad bit nervous about the language barrier I would inevitably encounter because I'm not fluent in Korean.

As a "resident alien," I realized quickly that oral and written communication was not going to be easy. To get anything done, such as completing immigration paperwork and conducting any business transactions, I found that I needed translation services.

Many global companies, big and not-so-big, conduct business in South Korea. Korean businesses return the favor. Robust trading between the two countries has been flourishing for decades. Major U.S. corporations maintain a strong presence in Seoul.

Anyone doing business globally is going to need document translation. That firm would need someone to translate a variety of official documents, such as:
  • academic qualifications, including diplomas and certifications
  • resumes and CVs
  • contracts and other legal documents 
In addition, such documentation might require certificates of authenticity and / or notary services.

If you’re in an industry that uses specialized terms – such as engineering, healthcare, or financial services – it will also be important that your translator is fluent in the language of your business. For any translation agency equipped to meet a variety of language needs, I can guarantee that business will be brisk.  For any global corporation, clarity is priceless.

10 things I've learned about myself

Oftentimes in the spring, I'll take a moment to "check in" with myself to see how I'm doing.  It might sound silly to some, but doing this at least once a year helps me to stay centered.  Here are 10 things I've learned about myself:

1. I enjoy blogging.
2. I prefer the company of like-minded, positive people.
3. I don't miss white sandwich bread.  Yuck!
4. Every once in a while, I must have lemon cake.
5. I need more time alone to recharge.
6. I need to make time for more recreational reading.
7. I am in the process of reinventing myself again.
8. For me, friendship knows no geographical boundaries.
9. I have the ability to write that book.
10. I always want God to be the center of my life.  

Okay, enough reflecting.  Back to work!  :D

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

For the people of South Korea

You are in my thoughts and prayers.  
May God give you strength.  
There are many of us all over the world who care.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Muay Thai Training in 'Amazing Thailand'

I often think about the two years I spent teaching in Asia. It was a life-changing experience. I enjoy celebrating ethnic and social differences. I found the Thai culture to be especially intriguing. The people I met were simply beautiful spirits.

Recently, I did some research on "Amazing Thailand and learned that the country is known for muay Thai boxing, also known as Thai kick boxing. People from all over the globe go to Phuket Island to train for this contact sport. Beginners can sign up at the Suwit muay Thai training gym to get started. Professionals who want to maintain their skills can also be found at the gym. Many muay Thai enthusiasts add the sport to their personal weight loss program.   Still others take up the training for self-defense.

 Men, women, and children participate in the sport. If you're like me and completely new to muay Thai, you can find a number of YouTube videos that will bring you up to speed. To get the most out of Suwit muay Thai, ask about the training packages.

The sport isn’t the only thing to explore in Thailand. Check out Phuket Island. It’s the country’s largest island and is known as the “Pearl of the South.” Its balmy weather, white sandy beaches, majestic mountains, and lush landscape make it an ideal tourist attraction. The isle also happens to be THE place to go for anything related to Thai kick boxing.

 Phuket Island is about the size of Singapore. Thai, Chinese, English, and local dialects are spoken. Over time, immigrants from several Asian countries have settled on island. As a result, the island offers visitors unique and colorful cultural experiences. When it comes to leisure, there are plenty of choices. The island a great place to relax after an invigorating session of muay Thai.