Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reflections on Becoming Unexpected Activists (Or Our Life went Crazy Pants)

 Photo Source

Here's what I learned when my husband opened his mouth, cried on international TV, and our life went crazy pants:

1. You really NEVER know what is coming next in life. Good or bad. Control is an illusion.  
2. Pack a basic black dress you can wear twice OR pack a second dress. (See number 1.) You just never know what is coming next. Like, that time we were asked to meet the President the very next day and I only had packed one dress- that I was already wearing that night. On T.V.
3. Be present on the journey. Whatever you are experiencing will likely end soon, so hold on tight and enjoy the ride. (Or throw your arms in the air and scream like hell.) Maybe take notes and take pictures. But be sure to FEEL the wind in your hair and your stomach dropping on the downhill. It's a challenge to be present- I'm a work in progress on this one. But I'm committed to the practice and I've gotten somewhat better through the years.
4. Don't read the comments. (I did not do well with this one, I admit.) It amazes me how people watch the same video yet receive messages that are polar opposites. It's a bit scary, actually. But as BrenĂ© Brown says, the bystanders' opinions don't matter. The only opinions that matter are the ones in the arena. Frankly, I think when people automatically assume the worst of someone, it reflects more on the judger than the judgee. (I'm pretty sure I made those words up. And I'm going to keep them in here anyway.)
5. Don't be afraid to DARE GREATLY. Brian and I read Brené Brown's book, Daring Greatly as our own little book club. Brian feels it was life-changing. (And therefore it's life-changing for me too, as my life changed/changes when his does.) Brian only moved people at that press conference because he was courageous enough to be vulnerable. He showed emotion and people FELT that. Vulnerability leads to connection. (If only he had shown emotion the first 14 years we were together...but hey, that leads me to the next point.)
6. Live for the now and believe in the future. Breathe, believe, receive. GREAT things are coming your way. (And excuse me now- I'm going to get a bit spiritual and use the G word) God's plans for you are SO MUCH BIGGER than you can possibly imagine. He will use your pain for good. He will take a man who hadn't cried for 35 years, break him open, and then have him cry on international TV. He took a man who very rarely spoke about race with anyone, who was incredibly private, who turned down press interviews in the past and gave him the courage to Be the Change. I'm telling you- if a year-and-a-half ago you would have told me my husband was going to cry (just cry!) I would have laughed IN YOUR FACE. I used to tell him that I could die and he still probably wouldn't cry.   

Here are a few links from some of my favorite interviews from that time:

Dallas Trauma Surgeon Reflects on Irony of Treating Wounded Police Officers
With Ari Shapiro on NPR All Things Considered, July 15, 2016  (5 min 40 sec)

A History of White Delusion
Nicolas Kristof, The New York Times, July 14, 2016

Parkland Doctor's Candid Words Resonated with Black Professionals
Maria Halkias, The Dallas Morning News, July 15th, 2016

Surgeon Who Tried to Save Dallas Cops
BBC World Service, August 4, 2016 (50 min.)

Monday, August 15, 2016

You Only Have to Bloom.

I found this quote today and wrote it in my art journal (along with a little doodle). 
Something inside me was pushing to post it on here too. 
So, who else besides me needed to hear this message today?

Transformation doesn't ask that you stop being you. 
It demands that you find a way back to the authenticity and strength
that's already inside of you. 
You only have to bloom.
-Cheryl Strayed

Thursday, August 11, 2016

That Day We Met the President (Unexpected Activists- Part 5)

Here it is. The post you have been waiting for. (Is anyone still out there reading this? Bueller, Bueller?) I know, I know. It's part FIVE. (In my defense, I don't like long blog posts. Reading them OR writing them. So I apologize in advance that this one is a bit long. Part 6 just seemed like toooooo much.) You've made it all the way from Part 1 through Part 4. And now we're ready to meet the President of the United States of America.

Thursday July 14, 2016
We woke up early that morning after only a few hours of sleep. Brian and I packed and got dressed and we then attempted to wake Beni. Normally, she is up at the crack of dawn and trying to pull me out of bed. But I swear, whenever we HAVE to be somewhere, she sleeps in. After some coaxing, and a reminder that she got to wear her new sparkly dress, sparkly shoes, and sparkly accessories, she allowed Brian to dress her while she laid there. He even brushed her teeth with in-bed service. We left the room sometime after 6:30am and grabbed a cab to Penn Station. 

Cab ride to Penn Station

At the train station, we found a Dunkin Donuts (I've missed you, DD coffee) and grabbed some coffee nirvana for me and some munchkins for the munchkin. And us too, of course! Public transportation, I've missed you too. Although, I realize it's easy to miss you because right now it's not cold, raining, and something I HAVE to do. Every. Single. Day. But it was incredible to be back on the East Coast and experiencing the hustle and bustle of a "real" city. 

After a short wait and some people watching, we boarded our train. Somehow we ended up on the quiet car, but it ended up being a blessing. One man was asked to leave after talking on his cell phone and I told Abeni he was kicked off the train car because he was too loud. (That was technically true AND was effective in keeping her quiet the whole way. Score one for Mama!) We all fell asleep with the gentle motion of the train and the sound of the wheels. But not before I posted this message on Facebook to my friends:

After arriving at the DC train station, we headed to a hotel near the ABC taping venue. Brian's hospital had sent a communications expert (thanks Mike!) to provide him with guidance about what he could and could not say (nothing about legislation since B was a state of TX employee.) We had lunch, freshened up in Mike's room, and all left in a rush to make it to the venue. 

Arriving at the DC train station

Once at the venue, we waited outside while the Secret Service swept the theater for security. We entered through metal detectors and they did a quick search of my purse and Beni's koala backpack. It was loaded with activities that would hopefully keep her entertained while Brian and I were at the taping. Once inside, we waited for quite a while longer. I sent this update to my Facebook friends. 

And then, without any warning (for a last minute potty break), Brian and I were ushered to our seats. I called out to Mike, "Take good care of our precious treasure!" Brian was seated in the front row and I was seated directly behind him. David Muir came in and talked to us for a while, and then THE PRESIDENT walked in. I'm trying not to use the word "surreal" too much, but that's the overwhelming feeling that filled me. 

That's Brian's big head there on the left. 

After two-hours, David Muir said- this is the last question- and it was over. Brian was disappointed he did not get to ask his question. Then the President went around the room to shake hands. Brian got a quick handshake. Everyone had a few seconds with POTUS as he walked around the circular room. Brian urged me to move from my second row seat and move into his path so I could meet him. I tried to maneuver into his path but the Secret Service agents were human obstacles.  

Brian chatting with David Muir, ABC newscaster

And then, there he was. The President of the United States was looking right at me. 
Me: (grabbing his hand) It is such an honor to meet you, Mr. President. 
Obama: Thank you.
Then there was a pause. I assumed he would keep moving on to the next person, so I didn't say anything else. But he didn't move on! 
Obama: So, what is your name?
Me: (very animated) I'm Kathianne Williams. My husband, Brian Williams, (I gestured to Brian behind me. B had strategically placed himself to get a photo of me with the POTUS.) was the surgeon who took care of the policemen that were shot in Dallas. 
Obama: (to Brian) Oh hey man! (shaking B's hand and then grabbing B's tie) Yeah, he dresses like a surgeon.

And then, miraculously, there was another pause. I had NOT planned anything to say. I wasn't even sure I would get to meet the President. So, I don't know WHERE this came from, because I am usually kicking myself later for not saying something "better." But I opened my mouth, and this came out of nowhere:

Me: (grabbing his hand and pulling Obama even closer) I just want to tell you, that when you were ignaugurated, I wrote a letter to my biracial daughter. I wrote to her that I was so happy that she would never know a world in which only white men were president. 
Obama: Thank you. Please tell her I said hello. She must be what? Eight years old now?
Me: No, five.

And then he moved on to the next person. I hope he put it together that I wasn't confused on my timeline; it was just that I wrote the letter to my daughter before she was even born. Because I had to do A LOT of waiting for her, remember? And do you remember the blog post I wrote several years ago about my letter to Beni on his inauguration? (Please follow the link and read that one.) Looking back now, it all feels magical. I wrote the letter to her in January of 2009, published the blog post in January of 2013, and then met the President and told him about it in July 2016. It was a full-circle moment. A moment when everything seems to fall into place and the Universe is in order.  

Can you tell from this photo that I am squeezing his hand kind of hard? 
I was holding his one hand with two of mine at one point. Ha! 
Brian said that the President wasn't going anywhere with my grip.  

Meanwhile, Brian was saying to me, "I thought I had to be quick to take the photo, but you were talking to him forever! After a while, I just held the button down and took a burst of photos." Sadly, we didn't get a photo of Brian with the President, and he didn't really get to say much to him. He's still a bit bummed about that. Frankly, I am just amazed at myself that I thought on my feet and took advantage of the moment. Yippee!!! 

We then collected Beni from Mike (she was alive and happy and had eaten a lot of candy and played with the young relatives of Eric Garner). It was a rush to get back to his hotel for our bags, then into a car for a long drive to BWI airport. Then it was a long flight back to Dallas. We landed at Love Field, but our car was at DFW (from the NYC flight) so we had to take a car service back to DFW. Then drive home from there.  

All in all, it was a VERY looooong day. So long, in fact, that the memories we made will last a lifetime.

Please stay tuned for 2 more posts. One is a final reflection on the events from my point of view. The other is an interview of Brian H. Williams, MD. He was interviewed by Don Lemon of CNN, Ari Shapiro of NPR, and Gayle King of CBS, but he has not faced the toughest interviewer yet! Kathianne Williams of Nourish.Create.Bloom!!! Feel free to write any questions you might have for Brian in the comments below. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Accidental Activists- Part 4

Thanks for following along so far up to Part 3. It's not long now until we meet the POTUS!

On Wednesday afternoon, we arrived in New York City. That night we were invited to be in the audience of CNN's Black, White, and Blue: America 2016- town hall on a nation divided. Brian was invited by the moderator himself, Don Lemon, and was going to ask a question. 

Photo taken from inside the cab
A car service (complete with carseat) picked us up at La Guardia. I felt like a VIP. *smile* Our hotel was located directly across from Central Park and a few blocks from the Time Warner Building. For some miraculous reason, our room was upgraded to a suite (that was larger than the apartment we'd had for 6 years in Boston.) By the time we checked in, we had 2 and 1/2 hours until the babysitter arrived to walk to the mall, find clothes for tomorrow, and be back at the hotel. We had only packed for 24 hours (and NOT for meeting the President.) Frankly, it was the best excuse I'd ever had to buy a new dress. It seems like it would be exciting, right? We were speed shopping. After a cross country flight. With a travel-weary 5-year-old. (That last part takes the glamour right out of it.) 

Beni was the big winner and ended up with two adorable and sparkly dresses, coordinating sweaters (one with sequins), along with a pair of black sparkly sneakers and two glittery headbands (one with cat ears, one with a crown. Of course.) Brian got a new suit, 2 shirts, 2 ties, socks, and had the suit tailored for him within 30 minutes. There was 30 minutes left for me to find something. (We mamas often only get "the last 30 minutes" for ourselves.) I got... a pink cashmere cardigan to wear over the dress I'd already had to change the look. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a dress suitable to meet THE POTUS. Fortunately the dress I'd brought was black and not very memorable. And I'm certain no one but me was very concerned with my appearance. 

After a sweaty speed walk back to the hotel, I ordered Beni a $30 kids meal (of which she only ate 3 bites). Her meal arrived right after the $35/hr (plus cab fare home) babysitter the hotel concierge arranged for us. (My dear friend, Alexis, was unable to stay with Beni and we didn't have time to ask anyone else we knew in NYC.) I got dressed in less than 10 minutes, gave the sitter, named Honeybee (yes I clarified that), the deets on Beni's bedtime routine, and we were off. To the CNN studio. In the elevator I looked at Brian and said, "We just left our daughter in the care of someone we'd never met named Honeybee." Life was surreal.

Inbetween commerical breaks
At the Time Warner building, we were escorted from the main lobby to the CNN foyer on the 5th floor. When we got off the elevator, about 5-8 men were standing and talking. They all recognized Brian and introduced themselves. At one point, the large flat screen TV in the lobby showed scenes from one of the slain DPD officer's funeral service. Brian had a strong emotional reaction and all the men became silent. He went to the restroom to collect himself. I was/am still not used to seeing this level of emotion from him. 

Behind the scenes
While we were waiting to be taken from the CNN lobby to the studio, Brian was receiving texts from ABC producers about the show the next day in DC. There was a problem getting the Secret Service clearance for our daughter. We didn't have her social security memorized, and hadn't even known about the DC trip until after we landed in NYC. I sent a frantic text and Facebook message to our dear accountant (we love you Dianne Moore in ATL!) requesting her to get it for me if she was able. A few minutes after I sent the text, the ABC producer told Brian that George Stephanopoulis was calling the White House himself to request they clear our daughter even without her social security number. since she was only 5. (Yes. I just said that.) George Stephanpoulis called the White House to discuss OUR CHILD. My dear Readers, I don't think I can express how bizarre it felt to be living this. 

Brian was taken up to the "green room" to have his face powdered. Next to Bishop TD Jakes. And of course I know who TD Jakes is. I watch Oprah.

Eventually, we were led into the studio. It seemed so much smaller in person than it did on TV. The show was 2 hours and live. Brian was one of the audience members who asked a question. After the show, Don Lemon said to Brian- Hey! You didn't cry on national tv tonight! 

Don Lemon taking a selfie with Brian

It was 12:30am by the time we left the Time Warner building. We had 30 minutes to get back to Honeybee (she was great with our daughter, BTW) and Beni. We grabbed Subway (the only quick restaurant we saw open in the next two blocks) and headed back to the hotel. Sadly, we needed to leave the apartment-sized room to catch a 7:30am train to DC. We didn't get to enjoy the suite, Central Park, NYC, or visit with any friends. But we were meeting the President (!!!), and that made up for it all. 

Stay tuned for the final installment- meeting the POTUS!