Category Archives: Life

Another New Year’s Resolution? Not exactly the same thing

It’s another NewYear, usually the time we reflect on everything that happened the previous year and do these things called resolutions.  We know the usual, I”m going to lose weight, I’m going to save more money and this and that.  The thing is that very few of us see them through or give a serious effort in the first place.  My wife and I taught the lesson in children’s church at our church this past Sunday and while we hope the kids learned a valuable lesson, we certainly did.  Part of the reason why I stopped doing resolutions many years ago is that I wouldn’t see the results I wanted, or they weren’t happening fast enough.  Much of it was impatience, much was simply laziness but there’s one thing me or my wife, who I’m sure would agree, have been failing to do and that is putting God first.

 

One of the lessons we taught in children’s church used a poster and Pop Tarts as a metaphor.  We asked the little Biblical scholars what had to be done to produce a warm Pop Tart.  Some answered unwrap the Pop Tarts, others said to put them in the toaster, others said to pull the handle down, and all were right.  the correct answer though was to plug the toaster in.  Even when you do everything else, unless there is a power source, nothing will happen.  We came to understand that it’s the same thing in life.  Resolving to lose weight, to save money, to accomplish a certain goal or whatever else you can think of to improve yourself, you have to believe in something bigger than yourself to really see it through and this year, we intend to do just that.  Before going to work today, I said my prayers as I usually do but I also made it a point to spend time with God before starting my day and work and it certainly set the right tone for my day.  It’s only January 2nd but I am more than confident that progress is coming for all of 2018.

2017 was a trying year for all of us but especially for me.  I lost my beloved Grandma in January of last year (I blogged about it) and I lost my uncle who was the patriarch of our family just last month. The year as a whole has been a roller coaster ride and as blessed and thankful that I am, I’d rather not go through another year like that.While it would not have prevented my grandmother and uncle’s passings, putting God first in every other aspect of my life would have made it much more tolerable overall.  It certainly would have made a difference in my finances and my relationships with my wife and sons.  many do not believe in the power of prayer but I can honestly say that it has worked for me when I’ve exercised it consistently and faithfully.

So I only have one resolution for 2018 and that is to stay plugged in with God and his word. I’m looking forward to the next 11 months already! Happy New Year family, Let’s all enjoy the ride!

Goodbye Grandma- for now

On January 23rd, 2017,  ago my beloved grandmother, Grandma to me, Granny to others, Grandma Becca to her great grandchildren, was laid to rest.  She passed away at the age of 96, a long life by any standards.  Needless to say, her passing left my heart heavy and leaves a void that only a grandmother can fill.  It would be a disservice to her, however, to simply talk about what a good woman she was but I have to acknowledge what a strong black woman she was and how she fit the very definition in my eyes.

Grandma was born in rural South Carolina in 1920 and only made it to the 3rd  grade before she had to drop out of school and help support her family as many black people did in those days.  The rest of what she learned was taught to her by the white lady she used to work for.  She joined her church at the age of 12 and was an active member ever since.  She got married at 16, had her first child at 18 and had six more since then, all of whom have grown up to be good productive individuals who raised good productive children themselves.  At the age of 49, she opened and ran a local store for 16 years, doing farming along with it.  Along the way, she lost two husbands but never her faith in God.  The things that too many parents put up with children now would never be tolerated by her and her children and grandchildren were all better for it.  The legacy that she left is unmeasurable.

Would I suggest that being like Grandma would get us as a people where we need to be?  Not necessarily.  A lot of things that were done in my grandmothers time were out of necessity and we are past many of the barriers she had to face.  Our children no longer have to drop out of school to go to work and many would agree that starting a family at the age of 18 is too early in these times.  However, many examples she set were timeless.  She always believed in marriage before childbirth, the value of prayer and hard work.  Grandma knew the value of a good education, not having had the opportunity to further hers, so she always encouraged her children and grandchildren to further theirs.  She could have used every excuse at her disposal to not be a good mother or a productive individual but that wasn’t her.

Grandma was a classic disciplinarian, did not spare the rod but everything she did was out of love and not wanting to see her grandchildren going in the wrong direction.  Thankfully me, my sisters and cousins were all raised to respect our elders, authority and to be good citizens but even if we didn’t get that at home, we sure got it from Grandma.  We make sure to instill it in our children and even the grandchildren that some of us have now.  We will miss her very much but will always be grateful for everything she has done for us and for the precious memories.  Goodbye Grandma.  I’ll see you on the other side.

Black America, we may be bent but we can’t break

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To suggest that war has been declared on Black-America may sound hyperbolic but it’s not without reason.  It’s been a month since that night on November 8, 2016, when the unthinkable happened.  The racist, narcissistic, misogynist juvenile twitter happy buffoon known as Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.  How in God’s name could a country that elected Barack Obama, our first ever black President, twice possibly do this?  Like many other Americans, especially black, I wasn’t simply dejected, I was sad, angry and in a total funk for the next several days.  For the last eight years the level of hatred against Black-America was cringeworthy.  In the days since Trump’s election, it has really intensified.  Even with all that, I took some comfort in knowing that Trump only won because of the electoral college and if the Presidential election were based on popular votes only, he would have lost significantly.  It wouldn’t change the election results but it did mean that bigotry and the white supremacy which some now try to call “alt-right” wouldn’t prevail as easily.

Until

December 5, 2016.  The jury in the case of Michael Slager, a white North Charleston South Carolina police officer charged with murdering Walter Scott, a black man who was running away from him after a traffic stop that escalated, by shooting him in the back.  Slager then placed a tazer next to Scott and claimed that Scott tried to attack him.  Thankfully a bystander recorded the shooting and the planting of the tazer so it seemed to be an open and shut case.  Not so.  At least one juror, in spite of everything, could not get himself to convict this man of anything at all and a mistrial was declared.  Slager will be re-tried so some would argue that justice hasn’t been denied, only deferred, but I’m not so optimistic.  The jury was already stacked in Slager’s favor, one being black and all the others being white, in a city that is predominantly black, and I’m not confident that the next jury will not have at least one member who simply refuses to hold one of their own accountable when it comes to killing black people.  It was 11/9/16 all over again for me.

I had “the talk” with my sons yet again, about racism, about the importance of voting, about how to deal with the police and about how we in Black-America are still feared, hated and viewed as less than by many in this society.  I’m tired of having to do this but I have to for their survival.  It’s time we all had “the talk” among ourselves not only about Trump’s election and police brutality but about where we go from here.  I don’t have a definitive answer to that and probably never will but thing is for certain and that is that if we don’t value ourselves, no one will.  How do we show self value?

First of all, Black-America, register to vote.  Many of are registered and do come out on election day but too many of us don’t.  Yes voter ID laws enacted in those states that have them are there to suppress black voting but that just means we have to put in the work.  The next major election occurs in 2018, halfway through Trump’s “administration” and that is a long time to put in the work in obtaining a state sponsored ID.  Get it and get your behind to the polls with no excuses.

 

Also let’s reevaluate your values.  Many of us claim to be poor but will buy our children the latest Jordans before paying the rent or utilities.  Does that make sense?  Not to the mentally stable.  The money you save by living within your means can be put toward saving and investing in things that mean something.  While the economy has improved remarkably over the last eight years, it sitll isn’t where it needs to be and don’t expect any imporvements under the Trump “administration,” especially as it pertains to Black-America.  That is why saving, investing, living within our means and becoming more financially savvy is really going to be important.

 

Black health matters too.  Republican lawmakers are already salivating at repealing the Affordable Care Act and even if it stays, health care isn’t getting any cheaper.  What’s the best way to combat health care costs?  By having must less of a demand for it.  It doesn’t matter if a pharmaceutical company jacks their prices up 200% if the product isn’t being bought does it?  We’ve been told for decades not that we have got to get more regular exercise in our routine and develop better eating habits.  Yes it’s okay to have that tasty fried greasy stuff once in a while but it should be at a minimum and in moderation.  If we can decrease high blood pressure (the thorn in my own side), diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems by the sligtest percentage, someone who gets rich off of it will feel it.

 

And let’s show some more self respect everybody. I would love to see much less of the N word and the B word.  Anything that you would slap anyone of any other race for letting out of their mouth should not come out of yours.  The same goes for what you would not want anyone calling your mother or sister.  When a recording artist is on take having se with underage girls, he is to be condemned, not defended.  When an up and coming  singer beats up his girlfriend in public he is to be condemned, not defended. It would be nice to turn that reality trash off of the TV once in a while too. Black images matter just as much as black lives.

Simplistic you may say but don’t tell me that it isn’t significant.  I don’t have the magic answer but not trying will not be an option between not and 2020.  I don’t know what’s in store for the next four years but I don’t think it’s anything that we can’t get through.  If we can survive slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow , we can survive a Trump presidency.  I suggest a lot of retrospection and value reevaluation in the meantime though.

 

#blacklivesmatter

#notmypresident

I Miss My BFF – RIH & RIP Debbie

Nine years ago today, I was helping my sisterfriend celebrate her entre into the 40 club.  Debbie and I were friends in high school.  We lost touch during the college and first job years.  When she got married and they moved to GA, she realized that she knew someone in the ATL and we reconnected.  We became even closer friends than when we were in high school; she was an only child and I have no sisters, so we became like sisters.

If you met Debbie, you were drawn to her personality.  She was loud, she was lovable, she was always smiling and always found the funny.  And if you ever heard her laugh, you would remember her always.  If  there was a cultural event, we attended.  We talked on the phone for no reason.  We talked on the phone for every reason.  When she visited she often said, “You know, you’re the only friend who always offers something to eat or drink when I come over”.  She was too sick to be a bridesmaid in my wedding, but I kept her name on the program anyway.  I couldn’t think of a better person to be a godmother to the boys, so I asked her first.  Debbie was the first person I know who actively spoke about adopting children.  Sadly, that was not to be in her future.

She and her husband divorced and her illness took its toll on her body.  She left her profession as a physical therapist and reinvented herself.  Her skills and talent in music propelled her to become a music teacher.  She went back to school to work on a doctorate in music education.  I sometimes got tired listening to her talk about her day becuase it was often full of activity.  Debbie strove for and achieved so much: published author, music teacher, PhD candidate, consulting at her church, etc.  She was BUSY!  And in her busyness she always made time to check in, to catch up, to see what the boys were up to, to be a supporter and to encourage.

When her 40th approached, she didn’t want to do anything.  I wouldn’t hear of it.  Of COURSE she needed to celebrate.  It’s the BIG 4-0, it only happens once. Her beloved grandmother has passed away several years before, and her father had just passed about three years prior to her milestone birthday.  Her favorite aunt had just died in May and although she was more concerned about her Mom’s grief, I knew she felt the loss as well.  I thought this would a good way to reminisce, laugh, get out and have a good time.  She agreed and told a few of her other friends.  Her mother was not able to make the trip for her birthday but she asked me to buy Debbie a bouquet of flowers.  We decided to go to the hibachi grill.  Hibachi is where they cook the food right in front of you.  If you’re familiar with Benihana, then you know hibachi.  The chefs made a big show of the presentation and really showered Debbie with extra attention.  She had a blast and said to me afterwards, “I’m glad you made this a big deal.  Sometimes I have to remember that I am worth the celebrations too”.

Three months later, I saw her on her last night on Earth.  It was Christmastime, and we got tickets to see Scrooge at the Alliance Theatre.  Her mom was visiting, my mom was attending and we had a group of six including the boys. We agreed to meet there for the performance, then go to dinner together afterwards.  I remember that I saw a co-worker there, and our company CEO – his daughter was in the production.  I introduced them to the family during the intermission.

My mother noticed it first.  She picked up that Debbie wasn’t feeling well, and asked her during intermission.  Debbie responded that she wasn’t feeling that great but would make it through dinner.  Mom promptly cancelled dinner and told her to go home after the production and put her feet up to rest.  We followed each other to our cars afterwards to exchange gifts and hugged goodbye.  Little did I know that was the absolute last hug, kiss, laugh and sound that I would ever hear from my friend, my girl who I loved like a sister.

The boys were asleep and Patrick and I were watching TV in our room.  I remember “The Jeffersons” was on the screen.  We got a call around 10ish from Mrs. Williams, Debbie’s mom.  She said they were at the hospital, that Debbie had some type of episode (I don’t recall exactly how she explained it), and she had to call the ambulance.  Now she was calling from the waiting room at the hospital;she would call back as soon as she heard anything.  I knew immediately but held out hope that I was wrong.  I relayed the news, called my mother, and numbly watched more antics from George and Weezy.  Just after midnight, the phone range again.  I couldn’t answer it.  Patrick picked up the receiver and walked into the hallway.  I heard him give the greeting, pause, then say in a dejected voice, “Oh no” and I slumped over on the bed, tears already flowing.  My bestie was no longer here.

It’s been almost 9 years, and recounting the main highlights has taken me two hours because of the tears.  Debbie’s passing left a void in my life and a hole in my heart that has never been filled.  After as long while, I did connect with another who I consider to be another BFF, who is also like a sister to me.  She has her own wonderful, beautiful personality and I thank God for her all the time.  Yet, each person and each relationship is unique and there is no one like Debbie.  I miss her.  She was a light where ever she went to whomever she encountered.  May she continue to rest in love, peace, and power.  And as Debbie would say, “That’s the story, Mrs. Glory”.