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

kvxrfkkricjwqtkvz9mh Donald Trump150407191730-slager-tease-image-exlarge-169 Michael Slager

 

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

White Privilege, A Crash Course

white-privelege

If there are two words that unsettle unknowledgable white people as much as the words Black Lives Matter, they have to be white privilege.  Given the racial climate over the last eight years, exacerbated by the election and reelection of President Barack Obama, we’ve been hearing a lot about it lately.  To the willfully ignorant or simply misinformed white person, they’re fighting words uttered by anti-white black people to stir up resentment and to emphasize black victimhood.  Well actually no and no.  For those whites who really want to know what I’m getting back, sit back, have a cup of patience sweetened with open mindedness and just listen.

When we talk about white privilege, are we saying that the life of a white person is a bowl of cherries?  Of course not.  No one with any sense believes that being white means that life is trouble free and that white people don’t have to work for anything they have.  It also doesn’t mean that being white is to be insulated from injustice.  The fact that the majority of welfare recipients and recipients of other forms of public assistance are white (there goes a convenient racist stereotype) and that, in strictly numbers, more whites are killed by police than people of color shows that struggle and pain doesn’t bounce off of white skin.  Those who choose to interpret otherwise are doing themselves a disservice as well as those of us who recognize it.  What is white privilege then?

White privilege is being able to take for granted the rights, dignity and freedoms that are denied to others on too far a regular basis.  Don’t black people have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else?  On the law books, yes, but that isn’t always how it is in practice.  If we look at the numerous attempts by some states, mostly in the South, to suppress voting rights, we have an example.  Many of these laws require voters to present picture ID and others are doing away with early voting, same day registration and weekend voting.  What’s wrong with that you ask?  Just having to ask the question is a form of white privilege.  Black people, especially the elderly, are far less likely to posess picture ID due to being more likely to use public transportation, therefore not needing a drivers license as much.  Many elderly black Americans, who were born during a time when they didn’t always receive or keep birth certificates, would find obtaining a picture ID much more difficult.  The state of Alabama, where ID  is required, is actually closing down many license offices in predominantly black areas which really makes you go hmmmm.  Republican legislators will swear to the max that these laws are not discriminatory and that they are meant to prevent voter fraud but the number of proven cases of fraud has been so miniscule that even talking about passing laws to combat it seems a waste of time.  Well I guess it isn’t if you’re trying to disenfranchise people.

Let’s talk about white privelege in law enforcement.  You say obey the law, respect the police and use common sense, right?  Well I’m very certain that Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher and John Crawford III would give you a sideye if they could.  Crawford was simply looking at a BB rifle on the shelf at Wal Mart and talking on his cell phone when officers gunned him down after reports of a man with a gun in the store.  It’s likely that they simply saw a black man with a gun and all preconceived stereotypes led to the worst.  In spite of the many school, theatre and shopping center and church shootings committed by whites, it’s still a safe bet that a white man looking at a BB gun in the store would be assumed to be browsing.  Terence Crutcher, who first committed the heinous act of having his car break down, was walking with his hands up when shot.  An officer in a helicopter, without knowing what was going on, concluded that he was a “bad dude” from high in the sky.  Lavar Jones, who was stopped by a South Carolina state trooper for a seatbelt infraction two years ago got shot in his hip after he reached in his vehicle to get his drivers license, as he was asked to do.  Let me add that his hands were up and he was backing away.  Thankfully Mr. Jones survived and the trooper, Sean Groubert, pleaded guilty to assault and although, at the time of this writing, there is no word on his sentence, will never be a law enforcement officer again but the fact that the shooting victim survived and that the officer received at least some repercussions is an anomaly.  I seriously doubt that there are many whites who are wary about reaching for their licenses when stopped by police for fear of being a statistic.  Last year an Indian man named Sureshbhai Patel, while visiting his son in Madison Alabama, was tackled by a white cop and partially paralyzed while taking a walk through his son’s subdivision.  Mr. Patel was already handcuffed mind you.  The officer was responding to a call from a neighbor reporting a “skinny black guy” in the neighborhood.  White privilege is not having to worry about being confronted by the police while simply taking a walk.  It also means not having to worry about a neighbor calling the police in the first place after taking one look at your color and assuming that you’re up to no good.  Oh and did I mention what happened to Dylann Roof after he shot and killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston SC last year.  Not only was he taken alive without a scratch, he was treated to a meal at Burger King.  Get the privilege idea a little bit now?  How about being able to drive an expensive car without being pulled over because the officer, who can’t afford it himself, suspects that you sold drugs for it or stole it, or is simply sore at seeing someone who doesn’t look like him with something that only he should be driving?  Or not being suspected of burglarizing the house in the affluent white neighborhood that you recently moved into.  That’s a privelege that many of us would welcome.

Now let’s talk about white privilege and personal achievement.  Let’s start with sports.  Most of us know about Michael Phelps, not only the winningest swimmer in Olympic history but the winningest Olympian period.  Most of us would attribute his success to hard work, dedication and sacrifice, as we should.  We also know about Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, winner of nine Olympic Gold medals and world record holder it the 100 and 200 meters.  I attribute that to hard work, dedication and discipline also but there are many asking the question “Why are Jamaicans such good sprinters?” Those of us who follow track know that Kenya has some of the best middle-distance runners in the world but that wasn’t always the case.  Until Kenya began to stand out, the best middle-distance runners were Great Britain’s Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram and New Zealander John Walker.  No one asked, however, why British Commonwealth runners were so good.  No one asks why Canadians are such good hockey players, why white Americans are such good speed skaters and why southern good ole boys are such good stock car drivers.  Ever since Jesse Owens shattered Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan physical supremacy, scientists and casual observers have credited black athletic success with black people having inbred physical and genetic features which give us an advantage.  Larry Bird, undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball players ever was a 6’9 tall example of white privilege in the 1980s when his accomplishments were heavily touted as being due to his intelligence, court sense and work ethic while Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were merely faster and more athletic.  Jon Entine authored a junk science book called “Taboo” which was published in 2000 which suggests that black athletes have genetic advantages over whites.  Venus and Serena Williams have often been commented on for the supposed physical advantages that they have over their white counterparts.  When the Arkansas Razorbacks, who were predominantly black, defeated the Duke Blue Devils, who had more whites on the roster, to win the 1994 NCAA basketball title, a white female reporter asked Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski if the Arkansas players were bigger and quicker.  Uh lady, maybe Arkansas simply played better basketball!  If you ever achieved anything in sports without anyone thinking that you achieved it due to any special advantages, consider yourself privileged.

Oh and lets get to academics.  As everyone knows, it is generally believed that whites are more intelligent than blacks and that makes white the superior race.  If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed many examples of black teenagers making the news by being accepted into multiple Ivy Leagues schools, some being accepted to all eight.  While they have all received many accolades, they have had detractors suggesting that their acceptances were due to affirmative action, in spite of their high grade point averages, their SAT scores, extracurricular activities and other positive accomplishments.  White privilege is being accepted into a prestigious university and it is assumed that it’s because of your qualifications and nothing more.  As flattering as some may think it is to credit Asians with being an intellectually superior people, many would quickly tell you how insulting it is to credit anything other than rigorous study habits for that.

Need further explanation?  Feel free to ask someone instead of being defensive and/or in denial.  The racism that still exists in our society has gotten more exposed over the last several years and with that includes a greater awareness of what I just explained.  Don’t worry, no one is asking you to give up anything or suggesting that the better your life is the worse ours are.  What we see and know, however, is what we see and know and progress isn’t made with a buried head.

 

#whiteprivilege

#blacklivesmatter

I Care About Black Every Day

I wrote and posted two statuses to Facebook earlier, and then mused, “these are my thoughts, I should blog about it”.

Here is the first post:

And another day, another hashtag

#terencecrutcher

 

And the second post:

Taking a break by scrolling FB…and there is no break. Diatribes, think pieces and thought pieces about the ‘latest hashtag’ Mr. Terence Crutcher who was more than a hashtag – all, ALL valid commentary from the OP’s.

And then there is news mixed in about brangelina. Listen, I don’t give one good hot diggity about their love life. I’ve been entertained by some of their work, and appreciate the humanitarian efforts I’ve seen from them, but their love life ain’t changing mine so…
No, not really caring about their news today.

What I do care about is praying and hoping that my Black husband and Black sons and Black fathers and Black brothers and Black nephews and Black nieces and Black sisters and Black mothers and Black uncles and Black aunts and Black cousins and Black friends make it home safely today. And every day.

I care about Black today. And every day. Oh yeah, and I agree with these two pics below.

#carryon
#saytheirnames
#icareaboutblackeveryday

I copied all pics from other posts that I saw; I don’t know who to credit because it wasn’t listed anywhere.  However, the point is that the pictures reflect my thoughts perfectly.  It’s ok to bash Colin Kapernick, QB for the San Francisco 49ers because he refuses to stand for the National Anthem during the football games.  Calling him unpatriotic and directing vitriolic commentary towards him and others like him is just fine.  Because this is America, where we can say what we want, as long as what we want is the freedom to bash others who don’t agree with us, right?  And America is the land of the free, as long as we’re the right type: white, straight, male, Christian, employed, educated, married with children…have I missed any?
I am beyond frustrated.  We have yet another clear homicide by a police officer.  Yes, I believe that our service people do a tremendous job: teachers/educators, policemen, firemen, paramedics, first responders, and the like; they are often overworked, underpaid and there are many heroes amongst this group.  Yet there is a definite issue that we cannot ignore.  Police officers need additional training.  Academies need additional programs.  Organizations need more funding.  None of that matters if our mindset remains the same.
People of color matter.  Immigrants matter.  Homeless, uneducated, LGBTIQ, single, disabled – we’re all here, and we all matter.  You cannot, should not, better not in my presence, say that tired trope of “All Lives Matter” without acknowledging that indeed ALL LIVES MATTER; Black Lives Matter, Immigrant Lives Matter, Homeless Lives Matter, LGBTIQ Lives Matter, Single Lives Matter, Disables Lives Matter, Uneducated Lives Matter, Ethnic Lives Matter, Nationalities Matter, Race Matters, Gender Matters, Age Matters…People Matter.
When you ignore and are willfully ignorant about people who don’t look like, talk like, think like or act like you, then you are part of the problem.  Period.

FB Group is Motivating Me to Move It

I did NOT want to move today.  I did 40 minutes of exercise on Sunday.  I really wasn’t feeling it yesterday and then time got away from me, so I was ok with skipping it.  I was soooo not motivated today.  Until I checked a Facebook group filled with women on the same health journey.  The same “get fit”, “get healthy”, “lose weight” journey.  These women are constantly posting pictures, tips, stories and even questions about their journeys, goals, challenges and successes.  That page has become one of the first things I read in the morning, and I only joined the group two weeks ago.

So when I scrolled through the group’s page today, knowing that I missed a day of exercise yesterday, and that my Sunday workout wasn’t a full hour, I was motivated by the posts.  I knew I couldn’t miss two days in a row…not when women are sharing their struggles with being consistent (like me), their days, weeks and months at a plateau (been there) yet they’re still working out; there was too much encouragement from afar for me to be a slacker.

I prayed, and God got in my head.  He whispered, “You are worth more than excuses”.  I drove my fluffy self to the park and talked to myself through every step of those 3.6 miles.  I had a slight headache, toe ache, and general ‘don’t wanna do it ache’, but I pressed my way.  My self talk included my affirmation, “I am worth more than excuses”.

Getting in shape and staying in shape is hard.  There are no two ways around it.  You’ve got to put in the work.  You’ve got to make the time.  You’ve got to make the right choices.  Long lasting results don’t include a magic bullet.  I have decided to document my transformation on Instagram, @dhealthjourney, and to get an accountability partner, and to surround myself with positive, supportive people.  The Facebook group is one step in the right direction.  Today, they pushed me without even knowing it.

As I was walking and talking, I tried to back out of going the full distance.  The route I take is .6 miles each way.  Last week, I walked it three times, for a total distance of 3.6 miles.  Today, I was trying to talk myself out of it.  “Just do the one mile, that’s good enough”, and “You can get back on track tomorrow”…thoughts like that kept creeping into my head.

At the same time, I remembered the stories on the FB group – people who lost 50, 60, 70, 80 pounds.  Ladies who are just starting.  Ladies who are midway through their own personal plans.  I don’t know 99.9% of those women.  Yet I didn’t feel comfortable doing just enough, knowing I would be seeing their posts later.  So I pushed myself a little more, and soon I was almost done with two rounds.  I figured I might as well complete the last lap, so to speak, because in just a few weeks I’ll be doing a 5K for breast cancer awareness.  That reminder is what spurred me to finish the complete 3.6 mile distance.

I posted a quick summary to the group on FB, and those who saw it were cheering me on.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be with true support groups.  I am thankful for this one.  Dhealthjourney continues.

9/11 Made Me Become a Parent

I am a New Yorker, born and raised.  I have lived in the South longer than I’ve lived in New York, but when people ask me where I’m from, I still say that “I’m from New York”. Who doesn’t love the hustle and bustle of the city, the busyness, the fact that there is always something to do at any time of the day or night? If it’s you, then phooey!  I like the sights and sounds, most of the time.  There is no pizza or Chinese food quite like what you can find in the NYC area.  Even with the crimes I’ve witnessed and heard about, the city still holds a bit of magic for me.

It’s through this lens that I experienced what we now know as “9/11”.  It was a Tuesday.  I was in my office, just starting to dig into the issues of the day, when one of the sales people walked in and asked if I had a radio.  I did and turned it on, as my office phone started to ring.  The station was playing a commercial so I asked the sales guy what he was listening for on the radio.  He said he heard something on the way into the office about the Twin Towers in New York.  I tried to change stations but all I got was static.  He left and went to my managers office, probably still searching for verification of the news.

When I checked my phone message, my mother had called with this snippet, “Just wanted you to know that a plane has crashed into one of the Twin Towers”.  My mouth dropped open.  Sales guy was right.  I flipped back to the news channel, the only station I could pick up on the radio.  The reports were coming in – hundreds watched live as a plane aimed for and crashed into one of the two buildings at the World Trade Center (aka the Twin Towers).  As the guy was reporting about it, I could hear the commotion as they exclaimed about another plane crashing into the other building.  I stepped outside my office and the entire place was abuzz.  My teams were talking about it, the department was talking about it – every single person in the office was sharing news as they got it.  We all wondered what it meant.  I know I called a couple of family members in New York, only to get a busy signal on the phone.  I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone numbers; I don’t even remember if I had a cell phone at the time for myself,  I recall walking into my director’s office about 30 minutes later, since he had a small TV in his space.  As I walked in, we watched together as both towers fell to the ground.

This was such a surreal scene.  A wave of emotion washed over me.  I was just there about 3 years prior, standing on top of one of those towers like I was on top of the world.  Now I was watching a part of my world crumble before my eyes.  Some of those same workers that we’d encountered in 1998 had to still be there.  The people in the lobby and at the ticket desk, the guy and lady at the pizza place; I couldn’t believe that thousands of people lost their lives in such a brutal manner.  More reports came in about the airplane attack in DC at the Pentagon, and the plane that was purportedly headed for DC but diverted somewhere in Shanksville, PA.   My husband has family in DC, were they ok.  What about my NY family, why couldn’t I get through to them? What madness was this?  Was the US under attack?  What was going on?

When I got home, I spent the rest of the night listening to and watching any and every news report I could – breaking my own rule about watching TV (same news all the time; somebody lied, somebody died, somebody cried).  I couldn’t help it, there was a magnetic force that kept me glued to the set.  At work the next day, the mood was of course somber.  I’d finally heard from my family members and they were all accounted for.  A cousin recounted how she had just gotten off the train and saw black smoke headed her way with people running, so she ran too.  It was the debris from the collapsing towers.  My godmother, who is Muslim, talked about her daughter-in-law dodging a bullet (figuratively) because she worked at the World Trade Center and was supposed to be at work.  She was scheduled to go in late that Tuesday morning, after her doctor’s appointment to check on her unborn baby. We discovered that my husband’s aunt, who did work at the Pentagon, had actually retired just 4 months prior and wasn’t onsite, but several of her friends were.  So the work atmosphere was not only somber but filled with stories that we saw or heard about.  Our department gathered for a moment of silence and I was asked to pray.  All I can remember saying is that for the people who lost their lives, if they even said “I believe” in their last moments then they were with God, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”.  I don’t remember what else I said.  I know I cried.  Again.

That night, Wednesday, was midweek worship at our church.  Some call it bible study, our church at the time called it Wonderful Wednesday Worship.  We attended, for surely we would hear some words that would help us to make sense of this mess.  To hear reports on the news that terrorist groups were claiming victory over this attack, that they might try again, that they were proud of their accomplishments – it was too much to bear.  Surely God, or his representative in the form of our pastor, had some semblance of answer which could return us to normalcy?

Sadly that was not exactly the case.  From what I recall, he made it seem as if the attacks were because of the country’s own two-face dealings with leaders and dignitaries around the world.  Whether there is truth in that statement or not, saying it 24 hours after our world was shaken to its core was probably not the best tactic.  We left feeling more lost than when we entered the sanctuary.

The Big Decision

As the days wore on, we talked about life and death and the meaning of both and our place in this world.  During the first couple of years of marriage, I had been insistent that I wanted to finally finish my degree before we started a family.  That didn’t happen, which is another post for another day.  We weren’t ready either, not during those first 1-3 years.  As we got to years 3 and 4, I remember asking hubby if he thought we were ready and he said no each time.  This was fine with me, because I was still holding onto the dream of completing that degree.  When the attacks of Sept 11, 2001 happened, things shifted…for both of us.

We realized that there is never a right time or right place to have a family, only right intentions.  We always knew we would have a family.  We both had decent jobs with opportunities for advancement.  Patrick had a degree.  We had purchased our home just a couple of years before that dreadful day.  We had updated vehicles.  What, exactly, were we waiting for?  Towards the end of September, early October, we talked about whether it was time.  We each took about a month to give it some serious thought.

A child would change things for us.  No more spontaneous outings.  No more extra dollars to frivolously spend.  No more super late night doing nothing, or a whole lot of something (wink wink).  Now we’re thinking about the pitter patter of little feet and what that really means.  A little person, who will someday become a big person. The scariness, concern, and worry of “doing it right” – raising a baby to young adulthood.  Schools, and friends, hobbies and activities – we’re going to mess him/her up.  No wait, this place is already messed up in so many ways.  And we see that and we know that we’re trying to do our part.  We’re continuously changing and evolving.  We’re not as selfish as we once were, maybe we can raise someone who really cares about somebody other that himself and his immediate needs.  We can shape someone who is certain about her purpose and walks in it fully.  Let’s really thing about this thing.  The privilege, honor, and opportunity to raise someone who would contribute to society and not take away from it.

The decision to become parents would have probably happened within the next year or so of our marriage.  The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 jolted us into action.  We have never looked back.

Grandfathering, a dad’s perspective

Today is National Grandparents Day, which I didn’t know until this morning, but it is so timely since I was thinking about my own grandfather the other day.  I was sharing stories with my sons about what a nice old man he was to me and his other grandchildren yet to the grown ups, he was a crotchety and irritable figure.  If you ask my mother and my aunts about it, they’ll mostly laugh at it as they accept it as him being who he was but, to this day, I can’t picture that side of him.  What I can picture, as my mother has also described, is the hardworking, honest, responsible man who, like other blacks of his day, experienced racism and indignity yet never used it as an excuse to abandon his responsibilities and set a good example for every male in his life.  I remember when my family moved in with him when I was two years old, three years after my grandmother passed away, and he kept the house in immaculate shape, the yard tidy and was always a pleasure to be around.  I always go the sense that being an older man who lived on his own, he not only learned to live independently but got a boost from the love he had for his grandchildren.  I remember whenever he would come to visit  he would bring a bag of candy for me and my sister, a bag of peaches for my parents and staying only five minutes but always making sure me and my sister felt the love.

What did I learn from Granddaddy?  I learned to live my life as a good example to my sons and that when the day comes that I have grandchildren that I learn from whatever mistakes I may make with my own so that I can be the kind of grandfather to them that mine was to me.  To have my grandchildren share the kind of memories with their children that I have of mine would be a true honor but I have to earn that honor.

Another man who is truly earning that honor is my other father.  Like the classic rags to riches story he grew up poor in rural South Carolina, graduated from college, served some time in the Air Force, got a good job, earned his masters degree and ran a successful accounting firm for almost 40 years.  He didn’t believe in religion and my mother was an agnostic so my sister and I didn’t grow up in the church but we were brought up with solid values such as telling the truth, respecting other people and their property and always putting out best face forward.  Daddy wasn’t always the perfect or ideal father (Who is?) as he made his share of mistakes but rather than hold those mistakes against him, I’ve tried to do better.  One thing I remember almost vividly is when I got in a fight with a kid across the street, walked away because I didn’t want to continue fighting, and he kept sending me back to fight him since I needed to toughen up and stand up for myself.  Several years later, after the birth of my older son, I remember being stressed out by him and Daddy calling to talk to me.  He told me about that incident and how he regretted it and I let him know that I didn’t hold that against him and how I planned to raise my son.  I have taught him to stand up for himself in situation when he has to but I wouldn’t force him to fight anyone.  In the times we live in now it is hard because it’s not quite as easy to tell your child to hit someone back when people are shooting and killing each other over senseless things.  Thankfully both my sons know Tae Kwon Do so defending themselves in unarmed confrontation isn’t as much of a worry.  When I see my boys interact with their “Gramps”, I see the growth and learning from past mistakes that I felt when he called me that evening.  When Daddy was running his business he didn’t often find time to spend with me and my sister since he was busy but he makes and effort to spend time with his grandsons every chance he gets.  He also gives plenty of compliments and encouraging words that I didn’t always receive.

I feel that the lessons I learned from my father are valuable in how I raise his grandchildren.  Unlike Daddy I accept Christ as my lord and savior and my sons are being raised to be Christian men but like my father, their mother and I try to instill basic values of honesty, respect for others and the value of hard work in them.  Like my father I try to be a good provider and an example of a hard working may who has his family’s back but I try to give positive reinforcement on a more regular basis.  I already see the same relationship with my sons and both their grandfathers, the other nicknamed “Pops” that I had with mine and it makes my heart jump.

My sons are rare in that they have all four grandparents surviving and living in close proximity and their interactions with all four, who have four different personalities and ways of doing things, are amazing.  I have learned so much about the kind of father I want to be and not to be, the kind of grandfather I want to be and not to be, from both but especially my own father and grandfather and I am blessed for that.  My father’s own personal growth and evolution is an influence on me and so are the memories of my grandfather.  I am in no hurry to be anyone’s grandfather right now but when that moment does come, this granddaddy will be totally up for the challenge.

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”.

Presidential Gaffe? Gary Johnson and Aleppo

Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for President, has been in the news all day. He was on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” and panelist Mike Barnicle asked him, “”What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” “And what is Aleppo?” asked Johnson. “You’re kidding,” replied Barnicle. Johnson replied, “No, I’m not”, and you could see his eyes shift to the left as if he realized he made a big boo-boo.

Now, I’ve got to confess that I didn’t know what Aleppo was either, until today. I make it a point NOT to watch the news every single day. My mantra is that it’s the same news every day, somebody lied, somebody died, somebody cried – my soul can’t take the negativity. So I make a choice not to watch most of the time. I do read lots of papers, magazines, and articles online and listen to various radio stations. So I keep up with the majority of what’s happening regularly; I just miss the nuances of things like this situation. I know about the refugee crisis and war and destruction in Syria, I just didn’t really pay attention to the name of the main city of conflict.  I don’t think I’m in the minority; I’m guessing a lot of men and women “on the street” would not know what Aleppo is either.

Back to Gary Johnson and his flameout interview. Per the clips I’ve watched and the transcription from The Hollywood Reporter:
“Aleppo is in Syria,” explained Barnicle slowly. “it’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.”

“Okay, got it. Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess,” Johnson said. “I think the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end but when we’ve aligned ourselves with – when we have supported the opposition, the Free Syrian Army, the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists, and then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds and this is, it’s just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting and, inevitably, these regime changes have led to a less safe world.”

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough was incredulous that Johnson didn’t know what Aleppo was.”Do you really think that foreign policy is so insignificant that somebody running for president of the United States shouldn’t even know what Aleppo is, where Aleppo is, why Aleppo is so important?”

And therein lies the question. How bad is this gaffe for Gary Johnson? He did apologize later, saying that he was “incredibly frustrated” and that he “has to get smarter and this is part of the process”. If nothing else, I appreciate his candor. HOWEVER, you are a presidential candidate. You are saying that you are qualified to make decisions on behalf of the country that is deemed and seen as the most powerful. You are asking everyone to trust you with domestic and foreign policy decisions. And when asked about a hot button issue that is on the hearts and minds of most pundits, you fumble and stumble and just faceplant by not even knowing what you’re asked about. No bueno, dude, no bueno.