Friday, December 28, 2007

The Sooner You Learn It.....

The Sooner You Learn It.... The better off you'll be.

My mother was notorious for saying, "Life is Hard. The sooner you learn it, the better off you'll be." And I now, finally, really appreciate it. I don't think it was what you want or need to hear at a young age, but I do understand it was coming from a mother who wanted me to understand that life was not a bowl of cherries. Contrary to what one might believe, I'm not a pessimist. I used to really worry about what people thought about me or why they didn't like me, and I've learned - it really matters not.

I think about this in the context of the 2008 Presidential election too. I have had some, well intense, debates about who is best positioned to run our government. There is no one who is a perfect mix of all I'd aspire to have, but Barack Obama comes pretty close. My real friends and I talk about real politics. Not the fru fru tea conversations about voting for the female candidate that people have all but ordained in December 07, but the real life conversation about who you want to represent you. There is something to my logic.

When my mother said life is hard - it was always cold to hear. It was the reality I needed to balance some of my tendency to believe that all people would like me, all life would be fair, yadda yadda yadda. I happen to believe that without a quality balance in nature and nurture, one can easily become a bit of a tart. "Why oh why do bad things happen to good people?" They do. Debate the reasoning or fairness as you will, my mother was right. Life isn't always fair. I think of it often when I think about the person I want to lead this country into effective change. I can stand up for my candidate as much as I want to - but life is hard, and all people don't share my enthusiasm. What has to happen - somewhere between realization and action - is that you have to decide, its worth the work for the end result I want.

So, I didn't run for class president - and I regret that I was so locked with fear that I didn't do it. Simultaneously, I became active in extracurricular activities, broke out of my shell in college and began to lead the life that I have today. Unapologetic for my choices and my values, I am the person I aspired to be at that time. *Well I'm still a work in progress, but I think you get my point. I want to vote for someone who can hear the hard words, get the harsh criticism, use what they've learned, and apply it to lead a country we can be proud of. I'd rather not support the silent mastermind of harsh words - as she quips about the latest polls of why women as a whole don't like her. Women know women. We know harsh words and the deep seeded insecurity that can easily unleash them. It's one thing to have harsh words, in a context of all the things you are trying to teach and communicate. (Thank you mother.) It is quite another to polish harsh words for a living, because you've spent your entire life planning to lead the free world. I wish some of her friends had offered her more harsh words.

I think all of the candidates need a little bit of my mothers frank spirit to guide them. Get over how hard life is, and work harder. Not to be all that someone else expects for you to be - but because we are all closer to our destiny when we are true to ourselves. Harsh words can be translated into a catalyst for being all that we aspire to be. I think someone in Obama's past must have unleashed that on him too.

Wondering about other harsh words that have touched a life? Visit the ladies across the way and share your thoughts too.

Learning about Barack

GETTING TO KNOW OBAMA ... Frankly, I hope you'll do a lot of reading, research and investigate Michelle Obama, too. They're certainly my pick!

I don't support everything about Barack Obama. I do, however, think he stacks up against any other candidate currently in the running. Iowa voters may be getting a little scared - the polls are a statistical dead heat right about now. But the power of momentum can change all of that. Check bill's history - winning every early state is not necessary. Winning the minds, support, money, energy and power of those who can impact change - in the community, in business, within genders, in families, that's what we need. Barack can do the job. He needs your support. (And maybe a few swift emails to his team, to remind them, let the leader lead. I'm all for a stronger end game at this point - because I think he has come w/thunder to close this final leg of the early race.)

Did you know?

During the April 2007 Democratic debate, Obama said that he trusts women to make their own decisions about whether or not to have an abortion "in conjunction with their doctors and their families and their clergy."

Obama says the death penalty "does little to deter crime" but he supports it for cases in which "the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage." While a state senator, Obama pushed for reform of the Illinois capital punishment system and authored a bill to mandate the videotaping of interrogations and confessions.

Obama says that he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman" but he wrote in The Audacity of Hope that he remains "open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided ... I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God."

When he formally declared his run for the presidency, Obama said his goal is to implement universal health care, or government health insurance for all Americans, by 2012 or "the end of the first term of the next president." He has called the "belief in universal health care" one of the "core values" of the Democratic party.

Obama has said that he will "not support any bill that does not provide [an] earned path to citizenship for the undocumented population."

Since Obama was not a member of the U.S. Senate in 2002, he did not vote on the authorization of the use of force in Iraq. But he was an opponent of the war effort as an Illinois state senator and campaigned against the war in his 2004 Senate bid. In January 2007, Obama introduced the non-binding Iraq War De-Escalation Act with a goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008. The bill would allow a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for counterterrorism and the training of Iraqi security forces.

In the Illinois Senate, Obama helped author the state earned income tax credit, which provided tax cuts for low-income families. Obama has supported bills to increase the minimum wage. In The Audacity of Hope, Obama describes what he calls America's "empathy deficit," writing that a "stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are
struggling in this society."

Killing the Clinton Machine ... building Obama Momentum

So, my republican husband is blogging up a storm about Clinton probably winning the Iowa Caucus. And he came home psyched about a few people linking to his blog comments, a great treat after hosting 8 people in our home for multiple days. Meanwhile, I was psyched that I made my third donation to Barack Obama, and motivated a first time donor because of my matching gift. Two sides of a very different coin.

The Clinton Machine has started a full fledged commitment to negative campaigning, bringing up everything that can "slip upon" in public forums that will create doubt about Barack. In the latest article I read, they sited a poll that says given the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto people are more convinced that Hillary Clinton can lead. Direct foreign affairs. Be the decision maker.

Who do we think is making the decisions to imply that Barack sold drugs, that he is anything other than Christian, or maybe even that he fails to be qualified for the job. The American public appears to have a convenient memory. What qualifies you to be president, because you used to sleep with one. After all, if we considered all the women who slept with Bill, many more women are qualified to run the US than just Hillary. I guess failing health care reform, the staged "I was so surprised" about my cheating lying husband messing around with Monica, or even the Dash like speed of a move to go to New York - in pursuit of staging her promised political career when Bill was done. I feel like I should be scrolling back with a video camera in honor of Spike Lee, yelling to all women - WAKE UP.

As an educated, professional, Christian wife and mother - not to mention a proud African-American woman - I find Clinton for president to be a bunch of regurgitated mess. HOT MESS in fact. Bill Clinton was NOT the first black president - and the first black male to have the qualification, demeanor, audacity and appeal to truly run, we decide to question his viability. His experience. His ability to be elected. His blackness.

I'll be glad when someone, especially someone in Iowa, asks the question..."Who do I want to lead us through the next four years?" Someone who can't run her home. Someone who doesn't deal honestly with her marriage. Someone who solicits black churches and women's groups like a door-to-door salesman crossed with a used care salesman after 20 years. I present to you - Hillary Clinton. The woman poised to bring more shame to the gender than she already has. In a statistically sound poll of all the women I know, she does not represent us - at all.

When Iowan's go to the poll - I hope they think long and hard about personal character and integrity. I'm not an idealist - but my ideas on this one are strong. If you can not lead your household, the next best thing, lead the free world. NOT. If Obama can stay on top of his core beliefs, talk directly to people who are yearning for leadership, and offer that although he may not have all of the answers - he has the intellect, decision making ability, responsiveness and leadership to get the job done. If there is one thing that a community organizer knows - its that collective power and unity can be a catalyst for change. Clinton is not a change agent. She's more of the left overs that start to go bad on day 3. When you first warm them up, they're delicious. The second day they are filling, not quite as tasty though. The third day....they start to smell bad, and its time for something new.

Barack Obama is something new. And as for leftovers....I've had quite enough. Maybe I'll make another donation now.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Truth about Joy

I guess I've always known that true Joy comes from within, but it doesn't always play out that way in real life. I mean, sometimes circumstances give you a literal run for your money. I have had unwanted reminders for the last 30 days at least - that you have to bring joy, and not rely on it from external sources. Easier said than done I would say.

So, let's get our baggage out in the open. I'm a Jesus girl - which means I have no excuse for not having joy. Even when the world looks dim and cold, I know that the greatest gift of all was giving when Christ died on the cross. I know that - but when you look at me, I want people to KNOW that. I'm not a "smiley girl" - I'm a Jesus girl. Which means I have known God and accepted him as my Savior for nearly my entire lifetime . But, I'm sensitive to life - I mean, I don't have some amazing gift of rolling with the punches. Actually, I have to "think" about joy, to remind myself to take the scowl off. I'm serious by nature. I have been that way by all accounts since I came out the womb. But the pursuit of joy is a good one - I'm headed in the right direction.

When you see things in black and white, the gray area can be especially challenging. I like stuff to be "in a certain type of way" and that can be a challenge in general, for personal accountability standards. No, I'm not talking about what I hold other people to, I'm talking about the standards I hold for myself. I'm working on it. Uh... the title of the blog is " A work in progress." Isn't it obvious. I don't have it all together - but hey, I have episodes of sheer brilliance.

One of those not so brilliant moments came when I offered to be the "Room Mom" for the Thanksgiving experience of 20 3rd Graders. I love kids, I love food, I love Thanksgiving, I love volunteerism.....hey, a Win/Win waiting to happen. NOT!

At our private school the Thanksgiving experience was scripted, as in, Dear Room Mom, here's what you need to do to cook the things we have identified, and for this end result. I'm a believer in following the rules - but this was quickly shaping up to be a not so good test of my strengths. I do love kids, my kids. I do love my cooking - Macaroni and Cheese, Turkey and Dressing with Oyster gravy, Greens - but, that wasn't what we were charged to cook. Oh, and by the way - all of your items must be donated from the other folks in the room - coordination of other people's interest in making said prescribed Thanksgiving dinner - to include succotash and marshmallow salad. (Two items I promise I have never had in nearly 40 years of life.)

What is a joy-challenged overachiever to do - cry. Cry a lot. The children are dressing up as Native American's for this, and we don't know the first bit of how to deal with diversity in this school environment. I mean, there are challenges abounding. I need more than joy, I need HELP.

And for this season, HELP cometh in the most unlikely of places. A mother that I don't know has offered to help with the "Gooey Rolls." This calorie enriched, carb filled treat - which basically is the equivalent of sugar, butter and bread. how can you go wrong, right?

Well, first of all - you must have a certain type of yeast rolls - and the ingredients for 2 recipes are coming from multiple people - and you have to let this stuff sit overnight before you bake it. Simple, huh? No, why would I write about joy and this experience, unless I really, really needed it. So, unknown mommy, has much in store for me. While I'm standing waiting for the items to arrive for the group cooking experience, I see that many of the commitments have not yet showed up. First lesson, secure all contributions in advance. No need to worry about the Gooey Rolls however, the mommy had brought ALL of her supplies, and extra! Joy is starting to rise up in me - but she's already got it.

In the classroom, we are by all measures, winging it. We are trying our best to address lack of preparation issues, and I have moved on to think about what I will do the next day to truly prepare for feast. I am in denial about the mistakes for day 1 and I'm already thinking about day 2. The entire class is actively engaged in the cooking experience - and in the corner, Gooey roll lady is simply smiling as a multitude of fingers are dipped in butter and butterscotch in pursuit of sweet heaven. She is seemingly unnerved by the madness. I have, in the meantime, written a five page mental manual about how to better do this in the future. Joy would be enjoying the situation as is.

When I come home late that evening, I have a somewhat odd voicemail and email, as I have not provided the Gooey roll mommy with baking instructions. The stuff is really swelling beyond the bundt pan - in part because I have given incomplete instructions, in part because the Gooey lady has put more stuff in the pans than any recipe calls for. It's 10p.m., the night before the feast, and I'm laughing hysterically. Mania over a 3rd grade cooking experience. And...I can hear the joy over the phone - I'm pressed. She's baking. A smart woman uses google, finds 3 recipes, and creates her own set of instructions. Mothers are smart. Who has time for all of this?

That's the joy I'm talking about. the deep in your body, little stuff isn't going to shake me, isn't life grand (even if its a bit of a pill for the moment), joy. My angels are really rejoicing because in the midst of this, I have had an ah ha moment. Who cares?

That's right. Who cares? In the bigger scheme of life, with the things that drive me crazy on a daily basis, who cares. We live a blessed life. For all that heartache, mistakes, bad decisions, mother nature and all the other ills of the world bring - we can still have joy. The rolls are delivered the next day, and they are an instant hit. The lines for repeat customers are growing every moment - sugar and rolls. And I take this opportunity to have a life altering moment.

What if - Gooey roll mommy had been a bit of a perfectionistic witch? (Like said writer.) What if we chalked good sense for following someone else's rules? What if, we waited for life to have joy? Danger Will Robinson, we all know better. So I decided that God had a higher calling than my desire to have things in black and white . I'm believing He wants, expects us, to not only have joy, but to bring joy. And further, the testimony of our life is not built on how well we planned each and every aspect of our world, but what we were able to accomplish with the ingredients we encountered. True Joy.

I think I'll get to baking.

Losing the Fight

I remember when Sammy Davis Jr. died - it was one of my first poems not about me. Up until that time, I had written mainly about things I could relate to. Something happened when we lost this entertainer and pioneer - it just may have unearthed the reality that we were losing jewels in our culture, in our society - and I wondered if we really understood what this meant. In many ways I think it was largely about a reality check that the people who were dying were people who had some impact on my life, great or small. No longer, when I read or heard about someone dying, was I able to just shake it off. Fast forward to today, and I realize - the losses are getting greater and deeper in my life.

On the television Julia Carson is being laid to rest. Her political career had not interested me the way life long followers showed their dedication, because in many ways our politics are different. I am a late to Indy political junkie, and in recent months I started following her career most closely. I mourn today for a different reason - for what her life meant - to those born to out of wedlock mommys. Her mother gave birth at 16, after dropping out of school in 2nd grade. Julia being a representative of Congress, is representative of so much more than that. She was a fighter and a bit of a pistol, and she cared by every account for other people.

Her political stands are not mine, but if when I go people are clear about what I stood for - that's a crown jewel if ever I saw one. Julia Carson garners my respect for not being afraid to stand tall. When she was really sick during the last political cycle I remember hearing a reporter challenge her - she quickly took him to school about the number of elected officials who served with health challenges, and for that I took a lesson. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. She already knew the questions that would come at her - and she was incredibly prepared to respond - with a bit of finger snapping in her voice. Dear Julia - proof that a woman can rise to any occasion - rest in peace.

Then there's Ray Charles, and his legacy. The man owned his masters at a time when people didn't do much beyond give thanks for a contract. You saw the movie Ray, no need to go into details about his life - his family stuff is a bit hard to swallow. But check this out - he clearly outlined his intentions in his will - providing for ALL of his children equally, and leaving no questions about how he wanted his stuff handled. I respect that. Those of us in blended families know well that taking a stand would be a blessing.

This year has also been a time of family loss. My dear great aunt passed and she was one of the most thoughtful people - I still have memories of the care packages she sent to me at Purdue, or the way she remembered each of my children in some way. She will forever be missed. She opened her home to any and everyone, and she guaranteed you a meal whenever you crossed her doorstep. She had a heart wide open - and she didn't let "what I have, don't have, aspire to have" or anything else matter. She created feast after feast, from the abundance of her heart. I'm still trying to have a house warming, 16 months later.

Then my uncle passed this fall, a man of great character and family values. I traveled to visit his family in California shortly after I graduated from Purdue, and our relationships changed drastically. I gathered a greater understanding of him, based on spending time with him. He loved to cook, he wrote often and tremendously beautiful letters, he sent me ritzy magazines I could never splurge on, and he loved me. He was proud of me, and he told me so - often.

This past weekend, we learned of another loss. My dear Mr. Henry, a neighborhood father to the entire community, died on Saturday, December 15th. His wife, a community activist that hired my husband at the height of his decision to pursue development, wa s nice enough to call us and share Mr. Henry's thoughts. I tended to send letters, cards, and hand written notes - but her call will forever linger in my mind. She said, in the midst of her own loss, "Henry wanted you to know that he loved you. He was proud of both of you. He thanked you for allowing him to be a part of your life."

So - it is the holiday season. We will be gathering with family, socializing, doing our thing - but will we remember the many lives that were lost this year? My heart breaks for the homes that will be missing such an integral part of their lives. More importantly though - I have been prompted to think about those near and dear to me. Does everyone know what I think about them? Do my friends, family, neighbors have some understanding of what I value about them? Is love an action verb in my life?

Our lives are short. One day, each of us will lose the fight of hanging on to this life, to enter into the next. What will you be remembered for? What plans have you made for eternity? And...what will prompt others to write an entry into their hearts about the legacy you leave? In my last round, I'd be happy to have the character shown from these loved ones, live on.

Efficient Christmas Greetings - Huh?

The holiday season is such a special one, and I really do love Christmas Cards. No, not the politically correct - "Happy Holidays" - the tried and true, we're celebrating Jesus Christmas card. As in, "May God Bless you during the Christmas Holyday." However you do it, just know that I love Christmas greetings and the connection of friends and family. But I must say, folks have gotten a bit, well, LAZY. Yes, I'm calling out my friends.

I may with one post end my abundance of Christmas cards, but I have to speak out. What is the glory in labels on cards, and the same greeting put in each one. I mean, I know some of the folks are people I talk to every day, but hey....I don't get it. If it is important to connect .... write SOMETHING. My name, my address, we love you, miss you much, something. Signing your name like business communication on a holiday card is as chilly as last months snow storm. I just don't know what else to say on this one.

I like cheezy family photographs, a lot. I like evaluating card selection - ethnic, holy, politically correct, religious, funny, formal, ecclectic, culturally sensitive, true art (and should be framed), crafty, hand stamped - I love them all. But please, if you are going to send out greeting cards, make a special effort to actually tell folks what you think about them and how much you actually care for them. Efficiency isn't always the best thing. In fact, your timely cards are often a bit cold - not like the warm and fuzzy people you are. Labels, if they are clear I guess you can have a pass - but let's see that handwriting. I want to see the skills your 4th grade teachers were fighting for!

Here's to a Blessed, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year - in Jesus Name!

Love, ME!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Things to be Thankful for

You learn a lot about yourself during a holiday. Things that you may have envisioned in your mind as a child become more than wishful thinking when you play them out as an adult. Thanksgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays. In addition to good food, you get the benefit of a fall landscape and a common purpose to be "thankful." It shouldn't take a holiday to remind you of what you should be thankful for...but life is busy and hectic and it isn't bad to remember just what you have been blessed with.

Thus my post for the night - things to be thankful for in 2007.

1. The ability to celebrate thanksgiving in a home. I was reminded about the small things that I appreciate when my daughter decided to help out on Wednesday with the cleaning. We have entire rooms without some furniture and she was elated to dust and windex the small fixtures to perfection. When I thought about it - we were thrilled to be cleaning our home as simple as that is.

2. Three year old assistance.
Cutting veggies in the chopper, stirring ingredients, running through the kitchen with reckless abandon, just gotta love that. I watched him put cloves in the ham, hang pineapple rings, poured honey and sprinkled brown sugar.

3. Good food. It took me into adulthood to realize how many people can't cook. My grandmother used to orchestrate a tremendous learning lesson on a daily basis, followed by my mothers flair for trying something new. Together, I have developed my own style, old faithfuls and children who ooooh and aaaaah over mommy's cooking. You gotta love that.

4. 3 children. I have contemplated having more children, and I remember when I had pretty much settled into parenting 2. I can't imagine my life without this current mix and I'm thankful to have them.

5. IMPERFECTION! My daughter noticed a magazine at a recent checkout where they highlighted the imperfections of the stars on the cover. My daughter is 8 and we talked about the fact that no one is perfect -and that is why Jesus' love is so important. There would have been no way that our actions, deeds or "goodness" would have ever been enough to erase our sin. Thank you God!

6. New Chances. As I drift off I am reminded that every day we start over, with an opportunity to start new. The end of the night I was pretty cranky and I think I was just very tired. Tomorrow I'll have more rest and a new day.

7. My husband. He was very helpful picking up the dishes and straightening up for most of the day. He has a tendency to get lost in technology land, and although he did do that - he helped in the kitchen and around the house, too. (I won't even mention the volumes of laundry I can see from my bed right now... my kitchen is mostly clean.)

8. Leftovers. Ummm - turkey, macaroni and cheese, yummy!

9. Friendships. The family you create from the people placed into your life.

10. Reminders to be thankful. It shouldn't take a holiday to remind us, but I'm glad we've got something that makes us say - hey, gratitude please!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Looking for Daddy

I very rarely post in Alaine's blog space. We blog about different issues and ideas for the most part. She talks alot about our family and children, an area I'm far less competent at writing about. But every once in a while, I have an insight.

I didn't grow up with my father, never even met him until I was 14. Mine was a single parent home. My mother raised me and my Dad simply wasn't in the picture. For the most part, I can only recall feeling sorry for myself about this once during childhood. It was a moment that passed quickly and I got on with life. Having no Dad was just the way it was and how it had always been. While it never really troubled me, paradoxically, I grew up resolving that I would have a whole family one day and that my children would know their father.

Even still, though I understand intellectually that my children love me and that my interaction and presence in their life is important and meaningful to them, I have to confess that more often than not it doesn't feel particularly real and present to me. But sometimes it gets brought home to me with great clarity.

Recently, my 5 year old son had a Daddy's Day at school. On this day, all the Dads were to come for lunch and eat with the kids and hang out with them. I was a few minutes late arriving at the school and when I got there, the children had already been seated in the cafeteria with their Dads at the tables. I walked in and began looking for my son. I spotted him before he spotted me. He was looking for me too. He was sitting at the table, scanning the room, on the lookout for me. It was the look on his face as he searched anxiously for sign of his Dad that I haven't forgotten since: a look of worry and concern, maybe even the beginnings of fear, that his Dad was not going to be there for him, that maybe he had been abandoned. It was a look that told me that while this was perhaps just an inconvenient interruption of my workday for me, that for him it was a big frikking deal. It mattered to him big time. It made a difference to him if I was there or not.

I waved to catch his attention as I strode forward to join him, like a giant through a crowd of elves. For a moment, all I thought was "let me banish that look from his eyes right now". When he saw me, his face lit up like the brightest strobe light you've ever seen (my son has a wonderful smile). He hollered "Daddy" as I came into his view and instantly his demeanor changed from fearful and worried to happy and carefree. We had a wonderful time. But in that moment before he knew I was there, when he was "looking for Daddy", I learned something about how very real and important my presence is to him. I grew up without Dad and its clear to me that I really missed something, though strangely enough, its hard to define what it was. But now and then, I gain glimpses of what I lost through my children, who have what I didn't. I never knew a childhood with my father. My children will never know one without.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Golden Compass points kids in the wrong direction

I have been thrilled about the stream of movies lately - Tyler Perry started a season of joy for me. However, let's not forget that movies and entertainment are an investment of time, resources and if you allow it ....they can plant seeds of something pretty dark.

Let's take "Why did I get married?" - from which my good friend and I are working tirelessly to plan a couples retreat. Not that we needed a movie to give us the idea, but the images were so powerful you couldn't help leaving the theater thinking about your own life. It was just one of those movies - far from perfect, but tons of inspiration and fun. Tyler Perry has a message and he isn't afraid to put it out there for full consumption.

Such is the case for the Golden Compass. During the Christmas season this story is going to be marketed to children as the latest installment in must see/must read stories. Buyer beware. This story is created by an atheist who has articulated clearly in interviews that his books are about killing God. Invest your dollars as you want, as for me and mine - we won't be knowingly giving our support to a self-identified atheist, who has written books to challenge the Narnia series in a fashion that purports to dig deeper and deeper into darkness. The movie I understand is a waterdowned version of the first book - the weakest of the attempt to defame Christianity and all we hold to be true. I'll be joining the religious right on this one when I inform my avid reader and avid moviegoer - not one penny of our money, not one minute of our time will be spent supporting him.

My hat goes off to which has a pretty detailed account of all this - and their bottom line is that the movie The Golden Compass does indeed bring to life a series of anti-religious books marketed for children. Philip Pullman is assuredly entitled to his views - but there is power in audiences who send a clear signal that this is not what will be supported as child's play. Comments in the movie range from an ex-nun who states that Christianity is a very powerful and convincing mistake, in addition to the actually use of Yahweh in the final book of the "Dark Materials."

I'm not a book burner by trade, but anyone got a match? I think Harry Potter was the least of our worries - as I remember the church uproar when that came about. While Harry Potter offered an opportunity for parents to engage, dialogue and be clear about their beliefs as children escaped in flights of fantasy....The Golden Compass is much more direct. If you aren't interested in creating the next generation of atheists or promoting the cause of the British writer bold enough to simply state his hate of religion, God and any form of Christ ..... join those of us who consider the release date of December 7th as an excuse t0 have a Holy party of praise far away from the theater. New Line should know exactly what you think of their kiddie promotions.....

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I'm EVERY Woman!

Chaka Khan would be so proud. The next generation of women are going to be amazing. I know because I'm raising one. (We are raising husband and I.) I clarify that in part because I think it is at least one part of why she is soo tremendous. She has the benefit, bonus, necessity, etc. of having a great daddy. Fathers matter in raising children in general - and I'm a believer that they are essential in creating the next generation of women.

So here, ninabot is pretty self-assured with her mass of natural hair blowing in the wind. Granny said here's a headband and it didn't occur to her that this is the most exposure her full mane gets, ever. I am breathless whenever I look at the this pic that dad captured with his palm. It speaks volumes about who and what she is.

She is a fashion maven, a scientist, a blessed child of God, mouthy and emotional, kindhearted, competitive, an original by every measure. I never knew when I aspired to motherhood that looking in the mirror could be so humbling and so inspiring all at the same time. For as much as she is me, she is soooo not me.

I had to buy a size 8 SKINNY LEG jean, just so it would stay up on her little behind. No matter what I did, no other jean would work. Maybe because she is indeed skinny. Uhhhhh, mental note - that is something she probably didn't inherit from me. She loves music, theatre and the arts - and I fall pretty short there too. She's a gymnast, a swimmer and often fearless when it comes to things she has never tried - well maybe I wasn't looking into the mirror after all.

She's more likely compiled of every woman, a legacy of strong women in our family, the beneficiary of wonderful women throughout our lives and the culmination of what happens when men are more that DNA contributors. She is a daddy's girl and I have almost stopped fighting that so I can enjoy it all the more.

I received an Afghan from my cousin in Michigan today, an unexpected gift of tremendous kindness. It takes its place next to the quilt made by her 95 year old mother about 5 years ago. Although these women are not close in proximity and are not people I grew up with - they show and demonstrate they care. For her Baptism, she was surrounded by more love than her heart could hold, by women she shares no dna with - I'm so humbled by that. Don't think she's from a family of slackers though - the most caring woman I've ever met, gave birth to her Artist granny, in addition to the Diva Auntie and the Auntie who encourages and uplifts right along with her dinner treats whenever we visit. I have a host of female friends that bless her life directly or indirectly, many of which alternate between encouraging her and encouraging me - both of which are necessary. She really is every woman, filled with the love and the gifts of everyone who sows seeds into her life.

The God Mother - the rescuer granny - the back-up - the gift card giver - the prayer - the Sunday School teacher - the insightful teacher - the doter - the friendship mender - the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.....I hope you get my point. She has in the core of her heart and the cusp of her hand - the potential of Every Woman, because of the seeds that have been planted into her life. I so often wonder....if we all did a bit more of this, what would the potential of little girls in our nation be?

Baptism and the power of water!

Take me to the be Baptized!

This year has been filled with new experiences. Many of them have involved water. Water surely brings renewal and an opportunity to think of cleansing, new life, birth. And for some of us immense fear.

The first of these lessons came about with the need for the swimming instruction, for at least 4 out of 5 family members. As we started planning our Summer activities we thought about swimming and the cost of swimming lessons. Our oldest had started in group lessons, had gotten much better about being comfortable, and couldn't swim a lick, or a lap. Fast forward to the mommy chatter and we heard there was only one woman who taught children to swim locally, Ms. Margie. I had enough good sense to skip the YMCA - as my childhood trauma came from that experience and I surely wouldn't subject a child to the taste of chlorine. At least not with regularity. So, by August we had signed up for oldest ninabot (affectionate term for kidlets) to start taking private lessons at the Country Club. (That is surely another post.)

I mentioned that I too didn't know how to swim, and the instructor insisted that I come ready to learn the next time I brought little missy. I don't know what made me think this was the year to learn - but I guess I did. The two of us, to my shock and surprise, are now water literate. She can dive, do various strokes, float, and do laps in the deep end. I can survive. I can swim, somewhat. Most importantly I am comfortable getting my face wet, moving from spot a to spot b, back stroke and I'm working on breath and blow. (My deep end skills have a little to be desired and I can still struggle with becoming overwhelmed with too much H20.) I still have a lot to be proud of though.

My oldest children made the decision to get Baptized this year. We were so excited about their decision and I wondered how my second ninabot would do when he understood just what it would require. He likes water about as much as I do. So we talked about it and he was certain he loved God enough to take the plunge. (Until he kindly lifted his hand out of the water to assist the minister in coming up!) Like many generations before him, my Noah doesn't care for any more water than he can drink. I was so proud of him for his courage and for his hand motions that confirmed he is surely my child.

The littlest kidlet wasn't old enough to get Baptized, although he clarified for anyone who would listen, "I love God too." We went to the Baptism and he was very observant of his brother and sister as he looked on and encouraged them in their big day. He had been overwhelmed by the company for the weekend and having the people who love him (and his siblings) surround him was such a big treat. was my rocket science idea to take the children to the gym the following weekend for a little R & R, and pool time. I was happy with my new skills and the ability to go from one side to the other with relative ease. I was happy in general - until I rolled over to a yelling lifeguard telling me that I had better watch my son (age 3), even though dad was in the water too. It was a cold shock to my system.

Littlest ninabot tried to reach me and went out too far and got over come in the water. Let me introduce you to the next swim lesson contestants - ninabots 2 and 3. The life guard jumped in, dad wasn't far behind, but the joy of the water was sucked completely out of me. The power of water is really diverse - from fear, to renewal for frustration all in less than 3 months. I solemnly walked out of the pool not thinking about the joy of our time together but promising myself - swimming is a life skill, not an option. Isn't it funny how one thing can represent soo many things when you really look at it.

The same is true for friendships, life lessons and hardships. They come in all packages, mean many things in deed to us all - but when it all comes down to it - its the same substance at heart. I guess the challenge for each of us, is how you use what you know. A lesson from the power of water indeed.

I look at this picture and I'm certain about the power of many things. The power of water, the power of people, the power of smiles. The swim instructor encouraged us in ways that made such a bigger connection than anyone who comes into your life for such a specific reason. The Baptism was at our new church - and even though there was soo much newness, we were surrounded by an incredible amount of love. And for that lifeguard who just ruined my family water day - I had to get over that too. He was in deed trying to save the life of the special ninabot here - the fearless one, and in the process his fear and anxiety overwhelmed him in how to respond. I could have avoided the water, for many years I did - but now I'm thankful for the many lessons that I bring.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Baggage. Got Luggage?

I am serving as a helper in "room mom" duties, a concept invented in the suburbs. When I was growing up there was no "room mom" - there were a host of parents that stepped in to make stuff for bake sales, come to school for special events, or drive car pool for field trips. My mother worked out of necessity and was good at what she did, and she missed the memo on taking off work for field trips to places we went together to see on Saturday. I was whole-heartedly unprepared for the class of women that were created through this process. That is until this year.

I was having a conversation with a room mom who asked how our year was going. I took for granted that she wanted to hear the answer and I am no slacker myself - I can hold my own in the volunteer world for blessing classrooms. I responded honestly - its been a bit of a tough year. My academic genius is struggling a bit - in all areas, but mainly socially. I stated that the lack of cultural diversity and the absence of people of color remained a bit of an issue, even more so as the children grow up. Let the defensiveness begin.

After a few minutes of opining about how everyone is nice to my children, I clarified that I was not discussing nice. If you put your child in a classroom or school full of people from a different culture, we could all be very nice, but your dear child would notice that he/she was different. I was beginning to feel overly agitated. I was heading down a difficult road.

My first commitment is to my children and building their self-esteem to be able to cope with any situation. I'm just not sure I want to spend most of my life focusing on coping skills instead of fostering learning and enjoying childhood. I clarified my feedback in the conversation and explained we picked a Christian school because it was our belief that the most important commonality was values in a learning environment. I went on to say that Christianity doesn't mean, however, that people aren't diverse with their own priorities, interests and cliques.

Room mother insight, "Well we all have our baggage." Excuse me, pardon me, I think I've choked on my latte. Did I say that being a person of color was baggage or a burden? My children carry their ray of sunshine brightly in the midst of what can be unbearable circumstances. And now, being Black is just , baggage.

I wonder what the baggage is when history is filtered as to be more fiction than reality, when the staff and leadership doesn't reflect the student body much less the society, and when becoming a room mom is a power structure of homogeneous folks who often don't have a clue - can we say gang habits? I have finally decided that I'm pretty much done. So much for the education process of people who don't want to be educated. As a mom, I need not lead the class when my children are struggling to find their way in a world that believes color blind is terrific, and not a tragedy. The lesson her - 100% mine and 0% hers.

As moms we must carry a lot of things to make our children's lives work - we carry diaper bags, changes of clothes, purses, money, soccer gear, gymnastics gear, spare snacks, chapter books, life lessons, emergency medical cards, pocket games, grocery lists, to do lists, thank you lists......but be careful not to carry baggage. I mean really, you can fit or blend in, but don't just rock the boat - that would be uncivilized. As for me and my house - we don't subscribe to sanitized living where you deny race and culture, and we're, uhhh, umm Black folks. I guess for some that means we've got baggage, but I'm going to go with we've got work to do. Work building our children and our family, because in 2007 - We Are the World just isn't playing in the background as a soundtrack. I for one am worried about gang violence in my suburban area - the kind in private schools with cliques of women who paint th world with one broad stroke.

Stupidity. I mean't ..... well, for now I meant exactly what I said. Stupidity.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Neverending Story

My mother is a sci-fi nut, and growing up we knew that all fantasy movies and flights of fancy were fair game for a day out. One of the stories that I watched and my children now enjoy is the Neverending Story. A mystical weave of words about reading a book where you in essence dictate the future remains a powerful story as an adult. So, when the topic of milestones came up at CrazyHipBlogMamas, I thought it merited a response. (Who really needs an excuse to write though?) Stepping Stones for me are those ah-ha moments in life where you decide what you will to some significant degree author your own future.

1. My decision to quit working a become a stay-at-home mom with our first daughter.

2. Marriage during crisis. Marriage beyond the Hollywood storybook belief of what should be. Marriage.

3. Realizing you aren't going to like everybody, and everybody is not going to like you either. (I was told this fact in 3rd grade but I didn't learn it then. In fact, some days I think I'm still learning it. )

4. The realization you can be right or you can be married - but being both 100% of the time is nearly impossible. So pick.

5. Your purpose is bigger than you. When life gets hard recognize that your purpose is not your own.

A stepping stone can be beautiful and ornate, like the ones that line our pathways with colorful remnants and monograms of our children. It can also be an unexpected bump in the road, separate from the path before and the path that follows. The ornate ones are pretty to look at, but the difficult ones you never forget where they are. My most important stepping stones are the ones that ask, "Are you being elevated and are you elevating something or someone else?" All of those paths imply movement, because there is no stone (or progress at all) without first taking a step.

The Color of Tears

Racial dynamics in our non-diverse neighborhood and private school have been very interesting as of late. With the Jena 6 and the community dynamics along racial lines, it seems that everywhere I turned there was something coming up about race in America. I listen to NPR on a regular basis and whenever I hear about the state of affairs internationally, I wonder what is going on right here. With kids 8, 5 and 3 it has been sad to even think about. Until today.

I attend a weekly Bible Study with a diverse group of women. I'm a new member and I was wondering about our connectivity, our differences really. Then today, when we were sharing our "stories" of significance about our relationship with God I realized something. The color of tears is universal. We are more alike than we are unalike. Even when things seem so different between us, at least for the women in my prayer circle, the color of our tears connects us deeply.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Words of Wisdom about what you will impart to your children was a featured topic on the Crazy Mama connection this week. I love the folks that visit that site because it has helped me to read as much as I write - and explore the other thoughts and cool mommy bloggers. Make sure to share your Words of Wisdom too.

I used to dislike that title "Mommy Bloggers", but the reality is that I am a Mother and I am Political, and I have a dry sense of humor and I am Black, and thus....there are a lot of reasons to read my Christian, yet imperfect, walk, in the pages of this blog. And...."Crazy MBA Mama Blogger" doesn't have a ring to it, nor does any of the other titles I considered briefly.

I have three beautiful and brilliant children with a man that I have been married to for the last 12 years. I wanted to ensure that my children had an active father in their lives but it never really occurred to me that I had picked someone that had a similar "distant" relationship with their own father. Enter God. I have the most family oriented husband around, who isn't surprised that the Chrysler Towne and Country is the closest he'll get to prosperity & virility symbols for a little bit. God is an awesome example when you are searching for models in this life of ours.

Our words of wisdom will include:

1. Accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. I'm not preaching against the members of Bedside Baptist but life is too hard to not have a guiding North Star - and as for me and my house, "We shall worship the Lord." People get all bent out of shape because of this or that religion issue - and I have room for lots of questions after 12 years of Catholic Schooling. But when Beyonce is jealous she isn't Latina, Vanessa is sending photos of her musical behind across the web, and Brittney can't listen to a dozen folks holding mirrors in front of her....well people, they need to believe in something that gives to them and doesn't just take from them.

2. Take care of each other. I hated my mother's threats to my brother and I that we were "all each other had." Surely it wasn't true. I have a big enough family, loving aunts, extended family, a great grandmother.... but she was right. when it comes down to it she taught us to be there for each other no matter what. 14 odd tattoo's later - I love my brother with all my heart. Teaching our children to take care of each other is a very important lesson for us.

3. You must out perform racism. Don't have to agree with Colin Powell to understand his words. Don't have to like everything about Dr. Condi to respect her achievements. Don't have to like the fact that this is truer in 2007 than ever before. In our home we will teach our children to outperform every limitation on their life. Will this remove racism? NO. However, I quietly present to you that children with a 1600 Sat aren't questioned about Affirmative Action, the best on the team doesn't have to defend why they were selected, a math genius is able to calculate what they are worth in a job market, and a prima ballerina who can dance to Amerie is looked at as "balanced."

4. You are African-American. In order to live your life with the happiness you deserve recognize that it is your job, and nobody else will see it quite like you - to know "the rest of the story". Media, history books, others - will never be your guide for who you are. If you want to really know about the history of our people, start with the history of your family. There is a rich cross section of history right there.

5. Burn your journals. I mean really, I saved letters from 4th grade through post college, and well - EMBARRASSED. Burn baby burn.

6. Marry Rich. I'm sorry but I will teach this lesson alongside my 101 lessons on independence, entrepreneurship, self-sufficiency and higher education. As my friend says about the golden Rule, He who has the Gold makes the Rules. And I'm just not opposed to integrating financial intelligence with good choices. Save your sighs of my materialism, I will not apologize. And if John and Jack, or Emily and LaToya are standing apples to apples on values, poise, character, loving, financial solvency for $1,000,000 please.

7. Honor Thy Father and Mother that thy lives shall be long...or your life will be painful.

8. Own your mistakes. They will either build you or bury you, and we'll love you even through the painful days.

9. Iron sharpens Iron. You attract people to you that have things in common with you. Be the best person you can be, make the life of someone else better, give back, practice philanthropy along side random acts of kindness, and it will come back to you.

10. Tomorrow is not promised. Live life to its fullest and when all is said and done - can you look in the mirror and say you are proud of what you have become? If so, nothing else need be said. Oh, and....don't forget, go bck to #1 in all things.

Don't have to agree...but hey, I'm talking about my words of wisdom in a society where OJ gets more press than Dunbar Village, a client used the phrase nigger in a story she told me - without any thought of how inappropriate it would be, Sharpton is seen as a role model, only a small group of children no Mae J and 3/4 of all youth know .25 cent - he's not worth .50, and you kinda have to just roll with me on my point here. Barack Obama is questioned for "ummm lack of qualifications" and lack of Blackness.

In 2007, I better have a lot of wisdom to share. My husband and I both do. We are raising young black children at a time when their lives still aren't valued, we still have to teach what to do if the police ever pull you over, and we have extensive rules about being a girl and what it means in a majority culture school where you are examined for more than your academic achievements but as a representative of an entire race. in 2007. and as I said - your faith in an omnipotent God has to carry you where your sanity and understanding of race, culture, politics and religion will not.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jena 6 and mothering young black boys

I have many thoughts about the Jena 6, not the least of which asks what happened to the coverage of Dunbar Village and the repeated acts of aggression on women of color. Yet, with two small sons at home, I can't help but think about the impact of this type of action on their lives. I know of countless youth who have had their lives forever altered by a miscarriage of false justice.

I don't have a lot of sadness for Michael Vick but I do look at the impact of our society priorities, media bias and passive coverage of key issues on the growth of black boys.

Here's some of the story from the website where I found out some of the details about the story:

I learned about a case of segregation-era oppression happening today in Jena, Louisiana. I signed onto's campaign for justice in Jena, and wanted to invite you to do the same.

Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place." But it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press. Together, we can make sure their story is told and that the Governor of Louisiana intervenes and provides justice for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please join me:

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were later arrested for the theft of the gun.

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years. Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.


The Power of Words

I love quotes and quips - little pieces of advice that allow you to think reflectively about the reason we are all here and do what we do. Proverbs is one of my favorite sources but then there's Maya Angelou and an assortment of female mentors too. I was really intrigued when the crazy mamas started collaborating on the best advice given to you, and I'm joining in the fun to share the wealth.

From my maternal grandmother who though it practical to talk about how the men we dated looked: "You remember you have to look at him every morning. and every night." I was particularly progressive about marrying a man who was able to talk to me and inspire me, beyond his individual looks. I told my grandmother that we had a history of fine men who were not fine in their character already and I wouldn't be joining the obsession with pretty boy men. So then she went practical, "if not for you, please think about my grandbabies." I was irritated with this advice and told her with a straight face that every baby is cute. Then in her early 70's she replied, "Don't forget - monkey's are cute too, and I don't want one of them for a grandbaby either." Point taken. Let's not act as if looks don't matter and that you can ignore the obvious - my grandmother has always been very practical. I was engaged to a fella for about 2 weeks in my youth, and she indicated, "If you just wanted an Imond (not a typo, a reference for something short of a diamond) I can buy you that." I gave up. I married a cutie who had everything else too.

From my paternal grandmother, "Dead folks can't smell flowers." A very pointed lesson from a woman I wasn't very close to. If you want to do something for someone - do it while they are alive. Do things that matter to people while they can enjoy them. I have an uncle that recently died and although it broke my heart - I have a lifetime of memories, letters and experiences that tell me - all is well. As I saw so many people say on 911 - "I have no regrets." I take that as a pointed lesson in marriage - if he was gone tomorrow would he know, really really know, how much he means to us.

From my mother, "Life isn't Fair, the sooner you learn it the better off you'll be." I thought many things were not fair growing up. My mother helped me to learn - the world owes you nothing. Some people find it harsh. I am thankful for those early lessons which taught me about the pitfalls of believing that life would be fair. She often told me, these grades are for you. I heard countless times, "I've already passed 3rd grade - what you get is all on you." Got it mom. I got it. Yet the best advice came when I didn't know what to do about becoming a stay at home mama. I was worried about my MBA and resources when she said, "You can't read to them forever. You won't be able to rock them to sleep at nap time in a few years. Enjoy each day and don't think if you aren't there you can recapture it later." An accomplished career woman, I held her feedback to my heart on the many days when we didn't have nickels to rub together.

Words linger for a good long time. I was also the 1988 Debutante Queen at a major African-American society event in my youth, and I was there without my father. That isn't really a good experience when you father is really known locally - it brought unwanted attention to being in a single parent household. Funny thing is, winning was only a part of the experience. My date looked at me in the haze of celebration and said "You were a queen long before the announcement." He came from what I thought was the perfect family but he cautioned me that everything that glitters is not gold. Puts into perspective needing anyone to validate your life, even at 16.

As parents my goodness, there are so many lessons to teach. I'll share my thoughts in another post about what I'll impart to my kidlets.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I have Native American in me - Really

Why does the world make my life harder?

In a recent interview with Beyonce she responded to a question about her Latina support noting that "I'm just jealous that I wasn't born Latina." You can read about the entire interview at

Raising a daughter in 2007 shouldn't be so hard, but surely it is.

I learned about the interview at What About Our Daughters - a really interesting blog that works to bring awareness about issues facing women from a variety of angles. I have to tell you I blog about just about anything but lately I've stayed away from critical world issues, content to talk about my little world. Without cable, access to BET, or enough time to enjoy television, I thought I was becoming exempt from discussing the impact of pop culture or recounting what the truth the news does not tell. Guess I can't afford that habit any longer.

Being a beautiful Black girl is hard enough without looking up and seeking the last pop icon declare she's jealous she wasn't born Latina. Nothing against Latina's but Ugly Betty star America Ferrera is holding down the fort. She is confident, secure, beautiful and last I read - proud of her heritage. Sigh. Shake my head. Beyonce? I'm telling my seven year old, my dear, "Let me upgrade you."

With my French name truly I have vivid memories of almost getting my butt beat for the unending debate about heritage in school. I grew up with pictures of Native Americans in my great grandmother's hallway, and watched our elders respond haphazardly that those folks were our ancestors. When I mentioned in school that I was 1/8th Indian, a playground full of kids almost ended my admiration of long french braids down the back of your head as a fashion style. I didn't recognize then that the issue of sensitivity in central city T-Town was the thin line between knowing your background and denying who you are. I am African-American.

My roots and ancestry clearly show, like most people, that there are a lot of other nationalities and ethnicities in play. My blue-eyed baby boy was a treat, but all of his pictures are colored with the brown crayola crayon. This lesson I learned on the playground has stayed with me for a lifetime.

I admire Halle Barry for knowing and articulating that she is a black woman, even though her mother is white. No debate here about her heritage and her pride, she is dealing with reality. A reality taught to her by her mother that when you look in the mirror and stand before the world itself you are Black. I still have to wonder if Angela Bassett would have gotten more work if the world was a different place. Scratch that. I know.

When my daughter at age 7 questions her beauty because she doesn't look like her class mates, its a renewed opportunity to help her appreciate her beauty and her characteristics, her culture and style, her individuality. She relates more to KeKe Palmer (Jump In, Akeelah and the Bee), than Hannah Montannah - but KeKe isn't quite getting the exposure of her counter parts. That process is enhanced when she can look at her family, friends, peers and others who are Black and beautiful. When we read her History books we often help tell the "rest of the story" to ensure that even in 3rd grade she has a firm understanding of our country and our culture. Jamestown was our first chapter in history this year, and we spend many days rewriting what the text book offered for fact. At all opportunities we look for the reality of our culture and our contributions to society.

Don't ask me why its important for her to know about Dr. Condi, Dr. Logan, Venus, Serena, Veronica Webb, Tyra Banks, Hazel Taylor (great granny doesn't have a web page - but she should), Avonia Harris, Soror Astronaut Mae Jemison, Rosa, Coretta, Sojourner, Maya, Oprah, Octavia, Angela Bassett, Michelle Obama - my future first lady, ME.....and the list continues. She has to be deeply connected to all of our images (some I like and some I appreciate less) so that she defines for herself true beauty. As we encounter growing pains and the opportunities to reinforce intelligence, grace, the arch of her back, and span of her hips ...... I'm glad it is happening now.

I pray she isn't quoted aspiring to something else as she's knocking at 3o's door. With all that she has been given, I pray she is confident about what she is and what she is not. She isn't in need of another culture, we've got enough work fully embracing, representing and upholding this one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Higher Calling

A road trip with friends sounds pretty simple. Hey, "Want to do a shopping trip in a major city with little girls, together?" Well it didn't quite go like that but you get the point. Up tight me thought it would be a great idea to celebrate the birthday of a friend's daughter by joining them for an American Girl Adventure. Casual fun for 7 year old girls, right? Enter - a lesson in relationships and traveling.

I have 2 children that are easy going. Both are boys. So, by saying that I went on a AG adventure clearly I'm not talking about exploring the depths of Lego Land or Star Wars. I eagerly embraced a celebration in Chicago to help a beautiful 7 year old girl go through the rites of passage at American Girl. Little did I know I should have been earning my Mommy badge all along. Traveling with another family is A HIGHER CALLING. Women traveling together with 7 year old girls, CRAZY. Well, crazy when you are a type A submitting to someone else's itinerary and plans. (or lack thereof....) I had been operating on too little sleep to qualify for being in my right mind. In fact, I've failed right mind membership effective immediately following this trip.

So, here are the new rules that benefit from my lessons learned:

1. Thou shalt confirm all accommodations in advance of travel. Stand in the mirror and say, "Shame on you, shame on you. " When you fail to investigate where you are staying, you deserve whatever you get. If you are closer to 40 than 30, you are no longer capable of sleeping anywhere.

2. Thou shalt calculate the time for all segments of the trip, before making any decisions. There is no excuse for not examining a map, mapquest, and good sense before you get surprised that you are eating at 10:00 p.m. In this day of technology it was proof that I was completely out of order - both in organization and diet.

3. Speaking of eating, thou shalt pack snacks of nutritional nature, bottled water and emergency alternatives for any excursion. Way back in the day when I realized how often I would get caught off guard with extreme hunger when I was nursing - a friend scolded me for not being prepared. She would lose her mind if she know I was traveling 4 hrs. and then some with nada. (I instead purchased snacks at a gas station for the girls, to the tune of what should have purchased a carload at Sam's.)

4. Thou shalt exchange more than phone numbers to establish quality communication. Email has made us lazy about communication. Try this on for size:
A. What do you want to get out of this trip? (Share your goals)

B. What is your budget for the trip? (Are we on the same page)

C. What is included in our "day out?" (Who's handling which expenses for what part of the celebration - including taxi, tax and tips?)

D. How do you want to handle challenges or issues that arise? (Let's hope for the best and plan for the worst. I qualify my attitude is a possible worse case scenario.)

E. What is your definition of a celebration? (You have been around me in the past - How would you like to plan the day?)

F. Do you have any concerns about traveling with me? (Let's talk about them in advance.) (Give me your pet peeves.)

G. Does my desire for an itinerary or agenda bug you? (Danger Will Robinson, DANGER.)

5. In the event that we are traveling with multiple family members - please alert all guests to the elephant in the room. Maybe some families have the capacity to behave in front of guests - but, well - mine don't. I am quietly apologizing for friends I invited over with little regard to the unspoken issues.

6. Keepeth your mouth shuteth.
When you think "well I would" stop thinking immediately. Unless it is your activity and event, shut up. And then, if you can't roll with it, bow out gracefully.

7. Lower Your Expectations.
There once was a Saturday Nite Live skit that focused on dating options for the ugly, "Lowered Expectations." I remember thinking it was so crude. But, you should lower your expectations, have grace and operate in flexibility because that is a mandate in traveling. (God is not through with me yet.)

8. Travel Flush
I plan to blog about an interview with Veronica Webb, one of the first Black Supermodels. I was reflecting on something her husband told her when she went back to work - "The children have to realize that wealth requires sacrifice." My travel experience was filtered through a desire not to waste money. Largely because I did not have money to waste. If I had been flush some of my experiences would have been easier to withstand...and that my readers, is my personal issue. Duh, if you don't have the resources then , maybe you should delay your travel. Money breeds flexibility.

9. Beyonce say's let me upgrade you - but when you are working with children, my new theme is "Let me right size you." We teach children what to expect and I am learning to help lower expectations. Do something small in grand form vs. something large on a wing and a prayer.

10. Speaking of prayer, pray more.
If you know you are high strung and need a lot of grace, pray that God gives you lots of grace to extend to others. When you travel, pray a whole bunch. In fact, stop reading and pray for all of your friends right now. Surely, that's what I should have done. More prayer shall breed more growth into the persons we aspire to be.

I'm not going to let the devil win. One might think I would give up on trips and traveling. I will travel again, with children and with friends. If iron sharpens iron then....I'll sharpen up for my next adventure.

Building Family

For the second time in our lives we are building family. We were born into good families, but careers have led us to cities that were away from immediate support systems. No one loves you like family, at least that is what I think until reality hits me. I've got more than one family. There is the family you are born into and the one you create.

Our Michigan family came to visit us and we all acted a little like the children. We squealed with glee at the prospect of basically a 36 hour visit - it had been too many months since true quality time. Well, true to real life, nothing quite went as planned. Folks who share a love for our god and our children (but not a stitch of DNA) got on the road at dark thirty to drive 6 hours to see us. Later we found out that work demands and life in general meant that Mr. D had so little sleep that he actually should have been tucked in bed - not on his way to see a 3, 5 and 7 year old. (Hey, we may be a bonus but we know we are not the main attraction.) Yet, he and our Ms. Eva came to give hugs, talk in run-on sentences, squeal and chat, update and hug some more.

Colin Powell (featured on a Starbucks cup) said that all children need a laptop - the lap of an adult that loves them for teaching life lessons, clarity about right and wrong, hugs and a safe place to land. I'd like to believe that we are really good parents - but we've got a really deep bench. Like the Detroit Pistons, its nice to cheer for the starting line-up, but you know if you are getting a win the whole team has to show up and show out. Our support team shows up and shows out.

Case and point - a friend came over recently and my kids would not allow me to have an adult conversation. They were as excited to see Ms. Mary as I was, and they count her as one of their friends. Her attention reassures them that all is right in the world.

Over the last month transition and schedules have been a doozie. Auntie Angie has been here soo much that I was wishing we had a 5th bedroom. Now I doubt she'd want to stay in it - but hey, can't blame a mom for trying. The working mom debate is overrated - I've lived every part of the debate. As a self-employed business owner, there are times I just need a guaranteed hug giver when I'm not there. It isn't often, I do the best that I can, but hey - I'm heartened when the face isn't mine at the bus stop - its a face that loves them to their core. Every mother needs a friend that isn't married and doesn't have kids for real. I know she's trying to change that but we have to watch our prayer life to make sure we are praying for her hearts desire and not our own. (The perfect job in some other state is really overrated, too.)

One example leads to another, and another, and still another. I'll keep writing about them because the stories are endless.

The impact of these relationships is clear. The impact of a seasoned married couple has so many lessons and advantages to offer I barely know what to write. We've got the platinum family plan. Sometimes I think I'm spoiled, even greedy. At a time when they could be oblivious to anything but the pending birth of grandchild #1 - they are still making our lives richer and more blessed. From swinging in the back yard to back to school shopping for three - our children know they are loved by the family they have, and the family we've made. I'm so thankful for them.

We're in a new church, we have new neighbors and we are busy. Very busy. Maybe the greatest gift for us isn't all the people who love us, but the desire to minister to other lives and the hope that one day we'll be seen as the family for others who don't share our DNA, but wallow in our imperfect love.

Got Milk? Got Family. Thank God, we've got family!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Things Children Say

My three year old after a very close up face to face, "Mommy you're missing a tooth. When will your tooth come in?" (in response to my gap that I have had for a lifetime.

My five year old after looking at my legs, "Don't you want to have pretty legs like the ladies on t.v." No I say with a straight face, I like the legs God gave me. "They're pretty, but they would be prettier if you made them like the ladies on t.v." (In response to a shaving commercial.)

My seven year old after watching too much high school musical, "Have you ever felt like there was someone inside waiting to come out." Well maybe there are times when I wasn't sure what I should do or what I should say. "So, you mean yes?"

The things children say.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Expression

I'm learning more about myself as a mother, surprise, surprise. As my daughter entered 3rd grade I was a little hesitant as she would encounter new teachers, new students and new challenges again this year. I have been sighing against change and transition for months, and somehow back to school was another reminder of change. To my surprise this isn't your typical child or experience and the questions of "how do you think my day will be" quickly faded to falling into routine. She began telling me about her bus ride, her new teacher, their shared favorite memory verse, her old friends, her new friends and the joy of gym. Gone was the fear of transition we experienced last year, 30 minutes after school was over she was back to talking about other things. She's grown.

So I start wondering about my little guy. Kindergarten starts in a few days and I was planning for his big transition too. His conversation isn't one of fear and hesitation, he's telling me who he's going to see in his new class, what he wants to do with his friends, and how he can't wait to start. I see a trend happening. When I carried my camera this morning, I was in a declining number of mothers taking scrapbook photographs, and no doubt...I made a spectacle of my one opportunity to memorialize the first day. The discussion about their clothing choice seems higher on the list of priorities than anything else.

My little guy is just 3 and has been climbing into the bed lately. He's not a gentle sleeper and I really hate that habit. Truth is, I haven't been making him go back to the bed because I see the writing on the wall. Looks like I've entered as many "lasts" as I have firsts....and I doubt there will be a little dimpled grin pleading with me for covers and snuggles much longer. The world hasn't stopped changing, we're all just handling it a bit better.

Today started shortly before six and it hasn't slowed down all day. From clients to connection, children to extracurricular, homemade dinner to cleaning...the race has been done. And the way I express my frustration with the schedule is to fuss about change, when the expression on each kidlet face tells me I need to adjust. They are so grounded, so resilient, so steady - they are learning to take it in stride. I'm learning as a mother too, when you set the tone for the house, you have to take it in stride too. The expression in this photo says it all - in all of my melancholy and reflection...when you raise good kids, the writing is on the wall. No doubt in the coming weeks, months, days, hours...we'll have some rocky times. Who doesn't.

Looks like this will be a year of defensive driving. Whatever life throws at us we'll just settle in and take it in with an expression of resolve, we're survivors over here. The first day of school ritual will no longer be a deep breath and a wait and see - looks like we're growing. Growing up.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Like Mother Like Daughter

Like every first born girl born to a type A mommy, the first experiences in Kindergarten were difficult. Maybe not really for Miss Lydie - but surely for mommy. With uniforms lightly starched and a plan for everyday, I noticed that my daughter was only writing her first name on class papers. Sister Saint Martin had given pen privileges in 4th grade, and I was among the first to achieve them. I have for a lifetime thought there was something very important about a name.

I had been careful to teach the little lady the correct way to write her name and gave long speeches about the importance and pride in writing your name, your "signature." She indeed has a beautiful Biblical name. So I packed her up for her first true experiences out of my care with great fear. I am her first teacher I said over and over in my daily routine.

Imagine my surprise when the following few weeks were met with papers that again didn't have her last name. Surely I had raised her to follow directions. I shared with her that "we take pride in our work and write our full name." This time my beaming 4 year old challenged my reasons, "why?" I gave a list from Pride, to "I told you to" and sealed the lesson with "and what if there are multiple children with the name Lydia - the teacher won't know your work." I felt the issue had been firmly addressed.

The next day after school my delightful daughter brought me her papers, "Lydia L." This was not what I had requested. She proceeded to tell me in all of our wisdom:

1. You picked daddy and our name is too long, and I really do know how to spell it.

2. There is no other Lydia in class and our first month is over, so my papers can't get lost with someone else's.

3. I talked to the teachers and got permission to just do my last initial.

4. They said its good I can write it because I don't have to know yet - that's why I'm hear, "so they can teach us."

5. I love you - am I still in trouble? I one smart cookie?

This wasn't in outline form of course, she basically had one really long run-on sentence that effectively said, "I'm 4 will you give a girl a break?" Indeed, a smart cookie.

My mother smiled with glee at the story - like mother like daughter she said. I frowned my eyebrows at the implication of how crazy I had been in preparing my kidlet for school when I realized...hey, I learned it from somewhere. "Like mother like daughter......" Now, child #2 and child #3 have luckily been promised not to have that experience. Enter slacker mommy.

#2 (age 5) has stated: "It's okay if I get in trouble, its all about choices." (The academic part of the experience will not be the issue, after months of failing to teach him using Abeka - he corrected me reading a bedtime story - la says la, not lo, so it is last not lost. That choices belief will be coupled with consequences)

#3 echoed with glee: "I'm not going to mommy school anymore, I'm going to real school." Then asked, do we get to go to Starbuck's (a.k.a. the Chocolate Milk Store) at my new school? (He knows nearly 10 species of birds, but dear God the R and the P are a challenge.)

Hmmm. Sighhhh. Another school year awaits us and oh the lessons the mommy has learned. From tears to cartwheels in 7 short years! Ask any mama - we've all got our stories to tell. And yes....although not quite as neatly, we all take writing our name very seriously.