Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stopping To Enjoy The Season

This is always an interesting, reflective time of year.  It is when people profess to be thankful for the people in their lives, their health, etc., etc.,

Then go out and shop for junk on Black Friday, now, right on Thanksgiving Day.

Oh how American it is.

The "holiday" itself is ingrained in the folklore of the country.  The President pardons the turkey, schools are closed, often, the entire last half of the week is a holiday.  Until the National Federation of Retailers decided that Friday was a slow day and made up a shopping holiday, most retail employees could be guaranteed at least Thanksgiving and Christmas days off.

Not anymore.

The national thankfulness and appreciation of all that this country is of supposed brotherhood and kindness has given way to sales advertised before the Halloween candy is even digested.

It has to stop and it can only stop with the American consumer, even that work, consumer is troubling, deciding that they will not "consume" away their soul for the sake of a black dot on the spread sheet.

Small Business Saturday campaigns have been springing up over the past couple years to draw attention to the many "mom & pop" establishments that are the backbone and flavor of any local community.  They are promoting themselves and letting the community know that they will be home with their families, as will their employees, and they will not be opening at o'dark' thirty for some deal that is not a deal.  They will be there to serve the community with the just-right-latte or perfect holiday gift.

The greed that has permeated society is more than enough to have social media in a buzz with conversations ranging from planned pickets of the wally-world big boxes, to the ridiculous folks camped out before the turkey is even thawed, just to get one of those rare "must haves."

For the First Nation Americans, the day is a sad one, often overlooked by the majority of Americans.  It is a day that commemorates the English coming to these shores with their hunger, their greed, their disease, and their envy.  It commemorates the pilaging of these vast lands and displacements of all indigenous tribes. It, like Columbus Day, represents days of blood, pain, and tears, not turkey, shopping, and greed.

This year is also significant because it is also the kickoff of Hanukkah. The Jewish community from the Chabad to the Contemporary, will be lighting the Menorah and taking part in their days of celebration.

None of the things that make this time of year significant include shopping til one drops, if it is really seen as a time of reflection and hope, of renewal and joy.

There are some things to certainly be thankful for and to certainly pause and fellowship with families. Hopefully more and more people will realize it and embrace the messages coming from the Pope, the workers, the children, even social media - life is about so much more than stuff, take a moment to enjoy the season for what it is truly about.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Writing Through The Hunger of Tayé Foster Bradshaw

I was going to write about something else today, but as my Modern and Contemporary Poetry class ended yesterday and I received the feedback of our final assignment, thought I would post it here today.

Next week is that food fest we call Thanksgiving.  It is when my husband will drive down to Alabama to bring home my youngest son, when my elderly aunt and clan will be in Atlanta for fellowship, when families from near and far will gather together to fellowship, and eat.

Yet for some, for many, there will be no turkey and all the fixings, no pound cake, no greens, nothing.

It was for that reason and the hunger around us that I chose to revisit one of my own poems for the class assignment.  We were to either take a poet's work we studied in class or one of our own, create our spine and run the work through John Cage's mesostic.  Alternately, we could take one of our own works or one in class and do a Bernadette Mayer assignment like Lori Widmer did with her piece, Mother's Change.  I chose the former.

The title for the piece was The Hunger of  
Tayé Foster Bradshaw

 The original poem and the mesostic is below, followed by the essay, and the peer reviewed comments:

I've Known Hunger by Tayé Foster Bradshaw


I've known a hunger so gripping in its vise, so uncaring in its choice
The kind that makes your head pound with the signals your brain can no longer comprehend
When a pack of Ramen Noodles was the meal of the day and you prayed for enough money for Kraft Mac-n-cheese
The kind that makes you sip the last spoonful of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup so your kids will not go to bed starving
Yes, I've know that dread and fear that your stomach was beyond the "oh, I missed lunch" pang and had entered into the truly 40-days-and-40-nights twist and thud of emptiness that made you realize you had entered the world of STARVATION
It has written itself on the doors of a long ago memory
Those days when a box of Rice-a-Roni was split between four people and the treat was Minute Maid for breakfast if it could last the entire week.
Moments when the only concern was food and thinking what you would not do to get it, even as your skinny frame was dropping below 100.
I've known hunger
I know her name
Her name was me

 iTs uncAring Your hEad  oF nOodles waS The mEal foR  campBells youR thAt beyonD twiSt tHud mAde World  sTarvation hAs memorY thosE  oF ricearOni waS beTween pEople foR  Below hungeR nAme

The spine is my pen name, Tayé Foster Bradshaw.

I chose 10, 5, and 2 of the options and each one ended with what is listed above.  While the mechanics would not allow me to print it here in vertical form, the result was quite interesting to me after reading the original poem and the mesostic. 

One line in the "new" version that stood out to me the most was "starvation has memory."  I found that to be quite prophetic in these times of cut SNAP benefits in the United States, arguably one of the wealthiest nations in the world, while others have food to waste.  Being hungry bites at the very soul of a person, alters their belief of themselves and the world around them, centers every fiber of their nerve endings on curing the thing that has captured every moment of their twenty-four hours - hunger.  

It is twisted beyond measure in this "made world" that cafeteria ladies would throw out a child's reduced breakfast at his elementary school because his parents didn't have thirty-cents.  "It's uncaring, your head of noodles," is what one can say to those hourly workers who are employed by the school district funded by property taxes.  They stood "between people" and proclaimed their innocence at this act, this uncaring thing when they probably know that "noodles was the meal" he had last night.  Starvation truly has a name.

In reading through the mesostic, it is senseless in a way, and makes one wonder what it would have produced had there been more words to run through my pen name a full three times.  It is interesting how it chose some words over others and ordered them in a certain way to render a new line I hadn't thought of when first creating this piece.  I come back to the phrase, 'starvation has memory" and hope that we will remember the mean-spiritedness and evil hearts of those choking back the resources in this country of plenty.  

peer 1 → I love your poem and I love your analysis of the mesostic. It's truly amazing. Thank you for sharing.
peer 2 → Well done. I like the way you find significance in certain word groups formed by the mesostic. You relate them nicely to the theme of your poem with special emphasis on the striking phrase "starvation has memory." I also like the way you state, speaking of the mesostic, "it is senseless in a way." Yes, isn't it a little absurd to write a serious analysis of a mesostic?
peer 3 → It looks like you maybe this assignment - that is reflected in your essay - I am guessing you will go on doing this exercise with many poems in your future - great job. I felt like you studied the source poem thoroughly and did a good job explaining images and your choices of the words to work with. I like your thought that the verticality of the mesostic enhances the interpretation. Yes, I agree that the mesostics method of creating poetry is interesting.
peer 4 → Excellent Work. Choice of your poem is also very good. The experiment seems to be bring out a different outcome after close reading. Cheers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Labeling Women "Crazy" by Harris O'Malley

Thanks to a fellow Huffington Post blogger, I have a great topic for readers, especially men, to muse upon today. I took the liberty of calling attention to some of his statements in bold.  Hopefully, some men will reconsider the next time they want to call a woman crazy.

On Labeling Women 'Crazy' by Harris O'Malley

Posted: 11/12/2013 9:35 am

I've had to quit telling stories about crazy exes or women I've dated.
The problem was that I started realizing that when my friends and I would talk about our crazy exes or what-have-you, more often than not, we weren't talking about ex-girlfriends or random dates who exhibited signs of genuine mental health issues. Now I did have a few where I would qualify my story with, "No, I don't mean 'we broke up and I can't be bothered to figure out where things went wrong, I mean that she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and was starting to show signs of genuine paranoia," but for the most part, crazy meant "acting in a way I didn't like."
And I didn't realize just how damaging this attitude was in the way I related to women.
Part of my journey toward getting better with women was having to unlearn a lot of old attitudes and habits when it came toward dealing with the opposite sex. I, like most men, grew up in an world where certain attitudes toward women were just "the way things were" and we absorbed them without thinking about them.
One of them was the tendency to use labels like "crazy" or "irrational" without thinking. And once I noticed my tendency towards tossing "crazy" out as a verbal short cut, I couldn't not see it everywhere.
It's a habit that we men need to break; it's damaging to relationships, trivializes genuine mental health issues and -- most importantly -- hurts women as a whole.
The Five Deadly Words
There are certain words that are applied to women specifically in order to manipulate them into compliance: "slut," "bitch," "ugly/fat" and, of course, "crazy." These words encapsulate what society defines as the worst possible things a woman can be. Slut-shaming is used to coerce women into restricting their own sexuality into a pre-approved vision of feminine modesty and restraint. "Bitch" is used against women who might be seen as being too aggressive or assertive... acting, in other words, like a man might. "Ugly" or "fat" are used -- frequently interchangeably -- to remind them that their core worth is based on a specific definition of beauty, and to deviate from it is to devalue not only oneself but to render her accomplishments or concerns as invalid.
"Crazy" may well be the most insidious one of the four because it encompasses so much. At its base, calling women "crazy" is a way of waving away any behavior that men might find undesirable while simultaneously absolving those same men from responsibility. Why did you break up with her? Well, she was crazy. Said something a woman might find offensive? Stop being so sensitive.
The idea of the "crazy" woman is so vague and nebulous that it can apply to just about any scenario.
"Crazy" Women
The association between women's behavior and being labeled "crazy" has a long and infamous history in Western culture. The word "hysteria" -- defined as "behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic" -- is derived from the ancient Greek word "hystera," meaning uterus. Until the early 20th century, female hysteria was the official medical diagnosis for a truly massive array of symptoms in women including but not limited to: loss of appetite, nervousness, irritability, fluid retention, emotional excitability, outbursts of negativity, excessive sexual desire and "a tendency to cause trouble."
(Worth noting: much of the blame for "female hysteria" was placed on "wandering uterus syndrome" or other sexual "dysfunctions." While this did eventually lead to the invention of the vibrator, one of the common cures was a clitorectomy.)
While some of the symptoms of "female hysteria" could be signs of legitimate (if misdiagnosed) mental health issues, most of it described male (as the medical field was a men-only profession up until the mid-19th century) discomfort with women's behavior and sexuality. Calling it a medical issue meant that men didn't have to respond to behavior that challenged male sensibilities or belief structures. Instead, labeling women as "hysterical" made it much easier to diminish women's concerns and issues without having to pause to consider them as possibly being valid.
What Guys Mean When We Say "You're Overreacting"...
Men on the whole are quick to toss the "crazy" label onto women without stopping to think about it what they're saying. It's almost a reflexive response to a host of behaviors that men find inconvenient or undesirable.
Stop me if any of this sounds like something you've said -- or heard -- in a relationship: "You're overreacting"; "Don't worry about it so much, you're over-thinking it"; "Stop being so defensive."
It does to me.
I've said all of these things to women I'd been dating. I'm willing to bet most of the men have said something similar and the women have heard it more times than they can count.
To give a personal example:
Back in the bad old days, I was notoriously self-absorbed. It wasn't that I thought that I was the greatest thing ever, it was just that I didn't really stop to spare too many thoughts for others. I was willing to make an effort for others, but only so far as it didn't really inconvenience me past a "reasonable" point. I didn't want to have long drawn out conversations about how my behavior made my girlfriend feel and I certainly didn't want to get dragged into what I saw as unnecessary drama. In fact, I was incredibly drama-averse, thanks to an early unhealthy relationship.
As a result... well, I wasn't willing to consider how others were feeling. When the woman I was dating would try to explain to me how the way I treated her felt, I would tell her that she was seeing things. She was overreacting to inconsequential stuff. She was being over-sensitive, reading things into what I was saying or doing that just weren't there.
The subtext to everything I was saying was simple: "You are behaving in a way that I find inconvenient, and I want to you to stop." I wasn't willing to engage with her emotionally and address her very real concerns because I was too wrapped up in my own shit to think about other people. As a result, I would minimize her issues. By telling her that she was reading too much into things, I was framing the situation as her being irrational.
I didn't realize it at the time, but what I was doing was, in effect, telling her that she didn't have the right to feel the way she felt... because I didn't want her to feel that way.
Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long. Neither did the ones that followed. It wasn't until I was willing to change my attitudes towards dating and how I related to women that I started having more meaningful relationships, whether casual or long term.
Gaslighting and Emotional Manipulation
When someone talks about the woman who he broke up with because she called too often or seemed get emotionally involved faster than he was comfortable with, because she got angry with him over the way he acted, she was always arguing with him about stuff or even that she wanted different things from the relationship, it's not uncommon to hear, "That's why you don't stick it in the crazy." The man is absolved of any responsibility for the break up; it's not because he was willing to pretend to be on the same page as her regarding the future of the relationship because it was convenient and meant that he could continue sleeping with her, it's because she was crazy. It's not because he was unwilling to discuss her concerns. She's crazy, case closed, time to move on to the next woman without pausing to reflect.
By dismissing a woman's behavior or concerns as crazy, we inadvertently take part in a behavior known as "gaslighting." Named for the classic George Cukor movie, gaslighting is a term used by psychologists to describe abusive behavior where a person is made to feel as though their emotions and reactions are irrational, even (dare I say) crazy. By constantly minimizing and dismissing someone's reactions, we make them feel uncomfortable with themselves and cause them to start to doubt their own feelings. If they're being told over and over again that what they're feeling is irrational or unreal, that what they're feeling is somehow out of whack, then they start to accept that maybe it is.
Even when it's not. Especially when it's not.
Gaslighting -- minimizing their feelings, reframing them as being unreasonable -- is classic abusive behavior. It's telling someone that they don't have a right to the way they feel because what they're feeling is wrong. Their feelings or their concerns or behavior isn't "rational." Once you take away their right to their feelings, it's that much easier to manipulate a person into the way you want them to behave.
Labeling women as "crazy" is a way of controlling them. It may not be something planned or pre-meditated, but the ease with which men call women "crazy" says a lot about them. Calling a woman "crazy" is quick and easy shut-down to any discussion. Once the "crazy" card has been pulled out, women are now put on the defensive: The onus is no longer on the man to address her concerns or her issue; it's on her to justify her behavior, to prove that she is not, in fact, crazy or irrational. Men don't even have to provide any sort of argument back -- it's a classic catch-22: "The fact that you don't even see that you're acting crazy is just proof that it's crazy."
"What's Your Damage?"
The trend of labeling women "crazy" is part of the culture that socializes women to go along to get along. When women are told over and over again that they're not allowed to feel the way they feel and that they're being "unreasonable" or "oversensitive," they're conditioned to not trust their own emotions. Their behavior -- being assertive, even demanding or standing up for how they feel -- becomes an "inconvenience" to men and they're taught not to give offense and to consider the feelings of others before their own.
Casually, even reflexively calling women crazy and the stigmatization of "crazy" (i.e., inconvenient or uncomfortable) behavior has become a way of trying to keep women behaving in a very specific and limited manner. It perpetuates the madonna/whore dichotomy -- that women are either submissive, demure and sexually restrained or irrational bitches on wheels, the emotional equivalent of riding Space Mountain after five shots of Mescal.
We may not intend to manipulate women this way -- most of the time we're not even aware that we're doing it. Most of us are conditioned into it; it's a part of the subtle background radiation that still teaches us that women's desires and opinions are secondary to men's. But the fact that we don't mean to cause harm doesn't change the fact that we do without even thinking about it.
Sure, we taught you that you should never trust your own feelings and that standing up for what you want is bad but there's no real harm done right?
As with other bad habits and acculturation, we need to unlearn this tendency to use "crazy" as a weapon. It's only by recognizing this behavior in ourselves and teaching ourselves to avoid it that we can quit poisoning how we relate to one another and letting it hold us back from the relationships we all want.
This post originally appeared on Paging Dr. Nerdlove.

Follow Harris O’Malley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrNerdLove

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Journey To Fifty: Thinking About College

I spent the other day thinking about college.

My youngest son is away at school, everything fully paid, experiencing what life at an HBCU has to offer a kid who mostly grew up in the suburbs.

He is thirty years my junior and in listening to him talk about his campus, rail on the food or the administration, his courseload and how busy he is, and wanting to come home for Thanksgiving Weekend, I thought about my own experience all those years ago.

Tuskegee, Philander Smith, and Fisk were the only three colleges my late father talked to me about when I was growing up.  There wasn't an expectation that we would do anything other than attend an HBCU and Lincoln University, just on the other side of Jeff City, as not in my father's plan for my life.

Plans and life changes.

In the regrouping of life, I was back in Jeff City at my parents and enrolled at Nichols Career Center.  Daddy put on his practical hat and told me that it was a noble profession in 1983 to be a secretary.  So I took the classes, kept a 4.0, and graduated a year later with my certificate in Secretarial Technology.  Before I could blink, I had a job with the State of Missouri and like many of my counterparts, should have been marching down the aisle as they were married or getting married by twenty.  Well, those that were working and not those up on the hill.

Looking back, I wonder why my father didn't encourage me to still go away to school.  I could have, I was single, I had a certificate in my hand that could have landed me a good campus job in any of those three states.  I was still very fresh and naive, despite the life tragedy that had consumed the past two years of my life.

1984, I enrolled at Lincoln University of Missouri as a full-time, non-traditional student.

I worked full-time and took classes in the evenings from 6-9pm, Monday-Thursday.  I went to summer school taking 6-9 hours to keep on a 30-hour academic track.  I wanted to be like the other college students and participate in campus activities and not feel like I was wearing the mantle of a grown up when I was only 20 years old.

My growth and maturity happened slowly when I stood up to my step-mother, moved out into my second, first apartment, the one I found on my own and paid for with the money I earned working in retail while I was at Nichols.  I bought a car and recruited some friends from college to teach me how to drive.  I got my license when I was 21.  I was still going to classes and still working, had broken up with the boyfriend who seemed to just want to stay in our hometown, and started considering the possibilities, never wanted to live in Jeff City.

Like a lot of my peers, I was attracted to the sorority life and began my university studies with one sorority in mind - the same one that every woman in my family was a member of.

One has to understand a moment of my life growing up.  I was hazed almost daily for the many, many years I lived in the same house as my step-mother and older step-sisters.  I grew to despise women, yet yearn for a true sisterhood and the possibility of what a close female friendship looked like.  There were girls growing up who knew me and we were friends, to the extent that we could be, whenever my step-mother let me hang out.  It wasn't until Michigan that I formed a deep and lasting friendship with a girl who is closer to me than a sister.  She traveled back to Jeff when my first love and I found I was pregnant and my pops and his wife put me back on the first train to my dad and step-mother - the very woman who threatened to kill me that landed me in Michigan at age 16 in the first place.  Anyway, as a motherless child and hazed step-daughter, my view of women was through foggy glasses.

So I began observing the sororities on campus and noticed a few things.

I was pretty but didn't think it because my step-mother's jealously beat that out of me.  I didn't want to be beat up to join a sisterhood and the one I was looking at got kicked off the yard and the line was taken over by grad chapter.  When the new members came on campus in their paraphernalia, the older members refused to acknowledge them.  That was sisterhood?

Ultimately, I never pledged, while I was initiated into a little sister organization of one of the sororities, learned the history, the founders, the symbols, the chants, went to Regionals, and even participated in the little sister step shows, being on line ended up not to be in my future.  By divine intervention and providence? I got pregnant with my older son, despite faithful use of birth control and a condom. So life turned me in a different direction and I finished my junior of college, got married, and moved to Chicago.  I was 23 years old.  And felt old.

Chicago opened up the door for me to see a world of possibility and I never wanted to go back to Missouri.  My husband and I had another son and I was settling into to my great job on the Loop, thanks to that certificate and three years of college, I was making more than some of my college mates who graduated with their bachelor's degree.

That senior year, though,took ten years.

I never felt able to stop being a mother to just go back to school full-time to finish.  I had another son and while Chicago was my heart, the hustle and bustle of the city was not conducive to working full-time, going to school full-time,and raising sons.

Divorce, life changes, and back to Jeff I went with three sons and a wad of money.  How did this happen to me, why didn't I chose another place, wasn't Tuskegee in the rural south?  But ,my step-mother mellowed a bit and my father was retired so they opened up the upstairs part of my childhood home and gave me refuge from a painful divorce to regroup.

A great job was waiting for me, again with the state, this time in a totally different department with a woman who would change the fate of my life.

My late mentor helped me discover so many possibilities in myself and opened up opportunities for my gifts to shine.  She was an early fan and supporter of my poetry and made it possible for my work to be performed in state celebrations.  Anything I wanted to try, she paved the way.  The only thing I didn't do that she recommended was pledge grad chapter of a sorority.

When life unfolded again, through her encouragement, I went back to school, Columbia College, to finish that senior year. I was 30, wow, was that old or just beginning?

My now husband and I met in that life-change period and he encouraged me to just go full-time.  I did and didn't look back, I went onto graduate school with my sons along for the ride.

Listening to my son talk about being a Student Government Senator and a singer, considering pledging his father's fraternity,and forming life long friendships, sent me on a walk down memory lane.

Life has a way of unfolding in the way it is supposed to happen.

I am pleased with the things I was able to accomplish.  Tuskegee, Philander Smith, and Fisk were not in my life story, but my son is at an HBCU, I attended an HBCU , my older son attended Philander Smith, and my daughters know all about Spelman and Bennett.  They are the legacy I have created and the story I have written.  

College is a magical time for a young person.  It is the last time they get to really explore their interests and bridge to the marathon journey of adulthood.  The time should not be rushed.  It should be savored.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not Finished With The Years Left

There are more years behind me than in front of me.

My daddy used to say that to me all the time and I would always refute it with, "no daddy, you will live forever."

He didn't.

He was just 69 years, 6 months old when spirit left clay and he could no longer call me "Taye" and flash that dimpled smile, hug me close to him, his height and girth protecting me from all harm.

I am 49 years young and am hearing my father's words in my mind.

There are more years behind me than in front of me and I am wondering about those that are left.

I have experienced ageism, most recently in a 57-day long consulting gig that was supposed to be longer, but my age and station in life proved to be too intimidating to the barely college graduated peers.  It was that encounter and others that has me thinking, am I, one of the last of the Baby Boomer generation, finished?

If left up to the republicans, no, we would work  until our feeble knees buckle and we are kissing the grave, thereby unable to draw on the Social Security we have paid into our entire lives.  Or if left up to the commercials and television shows that seem to think that anyone over thirty is irrelevant.  In one of the training sessions they talked about and showed the polls of those who thought the older workers were just not with it.  That was in the 1960s with the Baby Boomer I's entering the work place with values vastly different than their war veteran older peers.  Nothing new under the sun.

I am not a grandmother yet, my older sons haven't reached that point in their lives, Millennials who are still finding their way in an economic jobless recovery that left many of their generation behind without a vision for the home and picket fence - maybe they know we were all sold a bill of goods.  The older sons are still establishing themselves and wisely waiting, despite my inner cries to hold the next generation in my arms.

My daughters are the ones who will journey with me through this next decade, these next ten years of living.  They are class of 2020 and 2022, respectively.  I will not be the oldest parent at their graduations as the trend over their generation was that their mothers were older when starting families.  That gives me hope that these grays in my hair will be respected by then?  Or will they think we are still not with it enough to make a difference?

There are some professions that appreciate the wisdom and knowledge that comes with the turning of the calendar.  Writing, singing, painting, for instance, all seem to appreciate the ones who have spent time learning their craft and perfecting it.  Toni Morrison, Dr. Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni - giants of my avocation who are still making literary differences.  Dr. Angelou is in the decades of my elderly aunt and late father.

The inner me that speaks when I write or when I am thinking to myself about the years gone by, is the same voice of myself I heard when I was ten or twelve or twenty.  How is that possible?  Do we still dream of new possibilities even as one decade turns to another?

American culture is youth obsessed to the point of being neurotic.  Our culture, collectively, does not appreciate the wisdom, sacrifice, and knowledge that is gleaned from a wrinkle here or a gray hair there.  We tend to speak in elementary sentences and raise the decibel of our timbre whenever we are in the company of those feeble with time.  Do we not remember that they opened the doors and paved the way for the former us to walk through, that we once stood on their shoulders when we were too whobbly in our own stance to stand up for change?  Those rights we have so taken for granted came from those now in wheel chairs and graying hairs, failing health, and rewound memory.  Am I right in the middle, one generation turning over to another, am I to do as the American commercials suggest and nip and tuck, or simply get out of the way for the ones coming up?  Is there nothing left for me to do and contribute?

We respect Presidents who are in their 50s because we trust their wisdom gained by years of living.  Most of our elected officials are older than man and some of those crazy republicans up in D.C. legislating my daughter's body are older than dirt, kissing the grave, and still whobbling around making demands of our liberties.  Are they more able to contribute than myself and others of my generation who are told we are too set in our ways to enter the doors of corporate america again?

More years behind me than in front of me has me thinking a lot about the years gone and the years to come.


It really is precious.

And once it is gone, like being a virgin...

is gone forever, never to be replenished or renewed or restored.

The clock ticks, ticks, ticks, and the calendar pages turn.

And I am not finished yet.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dance Line To Jubilee: Life Lessons to Fifty

I am reaching my jubilee in about six months.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about life, talking to friends and family, and meditating about this journey.  Here are my fifty musings:

1. We only have one life, one dash, make the most of it.
2. As painful as it may be, leaving the handsome hometown man behind may be the best thing for you.
3. You are never too young to make a difference or too old to dream
4. Elders have a lot of wisdom.
5. Tradition is important, but not so much that it can't change if it is wrong, or be improved on, if it is right
6. Kids will form their own identities
7. Careers are great, but they are not life
8. Americans are uptight
9. Travel the world
10. Gays can love the Lord just as much as straights
11. Denomination separates
12. Going to college just to pledge a BGLO is stupid, especially if you drop out after going over
13. Black people need to get over it - there are lesbians and gays among us
14. White people need to get over it - privilege has been to your advantage
15. Black girls really do rock
16. Pound cake is still yummy
17. Being a vegetarian has enhanced my health
18. Natural hair is empowering
19. Raising daughters after raising sons takes a lot of coffee and patience
20. I was a great ex-wife, never raked my ex over the coals for unpaid child-support
21. My husband is a good father
22. Laundry never ends
23. Keeping a house spotless is not the best use of my time
24. Never take the world to your bed - a shower only takes five minutes at night
25. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day
26. Drink a glass of water with lemon in the morning
27. Coconut milk tastes great
28. Having children takes everything - can't have it all at the same time
29. The degrees are worth it
30.  Volunteering and community service are work
31. No one does more than an at-home-mother
32. Money can cause some people to lose their minds
33. Women are better money managers, even if men refuse to admit it
34. Wally world is the spawn of satan
35. Pay people a living wage
36. More white people are on welfare than black people - get over it already
37. I gave condoms to my sons - still not a grandmother
38. G-d really doesn't care who you sleep with
39. Still wonder what Jesus wrote in the sand when the men were ready to stone the women
40. Whatever happened to the man that the woman was caught with - every wonder about that
41. Men are not the best ministers
42. In my mind, I am a very creative scrapbooker - in my office are lots of supplies
43. I still do not like Allen Ginsberg's, Howl
44. Writing frees my soul
45. I miss my parents
46. Cousins are the best
47.Books open up the world
48. I love my life
49. Pink is still my favorite color
50. Dancing is fun

Monday, November 4, 2013

Blessing Thoughts For My Messy Daughter

May my daughter never marry a messy man like my husband.

May she never have a stubborn daughter like I do.

May she never wake up in the morning to find dishes in the sink and the dishwasher not turned on.

May she never have tween girls who think they are too special to do chores.

May she never have to put aside writing her novel to do a load of laundry that goes un-put-away.

May she never know the frustration of waiting and waiting for yet another costume change.

May she never clean toilets daily that she never uses.

May she not trip down the stairs because her daughter left yet another book on the floor.

May she not carry baskets up and down the stairs to only hear, "I Have Nothing To Wear."

May she never have to hide snacks from her husband and daughters who inhale them daily.

May she never sleep to only hear the TV turned back on to the whiny voice of a Disney show.

May she never step on a Lego piece left in the sitting room.

May she never find that her daughter opened her special markers and then asked later to use them.

May she never find her scrapbooking supplies not put back correctly.

May she never find popcorn kernels on her writing desk.

May she never lose patience if all the above happens to her while raising children and writing and studying and reading and trying to not be her mother!

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Will Continue To Remember Him

Someone close to me wondered today why they should acknowledge that today is that day.

Someone wondered why I am still talking about my son or why I pause to remember, to muse, to cry, to smile, to whatever journey my feelings take me on the second day my life changed forever.

I do it because he was and is and he mattered.  His life was more than the way he died and in the past years when I have actively remembered, it has given me back the special bond I had with my firstborn.  It reminded me of why I do the things I do now with his younger siblings, and why I do not take for granted their presence in my life.  I do it because he is still alive to me, he always will be.

It may be "exhausting" or "over-the-top" or "tiring" for some, but never for me.

No one knows how one will feel unless it happens to them.

I was a young woman, barely, and sheltered.  I didn't know anything.  Any my son was killed.

How was I supposed to process that?

Who cares that it has taken me thirty-one years to process that?

Why does it matter how many times I want to send up balloons and have cake on his birthday and spread flowers on the day he passed?

He was more, oh so much more than his short seven months.

I remember because I have too and if it is too much for the people around me, too damn bad.