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Friend, Foe or Frenemy…

My millennial struck again.

She called filled with concern, that she was growing apart from a friend who she had previously shared common interests and time with, and wanted to know what to do.

She had to ask… so here goes!

Friendships, can be full of exhilaration and life! You spend hours on the phone talking about all kinds of things, you see eye to eye about mutual interests and concerns, and you pledge to have each others backs, no matter what. Weeks turns to months which turns to years, and it seems this will be someone who will be around for a lifetime. And it may very well be.

But what if it isn’t? The reality is this- MOST friendships do not last forever because interests shift, growth happens and your friend or you, aren’t always able to adapt or grow at the same pace which creates a chasm of discomfort no matter how hard we try to do otherwise.

When our mommas said that we are blessed to have one, maybe Two good friends, she was not lying. Rare is the person, that can withstand the ebb and flow of life with you into a ripe old age.

The added pressure of knowing what your purpose is and going full steam ahead while your friend is content to float along the river of life, makes for an interesting conversation down the road too.

So here are my two cents worth of advice-

  1. Stay honest first with yourself and then with your friend. When you feel distance happening, have the conversation, not from a place of accusations or guilt. It will be uncomfortable but it must happen.
  2. Don’t fester and make assumptions with forced small talk. A true friend will not want to anchor you with a rope of guilt so they can feel better about sitting sedentary while you have goals.
  3. Cry. Sometimes when the separation comes, it fills you with hurt and a sense of loss. Let the tears flow and keep walking in love.
  4. It could get ugly, because some folks do not know how to use their adult words to express that they are hurt and will instead lash out to make a clean break. That is messy in a way, neither party may soon recover from so see #1 again.
  5. Know that your journey in life will not always have someone by your side and be okay with that too. The wildernesswalk is effective in allowing us to become more in touch with ourselves without the well intentioned distractions of opinions.
  6. What you put into the world, will come back to you, so as you grow and change, others will be sent along the path, to meet you where you are in that period
  7. Our job is to never carry the burdens of others who refuse to carry their own. We must rid ourselves of the notion that it is okay to push, pull and tug in an effort to not “leave” folks behind. They have feet. They can either walk with you or stand back.

I hope this helps because Lord knows, it is a journey we must all take, one way or another. How you both handle it, determines if have a friend, foe or frenemy.

Walk in the light-

Deuces and mad love,

Diva

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why are you STILL here? Now THAT is the question…

Aaaargh!!!!  ” I need to graduate soon!”

This delightful statement came from the mouth of my 21 year old son who is slated to graduate from College in May 2014. I poked my head in his room against my better judgement and said coyly, “not soon enough for me buddy!  Hurry up already so you can get out and stay out for good this time!!”  He looked at me, smiled and shook his head all while he fully understood where I going with that statement..

Hang tight for a minute as I take you through the journey of getting a child in AND through college.  It was not a painless process and I am not talking about money either although we all know what it costs to keep a child in higher Education. There is a myriad of reasons so many children start but never finish college that has nothing to do with finances..

Four short years ago, we watched with joy as this first child of mine applied for his top schools, got into his favourite institution and had such “senioritis” at the end of his high school journey, I thought I would have to tie him down somewhere before he imploded with impatience.  All I could see was one down- one to go before my nest was empty and I began getting him prepared to leave my house, hopefully never to return except for holidays.

So off he went.  We got to the school, unloaded the cars and helped him to set up his dorm. I could see his brother getting quieter as each moment went by that took us closer to leaving his sibling on campus and away from him for the first time ever.  I could hardly help him because my eyes got fuzzy and this lump grew in my throat that no amount of swallowing could fix.  I held it together, we kissed him goodbye and as we traversed down that highway for the long drive home, his brother silently cried.  I consoled him by saying his brother would call or text often yada, yada, yada..

I walked in the house, curled up in my bed and cried for three solid days. No amount of words could console me and even as I write this piece, I feel the tears returning at the memory. My ex-husband made me laugh a tiny bit when he said ” stop the crying, he is fine. If he flunks out, we will both be crying at the thought of all that money down the drain!”  Men…. By ” family and friends day” on Campus, we were all a little better and by Thanksgiving, when he got home, I was so ready for him to leave because he had adapted to living on his own and drove me nuts.

He ran into a couple of snags dealing with campus cultural insensitivity but aside from that, he kept those grades up and developed a social life which included joining the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Year one and two were pretty easy.  We barely saw him and that worked just fine. The issue we did not foresee, was how much his leaving would affect his younger brother who spiralled in a way that affected his grades.  It was hellish on this end, trying to understand what was going on because he ( younger son) never alluded to what was bothering him until I had just had enough and grounded him for a really bad grade. That ended well once we had clarity and I would put him on a train to go and visit his older brother once in a while, which made him so happy.

Then, it happened. In October of year three, something Took place we had no clue about except when he came home for Thanksgiving, he was withdrawn and miserable.  No amount of asking resulted in an answer except this; ” I am so over being there. Can I just transfer to another campus?”  When I dug a little deeper, still no definitive answers, so we sent him back to school after the break with the solution that he would see his advisor and discuss his options for transferring. By the second week in December, his father and I received a call that stopped our hearts and without another thought, we both went flying up that highway to find him.  What we were told was gut wrenching to say the least and we made the decision on the spot, that he was to be transferred immediately after some discussion with him. The school was very helpful in part, because they were very aware of what happened and did not contact us. Their reason? These kids were over 18 and since nothing happened physically to our child, it was assumed all was well.

In short order, he was transferred to a campus near home and it was decided he would not get an apartment but stay with us until he was ready. He started classes on time, took all his tests, took courses over the summer and got a coveted job working for a company he always admired.  He has saved all his money while eating all my food, using all my electricity and amenities and found his way to the place where he is graduating on time before his 22nd birthday.

Some lessons we learned along the way that many parents could do well to heed:

  • Don’t cling as your child leaves for college but DO pay attention to what they may need
  • Give them room to explore and find new avenues of growth
  • Pay attention to simple signs that something may be wrong when they are not behaving in the manner you are accustomed to
  • Do not try to solve all their problems.  Let them find their way with Advisors etc. We allowed our son to make those decisions and it empowered him to be his own advocate when he needed support.
  • See how the siblings left behind are faring. Chances are, this truly affects them too.
  • Pray and do not stop praying when they are out of your sight.  Things happen in Colleges that parents are not often aware of until it is too late.
  • Keep your child grounded with solid expectations. It works.

The time is now upon us where my youngest child is getting ready to head off to College and this time, armed with what I do know, I can’t wait to get rid of him too.. Hallelujah for the empty nest!!

enough said.

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empty nest 3

It begs the question….

Recently, a well known radio Disc Jockey called and asked this question of me; “Do you think children are being socially promoted by schools even when it is clear they are not ready to move forward and just how prevalent did I think this behaviour was in School Districts across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania?’  What ensued was a discussion rich with data and comparisons from one  State to next, which then led to the public school system, what was being expected of the children within it and these new mandates every few “seconds.” The family that understands how to navigate their way through, will have successful children no matter what the income level and Education of the parent/guardians. It boils down to simply this; if you are visible, it makes a huge difference for your child.

 

Our discussion then led to the often perceived “low expectations” of children of color, especially if they enter a new school from an urban setting. Time and again, we see children who were tested as gifted, being questioned about the authenticity of said title  and made to go through that process all over again which is not only demoralizing, it is often wrong. We discussed how parents get discouraged an opt to leave their bright child in a regular setting instead of forcing the issue.

And then we went there.

The subject of well educated parents of color who moved into the suburban settings, bought the big home, had their children in a great school district but are never visible. Unless of course, it was football, basketball or any sporting event where they are found in large numbers, cheering on their athletes. If one tries to locate those same parents for many other activities, they are often difficult to find.

Whomp.Whomp.  We both acknowledged that not all parents are this way obviously but is incredibly noticeable.

 

I could not disagree.  I tried to, but history says otherwise.  Which begged the question; why is that?  Are we still in the ” I paid good money to live here and the schools better educate my child?” Or is it ” I am really not feeling comfortable with asking certain things or knowing where to go, so let me not show up at all?” It could even be just total apathy on many levels.  One thing is for certain; Many parents are not as visible for PTA or many school held meetings on any topic that may benefit the children but the numbers are worse for parents of color.

My youngest son has a role in the school play and when parents were asked to volunteer a few hours on a Saturday for set building etcetera, I bounced in only to see I was one of one. It stayed that way for the entire time I was there too. Oh by the way?  He is in the 12th grade.  Parent involvement should not cease at Elementary school.

 

For well  over a decade now, we have been beating the consistent drum on parental engagement and have been known to hold schools accountable when history have shown them to discourage family participation, and families where there has been apathy that leads to, in my humble opinion, unnecessary suffering of their children.  If research has clearly shown that all you need to do as a parent is be visible 30 minutes a month in word or deed, what stops us from doing so?  Can we then totally blame the schools for what is ailing our children who we clearly know, follow more of what we do and less of what we say?

Can we then totally blame an institution for our children and their lack of progress?  The old adage ” The squeaky wheel gets oiled” is still very true; we need  more of you to be visible through emails, phone calls, volunteering from home or in school and just any simple task that leads to the educators knowing who you are.

 

So while we are in the middle of holding schools accountable, take a little time to hold our own feet to the fire as well.

Enough said.

“I Love you but you have more issues than Congress”

Happy New Year and all that jazz.

Life around here has been fun, energetic, nail biting and just so much happening , I have not blogged in a couple of weeks.. Children sat on me for no reason other than it’s the comforting thing to do, We ran around the house laughing about one thing or another and  planned the annual Holiday party.  Once the holidays are over, the next big thing is my birthday. National holiday I know, but we ran into a serious snag.  The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC Championship and the game against the Saints was slated for, you guessed it, the evening of the national holiday aka my day of birth. So, in true diva fashion, I took to Facebook with a quasi serious experiment; Should I let Mister off the hook for dinner that evening, or should he skip the game all together and take his diva out to dinner?

Keep in mind here, that I had already decided to graciously leave him alone because I do not know another person on earth who is a more die-hard Philly fan than he is. Like, to the extreme. No, really.

Anyhow, the responses to my query bordered on hysterical.  Here are a few;

“Take one for the team!  He will make it up to you!”

“What? are you nuts? who knows when the Eagles will make the play-offs again? At least your birthday comes every year” 

” Give him the day and then let him celebrate you all month”

You get the point.   It was a “free Mister” rant for a few days and I laughed at how interesting it all became.  When I told them giving him the day was the least I could do since he is awesome 365 days to us, Someone in boxed me privately and  said how they wished they had such a love like this, that it was difficult to find a good mate etcetera.  I did not disagree and in hindsight, maybe I should have.

There are good, kind decent people all around us and if we do not do the work on ourselves, we may never see them.  I took a look at myself many years ago and figured out that I was the common denominator in relationships that went south.  It was me who chose to accept things I knew were wrong and once I figured that out among a few other things, not two months later, here comes Mister.

He found me, I was not looking for him.  He knew we would be great friends if nothing else and when we became a couple, it was like finding the right piece for a jigsaw puzzle.  We shared the same values and took the time to really communicate through the challenging times because lets’ face it good people, they do come.  We understood it was really important to like each other before we used the “L” word carelessly.

 

One of the things I figured out about myself, is that I needed  a mate who exemplified who my father was for me as a child,  in word and deed.  A man who was not afraid to put his family first, protect us and do everything in his power to keep us safe and happy. Mister is such a  man.    What unleashed in me, was a woman who went above and beyond to put smiles on their faces through my own words and deeds.

The end result has been nothing short of hilarious around here.

Due to the recent weather predictions of 3 degrees with a wind chill of -17, I had the bright idea of making a pot of soup that would last, at least in my head, the entire week.   The pot was huge. Like enough to feed a small army huge.  I chopped veggies, threw the raw chicken in the pot and got to work. an hour later, the scent of this soup had the entire kitchen humming and I went about the business of finding large containers to store it.  Just in case I was off base ( because they can eat like grazing elephants) I also made a double batch of baked Ziti.

 

Pleased with myself, I left the kitchen and went about my business.  When I checked the refrigerator this morning, two thirds of  the ziti was gone and one half of that large pot of soup.

 

I started ranting like a mad woman that this was ridiculous, they had no sympathy that I stood for hours cooking and if they THOUGHT I was going near that kitchen the rest of this week, they had a another thing coming to them.  Mister walked into the kitchen somewhere in the middle of this tirade, watched me pointing the long spoon and said ” Dear, I love you but you have more issues than Congress this morning.”

I stopped mid-rant, looked at him like he had ten heads and then doubled over in laughter.

 

Just like that, crisis averted.  He knew just what to do and it worked.  I am still not cooking anymore this week. I mean it.

 

Enough said IMG_2006

The comment that made Harriett Tubman bones sit straight up….

Please bear with me.  Just for a few moments.

Early this morning, in an effort to make myself sleepy, I began watching   the Real Housewives of Atlanta.  I know, poor choice but I figured since they were visiting Savannah Georgia and all its rich historical content, it could not be too bad.

Oh. My. Goodness.

So there I was, listening to a tour guide tell the ladies about the Underground railroad beneath the oldest African American Church in the country and pointed to the tiny holes in the floor where the slaves would put their faces for a little fresh air on their journey. I am sitting there imagining what that must have been like back then, when one of the women, whose name is Porscha, said this;  ” How did they fit a train down there?”

I literally fell OUT my bed in horror!!!  What?

As the women were patiently explaining to her that what she thought was this

underground railroad9

is actually this,

underground railroad2

she stood there looking at THEM as if they had no sense but in my head I was thinking ” Any moment now, this will all register to her.”

No such luck.  She kept saying things like ” How did they build railroad tracks under the church?”  and “How did the trains go through without making too much noise?” My favourite? ” Who was the conductor?” Seriously?

I closed my eyes firmly and could actually see Harriett Tubman’s bones come fully to life as she sat up in her grave and said ” What the fragglenackle? Who is this chile, why is she so ignorant in this day and age and did I really go through all of this and die to have my ears offended after all these years at the end of my struggle?” The visual I caught of Harriet was this and rightly so….Pissed.

underground railroad8

I could see her ( Tubman) taking some raggedy, dusty cloths soaked in muddy water and slapping some much need sense into Porscha’s empty head. Pretty and coiffed but empty.

How in the WORLD did this woman ( Portscha) go through all those years of school, had a grandfather who knew all about the Civil rights movement and made a name for himself in the work and she knew zip, zilch, zero, NADA about the underground railroad???  What else did she NOT know?  But this is the same woman that said there were 366 days in a year so….This just takes “ratchet” to whole new level…

Porscha can tell you about the latest fashions, how to look beautiful etcetera but has yet to hold a conversation intelligent enough that does not leave heads spinning in horror.  I can’t even blame public education because her family should have been certain to impart this most important information to her.  I am almost positive they did, so where was her head all those years when the stories were being shared?

That level of ignorance is beyond inexcusable and a lesson in what we all must know about History in order to be clearly present and accountable.. Not just the history of our own culture but to soak in others as well because it all weaves intricately into the fabric of present day.

As I kept watching in suicidal fascination to my poor brain cells, it all began to make sense why Porscha was so dense and had no clue about so many things that should be elementary to the average person.  Someone told her, she didn’t have to be anything but beautiful, find a rich husband and be the perfect wife.  They did her a huge disservice and the fall- out from that is playing itself out among millions each week.

All I can say is this; do not let Porscha become you.  Intelligent conversation is a must.  We all want to be examples to others.  Just not like this.  Never like this.

A child with out an Education, is like a football player without a helmet.  Porscha left her helmet at home and this is the end result.

Enough said.

.underground railroad10

 

May I have your liver please?

A few weeks ago in the midst of a large conference filled with 7 thousand women who glowed with the energy around us, I ran into the wife of a dear friend and mentor who I had not seen or heard from in a while. We hugged effusively and I jokingly quipped that is was lucky for me he wasn’t able to attend and torture me in his usual fashion.

You see, he has the driest sense of humour and was not above telling people among other things with not a smile on that face, he was my” Parole Officer.” Lord, I can’t count the number of stunned faces we received until he laughed and they realized he was joking.  Suffice it to say, he helped shaped a few important decisions in my life over the years and holds a special place in my heart.

I was stunned when she ( wife) informed me that he needed a lung transplant and could I please check on him? In that instant, all the noise around me receded as we looked at each other, eyes brimming with tears and I could feel the gravity of what she had just imparted.  My friend developed a  lung disease seemingly out-of-thin-air as he was not a smoker and the doctors could find nothing environmental that he had been exposed to that would cause such a rapid deterioration of his once healthy lungs.

I called him and as usual, he began cracking jokes and making me scream over the phone, all while saying he was on oxygen a good portion of the day, he was in the beginning stages of being tested as a viable recipient for lungs so he could be placed on a waiting list and the things he learned as a direct result.  So in my naiveté, I said getting  lungs should not be  not be more than a few years from testing to transplant to which he replied, I would be surprised.

He went on to tell me, not enough people have signed up to be organ donors for one reason or another but the numbers were astonishingly low for African Americans. He said there were a myriad of reasons, the biggest one is the fear that if they ended up on life support in the Hospital, they would be allowed to die so that their organs could be harvested.  Say what now?  I listened intently because this is a man who is absolutely brilliant and would not make such a claim if there was no truth to it.  We got off the phone with a promise that we would stay in touch but that conversation haunted me.

In a talk with another dear friend a couple of weeks later, I mentioned this mutual friend of ours and told her what he said.  Not only did she agree wholeheartedly, she made family members who had organ donor on their license remove it for that very reason.  What she said was this; ” Think about how many young black males are shot daily in large cities and too often, I have heard stories from parents who felt their child was allowed to die instead of the most vigorous techniques to keep them alive being employed.  If they see “Organ donor” on their identification, it is worse because they know how many lives can be saved from the harvesting of one young person.”

I sat there stunned because I have ” Organ Donor” on my  license and I plan to keep it there so I can help to save lives if I can, but those two conversations, left me feeling  more than a little disturbed.  Then, I read an article today about a young 17 year old who died under mysterious circumstances in Atlanta Georgia and when his body was handed to the parents, his organs were replaced with tissue paper.  The explanation went from the ridiculous to the sublime but it brought right back to me, those last two conversations I had.

Here is what I believe despite all the things that are floating around and some of it may very well be true; we are in desperate need of more organ donors in this Country. desperately. So many people die on waiting lists each year, month, week, day and hour. If we know our organs will help to save a life, can you please help? Chances are, you are going to live a healthy existence but if Tragedy strikes and you are not able to be among us anymore, please give the gift of life. For those among us who are illegally harvesting organs, may the law deal with them as they are caught but I implore you, do not let the actions of a few, allow so many more to die.  One thing; since I am a woman of colour, when my “time” comes, be certain they have exhausted all the means to help me live then harvest the heck out of my organs. Take everything you find useful.  What am I going to do with it in the ground?

Give the gift that will keep on giving long after you leave here and help to save a life or two or three. Become an Organ Donor.

Enough said.

It’s our ACTIONS not our Words..

A few days ago, while in a  place where I never expected this to happen, I ran straight into the adult child of  someone who, for all intents and purposes, should be my friend some almost three decades.

But we are not.

That friendship ended abruptly a few years ago.  It broke my heart, but it had to be severed at the root. Here’s why.

Her values did not align with mine and I started to see things as our children were growing up together that I had willed myself to ignore by  saying things like ” people are different” etcetera and while I was in no place to judge, my gut told me that I was in a vortex with someone who believed the world owed them something, blamed everyone but themselves for every thing that went wrong in their life and allowed the children to do things that just did not sit well with me at all.  The only time I heard her take “responsibility” it came in the form of being a fool for getting caught up with such-and-such or her life would be better.

The children being disrespectful? Someone else’s fault

Not doing well in school? Excuse after excuse.

Where she lived and how she lived? Yep, you guessed it, that was the problem of any number of people.

Here was a bright person, with a quiet demeanour and a sweet smile, who carried around a darkness quite unlike anything I have ever seen and to this day, I know she has not accepted responsibility for her behaviours.  What she essentially taught her children was the following;

If someone is doing better than them in life, those people were LUCKY.

It is easier to sweet-talk people into helping you find a place to stay, buy whatever items you may need ( because that is what REAL friends do.) When they stop agreeing with you, move on to the next person.

Life owes you something not the other way around.

They are a mess because ( name the litany of things their father and everyone else in their circle is responsible for.)

You get the gist.

One instance I will never forget:

her husband bought her a brand new car with less than 10 miles on it and as we were test driving this spanking new thing and I was jumping for glee, she looked forlorn. When I said” aren’t you thrilled?” she replied” I like it but it should have been a top model car like a BMW because such-and-such Husband already bought hers…”  The alarm bells that went off in my head that day…. it stuck with me too. took me a few more years to sit up and see just what was in front of me and that our values did not align.

I walked away when I spoke up about her children and their behaviours towards adults among other things. Of course, she did not like it one bit and that was the end-of-that after years of friendship. So, when I ran into this young person, and started to listen, all I heard was the same “tape” playing and she sounded just like her mother.  I do not blame the child as they only emulated what they saw for years.  On a whim, I called another long time friend and what I was told, sealed for me that the right move was made on my part years ago.  The level of atrocities only got worse and we are now beginning to see the results in the children who are not doing well in school, have very little respect for authority and they are bouncing around with attitudes.  When dad tried to intervene, she allowed them to curse at him and cried in a corner about how he ruined all their lives.

We now have among us in society, young adults who could have been different if only they had someone responsibly guiding them to find who they were.  I still think about this person from time to time as we had some fond memories but the Universe in it’s infinite wisdom, knew we would not remain close forever and so I treasure the good memories but keep my distance.

I have said this time and again and I will continue to say it; our actions, not our words are what we pour into our children and lord do they ever speak volumes to others in the general public, good or bad.  Many among  us had horrific childhoods and it behoves us to do the work or we will see the pathology repeat itself in our children for generations to come.  When and where does the buck stop?

What is the story that our children are speaking about us?

There is no manual for raising children but some things never become stagnant like good manners, responsibility, character and respect.

It was not my intention to write this post until I saw this video below…. SHARE until your fingers hurt… please and thank you…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHi2dxSf9hw

Enough said

The “Scandal” of it all..

I am not a fan of television so when folks around me began moaning and gnashing their teeth about this new series called “Scandal” starring Kerry Washington, it was summarily ignored until the final episode of season 1 where I saw it accidentally one Thursday evening.  I was so floored by what I was watching, I decided to take another peek the following season.  I was hooked like a fish to bait.  Many follow it for the illicit affair between the President and The “fixer” Olivia Pope but I was fascinated by the politics behind the scenes and the levels of depravity people will go through to attain power and keep it.

Follow the bouncing red ball and take a ride with me…

There is the President who hated his father but allowed himself to be put into an arranged marriage with a woman who is considered a “blue blood” so that he could increase his chances of becoming a politician that would be taken seriously. He is placed in the path of two people who are there to be great publicists, guide him and “fix” any scandals that may surface from his past.  He fell in love with one young lady on the campaign trail and that is where most of his troubles began. I never knew there were so many places in the white House to have dalliances but it clearly proved what lengths people will go through to do what ever they want.

There is the blue blood wife, who fell in love with her hubby despite the circumstances surrounding her crazy marriage and after her father-in-law raped her, decided she would keep the pregnancy and her ‘payment’ would be her spot in history sitting beside the most powerful man in the free world.  She has found that was not such an easy decision as she has been running around trying to stop the relationship her husband is having in one breath, while encouraging it in another ( to keep him happy) so that he will win a second term in the white house.  Are you confused yet?

There is the president’s right hand man, who  happily calls himself a monster because he will got to any lengths to keep his power as the ‘king maker’ in the White house and that included putting a hit-man out to kill his lover who was about to leak a story that could destroy them all. They adopted a little black baby that I barely saw but lord knows, they need someone to comb that child’s hair.

There is the “fixer” who runs a business to help people manage their scandals. It has been indeed a profitable one for her but her private life needs some fixing of it’s own.  Her daddy runs a secret organization in government that is so powerful, it takes orders from no one, including the President of the U.S. Added to her woes, she fell and bumped her head by falling in love with the President himself and cannot seem to stay away from him despite the war within her that says she shouldn’t be with this man for a million reasons.  The people in her business are dangerous with secrets of their own.

The craziness of the last episode, made me write a recap here https://www.facebook.com/groups/442371479122210/permalink/777743435585011/

What you read above  is enough to make you cringe each week but that is just the tip of the madness in the plot around these folks.  I sat back after watching that episode a few days ago and began to really think about why do so many tune in to watch this each and every week without fail and literally have a serious dialogue for days and weeks after. It dawned on me after some soul searching:

What they are watching allows them to not focus, at least for a few hours on their own lives such that it is and makes them feel their level of  ‘hell ‘ is nothing compared to what they are seeing.  Let’s face it, life is never how we fully portray it on social media. No one in their right mind, would let all their baggage hang out for the world to see and they shouldn’t.

In the limited scope that is called my life, I see things like long-term friendships ending badly, people who are smiling and making a life in what they know are really bad relationships, others who are struggling with their families and childhoods that would make you fall to your knees in tears, The Public Education system imploding as each school district hold tightly to their corner of the universe, Politicians, Pastors and Police officers making deals and doing things in secret that is seeping through their tightly woven shrouds of confidentiality as the public gets tired of being abused in a system they trusted and the list goes on.  It is called in simple terms, the human condition but for one hour every Thursday evening, I get to watch  in morbid fascination, a show that emulates real- life more than many are willing to admit, and forget just for 60 minutes, the real scandal of it all called our daily lives……

With that thought in mind, seek with intention, the things you can be grateful for, enjoy the simplicity of life( like the hug my 21 year old dispensed upon me with no provocation on my part) and if all else fails, be thankful for being able to take one breath at a time. Just above the clouds of darkness is light; breathe long enough to see it break through and  when it hits your face, enjoy it for life will eventually bring you to a place of test again.  Fortify yourself in the good times and when you find it difficult to breathe, go ahead and lose yourself in the show that reminds us that things can ALWAYS be worse..

Enough said.

The Pathology of Parenting…

I saw commercials recently for an episode of Iyanla Vanzant’s  “Fix My Life” that caught my attention.  It seems Mr Terrell Owens, ex- super star of the NFL, was the subject of the moment and in my head, all I heard and saw was this;

Release the Kraken!!

cracken 2

I have watched T.O. for years and each time would shake my head and ask where IS his momma? While arguably one of the best players the NFL has seen, his antics on AND off the field made me cringe. What was worse, were the people who watched him destroy himself and took full advantage of his “fame” knowing all too well it was fleeting because let’s face it; one cannot survive on an ego that large for too long.

Sure enough, things started spiralling out of control and the once celebrated athlete/ diva went  down the drain in the vortex he created.  I also knew most assuredly, there was some seriously bad pathology behind that, shall we say, less than stellar behaviour.  I was soon to find out it was worse than I thought.

If you watched the show, you learned that Terrell’s mom was a teen who slept with the married father of two across the street from her momma’s house, got preggers, somehow left her child with his grandmother and he had NO idea his dad lived across said street from him until he was eleven and liked a girl who turned out to be his sister.. Sweet mother of God… That, sweet pea, is how he found out who is daddy was.

whomp whomp

Say what now?  Oh but it got better.  Daddy lived across that street from his son for all those years AFTER his kid found out and never fully acknowledged him.  Terrell watched the family across that street and wondered why was he not special enough to have that kind of acceptance and the thirsty desire for attention was born. The NFL became his family and the fans his arena for gaining the “love” he sought.

Lawd, did he EVER take advantage too.. It was almost painful to watch and see what he was going to do next. I will spare you the gory details of said drama because one would have to be in a cave, Under a boulder to not have experienced the beast he was. As the story unfolded and the pieces came together, one could visibly see a new T.O. being born. The Terrell that was robbed of a childhood where he felt loved and wanted.  The Terrell who  was treated ( in his head and heart) like he was an “issue” that his grandmother took on. The Terrell who never saw his parents together in a room being decent to each other until he was darn near forty years old. That Terrell was being replaced with one who began to fully recognize his “stuff” and saw his  responsibility in his downfall. Not the media, not the NFL, not his baby mamas but HIM.

That could ONLY happen once his own father acknowledged he failed him and that paying child support was not enough to raise a child. I believe T.O. has turned the hard corner into becoming who he really is and pray that he will be a better man to his son than his father was to him.  That took work and humility but kudos to the brother, he did it. I wish him the best moving forward.

Which leads to my next point.

One of my biggest passions beside writing of course, is parenting and as a direct result, I travel and am contracted by School Districts to work with families on how to navigate schools while being a collaborative partner.  What I have found is that in order to discuss  being a parent, schools, how they operate, the chain of command, how to navigate their child’s formative years and work with educators etcetera, we had to go all the way back.

To their childhood.

What has happened as a result of doing this crucial exercise, has been powerful beyond words and opened doors to their collective hearts in minds in ways that still leaves them and the School districts astonished ten plus  years later. it never ceases to amaze me just how powerful this work is and until more Districts fully authenticate the need for solid parent work and development as partners with them, we will continue to struggle with the charges we both love dearly; the children. No matter how educated/ uneducated a parent is when they walk through a school door, navigating school systems continues to befuddle them. Heck to be truthful, the continual changes befuddle many educators too.  Parents need help, not ridicule.

But I digress.

Parents, raising children is never an easy task. It is understood that your own childhood may not have been  perfect and trust me, in my years of doing this work, I think  I have heard it all and then some.  What I am going to implore of you is this; do the work to heal and forgive as much as you possibly can, so that your off – spring can have a fighting chance in hell not to repeat the pathology that was given to you. It is the only way to start breaking the vicious cycle  that abounds.  Try to find someone who you can trust to speak with, to release the anxieties you may be experiencing.  It requires WORK on your end but the rewards are plentiful. You only have to look in the eyes of your children to see that it is worth the effort.

If you had a wonderful childhood, my ask of YOU is simply this; try not to stand in a place of judgement for those who are doing the best they can.  You can even go one step further and be a helpful presence through kindness and deed.  Be careful not to make people feel like you are “wonderful” for doing such a thing. Come from a place of authenticity or it most certainly will back- fire.

Above all, remember that children are innocent in  the idiosyncrasies of life and need us to shield and raise them with the very BEST we have within.

Enough said.

The “Sheroine” that stole our hearts.. all 7 Thousand of them…

November 1st,  was the tenth anniversary of the Pennsylvania Women’s conference  and when I walked into the  PA Convention Center, I was blown away to see this:

PA Conference 2013 attendees

SEVEN THOUSAND WOMEN…… and it was a powerful sight  indeed…

The air was charged with anticipation and it warmed my heart to see so many women of so many backgrounds in one place. One could hear squeals of delight when an old friend or respected colleague was spotted among the throng and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, it would be day where all of us got along beautifully united in our passions.

I was super thrilled because this is the place where our Damsels In Success , other wise known as  the  DIS women, congregate in one venue and at least one of us had something exciting that we wanted to celebrate.  This year, it was LuAnn Cahn, who is a  reporter extraordinaire for NBC 10 news and she had a book called ” I Dare Me”.  Simply put, LuAnn, tried something new everyday for a year and chronicled it for us all to see.   We are all behind her in full support but  in the meantime, we were looking forward to the fabulous Speakers which included Judge Hatchet, and Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright who was such a lesson in working your way to the top. Ms. Albright reminded us that as women we need to support each other and spoke of the lessons she learned while in her position and breaking barriers everywhere.

PA conference 2013 LuAnn

We sat in sessions where we were reminded that life truly is a journey, we must go through the process, there is NO short cut to success, embrace mistakes and the list went on.  Oh what joy we had meeting all these women but let me tell you, as we ate our lunch in anticipation of hearing our Keynote Hillary Rodham Clinton, we had no idea that our collective minds were going to be blown by another woman, a virtual “unknown” unless you lived in Philadelphia.

                                                                                             Linda Cliatt- Wayman

What is so special about this beautiful soul you ask?PA Conferenc 2013 Linda  She is the brave warrior who is the Principal of Strawberry Mansion High School, famously known as one of the most dangerous places to learn  in Philadelphia. We all saw Strawberry Mansion on a Diane Sawyer special a few months ago, where Linda was seen roaming the halls, breaking up horrible fights, bringing a level of calm to really tense situations  and ending every day with these words to her students; ” If no one told you they loved you today, remember I DO.”

Linda was able to create a sense of family for her charges and she often had to do it with tough love.  Watching her on the many screens scattered throughout the Convention Center, moved us  but nothing compared to what happened when Linda walked on that stage and saw every single person  standing and saluting her for what that she had done for a community that was all but left to die in darkness.

She stood there with utter shock on her face and we could see her whispering ” thank you Jesus” over and over again as the tears fell.  She was not the only one crying. I looked around and so many of us were wiping away tears but feeling something else;  a surge of energy to step way outside our comfort zones without judgement, to help those that are in need of our guidance and power.

Linda reminded me that I had become complacent and it was truly time to focus on what was right instead of what was comfortable.  Movement does not happen in our “safe” spaces. It propels us forward when we challenge the very things that our souls scream are not right around us.  Too many of us can move mountains but are content to sit atop our molehills.  Linda set the ants free from that perch we loved and reminded us what was truly important as we moved forward to changing the world around us one cause, one child, one sick person at a time.

As she was finishing her trail blazing speech, she confessed to being astounded that she was asked to speak to 7 thousand women and to share a stage with none other that Hillary Rodham Clinton.  All she was trying to do was help the children.  She is an excellent reminder that when things are done without expecting a spotlight of gratitude, the Universe will find unfathomable ways to reward your efforts.

When that proud lioness walked off the stage, she left behind a room that was forever changed and one could feel the buzz around what could be done to support her and the school.

Even better?  She left 7 thousand women with the double dose of power they needed to keep moving, one step at a time into creating a better world.

Enough said.