Reflections on Half-a-Century (+)

As I washed up for the weekend and ensured I had my most whitest of my tighties cleaned for whatever might await me on the eve of my biggest day of the year – my birthday – I got to reflecting.

I reflected because I was reminded how lucky I am and how great things are for me. It was a clear moment for me and I thought, “I was money and I didn’t even know it.”  (Swingers) And though I haven’t been feeling so lucky as of late I pontificated about the years gone by and the pretty fabulous life I have lived and what has been bestowed upon me. My conclusion:

I am Blessed.

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My memories swirled through my head like an old 8mm film with the voice of Morgan Freeman narrating (as he always does in my head). My emotions rose like geysers gushing from the Earth  as I sorted through the laundry list of situations and loved ones that made me smile and cry. I peeked in on my sleeping kids and stood in the doorway for a moment – thinking of their futures and the guidance I have given them. And it really finally dawned on me that I am doing okay in life’s fast-paced game.

It isn’t that I don’t have challenges about bills, love, betrayal, or the likes (wait, that sounds like an episode of Empire); but it is the fact that I am still in my right mind to shift. Shift my being to something different. It isn’t a big shift, just a nudge, yet it gives way to those memories that reinforce the good that I have encountered.

So on this eve of me arriving on this planet I reflect on the following:

  • I have a great, supportive family full of love, joy, empathy, and faith.
  • I can smell the fresh summer rain outside my window and take it in like vitamins.
  • I live in a country where I can express my thoughts, feelings, and desires and not be crucified. ‘merica, dammit.
  • I have a nice roof over my head and the heads of my offspring. This blessing should never go unnoticed.
  • I ate a good healthy meal. And even if it wasn’t the healthiest it was still a meal worth eating.
  • I can anticipate the upcoming NFL season – with or without Colin Kaepernick (but I wish him well).

I can give love to my friends and I can receive it in return.

  • I have gained knowledge through education and observation.
  • I am able to work an honest shift and be proud of what I have accomplished.
  • I am can enjoy a great beer or glass of wine or even something harder from time-to-time.
  • And I can write…however I want to, whenever I want to, and to whomever I want to. We can all create something new, every day we are alive.

These few things give me pause as the clock strikes midnight and I go into celebratory mode. I will enjoy those things around me and I will look for the good in life – because I have the power to do so. And for this I am grateful.

Go well and with love good peeps.

And Happy Birthday to me. 🙂

 

Survivors of Marital Bliss

61 Years and Counting…

On May 5, 2017, my parents will celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary.

6 – 1 or sixty-one or seis-uno (okay, I made that up).

But still, 61! The proclamation of this anniversary is not to admit my own years on this planet, although, not near 61, but to expose what it takes to make 61 years of marriage.

Thought bubble: didn’t Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris have a 61 milestone at some point? I digress…

We all have either blessings occur in our lives or a little luck or some combination of the two. We might have good things occur on occasion or bad things that occur in bunches. And every time we overcome those obstacles or celebrate these good times one thing is certain – we made it through.

Making it through isn’t just about you – although you might think it is – but it’s about everything around you. It is how you leave an impact on this world or how you touch (influence) others. And usually we aspire to touch in a positive way.

Therefore, to put in perspective of the magnitude to survive this momentous occasion I want to explore the significance of “making it.” I thought and wrote about one statistic at a time and in no-particular-order; although the first is most significant to me:

  1. Today’s divorce rate is a whopping 50 percent! The odds of making it past year 8 is off the charts – you can take that ‘ish to Vegas, baby. And may the odds be forever in your favor.
  2. Surviving military service during the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War. Downright lucky to have survived both let alone the streets of the inner-city.
  3. Diseases like cancer, diabetes, and all kinds of other bogus shit that crushes us humans daily! To survive the percentages is nothing short of a miracle. logo.png
  4. Car crashes is still a major killer in America. Count yourself lucky if you have avoided a disastrous outcome via unsure hands at the wheel of a steel killing machine.
  5. Natural disasters – thes
    e are easier to avoid if you stay put – but if you’ve traveled the world to Timbuktu and back you are liable to have encountered a disaster or two. Not my folks.
  6. Raising a shit-load of kids and staying the course. Hey, if one of the parental units said, “f- this, I’m out!,” I couldn’t be mad at them.
  7. One in four black men in prison – NOT my daddy!
  8. Shot by a cop – this would have been easy pickings back in rural Mississippi, circa 1950, but, alas, the good Lord was watching out.

And there are multiple other challenges, ahem, “opportunities” [as we like to call them in business] where my parents overcame or luck was on their side for their longevity.

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But I will say this – commitment, perseverance, respect, admiration, being on one accord, and love is the glue that held them these 61 years. And for that, I feel truly blessed to be witnessing this rare occasion. Good job parental units. Well done. I pray God will see you through many more anniversaries.

Now each of you go find your life partner to help you achieve that 61.

Go well and with love good peeps.

 

My Growing Kids

I had a moment of clarity where life hit me in the gut. No, it wasn’t anything like a life-threatening illness or heartbreaking loss (i.e., an Ex doing you wrong…grrrrr…but I digress); it was a simple act. The act seemed so innocent in its nature – almost like a flower deciding the time was right to bloom; or a butterfly determined to leave its cocoon. No, none of these things. But, yet, what happened to me was powerful beyond words and an eye-opener to boot. I was floored when the situation presented itself as well as at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe this shit was happening to me – but folks had warned me so. And here I was, face to face with the biggest decision in my life – minus the vasectomy I decided against. The decision you ask? Well, to let me kids walk alone to the corner food store. By themselves.

Albeit – there were about 30 other kids going with them…at least that’s what I told myself. And the corner store is approximately two city blocks away, in a neighborhood in which the President himself entrust the local law enforcement to serve and protect (minus the whole “Rodney King experience” we seem to be dealing with in this current year). It was, in fact, a safe passage for my kids to take – they knew the route and simply had to follow the directions provided by me.

But I was tentative and afraid.

I wasn’t afraid that they might be snatched up from deranged lunatic or that they might encounter Bozo the Clown asking them to feel the candy deep inside his insidious pocket, but that my kids were growing up. I felt sad as a tear slowly drifted down my cheek with this realization. Of course I didn’t let them see me cry because I never do but I felt it nonetheless.

I had explained to them in the past about being careful out there in this crazy world and to know that society will not be kind to them because of their race and gender and age; but I had a sense that they were smart enough not to be taken.

I felt confident in their awareness of their environment and that they were able to discern right from wrong. For this I was comfortable in my decision to let them experience this new found independence for themselves. I remember my own satisfying experience of going to the store and dropping “Abraham Lincolns” for a bag of goodies. However, it was eating me up because they were no longer my little angels. They were growing up.

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Those of us with kids clearly understand they do not stay the same size as the playful Raggedy Ann or Andy dolls we hoped they would. We get that they will experience their own taste in clothing, music, food, and other worldly desires. They’ll zoom through life collecting these various experiences and create the being they were intended to be. And we get to sit back and let the magic happen, regardless of where we are in our experience of “letting go.”

My kids were safe. They didn’t run into a creep or a thug or even a homeless guy running game, but just simply an innocent walk to the corner store in which they spent a total of $5.56 on items I’d rather not disclose. (FYI – I was unaware cotton candy can now be bought in a cellophane bag.)

So here I was, accepting life’s facts as she threw me what was inevitable for me – my youngsters growing up. It wasn’t an easy acceptance of the truth but I had very little choice in the matter. Instead, I let go and let God (a favorite of us Christian folk) watch over them and protect them through the valley of the shadows of death and so forth.

And they returned. Unharmed. Excited. And empowered.

All because they were able to buy an Orange soda and a bag Twizzlers on their own – forging their own path for their lives and realizing the power of independence.

Go well and with love good peeps.

If You Ain’t First…Yer Last

Apparently there is a debate brewing regarding participation trophies for kids in sports. I think Rick Bobby of Talladega Nights said it best – “If you ain’t first, yer last.” Or maybe what The Donald has said about losers and winners – “I like people who weren’t captured.” (The Donald on Losers) Or as a former boss of mine declared about people’s work product – “It’s not great it’s just work.”

So if these shining examples surround us how can we feel bad about a parent revoking Participation Trophies from his sons because he feels they should “earn” them?

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Hog wash.

If my child has participated in a sport (or any other activity) I believe they should be recognized for participating. If a child goes to the practice, learns the drills, participates in the plays, and does what is asked of him then why shouldn’t he be rewarded? Just because he may not be the most talented or the winner he should not be shunned for fear of leading him down the path of laziness.

Opponents of the practice to award kids participation trophies might say: a) it teaches kids they don’t have to work for anything in life; b) you have to earn everything in life (hello – this is false!!); c) it doesn’t teach kids about winning and losing; or d) kids will not know life isn’t fair. (Do We All Deserve A Gold? Setting kids up to fail. – Post published by Vivian Diller Ph.D. on Nov 19, 2011 in Face It)

However, I would argue these ideas with the following:

  • Is it wrong to reward a child for trying or is a pat on the back sufficient?
  • Is it so bad to encourage a child to participate in anything by recognizing their efforts to do so?
  • Shouldn’t the parents take the responsibility to tell their child that they just aren’t good enough?
  • And why does a parent have to crush a child’s ego by expressing the child doesn’t have the talent to participate in a given sport?
  • Don’t we reward participation for junior varsity and varsity sports?
  • Will kids really not understand that life isn’t fair? Hello…I’m a Black man living in America…I think it becomes obvious at some point that life is far from fair.
  • Finally, if you look at the very successful people of today they didn’t reach their level of success because of their talent but because of their success to nurture relationships.

These are the reasons why rewarding some kid a medal for participating will not hurt them as they come up in the world. In a way it will hopefully motivate them to become better. Heck, it’s better than the child sitting home all day playing games. And let’s be honest, the ole pat-on-the-back just ain’t cutting it like it used to – then again, in our jobs we would all be so lucky to get that pat-on-the-back.

Go well and with love good peeps.

I Done Peed My Pants (or How I Mastered Mind over Matter)

Have you ever had to go to the bathroom so bad that you begin doing the antsy dance the closer you get to the urinal? You know that movement we have all done where we are jiving and jerking our way as we approach the stall. And when we are close it feels so far away. There is only an additional few seconds needed to completely loosen our belts and buckles, unzip or pull down, and squat or stand – thanking the Almighty that you didn’t pee on yourself. Whew.

And sometimes we aren’t so lucky.

I’m not talking about as how I might not have been as lucky as a grown man but as a young boy. I recall walking home from school years ago and I was experiencing the moment of truth. I was rushing as fast as I could that was humanely possible for an 8 year old to get home. I recall I was only steps away from my home when I couldn’t stand it no more. BTW, I’m talking having to use #2, not #1. Alas, I was unable to make it all the way. (Insert sad face)

Shame spread across me and I felt I couldn’t face my mom. I was so nervous going home I desperately tried to figure out how to explain what occurred that afternoon. My mind raced as my pants – well – were soaked. This memory sticks with me today and I vowed to never do that again.

So I devised a technique for control. I implemented the mind over matter concept to achieve this greatness. Mastering this feat is no small task and only the manliest of men or the womanist of women should take heed. This is only for the strong. You ask how? Let me tell you how…

  1. Deep breaths – as you feel you are approaching the moment take deep breaths. This does wonders for slowing your body down.
  2. Alternate your thoughts – think of something else besides doing the do. Whether its baseball or other fantasies find something that takes your mind to another place.
  3. Relax – as you find yourself relaxing you gain control of your body.
  4. Pep talk yourself – YOU CAN DO IT! Okay, you have to do it. If you don’t it won’t be a pretty sight.

These are just a few things that I have done over the years. Unfortunately, the urge to pee comes to grown men and women as well so the techniques are good for a lifetime. However, let me state that these techniques are useless should you a) find yourself drinking all night, b) have bladder issues [go see a doc, cuz!], c) constantly forget to go pee, or d) find yourself traveling with no rest stop in sight. Good luck to you.

Don’t be ashamed should you experience “leakage.” Yeah, it’s not cool but sh*t happens. Otherwise, carry around a pack of Depends and call it a day. There are worst things to overcome in life.

Go well and with love good peeps.

I’m In Love with the Coco!

Imagine hearing your young kids, gleefully, energetically and with gusto singing a Hip-Hop song with the title above. Imagine them laughing innocently to the parody YouTube videos showing people drinking cocoa, snorting cocoa, or doing other things with cocoa. Now think about how catchy the tune might be and how it might stick in your mind. Shortly you might find yourself humming and singing, “I’m in love wit da coco!” while you are be-bopping your head like Jay-Z. [Coco Video]

And then you realize what the song is about. And the light-bulb goes on.

Now you think, “Uh-oh.”

This happened to me. However, before I impulsively jumped on the hypocrite bandwagon declaring that all Hip-Hop and Rap music is from the Devil and that our young people are doomed, I caught myself thinking back to my youth recalling songs where drugs were either explicitly or implicitly cited. And lo and behold a number of songs came flooding back into my memory without me having to Google the subject.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll…and Hip-Hop…and Country…etc.

So here is my simple list of songs that came to mind for me:

  • Cocaine – Eric Clapton
  • Got to Get You Into My Life – The Beatles
  • Molly – Tyga
  • Flying High Again – Ozzy Ozbourne
  • Pusherman – Curtis Mayfield
  • White Lines – Grand Master Flash
  • White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
  • Purple Haze – Jimmy Hendrix

And a whole bunch from the Red Hot Chili Peppers!

I am not only familiar with these songs but I know most of them by heart. Some of the songs are older and others more current. There are a variety of genres and artists. And, of course, they are not all Hip-Hop. Drug songs.

Thus, it’s easy to look down on certain classes of people based on our own experiences, but this is one area where we don’t have to look any further than the mirror before we judge. And what is even more interesting is how musicians have been singing about drugs for a long time – even before Rock & Roll. We all have some accountability in this as we have bought the records, tapes (8 track or cassette), CDs, etc.

More importantly, as we get older and have the tendency to frown upon such songs (admit it, you do) and artist we find ourselves recalling the very same type of song from our own childhoods. The conundrum we find ourselves is perplexing – what example are we showing our youth?

In my case, fortunately my kids are still too young to understand what the song is about – although I’m sure someone will blurt it out at some point. I can either get ahead of this potential situation or I can be ready to address it after the fact. At some point I have to address it.

But right now I just enjoy the innocence in which they operate and I wish I could freeze the moment. Heaven knows what I will be dealing with after they realize the nature of the song. Sigh.

Now go have yourself a hot-cocoa and enjoy the music.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Feeling Comfortably Numb

Minute by minute, then the minutes turn to hours and hours to days. And before you know it, eventually the days turn to weeks to months and finally years. The crushing feelings of hopelessness, rage, and loneliness become less and less. We have all heard the term “time heals all wounds” and it is true to a point. It isn’t that the wound is completely healed it is more like you learn to live with it. Living with the wound, not the pain is akin to having an appendage that has no use. Thus, it is numb, devoid of power or substance, and not something that can be removed. I have become comfortably numb living apart from my kids.

Many people, correction, women might not understand this analogy. The argument I’ve heard is that the woman carried the child in her womb for nine months creating some unseen bond. As a man we are not privy to this unseen bond because we do not give birth. Yet, we do have a spiritual connection to our offspring. And when our children are taken away through divorce the pain is real. Thus we have to find a way to overcome this painful existence. One of the ways is to remove the emotion from our inventory and create a hollow shell of where that emotion used to exist. Slowly we turn off the spigot that feeds the emotion leaving us with a numbing sensation.

I’ve heard other men say you learn to live with it and I have experienced it. It becomes a way of life. It doesn’t mean you love your children any less it only means your access to your kids has been limited and therefore the wound remains. However, the body begins to cut off any feeling you have in this perceived appendage and eventually, like the effects of nova Caine the feelings just go away.

Maybe men are designed to be this way by the Creator. Throughout history fatherless homes have been around due to wars and other duties previously dominated by men. It is probably in our DNA – this one strand that allows us to disconnect the emotion for the greater good of the family. This new era in which we live is exposing this DNA flaw for the entire world to see. No one talked about this much in the past, how a man might miss his kids daily. Men could only express this emotion during tough times on the battlefield or during his dying days. Only then does the child really begin to understand the impact his daddy has on his or her life. This revelation is harder and harder to manage in today’s society because of divorce and dysfunction.

Therefore, I make it a concerted effort to focus on my offspring the moments we are together. I make sure they know the love I possess for them and my desire to see them flourish. I continue to build a bond best I know how because I know I will become numb as they walk out the door when our time comes to a close. And because of this I am becoming comfortably numb.