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.

Music as a Reflection of My Personality

Growing up I had quite the eclectic taste in music as evidenced by my collection. During the days of vinyl and early compact discs, affectionately known as CDs, I racked up an impressive inventory of popular, soulful, rock, punk, new age, jazz, and every genre in between. My music collection was even admired by the crooks that broke into my apartment and stole my entire collection. Incidentally the crooks broke into my neighbor’s apartment the same day but left my neighbor’s CD collection barely touched. My neighbor embarrassingly stated the crooks had a pretty good musical acumen.

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However, for me my selection of songs always seemed to come from some deep place in my soul. Music, as we all agree, can reach the depths of our souls and provide us some type of haven for whatever emotional experience we are dealing with at a given moment. This is no different for me, thus I’m not saying anything new. But what I do recognize is where my mind is as a given song “speaks” to me. My awareness is critical to understanding things about myself.

I have recognized the hills and valleys of my emotional journey and have come to appreciate and manage through most of those times. So far so good considering my stupid ass has made it this far in life.

When I think of some of the bands or lyrics I have connected with and how they spoke to me I shiver. From my beloved Circle Jerks to the heavenly voice of Yolanda Adams I have experienced a musical rollercoaster – sometimes all within a day. Really? I can go from punk to gospel within minutes? There is something seriously disturbing about this – but at the same time quite interesting.

I was in my room and I was just like staring at the wall thinking about everything

But then again I was thinking about nothing

And then my mom came in and I didn’t even know she was there she called my name

And I didn’t even hear it, and then she started screaming: MIKE! MIKE!

And I go: What, what’s the matter?

And she goes: What’s the matter with you?

I go: There’s nothing wrong mom

And she goes: Don’t tell me that, you’re on drugs!

And I go: No mom I’m not on drugs I’m okay, I was just thinking you know,

Why don’t you get me a Pepsi?

And she goes: No you’re on drugs!

I go: Mom I’m okay, I’m just thinking

She goes: No, you’re not thinking, you’re on drugs! Normal people don’t act that way!

I go: Mom, just give me a Pepsi, please

All I want is a Pepsi, and she wouldn’t give it to me

All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and she wouldn’t give it to me

Just a Pepsi

Institutionalized – Suicidal Tendencies

What my taste have done is allow me to analyze the emotion I’m experiencing and then make some type of assessment on how to cope. Or it might open my mind to a moment when I should be rejoicing. Even more, the music might give me a calming effect [Music calms the beast] that will get me through the day. It’s all good and it is usually needed for the moment the music presents itself.

I can appreciate having this discernment about myself and the impact of music. Nearly every day I have theme music in my head for how I perceive myself for the day. It’s kind of like the Shaft music but not as cool, nonetheless, just as effective. And in my growth as a human being I no longer feel strange because of my eclectic behavior. I am still learning to embrace this part of who I am – I just need to connect with those who have similar experiences with their musical taste.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Things My Dad Never Did

Recently I experienced some venom targeted my way and luckily I dodged it by my wit. It was nothing major, just the same ole “people-only-know-you-by-what-you-post” kind of nonsense. While some of what we post reveals a little about our personalities it is necessary to take a deeper dive into our lives to truly understand who we are as individuals…and as a society.

Thus, I started thinking about who I am and compared it to how I was raised. However, parents for people of my generation, especially our fathers, did not have the same things to contend with during their days of parenting. Society has changed so much that the norms of today may appear foreign for an entire generation. God only knows what the norms will be a generation from now.

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And so I decided to write some notes to capture the spirit of my thoughts. These notes detail some of the things my father never dealt with as he and my mother (in the same household no less) raised me and my siblings:

  1. Texting – the closest thing to my dad having used a text message back in the day was…NOTHING! I guess you can’t really call smoke-signals coming from his angry head as texting but that was pretty close. Usually his voice could carry across the neighborhood to grab my attention. While texting is very useful these days it doesn’t give much in the way of tone UNLESS I TYPE IN CAPS or use Emoticons. (When did this become a word? When it showed up in Wikipedia?)
  2. Working from Home – Many of today’s businesses are allowing folks to WFH. Keep in mind, it might appear to be for the benefit of the employee but not-so-fast…I’m using up my electricity with the air blasting, I don’t engage in water cooler conversations (unless it’s FB beef – see # 6 below), and I have to make my own lunch. Argh, the struggles I endure.
  3. Be a Stay at Home Dad – There were only a few men who actually admitted to being stay-at-home-dads back in the day. It’s commendable so don’t get it twisted, it just wasn’t practiced nor was it embraced. I do welcome the time I am allowed to hang with my kids while they struggle in the comforts of luxury and modern technology. #privilegedlivesthesedays
  4. Take a Selfie – Colin Powell admitted he was the first to take a self-proclaimed-selfie with a Polaroid (see picture above) and I can’t even imagine my dad (or other dads) doing such an act. The times have changed – and I’m certain the egos have not.
  5. Deal with petty shit – Did I ever see my father deal with petty shit? Not to my knowledge. Usually he would say something grumpy or down right indignant and leave it there. No room for pettiness in the old world. #pettypatty #politicalcorrectness
  6. Get into an internet (or public) IG, FB, TWITTER, beef – There were probably some good brawls that I was never privy to as a kid. But I can respect a good ass kicking every so often, up to a certain age. But nowadays you get into sissy-like confrontations hiding behind a GUI screen while in the security of your home. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
  7. Get divorced – Granted, marriage ain’t for everyone, nor can every couple stand the test of time. My parents have been married for a gazillion years and they’ve made the best of it. Right, wrong, bad, or indifferent they committed like many others did and they worked through their differences. Nice job parental units. Good luck with this to my Gay and Lesbian fellow human beings.

These are just a few things that come to mind about how my life differs from my dad. Not saying it’s better or worse, it’s just…different.

Now ‘scuse me while I get into a beef about Hillary vs Trump. It’s funner this way.

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Go well and with love good peeps.

Son Don’t Let these Streets Get You (A letter to my boy)

The seduction of tight-ass bitches twerking under bright lights as you make it rain hundreds can make any lil homie have a desire for the streets. Dope cars, dope chains, dope clothes, and swag like no other. The Hip Hop music is on fleek! Fast life as you cruise down the street bumping the hottest beats.

Yeah, it’s enticing, but it ain’t worth it son.

My love for you won’t allow me to let you stray into an environment that will make you a statistic. I won’t be responsible for your slide into a life full of risk with only quick rewards. I know you may not understand at this time but please trust me when I tell you. My father said the same thing to me as I’m saying to you “Don’t hang with street-walkers cause nothing good comes from that.”

I realize my conservative life style may not appear as sexy or fly or whether I have swag but I still know best. I only know best because I’ve seen many things in all my years on this earth. Therefore, I want to impart this wisdom onto you so you do not have to experience all of the pitfalls life will throw at you. Make a choice to avoid them. Life can and should be beautiful – all of the parts coming together like a well-played symphony.

The allure of the almighty dollar will not allow me to see you fall to the streets. I’d rather be a poor son-of-a-bitch with a lifetime of non-material riches than to die young or live an empty existence. Or to have my life interrupted by a prison system that is unfavorable to people like us.

I pray that you hear my voice as I make this public plea to you at an age where you may not quite understand all of the pressures you will face down the road. We live in a different era these days and it may not be the kindest to you.

I get it… I’m not ignorant of what is out there and how you might believe you are doing what you have to do as you might struggle with the balance act of being a stand-up guy but not looking like a punk. I hear the music and agree that we have very good music these days that has evolved over time. But do know we are living in an over-sexed period and it may have longer term detriments than advantages. Resisting these temptations is what will mold the man I want you to become.

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One day it will all make sense – what I am spouting off to you. I need to lay the ground work today so that you will have a future tomorrow. It is my role and obligation as your father to enlighten you. We should always be learning from one generation to the other. My lesson for today is to show you how much I love you by exposing you to the harsh truths of life.

I look forward to our time together in the years to come. I look forward to sitting with you and having a beer with you and listening to you as you spout off knowledge from your own experiences. And God willing, we’ll make it to that day together.

Go well and with love good peeps…

How Do You Decide?

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Choices, choices and more choices surrounded by decisions, decisions, and more decisions amidst a complicated landscape of relationships. My mind is overwhelmed as my time is limited yet the thought of sharing and giving remains an innate part of my overall being. Thus, the desire to connect in some type of way (apparently I’m feeling some type of way) is continually vying for my attention and demanding I take action. All actions will result in reactions.

Therefore, how do I decide?

Relationships are a mutha; let alone our relationships with our kids, parents, siblings, friends, etc. Yet, our makeup as human beings relies heavily on our ability to create relationships and sustain them. When you think about it – it is a very selfish act. The intended result is to satisfy the bubbling need to connect which is within all of us. Of course, you are free to live a nomadic or reclusive life and rid yourself of any true human connection.

Most of us don’t want to be reclusive – or alone. Therefore, we find ways in which we connect through church, extracurricular activities, and other social functions. Upon connecting we develop and nurture a relationship with another individual hoping for great things to come. And ultimately we sustain a long lasting relationship in which we can look back over time and proudly reflect on the journey it took to achieve that pinnacle. I imagine a Gandhi like figure sitting atop the mountain overlooking a serene and beautiful valley while mind, body, and spirit are one with God.

But before I become so Gandhi-like, I still need to decide, make a choice; take action as it relates to engaging in a meaningful relationship.

So here’s where I become creative and design a process (I know, it’s so “business” talk).

  1. Be deliberate in my actions and desires. This method is very Neanderthal-like; I knock you on the head with my club, throw you over my shoulder, and wander off into the sunset heading for my cave. A bit outdated (and quite illegal) but the intended result is achieved.
  2. I sit back and wait for a line to form as women anticipate meeting me… (crickets, crickets) Yeah, this has a very low probability for success but nonetheless, it’s an option.
  3. I can always let the chips fall as they may. There is absolutely no control in this method and I leave it all to the “universe” to guide me. What happens if the universe says “No RELATIONSHIP for you!?” (In my Nazi Soup Kitchen voice.)
  4. I can devise a very scientific approach to understanding the landscape of choices and then act on those choices very methodically. Oh, wait, eHarmony and Match.com have the patent on this method.
  5. Pray my way into a relationship. Somehow, I see this as very similar to #3 above, but this “universe” is a true serving God. However, other complications can be debated with this method (religious beliefs, science, etc.)

Finally, as I sit back and think about these methods to become engaged in a relationship the fog clears from my head and I listen to the voice directing me – be still my child. I come to the realization that I can’t force the magic of a relationship but I should anticipate its ability to be present when I least expect it. During this time my focus becomes inward as I rid myself of the skeletons and complexities I’ve created to become a renewed man. This I can live with.

Go well and with love good peeps.

You See Red, I See Blue

Irreconable, irreconcievable, irrecon…IRRECONCILABLE!

That’s the word I was searching for! Yes, it is that moment when you can no longer relate to that other person in your life – be it a spouse, a friend, family member or whomever. It is coming to grips with a thought process that may have taken time to mature and eventually accept but you understand where it stems from. It comes from a place that has taken all of your personal experiences over your years of living with the attempt to mesh them with another human being’s experiences in which none of those thoughts are shared between you. It is the absolute discovery of relating – or not relating.

I love sports but you do not and therefore we just can’t have the conversations I have about sports.

It becomes obvious after a while that what we communicate about is entirely out of sync. Many times this is to no one’s fault it is simply how we are wired. I can’t help that I abhor fashion and completely hate shopping. I mean, seriously, how many pairs of shoes can one own? Or I see you are not interested in technology but I’m a geek.

There we are sitting quietly on opposite ends of the room with nothing to say and nothing in common. Our eyes barely gaze at one another because of these differences. We can’t muster up conversation and the air around us becomes tense. With an outburst one of us declares, “I can’t take this anymore! The silence is deafening.”

And so the road to irreconcilable differences begins.

But is it really so formulaic? If it is, is it preventable? Is this a giant snowball we can prevent from escalating merely by recognizing and dealing with the avalanche that occurred to create it?

Or is it merely the way we are wired? A life-long event of equipping us with our desires, turn-offs, our wants, politics, religion (or lack thereof) and needs that fashions us as to who we are? If this is the case we only would hang with those we have things in common with. We would find ourselves drifting to others like us. We would have the tendency to be among those most like us and those that can relate to who we are. Hmm, don’t we already do this and how’s it working out? Maybe we recognize that it isn’t merely searching out for others like us but that we are formed by others in their image.

How would we ever overcome this conundrum? A weird cycle of Catch-22 is initiated when the repetitive life-cycle is repeated generation after generation, time after time, never allowing evolution to take hold and catapult us to another level.

I say “Stop it then!” Don’t allow our differences and our comforts get the best of us. Don’t allow the negativity of irreconcilability seep into our psyche’s and mess up the most advantageous paths our lives can take. Don’t take away our life’s potential or our children’s lives potential with an inadequate substitute due to our challenges to communicate. We should be thinking positively before we step down these negative paths. We need to understand fully what the future might hold as we embrace this life of irreconcilability.

For now, I will like many others come to the conclusion that life may bring me to a dead end and there is no other alternative for reconciliation – therefore thrusting me into a different direction than previously thought. Hope is not lost but the path will change. I just hope this path has the potential as my previous path.

Go well and with love good peeps.

The Struggles within Our Black Boxes

Recently a friend of mine relayed to others about the black box we all possess – our brains. And the fact that this black box does not see the day of light, does not smell or hear sounds, and is reliant on the rest of our bodies to maintain our entire being – it controls all we do. The brain receives information from all of our senses and helps to interpret the cold and cruel world around us. So what happens when our minds cannot function properly because it is mired in confusion, depression, and sadness? It can drive us to tragedy.

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Who knows what’s going on inside our black box – no one, unless we are willing to share what is occurring. We all know of the struggles that might occur and we continue to turn a blind eye for those in need. Children might cry out in pain and we are quick to dismiss their feelings by saying “toughen up.” We make excuses about bad decisions and expect others to absorb these decisions without hesitation – this creates a backlog of pent-up aggression or depression.

Our minds are so powerful yet so vulnerable. An idle mind is the Devil’s playground as believed by those within the Christian faith.

And maybe it is.

And maybe an active mind is also the Devil’s playground – instilling terrible thoughts that lead us to a path of destruction. The inputs of broken marriages, promises, dreams, etc., contribute to the challenges we all face. And some individuals are better equipped to deal with these challenges compared to others.

“So why does that matter to me” you might ask?

It should matter – as a member of this planet.

It should matter as a human being. We should all take some responsibility to help assist others in need. We should work to recognize the subtle signals people in need might be telegraphing. We should act on these impulses to ensure others are afforded the same care and guidance we can possibly provide.

We should care for one another. Period.

I for one strive to do better, be better, act better, and provide better. Not because it gives me a first place in line at the pearly gates of Heaven but because it is the right thing to do.

I challenge all of you to do that which is right. I challenge you to live a life caring for one another. And I challenge each of you to reach out to others in need. In the long run it can only make this planet a better place to live and you never know who you might help.

Go well and with love good peeps.

National Institute of Mental Health