Change

Change, love it or hate it, happens to all of us. We grow, age, sometimes we regress but there is always change.

Interestingly, I’ve spoken with people who are against change completely. They’ll use phrases like “I’m never going to change,” “getting married and having children won’t change me,” and “money changed them.” As a creature of habit, I understand resistance to change. Even if you’re in bleak situation, there is comfort in knowing what the situation is day by day. However, I recognize that change is inevitable and that the word change has no negative or positive meaning.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines change as “to become different.” Becoming different doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be, and some times it is, but it doesn’t have to be the default.

I’m going through several life changes right now, some of which I’m going through begrudgingly. What I’m learning, and continue to remind myself, is that my present situation is changing in a way I don’t want it to BUT this change presents opportunity. Opportunity to try new things, immerse myself in familiar things and to let go of this notion that I can control everything.

So here’s to living life and accepting change.

#change

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Moments

I was walking through the park today and something really funny happened. A man was walking through a throng of pigeons and a couple of squirrels. One of the squirrels was following the man as he walked away. No matter which direction he walked, the squirrel followed him. The man laughed. I laughed. The squirrel continued to follow him through the crowd of pigeons.

Then, the moment crusher. The man pulled out his cell phone and started recording the squirrel to see if he would still follow him. The squirrel stopped immediately as if to say “I will not put on a show”, turned the opposite direction and scurried away. The man immediately said “Oh, so you’re gonna stop following me as soon as I try to get it on video.” I smiled politely and continued on my way.

A thought popped into my head as I walked away from that scenario—I miss moments. I miss moments I spontaneously shared with random strangers, like the one described above. I miss moments with family members on holidays or at summer barbecues. I miss moments with friends at a dinner party that only the closet friends were invited to. These moments are organic, rare and raw. It used to be that you’d only hold these moments in your memory and reminisce with those few people who were there to experience with you. Or, that you’d have a funny story to share with your colleagues at the water cooler the next day.

Moments still occur, but they are tainted with the need to capture everything on video and share it with the world. Moments are now painted with people splitting off to go take selfies, make videos and update their social media accounts. From the postings it often appears as if people were more engaged in events than they actually were when they actually spent more time posting about the event.

Like the squirrel who refused to perform for the stranger in the park, I refuse to perform as well. It’s amazing that we have the capacity to share information with people across the world. It’s amazing that we can keep in touch with family and friends who live farther than we are able to travel but something about oversharing cheapens the exchange. We no longer care what our friend’s post if they post every single thought that crosses their mind, every meal they eat and dare I say it every milestone of their child’s life. We become numb to what our so-called friends are sharing.

Being other at work makes me wonder

When you’re a minority in a mostly white work environment, sometimes you have experiences that make you wonder “was that racist?”… I’m not naive, I know racism still exists. Some racism is overt and in your face, other racism is more subtle. However, as a young adult I want to believe that most of that stuff is behind us and that racism is just a small component of American culture. But then there are these moments….

So before you give up on reading the rest of this post, hear me out.

Growing up black, you’re often told to work twice as hard as your white counterparts so you can succeed. You are told to not blame anyone for your problems and you are expected to have thicker skin than most kids your age have. I can only speak to the black experience because this is the experience I know. So I did it…what I was told – I did it. I went to college and grad school. Studied hard, worked hard and continue to do so. But still there are these moments…

In college, I experienced subtle racism here and there but nothing that really rattled me. The occasional professor making an off the cuff remark about race, students either making fun of or being overly involved in what they consider “urban culture.” In various work environments over the past few years, I’ve experienced it as well. I’m beginning to experience these things again, again very subtle. But the things I experience now, though subtle, sometimes make me wonder “is this racism?”.

So someone at work sends me an email asking me to make copies  for a meeting. I make the copies. While I’m organizing the copies, the requester walks in a says, “was it clear what I wanted you to do?” I’m thinking and actually say, yes you wanted x number of copies, here they are (as I hand them off). The requester continues to make this moment awkward by asking me if the documents have been stapled (the answer being yes, because the documents were about 15 pages long). This moment makes me wonder if this person thinks a little less of people of my hue or if it’s just me.

The only reason I even wonder if it’s a little bit racist is because of past interactions I’vewait had with this person. Interactions where this person is genuinely surprised when I complete a task that was asked of me. Let me be clear, this is not just the normal “I’m glad you figured this out” reaction. This person is genuinely shocked that I can handle logistics for events (i.e. reserve space, confirm setup, etc.). This person is equally shocked when I know the answer to a very basic question being asked. It really bothers me that there genuine and I mean genuine surprise that I can make copies, make a reservation or even make budget decision (which I am capable of doing). These moments..these moments…make me wonder.

You might be thinking…I’m overreacting, it isn’t necessarily a race thing. You might be right. All I know is that feeling that I get in the pit of my stomach when I experience these moments say otherwise. For now, I confront these things head on the only way I know how, by asking questions like “is there something I’ve done in my time here to make you think I wouldn’t understand how to complete this task?” The answer is usually no. That get’s me no where, so I move on. No sense dwelling, right? But these moments…these moments…make me wonder.

#thesemomentsmakemewonder

Terrifying children into a life of asthma

Great piece on how family life can affect children’s health.

ACEs Too High

Credit: Cellular Image/Flickr Credit: Cellular Image/Flickr

Sometimes the clearest indicator of a family’s dysfunction is, unfortunately, illness in its children. Like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, it’s the children who are most susceptible to the toxicity of family addiction and dysfunction. Hurt people hurt people, and literally scare the life out of little kids.

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The Darkness of Television

As I scroll through the tv guide trying to find something to watch, I can’t help but notice the increasing number of dark tv shows.  From the vampire craze to the zombie craze, there’s not much room for comedy or simple drama.  There are some comedies and dramas out there that aren’t as dark, but only a few. Shows like Criminal Minds and Law & Order: SVU have been getting darker as the seasons go on.  Don’t get me started on The Walking Dead, Grimm or The Vampire Diaries.

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The Walking Dead–See what I mean?! This could haunt a kid for weeks!! Hell, it could haunt an adult!

This is either a sign that I’m getting old, or that maybe tv is taking a turn for the worse.  I can’t even watch a show with my kid without a scary commercial popping up with zombie or vampires. Or better yet a movie trailer with demons haunting a family. As an adult, I don’t mind watching the occasional episode of the Walking Dead or something similar, but I don’t think kids should be exposed to it when watching age appropriate programming or something as simple as the local news (which is frightening enough).  I don’t remember so many dark programs being advertised when I was a kid.  All I know is these dark ass tv shows are too much and to quote Seth Meyers’ parody of millennials “I just can’t even…”

#Limitdarktvshows #myrantfortheday

Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall (Oh, wait…that was me)

ImageI haven’t written in a while, but its not because of a lack of inspiration.  Thanks to climate change, mother nature or simply this horrible winter, I fell on snow and broke a limb.  

I’ve said this for years…Falling humbles real people real fast!  I recall a couple of years ago when my husband (then fiancee) kept forgetting to take out the trash. I’d constantly remind him “don’t forget to take out the trash” and he’d say “I won’t.” Then he’d forget anyway.  

One morning I was already in a bad mood and he left out of the house without taking the trash AGAIN. So I quickly went outside right behind him (trash in hand) and dumped it into the can. When I was walking away, I slipped on ice and fell flat on my behind.  All of my attitude and sassiness left immediately.

I laughed about it later with coworkers sharing my theory that falling (especially in front of someone as an adult takes us down a few notches).  No matter how mad or tough we may be in a situation, tripping and falling will bring you down a few levels.

So this more serious fall that resulted in surgery reeaallyy made me humble. For the first week or so, I couldn’t get around on my own because of the pain and I was just beginning to use the crutches.  I had to depend on others to drive me to doctor’s appointments, get me food, even help me make it to the bathroom.  (I had 3 minor slips after the big one, hey, it was my first time on crutches, you understand).  I never had to rely on anyone like this before.  Frustrating, yet humbling.

So aside from being humbled after dealing with my emotions of sadness and anger because I couldn’t go to work, I’ve gained an appreciation for people with disabilities and anyone dealing with injuries in general.  I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself, but then I’d run across people on TV who lost a limb in war or who were in some crazy accident. I thought to myself, hey, I got off easy compared to these folks.  Now, though not fully recovered, I am definitely more inspired and looking forward to blessings to come. 

#ThingsCouldBeWorse #CountingMyBlessings

Sharing in Happiness

So I wanted to take some time to write about happiness.  I’m a firmly believe that we are in charge of our own happiness.  Sure there are things that piss us off from time to time, or our circumstances help lead us into a state of depression. But, while these things contribute to our feelings, we ultimately decide to be happy or not.

ImageWith that said, I think it is really important for us to rejoice in other people’s happiness.  We obviously have a choice when it comes to this as well.  If your coworker gets a another job opportunity before you  (even though you both have been working feverishly to find one), you can choose to be happy for them (or not).

I recently experienced a similar situation. I told my coworker about a new opportunity and was immediately met with anger and disappointment. Now, while I will definitely miss my old job and coworkers (some of whom became dear friends), I’m excited for the opportunities to come.  I was expecting some ambivalence and maybe a little sadness because we won’t get to work together daily, but not outright anger.  To be clear, this isn’t a situation of “hating”–it really is just a choice to be angry instead of sharing in my happiness.

ImageIts important for us to share in the happiness of our friends and family because we all want that for ourselves at some point.  I mean how can we truly be happy for ourselves, if we can’t delight in the happiness of a loved one?

Your friend graduated in four years (it took you five), your cousin buys a house (but you were looking for one first and still haven’t found one), your sister has five kids (and you can’t seem to have one).  All reasons to feel a little sad about your particular situation, but no reason to harbor resentment or not be happy for others.  Someone once said to me, “if you cannot be happy for someone’s blessings, then you’ll never get blessed.”  True statement.

ImageSo to my unhappy coworker, whom I’ll miss despite our recent clash, I will continue to be happy for you as things continue to look up.  Great things are in store for you, I know it! To others who are reading, be genuinely happy for your loved ones as they experience great things (even if it happens when you’re experiencing a rough patch)! I mean after all we “don’t need no hateration, holleration’ in this dancery”.   Besides, your friends can usually tell if your faking it.

#NoHaters

Era of the Mistress?

There are two dramas on the air that, while they are good shows, make me uncomfortable. But before I get into what makes me uncomfortable (although it’s no big secret if you’ve read the title), I want to talk about why these shows are good.

Scandal, ABC

Scandal, ABC

Scandal (on ABC) and Being Mary Jane (on BET) are two dramas that have captured an untapped audience, black women.  There are very few shows, dramas particularly, that target black women as an audience and casts black women in leading roles.

Kerry Washington (who I adore) plays the fierce Olivia Pope who is having an affair with the President.  This is major…Kerry is the only black woman in a leading role on a major network show.  She is an awesome actress and really deserves all the glory she’s receiving for the role.  Gabrielle Union plays the successful single news anchor Mary Jane who has a complicated personal life.  As a black woman, it excites me to see these women taking on challenging roles and getting some (much needed) attention for doing so.

What really grinds my gears (Family Guy reference noted) is that these characters, though successful, attractive and smart choose to be mistresses.  Now, I’m not one of those “these shows are an attack on the institution of marriage” types…because I really don’t think that’s what these shows intend.  However, it does concern me that main characters in these shows are mistresses.  What also bothers me is the reactions that I’ve heard (or seen) on social media.  They range from “I’m waking up early to go down on my man” to “what you won’t do for your man another one will” with the #beingmaryjane or something equally disturbing for #scandal.

Being Mary Jane, BET

Being Mary Jane, BET

Are these shows subtly trying to keep women in “their place” by telling them “if you don’t do everything for your husband, he’ll cheat so you better get on the ball”?  I resent the notion that women must always cater to men…husband or boyfriend.  Men and women should cater to each other.  Furthermore, why are we encouraging women its okay to share a man who has a wife?  A cheating husband is a cheating husband and he should be blamed for his actions.  BUT, he is cheating with someone. If you know a man is married, why would you take part in helping him destroy his marriage?  If he wants to destroy his marriage, let him do it on his own and deal with his conscience.   Are we also showing men (if they’re watching) that its okay for you to cheat if your wife doesn’t do what you want sexually (or otherwise)?  If men don’t want to be married, they need to figure something out (without cheating on their wives).  But us as women, particularly black women, need to stop accepting the role as the mistress (side chick).

What worries me the most is that I hear 14 year old girls talking about Scandal while I’m riding the bus.  Fourteen year old girls should not be watching this show (and parents can deal with that part the way they now how).  I just hope these young girls aren’t absorbing this stuff and thinking a) it’s okay to be a man’s mistress or b) it’s okay to accept being cheated on because it’s a part of life.

I’m going to get off my high horse now, because again I do watch them (Scandal more than Being Mary Jane). I just wanted to get out something that has recently started to bother me.  I may stop watching them, I may not, I don’t know.

#Ramblefortheday

 

Commenters & Trolls: Extremism at its Finest

Spreading-Extremism

Photo Credit: Kip Lyall http://bit.ly/1iNTF2Y

I regularly read news articles, blogs and other posts online to catch up on what’s happening on the outside of my little bubble.  This is harmless, right? Well, maybe not so much.  Lately I’ve been increasingly becoming turned off by the comments people make on articles and posts that generally wouldn’t elicit extreme comments.  We’ve all been there though, right? You’re reading a post or a blog about something pretty simple and straightforward and then…BAM, you see the most obnoxious, hateful comment you’ve seen in a while.

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I saw a pretty standard post written about Amiri Baraka, former NJ poet laureate who is recently deceased.  The comment says:

Today, Newark’s light is dimmed with the passing of Amiri Baraka. A true son of our city, Amiri was a veteran of the civil rights struggle who left an unforgettable mark on our world. He was a literary icon who wrote essays, plays, poems, and books that will not be forgotten. He was a political icon, setting the stage for the empowerment of those who had been locked out for so long. The history of Newark cannot be written without an account for the life and legacy of Amiri Baraka. We are everlastingly grateful for his service.

You would think, okay this is something typical that I or anyone else would write about a well known influential person who just died.  But then I read one of the comments on this post and I was taken aback.  It read:

I am appalled at those comments, Shavar. Amiri Baraka admitted that he was delighted at the 1967 riots, because he wanted the Jewish and Italian communities to leave town, so that Newark would be left to the black community. Only then did he realize the error of his ways. He said that he thought that the African-American community was totally cohesive and in much better shape than it was. Moreover, he wrote that horrific poem indicating that the Jews engineered 9/11. He has always been an anti-Semite and you should go back into history. Read that poem. Re-evaluate…

This comment set off a whole slew of comments going back and forth spewing hate.  Hmm…I thought to myself.  Now, I know that everyone has done both good and bad things in their lifetime.  I also know that we’ve made some controversial comments here and there (don’t judge me and I won’t judge you).  But, shouldn’t it be acceptable to write some positive comments about a deceased person?   People try to remember the good when loved ones die, not the bad.   I mean damn, the guy literally just died.  I don’t want to get too much into the comment above, but when is enough enough?  When will it be okay for random Facebook user number 1 to post something that isn’t generally polarizing (i.e. “Newark’s light is dimmed with the passing of Amiri Baraka”) and Facebook user 2 to read it, disagree with it (internally) and just keep on scrolling?  Why do people always have to antagonize everything?

I read some other article (I can’t remember the name of it), but it simply read something like “John Doe was killed while taking the trash out of his home”.  I read several comments that said “wow, that’s sad” “RIP” “prayers to the family.”  However, the comment that got the most responses read something like “good, let them all kill each other, there will be less on welfare.”  One of the responses called this “top commenter” a troll. I didn’t know what it meant (apparently I’m not as well read as I thought 😦 again, don’t judge me).  The Urban Dictionary defines it as “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a news group or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” Now your asking yourself (just like I did)…do people actually do this? Yep, they do.  It’s unfortunate, but yes they do.

Trolls are like the family members you don’t want to sit next to during Thanksgiving dinner. You know the ones who look at you and say “have you gained weight?” or “you look halfway decent today, is that a new outfit?”  I don’t wish any harm to anyone, but I’m calling it. 2014 the end of the troll. The trolls online and the trolls in our real lives.

And that’s my rant for now 😉

What I learned from a 2 year old

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There’s a story that I like to share with friends who are overburdened or overwhelmed.  This can be due to family/work/school responsibilities or a combination of everything.

A few years back my daughter was going through what everyone refers to as the “terrible twos”.  She was strong-willed, wild and did all those things that two year old’s typically do (sticking things in her mouth, pouring salt on the floor, bumping her head while hiding under the coffee table).  You name it, she did it.

I would say to her (in my I’m your mom so you’re going to me voice) “just sit down for a few minutes so I can get my head together” to which she would reply “NO!”  It drove me crazy! No matter what I asked her to do, the answer was “NO.”  After losing my mind a little bit and her becoming (slightly) more calm and easier to handle, the word that she kept saying was stuck in my head. “No”…”No”..”No”

I had been previously guilty of saying “yes” or “I’ll see what I can do” to friends and family who need my help or money for their own situations.  Taking on the problems of others, while having my own responsibilities had taken its toll on me.  I’d realized that I was taking on too many responsibilities. In addition to being a mom, I was working, going to school and dealing with family issues.  I was that overburdened friend who needed to be counseled.

That word “No” started to go through my mind more and more often and guess what?  I started using it! I started saying “No” to requests that were adding extra stress that my body could no longer afford to handle.  I said “No” to requests for money from people who squandered their own.  I said “No” to babysitting other people’s children almost as often as I had to deal with my own.  I said “No” not “I’ll see what I can do” and I felt liberated.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stop helping family and friends completely.  But, I did ask myself Do I have to help this person? How would they get through this if I wasn’t an option?  I helped, but on my terms and when I felt less stressed.  I got interesting reactions to this new me. They ranged from blank stares to “you’re selfish.”  These reactions were coming from people I constantly helped and were simply not used to hearing me say “no.”

I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I felt bad for saying “no,” but I slowly realized that when I was saying “no” to them, I was really saying “yes” to me.  Saying no allowed me to say yes to spending more time with my daughter, reading a book, or simply taking a nap.

I learned one word that liberated me from unnecessary stress. And to think a two year old had to teach it to me. I will never forget that word. It helped me keep my sanity.

#No