Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Boys to Men

Westley and Jack 

I am worried about my sons.

I would like to think that they will get a fair shake in this county, but I don't.

I would like to believe that they will only be judged by their character and conduct, but I don't.

I would hope that one day they would get a job and be paid the same amount, receive the same recognition and be given the same opportunity as their caucasian counterparts, but I don't.

The events that have taken place over the last year in this country have made me doubt the claim that African-Americans have come a long way.

I know what you're thinking. The media circus surrounding the Michael Brown shooting has me on edge. Well, you would be partially correct. As the story unfolds, you realize there is little "fact" to support the allegations that this young man threatened the police officer who shot him. What does seem obvious is that Michael Brown was shot, not because he threatened police, but because the police felt threatened by this tall African-American teenager. And now, instead of finding out the truth, all concern by authorities has been FOR the authorities and managing their reputation. The effort has been put into slandering Brown's character to give people a reason to believe he was a criminal. It's disgraceful.

Trayvon Martin was followed and subsequently killed because he "looked" suspicious. Why, because he was wearing a hoodie and carrying a watermelon drink? When is it going to stop being acceptable for African-Americans to be judged solely on their appearance? Why does our casual attire, or gestures or lifestyle have to mimic that of other cultures to keep from being considered ghetto? Why do we have to assimilate in order to be accepted? Meanwhile, those trying to look more urban get accolades and awards for twerking?? I don't get it.
Jack with his hoodie on

Any day of the week, my oldest could look "suspicious" by a wearing a hoodie and larger-than-necessary shorts. But anyone who has even met Jack would know that he is the furthest thing you could get from a thug. As a matter of fact, he would argue over whether thug was even a real word since there is no reference to its Latin origin.

Wes is certainly a lady killer, but I doubt very seriously he would ever actually hurt anyone. He apologizes when he steps on bugs!
Wes and the babysitter

Don't get me wrong. I am not making a blanket statement or judging all of humanity by these incidents. But less face it. They are not exactly isolated incidents. In my humble opinion, there is sufficient evidence for concern.

I'm hurt that the conversation I have with my sons about how to interact with police will probably be completely different than some of the other moms I know. I'm a little disturbed that I will have to explain to them that it may not be in their best interest to cooperate with authorities on questions they might have. Instead, call a lawyer first and me second should anything happen. I realize the chances of any of this happening to them is small, but the opportunity is still there.

I am worried about my sons. They deserve better than what they are probably going to get out of being black men in this country. I'm scared that no matter what their father and I do to ensure that they are well-educated, well-rounded boys, it won't matter. They'll still receive the short end of the stick. This is one of few times that I pray I am completely off base.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Run for the Cure

Let me start by saying that I absolutely hate running. Picking up my entire body weight and moving it down the street, on the treadmill or around a track is not my idea of a good time. For the most part, I would rather do ANYTHING other than run. However, I decided to take it up a few months ago just to see if I could handle it. My life was in transition, and I needed an outlet. Normally, that outlet is called Chardonnay, but at the time, I needed something that gave me a sense of accomplishment. I needed something that made me feel good again...a cure for my brokenness.

Low and behold, I started to, dare I say, like it! I enjoyed the peace and quiet it provided... a welcome change from the constant battery of daily life. It became therapeutic for me. I plugged in a pair of earbuds, laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement. There, at one with the open road, I could just let my mind rest and focus on completing the task at hand.

Once I got a little more accustomed to running, I noticed that a lot could be learned from the simple, yet challenging, act.

1. No matter how familiar you are with the path, there's always the possibility of something unfamiliar popping up.

To my surprise one day, the road I normally traveled was being torn to shreds by a construction crew. I don't know if they were putting speed bumps in or taking them out but either way, there were orange cones and large cranes taking up the entire street. I was going to have to take a detour. WTH! That would mean a longer route, more unexpected surprises since I didn't know the terrain and, undoubtedly, more work on my part. I was not very happy. This went on for a least a month. But what I found was that the added challenge prepared me for the next roadblock or construction crew in my life. The more I dealt with and overcame issues, the more I was prepared for the next one. Okay, prepared is probably not the correct word, but I am certainly not devastated by every little setback or hard lesson anymore. It has increased my endurance for life and for that, I am grateful.

2. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you'll get to your destination.

I am a church girl, but am lacking in the traditional African American talent commonly known as ISQ-impromptu scripture quoting. However, I do have one for this occasion. "The race is not given to the swift or to the strong, but to the one who endures." Don't ask me what book this comes from, but I know it's in there somewhere. The point is that this life tries to convince us that it's all about winning. It's all about the fastest time or the top of the leader board. That's fine for a competition that has a specific endpoint. But in the race of life, there is no specific destination. It sounds cliche, but it's all about the journey. Shortly after beginning to run, I registered for a few 5k races. It always drove me crazy not to be able to see the finish line. I learned that the finish line isn't always the goal. Depending on the the struggle, it's about getting through the first mile or hell, just making it to the starting line to begin with. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will get there at the time appointed for you and learn the lessons you are meant to learn along the way. Can I get an amen?

3. The longer the run, the bigger the sense of accomplishment.

Raise your hand if you enjoy encountering problems in life. Anyone? Exactly. I feel like I could live my entire life without facing a problem and be just fine. But since starting to run, I've been able to gradually increase the distance that I tackle. Oh, it's not pretty, but I get through it. And no matter how much I pant, decrease my speed to just more than a walk or plain pass the hell out when I finish, I feel like I have done something. I know, it doesn't sound to important now, but while you are in one of life's storms, just the smallest sense of accomplishment can make it easier to pick up the pieces. It can give you that extra umph to keep going and not give up. Sometimes, all you need is a little reminder of how you overcame your first mile run to help you overcome that issue at work.  Or maybe you just need a refresher of how you found enough strength to beat your own personal best time to find the strength to forgive when someone who has wronged you. It's inevitable. The longer you do something, the more efficient you become at it. Embrace the long run. It builds you up for the additional mileage that life tends to throw at you.

I still hate to run, but I see the value it in. For you, it could be anything challenging...chess, cooking, swimming. Give it a shot. Don't be afraid to do that one thing that gives you the most anxiety. It could lead to some of the biggest discoveries of your life.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The MILF: Moments I'd Love to Forgo

I normally talk about the ups and downs of motherhood, but today’s topic is going to be a little different. If you are happily married and in it until the end, you are more than welcome to turn the channel because today’s blog is about the perils of online dating.

My usual Friday night date
I’ve been divorced for 3 years now, and I finally feel like I have developed a sort of  “new normal” with my kids. We have a few hiccups now and then, but I think we’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm. Some of my friends agree and have been urging me to get out and meet some new people…. meet some new men.

Yikes!!! I could live the rest of my life without having to deal with the dating scene again. This certainly classifies as a moment in time that I could forgo, omit, just plain do without.

I will be the first to admit that it has taken some time for me to get over my divorce. The emotional healing was and is a brutal process for me. Yet, that’s why my friends say I should start dating because “the best way to get over one man is to start seeing another.” However, the dating landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years.  When I was in my twenties, I was going to happy hour three days a week and to business “networking” events the other two. Now that I am a mother of three, the happy hours have slowed down. Meeting guys isn’t as easy as it used to be. Where I am going to meet them... at the McDonald’s play area? The closest I've gotten to a cougar experience is a trip to the zoo with my kids. Hence, the emergence of online dating sites. But I’m not totally convinced that online is the place for me to find love either.

First of all, I’m just opposed to paying for the services? I can't really explain why, but it just seems wrong. What am I paying for…the chance to read your profile and send you an email? I know it’s the way things are done nowadays, but I don’t see the value in it. The little that I have done hasn’t produced anything worth talking about. The guys are either older, younger, slimmer, heavier or broker than their profile indicated. If I meet you out on a date and you don’t look like your profile picture, you should buy drinks until you do. I’m not looking for perfection, but I’m honest, and I expect other people to be as well. Is that na├»ve of me?
My idea of a threesome. Hanging out with
the girls.

My friends say you have to go through a lot of frogs to get to your Prince Charming. The problem is that I don’t have that kind of time. I have three kids, and we are all very active in our extracurricular activities. It doesn’t leave much room for surfing the web for a date. Besides, I don’t want my children to see me parading around with a bunch of “frogs” and thinking this is the way it should be done. Now that I am a mom, I have to think about how my children perceive what they see. I don’t want to give them the impression that dating is about quantity and not quality.

I guess I’m old fashioned. I want to meet someone out at a party or event, or have my friends hook me up with someone they know and trust. I know that finding a relationship takes an investment and a certain of amount of risk. But I’m not in my twenties any more and just like with my 401K, I feel like I should be a little more conservative with the resources of my time and heart.

Will the absence of online dating make it harder for me to get a second chance at love? Probably. But that is a risk I’m willing to take.

What do you think about online dating? Let me know.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tooting Your Horn with Your Kids

As you all know, I am really involved in my kids’ lives…mainly because I don’t have one of my own. However, I like being there to cheer them on. Growing up, I was extremely involved in school activities, especially sports. So being on the sidelines, in the bleachers or in the dugout with my kiddos only seems natural. However, they have been a little skeptical of “Mom” having too much of an opinion about their extra-curricular activities. Why? Because they’ve never known me to be involved in any extra-curricular activities myself. In their minds, I am the queen of all things domestic. If they need instructions on brushing teeth or making beds, I am the resident expert…literally. But when it comes to things outside of the home, they often feel that I am outside of my element. That had to change.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a horn tooter. To my own detriment most times, I rely heavily on self-deprecating humor to keep from being embarrassed when I receive compliments. In doing so, I have not only downplayed my skills with adults, but with my children as well. For instance, Jack has played basketball for a couple of seasons now. When I have tried to give him advice or show him proper technique in the past, he would brush me off. Finally, I asked him why.

“Because you’ve never played basketball, Mommy,” he said.

What? How could this be?  My own son didn’t know I played junior high, high school and collegiate basketball? 
photo from my high school yearbook

Hadn’t I told him this before? Haven’t I showed him pictures or taken him to a game? In short, no! Jack believes the greatest thing I’ve ever done was give birth to him. So when I received an email to attend an SMU game honoring basketball alums, I quickly RSVP’d and made the kiddos tag along.

At halftime, all former players were asked to report court-side to be recognized.

“Where are you going,” Jack asked?

“I’m going down to the court,” I replied.

Surprised, he asked, “You played here?”

“Yes! Now watch Westley until I get back.”

So who’s the assistant coach of Jack’s basketball team? Me! And he is more inclined to listen to me now that he knows my basketball background.

The same thing occurred with Reese. She was on the mini-cheerleading squad at her school, and they were preparing to perform at a high school football game.  While she was showing me her routine at home, I said,

“Looks great! Straighten your arms a little more though,”

Rolling her eyes, she said, “This is cheerleader stuff, not mommy stuff. Watch, and I’ll show you how it’s done.”

Oh no she didn’t! I had to break out the 1989 Woodrow Wilson High School yearbook to show her my cheerleading skills!!

Before this, I barely made a noise with my horn. Now, I’m a tooting fool. When checking over their language arts homework, they would give me the stink eye until I reminded them that I used to be an English teacher. When rehearsing speeches for church or memorizing poems for school, they sighed in utter frustration every time I told them to slow down and “put your face into it.” That’s until I pulled out my old resume tapes from being a TV reporter. 

I’m not doing this because I’m pompous or overly proud of the things I’ve done. Instead, I want my children to be proud of the things I’ve done and, in turn, to be proud of themselves and where/who they come from. I am constantly learning that parenting is about more than just washing dishes and folding clothes. I’m their most important mentor…their very first role model. It’s imperative that I share what I know… the good and the bad. They need to see Mommy learn a new skill, meet a goal or overcome an obstacle… because if Mommy can do it, they can too.

Try it. Share your experiences with your kids. And it doesn’t have to be something monumental. If you are going back to school to get a degree, let them look at your homework assignments.  If you’re working out at the gym, take them along. Show your children that there are more dimensions to you than what they see at home. You will open their eyes to the real meaning of the word “superwoman.”  And instead of you bragging on them all of the time, you just might catch them bragging on you.