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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Whenever

This is something that I wrote for one of my daughters when she went away to college.

Whenever

 Whenever you don’t feel safe at  night…

Look up ….I’m under that same sky WITH you.

Whenever you feel like the walls are closing in on you…

Spin around….I’m breathing that same air that surrounds you.

Whenever you feel like you’re too far away…

Just stand…I’m standing in the same sun as you.

Whenever you feel like you just can’t go any further..…

Glance back… I took that last step WITH you.

Whenever you feel like giving up and that  you just can’t win…

Listen hard…I’ll be the one whispering cheers for you.

Whenever you feel like you can’t take another step…

Look ahead…I cleared a path for you.

Whenever you feel like no one loves you…

Look inside…That’s where I’ll always be.

Tee is the one on the left. The one on the right is Tiya or "SPARE"  as I call her.  Spare is short For Spare Daughter.  Obviously, I'm the one with the big ole Kool Aid grin.

Tee is the one on the left. The one on the right is Tiya or “SPARE” as I call her. Spare is short for Spare Daughter. Obviously, I’m the one with the big ole Kool Aid grin.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Okay…too much fiber ain’t good….trust me (Sidebar convo)

Now, to help you understand some of my future posts, and the mental battle of wills that would almost always take place between me and my daughters, I decided to give you a completely unedited look at my psyche.   A look that I may come to regret later, btw…. 

 If I was to describe myself, i would say that I am a Type A/Z personality. (You like that? Cool, ’cause I just made it up.) My definition of a type A/Z person is one that only has two speeds and doesn’t recognize that there even IS a middle ground. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell. I’m either 0% in or 110 % in. Don’t laugh, because I bet that there are people in your life that would describe you the same way if you asked them.   I’d even say that it was safe money to bet that when it comes to their family, most Dads are like that too. Here is one pretty funny example of how this personality type has gotten me into a bit of , how can I say it; uncomfortable situations.  As always, this is just between us friends and  all true and from the heart.

A few years ago, my doctor diagnosed me with high cholesterol. I KNEW it was bad, when he opened the test results…and started reading down the list of stuff like this…..”Item A…good… Okay, item B is good….okay…within limits…..whoooaaaa…” Anyway…as he spoke, his words began to fade into a series of ,”Wonk…wonk wonk wonk”,sounds that were  accompanied by visions of Krispety Kremity dougnut goodness dancing away, hand in hand with my 30s, off into the night.  Yep, the first thing I thought of when he was talking about my cholesterol, and the potential of heart attack and stroke and drooling on myself in the corner was Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  It makes ya wonder, exactly what do they PUT in them things, CRACK?!?!?!?

I kind of came back to my senses when he mentioned SOMETHING to the effect of lowering my cholesterol thru exercise and a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat. Well, seeing as how I’m a fan of deep fried, SALTED, pig skin with FAT attached (We call it Fat Back in the south.) , collard greens seasoned with boiling salted pork, and anything of a fried nature, I figured that the low fat route would definitely NOT be the   one that I would be inclined to take. So, I focused on the fiber angle. It seemed easy enough…lots of fiber would equal lower cholesterol. Okay. Check…I got it. With THAT, a light bulb went off in my head. I had seen some commercials about some kind of fiber stuff that you could buy at the grocery store and mix into water to drink and it would supposedly (and magically, apparently) help to reduce cholesterol. So there it was….my solution; right there in the medicine aisle of Kroger’s. I copped a bottle.

Now, under NORMAL circumstances, meaning circumstance involving an individual that was NOT a Type A/Z, this would be a non interest type of event. You know, nothing worth mentioning. But remember when I defined a Type A/Z as either 0% or 110% in? Well, that kind of clouds the issues a bit. The directions on packages can clearly say, “Mix in one teaspoon of powder with one full glass of water.”. However, somewhere between the packaging and my mind, that text becomes: ” Take three times the recommended dosage per glass to achieve three times the result at three times the speed.”   If you’re drawing a mental picture of me standing in the middle of the Kroger’s aisle,  staring up into the air as I ran the numbers, you have a pretty good image of how it really did look that day.  By the end of my thought process, the math seemed simple enough; if one teaspoon per eight ounce glass is good, then 3 HEAPING tablespoons per eight ounce glass must be REALLY good. That makes perfect sense………right?

So, I’m not sure if that amount of fiber ALONE would have done much damage, but being that I am a chronic “over doer” , I simply could not leave well enough alone. I was doing things like eating Cheerios for breakfast (’cause I heard that they were higher in fiber than my beloved Cap’n Crunch), downing a couple of Fiber One bars for snacks, scarfing down a salad for lunch, munching on a couple of plums in the late afternoon and washing most of them down with my “Super Water” concoction of about eight ounces of water and 3 TIMES the manufacturer’s (and probably most physicians’ recommended dosage) of Metamucil.

Now, i don’t know if you know what those levels of fiber can do to a man in a sudden burst like that, but let me be the first to tell you, it’s far from being pretty. It started out with a slight rumbling in my stomach that quickly turned to something that I bet would sound like a college drumline in the midst of a turf war against a marauding band of jackhammer wielding hooligans with my insides as the prize.   It sounded like my stomach was arguing with itself!!    Seriously,  I can’t even come up with enough colorful adjectives to describe the sounds generated by my digestive tract as it tried to deal with the sudden influx of fiber.  And you want to know about PAIN?!?!?  Yo have NO IDEA of the pain that stuff caused.  Dude, I was CRAMPING like a CHAMP!!!!!   It felt like I was going to give birth to a full grown WILDEBEEST; horns n all!

That wasn’t the worst part, though.  It was the after effects. Now, how can I put this mildly? Okay, let’s try this: Ingesting that much fiber makes an individual GASEOUS!   That’s about as mild as I can put it.   Man, I swear, some mornings I’d get up and my blankets would be floating….Wait for it…wait for it. (Admit it…once you got it, that was funny, right?

Okay, I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for a lifetime by telling this story……………………………………………………but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be telling more.

See ya next time.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in fatherhood, Uncategorized

 

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Did that chick REALLY just say…….#5

This will be really short n sweet.  I used to watch reruns of  the Cosby Show, and sometimes the girls would watch them with me.  Once, when Kiara was about 8 or 9 and coming off of one of her many punishments, she walked in a room where I was,  looked me square in the eye and said:

“Daddy…I’ve seen the Cosby Show………and you’re NO BILL COSBY!”

Did that chick REALLY just say…..?!?!?!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Nothing meaningful….Just funny to me

I’m not going to give much set up for this other than to say, my lil niece got onto a ride at the fair….She started off all smiles….and then….

First comes the realization that it’s actually higher up than she thought…..

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Then the betrayal of it all starts to set in…..

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Followed by the onset of rage…

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Finally exploding in an episode of HULK SMASH STUPID WINDOW!

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Being an Uncle is SOOOO much fun…lol

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in children, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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How I Grew to Hate Ms. Zella

When I set out to write this book, I decided that throughout it, I would be totally honest and transparent in everything I said, even if I thought it would be painful. My goal is to help fathers to build relationships through sharing my own experiences; some of which I’m proud of, others…not so much. However, each of them are experiences that I believe have common threads for all of us, and if my mistakes and failures can make all of us better Daddies just as much as my successes can, then let the chips fall where they may. That being said, this posting will start off with another “not so much” moment…and here we go:

i wasn’t always proud to be me.

My mother used to clean houses when I was small. That’s what she did to keep money in the house and food on the table. I remember sometimes, she would take me and my little sister Charmaine with her when she went to clean. We had rules. The most important of them all was, “Don’t touch NOTHIN’!”.  I probably don’t have to say this, as we were both pretty young and as such, borderline barbarians, but THAT, dear reader, was what we call, “wasted breath”. As soon as her back was turned and she was out of earshot, we would usually tear thru those houses, running around playing; doing whatever mischievous ideas crossed our lil miscreant minds. But there was one house that was always a little different for some reason.

That house was Ms. Zella’s house. I really hated the days that we had to go to this particular house. I don’t remember much about Ms. Zella, only that she was a middle aged White lady; tall and slender, with a sour face. Mama would always make it very clear that we were not allowed to roam freely in Ms. Zella’s house. I think it was because a lot of times, Ms. Zella would be home while Mama cleaned, and she didn’t want her kids to be seen as some untrained little rabble-rousers that slowed down her work. So, we tried our best to do what we were told.  The fact that Mama cleaned houses want’t bad .  Not at all.  I would dare think that most kids at that age really think that whatever job their parents do is cool.  I did.  It was the other stuff that punched me in the gut.

Mama’s interactions with Ms. Zella bothered me. I remember how it made me feel to see Mama defer to some lady that was way younger than her; shoveling on her as much respect as humanly possible. I would get mad whenever I heard Mama show her respect by calling her “Ms. Zella”, and her calling Mama “Josephine” in return in that irritating, Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara, Flo from Mel’s Diner, whiny southern accent of hers. The whole package made it all feel like someone slowly dragging their fingernails across a chalkboard every time she opened her mouth. Now, for a child that was always taught to respect his elders and to ALWAYS say “Yes, Sir.” and “Yes, Ma’am.”, I couldn’t fathom how she could get away with talking to Mama like that.

Now, I understand how this could be seen as a very trivial instance, but the fact that I remember this stuff some 30 odd years later, and that it played such a role in developing my idea of race relations and my own sense of self worth is important to note. Children see more than we think, and internalize more than we know. It’s not always the big, civil rights, march on Selma moments that shape a mind, it’s the small things too.

That wasn’t the only thing that hounded me from inside the walls of Ms. Zella’s house though. It was also the less obvious things. I remember being surrounded by images of stuff that was, in my eyes, proof of an infinitely better life than my own. I always say that poor people don’t know that they are poor until someone (or something) points it out to them.  Well, Ms. Zella’s house did that for me with a vengeance. It pointed out my lack and repeated it over and over again with a deafening reassurance…a virtual “Naaah naaah nuh Naaah Naaaaaaah” that would make the hunger that would gnaw at me in bed at my own house seem that much worse, and me feel powerless to change it.

Her house made fun of me. Sometimes it was simple stuff; stuff like the fact that their TV’s had more than three channels, that they had carpet on the whole floor, that they didn’t have bed sheets on their furniture to make it all match, that the clothes in their closet didn’t all smell like wood or kerosene smoke and, most importantly, their refrigerator was always full…always.

Sometimes, mama would feed us out of that fridge. I think those were the best lunches that we ever had, or at least they were to me. The extra seasoning of knowing that those “rich” folks would be just a lil short that day always felt like I was thumbing my nose in Ms. Zella’s face, and that made it taste all the better. But that feeling of triumph always faded away with the feeling of fullness and the return to powerlessness.

And so, I wasn’t proud to be me.

I wasn’t proud to be Black, because everything that I saw, to me, seemed like Black failure and White success. Every history book that I opened painted me as a member of a group that really hadn’t accomplished anything. They were all filled with stories about how we were brought here in chains and  their pages seemingly revealed  that I should be thankful that we were “rescued” from the wilds of Africa. Oh yeah, they would always throw George Washington Carver in there for good measure….You know, so I wouldn’t feel left out, but usually just in February.

I wasn’t always proud to be from a single parent home despite the fact that my parent was an honest, loving, hard working mother. I wasn’t always proud to be a “smart kid” in school. In actuality, I really wanted to be one of the “cool kids”, but it was hard to do while wearing the “freshly picked from the bin in the grocery store” shoes with the hard plastic bottoms that my mother used to buy for me. I wasn’t always proud of the home my mother provided for me even though it was more than adequate and filled me with what would become fond memories til this day.   I wasn’t always proud of the hand me down pants that I had to wear with the multiple lines around the ankles from having year after year of cuffs ironed into them, but that kept me totally warm in the winter . I wasn’t proud of the fact that Mama used to get free vegetables to feed us with. In fact, most of those things I didn’t see as signs of anything honorable, but rather bright scarlet letters. I was ashamed of everything that I was for a while…but not forever. It took a few lessons, but I learned a few things that will help me with my daughters, and I thank God for these lessons.

First, it’s important for us as fathers to teach our daughters that their value does not go from the outside in, but the inside out. In THEORY, that should be easy, but in practice, it’s much more difficult to pull off. To begin, we have to understand, that we are in a constant battle for our daughters’ mindspace. That puts us in direct competition with the negative influences. (BET, MTV, Housewives of Atlanta- Beverly Hills-New Jersey, Teen Moms, etc.)  We have to become positive counterbalances to all that that they are bombarded with every day.  This is not easy, and it’s often not very fun either.  But it IS necessary.

Everywhere they look, and in everything they hear, our daughters are told that their hair isn’t long enough, or their clothes aren’t cute enough, that they don’t sing good enough or that their lips are too fat and their noses too wide. What we have to do then, as those charged with being their protectors, is become the first line of defense for them. We may not be able to intercept all the arrows flung their way, but we can help make their armor a bit stronger; their shields a bit thicker.   We have to take every opportunity to show them their worth and to help them know that their beauty springs  from the strength of their character.  We are tasked with teaching them that true beauty comes not from what people see, but rather from what they can never see.   Our role is to make sure that they understand that HOWEVER God made them is beautiful and that they never have to sell out or settle to fit in. It’s invaluable for them to know that regardless of the cost of their clothes that no one is worth more than them, and that others are important as well.   Sometimes it’s difficult for a girl to find something about herself to be proud of. So, sometimes, as Daddies, we have to point it out.

Secondly, if I can borrow the term, we have to “accentuate the positives, and eliminate the negatives.” When my girls were younger and much more vulnerable, every day, I would  try to find SOMETHING to compliment them on that wasn’t something that could be bought, or worn, or borrowed. Now the business of my life would get in the way of doing it sometimes, but whenever I find a free second to do it, I try to. I’ll put it to you like this. I’m a grown man, and still, when one of my daughters sends me a text message, or writes on my office whiteboard about how proud they are of me, that they love me, or that they see how hard I work for them, it makes my day go just a little bit smoother. I can’t tell you how many times a perfectly timed positive message from one of them has kept me from throwing in the towel. Now, if a grown man can gain strength from that, and I already KNOW how hard the world can be, how much more valuable can it be to a little girl to see that they have someone in their corner? Try to find excuses to compliment her. It’s important to give them a reason to smile.

Trust me.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Chicken Wings, White Bread and Peer Pressure (pt.3)

I know  that I went on a bit of a weird trajectory since I started writing the whole Chicken Wings, White Bread and Peer Pressure trilogy (doggone adult ADHD), but as promised, I’ll wind it up now and bring things full circle. Here are a few key words that should help bring you back up to where we left off. (If not,…feel free to check out parts one and two.)

Hayloft
Face Smoosh
Fish Guy
Music Screeches
Trunks open and close
Magic trick -Guns appear
I have a new cousin.
Fight or flight
Chris has a new gun….(new in 1929!)

Okay, so what did I personally learn from my experience?  Immediately afterwards, the only thing that I thought I had learned was to NEVER go ANYWHERE with my friend’s musket loading, squirrel hunting, dubya dubya two,  22 caliber rifle toting self.    Secondly, I learned that stuff is rarely, if ever,  like you see on T.V.   It’s harder than it looks to just walk away from a bad situation.   No matter how quick of wit I was, I found it difficult to just talk my way out of that situation and leave.   That night, I knew pretty early on that things were going to be bad, but because of the image that I wanted to keep, I stayed.   I was given several instances throughout, where I could have walked away…safely, and with no possibility of leaking vital bodily fluids…but I chose not to.  I CHOSE not to.  I chose looking cool over being  safe.  I chose “keeping it real” over “keeping it WHOLE.”  It wasn’t like I didn’t KNOW what I needed to do. Heck, everything LOGICAL in me was telling me to run across that field like they were giving away riches and glory on the other side.   I was always a pretty smart kid, but then again, how smart do you have to be to know that bullet holes would probably hurt and should be avoided?!?!   I just sometimes chose NOT to do the smart thing.  At those points, how my peers saw me was more important to me than anything else and  I was willing to put myself in harm’s way to look cool.

Now, to bring things full circle.

Often, adults,  tend to look  at teenagers, and teenage situations  through adult eyes.  We sometimes forget how decisions that are easy to make now, were so difficult for us back then.    And you know what?  Peer pressure hasn’t eased up since my days as a teenager.  In fact, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to think that it’s gotten even worse and harder to deal with.  I didn’t have to contend with the four horsemen of  Facebook,  Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest breaking the story of my own personal Apocalypse  to the masses before I even made it home that night, but kids today do.

On that night back in the eighties, if I would’ve run away in FULL view of everybody, at least I probably wouldn’t have heard too much about it until school on Monday morning.  I might have gotten the occasional phone calls at home throughout the weekend, but at least I would’ve had time to conjure up a good story  that could have possibly made me look cool before the REAL story hit the streets.  Trust me, by the time I darkened them them school doors on Monday morning, I would’ve woven a most glorious  tale of getting jumped by a biker gang composed of AK 47 wielding, black belt, gymnast, bodybuilding, MMA fighters.  (And I would’ve fought off the first two, btw.)

As powerful as peer pressure is  though, it has one glaring weakness:  For the most part, we place the pressure on ourselves.   A lot of times, there’s no one whispering in our ear for us to do or not do something.  We assign certain acceptable behaviors to ourselves  and we live by them.  In my case, a lot of the time, it was my desire to impress the girls that would lock common sense out of my decision making process.

So, with all of that in mind, how do we help our daughters fight peer pressure?

There is really no simple answer, but one of the most powerful ways is through helping them to develop a high self esteem.  A high self esteem will allow your daughters to say “no.” even when the crowd wants a “yes”.  It gives them the ability to make up their own minds about what affects them because they can trust themselves to do the right thing.  They won’t feel as though they have to “buy” their position with the “in” crowd.  In fact, with enough self esteem, they can CREATE the “in” crowd that they envision.

There’s also something to be said about the strength of the father daughter relationship in helping your daughter deal with peer pressure.   The closeness between me and my girls helps them to limit some of the strains of peer pressure on them.  I try to make sure that they always know that no matter WHAT decisions they make, that I’ll never stop loving them and that I’ll always have their back.    A tool that I give them to help is the ability to blame me.  They have a standing invitation to use me as the bad guy.  They know that in any situation that they feel uncomfortable in, they can say stuff like, “My  Daddy would lose his mind  if he thought I did something like that….I’m out!” , or “Nah…My Dad doesn’t play when it comes to that kind of stuff…and he’s CRAZY.”  They have even called me before just so I could tell them “No!” right in front of their friends and they could say, “See…I told you he’d say no.”

Trust me….they’ve used it.

See ya on Thursday!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Did that chick REALLY just say…….#4

(While I was struggling to write my main post for today, I remembered this lil story and decided to share it with you.  Plus, it gave me a chance to break my writer’s block.)

One time,when she was in elementary school,  Kee was talking too much in class and her teacher decided that she needed to move her to the front of the class.  Kee responded with what became an INSTANT Kee-ism in our household:

“You can’t make me move to the front…I ain’t Rosa Parks!”

(Ummmmmm…………………………….News flash!  They tried to make Rosa Parks move to the back, chick!)

Ok, so when I found out, my emotions were all over the place:  First, I was kinda amused.  I’ll own up to it.  I know I shouldn’t have been, but I was.  I like a good wit as much as the next guy, and I had to admit that it WAS witty…downright funny. Then, I was angry. That lil’ girl KNEW better than to disrespect an adult, especially a teacher!  Then came a bit of pride.  Seriously, at least she knew who Rosa Parks WAS.  Then there was a feeling of being not so proud.  Kee got the story COMPLETELY backwards.  I mean geez…..Rosa was in the FRONT…at LEAST get the main detail right!

Anyway, I was left with one enduring question afterwards…..

Did that chick REALLY just say: “You can’t make me move to the front…I ain’t Rosa Parks!” ?!?!?

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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