RSS

Tag Archives: Family

Once…twice….three times a Lady (part one)

Sup, Daddies??  Happy belated Fathers’ Day!

I figured I’d take a little time today and write a lil somethin’ somethin’ to encourage you (us)  all  since, well, you know…Father’s Day is over and we probably won’t get any more props ’til next year at about this time.  Anyway, I wanted you to know that the stuff we do all year round IS important and it IS recognized, and it will have lasting effects on our daughters…

I know, I know, I know, sometimes,it may seem like your  daughters aren’t listening or don’t even pay attention when you talk…but, dear reader, I have evidence that at least SOMETIMES, they listen.  Here’s the proof!

Cue the flashback music!…..

“Doodle loodle loo…..Doodle loodle loo…….doodle loodle loo………………..”

(Hey, I don’t have a budget for special effects and a fancy, schmancy soundtrack, so I do what I can.)

Anyway, the year is probably about 2005 or so, and my oldest daughter, Tee was about 12 (13?) years old.  At the time,  they had three rules that I would give them pretty much EVERY time they left  the house.  We always followed the same ritual.  (It was probably more so to help ME remember the rules  than for their benefit….my memory has never been the best, and I needed to make sure I knew what I was punishing them for if the need arose…)   I would ask them what each rule was and have them tell me what it meant.   It went something like this:

Me:  What’s the first rule girls?
Them : Respect ourselves.
Me: what does that mean?
Them:  That we should never do anything that we wouldn’t be proud of.

Me:  What’s the next rule?
Them: Respect our surroundings.
ME: What does that mean to you?
Them: That we should always know what’s going on around us and pay attention to things so we don’t get hurt.

Me: And the third one?
Them: Act like little  ladies.
ME: And what does that mean?
Them:  That we should always carry ourselves like ladies.  We sit like ladies.  We talk like ladies.

So, that was what we went through day in and day out.  Now over the course of time, the ritual got shorter and shorter, and eventually it just got to the point where I would just have them recite the rules to me before they got out of the car.   I hadn’t had an opportunity to see if they were actually FOLLOWING the rules, and they were never actually put to the test.  Heck, I wasn’t even sure that even remembered the rules after the car door slammed……….until….

One day, I took Tee and three of  her neighborhood friends to the mall.  They were all about the same age, except for one, who was a few years younger.   As usual, and without discriminating, I had her AND HER FRIENDS go over the rules with me.  I said them one at a time, having them repeat them to me and asking Tee what each one meant.  She did it without missing a beat. So I let them get out and go into the mall.  I drove off and went home.  One of the other girls mothers was going to pick them up in a couple of hours.

About an hour or so later, the phone rings.  On the other end is one of the parents.  Apparently, the kids had gotten into trouble for trying to steal some jewelry and she was bringing Tee home.

So, of course, when Tee gets there…I was  ready to read her the RIOT ACT with both guns a blazin’.   I didn’t  ask any questions, and we went straight to my room.

“What happened, Tee?”

She looked me right in the eyes and said, “I didn’t do anything wrong, Daddy.”  and she began to cry.  So, me being the concerned, loving, sensitive Daddy that I am, I thought, “Okay…here she goes with the waterworks to throw me off balance, but I ain’t no SUCKER.”  (Yeah…I kinda am…don’t judge me!) She continued  to tell me what happened.  We didn’t get to talk long before there was another knock at the door.   When I answered, I saw the neighbor girl (the young one) and her mom.  The daughter,   was standing there ; her eyes all red as if she’d rubbed them with sandpaper and flushed them with bleach.  The mother asked me if she could talk to Tee for a minute.

I called Tee to the door, and she came and stood beside me in the doorway.  The mother then said, “Mr. McDuffie, I want to tell you that your daughter didn’t do anything wrong so don’t be mad at her.   Our daughters weren’t stealing from the store.  The other two girls were the ones stealing….Our girls were at another store .  Security just assumed that because they were in the mall together, that they were in it together.  (There’s a LOT more to this story that I’m saving for next time.) Then she looked down at Tee and said, “Thank you for keeping ___________out of trouble.”

The next voice we heard was that of the neighbor girl.  What she said hit me like a truck and I’ll NEVER forget the little life lesson that I got from it.  With that tiny, scared, still borderline crying voice she said simply…

“……you told them to act like ladies…You TOLD them…..and they didn’t do it.  They wouldn’t listen……”

Mind….blown.

This little girl, who had only heard the rules  that I drilled into my daughters ONCE, had taken it to heart.  She remembered it!  Granted, it was only two of four that heeded it…but that was better than ONE of four, right?

Now, the message behind all of this is larger than this post, and it’s larger than just me, my daughters and their friends.  In essence, it ain’t about me and mine, it’s about  about YOU and YOURS.    If my words could mean that much to her; a little girl that I hardly knew past her first name, apartment number and mother’s name, think how much weight YOUR words carry with all of the potential “little ladies” in your life.  God has placed and continues to place them in your path all the time.  You have the ability to help guide these little ladies and TRUST me….they listen to you more than you think.

Funny thing is….out of everything that happened that day, the biggest disappointment that BOTH girls seemed to have  was that they thought they had let ME down.  It wasn’t a trip to the mall suddenly cut short.    It wasn’t being questioned by mall security.  It wasn’t  that their “friends” were now mad at them.  (I’ll explain that in part two), but what was most important to them was what I thought of them.  Heavy stuff, huh?

I say ALL of the above to simply say  this:   Your words carry WEIGHT, gents…don’t undervalue yourself.

So until, next Father’s Day, stay encouraged.

I’ll share part two with ya next time.

Thanks for reading.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My letters to God

So, somebody that read one of my poems before said that I should write more….I don’t really fancy myself as being a “poet” but I do LOVE poetry….(But only the real MANLY kind.)  Anyway, I decided to put one of my old rituals from the years of raising my girls into poem form.  Hope ya like it.

My Letters to God

Sometimes,
at night,
while you slept,

I’d sneak

quietly,
to you
just to watch you breathe.

I’d kneel
and pray,
by your side,

Concerned

for the stars in your eyes
and the joy in your laugh
and the strength, thru life’s lessons, you’d  earn.

I’d pray
to God,
for things I didn’t see..

in me;

the friend,
the guardian,
the confidant that I needed to be.

Then

I’d stand,
and speak
softly in your ear

of my

dreams
and wishes
and hopes, never fears

And this

 I’d send,
addressed to  God
and stamped with a  kiss on your cheek.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

If only I knew THEN……

Photo 3

(This post gets the “Fat Ethan Five Food Covered Fingers” rating)

Disclaimer:  Okay, I’m gonna say  this SIMPLY to rain on the parade of any of my siblings, before  they try to rat me out on it.  (My family seems to have a thing for blackmail material.)   So, I’ll go ahead and say it….I’m a REALLY lovey, huggy, kissy,  sensitive type.  Okay, there…I said it.  PREEMPTIVE STRIKE!!!    KABAM!!!!

(Don’t get me wrong though… I mean, I AM a tough guy…like….I luv bear /arm  rasslin’  (not to be confused with bare arm or bear arm rasslin’…THAT’S just dumb…) , and ummmm…..off roadin’,   and ummmmm…..bo staff fightin’  and like ummm….hunting with wolves aand stuff s much as the next guy….For real… Seriously….Yeah, that’s GANGSTA, right?)

ANYWAY, (new word alert…new word alert…) I had an EPIPHANY ( told ya!)  just yesterday.  Now, don’t tell anybody else this because it’s a secret and it’s just between us….since we’re family.  Okay?  Now lean in real close…..you ready?  Okay…Here it is:  The years go by really fast.   (Hey, I never said that I was the smartest guy in the room.)

Looking back on it, it seems like just yesterday that I would tip toe into my daughters’ rooms at night just to kiss them on the forehead and say a quick silent prayer for a good day while they slept.   It seems like not so long ago that I bought them pillows to sit on in the car so they could see out the window or when I was teaching them Eric B. and Rakim songs in the car on the way to their Granny’s house.  (They both still know the lyrics to Microphone Fiend, btw…and have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of old school hip hop)

Anyway, the funny thing about time is that you don’t really know to savor it while you’re in it.  We spend so much time going from moment to moment, that we often forget the joy OF the moment.  I was reminded of this from a conversation that I had with Tee.  It went something like this….(Cue flashback music…..doddle loodle loo…doodle loodle loo…doodle loodle loo….)

Tee: Hey Dad, I took a picture of that cupcake that you bought me the other day and put it on Instagram.  I tell my friends all the time about how close we are…and how you’re  my best friend, Dad.

Me:  I ain’t your friend, Tee….I ain’t your pal, I ain’t your buddy,I ain’t your com padre… (Said in the GRUMPIEST voice I could find to cover up my obvious joy)

Tee:  You should appreciate it,  Dad.  A lot of kids my age (21) don’t even LIKE their parents…I still like you… I still want to hold your hand….

Right then it hit me….like a ton of bricks….One day WILL be the LAST day that I ever get to hold my daughters’ hands….It’s inevitable…everything ends eventually…  One day, if Sharon and I were successful in raising them, and they don’t decide to stay in our house forever, they’ll move out, have families of their own, become successful and have to put their energies into putting into practice everything that we’ve taught them over the years.  I’ll see them less and less, talk to them less and less, and eventually not get to hold their hands anymore….

I say all of that to say this…It’s really important that we Daddies  take every opportunity that we can get to savor life with our daughters……..and guess what?  It’s okay to be silly to do it.  Sometimes, it might take screaming Eric B and Rakim lyrics at the top of your lungs while riding down I-40 at 85…I mean 65 miles per hour with the windows down….Sometimes, it might take listening to Brittney Spears for an hour and a half (THANKS, KEE!) But sometimes, SOMETIMES, in the quieter moments, it  might just be a matter of a kiss on the forehead..  No matter what it is,  it’s important that we create as many of those moments as possible and that when we ARE blessed with them, that we live in them,  fellas…because one day will be the last time we get to hold our daughter’s hands.

Tee and Kee today

Tee and Kee today- Guess which one was the “bad” one…lol

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

(G)race Matters

Photo 22Tee on the Left                                   Kee on the right
in the middle are their God sisters and brothers.

(Okay…..I know the girls are going to KILL me for posting this picture…but oh well….When I’m old, I’ll make sure to always check the brakes on my wheelchair whenever they push me near staircases, so I’ll be cool.)

So I was just thinking about race the other day.  You wanna know what I discovered?  Race is a pretty  interesting.  It can make people love  someone or hate someone with equal vigor based simply  on how they look.   In short, it can make the otherwise rational people irrational.  

 Now, that’s not saying that race isn’t important, because it is.  In fact, I hate it when someone says, “I don’t see color……because I certainly do.  Yup….Here’s a newsflash for ya….If you’re White…I KNOW you’re White..If you’re Asian, I KNOW you’re Asian.  If you’re Indian…I KNOW you’re Indian… I just choose NOT to make it a factor in how I treat you.  More important than the color of your skin, is the color of your character. Now if your CHARACTER sucked…THAT is when we’d have issues. So, in a nutshell, it’s okay to see differences, the problems creep up when you start to see those differences as making someone inferior to yourself.  So, with that in mind,  I  tried to surround  my daughters  with the best people possible; Black, White, Red, Brown, Blue…it didn’t really matter.  

So, I chose to teach my daughters about their heritage, and the uniqueness of the African American journey…but I always took great pains to make sure I tempered the message with ones of tolerance, and understanding and equality…    I think that that’s one of the most important things that we can do as a Daddy.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

God always helps me to see the big picture.

Now,  I have to apologize, to those that read my ramblings here.  My apology is this…I’m sorry I left you for so long…

When I first came back to writing after losing my brother, I thought I was ok….I wasn’t…nope..no siree bob….not even close.

There were some other things that happened around the same time that I just don’t have the strength to share yet, but just know this.  Everything that I had grown and had been taught to believe suddenly found itself in the cross-hairs of a sudden, overpowering disbelief.  Where I had once seen order, I could only see chaos.  EVERYTHING.  Enough punches can make the strongest personn want to bow out…and it seemed like me and my family were taking the best swings that the world had to offer….

So, I faked it a time or two..I wrote SOME stuff, but it really wasn’t what I was feeling. I wrote like I was okay… I wasn’t okay.  For a few weeks, every smile that I gave was as hollow as those grinning chocolate Easter bunnies.  I was hurting inside and I wasn’t allowing it out.  I was so busy trying to convince everybody else that things were ok, that I wasn’t allowing myself time to actually BECOME ok.  What I was giving wasn’t me… It simply wasn’t …Every time that I put my hands on a keyboard to write, I was puitting out sunshine and rainbows when my whole world seemed like clouds and rain….and I promised to always give you ME….not some alternate reality version of me.

So, I stopped writing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Nothing. After a while, I figured that working on another book would help me out of the funk.  It’s a much darker, project than anything else I’ve written.  I figured that the pages would just SCREAM for release.  But guess what?  Nope.  Almost nothing.  Next to nada.  Almost ZILCH.  I was completely, utterly without my words.  I think I wrote four paragraphs in like a month….(Now they are GREAT paragraphs, but still…it’s only four.  LOL)

Then, God showed me something thru a song…It had a great message that really hit me at the time.  It’s called, “Who You Are”:

Who You Are

I stare at my reflection in the mirror:

“Why am I doing this to myself?”
Losing my mind on a tiny error,
I nearly left the real me on the shelf.
No, no, no, no, no…Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are!
(who you are [x11])Brushing my hair, do I look perfect?
I forgot what to do to fit the mold, yeah!
The more I try the less it’s working, yeah
‘Cause everything inside me screams
No, no, no, no, no…

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
But tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
There’s nothing wrong with who you are!

Yes, no’s, egos, fake shows, like whoa!
Just go and leave me alone!
Real talk, real life, good love, goodnight,
With a smile that’s my own!
That’s my own, no…

No, no, no, no, no…

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay…
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are!
Yeah yeah yeah

So, thru something as simple as that, God  helped me see that it was okay for me NOT to be okay sometimes. I had to learn that I would not be okay until I learned how to forgive myself for NOT being ok.   Even the strongest tree sways in the strong wind….the key is not to break.

And with that, if you can forgive me for my absence..I would like to keep sharing with you.  Let’s get this party started.

Ty

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

Stuff like this makes it all worthwhile…..

Sometimes, being a good Daddy can feel like a pretty thankless job, and half the time (well, if you’re like me, WAAAY more than half the time, you don’t even have a CLUE if you’re doing it right.   I spent many a day second guessing what I did or what I said; wanting to make sure that my actions and words always built and never destroyed.  Sometimes I succeeded, more often than not, I failed. I am FAR from the perfect Dad.   But the fact of the matter is, like I tell my girls, “The only way you can GUARANTEE that you’ll lose a fight…is to not fight.”  (Of COURSE< I wasn’t being literal …..ESPECIALLY with as many fights as I lost…Heck, if I would’ve been a professional boxer, they would’ve had to do post fight interviews with  me HORIZONTALLY….wait for it….wait for it….)  . In this case, the only way you can guarantee that you won’t be a good Daddy is to not try.  You HAVE to TRY.  The rewards may not come immediately.  Heck, they may NEVER come…but sometimes….sometimes………you get blessed with things like this:

So I got this text from my oldest daughter, Tee,  yesterday.  It was a screenshot from her Instagram account. .  Anyway,  this is the kind of thing that would make a man that is less in touch with his machismo shed a tear or two when nobody was looking.   ME, on the other hand,  being the tough guy that I am, celebrated by watching some Rambo movies, bare hand  hunting some honey badgers,  and gator rassling…you know, ‘ cause I’m a rough and tumble kinda guy.

(She meant that I was 29 when we adopted them, btw)

Tees Bday Post large

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Wind Whisperer

This post is Fat Ethan approved!

This post is Fat Ethan approved!

By now, you guys know that I have a tendency to go way back just to bring you up to speed with the present.  So if you can just hold on with me for a little bit, I double dog promise to bring you back to what thisblog is all about.  Let’s go back to the summer of 1981.   I was about 10 years old.  I was a borderline barbarian,  so I could only play in the house for so long before I was  banished to the outdoors to continue my exploits.  But that was cool, because I loved to be outside anyway.  Outside, I could rip and run all I wanted.

I loved to imitate the superheroes that I would see on T.V., and that I saw in comic books. In my mind, I had the strength of the Hulk and the speed of the Flash…I could fly like Superman, and fight like Batman. I would run for what felt like hours in the North Carolina sun.  Whenever I got tired, I could lie in the yard and I’d regain super strength from the sun’s  rays like Superman.  And I used the plums that fell from the plum tree in my mama’s yard as “power pellets” for when my super speed started to wane.

I called myself The Agility Ability (Don’t laugh.  I was like ten, and rhyming was cool to me!) and I had an uncanny power to escape any trap. I would leap from ditch bank to ditch bank, dodging the gaping jaws of the piranhas that I KNEW lurked just beneath the murky depths of the ditchwater. I could run and jump and roll like nobody’s business.

My greatest pleasure in all that was much more obscure than one would think, though.   It wasn’t the actual jumping or running or rolling on the ground that gave me the most joy. No, it wasn’t any of those.   It was the sound of the wind as it rushed past me. It was my own private magic. The sound of the wind WHOOOSHING past my ears as I ran made me feel free…freer than anything ever.   When the wind whispered in my ears, I could be anywhere; doing anything.   I was an Olympic runner.  I was a Muhammed Ali training to fight.  I was a race car driver.  My adventures were as big as all outdoors, as grand as any movie and bigger than any comic book.  I wasn’t just another Black kid in the deep woods of North Carolina,  I was more than that.  I was much more.   I can’t even begin to tell you how important that magic was to me…how it helped me to survive the ugliness that the world would inevitably and tirelessly show me.

The wind could be explained away simply enough, sure.   I mean simple Science 101 explains wind and any Health and PE teacher worth his or her salt could explain the mechanics of hearing.   However, the simple, great gift of imagination made it so much more for me.

Then, one day, the wind stopped whispering in my ear.  I can’t really pinpoint exactly when it happened, but it just lost its magic.   It just simply stopped. It became wind and nothing more.  And suddenly, there was one less weapon of defense at my disposal.

Now, let’s fast forward to today.

You ever sit back and think about what it is you thought you would become when you grew up? I do. I look at where I am in life, and where I THOUGHT I would be when I turned this age, and I realize that there are miles between the two extremes. When there was still magic in the wind that swept past my ears, I knew I was destined for something great. I KNEW that I had the spark to accomplish anything that I wanted to….but that was when there was magic and before the wind became….well, wind.

Now that I’m older, I know the culprit that killed off the magic in the wind. I was allowed to stop believing in a lot of things, and I was permitted to settle for what was right in front of me as the end all, be all.  I can’t pinpoint the actual date on which the evildoer actually came and snatched away my ability to dream, but rest assured, he did it.   One day the ditches became just  dirty, stinking, filth filled ditches…no piranhas to bravely vault…just stagnant water with the occasional turtle or crawdaddy.  Suddenly, I was no longer a super hero, sucking power out of plum flavored power pellets, I was just a poor Black kid in the woods of NC, with a plum tree in his yard.   I stopped running, and jumping and flipping towards anything greater than what I saw. I said all of that, to say this:

Fathers, it’s important that you keep your daughters’ imaginations alive.

To this day, there are three questions that I guarantee that my daughters will answer a certain way:

Question one:  How do you call lightning bugs?
Answer: Biddi…Biddi…Biddi.

Question two:  When you were younger, where  did you think that cotton candy came from?
Answer: The dryer

Question three:  But if cotton candy came from the dryer, why wasn’t it sweet?
Answer :  Because it wasn’t processed yet.

Now, I know that they don’t still actually believe these things, but for a few moments in time, they did.  When they did, there was a great, awesome wonder in the belief that they had a magic in their voices that could call lightning bugs.  There was amazement in the “fact” that somehow, the dryer could magically manufacture cotton candy from old tee shirts and jeans (I tried to steer them away from thinking about cotton candy from UNDERWEAR, BTW.   DEEESCUSTING!)   I tried to keep the magic and mystery of the world fresh for them for as long as I could.   I knew what it was like to lose the magic, and I wanted them to savor its sweetness for as long as possible.  So, when we talked, there were little men in traffic lights that changed their color…and the sun was really the size of a quarter.  And everybody knew that helmets weren’t for riding  bikes, but for protecting your head when you jumped on the bed….you know….for when you jumped SOOOO high that you hit the ceiling…..MAGIC!

The wind stopped whispering to me long ago, but I will never forget the importance that it played for me.  Years later, God showed me that the magic never really LEFT me, but that my role within it had changed.   As I grew older, I went from being a wielder of it, to being a guardian of it….a bestower of it.   I was tasked with keeping it alive for my daughters;  to use it to keep  their starry eyed wonder in full bloom until one day, they would become the guardians of the “secrets” of the magic, and pass it on to their kids.

So there you have it…all in just a few pages, the importance of caring for your daughter’s imagination.  If it takes having a tea party with them…do it.  If it means  telling them that they are the best shoe tie-er upper in the entire world…do it. If it means that you have to spend your summer nights running around in the SC  heat with a  mason jar with holes poked in the lid and  filled with leaves screaming   “Biddi…Biddi…Biddi.” at the  top of your lungs…don’t think twice…just do it.

All that said, I have to admit, that sometimes, if the weather is juuuuusst right, and the road is empty enough, if I drive with the window down….I still imagine that I’m a race car driver…………

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: