SWITCHING ROLES: How I Grew to Value Priorities, Not Perfection

Claire Huxtable

My cousin, Laura, once said “You know Claire Huxtable was not cooking and cleaning, but the kids were always fed and the house was always spotless. That’s impossible. It’s false advertising.” Years later, I finally understand her frustration. Okay, here’s the situation…

Claire Huxtable was the epitome of Black Girl Magic. She was an intelligent, accomplished partner at a prestigious law firm; she was tall, thin and beautiful with perfectly coifed hair and make-up on point; plus she was a loving wife and adoring mother of five. She was the ideal woman for thousands of young girls in the 80s and 90s. I didn’t question the attainability of that ideal until many years later.

I was in St. Louis in my cousin’s kitchen admiring how she seemed to be able to do it all. She had three beautiful children, a successful career, a gorgeous, new home, volunteered in her community and still managed to have an active social life while looking flawless. “You are a modern Claire Huxtable,” I joked.

That’s when she proceeded to enlighten me about the real real. She told me how her health had suffered as she packed on 15 pounds. She relayed the story of how she was an hour late to work, because she lost her keys underneath a mountain of school papers she hadn’t gotten around to signing. She went into some personal info that I won’t repeat, but the gist of it was that Claire Huxtable is an impossible standard that no one can fulfill. But I wasn’t convinced.

“I think it’s possible. You just have to be extremely organized,” I offered. I know, Friend. I know. Today’s Tonya wants to reach back to 2005 and smack the taste buds out of that little know-it-all. But I can’t, because she was pregnant. Anyhow, my cousin gave me a look, rolled her eyes, and swallowed the words she wanted to say. I’m not positive, but I think they went something like “How would you know? You don’t have a job!”

woman sitting on white concrete edge with railing
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Ah, yes. A job. A few weeks ago, I declared definitively that I am a writer. Writing is my passion, and I am now on a journey to make it my paid profession. The first step– just write. Being the genius that I am, I decided to make my new writing resolution at the beginning of September…before a house party…before two birthdays…before the first official gathering at our home since the remodel. Yeah, really freaking smart.

That first week kicked my ass. I kept trying to do all of the things I used to do– cook, clean, exercise, etc.– in addition to incorporating seven hours dedicated to sitting at my desk actively writing. It started off great the first day. I woke up at my usual time (5:00), got all of the housework done, cooked dinner early, set up the new website and even spent gym time with Honey. I felt like Superwoman.

By 11:00, everybody was snuggled in their warm beds. Everybody except me, of course. While those jokers were all snoozing and drooling, I had not even had time to wash away my gym sweat. I was sorting mail, putting away clothes and taking care of the other homeowner responsibilities (bills don’t pay themselves). It was already 1:00 before I dragged my zombified body into the shower. I must have switched to autopilot, because that’s the last thing I remember.

The next morning I woke up to Honey giving me a kiss goodbye. What? It’s 7:00? I slept for nearly 6 hours, but I was still dead tired. Day 2 was drastically different from the day before. There was no time to clean. I sat down in my office immediately to write my first blog post.  I expected my fingers to start gliding across the keyboard like a magical unicorn had apparated over my head and sneezed rainbow-colored snot stars onto my hands, then off they’d go. Writing was the easy part, right?

Yeah, right. I was nearly comatose and my body ached (from exhaustion and the workout). Since I could not sift through the muddled thoughts in my head, everything I wrote was crap. I trashed it and started over half a dozen times. The hours disappeared like free communicator badges at a Star Trek convention (such a nerd). I hadn’t even brushed my teeth when the alarm sounded for me to pick up my daughter. I took her to basketball practice expecting to tap out a few good paragraphs on my tablet. I was going to prove that I am a writer, damn it! Instead, I fell asleep slack-jawed with my head wedged between the headrest and window.

That night was similar to the previous night. Honey’s birth week was coming, and I insisted on doing all of the household chores while he took a break from adulting. Fun! I crawled into bed after 2:00 and slept hard. I slept so hard that I didn’t hear my family leave or feel their kisses on my cheek the next morning. By the time I threw the covers off, the sun was peeking through my blinds. Wait. The sun isn’t this high until…yup. It was almost 10:00.

I knew my mind was not equipped to generate novel ideas yet, so I stalled. It’s like waking up an old car. You can still drive it, but you have to perform some maintenance first. I decided to transfer some of my old posts to the new blog site. I was a bit groggy during the editing, but at least I was writing again. By taking away the pressure of creating the world’s greatest blog, I was able to have a little fun with my old posts.

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The rest of the week devolved into complete chaos. Our kitchen floor was sticky from who knows what. There was a little fuzz growing around the toilet in the guest bathroom. I was late picking up my daughter. Twice. Dinner…let’s just say we ate. It wasn’t the best food, but we ate. I ran out of deodorant and had B.O. like I was smuggling onions underneath one armpit and garlic underneath the other. Dirty clothes piled up, my desk was cluttered and I kept seeing doubles when I stood, but I didn’t care. I was happy, because I was writing again.

When Friday rolled around, I walked out to my car wearing a pair of paint-stained sweatpants, a team mom hoodie and flip-flops…without underwear. It would have been fine if I had just jumped in the car, grabbed the girl and returned home, but nah. That’s not how I roll. After I picked up Lil Sweetie, I walked into the grocery store, full commando and high-beaming like a boss. I’m sure my hair looked like a charcoal cotton ball was stretched across my forehead, but I did not care. I had stomped my feet, folded my arms and screamed the universe down. I am a writer, damn it!

That weekend, I rested and readied myself for week 2, in between the first basketball games of the season (I told you it was poor timing). I finally gave up the notion that I could keep living my same old life AND allow space for my writing. It just wasn’t gonna happen. Something had to go. Better yet, I had to have a hard look at my goals and prioritize the actions that I needed to take to achieve those goals. That list looks something like this:

  1. Write. In order to turn my passion into my career, I have to write like it’s already my job. Even if it’s not good, just write. It will get better.
  2. Family time. When they are available, be with them.
  3. Self care. Brush your teeth and take a shower daily. Everything else is optional. (Don’t judge me)
  4. Cook. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just edible…healthy is a bonus.
  5. Exercise. At least 3 times a week visit the gym. Taking walks (when it’s not raining) or doing jumping jacks every hour is a nice supplement.
  6. Laundry. We need clean clothes, so be like Nike.
  7. House keeping. No one but me gives a great beaver’s dam that our house is pristine. As long as it gets cleaned once a week, it will be okay. No bugs, no problems.

In retrospect, I should probably put self care in second place.

humble pie

Laura, girl, you were right. I cannot even pretend to know how you managed working outside the house before you began telecommuting. There is no way Claire Huxtable was able to be Claire Huxtable without a team of personal assistants, a chef and housekeeper. There are literally not enough hours in the day. It’s frustrating to grow up thinking that you have to be a supernaturally perfect person in order to be successful. It’s even more frustrating when other women continue to uphold these standards for themselves and their peers.

I commend you and all working mothers (especially single moms) for staying on the grind. As a retired SAHM switching to the role of a working (from home) mom, I apologize. Reality hit me with a flying judo kick to the face before I finally understood what you meant. Now, I get it. I promise to do my part to abolish the fallacy of the ideal woman.

If you need me, I’ll be in this corner savoring my slice of humble pie.

Ciao!

 

 

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RIGHTEOUS BULLYING

brown wooden gavel close up photography
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I know that I promised to tackle individual makeover projects today, but something else is bubbling in our society that I feel compelled to address. If you really want Makeover Mondays to become a thing, leave me a comment. But, let’s be real, only like two of you are reading this post anyway. Therefore, I can basically write whatever I want, and today I feel a little bullied. Okay, here’s the situation…

Honey and I were in the Explosive Performance room of our gym with one other guy. On the t.v., two football players greeted each other by rubbing their bushy beards together.

“Eww, gross.” I said. “Get a room.”

As the words were spilling from my lips, I turned to catch the eye of the guy working out alongside us. His face scrunched up like I had just farted on a lemon and shoved it into his mouth. “What’s up with him?” I thought as I leaned back to start my set. Then it dawned on me that he must have assumed I was being homophobic.

I had a flash of mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was proud that we have begun to make intolerance taboo. Good on you, Friend, for having the courage to increase our standards for human decency. On the other hand, I was offended. He misinterpreted my disgust of sweaty beard swabbing for homophobia, though he knew nothing about me. (For the record, I am an equal opportunity PDA hater.) Not only that, he felt emboldened enough to communicate his disapproval by giving me the facial equivalent of the middle finger. Part of me wondered whether or not his reaction would have been the same if I were someone he deemed superior or a fellow White male. The last query sat with me for a while, but I eventually shrugged it off.

Ford Kavanaugh

Then, America lost her shit as details emerged about the alleged assault by a drunken 17 year-old Kavanaugh against 15 year-old Ford. I withheld judgement, because I originally thought they could both be telling the truth. It seemed plausible that she could have remembered this traumatic event, which left an indelible imprint on her psyche, AND he could have easily forgotten it as another night of partying, the details of which he had no recollection.

I believed that…until I saw Kavanaugh’s interview on Fox. First of all, going on a right-winged network to paint yourself as an innocent victim appears less like a good man trying to clear his name and more like a political ploy to drum up support from the Republican base. If his only goal was to address character attacks, he could have chosen a more moderate, unbiased network. Nope. I wasn’t buying the choir boy act. Still, I did not automatically assume he was a liar. He was lying, but I didn’t have all of the evidence at that point.

Like many Americans, I watched the hearings unfold on my tablet and listened on my car radio while I carried on with my daily routine. I listened to Mrs. Ford and I believed her. Honestly, I believed her before the hearings, but listening to her answer questions solidified my conviction that she was telling the truth as she recalled it. Then again, it was possible that she could have concocted an elaborate plan over several years to defame and discredit Brett Kavanaugh as revenge for some previous beef. She is a professor of psychology. If anyone could pull off a “Gone Girl” act (playing on the public emotion and prejudices to frame someone), she most definitely has the equipment to do it. But, nah, I believe her.

I couldn’t say the same about Brett. His emotional testimony could have been the result of a man distraught by character assassins hell-bent on sullying his good name. It’s understandable that someone would be angry and tearful under those circumstances. However, his ire appeared to be more that of a privileged man, who was enraged by the idea that his appointment to the SCOTUS hinged on perfectly acceptable “boys will be boys” behavior decades ago. He seemed to think that he was being unfairly targeted for something that they all did back then.

Besides, he “busted (his) butt” and “worked (his) tail off” to get where he is today. Kavanaugh insisted on repeating the false narrative of meritocracy that Americans salivate over. He got to the Supreme Court by pulling himself up by his bootstraps and working hard. Never mind the fact that he started out in some of the most prestigious private schools in the nation. Never mind the truth that his grandfather attended Yale, which probably had A LOT to do with him getting accepted. Never mind the fact that he is supposed to make decisions for tens of millions of Americans whose viewpoints he chooses not to try to comprehend.

Nevertheless, that does not discredit anyone who has anything favorable to say about the man. I live inside the beltway (which is a smaller community than many know), and I can tell you that this place is like a bubble. More accurately, it’s like a series of mini bubbles inside a greater DMV bubble. My daughter plays basketball for an organization that scrimmages against teams from his daughter’s basketball organization. I admire any man or woman that has the patience and courage to coach for these organizations. The competition is fierce, and AAU parents are demanding. I can admire his dedication to coaching at the same time as I scrutinize his faulty judgement. He can be a wonderful person in one regard and simultaneously an ass in another. People are complicated like that.

Unfortunately, the complexity of humanity is becoming a bygone concept. You are either a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, pro-choice or anti-abortion, and selecting one automatically dictates your stance on the others.

graham

When Lindsey Graham spewed his outrage over what he saw as a sham process to discredit Kavanaugh, I believed him. Wait! Put down your pitchforks, and hear me out. Everything in Graham’s life and past interactions with the SCOTUS nominee told him that this was a good man and someone from the Democratic party leaked the scandal. He could not fathom a reality, in which a Republican female leaked the existence of a sexual assault allegation to call attention to an impending confirmation that could effectively strip her of her right to preside over her own health. He could not imagine that a Republican man leaked it to play into the notion of the victimized White man mentality that would surely vilify Democrats and energize sympathetic males to vote red in the upcoming elections. In his mind, the only possible rationale was that it was a Democratic ambush. I’m not saying that it wasn’t. I am simply stating the FACT that no one aside from the journalists and individual(s) involved know who leaked the story. Either of the aforementioned motives are plausible. And, if proven to be true, highly effective. I respect your (hypothetical) ganster Republican leaker.

Graham’s short-sidedness is both ironic and problematic. He cannot understand the irony of his exclamation “I hope the American people can see through this sham,” a ploy utilized to hijack headlines and stir emotional outrage. I agree with his ironic statement. I think the Republicans ultimately have much more to gain from the leak than the Democrats, so I can see it being a sham they concocted. Piss off Republicans, so they go to the polls to quell the Blue Tsunami, and piss off the Democrats, so they are disheartened by their unethical politicians and stay home. But don’t spread that as a truth. It’s just my wild imagination drawing together conspiracy theories.

Graham also dismissed the notion that Kavanaugh was capable of committing the attack because his persona doesn’t fit Graham’s definition of a sexual deviant. According to his “understanding” people who drug and rape women for two years and then stop don’t exist. There is no room in his world for a guy like Brett Kavanaugh to act like “Bill Cosby” while intoxicated at parties then go on to become a well-respected lawyer and judge. Without intending to, Graham projected his feelings about himself onto Kavanaugh. He could relate to this guy as a peer, someone like himself, so he took the allegations as a personal affront. Just another case of the Libtards hating on the White man, America!

high angle view of drink on table
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Kavanaugh banked on people ascribing their own prejudices onto him, so he lied. He contradicted any evidence that painted him as a sexually aware, frat boy with a drinking problem. Not only did he lie, he evaded questions and grew belligerent when pressed further for direct responses. This man showed open hostility toward democratic enators and dismissed the allegations as revenge for their defeat in the 2016 presidential race and punishment for his part in the Clinton impeachment investigation. Yet, we are supposed to believe he would have the ability to rise above partisan politics to deliver a fair, impartial judgement on cases that come before him. Riiight.

As a judge, he understands the ramifications of lying under oath, yet he lied. He may have been motivated by embarrassment or the idea that his past should not dictate his ability to serve. It would have been understandable had he been forthcoming about his drinking and childish boasting, about sexual conquests that didn’t happen, while categorically denying the allegations. I would have been inclined to believe he simply didn’t remember those events, and by the standards of the man he has become, he did not consider himself capable of committing the assault even while inebriated. Instead, he lied and tried to mislead the senators. One may argue that the question should have never been asked (as was the case with Clinton), but it was. He should not have lied about his past if there was nothing else to hide.

The ability to be impartial is predicated on one’s willingness to step outside of oneself to view the entire picture. You cannot evaluate and analyze as much from an emic (within the group) perspective as you can from the etic (outside the group) standpoint. Alternatively, a deeper understanding of a culture results from an emic versus etic perspective. The ability to recognize the benefits and limitations of both is a quality that we are losing in America. It is also a quality that we desperately need to exist in the character make-up of those men and women we ask to provide a voice to the hegemonic populations as well as the disenfranchised and outlying groups.

We have become a nation of a few righteous bullies while the majority remains silent, afraid of the backlash we’d welcome if we voice any opposition. We fail to disassociate ourselves from labels or challenge our viewpoints when presented with facts. We are spreading gossip and rumors without any sources to corroborate our information. Worst of all, we are slamming and attacking the people, not the politics, behind positions with which we disagree. We have devolved into a bunch of moody teens slandering each other simply because we are stuck inside our own bubbles.

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I once told my son not to be alone with a girl who liked him, because she could accuse him of anything once she realized that her affections were not returned. This is a reality that mothers of sons face. That doesn’t mean that Brett Kavanaugh is being falsely accused. I cautioned my daughters to be aware of their surroundings at all times to avoid being placed in situations where they could be compromised. This is a reality that mothers of daughters face. That doesn’t mean that Christine Blasey Ford, or any victim of sexual assault, is EVER responsible for the actions of her assailant. I am fully aware that life inside my bubble seems different from life inside your bubble. Therefore, I am able to code-switch to communicate with rich and poor, men and women, Black and White, Americans and international friends.

Have we collectively lost our ability to extend a modicum of human respect to anyone outside our own bubbles? Are we now so entrenched in our beliefs that we cannot appreciate the humanity in another person? Do we not agree that people, regardless of their socioeconomic affiliations, deserve empathy on some level? We are traveling a dangerous path in America. It is imperative that we look to leaders (and judges) who can view our nation in totality, not only from the perspectives inside their bubbles.

Yes, Friend, speak out when you believe someone is committing an injustice against a person or group of people. At the same time, understand that you may not have all of the facts. If you are intolerant in your noble quest for an egalitarian society, you may actually become the self-righteous bully.

Ciao!

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GROUND! (Why Misery Loves Company)

HB to the ground

After editing yesterday’s post, I needed some sunny, funny, bright energy to combat the torrential downpour outside my window. A quick ten minute happy break turned into an assault on my eye holes. Okay, here’s the situation…

One of my favorite vines is a thugged out dog flipping its birthday cake with Andy Sandberg’s spoof SNL music playing in the background. There is something about that “Happy Birthday to the Ground!” line that cracks me up every time. It’s exactly what I needed to end my morning and put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. I decided to open the Youtube app to watch it. I found a compilation video of funniest vines with the “Thug Life” dog thumbnail. Okay, I could spare a little time before I got back to work. I clicked it. It was just as funny as ever.

About three quarters of the way into the compilation, some psycho creep assaulted my eyes with images of a bug infestation inside of his coworker’s car. WTF, dude. Why? How is that even funny? I exited from YouTube and tried to focus on coming up with a topic for today’s post. I wanted it to be witty and upbeat , like Honey, in celebration of his birthday. (Happy Birthday Lover!!!!)

lighted happy birthday candles
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I started trying to think of something funny, but every time I blinked, I saw hundreds of bugs crawling in and out of that guy’s vents. I closed my eyes to visualize Honey’s incredible smile, but images of tiny intruders scurried across his picture. Ughhh! That dude had ruined Honey’s birthday blog! Suddenly, I was struck with a question.

Why is it human nature to want other people to share our grossest experiences? Smell this. Doesn’t it stink? Taste this. It’s disgusting. Listen to this. Isn’t it the most horrible singing voice you’ve ever heard? Watch this. It’s the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Maybe the phenomenon is caused by our need for social validation. This feels prickly and uncomfortable to me. Is it the same for you? Asking another to confirm our experiences is something we all do. We feel most comfortable around those who match our energetic level, so it is rational that we want their opinions. It’s as though we are asking our peers to confirm that we are normal and our reactions to stimuli are reasonable.

sad face

I get it, Friend, but damn. Is it necessary? Can we not assume that other people will react the same way we did? Can’t we spare them the unpleasant experience? Or could it be that miserable people simply do not want to be in a crowd of happy people. If they are the only miserable ones, they would have to believe that something is wrong with them.

Well, I’m not really concerned about the psychology behind their motivations. For once, I am uninterested in the anthropological connotations of this behavior. Just stop it. If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Similarly, if you can’t share something nice, don’t share anything at all.

I have had to unfollow too many friends because they litter my feed with images that haunt my dreams and stick to the walls of my brain like 1970’s wallpaper. I don’t need that crap! I don’t watch thrillers, because I have an exceptionally vivid imagination. I don’t enjoy boxing, because seeing a human get pummeled by another human is not my idea of entertainment. I avoid encounters with all things gross, inhumane and cringe-worthy. I would appreciate it if everyone else could stop trying to ninja shock me into sharing their misery. Thaaanks.

Ciao!

FORGIVEN NOT FORGOTTEN

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Happy Thursday, Friend! Yesterday we were chatting about how someone…nope. I don’t think I got that far. I only gave you a little background information on why I started my spiritual journey. It didn’t spawn from some sort of new-age craze or a hippie-dippie, peace-love-soul movement. I began delving into the world of spirituality out of desperation for survival. Okay, here’s the situation…

Nearly every major global religion addresses the need to forgive. The Christian Bible states in Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, the heavenly Father will also forgive you”. Islam’s holy text, the Q’uran, reminds us to “…forgive with gracious forgiveness.” (15:85). The holiest day of the year in Judaism, Yom Kippur, focuses on the need for atonement or forgiveness. While atonement cannot be granted by humans, two other Jewish principles, mechilah (forgiving debts) and selichah (forgiveness reached through understanding and sympathy) can.

The concept of selichah is also highly regarded in Buddhism. This is where I first explored the principle. Essentially, Buddha taught that holding negative thoughts about another person does nothing to that person. It only damages the one holding the anger, hate, vengefulness, etc. The best thing one can do for a healthy life is to forgive those who have done wrong and release any negativity surrounding the misdeed.

Since my bitterness was causing more damage to me than to my enemies, I reasoned that I would be immensely healthier and happier if I learned to forgive. Cool. I could do that. I say that glibly now, but in reality it took me years of mental work to get to the point of true forgiveness. I had to let go of grudges I held for trivial slights as well as for major offenses. I had to relinquish notions of unworthiness and start self-identifying as a victor, not a victim. It took time, but I eventually came to a place where I could actually understand and sympathize with people who had wronged me.

Now, I am able to accept people with all of their faults and flaws without feeling the need to judge those shortcomings. I am able to do so, because the same was done for me. I know that there is some good in everyone, so I focus on those characteristics. However, that does not mean that I will completely forget about the harm those people caused me. I will not stupidly let them have space in my daily life in any major way. My job is to make sure that I take care of myself and my family to the best of my ability. If I see a hungry bear at my back door, I’d be crazy to open up and invite it inside. Unless it’s Winnie the Pooh. I’d open the door for Pooh Bear.

Please understand me. I am not writing this post to shame or degrade anyone for their past sins against me or anyone else. Furthermore, I do not need sympathy or pity. Despite circumstances, I have had an awesome life. When I think of the children and adults who have endured conditions much worse than mine, I am humbled. In fact, this post is dedicated to those who have had to overcome severe challenges. I congratulate you for expelling toxic people and encourage you to guard against future toxicity.

purple liquid poison on brown wooden surface
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The reality is that most toxic people may not even know that they are toxic. They are not inclined to seriously listen to the language they use about themselves and others. They usually run on a loop of negative dialogue which replays continuously through their minds. Those people don’t think they’ve done anything for which to be forgiven. Or they know that they have hurt you and manipulate you into questioning your memory and sanity. Or they ask for forgiveness and immediately list off justifications for their actions. Or they burst into tears at the mere idea that you blame them for the harm they caused you. Or they tell you how your actions damaged them. Or…Or…Or… If I were to list all of their deflective tactics, I could fill a book. Ultimately, toxic people are quite clever at steering the discussion back to themselves as the victims.

Forgive them. At the same time, don’t let them gaslight you into thinking that your experience was not valid or that it was trivial. Maybe they do remember things differently. Maybe their brains have reconfigured past events to fit the narrative they believe to be true. Everyone has a right to their own memories. That doesn’t make them accurate. While it is possible that conversations were misinterpreted between individuals, actions leave little room for debate.

There you have it, Friend. That is the story of my frustration. I am annoyed that someone has the gall to try to guilt me into expanding a limited relationship. Forgive and forget is not a moral weapon to be used whenever it suits a cause. I have forgiven, which is why there is a cordial relationship at all. However, it will remain limited, because I will never be able to forget.

Stay strong peeps!

Ciao!

 

RAGE!

 

female rage

Hi Friend! I am so glad to be back here with you. I know that I advised you yesterday not to post anything when you are feeling emotional, but I’m in my feelings right now and there is no one else around to talk. Do you mind if I vent for a minute? Okay, here’s the situation…

Before I can begin to get into my current frustration, I have to provide a little background. My childhood was not easy. Like I mentioned, my family was poor. Just after my kindergarten school year, we moved from the only life I knew in New Jersey to live with my great-grandmother in North Carolina. Many of my mother’s father’s relatives lived in that small Linden town, but they were less than welcoming toward us. We were strangers despite the fact that we were technically family. No one was outright mean, but, even as a kid, I knew that something was off.

A couple of years after our arrival my great-grandmother went into the hospital, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within one week. The house that she was having built for us had not been completed. Friend, I have no idea what happened with those finances, because I was a kid. All I know is that we lived in an incomplete house (meaning no plumbing, no electricity and no walls) until I finished 3rd grade. As sad as that sounds, it was also sort of fun for me and my siblings. We often climbed up to the rafters and played silly games we’d create for endless hours. But it sucked to have to run extension cords from the power box for lights and relieve ourselves into a bucket. Yeah, that really sucked.

Now, this next bit is a story that I’ve never fully relayed to anyone, but I feel like I’m ready to be completely honest. Sooo…when I was seven, I tried to kill myself for the first time. The life of abject poverty, physical and sexual abuse and depression weighed on my youth like a two ton uranium shackle, so I decided to end the pain. I took 2 of my mom’s prescribed medications and 4 of my older sister’s, because I knew she had not been taking them. The funny part about that was, I didn’t take too many because I was afraid that I’d be in trouble if my parents found out. Duh! I’d be dead if my plan actually worked. How would they punish me? Obviously, the plan didn’t work. I wound up crying myself to sleep that afternoon, having an extremely bizarre dream and waking up the next morning.

SUICIDE-PREVENTION-clear-view-mental-health

Fear of getting in trouble possibly saved my life. Sheer stupidity saved my life the next time. I was nearly fifteen, an excellent student, a cheerleader, a churchgoer and the primary housekeeper of our home. Though my sister and brother were several years older, they had social lives and friends to visit (my sister may have moved out by then). If I didn’t clean the house, it did not get cleaned. My parents were divorced, and my mother had to work a lot of hours at a factory job to make ends meet. I don’t remember seeing her very often except occasionally on weekends. To be honest, I don’t remember my mother much at all during my teen years. She was always at work or off doing her own thing. I was always at school, cheerleading practice, or hanging out over my friends’ houses. The point is, I was a good kid. I felt sad for my mom and didn’t want to do anything to make her life harder. When she wasn’t working, she spent many nights crying alone in her room. My older siblings had caused her enough trouble, so I tried to be the perfect child. Except one time.

I really wanted to go to my boyfriend’s house party. His mom was cooking arroz con pollo, which was my favorite dish (minus the pollo). Their parties were always so much fun, and a couple of our mutual school friends were going. My mom said no. She was not going to be home, she didn’t trust those people and I wasn’t supposed to have a boyfriend anyhow. So, no.

Of course, I went. My boyfriend convinced me to sneak out after my mom left. Since my brother was watching t.v., and no one else was at home, it wasn’t really like sneaking out. I just walked out of the back door. I felt like all of my hard work and goodness deserved a little leniency, so I disobeyed her just this once. My mother checked in about an hour later to find me missing and sent my brother to fetch me from the party. I tried to plead my case, but she was not having it. I must have said something that struck a nerve, because she slapped me. HARD. I was so pissed off by the injustice of it all, but I refused to cry. I balled my fists, squared off and stared unflinchingly into her eyes. She slapped me again and called me an “ungrateful bitch”. Then, she left for the rest of the night. I was used to getting my ass beat, but that was the first time I’d been slapped.

I took a handful of the only pills I could find and downed them. I tipped the bottle to my mouth and swallowed the remainder. After all I had endured and all I had sacrificed to be the perfect child, this was my thanks. Ungrateful bitch? I never asked for anything, because I knew my mom couldn’t afford the things I wanted. Ungrateful bitch?! After all the cleaning and cooking I did so she didn’t feel like an unfit mother, she had the audacity to call me an ungrateful bitch. I knew that none of my actions would ever be good enough. I’d show her an ungrateful bitch! Alone in my room, I finally allowed myself to cry. I didn’t just cry. I flew into a fit of rage, turning over every piece of furniture and throwing everything I could get my hands on as hard as I could.

rage-face

About ten minutes into the fit, my body betrayed me. Instead of slipping into an everlasting sleep, I vomited violently into the toilet. My stomach hurt worse than it ever had before. There were no words to describe the pain and weakness I experienced as I hurled until even the bile had been exhausted from my body. I crawled back to my bedroom, retching and crying, not having the energy to slam the door behind me.

Some time later my brother stood in the threshold with the empty bottle in his hand. “Were you trying to off yourself?”

I pursed my lips and remained silent. I suspected that he had been the one who dropped the dime on me, so I intended to ignore him for those last moments of my life. He’d be sorry when I was gone.

“These are vitamins, Dummy. For someone so smart, you sure are stupid.” He rolled his eyes.

I was incredulous. How dare he insult me in my moment of crises? Wasn’t he supposed to comfort me and call the ambulance? Shouldn’t he be crying with me and reminding me of all the reasons I have to stay alive? That’s what the after-school specials told us. (By the way, I never thought of suicide as an option until I saw an after-school special intended to prevent suicides. I’m just saying…). I was about to flip him the bird when he turned to leave.

“Life is hard,” he called over his shoulder. “That doesn’t mean you just quit.”

What the hell? Who did that dude think he was acting like a big brother? How dare he inject sobering words of wisdom into my pity party. I was trying to have a proper cry-for-help, drama queen, “poor Tonya” event. It didn’t matter that I didn’t take the time to read the bottle of pills. Phah shah shah. It didn’t matter that his callous words probably helped me more than words of sympathy would have. Tssk. It didn’t even matter that my anger provided me an avenue to discover my power for the first time in life. Ughh. The only thing that mattered was that he had trampled on my woe-is-me moment. Dude!

I picked myself up as soon as I regained strength and began to clean my room. I rearranged the furniture until it felt like the home of the new person I had just become. It felt goood to get angry and throw shit. It felt really good to curse and be mad at my mother. It also felt good to know that nobody cared about the melodrama that was going on in my head. If I killed myself, all they would remember about me was that I quit. I was not about to be remembered as a quitter.

The next day and every day after that, I painted a smile on my face and acted like I was bulletproof. I stopped trying to please my mother, because I didn’t think she would notice any difference. I was right. As long as I continued to get good grades and behaved in school, she did not seem to care what was really going on in my world. I stopped going to church, because I had given up on religion. I refused to believe in a god who would let kids, good kids, innocent kids like me, suffer even though they did their best to be faithful, loving and obedient. I made up my mind to have the façade of the perfect child in public while I did whatever the hell I wanted to do behind closed doors. That was my modus operandi for the remainder of my teenage years into early adulthood. Oh yeah, I also started having sex with my boyfriend. I liked having sex a lot. Like, A LOT, A LOT. I cannot stress enough how much I really enjoyed having sex. However, I digress.

The final time I attempted suicide doesn’t actually qualify as an attempt. I spent the weekend taking long baths, sleeping and imagining how the world would go on without me. I had married that boyfriend, had two unplanned pregnancies (proof that neither withdrawal nor oral contraceptives are preventative methods) and had recently filed for divorce. I thought that, at that point in my life, I would be graduating college and on my way to becoming a trailblazing CEO of a major, multinational corporation. Instead, I had become a teenage mom with no credentials and no prospects for the future. In that moment, I was sharing a home with a man that I did not love or respect, buuttt the sex was good. (Don’t judge me) He was also there to split the rent, and, mostly, because he cried when I tried to break it off four months into our relationship. Instead of dumping him, I moved in with the guy! Go ahead, shake your damn head. I know.

Where was I? Oh, yes. I had planned out my eulogy, written goodbye notes to my babies and pondered the most peaceful way to do it. Then, the thought struck me that one of my children might discover my dead body. How much damage would that reek on their psyches? A wave of questions crested over me. Did I really trust their father to raise them the way I wanted them raised? Who would they call “Mommy” after I was dead? Who would teach my daughter about becoming a woman? Or a period? Who would teach my son how to be a gentleman? Could I trust my ex to choose a woman good enough to be their mother? Would they only remember me as a quitter? Aww, hell no!

Instead of finalizing my plans, I wrote with the same fury that drove me to destroy my bedroom seven years earlier. I wrote all of the things I intended to accomplish before I died. I wrote all of the goals I thought I should meet to be the mother my children could respect and be proud to claim. I wrote all of the reasons I could not go gentle into that good night…at least not yet. At the top of that list I wrote my brother’s words. “Life is hard. That doesn’t mean you just quit.”

Dylan Thomas

 

I dumped that guy, got a tiny townhouse I could afford alone, enrolled in community college and found a part-time job. I gave myself a year to party, be young and have fun. My sisters and best friend served as my backbone as I slowly grew into my fledgling independence and began to find my voice. I allowed myself to make mistakes and have setbacks without deeming myself a failure. I knew that I could never fail unless I quit.

On my journey, I met an angel of a guy, who showed me that men can be gentle, loving and kind. His love was sweet and patient. He absolutely adored me with all of my faults and flaws. Through his eyes, I was finally able to see my true beauty. He helped me find confidence to continue through my first year of school when I experienced imposter syndrome. He helped me recognize that I did not need to act as a doormat in order to deserve anyone’s attention or affection. He also helped me find the strength and courage I needed be happily alone with myself and by myself. In eighteen magical months, my guardian angel helped me grow into the warrior I know myself to be today. I will forever love and be grateful to him for that gift. Alas, we imagined different futures for ourselves and eventually parted ways.

By the time I was a junior in UNC-Chapel Hill, I was a divorced, 25-year-old, mother of two and a year into a new relationship with the man who would become my husband. On the outside I appeared to be fine. For the most part, I was fine. However, I had become accustomed to putting on a façade to hide the reality of my world. People would complement my beautiful smile and ask the secret to my extreme happiness. All the while, I still flew into fits of rage and occasionally suffered from mild bouts of anxiety and depression. Since I was able to manage my day-to-day functions, no one was the wiser. 

Though I had not reached the point of complete self-acceptance, I was confident enough to expel the toxic people from my life. My circle had collapsed from the dozens of friends I called and visited regularly to a handful of folks whose company I enjoyed. I stopped looking to someone or something outside myself to validate my existence. I didn’t need friends, family or even religion to approve of my life decisions. I found highly effective ways to deal with my issues, namely yoga and meditation. Through my practice, I was able to heal my inner child and accept the responsibility of my own wellbeing. Plus Oprah kept telling me to love myself first before I could take care of anyone else. Thanks Auntie!

My journey to wholeness continued through books, my old friends. I read when I needed to draw on the wisdom of others (aside from Oprah). I discovered Confucius, Laozi Buddha and Zhu Xi in one of my anthropology classes, Chinese Traditions. From there I found the Tao, Koran, Sutras and Torah. The more I read those holy texts, the more centered I felt. The more centered I felt, the more courage I gained to achieve another goal on my list. In a short time I had graduated, married the man of my dreams, bought our first home and had our youngest child.

I owned my life and was finally mentally and emotionally healthy. It took me many years to find a sense of peace. I have put in the work and no longer suffer from fits of rage, depression or anxiety. I am fortunate to have friends and family (especially Honey)who love and support me, though I don’t rely on their constant attention for my wellbeing. I have tools for that.

When I feel anxious, I write. When I feel lost, I read. When someone crosses me the wrong way, I snatch them up by the…nope, not that…woo-sah. I breathe. I breathe, and I remember to put my wellbeing first. I refuse to allow anyone else’s crap to intrude on my wah. I continue to evaluate relationships and feel no guilt in regulating who has access to my inner circle and the extent to which that access is granted.

That brings us to now. That is a lot to digest, Friend, but at least you know the herstory of my ire. I will finish venting in the next post. It’s time to get the kiddo from school. Don’t worry. I’m not quitting, just taking a break until tomorrow.

Ciao!

 

 

CULTURAL TRIBALISM- How the Media Influences Critical Reasoning

night television tv video
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Do you remember a time when we could turn on the television to catch a rundown of what is happening in our towns and around the world? We called that news. Back then, news stations and papers still tried to maintain some form of journalistic integrity. Today, news broadcasts and articles aim to grab your attention in the highly saturated world of information. Unfortunately, too many opinions are currently being endorsed as facts, which has led to the growth of an uninformed and under-informed public. Okay, here’s the situation…

Honey and I were listening to a Sirius station during our return from the gym. The topic at hand was SCOTUS nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and the latest allegations against him for sexual misconduct. I was astounded by how many uninformed people had no shame in calling into the station and expressing their ignorance for the world to hear. One caller (with no relevant evidence to back her belief) stated that Kavanaugh was clearly guilty while Bill Cosby was definitely framed. By the way, the caller named Brett “Kevin Kavanaugh”. Click.

Providing a Platform

Unfortunately, media, particularly social media, provides a platform for ignorant people to spread misinformation. People come across poorly sourced articles, which reinforce their beliefs and opinions, and disseminate them through reposts, retweets, etc. Not once do they stop reacting with their emotional mind and turn to critical thinking in order to evaluate the legitimacy and/or relevancy of the information they are passing along. They inject their opinion simply because they have been afforded a podium from which to speak.

Why don’t these so-called news networks cut these people off?

“Ratings” Honey chided me for not seeing the obvious. In fact, I asked the question rhetorically. Or possibly I had asked the question aloud in order to voice the investigation I intended to explore silently in my mind during the remainder of the drive. I knew that his answer, however facile, was partly correct. Fox “News” knows that their viewership will remain high or climb if they parade a bunch of so-called experts on stage spouting off the latest inflammatory attacks against democrats and liberals. Cable “News” Network, aka CNN, understands that their viewers stay tuned when their controversial commentators attack republicans and conservatives, because they reinforce the ideologies already adopted by the viewers.

This cycle of only providing a platform to reinforce viewers’ personally-held beliefs and opinions creates an echo chamber that magnifies those beliefs and opinions regardless of contradictory facts. As a result, the viewing public internalize these broadcasts as confirmation that their viewpoints are right. They fail to consider that the news stations are appealing to their emotionality rather than their rationality. Thus, viewers do not take the time to investigate evidence which contradicts what they already believe. Why would I go looking to prove myself wrong when so-and-so already told me that I’m right? Everybody wants to be right. Right?

What about social responsibility?

“That’s crap!” I retorted. They know that what they are putting out isn’t news, yet they claim no social responsibility for the negative ramifications of their actions. Honey again laughed at my naiveté and explained that he had long ago relinquished the hope of any company or corporation doing “the right thing”. He believes that the only goal is the ultimate bottom line. As long as the company is maximizing profits, its operators could not care less about how they are destroying the society in which they exist.

I tend to have a less cynical opinion of large organizations. Yes, every for-profit company strives to earn as much as possible. At the same time, the organizations’ executives surely understand that a parasitic relationship between a business and the society that supports it can only exist so long before the host is destroyed. It is in their best interests to fuse a symbiotic bond with the people they intend to serve, so that there is always an audience to keep their ratings up and ad money rolling in the doors. They must know that a polluter can only emit toxins so long before no one around is healthy enough to run the factory. A news network can only dumb its audience down for so long before no one in their viewership is able to form a coherent thought that isn’t first spoon-fed to them. Or is that the point? You’d better break out that aluminum foil hat, Friend.

Conspiracy theory aside, businesses, like Facebook, tout themselves as egalitarian organizations that empower people and allow them to share ideas important to them. Zuckerberg gives tens of millions of dollars (possibly more) to humanitarian efforts that promote social and medical wellness. Doesn’t Mark get the importance of social responsibility? Social responsibility is your whole brand, man. Damn!

Not only is it a major connotation of the Facebook brand, social responsibility is spelled out in the form of anti-hate regulations and guidelines by which each user must agree to abide. However, Facebook has been utilized by factions of communities around the world to disseminate hateful rhetoric aimed at people of various racial and cultural groups, religions and political affiliations. For example, Reuters reported in March that Buddhists in Myanmar had been using Facebook as a platform to promote hate and violence against Rohingya Muslims for years. However, according to Associated Press, Facebook did not ban the accounts of some of the most prolific hate mongers until last month. Does it really take five months to remove an account? Here’s a hint, you might want to hire people who speak Burmese to monitor activity BEFORE you promote the shit out of your platform.

Are these platforms reinforcing or reflecting?

It is unfair to blame Facebook for the actions of seedy individuals. I know that. However, there are cultural and societal considerations that every organization must address when seeking to infiltrate new, especially foreign, markets. At the very least, I expect Zuckerberg to have the common sense to know that he would need people who speak and read the language to monitor content. How else would he be aware of regulation violations and breeches in the contractual agreement? (Not that anyone ever reads those things.) At the very, very least someone at Facebook should have known that there are people who will abuse the social media platform to advertise nefarious rhetoric.

Earlier I argued that news outlets are creating echo chambers instead of invoking critical thinking. Is the same true of user-controlled social media? One could counter-argue that the latter acts as a mirror to reflect the collective psyche of the population utilizing its services. The media is not reinforcing hate. It is simply broadcasting the hate that already exists. If that is the case, the full social responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the public creators and consumers of hateful content. Of course, this completely excuses the organization’s obligation to inform its users of the psychographic profiling that occurs once a company, like Cambridge Analytica, gains access to you and your friends’ private information without your permission. Let’s just say that we all need to do better. But what does that look like?

laptop technology ipad tablet
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Seeking Credible Sources

Okay, Friend, be honest. Do you keep up with what’s going on through your news feeds and Twitter trends? So do I. It’s an easy and digestible means of weeding through the barrage of information to get down to that which interests or affects us. However, I never count on them for factual integrity. If I am interested in the topic, I will seek other sources. I also keep in mind that not all opinions are equal.

News

Broadcast and print news have adopted the practice of inviting guests to provide commentary or op-ed pieces through their media platforms to elicit strong emotional reactions. When they are called out for providing an audience for ridiculous postulations or outright lies, they hide behind the cover of the blanket phrase “the views of our guests and our contributors in no way reflect the views and opinions of the network/ organization”. Riiight. Meanwhile Average Joe and Jolene have picked up the false information and spread it like wildfire, because they saw it on CNN or Fox. Alternatively, there will be a panel of average citizens cherry-picked to appear in segments that are supposed to be a thumb on the pulse of what America is thinking about a particular topic. The panel largely agrees with the viewers of that show, save for one token dissenter who is made to appear ignorant or shamed into conformity.

If you want to find news sources that provide a more balanced relaying of facts, turn to Reuters, Associated Press, C-Span (boring as hell but mostly accurate), Factcheck.org, The Economist, Investopedia, JStor Daily, Ballotpedia, and TruthorFiction.com. Obviously, these sources are meant to be referenced for different reasons, but I think you get the point. You can even start with Wikipedia and  go from there. One caveat– if you scroll down to the bibliography and see Trump Institute or oreilly-sucks.com cited as sources, keep it moving. If you are curious how your favorite news source rates, check out mediabiasfactcheck.com.

Social Media

We have already addressed the dangers of relying on social media for truth, but it bears repeating. Operate on social media under the assumption that everything you see and read is primarily focused on gaining your attention. That means that you must be especially critical of any sensational, outlandish, tear-jerking, invocative stories you encounter. In other words, question everything.

Other Online Sources

I am fully aware of the irony of me telling you to consider the source. After all, most blogs, this one included, are comprised of commentary and written by people who may or may not have any credentials to dole out advice about the topic in the first place. Merriam Webster describes commentary as something that serves as illustration or explanation; an expression of opinion. That’s exactly what AnthroNegra.com is. It is social commentary, or my opinion, about current events in American society. I have a right to my opinion, but take it with a grain of salt. I am not even a practicing anthropologist.

If you are questioning my ability to advise you about journalistic integrity, good. Congratulations! I have absolutely no background in journalism (save for one or two undergrad classes). I have a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and a Master’s in Adult Education (both verifiable facts). You have no reason to trust anything I write or believe any of my opinions. In fact, please don’t. This blog is for entertainment purposes. If you want facts, go to one of the aforementioned sources and figure it out for yourself.

That same idea holds true for other blogs and online sources. Always, Always, ALWAYS consider the source. Is it a well-known, credible source? How long has it been around? What are the writers’ motivations?

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5 Questions that promote critical examination

Everyone wants to be right. Right? Instead of being wrong and finding erroneous sources that uphold you in your ignorance, isn’t it just easier to get it right from jump? If that is your goal, ask yourself the following questions before you repost or retweet that message.

  1. Who is providing the information? Again, look for credible people who are known and/or experts in their fields. I’m not saying that everyone has to have written peer-reviewed material to be deemed credible. I’m just saying that you may not want to repeat the raving words of your lunatic co-worker who heard from a cousin’s friend that knows a guy who overhead last year that… You get the point.
  2. What are the facts and sources from which the author draws? Where they get their info is as important as who is providing the info. Have other credible people referenced the same information? If they point to unnamed sources or make comments like “I have it on good authority…” your red flag show go up.
  3. Is there obvious bias in the tone of the message? Most good journalists know that they must strike a nerve in their titles to spark the interest of potential readers. However, if the entire article is riddled with divisive and slanted language, it is probably not the most factual writing you can find. The author is playing on your emotion rather than stimulating your rational mind. Move on.
  4. What is the alternate viewpoint? Be sure that you not only believe what the source says is the alternate point of view. Seek it out yourself in communities of individuals that espouse those opinions. I am not saying that you should travel down the rabbit hole of giving brain space to every troll who has an opinion. I am suggesting that you find other credible people and sources with a different opinion than yours. That way you will not fall prey to the trap of cognitive bias and divorce yourself from social reality.
  5. Am I angry or upset? Nothing good ever resulted from words I wrote from a place of fear or anger. As a matter of fact, I was humbled by my own complete fumbling of facts and spreading of half-truths on two separate occasions. From those experiences, I learned that it is easier for me to sit with the new information than it is to have to apologize for and clean up after my mistakes. This gives me the pause that I need to clear my mind and possibly find some more information that supports or refutes the initial message. Take a deep breath. Calm down. If you are still inspired to write that post when you are feeling less emotional, go for it.

That’s it, Friend. Now that you are equipped with a few tools, you will never again serve as any pundit’s pawn. Go out there and start spreading your critical thinking juices across the web.

Ciao!

 

MAKEOVER MONDAY! YAY!

Before BackOur Back Yard

Happy Makeover Monday Friend. Let’s do this!!! Do I sound really excited? It’s because I am. I sooo am. I have been working to this day for my entire life. I finally have a home of my own that I never have to leave unless I chose to do so. Specifically, I have been working on this house since our closing date in April. Though there are still some projects that need to be completed, I am finally comfortable enough with our progress to update you on all that has been changed. Okay, here’s the situation…

Our zip code is amongst some of the highest priced real estate in the nation. Despite that fact, we knew that we wanted to settle here after Honey retired a few years earlier than expected. For starters, the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Northern Virginia) area was the first place in which we experienced the true meaning of diversity. People of different races, ethnicities and cultures don’t just live beside one another and work together here. They reside in the same households, carpool to work together and actually go out to share meals and recreational time together. For the first time since…honestly, for the first time EVER, I felt at home in America. The DMV provided me with the same sense of belonging I had only experienced within our military community living in R.O.K. (I have to specify because some people still ask whether we lived in North or South Korea) *sigh*.

But the Prices…

Okay, the cost of living is a bit pricey. It’s not as bad as NYC or San Francisco, but the place we were searching to find a home ranked as the 3rd wealthiest zip code in the U.S. according to the American Community Survey. Fan(freaking)tastic! While we searched for just about two years, we saved money by renting a cramped townhouse. Don’t get it twisted. The rent for that tiny, cramped townhouse ($2700) was still more than the mortgage for our 4500 sq.ft. home in K.C.MO ($1900).

Finally, we were able to find a 2400 sq.ft. SFR 4bd/3ba on 1/3 acre private lot. It was built in the early 50’s (my favorite decade for style and fashion) and checked most of our boxes. Of course we wasted no time putting in an offer. Even at 3% more than asking, the total cost of this house was a few hundred grand less than it would have cost if it were positioned one zip code over. Our daughter remains in the same school district, we are next to a 26 mile hiking/ biking trail and we are now located more conveniently to TWO Home Depots (and lots of other shopping too). Score!

The only problem is that we do not have a garage or a driveway, for that matter. We have to park Black Velvet and White Shadow (my and Honey’s cars, respectively) on the street where other people sometimes steal our spaces. Don’t get me started on the etiquette of on-street parking. If you KNOW the house does not have a freaking driveway, don’t freaking park directly in the front of their freaking stairway. It’s so freaking frustrating. Argh! I digress. We got this place at such a steal, that we have plenty of money left in our savings to actually retire someday. We also can continue to enjoy luxurious vacations (if we ever have enough time to actually leave). And that driveway, yeah it is getting installed in the spring.

Another uptick of grabbing this prime property at a subprime cost is that we were able to invest the rest of the money we had saved for a down payment into updating our furniture and the interior of our home. Although we are far from finished, it’s current state is good enough to invite friends to dinner and entertain for the upcoming holidays.

The Big Reveal…

Ethereal Blush Vera WangNo, not that reveal. I just had to include this, b/c Claudette is rocking that dress. *two snaps in Z formation*

Okay, Friend. I know you have been asking me all summer how the house is coming. In an effort to satisfy your curiosity, I took before photos with my phone whenever I remembered, which was not as often as I intended. Unfortunately, my PC is acting like a drama queen having a moment of extra-ocity because she missed the sale on pink Vera Wang wedding gowns (the color is ethereal blush fyi). The point is that I cannot grab the photos from the cloud right now. I will try again in another post.

However, I was able to find photos from the original MLS listing on realtor.com. I also uploaded some corresponding “after” pics last week and this morning. Here ya go…

Before Living Room
Living Room Before

 

DSCN3314
Living Room Left from Entrance

 

DSCN3318
Living Room from Entrance

 

                                         

DSCN3321
Living Room Glimpsing Dining Area
Living Room Entrance
View from Fireplace

 

Before DR
Dining Area Before

 

Before Kit2
Kitchen Before
Before Kit
Kitchen Before Glimpsing Entry
DSCN3323
Dining After

     (Kitchen is basically the same for now)

Dining Area Updated
Dining from Kitchen

Master Bed and Bath Before, During Reno, and After

 

Guest Bed and Bath Before and After

Office Before and After

 

Basement Before and After 

 

There you have it. I was incredibly busy these past few months. I cannot tell you how many small projects went into getting us to this point. Let’s just say it involved a lot of paint, spray paint, wood glue, nails, screws, blood, sweat and tears. Lots of tears.

Next week, I will provide a more detailed breakdown of some of the projects to include:

  • Building our king-sized bed, headboard (3 old canvases) and ginormous foot chest/pillow and blanket storage
  • Refinishing our furniture (chalk paint vs. regular paint vs. staining vs. spray paint)
  • Installing light fixtures, light switches and plugs
  • Restaining our wood floors
  • Building our fireplace mantle and retiling the surround
  • Reupholstering office chair
  • Great finds at IKEA furniture and building plus installing sink vanities
  • Installing new faucets and reconfiguring sink from single to double
  • Wayfair, Joss & Main, All Modern furniture (putting it all together)

Come to think of it, each and ever one of those bullet points could become its own blog post. How about this, Friend? I will spend the next few Mondays delving deeply into how I completed these projects. Let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to specifically address. I look forward to showing you that if I can do it, you can too!

Ciao!

 

WHY I QUIT & WHY I’M BACK

me8.jpgGood morning Friend. I’m so glad to see you again. I have missed you. Really? You’ve missed me too? Let’s just pretend that I believe you. *wink* I’ll give you a rundown of what I’ve been up to lately. Ok, here’s the situation…

As you may recall, the last time we spoke was just after the Parkland school shooting. Yeah, that took a pretty big toll on my spirit. I felt physically ill watching NRA spokesperson, Dana Loesch. She tried to escape culpability using demonizing language like “insane monster”, “nuts”, “crazy person”, “dangerous madman”, etc– a tactic employed to dehumanize the shooter and relegate him to the category of “other”.

Don’t misunderstand me, what he did was atrocious. I believe he should be held accountable for the lives he took and the trauma he caused. At the same time, it is imperative that we scrutinize our culture and institute changes that make it nearly impossible and unthinkable for this to happen again. That means funding programs to promote mental health and wellness, identifying and counseling individuals that pose a threat to themselves and their communities, regulating the type of weapons available to the public, and (most importantly) cultivating a society in which we replace the fear of “others” with love for all people.

As long as we continue to follow Dana’s lead, we refuse to empathize with the mentally disturbed young man nor do we seek ways to prevent future occurrences. Instead of examining all the ways in which we failed those children, we vilify the shooter in order to divorce ourselves from the responsibility we share for creating a society that breeds such tragedies. He was a “crazy madman”, not a regular person like our sons. This was an unfortunate crime committed by an “insane monster”, not a decent human being like our law-abiding gun enthusiasts. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Sooo, yeah. That’s where I left you. I had to take some time away from all media to rebuild my confidence in humanity. I also needed to redefine my own contribution to the world. I was drowning in the massive whirlpool of chaos and contention that presently has a grip on our country. I could not find my way to the shore and felt useless to help anyone else to dry land. Even if I could reclaim my peace amidst the chaos, I began to doubt that my tiny voice would affect the echo chamber of meanness. Then, I remembered this quote from A Course in Miracles:

brown book page
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“Your littleness deceives you, but your magnitude is of Him Who dwells in you, and in Whom you dwell.” (ch. 15, p. 346)

Ok, what does that even mean? I interpret it as a reminder that we are each greater than our small, egoic minds allow us to believe. We are inextricably linked to an awesome Power (feel free to call it whatever sounds most true to you) that guides our words and actions as long as we are brave enough to trust in Its mastery. Though we are not aware of how our input can or will impact the whole, we must know that, ultimately, every thought we think, word we speak and deed we do influences the world we share. I also take comfort in the fact that we all dwell in the same Creator acting as Its creation. Meaning, we can’t muck it up too much before nature course corrects.

Ultimately, ACIM rescued me from the idea that nothing I do matters, so I may as well do nothing. It’s a good thing that I was open enough to receive the message, because I think I was running out of K-Dramas to watch on Netflix. Now, I’m back. I decided to actually write Monday through Friday like a real job. Nope, not a job. Like the work that I feel moved to do. For whatever reason, I am a conduit. I have been given and have accepted this role years ago. There are many messages that I must convey, and the time is primed for me to relay them to you, Friend.

I decided to write this post today, so I can have a clean start on Monday. It’s sort of like opening the window and allowing that stale, farty air to escape before I turn on the fan. There’s no sense in circulating the funk cloud I have been inhaling these past seven months. Instead, I want to be like the fresh laundry aroma that warms your heart.

Aside from watching K-Dramas (and A LOT of Mandarin drama/comedies too), I bought a house! It’s a little 1950s rambler in Northern Virginia, about 10 miles outside the heart of D.C. It was nicely updated, but completely not my style. Over the summer, we updated it. I restained the hardwood floors, painted every wall (except in the guest bedroom), bought and built furniture, refinished the fireplace, installed plumbing in 3 bathrooms (including reconfiguring a single sink into a double), installed new light fixtures, installed some new plugs, created a mudroom-like area, created a pantry and work space, built a king sized bed, etc. So, I’ve found ways to keep myself busy. I suppose I can show before and after pictures in the first “new” post.

That’s it! If you have any specific questions that I did not address, just hit me up. I’ll do my best to answer you.

Ciao!

ANOTHER. SCHOOL. SHOOTING.

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Valentine’s Day this year was just like every other year, except that we are planning to buy a home soon. Honey and I were doing nothing special. I’d written him a note with a paper rose affixed to a piece of tiramisu. Nothing special. I was returning home from a trip to the commissary and decided to check in on the stock market mania. I wanted to make sure to withdraw funds for our down payment after our share prices have fully recovered. Bloomberg’s SiriusXM program “The Last Hour” was interrupted by breaking news of Another. School. Shooting. Sigh.

Three weeks before, it was a fifteen-year-old boy in Kentucky who killed two classmates and injured seventeen others. The week after that a 12-year-old girl in L.A. accidentally shot two of her classmates with a semi-automatic weapon she assumed was a toy. I heard of these incidents in addition to another in Italy, Texas and a few more that barely received a blimp’s worth of attention on the radar. According to The Guardian and CNBC, the Florida shooting was the 8th school shooting in 2018 to result in injury or death. Unlike the others, this time I tuned in.

As I drove the last minutes of my journey home, I fought back tears of anger and anxiety that formed from the pit of my stomach. I prayed for a swift and non-fatal end to this story. Please let everyone be okay. God, please protect those babies and take them home to their parents. Please let those kids live to graduate. Please. Please. Please don’t let another mother have to shed tears over her dead child’s coffin.

As I put away groceries, I checked Twitter and FB news feeds for updates. The worst had occurred. At least one death was reported. Shortly thereafter videos and images of kids inside the school were shared through several feeds. Kids ducked underneath desks. Gunshots pierced the background of children’s screams and curses. An image of a pair of legs and sneakers unmoving on a blood-stained floor. Someone’s child. I cried.

I waited for my baby to walk through the door knowing that someone’s mother would never see her child home from school again. I watched frantic parents gather around desperate to reunite with their children knowing that some of them would never experience the relief of that embrace. I shared the tears of those parents who could barely breathe as they prayed that the dead kids didn’t belong to them all the while knowing that they had to belong to someone. When my daughter walked through the door, I held her tightly and cried. I told her what had happened, and she cried too.

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In the hours and days that followed, I couldn’t help but stay tuned in as the details unfolded.

“Why can one officer take down a White kid who just shot up a school, but unarmed Black kids are murdered for walking through the wrong neighborhood?”

Are you serious?

“He was a liberal democrat with a Hispanic last name, so sorry to spoil your ‘White boy domestic terrorist’ narrative snowflake”.

What the hell?

“The cops should have just killed him and saved our tax dollars”.

Are you people insane?

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people”.

Stop. Just stop.

While we are so consumed with pointing the blame at “the other side”, seventeen families prepare to lay to rest people they loved. The families of fifteen others are taking turns sitting beside hospital beds praying that their loved ones recover. Fathers and husbands. Sisters and brothers. Teachers and students were killed on a Wednesday afternoon by a young man who was hurting so badly that the only way he could express his pain was to be the cause of another’s.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we don’t have a problem with institutionalize racism that pronounces Black and brown people as inherently more dangerous than their White peers. I am not saying that NRA campaigns to relax laws that regulate gun ownership are blameless. I am not advocating taking away guns from law-abiding citizens, nor am I excusing the actions of this obviously disturbed young man. My point is that now is not the time to point the finger of blame at any one person, group or politician. Now is the time for every American to accept the responsibility of his or her role in the Valentine’s Day tragedy in Parkland, Florida.

If you voted for a politician based on his/her stance on a single issue and failed to consider how his/her overall politics would impact our nation, you are responsible. If you failed to vote at all, you are responsible. If you turned a blind eye to an elderly neighbor who has outlived all the people he loves, you are responsible. If you sanctimoniously criticize the impoverished and downtrodden, you are responsible. If you turned a deaf ear to those crying out for your help, you are responsible. If you have in any way spread a message of hate and division instead of love and connection, you are responsible. If you failed to understand your importance in sculpting the American culture, you are responsible for the mess that is our society. We (yes, I fully own my responsibility) must take ownership of our creation and, more importantly, work together to make it better.

How do we make it better? Where do we begin? To answer this question, I look back to a day I recently spent with my brother. It struck me how easily and effortlessly he spoke to people. “ Hey man, you good?” he’d ask a stranger in passing. “What’s going on?” he asked looking unflinchingly into the eyes of an obviously homeless man. He did this so naturally that he probably was unaware of how amazed I was watching him. My brother also told me about a young kid he mentored in Kentucky who had been written off. He and his younger sister had an absent mother, another victim of the opioid epidemic. This kid had stopped attending classes, and social services could not locate him. My brother ran into him at a gas station and called out to him. He didn’t spend hours lecturing the kid or telling him to go back to school. He simply asked about the young man and his family. He asked him if he needed anything. My brother told the kid to call when he was ready and stay out of trouble. He took five minutes out of his time to let another human being know that someone cares.

My brother is no saint. He doesn’t possess any special qualities that make him more honorable than anyone else. His life struggles have lead him to the same conclusion I have drawn from all of my observations and studies of human behavior. At the core of every human is the desire to be seen. We each want to be understood, if only by one other soul sharing this earthly experience. We each want to know that our lives matter, that we are loved and appreciated.

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I almost didn’t write this post, because I didn’t want anyone to discard my words in the pile of “another liberal calling to ban guns”. Each of my three siblings own guns. Each of my siblings have served in the military. I would not ask them to relinquish their rights to own guns, because I have not seen what they have seen. If they need to own a weapon to feel protected and safe, I stand with them. I disagree with them and will never allow guns in my home, but I will fight for their rights to own guns.

I almost didn’t write this post, because I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of people calling for solutions days after A.S.S. only to fall silent until the next tragic event. I didn’t want to try to make sense of this horror by playing the blame game while dodging any ownership and responsibility. The truth is that we all failed those kids. We all contribute to the collective society that has desensitized us to an expanding culture of violence. We all have to take part in evolving from a nation of fear to a country of promise by declaring that this is not a bandwagon. It is a shift. We are at the helm of a movement.

I almost didn’t write this post, because I feel like I am always preaching at other people about how they should or should not behave, even though that is not my intention. When I make these observations and share these stories, it is a result of self-reflection. When I find areas in my experience that I can improve, I want to share my revelations with others. I may or may not ever change anyone’s mind, but I have to share my knowledge. That is why I am here. I have been afforded the luxury of living a life of contemplation not for myself alone. My life, like everyone else’s, is intricately woven into the fabric of existence. Who am I to not share my revelations with the world? I am not young, foolish, or arrogant enough to believe that I can exist in isolation. Every thought, idea, revelation, and observation I have belongs to every being that has existed or will exist in this shared creation of ours. Every breath I take is a testament to a power that is far greater than and unites us all. I had better be sure that I am playing my role to the best of my abilities.

I almost didn’t write this post, until I realized that it isn’t about me. This is for my brother who connects with young castaways to be an example of redemption and perseverance. This is for my sisters who voluntarily joined a man’s military in order to provide a better life for their children than they had. This is for the neighbor who sits crying in the rain missing the life he left in California when his parents divorced. This is for my daughter’s classmate who is teased by the boys because he feels more in his skin with his female friends. This is for my friends struggling to understand the multicultural perspectives of our diverse neighbors. This is for Honey who fathered our three children, even though only one shares his genes. This is for everyone who helped me figure out how to love myself and others unconditionally. This is for all of those who came before me who were so busy taking actions to survive that they couldn’t stop long enough to contemplate those actions. This post is for my children, all of our children, who will inherit this world and build it into the future.

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While I may not have the natural ease in a crowd of strangers that I envy in others, I possess the gift of written expression. I know that my thoughts, words and actions directly influence the improvement or deterioration of our planet. It is my honor, privilege and duty to use my life to remind everyone that they also contribute their energy to the collective whole. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we each help sculpt our world. We don’t have a choice in this. Our very existence dictates that we have an impact. We do, however, get to decide HOW we impact the world.

This is where we start. We take responsibility for the fact that we each have played a part in everything we praise or condemn. The smile withheld is the one that could have brightened someone’s day and caused a chain reaction of positivity. The kind word spoken to a person struggling to find the desire to live, may be the word that saves a life. I am writing this post to remind you that you have the power to be an example of the love and peace we want our children to live. The way you choose to live your life matters. You are important, because this world is not this world without you in it. You do not have to cause mass destruction to be seen and understood. I see you. I love you.

Ciao!

THE LANGUAGE OF POWER

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Originally posted 12/22/17

Apparently, a lot of people are upset about the recent behaviors of their representatives in local and state governments but feel powerless to stop their rogue activities. You are not powerless. You are simply not speaking in a language that they understand. Okay, here’s the situation…

The average person naively believes that their fellow Americans speak the same language—English. A normal person is also motivated by human emotions, such as love or fear. This is the reason so many ordinary Americans are befuddled by the passing of some of the most unpopular laws and bills ever to see the inside of Congress. They assumed that their representatives would heed to the will of the constituents, who overwhelmingly oppose aforementioned laws and bills. Regrettably, Average American Joes and Jolenes are operating under false assumptions.

At some point, senators and representatives probably spoke English and were driven by human emotions, like most Americans. Unfortunately, they quickly lost their mother tongue after spending some time inside the hallowed halls of Congress. They began to translate everything in terms of power. Influence replaced emotional motivations as they cast their votes in favor or in opposition to policies that impacted their constituents. They forgot that ordinary people are decent, sympathetic human beings who love their families and desire a free and functional society in which everyone is afforded an equal opportunity to prosper. Representatives forgot to think and act in terms of what the American people want and began to cast ballots based on what they thought was best.
They believe us to be an uninformed public, easily swayed by the most recent campaigns aimed at controlling our opinions. They fancy themselves more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the far-reaching impacts of their choices. Just like parents making unpopular decisions on behalf of petulant teens, the representatives believe that we will thank them later for the actions they take now.

They are not wrong. Experience has shown them that Americans have very short memories and attention spans. They have seen proof that they can influence public opinion by putting more money into advertising than their opponents. They are rewarded with votes or voter apathy when they run campaigns to smear their opponents. People are quick to let their emotions override their logical, rational minds. Average Americans do not question who is providing the information, what that person, organization or group stand to gain by influencing others’ thinking, the accuracy/relevancy of the information provided and how the information was obtained. Ordinary voting citizens are so transfixed by sensational headlines that they suspend their ability to critically evaluate their relationship to the news being offered.

Fortunately for America, there are people like me—disenfranchised at birth. I was born a poor, Black, female to uneducated, unwed parents in an environment that was conducive to my continued subjugation. I posed a threat to no one, so was easily ignored and cast aside as “powerless”. Ironically, I found my value and power because of (not in spite of) the conditions of my birth. I found anecdotal and subjective evidence to prove to myself that I was not some helpless, hapless soul in need of rescuing by a patriarchal system. I showed myself my power by living a life contrary to what was expected of me. My very existence now as an educated, upper middle class, married homemaker flies in the face of reason. I should be anywhere but here.

So, how did I get here? There are two moments that stand out in my mind, but I am sure there were actually a series of events that led to my conclusion that adults did not have all the answers. The first occurred when I was in fourth grade at Bible study. You see, I was a bit of a nerd as a child. I dove headlong into everything I found interesting and tried to soak up all the available information. That propensity led me to read my miniature copy of the New Testament in search of the answers to life. When I was faced with contradictions, I turned to the most learned Bible authorities I could find for counsel and guidance. One question burned in me more fiercely than all others. “If God is all loving and all forgiving, how can there be such a place as an eternal hell?” I could not reconcile the opposing ideas with my juvenile logic. In my mind, I (a lowly sinner) would never imagine even sending my annoying little sister to burn forever in unquenchable flames. How could an almighty god exist that could be so unforgiving as to condemn those he loves to such pain?

I asked this question many times and received many responses. The majority were patiently spoken and thought-provoking but, still, unconvincing. The most memorable reply came during a Sunday morning Bible study that I attended without my family, because I was independent enough to walk to the bus stop and board the Church bus alone. The young lady, who led the group, attempted to resolve all of my questions and move on quickly, but I was relentless. I remained standing and kept firing off iterations of the same query, which she could not answer adequately. Finally, she told me to sit down and stop talking for the remainder of the class. An introvert by nature, I normally would have been embarrassed by the exchange. It took all of my courage and determination to stand to ask the question in the first place. The public lashing could have been catastrophic to my sense of self.

Actually, it had the opposite effect. I felt vindicated in my doubts. I relished the notion that no one could unequivocally answer a simple question posed by a ten-year-old, poor, uneducated, Black girl. If my pastor, elders and those with decades of experience reading the Bible could not answer my question, it meant that they did not really know the answer for themselves. More importantly, there was probably no answer that everyone could point to as the authoritatively accurate response. If that was true in this case, it was probably true for all things. In that moment, I found my power. My logical, critical evaluation of so-called facts would act as a thorn in the side of established truths and frustrate those who aimed to blindly perpetuate the continued dissemination of unchallenged certainties.

The next moment occurred two years later in a North Carolina history class. To be fair, I had become somewhat of a Contrary Mary by the time I sat in the sixth grade classroom. My poor teacher was probably overwhelmed by the already taxing nature of her profession. I remember her as the opposite of a formidable opponent, disheveled and unsure of herself. She was not at all inspiring yet fell just shy of insignificance. I incredulously asked why we never learned about African and Native Americans in our history books outside of their roles as slaves or victims. She said it was because they did not play significant roles in our history. Ha! Of course, I had been researching David Walker’s “Appeal” after hearing about him during a radio broadcast. What about him? She had no clue who David Walker was. Tom Jones? Nope! Harriet Jacobs? Unh-unh! J. Allen Kirk and his account of the Wilmington race riots? Nada! She did not even know, Fayetteville’s own, Henry Evans.

Although I still loosely held onto the promise of incontrovertible, socially-accepted truths, I continued to prove their inexistence. Outside of scientific certainties, like gravity and the existence of energy, everyone believed in lies that they kept masquerading as truths in order to continue their worlds spinning in orbit. I did not have the luxury of perpetuating the lies, because most of them were created to the detriment of my livelihood.

What does that have to do with the political environment of today? It’s elementary, my dear Watson. It’s the same language spoken by our political leaders—power. I discovered my power despite the overwhelming “evidence” of my powerlessness. I exposed the truth that everyone is capable of affecting change, even poor, Black, ten-year-old girls. If you do not like something, don’t accept it as the way things are. Challenge it! Speak out against it!
I don’t mean only to vote the yahoos out of office. Yes, do that when the time comes. But for now, speak their language. Let the power of your dollars be the voice that echoes your priorities. If you do not like the fact that the new tax bill will give Apple another $50 billion in kickbacks, stop buying Apple products today. If you no longer support Google’s campaign to sell your browsing preferences to the highest bidders, switch to DuckDuckGo. If you are tired of screaming at your representatives to work for the people instead of the corporations, don’t throw up your hands in frustration and proclaim that all politicians are corrupt oligarchs. Research the corporations that are the driving forces behind unfavorable proposals, and then actively work to defund them. Your voice, your dollar matters. Just ask Papa John!

When we stop buying products that are manufactured by companies, which build themselves up at the expense of our best interests, we speak the language of politicians. When we question the motives of social policies that seek to divide and conquer, we regain our collective power. You see, the greatest lie that Average American Joes and Jolenes have accepted as true is that they have no direct influence on policy. The fact is that their influence is direct and immediate when they speak in terms of dollars, not emotions.

I don’t know anyone who admits to watching the Kardashians, but there must be a large audience of viewers and followers that continue to drive millions of advertising dollars into the family’s pockets. I don’t know any members of my community that admits to shopping at Walmart, but I saw a parking garage filled with luxury cars each time I visited the gym directly above the store. I don’t know anyone who admits to eating at McDonald’s, but the franchise has an active spot at the center of our affluent community and does not appear to be hurting for business.

Regardless of what we proclaim in our social media posts, the truth of our beliefs is recorded in the material on which we click. We speak toward our values in every show we watch. We display our morality in every song we listen to and sing along with on the radio. We cast our ballots with every dollar we spend. If we want our politicians to hear our voices, we can’t just be Facebook warriors. We have to be conscientious in EVERY decision we make.

Yes, it is exhausting at first. You will get used to it. You will learn to make this a way of life to promote your livelihood. You will gradually become aware of each book, album, product, service, story, show and company you buy into. Disrupting the establishment is where I found my power. Creating a new one is where you will find yours. Welcome to my world, Friend.

Ciao!