Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Letter To My Daddy

Dear R. D.,

I know to some this is a little [okay, maybe a lot] crazy, but I've wanted to write you this letter for a long time now just to share things with you that have been on my mind over the 31 years that have passed since you died. I want to begin by saying that for the 9 years that I had the honor of having you as my Daddy I am forever grateful, though sometimes I feel cheated in so many ways.

I can still remember your funeral and so many things that went through my 9 year old brain that day. I remember all the cars in the procession that trailed the limo in which I rode from the funeral home to Jefferson Barracks Veteran's Cemetary. I remember that looking out the back window, I was unable to see the end of the line of cars that followed us. Later, I heard that there were more than 200 cars in that line and even today I am amazed by the sheer number of people who thought enough of you to show up. Following the funeral, there was the repast at Robert Lee and Annie Ruth's house if I am not mistaken, and I remember me, my sister, and brothers hiding under a table with a long table cloth being mad at everybody there for "having a party" when our Daddy was dead. To this day, I have issues with attending funerals and rarely attend them or repasts unless I am in danger of offending someone I care about.

You were a really good Daddy while I had you. I was so young when you left that there are only a few true memories that remain. I remember that you rarely if ever disciplined any of us, you left that up to Moma. I remember how you used to bring us to the table and give each of us a knife and fork to use to beat on the table as we all chanted "We wanna eat...we wanna eat" to rush Moma in getting the meal on the table [Now that I'm a grown woman, I must say, "You know that was just WRONG!"]. I remember sitting on your stomach while you lay on your back watching TV and I cleaned your fingernails during my version of giving you a "manicure". I remember wanting to always be the apple of your eye and throwing a stone fit one Easter Sunday when I was about five and you tried to take a picture of Jackie without me in it. You ended up taking this picture of me crying in my Easter coat and dress...aaahhhhhh...

Everytime I hear Stevie Wonder's You Are The Sunshine Of My Life I think of you, my wonderful Daddy. Over the years, there were many times I wished you could have been here with me. Most of the time, I understood and accepted that things were the way they were, but sometimes...I felt like I felt in this picture...I WANTED MY DADDY!

The times that I missed you most occurred during my college years. My room mate was the oldest daughter of an absolutely wonderful father who adopted me as his fourth daughter once she and I became roomies. I attended church with them weekly and due to the influence of her family, I decided to get baptized in their church. As much as I loved her family and spending time at their house, seeing her with her father always sent pangs of all I was missing by not having you here through my heart.

There are so many things I wish. I wish that you had been able to watch me and my sister and brothers grow up. I wish you could have been here to share with Moma all the wonderful opportunities she had to be proud of each of us. It would have been wonderful to have you at my high school and college graduations. I would give just about anything for you to know the six grandsons (one provided by me) that you now have. For the privelege of your point of view on some of the issues and obstacles I have faced, and your input on raising Ryan, I would have traded just about anything.

I often wonder in what ways I would be different if you had not had to leave me so soon. I know for sure that some of the guys I dated would have been run off long before the first date ever happened as your plan to keep me and Jackie in the house until we were in our 30's is the stuff of legends ;-) I'm often told that I'm very smart and I always reply that because I come from two brilliant people I can't help it! I see so clearly the impact having been my mother's daughter has had on me, but I often wish you could have been around longer so that I could have gotten to know you and subsequently myself better as well. What character traits do I have as a result of being your daughter I wonder? How did your death change me for better or worse? These are the questions I may never be able to answer.

You'll be happy to know that I am a "glass half-full" person, and as such, I have decided that there is a silver lining even in the cloud that is your early departure from my life. I have a girlfriend who has never been able to have a successful long-term relationship with a man because she is convinced that her father's decision to abandon his family when she was a small child has doomed her to be a failure when it comes to men. She believes that since her father didn't love her enough to stick around, and she didn't have him around as she was growing up to learn from, she can't possibly expect any other man to stick. I tell her that her ideas are nonsense as I didn't have a father around either but I don't buy into this bull. She says that you did not leave me by choice so its different; to which I respond, "Not here is not here!" I can't buy into her misery because I know better than this. The "gift" of your going while I was still so young but old enough to realize how very much you loved me, is that I now believe that I am entitled to the best a man hoping to be my partner has to offer. Afterall, if a girl doesn't get to keep her Daddy around as long as she needs him, shouldn't she get the next best thing...a partner who is ready, willing, and able to step in and finish the job of loving her that her Daddy started?

Having recently started this blog, I have been welcomed into the lives of so many people via their blogs. Wandering around the internet, I stumbled upon the blog of "sarccastik" a dedicated married father of a young daughter. Reading his posts about the joy and pride he feels as he raises his baby daughter reminded me of the stories Moma tells me about how much you wanted her to have a girl when she was pregnant with me and how once I was born, you had me moved to the front of the nursery at the hospital so that you could see me as you passed the nursery window while carrying out your work duties as you worked for the hospital in which I was born. Short as the time we had together was, it still produced wonderful memories as well as an awareness of exactly how special I was to you.

So thank you to my Daddy R.D. for giving me a great introduction to what being loved by the opposite sex is supposed to feel like [at least the parts that matter most!]. I hope I make you proud and though you're not here, I carry you always in my heart. Love Always, Your Firstborn Daughter, Sharon

Monday, February 27, 2006


The day following the posting of a birthday tribute to me on her blog that got inside my psyche and bathed my ego like cerebral spinal fluid bathes the brain itself, Ladylee extracted her exorbitant fee by TAGGING ME! In the words of one of my own personal heroes, "I've been bamboozled, hoodwinked, run amuck"! To make matters even worse, when she responded to the Tagging she suffered at the hands of one of our mutual favorite authors Tayari Jones (who I hold at least partially responsible for my own suffering, and one day vengence will be mine), she really went out of her way to be an overachiever which just pisses me off since that's my forte. One of the things I like best about me is that I have always known when to say when...when I've been shown up and can't compete... and when to scream UNCLE at the top of my lungs so here goes:


Now that that is out of my system, I will post the answers to the questions sent to me via this dastardly tagging:


  • Break Relief @ Six Flags Over Mid-America (a.k.a. St. Louis): Assigned to provide coverage during the breaks and lunches for nine employees daily. Cool job because I never did any one job longer than an hour a day.
  • Factory worker: Can't even remember what they manufactured, but I did some iron sautering in the course of making whatever it was I was making. My mom worked for the company and she got me the job during the summer following high school graduation. Of course my mouth got me fired and when she came out at the end of the day to find me sitting on the car waiting with my last check, she wasn't embarassed and simply said "I'm surprised you lasted this long".
  • Lab Technician in a Paternity Lab: Ran paternity studies for child support court system in Nebraska as a work study position during college. To this day, knowing the inside of how these tests work, I crack up when men protest about false positive paternity test results...give up the gig my brotha, there are no false positives!
  • 24 hour On-Call Pharmacist @ a mail order pharmacy that will remain nameless to protect the not so innocent: I carried a pager and took call 24 hours a day for a mail order pharmacy chain which is based in St. Louis. I also worked there full time as a pharmacist. I never would have believed if I hadn't carried that pager, how many errors are made and I often wonder how many are never caught. Warning to all, if you have any doubt at all about the accuracy of your prescription, ask the question, assume nothing; as for me, I'll pick my prescription up at the Walgreen's thank you!

  • The Color Purple: Not the most original answer I realize but it definitely tops this list. Who could forget quotes like "I'se married now!", "Next time, I'll put a lil' Shug Avery pee in it...", and last but certainly not least, "Did I ever ask you for anything? Not even your sorry ass hand in marriage!" And the music...Miss Celie's Blues and God Is Tryin' ta Tell You Something...I gotta go watch my movie now, I feel a jones coming down...
  • The Shawshank Redemption: I still can't believe this is a Stephen King novella...but without question, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins made this flick the joint. I don't care how many times I see it, I still love it, especially the scene when "Andy" plays the classical music and every con in the penitentiary stopped and got some culture!
  • Steel Magnolias: If Sally Field as "Malyn" screaming "I wanna know whyyyyyyeeeee, why I can run from here to China but my daughter can't, she never could" doesn't get you, you're made of stuff I'm scared of. And as a woman and mother the scene where she talks about the beauty of having been a mother: "I realized that as a woman I was lucky. I was there when this beautiful creature drifted into my life, and I was there when she left." No male-bashing here, but that's something no man will ever truly understand.
  • The Mirror Has Two Faces: A romantic comedy with Barbra Streisand and Beau Bridges that I stumbled across a few years ago and fell in love with. The classroom scene where Barbra gives a lecture on the history of romantic love is worth the price of admission and the process through which they travel to the ultimate climax is hilarious to say the least...

  • Udine, Italy: I was a foreign exchange student in 1981, my sophomore/junior year of highschool.
  • Omaha, Nebraska: I went to college there.
  • Nairobi, Kenya: I was a foreign exchange student in 1988 my senior year of college
  • Atlanta, GA: Yes, Ladylee pick up your chin...though never a true ATLien, I lived there as I was engaged to a born and bred ATLien back in 1988 (the fiance that died of leukemia). As a matter of fact, I took my pharmacy board exams in Athens, GA and my first pharmacy license was actually issued by the state of GA and I reciprocated it to Missouri when I came back home. I worked for Peoples Drug there...sorry, I already answered the question your honor...sue me dammit, its my blog;)

  • Sex and the City: That was my shit! Those four white girls cracked me up with their trifling asses; however, I always wished they had a sista in the mix to keep'em real.
  • Law & Order (Anything...SVU, CI, the original): Sometimes I feel that I need a 12 step program to get off the L&O (LOL) because the "Da-Duhn" has the ability to stop me in my tracks. The thing that really gets me is that these shows keep jostling for the favorite spot in my head...right now SVU is winning but this time next week the original will sweep me off my feet again. Isn't it amazing how self-righteous McCoy can be this week and then in next week's episode, he will be burying evidence and lying to defendants about immunity...I'd rather deal with the brotha in the alley than his non-trustworthy ass, but y'all know I love me some ADA McCoy!
  • Dancing With The Stars: Okay, okay...I know I should be ashamed of myself but I am hooked (i.e. if I miss a week I get DT's [delirium tremors for those with non-addictive personality disorder...and believe me if you are not addicted to something, you definitely have a DISORDER!]). I just started watching this season and once Master P's big club-footed, non-ballroom dancing shoe wearing, rhythymLESS Nation platinum card carrying butt got voted off, I was willing to sacrifice anything to be in front of the TV on Thursday nights...sorry Ryan, it'll be over soon! (Update: I hate that the voters turned it into a popularity contest instead of a dance contest...y'all know Stacy shoulda won!)
  • Grey's Anatomy: Twenty years ago, I used a textbook in my anatomy and physiology class called Grey's Anatomy which I guess is where the show's title comes from. Who woulda believed I would ever willingly tune into anything with that title again? This show is simply awesome, and if you're not watching it, you're missing the best TV on TV. I started watching b/c some folks that I work with said I remind them of the character "Bailey" but I'm nicer. I checked it out expecting to see no parts of myself and imagine my surprise when I had to agree that we are somewhat alike.

  • Disneyworld/Orlando, FL: Who hasn't? Especially fun however was my experience at Medeival Knights in Kissimmee, FL...what could be "funner" than drinking vegetable soup from a gourg and eating roasted chicken with your hands...hmmmmmm
  • Carnival Cruise to Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel: Nothing like a sampler platter, but without question the highlight of this trip was climbing Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios with my son, brother, cousin, and nephews [check out pic].
  • Branson, MO: Yes Dammit! Branson can be a vacation. My sister and mother own a time share down there and we all went for five days over the fourth of July weekend a couple years back...Go karting, mini-golf, water parks, horseback riding...come oooonnnnn! compete if you think you can!
  • Carnival Cruise to Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas (twice): Once with my 3 times fiance and once with my gurlz. Paradise Island and Atlantis are no-brainer attractions, but Sammy Davis Jr.'s house on Freeport Island is something to see with its mosaic tiled entry...

  • My Moma's Dressing: Note I said dressing NOT stuffing. This is too good to stuff inside some damned dead bird!
  • My Grandmama's Chili: A Christmas Eve standard at Grandma's house...how many days until Christmas?
  • My Sister's German Chocolate Cake: In my opinion dessert is the most important meal of the day and contrary to my Moma's predictions when I was a child, I never did grow out of my "sweet tooth". My sister's German chocolate cake can bring tears to my eyes just thinking about it. As a matter of fact, I need to call her b/c she's supposed to make me one this weekend as a belated b-day present...gotta run!
  • Chocolate Tall Cake from Ruby Tuesdays: My son and I used to go on dates to the movies and follow it up by going to the Ruby Tuesdays across the street where we would share this too damned big for one person to eat decadent concoction consisting of the moistest chocolate cake ever baked covered with chocolate sauces, whipped cream, Oreo cookie crumbles, and vanilla ice cream to cut the sugar ;) The whole thing is served in a tall, big-bowled sundae glass which is big enough to hold a GRANDE Margarita ( a little point of reference for the alkies in the room ;) and is filled to capacity...

  • Ms Just Write Now's Blog Triple Threat: I'm going to post these ladies as one answer b/c they are intertwined in my psyche in very unique and specific ways: Ladylee introduced me to blogging and challenges me constantly to raise the level of my game, she gots skills that make me mad jealous, and what I wouldn't give to spend a day hanging with her just checking out the people in her neighborhood--Serenity23 makes me think about my role in the world and my obligations on the planet, she keeps me grounded, and Lawd knows I have a ball reading and "blogging" in her comments section, in response to some of the comments she gets to her posts--DJ Diva (a.k.a. DJ Clean Spirit) is the unpredictable one of the bunch. Going to her blog is always an adventure kinda like Forrest Gump's Box of Chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get, but I assure you it will be worth having! These ladies captured my attention the first day I entered the world of blog and have been able to keep me interested...to them, I give ALL PROPS!
  • That Johnson Boy Said What?: I just found my way to this site a week or so ago and was immediately hooked. Thankfully he hasn't been up for very long because my OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder...yeah, another disorder I'm owning up to] kicked in, and I felt compelled to read every post he has written to date. I'm telling y'all, the brotha's got a gift and boy am I glad he chooses to use it! (He ain't using this gift as often as I wish he would, maybe I'ma havta jump on his head like the triple threat mentioned above did me to get his post consistency up!)
  • Cafepharma.com: It's a pharmaceutical industry website which has public comment boards for every company in my industry. It's kinda like the National Enquirer of the industry and though it is filled with some severe dysfunctional negativity spewing from some of the sickest sickos imaginable, history in this industry has shown that the rumors that tend to show up here first usually turn out to be true...Gotta be informed now don't I?
  • Commercebank.com: So a sista's trying to stay on top of her finances y'all...what's wrong with that?


  • The Impact of Economic Solidarity among African-Americans and the value of educating our kids about managing money proactively [i.e. before they screw up their credit].
  • Why pro-lifers should be willing to adopt an unwanted/abused/neglected child or just shut the hell up.
  • What each of us can do to improve the quality of education in the American public schools...even if our own kids attend private school.
  • If everything we eat is ssssooooooo bad for us, why are we sicker as a country now than ever before in history?


  • Sports: Now don't get me wrong, I love sports especially football and basketball; but damn! when the game is over...its OVER! Let it Goooooooooo!
  • Is Simon Cowell too harsh on American Idol: Its a damned TV show people...I love to watch it as much as the next guy and try not to miss it, but damned they are trying to keep their ratings up like everybody else and Simon's bull is part of that. Sensitive souls at this point should know what to expect, and if they can't take the "joning" then they shouldn't hang on the corner in the hood!
  • Whitney and Bobby: Enough said!
  • Designer fashions...love my closet as much as the next sista...but damn, did I ask what designer you were wearing...

Four Bloggers that I'm TAGGING:

  • DJ Diva...and just try to wiggle out of complying...don't make me hop after you!
  • K. O. Johnson of "That Johnson Boy Said What?" b/c I simply want to read the creative answers you're sure to have!
  • Youtoldharpotobeatme...because the way we've been vibing, I'm sure to pick up some movies, shows, etc. that I haven't seen before but would enjoy!
  • Nikki Woods Writes because I just found her website and loved it and am hoping that by tagging her she will get back online and start to post again so I can participate! Come back Nikki, come back!

So there you have it...I've lived up to my responsibility and done my duty to mankind, society, and the www at large. This was fun and I hope you guys get a little more insight into the madness that is me. In the meantime, if anyone else is considering taggin' a sista, let me just BEG, PLEASE DON'T...if however it does happen again, I'll simply cross that bridge when I get to it and live to fight another day! ENJOY LIFE!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Oscar winning ACTOR, Nuclear ReACTOR, or One Who Takes ACTION...which are you?

In life, there are many cliches about the categories into which people fall:

  • There are two kinds of people: The haves, and the have nots
  • There are two kinds of people: Them that can, do; them that can't, teach
  • There are two kinds of people: The movers and shakers, and the rest
  • There are two kinds of black people: The Talented Tenth, and the other 90%

You get the drift. As overused as they may be, the true beauty of the cliche is that at least to some extent, they are almost always based in truth. Each of the phrases above when analyzed will lead to the same conclusion, which is that on some level, the statement is based on an underlying truth which bears out, and as they say in geometry, proves the rule.

This got me to thinking about my own views on the categories into which I think people tend to fall and what truths if any in my own personal experience has fed these views; thus the title of this post. I believe people fall into three basic categories: ACTORS, REACTORS, and THOSE WHO TAKE ACTION.


We all have met people who always seem to be the life of the party. These are the people who live in the spotlight, and in any social setting, they seem to be part of the "in crowd". Actors know what it takes to pull off any part and they play their role accordingly...they are extremely good planners with a keen ability to look the part. They appear always to know exactly what to say in any situation, and as long as things remain superficial, they are "there for you...they've got your back".

The problem with actors, is that they can ONLY skim the surface in terms of their ability to navigate the choppy seas of the full spectrum of human emotions and relationships. Always great in the light of the sun, actors will leave you floundering every time when storm clouds roll in. Their usual M.O. is to just not show up when things get rough because that is a script they have difficulty writing. They'll always have a reason which sounds really good for why they were not able to be there for you, but when you examine your history with an actor, you will find that everytime you faced a tough situation, you faced it sans your actor buddy.

Unfortunately for the actor, the person who is most damaged by this behavior is the actor himself. Always the center of attention in public, the actor inevitably finds that when he/she most needs support and the comfort of others, it is unavailable. In their quest to portray an image, they have effectively isolated themselves from others by establishing and maintaining superficial relationships which have no significant foundation upon which to stand. These are the people who were voted "Most Popular" in high school who don't attend the 20 year reunion because they can't be found, have fallen by the wayside, or feel too uncomfortable to attend. How sad that in all their high school popularity, they unlike most of us, were unable to establish and maintain even one relationship that was deep enough to sustain itself throughout life. Without doubt, the life of "the actor" can be a lonely one.


Energy! In one word, that is the best way to describe a reactor, ENERGY..that eventually fizzles out! These are the people who are oftentimes found amongst those referred to as the Type A's among us. Usually, reactors can be counted on to carry out whatever promises they make, they are great at follow through with one caveat...only as long as things are moving along according to the plan. Reactors given a plan, will carry it out. These are the "to do listers, the clip board people". They live according to master plans, and believe wholeheartedly that they, and only they, dictate their destinies. Unfortunately, this belief is flawed from the start as it is impossible to dictate your own destiny while using someone else's plan.

The thing that makes reactors so interesting is that with all the self-direction skills they believe themselves to possess, they are most likely [even more so than actors] to be swayed by the opinions/actions of others. Reactors get their name honestly as they tend to re-act based on the actions of others. These individuals believe themselves to be the captains of their ships when in actuality, every major move they make in life tends to be a consequence of what someone else's action forced them to do. For example, reactors don't end unhappy relationships because they're unhappy, they wait until their partner decides the relationship is over and then still find it difficult to move on.

Reactors can only be counted on by others as long as things go according to the plan. When there is a variation from the plan, a total melt-down results. Reactors though dependable in smooth waters are even more fickle than actors in rough seas because as opposed to not showing up at all, they have a tendency to walk out at the most inopportune moments when things are as bad as they can get, making a bad situation horrible. This same trait is detrimental to the reactor as well as they are frequently unable to function when their own plans fall short and typically shut down when faced with unexpected obstacles.

Those Who Take Action

Ever met someone who seemed to have it all together? Whatever the problem, they were willing to work towards a solution, assist in any way they could, up to and including handling the scut work. These are the people who take action. Folks who fall into this category, have the ability to plan and follow the leader. They are as good at following up as they are at making the plan. In short, they are well-balanced. These individuals seem to be able to juggle whatever life sends their way while hurdling over any obstacles placed in their path.

They're the bright idea people [I bet you thought that was GE], always coming up with or chasing down new ideas. These are the people in our lives who don't quietly back out of the room when we are facing a crisis. These folks can be counted on to do what needs to be done be it planning the next move, carrying out the plan, developing a plan B, or cleaning up the mess of plan A. These superheroes should be nicknamed "The DEPENDABLES" as they will never let you down.

Those who take action will never sit around wringing their hands wondering what to do. They are incapable of rehashing situations that have occurred in the past as they are eager to decide what needs to happen next and get started making that thing happen. These individuals are a motivated lot and will do whatever it takes to move forward from where they are. To them, action is key and even if it means flipping a coin to decide what that action will be, some action must always be taken.

Though they sometimes come off as brash and insensitive in their quest to move forward, those who take action are great to have around in a crisis. They may be their own worst enemy in that they risk missing out on the enjoyment of savoring the pleasures of life because they are constantly looking to the future and what comes next.

Like most things in the world, nothing and no one is as cut and dried as the descriptions of these three personality types that most of the people I meet seem to fall in. In each of us lies the capacity to be any one or a combination of any of these descriptions depending on the day. However, each of these personality types comes with its own issues and it is important to understand which one you lean most heavily towards and what that means about the kind of person you are.

Questions such as:

  • Am I dependable in a crisis?
  • Does anyone really know the real me?
  • Are my goals my own or am I checking off a list of society's expectations of me?
  • Are there people willing to risk themselves for me?
  • What do I give to others, and is it commensurate with what I receive in return?

may be valuable in helping each of us to better understand who we are and what if any value we bring to the lives of others. Furthermore and just as importantly, answering these questions for ourselves honestly will potentially alert us to the possibility that others are taking us for granted.

Personally, I have always done my best to avoid being reactionary. Don't get me wrong, we all must react to the situations we find ourselves in, however it is my opinion that my reaction should always be a function of my values, beliefs, and self-imposed morals. The best example I can think of is when I was involved in a relationship where my significant other was cheating with another woman. The advice I received ranged from getting a make-over so I would be better able to compete, to providing some good, old-fashioned tire slashing, to rolling up on him and her both and breaking out the vaseline. However, I in my normal, self-possessed state of mind would never embarass myself or my family (especially my son) by behaving in that manner. So as I saw it, the best response for me to that situation was to extricate myself from the relationship as I have never been one to hold on to someone who has let me go; and that is what I did. Obviously I reacted to the situation, but that reaction was an independent action on my part and not an [atypical of me] reaction to his action. In truth, I try at all times to be a person who takes action typical of the person I am, and, I have learned to do just that while still stopping to savor what I have already been able to achieve, as well as what is yet to come.

I am a very reflective person, which leads me to analyze and inspect the behavior of both myself and those around me closely. Most of the time I'm proud to say, I like what I discover...only most of the time. On the occassions when I see something I never would have guessed existed in me, I accept it for what it is and go about the business of making it more aligned with my own expectations of myself. When I discover traits in others that are at odds with my expectations for my relationship with that individual I do my best to address the issue with them as well. Sometimes, things work themselves out...sometimes working with that individual, I am able to make it work out...sometimes I find I have to say "Goodbye"...but never, ever will my reaction be one that leads me to penalize the innocent for what the offenses of the guilty. Furthermore, I refuse to give up my own natural optimism and ability to trust those who have not caused me injury... I wrote a poem about this a while back, wanna hear it? Here it go...

"Place Where Tears Hang Out"

Behind the eyes there is a place

where tears hang out until

A toe is stubbed, a promise unkept, or we face some other ill.

Over this place where tears hang out

we have on real control.

The tears just wait on the whim of fate to injure our very soul.

Ruling this place where tears hang out

are those we hold most dear.

Our hearts they break with smiles so fake but still we keep them near.

But in this place where tears hang out

something wonderful can be seen.

A sparkle, a twinkle, that indicates that we STILL have our dreams!

What about you? What would a bit of close inspection of yourself and your relationships reveal to you about you? About your relationships? About the status of your dreams? Hmmmm....

Friday, February 17, 2006

Through The Fire, To The Limit, To The Wall…

Life is about limits. Speed limits, credit limits, term limits…without question, life is about limits. I woke up this morning thinking about the limits in my life; the ones I pay attention to, but more importantly, the ones I seem to consciously ignore. Since I started this blog, I have spent a lot of time talking about my family, my own personal training ground on how to love and be loved in return. Coming from such a demonstrative family, I never felt anything less than loved, and I always knew it. How does this type of familial interaction impact me as a woman moving through life hoping to find my own “Perfect Match”? How does a women who has grown up having her love reciprocated deal in the cold, harsh reality of the dating world?

Those of you who know me personally know that I have a tendency to analyze (some would say over-analyze) situations and experiences I have had. Good, bad, or indifferent, that’s just how I’m built. At a week shy of 41 years, and still single, I find myself wondering why it is that I am still looking for “the one”. A self-inventory [that some might say is biased at best], illustrates a woman who has her shit together. Physically, I’m not hard on the eyes, and certainly no one has ever kicked me out of bed. Intellectually, I can hold my own in a conversation about pretty much anything. I read books by choice to the tune of at least 3 to 4 a month, and have been able to obtain a pharmacy degree and am beginning work on two Masters programs. Emotionally, I’m fit…I cry when it is appropriate, and laugh whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. I have no issues with being taken care of by the strong one when it’s warranted, or being the strong one when my rock needs a rock. Though not a religious zealot, my spirituality runs deep, and the foundation of my faith which is in God and the appearance always of the sun following any storm, usually leads to me being the chosen “go-to person” everyone I know seems to want around when storms show up on their horizon. Though some of us say it shouldn’t matter, I CAN and DO bring home the bacon [thick slab at that], though frying it up in a pan in the most consistent and spectacular ways is a developmental project in motion. So, self-assessment complete, I appear to be a good catch, and the question remains…why am I still single?

My romantic history is pretty simple and believe it or not, in my opinion, not very traumatic. Basically it boils down to a good deal of dating in my college years, and four significant relationships. Each brought new learnings to my life, and though they did not result in the life I imagined I would lead, they are not experiences I would eliminate given the chance. These experiences have not left me bitter or determined to make the next guy pay for the sins of his predecessor. On the contrary, each has made me a bit more determined than ever to find the one for me.

My first love was my first love (if you get my drift); we started dating when I was just 16 and we got engaged during my freshman year of college. We broke it off during the summer before my junior year, and the scripture, [Be ye not unevenly yoked] echoes in my brain whenever I think of this relationship. That notwithstanding, he was then and remains the nicest boy I ever met and he treated me at all times like a queen. His lesson was essential to my long-term development: "Accept only the best treatment". Though I did not always follow this lesson, it has stayed with me and at this stage of my life, it has become a guiding light in relationships of all kinds.

Big deal number two was the one instance ever of “love at first sight” that I have personally experienced. Met him through a high-school pal, fell in love and knew within the first week that he was “the one”. He knew too, so we got engaged at two months in and planned a wedding for the following spring of my senior year in college. Long story short, he died of leukemia. Hurt like hell without question, but even in our short time together, I took away a lesson: "Time is limited and not always on your side". Being an analyst of sorts, it is not my style to rush into things; however, this relationship was the one in my life of which I was the most sure even though it was the one that moved the fastest. The bottom line is that time is specific to the situation and the situation should not be dictated by the amount of time that has or has not passed. In other words, one should not necessarily hesitate to make a commitment because "it hasn't been long enough yet", nor should one stay because "we've been together so long"...

Next big thing was my son’s father. To be frank, though I loved him, I was never “in love” with him. He was my best friend then, and if he could be the man he should be in terms of being a good father to my son, I truly believe he would still be my best friend. His lesson: "Obligation changes some things". We were friends and he would have done anything for me under that circumstance but when we became parents, our friendship evaporated and we became nothing...not even enemies.

This brings me to the last "big thing" in my romantic history, the one who got away as they say. He was my fiance' three times believe it or not, and from him I learned many lessons I never knew I needed. The most important thing I learned from this relationship: "In life there are limits." Though I have been involved in some pretty intense, long-term relationships over the years, this is the one that took me through the fire, to the limit, to the wall...to quote Chaka Khan. For this relationship, I was willing to sacrifice just about everything. I wanted this more than anything I ever wanted for myself my entire life, and it took me almost fifteen years to reach my own limit in terms of what I wouldn't do to have it.

I remember as I lived through this situation many times that my family and friends seemed to be disappointed in me and uncertain as to why I remained in the relationship. Being the realist I am about all things, I never made excuses for my situation, it was what it was. However, it was very difficult for those who love me to accept my assertion that until I was emotionally and mentally able to move on, I had no other option than to stay. Having "my girls" to have my back is one of the most precious gifts I have in my life. So imagine the pain of not being able to make them understand my point of view. It's funny how when you are going through a situation like this, there seems to always be a song with lyrics that speak to you...for me during this period there were two: What You Won't Do For Love and Luther Vandross' "I'd Rather Have Hard Times With You". Now y'all know that's some serious shit there!

Finally, I reached my limit or hit the wall so to speak.

The crazy thing about it was that there was no final straw...even after fifteen years, three engagements, two planned and cancelled weddings, and my having moved out of the home we purchased together not once but twice. I simply reached my limit one day. I finally realized that you can truly love a person with everything you are and they can love you back in their own way, but it may not be enough. What I needed to be happy he could not provide and what he was willing to give was insufficient to sustain me. At the time, I didn't even realize that I was depressed by the whole situation. I believed I was living a full life. I believed I was happy. And then one day, I noticed I was a long, long way from happy. The thing that kept going through my head was the title of Patty Labelle's book, "Don't Block The Blessings". I knew it was time to clear the space around me so that whatever it is that is meant for me might have a chance of actually getting close enough to be seen and embraced.

I'm happy to say, there was no fanfare, no drama; just swift and decisive actions taken to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Moving back into my own space has released the Sharon I was always meant to be, the optimistic, self-loving Sharon that Ladylee spoke of in her comment on one of my recent posts (Thanks for noticing Lady!). I am moving on with my life, and in stark contrast to the Sharon of a year ago, I now know I am happy and living a full and exciting life.

Even so, I still wonder why not me when it comes to happy coupledom. I still feel some envy when I encounter people who are with their special someone and their happiness is obviously apparent. I still want to slap some folk over the moon when they have all the ingredients available to them to have what I want, and for whatever asinine reason, they seem to be blind to the fact and letting it all go to waste. In short, with all the gifts that have been granted me, I still see true romantic love as the ultimate gift one can receive. I am continuously appalled when I hear people talk about having met that someone special but because of their job, finances, this or that, they can't focus on that someone right now as if this is something that happens all the time. I see finding that someone special like being given the winning Powerball numbers the day before the drawing. This is not something you sit on...either you place your bet today, or you forfeit your payout...come now people, this is not the kinda shit that comes your way everyday!

Somewhere out there, is a guy who is perfect for me, [not perfect, just perfect for me!]. He is generous and kind and like me, understands the importance of communication. He knows that though grammatically speaking fidelity is a noun, in the context of our lives, the word is a verb that both he and I must make a commitment to actually DOING! He reads for pleasure and without hesitation would discuss what he reads with me over breakfast and vice versa. He loves family and holidays and big boisterous celebrations, but at the same time can be content without leaving the house for an entire week if the mood to vegetate comes along. He is industrious and ethical, and simultaneously understands that the desire to spend a weekend in PJ's reading and watching movies is not a sign of a morally corrupt soul. He's trusting and trustworthy, and does not hesitate to be comforting when comfort is required. He understands that tears flow for many reasons and realizes that individuals who perceive them to be tools of manipulation are simply attempting to justify their own insensitivity. He is comfortable in his own skin, and wears it with authority. He is strong and happy and smart and emotionally in touch with himself. He is secure enough to be himself at all times and to disagree even with his best friend, mother, or me if we are speaking bullshit. He will work with me to build something durable, honest, hopeful, and enduring because that's the whole point. He is able to be happy for those who seem to have all the things he still hopes to have and celebrates their good fortune. If he comes with children, Thank You God for the bonus! Hopefully he is taller than me and black like me and has a big smile like me and a sense of style like me and is grown up enough to know like me that none of the things in this sentence truly matter if he loves me and I he!

He may or may not be a college graduate bringing home the big bucks. As long as he handles his business, this is not important to me.

He does not need to be able to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, just the weight of us which will be heavier or lighter at various times based on which of us has more strength available at a given time.

He will be my partner in all things, and never my wind-up toy.

I wish with all my heart to meet him soon if I haven't already. For him, I would go again Through the fire, To the limit, To the wall...but this time, I would come out better, stronger, happier with him on the other side.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Next Chapter Begins...

Fifteen years ago, this picture told the story that was my life. My son was all that mattered to me at that time, and all of my goals in life revolved around giving him the best start in his life I possibly could, and doing whatever I could to make sure he could reach his goals. When I look back on the years that have passed since this picture was taken, I'm stuck by the tremendous difference the life I lived was from the life I always thought I would live. As you guys have all heard before, I never planned the best thing that ever happened to me: the birth of my son. When his existence was first made known to me, I must admit, that I would have done anything in my power to turn that positive test result into a negative test result. I was a "Golden Child", and things always went just as I planned them to go. This wasn't part of the plan. How could this happen to me?

Thankfully, I have always been very responsible as well and even though there were available to me, "other options", I made the best decision I ever made in choosing to have and raise my son alone as a single mother. With that decision came a million other choices that I wasn't even aware I was making simultaneously at the time. Choices as simple as giving up hour-long showers to more complicated choices like delaying educational goals until my personal time commitment to my son's life had diminished. Some of these choices were easy "no-brainers" as they say. Others came with some anguish, and at certain points, even some remorse because as much as I have always loved my son, I like everyone else, also wanted to have what I wanted when I wanted it.

It's now sixteen years since the birth of my son, and a quick peek at my post re:drug testing in high schools (two posts ago) will provide a sneak peek at the fantastic young man he has turned out to be. We have had a great life, and though there were things that may have been delayed, I never truly had to give up anything on behalf of my son, and in actuality I only gained treasures that I otherwise would never have experienced had I not had him in my life.

Ryan is now a sophomore in high school and doing well. He is self-reliant, self-sufficient, and as embarassed as I am to admit this, his social life puts mine to shame ;). In two and a half short years, he will have graduated high school and if the plan he has for his life doesn't change, he'll be off to college in the fall of 2008. This leaves me, the Mom who has been all about her son for the last sixteen years, the perpetual "Golden Child" and planner, thinking, "What's the next chapter include?"

I have decided it [the next chapter] will be all about me! I have enjoyed no other role I have played in life more than I enjoyed being Mom to my son. I pride myself on being an over-achiever, and at being this kid's Mom, I excelled! Now that the "hands-on" part of that job is nearing its close, I have decided to circle back to the focus I had on my development prior to his birth. One of my goals back then was to pursue an advanced degree, and now seems like a great time to do just that.

As a single woman, who would love to be part of a couple, Valentine's Day has the potential to be brutal. Always looking for ways to make a difficult time easier for myself, I decided last year that to prevent the blues that can come on V-day, I would always do something special for myself on this day. Last year, I purchased for myself this very laptop computer which enabled me to start this blog. This year, I completed the application process necessary to begin a dual Masters program in Management and Leadership, and Human Resources Development. I felt like I was walking on air having finally pulled the trigger on this particular starting pistol. I am looking forward to this second chance to be a student as my appreciation for the privelege that is education is so far from the resigned attitude I had as a kid when I believed education was an evil means to an end. Now, the simple thought of learning things I don't know excites me; and though I'm sure a month from now I'll be dog-tired and sick of school, right now I'm psyched!

The timing is perfect because if I'm diligent and dedicated, I will be able to graduate around the same time my son graduates from high school, allowing us both to run around with T-shirts proclaiming us to be 2008 graduates. Additionally, this timing allows for me to enhance my professional credentials which will serve me well as my intention once my son is off to college is to get aggressive about my professional upward mobility in my company. Once my son is off to college, relocation will be an option, and picking up these two degrees should enable me to broaden the opportunities available to me within my corporate structure, and strengthen my bargaining power.

Always, I am open to the possibility of falling in love with some fantastic brotha who will want to be my better (scratch that), other half (and maybe every once in a while he may have to be my other three-quarters...you know like when I'm having a bad day--ha!ha!); however, my life is not on hold waiting or hoping for that to happen. If it does, it will probably change the plan a bit, but that's okay as the other time my plans went waaaaaayyyyyy different than what I thought, things turned out fantastically. On the other hand, the plan I have is not plan B, its plan A...proactively conceived, excitedly awaited, and finally about to begin. Can a woman whose life has already been as great as mine has been ask for anything more...I don't think so. The next chapter is NOW, and it' all about ME! I WANT TO BE ME WHEN I GROW UP!!!!!!!!!

(Sharon, August 2004)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Grandma's Girl!

Sharon presenting Grandma with "The Mother of the Millinium" award during the family talent show portion of Grandma's surprise birthday celebration August 26, 2005

Last week I spent the entire week in Orlando, Florida on a business trip. Though it was a long week, professionally speaking it was very productive. Upon my return home, as always, I found a huge stack of mail. My birthday is coming up next week, and though I will be 41 years old when it shows up, my Grandmother has NEVER failed to send me a birthday card which always arrives early or right on time, and usually contains "a piece of change" as she calls it. Going through my mail on Friday night, I found an envelope from my Grandmother which obviously contained a card. Immediately, I assumed my birthday card had arrived early. Opening the envelop, I found not a birthday card, but a simple note card.

The note card was a spur of the moment Thank You from my Grandma for my having always been there for her whenever she needed me. She talked about how I have never said I was too busy to stop and attend to whatever she needed. Reading the card brought tears to my eyes. All of my life, my Grandma has been there to make sure that I was taken care of, though I lived with and was raised by my Mother who I love very much as well. However, my Grandma has always owned a piece of my heart that was all her own. Amazingly enough, even though she has 69 grandchildren, I have always known that I had my own piece of her heart as well, and even with all those cousins, brothers, and a sister to compete with, my piece of her heart was not small.

Receiving this card from my Grandma made my year! I think we all strive to make a difference in the lives of those we love, but oftentimes, we never know for sure. My Grandma, being the extraordinary person she has always been, took it upon herself to make sure that I don't have to wonder about the difference I make in her life, thereby giving me just one more thing to add to my long, long list of reasons that she is the person who influences me the most in becoming the person I hope to be...someone just like her!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Random Drug Testing in High School:Why I'm FOR It!

Sorry it's been so long since my last post, but I have been caught up in a very public debate here in good old St. Louie, revolving around a proposed random drug testing program my son's private, Catholic high school is considering implementing. Being a pharmacist with several close relatives and friends who have had their issues both in the past and on-going with drug use (casual as well as severe), I have very definite opinions on the subject which result in my being strongly in favor of routine, random testing beginning in high school.

Last week, following a meeting at my son's school where this program was presented to the parent body for their consideration and feedback, I was interviewed by the local television news stations "CBC Parents Meet Over Student Drug Testing" regarding my position on the proposed testing. Consequently, my interview played over several days on all of the major stations in St. Louis, prompting many emails and phone calls from those who agreed as well as those who disagreed with the stance I took. One of these emails, came from a friend I have known since we ourselves were teenagers who attended high school together. I am publishing excerpts from his email (in order to protect his privacy), along with my emailed response below. I feel this is a very important issue, and would love to hear as much feedback from others as possible as to how they approach the subject of drug use with their own kids.

My son and many of his friends are in favor of the testing in some ways, though peer pressure (the real culprit) is resulting in public displays of rebellion I believe. Like many teens, they want to change the world and this is their chance to "buck the system". I tell them they are Rebels Without Cause, but I applaud their solidarity.

Anyway, the emails I spoke of are attached below...please read them and holler back!

Email from high school friend:

Oh Oh,
You touched a subject near and dear to my heart. I don't know about you, but I smoked marijuana in high school. Never at school and never on school premises. My mother didn't like it, but being a product of the sixties, she had to admit that not only had she tried it, but she liked it and did it (a few) times. Her aunt who raised her was very religious and who'd dare allow that (devil weed) anywhere near her house.
Sharon, I guarantee that not only have probably 75% of the kids at CBC's parents tried marijuana before, but probably still do some form of drug now. (Remember alcohol is a drug and driving drunk is ILLEGAL.)

I have a child that is a senior. Of course I don't want my child to do any type of drug, but I tell her of my experiences, both good and bad, and hope she makes the right choices. At the same time I realize that she will make mistakes and she will have to learn from HER experiences, not mine. Therefore I feel that the decision that you and the other parents at CBC or making is not only misguided, but arrogant (for any parent that uses drugs.) and wrong.
I have had the experience of having been subject to a school where I do remember that there where frequent locker searches and most teachers examined students to see if they were under the influence. I agree whole heartedly to something like that, but to prevent students from learning from their mistakes, in my opinion is WRONG!

My email response:

Now you done gone and done it...

I, unlike you did not smoke weed back in the day though my boyfriend back then was a weed-head (who I might add poured kerosene on himself and lit a match to impress a girl [not me] while high on crack which he graduated to after we broke up). I am not in any way sanctimonious about drug use or experimentation for that matter, but I don't feel it is necessary to actually make "a mistake" to learn a lesson. I, like you don't want my son to even try drugs, but in the event that he does, I would hope he would at least feel open enough to let me know so that I can watch for signs that he needs help. Knowing that he (or any teenager for that matter) would be very unlikely to clue his parents in, drug testing may be the only early alert I get that might help me to prevent a potentially serious problem from developing or a catastrophe that could have been avoided (i.e. car accident, reckless behavior, etc.).

The thing that concerns me most, is that these kids unlike my boyfriend and his weed-head friends back in the day seem to think that there are "degrees of bad" where drug use is concerned...they don't think of weed as just the beginning, and I don't think there is any debate about the fact that most serious drug use and addiction starts with alcohol and weed. Determining who will simply stick with weed and who will progress to other, "more seriously harmful" agents is the unknown. Unfortunately, alcohol (without question the teen's drug of choice) clears from the system so fast (within hours, usually less than 8) that it is very difficult to randomly test for its use. I am considered a "cool MOM" by Ryan's friends so even knowing my position on drug and alcohol use among teens, most of them talk to me about things they would never discuss with other adults including their parents; some even admit they partake. They tell me that marijuana is not physically addictive so it should be okay. In this way, they are different from us as kids as well, as they are much more intellectual in their approach and better informed regarding the science of drugs. I think if they are doing this much thinking, they should be given the rest of the picture to think about and take into consideration as well. As a pharmacist, I tell them that indeed marijuana does have limited physical addictiveness, though that is not the real issue. The real issue is the way that it changes perception (i.e. distance when driving, sense of mortality, etc.) and this is where the risk of using this particular drug lies. I tell them that minimally, if they use it, it should be treated with the same care that should be taken with alcohol use, do it at home, and please don't drive themselves and definitely not my kid around when they are using it!

Their ideas about physical verses mental addiction are also a major issue for me. You don't have to be a drug addict to understand that mental addiction is probably a hundred times harder to overcome than physical addiction. I tell them that physical addiction only requires removal of the addicting substance from the system which with most drugs is just a matter of time, followed by isolation of the addicted person from future contact with the addicting substance. Mental addiction on the other hand is much harder to overcome because it leads individuals to seek, plan, scheme, or do whatever is necessary to get access to the source of their addiction. Don't even look at it in terms of drug use I tell them, think seriously overweight people who won't stop eating, think alcoholics who won't stop drinking (even after re-hab has cleared the alcohol's physical addiction), think anorexics/bulemics who continue to starve themselves though any mirror should tell them they are too thin. These are all examples of the power of mental/emotional addiction. The key to recommending and taking whatever steps I can to convince and encourage my son to refrain is simple: Those who never experiment even once with drugs have no chance of becoming addicts. Though I realize he, like most teens will probably experiment at some point, I hope he will at least consider the consequences (all of them) of his actions prior to making his decisions. This, I believe to be the greatest benefit of random testing in schools, it gives the kid an incentive to think beyond right now, to the consequences he/she might face long-term (i.e. tomorrow at school). That is the overall goal of my entire parenting approach. The fact of the matter is that kids who know without a shadow of a doubt that their parents will probably find out that they did A, B, or C will probably not do it, as most of us refrain from things unless we are pretty sure we can get away with it. It also impacts my son's friends in potentially the same way, creating a peer-pressure that can potentially work in his favor instead of against him. Let's face it, if high school and college are supposed to prepare kids for the real world, then they should learn that in almost any industry they go into they will face drug testing as a pre-requisite to employment and potentially to remaining employed, so we're just starting the lessons earlier when they have a better chance of sinking in...you know, old dog, new tricks ;).

I believe that very few kids sitting home alone think "Maybe I'll try drugs today!" This being the case, I think that the overwhelming majority of teen drug use is consequential to the subtle peer-pressure they face (i.e. everybody's hanging at the mall, everybody's going to the park, the joint is being passed at the party, everybody was hitting it so I did too, etc.). I know that kids oftentimes end up doing things they would not otherwise do just because of where they are and who they are with. If more kids are saying no than yes, a kid is more likely to refrain; the reverse is true as well. So I see drug testing at school the way I see having a strict mother which my son's friends say I am. I have heard my son tell his friends, "ya'll know I can't do that, ya'll know my Moms!". I applaud him, and tell him to use me as the scapegoat anytime he needs to. On that same token, a kid attending a school known to have a drug testing program can say, "ya'll know I can't get with that, shit I might get tested Monday!". Used right, it can be a powerful tool, and from what some of the kids are saying, a tool they would appreciate having.

I truly am not all that concerned about what my son on his own would do, but I don't, can't, and won't underestimate the power of his peers. He is a great kid, as most kids are, and doesn't believe he is influenced at all by peer pressure as most kids believe. I beg to differ, and though I think he has some independent thinking abilities, I think that he and other really good kids like him are the ones at highest risk for many of these things because they do try so hard to please everyone, and be part of the "in-crowd". I was that kind of kid myself even though I kind of floated on the fringes of many crowds like a bee moving from flower to flower as my mother says, and will admit that though I did not do drugs, my friends got me into many other things I probably would never have considered on my own.

In closing I will relate an experience I had in November. I have a cousin (female, 2 months older than me), who I was very close to growing up. We had almost identical childhoods, as our mothers are sisters and raised us very similarly. She has been a drug user since we were 16; she started with weed. Her mother was recently diagnosed with colon cancer and I got to spend time with my cousin while visiting my aunt in the hospital back in November. As I got ready to leave, my cousin who I rarely see because she doesn't come around the family much, walked me to my car. In the parking lot, we had a wonderful moment and reconnected almost like it was when we were kids. As I got ready to leave, she asked me "What I thought the difference between her and me was considering how close we were growing up and how similarly we were raised?" She asked me "Why did I think things turned out like they did with me being "so sucessful" (I know that sounds conceited but I swear that's how she put it!), and her being caught up?" I told her that the only difference between me and her is that she is a gambler and adventurer, and I'm not, at least not in the same way. I explained to her that even back then, looking at our family, I thought there was a tendency to overdo things (addictive personalities abounded) that were fun (i.e. big time drinkers) and to avoid that, I simply did not try things that could end up bad while she did the opposite. I told her that I always assumed (and I still do), that I would get addicted to anything I tried the very first time if I liked it (my philosophy, if it feels good do it!), and the thought of addiction probably never occurred to her. Maybe I'm paranoid, could be, but I say all this to say that I truly believe that it has to be impressed on kids that it really is that simple...you can't get hooked if you don't try it in the first place!

Your drug-free buddy,