Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Best Gifts Come Packaged In Skin!

Sometimes, if you're very good you receive a great gift as a reward. Sometimes, if you're very diligent, your hard work pays off with a special gift which acknowledges your efforts. But sometimes, you receive a gift that is unexpected, seemingly out of the blue, and laid at your feet due to nothing you did to earn or necessarily deserve it. When this phenomenon happens, the smart individual recognizes it for the blessing it is, and from that point forward does everything in his/her power to be worthy of keeping it. I have had this exact thing happen to me in the gift that is my best friend in the world: Angela!

We met almost twenty-one years ago on the first day of pharmacy school following the orientation session. During the orientation presentation, I noticed this beautiful young woman who seemed to be a bit out of her element. I had attended undergrad at the same school, and thus was a veteran on campus. Angie on the other hand had transferred from a school on the west coast. Throughout the orientation, I noticed that she glanced several times to the rear of the auditorium where a distinguished looking older black man stood. I wondered if he too were new to the school and made a mental note to offer to show them both around campus. When the session ended and we were dismissed, I made my way over and introduced myself to Angie who in turn introduced me to the gentleman at the back of the auditorium...her Dad! To this day, I still tease her about her "Daddy taking his babygirl to school on her first day like she was starting kindergarten or something"! [LOLOLOLOL]

I've always thought that physically, Angie is one of the most beautiful women I know personally. Extraordinarily though, she has a beautiful spirit as well. Over the past twenty years, we have seen each other through thick and thin, and I have to send her props as it has to be a lot more work for her to be my friend than it is for me to be hers as I tend to "let it all hang out", while she needs "to have her troubles blackmailed out of her". During college, we even had a physical fight that resulted in our not speaking or associating with each other for more than a year. Even that could not end our friendship, and having reconciled, we have built and sustained a friendship that I don't believe anything could ever destroy.

We are more than friends, we are many ways, more so than the people with whom we share DNA qualify as family. When she got married,

I was there in all my Maid of Honor glory! When I tried to get married [;), she was there trying to be a glorious Matron of Honor! Through job changes, relationship start-ups and crash landings, new homes, and babies, she's always been there. She is so special to me that I once sent a Thank You card to her mother for having and raising the spectacular woman I was lucky enough to have as my best friend. Just the other day, I was reading a fantastic series of posts on James' "Peace On That" blog which was focused on men and how little they actually share with each other. Excellent series of posts, and quite enlightening without question, however, as I read through them, I could only think of how very lucky I am to be a woman. Women have such an incredible ability to be open and accessible to each other. Women share things, private things and things that are just plain silly. We don't care...we thrive when we can connect with another woman and to the men who read my blog, I'm sorry if you're not one of the very few who has evolved to this stage of development. I often tell my son that if something ever should happen to me leaving him to wonder "who I was or what it was that I was about", he should go to his Godmother [of course that would be Angie] as she probably knows me, better than I know myself.

In August of 2005, Angie and I and the rest of our book club attended the National Book Club Conference. While there, we had the privelege of meeting Donna Grant and Virginia Deberry the celebrated authors of "Far From The Tree" , "Trying To Sleep In The Bed You Made" , and "Better Than I Know Myself". During their discussion, these wonderful ladies talked about their friendship which in many ways mirrors the relationship Angie and I share. When Donna Grant's husband proposed to her a few years ago, before accepting his proposal, she drilled into his psyche that if he wanted her, he had to take the entire package which included her friend and writing partner Virginia Deberry. When they related this story, Angie and I almost died laughing as it was like a deja vu of the conversations we have had with her husband who accepts me as part of the "package" deal that is his wife! He and I are like brother and sister, and I love them as I love my flesh and blood relatives...unconditionally. Though she does everything extremely well, what Angie does best is parent her two sons, my Godsons, Darius and Nathan. To see her with either of her children, [or mine for that matter], is to truly see her in her element. Her devotion to these very special young men is what has led me to ask that she become my son's guardian in the event that I am not around to handle the job. She is a brilliant, doting mother who finds the time and energy to be a total participant in the lives of our children. We are so incredibly in sync with each other that we even had our firstborn sons ten days apart; after which we vowed to each other that they would grow up "together" though we have never again lived in the same state since college. To that end, we travel to see each other on average about every other month, take family and "gurlz" vacations together, and talk on the phone sometimes multiple times per day.

Last Saturday was Angie's birthday, the anniversary of the date on which the miracle that became my best friend was born. For me, this date is almost as special as my own birthday. If I tried to make her understand what she brings to my world, she'd think I was lying as she could not possibly conceive of the value she has brought to my life. This post is late in being uploaded because Blogger [like always when I'm trying to be timely] has given me issues all week. Nevertheless, I never stopped trying to post this most important of blog posts to tell the world at large how very blessed I am to have Mrs. Angela D. W.................. as my very own best friend. Like I said in the beginning, The very best gifts come packaged in skin!

Happy Birthday Again Angela...I Love You, Love You, LOVE YOU!!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Brain...How Amazing!

Hang in there with me guys as I try to keep current with my posts...Blogger is being a real pain in the blog right now and not allowing me to upload pics or anything else I need to complete several new posts...y'all know how I LOVES my pictures! Hopefully, the following will hold you over until I can posts some stuff I really want to post. Check back tonight or tomorrow morning. PEACE!

If you can read this, you have a strange mind too

Can you raed tihs?
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at
Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a
wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be
in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed
it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed
ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and
I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

I received the above paragraph over email and was amazed by the fact that my brain is built such that I could actually read this. I was even more astonished to find that I could read this scrambled paragraph at almost the same rate of speed at which I would have read it if all the words were presented in the correct order. What does this say about my brain? [No, I am not dyslexic ;-)] What does this say about the brains of those of us who can't figure out some or all of the scrambled words? I don't have the answer to either of these questions, but I am definitely intrigued by the concept of all the magnificent things our brains can do!

Maybe being "hooked on phonics" isn't the end-all be-all of human existence it is cracked up to be ;-)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Welcome Spring!

Its Here!
Its Here!


Though the calendar might believe today to be the first official day of spring, God says:


I purchased these Hydrangeas with the thought of having lovely spring flowers on my outside tables for a spa party/barbecue this upcoming weekend...even with the snow, they do look lovely on the table ;)


A St. Louis Pictorial At The Home Of

Ms. Just Write Now!

This is a flowering Lily tree which probably is so confused it will never flower again.

At it's base, is a lavender bush that stands about 8 feet tall when not weighted down by pounds and pounds of snow. The scent it gives off when in bloom is wonderful, and attracts the beautiful Monarch butterflies which add even more color to the bush's beautiful purple blooms.

Buried beneath the snow where the fences join in the lower left corner of the picture, are 60 Tulips which were just starting to push through the hard earth but had not yet bloomed. Each time I glance out my kitchen window and see this joy of nature, I can't help but think about K.O. Johnson's beautiful post "On A Lighter Note...", about how tulips do whatever they can to"access the light". I sure hope my tulips understand this most important concept, and continue to stretch toward the light once the weight of the snow is removed from their sturdy little leaves. No Bar-B-Ques anytime soon, but the beauty of my backyard in the snow is something that I personally wouldn't mind seeing more of next winter. This is my first winter in the house, and this is the first and only significant snow we poor, neglected, lovers of winter were priveleged to see so far this winter!

Some here in St. Louis awakened this morning and felt they had been cheated out of the glory of a typical first day of a new spring. Some awakened and decided to roll over and go back to sleep. I awakened and smiled at God's First Day Of Spring joke, and took my dog out for a stroll through our spring/winter wonderland of a backyard! We played in the snow and had all manner of fun. The beauty of snow, the premiere sign of winter, coating the premiere sign of spring, fresh, kelly-green leaves [sprouting from the buds on the trees and bushes surrounding my house], was an amazing study in contrasts. During my walk, I saw a red-breasted Robin flitting from one tree to another. Though it is not the typical idea of spring that pops into one's mind when they think of spring, it was cleansing in the way that only spring is. I felt renewed, reborn, and optimistic about the fresh new season waiting under the snow to show itself and the brilliant colors, scents, and sensations that it brings. In my opinion, this atypical FIRST DAY OF SPRING brought with it, the best of both seasons! Let's face it, we'll all be complaining about the heat soon enough!

Spring flowers sitting on a Summer Bar-b-que covered by Winter's snow! All we're missing is've gotta love the beauty of this picture!

Friday, March 17, 2006

What's a Little Water?

Sometimes, when we least expect it, we get our eyes opened for real. Last August, during the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent hurricanes that followed shortly on her tail, I remember feeling so much sympathy for the people whose lives were directly affected by the devastation. I immediately got online and donated what I could through the Network for Good, as well as giving all the clothing, shoes, etc. I could to the Red Cross to be sent to assist in the relief efforts. I hurt for what these people I most likely would never meet were going through, and wanted to do whatever I could to help. I thought I understood.

Yesterday, March 16th, was the birthday of my nephew's girlfriend; a young woman who I already love so much that I am praying daily for my nephew to get smart enough to ask her to marry him before some other brother beats him to the punch. I love to celebrate birthdays and always try to give gifts that really suit the person. In this case, I gave my "niece" what she and I refer to as a little bit of freedom. She was very pleased with her gift, and to follow it up, I took she and my nephew, my son and his friend, and my brother and myself out for dinner to celebrate. We were gone for a total of three hours maximum. When we left, we left my home dry and intact. When we returned, we found this:

(Note the reflection of the room in the carpet!)

and this: oh, and did I mention this:

In less than three hours, a clogged drain resulted in three-fourths of my basement being flooded with about four inches of standing water. A clogged drain...that, had it clogged an hour earlier, would have been noticed and dealt with before the indoor swimming pool that is now my basement developed.

I was beside myself. My first reaction was total disbelief. My second reaction was how could this have happened in such a short period of time? My next reaction was why is this happening to me? I'm a good person. I try to be generous and kind to others, respectful and courteous; I generally follow the golden rule and do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Except I try to do unto others whether or NOT they do unto me the same or as good. So, I ask again, "Why is this happening to me?"

My final reaction: "Sharon! You need to check yourself! This happened to you because shit happens to people and its as simple as that!" I started to think about the arrogance of my attitude that because I'm a "good person" bad things should/would/could never happen to me. What about all of those people to whom Hurricane Katrina happened? Were they not good people? Am I so self-absorbed and egotistical to believe that I deserve better or more than they do? Sometimes, bad things happen. It IS as simple as that! They lost everything and in many cases, irreplaceable persons about whom they cared. In reality, what did I lose?

My basement is flooded. It stinks to hell and back. The plumber was expensive. The clean-up will be even more expensive. Some things will be lost. None of the things that will be lost are irreplaceable, and they are not my loved ones. I have a little water in my basement relative to the water that Hurricane Katrina displaced, and I have the audacity to be "devastated"? NOT!

Until now, just now, I THOUGHT I UNDERSTOOD!

My Apologies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Wannabe" Writing Pays Dividends...

The two images shown here have brought Ms. Just Write Now great happiness. They are visitor snapshots taken from my site meter on two different days over the last couple of weeks. Each map shows the geographical location of the last one-hundred visitors to my blog as of that date. The red dot indicates "the most recent visitor", the green dots indicate " the ten most recent visitors prior to the red visitor", and the white dots indicate "the other 89 prior most recent visitors".

Maybe you noticed my blog's description on your first or subsequent visits to my blog...maybe not; a quick review of the tagline beneath my blog's title reveals the following:

A public place for a "wannabe" writer to flow, vent, rage, and think she's being heard. An exercise in opening oneself up to the opinions of others...please be kind!

The key points are that the "wannabe" writer, namely me, was hoping to be heard and to open herself up to the opinions of others, namely all of you. Well, back in February, I added a site meter to my blog because I wanted to see how much activity I was getting know, how many of you "stalk my blog" without posting a comment ;-)[definitely your perogative].

I learned a great deal about my blog that I previously had not known. From the site meter, I received unexpected returns...

  1. I learned that I have significantly more people coming through than I thought. I'm sure glad you all decided to come by...please don't stop!
  2. I learned that like myself, many of you all are natural-born night owls as my blog gets visitors at all hours of the day and night...Ain't it great to have something to do when you're up that time of night anyway?
  3. I learned that I owe DJ Clean Spirit (a.k.a. DJ Diva), Ladylee the Original Oldgirl, and Serenity 23 a debt of gratitude as my site meter's referring page record demonstrates that much of my traffic originates on their sites and migrates to mine...Once again Ladies, I'm endlessly grateful to each of you for this and all the other magic you three have brought my way by way of this as well as your own blogs!
  4. Lastly, as the maps pictured above [thanks to my son Ryan...the computer genius who taught his computer-remedial Mom how to clip them from the site meter page and paste them here] illustrate, I am being read far and wide routinely. The "wannabe writer" has been honored by readers from California to St. Louis to New York, from Florida to Washington state, from Mississippi to Michigan, and many points in between. Additionally, your girl has gone international! The maps above show readers in India, Italy, Manila, Canada, and Jamaica...I'm beside myself y'all, thanks for the support! In recent weeks, I have had readers from the Netherlands, Japan, Ontario, Vancouver, and someone, [who specifically I don't know], checks in at least a couple times a week from all over the place using a Blackberry...I'm thrilled!

So today's post is basically to each and every one of you in appreciation of the gift you've given me...whether this is your first time here or you come everyday...whether you plan to come back or you'll never stop by again...whether you're in Virginia, Georgia, Colorado, Louisiana, South Carolina, Conneticutt, etc... whatever the reason you came through I want you to know that I am so glad you did! You each have helped to make one of my dreams come true:

To write and be read/heard by others! To open myself up to the opinions of others!

Thanks to EVERYONE of you for helping me to live my dream!!!!


Sharon...Ms. Just (RIGHT) Now!

(In more ways than one ;-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where All The Brothas At? No, This Is Not A Post About The Ratio Of Men To Women On The Dating Scene!

Growing up a member of a huge extended family, I can remember when I was a child, my family routinely having family gatherings where scores of folks got together for any reason they could find, or no reason at all. My Grandmother is mother to twelve children [eight girls and four boys], who produced for her sixty-nine grandchildren, who to date have produced forty-four great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild [I know, I know... we're as fertile as the Napa Valley Wine Country (LOL)]. My whole extended family still lives here in St. Louis, with the exception of one uncle and his four sons and one grandson, one aunt, her son and daughter and three grandchildren, my brother, and three cousins and their combined six children. With all this family in town as I grew up, stopping by my Grandmother's house on any given Saturday was like going to a family reunion. As a matter of fact, when our mothers, [my Grandma' s daughters] were still in their 20's and 30's and still "partying" to some extent, about 15 to 20 of my Grandmother's grandchildren would be spending the night at her house most weekends.

Because of this, I was very close to my cousins growing up and we were all like brothers and sisters. I loved growing up this way, and now that I am an adult, I notice that there is a big difference between the way I grew up and the way my son is growing up even though he was born into this same huge extended family. We still get together and have a ball like we did when I was a kid, but its different somehow. For many family members, [particularly male family members], participation in these events has become optional. The younger members of my family in many cases don't know who
they are related to here in St. Louis. I have been afraid for years, that it is just a matter of time, having a family as large and fertile as the one I'm from, until one of these younger relatives finds themselves attracted to a "stranger" who turns out to be a relative. Being the consumate lover of all things "family" as I am, I have given this perceived difference considerable thought. I have found an almost inperceptibly subtle change, that I think has made all the difference in the way my family, and perhaps the black family in society as a whole has evolved over the last few decades.

As many of you know, my father died when I was nine, and though I no longer had him available, I had no shortage of male role models who were willing to step in when I needed "a man in my life". My mother's four brothers, my uncles [pictured below with my Grandma] were always there when I needed them. I saw them almost every week when I was a child and every holiday, they were guaranteed to be around. Each of them holds a special place in my heart. My Uncle John, the oldest, used to take me and 7 or 8 of his other neices and nephews to the skating rink every Sunday when we were kids and skate with us. As I grew older, he has always been the one checking in on the love life a sista is leading and making sure the brothas are treating her right. My Uncle Sammy, [Uncle Duck as I call him], taught me to fight and stand up for myself. My Uncle Mack, [the military man] was my childhood favorite, and was the one that I decided I wanted to live with if anything ever happened to my mother even though I had seven aunts. Last but not least, my baby uncle, Arthur, taught me about football [back then, we were all about the Dallas Cowboys, Coach Landry, and Tony Dorsett] and having fun. He is only about 7 or 8 years older than me, but when I was a kid and he a young adult, I would ask him for money and he would respond, "If I had it, I'd make you take it!"

I have such strong memories of each of my uncles from my childhood, and when I started to think about the difference between then and now, it occurred to me that unlike when I was a child, my uncles may or may not be present for family functions or just hanging out anymore. One lives out of town now which makes it hard for him, two come to most things, and one is hit or miss. I know we all have lives of our own, but as I think about my family and the family events of friends I have attended, there seems to be fewer and fewer adult males at the events of black families. Talking to some of my younger cousins, I found that some of them don't even know the names of many of the men in my family which is something that would have been ludicrous when I was a child. I don't know why or when family events became optional and more so for adult male family members than for females [though some of the women in my family are seriously tripping on this tip too!].

How did it come to this? I know marriages and relationships sometimes require that you go to the other partner's family's function, but hasn't this always been the case? Why is it that black families have navigated these issues historically, but now seem to be pulling apart from each other instead of doing everything in our power to stregthen and preserve the one thing we as a people have always been able to count on...our families? In 41 years of life, though I have been involved in relationships, I have never missed Christmas Eve at my Grandmother's house nor Christmas dinner with my family. In 2005, I hosted the dinner at my house. Sometimes it meant I had to go to my significant other's family function before or after my own family function and/or eat two dinners, which I did, but never under any circumstance would I consider missing a tradition which has been a part of my family's program my entire life. When I look at my son, two thoughts come to mind as I consider the impact of this "new family dynamic" of optional participation on him:

  1. He is missing out on so much! He'll maybe never know the joys of knowing he is loved and special to more people than most people even know. He'll maybe never know that he has other adult options to turn to with his troubles in the [hopefully rare] occasion that he is not comfortable coming to me.
  2. Will he want to be an integral part of our extended family or a peripheral player once he is grown and I no longer dictate his attendance at family functions? He is sixteen years old now, and I insist that he attends family functions [so far with no complaints from him] as he has a lot of freedom to socialize with his friends most of the time. As he gets closer and closer to adulthood, I wonder what choices he will make for himself as it relates to interacting with his family. Have I instilled in him the same love for our family that I feel? Will his eagerness to win and keep the affections of some future female take him completely away from the traditions of his own family? If the scores of other adult males in my family are any indicator, I am worried that very soon, there will come a time when my son will no longer be a physical part of my family celebrations and events with any regularity.

The black family is one of the most beautiful creations under God's sun. It has the ability to withstand all manner of storms and come through standing stronger. From Africa where the first attempts to eliminate it were made with the advent of stealing black folk for the slave trade, across the oceans to America where the institution of slavery itself calculated its demise, the black family has prevailed. In my opinion, there are few things more precious or more worthy of preserving than the black family. So to all my brothas reading this post, whether you know it or not, your presence is key! Your presence is appreciated, desired, anticipated, and above all else NECESSARY! Your presence is intrinsically required if we, the black families of America, are to continue to provide the nurturing, nourishment, and strength that is essential to developing our children, providing support and care for our women, and preserving our culture.




Thursday, March 09, 2006

Let The Games Begin...

Okay, so things were starting to get a little too deep over at Just Write Now! with Sharon, so Ms. Just Write Now herself decided to lighten things up again. Dependable as always to elevate her mood, she turned to the life of her son Ryan and found just what she needed to find her missing laugh.

For those of you who have missed the fifty-eleven posts in which I have mentioned my son, I will give a brief overview...he is a teenager (16) and my only child...need I say more ;-) Anyway, the chronicle picks up at the local Sprint Cellular phone store. Ms. Just Write Now is not feeling so just right, because after having waited almost an extra full year to purchase new phones for herself and Write Now Jr., in an attempt to utilize the $150 per phone discount Sprint promises after 18 months of service, she was presented with two unexpected turn of events:

  1. The fact that the long-awaited $150 in-store rebate is automatically reduced by $40 for each phone for some bogus activation fee charged by Sprint to activate any new phone purchased on their system. Hence, the $150 rebate is essentially worth $110. What a scam!
  2. The presentation of the final bill for phones for the two of us which suffice it to say, amounted to a total sufficient to pay my Grandmother's house note [which thankfully is paid in full] for three months.

Well, Ms. Just Write Now could have produced a few choice words for the sales representative had she not remembered just in the nick of time that he was just that, the sales representative, and not the FAT CAT whose pocket lining would now be thickened exponentially by Ms. Just Write Now's gouging. It was at this point, that Write Now Jr. decides to go into maximal teenage mode and say, "Wow Mom, it's a good thang we had those instant rebates or this would have been expensive!" I look at this alien who was pretending to be my kid and gave no credit for him being an innocent kid and I responded, "Get a job...then talk to me about how expensive this is or is not!"

Now I know many of y'all are thinking, "You raised him to be a spoiled brat with no concept of the worth of the dollar so stop whining!" To which I say, "The first half of the sentence is correct", as I believe not enough black children get the opportunity to be spoiled which in my opinion all children should experience afterall, we only get to be a kid once so make it GOOD! However, to the second half of the sentence, I say, "This is a kid who is required to save 50% of all gifts, earnings, allowances, etc. that he receives. This is a kid who must offset the difference between what I consider the maximum acceptable Mom percentage [a.k.a. the MAMP] and what the item actually costs for any luxury item [i.e. Air Force Ones] he might wish to have [which typically makes the luxury item much less desireable to this kid!]. In short, this is a kid who has been taught the value of the dollar in very creative and hands on fashions." Having purchased the phones, upon calling my son yesterday I got put into his voice mail as he had not yet turned his phone on after school ended. "What?", I ask you, "was my son's voice mail greeting?" One word..."Yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!" , followed by a chuckle. "WTH?!?!" So I ask again who is this alien masquerading as my kid? The simple answer....a teenager!

The saga continues with an incident that occurred following my birthday which was about three weeks ago. My son is a handsome, 6 foot 2 inch tall, 280 pound, offensive and defensive line football player who gets good grades and has a great sense of short, to many girls he is what is known as "a good catch"! Now I know some of you are thinking I'm outta my mind, and I would probably agree with you if I didn't have this inside track vantage point. Anyway, as I said my birthday was a few weeks ago, and a week ago upon retrieving my mail I found an envelop addressed to me with no return address. Upon opening it, I find a computer-generated birthday card with a very lovely note honoring my birthday from a young lady who knows my son but who I have never met. When my son came in from school I showed it to him and the cat that ate the canary smile on his face as he read it gave me serious cause for concern :] When I asked him who the girl is, of course his answer was, "she's a friend". Well, I did not get into a debate about the nature of the relationship, I simply doubled back to one of his friends who I know well and found out that the girl "likes him a way...but they are just friends". Even I know that this most likely means she is the girlfriend on the horizon. I feel so used...the nerve of a girl using me to get to my son... I have been prepared all of my life for a guy to use my son to get to me, [afterall, my son is not the only good catch in the family ;0], but this parallel universe into which I've just been propelled will take some getting used to.

Life with my son has always been something of an experience and parochial school education has played its role in that experience to a large extent. When he was in KG, he came home singing "I'm A Little Teapot" and when I told him I remembered singing the same song when I was in kindergarten 25 years before, he looked at me with feigned wide-eyed innocence and replied, "Really Mommy?! Wow 25 years ago, was that before or after Moses came down from the mountain and gave the people The Ten Commandments?" To which I responded, "You don't need religion, I'm putting your lil' bad butt in public school!"

Forewarned is fore armed...and I was definitely forewarned but I kept him anyway [look at him...awwwww]...I only have myself to blame, so I guess society is right when it blames the parent for the acts of the child...oh well, we all have our crosses to bear ;-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

God's Dirt

God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, "Lord, we don't need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning'.""Oh, is that so? Tell Me..." replies God. "Well," says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of YOU and breathe life into it, thus creating man."
"Well, that's interesting. Show Me." So, the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.
"No, no, no..." interrupts God, "Get your own dirt."

Some time ago, I received the joke I copied above from a friend in my email box. It really resonated with me on many levels, because I have spent most of my life outside of organized religious practice, and at least according to some, I am in violation of certain religious tenets. I have often been told that I am projecting an image that says God is not necessary in my life. WOW, not to dictate to others what their perception should be, but if this is the way I appear to you, I assure you that that perceived attitude is definitely NOT ACCURATE!

I have been told by some that this "dismissal" of God from my life that is manifested in my choice not to join or regularly attend a church, might very possibly lead to me having a day like Jack's in the cartoon above. As I read this joke, I began to think about all of the things my friends and family members who practice various organized religions believe and have faith in based on what they have been taught in their respective churches. Though I believe with my whole heart in the existence of God, and strive to live in such a manner as to please Him, I very simply do not subscribe to most of their practices and beliefs. I think that most of the rituals that accompany membership in these organizations are just that, rituals...intended to impress "The Omnipotent".......get real! Thus, things such as attending church on a regular basis or baptizing my son as a baby are not things I feel or felt obligated to do. Admittedly, I accept that there is ample room for my perspective to be broadened and I actively seek education from those whose opinions I respect...folks like my college roomie Lisa, my best friend Angie, my friend and former colleague Bernard, and since just recently, Serenity of blogland fame. I feel that surrounding myself with individuals like the ones mentioned above and others fulfills God's expectation that I be amongst those of a like mind, even though we all differ in how we express our faith in Him.

One practice of organized religion that I do feel is worth participating in, is the practice of tithing. To give of my time, talent, and treasure to show my appreciation for the blessings I've personally experienced through God's grace, and to honor the sacrifice God has made on my behalf just makes sense to me. I know many of you are probably scratching your heads at this point saying, "If she doesn't belong to or attend church regularly, where is she tithing?"

Well, here's where things get interesting. Tithing to a church is not part of the tithing equation as I see it. I have been in many conversations with church-goers as well as others like me who don't attend church regularly during which the issue of tithing and subsequently, where the proceeds are utilized has arisen. I've heard more thoughts on these issues than I can recount, and I believe "Serenity 23" blogged about this issue in the past week as well. My thoughts on the subject are that if I was a member of a specific church I would tithe there as where the proceeds were going would not be an issue since I would NEVER join a church if I had concerns about the appropriateness of how the funds were being handled. If however, I found out after the fact that funds were misappropriated, I would most likely move on if the situation was not dealt with to my satisfaction and allow God to take it from there. Remain there and continue to give monetary tithes.... I could NOT do it!

Additionally, I must say that I do feel that it is a misappropriation of funds for a church's pastor who doesn't have any other means of generating his/her personal income outside of the church to be living in splendor when members of his/her congregation are barely making it. I think that one who chooses a life in the ministry as his/her sole vocation, should do so with the acceptance that his/her lifestyle should be idealy, a reflection of no more than an average of the lifestyles of the church members he/she services unless that minister has other means of income or a spouse who generates additional income. Does the wealth of a minister such as T.D. Jakes bother me? No, as he has many ventures from which to generate income which go beyond the available finances of his church. At this point, I'd be appalled to find he still receives any monetary support from his church though I realize it is very likely he does. [Sharon with one eyebrow raised if she could do it.] For a church whose members barely have the means to buy bus passes to be financing a minister's Mercedes Benz is inexcusably callous on the part of the minister and somewhat stupid in my opinion, on the part of the congregation at large. It would be like me mortgaging my house because Ryan (my son) wants designer clothes and a luxury car...I'm obligated to provide his basic needs, luxuries he should get for himself if this large a sacrifice is required!

Okay, okay, I don't belong to a church so where does that leave me as it relates to tithing? First, I don't set a limit on the amount of monetary tithing I do. My budget is set for handling my household and savings, and the rest is up for grabs, first come first serve. I am generous to a fault, and will help anyone I perceive to be trying to help themselves. I think this is how God would have it. If the situation is severe enough and warrants, [i.e. evictions, medications, etc.] I have been known to sacrifice even my savings and household expenses to help out others, knowing all the time I will be okay because once again, I believe this is how God would have it and subsequently know he will take care of me.

Secondly, I think that the tithing of time and talent in most situations carries more weight than tithing monetarily. I'm constantly amused by those who seem to feel that they wrote their check for 10% and have essentially paid their dues so to speak. If you ask them to give up some of their precious time, you'll see the true "Christian" show up. Asked to donate whatever it is that is their talent, and they mentally start to count up what the cost would be if they were charging for said talent. I eagerly and willingly VOLUNTEER my time and talent often resulting in my plate being over-filled. It's okay, it keeps me young, vital, and my blood flowing! Many tithe only because they believe the biblical lesson that what you give away will be returned seven-fold. I don't know if this is the true, underlying reason behind my willingness to tithe time and treasure, but I can attest that the tithing I have done throughout my life has boomeranged back to me.....and to a tune much larger than seven-fold!

Whether tithing is tied to church or just something you do whenever or wherever you can, I believe it is essential to becoming the fully realized person each of us hope to be. When you reach out to help someone else by any means, you fulfill the promise of yourself, and your promise to God. Helping someone else helps us to forget what troubles we are having...and if you think about the requests we all send up in prayer, "God please take away my troubles", we see that in tithing there is always a positive return both in the lives of those we help as well as in our own as our troubles seem to diminish when we focus on the troubles of others.

I'm sure there are those of you who will feel that what I think of as tithing is not tithing, and that is okay with me. I am very interested to hear your perspectives, and am even open to the possibility that some of you may in some way change my mind. However, based on what I currently accept to be the truth, I am confident that God, the only being who truly knows my heart [including me], is happy with what I believe it is that I am doing!

So in closing, I know that God is essential to my life and I know that He is necessary! Therefore, I have no fear of "No Vacancy" signs on The Pearly Gates nor of the gates being locked upon my arrival. I know without question, that if I need it, He will allow me to use His dirt!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My Last Word On The Academy Awards...

I took a vacation day today, and between the tasks of building shelves in my garage and organizing my work materials, I read more blogs and comments on blogs regarding last night's Oscars presentation than I can count. At this point, I'm wondering if there was something that went terribly, terribly wrong in my childhood, because I don't seem to feel even remotely similar to what the majority of black folks whose thoughts I read today seem to be feeling. You may be surprised to find that I disagree with most of those whose comments I read regarding the song "Life Is Hard For A Pimp" as well as the movie, "Hustle & Flow". Then again, maybe you won't . I will admit to being surprised both by the nomination and the win for this song; however, after the fact, I understand how it happened based on the rationale behind which songs are nominated in this category. Re: the appropriateness of the song's subject matter and whether or not it disrespects women, I say the following:

  • The song was completely aligned with the premise of the movie and thus appropriate for the context in which it was set. Would I choose to listen to it in my daily life...I'm pretty sure not, but that doesn't change that it did fit into the movie for which it was written. A pimp [and lets face it, there are black men who are pimps just as there are those who are not] singing "I believe I Can Fly" [a song that many bloggers I visited today seemed to think would have made better sense as the first HipHop nominated song] though reasonable would not have the effect that this song did, which was to bring into sharp focus what the life of a pimp was like; something that few of us [black or white] know much about.

I personally am more disturbed by the fact that it seems that many of the comments I have read by black folks seem to be based in some insane fear that we are "airing our dirty laundry" so to speak. This idea that any black person speaks for all of us drives me nuts. Neither this movie nor this song caused me any personal embarassment nor embarassment on behalf of my race because I/we as a whole have no more first hand knowledge about this particular experience than anyone of any other culture might. That in my opinion was one of the greatest wonders of the movie, it brought into my conscious mind a lifestyle I would never otherwise have had any realistic insight into. How this is different from Jaime Foxx winning the Oscar for playing Ray Charles, a drug-using philanderer or Denzel, as a cop on the take baffles my mind. FACT: the Academy did not choose the roles for which these actors did "their best work" [quote unquote]. Any or all could have passed on the work but chose not to [thankfully], so where all this conspiracy theorizing on the evil Academy's desire to portray black folk in a negative light comes from is lost on me. Each of these actors excelled in these roles because of their own talent, and the strength and vulnerablilities that coexisted simultaneously in the characters each of them portrayed and were able to bring to life on the big screen.

  • Without question, the song is derogatory and degrading to women, as is the authority pimps have over the women they control. But here once again is another point that the plot of the movie was conveying...this life is NOT a pretty one!We as a people have to come to a point at some time that we accept that like every other culture, ours is made up of everything under the sun.

I believe that by becoming so incensed, enraged, and embattled every time one of the more negative images found within our culture are portrayed, we actually give credence to those who believe that all we are is this negative image. As the saying goes, "Me thinks thou dost protest too strongly", also known as "Is that a guilty conscience I hear?". As a movie fanatic so to speak, I can attest that movies portray people of every culture in negative lights. Many feel that because there are more roles for white artists, that negative images in their ranks don't mean as much. Maybe, maybe not...though the elimination of many of the roles we as a people en mass have found "offensive" might possibly lead to the elimination of much of the best of our existing body of work. "The Color Purple" aka "All Black Men Are Abusive" - GONE! "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" aka "Sidney Poitier Is A Wannabe" - GONE! "Monster's Ball" aka "All Black Women Are Alcoholic Sluts Who Sleep With Their Husband's Executioner" - GONE! and last but not least, "Glory!" aka "Niggas Take A Lickin' But Keep On Tickin'" - GONE! Each of these wonderful movies for which the black star received the Oscar was beleaguered by the same type of outcry that the only African-American victors at the 78th Oscars have experienced. I submit that if we as a people would make our preferences known not by reacting so vehemently to incidents such as 3-6 Mafia winning an Oscar, but by patronizing the movies portraying blacks in the positive roles we want to see during the opening weekend over which they premeire [the end all be all of determining what is/is not a hit], then we might actually have a shot at seeing ourselves in more roles which are more to our collective liking. However, as long as we continue to flock to the movies to see the typical, tales-from-the-hood movies that are a dime a dozen [no offense Madea] and waiting for the "quality" black movies to hit cable or bootleg DVD, then we only have ourselves to blame when Hollywood continues to respond to the positive reinforcement we do or don't provide via the box office. MONEY TALKS...BS WALKS!

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Oscars...and Are You Trying To Matter?

MOVIES...I Love Movies! Not the way the average person loves movies, NOOOOoooooooo. I LOVE MOVIES!!! I am completely caught up in every aspect of the movie-making process from the writing or adapting of a screenplay, to the casting of the actors, to the design of the costumes, to the selection of the locations. The nuances of directing thrill me, the angles from which the actors and scenes are shot is the stuff about which I can speak for days on end. Even editing gets my attention, both sound and film editing. I watch a movie so closely and intently that it has been said that I will lose my mind if I miss a comma in the dialogue (LOL). I have been told by my best friend to never again discuss a film's editing with her because I have ruined movies that she previously loved by pointing out errors in editing that she otherwise would never have seen.

So loving movies as I do, tonight was happily awaited by me...the broadcast of the "78th Academy Awards". At the risk of sounding boastful, I will admit that I correctly chose the winner in each of the major categories including: Best Actor-Philip Seymore Hoffman, Best Actress-Reese Witherspoon, Best Supporting Actor-George Clooney, Best Supporting Actress-Rachel Weise, Best Director-Ang Lee, Best Movie-Crash [yeah, the rest of you were shocked in the age of "Brokeback" mania, but not I]. So, though I wait with anxious anticipation each year for this broadcast, tonight held no real surprises for me...EXCEPT..."It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp"! SOMEBODY STOP THE WORLD BECAUSE FOR ME IT IS DEFINITELY SPINNING TOO FAST!

Now don't get me wrong, "Hustle and Flow" was my favorite movie period in 2005. I thought that Terrence Howard was a huge contender for the Best Actor statuette, and in a nominee class minus Philip Seymore Hoffman, that little golden man would most likely be sitting on Terrence's mantle tomorrow morning once he returned home from his wild night of partying. Say what you will about the politics and all, Terrence breathed life into that character and he transcended the "pimpness" to make you care about him, "his family", and his dream. Nevertheless, the song's victory threw me for a loop. I first saw the movie in the theater during its opening weekend [I try always to see predominantly black movies on their opening weekend to support their box office intake]. As I think back to the sensations I felt as I watched it the very first time, I recall very clearly that in addition to loving the movie, I really liked the song. I remember this because I'm no longer a big fan of rap nor Hip Hop music. However, something about this particular song made an impact on me...maybe the hook [you have to admit Taraji P. Henson hooked that hook up!], or maybe the context in which the song was spotlighted. Whatever the reason, I liked the song. That notwithstanding, ask me if I expected the song to be nominated for Best Original Song...NO! Then ask me if I thought it would win...HELL TO THE NO!

In any event, it was great to see this win because heaven knows there was no one else who received this most coveted award with the enthusiasm, charm, and surprise that 3-6 Mafia displayed as they claimed their prize [and once again, Taraji tore it up though I personally was NOT feeling that dress].

Speaking of Taraji...I read that her father died recently and she spoke of the closeness she and he shared throughout her life...most of you know that my father died when I was nine, and I have a strong interest in relationships between fathers and daughters...speaking of her father's death, Taraji said, "I just think that it’s amazing that my father witnessed me take my first breath in this world and I watched him take his last.” Some might find this morbid, I think its beautiful...I'm really liking this girl!

The Best Actress honors tonight went to Reese Witherspoon who in my opinion up to now has been one of the typical slew of Hollywood go-to girls for date movie romantic comedies. With her portrayal of various characters in her last several motion pictures, I think she has stepped up to the plate and shown Hollywood and the world the stuff of which she is made. Now, I'm a fan of Reese even in her "Legally Blonde" days. As a matter of fact, Reese and I go back to a time when she as a pre-teen, gave a wonderful performance in a movie called "The Man In The Moon". As she took home her Oscar statuette this evening, it was like watching someone I went to school with or grew up down the street from win the award. In her acceptance speech, Reese spoke about June Carter Cash, the actual person the character she portrayed in her Oscar winning performance was based on. In speaking of June Carter Cash, Reese relayed the following story:

"Whenever June Carter Cash was asked by someone "How are you doing?", she would always respond, "I'm just trying to matter."

I have never followed country music, and subsequently have almost no knowledge of the late June Carter Cash [nor her husband, the late Johnny Cash for that matter], but I felt an immediate kinship upon hearing this quote attributed to Mrs. Cash by Ms. Witherspoon. "I'm just trying to matter." Wow! How wonderfully profound, and simply beautiful is that statement. Now those of you who know me, know already that this got me to thinking. I have spent tons of time trying to decide whether or not I matter, but I don't believe I have ever spent much time consciously trying to matter. Yes, I do things that matter all the time, but if I am completely honest with myself, I would have to admit that I [at least up to now] have done most of those things purely by accident or happy coincidence [i.e. right place/right time], or on some level because I was obligated to do them.

What would the world be like if each of us spent some part of every day trying to matter? Not by doing the wonderful things we do all the time in our obligation and dedication to our families and lives; but if we tried to matter to the world. Maybe we could improve conditions in the public education system in our country...perhaps we might clean up and beautify declining neighborhoods in our could happen that we might once again become a society which looks out for the well-being of each other and not just ourselves. "I'M JUST TRYING TO MATTER!"...what a wonderful way to live!

Try to matter y'all!

All this from the Oscars, see why I love movies!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Simple Pleasures...What's yours?


I am an individual who is all about simple pleasures. From awakening early on spring mornings and sitting in my backyard listening to the calls of birds I will never be able to identify to watching my son's football team practice for their next game, to giving someone I love the absolutely perfect gift, I live for simple pleasures. I guess you could say that it doesn't take much to make me happy!

This morning and every Friday morning that I wake up in St. Louis, I get the opportunity to experience one of the simple pleasures that live at the top of my list of simple pleasures...I get my hair DONE! Now sistas, I know some of y'all are feeling me on this. What could be better than going to a shop where everyone knows you because you've been going there for years. Once you arrive, you socialize for a minute or [for some of y'all po' souls a couple hours], until you are called to your stylist's chair or the shampoo bowl, whichever is appropriate. All throughout the process, folks are telling each other their personal business as well as the business of folks who are not there. Without fail, someone comes in selling bootleg something or other and another someone inevitably shows up to take lunch orders for the soul food restaurant around the way.

By this time, your hair has been permed or shampooed or cut or styled and you are on your way out of the shop until next week with your crowning glory now looking like a Glorious Crown!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Say WHAT?!?

TAMPA, Fla. - Effa Manley became the first woman elected to the baseball Hall of Fame when the former Newark Eagles co-owner was among 17 people from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues chosen Monday by a special committee."Baseball Hall of Fame Elects First Woman" .

This was the headline that greeted me when I logged into AOL as I do everyday. As a woman who loves to see women break into territory previously unchartered by women [almost as much as I relish the occasions on which black people break into new arenas], I was immediately drawn to this article. My first thought when I saw this headline was that "there are other women in the Baseball Hall of Fame". I learned that I was correct, but Mrs. Manley has the distinction of having been the first woman elected by way of a special committee in a process similar to what the overwhelming majority of players inducted into the institution undergo. The women who were previously installed into the Baseball Hall of Fame [i.e. members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL)] did not undergo an election process but were granted the honor under special consideration rules.

As I continued to read the article, my admiration for Mrs. Manley continued to grow and then:

**Manley was white, but married a black man and passed as a black woman, said Larry Lester, a baseball author and member of the voting committee.**

WHAT? Come again...passed as a black woman? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? DOES STUFF LIKE THIS REALLY HAPPEN? I was beside myself as images of movies like "Imitation of Life" in reverse, flashed before my eyes. In 41 years on the planet, I had never heard of a white person passing as black unless they were undercover doing research for projects such as "Black Like Me". Already developing a minor interest in the life of this woman who was considered extraordinary enough to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, my level of interest had suddenly morphed into outright facination.

What, I thought to myself, must her life have been like in a country as racially polarized as America [keep in mind, we're talking the 1940's and Jim Crow is in full effect]? Was it the desire to just blend in, assimilate, into the black community into which she had wed that drove her decision to "pass"? Was it fear for the safety of her black husband? According to the article, she was extremely civic minded and deeply committed to improving conditions for black athletes:

** She tried to organize the owners to build their own parks and have a balanced schedule and to really improve the lot of the Negro League players.

** She campaigned to get as much money as possible for these ballplayers, and rightfully so.

** Manley used baseball to advance civil rights causes with events such as an Anti-Lynching Day at the ballpark.

Was her dedication to improving the lot of negro ballplayers the reason for her decision to pass? Did life as a black woman allow her to accomplish more on behalf of black athletes? Was this decision based on the physical risks she faced as a white woman married to a black man promoting improved conditions for black athletes? Considering the climate of the American culture in which she lived, any combination of these theories could have compelled her decision.

I wonder what she thought of life as a black woman. Was it what she expected it would be or did she realize the shock of her life walking in our shoes? Were there times when she wanted to escape this self-imposed identity and if so, did she ever follow through on that impulse? FASCINATING!

My curiosity is definitely peaked, and my intention is to delve more deeply into the archives available in an attempt to discern more about this most unusual arrangement. Hopefully, I will be able to gather more insight into what the life of this unique individual was like, and eventually, considering all that she has been reported to have done for the Negro League athletes, I hope that I will find that in the end, she was happy and content.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

INITIATIVE...Where Have You Gone?

Much of my time over the last several weeks has been spent exploring the blogs that have been selected as favorites of some of my favorite bloggers. In my cyber travels, I found myself on the blog of one Nichelle D. Tramble. The time I spent at her blog was time well spent for several reasons, not the least of which was the interview she had posted with author Elizabeth Gilbert. As a "wannabe writer" myself, this interview delivered one of the most insightful forays into the mind of a published author I have been priveleged to experience. The funny thing is that though I have never read any of Ms. Gilbert's work, [and even now, I'm not sure I'm planning to in the near future], I took away much from the exposure. The thing that stands out the most in my memory is the following excerpt. This was taken from an answer Ms. Gilbert gave to the question of Whether or not she had given away story ideas or received them from others in the past? [paraphrased]:

"Not to harp on my theory that ideas are living things which only want to exist, but. . . ideas are living things which only want to exist, and they will live in your head for years and years sometimes until they begin to get the point, "This guy is never gonna get this job done," and then they will jump somehow into somebody else's head, coming to the attention of someone who WILL get the job done. Ideas are restless in this way and will never give up until they find the right host to bring them into life." "Tramblings with author Elizabeth Gilbert" .

I found the above passage to have a certain profoundness of logic that was so crystal clear that I felt the need to analyze further this concept, and how it plays itself out in various aspects of life. A very visual person in my thought processes, I can almost see "mental movies" of all the times I passively allowed opportunity to pass me by due to my unwillingness to step up and take the initiative. Now don't leave me hanging out to dry alone in this; as I know that I can fill a cruise ship with all the folks I know personally who [no "fun" intended] fall into this same boat.

Before reading Ms. Gilbert's thoughts, I had never considered a very fundamental truth about the wonder of ideas. That truth is that ideas do have a curious power to exist! They [ideas] have an uncanny ability to come to fruition and though they will try to hang in there with you for awhile, like a frustrated lover whose attentions are continuously rebuked, an idea will sooner or later jump ship and sail away on a boat that will pamper it in the way that it deserves. Sometimes you hear people say, "Ideas are a dime a dozen"; I disagree. Ideas are very expensive, and good ideas are priceless. The cost of neglecting a good idea is incalculable, so make sure you avoid this bottomless pit. If we take a moment, each of us can think of at least one [and I'm being intentionally generous here ;)] situation during which we allowed a great idea, opportunity, or other worthwhile endeavor (i.e. "the perfect match") to slip through our grasp because we were otherwise engaged, tired, not paying attention, or simply procrastinating.

Today, this propensity to miss out on what could be the pivotal opportunity in our lives will end! No longer will we sit back and passively allow life to pass us by. Never again will we feel our jaw drop as we watch someone else waltz off to Wonderland on the profits of an idea that we had years ago but never followed through on. Not a single one of us will ever again look with envy upon the next guy or girl thinking "If only.....that would have been me." The things we want for ourselves are attainable. So go on, allow yourself to get "outside of the box" you're in. If your desire is to write a book, start by writing a letter...who knows where that first letter will take you. Plans to start a business...get to work on that first business plan so that your presentation to the Small Business Association will be flawless. More education you say...what time are you reading this blog because online courses can be taken 24/7. Today, we become Masters of the Universe, Captains of our own Ships, Kings and Queens over all we Survey! And in lieu of all these things, we will minimally get our asses off the proverbial couch, turn off the proverbial remote control, and push the power buttons on our ideas!