Friday, May 19, 2006

What Do I Owe For That Kidney?

On our mother's birthday, last December first, my brother and I began an Odyssey

that involved us being poked, prodded, probed, tested, retested and virtually drained of blood and ultimately culminated with a phone call I received this morning. At 8:15 am, I answered my cell phone and was informed by the individual assigned to coordinate our journey through this process that

the results were in and contingent upon my successful completion of a 24 hour period of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, my brother and I have been approved for his kidney transplant, and the procedure has been scheduled to take place on TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2006!!!!!!!!

In my time on this planet, I have had the opportunity to be a part of some pretty phenomenal events: the births of my son, two nephews, and a cousin....the coming together of my entire extended family to plan and execute a blow-out birthday bash for my beloved Grandmother last year....foreign exchange programs which allowed for me to spend extended periods living in Italy and Kenya.....and more backyard Bar-B-Ques, weekends at Grandma's with all my cousins, and more sista-girl sessions with the gurls of my heart than any single individual can possibly expect to have. By comparison, not one of these experiences even come close to the sheer, unadulterated joy and raw emotion I felt as I was given the honor of calling my brother [who I had called fully six months earlier with the news that we were sufficiently similar to be evaluated for potential transplantation of my kidney into his body] with the news that we were now actually qualified and scheduled for the surgery. My brother undergoes dialysis every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1pm until 6pm. As the old Dodge Intrepid commercials used to state, "THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!"

When I got my brother on the phone and gave him the news, I was surprised to find that he was not giddy with excitement like I was when I received the news. Instead, he seemed abnormally quiet, reserved, even reticent. I asked him what was wrong and he admitted that he was scared. Now, contrary to popular belief, I am NOT fearless. In fact, I'm about as scary as they come.....but I'm good at making scared look good! So I asked my brother what he was scared of after trying to convince him that once the kidney transplant was complete his life would once again be his own and that kidney transplants have a great long-term expectancy of 10, 15, even 20 years. He told me he was scared to let me do this and then shocked me by asking "How can I ever pay you back for your kidney?" I was completely taken aback. However, you guys know you can always count on me to have an answer and this is what I said to my brother and it is exactly what I would have wanted to say if I could have planned for this moment:

I am NOT scared at all. Not even a little bit. We are both going to come through this fine and we'll both be able to live a full life. As far as paying me back, this is my thought. If you call and ask me to loan you $150 to pay a bill, then you should feel like you feel right now, you should be stressed about how you're going to pay me back because you can be damned skippy that I will be looking for my money! But a kidney? Dude, you can't pay someone for a kidney because you can't owe someone for a's not a loan! Think of it this way.....remember two years ago when I gave you that blackjack table for Christmas? I was so excited waiting for you to open it because from the moment I saw it, I knew you would love it, it was the perfect gift for you. This kidney thing is like is like finding the perfect gift for you, and when you are given a great gift, you accept it, say thank you, and enjoy it. Now say thank you and let's get this party started!
My brother stopped by my house this evening and I could see how happy he was in his eyes. His step was lighter, and I think, hope, believe that he can finally begin to get excited about his.....scratch that......OUR good fortune!

I love my life, I love my brother, I love my family
Blog family, I Love Y'all too....stay tuned... with 4-6 weeks off from work this summer following the transplant, I'll have plenty of time for posting and reading what you post; so start gearing up to keep me entertained!

Friday, May 12, 2006

WORD TO YOU FATHERS....A Message to the Absent Dads

Lately, something's been on my mind. For some time now, I've wanted to say things to my son's father that I have never had the opportunity to say. Unlike many former couples who have a child they created together, my son's father and I have no relationship.....I mean, no hostility, and no friendship, no relationship at all. This is because my son and his father have no relationship....a situation that is the result of his father's choice not to be involved, and which I have tried repeatedly to change to no avail. Though an unfortunate reality for my son which he deals with utilizing a maturity far beyond his years, for most of his life this has not been a problem for me. As a matter of fact, there have been many times [as I listened to the changes that some of my friends who also happen to be single mothers go through with the fathers of their children who remain involved in their children's lives], when I actually felt that I was lucky. Lucky that I did not have to consult with him about decisions regarding my son. Lucky that I did not have to deal with the "If Mom says no, ask Dad" syndrome, as for my son, there was no Dad available, only Mom. Lucky that I could bring up my son as I saw fit and not be worried that his other parent would be looking over my shoulder, critiquing my every move. There was definitely a time when I found that there was indeed a silver lining even in this cloud.

Then, in 2003 and 2004, two things happened to change my mind. First, back in October 2003, my family decided to take a cruise to Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Being a bordering country, Mexico has strict laws about bringing minor children into the country in the absence of a parent; these laws were designed to control parental kidnappers who might flee into Mexico. Thus, it was necessary that I literally get my son's absent father's permission to take him on vacation. Mexico required a notarized statement from his father before we would be allowed to be in the country for more than 24 hours. IMAGINE, having to have the permission of a man who had not seen my son in 12 years and thus would not be able to identify my son if ever there was a need. I was outdone.

In 2004, my son graduated from the eighth grade and decided he wanted to invite his father [who he had not seen since before he turned two years old] to the ceremony. I told my son I'd think about it and let him know, intending to ask his father without my son knowing in the event his father declined attending. When asked, he did indeed agree to come to the ceremony, but not trusting him to follow-through and not wanting my son to be disappointed I decided to let his attendance be a surprise if indeed he did show up. He did NOT come to the ceremony.

Typically, women in my situation have a lot to say to the absent father and not much if any of it good. Though there have been two occasions over the years since my son's birth that I have been so frustrated and angry that I did contact his father in anger, I find at this point in time, I feel a very different emotion. This is what I want to say:

In your decision to distance yourself from your son's life, you have cheated him. You have cheated him out of knowing what an intelligent, charismatic, and personable man you are. He, unlike me, never got the opportunity to know your love of music which he seems to have inherited. He has never seen you swipe your hand across your face in the same manner that he does when stunned; obviously a consequence of genetics as he has not spent adequate time in your presence to pick up your mannerisms. A good athlete, he has no idea that his father loves sports and could probably give him immense insight on how he might improve his athletic abilities. You have not allowed him the same luxury you enjoyed [as you shared with me back when we were dating] of having had the security of your relationship with your own father to help you navigate the course from boyhood to manhood. YOU HAVE CHEATED HIM.

In making this same decision, you have cheated me as well. You have cheated me out of a lot. By not being involved in his life, you have left me to do it all alone. You have forced me by your very absence to play a much larger role in my son's life than I ever should have been required to play. You have altered my perspective and approach to every situation by essentially designating me as my son's only viable parent, and as such much more critically important in his life. While all of these things have significance for me, the one truly painful thing you cheated me out of, was the opportunity to share, enjoy, and beam with pride over my son and his achievements with the person who helped me create him. You and I have been able to be beyond civil to each other, nice even, so surely we could have managed joint parenting if you were of a mind, even though we never intended to marry each other. YOU HAVE CHEATED ME.

Most of all, you have cheated yourself. You have missed out on being a witness to the life of one of the most phenomenal people ever born. The last time I was really angry with you was on Labor Day 2004 as I sat and watched our son practice with his high school football team. At 6 feet tall and 245 pounds, he was by far the biggest and strongest freshman on the team. In that moment, I replayed his life from the moment he was born to now and felt overcome with pride. Then, I was overcome with anger because I had never truly had anyone to share this exhileration with who could truly appreciate the moment in the way that only a parent can. I called you that day as I sat there alone watching our son, and gave you a not-so-nice piece of my mind. Now I know that the anger that surfaced that day was the precursor to the sadness and disappointment that I now feel as my son moves closer and closer to manhood, still without a relationship with the man who fathered him. Your choice means that you may never get the chance to know the best thing you ever helped create. It means that you may never understand the privelege being part of this young man's life has been. It means that you may never know the power of the most all-encompassing love I have ever experienced. It means you may have missed out on the single greatest opportunity of your life. YOU HAVE CHEATED YOURSELF.

These are the things I would say to my son's father if I could. They are not said in anger. They are not said with hostility. They are said in the hope that one day he or some other absent Dad will read them and re-think their decision to remain absent; and believe me regardless of all the rationalizing, it is a decision that they made. When my son and I speak of his father,[which happens relatively frequently when one of his favorite songs from back in the day is on or my son does something that reminds me of his Dad], it is always with a positive slant. My son is a part of me AND a part of his father, and as such, I would never want him to believe that his father is "bad, undesirable, or any other negative thing", as I don't want my son to believe that any part of himself is negative. Regarding his father's absence from his life, I simply tell my son that just as he is sometimes irresponsible about his obligations like we all can be, his father for some reason that has nothing to do with his son, is being irresponsible. I assure my son that since his father doesn't really even know him, it can't be a reflection of his "not liking him".

The long and short of it is that absenteeism goes deeper than we typically believe. Its affects are different at different times in the lives of each of the involved parties. Though we most often focus on the anger created by these situations, the fact is that even more than anger, there is significant pain that accompanies the anger. My son feels this pain, I as his single mother feel this pain, and I'm sure that on some level at some time in his life if he does not already, his father will one day feel this pain as well. I'm an optimist as you all know, and as such I believe that it is never too late to change. Though I have given up trying to influence my son's father to make this change, I still believe and hope that one day he will reach out to my son as even now, I still think of him as one of the most interesting people I've ever met. Additionally, the optimist that is me hopes that some other absentee Dad might read this and realize that all the negative portrayals of strong, neck-rolling sistas talking about "how they've got this....and don't need any damned baby-daddy to handle their business" is just the side being shown to the world in their attempt to be strong. In reality, we all dreamed of having complete families with Mommies and Daddies, and even when it can't be as we dreamed, someone to share the burden as well as the joy of parenting with is still something most of us desire. So if you are, or have been an absentee Dad, suck it up, paddle through the crap of your failed relationship and establish a partnership with you child(ren's) mother, be a man, and be the best damn Dad you possibly can be; our children deserve at least that much.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

World Class Collecting

Some people collect antiques, some cars, and others coins. Me? I collect people. I am a certified connoisseur of people. In my ongoing quest to increase the value of my collection, I am very selective. You see, for me it is the quality of my collection that matters, not the quantity. As a matter of fact, as the years have passed and I've grown older [some might even say wiser], I have found that finding someone to add to my collection doesn't happen all that often. Other, less motivated people collectors add to their collections almost daily. I, on the other hand, take the time and exert the energy necessary to determine whether or not an acquaintance is of a high enough caliber to even warrant consideration for addition to the links of people who make up the chain that is attached to the anchor that keeps me securely stabilized when the waters get rough.

While many people are dismayed by the fact that "they don't have many friends", I am exhilerated whenever I stop to think that I do indeed have FRIENDS....true friends.....ones I can depend on. How did I get so lucky? I took up the art of COLLECTING PEOPLE way back in elementary school. I was raised basically as a nomad. My mother has a bit of the wanderlust in her soul, which resulted in my having attended eight different elementary schools between kindergarten and eigth grade. With this type of movement in my childhood, it is easy to see how it would have been difficult to maintain friendships. SOMEHOW, I managed as my oldest friend Synetta I met the summer before I started sixth grade. She lived next door to me in the house I consider the place where I truly grew up [we lived there for three years....a veritable marathon for my family]. Synetta started me on my lifelong dedication to people collecting. In her, I found a same sex soul mate. She was someone I could tell everything and in whose loyalty to me I never had to question. Even when she and I were forced to have a physical fight because my [then bratty] little sister Jackie picked a fight with her (and as per the rules of my house, if my sister was in a fight I was in a fight), she still continued to keep my all important pubescent secrets under lock and key.

Synetta and I remained best friends through high school, double dating to the Prom both with our boyfriends named Michael. When we graduated, I went to college and she joined the army. It was during this period that we lost contact with each other. Now here is where the true value of people collecting comes in. If you have truly collected a people masterpiece, someone who is worth having around, then though you may lose contact from time to time, you will never lose the masterpiece. Recently, Synetta and I found each other again. She is on the east coast and I am still out here in the middle of the country. Oh the joy I tell you of receiving that initial email. The sheer unadulterated pleasure of hearing a voice on your voicemail that you haven't heard in many, many years scream your pre-teen pet names for each other into your ear.....Heeeeeeyyyyyyyyy MONKEEEEEEEEEEEEEY!!!!!!!! is a feeling for which I have no words. Talking to her again, is just like being twelve again. It is as if no time has passed and the joy of once again having access to the person whose impact in my young life was so profound that she set me on the path to collecting quality people is priceless.

Over the years, others have added themselves to my collection by distinguished service. Estella [aka Stella] the third point [along with me and Synetta] to complete my high school "triangle of friends" (not a circle....quality not quantity). I lost contact with her as well, and am right this moment looking forward to connecting the points on this triangle this afternoon when I try to get both Synetta and Stella on a call at the same time. I AM ABOUT TO BURST, because I just reconnected with Stell about a month or so ago but she and Synetta have been out of contact for 10 plus years!

College brought me Craig, to whom I will always be indebted as he paid for my laundry and weekend meals for almost a year in order to help me stay in school when my mother lost her job during my freshman year. This from a guy who like me was a college student from a low-income urban area; and a guy who I never even dated as we were like sister and brother from the start when I hooked him up with my homegirl Julie. He didn't end up with Julie, he chose Laura instead bringing me another masterpiece to add to my collection. It's funny how an outsider would find it difficult to determine who came first, Laura or Craig. Angie, who you all have read about before arrived on the scene and in addition to all the gifts you all have already been told about that she brings, she also was instrumental in making Ms. Just Write Now realize that a brilliant mind, quick wit, and good personality weren't my only assets. In a "make-over" which included a hair cut, contacts, new clothes that revealed a body I never knew existed, and some subtle, very natural make-up, Angie gave me a confidence in the physical me that I had never had before. WATCH OUT WORLD!

College without question had the greatest impact on my collection, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention my baby sister Monica. From the day we first met to this one, Monica has never failed to bring the best medicine of all whether or not I'm ailing: LAUGHTER. Whenever I talk to this girl [and thankfully we remain in close contact though she lives in Iowa], I find myself literally rolling on the floor laughing my ass off. The funny thing is, she does too! I also got Kimberly [wherever she is] and Lisa during college. Kimberly was my roomie when I moved off campus. Kimberly was the sister who showed me how to socialize and be comfortable even when I wasn't. And Lisa, bless her, (along with her family, my family) brought me closer to God than I'd ever been before. Lisa was my on-campus roomie for three years. Any collection worth the effort of collecting should bring value or beauty to your life. As you can plainly see, my collection brings me an abundance of both. Gone, but never forgotten from this time is one of the true loves of my life....Mr. Kevin Adams. From St. Louis like me and THE COOLEST WHITE BOY evah to walk the planet earth, Kevin taught us all the true meaning of fun and how to go out, grab life by the hand fulls, and live it to the fullest. I'll love him forever.

I could go on, because though quantity is NOT and never was the goal, the list of irreplaceable works of art in my collection is long. It includes people I met along the way, some way back when and some recently. Age ain't nothin' but a number as one of the MOST valuable pieces in my collection is herself just becoming acquainted with womanhood at the ripe old age of 22. Ms. Carmz, is one of my absolutely most precious collectibles, and keeps me fresh and open to what's happening NOW! It includes family members (like Moms to the right) with whom I share DNA and some family members with whom I do not. It includes people from all backgrounds, socio-economic levels, races and ethnicities. The one distinguishing characteristic of them all is not that they are perfect people [hell for that matter, neither am I]; just that they are/were all perfect for me in that they each brought something critically important to my life that I could depend on to be there when and if I needed it.

The key to successful people collecting is this:

Understand that we all have flaws and at some time or another will mess up royally....that's just human nature. What we must do to enable us to build the value of our collections is to see what actually is, and base our evaluations on what is. Human nature dictates that conflict will arise whenever two are gathered. However, instead of allowing these conflicts to change everything, [subsequently diminishing the value of your collection], it is necessary to evaluate the value the individual in question brings to your life and how easily you would be able to replace the value you would lose. Nothing is all good, and we all have characteristics that others would simply love to yank out of us. However, in most cases, if they were ever worth adding to your collection at all, they are most likely worth keeping.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

WARNING: Stolen Material May Cause Guilty Conscious If Viewed

What follows is a stolen post from the blog of David Parrish. I have committed what amounts to a felony I believe because the information contained in this post is so valuable and important that I wanted to make sure others who might not otherwise stumble across David's blog would be exposed to it. I especially wanted those of you with whom I had ongoing debates surrounding this year's Oscar's and issues there we won't openly revisit here today to read this all-important post. I challenge each of you, to be honest with yourselves in your self-evaluation. Did you, have we all really done everything we personally can do or anything at all for that matter to postively impact the images of ourselves that are considered for next year's Oscar nominations? Secondly, [contrary to my usual attempt to be a positive influence on others], I encourage and challenge each of you to commit the same felony I did and steal David's post to be posted on your own sites in order to broaden the potential scope of its impact. As it relates to the apology David suggests in this post, I too fell short. What about you?

ok everyone, Group Apology time!!!
I _____________ (state your name) do sincerely apologize for NOT going to see Akeelah and the Bee when I KNEW that it was important to do so in order to send a message to Hollywood that we, the Negroes who complain so much about the quality of Black Movies released into theaters, would be sure to go out and make Akeelah number one in the last weekend of the Spring movie season. Knowing full well that Summer Blockbuster Season starts this coming Friday with M:I 3, I have squandered another chance to send Hollywood a message with my money. I am well aware that as punishment, I will receive healthy doses of cross dressing comedians, aspiring rapper/actors, and well meaning movies which are lacking in the polish and creativity that a major motion picture release deserves.

--Parrish, The Thoughts

I Owe Y'all Better Than This!

I KNOW I'VE BEEN LOUSY! I owe y'all better than this; afterall, y'all made one of my biggest dreams come true by stopping in and checking out a sistas words and I repay y'all by not holding up my end of the bargain and writing something y'all could read. There are reasons....but there are no excuses. I PROMISE I WILL DO BETTER. Please just hang in there with me until I get my schedule in hand and I will go back to daily posting as soon as I can manage it.

A quick update on the goings-on in my world and then I will get to writing some posts I can be proud of and you can enjoy:

  • School: Going great! Your gurl has an "A" average through mid-term and with 2 case studies completed and returned [A's on both] and a mid-term exam completed and returned [A there too], and only one more case study and a take home final, I think it is a safe bet that a sista can pull this one out. Oh how I love EDUCATION!
  • Personal Training: STILL GOING! Three times a week, still going strong. Only missed two sessions so far due to a business trip to Minneapolis last week where I worked out in my room on my own anyway. Dying to post a pic, but y'all know I'ma drama queen and so I'm waiting until I hit some of my REAL goals so that the change will be as dramatic as possible. However, just last week, I was cleaning the house....while vacuuming with my music blasting, I caught an unexpected glimpse of my right tricep in a mirror and I'll just say this, "Baby might not have back, but she damn sho gots some nice cuts in her arms!" Hey brothas....does that turn y'all on? ;)
  • Ryan: He got a new car....any questions? No, really, his driving is coming along and he should be able to actually take his driver's exam and get a license in the next couple of weeks. Our schedules are so unbelievably hectic that the poor boy and I can only get together to let him drive for an hour or two 3 or 4 times a week. I let him drive on the highway for the first time last week and it was okay....but y'all pray for a sista AND her babyboy! HINT TO THOSE WITH TEENS WHO ARE CONSIDERING PURCHASING NEW CARS: Insurance is cheaper if you purchase the care BEFORE your teen has a license then add him to it once he gets a license. In our case, it was a difference of $600 every six months....that's why Ryan has a car and no license.
  • The Basement: Carpet is in and everythings is so fresh and so clean clean! I still have to arrange furniture and put the knicks and knacks back. As soon as I do, I'll shoot new picks and post them for your approval.
  • Backyard: Coming right along and on schedule for the Annual Memorial Day Weekend Blowout. Any of y'all passing through The Lou on Memorial Day weekend Sunday, be sure and let me know so I can give ya directions to the ranch! There will be food and drink and fun for all so don't worry about who you're wit, bring the fam....the more the merrier.
  • Work:'s work and in the words of that Original Oldgirl the infamous Ladylee, "They are still dropping a paycheck into my direct deposit account every other week", so by my standards, it's going fine!

So there ya go....y'all are all caught up now! And once again, I promise I'ma get back to posting like I've still got the good sense God gave me as my Grandma would say.