Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Ugly Reflection

In my last post I mentioned that ten percent of all people we come into contact with will not like us. But, I had to think about friendships and women in general. Friendships for women, the younger the women the more this seems to be true, are very complicated. For us women, friendships are an extension of all our other relationships with the exception of intimacy. We love to spend time with our friends and we love to be in their presence. As women, we feel better having a friend around to talk with as we complete the most mundane tasks. But what happens when a friendship hits a rough patch? It’s almost a painful as a bad marriage.

 Now, I have had a few friendships “ go bad ”. Most of them stem from middle school to high school and a few in college and adulthood. But recent moments on the Oprah Show between Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi  put a mirror to my face about friendship and maturity.

 Just like most people, I look at the friends of my face book friends just to see who can see my posts and to later look at their pages and photos. Yes…I know this is some form of stalking but I know I am not alone. To make matters worse I have looked up a few people I don’t associate with anymore to see how bad their life must me since I am not in it. Yeah right!  I have found their lives to be as fruitful and happily blessed as my life has been without them.

 Every now and then, I will poke out a piece of an olive branch to see if they miss me in their lives as I have secretly missed them. To my surprise, they grasp that olive branch as if we were never apart. With maturity and age I have learned that true friendship can survive a lot more than a teenage squabble and spat.

 What I see in myself now, I would have denied only a few years ago. I had to learn to value friendship once I became alone. I had to walk alone to value the voices that were there to undergird me during my most pivotal years. I have had great friends along the way. But I missed the friends who knew the “back story”- the ones who had been there all along. It’s difficult to reach out but I believe it’s necessary to be whole and complete especially when you know you were wrong. It may not work but forgiveness is about extending the olive branch even if they never grasp it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Don't Like Me?

I was watching television and heard that ten percent of the people we come into contact with don’t like you.  I think we all have an inkling when a person does not care for us, right? We all notice the body language and the nonverbal clues which lead us to believe this person is “not feeling” me. Well…I have two thoughts on this statistic and a possible follow up post. The first thought is knowing this statistic, how do we handle it and teach our children to understand this fact of life. The next thought is I am part of the ten percent thus I am part of the problem.

I know there are folks who just don’t like me and somewhere over the years, I have conditioned myself t believe that there must be something right about me and wrong with them because I am awesome. Right?  Well, to some degree this is true. While believing that I am wonderful in every way I have to examine myself from time to time and ask what am I doing to make others see me ”this way”? Sometimes I have to correct my people skills to tweak my first impressions. I have found that being open the possibility of  not always putting my best foot forward is only human. In other words, we all have bad moments in the presence of strangers and new comers.

I would be lying if I said my feelings have never been hurt by hearing someone say, “ She says she does not like you” or by realizing that my calls go unanswered when I believe I have made a BFF connection with someone. I am human and I believe it’s human nature to feel that pain of rejection that comes with knowing that someone finds  fault in me for being myself. It’s  the rejection that causes me to in turn judge them and finds reasons to not care for them either.  It’s the rejection that makes me second guess and replay the five minute conversation we had. It is rejection that hurts me not the other person. They have a right to choose to befriend me or not.

Does that mean I can change the way others feel about me?  NOPE!  It means , I know that I am mindful of my surroundings and try to be the best me I can be all the time. Not fake or phony… just the best part of me. Because that’s  what people connect to - the best of you. Your friends are your friends because they know about the best of you and then they learn about the weaknesses you are trying to strengthen.
In these days of “mean girls”, what do I teach my daughters? I teach them the truth. There will always be those folks who don’t like you. Even, in their presence, you showcase the best of yourself. That means remembering that you never know who is watching. I remind them that they are awesome and if there is a situation where folks are constantly getting the wrong impression, then we need to take a look at the image they  are putting out there. Also, I remind them that we don’t act like others people. We act like ourself---ALWAYS.

For my sons, I have learned they don't measure friendship the same as girls. The same is true for men. Friendship is an event and not a way of  life. Betrayal and spending time together are not a vital part of tenants of friendship. Other people don't determine the way they feel in each moment. They have others measures but friendship is not one of those measures. I tell my boys to understand the importance of first impressions and respect the moment because it can and will define how others see and judge you.

As I write this blog, I am sharing with you’re the most candid thoughts I have about life- MY LIFE. I am learning in this very moment and I am sharing the lessons I learn as I go with each of you. In my life and I am certain in yours , we have all run across people that rub us the wrong way or we don’t mesh with easily. We have several categories that we place people in to help keep them  at arm’s length  or to keep our distance. We have our reasons for sizing people up in the first few moments of meeting them to protect our own interest. But why? What makes us decide we have to make a decision about another person after on five or maybe ten minutes with them?  Remember this...that same ten percent  applies to you and me, so we are part of the problem.

I am as guilty as any person of watching a person when they are not in their finest moment and deciding I can’t associate with that person. Also, I have been known to meet a person and then decide to hold them at a distance because I met them and moved them to my “ do not call list”. I have a whole list of reasons why I could not befriend a person. But I have decided to take a different approach. What if I meet someone and just decide to get to know them first? Befriending someone is creating a relationship. Relationships meet many different needs. Maybe just maybe if I take the time to get to know someone and they get to know me, we may develop a friendship. Maybe not…we may develop an acquaintance instead. Knowing that someone is not a "bestie" may save me and that person a great deal of pain, heartache, and frustration in the long run. I think I will slow down the process and develop quality friendships instead of gathering friends like apples in a baskethaving to throw some away because the basket is too full or too heavy for me to carry.Whatever develops with my next casual meeting  I will be pleasant and open minded.

The best lessons I can pass along to my children is the ability to give people a chance. Giving people a chance may increase the chance I receive the next time I have a casual first time meeting. Next time I will remember  and I hope you will remember to just relax and enjoy the ride.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Love is Pateint,Love is Kind

After watching the recent disaster in Japan, I was really struck by  the patience of the children and their parents as they waited in monstrous lines to receive what could possibly be the only meal of the day. I was in awe of the softness of their tone and the stillness of their posture, demeanor, and body language as food was growing shorter. How could any person, especially one with children, stand in such solace during such devastation? Well , after watching I was reminded that children, for the most part, practice what they learn.

Now I realize that this is by and far a much different culture but I believe that each culture has value and worth. There was a lesson to learn. As my children are older now, I can see the patience I have taught them about some things. Other things? Ahhhh…yeah see……not so much. I can see that the things I have little patience with they now have little patience with me about the same things. For example, I have a very hard and fast idea about responding to me when I ask for something. That seems good, right? Well, now, when I am ambiguous about answering a questions (because they always have a bunch of questions) or slow to answer as I search for the best words, they get so irritated. Now, as I look back, I know that I set this situation up.I try not to get angry when they are inpatient. At times, I try to remember to correct my behavior so they can learn to correct theirs. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. 

On the flip side of that, I know that my children have great respect for adults and know how to be kind to the “least of them”. They know what charity and volunteerism is and when to jump in to help those in need. In everyday situations, although they bicker as brothers and sisters often do, my babies know how to apologize and be kind (sometimes).Sometimes there is a timeout, consequence or very careful parenting involved.

I have learned that what was a pressing pet peeve five, ten, or even two years ago may not be as pressing today or tomorrow. I may have to re-educate myself and my children on better ways to cope with whatever the situation may be. More times than not, the job of mother, will make you SUPER proud. You will look back and know that you have made some mistakes and you have done something really great. Wherever you fall in that spectrum, remember to put your best foot forward so they will learn to put their best forward. The best you have is all you can give.

Relax and Enjoy the Ride.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


As I sit here today focused on writing my thoughts, I am listening to the washer churn and the dryer moan. I have the privilege of doing laundry Monday through Thursday. Fortunately, my children are old enough that they have learned to do their own laundry (shameless mommy brag coming…they ask me to teach them). I am responsible for the laundry my husband and I generate which is quite a bit with him traveling and both of us working out daily. But, I have spent the better part of this fifteen year marriage drenched in laundry detergent, bleach and clothes.

Laundry has been a very normal routine in my home. Everyone has a laundry day and I have days throughout the week to get it done. The routine of laundry is part of what creates normalcy, meaning that I know what’s expected and how to get it done in a way that does not break the routine of home. When I get out of routine which all people do, I have to say, the laundry is my biggest dread. I hate the thought of coming in and having piles of laundry. When I was a young mother, God bless, I could never keep it up. My house would have piles of laundry stacked about- some folded, some not. Between the breastfeeding and two toddlers as well as one child in school my laundry life was a mess-literally. Laundry or the lack thereof defined my very existence. When I was working, the laundry was always waiting to be done. Even with help from my hubby, I had my own system and I was the only one who could get it done, right? Wrong!

What laundry taught me was to relax and pace myself. I put so much pressure on myself to be what I thought a mother was supposed to be. You know the images we soak up like sponges as a little girl:

Ms. Becky Home Ecky , Beautiful and Sexy with the baby mouth wrapped around your nipple because you have to breastfeed to provide the most nourishment for each child, make up perfect, great cook and intellectually stimulating plus have the best girlfriends…, right? Wrong!

No matter what I did, I realized one thing, be it the laundry , hair, my cooking, my organization skills or my make up, something would not be done perfectly. Because (deep breath)…I am not perfect. I am a mere mortal – a mommy. I cannot fix all things and sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am not the best I can be. I could be better organized today but I will focus on it tomorrow. I could be a better friend today but I will do better tomorrow.

It is so annoying to constantly receive images and ideas of perfection knowing that it can’t be achieved. I would suggest that as a mother, new, expecting, post partum, or present that you resolve in your heart and mind as I did and forgive yourself in advance for all the things that will go wrong because of you and because of others. I think knowing that you are not perfect gives you permission to acknowledge your imperfections and it allows others to forgive their imperfections as well. Create a circle of unconditional love and laughter with people who can laugh at your quirky mishaps and see your heart, not your faults.

Relax and enjoy the ride

Monday, March 14, 2011

Speak Up...I can't hear you!

Recently, I had a " light bulb " moment. There was a recent event at my youngest son's school which caused some uproar and frustration among parents. We became angry with the choices and direction of our local school district. Please keep in mind, this is far from a new issue here in Arkansas. We are the home of "school based drama" from the Little Rock Nine (integration) all the way to desegregation cases to school choice act. We have, as do all states, our fair share of educational upheavals. But this event hit close to home and right in our neighborhood, literally.

As news spread of changes in the school, we, the parents, became frustrated and concerned. We had not heard of or even suspected of the changes in our school. The teachers we love and respect were being affected and we had to do something but what? As we spent a great portion of the night texting and posting to our social media outlets of choice we began to have some consensus about the overall feeling of dismay. We passed along contact information such as names and numbers. We vowed to make phone calls, send emails, and have a united front. Yea... we were on our way to making a difference, right?

The next day, there was obviously enough noise made as the parent teacher meeting had to focus some attention to addressing this matter. Our principal stood and spoke for a whole three minutes. She ended her very brief speech with "any other questions should be directed downtown [ to her supervisor]”. I felt the air leave the room and the momentum of change came to a screeching halt.

Now what?

I realize, as this experience is still evolving to this very day, that we complain but don't speak up. We have been programmed to accept the "word" of an authority figure without question. But why? If not the mothers and fathers of these children then who? I know parents are concerned as are most Americans but what keeps us from speaking up, standing up, and pushing for change?

Based on many conversation I have had and observations in my circle and in the circle of others, I have come up with three very distinct reasons why people don’t get involved when change is needed.

Reason 1: We are too busy. We don't take time to hear what is going on and decide if it’s worthy of action. Parents like me in their mid to late thirties are still focused on attaining wealth and prosperity. We are working so hard and so much we can't fathom the energy to fight back even when we know we need too. Somehow or somewhere we decided parenthood was about providing only. We continue to buy more things and gadgets to make up for the time we are spending away from home to buy more gadgets.

Reason 2: We are undereducated. With world wide web, we have become information overloaded and totally technology wasted. We see information passing us by with statistics, studies, and quotes so much that we no longer pay attention to the details. We no longer seek to verify and validate information. Instead, we chose to accept what we see in sound bytes, blogs, and blurbs. I say WE because I had to look at myself and found that I am as guilty as the rest of my circle. We use our remotes to surf from channel to channel looking for the station with the most information in the breaking story instead of reading about it and understanding the sources of information that feed us the news stories they deem worthy.

Reason 3: We don't think it matters in our circle. In spite of the work and change we see happening form the grassroots efforts which help gather support for Obama, to the Tea Party, to Egypt, REALLY? We still fear being seen as a radical. We sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else fight for their rights but choose not to fight for our own children. We have sidebar conversations about what we want yet we never talk to officials or board member about helping us get to a legitimate compromise. We use our social media to socialize but we don’t want to be the person that’s always got a cause, right?

I am always amazed at the number of people who call me when they are concerned about a local issue or ask me to lend my research skills and ideas about what "we" should do about "their" issue. But it never ceases to amaze me that no steps are taken and therefore things remain the same.

We all know that the smallest pebble can cause a ripple. So we can all be a small pebble in our areas of discourse, your circle of friends and your social network.To be the small pebble of change ,you should have a sense of direction as you encounter situations that require you to use your voice of change to speak up and be heard.

 So how can I make a change?

First, when you have an issue, decide what are the fundamental offenses and write them down.

Second, relax and remind yourself that I have a right to ask questions then formulate a respectful letter to request a meeting or create a dialogue.

Third, once your meeting is confirmed, write down the points you want to be sure to cover in the meeting.
Lastly, remember to relax because you have a right ask questions. Remember, this is not personal so be kind and gracious .

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So how do I make change in my small circle?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Will the REAL housewives please stand up?

USA Today  recently reported  the Neilson Ratings found that in black households the show Basketball Wives outscored (pardon the pun) the NAACP awards by seven points in the ratings. Basketball wives -#5 and the NAACP award- #12. Wow! What does this mean? CAUTION…RANT AHEAD:
I will tell you what this means. It means that we, the black community choose style and entertainment , over substance. Shows such as Basketball wives, Football wives, and Housewives of Atlanta are all based on superficial relationships put together by a group of producers and executives to generate “real” conversations for our entertainment. Then the producers, directors, and executives edit the film to create scenarios that look as if these women are drama filled tyrants who have no class. Now, if that is not the case then these women, based on the film shown to the American public, really are tyrants who lack enough class and dignity to control themselves in public arenas. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt but I doubt the benefit I am giving them.
I am a bit turned off by these shows, as I have attempted to watch them on more than one occasion only to turn the station in total frustration. I have been involved in discussions with my  educated friends who have jobs and families and found they love this show and will debate any passersby about the substance and quality of this type of entertainment. I am in the minority apparently because I hate these shows. In attempting to show others the flaw in supporting such shows, I have been met with statements such as “It’s just funny” or “ We know it’s not real”. Well the problem with these types of arguments is that although you and I know its fabricated  there are people who  believe that to be the basis for judging all of us. Also, we have to examine our motives. We love for our people to “keep it real”. Well , in that  very spirit, I want people to know that we all grow up and when we change from one socioeconomic status to another, we change- it’s not a bad thing to grow up and have to behave accordingly. In the black community, this change is considered bourgeois which literally means middle class. It can also mean a person whose  political , economic, and social opinions are based solely on protecting their property and respectability. We have enjoyed watching the best of us behave as though they were the worst of us.  When will we insist on having better images of us in media.

Although, at one point I thought could watch and empathize with their various situations, I have found otherwise.  I thought I could liken a character on the show to a friend in my circle but still-nope.  I have to explain time and time again with no avail that these shows reinforce horrible stereotypes and ideals about black women. The constant perpetuation that we, black women and our friends, lack emotional control in situations of conflict feed into the ideas that we are aggressive versus assertive and we are not able to utilize the King’s language peacefully to resolve issues.  Another reason I worry about this show is because  the show is referring to wives and I have found that a vast majority of the women on these are not married and the shows  focus very little on relationships with the children in a healthy way. Yes, they show the children buying new things and going on trips but not as much about the reality of being an affluent family trying to remain grounded. When they have an opportunity to show more grounded personalities who have genuine partnerships with their spouses and value their families, they are cut for not being dramatic enough. In other words, they are “ too boring”.
I want to reassure America that the REAL housewives are not behaving in such a manner as this. In fact, the stay-at-home mothers, otherwise known as housewives, are too busy being mothers and wives to have these drama filled outbursts  over one another’s “business”. I have found that we, the stay –at-home mothers, struggle to find time to call and hang out with each other because we are focused on home, family, school, business, and community.  As a mother who happens to be at home each day, I am concerned that the word and role housewife may be receiving a bad reputation.  Yes, we all understand the blessing of being home and we don’t  take it lightly. We respect it and one another.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Motherhood is Not Enough

Women are so multifaceted and amazing. We believe we can do anything and will try to do everything. But in our effort to serve our children we often forget to love ourselves along the way.

The spirit of motherhood cannot feed the needs of the sister, the daughter, the friend, and the lover in us simply because we are mothers. Mothers, at their core, are women. We need to feel the love of friends over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. We have to have the moments of solace that come with watching the sun rise or set. We have to have the steady beat of music pumping through our veins as a theme song to get motivated each day.

The reason shows such as The View and The Talk are successful because we crave intellectual conversations with friends along with bursts of laughter and hugs filled with love. Lifetime and Oprah are equally successful because we, the women, the wives, and the mothers, require empathy. We need to know we are not alone in our struggles, our victories or successes.

Every women, mother, sister, daughter, friend, should take time to carve out a moment to love herself without the validation of another person. Its simple - take a warm bath after all the children are in bed. Turn on the music and light a candle. Maybe pour a glass of wine and read a book. To create physical balance go for a walk alone in a park or simply sit in the floor to stretch.

There is no guilt in loving yourself enough to preserve your individuality. Although we are connected like puzzle pieces to so many things, we are still one piece of the puzzle. It took me 14 years of marriage and four children to decide I am a priority. When I was a “new mommy” I had a great women who I consider a mentor say, “You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself.”

In the book, The Seven Highly Effective Habits, Covey calls the seventh habit sharpening your saw. In essence he says finding time for me allows me to be a better mother, a better friend, and a better wife. Personally, having that time to reflect personally and sit in the presence of friends who love me makes me a better me. I am stronger and wiser when I have this time. I can focus on my family more after I have had time alone or with friends.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Love without Possesion

  In Maya Angelou’s Letter to My daughter, I was struck by her revelation that she could love her son without possessing him. I had to really examine what it means to love someone, especially as a mother, without possessing them. I realized that as a mother of four, I love my children. I would die for them at a moment’s notice- lay down my life for them to live and prosper, but in spite of all that, I don’t own them. I don’t own them. Although I raise them and instruct them on life, I now know that they will be their own person and will own their own choices someday- sooner than later.

  Knowing this gives my job title, MOTHER, a much different perspective. I know that I have to prepare them for life, real life, not just the sugar coated sweet stuff that we fanaticize about when the pregnancy test shows a plus sign. I must determine myself, along with my husband, to raise them with the full intention of letting them grow and then watching them go. I am obligated to encourage them to tackle unforeseen and new endeavors. I have to prepare them by placing real expectations and consequences in place to teach them the realities of inevitable failure in life, because no one wins all the time. I have to allow them to feel disappointment and not shield them because I can’t endure watching their hurt.

  Being a mother has some allowances which can be an emotional advantage. We can and should nurture their sense of adventure and natural wonder of curiosity whenever possible. We owe them warm smiles when they enter a room. We, as mothers, allow them to talk and be expressive. See fathers have a different set of allowances that make them fathers and us mothers. Mothers have to be careful and allow fathers to do their job without running interference.

  When you posses something you own it and it does not own itself nor can it be owned by another. When you own something, you can manipulate it and make it move the way you can position a vase or a table to accessorize a room. Children, for all intensive purposes are not accessories of our lives. We can’t have them “sit” and “stand” mindlessly as children and expect them to be critically thinking adults. We can’t bark out directives and expect them to follow 100% percent of the time without question then push them in to a classroom or a boardroom, expecting them to know how to be participative. I believe in discipline and structure but I believe with balance. Children need to have conversations about expectations, rules, and consequences. I believe in re-evaluating the traditions and status quo to ensure determine what is working and not working for my family. I believe in pushing through and making difficult decisions where my children are concerned. Because I don’t feel ownership over them, I can be more objective, less emotional, not afraid of losing them ( or ownership of their choices).

  Relinquishing this possessive mindset helps me prepare my sons and daughters to challenge the status quo, the courage to question traditions, the satisfaction of self validation, to love with vulnerability and the freedom to own their own lives and choices.