Love is

Definitive
Here there is no straddling of borders
with ambiguous gestures
Love is
Saying, “I love you,”
And lacks the contingent of reciprocity.
Love is
Not asking for what can’t be giving
Yet fighting earth and sky
to give more than you have.
It is the unheard whisper
without pomp, circumstance or display
A touch that carries you through the day
The few moments
that can carry you through the week
The balm we all seek.
It endures us
Believes us
It is believing there can be us.
Love is
The knowing
When to fight
or simply let go
because leaving can be loving too.
Love is
Knowing there’s love
at the other side of romance.

It all starts with words

I go through these spells where I forget how to live.  Everything that makes me, well me, seems foreign and impossible.  “What color is my toothbrush? Where do I put my shoes? Where are my keys? WHAT ARE WORRRRRRRRRRDSSSSSSSS?!” (You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my fist angrily at the universe.)

Writer’s block I can handle. Idea block? Not so much. I don’t want to rehash the same words and thoughts that I’ve spilled in my SEVEN YEARS (almost) of blogging.  I don’t want to recycle other people’s ideas.  I just want to write awesome things…and buy shoes…and talk to cute boys on the phone. I’m getting off track. But that’s the whole point. When I think about the person I was one year ago today, I don’t think I do any of the things now that I was doing then. Granted, some things need to change, but I feel that there are parts of me that I need to recapture and incorporate into life as I now know it.

What does that have to do with anything?  I wrote more.  And I did it for me, in hopes that someone could get something out of it.  Lately, I find myself questioning my voice, which is something I’ve never done.  If I knew why I felt this way, I’d change it immediately, but I’m doing my damnedest to expel and bind my doubting spirit. Words have always been an important part of my life. Yet, when I’m at a crossroads, words are the first to go.

What I enjoy most when I forget how to do things, is the moment I remember…again. And I does this. Right now, I’m still trying to learn life over, but I’m getting there. To be honest, I’ve even been struggling with brainstorming. In all of the great things that have taken place this year, I did not expect to struggle with my gift, right when I need it the most.

If I haven’t said it lately, I’m always appreciative that you are with me through all of this. Some of you have been reading my work for a long time, and it’s really humbling. I don’t know what I say or do to keep yall coming back, but I’m glad you enjoy it. I can’t sing or dance or do any of the fly things that so many of my fellow bloggers can do. Strip me down, and I got “nothing but my balls and my word” (word to Young Bleed).  And really, word by word, that’s where it all starts with me.

B Jack

“ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE!”

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have all the answers in this parenting biz.  Sometimes, I have to stay at work late just to get my mind right (read: avoid killing someone for their crazy antics).  Other times I sit in my car and think about the days I took silence for granted.  But overall, parenting is a rewarding, albeit tough, gig.  I doubt seriously that I am the only parent who pensively sits and thinks, “What would Biggie do at a time like this?”  Imagine my surprise when I realized he gave us a road map long ago.  Without further ado…

IT’S THE PARENT COMMANDMENTS, WHA?!

“Rule Number Uno – Never let no one know how much dough you hold.”

Your finances are not your kids’ business.  I will discuss how you should teach them to manage their finances in a later rule.  They should also be taught to not be wasteful with household resources and respect your hard work, but that’s the extent of it.  Kids don’t need to see your pay stub and know that after you pay rent, you can’t buy milk.  This is especially true if you were ill prepared to have kids in the first place.  It’s really your issue, so chuck it up and deal.  Plus, if your kids are too young to understand proper decorum, they will put you on blast.

“Number Two – Never let them know your next move.”

This is especially for parents of those squirrely teenagers.  I don’t believe in lo-jacking kids.  I place the responsibility of doing the right thing squarely on my kids’ shoulders.  They will get into just as much trouble as we did, if not more.  It comes with the territory.  That being said, you don’t have to make it easy for them.  Come home at different times, pop up at school from time to time, check that cell phone.*  But it’s not all combat.  Wake them up early and take them for a one on one breakfast or an impromptu road trip.  Show them that you’re not only paying attention when they’re doing bad.  Life isn’t about living by rote.  Teach your kids that.

“Number Three – Never trust no-bo-dy.”

Folks are crazy.  Not everyone is fit to meet your kids, be it family, acquaintance or romantic interest.  People should first be fully vetted.  It’s not about everyone being out to harm your kids.  Think about a person who is always draining and negative.  Think about how they take from you as an adult.  Now imagine the type of impact that person could have on a young developing spirit.

“Number Four – I know you heard this before: Never get high on your own supply.”

Stop eating all your kids’ snacks, yo!  We’ve all been there.  It’s midnight, and you can’t sleep.  Maybe there’s an SVU marathon keeping you company.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the house but Capri Suns, Goldfish crackers and Fruit Roll Ups.  You. Go. HAM!  Stop.  1. You don’t have your kids’ metabolism.  Too many nights like that, and you’ll be looking like your always shrugging about the neck area.  2. Your paleolithic gastrointestinal system just ain’t what it used to be.  Within 20 minutes, you’ll be feeling like a living, breathing WTF.

“Number Five – Never sell no crack where you rest at.”

So, crack…let’s not sell that at all, ‘kay?  But we all have our proclivities.  Whatever your recreational vice may be, keep it as far away from your kids as possible.  Your random booty calls do not need your address.  Your weed man should NEVER deliver to your house.  I’m not telling you what to do with your me time.  But be responsible when it comes to shielding your kids from that.

“Number Six – That god damn credit? Dead it.”

Kids need allowances.  Giving them a set amount of money to work with, as opposed to being an inexhaustible ATM is one of the best ways to teach your kids the value of money.  Here is where they learn about saving, management and responsibility.  When their dough is gone, it’s gone.  I don’t play that “advance on my allowance” game.  It is equally important that you set an example in being timely and consistent in making their allowance payments. The onus on on you to teach them how to be prompt in meeting their obligations to others.

“Seven – This rule is so underrated:  keep your family and business completely separated.”

I can’t tell you how many family squabbles I’ve seen go down because of family-helping-family child care.  Having your retired aunt take care of the kids may seem like a good idea, but that should really be your last resort.  In business, we often take far more liberties with family than we would with other people, and vice versa.  The biggest problems care providers have with the parents they are “helping” are financial compensation and timeliness.  The biggest problems I’ve seen parents complain of are supervision and what the kids’ minds are being fed.  Too many parents are showing up at 8 pm and paying $40 a week.  Too many providers are watching the stories and teaching the babies everything on the radio.  Emergencies happen, but leaving child care to the experts typically is better in the long run for all involved.

“Number Eight – Never keep no weight on you.”

Do I have to tell yall not to walk around with heroin bricks?  Didn’t think so.  I’m going to take liberties and substitute “weight” for “heat.”  People have guns.  Cool. LOCK ‘EM UP!  I can’t tell you how my heart shatters when I hear about kids getting their hands on guns.  Typically they don’t recognize how dangerous guns can be.  And even if your kids are thoroughly educated about guns, their friends probably are not.  Between accidental shootings, suicides and gun violence at the hands of other kids, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.

“Number 9 – Should have been Number One to me:  If you ain’t gettin bagged, stay the fuck from police.”

Parents, stop dry snitching on your kids.  As moms and dads, we have the inside tracks on our shorties, but that doesn’t obligate us to give other authority figures the cheat codes.  In some cases, our insights can unfairly work against our kids.  If you tell a kid’s teacher that your kid is “lazy” during the first week of school, the teacher may not take their requests for help seriously when they truly have issues grasping certain concepts.  It can actually stunt them from being able to develop who they are when they aren’t around you.  Our primary job as parents is advocate, not adversary.

“Number Ten – A strong word called consignment.  Strictly for live men.  Not for freshmen.  If you ain’t got the clientele say hell no, ’cause they gon’ want they money rain, sleet, hail, snow.”

Yes.  All that.  If you value silence, your sanity and a generally happy home, do not make promises to your kids if you can’t deliver.  It gets ugly.  Kids do not give a solitary flarn about your excuses.  Oh, and all those times they forget when you tell them to take out the trash and clean their room?  Yeah, that’s because that memory is reserved to remember stuff you said before they were born.  “YOU SAID YOU WERE GONNA TAKE ME TO DISNEY ON ICE!!!”  It doesn’t matter if you told it to your dead aunt in the 80s.  But our kids rely on us to keep our word.  That’s not an unfair request.  Things happen and breaking a few promises is unavoidable. But that should be the exception, not the rule.

I can’t guarantee you mad bread to break up, but this should at least guarantee you a retirement home with a door, running water and electricity.

Smooches!

B

* Complete privacy comes with adulthood/complete responsibility for yourself.  You’ll not plot cutting class on a phone with my name on the bill.

Are you there, Chocolate? It’s me, Mel.

Bars.

Fountains.

Men.

Chocolate makes everything wonderful.  There’s hardly a time when chocolate isn’t appropriate?  New job? Chocolate.  Fired? Chocolate.  New boo?  Chocolate.  Breakup?  Chocolate.  Its place is firmly sealed in the great circle of life.

Every once in a while I come across someone who can’t eat chocolate (there are people who are severely allergic and it has been linked to triggering migraines).  I just want to give them gigantic full bosom hugs.

It's not.

For realsies.

I went to a cafe with my good friend a few months back, and there was some sort of unsweetened chocolate sauce over fish (I think.  Maybe it was chicken.  Don’t focus on the wrong part of the story.).  If you’re scrunching your nose, don’t feel bad.  I scrunched my nose too.  I was just feeling particularly adventurous that day, so I threw caution to the wind and ordered.  Homie…friend…bruh…words fail me.  If you’ve ever eaten something and thought, “There should really be a  bard sitting by my side to chronicle this,” then you understand where I’m coming from.

Combining mediocre things with chocolate is satisfying; combine awesome things with chocolate, and you run the risk of being sucked into a nexus of awesome.  Chocolate and coffee, when done just right (because you CAN mess this up), is just one of the most amazing things you’ll ever have.  The trick is to get the right balance of the two, letting them slowly waltz your taste buds into ecstasy.  You’re swaying at the thought of it, aren’t you?  You should be.

Far too often, people try to break down our affection for chocolate, scientifically.  A diatribe about neurons and synapses extracts the magic.  Look at a kid having their first piece of chocolate:  the way they hold their mouth in that curious little pucker, trying not to drool (and failing).  That huge grubby grin they have as they ask for another piece – that’s all the explanation you need.  But if you feel inclined to inquire further about why chocolate is so awesome, my answer would be simple: Jah’s love.

When He Evolves

My torrid love affair with hop hop has been chronicled here.  My peers and I are the lucky ones who have never known a world without hip hop.  When an emcee clutched the mic, even if he wasn’t telling our story, we felt he was told a valid story.  Hip hop was our rebel music; how little black and brown kids raged against the machine. The thing our parents could neither own, nor comprehend.

But now, we are the parents.  Though I still have a bit of rebel in me, molding two preteen minds forces me to be more “establishment” than I care to admit.  There’s a car advertisement with hamsters dancing to Black Sheep, so hip hop has become representative of the establishment.  My heart will always have a special place for it.  But I often feel like Chris Rock did when he said, “I LOVE hip hop.  I’m tired of defending it.”

As a parent, a woman, and a former black girl who cringed at the idea of selling out, I get weary.  I don’t need Mary Poppins rhyming over a Dilla beat, nor do I always need it to always have a “message.”  But I do still need to feel that thump in my stomach that makes me believe what I’m hearing.  I need to believe that you believe in your product, even if you’re just rhyming about a party.  This “trendy for a check” music is not for me.

When discussing hip hop, the “old school vs. new school” argument is inevitable.  It is just a very silly argument.  One night earlier in the summer, I sat next to a friend at a bar as a sacred cow of hip hop began to play.  “Scenario.”  Yes yes ya’ll.  We bobbed our heads, then cringed when Dinco D rhymed.  “Scooby doo! Whoopdie doo?! The HELL?!”  Objectively walking down memory lane revealed a garbage verse in a song that I loved.  The saying (the source of which I can never remember – maaaaaaybe Quincy Jones?) goes, “There’s no such thing as old school or new school.  Either you went to school, or you didn’t.”  Nothing exemplifies that like Dinco’s verse.

So what are my options?  Do I wait for the stray, albeit lackluster LL party track?  Do I dance to “Racks on Racks?”  (Sometimes I do.  Don’t judge.)  Or do I cherish my Public Enemy and UTFO cassettes, Gollum-style.

I’ve seen a lot of rappers age out, either by riding out their fame, or creating beef with new artists, the majority whither away.  Then there are rappers like Jay Z, who still command crowds, but for those of us who knew him when, realize he doesn’t pack his “Reasonable Doubt” punch.  And, quite frankly, should he?  Why would a 40 year-old married executive with an expectant wife carry the same message as a 26 year-old kid fresh out the dope game?  Hip hop no longer belongs to the street kids just trying to be heard, being underpaid and undervalued by their labels.  It is a haven of savvy artists who have ascended the ranks as power players and attorneys, who can be just as predatory as execs in the early days of hip hop, if not more so.  Quick, name a consistently successful Bad Boy artist who is not named Sean.  I’ll wait.  *hears the clock strike infinity*    Where is the happy medium in hip hop’s evolution?

At home.

More specifically, in Phonte’s latest release, “Charity Starts at Home.”  I’m sure you’ve read a million reviews of this album.  I doubt I can praise it any more eloquently than his blogging fans already have.  But as a 30-something B-man or B-woman, I can’t stress how much you need a LEGALLY procured copy of this joint in your collection.  This is the CD that our parents wish they could have had, to help them understand hip hop.   There’s an “I’m grown, and I still don’t have all the answers” quality about it, that appeals to everything I’m currently experiencing as a 30-something.  CSAH is unique because it doesn’t try to be old school, create new converts, or convince the whipper snappers this is what they invented.   It simply is, in a way that transcends any “school.”  Phonte gave us art, stripped of bravado.  In fact, it is stripped of everything but expression.  It speaks the artist’s thoughts in with raw, flawless honesty.

And it makes me remember why I still love H.I.M.