Saying Goodbye

My cousin died at the age of 25.  I hadn’t seen him in years.  He’d always had health problems, including battling leukemia as a kid, but he still managed to be a little hell raiser.  His last Facebook post was of him talking about enjoying the fact that he had two jobs, and was hoping his hard work would pay off.

Even when you’re not close to people – I was frankly just the older, distant cousin in Josh’s life – losing someone so young tears away at you.  A void hangs where his future stories would have been created.  Death is always painful for the living, but carrying the burden of a young death takes the light out of you.  My stepmom said Josh didn’t suffer, and I guess that should be of some comfort.  I just can’t help but be sad for my aunt, who can only be heartbroken behind losing your youngest son.  I’m also sad for the little kid who seemed to always be in for the fight of his life. So little cuz, I wish you the peace this world couldn’t seem to offer you.  Rest in Paradise.

If I Never Had Another Friend

If you know me, you know that family is important to me.  I’ve said countless times that friends often become family to me.  That’s not me just whistling Dixie.  The reason behind that is because my family is so damned good.

I gush over my siblings and my parents (blood and step), because they are amazing people.  And what’s awesome about my family is that they aren’t cliquish and clannish.  If one of us mistreated a friend, the other would not hesitate to call them out.  We don’t roll in exclusivity.  If you’re at my house, you’re going to laugh, be well fed and be hugged and snuggled within an inch of your life.

When my mother passed away, there were so many of my friends who cried as though they had lost their own mother.  She was THAT person who was always listening, counseling and hugging.  She passed that on to all of us.  The importance of embracing your family, and realizing that family extends beyond blood.

When one of us has a new baby, we all have a new baby.  It’s such an exciting event. Even more awesome is how my brother and sisters have managed to marry people who add to the circle, rather than being “another branch” of the family.  Their in laws are my in laws.  Having a great family is what made me a greater friend.  This unit I’ve been blessed with is what makes me able to deal with anything that comes my way.  If I were to lose everything today or tomorrow, I know I’d have them.  Just taking a moment to gush.

 

It’s Not Funny Anymore

It’s become something of a running joke… the differences in how cases in which whites go missing are handled by law enforcers and the media, versus similar cases in which blacks (and other minority groups) are the victims.

Tambay – Shadow and Act/indiewire.com

Next Wednesday “Find Our Missing” will debut on TV One.  S. Epatha Merkerson will host the show, meant to shed light on missing African Americans.  The linked article quotes TV One President and CEO, Wonya Lucas who says, “Nearly one-third of the missing in this country are black Americans, while we make up only 12 percent of the population. Yet stories about missing people of color are rarely told in the national media.”  I posted this article on Facebook, my dear friend Monica had this to say:

Yep. But it should also be an eye-opener. Remember that case where the little Dominican girl in NYC survived a kidnapping after she escaped through a window in the house where she was being held? On some level, our children know no one is going to rescue them.

But what happens when our kids are too overcome by fear, stubbornness, or too troubled to protect and rescue themselves?  When that happens, you get Jakadrien Turner, the fifteen year-old Dallas, Texas resident, who was wrongfully deported to Colombia.  Each time I attempted to gain an answer in Jakadrien’s story, I unearthed another question.

Following her parents’ divorce and the death of her grandfather, she ran away from Dallas in November 2010.  In April 2011, she was arrested for shoplifting in Houston, and gave a false name, belonging to a 21 year old Colombian woman who was supposedly in the country illegally.  She was then held for 52 days and by May 2011, despite speaking no Spanish, she was deported to Colombia.

Jakadrien acted against her own interests.  She dogmatically stuck to her story, fooling  the criminal court judge, the immigration magistrate, and whoever else she was in close contact with in the 52 days prior to her deportation.  I find it hard to believe that no one who spoke to her could determine that she was neither Colombian, nor 21.

So far officials have hidden behind the excuse of this minor, “slipping through the cracks.”  Would she have slipped through these cracks were she not a person of color?  In plain English, would a 14 year-old white girl who only spoke English, regardless of how troubled, have been deported to a foreign country without concrete evidence?  A nagging question I have is the word choice in all of the articles I’ve read, which say she was “given Colombian citizenship.”  Was she just randomly shipped to Colombia.

One, it shows me how on the whole, this country does not see our children as children.  I look at her pictures, and see the face of a baby – a pregnant baby.  Not a 21 year old woman.  It also shows how a missing 14 year old girl barely registers in a major city a mere four hours away.  She was reported missing.  In almost two months, no one recognized her?  No one thought there could have been more to her story? No one picked up on the fact that she was clearly troubled?

Certainly the federal government has more resources at hand than Jakadrien’s grandmother, Lorene Turner, who was able to find her on Facebook.  And once she was found, the Colombian government was hesitant to send her back, and held her in a detention facility for a month. Tell me with a straight face that a pregnant, 15 year old white girl who had been wrongfully deported to Colombia, would have been forced to wait a month before being reunited with her family.  The country would have been in an uproar.  How do I know?

In 1994, 18 year old Michael Fay lived in Singapore with his parents.  He was arrested for theft and vandalism.  These were crimes that he committed.  In Singapore, they don’t have a whole lot of time for your crap, and their punishments are quite brutal.  He was found guilty and sentenced to six strokes of the cane.  I ain’t talking Kappas.  Basically, you strip naked and a very strong dude beats the snot out of you with a huge bamboo cane.  I knew more than I cared to know about Singaporean caning practices, because it was in the news every night.  The country was in an absolute uproar over this guilty teen, who was legally an adult.  The outcry was so great that Singapore reduced the cane strokes from six to four.  For a guilty man.

Meanwhile, a pregnant 15 year old black girl, wrongfully deported, sat in a Colombian detention facility for a month.  Just because, and with barely a whisper.

This story offers more questions and answers, for one simple reason:  No one wants to go on record as saying, “We didn’t care enough to look.”  Whenever a person hides behind “slipping between the cracks” and  due diligence jargon, it means they’ve done the bare minimum.  When it comes to our children, we have to take it upon ourselves to advocate and create the village where our children can be safe and looked after.  I brim with hope when I see people are beginning to use social media to spearhead this effort. We may never have the ear of mainstream media.  I believe that if we work hard enough with the goal of our children’s safety in mind, mainstream media may not be necessary (but will probably get on the bandwagon should it become profitable).  No matter what, it’s time to take the legs out from underneath this running joke.

 

The Relationship

Mel 7

Mel 9

Mel 21

31

35

I’ve been overweight for the past 13 years. Of course my weight did the obligatory yo-yoing, but I haven’t been within a healthy weight range since the Clinton administration.  Literally.  I never had a real weight struggle, and I thought that with time, the weight would just melt off.  It didn’t. Gaining weight didn’t really have an impact on my family, social or dating life, so losing weight didn’t seem like an imperative to me.  I’m not diabetic.  My blood pressure is slightly below normal.  My knees are a little worse for wear, but that was going to happen at 35 anyway, right?

Except, this New Year’s Eve, I spent twice as long in the mall than I should have, and spent twice as much as a thinner woman might have.  And if that weren’t enough, my relationship with food is not normal.  I’m from the South, arguably from a food Mecca, so a good meal borders on artistic expression.  It’s how we show love and give comfort.  That’s not new to me.  I always enjoyed pastries and good meals.  Just now, it seems to be more of a compulsion.

I want to go back. My relationship with food has to change.  I’d like my relationship with food to NOT be dramatically referred to as “my relationship with food.”  I think the way we gain weight is a disorder, but the obsession that this country has with losing weight is equally dysfunctional.  Because it has so little to do with the actual losing of weight, and EVERYTHING to do with how the people surrounding you perceive you and how you perceive yourself.

If you look at daytime television, particularly channels geared toward women, it’s commercial after commercial for diets, “lifestyle changes,” diet products and anything else you can think of, and it’s slightly overkill.  How do we find a happy medium, where food does not have to be the difference between victory or defeat?  Have we gone so far, that we can’t just see how normal it is to enjoy a good meal, then stop after we have enjoyed a normal sized portion?

Year after year, I’ve come up with a plan of attack on my weight, and year after year, I’ve watched myself get larger and larger.  I talk myself right into failure sometimes.  “Well, I want to be smaller, but not AS small as I was.”  It leads to me not pushing myself, and falling deeper into this dysfunctional relationship I have with my dinner plate.

So I’m trying a new strategy, where I begin to incorporate meals as normal parts of my day, rather than the parts of my day that I live for, then regret 20 minutes later.  I’m also exploring what activities I should take up that I can enjoy without relying on the gym. When I was younger, though I did spend time at the gym, I also had a lot of activities that didn’t involve going to the gym at all.  Simply put, I want my life back. And I’m gonna get it too.

Cult of Personality

“And during the few moments that we have left, we want to talk, right down to
earth, in a language that everybody here can easily understand.”

– Malcolm X (sampled in Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”)

I’m just a woman.  With a couple of kids, a job that pays the bills, a Hyundai with butterfly doors and a keyboard.  And I want to be heard.  I want to speak plainly, directly, and be understood.  Judging by the hundreds of millions of people who divide their time between Twitter and Facebook, I’m not alone.

My desire to be heard is the reason I established my small presence on social media.  What I enjoy most about it is the fact that I’m seriously an every day girl who has bits of awesome.  It makes me think that the woman next to me on the train or the dude hooking up my latte might have a hidden awesome story of their own.  Stay online long enough, and people assign certain characteristics to your “persona.”  Or sometimes, we assign those characteristics to ourselves.

For the most part, people see me as a nerdy/funny girl/ranting maniac.  I’m also very open about my stance and experiences with domestic violence, life as an expatriated New Orleanian, and struggles as a mother, who is also single and black.  Being frank, but (hopefully) friendly is my calling card.  I try not to treat subjects as taboo, but rather, get them out in the open.

When you’ve been around enough, certain things become running jokes (like me with “your dad,” and one of my very young friends being credited with creating the universe).  Other times, people just sort of assign labels to you, which can at times be annoying and counter-productive if you’re attempting to establish discourse.  Frankly, it’s just all part of the “cult.”  Because for the most part, not even half of these people know you – a large percentage of the other half only KIND of know you.*

So when it comes to my personal relationships, I am fiercely private.  I respect my privacy as well as the other person’s.  I have three blood sisters who are on Twitter, and I don’t follow any of them.  We have discussed our reasons for that, and mutually respect one another’s wishes. Though I occasionally use my children’s real names, I’m far more likely to use nicknames.  While I may laugh at an innocuous funny or generic issue, I keep most challenges with them private.

That spills over into my dating life as well.  I’m very hesitant to discuss who I’m seeing.  It takes me a while to divulge whether I’m seeing anyone at all.  Even one of my best friends gives me the side eye when she doesn’t hear about a fella until after we’re kaput.  I’ve always been that way, if for no other reason than because it don’t have a damn thing to do with yall.  I don’t think that people would single me out and attempt to torpedo my relationship.  Quite frankly, I doubt THAT many people care about my romantic maneuvers one way or the other.  But I care, and I care enough to guard my relationships with people.

I’ve developed friendships and relationships with people that I have met through social networking sites.  When that happens, our friendship and interaction typically goes off grid.  If I see a person as a confidante, then I like to keep a certain level of confidence.  Not everyone will rock that way, and that’s understandable.  But as much as I enjoy being heard, how I connect with my folk is something I like to keep very quiet.

*Sure, there are people who get on Twitter or Facebook and give the cheat codes to their entire existence.  I’m not referring to them.

There are still firsts

Ignore the lumpy fro and look at the awesome background

I’ve lived life.  There are lots of big things I have yet to do, like skydiving and seeing Table Mountain; but as far as everyday, tangible things go, I’ve done a lot of them.  I sometimes forget that I still have a lot of everyday firsts left in me.

So last night, I participated in my first open mic.  I was nervous and my voice caught and I…may or may not have jumped around on stage to “Niggas in Paris,” (the ratchet burrows itself deep down into my 9th ward bones), but I did it.  And it was totally fun.  Despite at times feeling like I choked through it, it seemed the people in the place dug it, and that also made me happy.  I’m always conscious about how people will receive me.  I can only be me, but I also wonder if, when the pressure is on, I’ll be choppy or off putting.  And I managed to gulp down my nerves and make it through my (mercifully) short poem.  I liked the feel of the mic though, so I can’t say this will be my last time.  I guess we’ll see.

 

New Year, New ?

I’m optimistic.  I love beginnings, because at the beginning, everything is possible.  New days, new weeks, new months, new years.  I try to approach it with how I can be better.  Over the past year, I’ve realized that I was a little too kind to myself.  There’s always a reason floating in the ether for me to have deserve ten more minutes of sleep, a late night bowl of ice cream, a night to party, one more drink.  Self-indulgence is my achilles heel, and I’ve often joked about being a closet hedonist.

As great as 2011 was (and it WAS great), I became overwhelmed with this huge anxiety about what 2012 would bring.  More specifically, do I have the stuff it takes to bring my goals to fruition.  I look at the goals that I accomplished and wonder if I put in more work, could I have doubled that.  What is it about me that gets to a certain point and stops?  Fear?  Coasting on my abilities?  Laziness?

I’ve felt so angsty lately.  What if I’ve waited to late to fulfill these goals?  What if I screw everything up?  What if my kids feel neglected in my pursuit for…whatever I’m pursuing.  WHAT THE HELL AM I PURSUING??  I don’t know how I went from the land of “everything is possible” to utter doubt, but it bugs me more than anything.

Maybe with my tiny victories, I get to push myself to see what I’m really made of.  The thing is, I like myself.  I’m not unhappy with who I am.  I just know that to an extent, it isolates me from my family.  That’s still a hard pill for me to swallow.  What if I’m living my life all wrong?  I hate being afraid.  It’s the reason that I’m so impetuous.  I do things before my fear response gets to kick in.

If you don’t hesitate long enough to let the fear register, you don’t get the chance to be afraid.  It’s the reason I walked out of my marriage on the way out to work; the reason I booked my ticket to DC the moment the idea hit me; it’s the reason I blurt out I love you as soon as I feel it.  That extra second it takes could be the difference between altering my future and wondering what might have been.  Is that foolish of me?  Had I given myself the chance to (rightfully?) be afraid of pursuing a relationship with the ex husband, sure I could have avoided drama.  I also would have avoided bringing two of the most awesome kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing into the world.  If I hadn’t walked out that day, how much worse would things have gotten?  If I hadn’t gone to DC and put everything on the line, I wouldn’t be missing out on so many family events, but I also might still be struggling to get published.  As far as telling a person I loved them, well, there is nothing in this world that makes me feel freer, even if they don’t feel the same.

I just want to be a good person, and do the right things for my kids.  Maybe be the type of person that my family can look up to, and not see me struggling all the damn time.  Right now, my refrigerator is dying, I don’t have use of my car, and I just can’t seem to get anything right.  That has me feeling hella defeated.  I KNOW it’s gonna get better. I KNOW I’m just going through a bad spell, but you’ll be happy to know that I haven’t cried ONCE.  I’m just having a teeny tiny moment.

For those of you who I know are going to pop up with words of encouragement, be it through comments, IMs or tweets, thank you in advance.  I appreciate you more than you can possibly know.