Archive | February, 2010

Getting Your Kid into College

28 Feb

It’s that time, a time I knew would one day come but I guess I never quite believed it because BAM! It’s here and damn its got me on edge. My son affectionately referred to as elder boy in this blog is a high school senior and we are now in the midst of that madness known as waiting to find out where he will be going to college. Elder boy did not do early admissions, instead he sent his applications off on the regular deadline which means that unlike most of his buddies who already know where they will be presumably cooling their heels for the next 4 years we are in a holding pattern. We are in that nerve-wracking place where we must wait until late March or April to know where elder boy will be going or not going.

I am going to be honest and say this whole process is crazy and scary all wrapped into one. I have spent the last several months checking out all the websites and info of all the schools he wants to attend. Generally the information I am most interested in is how much is this shit going to cost? I know…I sound like an ass, but have you priced out your average liberal arts school that happens to be private or a state school when you aren’t a resident of that state? The University Of Vermont as an example is roughly $39,000 a year if you are not a resident, this little school also happens to be one that elder boy applied to and outside of one other school on his list, its cheapest one he applied to.

Now I don’t have many friends who have put kids through college yet, in fact I only 2 whose kids have recently competed college. I now understand why my one girlfriend worked 2 jobs while her boy was in college and this is a woman who is college educated herself with a good position. I didn’t get it, I now do…college costs are through the roof! My other friend who lives here in Maine commuted daily to her high paying job in Boston to pay the tuition on her two sons who at 2 years apart were in college at the same time. She promptly retired last year when the youngest graduated.

See, all my buddies with younger kids always say things like well little Tommy will either go to state U or he can work to put himself through school. In my state, state U is still damn near 20g’s with room and board and in a state the size of Maine there is no guarantee you will live near State U so you probably are going to need room and board. Yeah, we have campuses throughout the state but not every campus offers every program. By the way what 18-19 yo kid is getting a job that pays well enough to pay a substantial dent on the tuition? On top of going to school and presumably having a life at the same time?

No…college costs are crazy. Gone are the days for the most part where an academically stellar kid could expect substantial scholarships and Mom and Dad didn’t have to pay much. I know because lately I have been seeking out folks with college aged kids and everyone is dealing with the same sticker shock I am dealing with…my best friend recently told me how his coworker assumed that since their kid who was a straight A, plenty of extracurriculars and #2 in their graduating class, they wouldn’t be paying much. No darling, unless lil Tommy is a star athlete your chances of a free ride are pretty much gone. Yeah Tommy might get a decent chunk knocked off the bill but lets face it if you still have to pay $15-20G’s yearly for 4 years, could you afford it? Right now the only reason I might be able to afford it is that since elder boy’s Dad & I are divorced we will be splitting the costs, so hopefully that will mean something like 7-10G’s apiece.

Don’t even get me started on how costly it is just to apply to college, yeah some schools offer application waivers but if you are a middle class family at least on paper they may not be available for you. Now I have had folks suggest community college to me. I am not opposed to community college at all, I did a few semesters at one before transferring to a 4 year school and graduating but you still have to be careful. My brother went that route and in the end it still ended up costing him more money and time since not everything transferred over. There is also the fact that some kids may be cool with community college and some are not.

For my son, as a child of divorce who is academically curious about the world he wants the college experience since for the first time he can live in a place without feeling like he is being pulled by either of us (not that we have done that but he is always concerned about our feelings). He is ready to have those first steps towards independence and lets face it going to community college but living in his own pad is definitely easier said than done. It may be cheap but I have been young and I know asking him to pay rent, utilities, etc and go to school at the same time is a recipe for becoming one of the millions on Americans who start college but never finish.

At the end of the day, I think lawmakers and whoever else needs to address the fact that college has gone beyond the grasps of many…the rate at which many have saved to pay for their kids college education is not aligned in any way with the actual costs of college. More and more schools are using adjuncts who get paid jack, I know because I have been there and its a thankless job yet how many so-called middle class families can really afford to send a couple of kids to a 4 years school?

Shit, I am thinking we may need a whole overhaul in how we tie education to the world of work, after all why go to college to walk out with a debt load of 30-50G’s only to end up in a job that pays shit with few benefits. I mean the traditional ways in which a young person could expect to get a decent job and work their way up for a number of years has pretty much gone the way of the tv repairman. Instead in this brave new world, if you stay 2-3 years at a job that is a long time as employers look to maintain profits by cutting positions but that’s a whole other blog post.

So are you prepared to pay for college if your kids choose that path? I would love to hear from anyone with college aged kids and find out how you have dealt with this issue.

Giving thanks

25 Feb

Last night it was a raw rainy night up here in my corner of the world. The kind of night that begs you to look at the simple blessings it’s so easy to take for granted. Things like shelter, heat, a warm cozy bed and someone to snuggle with in that warm cozy bed. How many of us don’t even see those things as blessings? Yet for too many people in this world, they don’t have access to  the essentials of life yet in a country like the US, its easy to get mad and feel sad because we don’t have XY and Z. Nevermind that those extras are not necessary, like small kids we want what we want when we want it!

So on this wet chilly Thursday, I invite you to share what you are feeling thankful about today. Right at this moment, I am thankful that today looks like a day I can work from home as we are expecting high winds on the coast and the rain is planning to stay all day. So not having to leave the house is definitely a plus on a day like today. I am thankful that my back pain is not as bad as it has been and thankful I have an upcoming appointment with an osteopathic physician who does manipulation. Very thankful for a fridge full of food, I am thinking some sautéed veggies and brown rice is in our future today.

 What is it that is  making you feel happy and blessed?

No po folks in space

22 Feb

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I am giving up most of my online time for Lent. No, can’t give it all up since my paying gig sometimes requires that I go online but after monitoring my online time for a few weeks, I decided I needed to get a life. So since the timer is running out on my time this morning, bear with me since I want to get this post done before I shut down the computer until evening time.

So yesterday I was reading the NY Times on-line as I do most mornings and stumbled across this piece. It seems in America we have a new underclass forming, those people formerly known as the middle class. Up until the great recession, there were millions of Americans who thought they had a slice of the American pie…a home or at least a nice apartment, car, a little cash to dine out and shop at the Big Box Stores and chain restaurants and occasionally they could take a vacation. Life looked good, so good that many of em didn’t save nearly enough cash and then bam! Shit happened, jobs were lost and now it looks like there are simply not enough jobs for everyone looking for a job. Turns out if you are undereducated, with no special skills and older than a certain age you chances of getting a job higher than greeter at the local Wally World increases drastically.

These same folks are learning that we now live in a country with no safety net aside from food stamps. Yep, you can get some food but um…its sorta hard to cook it if you are living under a bridge but fuck it! Those are just details, hey I got a home, you got one…hey it sucks to be those people. Now obviously that is not how I feel since if you are a regular reader, you probably realize that I feel deeply for those who struggle with basic needs. Part of it is my wiring and the other part comes from growing up working class.

I don’t have any answers other than thinking someone needs to do something to help folks since the truth is most of us are a stone’s throw away from being on the other side.

So after reading yesterday’s story about folks facing long-term unemployment; today’s piece in the NY Times about space exploration made me think maybe my father,a long-term Star Trek fan is not nearly as nutty as I sometimes think he is…

With the US getting ready to shut down our space exploration program, the stage is rapidly opening for folks to start taking their next vacation to space. That’s right, for enough dollars and believe me you will need a lot of em, you too can journey to that final frontier aboard Virgin Galactic. Hell Virgin Galactic has already collected 44 million dollars in deposits from 326 people dying to make this trip. Folks are starving, need is great and some folks have so much money they can pay in advance to take a trip to space…damn, that says a lot about the state of humankind.

I am not one of these conspiracy theory types but I swear for a few minutes my Dad’s theory that now that  folks have raped Mother Earth, that the real powers to be are getting ready to get the fuck off planet earth. I admit it sounds nuttier than Aunt Gladys’ holiday fruitcake but let’s be real…the world as we know it is going and getting ready to go through some hard times. Most countries really don’t have any cash, hellooooo Greece. Shit, I just heard a report today on NPR that if America doesn’t start working on our deficit there may be a day when we too are looking a lot Greece. Who will bail us out?

So what if the motherfuckers with the real money and power decide its time to get the fuck out of dodge, um…there won’t be no po folks in space. Instead we will all be left to figure it out. So yeah, its crazy but for a brief moment it made sense and I just wanted to share. Happy Monday!

That will teach them!

19 Feb

So yesterday when I heard about the plane crash in Texas, I was like uh oh…is it terrorists? Well I guess the answer to that depends on who you are; it seems one fella by the name of Joseph Stack was just a tad pissed at the IRS and he was good and fed up with the government interfering with his personal liberty. So the next step was to take his plane (yeah, his plane!) and fly that bitch right into the local IRS headquarters.

I admit as someone who owes the IRS some cash and has been dealing with them for a few years, there is a part of me that can understand how it is to deal with the IRS. I mean the interest rates and penalties the IRS charges makes Vinny the Loan Shark look damn good but never have I thought “Gee, I’m gonna go fuck up the IRS”. Instead I think damn, I need more money to get these bitches off my back.

Now I don’t know all of Stack’s situation but I do know how the IRS works when you owe them money and I have heard a few figures being bandied around that Stacks owed and really I don’t get it. My experience with the IRS has been pretty decent, aside from the time that snatched every dollar in my bank account some years ago, though after talking to them and agreeing to a mutually agreeable plan, they gave me my money back. See, I explained real nice I needed that money to eat, pay bills and put gas in the car otherwise they probably wouldn’t get any of their cash if my ass was starving and homeless. Even the man understands reason.

No, people who fear the IRS tend to have issues, as I know others with IRS issues, generally folks like the Spousal Unit who are self-employed and fucked up for a year or so but most of the time they work with you. My guess is Mr. Stacks was a man who didn’t want to work with them. Since in my mind if you own a plane and you owe the IRS maybe its time to get rid of that plane, fly Southwest and pay your fucking tax bill. I admit I am speculating as this case is unfolding but apparently a family member stated that Stacks lost his retirement and savings to the IRS…well if you ignore them and you have the means to pay, they tend to frown upon that shit. See, I don’t have anything special aside from the house I live in and the one family car so really if the IRS ever decided to come get me, I don’t have much to get. This guy on the other hand sounds like he wanted to live the good life and tell the IRS to take a leap…the g-men definitely don’t like that shit. They will work with you but play em like a cheap trick and the IRS will come down on your ass and it won’t be pretty but you will know they are coming.

So knowing what I know about owing the IRS money, I say Stacks is a fucking terrorist… a homegrown terrorist, after all he knew what he was doing. Hellooooo, he left a long as note letting folks know what and why he did what he did but then to make matters worse he decided to burn his house down too. Damn, considering he had a wife that was just cold-blooded.

Yet despite all the talk, it seems folks are happy to say he was just a lone nut job sort of like the good professor in AL who decided to use her colleagues as target practice. She was nutty, no, Stacks had a grudge towards the US government and flew a plane into one of its buildings. I don’t know but the last time some shitheads flew planes into our buildings we called em terrorists. Of course the difference this time is the pilot of destruction is a white American instead of a person of color with a hard to pronounce name.

Anyway I say he was a terrorist…that’s my truth and I am sticking to it. Have a great weekend!

Do you see?

17 Feb

I recently took a trip to a place with a person to make a purchase, the person I was making this trip with is someone who is a successful Ivy League grad, a person of means and power and a person who generally I find pretty pleasant to be around. Except that on the day we went to big box hell to make a purchase I saw another side of this person, it was impatient and frankly rude. See, the clerk at the big box store was doing his job being friendly with the folks ahead of us and apparently telling them about some promotion that the Big Box Extravaganza had going on. Well the folks ahead of us in line seemed interested in this promotion which meant that the line was not moving as fast as it could have, resulting a long wait in line.

Now my shopping companion found the fact that this Big  Box clerk would have the audacity to hold up the line doing his job unreasonable, so my companion went to the service stand and told the managerial person that the line was being held up. So the manager comes over and tells Big Box Clerk he needs to wrap it up…in the end we made it out the store with our purchase and went about our business.

However that incident bugged the shit out of me because my shopping mate was in no rush, I knew his schedule and knew he had no pressing plans for that day. Yet he just could not stand to wait…now I will admit I am not a patient person, but I have worked my share of shit ass jobs as an adult with a kid to take care of and always feel a strong sense of compassion for anyone over a certain age working at certain jobs. Our clerk that particular day at Big Box Hell was no younger than 35 and I think I am being generous. He was old enough that such a job was probably not his first choice in life but you do what you have to do. Frankly as someone who spent time in sales many years ago, I thought he had a great spiel and lovely attitude and suspect the reason he was trying so hard was that an incentive of some sort was probably being offered to the clerks if he sold enough of these specials…and lets face it if you are working at Big Box Extravaganza you probably need all the extra bucks you can get, so who am I to get in the way?

Anyway I walked away that day with a reminder that too many times we don’t see people, we simply do not see people who we perceive as different from us. Do you have a favorite place you stop to pick up a coffee, donut, newspaper? You know, the place you go to most days. If so do you actually speak to the folks who work there? Do you feel they are your equals? Or are they the wallpaper to your life, the little people who keep things going, but basically just background noise. In other words if they were suddenly gone and replaced by another person would you care? Hell, would you even notice?

I am reminded that even with those seemingly little people in our lives we have the power to touch lives in what may appear to be small insignificant exchanges yet are so much deeper than that. You never know how much your daily act of kindness and compassion may mean to another person. I learned this lesson when my Mother died, a couple of days before the memorial service I had to take my Dad’s suit to the dry cleaners. I went in and the owner recognized me since my Mom had introduced us not long after she and my dad and had moved into their dream place.

So I go in and the fella says aren’t you M’s daughter? I say yes and he proceeds to ask how is your Mama, I have not seen her in a while. So I explain that she has passed away and I need to get my Dad’s suit cleaned and back ASAP. I was expecting a simple exchange after all this was the dry cleaners, how well could my Mom have known the dry cleaners? Well I should have known that my Mom as always made it a point to impact every one she encountered, she was blessed with extreme physical beauty but more than her physical beauty which turned heads up until her death, she had a generous and giving personality. In my Mom’s life everyone was treated well and she was not a respecter of positions, rank  or any of that bullshit. My mom would stop and talk with a homeless person as easily as she could talk with the CEO of a major corporation. So it would make sense that even a boring event like taking clothes to the cleaners would be an encounter where my Mom would leave an impact.

I was not ready for what happened, the owner of the dry cleaners after realizing that I was quite serious and that my Mom had indeed passed away, started to cry and then hugged me. This man who my Mom saw at best 15-20 mins a week was clearly very touched and it was clear to me even then in my grief that she touched so many lives because she saw everyone. That incident is one of many after my Mom’s passing that has stayed with me not just because it involved my Mom, but because it’s a reminder if the type of life I strive to where everyone is seen and valued.

There are too many times we talk about the little people and even in our quest to help them by ways of activism or what have you, we simply miss the mark. Instead while I am blessed to have professional work that indeed impacts lives, the greatest impact I feel is just being a kind and decent person. I doubt I will ever fill my Mom’s shoes since my natural nature is not all that friendly but I will say in the last 7 years ever since I had a conversation with my Mom about a year before her passing. I have actively worked to see all and be a nicer person.

So dear reader, do you see everyone? Or do you only see the people in your world?

Common sense no more

15 Feb

If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed that lately my posting is not as regular as it used to be…this is intentional. Life is hectic and crazy and while it’s also the norm in my life, one of my goals this year is to spend less time on-line. I suppose I will always blog, especially since my writing both on this blog and the column I write locally have garnered some good attention. That said, while the connections I have made on-line in the last decade have been a lifeline especially in my early days in Maine, I am reminded lately that I prefer real time connections.

I am a strange introvert-extrovert combination. I like my alone time, hell I need it but I also need human connections. Lately I have found myself thinking there are limits to online communication. Technology is a good thing but as one of my best friends expressed to me, sometimes there is just too much. In fact the older I get, I see all this connection as taking away from one thing that value dearly…common sense.

Recently I have become disgusted with all the petty bickering I see as a result of “friends” not being able to share opposing views on sites such as Facebook. Join a group and everyone’s got an opinion about it, share an article and suddenly if you don’t think like everyone else you are an unenlightened boob. At the same time I cannot help thinking if folks were actually sitting down face to face sharing their views would folks be so quick to get their panties in a bunch? I have a good friend who is a very Republican Republican, clearly we don’t always see eye to eye but for most of our relationship we have been able to overcome our differences in part because we talk about them. Yet in these rushed times where many relationships are sustained electronically as we become to busy to get together, we instead choose to discuss things in forums that often times put limits on how much we can say…160 characters anyone?

Such forums do not allow us to plumb the deeper meanings so it becomes a lot easier to say so and so just does not get it. Sorry, but it’s just too much for me. That said, I recognize these technologies are here to stay so I adjust myself accordingly but lately feel the need to take breaks on an as needed basis to maintain my sanity.

While I am pondering the lack of common sense, let me bring up another issue. What the hell is up with all this text messaging? Now we must have laws to remind people that when driving a car, maybe its a bad idea to do anything other than drive the fucking car! Helloooo! Common sense 101! Of course you ought to drive a car when you are behind the bill, what else should you be doing? For many folks as our cellular phones have become equipped with so many gadgets that we just cannot pull ourselves away, after all heave forbid we will miss so and so’s lately status update, we must check that email and cars and pedestrians be damned.

Recently my Pops shared with me that he felt more and more folks back in my hometown of Chicago walk down the street like zombies, no one can make eye contact because they are too busy texting. He shared with me that even coffeehouses and Starbucks places that used to brim with conversation are too often quiet as everyone sips their beverage and tends to their addiction of choice…iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, etc. I admit at first when my Pops shared this with me that maybe he was off base after all he is a real old guy. Well one of my bestest and dearest buddies who still lives in Chicago called this weekend and when I brought up what my Dad had shared with me, he agreed completely with my Pop’s assessment that they are all zombies. In fact B shared with me how just that day, a guy was so busy texting while walking down the street that he almost ran directly into B. B is a 6’2 225 lb Black man and generally speaking not someone you just run into…he said this sort of thing is now almost a daily occurence for him when walking down the street.

I don’t know about you, but the idea that someone could become so engrossed in their text or gadget in one of the largest cities in the US (3rd largest) that they would not pay attention to their surroundings is a tad scary. Hell, once one of uncles was drunk riding the el train and dozed off only to wake up and find he no longer had a wallet since his front pockets had been slashed. Yeah, he was drunk but as you can see not paying attention in a big city is just a bad idea…pickpockets must be heaven with folks so unaware.

Look, I like social media as much as anyone but you can best believe that there is a time and place for it. Call me old-fashioned but walking down the street is probably not the best time to send a message. I mean really how many of us have that much going on that a message can not wait?

I ended my conversation with B stating at times I swear we are starting to experience the decline of common sense to which he agreed. So I share that same sentiment with you as well…one day we will share quaint stories with the grandkids about this thing called common sense and how it kept us safe, and it will be oh so quaint. Of course we could step back and see what changes we can make now and maybe we can preserve it.

Have a great week!

Black Folks and Black History

10 Feb

It’s Black History Month as we all know, generally I take a pass on talking much about it in this space since in my daily life it comes up quite a bit especially living in Maine. A few years ago I was involved with planning activities for Black History Month with a friend who put together events for her local town. It was then that it started to dawn on me that there was an issue that very few Black folks ever discuss that I feel needs to be discussed because if we did it would make a huge difference in how we approach the issue of Black History.

In my last post, I talked about NBC’s approach to Black History which took the form of serving a meal that for some bordered on offensive and for others inspired a lot of what’s the big deal. Well after further research it seems the woman behind this is one chef by the name of Leslie Calhoun who happens to be Black. It seems that Ms. Calhoun had asked to do this for some time and had gotten approval and thought it was a nice way to celebrate the month. For Ms Calhoun she had no idea that her “Black” meal would create such a stir and the interview I saw with her she appeared down right bothered that her seemingly nice act was received in such a negative light.

In my last post, several folks brought up the fact and I agree that why is the approach to celebrating diversity always done in such a surface manner- generally rolling out foods and costumes to celebrate a culture. Of course within the context of Black History in America it gets even more complicated since not everyone who is considered a Black American shares a similar background. After all one can be Black and American yet not have any direct ancestry based in the South thus foods like greens and chicken would not be historically a part of that person’s culture. After all fried chicken, greens, etc are not a Black meal, they are a regional meal…plenty of white folks in the South eat this food. It’s just that some how it got a reputation for being Black/soul food.

However there is another issue that rarely gets addressed and that is the issue of class and race. Part of it is that Americans like to see themselves as classless with the idea that anyone can move up the ladder, after all America offers great opportunity to all. That may be true but there is still a class system in place and it’s in place for Black Americans as well. It’s something very few Black folks ever like to discuss but just like any other group we are very much shaped by our class of origin as well as the class that we may move into. I suspect class played a large part in the reactions to the fried chicken incident. I don’t know Chef Calhoun but having seen the video of her interview, I am going to make an assumption (yeah, I know what they say about assumptions) but Calhoun appears to be a member of the working class and this is not meant to disrespect her in any way since as a child of the working class I still strongly identify with the working class. For Calhoun she was not looking at the larger issues, she simply wanted to do something nice, in her mind the meal she chose to serve represents the scope of her experiences and they are valid. The larger issue became that the chicken meal cannot and does not represent the whole of Black America. After all there are many Black Americans with a wide array of experiences and we don’t all eat the same foods no more than any other group.

Yet because class issues are rarely discussed as it relates to Black folks it seems we are constantly setting ourselves us for these types of misunderstandings. I know because once upon a time I used to think that all Black folks shared a similar background, one generally rooted in ties to the south. It was not until I moved to the east coast and became acquainted with Black folks who had no ties to the south either personally or secondhand that I had to stop making assumptions and I have been a lot happier since then. Since I no longer walk around assuming we have a shared background.

So if anything, for Black History Month I think we should all take a step back to see the wide range of diversity that exists within the Black experience and be respectful of them all. There is no one way to be Black, in fact we do ourselves a disservice when we look for us all to be the same especially within the Black community. Some of us our guilty of the same myopia that affects other races when they look at Blacks and it must stop. Anyway that’s my thoughts on Black History this month.

Thoughts on Fried Chicken

6 Feb

It’s Saturday morning and I should probably be doing something other than sitting on my computer, so this will be a quick post. In case you missed it, NBC studios according to many this week dropped the ball. See, it’s Black History Month and the NBC cafeteria decided in honor of Back History Month to offer a special meal that is eaten by Black Americans. So they chose a meal that included fried chicken and collard greens and well shit hit the fan.

Turns out quite a few of my brothas and sistas felt that such a meal choice was demeaning and playing into bad stereotypes. I consider myself an enlightened Black woman, but I have to be honest, its fucking fried chicken and greens. There are a great deal of Black Americans especially those with southern roots who eat fried chicken and greens, hell plenty of folks period who love this type of meal especially if they hail from the South. If anything I am mad about the fact that things like collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese and fried chicken are often shown as Black things when in fact they are more what I consider southern.

As far as charges of racism, there is plenty of racism that is upfront and in our faces and I am sorry but getting pissy over a food choice is just silly and takes away from the real racism out there. It really is not unusual to celebrate an ethnic or racial group by eating meals related to the culture…hell, I am going to a Chinese New Year’s Party and everyone has been asked to bring an Asian dish. I have gone to Cinco De Mayo celebrations and eaten Mexican food.

I hardly think it’s insulting to want to celebrate Black History Month by serving dishes common to Black folks…the reality is that while fried chicken may be seen as an insult, fact is its one of the few items along with collard greens that is universal among Black folks. No, we don’t all cook em the same. I have friends who cook ole skool style with fatback, lard and a grease extravaganza , I know folks who oven bake their chicken and cook their greens to keep em crunchy, green and healthy.

So in choosing such a dish while it may have a mixed history historically the fact is it is a universally eaten food more so than creole dishes you might find down in Louisiana. Or say the Caribbean based dishes that are common place among Blacks in New York and parts of the East Coast.

So I say if you don’t like fried chicken and greens that’s cool but let’s not act like it’s an offensive dish. No, an offensive dish would have been a plate of chitterlings, and pigs feet…something that that very few Blacks still eat in part because the art of preparing them has been lost. But let’s be honest there is nothing healthy about such items and really they do represent the scraps our slave ancestors were given and were able to thrive on and beat the odds. Yet at the end of the day, I know of very few Black folks who would eat these items in any fashion, so yeah a plate of chitterlings would definitely be seen as offensive- never mind they are rather offensive smelling.

No, leave the chicken alone and pass me the hot sauce.

18 years old

3 Feb

This is the kind of post that when it first popped into my mind, I thought it too personal to write but I think it needs to be shared. If only because as a Black woman raising kids, I hope another sista can find encouragement. 18 years ago today I gave birth to my son, its been a long crazy trip and that is a understatement.

I was barely 19 when I gave birth to him which meant I was 18 when I learned I was pregnant. I was a married high school dropout having decided when I turned 18 that school sucked and that since I was an adult I was free to make my life choices. To say my parents were mad was a understatment but they understood they could not force me to go back to school, instead saying if I chose to live under their roof I needed to at least work since I refused to back to school. Well I agreed to that and for those first few months of being an adult, it felt good to work, well long story short I fell in love, we ran off and got married and just as the dust settled I discovered I was pregnant.

Um….having a kid was not part of my adult fantasy but as anyone who has been an adult any length of time knows, life happens. When I first got pregnant, I didn’t even have health insurance instead having to go to a free clinic on the south side of Chicago where I will never forget how the staff treated ame as if I was just another statistic. Young uneducated Black girl, most likely looking at a lifetime of poverty and a flock of babies presumably by many men. After all even though I was married, surely such a union would not last.

It was those experiences that on some level I am sure made an impression and led me to the work I later chose but that is another story. I remember the day that I gave birth, I was overdue and anxious to give birth though scared as hell…after all I didn’t know jack about babies. Obviously I learned about them quick fast and in a hurry since my folks had made it clear that even then it did not look like my fledgling marriage was going to survive but that they had no desire to be raising babies. So going home was never an option. Regular readers and folks who have known me in real life in later years are aware that my son has lived with his Papa for a while but in the early days it was him and I. Even with his Dad, I have always been around so never have I not been in his life and mothering is a job that can still be hands on even if you are not in the same physical space.

Today though I reflect on the past 18 years as my son officially enters what we call adulthood in this society and think about how in many ways we have gone against the odds. He just submitted his last college application and at the last moment decided to audition for several prestigious drama programs, we don’t yet know where he will be in the fall but I do know where he won’t be. Locked up. See, the odds say that based off where I started this journey my son who while technically biracial is considered Black in the eyes of many should not be on the journey he is on.

Recently my son shared a sad tale about one of his boys, a kid he met a couple of years ago when he moved out to the Midwest who got caught up in some bullshit. This boy was one of the first friends my son made, a good kid who life dealt  a rough hand and now he sits in a cell. My son as he shared this story was visibly shaken wondering how a kid could end up in such a place. As I reminded my son, it’s all too easy it seems for Black boys to end up that way which is why his father and I have always been hyper vigilant in raising him. Hell, just a couple years ago here in Maine my boy had his first run in with the police coming home from the local sandwich shop. Cops stopped  him and thought he fit the description of a suspect who turned out to not look a damn thing like my boy starting with the fact the suspect was white and my son is not. It was a scary few moments but after the cops brought him home and talked to the Spousal Unit, it was cleared up. Of course not before my son had to endure his first and I pray only ride in the back of the cop cruiser. We have often talked about how when you are a young Black man even a simple walk to get a cheese steak sandwich can take a wrong turn.

No, in this society raising a young Black man who can reach 18 and have his head on straight and direction in his life is not something gets nearly enough attention. Instead we hear about the cats who do bad or we think Drake and Lil Wayne are examples of young Black manhood. I know there are plenty of boys like my son at 18 but we just don’t hear enough about them. Young men raised in a variety of ways who don’t end up in jail cells or as rappers which seems to be the most common media perceptions of young Black men.

I am reminded that just because we start this race in last place though does not mean we will continue the race in last place. In some ways I am still the same girl I was 18 years ago today but in many ways I am not. I have grown, my son’s birth and presence in my life was the initial flame that made me reach for more. I had to choose did I want our lives to be the  prophecy many thought it would become? Of course not.  On the other hand I also know we did not get to this place alone, despite the ups and downs of our relationship, I strongly believe the presence of his father in his life has been a key ingredient. My own father was the one who told me he needed his Dad and I do think its true. I know his father loves hom and while not always right has tried to do the best he can.

Anyway enough of the personal ramble, as a Mama I am in full weepy mode today but I know this is only the beginning of a new journey for my son. I look forward to what I am sure will be an evolving relationship filled with its own ups and downs for him and while as Mama I never want my babies to hurt, I know its part of life.  But for today we see joy and happiness.

Update on that Hur Situation

1 Feb

Since I have had a few folks who know me personally wondering if all is well after reading my last post on my hair. I figure I’d better post an update. Whatever had me thinking that hair straightening was a good idea has passed, I am just going to blame that line of thought on PMS and my perimenopausal state. See, I tell the Spousal Unit I get a smidge crazy during that time of the month and I am only half kidding.

No, I actually did some research and was horrified about the process. (good grief, creamy goo and high heat, shit that sounds like a recipe to have no hair left to worry about at all) That said, I am still undecided about my hair as someone pointed out it’s probably tied to the fact that hair is spiritual. Spiritually I am going through some stuff but I can’t reveal that at this time.

So for the moment I am doing nothing, I am pretty much thinking its time to get a haircut despite my wish for length since really when I only have a few inches on my head, life is easy. Or the other option, get some add a hair via kinky twists and go ahead and call it a day.

I do know whatever I do, it won’t involve large quantities of cash nor time. The last thing I need now is to add regular salon time to my already cramped schedule.

So while to some my hair woes may seem trivial, hey this is my spot and I ramble. Have a great week!