Archive | July, 2010

5 years

29 Jul

My baby girl is turning 5 in a few short hours. I am not prone to sappy Mama type posts since on some level I don’t do sappy, more like sassy. But as I get ready to celebrate 5 years of this beautiful girl’s life I realized while I love her and wouldn’t trade her for anything, she has tested me as a human.  But not all tests are bad in fact in many cases they can help us grow.

When I was pregnant with her I dreamed that she’d be a child similar in temperament to college boy, in other words laid back. In my mind I saw us doing sweet activities together, sharing hugs and kisses on the couch, creating projects and so on. Well, that’s not the kid I got, rarely is there a drama free day without one of us raising our voice or breaking down in tears, she taxes me to my very core and pretty much all the parenting advice I have ran across when it comes to my girl makes for great toilet paper. She marches to her own beat and in learning to parent the child I have rather than the one I wanted I am more secure now as an adult marching to my own beat.

Happy Birthday kidlet! Thank you for choosing me as your mother to guide you on planet earth!

Got vice?

25 Jul

Lately when I am not bemoaning all the shit going down in my life or working hard to stay cool. I have noticed that it’s no longer acceptable to have bad habits or vices. One especially does not wish to let the world know they have any vices if they are a parent because good gravy parents must be perfect. We must model exemplary behavior lest our progeny be doomed to a lifetime of good psychotropics and an even better therapist.

So what brought this on you ask? Well yesterday when I was waking up and checking in on some of my good time-wasting sites online, the issue was raised of how many people would admit to eating fast food on a regular basis?  I actually saw someone say that fast food is so reviled that people would sooner admit to smoking rather than admitting the Colonel calls out their name with some crispy chicken, or even better that the smells at McDonald’s occasionally lures them in, come on you know the fries smell good. I swear every time I go past a McD’s for a moment I think french fries!

Now it would have been easy for me to dismiss this as internet rambling until I thought about my personal circle of friends and at this point I feel I must admit that yes I do have a vice. I am an on again, off again smoker. I quit for some years, life gets rough, I light up again. Most people until now have no idea that I battle the butts, because I don’t smoke around others for the most part and that includes, my house, car. at the job. you get the picture. By virtue of the fact that everyone gives smokers the stank eye keeps me in line. And before anyone feels compelled to lecture me, save it, my mother died of lung cancer. I know what can happen if I don’t get a hold of this vice. On the other hand I am human and humans are weak no matter what we think, we all have our weaknesses that we cannot avoid.  For some people its gambling, food, drugs, shopping, even love one of the purest of emotions can be stretched to vice if its excessive. I am a big fan of life in moderation.

So now that I have outed myself completely and fully (believe I have hinted as this in the past) lets talk about the fact that in my immediate circle of real life peeps just in Maine, I have about 4-5 who are also undercover smokers. Except for one person, they are more undercover than me, to the point their partners don’t even know they occasionally hit the butts. One of these folks is 50. I don’t know about you but why the hell at 50 is one hiding any habits? Why? Because people look at you like you are crazy if you admit to having a  vice.

By the same token I have been in spaces where admitting that I occasionally feed my kid fast food was met with an icy glaze. Um….I said fast food, not rat poison. Look, some of us have become so damn high and mighty we forget to just be. Seriously, just be in the moment and not feel the need to put value or judgement on people or things.

So what about you? Do you have any vices, habits or weaknesses?

What do we owe them?

22 Jul

I have been unusually quiet in this space even by my own standards, I wish I could say it was strictly because it’s hot as hell (global warming is real, we had tornadoes in Maine last night!!!) but truth is I am bogged down with family issues. This is one of those times when maybe I am about to share too much of myself in this space, but the truth is for me letting things out is often healthy. So here goes.

Right now as I type this, my remaining parental unit stands on the brink of homelessness. I am talking the odds are high that tonight he will sleep on a bench or in a shelter. I wish I could say it was because he is a super asshole but really he is not. No, he is just an aging hippy turned preacher turned widower yet a man who instead of planning chooses to live on faith. Long story short when the feds decided to play games with the extended unemployment benefits, my Pops got caught up in that mess. It’s been a month since he last received an unemployment check and living in a rooming house where rent is due weekly this is real bad. Regular laws governing eviction processes don’t apply to him and while I have been able to ensure he isn’t starving, there is no way I can pay my bills and his damn near $200 a week room rent.

My father is a prideful man, so rather than go to his family and by my last count he has at least 9 siblings still alive, he waited a couple of weeks before sharing this news with my brother and I, neither who are in a position to do much. Like I said we are keeping him from starving and I have extended an offer that he is welcome out in my neck of the woods and I can probably pony up the cash for a bus ticket to get him out here but really that is the best I can do.

Having worked with the homeless in Chicago I am quite familiar with every shelter or source of help for folks in Chicago yet he has not wanted to discuss those options, though he did call 311 the city’s homeless prevention helpline though without a guaranteed source of income he was pretty much shit out of luck.

My heart is heavy this morning, but at the same time feelings of anger are creeping up. See, to some degree we have been here before. When my Mom was at the late stages of her battle with cancer I helped my folks out, spending thousands on rent and her insurance. When my Mom passed, I helped out even more. None of that money was ever repaid back and really it wasn’t my money I spent it was money I owed to the IRS. This is one of the reasons I have that pesky tax problem.

See, my natural instinct is to help folks but the older I get, and as my own responsibilities mount its pretty clear that I can no longer dive in head first to help loved ones because in my mind I owe it to my kids and husband to make sure their needs are met. Yet I am struggling with the very idea of what do we owe our parents? Presuming they were decent folks who loved us and raised us, do we owe them anything? Two old friends of mine admit they have always admired the lengths I have gone to, to help family but also admit they would not sacrifice their own financial futures to do so. On the surface that pains me yet deep down I am starting to think it’s true. Part of me feels like due to past help, perhaps I have set a bad precedent in helping. I have family members who assume based on silly superficial shit that I must be well off financially…um, no. I still struggle with money like many I suppose but I also know that I try to stay one step ahead and plan for shit and deep down it bugs me that others don’t.

Anyway that’s what’s up with me. Is there anyone out there that is struggling with family in need especially parents? If so I would love to hear from you.

Don’t touch me

15 Jul

It’s another hot day up here (when will they end?) and I have a long day since I will be taking part in a community forum as part of my job this evening. So I suggested to the Spousal Unit and son, that we have lunch at Pizza Hut since I am in no mood to cook, thanks to a summer cold, oppressive heat and work. So the family came to pick me up from the office and we hit the local Pizza Hut.

It was a good time despite the lousy food, when I suddenly feel someone touching my hair. I look up and see an elderly white woman muttering something about nice, beautiful and I just wanted to touch your hair. Wait! What the fuck are you doing? I start trying to avoid her gnarled hands like I was Neo in the Matrix, moving closer to my daughter in the booth and even putting my hand up saying “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR

It’s not the first time in my 8 years in Maine I have had a white person reach out and attempt to touch my hair, after all I did have dreadlocks for 5 years but this was the first time I have ever encountered someone who did not respect my desire to stop trying to touch me. For a millisecond I felt reduced to less than human status and even my husband who is a laid back man told the woman “Please don’t touch my wife’s hair” There was a second when I thought he was about to lay hands on Granny. Eventually she and her party mosey’d on with her no doubt wondering what the issue was, but damn it, don’t touch my hair.

Look, I realize seeing a Black woman with braids may be a novelty  but reaching out to touch one is just a bad idea and frankly the only thing that stopped Granny from getting her fingers broke was the fact that she was elderly.  I am still not sure if that was a great idea but hey, I was raised to treat folks with respect even when its questionable if they deserve it.

So to my fellow humans of the white hue, don’t ever reach out and try to touch a Black woman’s hair…it could be hazardous to your health.

Whose responsibility is it?

13 Jul

Due to the fact that I am no longer an anonymous blogger, after all in Maine it’s not as if there is a plethora of Black women working as Executive Directors of small non-profit agencies. I am about to share a story but won’t be able to fill in the back story since while I like to talk much shit, I am rather fond of the paycheck I collect a couple times a month. So I apologize that I can not get too juicy with this story but it’s a story that needs to be shared.

I run a small agency that works primarily with low income youth and their families through a variety of services that we offer. The economic downturn has increased our workload at a time when frankly the money to fund such operations especially in smaller communities is drying up. I spend my days plotting to keep the doors open so not only do the area youth have a safe space to come to but so that I can make sure that the college boy will be able to attend college in the fall and that rice and beans don’t become a staple in our house. (Nothing wrong with them, I’d just rather eat them a couple times a week and not daily)

To be honest it’s a hard time to be in the non-profit sector, it’s never been a cakewalk but in the past several years it’s gotten even harder. Which is why I was stunned to find myself in a conversation with someone who is very knowledgeable about the field tell me point blank, they just don’t understand why people cannot provide for themselves. In a nutshell this person told me they think that most poor folks are lazy bums who are coddled. Furthermore that while the work that folks like me do is good; it bugs them how much bureaucratic waste goes on at agencies. To further elaborate this person felt that too many times folks like me (but not me) get hooked on good salaries and don’t do jack. ….Ummmm, wow! I could go on but the takeaway is that there is too much governmental waste supporting bums and maybe if we stopped helping folks they would pick up their own slack.

Like I said, I’d love to give you more details but I can’t. On the other hand this conversation made me wonder what would happen if social services simply did not exist? I wish I had faith that people would suddenly do the right thing and provide for their own families but in many cases, I see people daily who lack the means to do that. Of course there are scammers, over the years I have met many people who burn out of the helping professions because frankly it gets hard to do your job when you see people work the system. But I truly feel that at the end of the day the folks who do that are in the minority, most folks who use government and social services would probably rather not use them.

In a society such as ours whose responsibility is it to take care of the less fortunate among us? Once upon a time family connections were tighter and people could rely on family for help but as our connections to family have shifted often the help is not there. Either people physically are not able to assist or in these tight times cannot afford the monetary assistance.

Should we even have safety nets (are they really that safe) in place to catch our less fortunate?

Let’s talk about it. I am not even going to discuss the assumption that folks in social services are paid too much. I can count the number of coworkers I have had in almost 15 years in this field who were only a hair above the clients financially speaking. I am convinced that no one does direct social services without it being a calling, low pay, paltry benefits for jobs that require a certain level of experience and suck the life out of you. Yeah that’s the high life baby!

What’s Up with Generation Y?

11 Jul

Turns out it was hot all week up in my corner of the world. For those who say global warming is a myth I say bullshit to you. Maine is by and large a pretty temperate place to be in the summer time. High eighties and nineties rarely happen and there is still a large portion of the population that doesn’t even have air conditioning. I hate heat in any form especially when I am sleeping or cooking so I have a few window units but let me tell you this weeks’ blast of summer to the extreme made me realize that my units were not nearly as high powered as they could be. And by the way old houses while they can’t hold heat in the winter time when you want them to they hug the hell out of the heat in the summer time.

So while lots of great ideas passed through the noggin this week, I was simply too spent to actually do anything other than drink cold beverages and whine and say someone turn this fuckin heat down. However between gripe sessions I did do my daily reading and stumbled across this sweet piece of story. I am starting to think those folks at the NY Times need to hire me or some real working class folks impacted by the economy so they can stop writing these bullshit ass pieces or maybe its that the folks in New York are living in a bubble separate from the rest of us. So they are unable to get a clue on what real hard times looks like.

In any event, to recap this piece in case you don’t feel like reading. We have a kid from good upper middle class stock who graduated from college 2 years and has not found a job…oh but he turned down a job paying $40,000 a year at an insurance company because well it wasn’t quite the path he wanted to go down. So until recently this kid was living at his parents’ house while they provided room and board, he now lives with his brother in Boston and his folks are paying his share of the rent until the end of August. Oh my!  

I have a lot of friends who often say I sometimes seem older than my years and maybe that is true. Just the other night I was looking at elder boy aka the college boy now and thinking back to when I was his age. Well when I was his age, he was growing in my womb and I was getting the crash course in grown up life. By the time I reached the same age as the kid in the Times piece, I had been married, divorced on the brink of remarriage and actually was making a career change all by the tender age of 24. Nowadays I meet members of the so called Generation Y and the Millennials and often think damn, you are a lazy fuck.

Look, I never planned to become a crotchety old woman saying these things but I have to be honest in the past couple of years I have seen a disturbing trend where I encounter younger folks and the expectations are that they are owed more though they have done nothing to achieve it in the work world. Look, you cannot work a year or two and expect you are going to shoot up the ladder; you got to pay your dues.

It also says a lot about how this generation which actually my son is a member of has been raised when a $40,000 a year job is looked down at. In the real world and not just rural America plenty of folks wish they had a $40,000 a year job, no it’s not a great deal of dough but if one lives frugally it can be more than enough. Generally speaking a daily latte and weekly stops at the mall won’t be happening on such a salary yet you generally can be assured of the basics of life.

Before I decided to write this piece I actually spoke to my son since I did not want him thinking I was attacking his demographic and he said he understood where I was coming from. However he said he felt it was not the entire gen Y crowd that seems delusional about their worth but that yes by and large a great deal of his peers do see themselves starting at the top rather than the bottom.

Again call me foolish but I think there is a great deal of value starting one’s professional life at the bottom, first off you get to really see the organization, field, etc. You also are still at a point in life where you are still learning who you are , where you want to go and while making a great deal of money is nice when you are young there is nothing wrong with having a little. Even though I married young when I was between husbands I had the roommate adventure, quite the journey in young cheap living. Bottom line these experiences grow us as humans, every shit job we work in our early 20’s, every shitty place we have will hopefully stay with us when we grow up and become real adults.

But the younger generations today want it all, my son’s theory is that the media is to blame and while  I want to say nah…I think he may be right. Mine was the last generation not raised on a steady diet of cable TV, yes many of my peers were the early latch key kids but there were still kids like me who did have a stay at home parent and no TV. I have said before, I got cable for the first tine when I was an adult, in fact lately as I have been checking out You Tube and I have been stunned to learn there were actually videos for many of my favorite songs in the 1980’s, granted music videos of the 80’s were primitive compared to what today’s kids see.

The media that is constantly  bombarding our kids teaches them that in order to be happy and successful you need XYZ and sadly as a nation we have fallen for the same hype which probably has a lot to do with the financial crisis we find ourselves in. After all if I wear this label or that label I will be happy. Yet its this type of imagery that our kids have digested that leave them unable to function in the real world, after all if I watch My Sweet Sixteen on MTV or whatever reality show $40,000 often sounds like a very small sum of money and you get a kid straight out of college turning down what in reality is a adequate sum of money because we have a bling bling culture where we want lots of money.

So while I hope this is not taken as a slam on younger folks I will say it’s a lesson for us all that we need to look at the values we live by as for the young man in the Times piece, hopefully he won’t be turning down anymore jobs.

ETA: This is a link today’s letters to the editor of the Times that I think are worth reading about this topic and Scott Nicholson.

It’s hawt!

5 Jul

Its one of those days where I really wish I had something deep or witty to say but the truth is it’s too fucking hot! Maine is a place that generally doesn’t see 90 degree temps too often and we damn sure don’t see them for several days in a row. Unfortunately this heat wave that is touching the northeast decided to share the love with Maine and as a result it feels like I am back in Chicago, high temps and high humidity makes for one grumpy chica.

The last report I heard is that relief won’t be headed this way until the weekend, um…thanks its Monday dude! So I think its safe to say that as long as it feels like a test tank for hell, I may not be blogging since frankly its too damn hot to think (and they say all Black folks love heat, not this here darkie).

So if you are in an area affected by this crazy heat wave, stay cool and safe and I’ll see ya as soon as it cools off.  Now let me go get another slurpee to cool off.

I gained weight and…..

1 Jul

Life happens! That’s one of my many personal mottoes that I live by, life does indeed happen when you least expect it. Which is why when I was busy recovering from that pesky double hernia repair surgery that happened back in mid April, somewhere along the path to recovery I picked up an extra ten pounds and drum roll….I am not freaking out?

Let me provide some of the back story for new readers or folks who don’t know me. Most of my life I had no weight issues, I have always been on the smallish side though when I decided to give up my evil butt habit years ago, I promptly gained a weight problem. After a life time of being a size 5/6, I fought long and hard and started to accept that an 8/10 was going to be my new reality. Fast forward to having the kidlet almost 5 years ago and well my love of cooking and eating really caught up with me. Eight months after giving birth I was heavier than I was when I gave birth and when I walked I was short of breath. I am vain but it was not being comfortable walking that really kicked my ass in gear so I joined Weight Watchers and over a two-year period dropped damn near 50 lbs.

I became a good lifetime member back in 2008 and stayed at or below my weight goal for two years, I thought I had this shit licked up until I met the surgical recovery process 2.5 months ago. Turns out when one is restricted from moving a great deal, loaded on pain meds and laying on the couch, your options for amusement include TV watching, surfing the web and my favorite, eating. Truth is the past two months I been eating like it was going out of style, eating foods I forgot I even liked. If you follow me on Twitter you have been witness to the BGIM all food all the time extravaganza. It was good but after wondering why my favorite skirts were fitting funny, the truth came out. I gained a whopping 10 lbs since the surgery but guess what, I don’t care.

Don’t get me wrong now that I can move again I am damn well planning on it and have been ramping up my walking game. But once upon a time I admit this news would have set me on edge, now not so much. I do plan on taking off this weight but it will happen when it happens, I am more than the size of my skirt or the numbers on the scale. In some ways my cheapness is probably the greatest motivator since it was oh right before the surgery that I finally got rid of my larger clothes so at the moment I am doing wardrobe gymnastics when getting dressed and making use of my Spanx.

Point of this rant though is that I am at a point of acceptance about myself and the fact is in real life weight goes up and it goes down. As a woman it seems we are slammed with imagery that says we must be a certain way, I say fuck it all. For me I am happy with myself and the older I get I find that having internal beauty and peace is far more than numbers or any of the other things we as women buy into. I must admit that this rant was prompted by this post. The blogger who I know speaks eloquently about something I have grappled with for the past year, I like my gray hair but have had others tell me to color it. Why? It’s me. Just like this extra 10 lbs I am carrying around. Note, I am not saying if you color your hair or diet you have issues but for me those are not healthy things to fixate on.

Real people are messy and complex and we are constantly evolving as life happens to us.