Monthly Archives: December 2012

Discovering the Lost Art of Begging

For years, whenever my husband and our family went on a trip, I sat obediently in the passenger’s seat and did my best to keep him company by chattering on about this and that or whatever came to mind. His brow was always in a perpetual furrow as he took the wheel, and I assumed (wrongly) that his grim expression was attributed to the weight he felt concerning the monumental task ahead. He was going to be responsible for shuttling his family 600-800 miles way – depending on our destination – and he needed to have all his wits about him.

It turns out that he just hated driving.

“I wish I had known that babe!” I scolded lightly. “I thought you liked driving. I love driving! I would have taken over the wheel ages ago.”

“What made you think that?” he asked. He was genuinely puzzled.

“Well…you know. Man behind the wheel; in control of his own destiny and all that. Boys and their cars…that sort of thing.”

He snickered, and from that day on we had a new accord. I would drive us to and fro on all our long distance trips if he would tend to the kids in the back seat. I loathed passing them chips, sandwiches, toys and whatever else their insatiable little minds could conjure up within the space of eight to ten hours while we were all locked in a vehicle. And then the constant diaper changes! Every 2 hours at some rest stop or gas station…

Thank God those days are nearly over.

Now that we have our travelling duties firmly established, I am free to do whatever I want whilst driving – which mainly consists of ignoring the kids. What’s ironic is that Marshall is at liberty to do the same. He is very quick to pull out his portable DVD player and watch all 3 installments of The Lord of The Rings while I battle icy roads and obey speed limits. What gall. The kids never seem to have as many requests now that I’M behind the wheel.

This trip coming from Ohio for Christmas was a little different. My husband did not bring any gadgets to entertain himself with, and I didn’t have much to talk about. We drove in stony silence until I decided to plug in my earphones and listen to some music on Pandora. Suddenly, a familiar song came on.

‘Cause I Love You, circa 1970-something

I’ve heard this song about a handful of times. My first memory of it was as a child. I can’t tell you who was playing it or where I was when I heard it. I just remember thinking it was really slow and boring. I wished the man on the radio would stop talking and finish singing his stupid song so something better would come on. Michael Jackson perhaps.

But on that Thursday afternoon, as dusk was beginning to fall and the sky grew steadily darker, the scales were taken off my eyes and I saw (or heard, rather) for the first time something wondrous and exceedingly rare…a man so deep in the throes of desperate love that he has only one choice but to beg for the return of the affections of his loved one lest he DIE.

Ebei!

I listened to the words intently for the first time in my 35 years of life.

Girl, you know I love you
No matter what you do
And I hope you understand me
Every word I say is true
‘Cause I love you

Awww. That’s really sweet.

Baby, I’m thinking of you
Tryin
’ to be more of a man for you
And I don
’t have much riches
But we gonna see it through
‘Cause I love you

Oh chaley. I’ve never heard a man say he wanted to be more of a man for MY benefit. Usually they want to do better to show off for their homies or prove something to themselves. This is new.

Some men need lots of women
For their passions to feel
But I want only you, girl
If it
’s in, if it’s in, if it’s in God’s will
‘Cause I, ‘cause I love you

photo(1)Hmmm. It’s true oohhh! These men these days, they just like chasing women by heart! But you say what? I want only you if it’s in GOD’S will?? Hei!!!

By the time Lenny Williams (the singer) began wailing and oh…oh…oh’ing up until the moment when he cried out in sweet relief after you (and by that I think he meant “me”) helped me, I was undone. I felt a deep, visceral, barely controllable urge to pull the car over, remove my now very uncomfortable panties and rocket propel them into my husband’s face. I was certain if he possessed the pipes, this would also be his enduring profession of love.

I really love this song. It speaks to a time when men actually liked women, you know what I mean? Men today are so concerned about either not offending women or purposely offending women that I don’t think they’ve taken the time to learn to like women. We just need some balance! I mean, by the time we admit that the most complimentary song on the radio concerning femininity is called She’s a Sexy B**** (which I heard at work for the first time, if you can fathom that) –

*Sigh* I have nothing further to add to that. T-Pain admitted that he struggles to find the words to “describe this girl without being disrespectful.”

I wonder if the pendulum between male and female relationships will ever again swing close enough in the direction of the essence of this song in time for my girls as they reach the age of maturity? Doubt it.

 

What Do Rhianna and my Daughter Have in Common?

What do Rhianna and my daughter have in common? Nothing at the moment, but if the retarded manner in which we raise and socialize girls to respect and preserve patriarchy at all costs doesn’t change, then I fear they will one day have very much in common indeed.

I wish I could find a way to remove Rhianna from my cypher, but her beating has proven to be an essential pop culture event that epitomizes what can go wrong when girls are raised badly. I actually NEED this reminder of her battered, bitten face when I find myself in the middle of a parenting dilemma.

A battered RhiannaFor those who don’t know – and I can’t imagine who you might be – Rhianna is a pop yodeler (I can’t call what she does actual singing) who was dating Chris Brown a few years ago. One night they were on their way to an awards show, they got into an argument, exchanged words, she threw his keys into the bushes and he beat the crap out of her. The male hip hop community jumped to his defense and tried to shield him, saying that all men make “mistakes” and people needed to let it go and forgive. Women – mostly unlearned, untraveled, hardly educated women in their teens and early twenties – also took up his defense, siting that it was likely that Rhianna knew that she was pushing his buttons and that the beating was most likely her fault.

I was left gobsmacked and enraged, and hoped that Rhianna and Chris Brown would just go away…preferably to some remote island where each of them was given a knife and wished the best of luck.

Now they are back in the news and back together, with him posting nude pictures of her on twitter and then taking them down like a silly game, denigrating her with every key stroke, she gushing over him and openly pining for him like a fourth grade love struck idiot on her twitter feed, and worse, proclaiming her unconditional love for him on that Oprah special. A few of the twenty-two year old girls on my retail job echoed the same sentiment.

“You just don’t understand, Malaka,” one of them squeaked. “She has unconditional love for him!”

“Yeah,” added another in her New Orleans drawl. “That type of love that can forgive anything.”

“Y’all are crazy!” I howled. “Unless your name is Jesus Christ, clearly love has to have some conditions.”

They laughed, but I was dead serious. Even God has conditions for His love. You blaspheme the Holy Spirit and it’s curtains. Case closed.

I feel ill every time I see a TMZ photo of them together on a basketball court or out to dinner somewhere. Secretly, I hope he beats her again, and this time so bad that she loses the power of mobility for a few months or so. What nkwaaa can Chris Brown provide that NO OTHER MAN on the planet can do for Rhianna? I honestly can’t say. I can only imagine that it has something to do with her experience with men and how she has been taught to view them.

The other night on Christmas Eve, my husband and Nadjah were joking around and poking at each other. Pretty soon, their pokes turned into punches and slaps and their giggling became hysterical cries to stop it. But Marshall, who has yet to learn certain boundaries, did not stop.

“Have you ever had an Indian burn?” he laughed maniacally while twisting bony Nadjah’s arm this way and that.

She howled in pain and balled up her fist. She struck him as hard as he could. In retaliation, he twisted her arm behind her back and held it there. She began to cry in frustration and as soon as she was loose turned around and released a flurry of punches on her father’s chest. He wasn’t hurt, of course. He’s so massive and she’s so tiny it was like watching a bee try to sting a brick wall.

The wild look in her eye told me something had snapped within her. I didn’t bother to stop her, because I thought that the incident should play itself out. My mother-in-law heard Nadjah’s frantic howls from the other side of the kitchen and put an end to it.

“Nadjah!” she said sharply. “Don’t you hit your father like that!”

She told her son not to mess with her like that and put an end to the brawl. The conversation should have ended there; or at least in my estimation it should have done. After I’d put the kids to bed, I walked into the kitchen where Marshall and his mother were engaged in intense conversation. She was kvetching, frowning and vigorously rubbing down the counter. He was leaning against the wall saying mmhmm, mmhmmm.

What was going on?

“I don’t understand why it should take you more than one time to say something to get her to something,” she was saying. “Nadjah needs to learn some respect. She also should never feel like she’s at liberty to hit her father like that. There are certain lines she should never cross.”

What? Had she seen how this all played out? Marshall took it too far with the Indian burn! I was about to cut in when Marshall piped up.

“Ma, I was the one who provoked her,” he said repeatedly.

My mother-in-law wasn’t hearing it. She kept going on about little girls respecting the male figures in their lives and not feeling like they could hit them.

It took every ounce of restraint to keep me from sucking my teeth as I abruptly walked out of the kitchen and descended into the basement. What sort of utter foolishness was that? Should Nadjah have respect for her father? Absolutely. But he must also respect her and not touch her in ways that make her feel uncomfortable.

The problem with this scenario is that people associate “inappropriate touch” between an older person and a child as something sexual. Inappropriate touch is anything that is unwelcomed, even if it is a playful punch. The older I get, the less tolerant I am for the view that says adults have earned a certain level of respect merely because their sequential DNA has achieved a particular level of degeneration. So what? I’m supposed to teach my daughter’s that it is okay for any man to hit them in a way that is uncomfortable, even if that man is their father?

Can you not see the lunacy in this logic?

Oh…I am incensed! These are not the lessons that the most vulnerable among us should be learning. I’m sure somewhere along the line, Rhianna was encouraged to submit and yield to all male authority. The poor girl, who wields a considerable amount of power and influence, is clearly confused. This is a toxic mix, not just for her, but for impressionable women everywhere. What sort of message does it send when a woman with so much global presence gets her face bashed in and actively seeks the attentions of her former abuser? I don’t think I have to tell you.

What does that have to do with Nadjah, her grandmother, and her father? I have already played out the scenario in my mind, and I will do everything in my power to stop it.  One thing is for certain: if any person hits my child, I will only encourage her to hit them back as swiftly and as hard as she possibly can.

What lessons are you teaching your girls?

 

The ‘Crappiest’ Christmas Ever

My Aunt Jane– and God bless her sixty-something year old soul – gives the worst Christmas gifts. It’s remarkable that she has been able to keep up this feat for over a decade. I have never had the heart to tell her that the majority of her carefully (or perhaps not so much so) selected gifts now sit in a dark corner in our pantry gathering dust and cobwebs, possibly molding and/or disintegrating after years spent in exile and neglect. She is much too sweet for me (or any of my siblings) to beg her to stop.

My aunt is actually my mother’s half-sister. They share the same father. My grandfather was going to marry Aunt Jane’s mother after she was conceived and born out-of-wedlock, but she refused his proposal. She had contracted TB and was certain that she was going to die. Aunt Jane’s mother eventually passed away when she was two years old. My grandfather eventually married my maternal grandmother, who treated her dismally. She sent her to school without soles on her shoes. She sent her to school without lunch or lunch money. Meanwhile, my mother was sent to school in the nicest dresses and best of everything that Grandma could afford. Aunt Jane did her best to be a good child, never sulking or offering a cruel or reprising word to my grandmother. She stuffed newspaper in her shoes and would shoot craps (dice) on the playground to get money to eat for the day or the week. When my grandmother was dying of cancer, it was Aunt Jane who was by her side caring for her for months as she drew near to the end of her life. Before she lost her powers of speech, my grandmother offered her a tearful apology.

“If I had known in the end it was going to be you…I’m so sorry, Janie,” she wept.

My mother had refused to take on the task of caring for her own dying mother, insisting instead that the three siblings contribute towards a live-in nurse. Maybe she was scared. Maybe she didn’t want to be inconvenienced. All I know is that my grandmother wanted the daughter she had birthed near her.

With that history in mind, how could I tell my sweet Aunt Jane that we don’t use her ceramic Frosty the Snowman salt n’ pepper shakers, or that the decorative oven mitt meant to hang in the kitchen is completely hideous? The answer is simple. I cannot and will never. I will smile, say thank you, and re-gift them if the opportunity arises.

My brother and sister have also been recipients of some truly tacky Christmas gifts as well. Every item oozes the unique cheap manufacturing that is the hallmark of dollar store fare. In keeping with tradition they too fawn and gush and squeal in delight upon opening their gingerly wrapped gifts. None of us would dream of injuring our Aunt Jane with ingratitude.

“Oh gosh! A pair of reindeer antler candles! Thanks Aunt Janie!”

“Wow. What’s this? A decorative wash cloth. Thanks Aunt Janie!”

And every year, we call each other up to ask what the other had received, laughing about how hard Aunt Jane tries…but always pleased that she made an effort to show that we are each loved and valued by giving us a gift even if she couldn’t afford the very best.

This year, my brother and sister decided to spice things up a bit.

Part of the stress of the holidays is in picking out the perfect gift for your family. As you may well know (and may have done yourself) people are wont to talk about you if you give a bad gift. We decided that we would intentionally give each other crappy gifts, and hence have dubbed Christmas 2012 as The Crappiest Christmas Ever – the Beta Version. Next year we will have a full launch.

My family and I are rarely in the same geographic space at the same time. This weekend was the first time we have all been together in six or seven years. It was glorious. There was drunken laughter and stumbling, the cupid shuffle, vodka doused gummy bears, these white things Aunt Janie makes, and of course our crappy gifts.

My sister gave my brother a plastic turd. I gave him a 3 foot tall Justin Beiber poster. (He hates him.)

crappy chritmas 001 I got this pimpin’ smoking pipe (I don’t smoke, but I kept the pipe in my mouth all night.), and a really cool metal platter that says:

Uncle Remus Syrup: Dis sho’ am good!

My sister got a Bluegrass gospel CD set, a bright pink lace thong and an album of Mexican love songs. (She is an agnostic who does not want any more kids. Ironically, she likes bluegrass.)

We made sure that our beloved cousins got their share of fun. My sister gave out already scratched off lottery tickets and evenly distributed the pieces of some nondescript snowman holiday set. My brother gave out Spongebob Squarepants sipping straws and toy skateboards to grown men. Chris got an enormous lighter that only produces a tiny flame – completely useless! Everyone had to take a picture with their crappy gift. Since the internet is ‘forever’, I promised only to post pictures of myself.

crappy chritmas 002 Judging from my aching ribs and burning cheeks, our Crappy Christmas was an ultimate success. See? You can take something awful and turn it to your advantage. Here’s to a Merry Crappy Christmas to you all!

Preserving the Mystique of the Tooth Fairy

I was originally going to title this “Perpetuating the Myth of the Tooth Fairy”, but the verb in that sentence seemed so harsh and unworthy of such a beloved being.

glenda The Tooth Fairy was my most favorite mythological creature as a child. She still is. My parents had me utterly convinced of her existence. Never seen by human eyes, I used to imagine what she might look like. My tooth fairy was blond (of course) with luminescent white skin and totally resplendent in a pale blue dress, embroidered with tiny silver molars. She lived in a city built entirely of the teeth she’d been collecting for centuries. She also lived on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, which was very convenient as I lived not too far from downtown myself.

Although I loved my cousins dearly, I dreaded going to visit them in Detroit whenever I had a wiggly tooth. I wasn’t sure if Michigan had a Tooth Fairy, and couldn’t be certain my own Tooth Fairy was willing to travel that far. Fortunately, she made the trek faithfully, leaving my expected dollar in dimes and quarters, even if I was out of town.

I think I liked the Tooth Fairy best of all the Guardians because she was the lowest maintenance of the bunch. In order to get a gift from Santa, I had to be good all year. In order to access my basket from the Easter Bunny, I had to go on a search. The Tooth Fairy met me where I was, just as you would expect a benevolent maternal figure to do. Sadly, I lost her when we moved to Ghana in 1986. I was brokenhearted when I woke up morning after morning only to discover my slowly decaying tooth I’d lost days before in the same carefully placed location under my square pillow.            

Years later I asked my mother if she or my father was the Tooth Fairy. She looked up from her book and smirked condescendingly at me.

“Do you think me or your father would ever get up to put money under your pillow?”

I thought about it for a moment and shook my head.

“No. I can’t see either one of you doing that.”

She looked back at her book and never said another word. That sealed it. The Tooth Fairy WAS real.

I wonder if my kids will have the same conviction when they are 34 years old. I almost ruined that possibility in the wee hours of this morning.

I sleep naked. This is important information for you to have, as you need an accurate visual for the tale I am about to tell you.

You see Reader, I have kept the spirit of the Tooth Fairy alive in our home and have done so since Nadjah began losing teeth 4 years ago, faithfully creeping into the kids’ room and swapping out money for teeth for that long. I have to confess however that I have had had markedly less energy with the birth of each child and have missed a good number of Tooth Fairy appointments for the older girls in the last 8 months. When Aya lost a tooth at school yesterday afternoon, I vowed that I would make sure she had money under her pillow when she woke up. The going rate for a tooth in our house is a dollar. However, I only had two $5 bills in my purse. It was cold and I was sleepy and I justified that she was worth the $5. I fell into a coma with intentions of waking up around 1 am and putting the money under her pillow.

At 5:13 am I woke up with a start.

“Oh no!” I gasped.

“What?” my husband murmured.

“I was supposed to put Aya’s money under her pillow this morning,” I whispered in a panic.

“Well then you better hurry up and get on it.”

He rolled back over and I threw the covers off me. The cold air hit my skin like a slap.

I gingerly walked down our creaky staircase and made for the dining room where my purse was sitting. In the darkness, I tripped over a plastic dinosaur and slid across the floor on one of Stone’s train tracks. I bit my lip to keep from cursing in the twilight. I fished the fiver from my wallet and tiptoed back up the stairs.

I stopped at the children’s door and tried to catch my breath. The sun was slowly beginning its ascent and I was running out of time. I had missed the precious REM cycle that would have guaranteed my entering the room undetected. I moved into the room and lifted myself up on my tip toes. The floor groaned with every step I took. Someone grunted and turned over on a mattress.  Alarmed, I dropped to the floor and slithered across the gritty carpet, like an engorged anaconda. I gripped the precious $5 bill in my hand and looked for Aya on the lower bunk.

She was not there.

Crap.

I peered at the top bunk and saw two bodies lying tangled in a huge comforter, toe to head. Aya was on left. I gingerly tipped towards her and put my hand under her pillow. The ziplock bag that her teacher had put her tooth in was nowhere to be found. I ran my hand over her mattress for what seemed like an eternity and still could not locate it.

What should I do now?

I stood there in the room, cold, naked and fat with my magic offering in my hand, pondering my next moves. Suddenly, Aya woke up and met my worried gaze with half opened eyes.

“Good morning Sweetie,” I cooed.

She rolled over and went back to sleep without a word in reply.

I let out a slow breath and put the money in the corner of her bed. When she sat up, she’d see it lying there. I dropped to all fours and crawled out of the room, mindful of the metaphorical parallels of my sluggishly retreating backside and the sphere glowing in the sky.

30 minutes later, Aya woke up and giggled gleefully. I heard her talking to her father in the next room.

“Daddy, the Tooth Fairy came!”

“Oh really?” he said in mock surprise.

“Uh huh! And she left me FIVE dollars!” she cackled.

“I think it’s because your grades were so good this semester,” he mused.

“But why didn’t she take my tooth?” she pondered.

“She probably couldn’t get the Ziploc bag open.”

“Oh.”

The next thing I heard was her piggy bank jingling. I chuckled to myself and drifted back to sleep. The Tooth Fairy lives another day.

 

RHKOA: So You Think Your Job Sucks?

If you’ve ever spent a day on a job at any point in your life, it’s very possible that you’ve felt like you were being crapped on by your employer. There’s just no way around that fact. How did you feel on days like that? Did you feel like quitting your job? Did the slight make you want to seek redress? Did you go home fuming, vowing never to be crapped on again by that cruel manager/boss? I’ll bet you did.

But what if you had literally been dumped on by your employer?

This is a story about a cleaning job that changed my world view forever. Be forewarned. The details are grotesque and heinous. Put on your gloves and aprons as we enter the apartment where Dignity’s Child drew her last breaths.

****

It was a bright Saturday morning. Barely a cloud hung in the sky. A warm breeze whipped around Hilary’s bangs as she loaded the last of the supplies in the trunk of her car. The two of them rode in stony silence, neither one happy that they had to spend the weekend on a job.  Outwardly, it appeared that Hilary was handling it a little better. She chatted idly about nothing until they got to the gate of the apartment they were scheduled to clean. Samira rolled her eyes and mumbled “uh huh” at the required times, inwardly wishing Hilary would just shut up.

Hilary fished her cell phone out from the console in the car and dialed the client’s number.

“Hi!” she said loudly. “This is Spic ‘N Span Cleaning Hands! We’re here to clean your house?”

“You’re early,” said a male voice on the other end.

“Yes,” she conceded. “We were wondering if we could get an early start on the job.”

“No,” said the man firmly. “You’re scheduled for 12 o’clock and you can start then.”

He hung up the phone.

Samira looked at the clock and sucked her teeth. It was 11:43 am. She hated clients like that.

“Ashook Parivar,” she muttered, looking at the email with the details of the job.

“Must be Iranian,” said Hilary.

(For the record, these two think anyone from India, Pakistan and the Middle East in general were ‘Iranian’…pronounced EYE-rain-ean.)

Finally at noon, Hilary called Ashook on the gate box and he permitted them to come in. They climbed two flights of stairs before they reached the apartment. Hilary was excited. Cleaning apartments was easy. They could be in and out in an hour and a half at the most. She stuck her hand in her pocket and pulled out a business card to hand to the client. Samira struggled with the buckets and brooms in the background.

Finally, a disheveled twenty something man with brown skin opened the door and let them in. The plastered smile in Hilary’s face soon faded. Samira never smiled, and pursed her lips even further.

“What do we have here?” asked Hilary, attempting a joke.

There were beer bottles all over the floor. Red Solo cups containing day old liquor dotted every surface of the room. The apartment smelled like urine, weed, and body odor. Another man in his twenties lay half sleeping on the couch with his hand shoved down the front of his pants.

“We had a party last night,” said Ashook, smiling at the memory of what was obviously a wild night. “Can you clean the balcony also?”

It was not a polite request, but rather a terse demand.

“That will cost you an extra $25,” said Hilary, throwing her shoulders back haughtily. She expected him to balk at the upcharge.

“No problem,” said Ashook pulling two twenties from his pocket. “You can keep the rest.”

He flounced onto the sofa and began to play video games.

Samira pulled out a clear plastic bag and shook it noisily glaring at the two young men who had wreaked intense havoc on the apartment. She began picking up empty beer cans and vodka bottles and tossing them into the bag. Hilary chatted gaily with the men whom she had come to learn were students at Emory.

“I’m going to clean the kitchen while Samira works on your two bedrooms,” she informed them. “We can work a little faster that way.”

“Okay,” Ashook said dismissively.

Samira stormed into the room, dragging the vacuum behind her. When she got to the master bedroom, she stopped dead in her tracks.

“Oh my Gard!” she gasped in her deep Southern drawl.

The bed sheets were strewn everywhere. She lifted her eyes and noticed something reflective on the night stand. Two empty condom wrappers were hastily thrown on the wooden surface. When she walked around the bed, her worst fears were realized. Semen soaked prophylactics lay lazily on the carpeted floor. She gagged and threw on another pair of gloves.

As she hurriedly picked up more cups, bottles, cigarette butts and drug paraphernalia she heard water running  from the sink adjacent bathroom. An overweight ‘Iranian’ man stepped out, shaking his wet hands vigorously before wiping the excess dampness on his jeans.
“Oh. You’re here to clean. Good,” he said in greeting. “You can get in that bathroom now.”

He stepped past her and walked into the living room where his friends were sprawled and laughing. Samira heard one of the guys say something in response to Hilary.

“Yes, yes! Many girls were here last night. Many girls!”

“Hey dude, you remember that one girl?”

“Ahhh…yeah. THAT girl.”

They broke into the universal, self-satisfied male laughter that signaled they had all probably banged the same chick during the course of the night.

Samira couldn’t understand their next words, as they began to speak in their own dialect. She didn’t need to. She already knew what 3 college aged men who had had a wild party the night before were saying. Her disgust for the three of them was replaced by utter dismay. The fat collegiate who had just left the bathroom had left the door cracked and a foul stench came filtering through to the bedroom.

“Oh my Lawrd!!!”

“What?” asked Hilary, who had come to monitor Samira.

“Look in the bathroom,” she hissed. “Do you smell that?”

“Oh snap!” cried Hilary. “You might want to use some Comet on that.”

Samira shook her head frantically.

“Naw man. It’s the Bleach time to shine nuh.”

toiletShe sprayed until the fumes threatened to knock her unconscious.

There were no words to describe the dishonor Samira felt that afternoon. Never before had a grown man pooped, looked her in the eye, and walked out as if nothing had happened. He had literally taken a dump and left it there for her to flush. It was the ultimate disrespect.

******

So you sit there, dear reader, and complain about your job if you will. Unless you’re a sh*t carrier in Jakarta (and they do have those) I guarantee you’re not having half as bad a work day as this pair did.

Stop laughing. Happy Hump Day.

 

 

Is There a Witch Hunt Coming for the Mentally “Ill”?

When I go into my pediatrician’s office, there is a form I have to fill out for every visit.

How many people live in the home? – 6

Does anyone smoke in the home or use tobacco products? – No

Are there any fire arms in the home? – No

Any pets? – Heck NO!Well, we have a goldfish. Does that count?

For all intents and purposes, our home is a ‘safe place’. Like any other home it has its hazards like stairs  and kitchen knives, but there will never be a shooting in our home as a result of a gun that we own. Like so many others across this country, we’re not that type of family.

But so what?

As I’ve watched the news this week concerning the shooting at Sandy Hook – and I’ve done so sparingly because my heart can only take so much – I have seen an avid debate about guns and their access to the mentally ill. The direction of the debate is troubling for me, because it seems to be gradually morphing into a modern witch hunt for those whom we define as ‘abnormal’.

As we have come to find out, Adam Lanza was a young man who had Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s syndrome or Asperger disorder, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical (peculiar, odd) use of language are frequently reported

I first heard about Asperger’s from an unlikely source about 5 years ago: America’s Next Top Model.

One of the contestants, whose name completely escapes me, had Asperger’s. She was awkward, but very pretty. She had poor social skills. Other than that, there was nothing to distinguish her from the other girls. In fact, if she had never revealed that she had Asperger’s, you might assume that she was merely a snob and leave it at that. She was no more cruel or unfeeling than the other girls on there, who as anyone knows, can be horribly catty.

A very good friend of mine has a son who also has Asperger’s. He is now 15, and although somewhat withdrawn, is jovial and enjoys watching the Daily Show and Jon Stewart. He is incredibly intelligent, but equally unmotivated. He can ace any standardized test but is flunking school because he refuses to do his school work. He literally falls asleep in class; from boredom I suppose. I don’t know, because he won’t talk about it. To my knowledge, he’s never engaged in a fight with anyone. The worse thing he can be accused of is saying mean things to his little sister who is 7 years his junior. Even that can be forgiven. After all, he was the “baby” for almost a decade until she usurped him.

I have another friend whose son is now 5 years old. He has not yet been diagnosed with any particular disorder, but he doesn’t speak or do any of the other things “normal” 5 year olds do. One thing he is exceptional at is the use of logic to solve problems in his day to day life. He watches how his mother keeps him out of kitchen cabinets and locked doors, and repeats the action in reverse so he can get access to whatever the restricted item may be. He kicks, bites and scratches on occasion, but he knows it’s wrong when he hurts someone else. He will sometimes sequester himself in his room after inflicting injury on another child.

What is my point? That just because someone has Asperger’s, autism or any other sort of mental disorder does not predispose them to violence. This is my fear that the media is taking the general, unthinking public in.

mentalStatistically, about than 4% of all violent gun-related crimes are committed by people with any sort of mental defect. When a drug dealer sprays up a playground with a hail of bullets, he doesn’t do it because he has Asperger’s. He does it because children are merely an inconsequential casualty in his drug war. When a man finds his wife in bed with another man and shoots them both a la THAT D’Angelo song, his motivation is jealousy, not because he has a pervasive mental disorder. Similarly, when someone robs a bank and targets the security guard. The armed guard serves as threat and that robber has a clear objective in fleecing that bank. His motives are selfishness and self-gain…not a consequence of mental illness.

In Adam Lanza’s case, we may or may not ever know what triggered him to such violence. He could have suffered sexual abuse. He may have been an over indulged child. He may have played violent video games and been acting out a fantasy. None of these things are circumstances that millions of Americans – and individuals all over the world – do not suffer and do not turn to mass murder as redress for their suffering. Adam Lanza’s mental disorder cannot be solely blamed for his actions. He alone is responsible for his actions. The fact that he had the presence of mind to commit suicide in the midst of the act shows he was functioning well enough to understand the gravity of what he’d done. Someone who is truly mentally ill would have justified and absolved themselves from all wrong doing in the act of a massacre.

I very convinced that the national conversation on gun control and mental illness is in danger of taking a sharp, wrong turn. We need to be focusing on people who have a propensity towards violence and keeping guns out of their hands, not just individuals with a diagnosed disorder. In addition to banning the future sale of military style weapons, we can also prevent gun violence by compelling manufacturers to make bullets for popular weapons already in the hands of criminals obsolete. In doing that, you create scarcity in the market. Alternatively, Chris Rock suggested that we price each bullet at $5,000 if want to reduce crime in urban areas.

As parents and adults, we have to have real conversations about compassion and empathy with our children and peers. Although she is not “mentally ill”, my eldest daughter has what we call the “Tinkerbell Syndrome”. She has poor impulse control  and explodes when things don’t quite go her way. She has made tremendous improvement in her attitude, but as she demonstrated last night, we still have a long way to go.

Last night I played a cruel joke on my kids at bedtime. I told them that since they were complaining about being sick, maybe they were too sick to travel to their grandparents house for Christmas this weekend. They burst into tears, mourning wildly at the prospect of spending a boring Christmas at our house with no tree and no presents.

“You don’t have the Christmas spirit!” Aya accused me.

“Nonsense,” I scoffed. “I just want you to be well. What’s more Christmas-y than that?”

They immediately insisted that they were well enough to travel and that we must make every effort to go. As Liya often does, she mimicked her elder sisters.

“I sick too Mawmie!” she croaked from her bed, feigning a coughing fit.

“Ah! See! We can’t go. Liya is sick too!”

When the girls began to cry again, I smirked wickedly and turned my back to them and made for my bedroom.

“Well why can’t we just throw Liya out of the window!” Nadjah roared between her tears.

That made me stop in my tracks. What?

I was too shaken to go back to the room and talk to her. Was I overreacting to this outburst? I asked Marshall if he thought I was.

“No,” he said, staring at his laptop. “We can talk to her about it.”

He didn’t seem as concerned as I was…as I still am.

Would Nadjah do something so permanently harmful to her baby sister just so she could have the benefit of temporary pleasure? Does/did she even understand the weight that her words carried and the wickedness that was entrenched within them? I have no idea, but I know that she will indeed by the time she completes this 500 word essay on why we don’t throw anyone or anything out of windows this evening.

Baring the fact that all my kids are so young, it stands to reason that I would not have a gun in my house around someone who has not developed enough empathy and God-given sense. I have to check her, and all my children. If not, I could be Adam Lanza’s mother too.

Protect Us from ALL Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

Today marks yet another sad day in our nation’s history. It seems like only yesterday that we were all reeling from the news of the massacre at Columbine, when in fact the school shooting happened thirteen years ago in 1999.

In the unlikely event that you don’t know what I’m referring to, I’m talking about the 26 lives that were taken today by a narcissistic gunman in Sandy Hook, CT who then – in the ultimate act of cowardice – turned his gun on himself and took his own life. 20 elementary school children were killed, the majority of whom were kindergarteners in the class where the gunman’s mother taught.

At this point there is little known about Adam Lanza, the 20 year old man responsible for the shooting. What we do know is that he had two handguns and a high-powered assault rifle in his deadly arsenal. It is speculated that he killed all his victims at close range.

In the midst of this tragedy, America is left looking for answers. How did this happen again? The news these last few months has been flooded with stories about deadly gun violence: The shooting at a mall in Portland, the football player who killed himself and his girlfriend, a shooting at a Wisconsin salon that left 4 people dead, and of course, the horrific massacre in Aurora, CO in a darkened movie theater.

It begs the question: Are Americans safe within the confines of their own shores?

For the majority of us, that answer is ‘yes’. The incidences of gun violence do not result in any greater number of death as a result of motor vehicle accidents, suicides, medical malpractice or a host of other ways that human beings die in this country. However, what separates gun violence from these is the intent behind the result and cold callous indifference in the mind of the shooter, which is what I feel needs to be addressed in America today.

To lose your life, or the life of a loved one, so violently at the hands of an insane person is more than I can personally fathom. I don’t understand how Adam Lanza could have plotted this malicious scheme and not considered the devastation that it would cause in its aftermath. Who knows what plans these bright young children had made for this weekend and the days ahead? Perhaps one had planned to show off to his friends, proud that he had learned to ride his bike on two wheels for the first time. Maybe one had a birthday coming up this weekend? Christmas is coming up. Did one of those sweet babies just want to sit back and take in the twinkling lights on their recently decorated tree…maybe even mischievously steal a candy cane and eat it before mom found out?

What kind of animal does not consider any of this before he takes a life?

The cries for gun control have been ramped up. Should we make it more difficult for people to get guns? Absolutely – but that’s just a Band Aid on a bigger issue; that issue being America’s heart.

I read an article on Facebook that touted how the Japanese have virtually eliminated death attributed to gun violence in their country, and that is to be commended. However, the Japanese have something going for them that Americans by and large do no today. They have a culture that preaches respect for one’s neighbor, country and for themselves. They live by a code of honor. Americans on the other hand have been force-fed the idea that we are all individuals who should not judge each other, and therefore are above judgment…even self-judgment. Every day, we become a more hedonistic society. Even our pulpits are crowded with messages about how to gain wealth and prosperity for YOURSELF and YOUR lineage. When was the last time you heard a good message about loving your neighbor and the level of sacrifice that this love requires? In our daily discourse, do we even discuss preferring our neighbor above ourselves?

Not really.

Now that the two wars we are fighting abroad are drawing to a close, I sincerely hope our government and our citizenry will turn our focus to some serious domestic issues, and that is the crop of terrorists we are breeding right here at home: People growing up without understanding what it means to love and honor your country, your parents and yourself.

Laws and gun control would not have stopped Adam Lanza from doing what he did. This was a young man who came from privilege, who had his heart set on carrying out an evil act. Had there been no gun in his hand, he could have chosen to blow up the school. He could have chosen to poison his intended victims with some bio agent. He could have simply walked into that kindergarten class and slit each one of those children’s throats, just as a man in China did in a school earlier this week.

Sure: We can take guns out of the hands of the insane, the hedonistic, the self-centered and the plain old crazy, but that’s the easy part. It’s merely a populist rallying cry for a bigger problem. We need to return to training up children in the way that they should go, even if it’s not the most popular thing to do.

In the meantime, I join thousands of other saints praying for those sweet babies and the families left behind to deal with their unimaginable grief.

12/12/12

12-12-12. It’s kind of sad looking at that number when you think about it. Today’s date has forced me to take a hard look at my own mortality and fragility. Unless you’ve discovered the fountain of eternal life or plan to freeze and unthaw yourself until the next century, none of us will ever see this date or a repetition of its sort again.

That’s not what I thought about when I woke up this morning, however. This morning I was overflowing with a huge sense of gratitude for how far I’ve come since this date 8 years ago. As only a few who are very close to me may people remember, this is the date I went into the hospital with preeclampsia. I thought this was the date that either my unborn daughter, I, or both of us would die.

December 12th, 2004 was a dreary winter’s day, much like today. The sun peaked out whenever it could, but it was cloudy for the most part. I stumbled into Northside Hospital, trying desperately to feign composure and control until I was finally allowed to collapse into a narrow hospital bed in room LH17.

I remember it all very well. My heart was flooded with despair, hopelessness, and suppressed for the man who had landed me in that room 2 months too early with his vitriol and petty games. However as I sit typing today, I’m amazed at how so much despondency and hopelessness has become nothing but a memory – a pure memory – and has lost all of its sting. Time really does heal all things, if you sprinkle a little forgiveness on it.

2012 for me has been a benchmark year for me as far as spiritual growth and development are concerned. It was this year that I that I not only learned about power the of forgiveness, but felt it also. I’ve spent the last 8 years as a very angry person; though not in the sense that you might assume. I never made it a priority to seek and mete out revenge against people whom had done me some sort of slight (it’s never been in my nature to do that), but I did carry around negative feelings for people and events for a long time. Well, those feelings were really only directed at only person in particular.

My friend Caroline said the words that finally set me free.

“You’re giving way too much energy to this individual,” she said. “The thing that you focus your energy on is the thing that controls your life. Is this person worthy of directing your life?”

It was so true. Almost everything I had done, even if the results were positive, were in direct cause towards the hatred I felt for this person.

If I went to work, it was to prove that I didn’t need their financial support.

If I hugged my husband, it was an effort to strengthen my marriage that this person had said he would attempt to come between if given the opportunity.

Etcetera, etcetera.

When I stopped feeding so much energy to my negative thoughts surrounding this person, and shifted my thinking into not even thinking about them at all, I finally got free. It was a long, arduous process, and a journey that began in my soul on this very day 8 years ago.

This Saturday we will celebrate Nadjah’s 8th birthday doing all the things she loves best. She’ll be shining of stage in her school play and eating cake on princess plates afterward. She’ll be surrounded by the love of her family best friends. It’s a complete turnabout from the brokenhearted womb I carried her in for 7 months.

When I woke up in severe pain and panic that Sunday morning on 12-12-04, I never imagined our lives could have been this good on 12-12-12. I’m grateful.

 

*Does this day hold any special significance for you? What are you going to do to commemorate this day? Some people are getting married, some are busy being born (congrats to Nana on becoming an auntie again on today) and others will be boozing it up; like boozers need a reason to drink anyways.  *cough* A-DUB! *cough*

Our Santa Wears a Process and has Green Eyes

I took the kids to Wal-Mart today to start our Christmas shopping. Under normal circumstances I would already be done with our holiday purchases, but I decided to delay the stress this year. I love Christmas. I love the spirit of giving, and hot cocoa on cold winter nights, and poinsettias and Lifetime holiday movie marathons on the weekends. I DO NOT like the pressure of picking out the perfect gift. That is why my siblings and I have purposely decided to give each other the crappiest gifts we can individually think of.

The trip to the store was fairly typical. Stone and Liya made adamant requests to look at the inflatable Santa and Frosty displays, and I was forced to oblige if I wanted any semblance of a peaceful visit to the megamart. We got through the “can I haves” and “I wants” and the anticipated “no you can’ts” without too many tears.

Elderly White women (who just LOVE little brown babies) approached our cart to coo over the kids and inform them of how precious they were. One asked the children if Santa was coming this year.

“No,” said Liya, shaking her head vigorously. She coughed violently, forcing one platinum haired shopper to take three steps back.

It appeared as though she was about to pat the children benevolently on the head, but suddenly thought the better of it. Liya frowned and rudely blew raspberries at her, cementing the decision.

“Ah, you’ve got a little cold I see,” she croaked kindly.

“Mmmhmmm,” Stone confirmed. “Dinosaur.”

“Yes. Dinosaur,” the elderly woman parroted.

Old ladies like to have unintelligible conversations with toddlers. I can see why. It makes them appear lucid and superior.

A few minutes later we’d finished making our selections and walked towards the self-checkout lane. This was supposed to make our trip go quicker, but there is a small game room with a merry-go-round and electronic gadgets to occupy the kids’ time with. The pair of them would not be denied the right to ride the horsie and play games. I sent them over and purchased my items before they had a chance to get settled.

“It’s time to go,” I said flatly, hoping that my firm voice would compel them to obedience. It didn’t.

“Noooo Mawmie!!” Liya screeched. “I want ride the horsiiieee!!”

“Okay…okay!”

I popped a quarter in the machine and waited for it to boot up. It didn’t. Upon close inspection, I saw that my quarter was stuck in the machine. One of the cashiers told me I’d have to go to customer service to get my money back. I put the kids in the cart, who made it a point to scream in protest with every step I took. There were 8 people in the line ahead of me. If you’ve ever been to the customer service line in Wal-Mart, you know that that’s an eternity in wait time. I took a deep breath and steeled myself. Stone and Liya did what came naturally to them. They hit each other, dove off the edge of the buggy and created mayhem in general. Was all of this worth the 25 cents I had lost? Yes. That’s half of my toll fare on 400. I stayed in line.

I looked at the other customers who had joined the queue. There was a guy returning a bicycle, a woman with a cart full of items, and a chick with a small bag. One gentleman had an enormous TV, still sealed in the box. He looked behind him and smiled at the kids who were running amuck. We were getting close to the register. I put the kids in the cart and prepared to explain that I needed my 25 cents back. Ashlee, the portly cashier with way too much foundation and a curly wig opened her drawer and produced two dimes and a nickel. I thanked her and prepared to leave the store, grateful that the kids had not made as bad of a scene as they are capable of.

As I got the main walkway, I was approached by one of the guys who was standing in line.

“Hi, how are you today?” he asked.

“I’m fine thanks,” I smiled. I waited for him to try to sell me something or hand me a track. I give him a quick once over but didn’t see anything for sale.

“I just wanted to give your kids something,” he said in a low kind voice.

Eh?

He produced a wad of bills and handed them to Stone.

“This is for you to buy something for Christmas young man,” he smiled.

Stone looked at him quizzically. He wasn’t used to strangers handing him anything, other than compliments on his looks. The man walked around the cart and tried to hand Liya a ten dollar bill.

“No!” she yelled, and pushed the money away.

That’s right! I thought to myself. Don’t be taking money from no strange men, Liya!

Outwardly, however, I laughed and took the money on her behalf. The man smiled at the kids and I and walked away to a bleating, childish chorus of “thank you” and “Merry krishmus!!”.

texture I have never believed in Santa Claus, for a number of reasons that really don’t matter anymore. However, I have always believed in the idea of Santa, that being the spirit of kindness, sharing and compassion for those who are less fortunate. This year, thousands of children will spend Christmas without a warm home, in the midst of war, or without someone to love them unconditionally. That’s why the spirit of Santa Claus (and his twin brother Baby Jesus in his golden fleece diapers) is so important. Because although my children will not be among that number, a kindly gentleman with green eyes and texturized hair made it his business to make sure that at least two children were blessed this Christmas season, just as Santa would.

My only regret is that I did not ask him his name…

Witnessing the Degradation of the Black Family

I’m an American citizen, but I haven’t had the quintessential experience of growing up “Black in America”. Like so many children of mixed cultural heritage, I was called “African booty scratcher” and all manner of pejoratives by people whose skin looked just like me. In response, I shied away from “Black life” and sought refuge in anything that was opposite. Now that my present has brought me into a full on collision with what was essentially a counter-culture as far as my upbringing was concerned, I find that I am often fascinated and confused by it. Although my father had married a Black American, he held (and still does hold) a certain level of contempt for certain aspects of “Black” culture. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I live in Roswell, which is small Southern city with a rich history. Depending on which side of Crossville Rd one lives on, that can indicate whether one is rather well to-do or barely making it. My side of the road is the latter. We have no millionaire neighbors next door, but we are blessed with the only Red Lobster in a 20 mile radius. That makes my side of the tracks special.

rr My neighbors are hard-working folks. They are airport baggage handlers, teachers, bus drivers and the occasional drug dealer. In fact, I think the guy that moved in the house across the road from me is a pimp (although I have no hard evidence of that, save witnessing the constant stream of vehicles and scantily clad woman in Lucite heels that run in and out of his door). When he pulled up in his jet black late model Jeep Cherokee and stood outside bellowing on his cell phone, I decided that this was exactly the type of individual whom I did NOT want to engage. He was a little too hood for my liking. I didn’t like the looks of him, what with his bald head and full beard so reminiscent of Rick Ross. I made no effort to welcome him and have never asked him his name. However, as fate would have it, Stone forced me into intimate interaction with him.

I was upstairs in my room taking a break when I heard someone pounding on my door. I ignored it. I figured it was the mailman. When the pounding became more insistent I walked down the stairs and noticed my back door was cracked. Rick Ross was standing there.

“Hi?” I said, obviously confused by his presence.

“Hey…did you know your son was outside?” he asked.

“No, I didn’t!”

I looked around frantically for Stone.

“He’s over there,” said Rick, pointing towards the bushes. “He doesn’t have any underwear on.”

“Oh Jesus…”

I scurried to the path and hollered for Stone to come home. Rick laughed heartily. I was surprised by how intelligently he spoke.

“How old is your boy?”

“He’s 3,” I replied.

His face brightened.

“I have a little boy too. He’s also 3.”

“Does he run around the neighborhood with his dangle hanging out?”

“No,” he laughed. “No he doesn’t.”

That was in late August and was the first and last time I spoke to Rick. He and I now wave and smile politely when we cross paths. The whores and strippers still come and go, but I’ve learned to live with it. After all, men will be men.

Last night however, I saw a side to Rick Ross that has led me to be less lenient in my view of how he conducts his affairs.

Being a Friday night, there was a lot of coming and going in our house. There was a church function, a Girl Scout meeting and shopping to be done. When I returned from my errands, I saw a new car park in front of Rick’s house – a blue Camry. The older grey Lexus with South Carolina plates and the Ichthys (that Jesus fish symbol) plastered on the left corner was parked where it always is…too close to my garage. It belongs to Rick’s more recent piece of booty. I figured that this new car just belonged to one of his thug friends who had dropped in. Suddenly, I heard a female voice screaming.

“Open the door! Jayden has to use the bathroom!!”

The woman’s demands for him to open the door continued until he finally flung it open.

“He can come in, but I don’t want you in here,” he growled.

“Why not?” she screeched.

“’Cause I don’t want you in here!”

“Why? ‘Cause you got that b*tch in there?” she howled, her voice carrying far into the winter darkness.

He muttered something which made her yell louder.

“I don’t give a damn about your neighbors! I’m coming in to get my son!”

I heard him tell her to step away from his door or else he was going to hit her. She dared him to hit her…begged him to do it in fact.

“Look. Don’t do this in front of my son,” he warned.

“Give my baby! You b*tch a** nigga!” she roared. She tried to reach behind him to grab her son whom had just emerged from the bathroom. I couldn’t help it. I put down my bags and sat on my A/C unit to watch.

I heard Rick Ross warning her to leave. He used his body weight to shift her out of his door frame and locked the door on her.

“Really?!?” she yelled at the shut door. “You really gonna do this to your wife? Oh. OH! You got me all f*cked up!”

In the darkness I heard a child crying. He was begging his mother to stop. When he heard his son crying, Rick opened the door, grabbed the little boy up and placed him in the back seat of his wife’s car. He brushed past his wife and slammed his front door.

“Oh hell no!” she screamed.

I saw her muscular silhouette stomp over to her vehicle. A halo of hair pulled back in a massive afro puff trailed behind her. She yanked her son out of the car and kicked on Rick Ross’ door. She kicked his tires and pounded on the glass. He opened to door and put his face in hers.

“I already done told you to get on!” he growled before slamming the door in her face again.

A few profanities were exchanged. The voices of the two enraged adults yelling at each other between glass and wood were hardly loud of enough to drown out the pleas of the little boy who had just graduated from his toddler years.

“Please, Daddy! I want you! I want YOU!”

I stopped watching with keen amusement at that moment. I had never heard anything like it before in the entirety of my days on earth. I have never heard a child plead for his parent in that manner.

It was like listening for someone bed for mercy.

It sounded like he was suffocating.

It was heartbreaking…gut wrenching….sickening.

I want you, Daddy. I want you.

Rick Ross finally opened the door and picked up his son. His wife had already begun her walk back to the car and sped away without looking back.

“And you bet’ not come back!” he yelled at her retreating break lights.

It was over. I put my own children in the car and shuttled them to our planned activities.

For the rest of the night, it was all I could think of. Should I go over there tomorrow and let Rick know that his son was welcome to play with Stone any time he wanted? Should I have tried to intervene between the two of them for the sake of the child? I decided I had done what was best: to just stay out of it. Recent events have shown me that I am not equipped to deal with Black people drama.

Hours passed before I returned home much later that evening. I saw a vehicle driving in front of mine. It was Rick Ross’. He got out of his car and looked over his shoulder. His eyes met mine, but only for a brief moment before he went into his house. There was no child with him. That slimy bastard had dropped the kid off somewhere that same night.

I despised him. Oh, I loathed him.

What a punk.

He wasn’t even man enough to look after his son for one, solitary evening. I thought about his wife, whose story no doubt mirrors so many women in Black America who have been left to raise sons by vile, lowlife men who cannot abandon their own pleasures and whims long enough to see to the well-being of their own children. Men who think their manhood is summed up by how many women they can get in their bed and measure their success by the size of their rims. Men who think offering a few paltry hundred dollars a month (if you’re lucky!) will suffice for their absence. They think that’s “providing.”

This is the image of Black fatherhood that is prevalent in this nation and abroad. It is the phantom image of a father, and the sound of a three year old boy crying:

“I want you, Daddy. Daddy, I want you…”