23 December 2009

What a difference a YEAR makes...


Not surprisingly, as the year draws to a close, I am both reflective (on the year about to past) and anticipatory (about the year to come). I think we all embrace the start of a New Year with great joy and hope and anticipation for things to come. We are eager to shake off the dust, heartaches, sorrows of the year behind and embark on a new journey. Full of vim and vigor, we make resolutions and promises, set goals (some realistic, most “pie in the sky”), and mostly look forward to a brand new start. As if every January 1st has some magical power, as if the day itself is a “restart” button for our lives…and maybe it is…or maybe it can be. But, historians and philosophers tell us, in deep foreboding tones, that if we don’t examine the past, we are doomed to repeat it. So, just for a moment, I want to reflect on the year that is about to be … history.

2009 will go down in history as, undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable, memorable, unforgettable years ever to-date in my young (yes, 45 is still “young” in my book) life. In January, the United States inaugurated the first African-American President in the over 200 year history of our country…and whether you supported his campaign (like I did) or not (as many of my friends didn’t), it still was a moment in history that will never be forgotten – whether you stood on the sidelines in awe…or disgust. I was blessed to watch the inauguration from the comfort of my grandmother’s home in Florida. One generation removed from ancestors who experienced slavery in this country, it was an emotional moment for her to watch Barack Obama lift his hand and repeat the oath of office – and as her grandchild, it was emotional for me as well. “Never in my lifetime” seemed to be the recurring theme of the day – and that was true, no matter WHO you were. And while I didn’t necessarily envy my friends who were actually in Washington DC, standing out in bitter cold temperatures for the day, who enjoyed the inauguration balls and saw the First Family “live and in person”, I am glad they had that experience and will have that memory for the rest of their lives.

For me, the rest of the year seems to be a blur of losses. Losses of unbelievable magnitude and impact. Not only the loss of loved ones, family and friends to death (and there were a LOT of funerals that I attended in 2009), which were significant and left holes in my soul and spirit that are still waiting to heal and be filled … I also experienced the heart wrenching losses of friendships that no longer exist in their pure form due to misunderstandings and miscommunications – chasms that still need to be crossed and mended and healed – and some that, out of necessity and sanity, will be or have been abandoned. There have been sleepless nights, tearful conversations, angry words spoken, wounds inflicted and received. There are relationships that have been destroyed and, just like Humpty Dumpty, can never be repaired without the cracks showing. And with a change in my job and my work schedule, there have been relationships that have fallen victim to the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” with amazing speed and rapidity.

But before you think this has me despondent or suicidal, let me quickly state that this has also been a year of amazing blessings and experiences where God has showed up and showed out JUST FOR ME. From the experience at my Uncle Johnny’s funeral where someone told me how a card I mailed her seven years prior encouraged her to the card(s) that showed up unexpectedly in the mail just when I was at my wit’s end and feeling unloved, unwanted, unappreciated. (Can I just say, "you reap what you sow, people" - ok, I said it...moving on) From the blessing of the new job position that moved me out of a work environment that was sending me home crying on a regular basis to a work situation where I continually say, “Thank you Jesus” and “Praise the Lord”. And for every friendship that has faltered or failed, another friendship has been planted, another bloom has sprouted and the resultant flowers have been more colorful and hardier and more enduring.

Who knows what 2010 will hold. I am sure there will be more deaths and sorrows – it is the time in which we live – our elders are getting older and in mercy, will be put to sleep in the Lord. Death, unfortunately, is a fact of life. Disease is running rampant and I will lose people I love and care for to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, car accidents, whatever … that is the price of sin as foretold in the Bible. There will be disappointments: job losses, friendships gone sour, marriages dissolving, financial stresses and strains. There will be tears of sorrow. There will be hurt feelings and deep emotional traumas. There will be arguments over stupid things and conversations that will just go south for no reason at all. There will be days when I will think I just cannot put one foot in front of the other one mo’ time again. There will be "those" days in 2010 – to think otherwise is foolish.

But there will also be days of great joy and gladness. Friends will get married and have babies. There will be birthdays to celebrate and graduations to attend. There will be powerful sermons preached by the men and women of God that will edify, encourage and uplift my spirits. There will be songs sung that will speak directly to the heart of the matter (whatever the matter may be). There will be enriching conversations with friends, probably over fabulous dinners. There will be breathtaking moments that I will capture with my camera (and moments that I will miss as I wish my shutter finger was quicker). There will be those quiet moments when God will speak directly to me and I hope I will be quiet and still enough to actually HEAR Him when He does. There will be prayers prayed and prayeres answered. There will be laughter and smiles and blessings.

Whatever 2010 brings, I look forward to the ride because I know God will sustain me as I move through it. By now, you know my favorite Bible promise is found in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In other words, NO MATTER WHAT COMES, God got it under His control…it does not happen without His permission or without His knowing..., so ultimately, that means that whatever happens in 2010, it is for my good, for my edification, and ultimately, for my salvation. Knowing that, I know I will survive whatever is ahead. I know YOU will too.

Be blessed.

17 December 2009

It's JUST a wig, people...

I have been on a hair odyssey all my life. My mother tells me of how I was a "cue ball" (as in "bald as a") baby and how, in desperation and despair over the fact that everyone kept commenting on what a cute little baby BOY I was, she once TAPED a bow to my head to stop the comments. That was the beginning of 45 years of hair drama...which is why I TOTALLY relate to India.Arie's anthem to women everywhere: I am NOT my hair! I have posted blogs about this subject matter before, but feel the need to do it again after my firm's holiday party this week.

First, a little recent hair history: I went "natural" with my hair over 10 years ago, culminating in locking it (not "DREADING" it - ARGH! I hate that word!) in 2002. I kept my hair locked for six years before the weight of the locs caused me to cut them short, and then eventually off in November 2007. During that six year period, I was always amazed at the amount of vested interest people took in MY hair. From the people who would constantly tell me, "you know, usually I don't like locs, but you at least keep yours neat." to the brother at church who threatened every Sabbath to bring scissors to church so he could cut my hair and free me from the demons that surely were possessing me (he actually said, PRAISE THE LORD when he HEARD that I'd cut them off!) to strangers who offered unsolicited advice about how to care for my hair or to ask for my loctician's name and phone number to the sista who when I cut my hair told me (with a straight face, mind you) "Well, now you'll finally be able to get a man" and further responded when I said that I had dated in the six years that I had locs, "Well, now you will get a better class of man." REALLY? SERIOUSLY? Unbelievable. Drove a sista to tears and almost to drink.

So, for the last year, I have been trying to grow my hair out. (And all African-American sistas around the world sighed in great sympathy with me...) Most of the time, I rock a short Afro with a variety and mixture of products to help enhance the natural curl of my hair...yeah, it hasn't been easy. Some days, I can pull it off and others days, I want to head to the nearest barber's chair and say, cut it all off! Let's start over from the beginning. I see sistas with cute short hairdos and am tempted tempted tempted. To keep me from cutting it off, I have put tree braids in my hair, straightened and curled it (ok, that was only once in the very beginning, but I may do it again in the very near future) and occasionally, I plop a wig on it...as I did yesterday. Actually, all this week. As a result of last week's fender bender, I discovered it is a little uncomfortable to have to do my hair...so Monday, I washed it, braided it down, and walked out of the house with one of my momma's wigs perched on my head. And I did the same thing on Tuesday for our firm holiday party...

OK, why did people act like ... I don't know ... like Jesus Himself had descended from heaven and bestowed multiple blessings on me just because all of a sudden I have straight hair!? Almost to a person, everyone made a comment, ranging from "oh, I just love your hair!" to "I didn't even recognize you, you look so different." to "You look so beautiful" (uh, hello! Not bragging, but it ain't like I'm Quasimodo's sister on a regular day...I'm just sayin') One "sweetheart" made a point of walking across the room just to say to me, "I really love your hair, you should wear it like that all the time!" Eventually, to deflect all the unwanted comments and attention, I made jokes: "Well, if you like it so much, I can send it to you interoffice, but you might have to wait a while, there are several other people in front of you who have requested it". I mean, it was either make jokes about it or bust into tears (which I have done before...over my hair...so uncool and totally unnecessary)

All that to say, hair is just an accessory...it ain't that big a deal. Why do we make such a big deal about it - and allow others to make value judgments about us based on what style we decide to put our hair in at any given time? My worth, my beauty, who I am as a person is NOT TIED UP IN MY HAIR!!! I wish other people could look past whatever hairstyle I am wearing and look to the beauty of my heart, my soul and my bubbling personality (and if you don't know that about me, you truly need to ask somebody!)

So, for all the haters out there, you might as well get prepared...just as I set some goals for styles that I wanted to do with my locs, I have some style goals for my free, natural hair now (can someone say "afro puff" with me!?)...and then...drumroll...I'll be locking my hair up again. (Goal date: November 2010). So prepare your hearts now...like it, hate it, love it, despise it. But whatever you do, accept it (and me) for what it is. If you don't have anything positive to say, keep it to yourself. And if I'm obviously wearing a wig and you start gushing about how great I look in it, don't be surprised if I pull it off and give it to you! I betcha that will shut you up! 8-)

Be blessed.

13 December 2009

Engaging in THIS moment...


I had a great conversation with a girlfriend today. During the course of our conversation, we started talking about how technology has impacted how we communicate with each other. Phone calls are no longer the norm and we have become addicted to social networks (my personal favorite: Facebook), text messaging, and emails. Without fear of dating myself, I spoke about answering machines (to my younger generation friends, the precursor to voice mail) and how when they first hit the scene, I HATED them! What is the point of a machine taking a message when I want to talk to my friend? But as they became more "the norm", I became frustrated with people who didn't have them..."I just wanted to leave a message, I didn't want to TALK to them." And here is a confession that is probably gonna get me in trouble: I use caller ID all the time to "screen" calls and decide..."do I REALLY have time (or the desire) to speak with the person calling?" Cause the reality is, sometimes it is NOT convenient...sometimes you cannot be the listening ear or shoulder to cry on...sometimes...you just have to screen the call.

And sometimes, you need to put the phone down and engage in what is going on in the moment. I cannot tell you how many times I have been out with a friend and had our time together interrupted by a buzzing BlackBerry or a ringing cell phone. I have one friend that I ONLY see twice a year - his birthday and mine - and yet, every time we are together, I have to compete with his BlackBerry! It is so very rude! (my opinion). There should be times (I think) when we can (and should) just "disconnect" and engage. When I am sitting across a table from you, I should be interested/engaged enough to interact with you. When my mother and I eat dinner together, for the most part, I try to make it a Facebook/BlackBerry free zone. Believe me - ain't nothing gonna pop off in the hour we eat together that cannot be handled whenever I get the message. When I go to church, the phone stays in the car. You'd think that would be a no-brainer, but I cannot tell you how many times I have ushered people out of the church sanctuary and/or lobby of the church as they talk on their cell phones. C'mon people! It ain't THAT important! In the movie theatre...in restaurants...disconnect...enjoy the moment where you are. I read a Facebook status of a friend who posted, "Having a great time hanging out with my girls" - really? How great a time can you be having if you are stepping outside of the moment to go on Facebook to post a status about it? I just don't get it.

And then there is the other side of it: when you are on a phone conversation with someone - devote your attention entirely to that person! I understand the convenience of call waiting, but in the olde days before call waiting...people used to get a busy signal if they called you and you were on the phone - and you NEVER KNEW they called you until they called you back or you got a message on the answering machine. Yeah, it wasn't always "convenient" to have to call someone back, but at least your conversations weren't interrupted over and over and over again. Today while talking to my girlfriend, the phone beeped a few times - she never knew it because I never jumped off the phone. I checked, saw who called and realized that I could call them back. As a result, she and I had a meaningful LOOONG conversation that I believe was a true blessing to both of us.

It is great to be connected. There is nothing wrong with that. I love being on Facebook and being a "voyeur" into the lives of my friends who live all around the country and world. To see what they are doing - how they are living and enjoying their lives - finding out what we have in common, and what makes us so very different. But when it is time for one-on-one, face-to-face, me and you experiences...disconnect, unplug, and engage in the moment. Otherwise, I think you are gonna miss out on some wonderful blessings that God has in store for you. Things that will sustain you on the days when you are feeling all alone and unloved and lonely. Shared xperiences that will nourish and nurture your spirit and soul when the world seems cold and lonely and bleak. Your life will be richer, more colorful, more textured...at least that has been my experience.

So put down the mouse. Pick up the phone. Become engaged.
Be blessed.

09 December 2009

Journaling has a purpose


I just started a historical romance novel by Julia Quinn entitled THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS MIRANDA CHEEVER. Ok, I know it's "brain candy", but every once in a while, that is exactly what you need...ok, let's be honest: sometimes that is exactly what I need. Anyway, the premise of the book is that at the age of ten, the heroine decides to keep a journal. This struck a chord in me because it was around the same age that I first started keeping a journal (as if at age 10, I had something vital and important going on in life that needed recording) Some of her initial entries remind me of my original diaries/journals (and yes, I still have most of them): "Today I ate string beans and they were really good." (even then, I was all about food!) Looking back, I recognize that there were other things I probably should have been journalling about (my parents' divorce and subsequently living in a household with two mommas and five sibling/cousins, moving to NYC and the horrors of living there), but I didn't have the words within me...or maybe I just hadn't embraced the idea of my "voice" and the importance of it...so my early journals are pretty pathetic and funny. (And no, you cannot read them! hahaha)

Then as I got older, my journals took on the usual "oh, I am so in love" vein of the typical teenager and young adult in her early 20s. But even then, I wasn't necessarily "true" to my voice. There are a lot of experiences that I went through that I should have recorded that are lost in the annals of time because I didn't write about them at the time. Friends will say to me, "don't you remember when we...?" and I must confess that I have no recollection of whatever they are talking about. Maybe that is why it is so important to me now to commemorate EVERYTHING. Everyone knows I will pull out my camera in a minute and take the picture - what they may not know is the picture usually ends up in a journal with the whole story behind when the picture was taken and what the story is behind the picture. I have photo books of almost every vacation taken, most birthdays celebrated (mine and others), and lots of meals cooked and/or eaten. It's all about preserving the memories.

BUT when things get tough...the journaling stops or gets suspended. It's like I lose my voice again when I get overwhelmed by stuff. Even with this blog - when I am in a "good" place, I write (and write and write)...but when things are spinning out of control (as it has for most of this year), I get silent. It's not that I don't have anything to say - in fact, it is probably the opposite and I probably have TOO much to say. But since I find it difficult to express my own voice, I definitely am not trying to hear the voices of others making comments/suggestions/opinions. Because just like Job's friends when he was going through his trials, everyone who comes at you with their advice and opinions doesn't necessarily have your best interests at heart.

I am finding out though...there is a purpose to journaling and some times it ain't even about me. The sharing of experiences - good, bad, horrific - has inherent within it a blessing. I guess that is why we are encouraged to "testify of the goodness of the Lord" - by telling you how I overcame a situation, you may be encouraged to keep holding on through your trial. So, it is my determination and hope that I will keep journaling (or blogging) and giving voice to...well, my voice. I understand that everyone will not understand what I choose to share...or how I choose to express myself. I may be setting myself up for backlash and moments of "why did that person feel they had the right to say that to me?" But you know what...that is not (necessarily) my problem and may be more their issue not mine. It ultimately is MY life to share or not share as I wish.

I keep telling y'all that 2010 is going to be a different kind of year. I trust that my true friends will not judge me - or at least, not too harshly. After all, you all really should know me by now, I would think. And I am confident that the "haters" will show themselves for who they are and will subsequently be weeded out (with a quickness). My new mantra for 2010: Life is too short to surround yourself with people who make you cry or feel bad or make your skin crawl. (hahaha) Only positive people and supportive energy going forward. I think it is going to be an interesting ride, don't you?

Be blessed.

08 December 2009

It's not that I HATE Christmas...



Everybody should recognize this picture: Ebenezer Scrooge is iconic. Known worldwide as the man who hated Christmas, he made the phrase "bah humbug" famous and every year, millions of people go to theatres around the world to listen to the tale of how he finds redemption in changing his mind about Christmas. Make the statement that you don't "do" Christmas and watch how many people start calling you by his name. I know...it happens to me every year right about this time of year.

Now, for the record, I do not HATE Christmas...not in it's true, pure form. What I hate is the commercialism and the expectations of others because someone, somewhere decided that December 25th is the day we are supposed to celebrate the birth of Christ. (Y'all do realize that ain't His real birthday, right? He was born in the springtime, otherwise, why were the shepherds out watching their flocks by night?) And with retailers starting to push Christmas toys and sales and bargains in September, long before Halloween (another "holiday" I don't do) and Thanksgiving, it seems like all year long, all people do is talk about Christmas. Well, I say, BAH HUMBUG!!!

Sad thing is: I used to be such the Christmas holiday person - buying the cards and mailing them, putting up the lights, getting little trinkets all through the year for people because I thought they might enjoy this or that, planning holiday gatherings and marking the calendar for others' gatherings as well, buying and listening to holiday music - it was truly "the most wonderful time of the year"...but about 3 years ago, I'd had enough. Not that I'm into the "tit for tat" of it all, but I was mailing out over 300 cards each year and getting maybe 75 cards in return...giving gifts to EVERY secretary I worked with on my floor and it not being reciprocated - and yet hearing comments like, "Ooo, I cannot wait to see what she gives us this year, she always gives such good and thoughtful gifts." REALLY? And the running, running, running was wearing me out! So, I just decided one year I wasn't doing it anymore. I wrote up a little notice that I put in all my holiday cards stating, "next year I ain't doing this." and made up my mind that I wasn't.

Can we talk about the resistance I received? You woulda thought I was crucifying Jesus on the cross all over again all by myself! I was questioned about my Christianity and faith in Jesus - I was called unAmerican - and I was definitely called Scrooge - over and over and over again. But I held firm and now, 3 years later, most of my friends have either joined me in my protest of the day or really really wish they could. This year especially, with the hard economic times and job losses, people tell me that they are finding it harder and harder to have the "Christmas spirit". I would propose it is because we have lost the true focus and meaning of the season.

So, here is my suggestion if you are not quite ready to give up the lights, cards, presents, and all the other busyness of the holiday: take some time to just reflect on the true reason for the season. Jesus and what He might do in today's trying times. Hmmm...how 'bout going to the nursing home and visiting with an older person who may not have any family or friends to visit them? How 'bout inviting a single person or parent over to your house for dinner? How 'bout giving your child one toy and not the entire toy store? Or better yet, have them pick a favorite toy and then take the rest of the stuff they receive (and probably do not need) to a local shelter to bless another child or children who might not receive any toys at all? Participate in a feeding program at a church or other outreach center. Make the holiday about someone else other than yourself. Just a few suggestions. (and I'm talking to myself as I write). We need to step outside our boxes of comfort and touch the lives of others in tangible ways. Why not start this Christmas? Baby steps...baby steps.

Be blessed.

07 December 2009

Loving me is...not that easy


I have often said that I wish I could find someone who would love me the way I want or need to be loved. Now, let me state for the record, there are plenty of people who love me...family, friends, old boyfriends...but if you have ever read the book THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES by Gary Chapman, you know that there are different "ways" to love people: acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time and words of affirmation. I am not going to tell you which is the way I prefer to be loved, I am just going to leave it at this statement: the people who know me the best tend to love me the way THEY want to be loved and not necessarily the way I NEED to be loved...and that causes conflict, confusion and disappointment some times. It is not that they don't love me - they are doing the best they can and showing love the way they know how to...we just seem to keep missing the point with each other. I am learning to accept that things just will not change in that regard - people are who they are and for the most part, they really are doing the best they can do, but it is still hard to realize that some things are never going to change in that regard. But because I try to be honest about myself and my role in my relationships with others, I recently came to realize that I am guilty of the very same thing.

For example, my mother and I live together. I figure that since I provide the roof over her head, do most of the cooking in the house, pay the bills, etc., I am showing her love (acts of service). However, for my mother (who prefers physical touch and words of affirmation), she'd rather I tell her every day that I love her, that I hug her occasionally (I am NOT a hugger, for the record), and that at least once a week, we sit down and eat a meal together. Now, all of this sounds easy and uncomplicated, right? But it is "difficult" for me cause that is not the easiest way for me to show her love. Not that I don't do these things, but it takes more effort on my part to do them because it is not "natural" for me. Close friends think it's funny when they tell me "give your mother a hug and/or kiss for me" and I turn up my nose and say, "Yeah, I'll tell her you sent one." Just not in my nature to do that. Just as it is not within her to naturally love me as I would want her to. (and since I don't want to put her "on blast", I will not give an example, but she reads this blog, and she knows what I am talking about.) Don't get it twisted - my mom loves me, very much, and I know that and I am by no means implying that she doesn't...she just loves me in her way, which is not necessarily "my" way.

And it's the same way I interact with my friends as well. Recently, a friend and ex-boyfriend of mine told me that his mother wasn't doing well and asked would I please reach out and call her since she would love to hear from me. I responded that I would drop her a card in the mail. He insisted that a phone call would be better. Now, my immediate reaction was, "Shoot. You asked me to contact her. I'd rather send a card cause it lasts longer and she can look at it often in the future and besides, I really am tired and don't have the time and energy for a (long) phone conversation with your mom." And I told him this in so many words, but he was kind of insistent that I call his mom - which, honestly, made me a little salty and a lot resistant to the idea, but I was convicted to call her, so I did (under duress) and discovered that, for his mom, the phone call was more important than receiving a card in the mail - she wanted to hear my voice, not read a card from me. So, I am glad I stepped outside my own personal box of comfort to do it because of the joy it brought her.

Last example, my grandmother recently popped her hip out of joint and has been in rehab for a while. I went to visit her and as is my thing, showed my love by bringing her food and cooking while I was there because she kept complaining about the food in the rehab and how she wanted some "real good food". I love to cook, so it was a no brainer, easy way to show my love for her. But sitting in the rehab center on Saturday evening, I saw love in action. My mother and one of my grandmother's play daughters, Pearlstine, recognizing that my grandmother had been laying up in the hospital bed all day and that her skin was kind of dry from the stale air in the hospital room, took out some sage and chamomile shea butter that I'd given my grandmother a long time ago and lovingly massaged it into her skin to bring her some relief and comfort. As my grandmother ooo'd and ahh'd under their ministrations, I realized that she needed and desired that physical touch kind of love - which I never thought about and never would have considered doing unless she asked me (and admittedly, I probably would not have done it so lovingly and patiently either...hey, I know my limitations and shortcomings!) But I am eternally grateful that Pearlstine and my mother recognized her need and desire for that - and willingly gave it to her.

We all need love. We all need love the way WE want to be loved. And while I have not yet found the person here on earth who does that for me (which totally explains why I am still single and yet content in that state), I am glad that my Heavenly Father does know me and knows how I need and want to be loved. He shows it to me every day in a myriad of unexpected, surprising and "just for me" kind of ways. I could go on and on with testimonies of how, just when I am at my lowest, He sends an unexpected blessing my way in the form of a word of encouragement, or a phone call, or a card in the mail, or an email that brightens my day - something that lets me know that, not only am I on His radar, He knows just WHAT I need and in what form I need to receive it. I get called on the carpet for calling myself His Favorite Child, but I honestly believe that I am because He shows me that all the time just how much He loves and cares for ME.

And something tells me, He knows YOU and shows His love for you in just the same way. I am so glad that we don't serve a God who "cookie cuts" His blessings to us as if we are all exactly the same. The Bible tells me that He knows each one of us so intimately that He knows the number of hairs on our heads, which tells me that He knows me better than I know myself and He treats me accordingly. I really ought to serve Him better. Thank you God for loving me as I want and need to be loved and for showing me Your love every day.

Be blessed.

13 November 2009

Thirty Years Later


Thursday, November 12, 2009
In a year when I have gone to more funerals than birthday parties, it is always a joy when I am reminded of the value of long lasting relationships and friendships. Today I had such an experience.

In 1978, my mother remarried and transplanted my brother and I from Atlanta, Georgia (by way of a short 6 month stint in Savannah, GA) to the Bronx - Fort Apache - New York. C'mon! Just the name alone would strike fear in the heart of the most stalwart, resilient and courageous teenager around...yeah well...I was none of those! I was TERRIFIED out of my mind to be living in the big, concrete, where are the trees?, jungle that was Parkchester, Bronx, NY. [I should note, my brother took to it like a duck to water - what does that say about him? Hmmmm...] I knew I was not going to fall in love with New York the first time it snowed. Now, coming from "down South" where one snowflake can paralyze a city for DAYS, the first snowfall in NYC was my wake-up call to my hate-hate relationship with the city. "Time to get up for school.", my mother called. "But it's snowing. There must be 8 inches on the ground. Isn't school closed?" "No sweetie, this is New York." SCREECH!!! Send me back to Atlanta right now. Where is the humanity in sending me out in that foolishness. And it was at that moment that I began plotting my escape.

And my new classmates didn't make it any easier. "Ooo, say that again. You have the cutest accent." was a common refrain throughout the day at school - and my two biggest teases were two larger than life Hispanic guys, Alex and Santos. Now, to the Atlanta transplant, the whole idea of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic culture was straight out of movies to me (West Side Story, anyone?)...and here were the two hottest guys in our class (my opinion) and they were the full embodiment of "hot, lusty Latin men". I will go no further since both of my parents read this blog, but you get my drift as to the conversations we had. Hot for 9th graders, let me tell you! Throughout the year at J.H.S. 127, Alex and Santos must have been on a mission to make me blush at least once a day - and most days they succeeded. But after graduation, Santos went off to another high school and we lost touch. Alex and I went to the same high school, but soon found new friends and eventually just became ships passing through the hallways.

And then suddenly it was 20 years later and I was involved with the planning of my 20th high school reunion. Some time during either the planning of the reunion (or right afterwards) I got a random phone call from a gentleman asking me "do you remember me?" and it was Alex! He was stationed in Iran at the time (his 2nd tour of duty) and after a few missed international phone calls, we finally got to talk voice to voice and we rekindled our friendship. Through him and the magic of Facebook, approximately five years ago, I reached out and made a similar "call" to Santos and we reconnected. For about that long, we have played hit and miss with opportunities to actually see each other...until today.

Thirty years later, I was reunited with my junior high school friend...and what a wonderful reunion it was (for me). Our reunion was only about an hour in length (due to his having to get on a plane), but it was wonderful to connect with someone who knew me such a long time ago - and who was as interested in the reconnection as I was. That is a true blessing.

Reminds me of a reunion that will be taking place in heaven some day soon. Lots of people I love have been laid to sleep in the Lord - not only this year, but throughout my life. And there are some reunions I am looking forward to having...my grandparents, some very special friends and of course, with my Lord and Savior. I hope to see you there as well. Let's make a date to meet up there - what do you say?

Be blessed.

05 November 2009

The Value of (My) Friendship

November is always a month of reflection for me. As I approach the eve of another birthday (and this one is a BIG one! 45 years young...), I am reflective of the year just past, and my entire life. 2009 has been an eye-opener for me in a lot of ways. Lots of losses and changes in my life: I don't think a single month has gone by this year where I have not been to a funeral or homegoing service for a loved one or for the loved one of a dear friend. In fact, a high school classmate who calls me EVERY day to check on me, is now almost afraid to ask me what I am doing each weekend because it seems like every weekend for the past few months, my answer has been that I have to attend or just come from yet another funeral. And those aren't the only losses (or changes) I'm talking about: loss/changes in friendships and relationships; changes in job responsibilities and even my job schedule; shifts in paradigms, beliefs and even a change in how I view God and His love, care and concern for me.

For about a month on Facebook, I have been talking about doing "the BIG PURGE". As my number of "friends" neared the 700 mark, I recognized and realized that just because someone has accepted your "friend request", they ain't necessarily your "friend". [And that is true outside the cyberworld of Spacebook or MyFace as my father likes to call the two leading social networks - he hasn't come up with a new name for Twitter yet, but I'm sure he's working on it...] So, I made a grand announcement about "purging" all the dead beats from my friends list. It started out as a joke, but as I moved through the list, I realized the value of it. My "friend count" has been drastically reduced as I have slashed through the list and removed people (I'm below 600 at last count). Some people have been "saved from the purge" because of their familial ties - can't get rid of family no matter what; others because they got decades of friendship under the bridge (although that was not an automatic "save" for some people by no means) and some...really got saved only because of my nosiness about what's going on in their lives. And I am not the only one who is doing this on Facebook. Increasingly, I see my friends' statuses say stuff like: "To delete or not to delete", or otherwise asking the question about the "rightness" or "wrongness" in deleting someone who has been a "friend" on their page. My response, across the board, has been, "Delete, delete, delete".

But then today, after I posted a status that said, "Kristina just wants everyone to know: THIS IS MY PAGE!! Like it or leave it! Geesh.", another close friend of mine made a statement that made me stop and think. He said (paraphrasing), "you act like it's a big deal if you decide to delete somebody. It ain't that big a deal if you do. Not to me anyway." WOW! He went on to explain his reasons for saying that (which I will not get into here), but it made me stop and think. Am I really acting that way? Like I'm all that and a bag of chips? Is that the statement I'm trying to make? "Hey world, stop, look and pay attention to me?" Hmm...maybe. Maybe not. But, for argument's sake, let's go with the "maybe - yes, that is the statement I want to make."

Is there anything "wrong" with that? Why shouldn't I want to be valued by my friends in the same way that I value them? Every name on my friends list MEANS something to me - good, bad or indifferent...every name calls up a memory, a feeling, a reason why when I got their friend request, I accepted - or when I sent them mine, I was glad they accepted me. Shouldn't friendships nourish and sustain you - not only in the good times, but through the bad? Shouldn't, when I see your name on my friends list, there be a feeling of joy and not despair? I think so. As the old Loreal commercial said: Because I'm worth it. And I am.

So, without apology or equivocation...going into 2010, the people who do that for me - the ones who nourish my soul, cherish my friendship, who "know" and value me just as I am and not how because I am the way they want or need me to be, or because of what I do or give to them - those are the people that I want to surround myself with. Excuse my poor English but, I ain't got time for the bull no mo'...I just don't. When I candidly say to you that 2009 opened my eyes ... more than I ever wanted them to be opened ... it did.

The Bible says, "to everything there is a season..." And for those who don't believe as I do, then I am sure you are familiar with this saying, "People are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime". Well, I am embracing MY season. 44 years for everyone else is long enough. It is time for ME - call it selfish, call it mean, call it whatever you need to call it. THIS IS MY SEASON.

So, on January 1, 2010, I plan to post this as my status: "If you are seeing this status update, you survived my 2009 purge - congratulations!" Take offense if you wish, applaud my decision if you know me and understand ...whatever you choose to do... that is on you. I am doing me ... finally!

Hope I see in 2010. (seriously)
Be blessed, (even more seriously)

15 September 2009

Evaluation


So today is the day. Every year, as an employee, there is a tradition we all must endure called "the annual review" or "evaluation". At the firm where I work, you not only have to do a self-evaluation (which I hate! I mean, where is the line between tooting your own horn to the brink of arrogance and not outlining what you do on a daily basis so that you can be properly assessed and evaluated?), but you also are evaluated by every timekeeper you work for. It can make for a stressful situation - even when you are a stellar, above the top, team player, yes I am THAT great employee like myself. Hahaha. (Sort of) just kidding.

We all think we are great employees, don't we? I mean, c'mon. Who wants to own up to being the employee who comes in late, takes long lunches, leaves early, and in-between all that, spends way too much time answering personal emails, playing online games, being less than cordial to clients/customers, gossiping troublemakers that no one wants to work with, but endures nevertheless. Not me, and surely not you either. And yet, everyone knows someone who fits into the category I just described and not too many people who fit into the category in which I jokingly put myself in above.

When I sit down with my (new) supervisor later this afternoon, I fully expect to get a good evaluation from the attorneys that I spent most of the last year supporting. I am confident about this because, throughout the year, I made a conscious effort to communicate with them and make sure that their expectations of me were on point with what I was doing in my daily job. There were some "behind closed doors" conversations where I was told I needed to be more careful in the execution of my job. There were also some times when I was (deservedly so) taken to task for dropping the ball or failing to follow through with a task. (Yes Lin, even your "together" godsister ain't always so "together"!) But overall, I feel I am a good employee and expect a good evaluation. I expect that I will come out of the meeting with my head held high and an evaluation that I can proudly show my mother. (She looks forward to this stuff way more than I do!)

But in the scheme of things, my evaluation today is nothing compared to the evaluation going on every day on a spiritual level for my soul. I KNOW I would be much more apprehensive if I were sitting down face-to-face with my Lord and Saviour waiting for His critique of my performance as His child. Am I the Christian I proclaim to be to my friends, family and loved ones? Hmmm, not always. Do I perform the duties He places before me with a willing spirit? Do I follow through when He whispers a suggestion in my ear? Do I always perform my tasks with a willing spirit? In all honesty...that would again have to be a sheepish "no". What would my "grade" be if my name were called in the judgment chambers today? Would I get a "Well done, My good and faithful servant" or would it be "Depart from me, I don't know who you are." I am praying it would be the former.

There's a song whose lyrics are: "Only what you do for Christ will last." This is true in EVERYTHING we do. Whether it is honoring our parents or being courteous to the rude driver in front of us or performing our duties at work to the best of our abilities: we should do it as if we were being evaluated in the heavenly courts. 'Cause guess what? We are.

Be blessed.

13 September 2009

Since when is rudeness acceptable?

Call me old-fashioned but I remember the days when common decency was...well, common.Whatever happened to "The Golden Rule"? You know, treat others as you would like to be treated? Whatever happened to treating each other with respect, even if we disagree? I don't know. I think we are moving away from a basic foundation of decency and respect and, as a result, rudeness is becoming more commonplace and seemingly, more acceptable. In the past month, there have been a series of shocking displays of downright rude behavior.

It started with a man who thought it was totally acceptable for him to haul off and slap a crying toddler in a WalMart store in Georgia. He defends his behavior by saying he spoke to the child's mother first and when she could not control her child, he took matters into his own hands. REALLY? Can I just say, he best to be glad it wasn't my child he put his hands on because he would not be the one currently sitting in a jail cell. He'd be in the morgue and I'd be in jail..on murder charges!

It continued this past Wednesday night when South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson yelled "you lie" during President Obama's address to Congress about his plan for health care reform. I was at work and was unable to watch the speech, but I listened to it on CNNLive. On audio, all you heard was the disruption - and then the boos of the entire chamber. At first, I thought it was a mistake. Surely, no one would be "bold" enough to disrupt the President's speech, would they?

Have you ever been in a situation where you are in a noisy environment holding a conversation and just as you say something, the room noise dies down and everyone hears you say something inappropriate? I thought initially that is what happened in the Joe Wilson situation. But if you look at the video clip, you will see that is not exactly the case. Before the "you lie" outburst, there was a disruption on that same side of the chamber. I don't know if it was Congressman Wilson testing to see if he could get away with making an outburst, but the outburst that caused everyone to sit up and take notice was not the first outburst made that evening. It was rude. It was disrespectful. And Rep. Wilson has felt the brunt of public criticism and rebuke. He has made an apology, the apology has been accepted, we should move on, right? I don't know. The jury is still out. And it will be up to the voters in South Carolina to decide next year if Joe Wilson is who they want representing them in Congress.

Then tonight, at the Video Music Awards (VMA) show, Kanye West took rudeness to another level. Taylor Swift, a young rising country star, had just been awarded the best video performance award when Kanye West came on stage, took the mic from her and then announced that Beyonce' (another artist up for the same award) had the best video ever. REALLY? I don't watch awards shows, but I saw the clip on YouTube (like everyone else who missed the awards show) and even Beyonce seemed surprised, shocked and embarassed by his outburst. Now, whether it was a publicity stunt or just outright rudeness, I don't know. It was inappropriate, disrespectful to BOTH artists, and made Kanye look like a jerk. Of course, that is just my opinion.

When Joe Wilson made his outburst, thousands of people logged onto the website of his opponent for next year's Congressional race and put their money where their protests were and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his election campaign. Since Kanye's "stunt" on the VMAs, several people have commented that they will not support Kanye anymore. Good for them. It's one thing to be vocal, another to put your money where your mouth is. Better to do both.

Rudeness is never acceptable. And we need to speak out against it wherever we see it. Whether it is the kid who doesn't give up his seat on public transit for the elderly or pregnant woman. Whether it is the stranger bold enough to slap a crying toddler in a store. Whether it is a Congressman yelling out in what he called a "town hall" moment. Whether it is an entertainer disrupting a young woman's shining moment of achievement...we, as a people, need to stand up, speak up, and denounce such behavior as unacceptable.

Be blessed.

08 September 2009

Is it politics or racism...you decide

Today President Obama made a speech to the nation’s children about the importance of education and what responsibilities they, the individual student, have to themselves and to this country and how education can help them achieve any goals they may have for themselves. I have not heard the speech in its entirety, nor have I read the transcript that was released by the White House over the holiday weekend, but I have been privy to a LOT of discussion about the speech via my friends (and their friends) on Facebook. Most people are amazed that there is even a controversy brewing over the fact that the President of the United States of America wants to address the children about something so fundamentally important as education. But the underlying debate is whether the controversy is based on politics or on racism. Either is equally dangerous if you ask me, but one hits a little closer to home for me.

So here we are in September 2009, almost a year after this country elected Barack Obama as the first African-American President. And in this first year, there have been no scandals of unfaithfulness (Kennedy / Clinton), no scandals of wiretapping and conspiracy (Nixon), no terrorist attacks on our soil (Bush), and while the war is still waging overseas, no new wars have broken out – although North Korea has flexed. The economy, slowly but surely seems to be turning around – it will be a LONG process people, be patient. Unemployment is slowly turning around also – not as fast as someone who has lost his/her job and is looking for one might like, but there are jobs out there and more are opening up nationwide. I knew when I voted for Obama that he was not a miracle worker. I was aware of the fact that all of our problems didn’t START with the Bush administration, and therefore, did not expect all the solutions to be found in the Obama administration. It is going to take time to rectify the problems our nation faces – and patience is needed.

However, people who don’t think as I think politically/emotionally/rationally…have tried to cloud the issues for the last 10 months. Did we have to spend days of news attention on the fact that President Obama took his wife to NYC to watch a play and while they were there, she drank a glass of wine? Really? Do we really have to hear about how Mrs. Obama’s walking shorts were not appropriate to wear while touring the Grand Canyon on vacation? You want me to believe that in sweltering heat, you really are going around in a sundress, sandals, carrying a parasol? Pa-leeze! And PETA has to protest because Obama swatted at a fly during a press conference? He didn’t even kill the fly, just swatted at it! Geesh. And now, finally, most recently, are there people in this country who are seriously “threatened” that Obama is going to “indoctrinate” their children while giving a speech about the importance of education? Excuse my French but, what the hell?!

I understand that all the noise is being made by a small group of people – but they sure are making a LOT of noise. And while most of the people making the noise don’t look like me, there are some who do look like me who feel the same way. (They are just a little less vocal about it). But every White person doesn’t hate Obama, neither does every Black person love him. Just putting that out there. People have said that the controversy is not about race, it’s about politics. Hmmm…really? How can it be about politics when the controversy started before the text of his speech was even released? If you don’t know what I am going to say and yet you are all up in arms at the thought of me saying anything, how is that politics?

I know there is a faction of people in this country who want to make everything about race. I have people in my family like that. (and yes, racism exists both ways and neither is right). And everything is NOT always about race…but from my perspective as an educated, employed, never been on welfare, never been on drugs, no illegitimate or legitimate children, BLACK woman: some things are. When Obama was elected, I knew he and his wife and his children would be scrutinized as no other First Family would be – but even I didn’t expect the microscopic intense attention paid to their every word, action, deed, thought, outfit…I couldn’t do. I have always said that we (Black folks) have to be twice as good to be considered half as worthy. And the older I get, the more I am finding that to be true.

I did listen to some of President Obama’s speech today. I was impressed with his humbleness as he talked about being in Indonesia with his single mom and her waking him up each morning at 4:30a to teach him his lessons. I listened to him tell the children that “your circumstances of today do not have to determine who you become” and thought “exactly!”. He also said (paraphrase): Your failures are not to define you, they are to teach you. Each failure is a lesson in what not to do to be successful. Powerful! Why would anyone NOT want their children to hear such encouraging words? I don’t know.

What amazes me also, these same parents who want to pull their children from school to avoid having them listen to the President will allow their children to listen to all kinds of negative music lyrics, or watch crazy/stupid TV shows and/or movies or go online to various websites that are not positive…you don’t think those are avenues through which your children are being indoctrinated? I’m just sayin’.

It may just be about politics…maybe. I tend to think that if the package delivering the message was packaged just a little differently, there would not have been the controversy.

Be blessed.

21 August 2009

It's all so confusing....

I have to first make a disclaimer: I am a writer and therefore, a lover of the written word. An avid reader, journal keeper, poetry writing, trying to do a blog on a regular basis kind of writer. I had pen pals as a child and (hold on to your seats), still send out personal notes to people "just because". But (in my opinion), the fine art of writing and literary appreciation is going down the crapper at an alarming rate!

I am a Facebook addict (as everyone who knows me knows) but I find myself cringing more and more each day as people (and it ain't just the young kids either who fall guilty to what I am about to say) use broken grammar, misspelled words, no punctuation, acronyms and all kinds of other faulty writing tools in their attempts to communicate with the world. Let me tell you something people, if I have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what the heck you are saying, I am most likely going to ignore your post, your message, your page. And then your feelings are gonna be all hurt because you feel I am not giving you the proper attention and respect...in advance, here's my apology: sorry.

Some acroymns are commonplace now. We all know what "lol" (laugh out loud); "smh" (shaking my head) and "lmbo" (laughing my butt off) mean - but lately, people have been taking it to the extreme. "HAGD" and "ROFLMAOCYTF" are ones that recently had me going "WTH" (interpretations: "have a great day"; "rolling on floor laughing my ass off cause you too funny" (ok, I made that one up to prove my point) and "what the heck/hell") I mean, really people. It may be quicker/easier to just type the acronym, but if nobody understands what you are saying, what is the point?

It's just like the gift of tongues spoken about in the Bible. There is more to it than just speaking in a language other than the one you normally speak. Somebody listening to you has to be able to understand what you are saying! And my further understanding of the gift of tongues is that when the apostles did it on the day of Pentacost in Acts, they spoke in their language - the listeners heard it in their own language. In other words, I speak in English, but as you listen to me, you hear it in French or Spanish or Portgugese - whatever your natural language is. Not the whole "whostoleamyHonda" stuff that goes on in some situations/churches, etc. (Nothing against people who believe differently than I do - just a statement in general.)

And don't underestimate the power of language/communication. When, after the flood, the people on Earth decided to build a tower that reached heaven so they would never be victim to another flood again, God confused the language to stop the construction. If you ask for a hammer and get a box of nails instead, I think that would quickly put a stop to any construction project, don't you? [Read Genesis 11:1-9 for the full story]

All I'm saying people is this: communication is a two way street. If you want people to hear you/understand what you are saying - speak it in a way that is understandable. Now, having said all that: HAGD and GBY - LY!MI!

("Have a great day and God bless you. Love you! Mean it!)
Be blessed.

19 August 2009

A Sister's View...

This story really is not mine to tell - it's my brother's, but as his older sister, I have to say something.

I got a chilling phone call from my brother today. He was shopping in a nationwide retail chain store. (I won't name it but it starts with a W, ends with a T, seven letters long, you figure it out). He was in there shopping when he decided to stop and try out the Dr. Scholl's display. (You know, the one where you can figure out which orthopedic support is best for your feet...) Anyway, he's there, awaiting his turn when he strikes up a conversation with the woman in front of him. Out of nowhere, another woman approaches, ignores my brother, and speaking directly to the woman in front of my brother says, "You really should be more careful with your purse around certain people and maybe you need to put your purse on your shoulder instead of leaving it in your cart like that." WHAT!? If you know my brother, and his flash point temper, you (like me) are cringing in your seat as you read this going, "Oh my God! Is Kevin in jail for murder? Where can I send funds for his trial and criminal defense." Let me stop and tell you GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!

According to my brother (and I have to believe him since he called me from his car and not from a jail cell), he calmly turned to the second lady and said, "Excuse me, but I am not interested in this woman's purse or anything she may have in it and I resent that you would imply something like that based solely on the color of my skin." [Oh, did I forget to mention that BOTH of the women involved in this story were White and my brother is not? But I digress - back to that point in a minute] Before it was all over, the second woman had called over store security and by the time Kevin left the store, had even contacted the police outside the store. Now mind you - the FIRST woman never complained, never felt threatened, and even said this to the store security. All of this came from a SECOND woman who just happened to walk by and for some reason of her own, felt threatened by my brother.

On my brother's behalf, I feel angry, disappointed, angry, disgusted - did I mention angry? Why, even in 2009, do we still judge people by the color of his/her skin? Was there something in the demeanor of a barefooted Black man that makes a woman walking by think (1) that another woman was in danger of getting robbed and (2) that she needed to speak up about it in such a mean way? I told my brother then (and I mean it with all my heart) - you couldn't PAY me to be a Black man in America. Never. Reminds me of an incident YEARS ago when I was walking through a store with my youngest brother Scott and we immediately attracted a walking escort of store security. Scott must have been about 14 years old at the time and when I mentioned our sudden escort, his nonchalant response was, "yeah, that happens all the time. They think we are going to steal something so they always follow me and my friends around the store." REALLY?

That was back sometime in the '80s. But it's 2009 - we have our first African-American President - and yet, my brother still has to hold onto his temper because some misguided woman looked at him, saw a Black man, and decided he was a threat. When will it change? Will it ever change? I had hope in November when Obama was elected and I saw the crowd of people who gathered in the park - the diversity, the joy on everyone's faces - I looked at that and thought, maybe things are changing for the better. But I'm not so very sure anymore. [But then again, I just read pages and pages of people debating whether Michelle Obama exhibited "proper discretion befitting a First Lady" by wearing shorts while on vacation with her family at the Grand Canyon. I think our priorities are all screwed up.]

From a sister's point of view - I'm glad my brother held onto his temper. I'm glad I didn't have to gather bail money. I'm glad I didn't have to spend time sitting at a police station waiting for him to be released - or worse, that I didn't have to identify his body at a morgue if things had gone terribly wrong. And let's not pretend that things like that don't happen - especially in the South.

But most of all, I am sorry that he even had to call me to tell me this story...today...in 2009...when I thought things were getting better.

Be blessed.

15 August 2009

Sunrise at Sunset Beach


I am in St. George Island, FL to help my friend Shana celebrate her wedding to her long time friend and love of her life, Mike. It was a harrowing adventure getting here, as I am fighting a cold and my mapping website was less than correct with its directions. After getting lost 3 times and wasting time in the process, I finally arrived at my destination 3 hours later than I thought I would. Nothing like going across a 4.5 mile bridge over murky waters in the dark - especially when the sign right before you get on the bridge says, "Watch for birds". Are you serious?!

I checked into my room at the quaint and historic St. George Inn. The innkeeper, a lovely lady named Jan, was very nice and upgraded me from my original reservation due to an air conditioning malfunction. Yeah, me! I have a nice room on the first floor with a wide wrap around veranda and rocking chairs. I'll have to make use of those at some point today.

Took me some time to decompress and relax last night - lots of strange noises from the other people staying in the inn and from the nightclub/honky tonk/dive down the road. I finally closed my eyes around 1:00 this morning, only for them to pop wide open again before 6:00a. What's a girl to do, but get up and head to the beach to see the sunrise. (This also gave me an excuse to explore the 6 miles of the island that is open to the public - the rest is private property for people like Jimmy Buffet, Angelina Jolie, etc. Wonder if any of them are here this weekend?)

So, I headed to Sunset Beach, where later today, Shana and Mike will say their "I do"s or something equally appropriate. I used to debate as to whether I liked sunrises or sunsets better, but I think I have decided that I like sunsets better. Nothing against God's way of saying, "Good morning", but the colors are not as vibrant and rich at 6:00 in the morning as they are at the close of the day...or maybe I wasn't awake enough to appreciate it.

I had the beach pretty much to myself, although I did see people stirring on their balconies and watching the sunrise from the comfort of a deck chair with a cup of coffee in hand. (Can you say "envious"?) I'm sure they were watching me thinking, "she is a little crazy to be standing in that water at this time of the morning - and is she taking pictures? what is wrong with her?" But that was how I started my morning...and I liked it. Pictures on Facebook if you want to see them.

Now, where can a sista get breakfast on this island?

Be blessed.

11 August 2009

Distracted...

I just got back from my family reunion in Charleston, SC. This was the reunion of my paternal grandfather's family - most of whom I met for the first time in my memory. My mother tells me that I attended a family reunion for this branch of the family in the 1970's, but I was less than 10 years old then, so I don't remember. What a wonderful experience to connect with a new group of people.

One of the events on Saturday was a game night. Kudos to my new found cousin, Sonya, whose task it was to find entertainment for "children of all ages" - from as young as 4 or 5 to as "young" as 80+. She did an excellent job - with group participation games, Wii, spades, Phase 10, and musical chairs, which is the subject of this blog. When Sonya announced musical chairs, I am sure she intended it to be for just the little kids - but uh...several of my generation of family members (including me) joined in the fun. And we had no mercy on the youngsters. In fact, one cousin (who shall remain nameless) bumped his own child off a chair in order that he (the grown up) would not be eliminated from the game! It was brutal. I was knocked out about 4 people before the champion, so I had a pretty good show.

But I want to talk about my little cousin Elijah. Elijah is 3 or 4 years old (I never got his age), but he was ALL INTO the game! He was running around, grabbing chairs as the music stopped and beating some adults in the game. He was right in front of me and I must admit, I was watching him and trying to help a brotha out. But as the chairs dwindled down and the competition got fierce, more of the space on the floor was exposed and there was a bright yellow sticker with a happy face on it stuck to the carpet. For some reason, this sticker caught Elijah's eye as he rounded the corner and he stopped - went back and tried to get the sticker. His father was yelling at him from the sidelines "Elijah, forget about the sticker - stay in the game!" But Elijah had focused on the sticker and the game was no longer of any importance to him. When the music stopped, although an empty chair was his for the taking, by focusing on the sticker, he was eliminated from the game. Sticker in hand, he looked up only to realize his chance at winning had disappeared with the fading sounds of Michael Jackson's "ABC".

I thought about this a couple of times after the festivities of Saturday night were over and wondered, how many times have we missed out on the prize because we have focused on something trivial? How many blessings has God prepared for us - right there within our reach - that we have missed out on because we have been distracted by that man or woman we thought was "the one" - or a job that we thought would be fulfilling - or...well, you fill in the blank - you know what has distracted you from your goals in the past - and maybe even right now as you read this, you are distracted by a trivial bright yellow sticker on the carpet.

I encourage you to "keep your eyes on the prize." Our Heavenly Father is standing on the sidelines shouting, "Forget about that...stay in the game! Keep your focus on Me!" We need to take heed. Time is swiftly coming to an end. And in the words of my friends, gospel group Take 6, we only have a "few more miles to go." Don't lose out on the ultimate prize - salvation in Christ Jesus - because you have been distracted by something worthless and trivial. Pray for me as I pray for you that we will all keep focused and stay in the game until Jesus returns to take us home with Him.

Be blessed.

02 August 2009

When we all get to heaven...

...what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory"

2009 has been a rough year...especially this summer. It's getting to the point where I don't want to answer the phone, check voice mail, look at my friends' Facebook pages, nothing - because the angel of death is busy. Busier than he has ever been. In the months of June/July alone, my family lost 2 cousins and an uncle to death. And last week, 4 people I know died. 4! In a week. I feel like the wicked witch in THE WIZ, "don't nobody bring me no bad news!!"

My mother and I have talked about this. As a retired woman with free flight benefits (thanks to my brother Kevin), my mom has been the designated funeral attendee for a lot of family and friends funerals this year. In one month, she attended 7 funerals. That is a lot of saying goodbye to folks. And the reality is...as we get older and time gets shorter, this will be happening more and more frequently. At my cousin Janie's funeral over the 4th of July holiday, I took lots and lots of pictures of my maternal grandmother's siblings who are still alive. They range in age from 79 to 94. What a blessing that they are still here, but it is just a fact of life, that will not always be the case.

So, how do you deal? How do you handle the saying goodbye over and over? How do you comfort your grieving friends and family members without sounding trite or overly simplistic? When is the time to speak and when is the time to be silent? I don't know...it is an emotional battlefield that you have to negotiate...carefully. Sometimes, you just show up with a box of tissue and sit silently. Sometimes you provide the comic relief. Sometimes you just listen as they talk and cry it out. And sometimes you just go in the kitchen and start washing the dishes that are piling up. You'll know what to do - just do it.

I hold on to the promise of the resurrection found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. I hold on knowing that, should I live my life the way I assume my grandparents lived their lives, I'll see them again one day. One day, me and my big sister, Karen Willis Fields, are going to be reunited and she is going to fuss at me about my hair 'cause that's what she did. I'ma see my Aunt Lucy and she's gonna give me one of her patented, hide you in her bosom, type hugs. I'll meet up with my friend Mervin who drowned before his 17th birthday and who I never got a chance to tell how much he meant to me. Daddy Taylor will be there and he'll give me that classic Daddy Taylor smile of greeting and a soft word of encouragement. And Janie will be there and my cousin Cecile and my cousin Bayda, who died too young and too tragically, and my Uncle William, whose birthday is this week...and the list goes on and on and on.

It is going to be a day of great rejoicing when we are all reunited, but there will be some faces missing in the crowd as well. I pray mine is not one of them - yours neither.

Be blessed.

Precious Memories....

Precious memories (precious memories) how they linger (linger) how they ever flood my soul (my soul now) In the stillness (in the stillness) of the midnight (midnight) sacred secrets still unfold....

And every Oakwoodite I know says, AMEN!

Yesterday, I did the welcome at my church. Most people were surprised when I burst into song...even those who knew that I have been known in my lifetime to sing a note or two...like my mother. There was a time in my life when you couldn't get me to stop singing...but as time went by and I started hanging around "real" singers, I grew quieter and quieter and started singing only in the shower, the car or at family worship. When challenged by friends about hiding my talents, my response always was, "I'm developing the other talents God gave me...that one is not that important." Oh, I'd still lead out in song service, if asked, but anything more than that, I'd be sure to give another suggestion. But yesterday got me to thinking about my rich singing past.

My first memory of singing in public before a crowd was a tent revival meeting in Hartford, CT for the Faith SDA Church. Visiting my grandparents for the summer, somehow my grandmother convinced the pastor (I don't even remember who it was) to allow me to do special music one night. I was all of 5, maybe 6 years old, challenging Eleanor Wright singing "It's Raining Joy", which is still one of my favorite Blendwrights songs. (That, and "I Dreamed I Reached Heaven") Poor Faith members, I think every time I visited after that, I wanted to sing, but they were always encouraging...Aunt Joanie, Sis. Pearl and Bell, Uncle Walter, Kitson and Deb (none of whom were related to me, but I didn't find that out until I was grown!) and my godsis, Lin, always encouraged and supported me every time. Even when I messed up. (Remember my grandparents' going away service in 1978? I shoulda retired, never to sing again after that fiasco! Although I still maintain, Kevin was the one who messed us up!)

Throughout high school, I sang at school AND at church. It was often a juggling affair with my schedule between performances for the school and rehearsals for the church choir. Biggest accomplishment: singing a solo in German for my senior year concert AND being picked to sing at my high school graduation in our class quartet: shout outs to Susan, Barry and Michael - all Facebook friends and fellow graduation singers. What an honor and experience that was.

Off to college - the famous "Oaks" where singing is not for the faint of heart. I remember wanting to audition for the Aeolians and being intimidated; auditioning for College Choir (Jerry Hutchinson accompanied on the piano) and not making it; and then trying out for Blessed Peace and David King taking pity on me and allowing me to sing. (Just kidding) I LOVED being in Blessed Peace and singing with people like Mark Kibble and Mervyn Warren before they became famous, and Wanda Lott and Luchette and Randy Hutchinson, who I knew from NYC Ephesus and who took me under their wings. I remember Mark encouraging me to sing a solo once and me backing out because I didn't think I could do it like the person who was "known" for singing the solo in the song...one of the regrets of my life. I think if I had just tried it, I would have been better for it. Alas.

Even when I left the Oaks, for a while, I sang...at Berean under the leadership of Luther Washington, at Decatur under Jeff Taylor's direction...but after all, I slowly pulled away from singing. Don't know why. Too many choir rehearsals. Too much ego...mine and others. It just wasn't fun anymore. It was just easier to sit in the pews, enjoy the music and make comments like, "When I get to heaven, I'm gonna sing like...or sing in that choir...or..."

I'm not sure what happened yesterday when I did the welcome. I don't know what came over me. I am not announcing my desire to launch a new singing career (Sorry, Joey), but it may not be AS hard to get me up there to sing...we'll see.

Be blessed.

PS: If you want to hear the caterwauling, it's on churchpond.

20 July 2009

Weekend activities...

What a weekend! I pray that yours was blessed with wonderful experiences. Mine was a mixed bag of very emotional encounters. It started on Friday evening with my reunion with my childhood friend, Deb(bie) Robinson. (Check out my earlier blog about that experience), and after that...it just got more and more interesting.

First, I am soliciting prayers on behalf of the Anderson/Wilson and Gazzells families. I have two very close friends, Linda and Charlie, who sitting by the bedsides of their sisters. Both of the sisters, Sylvia and Susie, have had the doctors have declared it is just a matter of time. Both Sylvia and Susie have been put on pain management regimens and friends and family are praying for God's will in both of these marvelous lives. My heart grieves with and for them during this time and I solicit your prayers and good thoughts on their behalf.

Second, my fellowships at church on Sabbath were uniquely special to me. I have been away from my church for a while, due to a variety of reasons. Sabbath it seemed like a big reunion to me. I got to have a long conversation with one of my favorite couples in the church, the Rossers. My friend Sherry Martin was in town from the islands. Friends who had traveled away for funerals were back in place. Sis. Knight, who'd been in Grenada for months, was finally back home. My girl Paige was in the house for one more weekend before jetting off again before school and other adventures. Ron James, saxaphone master and soon to be daddy again, was in the house. Stephanie Seay and her children were in town visiting from Memphis, TN. It was just one little reunion after another, and each one, in their own special way, did my heart and soul a world of good.

Then Saturday evening I had the opportunity to hang out (and cook for) a diverse group of single, professional, and Christian men and women. Gathering at a friend's house, we had a "make your own calzone/pizza" party while watching a very interesting documentary SOULMATES - which discussed the growing phenomenon of more and more African American, Christian women over the age of 40 who remain single - some by choice, but overwhelming not. What a spirited discussion was had after the viewing of the documentary...you shoulda oughta been there! As I reflected on the documentary and some of the (amazing) comments made about it, I personally was able to reaffirm my contentness with my life as a single woman. As a sidebar, can I just say this: men and women have differing views about being single over 40, but men are NOT that different from women when it comes to what they truly want in a relationship. They may express it differently than we do, but they really are pretty much on the same page - OR (like several of my male friends tell me all the time), maybe I just "think like a dude" so I "get" where they are coming from.

Finally, on Sunday, my mother and I, on a mission of mercy, took dinner to my uncle and his family. My uncle is recovering from surgery to repair his rotator cuff (shoulder). I have to admit, with the news of Lin and Charlie heavy on my heart and mind, I wasn't in the best frame of mind as we traveled to his house and really went out of a sense of duty, not necessarily love. But let me tell you, we had such a good time - laughing and fellowshipping and eating good food - that my mind was taken off of the cares and worries I was carrying aroung with me and I was truly blessed by the experience. I was humbled by how grateful my uncle was that my mother and I took the time to come to his house to check on him and spend some time with him. It is the little things that mean so much to people in the long run. Sometimes, the "sacrifice" you make means more than you can imagine. I'm glad I took the time out to do it.

Again, I pray you had a great weekend. That the experiences you had enriched your life. That you were able to reach out and touch someone with a gesture of friendship or love or comfort. I pray that you made some memories with some special people in your life and I pray that the week ahead will be equally fulfilling.

Be blessed.

18 July 2009

Hello, it's me again...


Yes, it has been a while...but I have been writing...just not here. I have been writing primarily to one person and believe me, what I have been writing to him cannot be shared here. (Bet you are intrigued now, aren't you? hahaha)

Life has been interesting (to say the least) lately. I have experienced loss on so many levels - new job, death of family members, changing friendships - it has been an interesting 2009 - and we are only halfway through it. I pray that your journey this year has not been as eventful (yeah, THAT is the word I am going to choose to use) as mine has been.

But for all the "bad", there has been good as well. For example, last night, my mother and I had the opportunity to reunite with a childhood friend of mine who was in town for a convention. When I was younger, my brother and I would spend every summer (and sometimes Christmas too) visiting my paternal grandparents in Hartford, CT. The friendships forged at Faith SDA Church are still some of my favorite memories. My "aunt" Joan Simmons and her four children were part of those memories, but Debbie, the youngest daughter, was my special friend/cousin. And yet somehow, after we attended college, we lost touch. Now, I always heard about her (through my grandmother) - how she was doing, etc., but the personal contact was broken for over 25 years. (We calculated that we had not seen each other since 1983). We reconnected when another Faith church member reached out to me on Facebook and then encouraged me to reach out to Debbie (who now goes by "Deb" - she'll always be "Debbie" to me)

After 25 years, she admitted that she wondered if we would recognize each other. Oh pa-leeze! She looks just like her mother and time I saw her, I knew EXACTLY who she was - and vice versa. It was soooooo good to see her, hug her neck and just catch up on what is going on in each of our lives. Our visit was way too short, but the promise is there to keep in touch - through email, Facebook and Charita. (hahaha)

Of course, this reminds me of an even more important reunion that will be happening soon. The reunion with our loved ones who have fallen asleep in the Lord. We are told that we will be changed, in a twinkling of an eye, and the only thing we will have that will identify us to each other will be our characters - so getting those right and in line with God's desires for our lives is paramount. I long for the day when I see my grandparents, my cousins, and other friends and loved ones again - never to be parted again by death or sickness or even distance. What a wonderful day that will be. Hope to see you there.

Be blessed.

08 July 2009

Settlin' in...

Moving from one desk to another desk within the same firm has been very interesting...and liberating in a lot of ways. I got rid of a lot of "stuff" while cleaning out one desk - and yet, at the new desk, every night I find myself reaching for something that is not at the new desk (yet) and making notes of what to bring in the next night...ahh, it's a process. But I am settling into the new gig - with all its challenges and excitement - with the time change and the effects that is having on my body (and sleep patterns). And this is just the beginning...more changes are sure to come when my (re)training period is over and my actual adventure begins - in just two short weeks. I am looking forward to how God unfolds His plan for this stage in my life. Stay tuned. I'm sure it is going to be an interesting adventure.

Be blessed.

07 July 2009

Change is good...right?

I truly sincerely honestly hope so, because it seems like I have had nothing but in the last few weeks. Nothing but changes everywhere. I've changed my job, my work hours, the people I will be associating with on a daily basis, and those are just the changes (sort of) within my control. Outside of my control: I have lost two family members within a one week period. I have, along with everyone else, lost childhood icons and heroes and TV show memories. My health has been crazy - blood sugars up and down, seemingly without rhyme or reason and without responding to proven medical advice of food, exercise and medication...although, maybe - just maybe, I have not been as compliant as I should have been...I'm just saying...I'm trying, but not always so successful.

Friendships have changed. People who I used to hold near and dear, knowing they had my back no matter what - seem to have drifted away...and knowing that every relationship takes two people to make it work, I wonder and worry about my participation in the loss and wonder how to mend the fences - or if the fences are better left unmended. On the other hand, people who I never expected to "step up to the plate" have done just that. As word of the changes I was making in my work life experience made its rounds among my friends, I found out who my "true friends" were - the ones who, while they would never decide to work my new crazy hours, still supported my decision to change my world on its head. The ones who said, "I'm glad you didn't talk to me about this because (for purely selfish reasons), I would have tried to talk you out of it" - and yet, followed that statement with, "But I know you thought this through and made the best decision for you." - knowing that I didn't NEED their validation, but appreciated it none the same.

My family structure has changed. As I said, within a one week period, I lost my Uncle Clinton - he just fell asleep one night at the ripe old age of 87. As my family gathered for his funeral in Washington DC on a Friday morning, we got word that my cousin Janie had lost her battle with cancer and died - minutes before midnight - on the same day that we lost two cherished childhood celebrity icons: Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I spent my 4th of July holiday attending her funeral and celebrating her life. But our family will never be the same without her smile and dimples and joie de vivre...she was a special person. Talking to her neighbor and staff members who gave up a holiday Friday to attend her services, I discovered a new side of my cousin - how other people saw her - and was so happy to hear that she was beloved and respected, even outside of our family. What a blessing that was to me. As was seeing my maternal grandmother's siblings. Out of 9 children, 5 remain. Ranging in age from 79 to 94, they were all there to mourn the death of one of their neices. And it was a joy and blessing to be in their presence...even if one of them (who shall remain nameless) greeted me with, "Kristina, I almost didn't recognize you - you have put on a little weight, haven't you?" (sigh...you gotta love old people...hahaha)

One thing has not changed though. The love my Heavenly Father has shown me through all these other changes in my life. All of my relatives, who traveled from as far away as Atlanta GA, Birmingham AL, Washington DC, and Detroit MI to Chicago IL for the funeral - whether by plane, train or automobile - have all arrived home safely without any incident. That is a blessing and not something taken lightly or for granted. God is good - even through change - He never changes and is always there for us.

I am holding on to that promise as I navigate the changing tides of my existence. I hope you will do the same.

Be blessed.

09 June 2009

Sustaining motivation...


Anyone who knows me well knows that I have diabetes. And that as a “foodie”, this disease is the very bane of my existence. I have my peaks and valleys in my fight against this disease, and right now, I am kinda in a valley state, which is not good. It was only four months ago or so, that my doctor called me with the good news that my labwork was wonderful on all fronts for the very first time since I was diagnosed three or four years ago. (Yeah, I was in such denial about the diagnosis, that I never memorializedtak it – on my calendar or in my brain – and EVERYTHING gets put on the calendar! EVERYTHING.) I was working out (well, sort of), trying to eat better, more diabetes-friendly meals (operative word: trying); taking my various medications as prescribed and all sorts of stuff. And the results and report was a good one. So, you would think this would motivate me to keep on doing what I was doing, right. I mean, according to the childhood fable, THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE, slow and steady is what wins the race, right?

But we live in a “fast food/microwave/instant gratification” world. And I wasn’t getting the results I wanted quick enough. Why get up 30 minutes earlier every morning to work out with the Wii Fit if the weight was going to continue to fluctuate within the same range of 10 pounds? Why take my medications when the numbers of my test say that everything is fine? Why watch what I eat if I don’t feel any better and the pounds aren't dropping off and who can remember that schedule of what to take in the morning and what to take at night and what needs to be taken with food and…? See where I’m coming from? So, I stopped.

Dead in my tracks.

No more exercise. No more taking of the meds on a regular, consistent schedule. Not as much concern about what I ate or when I ate it. And the time of my three month checkup was looming.

Now, you know when you aren't doing the right thing that there will be consequences. I knew my test results would not be anywhere near where they needed to be or where my doctor was expecting them to be, so I delayed (and delayed) setting the appointment – like that was going to make 3 months of bad behavior disappear and make everything better. Uh…no. It don’t work like that. My meds ran out and the only way to get a prescription refill: go see the doctor and get the tests done.

I won't share my test results. They were about what I expected: not good, but not horrific. My doctor, bless his little ole heart, didn’t fuss too too much. But he did write me a brand new prescription: GET MORE (some) EXERCISE – on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. Think he was trying to make a point?

So, once again, I am (slightly) motivated. But the question is: How do I sustain the motivation? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance and be blessed.

08 May 2009

Romance? Hmmm, I think I'll pass...


Ok, I am NOT an incurable romantic…

200 episodes of GREY’S ANATOMY culminated last night with a wedding. Not with the wedding everyone anticipated, not the one that all the trailers for the episode suggested, but a wedding nonetheless. Halfway through the episode, I felt like I was going to throw up – from all the sappiness and feel good moments and displays of bonding and friendship. YUCK!

Some people may be surprised by this admission, but for those who know me well – probably not so much. I wasn’t always such a cynic. I recently found a list, written in a much more childish handwriting, that listed my wedding party and my desired colors and even some songs that I wanted sung at my wedding. Only thing missing: the name of the groom. The list (which I threw away or packed up or otherwise hid away) was not dated, but I suspect that it was compiled sometime in my early 20s – when all my other friends and relatives were contemplating marriage and when I was on a constant spin cycle as a bridesmaid. Everybody was doing it, so I better get prepared – right? YUCK! (again)

Time passed and there was a proposal that was rejected (that’s a story for another time) and after serving as a bridesmaid more than a dozen times, I finally put my foot down and said, “no more (ugly) dresses for me” and stopped standing up in front of churches in uncomfortable shoes and dresses that never got worn again. And then I got sucked into being a wedding coordinator or hostess or something else related to weddings. I finally put my foot down on that too and said, “You know what? From this moment forward, the only thing I want to do at a wedding is warm a pew, bring a gift and dance at the reception.” And that has been my stance for at least half a decade – probably longer. (And we won't even talk about the time I helped decorate the garden venue for my ex-boyfriend’s wedding!) YUCK! (third time)

Do I believe in “marriage”? I guess for some people it is a wonderful thing. For others, not so much. I don’t know if I ever truly believed in “happily ever after”. Even as a child, I didn’t have a lot of positive examples of great marriages. My parents divorced before I was 10 years old; my aunts and uncles were all divorced; and even in those marriages that had lasted for centuries, one (if not both) of the parties didn’t seem all that happy to me. [HINT: Longevity does NOT equal happiness – sometimes (as one friend confided) it’s “cheaper to keep her” (or him)] And even as I read the Harlequin romances or watched the sappy chick flicks, I would rail at the characters as they went round and round the mulberry bush before coming together. And fidelity – are you serious? One person forever and ever? Didn’t (and still doesn’t) make a whole lot of sense to me.

Someone once asked me, “Haven’t you ever loved someone so much that you cannot imagine life without them?” I immediately responded, “Obviously not since I am living life as a single woman right now.” She, a newlywed at the time, looked at me with pity and sadness in her eyes – while I gazed back at her in the exact same way. Don’t get me wrong: if you are married and believe that you are truly happy in yours, more power to you. I just don’t see it happening for me – at least no time soon. I figure I will be one of those women who gets married for the first time in my 50s or 60s – and everyone will be surprised and will look at the poor guy who marries me with wonder, amazement and probably a little bit of pity.

So, to all my friends who are constantly trying to figure out how I can be content and happy as a single woman – and to all the friends who are always trying to set me up with the ”perfect” guy – and to the uncle who EVERY TIME he sees me asks me if I have finally started dating – and even to my godsister who has a long list of wishes for me and who loves to overanalyze why every relationship in my life went “wrong” - stop worrying about me. I love my life just the way it is right now. I am not sitting around waiting for my prince to come and “rescue” me from … whatever it is I am supposed to need rescuing from. And that is the beauty of NOT being an incurable romantic.

Be blessed.

06 May 2009

Cinqo de Mayo 2009


May 5th is commonly referred to as “Cinqo de Mayo” (“CdM”) and is a Mexican celebration to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza SeguĂ­n. Always ready to party (and drink margaritas), Americans have fully embraced this tradition and on this date, people everywhere gather at Mexican restaurants for margaritas, chips and salsa (or queso), mariachi bands, colorful leis and good fellowship. But what if you choose to celebrate alone? Have you ever tried it? Last night was my first CdM celebration alone – and let me tell you, it was an eye-opener. First, for the record, I have NO problem going out by myself. Shoot, I have traveled to foreign countries by myself, so sitting in a restaurant to enjoy a good meal is no big deal – to me. Apparently, it is to everyone else.

So, initially, the plan was NOT for me to go by myself. My mom celebrated her birthday on May 4, so as a continuation of the celebration, I’d planned to take her out for CdM, but she wasn’t feeling well and opted to stay home. I had a choice: stay home with her and miss out on a frozen lime margarita with rock salt on the rim – or go out and enjoy a toast to Mexican freedom. Well, it is my American duty to help stimulate the economy in any way that I can, so off I traipsed to the Mexican restaurant of choice.

When I got there, I settled in for a wait. It wasn’t even 7:00p and already the line was forming out the door. I questioned the couple in front of me as to the expected wait and they said that the hostess had been so busy, she hadn’t even approached them yet, but that they were committed to wait at least 30 minutes before they would pull up stakes, call it a night and go home. I figured “that seems reasonable – after all, it is CdM.” So I settled in for the wait. The first 10 minutes passed in about 30 mins, the next 10 seemed like an hour…but you know me, I talked to the people around me, made some new friends and the line moved…slowly. It wasn’t until I got closer to the hostess booth that I realized that there might be a problem that I was there by myself.

“How many people in your party?” the hostess asked the couple in front of me. “Two.” “Would you like me to bring you a drink as you wait?” “Sure, we’ll have two margaritas – one frozen, one on the rocks.” “Fine.” The hostess then turns her attention towards me. “How many people in your party?” “One.” “One? No one is joining you later?” “Uh no, just one.” “Well, would you like to have a seat at our bar and eat your dinner there?” “No, I prefer to wait for a booth or table please.” “You could be seated quicker if you sit at the bar.” “Hmm. I understand that, but I’d prefer a booth or table please. It can be a smaller two top table and you can seat the larger parties behind me, I don’t mind waiting, but I do not want to sit at the bar.” This led to a conference with the other hostess with whispers and glances over the shoulder ensuing. Now the other hostess (who was pregnant) waddles over to me. “Party of one?” “Yes.” “Are you sure you don’t want to sit at the bar?” “yeah, I’m pretty sure I don’t.” “Oh, ok, follow me.” (Back up: did you notice that I was not offered a drink while I waited? Yeah, I corrected that sometime during the ‘let’s get this poor lonely all by herself woman to the bar’ conversation) (Second back up: the couple in front of me (the Walkers – nice people) noticing the tone of the conversation with the hostesses offered me the option of joining them for dinner. Maybe it would have been ‘easier’ but I really wanted to eat my dinner in peace, reading my latest sleazy romance – and not doing all the small talk that you have to do when you meet people for the first time.)

Ok, so back to me and the hostesses (who, let me tell you, were very nice considering the stress of the evening). I follow them to a table designed for four people. The waiter immediately comes over and says, “How many people will be joining you?” “No one, it’s just me.” “Well, I could join you.” (with a big smile on his very very young face) “Yes, sweetie, you could, but you might lose your job if you did.” (Ok I was thinking that, didn’t say it). He leaves so I can peruse the menu and here comes the hostess. “Ma’am, we have a smaller table that has opened up, do you mind if we move you?” (Well, yeah, kind of, but I understand trying to maximize the space). So I gather up my purse, and my drink and follow the hostess around to a smaller table…only, it’s not really available yet. Apparently, another brave soul decided to eat by herself and had gone to the restroom after her meal. There were still chips and salsa on the table, as well as her take-out container and well, you get the picture. Patrons seated at a nearby table told the hostess that the woman was just in the bathroom. So, the hostess turns around and tries to take me back to my original table, but hostess #2 has already seated a party of four there, so the table is no longer available – so now I'm back at the front of the restaurant at the hostess table and you know what’s coming, don’t you? “Ma’am, are you sure you don’t want to sit at the bar?”

Gritting my teeth, I grimaced and assured the hostess (once again) that I was fine waiting for the smaller table to become available. It didn’t take long and soon I was back at my table for two, but only housing one. And then the fun with the waitress began. Long story short: It took two requests to get chips and salsa on the table, three or four requests to get a glass of water (which came as I was asking for my check to leave), I got my plate of food before I got silverware (and then was asked if I wanted real silverware or would plastic suffice) and she never came to check on me as I ate until it was time to get my check. Now, I could chalk it up to “well, they were busy” if I didn’t see her catering to the larger parties around me in her section. Did she somehow think that because I was by myself I wouldn’t leave her a tip worth caring about – or, because I was by myself, I was “less than” in some way? I don’t know what her issue was, but I enjoyed my meal and my margarita in spite of her treatment of me – and being gracious in spite of, I didn’t even reflect it in my tip.

This will not stop me from going out to restaurants by myself – but maybe next year, for Cinqo de Mayo, I’ll just enjoy my frozen lime margarita with rock salt on the rim at home.

Be blessed.