Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shame!

If you're over the age of 30, I'm pretty sure you've heard of the Evelyn 'Champagne" King hit -- "Shame".  If not, feel free to take a listen.  It's a classic, it's guaranteed to get us old heads dancing.


Yep, we loved that song.  Evelyn made shame fun.

Genuine shame is not fun though.   It shouldn't be.  Shame is that human emotion that makes us feel bad inside about the ratchedness we gave indulged in at one time or another.  Shame makes us remember our "home training" and feel agonizing pain and humiliation when we've acted the complete opposite of what we've been taught.   Officially, shame is "a painful emotion resulting from an awareness of having done something dishonorable, unworthy or degrading" (source:  thefreedictionary.com).  In short, shame keeps us in check.

Shame is deeper than embarrassment.  Embarrassment is fleeting.  It's a moment in time.  You don't necessarily want to repeat embarrassing situations, but they don't usually cause a deep pain to your emotional core and leave you thinking of yourself as unworthy.  At best you hope the embarrassing situation will be forgotten.  What usually happens is it becomes fodder for reunions and drunken story telling.

Owning your own shame is important, healthy, and most times leads us to do better.  But many of us are holding onto shame that wasn't ours to begin with.  I experienced a big "aha" moment when I recognized I was clinging to shame with all my might but it wasn't mine to own.  My childhood was chaotic at best (Tell Your Truth Then Let it Go).   My late teens were somewhat better (thanks library), my 20's were just plain old stupid and so on and so on.  I've done my share of mess.  I've made plenty of "if only" decisions (if only I knew then what I know now).  I totally own those choices.  At the root of much (not all but much) of my drama has been trying to compensate and overcome shame that I didn't cause.

My brothers and I grew up in the same household.  Experienced the same situations -- they even more than me as I was older and got the hell out at 18.  But they've never had the sense of worthlessness that I came out with. They've always been able to speak of the violence, the drinking, the poverty as a statement of fact.  It never seemed to affect their own self-worth.   I'm not sure if it's because I was the only female, the oldest, the most sensitive?   Maybe I took on all the family shame so they wouldn't have to?  I was a very protective big sister.  When we talk about it, I look at them in wonder because they seem so okay with themselves.

That shame (that wasn't mine) kept me in an imaginary, self-limiting lane that stopped me from reaching for and grabbing the world by it's tail and conquering it.  I sabotaged potentially fantastic relationships because I didn't think I was good enough for the brainy science nerd, the attorney or the marketing professional that took a liking to me at various points in my life.  Instead I allowed myself to be comfortable with emotionally unavailable, dare I say borderline losers (okay one was an out and out loser but lawd was he a beautiful man).     I didn't take career opportunities that were made available to me because a higher up recognized my intelligence and value to the company.  Instead I felt like a phony who would be "found out" if I allowed myself to go too far out of my lane.

It took me a long time, but I'm finally beginning to differentiate between the shame that is rightfully mine and to let go the familial shame that's haunted me most of my life.










Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Year New Focus

I've enjoyed my blog ... truly I have.  It started out as a therapy session for myself since those $90/visit costs were racking up and I had ran out of money a long time ago.  I've enjoyed the comments and that "atta girls" that readers have left for me on the blog and Twitter.  It has been quite therapeutic and affirming.  I have been amazed at the number of people who have shared with me how much they appreciated my honesty and openness.  I truly had no idea the mess that has been my life would be so helpful to others.   I'm going to continue writing as "the mood hits" although secretly I wish I could write as well as Michele Grant ... her Black 'N Bougie blog is can't miss interwebs for me.  But that's okay -- Michele is Michele and I'm me.   When I read other blogs that I find totally awesome, I'm able to appreciate the writers' talent and strive to be better without thinking of myself as a total loser.  That's a huge step for me as I used to always feel if I couldn't "measure up" to what I consider gold standards I would just quit.

I say all of that to say, I'm going to continue to use my little spot of the interwebs to help me avoid racking up therapy bills and to finally come to total acceptance of all that is me.  Warts and all.  If my drama helps just one person look at their lives with a little deeper insight; helps them realize shiggity before shiggity hits the fan and that they can change the trajectory they're on, then I'll be okay with that.   I'm going to try to be a little more focused and disciplined but I won't even front and tell you I'll write something every day.  I'm not that disciplined ... yet.   

I hope you continue reading and if you don't mind, feel free to leave a comment or two.  I'm 50 now, have endured all kinds of drama the past year, and really at that stage in life when my attitude is more "what the hell" than it's ever been.  Stick around ... laugh with me, cry with me, and hopefully grow with me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 - Okay Bye.

Well since I kind of, sort of, have a blog, I guess I need to write the obligatory "2011 in review" post.   It's been a hell of a year.   I turned 50.  I developed additional heart problems.  I went through another surgery.  I went through cardiac rehab.  I had a nervous breakdown.  My mom was diagnosed with early stage dementia.  And my dog died.    That's just the highlights.  

My "year in review" post consists of a solid, okay, thanks, see ya, bye.  I'm ready to move on with 2012.

 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bye Bye Baby TayTay

GamMa's World got smaller on Saturday, October 8, by 8 lbs. 4 oz.    My beloved Doggie Princess -- my "Baby TayTay" --   passed away unexpectedly while I was making a run to the local Family Dollar for toilet paper and paper towels.  

I can't write a small blog post that expresses how much I loved that dog.  She was truly my best friend and brought me nothing but love and devotion.  I only hope her passing was pain free.   Any pet owner will tell you that their pets truly become part of the family.  They have their own distinct personality traits and mannerisms that are as individual as you and I are.  Some of those traits are both entertaining and irritating.  Doggie Princess had one such mannerism.

She liked to watch TV (yes, she was truly my dog).   Doggie Princess was an active TV watcher.  She basically laid on the floor and watched quietly ... until another animal showed its face on the TV.  Then she lost her doggie mind uh went berserk became extremely animated.  If we were watching TV in the bedroom, she would run up to the armoire and jump two feet in the air - repeatedly - trying to get to that animal on TV.   Full on attack mode.  She barked and growled as if our safety depended upon her keeping that TV animal in its place.  If we were watching TV in the living room, she'd stand by the fireplace looking up but with no furniture to give her leverage so she could get her jump on, she just stood their barking and growling.   My sister-in-law swears it's the funniest thing she's ever seen.  The only way to ensure she wouldn't attack the TV was for me to hold her ... or turn the channel if a dog food commercial came on.   Her TV attack was even more entertaining because she didn't give a flip about dogs we saw in real life.  She never barked at them.  If we were walking and encountered other dogs -- nothing.  A sniff and a turn of her little head and that was it.

I never got her on video attacking the TV - it wasn't that big a deal to me - it was just her.  I did happen to snap a picture of her as she was saving us from a Purina commercial though.  It makes me smile.  



I'll cry a few more days I'm sure.  Especially when I come home from work and she's not greeting me at the top of the steps.  Or like I did last night when I didn't have her little body snuggled up to me while I slept.  My heartache will heal.  I want to get to the point when I see a pet food commercial and smile as I remember Doggie Princess throwing everything in her 8 lb. 4 oz. body to getting that animal off of our TV.

I said "bye bye baby TayTay" every single morning to her when I was leaving for work.  It was her signal that she couldn't go with me.  So "bye bye baby TayTay" - I love you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Was The Point?

A few weeks ago, I broke down.  A literal, crying uncontrollably, I don't know what's wrong with me break down.  To this day, I don't know what happened. All I knew was something was horribly wrong.   I had been in my cardiac rehab program a few weeks at that point.  I had grown pretty close to the nurses and counselor so I grabbed my cell phone, called the nurse, and stepped outside lest my coworkers call security.  The nurse put me through immediately to the counselor who knew I had been struggling with depression since this latest heart "event".  She basically gave me a telephone therapy session and recommended an intense outpatient mental health program that began the next day.  At that moment, with me standing on the loading dock in the rain, she made all the sense in the world to me.  I arranged the leave with HR and was ready to go.

The next day I reported to the mental health facility and immediately copped an attitude.  You see, I had some time to think, to cry it out, get a good night's sleep -- to come to my senses so to speak.  Plus, I wasn't about to admit to these people that I had gotten to a point that I couldn't cope.  Yep, Strong Black Woman came back with a vengeance.  An hour in and I was ready to go home and catch The View.  Until the nurse called me back to do an official intake.

It all came pouring out.  I described everything I had been feeling or not feeling since I had been in the hospital for this ICD implant.  For the first time in a long time, I admitted how socially withdrawn I had been.  It's very easy for an introvert to excuse the lack of social activities with "I'm an introvert".  Truth of the matter was, I was scared.  I was scared of getting overly excited and having the ICD shock me out of some strange rhythm my heart could possibly go into.  For the first time in a long time, I admitted to another human being how hopeless I felt.   There was not a day that went by that I didn't wonder why I wasn't enjoying myself to the max as I "only had a few months to live". What was the point of depriving myself of french fries, coconut chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and real cheese (not that 2% stuff)?  What was the point of going to this job I was less than happy with to pay for a house I no longer wanted in order to present an image that I no longer cared about to the world?   What was the point of all this exercising to improve a heart that was failing anyway and that would never be fixed?  What was the point?

I was going through the motions but that question lingered.  Right there at the edge of my consciousness ... where I didn't really acknowledge its existence but it was there aggravating me -- like a gnat I couldn't swat away no matter how many times I saw it out the corner of  my eye.  Long story short, I was diagnosed with a major depressive episode.  I was in the outpatient program for about 2 1/2 weeks - EVERY DANG DAY.  

I found out through my cardiac rehab educational series, depression is very, very common with cardiac patients (yeah we don't have enough to deal with - that's sarcasm).  From what I can gather, many in the medical profession refer to it as The Cardiac Blues -- that's how common it is.  It would have been nice if I had that class earlier in the program, but I came in mid-course and it just had not cycled around yet.  It was very hard to admit I had - gasp - "a mental disorder".   I don't care how progressive we think we are, you say the words mental illness, and people still pull away from you.  My mom, bless her heart, just asked me a couple of questions then started talking about the weather.  Denial be thy name but I love her anyway.   My daughter, told me she knew something was wrong but I always told her I was okay.  She was so relieved when I told her I was getting help.  I truly had no idea she had been that concerned about me.  Anyway, I feel a thousand percent better.  I'm still going to therapy and the doctors have added another pill to my arsenal.

As far as the answer to my question?  Thanks to the excellent medical care and education I've received, I have a much brighter outlook.  I'm still sick but my viewpoint is not clouded by the darkness of depression.  I'll share some of the symptoms I experienced and how they impacted my rehabilitation later.  For now, I'm content with knowing that the points are numerous:  my daughter, my granddaughter, my brothers, my mom, and the young woman who reached out to me because she's now battling heart failure.   

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tag! I'm It!

I had a much more serious topic on my mind for posting this week, but I opted to go for some fun instead.  My fellow blogger (who just happened to win an award for best book blog at the Black Weblog Awards this year) "tagged" me on her blog Reads4Pleasure to answer these fun questions.  Even if you don't blog, take a shot at answering some of the questions in the comments section.  I'd love to learn more about my readers.

Seven Random Things About Me:

  1. I am NOT a morning person ... never have been and don't plan on becoming one.  My perfect work hours would 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. unless I get blessed enough to work my own gig at home ... then I'm pretty sure I'll have vampire hours - up all night and sleeping until noon.
  2. I have a small tattoo on my shoulder -- it was a rose.  I was hanging with one of my more free-spirited friends and we decided to just do it.   When I used to play the "getting to know you games" in corporate america I always put I had a tattoo and no one ever pegged me as the mystery person. 
  3. I really need to live near water.  It's soothing to my soul. 
  4. Potato chips are my weakness. 
  5. I love swimming.    
  6. I'm afraid of heights. 
  7. I would have made a great hippie.   
Q&A Session:
Favorite color:  I don't really have one as far as clothing. 
Favorite song:  Hard to pick one.  I love music (especially the oldies) so it depends on my mood.  If you're going to make me pick one I'll go with Teena Marie's DeJa Vu.   
Favorite dessert:  Homemade German Chocolate cake.
Biggest pet peeve: People who define themselves by their material possessions.  Who are you though? 
When You Are Upset, You:  Listen to music or escape into a book. 
Your Favorite Pet:  Doggie Princess. 
Black or White:  Why limit yourself? 
Biggest fear:  I won't live long enough to see the grand grow up. 
Best Feature:  My caring spirit. 
Everyday Attitude:  I try to live by the Golden Rule as much as possible: Treat others the way you want you be treated. 
What is Perfection?:  Sitting on a deck facing the ocean with nothing but the waves and seagulls as background noise, reading a book by day and walking along with the beach at sunset. 
Guilty Pleasure:  Self admitted TV junkie. 

I'm tagging @Rozzaboy and @lilnerdette 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Whatchu Talkin 'Bout?

We've all heard the warnings:  "heart disease in women ...." or "heart disease in African-Americans ..." or "African American Women have a greater chance of dying from heart disease than .... or the ever popular "heart disease is the number two killer behind ...".  WTH?   What exactly does that mean?   Am I going to have a heart attack tomorrow?  Are my genetics and/or lifestyle putting me at high risk for coronary heart disease?  My arteries are clogged?  Double, triple, quadruple by-pass?  Congestive heart failure.  Valvular heart disease?  Cardiomyopathy.  Murmurs.   Mitral valve prolapse.  Whatchu talkin 'bout doctor?

If your doctor uses the term "heart disease", then "whatchu talkin 'bout" definitely needs to be your follow-up question.   "Heart disease" is a term that covers a multitude of diseases that affect the heart.  In my opinion, as a cardiac patient, it really doesn't tell you anything.  The causes, treatments, recovery rates, all differ depending our your diagnosis.   Yes, there are some treatments that apply to virtually any heart disease such as low sodium/fat diet, consistent exercise, no smoking, limited alcohol consumption.  That applies to everyone and is it really heart disease specific?   No.  That's just common sense recommendations that so many of us refuse to follow until "heart disease" is thrown into the doctor's vocabulary when discussing the results of your physical.

My cardiac rehab group consists of about 12 people now (we had some graduates) and I'm amazed at how different all of our diagnoses are.  Yet, we're all following the same program.  Of course, we have different medications but part of everyone's recovery is to get consistent exercise, eat a heart healthy diet, and learn to cope.  Some of us are doing better than others with that coping thing but that's another post.

So what do you need to ask the doctor?  You need to know the specifics of your particular heart disease for one.   I knew I had rheumatic fever when I was a kid.  I knew I spent a long, long time in the hospital with it.  I knew it left me with a murmur and I knew I had to take antibiotics before dental work.  I'm ashamed to say that's all I knew for sure from a pre-teen until a few weeks before my first surgery.   Keep in mind, I was initially diagnosed during a time when doctors didn't share a lot of specifics.   I know my mother was told to let me do what I felt like doing (no restrictions) so I did.  I swam, played volleyball, rode a bike, attempted basketball (I totally suck) and took my antibiotics before dental work.   I was doing fine with an annual EKG and that's about all it took for years.  I should've picked up on something different when they started wanting to do echos (echocardiograms) but I just assumed technology kept changing so they were using it.

Now we mere mortals have access to a lot more information.  It is up to us to make sure we fully understand any diagnosis we receive from our doctors.  Ask questions until you do.  Then do research from a reputable medical web sites about your specific diagnosis and prepare more questions for your next visit.  Side note:  be really, really careful about reputable web sites.  I usually go with my local hospital and other well known national hospitals' sites as a start.  Never, ever self-diagnose using Web MD (no shade).

If your doctor prescribes medication, make sure you understand why you're taking it, when you're supposed to take it, do you need to avoid any foods -- yeah all that stuff the pharmacy prints out that often gets tossed in the trash.

Then make sure you know what symptoms the doctor wants you to inform them about.  I had been having "flutters" for weeks and just "happened" to tell my cardiologist about them on a follow-up visit.  I just thought I was having anxiety attacks.

It is up to all of us to partner with our doctors and do our part to help him/her manage our health.   That should the standard with any chronic illness we may, unfortunately, be diagnosed with; but because heart disease is such a far reaching diagnosis, it is particularly important to know all you can find so you can participate in your care.

So if the doctor says you show signs of heart disease, you say, whatchu talkin 'bout and pull out your notebook.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm Here

I haven't thought much about my blog these days.  If truth be told, I haven't thought much about anything lately but escaping into a fantasy world of TV and sleeping.   If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've been going to a cardiac rehab program which lasts 12 weeks, three days a week.  It's a good program and is designed to get us cardiac patients into a routine of steady exercise, teach us about diet, stress management, medications, etc.   We even have a counselor who talks with us individually about the emotional impact of our diagnoses as well as teaching us about the "cardiac blues" and other issues we're dealing with.  All in all, it's been a very intense, and extremely valuable program.

I've learned a lot.  I've been working hard to get up to where they want me as far as exercising.  My last trip to the grocery store was filled with reading labels and buying more fresh fruits and veggies. Shoot I even lost 1 1/2 pounds of the total 10 they want me to lose.  I've been doing what I can do at the job and not freaking out if I'm not Wonder Woman.  With medication (enough that I have to count out the pills in the morning to make sure I'm not missing one), diet changes, and regular exercise, my blood pressure has been spot on.  Of course, I'm exhausted but that's to be somewhat expected and I have to learn to listen to my body more and rest when I need to.

But I didn't start the program with a "let's do this" attitude.  In fact, I was probably defeated before I even stepped on the treadmill that first day.  I think my next few posts will focus on this whole process thus far.  Part therapy to help me come to grips with my condition and partly to share my journey in the hopes that I can shed some light on the very real problem of heart disease in women.

For the first time in weeks, I've truly felt "here".  This song by the legendary Diana Ross says it all for me right now.  Enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

It's All In the Name

My granddaughter is going to spend the weekend with me.  I need it.  As tired as I know I'm going to be running after a 5-year old with non-stop energy, I need to spend a few days with her.  You see, last Sunday, she called me something she had never called me before.  It wasn't a bad name, it just wasn't the name she dubbed me.  During a phone conversation with her, Peanut called me (cue music) -- "Grandma".  GASP!

I've been "Gamma" for about four years.  When Peanut was learning to call her mom "mommy" and her dad "daddy", she referred to me as "Gamma" and I've been Gamma ever since.  There's something about the name your first grandchild gives you that is special beyond special.  My daughter was my mom's first grandchild, and dubbed her "Nanny".  My mom has 10 grandchildren now (including two step-grandchildren ... of another race .. but that's another story) and every last one of them refer to her as Nanny.  It's an honor the first grandchild gets to bestow and most grandparents cherish the moniker and try to live up to it with every fiber of their being.  I have vivid memories of my daughter ready to fight her cousin when cousin called my mom Nanny.   Looking back, I can say it was my daughter's first "oh hell naw" moment.   My daughter and all of her five year-old self explained to cousin that this is "my Nanny" and you are not allowed to call her Nanny.  I remember telling daughter that as the first grandchild, it was up to her to teach the cousins who Nanny was and what her name was.  She was cool with being the "first" as long as cousins recognized.  Needless to say, they learned to recognize and there was peace amongst the cousins.

When I heard Peanut call me "Grandma", I knew it was time for some quality time.  It reminded me of that moment in an adult relationship when you stop referring to your partner by the nickname he/she has always been and calling them something ordinary that doesn't convey the specialness that is your relationship.  That moment that usually signifies a subtle shift when things start to go downhill.   When the love of my life and I started drifting apart, I can almost pinpoint the day because he was no longer "Pet Nickname" but "First Name".  It didn't seem like a big deal when it happened but in hindsight, it was a huge signal that something was off.

Now I don't mean to imply that a 5-year old calling me "Grandma" is a sign of something on the scale of a marriage or relationship ending, but it did jolt me out of my own head.   I don't have the scientific evidence to back it up, but my gut says it's pretty easy to slip into yourself and have an all out pity party when faced with a serious illness.  Especially if you're prone to episodes of depression anyway.   But it's not the time for a pity party.  It's the time to embrace life fully (which we should all be doing anyway).  It's the time to really focus on what's important -- getting healthy and making sure your relationships aren't focusing on the dumb stuff.  And if your relationship are all about the dumb stuff, then it's time to build new relationships.  I realize I've been caught up in my own health drama (which is understandable).  I've been wallowing in my own self-pity and not giving too much thought to how those closest to me are affected.  I've pulled inside my own little bubble, determined to get through this on my own and refusing to allow those that love me to give me the strength that is their love.  

My goal these next couple of days with Peanut is to become her Gamma again.  I've built an online identity around that moniker so it's important that I keep it (just kidding but not).  Seriously, I'm going to let my family and friends "in" and accept the encouragement and hope that is their love.  So when Peanut wants to see my scar and asks me if the doctors fixed me, I want to hold her on my lap and tell her they've given me something that will make me feel better and then commence to coloring or writing notes to her mommy.  I won't sink into my "woe is me world" and put in a Scooby Doo video for her.  I'll just be her Gamma.

It's all in the name.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I've Died Three Times

Well, I'm one week post surgery for an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).  For all the wittiness and bravery I portrayed on Twitter the three days I was in the hospital, believe me it was just one big old mask for the tears, and the fear I was experiencing as I learned I would have to undergo another surgical procedure.   But for the kindness and genuine caring of a topnotch nursing staff, I would have put my butt in a taxi and gone home  to the Doggie Princess.  Once the nurses saw my original scar, they all reassured me the ICD procedure was a piece of cake compared to my other surgery.  I wasn't hearing it.  I'm deathly afraid slightly leery of anesthesia.  There was only one part of this procedure that I was going to be completely out but that didn't matter.  I knew they were going to basically kill me so they test the defibrillator and make sure it shocked me back to life.   I found out afterwards, they did that twice.  

A friend of mine who went through the first surgery with me was quick to point out "dang - you've died three times".   Once during original surgery when I was transferred to the heart/lung machine and twice during this procedure to make sure the device worked.  That's a realization I can't even begin to articulate.  

I'm happy to report that the nurses were right.  It wasn't as bad as my first surgery but the seriousness of the implant hit home when they gave me the list of dos and don'ts of living with an ICD.  The first being my jacked up hair.  I can't lift my left arm above heart height for the next six weeks - makes it very difficult to wrap my hair in the manner to which it's accustomed.  I'll be trying to get an appointment for some braids with the quickness.   Other things like no cell phone within 6 inches of the device, making sure TSA agents hand screen me with minimal exposure to their equipment when flying, and keep it moving when entering stores with the theft deterrents on the doors just reinforces lifestyle changes I have to make -- again.   

I haven't been shocked since I've had the implant which is a good thing.  It means my my heart rhythm hasn't gone crazy.   I'm having moments of hysteria and I've found myself extremely hesitant in performing some basic living tasks.  Sleeping is especially difficult right now.  I'll never know when I'm getting ready to get a shock of life and I think that anticipation has me a little bit frozen right now.   Granted, I'm post-op, but I'm basically staying in the house these days.  My daily  walk with the Doggie Princess and a run to the local seafood restaurant is as far as I can venture out right now.  I recognize that though and I'll be making an appointment with a therapist to make sure I get over this fear before I have to re-enter the real world.  

Now that I've died three times, I'm more determined than ever to make my remaining days on this earth meaningful and satisfying to my soul.  It's a necessity that can no longer be ignored.  





Sunday, April 24, 2011

Take It To Heart

Alright, listen up.  I need all my sisters - Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian, to take heart disease in women seriously.    It is no secret that I've had some serious heart issues that resulted from a nasty case of rheumatic fever when I was a child, but I'm now having problems that have absolutely nothing to do with the artificial valve I had put in 13 years ago (Hey Barbara - Use the Pillow)

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotional and physical setbacks that have left me with a call from my cardiologist's office checking to see if I was still alive based on the readings from my heart monitor they had me wearing, a prescription for nitroglycerin, an aspirin-a-day regiment, and a heart cath on Tuesday which may result in a stent, a pacemaker, or nothing but more meds (I'm hoping for more meds but  pacemaker is sounding like a strong possibility).

I've been pushing along like crazy with a workload that is just too much for me to handle, tiredness that I attributed to being overworked, and "flutterings" that I attributed to stress and continued to take Xanax to relax.  With my history, these were all symptoms that I should have paid more attention to, but I wasn't having any pain that I couldn't handle so I let it go.  Turns out the "flutterings" are, in my case, the more serious ventricular tachycardia.  The extreme tiredness is indicative of decreased heart function, and the increased  anxiety and depression too often go hand in hand with congestive heart failure. In short, I'm pretty fortunate that I haven't had a major heart attack.  Hopefully, the cath on Tuesday will keep me from having one.


I don't know what Tuesday holds in store for me (except a week off work initially).  But if you read this post, I want you to go to the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women page and read some of the stories of women of all ages who have been struck by heart disease.  The symptoms in women are so different from those in men so it's very important to listen to your body.  If you're having shortness of breath doing activities that used to be considered routine, or "flutterings" or just don't feel right, please, please have it checked out.   If you have a doctor that pooh poohs your symptoms go to another one.  Take it to heart ladies.  If you don't, no one else will. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Quit You Strong Black Woman

I consider myself strong.  I am Black.  I am a woman.  But I don't want to the Strong Black Woman anymore.  I just want to be Gamma with my struggles, my shortcomings, my sarcasm, my love of all things TV, my joy of reading crime novels, my curiosity, my moodiness, my love of potato chips, my hips, my skin, my hair.  I just want to be.

I know I'm Black.  As my Granny used to say, I don't have to do anything but stay Black and die.  I'm never going to be anything different.  Lawd knows this society won't let me forget it.  I know I'm strong simply by virtue of being here.  But do I have to constantly define myself as a Strong Black Woman?  

Trying to live up to the Strong Black Woman role, has almost killed me.  I've had more than my fair share of drama over the past years, especially over the last four.  One particular incident almost put me in the psych ward.  I was trying so hard to be strong that I wouldn't allow myself to admit I needed help much less reach out for it.   I wrote the whole sordid mess out in a 4-part post and took it down.  It wasn't until I realized I had not read a book for a solid year, that I realized I was in emotional trouble.  Books have always, always been my best friends and the fact that I couldn't concentrate long enough to read one finally got through to me.  It wasn't the fact that I had isolated myself from all but the most necessary human contact.  It wasn't the fact that I was drinking more alcohol than I ever had in my life even though I knew moderate drinking (if any) was the protocol after my heart surgery over 10 years ago.  Not eating regularly didn't signal an issue as I have always been a meh kind of eater.   And I put the insomnia I had suddenly developed down to I'm getting older.  I was only truly happy with my granddaughter and my dog.  And it *still* didn't click that I might need some help to process what had been a devastating blow to my emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.  Yeah, it involved a man. 

On the heels of that drama, I lost my extremely (in comparison) well-paying job of 17 years so I had financial issues I hadn't had to worry about in a long, long, long time.  Then my daughter had a serious freak accident and I was afraid she had lost the use of her legs.  We won't mention the fact that she had let her car insurance lapse the day BEFORE the accident so Strong Black Woman that I am, I shelled out over $6,000 for her to repair her car.  After all, she had to work and get Peanut to daycare and she wasn't taking my car.  The drama continued with a series of other "you've got to be kidding me moments" that literally had me crying out to God what did I do to you and I'm sorry!

Throughout all of that, I was trying to live up the Strong Black Woman myth.  After all, we were the women that could feed a family of eight on $10 if necessary -- for a week.  We could work three jobs, raise perfectly behaved children, go back to school, have a spotless house, keep self looking good at all times.  Did I mention we did all that with a smile, hugs and support for the "less strong" and be the leader of the Usher Board at church, too?   My ancestors came from slavery dammit.  What right did I have to let a little thing like "life" wear me down?  

I don't know where Strong Black Woman came from anyway.  I never hear the women in the other racial groups describe themselves as Strong White Woman, Strong Asian Woman or Strong Latina Woman.   All I know is the day I fell apart in my doctor's office in response to her "how's it going" greeting was when I started to realize I didn't want to strive to be Strong Black Woman anymore.  I just wanted to be the best me I could be.  I wanted to cry when I was hurt, hell I just wanted to be able to say I'm hurt.  I wanted to laugh when I was happy.  I wanted to ask for and accept help without feeling I was a failure to my gender and my race.  I wanted my daughter to be a normal young lady and if she made mistakes along the way I didn't want to feel as if I had failed the sorority of Strong Black Women.  I wanted to admit I was tired and rest when I wanted to.

So Strong Black Woman with your superhuman feats of accomplishment and ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, I salute you.  As for me, I'm going to shoot for The Best I Can Be. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's My Blog and I'll Write What I Want To

I haven't been posting a lot in my blog.  I started this on a whim one night with no clear purpose - just a place for me to express myself about the shiggity that goes on in my world.  My life has truly been a "surely I'm not the only one" journey.  Since I started this blog, I've done too much research on making your blog "successfu".  According to the "experts", using my blog as a diary is like what not to do:  rule #1.  I've always been one to adhere to to the rules and I'm tired of it.  My blog is my blog so whatever is going in my world is what I'm going to share.  So thank you for reading.  If you find it TMI then thanks for stopping by and no hard feelings.

I'm going to share a post tomorrow that will make you think Gamma is a full-fledged fool.   I've had experiences over the past four years that have made me question a lot of "I will never" rules I had set for myself.  It's going to be in the line of Lessons Learned.  I hope you come back.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Empty Nest: Take 3

For the past three and a half years, my world has consisted of the doggie princess, my grown daughter, and my thinks she's grown - but in a cute "I wanna read the newspaper like you Gamma way" -  almost 5 year old  granddaughter.  Yesterday, that all changed.  My girls (sans the doggie princess) moved out.  It was a bittersweet day for me.  As for doggie princess, I swear she's thinking this is how it's supposed to be.  I call this "Take 3" as it's the third time I've had to adjust to my daughter moving out of my house. 

The first time was after high school when she went away to college.  I did everything but steal to make sure her first year of college was everything I wished I had the opportunity to experience.   There was only one problem with that -- she didn't really want to go to college at the time.  She was, and is, a very intelligent young lady but she has never and I mean NEVER enjoyed school the way I did when I was growing up.  As much as I thought I was one of those moms that encouraged my child to "do you", I was really saying "do you, as long as it's what I would have you do".   If I hadn't been so focused on my parental bragging rights, I would have realized she probably should have gone to community college for a year or so and then transferred to a traditional university or continued to study dance or traveled or explored any number of paths in order to discover her passion.  Lesson learned after writing numerous checks to said university and having one miserable young lady return home after a few semesters.  I'll never forget asking her why she just didn't tell me she didn't want to go to school right away and she said "because I knew that's what you wanted me to do".  Ouch.  So much for me encouraging her to follow her passions.

The second time I had to say goodbye was when she moved out to be with my granddaughter's father (yeah her baby daddy).  I didn't like dude from jump -- for her.  He was a nice enough young man, but just like any adoring parent, I thought my daughter could do better.   Plus, having been in a relationship or five in my life, he had all the signs of a young man not having yet found himself and even worse had no clue where to look.  In short, I thought he had a lot of maturing to do.   To be fair, I also thought my daughter had a lot of maturing to do but that's another topic.  Anyway, having  been a young woman in love before, I knew that the more I critiqued him, the more she was going to run to his defense.  I knew better.  This was one she was going to have to learn on her own.  She did.  That's when she and granddaughter moved in with me.

It's been challenging at times to have three generations living under one roof.   Unlike Asian and Hispanic cultures, multi-generations are not typical in American households.  I wanted to think we were on the cutting edge of a new trend as the economy continued to suffer and adult children were finding themselves needing to stay or come back home at the same time as some of us Boomers found our incomes significantly reduced as well.  We weren't that evolved yet.   It was actually pretty difficult.  We loved each other dearly, that I don't deny.  But my daughter and I haven't really had a chance to break out of the parent-child relationship and move into the woman-to-woman relationship we needed to peacefully co-exist in the same house. 

Instead of being sad about them moving out, I choose to see this as a time of growth for all of us.  My daughter and I can transition our relationship to the next phase.  I can finally be a "regular" Gamma instead of co-parenting.  Last but not least, I can sleep late on Saturday without the little one running into my room screaming "it's wake up time, Gamma"!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goodbye Lady T.

There are certain news stories that hit Gamma squarely in the gut.  You know, that break down and cry like the situation happened to you or someone you know.  The Susan Smith story, the Columbine shootings, the death of a former co-worker's 4-year old daughter, and the death of two children in my town in a house fire had me wailing like a child (9-11 is a given so no need to mention).   This does not mean that other tragedies did not touch my soul, it just means that for whatever reason, these stories have affected me disproportionally more than most news stories.  And when I say affected, I mean crying, trying to make sense of it all and withdrawing into myself so I could process it affected.  This weekend, I added another -- the sudden and unexpected death of Teena Marie, Lady T.

If you follow (and pay attention) to me on Twitter, then you know that Lady T. is and always will be one of  my "go-to-musicians" when I'm having a bad day on the job, when I'm happy, or just when I want to sing.  I have been a fan of hers since I first heard her in 1979.  It is no secret that I love good music but there are three ladies that have always touched something way down deep and had me singing at the top of my out-of-tune lungs with emotion -- Phyllis Hyman, Minnie Riperton, and Teena Marie.  Unfortunately, all three of them are no longer with us, but their music will live forever in my heart, my CD collection, and my Blip and GrooveShark playlists.   

There have been many stories written about Teena's rise to fame, her being the only white R&B singer that the Black community embraced, yada yada yada.  But to me, she was always just Teena, the lady with the voice.   Some of her songs bring back memories.  I will go to my grave believing that my daughter was conceived on Portuguese Love (helped by some 151 piƱa coladas that our friend Brian made when he returned from Germany after a stint in the Air Force).   Fire & Desire will always take me back to the night my BFF at the time and I mourned the ending of my marriage - complete with hair brushes as mics (I had Teena's part).   Oooh La La La, although released much earlier, will always make me think of the Love of My Life -- the first man I truly and completely loved.   One of her more recent songs Can't Last a Day was classic Teena and proved to me she still had "the voice". 

When Teena joined Twitter,  I tried like hell to be a respectful fan and not bug the crap out of her.  When she @ replied me one night I literally turned into a giggly teenager and sat at my keyboard saying "she wrote to me, OMG she wrote to me ... be cool Gamma you don't want to turn stalkerish now".  I was stupid giddy but I realized Teena was like that.  She seemed to enjoy interacting with her fans and that just solidified her a place in my defective heart even more.

When the story started circulating on Twitter that she had died, I did something I promised I wouldn't do ... I tweeted her saying it would be nice to have a tweet from her -- pretty please.  She didn't respond.  I'm also Twitter pals with a friend of the family so I reached out to them begging, pleading, for someone to dispel this "rumor" ASAP.  Instead that Twitter pal confirmed her death.  I was done.  I cried and immediately turned to well, Teena's music.   Later that night, I spent a few hours on @keyinfluencer's Ustream tribute to her and it felt so good to be among true fans and enjoying her music with them.  In some strange way, that was my funeral for Teena.  I left the tribute sad, yet uplifted (cause that's just what her music did to me) and I was extremely glad for the technology that enabled me to share my sadness with 5,000 of her truest fans.

I wish I had the talent to articulate poetically what Teena's music means to me.  But I don't.  All I can say is that her music will live forever and I will always know her voice from the first note.   I will always remember her as an artist that performed with soul, with passion, and on her terms.  The friend of the family assures me that Teena knew how much I loved her music.  I hope that's true.

As I listened to the Lover Girl compilation CD today at work, I chose to believe Teena was smiling down at the joy I was getting while I hunted down the bug in my Excel macro.  I choose to believe she was shaking her head as I tried my hardest not to sing Dear Lover out loud (and thinking this is the most non-talented fan I have -- hands down).

I shed a few more tears for Teena, said a prayer for her daughter, her friends and fans everywhere, and commenced to singing Casanova Brown in my head. 

I introduced my 4-year old granddaughter to Square Biz last night and she danced with Gamma as if it were Whip My Hair -- proving Lady T.'s music transcends race and age (and will be sung long after Whip My Hair is relegated to the oh I remember that pile).

RIP Lady T.  May you rejoin Rick and maybe compile a tune or two with Minnie and Phyllis.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - 2 1/2 Women Style

I'm a little late with the reflections of my Thanksgiving 2010 holiday.   I had originally planned not to do a dag blame thing.  I have not had a day off to regenerate in a long, long time and I was bound and determined to relax for four glorious days ... sleeping late, no cooking, no visiting, nothing, nadda.   Well, the Wednesday night before, my Gamma gene kicked in and I just couldn't let it slide without my fresh greens and macaroni and cheese (legendary in the family I might add) and of course a turkey for 2 1/2 women.   So off I went to the grocery store Wednesday night to buy my fixins.  As luck would have it, my daughter came down with what I call a migraine but her doctor says is a bad headache so there was no cooking Wednesday night but that was okay ... we were on the "whenever dinner is ready" schedule so I didn't sweat it too much.  Anyway, Thursday morning we got up and cooked our dinner in our sweats and t-shirts, took our time, let the little one "help" and had a pretty quiet and non-eventful day.

I missed my brothers and my mom, the chaos, and the effort to get a full course, made from scratch dinner, prepared at an hour that I wouldn't even entertain at any other time of the year.  But it was a good day.  What made this holiday different than prior years?  It was the fact that I did it my way which wasn't typical of societal expectations that were set for me.  I combined my favorite traditions -- real roasted turkey (nothing like it for sandwiches and 200% better than that processed stuff the deli calls roasted turkey); my baked macaroni & cheese (which is really simple to make but for some reason only prepared during special occasions even though we love it -- this will change); and fresh greens (as long as I have breath we will not have Glory greens n this house). 

It made me realize how much drama could be eliminated from my life if I did more "my way" instead of some unrealistic expectation that I felt I had to strive to meet.  Thanksgiving 2010, unplanned and uncoordinated as it was, actually turned out to be one of the best Thanksgiving holidays I've experienced.  I wasn't able to say the prayer quite as eloquently as my mom, but I'm sure God understood. 

How much of our stress and pressure is due to perceived expectations?  How much stress and pressure can be eliminated if we just "do you"?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday to Me!

Yep, Gamma had a birthday on November 11.  My birthday hasn't been a typically happy event.  We buried my father on November 10, 1982.  It was the year I turned 21.  No one was in a particularly celebratory mood.  I was living with my then-boyfriend-turned-husband-turned-ex-husband and it just wasn't the happy occasion we had planned on it being.   My dad was a tortured soul but he was mine.  I usually sink into a deep depression in November as it's also the month my wonderful Grannie died.  November has not typically been a happy month.

Anyway, when I woke up last Thursday and my beautiful granddaughter said "Happy Birthday Gamma" - all pitiful as she was on her way to the doctor - I lay in bed a while (contemplating taking a sick day) and thought about the best birthday I ever had.

Allow me to set the scene.  We (my daughter and I) had been living in NC only a couple of years.  She was about 7 years old and we were enjoying our new state.  My mom was living here then and as conflicted as our relationship has been, we were having some really good times during the first few years when baby girl and I moved to NC.  

My mom didn't drive but my daughter was determined to make my birthday a special event (she planned the whole day herself).  She said we had to go pick up Nanny (my mom).  I was then ordered to drive them to Kroger where the two of them went inside and picked up decorations -- balloons, a big old chocolate chip cookie with Happy Birthday Mom on it and other party supplies.  Keep in mind, even though I was driving I was instructed not to look at anything so I ignored the balloons and other bags of goodies and awaited instructions.   I was ordered to drive downtown to one of our favorite parks, Grace Court in the West End (still one of my faves).  I parked while they went to decorate the gazebo.  


I'm not supposed to know anything special is happening so being the good mommy that I was, I played along.  My daughter came back to the car and walked me to the gazebo telling me not to look.  When we stepped up I was allowed to open my eyes and my feast was before me.   NOTE:   I've got pictures (but no scanner) so when I get to a scanner I'm going to post them in.  That is the actual gazebo and it was a sunny day as depicted in this picture.  

I, of course, was so surprised and my daughter was pleased that she had accomplished the impossible -- planning a surprise party for her mom who had to drive them to pick up everything and to my own party. 

It's kind of hard to convey the beautiful weather, the true joy on my daughter's face as she anxiously stared at me hoping she had pulled off her surprise, the smile on my mom's face as she enjoyed her daughter and first granddaughter enjoying a truly joyous moment.  

That was a good birthday.  So instead of lying in bed and sinking into a depression last Thursday, I remembered my favorite birthday and went to work smiling. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dysfunction Does Not Discriminate

As most of you know, Oprah did an interview with Tyler Perry on October 20, 2010 during which Tyler admitted he had been molested as a child.  Feel free to go to Oprah's Tyler Perry Interview to catch up.

I cried during this entire episode.  It was very difficult to watch as the feelings that Tyler was describing were feelings and realizations that I just started coming to grips with during the past few years.  But I don't want to write about Tyler's story or even my own.  What bothered me are the comments I read from some folk on The Twitter.   There were folk tweeting about how Tyler's confession "proved" his homosexuality; how they didn't believe a word of it because he's a paid actor; they hate his works and bashed the interview because they weren't fans of his plays and movies.  What bothered me even more were that most of the negative comments were from people who from their avatar or handle seemed to be Black.  To be fair, the postive comments and support for Tyler outweighed the negative, but it still bothered me. 

I don't know why it's so hard for Black folk to accept that those atrocities occur in our homes.   It's that attitude that keeps so many of my people from seeking the help they so desperately need.  Tyler and I are roughly the same age (okay I'm almost 10 years older but stick with me).  We're from the generation of "what happens in this house stays in this house".  It's an unwritten rule in dysfunctional homes and it's damn near gospel in Black households even when things are normal.   My age group is smack dab in the middle of admitting your truth and keeping the family secret.  It's a very confusing place to reside.  We're young enough to recognize that times have changed, and that the only way we can improve ourselves is to put a voice to  secrets that have been maintained entirely too long.  Yet, we're "old school" enough to truly fear bucking or hurting our parents by revealing our own story which by default is theirs.  I can totally understand why Tyler couldn't tell his entire story until his mom passed away.  Hence, why I try to keep my Gubment name as quiet as possible on these innanets. 

One of the most helpful groups I ever attended was an Adult Children of Alcoholics group a few years ago.  No matter what meeting I attended, I was always, ALWAYS, the only Black person there yet I knew a lot of my friends who grew up in similar circumstances and whose adult lives were all screwed up because of our warped view of self.  Maybe I should try the group again.  Maybe I should try to start a group in a predominately Black location.  I don't know.  But I digress.

I guess what I'm trying to say is dysfunction does not discriminate.  It happens in homes of all races and income levels.  Some people rise to greatness out of it (Oprah, Tyler) and some just do the best they can until they can do better (yours truly).  I doubt if my story will ever make me lots of money.  It wasn't Precious or Bastard out of Carolina awful, but pain is pain.  I don't really think you can discount anyone's pain as not being "painful enough".   What I would like to get before I depart this earth is a sense of peace and a true level of comfort in who I am -- warts and all. 

So while I'm totally over Madea and praying desperately that Tyler doesn't mess up For Color Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, I can put that aside and says thanks for sharing. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So I'm a Punk Now?

As noted in a previous post, I ran into some drama at the gig and had a "come to Jesus" talk with my boss.  I told my story, accepted responsibility for my error, yada yada yada.   Part of the drama involved another person and the way they came at the Gamma.  I told the boss what happened just so boss would be aware of conflict ... I made it clear that I would handle my issue with the other person but wanted boss to be aware.

A sista-girl co-worker (one I had to latch on to to learn the politics of this place) has been my confidant during my on-boarding.  I told her what my plan was for dealing with the other person and she basically said I was a punk for not going off on the other person and letting her know some thangs -- yes thangs.   

How I chose to handle it was, well, to not handle it.  I thought about my interactions with the person to-date and came to the conclusion that this wasn't typical behavior for her.  Something else must have been going on.  I came to find out that she has been taking kind of a corporate whipping from a new client which has increased her stress 50-fold.  Her husband hasn't been happy with the additional hours she's been working, creating more stress in her home.  The error I made caused her to take a couple of hours from the client that was whipping her so she could help me correct my mistake; therefore, ensuring her whipping went on later that night than she was prepared for or expected.  Given all that, I decided to let it slide UNLESS it happened again (it hasn't and she's been as helpful as she was from the beginning). 

I felt good about my decision until my co-worker called me a punk.  So was I wrong?   I tried to think of the long-term.  I spend 8-9 hours a day in that building and I need stress to be minimized as much as possible.  Yes, it would have felt good to go off on her but what would it have accomplished?  Is everything go-off worthy?  I've had entirely too much drama in my life and I have always tried to pick my battles carefully.  There have been some battles that I probably should have fought earlier, just as there have been some I shouldn't have taken on.   Does that make me a punk? 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Here We Go Again

Three months into the new gig and Gamma's got drama already.  Can I catch a break on the job front -- PLEASE!!  I'm getting too damn old for this. 

I've got to have a "come to Jesus" talk with my boss tomorrow.   It's our regularly scheduled "how's it going" meeting but I'm going to have to address some issues and Lawd I HATE confrontation.  The issue revolves around training (or lack, thereof).  The first few weeks of training were really good and covered most things I need to know to perform one part of the job.  The second part of training was lacking to put it nicely and it's put me in a position of not feeling comfortable to speak to all the work I've been doing.  Bascially, I've been going through the motions ... not good for any kind of analyst position.  If the Analyst is not fully understanding the pieces, no amount of faking in the world is going to make yo sound like the expert you're supposed to be.

To top it off, I made a mistake last week.  I'm okay with that, I'm human.  But what frustrates me is that I'm now put in the position of defending myself for not doing something I didn't know I had to do.  How the hell do I defend against that without coming off as making excuses?   To make matters worse, the person that called me on the mistake, approached the Gamma ALL WRONG and in a totally unprofessional manner.    I couldn't even respond to her tirade Friday as I knew it was not going to be pretty.  I just left (and went to the liquor store).  But I have to bring it up to the boss tomorrow.   The person that fell down on the second part of my training is one of the boss' pets.  Lawd why me? 

Corporate politics suck worse than the government politics we're all dealing with right now.  I think I've got my speech worked out so that I don't throw the boss' pet totally under the bus, and hopefully getting hooked up with the lady I know will teach me the right way.   Work shouldn't be this dang difficult.  Why can't we just go to work, do our jobs, without all the drama?

The world would be so much simpler. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Are We Becoming?

Every talk show host on radio and all of the Talking Heads on cable news outlets have covered the story of the firefighters in Obion County TN watch a family's home burn to the ground because they hadn't paid the $75 subscription fee for the services of a nearby fire department.    Here's the story in case you've been asleep and didn't catch it. Firefighters Watch as House Burns.  It's bothered me from the moment I read about it.

I think I've kept an open mind as I've listened to the paid Talking Heads.  I've listened carefully to callers on my local talk radio station and I've read comments people have left on various news sites.    I totally understand the family didn't pay the fee and therefore wasn't entitled to the services of the FD.  I'm all about personal responsibility.  The family says they forgot and having forgotten a bill or three myself I can see how that could happen.  It doesn't matter to me.   I still can't help but be bothered by the way this situation was handled.

Firefighters are our heroes.  The Love of My Life (LOML) was a firefighter for years so I know a little bit about them.  They are truly heroes ... they come when they're called.  Our local fire department handles medical calls as well so they're usually first responders to medical calls as they're able to get to a location quicker than an ambulance can.  I watched our fire department rescue my daughter from a freak accident at our house and get her to the hospital.  I kissed the captain that night because I was so happy to see him.  I knew him because of relationship with LOML but I would've kissed him if I hadn't known him.  My daughter was in trouble and I was afraid she had lost her legs. 

I watched our fire department try to save my neighbor has he lay on his front porch having suffered a heart attack.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to save him but they came and they worked so hard to get him stable enough to go to hospital.  I watched LOML cry after a house fire that killed two children.   When my daughter started driving, he used to call me after working a traumatic traffic accident, especially if it involved teenagers to make sure she was home and safe.  I've seen them fight just as hard to save a family pet as they did to save the people in the house.  They fight just as hard to save a "structure" (they call all buildings structures for some reason) that was burning due to someone burning leaves inappropriately, arson, or someone leaving a pot of food on the stove.  I say all that to say, I love firefighters.  I think it takes a special person to be one.  Period.

That's why it was so hard for me to believe that they actually let that family's home burn.  It's not in their nature NOT to help.   They don't check to see if someone has paid their taxes first before they respond (thank God ... Imma get that last few hundred paid soon -- I promise).   They are charged with saving life first and property if at all possible.

After hearing more about the story, I don't fault the firefighters -- they were following "orders".  I am surprised that not one of them said "to hell with orders" and let their training and instincts kick in but that's another issue.  I'm upset that their boss saw the only solution to this family not paying their subscription fee was to let their home burn and kill the poor doggies that were trapped inside.  They damn near crucified Michael Vick for abusing animals, but again that's another story.   I personally think they could have saved the home (and pets) and charged the family a hefty fine for having to provide service.  I know, I know if they didn't pay the $75 why would they pay a fine?  I don't know if that would have happened or not.  At the least they could have attached a lien on the home if they didn't pay that.  But I digress.  

I never thought I'd see the day when the fire department wouldn't be there to help us without checking our payment records first.  But even more bothersome is the fact that so many people have the attitude "damn right  no-pay-no-help".  What happened to that love thy neighbor thing?  Have we really become such a got-mine-get-yours society that our fire department - the very people we teach our children will help them when they're in trouble - will only help after they check to see if mommy or daddy or Gamma has paid a fee?

What in the world are we becoming?  Lord help us.
   

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Everybody is NOT a Manager

You all know I started a new gig about two months ago.  It's not my dream job (no TV involved, I can't take my doggie with me, and the paycheck could stand a couple of more zeros) but it's much more tolerable than my old job which still brings shivers down my spine when I think of it.  But this rant isn't about current gig or really any gig in particular -- just the whole dang manager concept. 

I've been working a long time now -- you wouldn't know it from my bank account (that's a whole separate post) but I've been around a while in the work force.  One of the biggest beefs I have with Corporate America (as it's so warmly referred to by us who are indentured to the structure to eat) is the fact that the only way "up" seems to be to make manager of or senior some-fancy-name-that-means-nothing-to-those-outside-of-the-company.   The problem with that structure is that there are so few companies that actually train those up-and-comers to be really effective and GOOD managers of people.  It doesn't mean they're bad people, they're just horrible managers of people.

Managing people takes an entirely different skill set than what most people learn in school or even learn with experience.  You need a set of "soft skills" that I've not seen many MBA programs focus on.  You need the ability to deal with different people -- cultures, ages, genders, learning styles, and personalities.  The manager needs to be able to deal with all of those differences, yet, somehow or another treat everyone the same from a policies and productivity standpoint.  They need to be cheerleaders, ass-kickers, and still keep their personal biases and opinions out of the decision making as much as possible.  I feel for them.  I recognized a long, long time ago that I would not be an effective manager of people.  It's hard as hell to be a good one and I've yet to work somewhere where the trade-off seemed worth it.  I'm okay with that.   But I digress.

It sucks that the only path to financial and professional growth in many companies requires becoming responsible for the growth and development of a staff.  Especially as many folk are thrust into that role long before they have been trained to be an effective manager.   In my experience, manager has meant "I'm the boss now dammit".   Too many times they don't lead a group as much as they babysit (i.e. make sure the staff follows antiquated company rules) or break their necks implementing an idea of some fool that has the ear of the CEO or someone in a high enough position to make it happen.  

I wish corporations could either a) find a way to make a growth and development path for good employees that don't necessarily lead to managing a group of people or b) train the managers to be good leaders.  I think b would be easier but that's just me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tasia, Tasia, Tasia

I don't usually spend too much energy thinking about pop culture stars.  Usually, they're just a source of entertainment for me as I merrily go along my way and try to maintain.  This Fantasia story has got me riled up though so I need to get it off my chest. 

Let me say, I've always had a special fondness for Fantasia from her Idol days.  Call it a kindred spirit kind of thing, but I always felt she had some issues rooting from childhood that she had to deal with.  Yes, she was extremely talented and I know she came from a family of performers, but that didn't mean something wasn't quite right.  I'm not sure if the experts have ever confirmed it, but I honestly feel like those of us from dysfunctional homes can recognize each other.  It wasn't just because she was a teenager mother either.  I can't explain it but I know it when I see it.   My feeling was verified as she revealed more and more about her self like her inability to read.  The drama of her father suing her after her book was published and her reality show on VH1 confirmed it. 

When her affair with Mr. Married broke in the news, I was extremely disappointed, but I didn't believe for one minute that she deliberately went after a married man.  As further details broke about that story, I felt like she was the victim of some very smooth talk by a man that probably recognized her vulnerability and swooped in.   With young women from dysfunctional homes, I feel like no matter how strong and accomplished we appear on the outside, there's a hunger for real love inside that some men just pick up on.  Yep, that's happened to Gamma, too, but that's another story. 

When initial word of her suicide attempt broke, I feel like people really had sympathy for her -- until they found out she overdosed on asprin.   Seriously?  Asprin?  Doubt starting going around the blogosphere that this was possibly a PR stunt.  It didn't help that soon after she left the hospital, she was seen filming a segment for her reality show with Mr. Married.  BAD MOVE ALL AROUND.   

The straw that really broke my back was her latest theory that she was treated so harshly by the media and fans because of her dark skin and "traditional" African-American appearance.   STOP IT RIGHT NOW.  Fantasia's story was handled differently than the Alicia keys (and other women-gone-wrong stories) because she lacked a proper staff to "handle" her business.  Oh I'm not saying those issues don't exist -- as a dark skinned, "traditional" looking black woman myself, I've experienced it first hand.  But in my humble opinion, this was a case of a little girl running with with the big dogs and not having the proper "equipment" to hang. 

When you reach the level of success that Fantasia has, she really needs four key QUALIFIED people around her to help her maneuver the entertainment jungle.  A PR Rep, a Manager, an Accountant, and an Assistant.   That's just my opinion as I've never worked in the business nor do I pretend to understand it.  I equate it with me winning the lottery -- there is no one in my immediate circle I would put in charge of helping me manage that money -- NO ONE.  I know I'm not qualified and as much as I love and trust certain friends and relatives, they aren't qualified either.  The first thing I'm going to do is ask Suze Ormann for some recommendations -- but that's just me.  By what I've been able to deduce, Fantasia hasn't had any of those people.  Uncle John (or whoever her current manager is),  Mama, and Lord knows that brother of hers Teeny do not count ... in any shape way or form. 

Half of the attention this story has gotten in mainstream media is directly attributed to her not having the proper people around her.  Some people say that  Alicia Keys came out of her affair unscathed but I'm going to bet part of my future lottery winnings that Alicia's people kept that drama in check as much as possible. 

I want Fantasia to hush up now and stay out of the press.  I want her to get a Life Coach, some intense counseling to deal with that childhood dysfunction and a proper staff!   Fantasia is a young woman and has plenty of opportunity to put a lot of this behind her and become the phenomenal woman that God means for her to be.  Unlike a lot of us, Fantasia, unfortunately, is not going to be able to do her work in private.  For her sake, and her daughter's sake, I hope she stops giving interviews for a while and starts working with some professionals. 

Whew!  I feel better now. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thanks Rev Al

I'm not one to sing the praises of  Reverend Al Sharpton frequently.  In fact, I've been one of those black folk that will holla he doesn't speak for all blacks, especially me, with the quickness.   But today, I want to thank Rev Al for being there when so many of us that should have been there weren't.

Today was the 47th anniversary of the epic "I Have a Dream Speech" given so eloquently by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  in 1963.



I was two years old when Dr. King gave that speech but the whole Civil Rights Movement always touched my soul.  I always appreciated the sacrifices that those people, Black and White, went through during that tumultuous time in our Country's history.  I always wondered if I would have been strong enough to stand in the face of all that conflict, hatred, and danger during those times.  I was the kid that cried at the end of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman when she drank out of that water fountain.  Cicely Tyson brought that story home for me and I was 13 when it was released.  The 1978 release of King:  The Martin Luther King Story fueled a curiosity in me about "the movement" that has been unmatched by any subject.  

The year that my daughter's Girl Scout Troop Leaders took the girls to Atlanta to visit Morehouse, Spelman, and The King Center was the best and most memorable field trip I ever chaperoned.  I say, without shame, that I enjoyed that weekend more than any of the girls.  For me, it was a chance to drink in the spirit of those organizations that I had always read about but never had the pleasure of experiencing first hand.   I bought some postcards from The King Center that weekend featuring some of Dr. King's quotes that I had mounted and framed that mean as much to me as a Picasso -- no lie.

When I found out that Glenn Beck was having a shindig on the anniversary of Dr. King's speech, in the same location no less, I felt some kind of way about it.  Glenn Beck is not one I would associate with the message that Dr. King was giving at all.  In fact, it has been tweeted all day that Dr. King would have definitely made it on his infamous little chalkboard

There were a lot of upset folk on Twitter about Beck's hijacking of the day and location for his mess, but thankfully Rev Al pulled rallied the troops and organized a "real rally and march" that more accurately captured the spirit of today than that fake ass mess Beck put on.

I thank you Rev. Al for standing up when so many of us sat down and allowed Beck to make his move.  I thank you for your tireless fight for us when so many of us are quick to distance ourselves from your so called "tired" responses to some issues.   I thank you for your dedication.  I might not always agree with you, but I appreciate your efforts.

I'm one to claim that the younguns of today haven't learned enough from those that came before them.  Today I realized there are too many in my age group who are just as guilty of not passing along the lessons.  Thanks for having our backs.  There are too many of us reaping the benefits of the struggles you, Dr. King, and numerous others endured and are not paying it forward.  We're so busy "getting ours".   There is no reason in the world that Glenn Beck with all his race baiting and divisiveness should have been able to hijack a day and location that we claim is so hallowed.  None.  We must do better.

Thanks Rev. Al. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tell Your Truth - Then Let It Go

This topic has been bugging me for two weeks, but I just couldn't get it written to my satisfaction.   Monday morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee and my morning visit to BougieLand, "New Dude" (you've got to read the blog to understand) summed up exactly what I was trying to say -- "Let Them Tell Their Truth".  I had an "aha" moment while reading one of the funniest posts I've ever read which shows your inspiration can literally come from anywhere.

My mom had a bout of shingles break out last week which necessitated me spending most of last Sunday with her -- hospital run, drug store, food, etc.  No problem.   She enjoyed my company and total dedication to her that day.  The circumstances were not the best but it forced us to spend some time together.  Something I'm ashamed to say I usually keep to a minimum as it usually doesn't end well.  She asked me at one point, why we weren't able to talk like we used to.  Problem, number one -- we've NEVER talked like she was remembering.  She couldn't see the extreme side-eye I gave to that statement.  I brushed it off with the "we're just too different, don't have a lot in common, blah, blah, blah).  No hurt feelings, no drama. 

But it wasn't the truth and it's been bugging me ever since.  It's no secret that our past has been a little tension filled (It's Complicated).   I am trying my best to overcome the dysfunction that I knew as my childhood home.  I've spent a lot of money on therapy (yes black women go to therapy), books, and an anti-depressant or two trying to figure "me" out.  During my work with an extremely talented therapist, I made a lot of progress and realized the only way my mom and I were going to get closer is if I talked to her from my heart.   The therapist coached me on how to initiate the conversation and carry it out in non-threatening terms but also to get my truth heard. 

I was pumped!  I practiced and made notes on the events "that changed who I was" (yes, I watch Dr. Phil, too).  The conversation started off well.  Mom was listening and seemed open to what I was saying.  I was talking about my dad's drinking and the way it made me feel.  All was going well as long as I was saying he sucked (not exactly what I was saying but that summed it up).  When I started trying to explain how her behavior impacted me as a woman today, it was down hill.  The conversation turned from how I was affected to hysterical tears from her about how I was trying to blame her for everything that ever went wrong in my life.  My truth telling moment was over.  I had to make her feel better and so I did.   Never mind my issues -- again. You were perfect mom.  Yes, you did the best you could.  No I'm not blaming you.  I'm sorry.  I was crying on the inside though.  I wanted my mom to hear my truth.

I wanted her to know how scared I was that summer night when I was 13.  Dad was beating the crap out of her and we (my brothers and I) helped get her out of the house and to the safety of  one of her few friends that knew what was going on.  I wanted her to know that daddy was so mad at me for helping her escape that he wouldn't let me back in the house.  I wanted her to know that I slept in the back of that truck that he drove from Bob Sumerel Tire because I didn't know where else to go (no cell phones then and I didn't have any money for pay phone or no one to call if I had the money).  I wanted her to know that in the middle of the night, sniffing the smell of tires while trying to sleep, I had to use the bathroom.  So I peed beside the truck.  I wanted her to know how humiliated I was as I stooped beside that truck, crying because I didn't feel safe to go across the typical residential street and use the bathroom.  I wanted her to know that the smell of a tire shop now always , always takes me back to that night.  I hate buying tires to this day because of the smell.   I wonder why I didn't go to a neighbor or try to call the police to help me that night.  Truth is, it wasn't an option.  The abuse had been going on for so long and even more importantly, I had learned all too well, that we don't go "telling mama's business" to ANYONE.   You know, what goes on in this house stays in this house.  P-E-R-I-O-D.  What I really wanted her to do was tell "Carolyn" to let me go back and get my baby girl.  She knew daddy had never physically abused us but the emotional abuse we took until he finally passed out was brutal.  We got expert at tuning him out though (or so I thought) and got really skilled in the art of manipulation to get him to go to sleep.  Most of the time. 

I wanted her to know that I didn't invite too many friends over (especially on the weekends) not because I preferred being alone but because I never knew when it was going to be a jump off night.  Even though I'm sure (now) that everyone in the neighborhood knew, then I felt I would DIE if dad started drinking and fighting and I had friends over.  After all, when I was in orchestra and made first chair -- FIRST CHAIR - playing violin the teacher would bring me home after practice sometimes.  He rolled up on one of those fights dropping me off one evening.  I quit orchestra then and haven't picked up a violin again.  I loved playing the violin, too.  I quit anything and everything that involved someone even wanting to come to our house unless I knew their home was as ratchety as mine was emotionally.  

I wanted to tell her that my the drunk adult male cousin (yeah on daddy's side) that came to our house while on the run from the law to visit the summer I was 14 took pleasure in fondling me while I pretended like crazy to be asleep.  I was hoping no response would make him leave me alone.  I didn't want to cause any trouble (keeping peace was key and besides my middle brother's role was to provide the drama from the children) so I became expert at avoiding him while he was there.  I stayed at the library so much that they actually hired me as a student aid.  MY FAVORITE JOB EVER!  I kept that job until I got hired as a technical library assistant in my senior year of high school in a big corporation (thus my introduction to corporate america).

It had been subtly taught to me not to bring up anything that even hinted at the dysfunction in our home.   So I didn't.  In fact, I didn't bring up anything.  Anything and everything I had a question about, I quickly found out a book was written on the subject.  The library was truly my favorite place.

But I also wanted to tell her I understood a little bit more now.  I had a good understanding of the disease of alcoholism and how it played out in our family.   I wanted her to know that I sort of understood the psychological damage that an abused woman suffers.  I wanted her to know that as bad as it was, I had learned a lot of valuable lessons that made me the woman I am today.  I wanted her to know that she had done a good job given the circumstances.  Statistically, I should have had five kids, and my brothers should have had kids from numerous women or should have been in jail.  None of that happened.  Three of my brothers are in marriages that have lasted a lot longer than mine did.  One is "shacking" with a Sarah Palin, Glen beck lover (I expect him to wake up soon).  I, as the only girl, had one child, and I'm the grandmother to one beautiful little girl who is spoiled rotten.  I wanted her to know she had five children that she raised to be some of the most caring and compassionate people I know.  I wanted her know that in spite of everything, we made it through.

But I never got to tell her my truth that night.  In all honesty, I will probably never get to tell her my truth and, unfortunately, I'll never know hers.  That's a shame.  If we had just taken a couple of hours to speak out truths to each other, I'm sure our relationship would be different today.  Instead, I was holding on to bitterness and resentment that she wouldn't give me that little bit of time.  She wouldn't be uncomfortable for a couple of hours to let me release the pain I had been living with for years.  Perhaps the pain of those memories was too much.  My mom is the master of appearances, so maybe she truly didn't remember what  I remembered.  Maybe her Leave It To Beaver/Norman Rockwell memories are truly what she has to remember in order to erase the horrible marriage she lived through.  I don't know and probably never will.

I gave a big sigh of relief when I realized all I wanted was to tell a part of my truth.  While it would have been nice if I had been able to share it with my mom, it didn't happen and probably won't.  That's okay.   I can let it go now.   But the lesson I learned is we all want to be heard.  I don't think the intention is to blame and accuse but to be heard.  We want to know that we matter -- that our truth is important to SOMEBODY.  That truth can be hard for those on the receiving end to hear.  It took a long time, but I finally realized it wasn't going to happen.  My mom wasn't gonna hear my truth and I could either accept that or drive myself crazy (ier) that it wasn't happening.  At this point in my mother's life is it really fair to burden her with all of my childhood aches and how they've been the root of EVERY BAD DECISION I've made in my adult life?  There's a part of me that says "hell yeah, you need to know".  The other part of me says, why?  Is anything going to change as a result of her hearing my truth?  Nope.  But I can listen and nurture myself.  At some point, it becomes our job to give ourselves what we need emotionally.  Yes, the damaged child wants the parent to fix it -- it's the natural order of things -- but the adult says you can take care of yourself.   It has become time for me to accept my mistakes -- to recognize that I can't blame my parents forever -- time for me to accept my truth, take my lessons, and let it go.