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.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I've been MIB (Missing in the Blogosphere)

A massive wave of self-doubt came over me and caused me to avoid this blog like the plague.  I started reading some other bloggers and was overwhelmed with the talent out here.  I started thinking who am I to even think I can write a blog that people would like to read.   I mean, let's get real, I'm not a writer.  You can quit laughing - I'm well aware of that.  I'm not a highly recognized name (no offense to my TV-addicted tweeps). But you know what I mean.   Yep, Gamma was running scared.  I wasn't about to put myself in the category of or / and I'm not even touching or and a host of other blogs that I discovered as I Googled my various interests.  To top it all off, my biggest cheerleader has been dealing with some things way more important than my little blog so I couldn't even get that boost of encouragement from her (you're in my prayers girl).

Bottom line I appreciate all the fantastic blogs I've found.  I will continue to read you faithfully and even comment every now and then.  But the real lesson has been, it's okay.  I'm not you.  I don't pretend to be you.  But I enjoy blogging.  Even more importantly, I enjoy blogging the random thoughts from my world.  Whether it be life lessons, career paths, financial worries, or the squirrels that keep invading my bird feeders, I like it.  If one, two, or ten people find my blog interesting, that's just icing on the cake. 

So get ready, Gamma's back!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pass the Mayo

So I found out today that the month of July is supposed to be dedicated to those of us that are part of the "Sandwich Generation" - yippee!!  I'm a couple years short of being a full-fledged "Club Sandwich" -- those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren.  I haven't heard anything about it so I'm guessing those of us who would be planning events around the month are too busy taking care of parents, kids, and grandchildren while trying to keep our own heads above water. 

I must not have enough mayo on my sandwich.  As soon as I get one layer of filling situated, then another falls out.   I finally got situated in a job that I can be happy with in a company that I'm very happy to be a part of and now my home life is falling apart. 

My mom needs some help with transportation to some medical appointments (nothing serious) but being two weeks in on a new job is not the time for me to be taking three or four hour breaks right now -- the training is intense!  My granddaughter is going through a phase -- that's the only explanation I have -- and is driving the house insane.  My daughter doesn't like despises having to live with me but for now I'm it.  Do not get me started on money.  Let's just say I need some.  My house needs some fixing up before I can even think about selling it, the brakes are squealing on my car and the dog needs her teeth cleaned. 

Don't misunderstand.  I consider myself extremely blessed and fortunate in my life but I'm so tired of juggling.  I think if all aspects of my life were balanced at the same time, I'd literally fall over. 

To my fellow sandwich generation members, I salute you.  I can't even begin to imagine how those who are dealing with a parent who is seriously ill manage.  It's a tough job.  Even tougher if you don't have a spouse, siblings, or have siblings near enough to help out.     

I'm thinking I don't want any more sandwiches.  I think I'd like a nice big salad ... all the ingredients tossed in a bowl and held together with a touch of blue cheese dressing. 

In the meantime, pass the mayo.  Please.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oh Lawd - Not Another One

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I love and I mean love my TV shows.  I watch them all -- game shows, dramas, news, reality shows, documentaries, and I even still record a soap opera (about time Phyllis left Nick).  You name it I'm pretty sure I've tried at least one episode.   But there is one genre I absolutely cannot stand -- reality dating shows.

The popular and the most recent include The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, What Chilli Wants, Omarosa's Ultimate Merger, and our newest entrant - Chad Ochocinco's The Ultimate Catch.  True to Gamma's nature, I watched my first (and last) episode of The Ultimate Catch last night.

I find these shows awfully demeaning, especially when there's a group of women willing to forget every lesson their mamma ever taught 'em to "win" the #1 spot with a guy.  It bothers me when I see men doing it as well, but it really hurts to see women in that "I'll lose every drop of my self-respect and dignity to be with you" role.  Maybe it's because I see so many young women doing it in real life.  Maybe it's because I think the premise is just downright unrealistic.  It's hard enough to develop a strong relationship without the intrusion of the TV cameras, and there's nothing in me that believes a lasting relationship can be "won" on a reality show.  Maybe it's because these shows emphasize how much we're willing to do for a buck and 15 minutes of fame.  Naw, I'm going to stick with option one -- too many young women are sacrificing their dignity in real life for the pleasure of saying they "have a man".    

I'm all for my hot mess in TV shows (doesn't Real Housewives of DC start soon?) but let's draw the limit somewhere.  I keep my rose colored glasses on the tip of my nose (like Whoopi wears her glasses on The View).  There's just enough color remaining to keep my belief in real love in tact and that my granddaughter won't grow up and think acting a fool on TV and allowing a man to "grade" her against other women is her only path to love.

So why are the other hot mess shows acceptable to me?  Well, truthfully, they're not but they're so dang entertaining.  Besides, I like to think I can counteract all that mess with the lesson's I've taught my daughter about being a lady and hoping she passes it down to her daughter. Plus, we don't usually see a group of "housewives" acting the way the Housewives Series behave.  Unfortunately, we do see young teenage girls engaging in totally unladylike behavior to "get" and "keep their man" -- it's just too much.  I'm not so naive to suggest that these shows are the sole reason for the behavior of young women these days, but it sure doesn't help.  Let's stick with racing around the world, living on a deserted island, and eating slop and let's ease up on the whorish behavior to "win your man". 

Now let me turn into Real Housewives of NJ.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What a Difference a Week Makes

I had a FANTASTIC week at the new gig.  The training was seriously on point ... no not the specifics of the job I was hired to do but the introduction to the company overall.   A crucial step that so many companies fail to perform.  

There were eight people that went through the training.  Interesting for the simple fact that not many companies are adding any staff at all and they added eight people on the same day.   All eight of us were hired for the same company but in very different roles. 

The week was spent getting a real orientation on the company.   The first day was spent on the big picture ... what we were about -- our reason for being.  Yes, you can learn about products and brand names during the research phase of prepping for your interview, but you will never find out the little details that are only communicated once you're part of the the organization. 

The rest of the week was spent with a representative or two or three from every area of the company.  They gave us a very detailed picture of what they did, some of the steps it took them to get there, and how each of us fit in the picture.  That kind of week-long overview has been rare in my professional life but I think the time they took upfront will really pay off in the long run.   I can't speak for everyone in my group, but I think the consensus was it made us all feel truly a part of the bigger picture.  Regardless of what role we were hired to fill, I think we all felt our positions were valued and important to the company.  There was none of that inflated sense of importance based on a job title.  I liked that.  My philosophy has always been we're in this together.  If the mail room staff doesn't deliver, it impacts everyone in the organization.  Likewise, if the CEO hasn't empowered his/her staff or clarified his/her vision than to the troops then that also impacts everyone.  We spent the whole week in this training and it has been somewhat of an overload but I think it was necessary and I appreciate them taking the time to do this for our new hire group.  

Next week we all report to our somewhat spacious cubes and prepare to jump in.  They haven't left us hanging ... a dedicated trainer has been assigned to everyone at every level.  That person is our  main resource as we begin this phase of our careers. 

I feel energized, excited, and anxious ... I'm ready to "do this".  I hope the rest of my work relationship with this company is as good as the first week has been. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Independence Day - Gamma Style

WOW!  I can't believe it.  I actually escaped the job that I lovingly referred to as "Hell".  Friday was my official last day in the office but I delayed writing this post because my outstanding work ethic, need for cash, and the desire to leave a nan nana boo boo - damn she knew what she was talking about moment -- had me finishing up a data source they could use to load the Access database I saw the need for during my first month.  I emailed it early Sunday so I'm officially done. 

Last week was exciting because I knew as each day passed, I was closer to my Independence Day.  Friday I was just plain giddy with joy.  I actually skipped down the hall at one point.  No lie.

A lot of things were said last week that had me giving quite a few side-eyes but I let it pass because frankly I don't care.   I realized that people were going to say and think whatever they needed in order to rationalize my leaving in their mind.  Last week just confirmed what my body and my soul had been trying to tell me for months -- this was not a good fit.  I've tried to analyze what went wrong in the interviewing process.  What questions did I fail to ask and/or answer but then it dawned on me that wasn't my lesson from this experience.

My lesson was learning to trust my instincts again.  For reasons too numerous for a blog posting, I had really started to doubt myself over the past few years.  In a strange way, I believe the messages I was receiving from this job was a way for me to get back in touch with my gut.  With every WTH experience, I questioned myself rather than the bull-shiggity I could see around me.  It was as if the Universe was bound and determined to make me trust myself again.  I'm glad I listened.   

I don't mean to bash the company.  It's a very reputable company that's been in business a long time.  The employees, for the most part, are very dedicated and they deliver an outstanding product to the market.  The culture was just not a good fit for me at this stage in my life.

I started my new job today and I must say I got very positive vibes from the environment.  The employees are very busy but there's a positive energy flowing through the organization that I'm sure I'll thrive on.   The phrase "that's how we've always done it" is not acceptable and I get the impression they mean it.  I met a lady at the elevator who just celebrated her 18th anniversary.  Her unsolicited comment was you're going to be very happy here.  I believed her.  New ideas are welcomed and encouraged.  The Director of my new group made a point to repeat it in our orientation.   If the HR Department is representative of the rest of the company than I'm going to be very happy.  (Note to HR Staff -- NEVER, EVER underestimate your importance in setting the tone for new employees). 

This was truly an Independence Day for me.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers Day - Making Peace

Happy Fathers Day 2010!  An odd holiday to get a shout out from me since my dad left much to be desired.  I  really enjoyed reading all the tributes to the fathers on Twitter and some of my favorite Bloggers gave me big grins with the tributes to their dads.  I also saw a lot of pain, anger and bitterness (clothed in sarcasm) flowing on my Twitter timeline, too.  I know some people have legitimate reason to be angry at their fathers (if you've read any of my previous postings, you know I know).  But I had to let it go.
I made peace with my dad's shortcomings years ago.  I will never forget the night.   I was trying to make sense out of my crazy emotional life.  I had read Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet G. Woititz.  I was doing a lot of introspection about my childhood, my failed marriage and the total loser I picked to live with after hubby.   My dad had been deceased for a few years at the time but I thought of him constantly.  I wrote a letter to my dad.  I poured out all my anger at him and said some things that needed to be said.  I also put myself in his shoes and I cried -- hard -- for my daddy.  I didn't excuse any of his behavior with his family but I made peace with him.  I needed to make that peace for my own sanity. 

My wish for this Fathers Day is for those who have or had less than perfect dads (you know who you are) to make peace with your father.   Whether your dad was the absent dad, the drunk dad, or the abusive dad, find some way to make peace.  I know your pain and I'm not encouraging you to dismiss it, but you've got to work through it and release it.  It's not enough to stuff it down, you've got to let it go.  I know the desire to have a dad you can turn to for guidance when the world is kicking your ass.  For you young ladies, I know the desire of wanting to be daddy's little girl, the one man you know will always love you and support you, to cherish you.   I really do get it.  I could write a book about it - seriously.

For your own sanity and emotional health you have got to find a way to make peace.  Your relationship with your father may not change but speaking from experience, I know you will find a peace in your soul.  Now I can speak of my father as a statement of fact -- without that heart wrenching pain that used to consume me.  I wish I had taken the opportunity to make peace while he was still alive but I'm so very thankful I was able to make peace anyway.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Try Humming - You'll Like It

This has been a tough week.  The grandchild has an ear infection and went from her mommy to me all week -- of course in the middle of the night -- so I haven't had a solid night of sleep.  A financial situation is coming to a head and the brother I thought was going to be able to help me can't.  Oh yeah, I got another reject letter on the job front (the job I have is still stressful as hell).   Then So You Think You Can Dance pissed me off last night by switching up a winning formula and dragging it out Idol style (Gamma doesn't like her TV messed with unless you're improving it).  Nothing major in the overall scheme of things but enough little irritants to have me a little more stressed than usual.

For some reason I thought of my Granny (now deceased).  Granny used to sit in her rocker and hum quietly to herself for hours on end.  She'd just sit there, quietly humming as she gently rocked back and forth, always at peace.  Hands folded on her lap.  No matter what was going on around her, she seemed so a peace when she sat and hummed.  So I tried it.

The house was quiet, the dog was sleeping and Peanut and Mommy hadn't got home yet.  I sat in my recliner, no TV, no radio, no noise at all.  I rocked and hummed quietly.  Calmness flowed through my spirit.  My blood pressure dropped,  I'm sure.  Things didn't seem so overwhelming.  I thoroughly understood what Granny got from rocking and humming.  I even hummed the same non-tune she used to hum. 

These days what my Granny did would be called some form of meditation that would cost me $45 a class.  I'm thankful that I was able to witness Granny in action.  I'm thankful that for some reason I thought of her today.  I'm thankful I had a rocker to sit in.  And I'm thankful I experienced the power of the hum.

Now, to get ready for So You Think You Can Dance.  If I get too upset over this all stars change, I'll just sit and hum.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Aaack - I'm a Hoarder!

Well my weekend soul-searching session was filled with plenty of tears, anger, and enough would-have-could-have-should-haves to cover everyone for a few years.  Alas, I'm no closer to knowing which path to pursue.  I feel like my granddaughter -- I want to do it all!   I realized I'm going to need some help with this part of the process so I'm trying to work in the budget a few sessions with a Life Coach.  I think I would benefit greatly from an objective viewpoint and some assistance with goal-setting, building an action plan and being accountable to someone other than myself right now.      

What the hell does a Life Coach have to do with hoarding? 

If you follow me on Twitter, you know or will soon know that I'm a huge fan of the show Hoarders on A&E.  It's a show about people who literally hold onto stuff.  No matter how unhealthy their homes become they cannot, and a lot of times, will not part with their stuff.  The stuff can be literally destroying their lives, relationships, and careers.  Yet, even with the help of experts, they have a hard time letting go of the stuff.  Their junk and filth is familiar and comfortable to them no matter how disgusting it is to everyone around them (and us looking in).  A lot of them are embarrassed to have "outsiders" visit and see the real them.  The anxiety they experience when experts try to help them make their homes habitable again is very real.  You can see it in their faces.  To us voyeurs looking in through the camera, it's crazy-looking to say the least.   Just throw the crap on the 800-Got-Junk truck is what we're thinking. 

Well, I realized I'm an emotional hoarder.  Some of the habits and coping mechanisms I learned as a child are extremely unhealthy for me as an adult.  Yet, I can't make the leap to get rid of the stuff.  I understand it on an intellectual level.  I've read enough self-help books and been to enough therapists to understand how I got that way (I could probably set up a boot-leg therapy service -- hey another path?)  Yet, I can't seem to toss it on the 1-800-Got-Emotional-Junk truck for them to haul off.

I see the low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and that little bitty (or humongous depending on your P-O-V) need to control everything and I want to throw it on the truck so bad and have it hauled away for good.  Like the Hoarders on TV, I recognize how destructive it is, how self-defeating it is, how it gets in the way of me moving from one part of the house (i.e. my spirit) to another yet I can't seem to put it on the truck and get rid of it.  I can rationalize every piece of emotional junk and give it a pretty important place in my life ... I never know when I might need to use it again (that's that constant chaos thing I'm good at).   Truth of the matter is, it's all stuff that can be hauled off.  It's only going to keep getting in the way and keep building up until I'm figuratively buried in it. 

That's what I want a Life Coach to help me with.    I don't want to rehash why I'm holding on to the stuff, I want someone to help me toss it on the truck.  I could probably do it by myself with time but I've learned from Hoarders, that it's so much easier when the 1-800-Got-Junk trucks roll up and haul it all away at once. 

Some of the Hoarders are ready for the big clean up.  They're tired of the mess but just aren't sure how to go about cleaning it up.  That's when the professional organizer and clean up crew can really handle some business.  The Hoarder just need a push in the right direction -- help with setting the goal.  They need someone to help them break the mess down into manageable sections -- tough work regardless but somewhat easier as they have a game plan for getting it cleared.  That's what I need now.  A push (and some encouragement until I build up my confidence).   If I can find a Life Coach that will help me break down this emotional-hoarding mess into easier to manage pieces -- pieces I can't see right now through all the clutter -- then it will be money well spent. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Clearly Our Signals Are Crossed

I had my own "Aha Moment" as a result of a tweet.  Go figure. 

I was having a convo with one of my favorite Tweeps about another blog we were reading.  Nothing earth shattering -- just sharing our thoughts on a blog.  I was confused by the blogger's intent.  I wasn't sure if her goal was one outcome or another.  My Tweep proceeded to tweet (I hope she doesn't mind I RT'd without credit but it was a DM): 

"I don't think she's clear either. That's why the Universe is giving her mixed signals."

I've thought about those 15 words for the past two days.  Not the kind of "that was a good observation" thinking but the kind of thinking that causes you to go deep within.

It's no secret that I've experienced a lot of chaos and confusion in my life, especially with my work.  I've always wondered why I have such a hard time carving out my path or shoot even picking a path.  I hate to keep referring to my growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent but it's so important to how my thoughts and outlook on life have been formed that I can't help but think about it.  It applies here as well.

When your life is one chaotic moment after another (the definition of a child growing up with an alcoholic parent), you become especially skilled at being reactive and anticipating the next move based on past experience.  You become expert at crisis management.  When things are going to hell in a hand basket, you want me there.  On the outside, I'm cool, calm and collected.  I can assess the situation quickly, figure out what needs to be done and git her done.  I've been doing it since I was 10.  The problem is life is not usually crisis after crisis.  When the perceived emergency is over and you've given the internal signal to stand down, you don't know what to do next.   

That quality has made me an outstanding employee, always the team player willing to do just about anything to get the job done.  Need someone to help with a PowerPoint presentation, I'm there.  No one knows how to the use the new software, I'll figure it out.  We need someone to do X and you're good at it (or at least we know you will become expert at it).  Okay I'll take the job and get paid significantly less than someone who set out to do that particular job.  That's a passive and reactive approach that worked well in keeping me gainfully employed.  It also kept me from really having to think a lot about what I wanted to do. Until July 2007.  For the first time in my adult life, I really had to think about what I wanted to pursue (corporate downsizing messed up the good gig I had going). 

Those 15 words made me realize I haven't been clear with the Universe and have been sending a lot of mixed messages myself.  I'm a marketing analyst.  No, I'm a database administrator. Wait; I'd be a good Paralegal or Court Reporting would be fun.  Guaranteed a job if I go into the Health Care field in some capacity.  Don't forget, I really want that bookstore.  The Universe has been returning exactly what I put out there.  I've met Paralegals, Court Reporters, Systems Analyst, expanded my network of marketing professionals, and have  been given the name of a successful Independent Bookstore owner.  Even the job I have now is a result of the message I put out there:  I want a job making x dollars per year.  What do you know, a friend called and said ABC has an opening for an Associate Business Manager.  It's an area I never even remotely thought about applying for in the past but I knew I could get that dollar figure I thought was my primary goal. 

My goal this weekend is to sit down with my old journal (it's around here somewhere I'm sure).  I'm going to do some deep thinking about what it is I want.  It's a very unfamiliar place for me, but one I'm ready to explore fully.  I won't "ask" my friends what should I do or what they think.  I won't read the statistics on projected job growth or expected salary ranges. 

It's time for the Universe and I to uncross our signals -- time for me to be clear. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stop The Pooh-Pooh

I've been working on a post the past couple of days about someone I met on Twitter, but something happened today that knocked me for a loop and that post might make more sense after this one.

I did something today that I rarely, ever do ... I shared something personal about myself and got pooh-poohed on big time.   That usually doesn't happen to me (I'll do my own negative self-talk, thank you).  As a child, I learned very early not to be too open about myself - having an alcoholic parent teaches you a lot very early on and not sharing is one of the biggest lessons you learn.  After all, you don't want your crazy, dysfunctional home to be the topic of school yard talk.  Of course, it probably was anyway, but by not making myself vulnerable, I didn't really care what others were saying.  But I digress. 

We were talking about dreams at lunch today.  Not the usual, if I could only hit the lottery for a piece of the big jackpot type of dream, but real dreams.  The stuff you dreamed of doing as a child.  The kind of dream that if you could just work up the nerve, get past your fear, you'd go all out trying to make happen.  I shared my dream of having my own bookstore.  The two ladies I was sharing with all but considered driving me to the nearest mental hospital for having such an impractical, non-money-making dream.  How in the world could you make any money doing that?  Books will be non-existent in a few years anyway.  Borders and Barnes & Nobles have that market locked up so no way you can be "successful at that".   You do know they have Kindles and iPads now don't you?  

They were making valid points, and all things I've considered and researched myself.  This was more of a case of how they proceeded to burst my bubble than what they said.   They had more "traditional" dreams.  Grad school for one (she's doing it now) and some high level position in Corporate America before running her own company.  A catering company for another.   Dreams no better than mine but who am I to judge?  My four year old granddaughter wants to be an ice skating ballerina and cheerleader soccer player on the side -- now that's a dream.  Grad school?  Seriously?  I've never been one to have comebacks on the fly so needless to say it was 4:00 before I wanted to say "well your chocolate cake is nothing to write home about" Ms. Wanna-Be-Caterer.  Besides, I didn't want to pooh-pooh their dreams and goals. 

The fact that they pooh-poohed my dream cut so deeply because I've never been encouraged to dream.  I can state honestly, and without bitterness (now), that every dream I had as a kid, teenager, young woman was shot down by those I loved the most - my family.  So I quit doing it.  My dreams were always naive in nature and never focused on money.  I love money as much as the next person, but I never thought of it until I bought this damn, house, got laid off from a relatively high-paying job, and ... wait I'm digressing again.  I just wanted to be happy and at peace, love going to work, and always have enough time to read all day if I wanted to.   I always said I would have made a hell of a hippie with love and peace for all and time clocks are banned forever.  That communal living thing still seems like a good idea to me.

The criticism hurt because the one time I venture out of my shell and begin to let others know "the real" me, it felt like I wasn't good enough -- again.  I didn't even know how to dream properly (that was my negative self-talk kicking in).   I started to go all in with the negative talk but I'm glad to say I got over it.  It took a few hours but I got over it.

I might not ever own a bookstore, but that doesn't mean I can't fulfill the bigger picture which is doing my thing on my terms.  I might need to refine "my thing" but I'm determined to discover it and escape the jail sentence I consider Corporate America to be. 

We all should be more mindful of how we respond to a person's dream.  Whether it's a 4-year old who wants to be an ice skating ballerina cheerleading soccer player, an 18-year old that wants to be work in the music industry, a 28-year old that wants to be married and start a family or a 48-year old who wants a bookstore don't pooh-pooh a person's dream.  You might pooh-pooh the next Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey or the owner of the best restaurant in your town (I love you Francesco's), the owner of your local dry cleaner, florist shop or fruit stand or your child's favorite teacher or your branch librarian.  The person you pooh-pooh may  even be yourself.

From this day forward stop the pooh-pooh.  You don't have to embrace their dream or even understand it but it not helpful to pooh-pooh.  Oh and Ms. Wanna-Be-Caterer ... cook on my sista -- just don't put that chocolate cake on your menu.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Lady with the Boxers

If you follow me on Twitter, you are well aware that I hate my current job but there is one bright spot that happens daily.  As crappy as the job is, I'm fortunate enough that my little cube faces a window.   I can always take a minute and enjoy the beautiful landscaping and try to figure out what the name of the tree is that's in the middle of the divider ... I'd like to plant one near my deck.   Even more enjoyable than watching the tree blossom is the lady with the two Boxers.

Like clockwork, there's a little blond lady that takes a walk between 10:00-11:00 a.m.  She's never missed a day since I've been working there.  She's a petite lady but I can't see her close enough to take a guess at her age.  She always has two of the prettiest Boxers I've ever seen walking with her.  They're well-trained dogs as she never has them on a leash.  Yet they stay out of the road and stay relatively close to her.  They'll run ahead of her as she maintains her pace but they're never more than 10-15 feet away.  They stay close together and there's a particular spot on my company's land that one likes to take care of business (if I ever get to walk during lunch I'll know which spot to avoid).    The other one must like a spot on the other side of the building as he/she never takes care of business in my view.

I envy that lady.  Not because she has two of the prettiest dogs I've ever seen (I love 'em all) but because she doesn't have to be in an office every day at a job she despises to earn enough money to pay the bills -- barely.  I've made up a whole fantasy life around her and her dogs.  She's obviously well-off enough that she doesn't work during the morning or she has a second shift job and is walking the dogs in the morning because she won't be at home during the evening.  Because my company is located in a pretty swanky part of town, I choose to believe the former. 

I think she's carefree enough to spend her days exactly as she likes or she's got a sick partner or child at home and takes a few minutes to herself every day to keep her sanity.  Or her husband is a successful ____ (insert ideal occupation here) and all she has to do is supervise the hired help.  Or her husband has passed on and left her with enough insurance money to live in that neighborhood or she lives with her parents and uses that time with her dogs to try to figure out her next move.  

I wonder if she's planning her dinner menu as she's walking.  Because she doesn't have to work, she can plan and execute healthy meals for her family everyday as opposed to hoping to get home in time to throw some chicken breasts in the pan and boil some pasta or pick up a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and some frozen broccoli or defrost some hamburger and make Manwiches and frozen tater tots.   

After she finishes her walk, I'm sure she takes the dogs home, gives them a treat, and takes a shower.  She probably reads a little while or she maybe a TV junkie and watches The View, live.  The dogs are probably resting as they've romped and played over and hour during their walk.  They've sniffed every bush and run ahead enough to enjoy themselves but they always wait for her to catch up.  She doesn't go home and spend the day worrying about the visit to the Vet that her dogs are sorely in need of for annual vaccinations.  She's not trying to determine if she should spend the extra $20 to get the dogs some healthy, natural, dog food or give them the preservatives-laden mass market brand.  She loves her dogs as evidenced by their happy demeanor and playful spirit.  She wants to provide the best life possible for them.  Those dogs are cared for better than people in some areas.  

After The View (or reading) she works in her garden and makes sure the flowers are pruned and watered.  She might do some shopping as the dogs nap.  She's not stressed though ... she's just enjoying her day.   The house is spotless (the cleaning lady was there while she walked the dogs).  The lawn is mowed (the lawn guy comes once a week -- twice during the rainy season).   If anything is broken in the beautiful house, she'll  put up with the aggravation of waiting for someone to come to fix it.  She doesn't care how much it costs.  Life is pretty good. 

She's in my line of sight for five minutes top but the life I imagine her leading carries me through the rest of my day in Hell.  She can be out with her dogs as I sit in an office and wonder how she's spending her day.
 I don't know the lady with the Boxers but I envy her. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hey Barbara - Use the Pillow!

So I just finished watching The View and found out that Barbara Walters is having heart surgery in a few weeks days to replace a heart valve.  Having been through this surgery 12 years ago, I'd like to offer her a few tips and a heads up on a couple of things.

I don't know the reason why Barbara is having the surgery but I had mine as a result of a wicked case of Rheumatic Fever as a child that left my mitral valve damaged.  Now the doctors will give you all the info you need to make intelligent medical decisions but, let's face it, doctors can't tell you what it's really like.  So from one heart patient to another here's a couple of little things Barbara needs to know.
  1. Artificial or "Pig"?  WTH?  You read it right -- artificial or "pig" valve.  I'm sure Barbara has already decided if she has the choice, medically.  One big advantage of a pig valve is that it's more like your own valve and you won't have to take blood thinners to prevent clotting which is very dangerous with an artificial valve.  A major disadvantage of the pig valve is that you're more likely to need it replaced again in some years because they will wear out.  That's what it was like 12 years ago ... they might have some super-pig valve now that eliminates that disadvantage.  I chose the artificial.  Barbara, if you choose the artificial, you need to know that sucker sounds like a big old Timex -- the old fashioned ones -- in certain positions.  It took me a while after surgery to find the right position to minimize the ticking.   I never will forget being in a meeting after I returned to work and our Director asked who had the loud watch.  She was totally red in the face when I told her it was me.  I told her it was no problem and that if she was ever sitting next to me and did NOT hear the ticking to call 911 with the quickness.   You'll get used to the ticking but you really need to know you'll sound like a Timex commercial in a quiet room until you find the positions that minimize the sound.  If you choose artificial, don't lean into the mic.  Just sayin. 
  2. The nurses are going to make you get up the next day.  You've just had your chest cracked open and you think you're going to rest a little while to recoup.  NOT.  As soon as you get back to your regular room, and quit throwing up, they're going to make you sit up in a chair and begin your coughing exercises.  It hurts.  But it's also necessary.  You've got to keep fluid from settling in your lungs and one of the ways to accomplish that is to cough.  They're going to give you a cute little heart-shaped pillow for you to hold to your chest as you cough.  Of course, yours will be silk and stuffed with something fancy.  Regardless, USE IT!  Don't try to be a bad ass and think you can do this by yourself.  That little pillow will become your best friend for a few weeks and you will threaten death to anyone who moves it and you have to search for it.  Of course, you won't have a little girl at home who will want to play with it so you should be good.
  3. After you start coughing you'll have to start walking.  You'll think why in the hell are they making me walk around the floor?  You'll be tempted to scream, I JUST HAD HEART SURGERY -- do you people not realize this?  Doesn't matter -- you've got to walk.  You will most likely be scared to move more than 10 steps outside of your room, but that's okay.  You'll hold onto to that IV pole like it's George Clooney, and walk like a little toddler just doing it for the first time.  The nurses will make you track your progress by making a little check mark per lap on the white board outside of their station.  Believe me, in a couple of days you'll be wanting to beat the show-off down the hall who has got 15 checks to your 2 and you'll be race walking around that floor like a champ.  Besides, they won't let you go home until you've got a certain number of laps next to your name.  No matter how cute your male nurse is (yeah I remember you) you'll be wanting to go home as soon as possible.
  4.  The food sucks.  Just because you're on the cardiac ward they'll treat you like they took your taste buds away.  Sorry, no tips for that.  You might have a friend who will sneak you up a little salt packet from McDonalds but other than that I've got nothing.
  5. Once you've walked enough and your cardiologist has determined you can go home, you'll want to stay.  I was in the hospital for five days.  Did you hear me FIVE DAYS! Again, you'll say, I just had heart surgery why are you sending me home? But as long as you're doing okay there's no reason for you to be there.  It's scary and you'll wonder what ifs all day long on the day of your discharge but you'll be fine.  Of course, you can't wear a seat belt and you'll be scared to death of a car crash before you get home and the air bag deploying but I sat in the back seat as a precaution.  Odds are it won't happen to you but doesn't stop you from wondering.  
  6. When you get home, you'll have a strict walking schedule.  Don't think you've beat it because you've walked enough to get out of the hospital.  You'll most likely have someone there with you to help you out at home.  In my case it was my mom.  I thought my male nurse was tough.  Nope.  Momma had him beat.  I got tired of walking.  Four or five times a day she would say it's time and she'd push me out the door and lock it so I couldn't get back in and watch All My Children or Judge Judy.  That first walk will scare the pee out of you but after a few times you'll just accept it and look forward to your walks.  You're a health conscious individual anyway and I imagine you exercise quite a bit so this will probably be easier for you. 
  7. Your scar will depress you.  It's not pretty.  The doctor made mine as low as possible so I could still show my sexy cleavage but your first instinct will be to buy all the turtle necks you can find.  You'll get over it and you will accept your scar as the battle scar that it is and wear it proudly.  Believe it or not, I forget about and I'm genuinely surprised when a fellow cardiac patient asks me "when did you have your surgery?".
  8. You can still have sex.  Yes it will be scary and you'll be afraid it'll kill you but it's really okay.  The key is to have a partner that understands what you've been through and take it slow and find a position that's comfortable for you.  That's only in the beginning.  Once you've healed completely you'll feel so damn good that your partner will think you're 20 again. 
  9. Oh that feeling good thing.  You will fluctuate.  Your emotions are going to be all over the place.  Menopause has got nothing on the emotional roller coaster you'll go riding on.  I broke down in Walmart after being home a couple of days.  I got tired and had to get that little electric chair to finish shopping.  I never thought of it until now but that might play a big part of why I despise Walmart to this day.  You will most likely have those up and down feelings for a while but they will pass. 
  10. Let your friends and family help you.  No matter how good you think you feel, you did just come though a major surgery.  Let your friends and family help you around the house and with meals.  Of course, you're Barbara Walters and have probably had help around the house for years but for us "regular people" accepting help can be a little hard to deal with.  It's okay if you don't feel like entertaining or washing the dishes before you go to bed. 
  11. Appreciate the little things.  Notice how pretty the blue sky is.  Notice how cute the squirrels are.  Plant flowers and really enjoy them -- just because they're so beautiful.   Smile at little children who are discovering the world around them.  Enjoy your dog.  Let her sit in your lap and just be.  Recognize that there is something bigger than you in this world.  Of course, you're Barbara Walters and with your great accomplishments you might find this hard to believe.   Trust me. 
    Barbara, these are just a few of the little things the doctor can't prepare you for.  While they may seem minor and trite, they do play a big part in your recovery.  You're Barbara Walters and I know you're going to come through this like the champ you are.  If I did it I know you can.  If you ever want to talk, tweet me and I'll call you.  Much success to you!  Oh yeah -- USE THE PILLOW.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    It's Complicated

    I dread Mother's Day.  There I said it and I'm pretty sure I just secured a spot in hell with that statement.   If there was a box for relationship status with your mother, I'd have to check "it's complicated".

    She was a great mom to us five kids as we were growing up.  We never missed a meal (always home cooked mind you); our home stayed spotless ALL OF THE TIME which to this day I'll never understand how she accomplished with five kids; and, even though we lived in "da hood" we had to act like we had some sense which meant no hanging out on the corner, do good in school, go to church, and above all  respect momma. 

    Our relationship got to complicated status was when I was a teenager and coming into my own womanhood.  There were some things my mom tolerated that were in direct conflict with the messages I was receiving "from the outside".  My mom was an abused woman.  My dad was a violent alcoholic.  We kids dreaded Friday nights as we knew 9 times out of 10 he was going to come home drunk which meant a night of fighting and a middle of the night escape plan for momma so he wouldn't kill her.  Back then domestic abuse was treated as a "family issue" and the cops rarely got involved to the extent they do now.  As the oldest child, I have always been the one that took on more responsibility than any child should have to bear but I did it.  First priority was always make sure mom got someplace safe (usually a friend of the family came through) and then make sure my brothers were taken care of until it was safe for her to return.  I always wondered why my mom tolerated it.  If there were ever any kids wishing their parents would divorce it was us.  Yet she stayed. 

    As a young Black woman coming of age in the late 70's, it was all about being your own woman, doing your thang.  The Civil Rights movement had opened up so many doors as had the Women's Movement.  Our society was changing rapidly and the cultural norms my mom was raised with were being shattered left and right.  Problem was my mom was too busy raising us and trying to stay out of of the line of fire to be too concerned with all that.  She wasn't able to help me grow into the new society as she didn't do a good job of transitioning herself. 

    I was feisty and unafraid during those times.  I remember calling my dad out on his drinking and abuse and getting in his face about it.  Unheard of for a girl-child to be in her daddy's face about anything but I wasn't afraid dammit.  He was going to know I was on to him and that "we" weren't going to take it anymore.  Only I didn't know I was in the fight by myself.  My mom wasn't having it.  She didn't back me up.  She stayed.  I said to hell with it.  The day I turned 18, I moved out of the house. 

    I lost a lot of respect for my mother as a woman during those turbulent times.  That created internal conflicts in me you wouldn't believe.  I didn't trust any man or any person for that matter and always went at this world with a "I'm in this by myself" attitude which was not conducive to healthy relationships for me (a divorce and 3 failed "serious" relationships to prove it).  I have a lot of baggage and slowly but surely I'm learning to let it go.  I've done a lot of reading about Adult Children of Alcoholics and the traits we take on as children to cope.  Believe it or not some of my best traits have come from what I learned growing up in that environment (hey another blog topic).  I've even been in therapy (a sin in the Black community apparently) and have learned to let go of a lot of the hatred I felt towards my dad.  My big hurdle now is coming to that same understanding and peace with my mother.  I never developed the hatred for my mom that I held towards my dad but the respect I lost for her as a woman (not my mom) is what I'm working on.  I'm not there yet.  On Mother's Day it's hard for me to buy those overly sentimental cards.   I usually end up getting one because it makes her so happy but I feel like a fraud.  I give her some money or whatever gift she wants and I've done my daughterly duty. 

    Before you think I'm a cruel and selfish bitch who doesn't understand what my mom was going through, you need to know I love my mom and dad (now deceased).  As a grown woman, I'm fully aware that she didn't have the family support to encourage her to get out of her situation.  Her parents died when I was a little girl and she had already lost one sister to alcoholism.  Her other sister, the one I wanted to be like, had escaped by going to college on a music scholarship and left the dysfunction behind and never looked back.  The assistance available from the community was virtually nonexistent.  Even the church didn't want to get too involved in "personal problems".  I recognize now that my mom was tired by the time my dad died.  She didn't have any marketable skills and the computer revolution had to pass her by once we learned the colors and images triggered a seizure disorder we didn't know she had.  The adult woman in me knows about the struggles she had and I admire like crazy the strength she found to finish raising my brothers to be the responsible and caring men they are today. 

    The young teen in me is still fighting to be heard though and I know I have to resolve that conflict.  The resolution could be as simple as me accepting that it was what it was and to not saddle my mother with seeking answers to what had to be a painful time for her.  I was able to do that with my dad as the peace I hungered for with him didn't come until four years after his sudden and unexpected death.  I no longer blame either of my parents for the screw ups I've made and the bad choices I've made in my own life.  It does help to understand how my viewpoint was developed to better understand what I need to be aware of when making decisions but I don't blame them -- that's a big accomplishment.   

    So on this Mother's Day I'm going to take my mom her card and flowers, out to eat and whatever else she wants to do today.  Then I'm going to come home and enjoy my own daughter and granddaughter and try to continue to make sense out of my world.

    It's complicated but becoming less so every day.