Thursday, September 09, 2010

real {morbid} talk

My dad once said something to me, and boy did it resonate: “From the time you take your first breath, you start dying.”

Well, damn. If I was living with my head in the clouds, that sort of woke me up. But I forgot it, and kept living life conservatively, afraid to take risks and step out on faith.

And then, today my cousin posted a Facebook status that, again, startled me: “Live life like you’re dying. Because you are.”

Alrighty then! Sobering thought.

Bestie’s mom passed away a few weeks ago, and that totally hit home for me also. Her mom wasn’t that much older than my mom and was, in fact, younger than my dad. And that got me to thinking… my parents won’t be around forever, which then got me thinking, that even I won’t be around forever. It’s a scary thought, and makes me wonder what I’m doing to justify my birth.

I am a true believer that everyone is placed on this Earth for a reason. There is a mission that you are supposed to carry out once you get here. For some people, their mission will be to effect change on a small scale. And, for others, they’re put here to change and influence the lives of many. Bestie’s mom was a teacher who had been touching the lives of students for more than 40 years. She had an effect on the lives of hundreds of thousands of students over the course of her career. And, post-teaching, she affected the lives of countless others through her kind heart and generous spirit. At her funeral, a line of people gathered at the podium to speak respectfully of her, and every good thing that was said was also true. Not the case at many funerals where the preacher stands to say the eulogy, says all these wonderful things about a person you knew was not always so wonderful, and you wonder whether the preacher actually knew the person at all because clearly if he did he wouldn’t be saying all those nice things.

It’s morbid to think of your own funeral, but it’s inevitable. In life, it’s the only party you’ll have a guaranteed invite for. Yikes! But I know I want to be known for good things. I know I want to make lots of friends and influence people… positively. I know that I want to have gotten all I can get out of this here life, so that when it’s all said and done, nobody will regret that I didn’t get to fulfill my dreams or accomplish my goals.

I know my life won’t be perfect, but my plan is to work toward being the best me that I can be, and to ENJOY life in the process. How many times have I sat around stagnant in a place I didn’t really want to be because I was too afraid to take a chance or try something outside of my comfort zone? Waste of time! How many times have I given the side eye to the person having too much fun in the club, judging them because I thought they looked silly? And in my attempt to look “cool” and/or “dignified”, I definitely didn’t have as much fun as the “silly” person. Well, no more of that. The primary reason behind all of my “holding-back” tendencies has been FEAR. I’ve been too afraid to think/act/live outside the proverbial box. But now that I am able to put things into perspective and realize that we’re all going to check-out of here one way or another and we don’t know the day, nor the hour, why be afraid? None of us have anything to lose.

My mission now – I won’t just live… I will THRIVE.

P.S. Tell those who are dear to you that you love them now, and continue to do it often. LOVE is all that matters in this world. When you have nothing else it will carry you through.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

what a girl wants

First up, can I get a handclap of praise for the fact that I actually posted twice in one day?! That’s more than I’ve done in most months. How awesome is that?! I’m going to try not to be lazy and claim these as my two posts for this week. Hopefully, I’ll come up with something good for you by Friday at least. *fingers crossed*

I had no clue when I started writing this post that it would turn into a profession of affection for my dad. But as difficult and frustrating as he can be, I do love the man! So I guess it’s only natural that my love for him would shine through in this post. He’s great and has a lot of wonderful qualities... and, after doing this list, I realize now that his good qualities far outweigh his “bad” ones. Huh. Go figure.

A few weeks back, a friend and I were chatting about our fathers. Our mothers and how much we love them are a daily discussion, but every once in awhile, one of us will bring up our fathers. Well, this time the conversation was more interesting because we were talking about how our relationships with our fathers are the foundation for all other relationships we develop with men in our lifetimes. I was talking about my own dad and made a comment about how there are things about my dad that I love and will seek in a mate and things about him that I find incredibly annoying and will likely end up being deal-breakers for me in my romantic relationships.

My friend, always thoughtful, decided to write a blog post about what she wants in a man and how those wants relate to her father's personality/character, and she recommended that all her readers do the same.

This will be hard, but... Here goes!

Spiritually Grounded: I know that some men cringe when they see God-fearing at the top of a woman’s “list”. They are afraid that the woman might beat them over the head with a Bible and – God forbid – be a prude in the bed. I get those concerns. I really do. But lemme just say that I think a man that has a genuine and legitimate relationship with a higher power is incredibly sexy! The fact that a man can admit that there’s something out there greater than himself, to me, is such a manly and mature thing. My father has always had a relationship with God. My father’s oldest brother always marvels at the fact that my father, as a teenager/young adult, would get on his knees to say his prayers every night and every morning even if he was dead-tired and, in some case, drunk. And there’s something to be said for the fact that every night before my parents go to sleep, they get on their knees to pray. Even though my father has had both of his hips replaced, he still kneels and shows reverence to God. I love that about him. When he doesn’t know the way out of a particularly sticky situation, he prays his way through it. When he needs answers, he consults the Word, and asks other men and women of faith for their advice. And when he’s being insufferable (more about that in a later post), he gets himself in check by reminding himself of the spirit behind WWJD (what would Jesus do?). I can remember being afraid to sleep in the bed at night and my father getting his big Catholic Bible with the renaissance art illustrations, and reading me verses to help strengthen my faith. I appreciated that even then, and I know that in his heart he is a good man guided by principles and a finely-tuned moral compass. I’m looking for that same passionate faith in my partner. It doesn’t have to be MY God that a man chooses to acknowledge (although that would get him brownie points), but a belief in a benevolent and superior spiritual being is certainly a requirement of mine.

Loyal: My mom once told me that despite the fact that she and my dad have had their ups and downs in their relationship that’s spanned more than three decades, the one thing she has NEVER had to worry about was infidelity. My father is a loyal man. He never once spent a night away from us without our knowing where he was and what he was doing. He didn’t keep secrets. He didn’t maintain inappropriate friendships/relationships with other women. He just might be the last faithful man walking this planet. I have been betrayed by so many men in my lifetime and I just don’t want to feel that ever again. I can deal with any other challenge, but don’t dog me out behind my back. I hope that really, if my future mate can’t live up to anything else on my list, my father’s unwavering LOYALTY will be the one thing he chooses to emulate.

Intelligence: My dad has to be THE most intelligent person I've ever encountered. And I'm not biased. Ask anyone who knows him - he's damn there a genius. And he, of course, knows it. Which can be annoying. But he instilled in me a love for intelligent people. As a result, I'm allergic to dumb people. They make my skin crawl. Education is important (I'll touch on that later), but innate intelligence – even in the absence of formal education – earns a place at the top of my list when it comes to my ideal man.

Educated: Now, look. Before anyone jumps down my throat about this, please recognize that for most people in this country – except in the case of athletes, models, rappers, and actors (see Puffy/P. Diddy/Diddy Dirty Money for reference) – being educated is the key to success. It just is what it is. And in my house, education was a priority right up there with godliness and cleanliness. And, no wonder. My father was the youngest of 10 kids. My grandfather died when my dad was 4 and he probably had little to no schooling in his lifetime. My grandmother, a domestic worker, didn't make it past 6th grade. Out of his 9 brothers and sisters, my dad was the only one to make it to college. But not only did he make it there, he made it there on a full scholarship (obvi my grandma couldn't afford college tuition off her $32/week salary!), worked the ENTIRE time, pledged a fraternity (which was nothing but distractions and shenanigans even back in the olden days when he was pledging!), got a master's degree, and then copped a Ph.D. And he did all that before he was 28 years old. So, when dudes come to me talking all that riff raff about how school is “not for me", and/or, start making excuses about how they didn't have the "opportunity" to go to college, I look at them like they're buggin. I'm not buying it. If my black "underprivileged" dad could do it during Jim Crow, then you can do it now. No ifs ands or buts about it.

Disciplined: I am not a disciplined person. It’s something that I’ve been working hard at my whole life and I haven’t managed to master it, but to my father, it comes naturally. My father was a drinker, smoker, and heavy eater. He found out he had diabetes when I was in high school and decided he didn’t want to have to be on meds, so he went into healthy-eating mode, got his diabetes under control, and was able to cut his medication almost completely. Both of his hips were replaced and he even surprised his doctors by how quickly he was able to heal, but the doctors recommended that he do certain exercises daily, and he did them DAILY… without fail. He became anemic and needed to up his iron intake. Someone suggested that he eat plantains to increase his iron naturally, he ate plantains every single day until his doctor told him his iron was at an acceptable level. He flosses his teeth EVERY SINGLE NIGHT before bed, and he kneels to pray in the morning and the evening every day without fail. That, folks, is called discipline. And it’s something that – once you’ve perfected it – permeates every aspect of your life. It’s why you don’t take sick days, why you pay your bills on time, why you’re able to afford that thing you’ve been wanting (because you consistently put away money for a rainy day and are determined not to touch it until it’s time), it’s why you’re faithful to your spouse, and why you’re successful in your career. That discipline is something I need my man to have. I won’t say that your partner should “complete” you (because you should already be complete when you come to your partner), but your partner should complement you. Where you are lacking, s/he should have abundance. Discipline is one thing I don’t have enough of and I hope that my partner will have enough to spare.

He's Gotta LOVE the HUSTLE: So, yeah, my dad was a professor for 30 years and that paid the majority of our bills. But my dad was fundamentally opposed to being late with bills, being cold during the winter, and being hot in the summer. There were also a few things that we just HAD to have as a family – a nice house in a safe neighborhood, decent cars in our garage, good schools, and vacations. But all these needs required one thing - MONEY. So you know what? My dad did what he had to do to make sure we could afford those things. That meant that he ALWAYS had more than one job. And he found JOY in going to work and providing for his family. He would NEVER dream of sitting at home and forcing my mom into being the breadwinner. And even if my mom insisted that he stay home while she worked, he would refuse. In his mind, that’s just not what a MAN would do. A MAN provides for his family. Plus, my dad just liked being busy. From the time I was a kid, he did a variety of things to bring in extra income. In addition to being a professor, he got published in newsletters, magazines, and newspapers; he opened a therapy practice with my mom; he owned a contracting/handyman service… and, yes, my dad with his Ph.D. and tenured professorship was tearing down drywall, and on his hands and knees fixing plumbing in other people’s homes just to make sure that he would never have to hear his kids say “I need…”. We had all of what we needed and most of what we wanted ‘cause my dad loved the hustle. It would be great if I could know that my man cringed at hearing me say “I need…”. If I could be certain that he would hold us down if need be, that he would find a way to make a dollar out of the proverbial 15 cents. Is that too much to ask?

Heart of a "Thug": Alright, now I KNOW that somebody is going to have to say something about this. But as much as I looooove a polished and professional man, he needs to know about “the streets”. Plus, I’m going to need him to NEVER be shook by another man. My dad is not tall… he’s actually only about 5’8” or 5’9”, but I never noticed that he was of average height because he never – and I mean NEVER – cowered in the face of another man. He's aggressive, no-nonsense, and fiercely protective, and to this day he can walk into any situation and demand respect... if not for his intelligence or business savvy, then for his ability to relate to people on all levels, from the dope slingers to the dignitaries. I always felt safe and protected when I was with my father and knew that he had my back in any and every situation and if I went to him with any issues, those issues would be handled. If I was afraid of anything he would always say "I won't let anything happen to you"... and I believed him, because I knew it was true. Today, my pops is the Chairman of the Deacon Board at my church, and that means he’s second in command, only behind the Pastor. He’s definitely a holy and dignified man, but to put it plainly, there was a time when my dad was a bit of a roughneck. As my maternal grandmother once said “Your daddy and Jesus weren’t always friends.” Bwahaha! But what she meant is that my dad, at one point, was not a man to be played with. He wore suits and cleaned up nicely, but in the streets, he was quick to let you know who’s boss. I’m not gonna go into detail because those of you who know my father don’t need to know the nitty-gritty, but just know that in his heart, my educated, God-fearing daddy is a thug... and I need a little bit of that from my future man. ‘Nuff said.

Pretty Boy Swag: Sorry for invoking this term, but just go on and blame Soljah Boy Tell ‘Em for this requirement. If you look at my dad now in all his gray haired glory, you might never know that my daddy was fly in his day, but he takes great pride in his hygiene and appearance. I remember at a band concert of mine in elementary school, my parents arrived a little late, and when they walked in, my daddy was wearing a white button-down shirt, navy blazer with gold buttons, a pocket square, slacks, and hard-bottom shoes. Now, mind you, he was a professor and called himself dressing for the classroom. And NOW I think that outfit was on point! But, back then, I wondered why he wasn’t rocking the golf shirt and rumpled khaki pant look all the other suburban dads were wearing. Today, I want a man that knows how to put two pieces of clothing together, a man that is neat and clean, a man that stands out from the crowd. All my exes have had their own unique personal style… good or bad (you be the judge), they owned it and I liked it. Personal style is important, but low on the list because it’s not a deal-breaker and, let’s face it, it can be developed over time.

Strong Features: This might sound crazy, but I love a prominent nose, strong facial structure, broad shoulders, thick eyebrows and eyelashes, full lips, etc. And, yes, my daddy (and my brother) has all that, too. Skin color, hair type, height (to an extent), etc., are a non-issue, but give me some thick eyebrows and a pair of full lips and I’m good!

This took a lot longer than expected, so I’m forced to pull a to-be-continued on you. I’ve told you all the qualities my dad has that I want in a man, and next up, I’ll share the things about my dad that NO man better come with a.k.a. DEALBREAKERS.

i am not my hair

You might luck up on two posts today. I forgot my Kindle (so no subway reading) and my iPod is dead (so no subway tunes). And, in order to survive my trip to and from work, I have to have something to distract me. There's just too much drama on the subway. Not my cup of tea! So to manage my transit issues, today, I wrote the whole way to work, and I'll likely write the whole way home.

I was talking with a friend this weekend and she told me she posts to her blog at least twice per week. I'm going to try that. Twice per week is not unreasonable and work has slowed down considerably now that I have an assistant again (!), so I think I can handle that... Stay tuned!

It's been over a month since I did the Big Chop and swore off relaxers forever. And since that day, I haven't looked back ONCE. I haven't taken a look in the mirror and wished for my shoulder-length hair back. I haven't thought "oh damn! I hate my nappy hair! Lemme throw in a relaxer really quickly."

So far, I've received nothing but compliments, but even if that weren't the case, I don't think I'd feel any differently. I just have no regrets. Or... I HAD no regrets. But today, I was speaking to my mom about the fact that I'm exploring new career options and she asked me whether I thought my hair would be a problem. I tried to play dumb I mean, why would it be a problem? *sarcasm* But all things considered - the fact that I'm applying for mid- to high-level positions within very conservative corporate environments, as much as I don't want to give that concern any credence, she just might have a point.

"I'm NOT going back to a relaxer for a job," I insisted.

But, she had an answer for that also, "You don't have to go back to a relaxer, but you may want to consider a press & curl."

Yes, I'm sure she has a point now. This would be temporary fix, and once I was actually offered any job, I could go back to my 'fro. But, I have no idea how a press & curl would turn out on my very short hair. AND, I'm worried about the damage heat could do to my curls also. I would be super pissed if all of a sudden one side of my hair was permanently stuck between straight and curly. I worked hard for these curls, dammit!

It's funny, when I was "transitioning" from my relaxer, I overheard a conversation between two natural-haired women. They were talking about recent job interviews one had been on and whether she felt pushback as a result of her hair. She said shed worn a wig to her interviews. A wig!! I know that some people are all about the wigs/weaves/braids/etc., but I just can't get with it! I've done the weave/braid thing several times and within a week or two was (literally) itching to touch my "real" hair stuck underneath. So I'd take it out. All that money on hair and manual labor to "install" it, meant to last for weeks or months, and within days it'd all be wasted.

Wigs... Wigs, I don't understand. Even the most expensive ones look HELLA fake! So not cool. And I'd be worried that the people interviewing me wouldn't be able to concentrate given "my" new hairdo.

Then again, most white folk don't know real hair from fake. So, perhaps I could get away with it afterall, and when the interview is done, I could pull the wig off and keep it steppin. Hmm... It's a thought.

But it pains me that I should even have to consider all this. My hair grows out of my head just like this. The blonde chick with long straight hair doesn't have to plot and plan about what she's going to "do" with her hair for a date, job interview, etc., so why should I? Seems unfair to me. But, then again, LIFE is unfair and sht happens and people have to make decisions that are way more serious than how to rock their hair for a job interview.

I'll figure something out. I guess...

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