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The Best Part of Waking Up is…

A photo of a cup of coffee.
A way too teenie-weenie cup of coffee

As I descend the staircase before making my morning cup of coffee, I can tell that it isn’t as cold outside this morning, by the absence of frost along the bottom of my front door. This is a good start for me.  I detest the winter, and all of the inconveniences of it – frigid temperatures, excessive clothing, black ice, slush, dirty piles of snow along the edges of the driveway and garage corners, and crunchy, salted sidewalks.  “I do not like it here, or there. I do not like winter, damn Sam-I-am!” While I do appreciate the seasonal nature of life, winter is clearly something I can do without.  Weren’t it for regular exercise, I’d go bananas due to the doldrums of winter.  To this day, I swear by the normalizing ability of exercise, particularly during the winter. It is my Zoloft, my Prozac – another random and seemingly mundane thing about me that I can’t live without – totally useful and critical for my survival.

The house is still quiet, and most of it remains unlit.  Even the sun lies asleep in its place, awaiting the right time to rise and brighten this corner of the Earth.  Thankful for this peaceful, uninterrupted part of the day, I contemplate the upcoming events of the day, and whether my youngest is well enough to resume her normal activities which would in turn allow me to resume mine! 🙂 I think of the appointments that require rescheduling and those to which I have firm commitments and cannot worm my way out of.

I usually have my morning cup of coffee with my “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby”, and when I can’t do that, I just don’t seem to rush to the coffeepot as quickly.  Morning coffee with him has become a favorite pastime.  Set against the tranquility of the morning; an unhurried household;  a space and time devoid of running feet, and strikingly absent  of petulant screams and demands, or whimpers from bumps and bruises incurred from running in the house – yet again – I am forced to consider him and him only.

He calls me his ‘fox’.

“You mean like Foxxy Brown Fox?”, I ask.

“No”, he says, “I mean like you’re a fox.  Better than beautiful. Beautiful and more. You’re all that and then some!”  (See Merriam Webster‘s definition Number 5. :0) )

Well damn boy, keep the compliments coming! They’re good for my ego.  Who doesn’t wanna hear that?

I call him my baby, my man, da’ bomb!  Always handling his business, so seemingly effortlessly and without ceasing.  His timeliness and attention to me as a husband and to our children as a dad, pulls me in over and over again.  If there are misses, they’re small.  In the bigger scheme of things, he takes care of the most important things, the ones that if left undone, life would be remarkably different around here.  He acknowledges that I regulate the heartbeat of this household, the mood and temperament of its life, its pulse, and as such, his goal is to keep me happy, and to check in – at coffee time and other times –  when I’m not. He does that and then some!

He is…my friend, my bestie ever!

He is…smart, beautiful, gracious, and humble.

Among other things, he is discerning, trustworthy, and always reliable.  He loves me carefully and recklessly, and seeks to please me regularly and often.  We drink our coffee together to start our day, to connect with each other, to check in, to pray.  Coffee time becomes more than a ritual now.  It becomes a memory, a favorite pastime, an important moment in our day.  No wonder the second cup isn’t as good as the first!

“The best part of waking up” is…drinking coffee with my “he is”, and waking up never felt so good. What’s in your coffee?

Here Comes the Sun!

Yes…Joy, and Then Some!

"Moms Rock!" (Amelia Island Sand Art)

It’s Day 4 of my youngest child being sick with what looks like a wicked virus, or stomach infection.  Hopefully, she turns the corner today because she’s quickly becoming a poster child for Huggies Pull-ups.  She’s become very clingy, so I’m on borrowed time, even as I type.  The last few nights have been punctuated by frequent changes of diapers and full clothing.  I’m awaiting the next explosion, so I’m going to try to get this in before the thoughts escape me. 🙂

I’ve been mulling over my last post, titled  “It’s ALL PurposeFULL“.  In that article, I explored the questions that we often have regarding the mysterious nature of the life-changing events in our lives, including “Why?”, “Why me?”, and “Why Now?” My goal then was to provide assurance that we ultimately become better and fuller selves as a result of the more difficult, inexplicable events that occur in our lives.  This isn’t to say that we should have to experience loss, tragedy, or hardship to self-actualize, but rather that, the occurrence of these situations in our lives wisen us and enhance our potential to live and love more authentically.

Perhaps I took you to the conclusion a bit too quickly, without letting you in on the middle of the “journey”.  While I will never share with you sordid or personal details, or provide you with a blow-by-blow account of the events in my life that shape those truths (certainly not in a blog forum), I can tell you that during those moments in which I questioned the mystery of life, and God himself, I often felt alone, misunderstood, isolated.  My faith and hope seemed to be shaken, lacking, questionable.  To this day, I will maintain that it was not the actual death of a loved one that shook me the most. Unlike many, when my grandmother (my first true mother) passed away, I had an amazing sense of peace and understanding. As she neared the end of her life, she agonized over increasing physical pain and articulated on numerous occasions the gratitude that she had for a life well-lived.  My grandmother believed wholeheartedly that she would be in a better place.  Her death was only physical to me. I maintain a relationship with her that most would not understand. I miss her dearly at times, but most times, I feel that she is with me.

I have had other losses that bore a sharper sting than I could have ever imagined. Those jarred me to the core, leaving me to question where I went wrong, and whether this was some sort of karma.  What was life trying to teach me? I grew jealous and bitter as I witnessed others around me, realizing the very dreams that I thought were mine just for the asking. At that time, I could not see a plausible explanation for any of it. It seemed that my dreams were always on hold, always waiting in the wings, but for some reason or the other, it wasn’t quite time for them to materialize.

Fast forward to the “now”. I wouldn’t change it for the world! My past experiences, good and bad, have launched me right where I am now.  In this very moment, I can be a source of encouragement for those that have gone through similar situations.  More importantly, my soul continues to heal as I share the stories with others, especially wives, mothers, and daughters.  I come alive as I reveal the anguish of that difficult moment, and share the joy in knowing what I believe that moment was designed to teach me.

By the way, I’ve been hurled on once (good thing I wasn’t making a hat at the time), and performed two additional diaper changes since I started! It’s going to be a long, but beautiful day! It can only get better. 🙂

Girls Clapping to Miss Mary Mack

It’s All PurposeFULL!

Ever asked “why”, “why me, or “why now”? Of course you have, as has anyone who is truly living.  We go through things in life that leave us dumbfounded, speechless, at a loss. We find ourselves having more questions than answers. No amount of schooling or living seems to have prepared us for the moment that seems so ambiguous, so vague, so meaningless, so incongruous with what we’ve witnessed, experienced, or ever anticipated thus far. We struggle to find answers and make sense of the moment, thinking that perhaps after a good night of sleep, it will all be clear. Joy comes in the morning, right? Well yes, but that’s just part of it.

I’m not here to convince you that everything will make sense, or that somehow the lightbulb will instantly light up amidst your tragedy, loss, suffering, or other life event not necessarily defined by loss, but perhaps by rejection of some sort. However, I do believe wholeheartedly that, in the final analysis, it all serves a purpose, whether by design or default. The stars do line up, and the epiphanies and discoveries do follow…in time.  Eventually.

The purpose seems to be that of self-actualization. Ultimately, amidst our grieving and coping, our tearful cries and quiet whispers, our rage and tranquility, and our futility and fortitude, we find a stronger voice. We learn something about ourselves, that until now was undefinable, undiscovered, and certainly underdeveloped. We discover gifts within us, tap into amazing coping abilities, learn humility – how can we not be humbled by the order and timing of things – assume unparalleled strength, and dispel myths that we once believed to be true.

Just when we think that we can take no more, we find ourselves morphing from fragile to uncompromising. We transcend beyond our situation and become faces of hope, as we share our stories of triumph. We conquer our situations as we are forced to go within. We transcend our circumstances by finding consolation and comfort in the knowledge that many have come before us that have endured far worse, and managed to make it through. We find our resilience as the carpets of comfort are pulled from beneath us. As we reach out and across, we learn that we don’t have to go it alone, and we learn to finally understand the meaning of community, and its necessity. In the process, we redefine our networks.  Lines of friendship and family become blurred in the process, but we find amazing clarity in the truth that we must connect…with each other, and are not designed to suffer in silence, or rely on our own wit to get us through the situation.

In the end, we learn to love more authentically. Our need to open up trumps our desire to retreat into our shells during our most difficult moments. Our dissatisfaction, disappointment, displeasure, disengagement, disenchantment with half-fulfilled hopes, and dislocated hurt, anger, and pain brings us to our knees, while we are forced to acknowledge that we are in need of a personal touch, an affirming voice, and an encouraging heart. This is when we know we are growing, becoming our truer selves. We are actualizing, becoming connected. Yes!

As we become unglued from our own seats of seeming security, from the places which we sometimes occupied for too long in our roles…as parent, wife, husband, or lover, son or daughter, and even employee, we find freedom in the expression of our most sincere feelings, joy in the liberation from not having to do it all, and light in the exposure of all that once remained suppressed. We emerge victoriously and assuredly, albeit through some very painful processes and lessons.  This is especially true if we live with the acknowledgment that life is trying to teach us something. In turn, we become whole, grounded, humble, resilient, uncompromising (where it counts), resourceful, and confident. We become ourselves, as we were designed to be!

Speak up, Already!

Why does it always take some mad act to happen for us to then have courage – to speak up or do something?

For instance, this recent example of Jared Lee Loughner, who shot to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and killed and injured several others outside a Safeway shopping  center in Tucson, Arizona.  For the love of God, when will these crazy dudes (sorry gentlemen, so far, it has been mostly male characters) like Loughner be detected, apprehended, and treated (if necessary) for their lunatic ravings, and wicked motivations before they carry out their premeditated plans to destroy life, and snuff out democracy as we know it?

Unlike those looking to blame the ‘political climate’ in America for what this man did, I blame the systems that allow for the kind of behaviors, leading up to a tragedy (usually a public one), to go largely unchecked. I blame the institutional -isms, and the pervasive bystander mentality among those, who in turn protect sinister characters hellbent on having things their way, and no other way, especially when it means the progression of society as a whole. Sadly enough, I am of the belief that had Loughner been of a darker hue – Middle Eastern, Jewish, African-American, African, a woman, even, displaying the same behaviors – he would have been Big Brother’d to the Nth degree, COINTELPRO style.  Undetected individuals like him always end up committing beyond-violent acts, then they cop-out on an insanity plea or turn the gun on themselves. Real freedom fighters, right? So much for self-preservation.

To me, it’s like the anti-abortion activists who stand outside abortion clinics. They believe they have a right to beat a woman down, as she exits the clinic, perhaps making the most regretful and significant decision of her life, up to that moment, because they think that every life conceived has a right to life, regardless of the circumstance. In a sick, twisted way, they really believe that promoting their pro-life agenda is justified, even if it means taking a life.

These are the individuals whose names need to appear on a “watch list”, along with their audiences – those bystander “cheerleaders”, the biggest silent partners in all of this – who give quiet permission to an these antics and beliefs of superiority and entitlement. For the mother who needs twenty extra minutes of sleep, silence is golden. In circumstances like these, however, silence is downright deadly!

While I’d love to elevate the level of discourse to one of civility, I am more than aghast about this latest score of premeditated violence, and I am coming up short in the euphemism department. While many are focusing on the mental health component of it, I see a lot more wrong with it, and I simply don’t have a lot of lofty language to cradle this one. No pun intended. Seriously.

I know that we must move beyond examining the causes of such a heinous act, and move to a discussion of “what now?”  We can analyze and psycho-analyze this all day, but this approach would be hardly preventive.  Therefore, I’m begging the question of how we protect society at large, from those individuals that feel that they should go to any lengths to demonstrate their intolerance for what they simply won’t accept; same-sex marriages or unions, political differences, progression of women in public ranks, or the countless efforts of those seeking to enhance the dialogue across gender, racial, and political lines.

For one, we can start on an individual level. Inarguably, everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but it doesn’t mean that we have to listen to nonsense.  We are also free to not be part of that conversation.  We can denounce these -isms head-on when we hear and see them. We can teach our children love and compassion. We can choose to not follow the crowd, or ride the tidal waves of intolerance or hate. I insist that we become more watchful and discerning, and further disassociate ourselves from behaviors and groups that willfully exclude, or passively permit the exclusion of a few, on the basis of race, politics, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Furthermore, we can trust our intuition when we feel uneasy, or recognize behaviors and language, that is off-putting, senseless, or rooted in a dogged determination to exact more evil than good. We can and should make some noise!  Run. Tell. That!

Our Children: Are They Really Better Off?

These days, I find myself running interference for any of my children at any given point.  Although the bickering is sometimes nonstop, I wouldn’t trade the healthiness in their voices, or the lilt in their laughter, and certainly not their successful attempts at humoring each other, for anything. Heck, they make me laugh!  Okay, maybe I would trade an evening of all that “noise” for a quiet day in a shady spot on the beach, under the Antiguan sun, with a favorite book, and a tall rum punch. Nice, eh? For now, whatever time I can steal will have to do.

Though I’d rather have peace and quiet when the bewitching hours roll around on a weekday (take your pick between 4:00 and 9:00 pm), I find myself making a conscientious effort to stop myself from corralling them with a lasso. It takes every fiber of me to restrain myself when I witness crayons, toys, paper, and more paper, spread across the kitchen table, yet again! Don’t mention the spills or half-eaten plates of food on the table.

As I seek to create some semblance of order, I bark orders at my little ones to take better care of their things, and encourage them to think of those less fortunate children who would be well pleased with just half of the meal that they’re having tonight.  I’m sure that this wouldn’t be the first time you’ve heard the “You Guys Have So Much More Than We Did” refrain. How many lectures are sufficient to demonstrate that our children are more blessed than us, and certainly more than some of their peers in other regions and countries worldwide? But are they really?

While I don’t romanticize my childhood, I’m sure that most would agree with me that life was much simpler then. I now recall that in my first home as I knew it – my grandparents’ home – seldom a child could be found playing inside during the daytime hours. As far as my granny was concerned, inside was for sleeping, cooking, and doing constructive things like sewing, or listening to an occasional radio program (we had no TV).  In my tropical climate, the sun danced right outside the window, and beckoned us outdoors year-round.  We played outside mostly, in the yard, in front of, and behind the house, in spaces marking the separation between our home and that of our neighbors. With the exception of my grandmother being in the kitchen for preparing meals, the house was quiet while we did things that children did – discovered, explored, experimented, made believe, played tag, jumped rope, and invented new uses for common, but obscure items that we would find throughout the course of the day. We convened for dinner, and cleared out when it was over. Perhaps there wasn’t enough conversation? (That’s an entirely separate topic.)

I sometimes angst about whether I am raising my children up right. All I got was What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but no amount of prenatal visits could prepare me for this.  Everything else was useless! When it comes to the most difficult job of raising children, it isn’t so much about winning the “Parent of the Year” award, but about building a legacy for your children, and the children of the communities in which you live, and creating a more harmonious place in which we can all live more peacefully.

Are we teaching our children: resourcefulness – how to find what they need, and use what they already have to create their own solutions; responsibility – for creating and shaping their own outcomes; restraint – in exercising self control and desires that override their own moral compass; and lastly, respect – for themselves, those they claim to love, their elders, their community, and their world?

I believe that these were, and still are the fundamentals. If we continue to indulge our children, with the goal of surpassing our own childhood, or giving them what we believe we didn’t have, I hope that we first acknowledge what we did have, and build our legacy from there. We can deal with what was amiss, awry, or absent for the sake of healing and moving forward; however, too long a pause at that layover will keep us stuck on stupid, furthermore inhibiting our ability to effectively parent. We cannot be successful in creating a new reality for our children without referring to the gemstones of our own childhood, because whether we like it or not, they inform our own instinctive nature as parents.

Lest we forget, our children will certainly not be better off. When all else is stripped away – the material possessions, and all effects of their personal and professional accomplishments – will you be proud of what remains at the core?  Will you be able to say that you did a better job, or as good a job, of raising children, that will in turn, become more well-adjusted, balanced, grounded, vocal, and compassionate?  And, will your children be better off for the experience?