I am sad, but I am happy —Year-Long Musings

I am sad, but I’m happy IMG_2412
I am lost, but I’m found
I am soft, but I’m a hard shell
I stumble, but I don’t fall
This is my Year-Long Musings!

Another year, another 365 days going down. Plenty of soul-searching, reviews, pondering, and hope. What else would I have, if I did not have home?

I am feeling a little funky lately.
I have not been driving for a while. But I am back to driving.
I have also not drove the Mercedes August. But now it is back, and all mine. Well, hopefully!
The first day I got back to driving it last week, it brought me a little sadness. To the pile of sadness I have.

The Mercedes represents grandpa. It reminds me of grandpa. It replays the entire memory of the life I knew of him, especially this year.
It reminds me of witnessing the pain and agony of his life, straight up, in the same house.
I had never been in the same space, up-close, with a person so sick.
Yet feeling inadequate to help. Often feeling, it is not your place to show great care and concern.
Not sure whether I would be construed as “overstepping the boundaries” or “crossing the line.”

But I wonder, how could somebody ail so much! Yet not get well to enjoy life after that gruesome pain?
How could one go down too fast? It seemed it all came and went down too fast!
How could one hurt so much, yet remain strong for others, for those he loved?
He surely kept on taking care of those he loved — his wife, his children, his in-laws and his grandchildren.

I particularly recall him seated in the living room, groaning with so much pain in the abdomen. Especially, whenever he tried to get up.
He loved driving, to the mosque, to the store, to take school kids to school, to take his wife to work in the morning or to take his family on long trips.
But getting up to go drive, was the climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Throughout the ailment, he drove on other family trips: to Detroit and back to PA, down to Atlanta and back, to Toronto and back.
I recall so vividly his last long drive, a 500 miles roundtrip PA-MD-PA, while trying to contain excruciating pain.
He avoided eating, and barely drank, the entire trip. He did not want to have to get up and go to bathroom; it was too much hardship.
Yet, he stayed steady on the wheel, without a single incident. He did not knock off the steering wheel, and only took very brief rest stops

So, with such display of stamina and resilience, how could he not live through his ailment to full recovery? I still wonder!
Because, his strength did not burn out.
He often woke up in the wee hours of the morning, drove wifey to the NYC bus terminal in our PA-hood.
He drove two girls from their Muslim community to and from their school bus.
Because their mother, worked early and long hours, and left and returned home before and after school bus hours.
I watched how he splashed his grandkids and children in-law, with love and adoration.
But he is gone. It is three months later!

But that is not the central feature of my sadness. Though, it struck me as well.
I am sad, as the year draws to a close. Reflecting on what has transpired.
How much gained, how much lost. Of course, plenty gained —especially in the weight department!
I see me in my “new mother suit” again. And that makes me sad, and induce me to create more sadness.
It has to go, I cannot keep it around in 2016.
Can’t support it no more! Big is not always desirable.
But I will take big pockets, and big bank accounts!

Big, I will embrace, to rise again. Big dreams, to become big reality.
Big smile, big achievements. Big social networks. Big alliances
Yeah, I will even take a bigger contribution to the carbon footprint, then settle back into my “tree-hugger-ness”
I want to fly by, be big, celebrate big and sleep big.

I’ll take all that will keep me happy, I need big happiness of mind, body and soul.
I need the positive energies that come along with big feelings and big achievements.
I need my big confidence to rise and shine through again.

I miss my big old-self!
Santa baby, I want my big happy self back
I want a sing a new song
That, I am happy more than sad
I am not sad, but I am happy!

Fear is Our Biggest Impediment

For many of us, fear is our biggest impediment!

Fear grips us, cripples us, and enslaves us!being different

 

We are afraid of the dark
We are afraid of heights
We are afraid of adventure
We are afraid of the unknown

We are afraid of criticism
We are afraid of failure
We are afraid of trying
We are afraid of dreaming

We are afraid of loneliness
We are afraid of attention
We are afraid of loving
We are afraid of affection

We are afraid of being talked about
We are afraid of not being talked to
We are afraid of being ignored
We are afraid of not being priority

We are afraid of dependence
We are afraid of begging
We are afraid of giving
We are afraid sharing

We are afraid of disappointment
We are afraid of embarrassment
We are afraid of getting hurt
We are afraid of pain

We are afraid of helpers
We are afraid of solicitation
We are afraid of donations
We are afraid of alms

But, let us not be afraid of reaching out
Asking for worthy help
Love regardless

Let us embrace loneliness
Live endlessly
Life with all its uncertainties

Let us give unconditionally
Against all odds,

Let us break the encumbrance of fear!

2014 in a Wrap

Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

Happy Thanksgiving America and the World! Wherever you are!

I have not witness a very warm Thanksgiving Day in a long while! It was 55F degrees mid-afternoon today, and I was out in my bikers! And the sun was out, no wind; beautiful! Perfect day for a run, jog, anything outdoors! weather thanksgiving_Fotor

I couple of days back, Child Of Mine (COM) suggested that on Thanksgiving Day, we write down all the things were are thankful for. I readily agreed, and promised to obliged when the day comes – today, Thursday, November 26, 2015.
On his part, he had had an entire day of Thanksgiving celebration – making applesauce and crafts and tasting apple butter at school, and exploring Thanksgiving at home at school.

This Thanksgiving morning, I waited for him to wake up, served him breakfast, brushed our teeth, then we sat down to compile out lists.

Here is his list:
Thanksgiving Day_Fotor_Collage

Thankful for:

  1. Food (Me: makes sense, since we are talking after breakfast 🙂)
  2. Oxygen
  3. Water
  4. Shelter
  5. Blood – without blood we cannot live
  6. Heart – I would not be alive, if I did not have a hear
  7. My brain —it is the control system. It controls every part of my body.
  8. Bones —Bones connect the body together.
  9. Muscles —If I knew how to fight but did not have muscles, I would not be much stronger.

[Mental note to self: Uhm! Everything seems to be about him. Oh well! Just be happy he is compiling a list!]

I started my list

  1. COM —Because he has helped me understand life better. Plus, he allows me push him out of his comfort zone, ‘experiment’ on him and co-op him into my adventurous life. At his age, he is already Scouting for Food as a Cub Scout, caring for therapy dogs with Paws and Pages and donating to Toys for Totsscouting and community service_Collage
  2. My mother – She brought me into this world, and is always there for me, even when I am sad and do not feel like talking. She surprises me.
  3. For the gift of life —It is full of challenges, but it makes me stronger and optimistic.
  4. All the friends and family who give me laughter, shelter, surprises, reassurance and social support.
  5. Challenges – that teach me a lot about myself and my potentialities
  6. For the United States – it gave me Biko, my adult life, exposure to a larger world or learning and education, connectivity of humanity, and retracing my blackness through my ancestors who were shipped off as slaves many years ago.
  7. Uganda – my birthplace that nurtured me from childhood. The most fun, free and safest place I have ever lived.
  8. Social networks – the Cub Scout, Paws n Pages, where I meet new friends, learn about opportunities to participate in community activities, and my son gets to learn about life and serve his community at a young age.
  9. Running and exercise – center me….and lift me up….
  10. Single parenting – I am stronger than I give myself credit. I fall, crumble and bounce back. I can risk it all…and start building it anew. I can give no matter whether I get the same. Single parenting makes it easier to make decisions, spontaneous actions and planning, and allows me to ‘dictate’ child’s diet and menu most of the time. IMG_2936

I think COM noticed that I was giving credit to people, while he did not. So, he added his #10

  1. My teachers that help me learn.

Still, no mention of me, anywhere!  But I am straight —-No! I am not….but hey

It is Thanksgiving Day! Not Mourning and Pouting Day.

We have watched the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, which is always a pleasure….We Skyped internationally; we are making business connections; we are blogging, and COM is writing down all the books he has read this month. He has already surpassed his set monthly goal of 30 to 53 books! And he still has four more days before the end of month —whoopee-do!

IMG_3049I am making a very veggie Thanksgiving lunch of Eggplant aka aubergine, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and asparagus [didn’t I tell you, there is joy in single parenting!]. And we are watching the National Dog Show!

Happy Turkey, Tofurky, Cranberry sauce [we might just have some cranberry jelly], the pies and all. We will have Sparkling Cider, our special treat!

Whatever you do! Wherever you are! Whatever you eat! Be Thankful!

The Trials and Tribulations of Extroverts

IMG_2934You think Introverts have it tough? Pity Extroverts!

True, Introverts are often ridiculed as bad communicators, lone souls, poor social buddies and individualist. While Extroverts are [perceived as] jovial, positive, friendly, giving, sociable, with an infinite joie de vivre!

Extroverts are expected to light up the room at a party and mingle, offer a free hand to the stumblers, a shoulder to the criers and bright lamp to broken spirits. Extroverts are to smile, laugh and cater to everybody’s happiness and pleasure, it is presumed and expected.

Me-time” is not [acceptably] synonymous with extrovert. How can the light of the party fold into oneself to deal with own issues? But that is seemingly not considered unfair!

True story!

I know an extrovert in my social circles. She loves life, she is spontaneous, adventurous, athletic and earthy. She loves everything natural, loves entertaining, and volunteering a helping hand to others, solicited or not. She is full of vigor, smiles and laughs out loud, and a pretty funny jokester

She will pick up the slack with no prompts. She will be the one cleaning up the mess, while everyone in the room is sitting watching TV or fingering their phones. She will feed the children, entertain them, play with them, read with them, put on an impromptu picnic for them and support their childhood dreams unsolicited.

Even if none of the children’s parents returns the favor for her own kids, she is never swayed from cooking up a storm, cleaning and caring for the sick or bereaved. Because giving a helping hand is the humane thing to do, that no religion, politics or economics can indoctrinate. It is also a key tenet of her social upbringing, which impressed on her the importance of service to others.

But what happens when she needs her “Me-time”? What if she does not want to sit around and laugh or play with anybody? Is she being rude, mean, nasty, causing tension? Is she entitled to claim her space, amidst others? Is she allowed to have “Me-time”? For the same reasons we give our children “time out”, to recover, to recuperate, to reflect and come back with positive energy and relaxed.

From what I know about her, she has come a long way, in controlling how much and how long she “zones out” and “shuts the world away”, and takes her time-out. She confessed to me that, she never used to stretch her tolerance and patience a lot like she does now.

For instance, she was never a “morning person”, until she became obliged to take care of another person — her own child. Correct, she had had experience taking care of children, but with the option of bailing out, at will, because they were not her own responsibility.

Before becoming a mother, she did not enjoy talking to anyone in the morning. No small talk, unless it was urgent and very important life concerns, morning transcontinental conference calls or checking in at airport gates on early morning flights!

IMG_2974
To reload her to morning ‘sugar’, she started going on morning running to wake her up to lift her spirits up. To her, running is not simply for “weight loss” —it has never been—but to pump her blood up. When others grabbed a coffee to jumpstart them in the morning, she goes for a run.

Since becoming a mother, her child has supplemented the morning run. He wakes up every morning with a smile and a positive attitude, that are so contagious! That alone, lifts her spirits up, though she goes crazy sometimes, when his happiness slows down, his on getting out of bed and getting dressed.

Reading and social media also keep her busy, and revives her energies. They give her new perspective about life, and give her the umph to keep going amid turmoil. So, blogging, reading online news, tweeting, FB, Instagram, and sharing with her online crowd is a joy to her!

Some might say it “escapism” from her immediate surroundings, but it is positive escapism. It allows her to spare others her agony and misery, until she can bounce back with renewed vigor and positive energy. It stirs joy in her, and helps her regain her stamina. It clears her thoughts, and allows her mould and transform herself strategically.

What bewilders, though, is when others take her quiet and “down-time” personal? Why they perceive her “hibernation” as directed at them, and causing tension around them, when she does not take their availability or lack thereof for granted?

If she can find the peace and joy within herself, why can’t others do the same? If she can still offer a helping hand even when her social circles do not return the favor, why is it hard to accept her without judgement, those times she is not an “Upbeat Extrovert”?

I wonder, why we should expect extroverts to carry other people’s 100th problem, when they have their 99 problems! Why can’t we accepted that everyone is a lot like the British weather; it fluctuates at from time to time, not permanently, and still brings us happy memories!

IMG_3021

Perhaps, we should all learn to accept that nobody is in a permanent state of bliss or misery. Nobody, in my imagination wants to be surrounded by people or be the entertainment for others all the time. Nobody wants to be the fortress for others all the time, or the last man/woman standing, when others are tucked in their loneliness, sorrow or “me-time”.

Nor does anybody want to be lonely and gloomy all the time, tucked away from others, without friends to laugh, play and talk to. We all enjoy to love, support and surround ourselves with others. But can we understand that Extroverts do not have an elasticity of happiness, and just show some love when they do not wanna be disturbed!

Happy Turkey-giving Y’all!

‘Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.’
- Melodie Beattie

 

An article in Chicago Tribune profiles former Stanford Dean Lythcott-Haims, among other writers like Jessica Lahey (“The Gift of Failure”) and Jennifer Senior (“All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”), speaking to “Helicopter Parents” to Let It Go! Let the children be, children! Have a life of your own! You can also call them “Socca moms” or Drill Surgeons, they are in the face of their children, and anyone involved with their children.

Lythcott-Halms cites statistics on the rise of depression and other mental and emotional health problems among the nation’s young people, as justification that, perhaps Helicopter Parents are doing more harm than good, by micromanaging their children’s lives, trying to churn them into super-high achievers. Points to the growing concern that many young people are “adultscents” stuck in “waithood”!

I wrote recently about Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope, that, regardless of how much we invest into our kids, there is no guarantee that they will turn out with the discipline, commitment, self-drive, kindness and love, we so strive to impart in them and desire! Parenting is not a game, yet it is a “Hit and Miss”!

Now, we have more parents, parent psychologists and scholars sharing their experiences and views on how we, as a society of parents, are fairing in grooming our children, the critical thinkers, national builders and leaders of after years. Or could it be “now years,” since children no longer waiting till adulthood to woo their societies as inventors, leaders, scholars, business gurus, artists, and employers.

At least children are gaining some recognition, that they are not just diaper-clad, video game, Minecrafters, demanding their “me-time” and “me-decide,” while expecting for papa and mama to make their bed, provide a food and monthly allowances, after-college rent, and plane tickets to global vacation destinations! Perhaps, here, we could boast that our “Helicopter parenting” has paid off, or are the ‘mature’ ones not products of helicopter parenting?

But, are we “Helicopter Parenting” out of unfounded paranoia, or are we justified?
Fear of the “known unknown” — rapists, kidnappers, murderers, has driven us to safeguard our children much more. I would argue that they rise of the known-unknowns could be an outcrop of the diminishing family size, progressively excluding aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents [referred to in Western Culture as “Extended Family”], and collapsing into a nuclear family of mom, dad, plus one or two children. Additionally family is increasingly “private and estranged from community relationships and neighborhood watch.

Back in the days, a child belonged to the community, which kept a watchful eye, disciplined, freely interacted and played with one another. Today, our children need [in]formal permission, an invitation and scheduled playdate with the neighbor’s child. We are scared of our neighbor(s), do not always know our neighbor, and have replaced innocent trust with restraint. The neighbor [though not all neighbors] is no longer looking out to protect but harm our children and restrict our children’s play.

Ironically, the “fear of thy neighbor,” has undermined our much celebrated “neighborhood watch,” diminished social responsibility to protect our kids, instead churning out more predators with harmful and malicious intent and practices in our neighborhoods. We as neighbors are distancing ourselves further away from each another, with a diminishing obligation to commit and love one other.

Nothing speaks to the shrinking “modern family” size, values and protection than the ‘disappearance’ of blood relatives in raising our children. Not even the unconditional support of family in raising our children, can be taken for granted anymore! Grandparents and younger siblings are no longer “automatic babysitters” for our children; they have lives to live! Growing up, I babysat my nieces and nephews, supported my older siblings households without question, protest or bitterness.

Today, the true meaning of family is not a social network you can take for granted, or a social guarantor of love and support, unconditionally. Family is now a site of wary, each on collision course of survival for the fittest. Parents are struggling to stay afloat on their own, as the main guardians of their children, sometimes separately.

The expectation that every parent contributes to parenting, regardless and with no emphasis on how much overt love was expressed toward the children. Now, the phenomenon of absentee father is a huge blight on parenting, and the survival and proper functioning of families, The absentee father is not only non-custodial, but also pops in and out of his child’s life at own convenience, or lives-in with both child and child’s mother, but is more focused on his own life than family welfare.

Thus, the rise of the “Helicopter Parent(s),” not primarily to outpace others children in a survival for the fittest, but also to compensate for the burden and responsibility of raising children as single parent and/or without the additional support of relatives and society. Helicopter parents are as much concerned about the future success of our children and ability to stay afloat in a cut-throat world.

Yet, we are constant bombarded with parenting practices, suggestive but guilt-tripping us, national laws and policies to adhere to, ‘concerned neighbors’ and ‘social watchers’ quick to condemn our parenting skills, and tell on us to the authorities, because in their view, we are not good parents.

Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope!

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted! Bet you have heard that plenty of times …!

If you have not experienced parenting as yet, I am not trying to dissuade you. But, you heard me! Buckle up! It is going down.

Before I became a parent, I thought parents were such selfish friends, “All they cared for, talked about and had eyes on were their children!” 

Then I became a parent! In my early years as a parent, I scoffed at anyone who said, “I do not want to be a parent.” Or “I did not have parental instincts.”  “Nobody is born with parental instincts,” I thought. But we all try to do the “natural thing”.

Now I am silently terrified for them. Everytime someone tells me, they are joining the “Club of Parents,” I quietly mourn for them, “They are digging their own graves,” so I think. What the hell are they getting themselves into?

It is a hard knock life to be a parent! Definitely tougher for single parents, but not suggesting that two parents living together, and sharing responsibility, have it any easier. It is not a game, yet it is a “hit and miss”. COM on Community Service

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, one which you can never take a break or run away from. Not saying, that nobody takes a break or runs away forever. But I trust runway parents are haunted by the indifference toward their children.

Even parents taking a break, not indefinitely, but for a minute to rejuvenate, recoup or pay attention to one’s other life demands, beat themselves up for “taking time away from their children.”

Little wonder, parents have delegate their job to others, since time immemorial. From the royals taking on slaves and servants to care for their infants, families hiring nannies, as live-ins or 24-hour daycare establishments, or utilizing the help of family and friends as babysitters.

Some of the controversial parenting stories I have heard involved white women in America and white and Afrikaans women in South Africa using black nursing mothers to breastfeed their children because “they did not want their breasts to sag.”

There is a more controversial case of Amanda America Dickson, born of a non-consenting a slave woman to a white planter in Georgia. According to the story, the white planter went against the prevailing racial climate to force a black woman to have a child for him, desperate for a family of his own.

But the biological mother was never allowed ownership of her daughter. She was raised primarily by the white father and his mother [the paternal grandmother], nor mother-daughter bonding, to avoid societal alienation and protect the, “Woman of Color, Daughter of Privilege: Amanda America Dickson, 1849-1893,” according to Kent Leslie named.

Amanda never knew that the woman who lived as a house-slave [put more crudely, called “house-nigger] in her father’s house was in fact her biological mother, until her father and grandmother declined the marriage proposal of her white suitor. They were afraid that a “Black” [literally] family secret would run out of the bag, and ruin their social standing in antebellum Georgia.

I offer these examples to illustrate the complicatedness of parenting, amidst life’s uncertainties, insecurities, under-appreciation, limited resources and social pressures. Yet the toughest job must continue; for many people, on a “Shoe-String of Hope”.

When the resources at your disposal – social, monetary or emotional – are limited, you still have to keep hoping that life will smile on you. A friend told me soon after I became a mother, “Children bring blessings.” Thankfully, I experience that phrase everyday of my life as a parent, doing double shift solo – momma and popsy.

Whenever I am in doubt, whether I will afford a smile, a new pair of shoes, after-school activities, or pick child up from the school bus in time, the stars align brightly for me! There is an excess penny in the bank to pay for Tang-Soo-Do, my neighbor is home to help pick up child till I get back home or child wakes up with a wide smile and big dreams, turning my gray into blue.

Whenever, I self-doubt whether the future will bring appreciation, winning, greatness, excellence, I am take comfort in knowing that I give a lot of myself to embrace the challenge of parenting. No, parenting was not my first calling; in fact, never my calling. Still, I have given a lot of me to ensure that COM has a semblance of normality growing up.

That perhaps, by putting him over and above my interests, I can lessen the potential undesirable effects of being raised by a single mother. Perhaps he will ‘escape’ the pigeon hole into which the world has pre-cast him, from childhood. Perhaps, he will be one step ahead, of his pack, and strive to be the best. The physical visibility of mother’s love, and her presence, will warm him to the beauty, kindness and goodness of life, amidst life’s strife, human suffering, and struggles.

Yet, the gambling continues! As parents, we have no guarantee that all the investment we invest in our children will pay off. Whether they will turn out to be disciplined, committed, self-driven, kind and loving.

Are we parenting too much that, they will not be able to go it alone? Or they will give up on the values and skills we pushed onto them to achieve, in the name of preparing them to be the best and conquer the world?

Are we breeding “adultscents”, stuck in perpetual “waithood”, too afraid of failure, that they will resist taking bold steps of responsibility, in case they turn out like their parents? We have been there; running away from the “mishaps of our parents and older siblings,” ending up right in the same shit-hole. Not to say every does….Obama seems to be doing great…though we cannot deny the vicious cycle that grips plenty of others.  For now, we shall keep battle the best we can….Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope!

Hello October!….Let’s See What You Got!

Dear October,

Can I say, you just sneaked up on me? Maybe Not. But you came with a Big Nasty Bang!

It’s been a long dry September…….Not very dry….Though, the month started off hot hot hot! Though, the heat did not stay around for too long.

Except in our hearts and souls.

September started off with the loss of a loved one. My son’s paternal grandpa (RIP). He should not have gone, I selfishly still say. He ailed so bad, too long, not to pull through; I thought he would make it, and look back on how painful it was…but glad he jumped back into shape! Too young! At some point, I would have to shut away the regrets, and remember the happy times.

But the loss came with a gain. Of a lost love. Well, the kind of “lost one” you cannot easily extricate yourself from, because you are [in]conveniently plugged into each other’s life. Eleven days, unexpectedly, lovingly spent; the longest period of our tri-life! Who would have re-imagined? Thankful! Grateful!

Anyway, it is six days of October so far, and I am still looking for a shinning light at the beginning and end of the tunnel. The first week of October seemed to be a quick slide from Spring into Winter. Temperatures went down, and chilly. Bringing a chill to our lives and hearts. It is pretty dry, more than I expected. Amazingly, the leaves are not falling off as fast as the smiles around here. Slowly turning yellow, read, orange and brown, though not yet too much cover on the ground.

Sobs sobs sobs! We do not sob very often around here, unless, of course, we are seven and below. We have been pretty happy, except at the losses. We have tried to keep the peace around here, with kids running around, yelling and preoccupying us with their wit and creativity. No more! Could it be that the new Fall school term comes with the reality that, we are stuck in school for the longest haul, no more long summers of children, except for a Columbus Day break, Thanksgiving and December/Christmas/Winter Break?

Then came a social relationship shuttered. That relationship you thought was here to stay longest. In fact, you planned your geographical locale based on certain social relations. Alas! Your type is not as valuable as you thought, it is about time to find another home. So much humiliation than can comprehend. Sometimes, even those we pay to render a service do not respect your worth. Sometimes, one needs to cleanse themselves of all the humiliation with wailing and sobbing. I believe in the power of “quiet tears” cleansing the soul

But, one has to return to sanity, and celebrate that which we have available – Life, air, loved ones, legs, stamina and the hope for another day. As long one can still breath, we should remain grateful. We are grateful for the loved ones, for friendships, for our children. That Child of Mine is in good health, working hard, outdoing himself, creating, caring and soothing me, when I cry. [And I had never allowed myself to cry in front of my own son.]

Time to celebrate that I have a marathon to run in about five days, my second this year. Anxiously awaiting that! That I have developed my website, and received exhaustive, outstanding comments from a real professional, in the game. Plus, I have a book chapter on Pan-Africanism to get in before the end of this month.

As the leaves start to Fall, I will fall into an aggressive mood, marketing my passion(s) as my profession(s). Bring these ideas to life, especially these three: running, writing and mobilizing. Time to bring my aggression on. Tough times call for tough people.

When you have to, How Do You Let Go?

I am not very good at letting go. I cling onto memories of things “I lost in the fire“-lost friends, relations and places left behind. I sob, every time I move away from a place,  even after a mere sojourner. I hate to let go. Yes, I even have separation anxiety, close to the beginning of a new school year. I cry at the thought of sending my child back to school. That’s crazy, right?

Biko and Grandpa (RIP)

Biko and Grandpa (RIP)

More confessions…I have been known to cry over relationships..not too many. I know of only two…Oh! Maybe, three.
One was a guy I was engaged to [Yes, once upon a time, I convinced myself that, “I am the marriage type!”]. Our relationship was transcontinental, but we would visit each other a couple of times a year. When I would go to his country, I preferred to stay in a hotel or temporary rental, instead of moving into his family home. He would come stay with me, while I was in-country. Once, I asked him to move back to his place, because I did not want to continue with the relationship. I ended up crying the entire night over my decision, that he caught a cab and came back to me that night.

The second is the man I fell in love with, aka “the only man I ever loved”. Our goodbyes were filled with buckets of tears. I remember crying, holding each other so tight, at the gates of “Cambridge H-Square,” on the morning of our ‘separation,’ as he was leaving town and I was heading for my final exam. Amidst the goodbye and good luck hugs, we cried so hard that we did not wanna let go..

I thought I had no more tears left to cry for guys. But there came a third. The type you cannot easily or willingly extricate from your life, no matter how hard you wish. I remember crying because of what felt like the end of a chapter, ”…leaving me out to the dogs…” A dream jettisoned…! Letting go has never been an easy test for me.

I will spare you recalling the buckets of tears, I have cried, each time I am separating from family and friends, in Uganda, or scattered around the world. The separation kills me, it is not so easy to let go….

But recent events dwarf all those trying moments. I found myself asking, When it is the only option you have, how do you really Let GO? Especially when your life depends on it, how do you let go? How does a family make the hard decision of, letting go of a loved one?

I am talking here about the loss of my son’s Grandpa, this past Sunday, after a long and shabby illness. It ate him up. He suffered through it. It was painful, especially the last five months of his life. A little bit of relief here and there, but most of it was nasty pain!

I was the perpetual optimist, that he would pull through. Perhaps because, I watched him through all the pain and suffering. The times he would literally drag himself to walk, to make a bowl of soup in the kitchen or drive to pick up grandma from The City bus, or drive across the country on family trips. Throughout it all, he kept his humility, and drive to keep going, with bouts of relief, recovery and laughter.

Grandpa delivered on his commitments, whether to family, friends or within social circles.
This one gesture particularly stands out to me, involving a family of a single mom and two girls from the grandparents’ muslim community. The mom left for work early morning before the school bus arrival time, yet the family lived away from the bus line. So, grandpa offered to drive the two girls to the bus stop on school days. Every morning, he left home shortly before seven o’clock, drove twenty minutes to pick them up from their home, to bus stop, and back home another twenty minutes. Again in the afternoon, he drove out twenty minutes, picked the girls from the bus stop and took them home, and drove back home. Even in the brutal, gruesome winter, grandpa woke up, and drove through the snow, up the windy mountain roads where they lived.

On my part, I was always in awe of his humility, sometimes to my discomfort. Particularly this year, he was not in great shape, but still committed to help the single mother and her two girls. Nor was I a stranger to his humility, even though I turned it down sometimes. I noticed that somebody was emptying the trash basket in the bathroom, every week on “Trash Pick-Up Day”. Once I found grandpa emptying my basket, and I asked him to please not worry about it. I knew it came from a good place, but the African in me does not believe in making the elderly ‘wait on’ me. Instead, I, the child should work for them.

And there is more to grandpa’s helping hand that I partook of. When child and I returned to the US after a couple of years abroad, we decided to move in with the grandparents, closer to my job market in NYC [and the North East corridor]. Grandpa drove 850 miles down to Georgia to pick us up, and another 850 miles back to Pennsylvania. Saving us what would have cost an arm and leg, to transport the two of us and all our property on a plane ride.

He did it again, earlier this year, when I ran the Boston Marathon. Grandpa offered to drive me to Boston, though I decided to leave home with child of mine two days in advance, to allow me ample time to pick up my runner’s package and rest before marathon day. Still, he and grandma drove over five hours to Boston to cheer for me on marathon day. They arrived on Sunday night, bless their souls, but grandpa could not join grandma along the marathon route on that cold rainy Marathon day. Instead, he stayed in the hotel room, kept his eyes glued on the TV marathon screening, and waited to catch a glimpse of me. That is the true human spirit.

I think of grandpa, and I think of humility, commitment, dedication and dependability. I think back to all the times I asked him, “How are you doing grandpa?” And he would say, “Same.” Sometimes, I did not want to ask him, because there was nothing new to ask about. Or because I felt useless, asking how he felt when I was not gonna change a thing. At times I self-doubted whether to help or not. Was I undermining his ability and drive to do things on his own? Would I ably fill-in for his close family? He probably shared similar concerns.

Grandpa also had trouble letting go of — carrying large suitcases onto the car roof when preparing for a family road trip, or his daughter’s large laundry bags from the house into her car. He had trouble letting go of driving long distances. Even on our last road trip with him to Maryland, he insisted on driving the entire trip, when I offered to help drive. I was amazed at his mental stamina, driving without much to eat or drink, so he did not have to get up to use the bathroom. By then, his health had deteriorated, with excruciating pain from every part of his body. That would be his last road trip, followed by indefinite hospitalization.

Yet, he soldiered on for the love of his family. He loved his wife and children, so dearly! He even raised more than his biological children. The stories he shared with me, and the stories I heard about him in life and death attest to his true love for people. While quite reserved, he was a “Man-of-the-People”. He loved to engage with and reach out to people. Whether as a part of the “militant community patrol,” that cleaned drugs and pimps off his Brooklyn neighborhood, back when the NYPD would not venture into some neighborhoods. Or Summer Camp organizer (with grandma) for young muslim kids when they lived in NYC.

While I do not want to romanticize grandpa’s life, as I knew it, I hope to underscore that, we each live multiple lives in our lifetime. Given a chance, we would do ourselves a favor to right the wrongs, that are always part of our human experience. For most of what I knew about grandpa, he turned a new leaf, or leaves in his life. He credited his conversion to Islam for rescuing him from street life. As one of his friends said at the funeral, he was in praise of Islam for transforming his life.

I am grateful grandpa saw the good in me. I told him, “I am grateful that you always say good about me.” Whenever I met his social circles, I did not have to introduce myself because he had already done the introduction of me as a runner, highly educated, excellent mom and healthy eater. In a way, he was my cheerleader. He cheered on child of mine, or as he called him, Biko-man!

But time came, when grandpa could not hang onto his strength, when life was draining out of him, and the family had to take the toughest decision to “Let Go…”
I felt like a denialist. I thought he would pull through. He suffered too much not to live to celebrate beating the illness. I watched the surge and slumps in his health. When he could not sit and eat, and when a smile returned to his face. He tried scientific and religious medicines. He tried homeopathy, and chiropractic treatment. He tried staying positive, looking forward to returning home, and eating my health food. He asked me to cook for him. I obliged a couple of times; Not anymore…

So, the lesson for me, from this experience is, even when we have to Let Go, we do not entirely lose out. We keep fond memories, always close to our hearts. Because those memories never fade. So, may we always see the good in people, and hang on to the beauty they possess. Because even when we have to LET GO, we can still keep them close to us, in our memory.

The Joys and Pangs of Being a Single Parent and Black…..

Time and again, reality check strikes me that I am Black and a single parent, in a sea of Whites and Marrieds. I have felt both the joys, and pangs of being Black or a single parent, even when I am the ‘token’ in the group. It happens where I reside, in my travels, social engagements and networks, and at community events.

Not that I am blaming anybody for my “black-single parent status”; it is the story of my life! Particularly now that I am a parent of a child – a single parent. That reality set in during the recent Child of Mine (COM)’s Cub Scout Pack #85 2015 Annual Weekend Camping at Knoebels Amusement Resort and Campground in Elysburg, PA.

I love social living, I love involving my child in social activities, taking him places and engaging him in educational experiences. Joining the Cub Scout was my way of introducing him to civic responsibility and good citizenship at a young age. Moreover, as a woman and a single parent, I cannot give him all the lessons on “Becoming a Man”; so I need the help that the Boy Scouts of America can provide him. Plus, as the only child, he benefits greatly from broadening his social networks, meeting new friends and interacting with little boys his age. Plus, mommy gets a break from being the “sole playmate”.

In most cases, I do not let “being the only black family or single parent” keep us away from partaking of the many fun activities Pack#85 organizes. I take him to as many activities that his Cub Scout Pack organizes, hiking, Day Camp, baseball games, Veterans Day and Flag Day celebrations, and most recently, the annual Pack Weekend Camping Trip. I am very aware of my single parenthood at most of his Pack events, where I am visibly the only single parent. Most non-custodial parents of other cubs show up to Pack meetings, and not many single parents participate in Pack outings. At least at Pack meetings, I do not stand out alone because there are usually two or three Black families in addition to us.

This past weekend Camping at Knoebels was an “In Your Face, You’re Black Moment”. Walking through campsites to the bathroom, that strange feeling of “Blackness in a sea of Whiteness” engulfed me. I wondered whether anybody was looking over their shoulder seeing me going through their campsite. While I love to wear my hood sometimes, I could not risk being mistaken for a “dangerous trespasser” and getting shot at in “self-defense”. The simple things others may take for granted, I was self-aware and highly cautious.

Because I barely saw any full Black families on campground. The ones I saw had white spouses and mixed race children. In a sea of whiteness I wondered, where are all the Black people that love to do “white people stuff” – Don’t say you have not heard that saying before, that “Black people don’t hike, don’t camp, don’t do crazy adventures.” I wondered, is it really true? I bet there were some Black families, but there are over 500 campsites, and I was only exposed to a small section.

In my camping group, I was the only single parent among seven other families, in addition to being the only black family I saw on ground. Don’t get me wrong, I have my joys of being a single parent – that I can make decisions without the encumbrance of a disagreeing non-supportive other parent, in my case. But there are also pangs of single parenting, especially the absence of an extra helpful hand, a male figure for this male COM, or a companion for myself. I am always making these lonesome trips and activities with COM.

The pangs of single parenthood struck me for a minute over Scout Camping Weekend, among couples and their children. While I was solely responsible for COM – preparing him meals, making the bed, taking him to shower and bathroom and taking him onto weekend entertainment, none of the other parents! I watched with longing the unspoken/automated division of responsibilities between husband and wife or father and mother, as well as the children.

Time for dinner or breakfast, the women/wives/mothers in our group dived into the kitchen, prepared pancakes, eggs, sausage, toast, and all for their families/husbands/fathers of their children. Time to erect or put down tents, the men, unquestioningly took on their responsibilities like pros, ensuring everyone had a place to sleep. Yours truly benefited from the Camp organizers’ teenage son, a Boy Scout, who offered to erect and bring down our tent. Fathers and sons also worked together to carry the heavy stuff and stepped up as men should.

Note to self: Don’t believe the “equality hype” western white feminists preached, that men and women in marital relations equally share family and household chores. Equality is not Sameness. True, fathers and husbands have stepped up from the days when they did not babysit. However, the gendered division of labor still exists, even here in America, my America.

Men are still the predominant breadwinners, and women nurture the children and take care of the household [expectedly]. Husbands do the heavy lifting, repairs and chores around the house, women produce the food out of the kitchen, feed the children, put them to sleep, prepare them for school, attend PTO meetings and chauffeur them from school to after-school programs.

Before you start claiming such couples are ’traditionalist in their marital relations’, without [advanced] formal education, plenty of the women I know, as mothers and wives, have graduate degrees. They simply quit working away from their homes, or quit paid work all together to focus on running their families and homes. Such decisions are as much a luxury, as they are a sacrifice, for the best interests of their children. After all, employers are not making it so attractive for mothers to stay at work and ably raise their young children, without offering great benefits packages for maternity leave, vacation, personal days off, child care or health insurance packages.

The kind of security and harmonious relationship I watch among Cub Scout couples gives me a kind of nostalgia for finding a good committed relationship for myself, which may not necessarily lead to marriage. I am not saying this kind of harmonious, secure relationship is only found among white couples; I am simply citing the white couples who predominate my Cub Scout’s Pack. It feels good to see couples providing unconditional and unsolicited support to each other, in the traditional way. In such moments, it is hard being the strong Black woman and single parents I have to be each day. I just wish to be loved and pampered. But the work continues!

Motherhood: This Holy Sweet Grail…

Oh! Motherhood!Mommy and cub

A Happy Belated Mother’s Day 2015, everyone!

At least if you claim to be a mother. And to all the baby mommas, momma-daddies, daddy-mommas, grandmas, surrogates, birth mommas, godmothers, and everyone else who shares motherhood! Proud of you!

I had a superfood Mother’s Day!

Child and I started out with a light breakfast. Too light, I cannot exactly remember what we had. I know there was a cereal, somewhere. For breakfast, I probably served eggs and waffle,  maybe? I had tea, most definitely, as a routine!

Yes my friends, I was asked to produce breakfast on Mother’s Day, by ‘the powers that be’!

“Mommy, I have been waiting for breakfast a longtime!”

Excuse Child of Mine (CoM) for not getting the memo, that mothers are “Off Duty” on Mother’s Day. I let him know my expectations for next year; who will assume the traditional role of preparing breakfast for the other on the same. After all, CoM will be a year older and wiser? Uhm, so the world thinks 😉

After breakfast, made and served by my skillful hands, we hangout for a while. Then headed out for our “special Family Day-out”, of playing with pottery and painting at Poke-A-Nose. It was a reserved splash, “Mommy & Me pottery” with Teas and Pastries. But don’t believe the hype about the “Teas & Pastries”! The ‘Colony’ was not left with any “High Tea” or “royal pastries”! So, they ‘faked’ up own version of “Ice Tea and cookies”. Who serves ice tea for pretty occasions, I wondered!

Still, mission accomplished! Then on to lunch at our fav place, of legged, shelled and crabbed things, slithered down the throat with apples and vanilla cream. Memories are what they are made of! I must say, though, that plate was not worth the $$ drained out of my kitty😭😭. Thankfully, CoM’s $5 win from the Earth Day Kids Dash, chipped in for the dessert, and wiped away a few 😭😭! 😀

Still, something about celebrating that golden day -Mother’s Day, sores my heart, each time. On Mother’s Day, I felt as joyous, as I felt sadness. I love the works of my brain and hand, particularly CoM. Yet, I felt a moment of sorrow and loneliness.

Perhaps it is having to repeatedly do things, all by myself and for myself? Perhaps having to be the Center of Attention for CoM? Perhaps it’s the exhaustion from thinking about the responsibilities of parenting? Wondering if you are making the right decisions, right choices, or providing the right guidance? Afraid of whatever details you might be leaving out, for his proper growth? Guilty of not being able to provide as well as you should? Guilty of your life circumstances? Half-full glass?

But then, when he just kisses and hugs me, and says, “I Love You Mommy. You’re the best mommy in the entire galaxy.” I can’t help, but feel overwhelmed with joy, holding back my tears, for that feeling of a job well done!

The start of the week post-Mother’s Day, life was not going trés good, and the week did not start well either. Painful reality of uncertainty about the immediate and future life, physical, emotional and mental displacement, and insecurities, all pilled on me as the day wound down. Not knowing what tomorrow is gonna bring, and how big, good and fast, tomorrow will bring our way.

Thinking about the life we never had. The life we had, the life we have now, and the life we wish to have, becomes overwhelming for me. More so, as a mother raising a child on her own, and striving for the best for her child. Moments can steal all the passion, commitment, courage and determination to succeed, to do the best, and stay on task.

There are trying moments, gut-wrenching, with plenty of self doubt. But they also arouse the most self-reflection, and energetic recollection of oneself. A reminder that, I have been there, done that, and came out strong. A reminder that, I can still dust myself up and try again. A reminder that life never completely gives up on anyone.

For now, I am going to keep working on being the best mother. I am gonna work on celebrating each Mother’s Day with Child. Making motherhood one of the best jobs I have done. I want to enjoy every bit of this journey, while hoping the best to come out.

I will remind myself that, life is not always about bliss. There are low moments, followed by tides. There are moments of joy and moments of cold. As the week progressed, I felt much better…not great…but better. Perhaps that is a score in itself. What remains true is the love I have for CoM, and the joy of the Holy Sweet GrailMotherhood!