Life is Not All About Work…..

Suddenly, a wave of sadness engulfed me….for a moment, as I sat down in the Library with Child of Mine [who by now you know I refer to simply as, COM], pondering over “The Absurdity of my Life”. Well, perhaps it is not all absurd, thus the quotations. I have COM to keep me moving, thinking, believing, and brightening up my days. I have no more tears; they dried out since taking on COM. Now I cry dead tears, mourn internally, all the while, wearing a smile around him. How can I allow him to see me break down? I need to keep his hopes up. OR so, I tell myself.

Ok, I take that back; in fact I have tears, but not for my absurdity. I cry about anything related to him. For instance, I cry when I think of him returning to school, I cry when I put him on the bus on the first day of school, and on some mornings. Sometimes I cry when I wake up before him, and have to leave him to go out for a run. I cry, at the thought of him growing up and going off to college. I cry thinking about whether I am a good mother to him, and if I will raise him to be an astute guy.

Today was one of those days. The heatwave got to us, bringing a rush of responses in my head, in case one asked about me. “Well, my life isn’t worth sharing. The absurdity does not make sense. Yes, I have this and that experience.…plenty to talk about. I have a recollection of plenty of exciting words, with thoughts, energies…powerful additions to life, society and to the human experience. But it is also in a web, a sea of complicatedness. I will spare you the details, but I imagined myself responding to anyone who cared to ask about me.

Then I remembered the words a corporate mogul on a TV show I watched, “Life is Not all About Work”. Totally stolen from my thoughts!

By work, he meant, the hustle and bustle, the paper-chase, growing corporate bodies, stocks, and financial superstardom.

Life is also about the paying deeper attention to our relationships, smelling a rose, listening to “the dull and ignorant,” and taking inspiration from other people’s miseries.

Life is Not All About Work reaffirms to me that, perhaps I am doing the right thing, spending plenty of time with COM, chaperoning him to Day Camp and Overnight Weekend Camping, entertaining his young buddies and relatives with, impromptu “picnic at the park”, summer birthdays in the park, swimming at the pool, or offering myself to babysit and take care not just COM but the same number of children like my mother had. Either because their parents are not available, need an extra hand, or they are dealing with ill loved ones.  FotorCreated SUmmer 2015

In all these challenges, engagements and sacrifices, I draw plenty of lessons, and comfort in a seemingly bleak tomorrow. I am also re-learning to rely on my biggest assets, my strengths, stamina, optimism, creativity, social upbringing, mental forage, hunger for learning, reading and sharing, intellectualism, networking skills, love for the outdoors, adventure and the sprit of giving.

I take time to recall plenty of lessons my mother instilled in me, directly or by default. Among which are:

  • Better to keep your mouth shut. No one will blame you for thoughts unsaid.

– Those obsessed with respect, overwhelm them.

– One without shame is a fool. [She attributed this to my grandmother]

– In another person’s house, your choice is to slave. 

Obviously, there are better English phrases/proverbs with similar meaning to mine above. However, I prefer to present mine in a literal interpretation of my mother’s words. For instance the last one could be rephrased as, “A beggar has no choice” or “Silence is Golden” or “Respect Thy Master”…She is a great inspiration to what I do, what I pay attention to and my commitments.

I am grateful that I am spending time with my son, and providing him plenty of opportunities beyond what money can facilitate. As the summer draws to a close, I reflect to all the accomplishments we have made together or with family and friends. With a very humble budget, but a big heart and strong drive. At the start of his First Grade year, one of his “Resolutions” from a class exercise read, “I wish to go on vacation this year.” I am grateful that I was able to make that happen for him.

On his last day of school, I got him off the bus and onto the bus to New York City, and train to Legoland Discovery Center. We spent our first weekend in New York State, between Westchester County and Brooklyn, NYC. Phenomenon experience, plenty of excitement in one weekend!

At Legoland, we built bridges and apartment blocks, built and raced cars, flew on a jet. He spent plenty of time in a bouncy house, while I spent some “Me” time reading and fb’king. We spent quality time hopping from
store to store, including playing with electronics, in ‘his favorite store of all time,’ the Apple Store, while I charged my phone.

The weekend came to an end with a trip to visit cousins in Brooklyn, went to Brooklyn Bridge, Park, walked on top of rocks, eat free food, and enjoyed a free Skloosh. Moreover, COM had a chance of going on a whirlwind through NYC subway, from Port Authority to Time Square to Penn Station. He quickly learned that, “NYkers are not friendly to others. They do not say hello.” COM is smart!

Out of New York, went off to Palmyra, PA, Lancaster County, to visit my family, since my mom was visiting us here from down south (Georgia).  Exciting, quality and fun family time: Hershey Chocolate World and Harrisburg, PA State Capitol, and ran through the corn fields of Lancaster County. Back to the Poconos, and before long, another road trip to Accokeek, MD, on July 4th Weekend, for a cousin’s birthday. I, got to ‘sneak away’ to meet old friends in Wash/DC.


While it has been a period of pre-longed sickness in the family, it became an opportunity to shine through, unexpectedly. I have stepped up to support the family, torn apart, depressed and absorbed in caring for the sick. Turning lemons into lemonades, by practicing my momma adorned skills of patience, humanity and caring for others. Kids have especially been central to my heart and hands, as well as the entire household.

Impromptu picnic in the park, just because we had salad, watermelon, pitta bread to make pizza. Watched the kids play in the park, and made sure they funNED out together, as cousins get to do all summer long at grandma’s house. More fun picnic in the yard, swimming at the pool, playing board games, putting on “The Big Game”, painting girls’ nails and playing games boy play, Hello  Wii U!

Summer bebe means summer birthdays in the park, our an annual fete, with plenty of friends and family. The Ninja within us came out! And if you are a wonderful, sociable, kind and humble child like mine, you get more birthday party invites, with free pass into Crayola Factory! More adventures, more friends, and more exciting moments.

In other news, Scouting just got more fun, with a week-long Day Camp at Camp Minsi, where we got to try out new stuff for the first time: archery, slingshot, building pirate’s treasure chest and telescope, playing cannon balls with marbles, sail-a-ho, making square knot, treasure hunting and fishing, and swimming in the lake (COM has swam in pools, oceans and seas before).

Oh yeah! Even got a chance to “raise the colors” (National Flag); how cool is that! Then weekend overnight camping at Knoebels Camping Ground, with Saturday spent jumping on and off rides at Knoebels Amusement Resort, with new-found friends.

We participated in the Summer Reading Program at our local youth library, and read our way to the “Wall of Fame”, scooped plenty of badges and gifts for 1,000+ reading minutes. Very little of ‘Paws n Pages’, since one of the lovely therapy dogs COM reads to got put down [shhh], and another underwent an operation that puts him out for recovery for a while.

In athletics, we added a new sport, Soccer, and successfully completed the YMCA Summer Soccer Camp with friends and new friends. Learning never stops! And Yes! We are now blue belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, going onto Red stripe, and before long, We will be Red belt. What a year!

No, we are not financially wealthy; we are simply committed to engaging, achieving and growing. Hopefully, COM will continue with some or all of these activities for many more years into the future. Hopefully, it will influence his commitments in life, and future life trajectory.

Throughout these experiences, I am learning and recalling many lessons, and gaining more appreciation for Small is Beautiful!

Never Say Never, also continuously reverberates in my ears, especially now that I am a mother. Eight years ago, I would never have imagined myself hanging out, or letting COM hang with gun-wielding folks.

But Time is Of The Essence! I attribute this kind of growth to becoming a mother. Though, thanks in part to Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, where I learned about the “Role of Force [in International Relations]”.

Whereas I still do not subscribe to the notion that force justifies the use guns, at Fletcher I gained a renewed familiarity with those who take to guns to resolve disagreements. I still do not understand why, a five-year old kid gets a BB gun as a birthday gift from the parents.

Still, I am no longer locking myself away from opposites, nor jettisoning those friendship away from COM, as long as it is clearly understand, “We do not entertain guns as toys or seek to gain expertise in shooting with a gun. Archery or Sling Shots, we shall try. Fotorcollage Summer 20152

Most importantly, I am learning to appreciate every slow-down in professional advancement as opportunities for grow in other areas, such as health, fitness and wellness. I wake up very early in the morning to work-out and keep myself in good mental and physical health. No wonder, my child thinks I am a “runner by profession”.

My runs are my avenues for releasing unwanted toxins, creating new ideas and running away from sadness. On one of my morning runs, a thought came to my mind, Never think of your challenges or life choices as a failure, but life’s lessons and trajectories. Otherwise, you will spend your life, comparing yourself to others, and growing bitterness. You will also lose sight of the important achievements and milestones you make, when making hard choices and while making life adjustments.

Advertisements

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!