Posted in C-Haze, Children, Memories, Nostalgia, Religion

Tribute to My Dad

I originally wrote this in honor of my dad, back in 2008. Today, I’m reposting. Enjoy!

It’s Father’s Day, so of course I have to talk about my daddy.

How the heck can I describe him and where in the world should I start?

My father is one of my only true heroes. He is amazing, and I’m not just saying that cuz he’s my dad.

He’s a great man for putting up with all my crap over the years… and he’s a great man for never giving up on me, for always believing in my greatness- even when that was the last thing I could see in myself.

My dad is the guy when I’m at my worst, suffering the consequences of all the riduculous decisions I’ve made, who can still look me in the eye and tell me he’s proud of me.

He means it too.

Growing up, my father pushed me to excel no matter what… he was tough. If I got a B on a test in school, a typical reaction from him would be, “That’s not bad… but why wasn’t it an A?” He taught me that regardless of the situation, no matter the circumstances, if I did not give it my all, it simply wasn’t good enough.

If I wanted to watch TV, it was my father that would restrict various shows, saying, “There is no socially redeeming value in that…”

I would get so mad… but it’s a phrase I use to this day, when restricting my own kids’ access to the television.

He led by example, and I watched my father work hard at everything he’s ever done- be it as the VP of Finance for a healthcare company, or as a student in Seminary, or as the passionate leader of a congregation of hundreds, and most importantly, as my father.

He’s the one who took me horseback riding every Saturday morning growing up. He’s the one, when I was terrified to try my first jump on that stupid horse Rascal, who hopped on an even crazier horse, and took an even bigger jump- just to show me it was ok.

My father is the one who taught me to love thunderstorms… when a big one would come at night, he’d open the blinds in my room, and say, “Look! It’s a light-light-light show!”… another trick I have used with my own daughters.

He’s the one who read me bedtime stories every night, and still to this day buys me a book every year for Christmas. He taught me to love reading and learning, and all these years later, I still do.

When I couldn’t sleep at night, my dad was the one who would come in my room and make up silly songs to sing to me. I had a stuffed pink poodle that when wound up would play Brahms Lullabye… I think I was almost 20 years old before I realized that the lyrics to that song are NOT, “Lullabye, eat a pie, so your dreams will come true…”

When I was in piano competitions, and the judges would say something to the effect of, “What a beautiful job she did playing that Mozart… but her left pinky looked a little weak”, my dad was the one who nearly strangled them for saying such a thing about his baby girl.

When I got older, and it was time to start looking at colleges, my dad was the one who went through the entire process with me. He spent countless weekends on the road with me, visiting schools all over the place, taking tours of campuses both large and small, pouring over countless pamphlets and welcome packets.

When I had narrowed down the list, and decided which music schools I was going to audition for admittance to, he was the one who went with me. He was the one who- often literally- wiped the sweat from my brow when it was time to face the music board at Oberlin, and Heidelberg… he was the one who celebrated with me when I was accepted at various schools… and he was the one who wanted to have the entire music departments fired at the ones I didn’t get into.

He was the one holding my hand when the verdict- “guilty”- came in during my rape trial.

He took me to see “Hello Dolly” with the original Carol Channing as Dolly… and he took me to see “Phantom of the Opera”… I am, to this day, a musical nut.

I inherited my love of steak from my dad… and I inherited my strong sense of justice, and fighting for those less fortunate from him. My dad is the strongest man I know, but he is a man of quiet strength. He gets his points across lovingly and compassionately… often with a touch of humor, but I have never known him to strongarm or bully a single human being.

My Dad has the voice of God… a deep, booming voice… he commands attention, and makes people want to hear what he has to say.

To me, Daddy, you are the greatest and I love you dearly.

 

Posted in C-Haze, Current Events, Michael Jackson, Music, News, Nostalgia, Off The Wall, The Whiz, Thriller

Michael Jackson, Peter Pan and Never-Ever Land

I was planning to talk about other things today, but those plans were waylaid by the untimely death of Michael Jackson. 

I haven’t known what to say with regards to his passing, or perhaps I’ve had too many words… regardless, I couldn’t put it all down on paper until now.

Like millions of people worldwide, I loved Michael Jackson. Perhaps I took him for granted, as being born in the late ’70s, I literally grew up listening to his music.

From “The Whiz” to his albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller”… to his sappy “We Are The World” to his ridiculous mini-flick at Disney World… and all things in between, not to mention what came before my time (when he was part of the Jackson 5), and everything he’s produced since…. I have loved this man.

I remember watching the “Thriller” music video for the first time on Mtv. I had to be sneaky about it, as my mother had a strict “No Mtv” rule.

I was a mere 6 years old when I peeped it, and had nightmares for months thereafter.

I won’t pretend to have understood him.

Perhaps that was part of the attraction to all that is was The King of Pop.

He was, if nothing else, an enigma… a complete mystery.

His personal life, of course, has been in absolute shambles for years.

He was weird, he was eccentric, he was isolated… but perhaps most importantly- maybe even the key to all his strange idiosyncrasies-was his perpetual adolescence.

I read an article recently at Time.comabout Jackson’s life. The author discusses the well-known Jackson comparisons to Peter Pan- from his intangible unwillingness (inability?) to grow up to his very tangible Neverland Ranch. He makes a very powerful statement regarding the fact that maybe we were all wrong- maybe Michael himself got it wrong…

… He was no Peter Pan.

Jackson more appropriately fits the mold of one of the Lost Boys.

For a man who gave so much- both on stage and off- he never found whatever it is he was looking for in return.

Michael Jackson- predictably- fell tragically victim to a stereotypical world of drugs and excess… certainly nothing new in the world of superstars. However, with the sole exception of his prescription drug addiction, Jackson never fit the mold. Throughout his entire life, in spite of all his unorthodox behaviors and his non-traditional lifestyle, Jackson maintained an almost unheard of innocence. Still, at the age of 50, he remained absolutely childlike in his aura… there was an air of innocence around him that never diminished. Not with age, not with complete super stardom, not with lawsuits or criminal charges. He never hardened… and perhaps even became more fragile, as time ceased being his friend.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of his entire life, even worse than charges of pedophilia, was Jackson’s self-hatred. Like a pre-teen in emotional pain, a child who cuts themself to release some sort of inner anguish, Jackson was faithful to his own self-mutilation tactics. He wasn’t a cutter, but managed to accomplish far worse in his absolute obsession with plastic surgery.

Some believe he was obsessed with becoming white.

I disagree.

I think he was obsessed with pain… I think he hated himself so thoroughly that he wanted the world to see the disfigured freak of a man he viewed himself to be.

And yet we still loved him, even as we shook our heads in disappointment at the fact that he no longer even had a nose to speak of.

The true source of Michael Jackson’s self-hatred will likely remain a mystery forever.

Was he irreparably scarred by the alleged abuse he suffered at the hands of his father?

The pressures of the industry?

A grueling public’s constant scrutiny?

Mental illness?

When I think of his personal life, his love for children- boys, especially- I do not think of a predator.

Rather, I think of the movie “Big“, starring Tom Hanks.

The premise of the movie centers around a boy- a pre-teen- who, tired of being short and puny, constantly picked on for his size, makes a wish at a carnival to simply be “big”. When he awakens the next morning, he’s big… as in an adult. The movie centers around an adolescent boy who is stuck in a man’s body- in an adult world. I remember the scene in which he meets a woman, and takes her back to his newly rented apartment- an apartment he’d filled with bunk beds, games and toys. The woman, of course, is expecting a romantic encounter… but Tom Hanks has other ideas. After a night of playing innocent child games and jumping on the bed, they fall asleep- with him on the top bunk, her on the bottom.

That, to me, is was Michael Jackson.

An adolescent stuck in a man’s body… thrown into an adult world while just a baby.

His behavior with boys was inappropriate for sure.

I do not believe, however, he preyed on them sexually, nor do I believe he ever meant to harm a single soul. To Michael, these were his intellectual equals. They were the age he was when he stopped growing, stopped maturing. When considering his small stature, his high-pitched voice and his never-altered childlike innocence, one begins to understand the Peter Pan analogies.

He never grew up.

To Michael Jackson:

You will be missed. We love you, and hope you can finally find the peace you so desperately craved.

Posted in C-Haze, Children, Memories, Music, Nostalgia, Single Mom

Childhood Memories, Nostalgia and The Last Unicorn

I love a good reminder of my childhood.

Last night, while in Wal-Mart with my black-women-In-training, I happened across the $9 movie rack.

Now you know as well as I do that this rack typically consists of nothing that anyone really wants to watch… thus the reason the movies only cost $9.

Last night was different.

I saw 2 movies that I simply had to buy.

Not for their amazing cinematography, but because they were favorites of mine as a kid.

The first being “Labyrinth” and the second, my favorite of all favorites… “The Last Unicorn”.

We watched “Labyrinth” as soon as we got home… and let me just say… it’s horrible.

Seriously- is that David Bowie??

I never made that connection for some reason…

My kids loved it… but for me, even accounting for all the warm-fuzzy feelings of nostalgia it produced, I could barely sit through it.

Horrible.

I waited until today to watch “The Last Unicorn”… mostly because I was scared it would be as awful as “Labyrinth” was, and for the sake of my childhood memories, I just wasn’t sure I could take it if that happened.

It’s animated, but Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges and Angela Lansbury are the voices of the characters.

It’s about a lone unicorn who learns that she is the last one left… or is she?

She goes about trying to find all the other unicorns… and has a lot of adventures along the way.

This movie captivated me as a child.

I’d watch it over and over again… the backdrops, the music, the voices of the characters… I truly could not get enough of it.

I happily learned, after finally seeing it again, it has lost none of its magic.

Not a single drop.

Anything I enjoy watching at 30 as much as I enjoyed watching at 6 has to be a classic!.

I found a short clip of it on youtube.

I hope it takes you on a walk down memory lane as well.

Posted in C-Haze, Children, Dating, Economy, Marriage, Memories, Nostalgia, Relationships, Single Mom

The Diva, The School Paper and Her Hero

My oldest daughter, The Diva, has been chosen “Student of the Week” at school.

She got her picture taken, and was interviewed for the school paper.

The picture, of course, was flawless- no diva would be caught dead with their pic in the school paper unless it was absolute perfection.

The interview was great-

Favorite Movie? “Short Circuit” (Ha, ha, ha- Go Diva!)

Favorite Book? “Where the Red Fern Grows” (We’re reading it together at night, one chapter at a time)

I know- pretty typical stuff.

It gets better though:

Her Hero of all heroes? “My mom. She’s had a hard time, but you can’t tell because she’s always laughing. She taught me to stand up for what I believe in, no matter what“.

I cried.

She really does understand.

My Diva gets it.

Finally- Disney Dad isn’t her hero anymore. The guy who shows up when it’s time to do fun stuff, but is nowhere to be found when shoes are needed, doctors need to be visited, daycare needs to be paid.

He used to be her hero.

Last year, she did a school project, and she had to tell the class all about who her hero was, and why.

She chose her father.

She knew when he showed up to get her for his visitation, they’d do something fun. They’d eat pizza somewhere, maybe go camping at the lake for the weekend… or to Six Flags… it was always something.

The Diva was disappointed in me.

I couldn’t take her camping or out to eat.

Amusement Parks were out of the question.

We would go to the park, or a museum- or some other place that was free.

She didn’t understand that her father owed me tons of money from before, or that he wasn’t fulfilling his financial responsibilities to her or her sister.

She didn’t know why we had gotten divorced to begin with- or that he had hurt me physically… she didn’t know about the criminal charges he faced, as a result of his violence against me.

I couldn’t tell her… I hated that he was her hero, but I wasn’t going to take it away from her…

… Though it almost killed me not to.

To her, Daddy was all about having fun.

She didn’t realize that things like paying for school lunches, field trips, and renting her viola for the school orchestra were beneath him.

I kept my mouth shut… I practiced a curious version of honesty with her… when she asked me a question about her father, I would answer her… putting none of my personal opinions into the answer, simply answering the question she asked… never elaborating.

“Mom, isn’t Dad supposed to be helping take care of us?”

“Yes”

She’d wait for me to elaborate… learning over time that I never would.

She’s older now.

She doesn’t need to ask me as many questions… she sees it all with her own two eyes.

It has dawned on her, slowly over the last year or so, that our roles in her life- her father’s and mine- are very lopsided.

One parent is sure to have fun with her… but is just as sure to tell her to talk to her mother when it’s time to stop having fun and get serious… somehow he knows when to vanish.

He knows how to make promises to her, only to break them when his girlfriend, or one of her sons needs something instead.

He knows how to take her places, pay money for her to have fun… but he’s just as adept at making commitments, swearing to take care of this or that… only to disappoint and never follow through.

Her father also knows how to utilize her as a babysitter, as her little sister’s mother… using her “maturity” at the ripe old age of 10 as an excuse to leave her home alone at night while he pursues his social life, attending concerts, going to bars.

When my daughter is scared, alone in the night, and tries to call him, he doesn’t answer.

The other parent, her mother, doesn’t have the means to go to the movies and out to eat and to the store to get new stuff very often.

But when the viola for orchestra needs to be rented, or shoes need to be bought, or a field trip needs to be paid for… if a trip to the doctor is necessary…

The Diva knows who will take care of it.

She knows I don’t have a lot of materialistic things to offer her… but she knows my word is good… I won’t break my promises to her… and I will never allow anyone else- certainly not a romantic interest- to so much as create the allusion that they are more important to me than my babies are.

She knows that I am the Mommy- I will take care of her, and I will take care of her sister- The Diva understands that when she is with me, I am the one who will be responsible for what does and does not occur.

Life with The Diva isn’t all roses… she certainly has her moments when I’m not her favorite person… like when she wants to spend the night at a friend’s house on a school night… or when I make her practice her spelling words… writing the words she doesn’t know three times each, until she learns them. She hates that I won’t let her have a myspace page…

She used to argue, when I would tell her no, that if she was with her dad, he wouldn’t care if she did it.

Over time, the realization has begun to sink in… it’s not that her dad doesn’t care if she does the things she wants to… It’s that he simply doesn’t care…

Period.

She gives me a run for my money too, sometimes.

Like when she saunters nonchalantly into my room, acting as if she wants to talk about the weather, but instead asks me about sex, STDs and birth control.

We all have our moments… and this one, like all the others, may not be lasting…

… But today, for right now, I am her hero.

Posted in C-Haze, Children, Funny, Humor, Nostalgia, Single Mom

Floods, Shop-Vacs and Maintenance Men

Sometimes I do completely ridiculous things… you know, the kinds of things that would embarrass a normal person… and as a result am served with a reminder that I am not nearly so brilliant as I like to think I am.

Life in my little apartment tends to run on the hectic side, especially when my beautiful black-women-in-training are home with me… and that fact is the only excuse I can find for this particular incident.

I had decided one evening that we would be having something for dinner than consists of ground beef.

I keep my meat in the freezer, but hate using the microwave to defrost it, as my microwave sucks- when I attempt to defrost meat in there, even being careful to use the appropriate defrost settings, the result is usually that half the meat gets cooked completely, while the other half remains frozen.

So I have instead taken to filling the kitchen sink with water, and putting the meat in there. I have found it defrosts nicely- quickly and evenly- that way.

This particular evening, I guess I was in a hurry, as I decided to fill my sink with piping hot water to submerge the ground beef… I can only surmise I must have been rushed, needing it to defrost extra-quickly.

Once I turned the sink on, I have no idea what the heck happened.

Did I get sidetracked? It’s possible.

Regardless, for some reason, after turning the water on, I simply walked away- I have absolutely no idea how long I was gone- only that at some point, as I was sitting in the living room, I realized that it was awfully muggy in my apartment…

… Suddenlyr realizing… “Shit. I left the water running in the sink!”

Running to the kitchen I find that yes, indeed, I had left the water running… and had managed to flood out my entire kitchen.

Water was overflowing out of my sink, had completely flooded my countertops, and was making a powerful waterfall down onto the floor…

… Which to my horror, was currently holding every bit of 3 inches of water.

At this point I should tell you that my entire apartment is about 12 square feet… and truly, if I’m exaggerating, it isn’t by much. How I was able to sit in my living room for several minutes without hearing the water running is beyond me.

Initially, seeing the mess I had made, I was paralyzed… in shock… and must have just stood there, in the doorway, mouth agape for several minutes.

It wasn’t until I felt water creeping under the carpet, beginning to soak my bare feet as I stood there that I actually began to move.

I immediately sprang to action and ran into the kitchen…

… Which probably wasn’t the best of ideas… remember my bare feet?

The water, of course, was scalding hot, and I burned myself. I was standing in the middle of the kitchen doing a strange burnt-feet dance, hopping up and down, “Ow! Shit! Ow! Shit!”

Finally, dazed with the pain of my burning soles, I was able to reach across the room and turn off the water.

My next stupid decision came when I decided, obviously without thinking it through, that I should unplug the sink, and let the water begin to drain.

Not really a good idea when the water that’s in there is boiling hot.

I believe I suffered third degree burns on my arm from reaching deep into the sink and pulling that pesky plug thing out, allowing the water to drain.

With this task complete, I half-hopped, half-danced back out of the room to survey the damage.

How the hell do you sop up 3 inches of water when you only own maybe 5 towels?

Simply put, you don’t.

I know this because I tried. I threw every single towel in the entire house onto the floor, and watched helplessly as none of them made a single bit of difference.

Now what am I going to do?

Around this time my 10 year old diva saunters into the room.

“What happened?”

I am ashamed to say, the only response I could muster was a panicked, “Shit!”

Unphased, The Diva asks again, “What happened?”

To which I again exclaim, “Shit!”

She tried very hard to keep from outright laughing in my face… but watching her struggle not to… kind of woke me up.

I called my friend ‘T’ on her cell phone, who both lives and works at my apartment complex.

I explained, completely over-wrought, what had happened, and asked her what I should do.

She initially suggested towels… but quickly shot that idea down after I explained that there really weren’t enough towels in the world to clean this mess up.

‘T’ decided this was a job for Maintenance.

Oh great.

I have to let some stranger into my house, so that he can not only know what a complete idiot I am, but see the evidence with his own two eyes?

Figures.

This is my life.

I hung up the phone, and dutifully waited for maintenance to arrive…

While waiting, my ever-so-helpful Diva proclaimed that she’s hungry… I stared at her blankly for a moment, eventually telling her that I was in no mood to physically swim to the refrigerator to get her anything to eat, so she would need to wait.

After about 20 minutes, the maintenance guy showed up.

God love him, he was very sweet, and didn’t call me an idiot or tell me how retarded I obviously am even once.

While he was sucking up the water from my floor (he filled and emptied his shop-vac bucket at least 17 times), I could do nothing but stand there, saying, like a robot, ever other second, “I am SOOO sorry”.

He would merely smile and say, “It’s no problem- really”.

Finally, his job complete, he left.

I again apologized for causing so much trouble, and breathed a sigh of relief that I was not, in fact, going to have to build an ark for my beautiful black-women-training and myself to sleep in that night.

I got dinner on the table, and quickly put the whole episode out of my mind.

A few nights later, after powering on my laptop, I found a lone message from my friend ‘T’.

“The maintenance guy thinks you’re hot”.

Huh.

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Children, Elections, Funny, Humor, Marriage, Memories, News, Nostalgia, Politics, Presidential Campaign, Race

Our President’s No Pit Bull… But a Mutt Like Me

I love Barack Obama.

No secret there… no one’s falling over in shock as they read this thinking, “Really? I would have pegged her a McCain chick…”

I love his stance on social issues, I respect the choices he has made in his life, I am inspired by his family- his beautiful and very gracious wife Michelle, as well as their two daughters.

I appreciate his character and strength.

Perhaps most of all, I love his sense of humor.

This was such an emotional campaign… and for all the times he gave us goosebumps or made us cry because of the weight of his words… he has made us laugh.

While certainly no “average” American, he does remember what it was like to be one… he doesn’t pretend to know what he’s doing every second of every day… nor does he try to trick us into thinking he has all the right answers all the time.

When he speaks of his family, I get the sense that he is not the almighty Commander in Chief in his household, but rather, just Dad and hubby.

I was watching some clips from Obama’s press conference yesterday, and once again our President Elect made me proud.

He also made me laugh.

Seems the Obama household faces a dilemma in getting that puppy that was promised to Sasha and Malia.

Due to allergies, it will be necessary to get a hypo-allergenic pooch…

… But if the decision were President Obama’s, he’d prefer “A mutt, just like me”.

Regular readers of mine know that I, too, am a mutt…

… And as such, couldn’t be happier, or more ready to serve my new President.

Here’s the clip:

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Elections, Memories, News, Nostalgia, Politics, Race

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Says It All

By now we have all seen the touching image of Jesse Jackson, in tears, as Obama gave his victory speech late Tuesday night.

The image, in my mind, has come to signify what millions and millions of us were experiencing as we learned that Barack Obama would be our 44th president.

I cannot look at the picture without experiencing chills, goosebumps… and more often than not, I wind up shedding a tear or two myself.

Many people, especially my generation, are not huge fans of Jesse Jackson… and while it is true he has become an extremely polarizing figure in the last 20 years, it is also true that his devotion to civil rights is unmatched.

Jackson has not simply witnessed the transformation this country has undergone, he has been actively involved in it, every step of the way.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has explained- beautifully- what was in his heart and on his mind the night of Tuesday, November 4th.

He again speaks for many.

Well, on the one hand, I saw President Barack Obama standing there looking so majestic. And I knew that people in the villages of Kenya and Haiti, and mansions and palaces in Europe and China, were all watching this young African-American male assume the leadership to take our nation out of a pit to a higher place.

And then, I thought of who was not there… As mentioned, Medgar Evers, the husband of Sister Myrlie… the martyrs and murdered whose blood made last night possible. I could not help think that this was their night.

And if I had one wish: if Medgar, or if Dr. King could have just been there for a second in time, would have made my heart rejoice. And so it was kind of duo-fold – his ascension into leadership and the price that was paid to get him there.

There is nothing more to add.

Jackson has said it all.

Posted in C-Haze, Dating, Nostalgia, Relationships

Letting Go…

I’m not a sappy chick by nature- I’m not usually into the poetry thing or the over-sugarfied love songs.

Every once in a while life throws even the least romantic among us a curve ball…

I guess I’m no exception.

We’ve all been in one of those relationships, or found ourselves in situations where we knew we simply needed to let go.

You know what I’m talking about…

Intellectually it’s a no-brainer, in our minds we know it’s time to walk…

… But our hearts can make it impossible.

I came across this poem tonight, it’s one I’ve seen before, and it explains what I mean better than any words I could ever come up with on my own.

Letting go isn’t a helpless scenario… it is not synonymous with giving up.

We simply have to realize that there are things- people- who come in and out of our lives, that we cannot control.

Sometimes, for their sake and ours, we must let go.

 

 Letting Go
Author unknown

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To “let go” is not to cut myself off,
it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To “let go” is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To “let go” is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another,
it’s to make the most of myself.

To “let go” is not to care for,
but to care about.

To “let go” is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To “let go” is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own destinies.

To “let go” is not to be protective,
it’s to permit another to face reality.

To “let go” is not to deny,
but to accept.

To “let go” it not to nag, scold or argue,
but instead to search out my own shortcomings, and correct them.

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires
but to take each day as it comes,
and cherish myself in it.

To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To “let go” is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To “let go” is to fear less,
and love more.