Monday, September 17, 2007

Through the Wire

On Thursday, my mom reminded me that my Grandma's 60 year high school reunion events would start on Sunday and I'd agreed to attend that day's activities with her. First, 60 years? Can you imagine going to your 60 year reunion. I've gotta give props to my Grandma because she still looks incredible.

On with the story...I HATE doing stuff on Sundays. I usually go to my church's early service because I like spending Sunday afternoons vegging out on the couch catching up on tv shows that I missed during the week. I like being able to mentally prepare myself for the coming work week. So, needless to say, when my mom reminded me that I was Grandma's escort, I complained and whined about it, just like a spoiled brat.

The class decided to kick off the week's events with a worship service at one of the members' church in Baltimore. So, we picked up my Grandma and let her direct us to the church, since we didn't have the details. As we proceeded to drive through the city, her directions brought us through several neighborhoods that could easily be site locations for The Wire. We drove around looking for the church, meanwhile, I'm praying that the drug dealers still have that law where they don't shoot people on Sundays. As we get closer, I realize that the church we're going to is the same church that I worked in when I was about 14 or 15. I was a summer camp counselor there. So, in the midst of being concerned about getting hit by a stray bullet, I was a little excited about visiting the site of one of my first jobs.

I've been working since I was 13. Baltimore had (and may still have) this program that gave jobs to needy inner city kids. My first job was cleaning up debris (no - a better word would be trash) along the Chesapeake Bay. Every day I went out there in the hot summer sun in a hard hat and construction boots to pick up the garbage that other people left. While my current position is a long way from that first job, I think back to those times often.

So, here I am sitting in the pew (yes - I take my notepad everywhere), listening to the youth choir sing the song 'Grateful'

"I'm grateful, grateful, grateful grateful"

and I can't help but think about how blessed my life has been. Then, my eyes get a little misted. Even when I was out there doing a job that nobody else wanted to do, I never stopped dreaming about how I wanted my life to turn out. Over the years, I've worked very hard to achieve those dreams. I became the first in my family to go to college (with honors), the first to get a graduate degree and the first to start climbing the corporate ladder. And, I had incredible setbacks. Events that nearly crippled me. But, in the same way that I didn't climb the ladder without HIS help, when life kicked me in the neck with steel toe boots, HE was there to break my fall.

So, when I hear that 'Grateful' song. I can't help but be overcome. HE literally brought me through The Wire and I'm soo grateful! I'm glad I got over myself and attended the service with my Grandma.



Thursday, September 06, 2007

Prepping for Marriage

A while ago my pastor did a sermon on preparing our kids for marriage. He said that when children express an interest in music, parents help them get prepared for being a musician, by getting them lessons, making them practice and supporting their recitals. The same goes for sports, parents buy the proper equipment, shuttle them to games and become involved in the activity with them. He said that when a young person expresses romantic interest in another person, the parents usually become flustered. Instead of preparing the kid with the tools necessary to have a healthy relationship, the parents often discourage the child from even pursuing a relationship either by using scare or guilt tactics.

He said that our sexuality is normal, kids are going to start catching feelings and it is a parent's responsibility to teach the kid how to process them. He said to tell a child to ignore the feelings or to convince them that they don't exist will do nothing for your credibility later. What if healthy relationship classes were taught in school? Why is it that you can teach sex ed, but, they don't teach you how to compromise with someone you love or how to disagree without being disagreeable? And since it's not taught in school, why aren't parents doing the job?

Many parents have had bad relationship experiences themselves and the simple truth is that they want better for their kids. But, they're missing the point entirely. If we all aborted the mission after encountering a failure or obstacle, how would we accomplish anything? I also think that there is not alot of pressure to stay married these days. I remember reading a study somewhere where they wanted to see if providing more options helps or hinders your ability to choose. It seemed pretty obvious to me. Given 2 choices or 20, you'll make a decision quicker with less options. We've been given the perception that there are a zillion love choices out there for us. The grass is greener, to the max.

In reality, each of us probably encounters a relatively few number of potentially successful life partners in our lifetime. The bottom line is, you have to choose smartly and then, like Tim Gunn (Project Runway) says, 'Make it work.' All too often, at the early signs of trouble, we're ready to run. But, what if you couldn't run? I read an article once that said people often leave a window open or door ajar in their marriage...some kind of escape clause. But, how different would we perceive marriage if we sealed the exits? Most of us only consider two options when we face trouble in our relationship, leave and be happy or stay and be miserable. But the third, most important option - stay and find happiness again, falls by the wayside. That's what we need to teach kids.

Sure, nobody wants their 16 year old to get pregnant, with a baby daddy and drop out of school. But, has anyone noticed that situation happens alot more now that society is a whole lot more 'aware' than when such things were taboo?? My point is, kids are going to be kids. It's our responsibility to be adults.

We have to teach our sons that women are to be respected...even those women/girls that don't realize it. As women, we also have to remember that we're the first example of a woman that our sons see, so we need to check ourselves first. I know it's hard for single moms, but you need to stop making your son your main man. You're crippling him.

Men need to teach their daughters that they are ladies and should carry themselves as such. Sit with her when she watches music videos and talk to her about how you perceive the images. While a young girl might think it's empowering to walk around with the dark meat peeping out from her shorty-short-shorts, she needs to know what you think when you see women on the street that look like that. Having a man say what men think is waay more relevant to some women than hearing a woman say it. She's going to choose a mate that treats her just like you do. So, if you're abusive, she may look for an abusive man as her mate, if you're absent, she may choose a man that never gives all of himself to her. In the same way that a woman can't teach a boy how to be a man, a woman can't teach a girl how a man should love her.

If we want the next generation to have healthy families, it starts with us.


Not Losing a Friend

The thing about good girlfriends is that we often share the most intimate thoughts and feelings with one another. We allow one another to vent. We give advice to one another. And then we stick around for the fall-out when the advice is ignored. Good girlfriends support each other and help boost each other's self esteem. We are often so close that we think of ourselves as siblings. Some siblings aren't as close as good girlfriends are.

What happens then, when a good girlfriend gets married? I've had two of my 3 good girlfriends get married. I'm not ashamed to say that the first time was rough. I had just had a breakup and all of a sudden, I didn't have her either. You know how people say, 'Dang, you look like you lost your best friend.' Well that's how I felt. It's important to note that I was super happy for my friend. I love her and her hubby.

But, I think sometimes people are afraid to acknowledge the change that happens in the friendship dynamic when such an important life event happens. It took a while (years) for us to reconnect in a way that was similar to how we used to be and during that time I grew up alot. I became alot more compassionate for other people and more sensitive to what they are going through.

In the very beginning, I thought her absence was about me...either I had done something to insult her, I had been a bad friend, or I wasn't good enough anymore. After some time, I realized that she was adjusting too. This person that enjoyed her space just as much as I do, all of a sudden had to share that with somebody else. This neat freak suddenly had wet towels on her bathroom floor. LOL And she was learning how and what it meant to be a 'wife'.

So, I put myself in her shoes and imagined how I'd feel. That opened me up tremendously. Throughout this whole time though, I never stopped calling her, or emailing her, even when she'd go months and months without replying. Truth be told, I probably stalked her. hhhahaha If she didn't live so far from me, I would've probably done drive-bys. I also spent alot of time with my other friends. Even though I missed her, I wasn't sitting at home miserable. I was always doing something fun.

Now that my second friend is married, I don't think I'll be as affected by her newly wedded transformation. I'm prepared.

So, if your friend is getting married, just know that things will probably change between you. But, change isn't always bad. And, if you feel sad sometimes, that doesn't mean that you're 'hating' on your friend. It's normal. Just keep your head up. Besides, I think it gets worse when they have kids.


Longest Day

This has been the longest day ever! It's 20 to 4pm and I've still got 2 more hours to go.

I hope you all had a fun Labor Day. The second of my 3 good friends got married on Sunday. The wedding was incredible. She looked so beautiful. You know how you can look at a person for years and know that they are pretty or cute but when you see them all done up, they just look outstanding? That was her on that day. At both the rehearsal dinner and the Big Day, she was flawless. Now, this friend is Nigerian and both events were based on traditional Nigerian rituals and customs. I felt like I was in Coming to America. I told my friend that I was so excited and I was. This day had been in the planning stages since January 2006, basically.

The outfits and head-ties were stunning. I also got to eat (ok - taste) alot of standard African dishes including Fu-Fu, Moyin-Moyin (I think), Chin Chin and some other things I can't remember. Oh and I know I butchered the spellings of these foods. So, don't stone me!

At the reception, after my friend changed into a beautiful traditional outfit, her elders performed a few really touching rituals. Oh first, let me say that if you ever go to a Nigerian wedding, make sure you carry a bunch of singles. During almost every dance, guests came up to the dancing bride and groom and 'pasted' money on their bodies. You guys that frequent strip clubs would be familiar with this practice. But for those of you that are unfamiliar, you just take the dollar and stick it on the persons sweaty forehead or tuck it into the sleeve or collar of their outfit. For those of you with Skylark frequent shopper cards, do not try to stick the money in their g-string, brastrap or garter belts. This would not only be frowned upon but might just get you kicked out of the party.

It got to a point where there were soo many dollars, you could barely see the dance floor. I would advise parents to have a talk with your children before experiencing this ritual because it is not cute to have your little one on the floor trying to steal the couple's money. I saw one little girl on the floor with a wad of cash in her hands. I told her to put it back, that it belonged to the couple. She looked at me with big doe eyes and said, 'This is for my momma.' What could I do? Even though I'm old school, her momma might not be and I was not trying to get in a fight over some dollars. And maybe they needed the money more than the couple.

Another interesting ritual was the handing over of the bride to the groom's mom. We all know that back in the day, when a woman got married, she then 'belonged' to the groom's family. Seeing my friend's female elder's perform this ritual and then the subsequent dance with the mother in law was really touching. We all know modern brides that never cleave to the husband's family. How many grooms seriously think about what it really means to take care of another person? In the speech to the mother in law, my friend's oldest sister said something to the effect of, 'You're now responsible for nurturing, loving and supporting our daughter.' Now, I know her family will always be there for her, but, what I took from that ritual is that you really have to choose your partner carefully because THEY have to be your support system from I Do to infinity. That seemed pretty deep to me, especially since I've only ever liked, no loved, one set of ex's parents. I realized that I can't get by with just loving my person, I've gotta love his main people too. No couple is an island.

I felt so honored to have been a part of her special day. I don't take it lightly. If I don't believe in the couple, I have been known to refuse to be a bridesmaid. Just like my other friend's wedding, I know that I'll never forget this experience.