“Just A Thought”

    If you are easily offended by common sense analysis Or “triggered” when you hear something you don’t like. If racism or racist is the first thing that comes out your mouth for everything. Then you might want to stop reading. I am not responsible for your melt down. For the rest of you, let’s continue…
      Stop blaming outside forces for your situation. Clear your mind and think on this… you are poor and or living where you live because of your parents. For example, you grew up the Pj’s, 

trailer park,

  the wrong side of town

, you inherited that. Your parents moved there, possibly because it was all they could afford as a young couple Or a single parent. Perhaps they had little to no education. I mean, not enough education to pull them out of their situation. Raising you would make it even harder for them to save and move out. Did they give you siblings to play with while still living “there”… well, there’s no way they were getting out…

      Did they raise you to believe other ethnicities are smarter and better than you? That the deck is stacked so don’t even try? That school is okay but you need a real job? Did you have an educational opportunity but were held back, because your parents said there was no one there that look like you? Then this, is the continuation of the cycle of poverty…

     I told my kids “you don’t have to be what you are today, you can always change” We taught our children that a better education and a good career choice is their key to moving 2 or 3 maybe even 5 steps further than we did. We stressed reading at an early age, we filled our house and surrounded them with books, opening up worlds of possibilities to tbem. We set them at tables with folks in wheelchairs and with speech impediments. Japanese, Iowans, Canadiens, Ugandans, Kenyons, pastors, missionaries, prayer warriors. Our vacations were under the open sky with trees, sands of Jamaica, quiet mountains, the Amish Country and fresh air….but we live in the south Bronx. Surrounded by trucks, buses, smog, rats, roaches, gunshots, drug dealers and only two supermarkets and one fresh vegetable stand. This is where they were raised. Following blood trails into their building on the way home from school and church. Startled awake at night because we lived above the O.K Corral. Cars screeching, Sirens blaring, helicopters circling, cops swarming… Our children inherited this world because of their parent’s and grandparent’s choices.  We chose to move there but we never lived there. One of my Mantra was “there are bars on the windows not on your mine” basically telling the children, there’s no cause to act like prisoners or fools. We didn’t have, they didn’t have everything we wanted but our needs were met… and when from time to time, our needs weren’t met, we lived. There was never a thought of doing anything criminal for a loaf of bread. At one point I took my oldest son with me to stand of a long line at a local church food pantry. We brought home a massive can of beans, rice and such. We lived! With no shame! We made it through a slim year. We trained our children to be grateful for what they had but to always strive to do better…

      So how did we get here…? Mom’s and Pop’s. Mother in law, was an immigrant to the United States her daughter was a first-generation American. She assimilated well, excelled in education and was indeed a critical thinker. But she also made poor relationship choices as did I. My mother and father were born and raised in these united states. They dealt with and lived through Northern bigotry. My mother, was on her way to become a seamstress. She went to Fashion Needle trade High School which became Fashion Industry. My father, with an engineering mind, was a U.S Air force  mechanic and a Machinist. He went to Aviation High School. I inherited their mechanical and creative skills. But I also inherited poverty. The old man move to a house in lower Westchester. Mom’s raised two kids as a single mother  in the projects of the Northeast Bronx. The 60’s didn’t allow them to move too far ahead in life. As for my mother, public housing was a necessary choice on the budget she had. She was a factory worker at one point before she landed a city job. This was my starting point in life.

     I, on the other hand,

 wasted my talent and brains on drugs and alcohol during the 80’s. It took years to erase most of the damage I’d done to myself. After being homeless for about 3 years, I landed in the south Bronx and it’s where I met my wife. Both single parents raising two children. We married and had two more. She’d just finished law school, I was makimg due on public assistance. We made a plan, gained our Independence from public assistance in about 6 years. Then lived off what we made. We agreed on me finishing my own education. So, I worked hard to get my GED, BA and MS in a straight 6 year run. The plan was to move from where we were, to somewhere less noisy and congested perhaps another state. That always proved difficult because we had 6 kids. Their needs came before our savings. We didn’t have cable or anything like that because we chose to save what little we had for a yearly vacation…

    We taught the children  the value of money and the value of saving and the value in working hard. Never did we point to race, complexion or anything else for our position in life. True, had our parents known a little more, or had it a little easier or had the foresight, things may have been better. But their generation kicked down doors. Ours just had to walk through them. The excuses were over, it was/is our job to continue forward. My children would face bigotry on their own. But we refused to raise them with that sword over their heads. They saw the examples before them, parents that did not let anything stop them from succeeding in their goals. What they do with that as adults, is up to them.  But we gave them enough tools to Forge ahead… 

     Now, if any one of them want to use today’s pop culture lies and say its the government’s faults, minimum wage fault, it’s the color of their skin fault or anything else as a reason for not succeeding I would wholeheartedly slap them in the back of the head.  We are born where we are because of our parents. We live where we are because of our parents, we get out or gets stuck because of our parents. Their inability to move forward becomes our inability to live much less move forward. In the case of our parents and how we raised our children, it wasn’t about our inability to move forward but our ability to train and propel our children to move forward as did the generations of parents and our families did before us. It makes no sense at all and you shoot yourselves in the foot for generations to come, when you fail to push children to move forward. If you’re living in poverty, within at least one to two generations that could be done away with. You may not become filthy rich but that also depends on the educational level and the job choice of whatever family member that rises to become the first millionaire in the family. My bloodline is filled with creative types as well as Academia, so we may never be billionaires. But we’ll be professionals and small business owners and in the service industry. I have yet to see someone demonstrate my dad’s engineering skills but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist…

       All of the above can be said for the wealthy as well. Many had great ideas and created an empire. Some large enough to employ hundreds and thousands of people. Some inherited wealth because their parents bequeath them money through insurance or investments. That’s foresight by the way. What ever way the children received their wealth it was their parents that got them there. Unfortunately we have become an angry nation hating what we don’t understand and blaming others for our misfortune…. when the reasons are much closer than we think.

      I set across from my 14 year daughter  last Thursday when I thought to make this a fb post. I knew it was far too much. I started at home and finished in a hotel room. What sparked this thought???  We were sitting in IHOP when she said she wants to sell candy in school. 

Yes! I thought, I’ve been trying to get her older siblings to do it for years. Anyway, I agreed. We discussed profits and overhead cost and how to be competitive. One school mate only sells to his Mexican brethren. The other, a girl, sells a variety of candy for a buck. I said he cornered the niche market and told her how she can steal the other girls clients. “If you sell yours for 75 cents, not only would you build your business but you’ll gain her customers as well” Hey, what dad wouldn’t teach his kid that? So, since she’s not overly competitive at the moment( just give it time) we agreed on the $1 pricing. But I added that she should add something to her box that her competitor doesn’t have. We shook hands on a deal between us. I would front the cost of 2 to 3 boxes of candy, she’d pay me back at the end of the school. Plus I get a small share of the profits, 10 cents off of each bar sold…
     These principles that we teach or lack thereof, are for the future but the decisions are made now. Not everything is about somebody else doing something to us but about us making choices.

      Until next time….

“Beloved”

    On the road again. Sitting in the hotel room with Michael W Smith playing in the background;I looked over the pile of pillows to see my daughter reading a book. A deep engulfed trance. She’s reading a novel written by a Mennonite author, it’s my book actually but I let her check it out while I sat quietly and started  writing. We were waiting for dinner, our reservation was for 6pm;this would be followed by seeing Michael W Smith in concert…
     I watched her unplugged from the world, there was a peace in her countenance. Oh how I hoped she could see the value in just turning off the noise of this loud world we live in. There aren’t many teenage girls willing to put down their phones and put social media in it’s place…in the background of real life. 

   As I watched her I replayed  a few of her many questions. “Can I dye my hair blue?”, “Can I put on my makeup when we get there?” the words echoed in my brain. I smiled a little, this kid is crazy I thought. On the other hand, at least it’s not a tattoo at 14. I don’t know how some of you deal with that. She’s been after me about makeup for a few months now. A couple of months ago she said “I asked mommy but she said I had to ask you”… We ended with, not until you’re 16. But you can practice at home. No posted photos! But, I also gave/give her opportunity to wear makeup when we’re out on a date or special occasions.

   The concert opened with Nathan Tasker, I’ve heard of him but he music and humor warmed the soul. Next up was Jordan Feliz, now I’ve never heard of him either, but there was a song I’ve heard on the radio. His music and performance was filled with energy. Jordan, said he had recently become a father of a little girl and he thought of the world she would grow up in, he wanted her to know how loved she was and have the strength to stand. He wrote a song her and all of us, dear reader:

       “… you are essential, not accidental and you should realize, you are beloved. I wanted you to know, you are beloved. Let it soak into your soul. Forget the lies you heard, rise above the hurt and listen to these words. You are beloved…” –Beloved by Jordan Feliz from the album, The River. 

     As a junior high school girl about to enter high school as a freshman; who just lost her mother  suddenly and in front of her. A creative mind with a wicked dry sense of humor and decent human being, if there is one message I want to convey to her before God calls me home, it is; know the God of your mother and father and know how much he loves you. Jordan is right, his little girl as mine has already experienced, will be told some really stupid messages from the world around her. “Too fat”, “Too black…”, “not black enough”, “you’re not cool enough”, “your hair is fake…”. Now, there are some things that my daughter will hear, that are unique to her culture and ethnicity. The point still reminds, to herself, ourselves, is to see as God sees us. Worthy and worth his love…

     After the concert we stop for some pie, we took it back to the room. She was tired, in fact I saw her dosing off in her seat; but she wanted to finish her drawing when we returned to the room. She did. I started the beginning of this post… I thought back to when I first became a Christian over 24 years ago and how things; including the world, has changed. Not all for the good. I came to faith years ago as a relationship ended and I was a newly minted single father of two small children, ages 2 and 4 going 3 and 5. I immediately took them to church with me. On Tuesday night’s the 3 of us would pray for the world, missionaries, family and friends. We’d read(I read) letters from missionaries around world. We supported them and other ministries on a non existent budget. I was on public assistance at the time but thought I still had more than most of the world. Churches in those days knew who they were… 

    Fast forward to today. The exposure my older children had to Christian living in all of its various forms. As well as teaching them to be generous, caring human beings, is pretty much extinct. The guiding principles were part of everyday life. Not so anymore. We as a country as well as pop culture, have accepted and created  a world of hate. Not from any one source but from all sources. So, the advent of social media; not to mention the agenda to push it on younger and younger children, is making it harder and harder to help children both girls and boys, grow up well adjusted. It really doesn’t matter whether you raise them in your faith or in a secular home. Gay sexual themes are in their faces far before you can explain to them how their own bodies work. Political agendas are pushed in younger grades, where they were never taught in school at all…

Lancaster Pa. Stopping for ice cream on the road, heading home. 4/9/2017

  So, when the opportunity arises to take my kid to her first rock concert comes or to expose her to something new, I do it. Not because we’re friends but because she’s far too precious to allow pop culture to dictate to her what a good time is. Mind you, it is a small window but as we taught our older children. The Feds study the real bills in order to spot a counterfeit. As she gets old enough to make her own decisions she’ll be able to spot the pop culture lies.

     The blue hair thing isn’t off the table…but… I’m not totally convinced its the best idea. We’re researching how it could be a less permanent thing. For the moment, it’s nail salons and occasional make-up. That’s all this dad can stomach. A few months ago I took her to see her first horror movie followed by a rated R film. I let her chose but it was a guided choice. So we saw, Split and Get Out.   Honestly they were far more funnier than serious. We laughed until we had a headache. It also opened up a discussion about her teacher’s statement. Read and listen carefully, dear reader. One of her teachers said she wanted  to see “Get Out” but didn’t think she could because she “..is a white person”. How ridiculous have we became, that folks think that there’s a qualification to see a film? Like, really?! After we both laughed at the stupidity  I shared with her how the other day; while working on a short story I’m in the middle of, I changed I line then thought what the heck am I doing.  How did I let Pop and PC culture dictate my art?  This is what wrote: “I loved the juke around the fat guy and the dog lady” I immediately said to myself, you can’t say that, I was about to strike it out then said “screw that!”. I ended up writing that mental conflict into the scene with the characters. Heads up, it doesn’t end well. As it doesn’t in real life anymore either.  We’ve painted ourselves into a corner where honest conversation has been replaced with careful words and beating around bushes. That’s the reason why the teacher felt disqualified to see a movie and fools tell women of a certain ethnicity, that they can’t wear hoop earrings….

    See, dear reader, Jordan’s song is great and necessary message for his daughter, my daughter, our sons and ourselves. To view ourselves as a Beloved creation from a creator that views us as being worthy of his love. If you/we can understand that, then the media would be put in its place and young lives would be less tortured by pop culture’s dictates. 

4/9/2017 taking a picture while the kid took one.

     By the way, dear readers; I told my daughter she would be part of my subject this time. She’s okay with it. Usually on long rides the kids would put in their ear buds. This time we enjoyed the same music, whatever I played. At one point, as a treat for her and torture for (Lol) I through on Spotify and let her choose the music(psst I also get to hear what she’s listening to)….oh, dear lawd! First, I gotta admit, Adele has agreat voice it’s something I could listen to…I probably won’t. Simply because I find that today’s pop music all sounds the same and I’m not a pop guy. Which brings me to, “Adele radio”, again oh lawd! My great frustration with internet radio, the lineup of “similar artist”. We eventually, ended up with just Adele, thankfully. Oh…and better that than Radio Disney! God bless you, poor reader, who’s children use that form of torture. 

    So, did it work? Did the message of God’s love for her get through? Does she know how beautiful she is, especially in God’s eyes? Will it be enough to  strengthen her character and combat PC and pop culture’s bs? I don’t know, dear reader; only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll keep training her to spot the counterfeit. We have a task before us, fellow parents but don’t give in and don’t give up the fight… 

        click on it:   You are beloved  

Until next time….

“Without Her: 7 Months Later”

Walking home across the Willis Avenue bridge. We went to dinner at a local restaurant (Perkins)and decided to walk home. 2015

  Hello, dear readers, a lot has happened since I last wrote to you. I started a “6 Months Later” but never posted it, I didn’t feel it and thought it’s better to write honest feelings, rather than write  something I forced out. Hey, if I’m gonna write about this stuff, that I really don’t want to do publicly, it should be truthful…

  6 months later…  I was sitting at my desk at work , checking my bank statement when I noticed a deposit. I Looked at the date and suddenly felt sick, it was the 14th.! The reason for the deposit was for a the loss of another’s life. And if you have loss your spouse to death, then you know  the feeling I’m talking about. It’s NOT a happy one. Some spiral into depression. I, slipped into deep blue mood. I immediately text my youngest child and told her we would be ordering the mattress she needed…it didn’t matter what we did with that little bit of change, it still came with a sickening feeling. It’s like coming late to work and your boss says  “I understand you’re going through a lot right now”. All I (or you too) could think of is, I got a pass because my wife died. People excuse you and give you an excuse. For some, they’ll milk it forever. Me? I’m not built like that. I was raised to stand on my own feet. Sure, today I’ll take the pass but I’m smart enough to know it won’t last forever. I reached for my blue pen and started filling out the withdrawal slip…I heard my coworker talking. The tears started. I was running late and stopped for breakfast, so I was eating and fighting the tears that wanted to fall at the same time. I walked in, and my boss said we were having a meeting. She was going away for the holidays and would be gone for 2 weeks…

So, my coworker turned to me and said we’re going back to the Bronx office. “Oh,@$%#$ no!!!” I thought. That place was horrible! Sharol had to literally lift me from the bed to get me to work. I was so depressed working there. I think I was more upset about going back there than anything else. I’d just spent 3 weeks there!!! I was so downcasted and didn’t have my counterbalance to help me through it. Dear reader, it was not a good morning. Uncharacteristic, I took to Facebook to complain! Many came to my aid with words of encouragement. My co worker said there was “nothing we could do” I said “I could and would quit!”…I meant it. I think he knew it too. We’d been working 9 to 9 for 7 days a week since November 9th. I had enough and hadn’t seen my daughter. I begin to plan our escape from the city…

 I went to the bathroom and cried, then begged God not to send me back there. When I returned to my desk , I was told that I was staying in my office. But many of my other coworkers were deployed elsewhere. Some I hadn’t seen in two months, more on that later. 

Escape from NY! Our first Christmas without Sharol.

I kept to myself for the rest of the day and It was an emotional lunch! 

Dec 14, 2016

Lunchtime at the Freedom Tower. Dec 14th 2016

Dec. 14th 2016 lunch at gound zero reflective footprint.

   I took a walk down to where the World Trade Towers used to stand. It was cold!!! But I wasn’t the only one dealing with loss that day… After my Facebook post, I learned some of my kids were having the same sort of day. I called Amtrak, our travel plans were set…

   The first Christmas without my wife was odd. My older children made plans to be away with their own family. I totally understood that and didn’t force the issue of us being together for the holidays. Thanksgiving was quiet, we met for brunch then parted ways. For Christmas we basically just went our own way. Guess what,its not uncommon for families to so after such a loss. This gives everyone and the family as a whole the opportunity to create  new traditions for the holidays. As for me, I took the two youngest to Washington D.C for the long weekend. It was odd without Sharol, but not too strange because the 4 of us had been traveling together for the past 4 or 5 years. So, we were just down one. I didn’t have Sharol by my side but… I had my two running bodies. We didn’t do much but it was a good time to be away from home and relax. 

Just Because… it’s what we do now. Amtrak bathroom, Selfie. Dec. 23, 2016

 7 months later:

       One day, when I was home alone, shortly before we left for the Christmas break. I signed up for Internet dating, no I didn’t tell my kids…but they know now. In short, this is not for me, I’m far too old school to find this form of meeting people useful or endearing. Within 48 hours I ran into 3 crazies! And blocked them all! One asked me for money to get her back to the U.S., she was in Ghana taking care of her 😉sick mother. That first experience set the stage for me. I don’t trust people to begin with, so this was NOT good. The second person to contact me 24 hrs later, had the same air about her… why would a beautiful 36 year old white woman  be interested in me I thought. Yeah…about that. Next! The third was the same. One week later, I gave up!. I miss talking to and dining with a woman and hearing laughter, after talking to a coworker he told me about another website, he was right it was better. I met someone…everything was fine for a week. She was kind, at times she reminded me of my wife.She laughed easily, had a brilliant smile, easy on the eyes too. She was totally compatible! But by the second week something broke. I left the city again for New year’s. I discovered something, a coworker told me once, that “you don’t want to either ” she was right. The subject was about me being a writer and needing the time to do it… what I’ve learned, is that I live a crazy, hectic life right now. I work for the state but I’m employed by the ciry. My job at times comes with a high level of stress. My world is communications , politics to be exact. And  as much as I want to be normal or live a normal life. The truth is, I don’t want to. My wife is with Jesus and I have nothing to (pleasantly) distract me from writing. Something I really want to do and I’m also fascinated by the world I work in. I don’t have the time, nor do I wish to give the time it takes to build a relationship from the ground up. Something that requires me to spend hours on a phone or video chat. I will be far too consumed by words over the coming months. Sharol understood this,but we were also married for 19 years. It took time for us to become what we were. That means starting all over again… It would be incredibly hard for a woman to deal with my lifestyle and artist moods. 

    Yes, I long to hold hands but… there’s so much I want to do. I once wrote that I didn’t know who I was without Sharol.I know now. I am a single dad, a single man…free to do whatever my God has for me. Free to enjoy life. I enjoy hanging out with and having lunch with my coworkers. One such lunch buddy I hadn’t seen for nearly 2 months, we were deployed to different locations. On New Year’s eve morning we had breakfast together. I said “hey, you wanna have  breakfast with me to say goodbye to 2016” the answer was “yes“, we had a nice time talking and eating. Then we parted. Would I like more? Absolutely!, but it’s  all I have to give  right now. This discovery, was hard to swallow. I don’t want to be alone, but I didn’t pick Sharol, God did, I can’t trust my heart. So, for now I’m going to trust Jesus to once again open my eyes to the one he has for me. If, like her, it’s someone I already know, someone right under my nose… Someone willing to come along side of me, love me, go where I go and eventually  send me home to the Father, Sharol and all those who went before me. Then that would be awesome. 

Dec. 26, 2016 teaching the kids how to play pool. In D.C.

D.C. Metro station. 2016

Show off our rings. Dec 24, 2016 dinner at a China Town, Washington DC.

Christmas dinner at Legal Seafood. Washington DC Dec. 25, 2016

  At the moment dear reader, I’m enjoying time with my two youngest children, looking for a new place to live  and still opened to whomever the lord my have for me. But I am also going to focus on my book right now. Who knows…maybe next week I’ll change my mind. But for now, my relationship plane is a holding pattern. This widower’s  life is an odd one. Wait. I failed to mention that we who have lost our spouse, not only feel guilty for living but often feel as though we’re cheating on our spouse. It’s crazy, right? Yep. But like I said, it’s an odd life for us.

Until next time…