In My Corner

I watch the lightening strike,

outside my window as the thunder rumbles by.

The rain makes the sound of a 1990’s New Age album

put out by Windam Hill.

The only thing that breaks up the beauty

is the siren of an ambulance racing down Plymouth Street

and I’m reminded of where I am.

In my corner studio, freshly painted with the windows open

and me sitting here in the dark with a candle burning bright.

Things I’ve Learned in My Forty Years of Life

#1 I suck at being drunk. Especially at social gatherings. I do not have an off switch and quite often will stress myself out the next day about what I did or did not say or do.

#2 I am more of an introvert than an extrovert. I like small groups. Socializing too often exhausts me and I recharge when I’m by myself.

#3 Holding a grudge is time consuming and pointless. Not to mention heartbreaking. You could be losing a forever person. Someone who will still be there when the tough stuff is at its worst. So, extend that olive branch and if someone does it to you, accept it.

#4 Good friends are a gift. Try not to alienate them.

#5 Travel as often as you can. Even if it’s just a quick little side trip after work. It soothes the soul and makes the BS in life a little easier to deal with.

#6 Set goals for yourself. Even if they seem outrageous. No dream is ever too big or small. It’s our self doubt that gets in the way.

#7 Being a bit lost is a part of life. “Finding yourself” is a part of the path.

#8 Being a parent is the most difficult and rewarding job I’ve ever had. Even when I’ve felt lost, confused, broken, I can look at my kids and know I did at least two things right.

#9 Your life partner should be able to weather any storm with you. They should be your lover, best friend, and every day companion. What you give up for them, they should be willing to give up for you.

#10 Sex and physical touch can heal a damaged soul. A good snuggle can ease any hurt and make you feel you’re not alone.

#11 Never let a day go by without saying, “I love you”.

#12 Laugh as often as you can. Let it bring tears to your eyes and pain to your tummy from the joy of it.

#13 Allow yourself to cry. It does not make you weak or overly emotional. It makes you human.

#14 Don’t let the past control your future. This is the hardest lesson to learn. I’m still working on it.

#15 Don’t be afraid of what people may say or think about you. Worry about what “you” think about yourself. You need to be your own best friend and treat yourself with kindness.

#16 Cherish those who would drop what they’re doing to help you out. It is a rare gift and should not be taken for granted.

#17 Learn to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it. They are never just words to the person you say it to.

#18 Appreciate good drinking water. So many people in the world don’t have access to it.

#19 There is always someone out there having a worse day than you.

#20 Never judge a human by they’re cover. You can not judge a person by their appearance. Judge them by their actions and character and remember they’re human. We all make mistakes.

#21 Allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Even if it scares you. You would be amazed at how much our minds warp reality.

#22 Enjoy other cultures. Try their food. Listen to their music. You will find quite often that us Americans are the bassackwards ones.

#23 Dance, sing at the top of your lungs, and make sure to let a person know their fly is down. They may be embarrassed for a moment, but at least they didn’t walk around all day for others to see.

#24 Open the door for a person who may be struggling to do it on their own, offer your seat to your elders, and allow an old gentleman to flirt shamelessly while you’re ringing their purchase up. It may just be the highlight of their day.

#25 Get to know your grandparents. They are the key to your past and usually have fantastic stories to tell.

#26 Bow your head in prayer at a service, wedding, or funeral. Even if you are personally not a believer. It shows respect.

#27 If you see a sign for a Historical Marker, stop and check it out even if it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. You can say you once stood in its spot.

#28 Always take the backroads. Even the gravel ones.

#29 Go to as many concerts as you’re able to.

#30 Love, respect, and enjoy your parents. They brought you into this world with no instruction manual to help them. They made just as many mistakes as you and you’re still in this world to tell them, “thank you”.

Life can suck. Life is also a wonderful gift. I’ve made mistakes. Some I’ve learned from and some I continue to make even though the end result doesn’t seem to change. I’m human. I’m flawed, but I’m a good person. I love deeply. I stumble and falter. I say mean things from time to time, but it is never out of hate or maliciousness. I cry at sad things, happy things, and when I get angry. This does not make me weak. I suck at writing thank you letters and there is a good chance I’ll forget your birthday, anniversary, or any other big day. I haven’t even begun to achieve all of my goals or dreams, but as my Dad once told me, our dreams don’t go away, they mature and change as we grow. So, this list will continue to be added to over the next decade. It’s going to be rocky and miserable, and beautiful. Such is life.

Teach Your Children Well

Never turn a blind eye
to the salt in the wound of humanity
Do not perpetuate the reason for the salt
Be humble in the face of peace and love
for it doesn’t solve all problems
Speak on the level of tolerance
Listen to the answers when asking
a question.
Open up a dialogue
and ask yourself
what kind of world do I want future children
to live in
Do not be colorblind but
respect and love
your differences
We are a melting pot of knowledge
and culture
and hope
and history
Learn
Teach
Embrace
The future should never regress
Mistakes made
should be lessons learned
and tides should change
for the better
Teach our children well
to love
to accept
to shake the hand
to touch the salt and move it
out of the way
so wounds can
eventually heal

Hope

Among the chaos there is always hope.

Among the chaos there is hope.

From an early age, I remember my parents telling me and my siblings that using the “N” word was no different than dropping the “F” bomb and would not be tolerated in our house. Although today I use the the “F” bomb whenever the need strikes me, I still will not use the “N” word. In all honestly, I usually have a physical reaction to hearing it and hate that it’s thrown around so easily in the music industry. I feel it only sets things back further from the dreams and goals set forth by those who fought during the Civil Rights Movement. Lessons such as this were just the beginning of my parents desire to not raise their children to be racist. My mother introduced me to Gone With the Wind and Roots. In high school she handed me her copy of Black Like Me after I had seen Malcolm X in the theater. After that, I picked up the Autobiography of Malcolm X, My Bondage and My Freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and any other writings I could get my hands on. My Dad introduced us to Motown and Funk. Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone were propped up next to the turntable right along with The Beatles, James Taylor, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King.

I was a white girl, in a suburban school in the early 90’s. I had long blonde hair and wore a cheerleading skirt during football and basketball games. I could count the number of black people I knew at the time on two hands. Four of which were a family I babysat for. I was uncultured and naive but wanted to learn. So, I did what every other kid during that time did, I started listening to NWA, Black Sheep, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, 2 Live Crew, TLC, SWV, and Salt-N-Pepa. Imagine my father’s surprise when he found the NWA cassette I accidentally left in the tape player in the family mini van. He never censored me, but he did have issues with me playing it while my young and impressionable siblings were cruising around with me. I wasn’t told until later in life that he had rolled over the cassette with the car and thrown it into the trash. I watched Janet Jackson videos for choreography to put into dance routines and Johnny Gill, Keith Sweat, and Silk were listened to while making out with my boyfriend.

I started going to dances that were more diverse. I met kids from other schools, without realizing that I was just as much a curiosity. Some days I would hop into my crappy 1980 Mustang Hatchback, roll down the windows while blasting the soundtrack to Boomerang and drove in areas that no lone seventeen year old girl, let alone a white girl had any business being in. I was asking for trouble without even realizing it. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. It was the only way I felt I was going to understand. I had no clue where to begin. When you’re young and yet to really know who you are, stepping up and opening up uncomfortable conversations is not easy. I didn’t have the confidence to be that person yet.

I didn’t really think about racism on a whole throughout most of my twenties. I was a young mother just trying to keep a roof over my sons head. I fell in love with a skinny white boy who wooed me with his song dedications while he was DJ’ing on a local radio station. His friends became my friends. Most of which were a part of the theatre, goth, and alternative scene of the 90’s. It wasn’t until we fell in love with a little house on the SE side of Grand Rapids and had to register our son for school that I began to think about race relations again. I was happy to get him out of the elementary we had him in. I couldn’t relate to the mothers who showed up to school functions with their latte’s and matching running outfits. In our excitement in purchasing our first house, the only thing I cared about was that our son would be able to walk to school like I did as a kid. There was a neighborhood convenience store within walking distance and an ice cream shop a mile away. These things were a part of my own childhood and I was so happy my own children would have the same thing.

When our son started school the next autumn, we learned very quickly that he was the minority. Instead of being alarmed, I actually was happy to know that he would grow up not having to ask the same questions I had to. He would be educated in a melting pot of cultures. Even the staff was a wonderful mix of races, genders, and ages. While growing up I had one black teacher. I was lucky enough to have her for two years in a row. She was tough, kind, and would make us kids mad by eating sugar babies from her drawer while we were working. She was the first teacher who fueled my love of writing and I will always be grateful to her for it.

I still remember the first day our son came home trying to use slang while having a conversation with us. Some people will call it ghetto talk, others will simply label it black talk in the same way we think of hick talk. No matter how we try to separate these things in our mind, they’re there. I however, was in the process of programming myself to think differently. I told him he could speak how he wanted to with his friends, but at home he would enunciate his words. I wanted him to understand why and when certain language was appropriate. I also remember mentally berating myself. I jumped on him for picking up language and speech that he heard every day at school and I had no idea how to phrase things without sounding racist. Our daughter started going to the same school in preschool and went there through 5th grade. Being a girl however and more social was a far different experience. For the first several years, I would watch how her friends were fascinated with her hair. She would often have several little hands petting her while others would be trying to put braids in. I lost count of how many colorful plastic barrettes she came home with. She would often ask me to braid her hair like her friends and I had to explain to her that firstly I didn’t know how to do cornrows. Secondly, her hair texture was different and wouldn’t hold braids in the same way. She would use phrases like, _______  is my friend with the pretty dark brown or chocolate milk skin. I loved that she recognized her friends for their differences, but loved them for that and what they had in common. By the 4th and 5th grade, we were having open conversations on race, gender, boys, and mean girls. She asked more questions than our son ever did. I encouraged her to be the person that welcomed the new kid into the class. I remember her coming home several times to inform me of  a new friend from Kenya or from Senegal. She had a couple of friends who used English as their second language. She would learn new words and repeat them at night when she got home. I never wanted my kids to be colorblind, but to be able to acknowledge and learn from their friends backgrounds and cultures. If only more adults could learn from each other in the same fashion.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” I believe race relations need to be restructured. American society needs to come together to make changes. We need to converse with each other and truly listen. All races need to stop making assumptions of each other. I am not just another white woman trying to change the world by myself. I would never want that responsibility. But I get tired of reading comments such as, “of course a white person would say that” after articles in the news. I get tired of people yelling at each other without trying to make real changes. I was lucky enough to be in a room full of strong and amazing black women a couple of years ago. We were talking about School of Choice. I had been under the belief for years that it was one of the things that destroyed the public school system. I hated that while my neighborhood was such a wonderful melting pot of races, cultures, and ages, my children’s school wasn’t. I was well educated that night by several of the ladies informing me that because of Schools of Choice, they could send their own children to a better school. Most of them couldn’t afford the cost of living in the areas that the better schools were in, but they could still get their kids into the district. I shut my mouth after that. I had never once thought of it that way and I’m so happy I was schooled that night. Since then, I’ve had conversations about how difficult black hair is to care for, that not all black women want big butts and they worry about their weight, their looks, the future of their children, and yes, they have crushes on celebrity white men in the same way us white girls have celebrity crushes on black men. Conversations don’t always have to be political. But being able to ask questions of each other without feeling it’s taboo or not allowed is the only way things are going to change. You may have to go in search of groups who aspire to make a change. Step out of your comfort level. This big wonderful, pain in the ass country of ours will never change if people are too afraid to talk to each other.

Since I started writing this on MLK Day, it’s only fitting that I leave you with another one of his quotes. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” We will never heal ourselves if we can’t listen to each other. Peace.

Gettin My Crafty On

My life can get pretty crazy. Especially being a one car family while having a daughter in middle school sports, a crazy retail work schedule, a son who is in the process of job hunting, and a commuter cyclist husband who will snag the vehicle on inclement weather days. We balance things out with the public transit system and our trusty Honda Pilot.

2015 is my year to simplify things, purge my home of items that are not being used and to help the rest of my family stay in communication with each other in the most convenient way possible. In my last post, I shared the liberating act of cleaning out and organizing our kitchen cupboards. This week, I got my crafty girl on and decided to make a chalk board. I’ve been wanting to do this for quite awhile, but was a bit nervous about ruining the side of one of my cupboards. When I saw small cans of chalkboard paint at Lowe’s a couple of months ago, projects started popping into my head that I could no longer ignore. This is the first of many to come. I have a couple of doors I want to cover too. Who knows, maybe my entire kitchen will be redone.

The finished product took three coats of chalkboard paint, waiting a few days to properly set, and the application of a sparkly green border. I had extra decals on it, but they didn’t stick very well. All together it cost around $30 to make and I have a ton of paint and primer left for future projects. My next project requires me to spray paint our old dirty white plastic file cabinet. More on that later. For now, my daughter is excited to start leaving messages for people. So much more fun and classy looking than a dry erase board. Here’s to future efforts and fun with paint. Sláinte!!

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Project 2015

With all the possibilities a new year can bring, I decided to create a journal of goals for myself. So many people make promises to themselves they can’t keep. They want to lose that 50 pounds without really trying to or even wanting to. They want that instant gratification. A new year represents an out with the old and in with the new mentality. It’s a drug and everyone wants it. This year I’m turning 40 and with it, I want to stop with excuses I so often give myself. I need to stop telling myself I don’t have enough time or abuse the Scarlet O’Hara “After all, tomorrow is another day” approach. So, with that being said, writing on here is one of the first things on my list. I’ll be blogging at least once a week about the progress made through the year. Some days I may only have a poem in me or a great quote. Other days, I may be in full project mode and will want to record the process. Today, I’m starting out with what I will refer to as Project Kitchen. My kitchen cupboards have been driving me crazy for a long time. We’ve been in our house for almost 14 years and as you can imagine, things pile up. I have not always been the most organized person, but I can feel the riotous part of my personality coming out the older I get. I like minimalism. The more things I seem to have, the more stressed I become. Today, I had the day off and dove head first into my first project of the year. I have a box of donations, two trash bags full of crap and emptied two trash bins worth of recycled items. I made space for all electric items such as crock pots, a toaster, coffee grinder, etc. All pots and pans have easier access to them, our corner cupboard has been cleared of any item I haven’t used in the last year, and our pantry makes sense for the first time ever. Expired items were put either in the compost bin or the trash and even drawers were cleared of items that made me question their uses. I’m tired as hell, but it’s the most gratifying feeling to know there is now a bit of order among the chaos.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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All in all, it’s a nice way to begin the year. New Years resolutions don’t have to be a joke. Be honest with yourself. Make realistic goals. They don’t have to be big. They can be simple and straight to the point. Look back over the years and pinpoint certain things that may drive you crazy about yourself and strive to change it. 2015 is going to be a great year. I can just feel it. Here’s to new opportunities!

Sometimes I Say Too Much

Sometimes I say too much.
I wear my emotions like a comfortable blanket and
the need to share my excitement can not be contained.
I’m not one to mask my feelings.
I’m not good at it.
Get a few beers in me and
I’ll tell you my life story.
Hell, I’ll tell you my story anyway.
There is a need to purge myself
of my flaws and
hope that others will learn
from my stupid mistakes.
I am honest to a fault, but
horde certain parts of myself like
a shroud never to see the light of day.
I care about how others see me and
I like to be liked.
There are days however, that
I long to just pack up and go
where no one knows my name.
To be that random girl that you meet
in a coffee shop,
have a great conversation with,
and then remember from time to time
as if it were a dream.
I am awkward and
too hard on myself.
I over analyze everything until
my soul hurts.
I am a walking contradiction.
I am an introvert and
a social butterfly.
I am exhausted with
trying to be someone I’m not.
Where is my Etch a Sketch for life.

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