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.

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.

A Mother’s Lament

Angry wilted flower of youth
trying to put a new step forward
Tired of pushing another to
do for themselves
Tired of the resistant wall
that can’t be knocked down
Tired of not being heard
or thought of
or appreciated
Cry through the heartache
Yell through the anger
Take a step back
let them fall
let them fail
let them hurt
let them know
you will be there
Suffering and loving
until they understand
for themselves
is easier said than done

Cold

No one. No one can tell you how to feel.
This is a liberation of how humans are SUPPOSED to feel.
They are not SUPPOSED to cry overly much.
They are NOT supposed to tear up at sad movies
or ads or births or deaths or dances
grasp the silence of a new joy
They do not cry at the death of a parent and they
sob at the cruel intentions of the treatment of animals
The girl in the corner shivers and hisses
She feels her pain, your pain, and his
She has now freedom as the kitten cries for food that is no more
The cold dream of what will NEVER come
The cold dream of what isn’t there
I feel you
In my head
In my dream
In the cold damp earth.

The Hump

I struggle. I struggle with such self doubt on my ability to reach out. I struggle with my need for praise that will push me to do what I love most. I write. I dream. I create and yet I don’t have much faith in myself. I understand this weakness. I know I am not the only one who deals with this. I believe all writers feel or have felt this way and it’s the getting over the hump. The getting to the “fuck you” portion of the process that becomes so difficult. I have been a writer my entire life. I learned to read at the age of four. I was one of those children who smelled the books in the library just to soak in the age and mustiness of the pages. I have at least two books on my shelves that I never returned because I just couldn’t part with them. Oh imagine what those fines would be if I still had the same library card. I beat myself up on a regular basis because I don’t think I have enough to say that would keep others intrigued. I am no different from the fashion designer who is so very talented and desires the recognition that such a fierce world demands. I am no fucking different than the woman wearing a skirt that she hates but understands the power of her legs. I am no different than the mother who wakes up at five o’clock in the morning to make coffee for her husband and lunches for her kids. I am no different than the teacher who taught me to use my words in such a way. Cussing, using flowery language, or speaking from the horrors that live within my mind, I am no different. I rant, I call attention to myself, I plead for recognition, and what have I done? Whined with fury and sadness and lust for a life that I may never achieve. I am writing for the wrong reasons. Writers should write because it’s how they breathe. It’s how they live. It’s how they cope. I will get over this self inflicted hump of mine and write. Flowery words may come through these fingertips of mine, but at least they’re mine.

Thankful

I have seen an endless amount of posts on Facebook this month mentioning what people are thankful for. For every day of the month, people write one thing they are thankful for and although I long to have the discipline to try to do something everyday, I lack the ability to try to sum it all up in one statement a day, so with that being said, this is my month of thanks all rolled into one post.

I am incredibly thankful for the warm snuggly man sleeping upstairs hogging the entire bed in hopes that my side will be warm by the time I join him. When I say he is my best friend, I don’t say these words lightly. He brings out the best parts of myself, understands the worst, and supports me as I travel down the road of life. I have no idea what I would do without him by my side taunting me and helping me to become a better person. He’s exhausting, loving, affectionate, and so very hard on himself and I am so very thankful he is mine.

I am thankful for my son for he is why I am here today. I am so very proud of the sweet, intelligent, and talented man he has become. Every heartache he brings and every smile he inflicts is a testament to me doing something right. Becoming a mommy at the age of eighteen is never an easy thing and I would never recommend it to someone. However, because we grew up together, his opinion of me is just as important as my opinion of him and I have an incredible desire for him to be just as proud of the woman who loved him first. I am so glad his little soul found mine all those years ago.

I am thankful for my beautiful daughter with her wild, loving, and affectionate heart. I am so proud of how she grasps her own personality and struggles while she finds others who will accept it rather than changing for those who don’t. I love her giving nature and how she doesn’t understand how humans can be so mean to each other. I am thankful for her desire to still snuggle with her Mama before she starts her day at the tender age of eleven and I am so thankful for her ability to march to the beat of her own drum when so many others don’t have the courage.

I am thankful for my amazing father. He has truly become one of my best friends. He has picked me up at my weakest moments, praised me when I needed it most, given me words of advice, and hugged me when I just needed a daddy, very very badly. He was the first man I ever loved and the role model in which I have judged all others. We are too much a like and have moments in which we lash out, but I am the parent I am today because he showed me how it’s done.

I am thankful for my fabulous siblings. Not only because they are the link to my past and future, but because of the people they are today. I am thankful for every single phone call my sister makes to me, even when she makes claims of stalking. Her support of me is so very loved and needed. She is my personal cheerleader in life and I could never imagine a moment without her. I am thankful for the strength of her outstanding husband and her loving kids. My brother has become the man I always knew he would become. I am thankful for the strength he has within himself to have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. He is beautiful, proud, and softer than he appears. I am thankful for the lovely woman he has brought into our lives and his gorgeous daughter. I am thankful for my other brother in his ability to straddle the lines between two families with such grace. It is never easy being a child caught between a blended family. We claimed him as our own years ago and ours he continues to be.

I am thankful for the open arms of my fabulous in-laws. They accepted me and my son in a time when I was so unsure of myself. They showed me such love and I continue to be humbled and honored to not only have them as my own, but for their giving nature and ability to continue to inspire me to be better than I could ever hope to be. I am also thankful they have raised such an amazing son for without their guidance, I wouldn’t have the husband I have today.

I am thankful for my job. Yes, the one I gripe about on a regular basis. It has given me the opportunity to not only work full time, but be a Mommy. I have been able to go on field trips and participate in activities without having to always use vacation time. I have managers that although drive me batty, are willing to work around children sick days, me going back to school, family emergencies, and on some days just simply having the desire to leave early because everyone needs to play hooky every once in awhile.

I am thankful for quiet nights and moonlit skies. I am thankful for the guitar pic in my pocket and the dear friend I was with when I got it. I am thankful for wine and girl nights and my cats when they’re warming my lap when no amount of clothing will ease the chill. I am thankful for road trips and strangers who never need to know my name. I am thankful for my Mother and all the things she taught me in her short life. I am thankful for my pillow and coffee and old movies and Johnny Depp. I am thankful for my step-mother and her constant desire to be everyone’s something and yet never her own. I am thankful for her friendship although it’s not what it used to be. I am thankful for my Grandmother. For her years of insight, love, support, and honesty. I am thankful for my family and I’m thankful for my friends.

So, before this list of thankfulness gets any longer, take a moment and list the things you’re thankful for. List even the bad things that may have turned good in the end. List even the smallest thing. Be sappy about it, be brave, and then go out and spread it around. There are those out there who have so very little to be thankful for. Be the change.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

My Jessie Bessie

I have a pretty amazing family. We have shared many ups and downs over the years and quite frankly, we are a bit codependent on each other. Today however, I really need to put some positive words out to my sister and lets face it, writing is how I do things best. I will be the first to admit that face to face confrontation often makes me stumble with my words. My tongue gets tied up, I may cry, or simply lose my thoughts and say things I didn’t intend to. This way, I can put it out there for her to see and read over and over when the mood takes her and maybe some of you can cheer her on too. Sometimes, even the best and strongest of us need words of encouragement. So with that being said, onward I go.

My sister is just as loud as me, funny as hell, giving, emotional, loving, and one of my biggest cheerleaders in life. We have fought like cats and dogs, said hurtful things to each other that no one should be able to recover from, and loved each other unconditionally because that is precisely what sisters do. They are often the first to hurt you and the first to pick you up when you fall on your ass. They know the part of you that you don’t quite understand yourself. My sister also suffers from the middle child syndrome. We may joke about this, but it is real. She has had to not only be my little sister, but the big sister to our brother. She also takes the mothering role to a whole new level and will be the first person to check up on both of us. She is the glue that is always there to keep us together. She has the tendency to be the voice of reason when no one else wants to listen. She became the woman of the house when our Mom died and at the young age of fourteen, she took this role seriously. I will never try to understand what that must have felt like for her. Especially when I moved back into the house for almost a year with a toddler in tow. Our twenties were spent in a rocky state and we didn’t really find the strength of our friendship until the last eight years or so. I think it took us that long to truly see each other. To see not only our weaknesses, but to help each other boost our strengths.

Today, she is successful at an incredibly stressful job, helps to run a household with my fabulous brother in-law and is the stepmother to two amazing kids. I admire her for her ability to take life on even when she doesn’t want to. I love that she can bust out into song in the middle of a crowded store and not seem to be embarrassed. I love that she doesn’t take herself too seriously and I love that she can admit when she needs help. Asking for help is never as easy as it sounds. I love that she can be a bitch, I love that she is a daddy’s girl, I love her bravery and her ability to be honest with herself when she realizes that she is human and not Wonder Woman. I love her hugs. They make me feel whole. I love that she still likes going through my make-up or my bathroom cupboards in general just to see what I have. I love that she talks to Dad about his diet and health concerns. I guess where I’m going with this is to tell her that she’s needed. She’s loved beyond measure. The Ford Family quite frankly wouldn’t work without her and I don’t think I tell her these things often enough. We all are so used to going on about how amazing our Dad is I think we forget about each other. I think I may even have to write a separate post about my brother just to make things even. You know siblings, I have to be fair. Oh, and if any of you are jealous, I don’t blame you. My Jessie is pretty fabulous. She’s mine and I don’t share very well with others. : )

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