Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Coping with the Unimaginable

I have been working since I was 12 years old. My dad had a restaurant when I was kid and it was there that I learned how to work hard and in a spirit of excellence. I experienced loss as a teen....we lost a significant amount of our home to fire. I think it was that experience combined with living through my parent's bankruptcy that placed in me the desire to give back to others who have struggled. As a college student, I worked my way through school. All of my jobs were the foundation for my career in nonprofit management. Since the early 1990s, I have been dedicated to helping others and trying to make a difference. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to India as a part of a documentary in 2008 with 7 women from Dallas to see how the women of India lived. What I experienced as a child was nothing compared to what I experienced and witnessed in Mumbai and Chennai. Even as an African American female who understood dealing with challenges, my life was no comparison to what I saw these women deal with on a daily basis. I came back more aware of the blessings I had and my responsibility as a global citizen. I returned to the states to start a new job. I had a house, a family, and a great life.

I never thought that those things I treasured would be in jeopardy. I was home ill almost two weeks ago when I received an email from my job. I found out that my position had been terminated due to funding. I was devastated. The job I loved, that allowed me to help others, was gone. For years, I had been the one giving, the one who was helping others. I am now in the strangest place in my life. I am now relying on others to help me. I have never had to apply for unemployment. When I received the statement of what my benefits would be weekly, I was floored. I prided myself on being a woman who has always worked hard even putting myself through graduate school. I think when people think of layoffs, they don't see how this economic downturn has impacted all walks of life. There are those of us who are professionals, who have helped others, dedicated our lives to making a difference who now need help.

In this short period, I've learned some valuable lessons. I've learned that in this economy, no one is free from experiencing joblessness. I thought because I am highly educated and a valued employee that I would be the last to go. I was wrong. I am dispensable. I have learned how to receive the help of others although it is hard. I have always been the giver and to be on the other end has been an usual experience. I am thankful that I have sowed into the lives of so many that now those seeds are blessing me. I haven't found a job and I am searching daily believing that something will come my way soon. I have also learned to reposition myself. I am looking at entrepreneurial opportunities that will not only allow me to help others but also take care of my family. I am learning to invest in me. It has been interesting in using this as a teaching moment from my nine year old daughter. She is watching her mother who has always been the do-er cope with an unfamiliar situation. I can not wallow in my pain because I have to show her that when times are hard, you can make it. You can't give up on people even though you've been hurt tremendously by them. You can't give up on yourself even though there are days when you'd love to stay in bed and question why me. She's watching me and I must show her that out of pain you can create possibilities.

My husband has been a great source of help. I think this experience is bringing us closer together. I have been through two layoffs with him--one while we were dating and the other a few years ago. That was a trying time for us. During that time, a friend moved in with us who was unemployed in addition to a lady from Ethiopia who was here to marry a man she had been dating. He died within the week of her being in Texas. This wonderful lady needed a place to stay and we opened up our home to her. My father was dying with cancer and I was going back and forth to Louisiana to help my mom. To most, I know it sounds overwhelming but in retrospect, this was a blessing to my life. Even in that situation, I was giving. This current situation has allowed me to accept my husband's desire to support me.

I thank God for my mother who has been my sounding board ALL of my life but I know this has impacted her as well. She is trying to support me and yet, I know she is concerned about my livelihood and well-being. I hope my story can be helpful to other professional women who are mothers, wives, daughters, friends that are dealing with this experience. So often, we define ourselves by what we do. This experience has challenged me to come up with a new definition of myself, of who I want to be when I 'grow up' and the way in which I want to live in the world from this point forward. I know that the pain and the uncertainty shall pass but right now, I'd be dishonest if I said that it doesn't still hurt. Bad.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Snow Storm

I am sitting in my hotel room stranded because of the snow in Dallas.  I so desperately want to get home and yet, it is amazing how times like these cause you to slow down and take a look at what is really going on in your world.  I've allowed my personal and professional life to sweep me away from doing what I really love.  I love to write.  I catch myself complaining that I didn't have the time to do it and strangely enough, I have found the time to do things for everybody else but me.  

I think sometimes we focus so much on what is wrong instead of seeing what is good and true. Instead of feeling bad because I'm not home with my husband and child, I have chosen to be grateful that all of us are safe.  I am not in the airport like many tonight without a warm, hotel room that they can sleep in.  I realize that right this moment, I have been given a gift.  An opportunity to rest, relax and reflect.  

I believe daily we are given these moments.  They are often overshadowed by situations we can't change and people who serve as distractions from our purpose.  We look for these moments to be grand and we miss them.  We miss the beauty of the snowflakes because we are so consumed with how we will drive home.  We miss the sound of the wind because we have allowed so much noise to overpower our thought process.  Maybe the excitement we are seeking, the "Calgon take-me-away" experiences have always been there waiting for us to be open and available but we never stop long enough to see the opportunity.

My goal for the next week is to look, listen, and be open to those small rays of light that seek to illuminate my path.  I've been so fixated on the sun that I can't see those sunbeams that are around me daily.

I see that the many storms that have come and gone in my life have been painful  but they have brought so many lessons with them.  Thanks God for the snow because without this storm in my life, I could not have taken the time to see how blessed I really am.  

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reflections on loss and love

It's been a while since I've written.  Life has been so interesting.  I find myself experiencing love and loss at the same time.  I am convinced that in order to really experience life, you have to appreciate the extremes that exist.  I know love.  I have been blessed to understand the varieties of love.  I love my child with a love that is unexplainable.  No matter what she does, it never changes how I feel about her.  My marriage has taught me the range of love--from intensity to intimacy.  I love my family--they offer me invaluable support.  I know brotherly love just as I have tasted the depths of passion.  But love has also come with a price.  

I appreciate love even more because I understand loss.  The last few years have been very difficult ones for me and my family.  To say losing my father was challenging is understatement. My father was this big, strong, 6'6 man who never was sick.  The first time I saw him with a bad cold was in April of 2005.  We were both diagnosed with pneumonia.  Mine went away with treatment.  Despite all of the treatment he received, he got worse.  We soon discovered that the bad cold was actually lung cancer.  From June to September, I watched this strong Adonis become weak and frail.  My uncle passed away a week prior to my dad's death.  We had my uncle's wake on Friday at 6 p.m. and my dad's that same day at 7 p.m.  My family continues to experience a death.  As I write this, my aunt's (who died in December) uncle passed away earlier this week.  In addition, my cousin is in the hospital dying of cancer.  I have watched countless relatives transition to the other side of life.  Even though I know that they are all in a better place, free from suffering, I would be deceitful to say that this is painless for me.  I miss so many of them.  I would love to call my grandmother and tell her the crazy things that my daughter does that keeps us laughing hysterically.  I would love to watch the expression of my father's face to see her growth and maturity.  It would be amazing for my grandfather to even meet her.  He died well before she was born.

My losses have served as a compass for me.  I have learned how to hold on to those I love and tell them what they mean to me daily.  I don't need a tragedy to appreciate them.  I recognize that there are some people and some things that are a waste of energy and time to focus on.  A year from now, they won't matter.  I realize that each day is a gift that should be appreciated and loved.  When you know loss, you can value love in a new and unique way.  

My prayer is to always be grateful.  I have to remind myself to not focus on what is lacking but the abundance that exists in my life.  Despite the pain, I do know pleasure.  In spite of the setbacks, I understand  the look of victory and accomplishment.  The extremes in a strange way have helped me to remain balanced.  My quest is to find middle ground in between those extremes.  If I can do that, I know that I will experience and conquer peace.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Just Want to Be Successful

Lately, I find that I am even more aware of the drive for success in our society.  I was listening to the radio and the following lyrics came through my speakers:  “I want the money, money and the cars, cars and the clothes.  I just want to be successful.  Just enough to solve your problems, too much will kill ya.”  Music is just one place that the perception of success is laced into the crevices our subconscious.  Television shows no longer promote the ideology of the past that hard work is the key to success.  Instead, fame can be a result of who you have had a relationship with or how much drama you’ve inflicted on others.  Talent is a by-product and in our society, is not crucial. 

For many, this phenomenon is new.  It is a sign of the demise of a culture.  The reality is that for many of the voiceless and powerless, being diligent, dedicated and committed was not emphasized and the reward for this behavior was minimal.  The process of obtaining “stuff” was not as glamorous as much as the proof of the wealth and items gained.  I have had young people tell me that they can make more money in the entertainment industry or in the streets than spending so much time going to school and working so hard for a degree.  There are more visible characters that have done it the questionable way in our society who receive notoriety than those who are loyal, driven, and faithful. 

We have become a society that has a need for speed.  We want immediate gratification and fulfillment.  In the age of Starbucks where you can have more than one type of coffee, our expectation is that we can get it and get it now.  Things have changed and although we have made so many advances, we have also left some needed things behind on our road to progress and change. 

By no means am I suggesting that we all take a vow of poverty.  I enjoy things in life that my parents and ancestors did not have the opportunity to experience.  I also realize that balance is essential.  As I develop my financial portfolio, I must also develop my spiritual one as well. 

Success is more than having a big house, the bad ride (car for my older peeps (people)), designer clothes or a beauty on my arm.  Success is defined by not what you have obtained.  None of those things can be taken with you when you die.  Money cannot solve your problems and without character, it is difficult to keep it.  Success to me is about taking care of your children no matter what and not creating children who yearn for love and attention.  We have confused sacrifice and used our children as pawns for our desire to be important. Success is building a legacy for those generations behind us that will give them a foundation of hope instead of one of harm.  Success is making the world a little better merely because of our existence.  Success is using those God given gifts to improve those in our circle of influence.  Success is understanding that the world does not center on you and that you have been blessed not because of who you are but because of WHOSE you are….that you are a part of something greater.  Our lives are connected and when you are not well, I am impacted. 

My desire is not to become like the generations before me who dismissed the energy and innovation of the youth.  There is something to be learned and gained from those who are younger.  I chose not be a part of the “us versus them” mentality.  All of us play a role in our culture and even if we cannot directly point to how we made this happen, we can be proactive in our actions and response to making a change to redefine what success is and should look like.

My definition of success embodies a number of things involving my family, my friends and my world.  Yet, all of those things are just components of what I really want. Ultimately, I desire to hear God say “Servant Well Done.”  I hope that what we all are seeking is more than earthly and results in a positive eternal outcome.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reality Check

It’s scary to me how people see God as a celestial Santa Claus, dropping gifts at our call.  As a parent, I see things that my child does not have the knowledge or ability to understand.  Kazai wanted a cell phone at 6 years old.  I didn’t feel that she needed one and knew that she was not responsible enough to have one at that time.  I knew that she would lose it and since she did not understand the value of money or know that it was not a toy, it was unrealistic to make the financial commitment.  I knew that I had to teach her responsibility with smaller items so that she could have the experience when the time came to appreciate the gift when it would be given.


I feel that God does that with us as His children.  Just I would not give Kazai a cell phone at 6 or the keys to my car at 8, I sincerely believe that God responds similarly.  Quite often, we feel neglected or abandoned when we do not receive answers to prayers or opportunities that we feel we deserve.  The answer isn’t always yes or no.  Sometimes, the answer is wait. 


A loving parent would never give a child something that would hurt them or they are not ready to receive.  Our lives are filled with various experiences to give us the foundation and preparation for our future. 

Never compare yourself to others.  It is truly a trap that keeps you and your energy from focusing on your path. In addition, you never know what people have gone through to get where they are at this time.  From the outside, it looks glamorous and appealing.  Behind closed doors, we are unaware of the struggles, trials, and pain an individual has endured.  In our current place, we must be thankful and continue to preserve.  Recognize that mistakes are also a part of our journey.  I know I couldn’t do what I am doing if I had not had acquired the experience and made numerous mistakes.  I know that ten years ago, I did not have the maturity, skills, or knowledge to even maintain what I have now.  In due time, if it is truly a part of your life purpose, you will receive it!  Be patient and know that God is on the throne!  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Till Death Do Us Part???

I must admit.  I read blogs.  I am fascinated by the way people think.  Quite often, I find comments that are either very funny or on point.  Yet, lately, I am amazed by the absurdity of some of the statements people have the audacity to write for others to view.  I wanted to gauge the feelings of men and women on the Steve McNair situation and what I found has been simply unbelievable.


I didn’t know Steve McNair or much about him.  After my father passed, my willingness to rattle of the name of players and their stats went away to some degree with him.  Motherhood also limited my chance of watching games especially when other more intriguing options such as Dora the Explorer or Sponge Bob Square Pants were available. 

I remember seeing a picture of Steve McNair and over-hearing some of the discussion about his athletic ability.  I was much more impressed with his community outreach and his desire to give back to those less fortunate.


When I found out about his death, I raced to the Internet to find out about this hero that was so highly regarded.  As more information became available on the situation, I became saddened.  Steve McNair made some very bad choices.  I felt sorry for his wife and children.  They are the true victims of this tragedy.


The comments about his death are even more startling.  There were individuals who were adamant in their belief.  Comments ranged from “He deserved to die” to “If his wife was doing her job in the bedroom, this would have never happened.”  It is very seldom that I am ever speechless.  Rest assured, I was unable to articulate my feelings ranging from utter disbelief to an overwhelming sadness.  My sadness extends to our world and how our society views responsibility and love.  We’ve lost something. 


I agree Mr. McNair made a very bad decision.  Yet, in my lifetime, I must acknowledge that I have made some crappy decisions as well.  The difference is that my bad choices were not aired to the world.  The list is long of what could have been done differently.  I read one blogger state that he should have been with an older woman and that would have resulted in a different outcome.  Are you kidding??? 


My grandmother use to say if you point your finger, you have 3 fingers pointing back at you.  We all must be responsible for our actions.  Very few individuals are acknowledging that personal accountability is essential.  I’m sure there is enough blame to go around.  From other reports, this behavior was not new for Steve McNair.  The fact that he was comfortable in purchasing a vehicle and placing it in both of their names, in my opinion, demonstrates a person who apparently was not fearful of being caught. 


The mistress also had a part to play in this real life drama.  She was willing to compromise her future in order to live a life of perceived fun, excitement and notoriety.  She didn’t question what a 36 year old, millionaire would want with a 20-year-old waitress. Even if he left his wife, Mechelle, of 12 years for her, would he really remain faithful to her forever? The knowledge I have now in my late 30s is so much more than what I knew about the world at 20.   This young woman will never have the chance to experience learning from her mistakes.  She enacted a permanent solution to address a temporary problem.


I was more fascinated with the role of his friend, Wayne Neely, who upon encountering the bodies chose to call McNair’s best friend instead contacting the authorities immediately. I don’t believe he was involved in the murder but I do believe that it is odd that a married man who has a home in the same city would rent a condo with another male.  Is it possible that he had been covering up for his friend’s behavior previously?


Lives have been impacted and changed forever. Blame doesn’t change circumstances but personal accountability does.    Our society is so willing to blame and yet, we fail to take the time to recognize the role we play.  We have been given such a wonderful opportunity and that is to make choices and decide what our journey will look like.  Sure, your parents could have been complete idiots who rode the little yellow school bus and yet, as an adult, you have the power to do something different.  Sometimes doing something different requires help.  I wonder if those friends of Steve McNair would have been willing to take responsibility and not be a part of his secret life what might have happened.  Love and responsibility go together.  As humans, our lives are connected.  What happened to Steve McNair could have occurred to anyone in our lives.  The difference is in the power of the choices we make and our willingness to allow love to help us become accountable to ourselves and to each other.  For every action, there is a reaction.  Sometimes, the end result can be deadly.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Winner Never Quits and a Quitter Never Wins

My daughter Kazai has a love-hate relationship with Tae Kwon Do.  As she’s walking into my bedroom, I report to her that her father is coming to get her for class.  Tears began to stroll down the face of my beautiful baby (Yes, I’m a biased and doting mother).  She cried crocodile tears begging that she could stay home.  “I don’t want to go!” 

Yet, every time she is there, she has a blast!  As a mother, it is a difficult lesson to not only teach but to also model.  I have to remind her constantly that you must begin what you start.  You cannot give up because the challenge has become more difficult.

Teaching this lesson is timely in light of the resignation of Governor Sarah Palin. The Governor says that she’s not a quitter, she’s a fighter but adds that politically speaking, “if I die, I die.  So be it.”

What an interesting perspective.  I don’t know Sarah Palin or really understand her reasons for leaving office.  I do believe in a world that is partial to those it criticizes without a consistent standard, it is imperative that we do not send messages to our children that when the going gets rough, we don’t get tough.  We quit. 

Quitting isn’t bad when continuing is even more hazardous.  There is a wonderful quote in the Bible that paraphrased tells us to count the costs of whatever we do.  Quite often, we analyze the results of the action not calculating the impact of the process.  Prestige and power always looks great from the outside.  If we fail to evaluate the picture completely, we are misinformed and unprepared.

Maybe Sarah Palin felt it was time to pursue other opportunities.  It’s quite possible that she was in over her head.  It doesn’t matter because ultimately, she will deal with the consequences of her decisions—good, bad, or ugly.

This is a lesson I’m trying to relay to my baby.  I want her to know that life gets hard.  It’s unpleasant and sometimes what we love isn’t always fun and a bag of chips.  I want her to know that with joy comes pain,  often unspeakable trials that we endure behind closed doors.  Despite all of those scenarios, you are a winner even when you lose.  No matter what, face whatever you fear knowing that God is there.

Kazai went to class.  She said, “Mommy, it was fun.”  I knew she could do it!