Author Archives: Fem Phat

About Fem Phat

A phat girl living in an too often small-minded world...Here's where I weigh in on all of the HEAVY issues.

Cover To Cover

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Joy Journey: Day 5

There is nothing like losing myself in a fictional world and being carried away by story lines of intrigue, corniness, action and adventure, romance, or ones of historical or cultural significance. I love to read popular fiction, historical novels, young adult books, whatever.

When I need a little trashy angst, it’s all about the Fifty Shades series, when I’m missing my youth I channel John Hughes and devour the Twilight series, re-read Vampire Diaries, or The Hunger Games. When life lacks adventure or intrigue, I pick up the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) or lose myself in feudal Japan by way of the Sano Ichiro mysteries by Laura Joh Rowland. My most recent reads, courtesy of my big sis, paid homage to Black History Month and the complicated relationships between masters and slaves (House Girl and Wench).

It’s not an issue of good and bad. I’ll be the first to agree that Fifty Shades isn’t Tolkien, but it’s an easy, fun read — escapism at its best. See, joy can be found I between the sheets (of paper that is!)

Building Blocks

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Joy Journey: Day 4

I always remember learning about black people at home. Sure, we had obligatory Black History Month projects at school, but that wasn’t my base about who we were and where we came from — it was my parents who, well who parented and taught us significant black facts as a part of our everyday living. My dad was actually a little like the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, except everything originated with a black person instead of Greeks. I didn’t realize how much that influenced me until I became a parent.

It gives me genuine joy to see their faces light up when they learn about Bessie Coleman, Zora Neale Hourston, Wally Amos, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Nat Turner, Sarah Baartman, Malcolm X, Queen Nzinga, Patrice Lumumba, Huey P. Newton, etc. and it’s not exclusively from school work. All but two of those were homework. Those bits of knowledge were initiated by the dedicated parental units around these parts.

The joy comes from them knowing and understanding, and from making the lessons tangible. A month or so ago, there was an incident that involved some young ladies, some twerking, a video recording and some too little shorts. The result? A lesson on Sarah Baartman and a discussion on why willingly objectifying yourself is unacceptable behavior, when so many were (and still are) involuntarily put on display and paraded like sideshow acts. Yes, some do it voluntarily, but that’s another post for another day. Today I’m talking about the interest sparked in a preteen, who had no prior knowledge of that woman, and who was interested in learning more. That more lead to Emmett Till and beyond.

My joy comes not from rehashing the past just for sensationalism sake, but in sharing it like it was shared with me; and also from sharing that history with those outside the community as well.

A friend at work and I were talking about Black History Month and the things we do to commemorate, and I told her that everyday the kids, ALL of my kids, had to identify a black person who’d had some significant historical influence or contribution and tell us about them. The next day, this white co-worker, sent me a link to a site that did daily Black History postings and she thought the kids would benefit from i
, and then added that she was learning too!

That made me almost as happy as hearing a 5 year old latch in to the idea of Queen Nzinga, even though we covered her 2 days ago, and wanting to know more about the warrior queen from Africa.

Yeah, we’re doing something right, and we’re just getting started.

All Eyes On Me

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Joy Journey: Day 3

Those Facebook videos. I absolutely loved mine and would’ve posted it sooner if I could have figured out how to (no share button showed up at first).

I remember first hearing about the social networking site in 2005 from my cousin, who was in college a at the time, when she came for a visit. It was the first time I really started to feel a little, well old and out of touch.

Fast forward almost 10 years and I’m a pro at this Facebook thing. And not just Facebook, but Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest too. I appreciate the ability to stay connected with those with whom I would’ve long ago lost touch, and the opportunity to network with colleagues and others.

As simple and understated as Facebook’s rollout of its 10th Anniversary tributes was, the “noise” they created was massive. The evolution of my start on the site, from throwback pictures of myself and my single carefree life, to weddings, pregnancy and kids’ birthday parties, was nicely summed up in one minute.
Add to that milestones like completing graduate degrees, switching jobs, etc. and the story of my life (well a well-produced snapshot) is worth watching again and again.

Second Time Around

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Joy Journey: Day 2

I felt some kind of way (to my psychologist friend who hates the lack of emotion articulated by that phrase, I included it just for you), about growing older. Forty was much closer than 30 was and I was not fully on team over the hill.

Still, I’d accepted my fate and was determined to find joy in this new year of life. This post isn’t about how I found it though; it’s about how I stopped keeping an accurate count of birthdays and my inability to count resulted in birthday bliss.

As I noshed on Gouda grits and calamari with a best bud, I mentioned what it felt like to be [insert the age I’m not telling here]. As I talked through all the positives, she interrupted me and said, “You’re not ___!” To which I replied, “I am. I just turned __ today.”

Doesn’t she think I know how old I am?! Yeessh! Anyway, as she went on about how old she was and how we’d never been the same age, I realized that I’d gone all of last year and the first month of 2014 adding an extra year to my life. I cannot even express my absolute JOY in realizing I’m only [insert the age I’m not telling here]!

I feel like I received a cosmic do-over or something. A second chance and I’m getting it right this go ’round.

Let’s get it!

Count it all …

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There is a point when you really feel grown up. Not necessarily like when you were 18 or 21 and ran around telling everyone, “I’m grown!”, like I did. No, this “grown” requires no announcement and is that turning point when you really feel like I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself and God, and you truly recognize that all those little cliches are indeed true.

I’m starting to feel that. I don’t know if it’s because 40 is now closer than 30, or because it’s a new year or what, but it feels good. It feels good to not be as worried about trivial things and know that trouble really doesn’t last always. It’s not really as bad as it seems , life really is good and all of that.

Since the start of the new year, I’ve been reading lots of social media posts about this one detoxing, that one’s daily fitness updates, this one’s 10-day challenges, that one going vegan for 30 days, and still others have been “giving back” with posts promising surprises sent to the first 7 respondents. Since Feb. 1, there has been a barrage of Black History Month posts. No matter the subject, people are committed to whatever niche they’ve selected and they follow up with it faithfully.

One friend, last year, decided to post daily about her day. It was nothing fancy, just a quick, “Day X was for …” and she was done. In honor of those posts I’ve decided to commit this year to joy. Just pure, simple joy. Whether received or given, whether I’m feeling it or not, I’m going to count it all joy. Everyday I’m going to identify something that brings me joy and I’m going to share that happiness with the world.

Joy Journey: Day 1

“(Insert any noun or verb here) gives me life!”

For some reason that above statement irks me. Not sure why, it just sounds so contrived. But just for today I'm giving it a pass because everything is giving me life today, and that life brings me joy! I'm going to revel in this euphoria and truly celebrate life with abandon today.

The hardest job…

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Cameron Diaz in Columbia Pictures’ film “Bad Teacher”.

“As in any profession, there are teachers who need to receive more training, work harder, and/or move to another job, but if most teachers are doing a pretty good job, then we should probably spend a little more time praising them, a little less time decrying the fate of the teaching profession, and refer to bad teachers as the exception rather than the rule.”

Education Policy Thoughts

I never really gave much thought to the quality of public education in our country because I never really had a reason to. I mean as a 20-something, my focus was self-centered and the happenings of the children (and to a larger extent community) around me was low on my priority list. Post-30, and 4 years into motherhood, and my perspective has radically changed. The education of my child, and by extension the children around her, is one of my highest priorities. I care about what type of education she will receive, but it is not just about her. Actually my interest in education piqued several years before joining the parenthood club, when we graduated college and many friends entered education as teachers. That interest swelled in later years as our “job talks” shifted from being about them being tolerant and optimistic about helping our young people just because they were the “Talented 10th” and wanted to pay it forward, to frustrated wine downs (emphasis on the wine) about lack of parent participation and in many cases interest, administrators who were out of touch with their employees, and pulling triple duty as teacher, parent, and child psychologist. Then those friends got married and began having children, who then entered the education system and my interest grew even more as they dished about balancing home lives, babies & toddlers with work demands, lack of sleep, and the like.

I thought parenting was hard, and yes it is, but I never imagined that teaching is probably a million times worse—for the good ones that is. And trust me, there are more good ones than not. Fact, in a recent study (2011) by TNPT, a national nonprofit committed to ending the injustice of educational inequality founded by teachers, only 1 percent of teachers are rated unsatisfactory, and 94 percent of principals agree that teachers in their school who are under-performing are rated as such. In short that means that a sweeping majority of teachers actually give a damn and put forth at least average to better effort to educate our youth. So what’s my point? This, a teacher friend, an almost 10-year veteran of a public school system in a non-unionized state is catching hell and I’m offended for them.
I am offended because this teacher I know misses her own children’s events for parent-teacher conferences and mandatory staff meetings. This teacher I know spends her own meager salary buying extra paper, folder, crayons, pencils, etc. for students who don’t have them because their parents can’t or don’t send them to school with supplies. This teacher I know, spends the time at her own children’s team practices grading papers, and stays up nights and weekends doing the same. This teacher I know spends the over-lauded “summer break” in development classes, grade meetings, planning lessons and setting up their classroom. In the decade they’ve taught, I’d say they get an average of one week—ONE WEEK—where they are not planning, grading, or otherwise doing something school/work related, and that’s being generous. It’s for those teachers, the good ones who stay late after school to help students who aren’t getting it, and swallow the comments of idiot administrators, who think it’s right to suggest they consider being stay-at-home-parents if the ever-increasing workload (which is often accompanied by an ever-shrinking salary) is too much for them to bear. Forget if you have a husband or a wife, and children of your own, your job comes first and everything else be damned. For all the good, committed, dedicated, non-unionized teachers who don’t have the muscle of a centralized organization and the persuasive influence of a strike threat to help protect reasonable job benefits I just want you to know that there is at least one (I know there are more out there) who gets it and sends her massive appreciation your way for all your that you do!

Yep, I KNEW It!

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It was only a matter of time. If the marked irritability, caffeine withdrawal shaking, and lethargy were not indicative enough, waking up this morning passed out on my computer—I was using it as a pillow—drives home the point that I was tired.

Last thing I remember, I was working on my assignment, I’d put in my eye drops, and said I’ll let them sit for five minutes, finish my school work, take a 2-hour nap, and then go to the store. What happened was that I started this last post, when my eyes started hurting, so I put in my eye drops and well, the rest went like this:

It was all really dreamlike. And came to me as a train of thought.

PJs on. Leave your mom alone. I ate spaghetti. Mommy I have to potty! Get out of there. Where is Caden’s shirt? Mommy you still sleep? Mom I’m getting my pajamas. Shh, mom’s sleep. You hungry?. Turn your ringer off. I closed the garage. You know your computer’s on? Get back in the bed! Nite, nite babe.

I know that doesn’t make sense, but that is exactly as I remember it. What it means is that the world didn’t end because I wasn’t functional, and someone else handled things while I rested. Sure the dirty clothes ended up in the clean hamper, the dishes are STILL in the sink, and toys litter the family room. But the life went on—imagine that!

Now to tackle this kitchen…

Mission Impossible: Catching Zzzzz

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I am not as young as I used to be. I remember staying up all night in college and running the entire next day. I also remember being able to consume ungodly amounts of spirits and still being able to function the next day. Alas, after 30 that all changes. Now, I wouldn’t know if I could consume that amount of liquor, because I wouldn’t even try (thank God for maturity). Unfortunately, I do know that I cannot pull all-nighters anymore. I learned that lesson the hard way after 30-mins of sleep, four Cokes, and a bag a Jelly Beans later — yes you read that right. I am appalled to even write it, but it’s true. That is what my yesterday consisted of. Yet somehow I had my wits about me enough to resist the kids trying to slip McDonald’s in (I’ve effectively banned it from the house, and their bodies). The little sharks sensed blood in the water, and thought I would slip in my sleepless state (I conceded to Wendy’s since cooking was out of the question)

Still, I was going on fumes this morning as I did the school drops, and planned to take the grocery store trip that didn’t happen this weekend. Even as I look around the house I’m horrified—dishes in the sink, recycling bin overflowing, the partial grocery list still on the table where I started it Saturday morning—all the things left undone.  Even as I write this, the words are moving across the screen.

But I’ll get it done, because I always do. No matter the sheer quantity of everything that has piled up with school assignments, work assignments, and did I mention that dishes are STILL in the sink (I know, I didn’t make the store so there is no dishwasher soap, but WHY does hand washing the dishes only occur to me?). Anyway, just another task to add to the list of things to do.

Maybe I’ll get a nap in before the kids get home from school…I can always dream about sleep.