Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!)

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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.

Bored Musings

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Ice blue like his eyes. Cutest white boy alive. Bored to death. Should be excited. A group of new friends all united. Designer preview sale I’m looking forward to. Not enough money to spend, what to do? Sun playing peek a boo with the clouds. Why is that rigging machine so damn LOUD?! Talking with a new friend about college debauchery. Life is short, that I now really see. Time is spent, often wasted. Dedicated to living it up and whatever comes I’ll face it.

Get ’em Started…Right

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I never really ate school lunch. Sure, I remember the compact little tin foil dishes and the line of kids in elementary school queued up for sustenance. But it was never me. I came up during the era when Lunchables were first introduced, and between those and whatever lunch goodies our regular weekend grocery trips yielded, I was covered. Even in high school, school lunch was a RARE occurrence. Sure, our open campus policy helped contribute to that, but even when I did hit the lunch line I kept it simple: tater tots and grilled cheese sandwiches.

I was not, then, very conscious about what form my nourishment took, so it never dawned on me that there was a bit of self-preservation at work. After coming across this blog though, mine eyes have been open(th).

The site validates my obsession with packing my baby’s lunch/snacks and milk everyday for daycare. And if that is what she’ll be looking forward to in a few years, I most certainly will be doing it when she hits elementary school too!o

The blog, written by an Illinois teacher highlights her “adventures” eating school lunch everyday and blogging about it–and it’s not a good look! The blog is interesting though (read the American Teacher in Japan post…I’m trying to send my child to school there!) No offense to my teacher friends, but you know I want to my child to attend high school in another country anyway and your stories don’t go a long way to sell the American public school system. Some of the charter schools and magnet programs yes, but public education overall? Not so much.

With my baby, I don’t get absolutely everything organic and you don’t need too. Foods like bananas don’t usually have high pesticide residue, but apple, grapes, potatoes, thin-skinned fruits and greens (kale, spinach, etc.) do. Focus on those. There’s a list “The Dirty Dozen” that has the produce that is the dirtiest/most contaminated with pesticide residues, etc.

Produce is one thing that I may be flexible with, but I don’t even want to LOOK at non-organic animal products. Milk, meat, yogurt and I’ve been on the prowl for cheese (which a friend found recently. Yay!), whatever I can find that is wholesome and good and not loaded with unnecessary preservatives and sugar (stay AWAY from high fructose corn syrup, and it’s in just about EVERYTHING! I just read that it was in my beloved Wheat Thins a couple of weeks ago and I’m hesitant to even read the whole grain Ritz ingredients! We’ll have to find a new snack.)

It’s not just food though. It’s a lifestyle change we’ve been working on to just live better overall. Dr. Oz said (yes, I’m quoting Dr. Oz), that we’ll either pay for it now (yes, organic does cost more) or pay for it later by way of increased health-care costs, declining health and lower quality of life.

Most of the things I buy are available at Super Target, WalMart, Publix and Kroger. And if you PLAN you can find sales and use coupons: Kroger had Horizon milk boxes (organic milk that doesn’t require refrigeration. It’s all an interesting process-heated at extreme temps to pasteurized then packaged and sealed, making it shelf stable…(check this link for more details) on sale recently, 10/$10. I tried them with my child and they were highly convenient and good for her. And though we moved to almond milk almost five, six months ago, I would still use the milk boxes for travel and in a crunch.

Need more examples of the practicality of living better? I went to get charcoal for from Publix. As a joke, and a way to discourage the menfolk from asking me to pick up extra stuff from the store, especially since this was the third pass, I got the Publix Greenwise (organic) brand all natural wood charcoal. But the joke ended up being on me–not only was the BIG bag of that charcoal CHEAPER than the Kingsford and other brands, but all of those die-hard grilling men LOVED that stuff and now don’t even want to use the other charcoal anymore!

One of the best tips I’ve ever received was to buy in season. It seems logical, but how many of you knew that shrimp isn’t a year-round food? I didn’t. It’s in season in the Summer (June-August!). That’s also when it will be the cheapest. And buy wild caught seafood, not FARMED. Farmed sound better, but it’s not. Check out www.sustainabletable.org/shop/eatseasonal, for what’s in season when and what’s in-season in your area.

There is a plethora of ways to make it work within your lifestyle. These ideas will get you started or one of my fav sites, The Daily Green.com has thousands of tips and the dirty dozen list is on there as well). It only take a little bit of effort and some of you have it easy (The City of Chicago PICKS UP recycling, I have to load the car and drop mine off or pay an extra monthly fee to have it picked up. It may sound easy, but when the closet drop station is only open during the week until 4 p.m. and closed on the weekends, not so much.

You decide what works for you-don’t flush the toilet every time after using it unless it’s really necessary. Don’t let the water run when you’re brushing your teeth. Wash your clothes in cold water (really, only linens and greasy/oily things need hot water). Use vinegar and baking soda to clean. Whatever it is, just do something.

Who’s the Boss?

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Once upon a time I wanted to be in charge. I wanted to be the boss. The one who ran things and told others what to do. Ah, the folly of youth (or inexperience. Maybe both!). I retract. Take it back. Strike it from the record. Wish I’d never said it. Beg forgiveness for opening my big mouth and vow to keep quiet next time.

Over the past five years, I have come to the realization that no sane person would really want to be the boss. I have determined that the only people who say, “I wish I was in charge,” are those who have never actually been in charge. Who wants to deal with other people’s problems? Who wants to constantly temper their emotions, while letting an office full of the most sensitive individuals in the world unload on them? Who wants to be the one everyone looks at when something goes wrong, but the last one they see when everything goes right? Where’s the joy in discipling waywayrd staff, only to have them buck up like they didn’t do anything (as in jail, no one is EVER guilty)?

This week at work has further solidified my disillusionment with the charms of “being in charge,” and have come up with some observations about office behaviors (in general…not just in my office).

1. All employees whine. As the mother of a 17-month-old, I am proud to say that my child barely ever whines. Now, if I could apply that same statement to most office workers, the world would indeed be a better place.

2. If employees devoted half as much time to their actual jobs, as they did to pointing out how badly a manager/supervisor/lead/etc. does theirs, the world would be a better place.

3. Sharks ain’t got nothing on most employees. If they smell blood, they will swarm like cannibals. Any sign of compromise or kindness is inevitably interpreted  as weakness. And then when the smackdown comes, the supervisor is always the one who is wrong.

4. There is always a Velocoraptor. Yes, I’m referencing Jurassiac Park. There is always one who tests the limits, fancies themselves smarter than you and is always jumping bad like they are the biggest, baddest reptile in the park. Then the T-Rex has to remind them who the boss really is.

5. It is rumored that parenting is the most thankless job in the world, and while I’m sure it has its moments, parenting also offers the benefit of legacy, unconditional love, sweet baby snuggles and kisses and general happy moments. By contrast, I submit that being a supervisor at a small company–where you don’t get paid even remotely enough to deal with Nos. 1-4, often are forced to manage (or something like it) sans (or with very little) support staff, training tools or any other resources (human or otherwise)–is the most thankless job in the world. And yes, even if it is in an industry or generally doing something that you love.

6. No one works as hard as me. At least that is what everyone believes. Every employee is the HARDEST working man/woman on the block. Unfortunately, while they are busy telling you how hard they work, absolutely NOTHING is getting done!

7. Business is color blind. Black, white, purple or blue it doesn’t matter. Every office, in every culture has issues. They may not be the same issues, but they are issues none the less.

8. There is always an issue with how a manager/supervisor talks to someone (NOTE: I have not found a nice way to reprimand someone for doing wrong…especially when, **RERUN ALERT** no one is ever guilty). Ironically, some employees seem to think that they can talk to whomever they like, anyway they like though and it should all be good. Ummm, no.

9. They always do it different (READ: Better) somewhere else. Employees love to toss up how so and so inc., does this or how their sister’s niece’s nephew’s next door neighbor’s company does that. I wonder though, if they have a month’s worth of vacation, allow you to come in and leave when you like, don’t address tardiness, missing deadlines or not turning in information when requested–basically, they let you do what you want, when you want–why then don’t these employees go and get jobs there?

10. Managers and supervisors never understand. That’s right, since all managers popped out of the womb managing things, they couldn’t possibly understand employee work issues, being underpaid, underappreciated or being treated unfairly. In the rosy world of Managerialland we are always paid what we’re worth, are told by owners how wonderful we are adn what a good job we’re doing and never get blamed for anything that is out of our control (not to mention job description). Yeah, and the Tooth Fairy is really real.

Despite my opinions, I wouldn’t trade my (nor would I recommend anyone trade their respective) experiences for the world. Those experiences help to shape who we are and sharpen our character. They test our integrity and hopefully win and, most important, it reminds me everyday why God and my family, not my job, are the most important things in my life.

Would I really appreciate my sweet baby’s kisses and snuggles at the end of the day if I didn’t have to deal with some of the above? Maybe, but I know that if that’s the reward, it sure does make being the boss not seem so bad.