Radical Empathy–Why Black History Month Should Matter to White Folks

Maya QuoteI have a passion for history and literature which I have passed along to my young son. He is drawn to the concept of re-imagined endings and loves to read the You Choose book series; the ending changes based on choices the reader makes throughout the story. He watches Alternate History Hub and spends hours imagining “what if” scenarios.

His 10-year-old mind (and very old soul) gets lost in a story, fiction or nonfiction; he often experiences what he thinks the characters feel so deeply, he can’t sleep. As we talk about Black History Month and what he is learning in school, we spend a lot of time discussing empathy and alternate experiences.

Just imagine for a moment–what if we reversed it? All of it.

It’s February 2015, White History Month. The first white president is serving his 2nd term in office. Throughout the country, protests continue as white people insist their lives matter.

Yes, I know your textbook says American History, but the primary focus is on Black Middle Class Men. Black History is a core requirement; learning white history is optional. Don’t be so sensitive. You white people are always race-baiting, talking about slavery and segregation—especially you angry white women. You have a white president now, what more do you want? Continue reading

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Memories Matter–Resist the Post Divorce Urge to Purge

memoriesMy ex-husband and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day. It may be a relationship cliché, but for me it was the perfect opening scene to what I thought would be our fairy tale movie ending.

My family has never done very much in honor of the Hallmark holiday, but his always goes all out. The children in the family receive special gift bags full of items designed to say, “I love you” in a way that is meaningful to a young heart. It’s a tradition, along with many others, that I continue to honor with our children.

One of their favorite stories is about me giving their Dad, a true fishing fanatic, a chocolate bass for Valentine’s Day one year. Unfortunately, by the time he got around to eating it there wasn’t much left but a fin wrapped in foil (Hi. My name is Theresa and I have a chocolate addiction).

What they love most about the story I think is it reminds them that their parents did have many wonderful moments that continue to be inside family jokes. Moments from the past woven into our current story remind all of us that the divorce wasn’t an ending—it was the beginning of a new family script.

My children have family pictures in their rooms that assure them they were created out of love. I still hang the personalized ornaments on the Christmas tree that show the 4 of us as sleigh riding penguins or happy little elves. I feel it’s important to remind them we are always going to be a family till death do us part; we just define it differently now.

After divorce, many feel the urge to purge (or at least hide) objects in the house that serve as reminders of the marriage. Not me. Continue reading

I’ll Take Things You Find in a Restaurant Restroom for $1000 Alex . . .

mouthwashI got this. I’m going for the win in bathroom Jeopardy. What is mouthwash? Granted, I don’t go out much, but how did I miss the memo that taking care of personal hygiene is something you can now do over lunch at your favorite local restaurant? Not only did I feel compelled to snap a picture, but I was caught doing so by a lady I am sure is still telling the story of some creepy woman in the bathroom. I couldn’t help myself.

Did you have the garlic bread? The aromatic salmon perhaps? Or maybe you just didn’t get a chance to pick up some sample size mouthwash of your own this week. Those mints at the hostess station may not be enough to take care of that halitosis and let’s face it; you are hoping to get lucky after this culinary adventure. No worries. Take care of your business, slather on some lotion, freshen your breath and you are ready for romance.

Of course I researched this when I got home and discovered yes, this is a trend. Most establishments opt for an actual dispenser to prevent those creative types from tampering with the potion. This one however went with an empty cordial bottle complete with pour stop. I kept picturing a bunch of drunks yelling, “Free shots!” and hoped it was the alcohol free variety.

Continue reading

Dreams Made of Oobleck and the Search for a Hat that Fits

hats 2-8-15

This morning I woke up thinking about childhood dreams. I remember telling everyone as a little girl I wanted to write books. My Papa and Nannie (grandmother, not bougie paid caregiver) always told me then that is exactly what you should do. At forty sumpin’ I remain bookless. When did the dream get deferred, jump the track–dissolve into something that passes through your fingers when you try to hold it?

It reminded me of The Maya’s love for oobleck; cornstarch mixed with water that is a liquid until you squeeze it and it becomes solid. Aha! Everything I need to know in life I learn from Dr. Seuss, my children and the books they love to read. I stopped squeezing the dream . . .

Another favorite is Max Lucado. In A Hat for Ivan, the hatmaker’s son struggles as everyone tries to give him a hat not designed for him that represents who he will become. People are always trying to tell us what hat we should wear. The little girl who wanted to be a writer eventually heard, “You will never make any money doing that! How about advertising? You can still be creative and make a living.” But I didn’t want to write ads, I wanted to write books. I put on the hat though and headed off to pursue my degree in Mass Communications. Epic fail—one semester and I was done.

I then tried on lots of hats—waitress, bartender, bank teller, paralegal. None felt like they fit. I headed back to school to find a new hat. Hmm, maybe I will be a psychologist. That turned to oobleck the second they mentioned statistics. I eventually chose American Studies because it allowed me to explore all kinds of subject matter—art, literature, history, music, material and popular culture.

I was happy in my new hat until someone said, “You should go to law school.” I picked up that hat and then planned to write legal briefs. I was accepted, but changed my mind. Somewhere in my head, that little girl’s voice started screaming, “I don’t want to wear the lawyer hat. It doesn’t fit!”

As a child, what was the hat you wanted to wear when you grew up? Are you wearing it—or did you trade it in for a different one?

Comment here or join me on Facebook —The Maya Mojo.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

YOU HAVE TO SEE IT TO BE IT

hatersLast night I had the pleasure of attending the elementary school talent show. My kids weren’t in it, but we were there to support their friends. As I watched all of the wonderful kids dance, sing, play instruments and tell jokes I kept thinking how great it was none of them had learned what too many of us learn as adults–fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of criticism. Fear of compliments. Fear of not being good enough.

Oh I’m sure there were some nerves, but not that paralyzing kind that often takes over by middle school. All of the performances were straight from the heart; one not yet broken by people who only know how to tear others down because they can’t build themselves up. I hope I have taught my children it is okay to be afraid, but do it anyway.

Last year for the YMCA Summer camp show, The Maya wore a Cheshire Cat costume, played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on her kitty keyboard in meow mode and did the cup rhythm. I think she gets it.

Music and Memories–Finding Your Signature Song

music 2-7-15For me, music and laughter are the cures for almost anything. I always wanted to play guitar like my grandfather. He couldn’t read music, but he played by ear and I was always mesmerized. I have playlists of “go to” songs for any mood that strikes. Music has the power to take us back to a moment in time or even take us somewhere we haven’t been before.

One of the icebreaker questions at a recent work meeting was, “What is your favorite song of all time?” Some folks knew right away and others, like me, had a hard time choosing only one. It felt like being disloyal to all of the other songs that had been significant. If you had to pick, what would be the one song those who know you recognize as YOUR jam?

Comment here or join me on Facebook —The Maya Mojo.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Doing What You Love, Loving What You Do

dream job 2-6-15Those who know me personally know I love to talk so have coffee with me and talk back. Otherwise, I will just feel crazy having a conversation with myself.

This week the kids and I have been discussing dreams. The Maya’s answer to the question of the day is a unicorn. Go figure. She also said my answer is straight out of Lamesville. Nicholas wants to be a professional video game player/writer/astronomer.  How about you? Are you doing what you love for a living?

Comment here or join me on Facebook —The Maya Mojo.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts!