Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Hartwell Chronicles ... saying goodbye

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me. It causes too many questions to pop up in my head.
Questions like, “How do you say goodbye? When do you say it? Can a bye even be good?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. Most people probably don’t know the answers either.
It’s not something they teach in school. You might learn in at home or in the school of life.
Clearly I missed that class.
I wish there as a goodbye manual. I’m no expert at goodbyes. That cancels me out as an authority on writing about the subject.
Goodbyes are always awkward for me, and usually not happy experiences.
Therefore, I am taking a stand against the word goodbye. I refuse to say it.
Such is the case with my recent departure from Hartwell.
I’m not saying goodbye to all my friends and adopted family there. You can’t say goodbye to special memories. Otherwise the situation would just be downright depressing.
Picture it: Sicily 19… wait wrong story.
OK picture me saying goodbye to everyone I know in Hartwell. That would take some years. I haven’t the time or the patience.
Then all those goodbyes would probably make me cry. It’s bad enough I get emotional while packing. And I already have overactive tear ducts. How many tears can a person take?
Too much crying usually causes my sinuses to act up. Next thing you know it, I have a headache, stuffy/runny nose and a host of other problems.
Clearly goodbyes are bad for my life.
Michael Jackson’s birthday is today and the radio is playing his songs non-stop. One song in particular sums up my thoughts on saying goodbye.
“Tell me why, is it so that I never can say goodbye? No, no, no, no. I never can say goodbye.”
I’ll tell you why. Goodbye is an unnatural phrase to utter because it causes confusing feelings.
When my granny died I said at her funeral, “I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say see you later.”
How do you say goodbye? I don’t know. I can’t comprehend one anyway. But a see you later I can get with.
So my leaving is far from a goodbye, Hartwell. I’ll just see you later.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chronicles of Life ... Sensitive v. Desensitized

While talking about yesterday’s incident, my mentor brought up an interesting point: Are black people sometimes too sensitive about certain situations, or have others become too desensitized over time?
She asked would I have been offended if another black person said the exact same "Aunt Jemima" commen. Yes! Ignorance goes many ways. For instance, I hate when other black people call my hair nappy. The word denotes images of coarse, unmanageable and bad hair. My hair is none of the above. It’s soft, easy to deal with and healthy, therefore good.
But I digress.
My mentor’s first question was an interesting point to ponder. I’ve often wonder that about myself based on my reactions to certain incidents.
When the whole Jena 6 incident happened I wondered what the whole uproar was about, and why was every upset. It seemed simple to me. Noose or not, there was no need to jump somebody. Six boys beat up one. Duh, they should go to jail.
Maybe being charged as adults was harsh, but if you do the crime you do the time. They brought that on themselves. So I, for one, was not taking time off to march for criminals.
Was I desensitized?
Then again, there was the yearbook incident at Charter Oak High School in California. Someone placed faked names on the real ones of Black Student Union members. The names were negative, stereotypical ones such as Tay-Tay Shaniqua. Those students ended up having to place stickers with their real names over the fake ones.
How that got through the final rounds of proofreading is beyond me. Clearly that issue was wrong. I was outraged at that ignorant prank.
Am I too sensitive?
And who can forget the whole Skip Gates issue? His neighbor called the cops saying two black men were breaking into a house. Once the police arrived, tempers flared. Gates was arrested and the race card was thrown.
How did I feel? Was I desensitized or sensitive? The jury’s still out on that one. Race could have been a factor, but so were attitudes.
I just want to know, can I get an Arnold Palmer Summit (it’s like the beer summit except you drink sweet tea and lemonade mixed) for my incident?
Many black people are overly sensitive. We do throw the race card, a lot. Sometimes it’s at things that have nothing to do with race. But there are indeed many instances when it is justifiable.
I look at it like this: The Civil Rights Movement didn’t really end until 1968, if that early. It’s now 2009. That is only 41 years. Just how much progress do we expect?
Sure we have a “black” president, but that definitely doesn’t mean all ignorance is gone. And I don’t mean just between black and white people. Hispanics, Asians and homosexuals are still trying to progress too.
The racial divide and inequality gap has closed somewhat, but there is still a long way to go.
I can’t speak for all black people, just myself. So here's my attempt at answering the question.
At times I am desensitized about issues. Not because I think black people have finally “arrived,” but because sometimes there’s a whole lot of hoopla over nothing.
But I also know when to be sensitive about something. Not because I want to throw out the race card, but because ignorance is still around.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chronicles of Life ... What not to say

Even in the 21st century, sensitivity and diversity seem to be an issue in the community. Some people just don’t know what to say to each other.
Perhaps I need to write a training manual to help people avoid making ignorant comments.
I have been inspired by an incident today.
I was rocking a head wrap, as I sometimes do, and walked passed someone. She preceded to ask me, “What’s with the Aunt Jemima look?”
Well you could have just knocked me over with a feather. I was flabbergasted.
This isn’t the first time I've worn the head wrap. In fact, each time people have responded with comments such as, “Oh you look so chic, sophisticated, stylish,” and so on.
Normally, I don’t have comebacks for ignorant comments. This time I did say something.
“This is not an Aunt Jemima look,” (and I didn’t even catch an attitude, I might add).
But what I should have said is, “And just what do you mean by that?”
Obviously it wasn’t a compliment. It felt more like an insult to me.
Aunt Jemima doesn’t really denote a positive connotation in my opinion.
Look at the old school images of Aunt Jemima, and what do you see? A a plump, smiling, bright-eyed, black woman wearing a head rag. Aunt Jemima was even marketed as a former slave.
Above all, Aunt Jemima is the most common representation of a “mammy.” Who in their right might would mistake me for a mammy?
In the words of my friend Cee, “I don’t know who you think you are, but most importantly I don’t know who you think I am.”
Whether or not the person knows the story behind Aunt Jemima is unimportant. The fact that she even thought a comment like that was acceptable is just disturbing.
Then again, I can’t be that surprised to hear her ask me that. She’s asked in the past if I rolled my neck and do other things “that black people do.”
I know she’s not the only one who thinks like that and sees no harm in asking ignorant questions. Thus, the need for my manual.
Fan Club Prez, and a few others, thinks I should have told her off or drop kicked her one time.
That’s not my style. And what would it have solved? She would have still been basking in her ignorance, while I would have looked equally ignorant and gotten arrested.
Above all, I have a fear of getting arrested and ending up as Big Shirley’s girlfriend in the pen. You know they probably would trade me around for a pack of gum and cigarettes. It just ain’t happening.
I’d love to print off pictures of myself and Aunt Jemima, then give them onto her with a note that says, “Ignorance is bliss.”
Then again, I’m not that confrontational. Besides the moment has passed, so there’s only one thing left to say, “Mrs. Jane Doe, you get a DO BETTER AWARD!”
Her prize is an autographed copy of my forth coming manual, “What Not to Say: Dealing with Diversity and Sensitivity.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

chronicles of life ... in theaters one summer

Fade from black into a scene featuring Taraji P. Henson lying in bed. Suddenly her alarm clock goes off.
It is 7 a.m.
She groans and rolls over to hit the snooze button.
The camera shifts to Taraji brushing her teeth.
Then she is walking out her front door with a bagel in one hand and keys in the other.
She yells a good-bye to her fish, Murphie, and mumbles a mantra to herself.
Thus begins my movie.
Yes, one day I am going to have a major box office blockbuster called “Small Town Single.” It is an adaptation of my semi-autobiographical novel of the same name.
Taraji is in fact me (well not exactly me, but there will be certain mannerisms that will clue people in).
The story chronicles a small town newspaper reporter as she goes through a year or two of dating and relating after a breakup.
I won’t give the plot away and spoil it for you (mainly because I haven’t actually wrote the book yet, much less the screenplay but it is in the works). You’ll just have to wait on your ticket to the advance premier screening.
My movie will make you laugh, cry, laugh some more, feel angry, but mostly laugh.
I’m thinking it’s going to be a comedy, not necessarily a romantic one mind you. It might fall into the chic flick category, but not because its all girlie girlie haha.
Seriously, I am far from girlie girlie haha. I just happen to be a funny girl, woman, young lady.
I’ve already asked some friends who would they like to play them in the movie.
So far the cast list includes Keshia Knight-Pulliam, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Cameron Diaz, Anthony Anderson and Brad Pitt. As you can see it will have several A-listers.
The cast list is far from complete. I don’t even know who all the book characters will be. All will definitely not make it in the movie.
I’m still working on a director, but Judd Apatow, Drew Berrymore and Sanaa Hamri are being heavily considered.
Key cast members will be my friends/co-workers. However, I will be lacking some family representation.
Why, because certain individuals laughed at the idea of me having a movie.
I called my mother one day and said, “Hey, who do you want to play you in my movie?”
“In your movie?” she said. “Nobody even knows you!”
This was followed by a round of laughter, much to my chagrin.
To make it even worse, my brother said the Discovery Channel was more interesting that my life, therefore a movie about me would be boring.
Their roles have been cut.
My dad still can be in it. Marvin Sapp will portray him in a brief church scene.
That’s what those two get for trying to douse my dream and calling me lame.
OK, I am sort of lame, but believe me, my movie will be 10 times as interesting as my real life.
That is the beauty of it being MY MOVIE! I can make myself even more fabulous than I already am.
Naturally if the book is going to be a page turner, then the movie will be awesome.
I’m aiming for number one box office spot opening weekend. So don’t go bootleging my movie.
Just remember, coming soon to a theatre near you, “Small Town Single,” based on the novel by AJR.
Check both out one day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chronicles of Life … great news for the fam

Normally on Wednesdays, I block out the world and take a 13.5 hour nap. Today was the same, except I woke up at 2:30 a.m., checked my text messages, and now I can’t get back to sleep. My mom texted me some GREAT news: my brother’s tumor is gone!
Praise the Lord, cut the cake and let’s all dance!
My family found out AQ had a tumor in his stomach in late May. I hit the road quicker than lightening to make a trip home, soon as I heard. We may fuss, fight and argue on a regular, but I love my little brother. He’s irreplaceable.
I prayed and cried the whole trip down, because I know a tumor usually denotes cancer. Cancer is not something I would wish on anybody, and it seems even worse when it’s a child. Little Brother was just 16 (17 now) and a rising senior in high school.
Doctors did a biopsy and spinal tap and got the results. We soon learned he has Burkitt’s lymphoma and would be undergoing chemotherapy for about six months.
Burkitt’s lymphoma is an uncommon type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that commonly affects children. The abdomen is usually the area that is affected for children in the United States and Europe (lymph nodes are the case in equatorial Africa). It is a fast-growing cancer, but Burkitt’s lymphoma responds really well to chemotherapy and is quite curable. Later relapses are hardly seen.
It was not as bad as it could have been. But of course we still were quite upset that he even had cancer. My parents and I were buckets of tears when the doctor told us that news. We made sure to dry up though so my brother wouldn’t see us and get depressed too.
I spent a few nights in the hospital with my brother, much to his dismay. I was the absolute best nurse, in my opinion. His every need was anticipated. Although soon he started cussing me out because I was “annoying him,” and he seemed just a little too happy when I left. Mind you, I was practically in tears because I didn’t want to leave my poor baby. But I make sure to call him (or at least both my parents) every day, sometimes multiple times even. I get hung up on a lot, or ignored calls. I’m not sure why.
But I digress.
That first week in the hospital was filled with visits from family and friends (and my own friends all called me on a regular for updates). They came to show their love and support and offer prayers. I think I heard at least a good 20 prayers. My dad is a pastor and most of his friends are too. Every night seemed like a new prayer meeting.
Prayer is good and does indeed change things. My brother has to go to the hospital every month for a weeklong treatment of chemotherapy. When doctors did the second biopsy in June, 50 percent of the tumor was gone. They were only expecting 20 percent. The chemo was working, but God was working more.
My brother is bald right now (I cut my hair in solidarity) and extremely skinny, but he’s been in good spirits about the whole cancer situation. He makes jokes saying: he is going to ride his bicycle from Jacksonville, Fla. to Palatka, Fla. and get a medal like Lance Armstrong; he is now excused from all gift giving because he has cancer; or the girls all love his sexy bald head (he actually doesn’t look too bad).
I think he has one more treatment in September then he’s done. Yay!
I am thankful to everyone for all their thoughts and prayers. That is what helped my family get through this.
It was too late/early to call anyone, so writing it out was the next best thing. Now we can all rejoice at this great news.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chronicles of Life ... Auntie-for-hire

At 24, my maternal instincts haven’t kicked in yet, but I am quite ready to be an auntie.
I want millions of nieces and nephews running around in shirts that say, “I’m as cute as my auntie,” or “Auntie’s baby.”
This fixation with being an aunt was bound to happen sooner or later.
I think aunties are the third greatest people after grandmothers, who are number one, and mothers who are number two.
Clearly if I’m not a mother I can’t be a grandmother. I do think I could definitely handle being a grandmother. You don’t have to put in nearly as much effort into raising grandkids as your did your own children (unless you are completely raising them).
I’m not at that level to be a mother, but oh an auntie I could be.
I tried the cool older cousin thing. It didn’t work because I had a heifer of an ex-cousin (yes, I do disown unappreciative kin).
I tried the cool young mentor thing. It was moderately successful during the school year.
Naturally, the next step is the cool auntie.
However, there are several obstacles standing in my way. The chief one being my only brother is still but a babe of 17.
He better not have children any time soon or I will beat him silly. Neither my nerves nor my parents’ could take him procreating just yet.
I do have millions of little cousins running around. I could probably claim one of them as a niece or nephew, but even that plan has a few flaws. Mainly I don’t think most of them even like me.
Perhaps it is because they don’t know me.
I was away in college when most of them were born. They know my brother and just look at me like, “Who are you and why should we care?”
It kind of lowers your self-esteem to hear a little child act all disinterested in you when you’re trying to bond but brighten up with such joy when they see everyone else, especially your brother. I’m not jealous, just unloved.
I need to start afresh with somebody else’s baby who can grow to adore me as the cool favorite auntie.
None of my friends are expecting, and even if they were we don’t live in the same area. The ones with nieces and nephews aren’t sharing.
So where does that leave me? Niece and nephewless.
Or does it?
Undeterred, I have decided to proclaim myself an auntie-for-hire.
I know there is someone out there whose children are lacking the joys of a cool, young and hip auntie. I just know I was meant to be such a person.
I would love to spoil somebody else’s child with lots of attention, gifts and whatever else being an auntie entails. I'm not really sure about all the duties of an auntie. Hopefully diaper changes, getting covered in drool and cleaning dirty noses aren't a part of it.
It can't be that hard, because at the end of the day the children go home to their parents. Not me!
Ralphie, my betta fish, and I can’t be bothered with full-time children. We’re just fine with part-timers.
I can’t possibly mess up a child with me for only part of the day.
I know my brother wants to have at least four children in the future. Well I can’t wait that long.
The time is now for me to be elevated to the status of auntie.
Now if only I knew who was in need of an auntie-for-hire. This future auntie is ready and waiting.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chronicles of Life ... Fabulously Fly

I am what some would consider a fashion disaster most days. I defy, well actually ignore, fashion rules and trends.
My hair is usually wild and unruly (or at least it was back when I had hair). My style is considered non-existent by my friends and families.
Personally, I don’t care. I do me (and I do it well). However, there are those very few occasions when I conform to normal beauty standards and might make people think I am a fashionista.
They are rare, very rare. Like maybe once every six months rare.
I can turn heads quicker than lightning with the right hair style, outfit and shoes. Yes, I do clean up quite nicely, I must admit. Of course the compliments just flow right it.
“Girl you look good! Sexy mama! Watch out now!”
But the one saying that really grinds my gears is “What’s his name?”
What, I can’t look good just for me?
I’ve been asked that quite a few times lately. I now cheerfully responded, “Jesus.”
Anytime I change up my look or style people chalk it up to some dude. I have never changed my look for anyone except myself.
Even though my brother was the basis for me cutting my hair, I had thrown the idea around of actually doing it for a while.
If I get a mani/pedi it’s for me. These freshly arched eyebrows point to my enjoyment. I am rocking the fro in recognition of my own beauty.
Believe me, my ego is already so inflated that I know how fly I am even on those “rough days.” I don’t have to step it up to notice it. And if I do, you can bet it isn’t for some man.
As one friend pointed out, men don’t really even notice things like arched eyebrows or manicures. Women do it for other women.
I am sure men appreciate the overall package. But seriously who really pays that much attention to detail? Surely not I. And I’m a woman.
At any rate, I would prefer some guy catch me on my regular days. Being extra fabulous is too much work for me.
I’ll just stick to my normal fabulously fly self.