The History Behind The Photo | My Sister’s Wedding

I remember a few things about the guy my sister said she was going to marry. I knew his name and I remember my sister asking to borrow some money from me before the wedding. They were living with her mother temporarily until they got their own place. I’m pretty sure the first time I met him was when I dropped off the money.

The day of the wedding, I remember arriving at the church for the ceremony and a local vocalist was singing and playing the piano. Since I was also an amateur singer, I guess I wondered why I wasn’t also performing but at the same time, I remember feeling a little relieved not to have to sing too. There was sort of an awkward exchange during the wedding party receiving line. When I got to my sister’s new husband, I said something like, “Congratulations, you better be good to her.”

I guess the church rules dictated that they weren’t permitted to have the wedding reception there? I’m not exactly sure but we had to drive to a different location. The reception was held at a small hall located in the basement of a local barbershop of all places. It was a small space and ended up being intimate. Family members were in attendance that I was able to meet in person for the first time and talk with one on one.

Our father was there with his wife and their son. I remember chatting it up with many there. Since my father was not involved in my upbringing, supportive to my mother, or really a father to me, it was always awkward to be in the same space with him. When I was in Junior High School, I was the first one to reach out to him to get to know him.

Someone was taking pictures at the reception and decided that it would be a good idea to take a picture of my father and I with his younger son (my half-brother). I totally forgot about the picture. Many years after the wedding and probably after my sister’s eventual divorce, I was talking with my sister about family and how certain family members look alike. I argued that I didn’t think I looked much like our father. She told me that she would prove me wrong and sent me the picture that is included with this blog. I told her she was right and that I had totally forgotten about that photo! After looking at the picture, I thought I looked more like my father than our younger brother even though we all have different mothers and mine happened to be White. As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

Song Inspired by Daily Meditative Prayer | I Want To Say Thank You

Song: “I Want To Say Thank You”

How It Started

Religion and spirituality have been part of my life for quite a long time. My mother started taking me to church services when I was about 5 years old. I used to say jokingly that she dragged me to church. I started participating in church activities such as Sunday school, singing in the choir, and attending Bible studies. I even became an ordained Deacon in my early thirties.

After graduating high school and my first years of college, I began exploring new thoughts and ideas about religion and spirituality. I learned about the religious beliefs and spiritual practices of other cultures through books, documentaries, and discussions with friends. While working on a degree at a local Christian college, I remember taking some type of world religion course. It was such an enlightening experience to learn so much more about so many different cultures and their religions. What was interesting to me was the fact that even though there were stark differences between them, there were also parallels to Christianity believe it or not.

Stopped attending traditional religious services

Feeling trapped and constrained by the piety, stuffiness, and rigidness of traditional religion is not something that I enjoy. I no longer attend church services but I do appreciate the idea of organized religion. To each his own I say and different strokes for different folks.

I have come to believe that a “higher power” exists and this entity could be the ultimate intelligent being and/or creator. The “creator of all” including positive energy, light, and love. I still refer to this higher power as “Lord God” out of respect, reverence, and the belief that the “Almighty God” that is described in Biblical scriptures is one in the same. Therefore, it only makes sense to me to give thanks and pray for guidance, positive energy, light, and love.

Speaking positive energy into existence

For the last few years, I have devoted a few minutes in the mornings during the work week to meditation and prayer. I strongly believe that meditation and prayer helps to clear the mind, body, and soul/spirit. It has helped to keep me grounded, humble, thankful, and positive.

One day this past summer, I stumbled across the Voisey App on my phone, found one of the music tracks, and wrote a short song about being thankful. Basically, part of the lyrics in the song are taken from my Daily Meditation and Prayer (see below). The video above is my original song “I Want To Say Thank You”.

My Daily Meditation and Prayer

Lord God, highest power in the universe, creator of positive energy, light, and love. I pray, know, and believe that positive energy, light, and love will flow into me today and every day moving forward.

I pray, know, and believe that the positive energy, light, and love that flows into me will emanate from me and have a positive impact on others around me.

I pray, know, and believe that positive energy, light, and love will flow into my partner today and every day moving forward.

I pray, know, and believe that positive energy, light, and love will flow into my daughter and her husband today and every day moving forward.

I pray, know, and believe that positive energy, light, and love will flow into my step-son, his wife, and their children today and every day moving forward.

I pray, know, and believe that we will all experience healing in our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits today and every day moving forward.

I am thankful and grateful for my life, my job, and the things that I have been blessed with.

I pray, know, and believe that I will continue to have a good rapport with everyone that I work with and that I will continue to do my job effectively, efficiently, accurately, and on time.

I pray, know, and believe that I will have the strength to reach for my goals and dreams, find and live within my purpose, and not only pursue happiness but practice happiness every day.

You’re On A Fu@#*ng Video Game

Soooo, my daughter decides to marry a guy from another country. They met while attending the same university. Neither one of them finished college and they can’t go back to college until their outstanding fees are paid. Thousands of dollars between the both of them.

Before all of this, my daughter lived with me and she had transferred to another college closer to home. She got the bright idea that she could go to college, move out on her own, work two jobs, plan her fiancées immigration strategy, and plan a wedding. I knew all of this wouldn’t work and I waited for bad news. I knew that college would be sacrificed… my fears came true and I got the notice. “Dad, I know that you’re disappointed in me, but I dropped out of college.” All the groundwork that had been laid seemingly crumbled with that one text. She really may never experience that sense of accomplishment of attaining a college degree like her mother and I had.

So much has happened since she moved out and since the wedding. All of the help, advice, physical labor, financial assistance. One thing after the other. Family discord. Immigration research, immigration attorney fee, immigration fees, wedding expenses, deaths, moving expenses. We, the parents, still helping with all of this and concerned about our children’s happiness. Trying to provide advice and direction based upon lives lived. Young people blundering and stumbling through their lives-kind of like we did. Didn’t take the advice of people who have helped others with the US immigration process and didn’t fully heed to what an immigration attorney advised. Now, more than a year after filing the first forms, the process has to be started again from the beginning due to filing and process oversights.

More than a year since the wedding and moving to the US, her new husband still isn’t working because the immigration paperwork isn’t completed. However, I’ve tried really hard to be supportive. Contacted people I knew to give my new son-in-law an odd job here and there so that he could feel useful and contributing to his new household with his new wife. Suggested things like volunteering at a local nonprofit in order to make some connections and build relationships for the future. I discovered that he was spending a lot of time playing interactive video games. And he announced that he would be part of an amateur football program where he hoped he would get noticed by talent scouts one day; no benefits or pay. Who would pay the medical bills if he became injured I asked? My daughter has no medical insurance with her employer for spousal coverage.

From early March to May in 2020, much of the US had been under quarantine and social distancing orders due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Like thousands, my daughter had to file for unemployment because she was temporarily laid off. Mid May, the US economy started to open back up and businesses began to call people back to work. My daughter was finally called back to work but of course things hadn’t changed much for her husband. Immigration paperwork still not submitted. I’m still ordered to work from home.

Later in May one weekend, my daughter and I decided to do a rare video chat. We had a few technical difficulties at the beginning but figured things out and started our chat. We caught up on things talking about work and life. I saw that she was moving around to different spots in her apartment and finally settled. I could hear her husband a little in the background. I thought at first that he was talking or responding to her and then I figured maybe he was on his phone. Later in the conversation with my daughter, I hear her husband say something to her. Then she replied back to him and I realized that he was complaining that she was talking too loudly to me. And that she was interrupting his interactive video game! I lost it.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. Then my daughter turned her camera towards where her husband was sitting and playing the video game. I started out joking saying something like, “Am I going to have to break quarantine and come where you are?” Then, I heard him say something but couldn’t quite understand. It sounded like some type of challenge? I couldn’t believe it. After everything. It all came rushing back-all of the help, advice, money, conversation, support, moving expenses, attorney consultant fee, immigration paperwork fees, etc. I said, “ You’re on a fucking video game and my daughter is trying to talk to her father during quarantine!” Then, more strong words were exchanged and I decided to end the call in order to avoid things becoming more out of control.

I’m going to miss you. Are you going to miss me?

I am still grieving my mother’s death. She was very sick, paralyzed from the waist down, and bedridden for approximately 15 years. For most of those 15 years, I was her legal guardian and advocate. During my childhood and into adulthood, before my mother’s chronic medical condition, our relationship was somewhat strange. One of the things that I remember, is that she wanted to make sure she was doing the right things like making sure we had a place to live, food to eat, and the usual things that a parent should do. My impression, is that she loved me but in a way that included loving a possession and making sure of its safety and growth. I didn’t realize it much growing up as a child, but we were not particularly affectionate. I don’t remember her ever telling me she loved me as a child or giving me hugs and kisses. I guess that was just her way. When we were together in her home, the relationship was pretty strict and ridgid most of the time with us not talking very much. However, there were moments here and there when we would have some enjoyable communication. I remember in the last house we lived in together, sometimes we watched the same shows but I was upstairs watching on my little black and white TV and she was downstairs watching on her TV. When something occurred on the TV show that was funny or scary or something, I remember me shouting downstairs, Mom, did you see that?! And she would say “Yes, I know, that was crazy!”, or something like that. There were other times I remember her approval and interest in my life. When I created a painting in elementary school that was praised by the school as excellent, she gave me her excited approval and recognition. Also, she really liked a poem that I had written and hung it on the wall. She seemed to always be supportive of my creative side. As I grew into a teenager, I felt a little more animosity towards my mother and of course this may be typical between a teenager and a parent. The teenager is trying to find their own way, their own space, and independence. During those later teen years, I decided that after graduating from high school, I would move out and make it on my own. I just knew I had to leave. It was interesting that my mother couldn’t believe I was really leaving even though I told her I was. As I reflect now after her death, I remember several times near the end her telling me that when she is gone she’s going to miss me. And then sometimes she would ask me if I was going to miss her after she was gone. This always stirred agonizing emotions but I remained calm as I gave her assurances. Even though she was suffering a great deal, and I would never have chosen this kind of suffering for her or anybody else, I do miss her. Even though the last 15 years have been very difficult at times, with regret, with breakdowns, with many tears, I do miss my mother. One of the things that struck me today and thinking about all of this, is I missed out on the part of my childhood with her that could have been a little more affectionate. I wish we would have developed a closer relationship that included telling me she loved me, hugging and kissing me-the normal stuff that you would expect a mother to give to her children. Don’t get me wrong, I know she loved me in her own way, but the lack of someone “telling” you they love you and expressing that as a parent with hugs and kisses, tends to leave a child with somewhat of a void in that area. However, during her sickness and physical struggles over the last 15 years, we attempted to repair and fix that void. Because of a very stressful and unfortunate event involving myself, my mother, and the daughter that she gave up for adoption, my mother, through concern and maybe some type of guilt, she saw my distress and my tears. She decided at that point to say she loved me and we hugged. We started hugging and giving each other kisses on the cheeks and saying we loved one another after my visits with her at the nursing home. This became our routine when I was getting ready to leave each time. So, in short, my thought and grief today includes those newfound moments and a wish that those moments began closer to the beginning of my life. But I am thankful that we grew closer in that way later in life. But I still feel that I missed out on something that we should have been doing all along. I was 52 years old when she died and she was only 69 years old. I am saddened by this but I am also happy that for the last 13 years or so of her time on Earth, we were more affectionate with one another as mother and son. It made a difference.

Visits With Mother 1/7/19

During this visit with my mother, I brushed her hair and rebraided it.  She is still only “mouthing” words without sounds due to the tracheostomy.  This is her current method of communication.  Oftentimes, I can follow what she is attempting to silently convey; we get into a good rhythm of me watching her lips form words and small sentences.  Then, the conversation begins – I respond verbally by asking follow-up questions, sometimes repeat back the words she has mouthed. When she accepts my interpretation of what she has mouthed to me, we continue the same pattern of communication.

Each visit is similar but yet sometimes different.  Different based upon any updates the nursing staff has for me.  Sometimes they tell me “she did good today” and sometimes its “she had a really bad day or night”.  And sometimes mom gives me her own update on what has happened the previous day or night and I communicate whatever her concerns are with the nursing staff.

This particular visit was a little different with the messages she was giving me.  At some point in the conversation, she communicated, “I’ll probably die in this room,” meaning her nursing home room.  Initially when she has said stuff like this in the past, I would tense up, become upset and try to encourage her to hang onto life.  This time, she expressed her daily struggle with pain and that she is miserable – this is something that she has said to me almost every time I visit.  However, the difference on this day is that she communicated that she wants to come home with me.  Basically, to die there and not in the nursing home.  I pondered the idea as I have several times in the past only to convince myself that it would be too much to take on because she requires so much care.

My Teenage Daughter | Age 13 (Year 2011)

When my daughter turned 13 years old I thought, “Wow she is actually a teenager now.” What did that really mean? What did she think now? Did she come into some new reality, some false sense of independence? With her body changing, developing into a woman, and hormones raging, her mother and I were in for some surprises this 13th summer of our daughter’s life. Did we do the right thing? Were are reactions to what happened normal? Were the decisions we made for our daughter that summer effective, impactful, and lasting?

I remember planning her 13th birthday party. Things were a little tense between my daughter’s mother and I but that was nothing new; the usual. I had it handled. The party was at a roller skating rink. We decided on the theme, the colors, the invitations, and we even visited a few stores and created gift registries. The day of the party, everything came together. She got many of the things from the gift registries. Her mother surprised her with a new pink and glittered cell phone with many new features including a camera. Most of the guests we invited were there; even the boy she liked. The boy she liked (but not permitted to have as a boyfriend) is a “preacher’s kid”, attended the same Christian school, angel on the outside, and a little devil (teenage boy) on the inside.

I counseled my daughter several times: no boyfriends, only group outings with friends, no dating until she was older (maybe 16), nobody permitted in my home when I was not there, and abstain from sex. That year she protested about not having boyfriends – I said absolutely not. Then, during our dinner and discussion times, she always managed to bring up the same boy (the preacher’s kid). Again, I provided the same counsel as before. She reluctantly agreed. Then toward the end of the school year, something happened and she advised that the preacher’s kid had angered her, he was a jerk, and she really didn’t like him much anymore (so I thought). What my daughter didn’t know was that I received information from her best friend’s mother who said my daughter had gotten into some type of argument with the preacher’s kid and had slapped him. I decided to hold onto the information and not say anything for awhile.

Finally summer came and school was out. During the weeks my daughter was with me, I usually found a summer activity for her (summer school, summer camp, etc.) and she also began volunteering for a local non-profit agency. Somewhat oblivious to what was going on in my daughter’s world, she asked to stay home from volunteering one Friday because she was tired and just wanted to sleep in. Not completely comfortable with the idea, I agreed and shrugged it off. I attempted to “check in” by texting and calling but she didn’t respond right away. When she finally did respond and I asked her what had taken so long, she said she was asleep. I arrived home shortly after 5 pm (after work) to find a young teenaged boy coming out of my house. I calmly asked the young man what he was doing coming out of my house and of course he lied and said he was just in the doorway. He tried to offer that he was waiting for me to come home so he could ask my permission to enter my home to visit my daughter. It was obvious that he had already been inside my home, and I suggested to him that he leave right away. My daughter had already run upstairs to her bedroom during my exchange with this uninvited guest. The young boy was a boy from the neighborhood – thankfully I knew his mother and had her cell phone number.

Needless to say, I contacted the boy’s mother and explained to her the rules of my home and that under no circumstances was her son permitted to be at my home and that my daughter was not permitted to have any boyfriends. She agreed to discuss the situation with her son and discipline him for entering my home without an adult present. I threatened legal action should anything occur again.

The first order of business was to confiscate my daughter’s new cell phone and start investigating. As I looked through the phone, I was shocked to learn that she was “sexting” and it was with the preacher’s kid and not the boy who I caught coming out of my home.

cell sexting pic

My daughter, myself, and her mother attended church service that following Sunday at the preacher kid’s father’s church. After service we asked to speak with the preacher’s kid and his parents. We confronted the preacher’s kid about the sexting and he tried to deny it by saying someone else had stolen his user id & password and was sending the messages. He used the excuse that he was at practice but the texting timeline occurred prior to the practice and ended during the time that he was at the sports practice – he still denied sending the texts. That didn’t make sense to me so I used the information I had been holding on to. I looked at the preacher’s kid and asked him if my daughter had slapped him during the previous school year – he said yes. I looked at my daughter and she was shocked that I had that information – I asked her if she had slapped him and she hesitantly said yes. Then I asked why she slapped him and reluctantly she said that both of them had been texting nude photos of themselves to each other. However, the preacher’s kid also shared nude photos of my daughter with a couple of his male school buddies. When my daughter found out, she confronted the preacher’s kid and slapped him.

LOCKDOWN – SHOWDOWN
Needless to say it turned out to be a rough summer. I had been attending college classes but became distracted with what was going on with my daughter – I barely made it through the summer classes. Due to her shenanigans, my daughter lost her cell phone, she could no longer stay home alone, she was examined by a gynecologist, her mother made her discard tight and revealing clothing, and she was required to attend counseling sessions with a licensed psychologist. I attended several of the counseling sessions too.

Death of Parents|No Emotional Closure

Both of my parents died within four months of each other. Father in November 2018, just days before Thanksgiving. Mother the following March 2019, four days after my daughter’s 21st birthday and 11 days before her wedding.

I didn’t officially meet my father until I was in high school. We never had a father-son relationship. Everything was awkward, unnatural, and often in conflict.

My mother did not appear to be affectionately connected to me for decades for some reason. I believe she cared for me, even loved me in her own way. She never hugged me and told me she loved me when I was a child. It was only when faced with family conflict, when I was in my 40’s, did she begin showing me affection (hugging me and telling me she loved me). These things I so desperately needed from her as a child. Even then, it seemed a little awkward.

Now that both of my parents are deceased, the emotional disconnection is physically gone but alive and well in my mind.

Happy New Year Everyone

Life Resolution Decide To Be Happy

 

Well, well, well…  2014 is finally coming to a close.

This year has been a very interesting one.  A couple of interesting things happened this year:

1) I decided that my new year’s resolution for 2014 would be “Decide To Be Happy”

2) I told myself that 2014 would be my year, something good would happen, changes would be made, and that I would find a new job.

My Decision To Be Happy

This was not always easy to do.  I posted the line, “Decide To Be Happy” on my computer screen, my white board at work, and on my white board/wall calendar at home.  For some reason, I felt I needed a constant reminder to decide to be happy?!  Sometimes we as humans can so easily fall into anger, depression, despair, etc.  This was really a challenge for me.  However, reminding myself to be happy during times of anger, frustration, and depression actually helped to keep me on track.  So therefore, this will be my resolution for 2015.  No, it will be my “Life Resolution” for myself.

Answered Payer for 2014

I also came to the conclusion that I needed to make a change and find another job in 2014.  I decided to pray to God and ask Him to help me.  I basically put the request out into the Universe!  I asked God to provide another job for me that provided more money, better benefits, and one that was located in a specific city.  Looking for employment (especially in this economy) is not easy.  I began by registering on various job search websites.  I also sent my cover letter and resume to various employers.  Then I received a few requests for interviews and eventually (seemingly out of the blue and miraculously) an opportunity opened up!  I almost could not believe it.  I prayed again and thanked God for the blessing!

Black-ish Episode 5: Crime and Punishment | My Thoughts

blackish picAndre ‘Dre’ Johnson has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids, and a colonial home in the ‘burbs. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family?  (Hulu description)

http://www.hulu.com/watch/705732

Black-ish… Hmm, an interesting name for the new ABC comedy that aired this Fall.  I watched the first “premier” episode on Hulu and then episode 5 today.  Prior to my watching this new comedy about a successful black suburban family, I heard a few things about the show; good and bad.  Local black radio shows, friends, and family have weighed in with opinions about the  show.  I even watched a very telling Larry King Show interview with Tracee Ellis Ross this past weekend.  Ross stars as this new show’s successful mom, Rainbow.  Ross talked about why she thinks the show is important, why she loves the show’s concept, and her own experiences growing up as the daughter of Motown’s Supreme Diva, Diana Ross.

A friend stated that they refuse to watch the show because it seemed to make fun of successful blacks and that it was kind of racist?  Ok, that’s one opinion.  Everything else I heard about the show was basically good.  And besides, I was happy to learn that Tracee Ellis Ross was on the show.  I figured it was worth watching the show for myself… I’m glad I did.

Honestly, while I was watching “Episode 5: Crime and Punishment” today, I found myself laughing so hard during some parts that it brought tears to my eyes.  The episode basically dealt with the dilemma many parents face: spank or not-to-spank.

In a comedic way, I felt this particular episode covered a few important parental topics including the following:

  • Cultural differences and similarities with children’s discipline methods
  • Socio-economic factors that may influence the way children are disciplined
  • Parent’s own childhood experiences that may influence the way they discipline their own children
  • The spanking “fear factor”
  • Alternatives to spanking

One funny scene for me was when the siblings decided they were not going to allow their parents to spank their younger brother… That is until they were informed by their father that he would spank all four of them if they didn’t move out of his way.  The photo below depicts their original stance before they “sold their brother out.”

blackish pic 2

Bottom line for me is that I really like the show.  It is sort of like an updated version of the Cosby Show.

Feel free to share your comments and opinions!

Cheers To ART Experience | Cincinnati, Ohio

A friend asked me to participate in a group painting experience in the Cincinnati, Ohio area at a neat little downtown art gallery called Cheers To Art!  I agreed to participate and rekindled my “inner artist” from my youth!  Everyone in attendance learns a few things about painting including the types of brushes used, mixing paint, and brush techniques.  The class is fun, low keyed, and there is a wine bar on the premises!  During the class, upbeat music was played while the instructor talked into a microphone to guide the class.  It was a fun and relaxing experience that I will someday participate in again!

Below are a couple shots of the inside of the gallery before the students arrived.  The various artwork displayed on the walls are what the different classes create as a group.

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Below is my blank canvas and the various paints ready to create!  Of course, a “little” wine for good measure? Ha!

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Then, just like magic, step by step the work of art took shape and form until it became a “masterpiece”!

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http://www.cheerstoart.com/