Becoming

The holiday season is almost over and the year 2019 is upon us. At this time of the year, we reflect on the year that was and we also look ahead at the year in front of us.

2018 was a year for me of transitioning. I finally began a decluttering project that’s been in the works for years. Due to the fibromyalgia pain that can be disabling and being chronically fatigued, I had to allow too many things to pile up in one room in my home.

 A messy bedroom with piled up boxes and their contents can be a bit nerve-wracking. First of all, there is a mess. Every time you look at it, it’s overwhelming and makes you remember at one time this room was clean. When you are feeling sick in bed, you are staring at it. You remember that you used to have the energy to handle this. You recall at one time, your carpal tunnel and wrist pain wasn’t paralyzing your hands.  You are afraid to light a candle or see a spark. A fire could start that will engulf you and your home in flames in mere seconds.  I COULDNT TAKE IT ANYMORE!  

I got tons of garbage bags, a shredder, scissors, twine, and a few other things together. I found a Netflix series with over 80 episodes, called Celia, about salsa icon, Celia Cruz. It was in Spanish, but there were subtitles in English. This way I could shred and still follow the story. I took breaks when she sang and started again when she stopped. I worked when my body could. I didn’t work too many hours straight or days in a row and rested sometimes for weeks in between. As the boxes started to disappear, I felt lighter, happier and like I was getting work accomplished.

Once I emptied the boxes in front of the closet, I got inside. I gathered clothes for the Salvation Army that I finally had to concede, I wasn’t going to fit into again, no matter how hard I was trying to lose weight. I’ve had two pickups so far and there will be more when I get to the second closet. That closet was where I had formerly stashed things inside of just to get them out of sight. This may not seem like a lot to some people. But for me, it has been monumental. 

For nine months of the year, I continued to tutor adults in literacy (reading and writing) and an additional curriculum was added to include numeracy, science, history, current events, and life skills. It has been a joy to see them learn new things, become more inquisitive and confident. They have become more determined to get their high school equivalency diplomas. If they continue to dedicate themselves, I may have a new group of students when I return in the spring.

I got the opportunity to meet with old classmates and teachers for dinner and brunch.  I have been dealing with limited finances (disability checks are not lucrative), but I will enjoy my life and have some fun and adventures. I have family who always helps me out, usually, at the exact moment, I need them. A few times I’ve had to ask for financial help and there has been no hesitation on their part. I know that I am loved and cared about. I have not always been so aware of this fact. I continued to spend way too much time online but tried to write more in a writing challenge. I shared cooking duties with a friend and had a great Thanksgiving.

December has been a great month. Back in May, I pre-ordered Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. I got an e-mail telling how I could become eligible to go to the book tour that would be in major cities. She was coming to my city and I wanted to be there. Miraculously, I was selected to pick tickets. I texted my cousin and she was on-board. We got the tickets! In November, I got the book and started to read. it’s a great, informative and revealing book. I highly recommend it.becoming

On December 1st, we were present at The Barclays Center to see The Forever FLOTUS. She was open, engaging, funny and as a peer,( I am a year younger than her), I related to much of her story. From the tour and the book, I learned how she didn’t allow the thoughts of others to change her opinion of herself. She was a box checker, just like me, an achiever. Going from one thing, completing it successfully and even though it wasn’t very emotionally satisfying, she kept on going on to the next milestone as expected. She had such a supportive family who encouraged her and her brother to be free thinkers and high achievers. She met her husband and seeing how he helped others, to rise to their own potential, she was encouraged to seek out jobs with causes she wanted to work with. She didn’t like the political life but knew what Barack could do for our country. She couldn’t block his dreams. We know how the rest of the story goes. It was a great night out.

I’ve been finishing up the month with a birthday where it was a self-care day.  I got a manicure, that I haven’t been able to indulge in six years. Next, was a movie, a trip to Sephora for my free birthday gift, Thai food, and chocolate cake. It was a damned good day. This weekend, I had my last chiropractor appointment of the year and going into 2019, I have a chiropractor and an acupuncturist who is working with me to feel good as I go into the harsh winter months when my pain is at its highest.

I’ve thought about, who am I becoming? I am becoming more aware of my true self. I don’t require as much as I once thought I did. I try to help others, if I can, however I can. I’m still learning to release what and who may not serve me well. I am becoming the woman I hoped to be when I was a little girl. Compassionate, kind and empathetic and happy. There are still things I would like to do. There are places I’d like to visit, love I would like to experience. Every day I do the best I can. Despite pain or suffering, I can still be happy. I pray about it every day, especially on difficult days. 

My Buddhist faith tells me, Prayer is the courage to persevere. It is the struggle to overcome our own weakness and lack of confidence in ourselves. It is the act of impressing in the very depths of our being the conviction that we can change the situation without fail. Prayer is the way to destroy all fear. It is the way to banish sorrow, the way to light a torch of hope. It is the revolution that rewrites the scenario of our destiny. Believe in yourself! Don’t sell yourself short! Devaluing yourself is contrary to Buddhism because it denigrates the Buddha state of being within you.” (Dec. 3, 2004, World Tribune, p. 8)

My aim in life right now is to find happiness, pray for myself and others, and fight every day to have the courage to do these things and grow even more. A new year and an opportunity to become a better version of myself. In 2019, I will continue to win in my life. I wish for you to win in your lives and have a Happy and Healthy New Year.

 

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53 Percent

Throughout history, a high percentage of white women, have quietly supported their white husbands as Slavery, The Trail of Tears, Discrimination against Asian, Latinx, LGBTQ, Anti- Immigration, Jim Crow and other atrocities were being committed towards people who were not white and/or straight.
53% of white women voted for Trump. Susan Collins’ vote will be handing Brett Kavanaugh a seat on the Supreme Court.
53% of white women would prefer to conspire with their men,to support their race, rather than support women and men of all races. The rest of us stand to lose everything that has been won through the literal blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors.
Women of color tend to look out for everyone. Only 4% of Black Women voted for Trump. When pedophile Roy Moore ran in Alabama for the Senate, over 80% of Black women went out to vote to keep him from being elected.
Black women keep trying to save this country. I really wonder if it’s time for us to stop. We are not appreciated. As Malcolm X said ”The most disrespected woman in America, is the Black Woman. The most un-protected person in America is the Black Woman. The most neglected person in America, is the Black Woman”
Women like Susan Collins will always get in the way to hinder our progress.
This past week has been exhausting, infuriating, exasperating, triggering and pure hell for survivors of sexual assault and for people who believe Dr. Ford’s testimony. The temperament Kavanaugh displayed showed us who he really is. Those who are voting for him are turning a blind eye and flipping us the bird.
The so-called leader of this country mocked Dr. Ford and the audience sitting behind him laughed and cheered. What message is that sending to people who are sexually assaulted? Their pain is now a punchline for the tangerine jackass who didn’t win the popular vote.
GOP Senators seem to forget they work for their constituents, not for their political party. As a nation we are deeply divided. Checks and balances are unbalanced. Bigotry is out in the open. We are in turmoil.
Democracy is dying and 53% are part of the reasons why. We must vote out the old white men like McConnell, Grassley and Hatch, who could care less if you are assaulted, injured, shot or killed. If we are to survive as a nation, we have to do everything we can to save it.
Please register to vote if you haven’t done so. We must cast our ballots to put upright what has been turned upside down. Please get your friends together and VOTE!!

May Just Sailed By…

In a whirlwind, the month of May is almost over. Last week I did a few things out of the ordinary.

I attended The Spring Reception at the Adult Learning Center where I tutor. It’s a celebration of the achievements of the students for the year which began last July. I was asked to give the welcome address to the attendees. I happily accepted. I gave a summary of the program, discussed how tutoring has inspired me and how encouraged I am by the students determination to enrich their lives.

Several of my students have had improved test scores, perfect attendance and two of them received an award from a sponsor, that will help them build their own home library. I am so proud of their accomplishments. One of my students pieces was published in a book made of student writings from all the Adult Learning Centers in the program.

Selected students read some of their writings to us. Knowing where some of them started, made that so very special. It was an amazing evening. The tutors we’re thanked, applauded and given tokens of appreciation. We then had a lovely catered dinner and mingled with one another. It was a fun and fulfilling evening.

The next day, I took some time for myself and attended an exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum, David Bowie Is. David Bowie Is runs through July 15th. These archives have traveled for the last 5 years, beginning in London, with Brooklyn Museum being the final stop. It contains lyric sheets, personal items, contracts, costumes, records, interviews and much more. No photography is allowed of the exhibits. At the end, there is some fan art of Bowie which we were allowed to photograph.

What made this different from any exhibit I’ve seen before, was that you are given headphones upon entering. Wherever you are standing, Bowie’s music plays in the headphones and it continually changes, depending on where you are in the exhibit. There is music and videos covering 50 year’s of his career. It takes about an hour and a half to see and hear it all. There were videos and costumes present from every stage of his illustrious career. He drew, he wrote songs, he acted in films and on Broadway. He was filled with ideas that didn’t all come to fruition but all these efforts were on display. I really enjoyed it. Catch it if you can.

One other exciting thing is on the way for me. I am being interviewed by fellow creative, Stephanie Johnson who is better known on Facebook as MELANINQUEENPENFAN. She is starting a new interview series called InnerView 3-5. I am honored to be her first guest. Her guests are people that wow and inspire her. The interview will be posted to her FB page on June 3rd. Please give her some love, likes and support. You can find all of her other writing on her page – MELANINQUEENPENFAN

I don’t know what June holds in store for me yet. I’m hoping for more fun places to go and even more fulfilling things to do.

#kmimimusings

Everything Old is New Again

I’ve been teaching my adult students about The Civil War. They learned about the Lincoln Memorial and saw a play about Cathay Williams. Cathay, was the first African American female Buffalo Soldier. Cathay was a freed slave who first worked as a cook and laundress for just pennies for the Union Army. After some time, to earn more money, she disguised herself as a man in the all African American unit the Native Americans called Buffalo Soldiers. They marched for 2 years throughout the South doing mostly clean up and guard duty and other jobs the white soldiers wouldn’t do. They never saw a battle. Williams became ill many times with cholera and smallpox. She was hospitalized but she was never discovered to be a woman. She finally revealed herself and got an honorable discharge from the army. She died young and her family never received the pension she worked for. We all learned so much from the actress who played every part in the 45 minute show.

Now we are studying the causes of the Civil War. We are beginning our study of slavery. The students are reading about the Middle Passage and its aftermath. Since I love history, I’ve been able to supplement the book that we are using with my own knowledge of the subject. What I tried to explain to them is that although the war ended in 1865 and slavery was abolished, that it really hasn’t been that long since Black Americans have had all the same rights as White Americans.

Using myself as an example, I said that many of the civil rights we gained occurred only one year before I was born.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 happened the year I was born. The students were really surprised to know that women couldn’t vote until 1920. More history lessons about that are forthcoming.

I brought current events into the discussion. I often do this so they can relate the past with the present.

They easily understood and agreed that all the recent happenings of the police being called by white people on black people, for no good reason were examples of white supremacy which began over 400 years ago.

In the last few weeks , we’ve seen black people, just living and also being seen as threatening .

We can’t move into a new apartment in a predominantly white area without neighbors calling the police.

We can’t go to The Waffle House for food without either being senselessly murdered by a racist or the cops are called for minor infringements (questioning or disagreeing with staff). Three officers assaulted a woman on the floor, exposing her breasts.

A young man was viciously grabbed by the throat and thrown to the ground by an officer twice his size while wearing his prom attire.

We can’t depart an AirBnB, packing luggage into our car to leave. The Mrs. Kravitz of the neighborhood waved and smiled at them through the window. The young women didn’t acknowledge her. So, of course, she called the police who detained them when they were on their way to do a show. That department is being sued by the young women.

We can’t even nap in a common room at Yale, where that’s allowed ,without another student calling the police.

We can’t barbecue in a designated area without someone calling the police.

One of my students asked me, Why do they treat us like this? I didn’t even speak for a few seconds because, I didn’t have a reasonable answer. I still don’t have a reasonable answer. However, I said white slave owners felt that we were less than human. We were property. We were not their equals. We were beneath them just because of our melanin. Today, some people still hold those mindsets.

We should not have to continue suffering the humiliation and pain that racism brings. Yet, somehow we still do. I feel there are people who would love to see us back in shackles without any rights.

We need to stay out of Waffle House. We need to frequent food and coffee establishments owned and operated by people of color. Let’s hit them in the wallet. Let them lose business and dollars. That’s what they understand. Black people boycotted buses in 1955. They walked and car pooled for over a year. The bus company went bankrupt. We have the ability for that to happen to all types of establishments. We have to be unified for this to happen. Our ancestors did it, why can’t we?

So, as my students and I drift deeper into the Civil War discussion I’m sure I won’t have all the answers. I’m hoping these current events will calm down. With #45 and his ilk in office and being supported by the Fox News loving fan base, it will be some time before we feel and experience the change.

Old behaviors are new again. But did they ever really leave?

Day 30 – 30 Day Writing Challenge

It’s the final day of the 30 Day Writing Challenge and today’s topic is more than appropriate.

Topic: Your highs and lows for the month

The highs have been incredible. I’ve been so elated by everyone’s encouragement. I have spent a great deal of time in my life keeping my emotions in. I never revealed too much about myself.  Now, I am able to not just write about my thoughts and feelings, but I actually publish them on this blog.  People read and tell me that they enjoy my writing.

I’m so very grateful that people kept up with me throughout this month. It takes 30 days to develop a habit. This month, I started two habits: drinking one cup of decaffeinated coffee and writing every day.

This month I’ve written so much. I was excited to see the topic of the day. The blog gained a few new followers. I’ve been so inspired to keep going.

I felt challenged like my adult students do. They have to write every time we meet for class. Some days they have a hard time their writing short paragraphs. With my help, they expand and edit their work. I may start using some of their writing prompts on days I don’t know what to write. I don’t want to lose this newly found momentum

The lows were the days I couldn’t write due to a migraine and days where I fought through body pain to just get anything done. I have to see so many doctors in a week it can be a bit daunting and discouraging. I realize that this is my fight in life. How I react to all of it is what counts. I surrender on the days, I realize I won’t win a battle. But, in this war I am fighting with chronic illness, I will be victorious. It may take some time, but I’m sure I will win. My Buddhist faith helps me every day to gain courage, wisdom, and strength.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Life is best lived by being bold and daring. People tend to grow fearful when they taste failure, face a daunting challenge or fall ill. Yet that is precisely the time to become even bolder. Those who are victors at heart are the greatest of all champions.”

This month has made me very reflective and introspective. It has been an overall positive experience. I learned a few things about myself.

I’m so happy I was able to share this month with all of you. I’m determined to share more of my thoughts and musings. I suggest trying this challenge, you may learn a few things about yourself. I know I did.

Day 29 – 30 Day Writing Challenge

I can’t believe this 30 Day Challenge is almost over. The days really flew by.

Today’s topic- What are your goals for the next 30 days?

This challenge has shown me, I can be more consistent with my writing. I know I can write off the cuff and within an hour if I have to.  Writing more often is one of my goals. I will post as often as I can. Thanks to everyone who has offered encouragement and began following the blog during this month.

Since spring has decided to show up and stay around, I’ve gone back to tutoring adults twice a week. It’s fulfilling and gets me out the house for four hours every week. I really like my students and want to help them reach their personal goals of getting their high school equivalency diplomas, getting better jobs or just being able to read to their kids. I’ll do my best to assist them. Juggling multiple health conditions can be a challenge but my goal is to tutor everyday that I’m scheduled to be there.

I recently re- joined Weight Watchers to keep my weight under control. I’ve eaten healthy but I gained back some pounds I lost last year.  I’m not happy about it. Taking medications with side effects of weight gain and not moving enough has been an issue. Tracking what I eat allows me to see when I’m about to overindulge. I can also see when I can give myself a treat. Over the next 30 days, I plan to adhere to the program.

Winter was rough on my body and I didn’t physically feel good or pain free enough to exercise. Yesterday, I got myself back in the gym and rode on the incumbent bike for awhile. I’m taking it slowly. I hope to get there twice a week over the next 30 days. I also walk 9 city blocks each way when I tutor. That’s a bit more exercise. I rest half way there, drink water and then start again.

Another goal is to meet up with a few people and catch up. It’s been awhile. I have also lined up a few “out of my box “ adventures that I’ll do by myself. I’m trying to have some fun, with little expense.

I joined a women’s study group in SGI-USA where we will be studying the history of our lay Buddhist organization as written by our mentor and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. There so much to learn and so much guidance on how to handle situations and life in general. I’ve been part of this group before and it’s always rewarding at the end to see how in-depth study can change your perspective and understanding. We meet once a month, in addition to the other monthly activities that we have in the SGI-USA.

My practice of Buddhism has helped me learn and understand how to make myself better and how to help others. President Ikeda writes, “Altruism is the most effective means of self-realization and self-perfection. Doing good for others is the best way to develop one’s own character and find greater happiness for oneself.”

With this in mind I’ll do by best this month to attain my own goals and do good for others at the same time.

Tomorrow is the end of the 30 Day Challenge, the start of new goals and the continuation of challenging myself everyday.

Day 23- 30 Day Writing Challenge

Today’s topic- Write a letter to someone, anyone.

This one is hard. I couldn’t  figure out who would be the receiver of this letter.

Dear Police Departments in America,

I have been watching over the past few years as more and more videos are revealing to everyone, what black people have known all along. We are disproportionately shot and killed by police, due to racial bias. We seem to fit the description, even if we are not guilty of doing anything. Our skin color appears to be a weapon to you. We cannot remove it.  You are being called to take us away for doing minor things that are not breaking the law. Is there one law for white people and another for people of color?

We cannot sit in a car, own a licensed gun, make an error on the road, sell DVD’s or loose cigarettes. We can’t wear hoodies or run in the rain. We can’t run for a bus, ring a doorbell and ask for directions. We can’t  hold a cell phone or a wallet.  We can’t ride a train to a wine vineyard and laugh too loudly. We cannot question paying for plastic utensils or question you as to why we are being arrested without being violently knocked to the ground to be handcuffed.

We can’t sit in Starbucks doing exactly what everyone is doing.  We can’t even go golfing without you being called because we are golfing too slowly in someone else’s eyes. We can’t live in our newly gentrified neighborhoods, doing what we’ve always done without you and your colleagues showing up in force.

Please tell me how you are training your people? White people can commit crimes, shoot people and known to be armed.  These people are taken away without a scratch on them.

A black person is holding a cellphone and is riddled with 10 bullets in the back. A black person reaching for their wallet is killed with 41 shots. The officers who are murdering innocent  black people are rarely convicted of any crime. They get to keep their lives, jobs and pensions. Sometimes, they get promoted. If they get fired, they find another position in different department.  The families of people murdered by the state are never the same and seek justice they rarely receive.

There has to be a way to weed out biased and easily  terrified people out of your ranks before they get a gun and badge. People who “fear for their lives” and always shoot to kill should not be on the job. Maybe you should have more police of color working in neighborhoods of color. Do you get psychological counseling before you are hired? Is there a question asking if you were bullied in school? Are you asked if you fear people of color? Why do you want to be a police officer? Your job is dangerous, but if you are afraid of danger, this is not the career for you.

There must be a way for black people and the police to co-exist without deadly force. What are your  suggestions? Surely you know that our lives are valuable. Surely you know, that we feel, live and breathe just like you. We do not deserve to be killed by those sworn to protect and serve us.

We don’t hate the police, but we are increasingly becoming afraid of you.  We may want to run when we see you. That doesn’t mean we are guilty of anything. We are afraid to be another hashtag and statistic.  We don’t want to be another life taken too soon. A visit to the dentist is more welcome than an encounter with the police. We have to have special discussions with our children on how to survive police encounters and make it home alive. This should not be our relationship.

We want to find a way to work together for the good of everyone. We want to live long, healthy and productive lives. We want to be with our families. How can we make effective change?

Signed,

A Representative for Black America