Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mama On: Friends

"Good friends are a blessing:  Never take them for granted."

I am glad that I listened to my mother when she said this.  I am glad that I had the accidental foresight to choose my friends wisely, and that though I have had many of them for nearly half a century, they continue to shine and to appreciate in value.

Mamaknologists know that friends are a good thing.  My mother, Arbitor of All That Is Mamaknological, had two wonderful friends:  Ruth Luke and Eva Andrews.  They were everything friends are supposed to be.  Cute, sassy, and always ready to enjoy each other, these ladies taught me what friends were supposed to be.  They were the sisters my mother had been born without.  When my mother's health declined, they stepped in and stood her ground for her -- in stilettos.  When my knees grew weak and my footsteps faltered, they propped me up and pushed me forward.  They showed me what to look for in a friend.

Today, I mark the passing of my friend, Regina.  A special woman, one of the lynch pins of my sister circle, I miss her already.  A great mind, quick wit, and as silly as the day is long, I don't like to think that she ever had a "bucket list," but then, she didn't really need one.  Regina was a Mamaknologist and a believer in making every step count.  She was an amazing mother and an awesome wife.  And she was my friend.  She was my dear and loving friend.

Almost everyone I know has said, "Give me my roses while I'm alive," and we like to think we mean it.  I think that going forward, I'll be saying, "Give me the love of my friends," because I have been lucky enough to have that warm and secure circumstance in my life.  Regina and I once had a conversation about the value of saying, "I love you," and saying the words while they counted.  I am so glad that on more than one occasion, we had the chance to say, "I love you," and mean it. 

Yeah, she was my sister from another mister.

I will never be able to say that I've lost her, mostly because I cherished our friendship so deeply.  But it is in her passing that I am reminded and impelled to count another blessing: I am still here with so many of the women who are my friends, some of them from childhood.  And now, the Mamaknologist in me needs to let them know how much I love them, how much I cherish them, and how much of them I carry with me on every day of my life.

So to my much loved friends, I am reminded to say, I love you. 

I also need to say that for good, bad, or indifferent, your love makes me the woman I am --and I know that there's a little bit of me in your back pocket, too.

Love you, Girl!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mama On: Hard Times And Books

"Easy comes after Do in the dictionary for a reason."

I have a headache.  My headache began when I turned the television on and saw a report that featured parents lamenting the coursework that their poor children were being forced to endure.  The tortured students were expected to learn to speak their native language, open up a book and read something that didn't come predigested on tape or dvd, perform basic math without computer or even calculator assistance, and regularly show up for classes.


Personally, I don't understand the hardship.  My mother was one of those people who had a hard time with asking for help -- especially if she had to do it more than once.  Okay, the reality is that if there was a book on the topic, she also figured that if you wanted to get the job done, you should read the directions.  Her philosophy was that God gave you enough tools to get through the life He planned for you, and that a person just needed to make the effort to use those tools: Mamaknology 101A. 

My mother believed that a person had to be proactive; you have to take action, not just lay back in the "cut" and let everyone else do the work.  These students and their parents have an historically unprecedented level of access, and seem determined to ignore it. Which brings us to Mamaknology 101B, and I got this straight from the lips of the world's preeminent Mamaknologist (my mother), if you take the easy way out, you deserve whatever you get -- a life on shut down.  No political access, no jobs, no social services.  Nothing. Are any of these students or their parents prepared for a life mired in abject ignorance? because that will be the result of an inability to read, write, and do simple arithmetic in the twenty-first century.

Support of ignorance is not a good thing.  I keep hearing young people say that they want to live their lives, their way.  I hear them say that they want to make their own mistakes.  Okay.  Fine.  But why do they have to make the stupid mistakes?  The ones that we all already know don't work well?

Here's a Mamaknological clue:  if you are determined to make mistakes, don't opt for a retread.  Don't opt for ignorance.  Don't forfeit your education.  Don't forfeit your right to vote.  Don't dabble in stupid -- it's not cute.

And I'm not afraid to say it because, what are you going to do?  Read this and write back?


Monday, November 14, 2011

Mama On: Taking Responsibility

"I see you!"

I was talking with a friend over dinner the other night and the conversation turned to the things people do when they don't think anyone is looking.  My friend is from Boston, and she talked about the evening she realized that her mother was ready to step up and take a stand for more than herself and her own children.

My friend was young, six or sevenish, and she and her very happy brother were headed to a neighborhood store for the treat their mother had promised -- popsicles!  Walking along, the way children do, they never noticed the staring man parked at the side of the street with his hand working busily in his lap.  But their mother did.

Knowing that all of the neighborhood children, including her own, took this walk regularly and the kinds of bad things that can happen to children at the hands of people who didn't mind sitting around and masturbating on city streets, she took action.  "Hey!," she shouted, "get out of here!"

When the man was slow to move, the petite Tiger Mama found a stray brick on the sidewalk and used it to punctuate her message.  The man realized that someone was determined to take responsibility for his actions, and drove away.

Now, even after being on the receiving end of a Mamaknological defense action, we don't know that the man never "did his thing" (oh, the pun...) again, but we do know that my friend learned a couple of life lessons on responsibility by watching her mother.  She learned that one person can make a difference, and that the person who sees the problem can fix it.

My own mother, the World's Preeminent Mamaknologist, used to look at men or women who openly urinated against building walls, masturbated in public, or slipped their hands into other people's purses and wallets, and deliberately announce, " I see you!"  Don't ever think that those three words are a law enforcement panacea, but they call attention to the action and make it clear that not everyone is going to let it go uncontested.  Not everyone who is caught doing something wrong will stop doing it; but the Mamaknological magic is that now that they have been seen, someone else knows that they are doing the wrong thing, and witnesses have power.

The Mamaknology here is that we must take responsibility for what we see.  We cannot ask someone else to take responsibility for those things we let slide, and that covers everything from the people who watch while a child is mistreated, to politicians who try to pretend that they never said or did what the video clearly says they said or did.  Don't speak up, and you have to take whatever comes.  Pretend not to see, and you leave the responsibility to someone else who may not give half a damn about you, your life, your family, or your community.

So, as a practicing Mamaknologist, I'm going on record here and now.  I care about me and the people I love.  I care about the world I live in.  And while I may not be ready to pitch a brick, Boston style, I am going to speak in my mother's words:

I see you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mama On: Resolution

"Figure out what you want to do, and then everyday, do at least one thing that will take you closer to your goal."

How easy does that sound?  Everyday, do just one thing to bring yourself closer to who and what you want to be.  The hard part is knowing what you really want and then moving toward it with consistent, faithful intention, and doing it everyday, not allowing life to get in the way of your goal.  Even harder for some of us is learning NOT to listen to people who tell us that we are wasting our time.

Whatever it is that gets in your way, you have to learn to ignore it, when you have a goal.  If fact, what you have to learn to do is resolve to do what it takes.  money, proximity, who you know, lessons, and personal style can all get in your way, but they should never be allowed to dictate where you go.  If you can't ignore the obstacle, then learn to step around it -- you have places to go and things to do.

My mother, the Premier Mamaknologist would tell you to sit down and do some hard thinking, and to be honest with yourself in the process.  Are you willing to work the extra hours, go back to school, submit to training, or just keep knocking on doors?  You may want to be a famous singer and believe that you have natural talent -- what are you going to do with it?  You may believe that you are destined to be a millionaire, you may even feel entitled to be one -- but how hard are you willing to work to get there?  How much are you willing to invest in yourself?

Once you know, make an action plan.

The Mamaknological take on this is a reprise of an old saying:  Fail to plan, plan to fail.  My personal Mamaknoligist would have told you that to fail to show up for yourself and your goals is a sure way to plan to fail.  

Me?  I'm working on my plan.  My next goal? Another novel...  Excuse me, my manuscript is calling.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mama on: Watching Your Step

"Watch your step, honey."

Okay, we're going to make this one short and sweet.  I just got the funniest question from a friend's daughter:  "Why do you walk like that in heels?"

Answer:  Because I am a woman and my body is different from a man's, so I have to move with a certain sway, grace, and speed in these shoes.

Hmm...  Do I REALLY have to point out the Mamaknology in this?
Okay, just in case it went over anyone's head, the Mamaknology here is that a woman can't handle herself just any old kind of way when she steps out into the world -- and it doesn't matter whether she's wearing pumps, flip-flops, or going barefoot.  Women walk differently from men because of the way God made us -- you know, the wider pelvis and all that, but there's more.  Women are blessed with an intrinsic balance and grace, and that gives us an obligation.  It's up to us to figure out how to maintain and increase that balance and to manage it with grace, especially when we put our foot on the ground to make our moves through the world.

Girls can't do what the boys do and still be respected as women, and not every woman is a lady.  You have to learn to walk in the shoes you chose, and you have to make that walk count every day of your life. 

Simple.  Right?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mama On: Coincidence

"Everything happens for a reason."

This year Fathers Day falls on June 19th, and June 19th has a lot of importance in my life.  My mother and father were married on June 19, 1949.  If they were both still with us, this would have been their sixty-second wedding anniversary.  Sixty-two is a lot of years and a lot can happen over that much time, but almost right up until the day he died, my father smiled when he talked about my mother.  At 87, he still called her his, "Baby."

As it was, my mother passed in 1985, giving them nearly thirty-five years together. You have to know that I totally appreciate being a product of that kind of love.  But it makes me stop and think... what if that tall, good-looking soldier had never met the pretty statuesque girl from Philly?  What if he hadn't had enough respect for her to learn who she really was and to treat her like a lady?  What if she had been more of a rump-shaker than a wife?  What if neither of them was interested in family?
After all of that, all I want to know is:  How in her infinite Mamaknowledge did she know?  Could it really have been a matter of coincidence, or did God make an unavoidable plan that resulted in their marriage and me getting here?

One summer night a long time ago, sitting on the back steps with my head in my mother's lap, I asked that question.  Daddy smiled and looked at my mother.  I watched her smile back at him and felt loved.  In her infinite Mamaknowledge, the answer was simple. "Everything happens for a reason." 

Now all these years later, I think I understand.  Yes, she was trying to fill in a blank for me, but being who and what we were, when and where wewere, being in the midst of love was no accident.  And I hae to say that I am glad -- and more than a little proud -- to be a part of the reason my parents found each other and stayed together. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mama On: Taking Care of Business

"Take care of your own business."

If you really take the time to pay attention, and follow through on all of the associated actions, this bit of Mamaknowledge makes perfect sense.  Really.  If you pay attention to all of the little details of your life, there is simply no time to mess around in anyone else's business.  And the nice thing about not having time to play around in other folks' lives is that there is no time for gossip, no time for envy, and (praise Jesus!) no time for screwing up someone else's life.

Don't get me wrong, my mother the Mamaknologist did her fair share of "communal observation," but she let it end with the last word of the conversation.  She didn't let it drag on beyond the chit-chat over coffee or in the grocery store aisle.  She didn't pull raggedy coversations over the back fence and then spend her days and weeks tripping over them.  And she didn't let me do it either.

I actually remember her terminating one of my phone conversations when I was in junior high.  Uhm, I hear you thinking, "Oh, no she didn't!"  Well, yes.  She did, and I had better sense than to make an issue of it.  I think I made a face when I thought she wasn't looking, though.

Then, I got a lecture.  Included in the lecture were such topics as:
  • Who died and left me in charge?
  • What happened to make me right and everyone else wrong?
  • What right did I have to sit in judgment on anyone?
  • Don't you have anything better and more profitable to do?
  • Did you finish your homework yet?
And you've got to know that the last one was the one that was really important, right?  Anyway, you know that she actually stood there and made me answer all of those questions, right?  And of course the homework wasn't finished, but the whole incident made me think -- if I'd been doing the homework, I wouldn't have been on the phone and ... well ... caught.

Over time, I've applied this to a whole lot of other scenarios.  I take care of business first and chat later.  I have also noticed that gossip is a whole lot like lying -- if you listen to it, you'll almost always pass it on, and it will only get stronger with each passing.  And in the end, a whole lot of time gets wasted.  And what couldn't you do with a little more time? 

For one thing, you could take care of a little more of your own business.