Smooth Like Butter, My Son Alex

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I’m used to giving all of my children nicknames.  Alex’s nickname was Butter.  Why?  Because he reminded me of a tub of butter.  He was thick, strong and hard.  His weight seemed dense.  So he was not just Butter like the butter you buy today, he was like the government issued butter.

Right from the start I knew Alex was going to be different and have his own way of doing things.  For one, if I recall it took him almost two years before he would speak a word.  He often pointed, made gestures or maybe grunted to you if he wanted something.  No matter what anyone tried, he wasn’t going to talk till he got ready to.

Though he had a slightly older brother, Alex never craved having anyone to play with.  That’s because even from the beginning he was very satisfied with himself.  His imagination has always been vibrant and active.   This was cool on one hand because Alex didn’t need a lot of management.  On the other hand it presented a problem when it came time to go to school. 

Alex’s didn’t need any friends.  So going to school was strictly business.  And when it came to socially working with other boys and girls, that didn’t work out too well initially.  Let’s just say my son was an ummmm bully!  So it was common for me to get a phone call telling me that he hit somebody’s child. 

Teachers didn’t have it so good either.  They had to really be on their games and think outside the box to get through to him.  Alex resented whenever a teacher treated and reacted towards him like they did all the other students.  It’s not that he thought he was better than anyone else.  Its just that his brain worked differently.  He perceived the world from a different perspective and cookie cutter approaches didn’t work.

I remember one teacher was having such a hard time that I considered taking him out of her class.  “Noooo, ” she exclaimed.  “I want to work with Alex.  I just don’t know what to do.”  That was the breakthrough he needed.

You see, Alex was the type of kid that needed to connect with you as an authority figure.  Once he did, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his teacher.  This same teacher just adored Alex by the time the school year ended.  This was a process that was repeated for a couple years. 

Alex gets a new teacher.  Teacher uses cookie cutter approach.  Alex rebels, teacher resents Alex.  Teacher learns to give a little and understand the specific needs of Alex, and most importantly does not write Alex off as ADD or any other stereotypical diagnosis teachers use when they lack the skill to improvise.  Alex excels and becomes one of teacher’s favorite students.  That’s just how it was.

Alex has always been that cat that you just can’t tell him anything.  If it doesn’t make sense, he questions it.  Period!  I don’t care who you are!  He has a sense of justice that must be satisfied in his brain.  Again, a great strength that I appreciate and also have had to work hard with him on when it came to understanding that things will not always be explained to him.  Sometimes he has to simply obey because his understanding wouldn’t be fruitful regardless of his knowledge base.

I am so proud of Alex because he has really grown up a lot over the last few years.  I contribute this growth to a few things as I think about them.  He took Tai-Kwan-Do when he moved to Atlanta.  Learning this discipline was great for him.  He is also a very devout Christian and has been blessed to find a church that he is extremely comfortable with.  I think he is spiritual leader in his house.  He has the ability to see the good and hope in even the most dreadful circumstances.  His faith is a huge key to that.

I am happy to say that now he is still just as imaginative and still thinks out of the box, but he is savvy enough to know when he is dealing with mere mortals who don’t.  He makes mostly A’s in school and have adjusted well to navigating through dealing with new people and authority figures. 

In addition to being excited about his church, (which he says he attends 3-4 days a week) his love and gifts are writing his comics.  This started with the stick figures he would draw as a young child.  Under the figures he would write a line or two.  This blew up into what are now full scale stories and plots.  When I would take he and his little sister to the ‘dollar store’ to get toys, Alex would always get a notbook so he could draw and write more comics.

I remember when Alex wrote a paper at school on how to write a comic.  He described eloquently how to develop the characters, having a good guy, an antagonist, a conflict and so forth.  This young man is a genius!

Alex is no longer built like Butter.  He’s tall and slender, handsome and humorous.  He still finds comfort in being alone which is good.  But he’s very comfortable meeting people and making friends.  So that balance is evident.

Alex likes to call me his main man.  That’s a thing between he, I, and his brother Christian.  It talks of our kinship of father and son, and buddies and Butter.  He and his big brother are real partners and great friends.  I love the man he is becoming.

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Behold! The Only Thing Greater Than Yourself!

 

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Christian is my first born son.  I gave him the nickname Chumley.  That originated from the cartoon series Tennessee Tuxedo. Tennessee Tuxedo is a penguin and Chumley is a walrus who he affectionately calls his ‘little buddy.’  In each of the episodes Tennessee would get them into adventures exploring things inside the zoo where they lived, and Chumley would follow along blissfully.  That was me and Christian.  He was my little buddy. 

I remember when we took him to church for dedication.  My boy Evan “aka Copasetic Soul” was there because he asked to stand with me when Christian was prayed over.  Evan told me, “Man, when the pastor is finished, you have to hold your son to the sky like John Amos did Kunta Kinte on Roots and say, “Behold!  The only thing greater than yourself.”   Think I didn’t?  I sure did!  Evan just lost it caught up in that powerful moment.  I still get choked up thinking about it.  It was serious!

Christian has always been a mild mannered cat.  If you don’t know him, one would think he was kinda quiet and shy.  But when he gets comfortable enough around you he is a barrel of laughs joking up something terrible.  It took a while for me to figure this out because he would always be so quiet around me.  Now he knows he can be himself around his dad and our overall communication is outstanding.

What I really appreciate about Christian is that he is a very observant and sensitive young man.  He is a student of life like his dad.  Rarely does anything slip past him, even if he doesn’t say anything at the time.  Of all of my children, he has always been in tuned with me emotionally.  At the age of 15 he would ask me how I’m doing.  After giving him some generic response he would stop me and say, “No daddy.  I mean it.  How are you doing?  How are you feeling?”

Christian knows when something is on my mind or if I am going through something difficult.  I could see his level of maturity and for the last couple years I have been sharing what I call manhood conversations with him.  Christian allowed me to feel vulnerable around him and he lets me share even my pains and weaknesses with him.  At first I wasn’t sure if he could handle them.  But he always has and has never looked at me as less than his hero regardless of what I tell him.  Because we are so in tuned with one another, I help him by articulating his feelings by language what he could only identify though feeling before.  Its not unusual to hear him say, “I’ve always thought that, but never knew how to say it.” 

Some of my favorite moments with Christian were when we’d play basketball.  Not one on one, but when he would play on my team when my friends and I would get together.  I know he wanted to be down with me and my close circle of teammates.  We had played together in tournaments for years and the other guys watched him grow up.  So to see him come from being a little kid on the sidelines and playing with the other little kids to balling with the big boys, the men, I knew it meant a lot to him and it really meant a lot to me.  I would try to dominate at every phase of the game so he could see the fruits of hard work, even on the basketball court.  And it seemed like I always played well whenever he was around.  He wanted to impress me.  But I wanted to impress upon him that his dad was a true sportsman.  My theory was always, If I can beat them in what they like to do up at least up until a certain age they will always listen to me when it comes to other things in life.  I find this to be especially true with boys.

Christian is a very responsible young man.  He lives with his mom and little brother in Atlanta and is the man of his house even as I write this.  His maturity and thoughtfulness is shaping him up to be an outstanding young man.

Right now he’s really into the guitar and from the links he’s sent me he’s got some real game.  Nothing he accomplishes musically or otherwise would surprise me.  Christian has IT!  He’s got flavor, talent and charisma. 

The thing I know about Christian, is that we will always be close.  Sometimes we relate not merely as father and son, but like we are boys.  I am comfortable with that because he never tries to take advantage of it.  He knows I don’t play and that I am old school.  Equally true however, is that Christian has a lot to offer me.  And quite frankly there are times when I don’t mind asking the 17 year old what his opinion is of a thing.  Most of the time his thoughts are right on point!

 

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* Christian (bending) with his friend JaLil

Dancing, Goth, & Hot Topics

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When Chrystal was born I’ll never forget the first thing my mother said.  Upon seeing her complexion for the first time she exclaimed, “Finally!  One that looks like me!”  Chrystal is fair skinned like my mother and can often pass for Caucasian.  She is right.  There have been times they have been together and people thought Chrystal was my mom’s daughter instead of her granddaughter. 

Chrystal grew up trying everything.  She was the first to do tee ball, and soccer.  Every weekend she had some activity going on.  But what she really enjoyed and committed to was dancing.

I remember her first performance.  It was an all weekend thing and I picked the Saturday afternoon show.  I was probably more excited than she was.  Anyway, the program lasted a couple hours and Chrystal had like 3 to 5 spots.  After the show all of the dancers met with their parents, relatives and other supporters who would dote on them with many congratulations and compliments.  I waited patiently and knew she would be so excited to see dear ole dad and I couldn’t wait to shower her with praise.  Finally our eyes met and there she went!  “Daddy!  Daddy!  Where are my flowers?”  “Uhhhhh, what flowers I said.”  I noticed that other people had flowers in their hands but didn’t think much of it.  Nice gesture if anything.  I had no idea that bringing flowers to a performance and presenting them afterwards was proper protocol.  “I’m soooooooo sorry baby.  Daddy didn’t know that I was supposed to bring flowers.”  Chrystal was always a cool little girl.  Nice, pleasant, forgiving.  She would pardon the old man you’d think.  Her response?  “Waaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!”  She burst into tears totally heartbroken and disgusted at my utter ignorance.  She went straight for her grandpa and didn’t want to look at me.  I felt like the scum of the earth pretty much.  Yep!  That’s how I felt alright.  Needless to say I never showed up at another performance without flowers. 

What I appreciate about Chrystal was her willingness to be herself which was often different from the norm.  She has always been into exotic art, goth and other less than mainstream items.  She got me hip to the Hot Topic clothing store because there was a time she wouldn’t go any other place to shop.  She came home with gay friends 6-7 years ago.  Some of her friends appeared to be social rejects looking from the outside.  And they all seemed to love and adore her.  She has always been a very loving, non judgmental person.  If a friend of hers fell out with their parents and needed a place to stay for a while, she always brought them home and asked if they could be granted temporary asylum.

Chrystal was the kind of youth that did her own thing.  She rocks plenty of body art but is savvy enough to keep her tats from common sight.  For a while it didn’t seem like she felt the need for her dad as much.  Now that she is married and has a son, it seems that we’ve become closer than ever before.  We talk about most everything and I am still often surprised by her boldness.  

I took her and her husband Justin to one of our favorite breakfast spots the other day.  We met there once and now she’s hooked.  She’s been on me lately to take them back there lately.  “Look dad, me and Justin will pick you up and you pay!”  Finally I conceded to the deal, a sucker’s bet.  But taking life as it is she brought along a friend of her’s who was having a hard go of it these days.  She wanted to give her some support by treating her to breakfast.  “You don’t have to pay for her dad, we’ll pay for her meal.” 

Right!  Like I wasn’t going to cover that. 

But that’s Chrystal.  Always looking out for her fellow man.  I so appreciate her for that. 

Currently she is school to be a surgical assistant.  I am not surprised.  Of course she would pick an industry of service and helps.  

And yes she still dances.  She has a show coming up in June.  And married or not, I’m still bringing flowers.

 

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1st Born, Daddy’s Little Girl

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It happened late one night July 2.  The fourth of July fell on the weekend.  But my little treat was all I could think of.  My first memory of Charelle being born was the first time I had a few moments with her shortly after birth.  I was the only one in the hallway and most of the lights were off.  I was holding her and looking into her eyes, glancing over every part of her face.  She was all bundled up but I already knew she had all her fingers and toes.  What was strange was that as I stared at her she seemed to stare back at me.  Right back at me.  I know kids aren’t supposed to be able to see.  I’m not saying she recognized me or anything.  But it seemed as if she knew exactly who I was.  And all I kept thinking to myself was, “I can’t believe it.  I can’t believe it.  I have a daughter.” 

This wasn’t the, “Oh hell naw!” I can’t believe it going through my head.  I had been married a little over two years and wanted this child badly.  I even wanted a little girl on top of that.  And there she was.  I don’t quite remember what I said to her, but she kept looking at me and I think we both fell in love on the spot.  I was practically in a daze the entire 4th of July weekend.

The next memories were when she would sleep in her playpin.  We only had a one bedroom townhouse so she was there on the other side of the room.  She was an early riser and wanted to play immediately.  Before she could walk she would stand herself up on the railing and look at the direction of the bed.  If no one looked her way she would shake the playpen and try to talk.  I learned not to move and pretend as if I were sleeping because if she made eye contact, it was a wrap.  She would crack up in hysterical laughter and demand that I get her out of the playpen so we could play. 

Sometimes I would have to put her to sleep on the real bed.  Not only that, I’d have to lay there like I was sleeping too.   I would wait and wait for her to be still hoping she would fall asleep so I could watch the game or whatever.  She would put her arm around my neck.  Slowly I’d back away gently dislodging her arm from around me.  And soon as I got out of the bed, QUICK in an instant her head would bop up like it came out of a jack in the box and look at me.  I’d have to start all over again as she was hip to my game.  Sometimes it actually worked and before I knew it, I would be the one sleeping first.

Charelle grew up to be a brilliant student.  She was always in honor’s classes.  During parent teacher conference, it got to the point where the teachers would just say, “I don’t need to talk to you.  You know the deal.”  She also displayed great creativity in writing poems and drawing pictures.  I’ll never forget when she made paper dolls and cut out outfits for them.  They were so awesome they could pass for Vogue.  I’ve always complimented her on how she amazed me.  But too often she would just look at me and say, “Daddi you’re supposed to say that.”  “No no,” I’d say.  “I really mean it.  You are amazing!”

These days Charelle is growing into womanhood quite well.  She is a loving and devoted mother to her family which now includes two beautiful children.  I am very proud of her.  We have grown folks conversations now.  But she will always be my baby, my first born, my little girl.

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Legacy and Love for Children

I admit it.  Sometimes I worry about what my legacy will be on the Earth after I leave it.  I wonder will I reach my potential.  Will I touch the lives I am supposed to touch.  Have I wasted too much time already?  Do I make the right decisions by in large?  Am I making the impact I am supposed to make?  I battle with these thoughts all the time.  It’s not as if I can’t enjoy the moment either.  (though I am sure I don’t live in the moment enough.)  It’s just that I am mindful that life as we know it here doesn’t go on forever. 

One thing I do know for sure though is that when I look at my children I have no questions about the outstanding people they are and that they already are making a difference.  Each of them like all people have unique gifts and talents.  But they also are thoughtful, caring and considerate people.  Though two of them are grown I found out that a parent’s job is never really over.  A great man said he learned that when his children became adults that is when the parenting really began.  Imagine that?     

There have been many ups and a few downs.  And I’ve enjoyed most of the stages and adventures that my young people have experienced.  I look forward to helping them in every way I can as long as I can.

As a gift to them, next week I will share some fatherly thoughts about each of them starting with the eldest. 

It’s just something I feel I need to do.

BB&G’s Financial Plan for the Recession and Beyond

Much has been said about the recession.  I like most Americans have been affected by the change in the financial climate.  Post being laid off at a company after 11 years of successful performance, I managed to keep up with all of my bills for almost a year by way of six months of unemployment checks and officiating every basketball game available to me in the states of Illinois and Missouri.  I mean I had to hustle and make it happen.  Eventually some things fell off and I had to make some major decision in terms of starting over.  But I’m not discouraged.

If anything, what I am most encouraged about is the confirmation of what I already knew in the first place.  That now more than ever the best thing one can do in terms of securing activity and opportunities in the future is to find out what his/her dream is and to do it.  There is no getting around it.  For decades now the direction and growth of big business has influenced people to get on board their trains.  If the industry was saying that there would be more positions available in information technology for instance, people would flock towards learning those skills to try to get a spot.  The name of the game was getting hooked up with one of these companies so one could gain a steady flow of income, job security and some benefits.  It made sense in terms of primal survival.  But at the same time, it was a Trojan horse in reality because as we can see now that regardless of the qualifications there are a lot more people than positions available within the job market.  If you managed to get in someplace and obtained the right stock options like those people from Microsoft for instance, then you got over.  But if you are sitting there with a degree or skill set that there is not a demand for, you’re starting all over again.  

When Barack Obama became president, he sent the word out that as Americans we needed to step our games up.  And I believe that wholeheartedly.  I mean let’s be honest.  As the leading nation of the free world we became arrogant, fat, and overloaded on self indulgent pleasure.  Too many of us only cared about getting more stuff.  And that only last for so long.  Real living is solving problems and overcoming challenges.  Real living is touching lives and helping others.  Pleasure seeking is a solo project and the benefits are only material.  What made Americans and America great was the belief in ideals, the innovation of imagination and the culture of creativity.  Sadly we lost all of that keeping up with the Jones’ and following a cookie cutter method of career focus.  I believe as a nation we have to get back to our core creative values – and fast! 

This is not to say that there is not a place for big business.  If it were not for big business, I would not have access to a computer or enjoy some of life’s conveniences like my IPOD.  Financial institutions, car companies etc. are functional towards a vibrant economic society in that sense.  There will always be a certain amount of positions needed for such companies.  What I am saying however, is that you may be a Boomer or close and your dad worked for GM for 30 years and put you through college. Great!  But those days are over.  Historically we had a recession and then a renaissance.  That renaissance consisted of invention and ingenuity.  We created things, built things, and use those ideas to create opportunities for others.  We sang, danced, wrote poetry, acted and played music.  We delved into the creativity within our imaginations and created work that is lasting till this day. This is what it’s going to take to trigger resurgence into our psyche first which will in turn positively uplift the economy.

This is precisely the way I raise my children to think.  I have a son who created his own comic strip.  He’s been working on it for as long as I remember.  I have boxes of them stored away while he works on new story and character developments.  He does it strictly for the love of the comic and doesn’t get a dime for his work.  Do you think I’m sitting there telling him that he should only focus on his formal education at school, go to college and get a business degree so he can be marketable?  Heck no!  I tell him that his stories are wonderful.  (And they are.  He has a real mind for fantasy… and I know there is a market for fantasy.)  I tell him how I see his characters and offer encouragement and ideas.  He knows full and well how much I value his formal education.  He knows that settling for anything less than his best efforts in school is cheating himself and that I would not approve of wasting such opportunities.  He may even get a business degree one day in order to learn something about marketing his product.  But the issue is working the system to benefit his dreams.  Not bowing to the system and aborting them.

My other son wanted to be an actor.  I showed him movies of the best actors so he could understand the technique of being a believable actor.  I encouraged him to do the Shakespeare that was being performed in school.  Now he’s into the guitar and it seems to really spark his interest.  From what I have heard so far he has an ear for music.  Well while demanding that his formal education is valued, because it’s part of the basics of functioning, I encourage him to value and respect the instrument and to give it all he’s got.  Who says he can’t be as successful as any of the other guitarist I love listening to now.   Why not?  No way would I encourage him to try to fit into a box of a corporate structure that could out source his job to India before he even gets it.

The point here is not to hate on any career choice.  The point is that we should be happy.  We should be striving to better our lives and not depend on the government or any corporation to fund our primal comforts.  Instead, we should do what it takes to create something from within that in itself is useful and marketable thereby giving us power and jurisdiction over the very thing we create.  If you write and own the rights of a million dollar song, then you benefit most every time the song is played or purchased.

Just the same if you are good at financial planning, selling, etc., If you absolutely love stock portfolios or customer service, then by all means do that with all of your heart and I honestly believe that there will be a place for you because you will be so good at it, there will be a demand for your passion and work ethic.  

I could say a lot more about this.  For myself, I know that writing is one of my areas of passion.  So is mentoring youth.  I got into sports officiating because it got me closer to kids and activities that they care about.  I knew I could make a difference.  Most of the time I also get paid to do it too which helps to supplement my income.  The next thing for me in giving back is coaching.  I had a great conversation with a coach whom I respect greatly over the weekend.  And though he lives several hours drive away from me, we are going to spend some time together just to discuss that very thing.  Because I want to be great at it for the kids I am privileged to inspire. 

I blog for the love of writing.  Certainly most of us don’t get paid to do it.  But every time I put words down, it sharpens my ability; I give back to anyone who cares to read, especially a piece like this.  And who knows someone may see something I write and decide that they want to pay for my takes.  I have other irons in the fire as well.  I work in the corporate world to do what I have to do.  I provide excellent service and earn my way with the blessings of The Creator.  Equally, my mind and heart are fully engaged working towards living my dreams 24-7.  And it’s never too late.  Someone told me recently she is going to get her law degree.  She is in her mid 30s.  She thought M.B.A., but greatly desires law.  Her father convinced her to go with her passion damn the trends.  This is what I call living.  

If we are working or serving in an area of passion and skill, if we are willing to learn from others and be a blessing, we will meet the people we are supposed to meet, make the right connections and be a success.  Included within that success are the monetary benefits.  There is always a market for creativity, passion, enthusiasm, and a sure work ethic.  The universe will always make room for those operating within the character of imagination and excellence.  The universe never lays off.  It moves and adjust to the places where there are needs and resources, and where opportunities lie in wait.

Selah~

BB&G’s Weblog Turns 1!

On this day one year ago I wrote my first blog.  Well not really my first.  I wrote some stuff that appeared on another blog, (Thanks Rich House) but finally I left my MySpace page in the dirt and decided to focus on a venue that was more centered on writing.  Thus BB&G (Blessed Broken & Given) Blog was born.

I’ve had some good times with this tool and have met some really cool people too.  There are so many interesting people and opinions to read and I want to thank all who have taken the time to visit and share with me here. 

I also want to thank those other bloggers who frequent the site.  You know who you are.  I got mad respect for anyone who takes the time to write something to make me think, laugh, ponder, sometimes cry or simply be amused.

I look forward to keeping this up as long as I feel as if I can make a positive contribution in making you think, ponder, laugh, sometimes cry or simply be amused.

Grace & Peace … cmac