Thanksgiving, Traditions, Native Americans and Evolved Self Definitions

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It’s that time of year again.  The heaviest travel day in the United States.  The time when family and friends gather to feast, mingle, catch up, argue and watch a little football. Since the expansion of social media, it’s also the time where we are reminded of the horrific tragedy that befell our original citizens, the Native Americans.  The memes are have been prepared with care, ready to remind America of just one of it’s original sins.

I get it.  As a matter of fact, I endorse the expressions of truth regarding the historically accurate facts of our nations history and hypocrisies.  Those that know me, know that I do that just about everyday.

But there is another side to this as well.  As a people, especially people who have been the abused, the tortured, the terrorized and murdered, those who have been placed in the under caste status; Those of us who have survived in spite of the fact that we are still in a battle for our lives; With our ingenuity and ability to adapt on the run, we have managed to turn what was originally a negative into our own divine positive.

I remember as a boy in school hearing that story about the pilgrims and the settlers.  I remember drawing turkeys by tracing the body and head around my spread apart hand.  Like every  other school kid, that part about the small pox blankets and slaughters were left out.  But you know what, growing up at MY house, we never talked about that crap anyway.  For my parents, grandparents, aunts and elders, it was about the fellowship around a meal that took several hours of hard work and dedication to perfect.  (Or at least try to perfect)

Listen, as a people, even as we come into new knowledge, we should also embrace our abilities to make lemonade out of lemons, sugar out of sh#!  And you know what, there is no need for us to apologize for it. One of my biggest realizations in life is that two things can be true at the exact same time.  Yes Thanksgiving as is being told to us traditionally is a farce.  One could compare it to the Nazi’s telling a false narrative of how they collaborated with Jews in Europe.  We should know that history.  Equally true, is that like many other things in life, we as a people have created our own narratives and definitions thereby turning a tragedy upon its head and making our empowering choices work for us.

I’m a social and political warrior.  Many of you are.  Even in war time, troops get leave, rest.  In order to fight the long game and not die of exhaustion, you must come away.  Traditions are neither good nor bad. They are the product of who and what we decide to make them to be.  Though I am mindful to thankful everyday, there is something good about much of our activities stopping, folk taking the time to slow down, be present and enjoy a few moments where we are all focusing on the same things.  I can do that and still fight for and stand with Standing Rock.

Bless You All~

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Transformations and Other Necessary Changes

Many a day I have quietly obsessed about my weight.  I have been successful at reaching goals as well as frustrated with what seemed like little or not movement in the direction I’ve wanted to go in.

As I approach 47 years old, I’ve faced many changes in my body.  A life long athlete, it’s often said that as we get older, ‘confidence is the last to go.  And the mirror is the last to know.’   In other words there is a bit of rebellion in us that says we can do what we used to, at the same level without any falloff.  I’ve always prided myself in being able to compete when people of a younger age.  Being an sports official has helped.  And I can honestly say, there are no high school, or college age ballers that can out-run me on the court. As an official I’m going to be in position to give myself the best chance to make the right calls.

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Still, after 7 surgeries, a few grey hairs, and a history of horrific back spasms,  I can’t deny that often it may take me quite a bit  to recover and be ready to officiate night after night during the season.  Frankly, there have been countless days where I’ve awaken and said to myself, “I can hardly move.  How in the hell am I going to officiate tonight?”  Between the aches and pains including a well worn set of rickety knees, it may take an entire day of preparation.  But when its time for tip off I go out there and taken care of business.

One of the surest ways of staying healthy is by keeping unnecessary weight off my frame.  I’ve gone up and down with my weight as I said before.  And again that is challenging.  During the day time, I eat relatively small and healthy without a problem.

However, I work most nights, and when I get home I want to eat big time.  (And I don’t mean veggies and fruit either.)  Eating after a long night of managing high level competition and competitive people is a comforting exercise.   This includes tasty meats and starches along with a cold brew.  Normally the night ends with some type of sweet.  This exercise is far more mental than physical.

The results may mean that I am in essence fighting against my own cause.  So what am I to do?

Though I’ve done many things to fight excessive weight gain, my new mantra is to totally take my focus off of weight.  I took a long walk today.  (6 miles to be exact)  And while thinking about it, I figure that weight is not a problem but a symptom.  A symptom of food choices, age, the amount of exercise, genetics, and perhaps other factors I cannot think of.  Some items are within my control while others are not.  The best thing I can do for myself to alleviate the unnecessary stress (stress being another internal homicidal factor) by focusing on what I really want out of my body.

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What I want is to be in shape; meaning able to do my job and enjoy normal physical activities;  Gain strength and maintain a certain level of flexibility and elasticity.  Being physically in shape can help me complete my earthly task and serve in a fashion that I am capable of.  As much as I enjoy sports and working with youth, being in shape allows me to gain a certain level of respect and credibility from the get go.

So, instead of being weight conscious, I have decided to be health conscious.  Meaning I am going to control the things I can control. I may as well face that I like to eat.  And sometimes the things I like to eat are not that good for me.  That being said, it doesn’t mean that I can’t consciously take steps to make sure that I move a lot more.  Walking that 6 miles today took me a little less than 90 minutes of my time.  My thinking is, if I can keep a daily regime of exercise, stretching and strengthening of my body, (even outside of my officiating activities) I will be more healthy and the weight issue will take care of itself.  Don’t get me wrong, I ref a lot of games.  But my body has become used to that.  I can’t measure that activity the same way I used to.  So I have to do more.  This is what I promised myself I will do starting today.  I am committed to doing some cardio, strength training and or stretching every day in addition to the work out I get every night officiating.

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Therefore I am determined to reject being weight conscious, and affirm health consciousness.  I am going to challenge myself to move and stretch, to work more.  I am going to walk this journey and make each day a day to win.  I am going to live with a liberated sense of self and allow my spirit to direct me.

With that said, excuse me while I attend to a piece of sweet potato pie.  There is still plenty left!  And ain’t nobody in this house helping me to eat it!

Thanksgiving: To Work or Not To Work?

I’ve run across several post and articles on Facebook concerning the morality or lack of morality of Americans having to work on Thanksgiving Day.

Many are against working on a day that has traditionally been set aside where most families including extended family members gather to spend the day together.

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Those who have spoken out against working on Thanksgiving promote the sacredness of family while enjoying a day free from the obligation of commerce and noisy shoppers.  This passion for tradition runs deep.

It seems as if it wasn’t that long ago when Black Friday for all intents and purposes didn’t really start till 7:00 am the day after Thanksgiving.  Brave souls may line the cold streets and parking lots of their favorite malls at 5:00 am to be the first to get in on what may be the best deals of the season.  But as years passed and the market expanded, stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy changed the game by opening earlier and earlier.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who foresaw that Black Friday would eventually start on Thanksgiving Thursday.  Malls may have survived the feeding frenzy for shoppers a little while longer had it not been for the internet.  Online shopping has made such an impact towards the convenience of the shopper, they had no choice but to open their doors and give themselves and opportunity to get that early dollar.  I get that.

Still is there perhaps a limit to our condition of having money burning holes in our pockets?  I read recently where a manager at a Pizza Hut restaurant was fired for refusing to open his store on Thanksgiving.  He wanted his employees to have the day off for those aforementioned and traditional reasons.   I can dig that too.  I mean, who is going to order pizza on Thanksgiving Day anyway?  Apparently some people will.  Which is a point I will get to shortly.

Just like employment, paid vacation time is a premium that many average wage workers in America don’t have the luxury of having. Our laws don’t mandate that employers require them like Europe where the mandatory vacation minimum is 4 weeks per year.  Within our business and political cultures many business owners spar with the lower classes of people who are most often their workers.  Many conservatives wouldn’t dare support a mandate requiring ONE week of vacation.  For the working poor to the lower middle classes, it’s work more hours for less pay with the least amount of benefits.  The ‘job creator’ is doing a favor for the worker in their eyes.  For a standard employee to share in the wealth or benefits of a successful business is considered Marxism.  This is what we have bought into.  And that brings me to my final point.

The culture of instant gratification is what we have craved for decades.  Instant stardom, (see music and reality TV) instant food, instant movies, (Netflix) and even instant buck dancing preachers from LA.  We want to be the first and best at everything pop culture and with that family values and traditions have fallen to the way side.  If you are working at a department store, a mall, or a kiosk on Thanksgiving, it’s not merely because the company you work for is greedy.  It’s because your friends, family and fellow citizens who have bought into the same quick, fast and lickety-split lifestyles you’ve required have demanded that you be available to service their lust.  If that wasn’t the case then on Thanksgiving the stores would be empty or not congregated enough to maintain staff.

For all who could not travel and be with family I totally understand your pain.  I’m for the idea of having sacred holidays where society takes a rest.  But equally valid is that we cannot pontificate as if others are not and have not worked for decades on Thanksgiving; from the local drug store or the gas station to get those eggs you ran out of, to the people who bring you football and other entertainment on television.  (I won’t even talk about police, firefighters, military personnel and hospitals.)  It’s a two way street.  And in these days and times, to have a job is a blessing in itself.

Anyhoo… Whatever situation you fall upon, Happy Thanksgiving

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Why I Hate The Holidays

Ok, well maybe hate is too strong a word.  Let’s just say I haven’t always looked forward to the holidays anyway.  Specifically the trilogy we call Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years, (TCN) that are slapped together the last two months of the year.  I am skeptical about several holidays anyway.  Most seem to have double meanings, in that its partial religious and partial if not mostly marketing.

Look at Easter for instance.   I grew up simultaneously thinking it was about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and at the same time for bunnies and egg hunting.  The same can be said for Christmas.  Don’t even get me started on that one.  Thanksgiving can’t get over with without stores opening up in anticipation of Black Friday and loads of shoppers coming to spend a lot of grip!

Know More About Aztec Culture Stereotypes and  Myths in America.

Speaking of Thanksgiving; It has its own set of issues as it inaccurately tells of a relationship between pilgrims and Native Americans.  They talk about Native Americans helping the Pilgrims, but they don’t tell of the massacre and land grab the Pilgrims put down on them in return.  With the amount of turkeys being sacrificed on one day, it shows how much it’s commercialized too. ****Side Note: Will someone please explain what this whole mess of the president pardoning a turkey is about?

I tend to get into holidays like Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, or something like these.  I mean they are commercialized too in that they do have Memorial Day sales in department stores.  But they tend to have less.  Labor Day is pretty straight forward.  It celebrates the workers of the nation.  And what the heck, if one wants to enjoy some savings at JC Penny’s for their hard-earned dollars who can argue with that?

Martin Luther King Day is almost a joke!  As much as I think we should have it for I truly believe MLK is the greatest American ever produced, the talk of dreaming and speeches is sickening.   It’s more memorial and legend than it is substance.  Take the good with the bad I guess.  But we, (black folk who want to deify King as a messiah who could do no wrong – and white folk who wish to use the dream message while eliminating the more meatier pieces of his words that challenged American white supremacy and classism at its core therefore rendering King a toothless lion) have basterdized Kings legacy as far as I’m concerned.  But I digress.

Valentines Day is a funny one to me.  Flower prices soar to astronomical proportion leading up to February 14 as men scramble and come up off them dollars to buy those roses and chocolate.  If you have a woman and she’s into that stuff, you can forget it!  Come off that grip or cancel Xmas cause if she feels dissed and can’t brag to her friends about what you did, there won’t be any presents for you under her tree!  I’m just saying.  As my friend Jim Thornber once wrote me about this same point, “I know I know.  But I got to do what I got to do!”

I’m not a total Scrooge about this mind you.  But even as a little kid I had love/skepticism relationship when it comes to holidays.  When I was a child and thought that Jesus was born on December 25th, I honestly didn’t care as much about presents.  I didn’t turn down any either.  But I did make a point of saying, “Happy Birthday Jesus!” when I woke up that morning before running for the living room.  As I recall I think I just thought us kids had the benefit of getting some presents on the slide.   I didn’t believe in Santa Clause too long cause I couldn’t figure how dude could hit all the houses all around the world in one night.  Just couldn’t wrap my brain around that.  All possible illusions were put to rest when I heard my mother and then step father sneaking in the crib at 3:30 in the morning setting up my race track.  I wasn’t disappointed at all.  More so relieved that I wasn’t crazy.

Back in the day,  another reason why I grappled with some of our holidays, (specifically the TCN trilogy) is because these holidays interrupted my otherwise action packed distractions layered lifestyle of mine.  (When I used to work 2-3 jobs at a time as a much younger man)  Most of my adult life I have struggled at times with depression, anxiety and stress.  Back then I worked hard and I worked a lot.  Therefore I was able to busy myself meandering with the important and the mundane.  If it wasn’t one thing to do it was another.   I’m still busy now but with a better plan.  The distractions are no different though.  Going from one side of town to another working or head to the coffee shop to wind down or jot some thoughts or view Delonte West free-styling in a KFC drive-through about buying $50 worth of chicken after a weed burn can keep one’s mind off his troubles.

I remember one year-long ago.  I was driving on a Thanksgiving afternoon to pick something up from Walgreens.   As I drove down the street I noticed how everything in the world has seemed to stop.  Here it was broad daylight in the middle of a metropolitan city, during the week no less, and there were hardly any cars on the street.   My neighborhood looked like a ghost town.  Subconsciously I noticed the trees too.  There were no leaves.  Only traces of dead ones laying on the streets and along the curbs.  Nothing was growing outside.  Nature seemed to be hibernating and the chill of the air cause me to cover myself so that the cold couldn’t attack me as it was the rest of nature.  That’s when it hit me.  “Damn!”, I thought.  These are the thoughts that flowed through my mind as I assessed the situation.

I have no place to go.  No place to hide.

 I knew instinctively that I was not in a good place.  I felt lonely, and empty.  I had no distractions to keep me busy and occupied.  I never even realized how much I was hurting or missing.  But here it was face to face now.

Whatever you really feel, wherever you really are, whatever state you are in for real, is always revealed during this time of year.  It’s unavoidable.

So there I was.  I knew it.  Nothing I could do about it either.  And Monday couldn’t get here fast enough.

For the most part nowadays I tend to look at holidays as an opportunity for me to rest.  To take a load off and maybe sleep in a bit.  I do see redeeming qualities with some of these holidays as they do give us time to reflect from busy lives and have a reason to stop, look, and hopefully listen to others.   To realize that family is important and that there is a season of giving.  Traditions can be a good thing when looked at properly.  And these holiday traditions tend to give those fortunate opportunity to take stock of the many present blessings.  I too will do some holiday shopping.  And since I have ‘things’ in perspective I am free to give and be a blessing to loved ones without tripping off the commercialized contradictions.

But for the lonely, the depressed, the homeless, the destitute, this holiday season will once again be a not so gentle reminder of the bold and true reality of their lives.  Let’s remember them too!  As I know full and well, it can easily be us!

Best Thanksgiving Movie~

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

That damn Steve Martin and the Late Great John Candy in this funny, utterly hilarious comedy.   There are so many lines and scenes I can’t figure which is my favorite.  Is it when Neil Page (Martin) goes off on Del Griffith (Candy) in the hotel room when he is finally fed up? 

Is it when they wake up in the bed together and when Del says his other hand is between two pillows and Neil says, “Those are NOT PILLOWS!” 

Or is it when that redneck in Kansas orders his wife to pick up the heavy chest?  Or is it the airport scene when Neil goes F bomb on steroids on the rental car lady?

No wait it has to be when they get pulled over by the cop when the car is half burned – and he ask Del if he thinks, “this vehicle is safe for highway driving?   And Del says, “Yes officer.  I really do.” 

I don’t know there are so many scenes I can’t forget.  This movie is a Thanksgiving tradition for me.  I need to start looking for my ancient VHS copy now so I can watch sometime this weekend.

My Favorite Old School One Liners!

I have never been into Thanksgiving because of the way the holiday is portrayed vs. the reality of the relationship between the Native Americans and the settlers from Western Europe.  Truthfully it’s merely a welcome “off day” for me.  But the one cool thing about Thanksgiving is that it gives family a chance to gather.  For some they would rather stay away from family, but with my schedule in life, I generally don’t get the chance to see them.  The holiday presents an opportunity for everyone to gather in the same space for a short period of time.  Sort of a mini-family reunion.

Back in the day I was the little kid running around with my cousins.  Now I am a part of the grown folk.  There are still a few remaining elders among us, and seeing them reminds me of the things they used to say.  During these times when the “grown folk” get together, I reminisce about the funny antidotes they used to say when talking to us or to one another or to us.  The feisty and clever one liners.  I will offer a few of my favorites… feel free to share some of yours too! 

First I will give you the line, and then the interpretation behind it.   Enjoy!

Everybody thats grinnin ain’t smiling.  (For recognizing the difference between friends and those who pretend to be friends.

A stitch in time saves nine. (The virtues of dealing with any task early as opposed to later after major damage is done.)

You don’t think fat meat greasy! (That is when a person is being hard headed.  In other words he/she continues to do something that could bring danger and possibly a whooping!)

Imma give ya something to cry for! (This is when a child cries for a reason that doesn’t merit crying.  A whooping is forth coming if the crying doesn’t immediately stop)

What are we eating?  Mustgo!  Whatever didn’t go yesterday, must-go today!  (My grandmother the late Georgia Moore when she wasn’t hearing the thought of cooking that night.)

And My Personal Favorite~

Ain’t nothing open after midnight but legs!  (Old school classic for enforcing curfew.  If your home after midnight, you must have been screwing.)

Give me some more family!