Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Airport Run

Crossing Paths: The Airport Run.

I learned an unlikely, valuable lesson while dropping my mother off at the airport.

At three-thirty one morning my alarm went off, and I stumbled blearily through the house, preparing to make an airport run. My mother was headed back to her home in another state, and I was the chosen one of four adult children, selected to get her to the airport safely.

The amusing thing about my mother, and I say this with love, is that she packs, unpacks, and repacks. Now don’t get me wrong; she is not a packrat. She just happens to be a woman who exercises the right to change her mind, over and over, as to what she’s going to take and leave when ending a visit.

This visit was a bit unusual. She came at the request of my only single brother, who decided to marry his fiancé before the end of the year. Usually Mom will stay several weeks and visit with her children and grandchildren. This trip was limited to five days, because she wanted to get back home for Christmas.
Being the elegant lady that she is, she usually brings along several suitcases, dedicated hat boxes, a portable closet and packs a large array dresses with the hats, shoes and purses to match. A fashionista must have unlimited choices, right? But this time, she brought just one outfit for the occasion, a change of casual clothes for a few days and not much else, except for one additional suitcase, and it was empty. Very suspicious, I thought. I watched her closely, to see if she was going to go through my cabinets and retrieve all her dishes and clothes I’d pilfered from her house the last time I was there.

When I started to pack the car, I noticed there were two fully packed suitcases. She’d gone shopping and filled the one suitcase right back up. I don’t even remember when she slipped out, but she did so successfully, and loaded the empty suitcase with ‘supplies’ that she claimed she couldn’t find in her state.
I dragged a suitcase out, and she stopped me. She’d forgotten to pack her house slippers. We opened the suitcase, moved some things around, and I threw my weight onto the canvas as I struggled to zip it back up. “Are you sure they are going to take this?” I asked. “It has to weigh at least 150 pounds.” “Stop being sassy and put it in car,” she warned.

We were about ten miles from my house headed to the airport when she exclaimed, “I forgot my meds!” I immediately changed lanes and exited the freeway. She said, “No Baby, I left some at the house on the counter. But don’t worry. I have the bottles in my suitcase.”

Inwardly I groaned. I took a sip of coffee and jumped back on the freeway. When we arrived, I notified a skycap that I needed a wheelchair. He immediately contacted an escort, and she walked over, and appeared to rush my mother as she dug through her suitcase for her meds. I stood back, irritated at the escort. I thought her as pushy and slightly rude, although she wasn’t saying anything. She continued to stand and wait as Mom dug for her meds. I watched the escort as she watched my mother. I couldn’t read the expression on her face, but it looked as though she was no-nonsense, void of personality. She wheeled her into the terminal, and I followed with the suitcases, dropped them next to the wheelchair, and ran out to park before my car got towed.

Throwing my purse in the trunk, I ran back in so I could escort my mother to the gate. When I found her, I realized I’d left my driver’s license in the car, so I wouldn’t be able to go any farther than the elevator. I knew the seemingly impatient escort would not wait for me to go back, get my license and wait for clearance to go past the screening without a plane ticket, so I said goodbye to my mother at the elevator. I had a slight attitude too, and I blamed the escort. If she hadn’t been so pushy, I thought, I would have remembered to bring my license.
I waited about thirty minutes and called my mom. She was sitting at the gate. I blurted out, “That escort was rude. Did you tip her?” “Yes, I did,” Mother replied. “Why?” I asked. “Didn’t you think she was rude?”

My mother said, with her usual patience, “At first I did. But after you kissed me and said goodbye, she asked were you my daughter. She said, ‘She seems as though she loves you very much.’ I told her that you did. She then apologized for appearing to rush me from the curb, but she explained that it was so cold out there; she just wanted to get me inside where it was nice and warm. She also told me that her mother died last year, and she thought back to her mother when you kissed me. She said she missed her mother so much. We had the most pleasant conversation after she took me through screening.”

Several thoughts flashed through my mind. It was early in the morning and all I could think about was getting back into my warm bed. I also thought about the look the escort had on her face. In retrospect, I believe it was a yearning for the same interaction that my mother and I had that morning as I dragged one suitcase, and then another, opening them on the curb so she could find her meds.

It is amazing what we take for granted: conveniences, life, and the people we love. We believe we are never going to be without food, shelter, money and transportation, and most importantly, the relationships and people we love the most. Though I will most likely never cross paths with ‘the escort’ again, she made me realize how grateful I am for the relationship I have with my mother. And if I’m privileged to take her to the airport again, I promised myself I’ll be both a little more patient and a little less selfish with my thoughts. Pick up the phone and tell someone you love them. Just because.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Paths We Cross: Forty Years of Friendship

How many people come to your mind when you refer to 'your best friend?' Someone who knows all about you, but likes you anyway? (Yes, that was shamelessly stolen....)

This year I celebrated, along with dozens of my friends, our 50th birthday anniversaries. I attended, no less than twenty 50th birthday parties this year, including my own: my daughters threw me a surprise birthday party and I walked in to about 75 friends and relatives, who nearly gave me a heart attack. Lovely surprise though.

The women you see in the picture are simply your average women. We are mothers, wives, aunts and grandmothers. Some of us work at utility companies, some are self-employed, and still others sell insurance, work for the post office, teach and counsel.

We met in public school, became fast friends, dressed alike, and walked to school together. We joined clubs, argued over boys,and swapped clothes and shoes without our mother's knowledge. Some of us marched in the marching band, were cheerleaders, and some of us were high school basketball stars. We walked into the dances and parties together, dressed alike, celebrated spring fling events by wearing crazy hats and dressing in costume.

When we graduated, we took up entire pages writing in each others' yearbooks, swearing allegiance to stay in contact, not forseeing that though we temporarily moved away, thirty years later we'd all be back living just a few dozen miles away from each other.

But over the last forty years, we have been there for each other. We’ve celebrated birthdays, stood as bridesmaids in each others’ weddings, sat in the hospital lobbies when our parents became ill, and held each other and cried like babies when they passed away.

We’ve cooked for each other, planned baby showers, picked each other’s kids up from school, bought candy and cookies and cookie dough and that annoying christmas wrapping paper and attended our children’s games as they made the football team or their respective school cheerleading squads.

We were all there, fussing over prom dresses and threatening the dates as our daughters and sons attended their first dances, just as doting as the parents themselves who stood proudly by. As our kids grew older, we began to celebrate their achievements: their entry into a prestigious university, the police academy, a Rose Court princess, and one of them even had several speaking lines in an academy award-winning movie. Then came the college graduations, and then empty-nest syndrome.

We entered the third phase of our life as our children became parents. We began to retire or start another career. Some of us bought vacation homes. We learned how to ski, play golf and white water raft. Our musical tastes began to mellow. Our weekend trips became much more conservative, and though we still reminisced and giggled through the night, our turn-ins became much earlier.

Some of us suffered with life-threatening illnesses, so we kept vigils at the hospitals until they were released. There are more of us who could not make this photo shoot, but our love and our bonds are just as strong. It is both a blessing and a delight to get together and pick up where we left off, checking up on family members, other friends, and just laughing; so happy that our sisterhood is still tight.

Forty years after we met in elementary school, we are still standing. We are strong, we are beautiful. We are your average women who have suffered the storms of life with friends who have supported us through thick and thin. We are different Shades of Ebony and we will always be BFFs (best friends forever).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back to Your Roots

How many of you know your great-grandparent’s parent’s names? Where they actually came from? How many brothers and sisters they had? For the past few months I have been digging relentlessly through old family records, photographs, and on-line archives trying to identify and log in the names of our family tree.

I was bestowed this honor at our last family reunion, and I took it kicking and screaming. I tried to explain to one of the Queen Bees of the reunion (also known as my mother) that I didn’t have the time, there were too many people involved (I have thirty-seven first cousins!) and with every excuse, she gave me a motherly pat and a smile and said, ‘Do it for me.’

So I began. I logged onto Ancestor.com, and after a week or so, I was so immersed in the names, the history and how far I’d been able to go back, I couldn’t put my project down.

It is still a work in progress; one that will take me at least another year. But the history is so rich, and with every person, they seem to tell a story. I wish I could go back in time and interview my ancestors. I found a treasure trove of information online, including: slave records, census records, birth and marriage certificates, newspaper clippings. I’d like to take a trip, however, to the state of Mississippi Archives and Records building, where I’ve been informed that there are land records that actually document the slave owners property, including all the land they owned, and land they bequeathed to slaves. My mother inherited two acres that had been handed down from her mother, and later I found out this same two acres was part of a massive parcel of which our ancestors had worked as slaves.

I also traced the history of the slave owners. I was able to trace as far back to the 1600's to his grandparents in Ireland.

If I could interview one individual from my ancestral line, it would be Ellen Weathersby. She was born in 1836, and she was my great-great grandmother. She had eleven children, including two sets of twins. She was born into slavery and was freed at the age of twenty-five. Can you imagine being twenty-five years old, having been enslaved and working all of your life with no pay, and to now be informed that you are free? That you will now be paid for the work you’ve had to do for probably the past twenty years?
My interview would go something like this: I would ask her if she worked in the fields, or if she worked in the house as a cook, or housekeeper. I wonder if she married her husband, Milly, before or after the Emancipation Proclamation Act? Was she in love? Or did the slave owners mate them? Did they actually jump a broom? Did she and Milly actually receive forty acres of land? Did any of her sons join the military? Did the slave owners treat them like people or were they treated as chattel? Were they allowed to read?

I believe that Ellen and Milly, living through the civil war and seeing the day where their shackles would be removed is akin to the Silent Generation living through the Great Depression, World War II, experiencing the Civil Rights Movement; witnessing President Johnson sign the Civil Rights Act; and watching President Obama being sworn in as our 44th President all rolled into one. There are other extremely significant and historical acts, of course, but after hundreds of years of slavery, and then to live to see the day it is abolished, how amazing can that be?

Think about researching and viewing the history of your family tree. It is a beautiful treasure to pass along to your children and grandchildren, and you may be surprised at what you will find. Some reference websites: www.Ancestry.com, www.mormon.org, www.familylink.com. www.myheritage.com allows you to build a family tree for free; and some websites do require a subscription. Have fun!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Crossing Paths: Can I Change My Partner?

Why are people criticized when others think that their plans to ‘change’ a person are bad? Change can be good, if both parties are willing, have the best of intentions, and though sometimes the reasoning may be selfish, for the most part they are purely out of love for the individual, helping them not only to contribute to society by becoming a better person, but contributing and influencing the next generation with their partner as a viable, positive and successful team.

There are several thousand blogs posted daily across cyber space discussing relationships – the whose, whats, wheres and whys of love, staying together, maintaining the relationship and breaking up. Here is my two cents on change.

I’ve heard time and time again that men cannot, and should not be considered a ‘ project’ in a relationship. How about the classic, age old debate that women (or men) marry the other with expectations to change them after the vows have been said, the broom has been jumped, and the relationship has been consummated?

For a variety of reasons that I do respect, I’ve believed for years the old adage that you can’t change a leopard’s spots, or you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. But what is wrong with change, when after bringing the person you love into a relationship, planting a seed to make him or her or better person?

What about religious conversions? There is a scripture in Corinthians in the King James Version of the bible that states that if the wife is saved, eventually her Christian attitude will influence the husband to be saved.

How about weight management? When you are a team of two or more, ‘hanging around’ a person who is more apt to stay away from fast food and prepare healthy meals will not only influence a poor eater with better results, but also weight loss, a better diet and eventually better health.

Any smokers? After years of studies, scholars have proved without a shadow of a doubt that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, and other life threatening diseases. A person who truly loves another in a relationship will ultimately voice their opinion as to the dangers of this habit and hopefully convince them to quit before their body takes on tobacco related diseases and other incurable illnesses.

What about Drug abuse, alcoholism, viewing pornography, cheating, lying, addictions to bad or poor social habits? Encouraging someone to return to school to learn a trade? Or suggestions to simply improve their social, speaking and etiquette skills and manners?

The next time you hear a criticizing whisper that someone you know wants to change someone, think deeply about the proposed transition. That change may ultimately save a healthy relationship with their partner and may also save their life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Paths We Cross: Back Down Memory Lane

At last census, there were 9,818,605 people in the county of Los Angeles.
What are the chances of crossing paths with a person you met 45 years ago who was married to your father’s brother’s wife’s nephew? Does that make you related? I’m thinking that at the time she would have been my cousin-in-law. Maybe not.
But it is amazing still of the paths we cross and the coincidences or the chance meetings that occur throughout our lives.

This week I attended a ‘Gold’ party at a very good friend’s house. My friend, whom I will respect her privacy, knows how to throw parties, and she’s a great cook, so when she sent the evite, I accepted, mainly to snag a slice of her pound cake and munch on her famous fried chicken. The night before the party, she reminded me to dig into my jewelry box and bring my old, unwanted and even broken gold jewelry. After getting dressed I dug through a dusty jewelry box with jewelry I kept saying I was going to get fixed, threw a few pieces in my cosmetic bag and headed over with the intention of socializing with old friends (I’m not recruiting, by the way for a Gold party, so please keep reading).

Several hundred dollars later, with a big smile and a happy tummy, in appreciation I handed the ‘Gold Vendor' a complimentary signed copy of my book. She read the cover, looked at me and said, ‘I know some Gants.’ I told her they were probably my relatives, so we began to draw a mental twig (not a tree, just a twig). It turned out that she was married to my father’s brother’s wife’s nephew. What was fun about this, was that she reminisced about their wedding reception, in 1966. I was present at the same reception, at the tender young age of five. But I remember it distinctly because my brothers played a prank on me that we still laugh about and remember to this day.

Because I was the only little girl there, I was allowed to sit in the living room with the grown ups. My mother had taught us that children should be seen and not heard, so I sat quietly with my hands in my lap while my two brothers, acting as tykes usually do, jumping, running and tussling, played outside.

A little while later my brothers, whispering, walked through the living room and called me into the kitchen, where laid out on the table were beautiful arrangements of hor d'oeuvres. My brothers turned to me and said politely, “Do you want some grapes?” Of course I said yes, pleased that they weren’t teasing me and that they were behaving quite nicely without my parents in the same room. They pointed to the dish of ‘grapes’ and stood back. Their immediate retreat should have been a hint and a half, but I was so impressed with their desire to ‘share’ that I took a handful and plopped them into my mouth. I turned around and looked at them both, and they were bent over laughing as hard as they could. They traumatized me, and to this day, I will not allow olives on my menu.

Back to my story: Again, it is amazing the paths we cross and the people we meet. My uncle is no longer married to his wife of 1966, and the Gold Vendor is no longer married to his ex-wife’s nephew. But she was such a nice and pleasant person, that I like to think that we were cousins at one time, reunited under the circumstances of chance.

When was the last time you took a walk down memory lane? Pick up the phone, call a loved one or friend, and make them smile with a sweet memory.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asian & Pacific Heritage Month

There was such an excellent interview discussed on the Wave Radio Station with Lady DJs Pat and Kim that I had to pass it along. To hear the entire interview, please visit the link below. Happy Asian Pacific Heritage Month!

The month of May was dedicated to celebrating all the Asian and Pacific islanders who now call the U.S. home for the Asian and Pacific Heritage Month. Some of the most notable Asian and Pacific natives who’ve contributed their amazing talents to the arts and culture in America include the amazing cellist Yo-Yo Ma, novelist Amy Tan, the first Asian in space Ellison Onizuka, and of course the dynamic husband and wife duo that makes up American-Japanese fusion group Hiroshima.

Dan and June Kuramoto came in to speak about how their Japanese heritage influences their music and give their reactions to the disastrous earthquake and Tsunami that crippled their homeland in March. Listen to their extended interview with Pat & Kim and hear their amazing stories about their ancestry.

Dan and June Kuramoto’s rich Asian heritage is prevalent in their American-Japanese fusion music, and the creative masterminds behind the group Hiroshima joined Pat & Kim to share stories on how important their ancestry is.

They shared stories of growing up in Southern California and the history parents and grandparents being in internment camps, plus they got us up to date on the latest insights on what’s going on back home in Japan. Listen to their extended interview and stories on their rich heritage as Asian and Pacific Heritage Month comes to a close.

Read more: Dan And June Kuramoto Of Hiroshima Celebrate Asian And Pacific Heritage Month http://947thewave.radio.com/2011/05/31/dan-and-june-kuramoto-of-hiroshima-celebrate-asian-and-pacific-heritage-month/#ixzz1Nwwii93q

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Domino Effect

Daily, I catch a snippet of the news throughout my neighborhood, the surrounding cities and the metropolitan city of Los Angeles. Either driving or riding the train, there appears to be a profound sense of sadness and dispair because of our economy, our justice system and yes, relationships. Within the last thirty days, I listened with great sadness to two separate tragic stories of two angry men who killed their ex-girlfriends and a male friend of hers. We hear regularly of love triangles, rejected lovers and affairs, but this particular story caught my interest for a number of reasons: I was curious as to the root cause that spurred both parties' anger; and I discovered in each tragic incident that I knew at least one of the persons who lost their lives. We may not ever know or even experience a dominoe effect from the root of a tragic instance as this one, but we can probably surmise the cause and effect without naming names because there is usually a similar scenario that goes back to the old testament in the Bible: A relationship begins, flourishes, goes sour, rejection, separation, hurt and anger.
How we mentally, spiritually and physically deal with these stages literally determine our destiny. Each situation, of course, is different, but how we handle ourselves affects so many people: family members, friends, neighbors, the city, law enforcement personnel. Let me explain:
Their deaths have caused the unspeakable pain for parents, children, brothers and sisters and friends. One murdered young man was an only child. His father was so distraught he couldn't bear to even attend the funeral. Imagine remembering holding a beautiful tiny baby, teaching him or her to walk, eat with a spoon and ride a bike, escorting them to class on their first day of school, watching them graduate with pride, and then having a stranger or angry person take it all away? Neighbors are shocked and saddened that their lives have been disrupted. Children are traumatized and experience nightmares. Law enforcement personnel work overtime, and usually require post traumatic counseling as well as a leave of absence, and city statistics are immediately changed by mandatory law - a murder took place in its jurisdiction so its index and rankings are immediately affected.
All of this from a relationship gone bad. What is the answer? There is no one good answer because it depends on the individual. When a person becomes so consumed with another, they take away from themselves and that may just be the root. Themselves. Loving yourself, regardless of the hurt and pain another bestows upon you may just be the key, or the start of walking away from a relationship that is headed in another direction. Giving reverence to God, and then placing yourself in that second spot in your heart, or just loving the heck out of yourself, may make the pain of a broken relationship a lot easier to absorb, evaluate, and then move on.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 - Getting Along - The Power of One

I held a new hire orientation class on the eve of New Years Eve; so I thought it would be fun as an ice breaker to ask the participants what goals they held for the upcoming new year. The responses were standard: One wanted to lose weight, another wanted to complete an educational goal, a third said she and her husband were trying to have a baby in the upcoming year.
One very quiet new member of our team spoke softly when asked. Of Asian descent, her English words were pronounced carefully and precise; and her accent was strong. She said, "I want people to get along better. That is my wish." When I asked her to elaborate, she told me that when she came to this country about ten years ago, she obtained a job working at an adult education school. A man approached her and asked for directions. She said he spoke too fast, and it was difficult for her to understand him. When she asked him to repeat the question, he looked at her and said, 'Can't you speak English?' She told him that she could, it was just that her English was not that good. He replied, walking away, 'Then you shouldn't be working here.'
She told me she cried that day, and his insensitive comment will always be deeply embedded in her mind. 'It hurt me so much,' she revealed to the class, 'in ways he will never know.' She said, 'It took so much for me to come here, to get here for the opportunities - for work, school, and a better way of living.'
She continued: 'My uncle has been here in the states since 1922. He came as a young man, worked in San Francisco, and was rounded up and jailed for three months during the war, just for being Chinese.'
Curious as to where she was headed with this story, we continued to listen. 'He has seen so much, and is proud to be an American citizen. When I came over here, he told me, Thank God for Dr. (Martin Luther) King Jr. He would tell me over and over that Dr. King's legacy was so significant because he fought for equal rights of every person of color. So this year, I wish for people to recognize that every one has the right to be free from oppression and poverty. I wish for everyone to get along.'

Touched by her heartfelt wish, we all agreed. With 6.8 billion people on the earth, wishing for world peace sometimes sounds futile or lame, but then I thought later, 'It starts with one.' Dr. King, her uncle, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, you and me. If everyone could influence one other person, what a difference it would make in the attitudes, comments and the thoughts of others. It would diminish prejudices, and ignorant assumptions that all people of one particular ethnic background are one and the same.'

So this year, for 2011, influenced by a Chinese girl insulted by a white man, but with the foresight to listen and heed the wise words of her Uncle influenced by a Black civil rights leader, I wish for world peace. One person at a time.

Peace, God Bless and Happy New Year.

Leaving Technology Behind - The Lost Phone

Here comes a big what if - what if you’re stranded away from home with no phone, no smartwatch, with pay phones becoming more obsolete in mo...