Friday, December 18, 2009

39 and Counting

Loads of Facebook messages last night and this morning. Extremely useful gifts from the gals in my department that I absolutely love. Is it sad that white out makes me happy? Oh, that little container on the left is hand sanitizer. Yep. Love that too.



Cupcakes from the baker in our group.


Fighting off the stupid office dog in defiance as he tries to take stuff out of my trash and steal my cupcakes.

So far I feel the same as I did last year and the year before that and the year I turned 30. But I am well aware that I will be entering new territory next year because something about 40, even 39, just feels so....mainstream. I am old enough for everything, except retirement, and no one is even questioning if I can buy alcohol or cigarettes, not that I'd want to. Yuck. No one looks at me twice if I say my kids are young or if I said I had teenagers. I could easily go either way. I am old enough to have graduated college childless and now be the mother of a college graduate. Wow. Gotta get off this train of thought.

Counting. I have a good husband (I am helping a friend to move to her own apartment this weekend because her 3-year marriage is just about done. Mine ain't perfect but I ain't miserable and I still like him so thank you God). Two pretty perfect kids in light of the brats who have crossed my path over the years. A job I still love and that pays me as well or better than I would have hoped to be making by now, but I wasn't sure what that would be anyway. I am, after all, in the topsy-turvey, financially unpredictable world of writing and editing. I have a home I love. I am in touch with all the important people from 1st grade on. I have local friends I can count on like family and family who know the meaning of the word. I need to lose weight (as usual) but despite that (and the eczema), I don't have one health issue worth losing sleep over and not one doctor is telling me I'm the borderline of anything. I belong to a church that doesn't make me feel unworthy or like I am still missing something and even though it is a large church, plenty of people know my name. (I can't remember all theirs though. That's another issue.) I know my spiritual gifts and my passions and I exercise them daily. I can drive. (I couldn't do that until I was 21.) I'm not afraid to be alone. My regrets can still fit on less than 5 fingers. I have hope for all sorts of things yet to come.

I'm sure there are more blessings to count, but I think this should tide me over for the day. Thank you God for another year. Ah, sweet 39.

So, um, God? Take your time with 2010, OK? Thanks!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hair-Raising Behavior

Didn't I tell you the black community has issues with hair? Clearly not everyone is heeding my warning about where not to tread. If you are not under a rock, you have most likely heard about the teacher who cut a 1st-grader's braid because she would not - breathe deep, Monica - stop twirling it. The CHILD. was TWIRLING. her hair. And that warranted scissors, it seems.

I was trying really hard to push this to the back of my mind, but it's everywhere and even Essence jumped on it, which is akin to Oprah calling a special meeting of the sistahs. (Note the url that calls the place "crazytown.") Nordette wrote about this with a little more depth than anything I first read so take a look at her story here: http://www.blogher.com/teacher-cuts-childs-braid-gets-175-fine.

I knew the little girl was black. What I did not know at first and honestly tried so very hard not to think about was whether or not this teacher was white. Dang it, she was. Seems to me she was either looking for a racial incident or she's the most sheltered teacher in America. Now before I go on, I've been reading what people have to say about this and one person who agreed this woman was nuts also wanted to stress that this is not a color issue, wishing that black Americans didn't have such knee-jerk reactions. The statement was made by a black woman, but I am guessing not a native American and that does make a difference. If you have never been abused (or lived in the midst of it), you cannot judge the self-preservation actions taken by the one who has. So let me clear this up now. No one wants it to be a color issue. But our race as a whole has PTSD (or maybe PSSD would be better) and it's not going away any time soon. When bad incidents happen, Black Americans in general pray every time that color isn't involved or that it's not a black person having an issue with a white one. We collectively hold our breaths. We are let down most of the time. So when it is a black and white person involved, we hope against hope it's not racially motivated. We don't all choose to have a knee-jerk reaction. It is the PTSD and it can't be helped. Please don't be so naive and stop trying to dismiss it.

Back to the teacher, I'm sure there have been blacks who have also maliciously cut some kid's hair who is not their own (Nordette mentions one case), but I am also sure any black person who does this knows precisely the implication of their action. It's a form of feminine castration for many black women.

I told you - the hair is sacred.

It's ingrained in us like the urge to fly is in a baby bird. No one is immune. Not even me. Reading this story got me PISSED big time and it happened so fast I didn't know what hit me. I immediately thought of all the teachers surrounding my children and the couple of times I have had to tell a teacher that my son, for instance, is not perfect at all times and his "change in behavior" after 6 months in school from quiet and obedient to a little talkative is not a sign of trouble at home. Instead it is a sign of them not knowing him like they thought they did. And how could they? They don't stay with him past that one grade.

Cutting that girl's braid is a sign of that teacher either not knowing the children she teaches - mainly black children, it is said - or just not caring. But if my daughter came home telling me that story, I can't promise I wouldn't get in that teacher's face. I would insist my husband come with me as we talk in front of the principal not because it's the adult way to handle the situation but because even now I can just feel myself choking the person who dared to lay a hand on my hair-twirling child in this most brazen way. I tell you, I was truly livid for this girl whom I don't know. How up in arms do you think I would get to find out it happened to my own?

You can take probably every culturally psychological issue we have as a people and lay it at the feet of slavery. That is likely the start of the self-esteem getting entwined in our hair and we simply have not dealt with it or refuse to believe there is a connection there. But even if you don't think the root of the hair problem is slavery, one thing is for sure - while we don't go looking for this, the majority of us do wrestle with a hair issue.

Maybe we want it straight because we want to be like white women. Maybe we are determined to be natural in order to spit in the face of that other thought. Maybe we want to braid our hair but there are still companies and careers where natural African-American hairstyles are considered bad form. (Oh yes. Those places do exist.) We have challenging hair, it's no lie, so we do what we can to make it easier to handle. I like braids and twists not because it's cultural but because it's just easier - get up and go! Plus, my hair grows better when I simply leave it alone. Thankfully, I am black and no one looks at me twice if I braid my hair. (Well, they do, but usually because they like it and it might even mean me going into teaching mode about my hair. Sigh. It does get a little tired.)

For some of us, those natural curls of ours are less a source of pride and more an embarrassment. But these and many other issues are owned by us, whether we want to own them or not and we go into defense mode when someone touches our issue - just like anyone of any other culture would. If a non-black person says a word about our hair or touches it or tries to just ask why we do what we do, it's like a sonar going off among nearby black women and every one of them will run to your defense, even if you personally aren't offended. "Its NONE of YOUR business! We can do what we want with our hair!" Don't tell your hairdresser there was talk, either. There will be consequences. And please, don't be a non-black parent with a black or mixed race child and not take care of their hair. There is a special prison where we lock you up for that offense. If that is you, just ASK FOR HELP. You won't find a black mother unwilling to help you beautify that child because, as as I said, our hair is sacred and so is the hair of every big and little sistah (or brotha) we see. There is no excuse for letting a child go wild.

It's a sensitive issue. You can't wish it away or joke it away or try to make black people feel badly for reacting the way we do. It is what it is. This teacher was foolish to do what she did. I don't necessarily think anyone should be required to learn the culture of another, but if you are going to work heavily with a population, it would behoove you to get a clue about the things they value and the things they take issue with. That teacher is naive to think people should not be upset (if she indeed thinks that). I still want her fired but I can't tell you yet if my logical, fair side is even in the conversation. A $175 fine for a teacher in Chicago probably does hit the wallet (good) but it's not enough. I'd even accept cultural sensitivity training (on top of the fine AND firing) and that to me is usually a lame thing to do.

I'm still angry. Truly. I want to hear this woman is gone. Just like Erin Andrews' stalker will hopefully get jail time for peeping at her and posting embarrassing pictures of her on the Internet, I want this teacher to face some kind of punishment for going one step further and laying a hand on the head of a child in front of all of her peers, equally and unnecessarily embarrassing her. But I also hope all this cutting behavior will mean some real discussion between the races about how to respect each other and within the race (black Americans and blacks from other countries) about the length of our hair issues. In the meanwhile, my daughter and I have hair appointments this weekend. You can bet the shop will be hopping mad.

Christmas Gripes

OK. I want to say something. I just read a little of this:

Christian Group Launches New Attack on Christmas Commercialism

If it's December, then there must be frost in the air, gingerbread in the oven, and ... right on time, Bill O'Reilly and the other defenders of Christmas bemoaning the prevalence of "Happy Holidays" - rather than "Merry Christmas" - greetings.

There's a war on Christmas, O'Reilly recently reminded viewers, driven by those who "loathe the baby Jesus." This season, a holiday-dÉcor company is marketing the CHRIST-mas Tree, a bushy artificial tree with a giant cross where the trunk should be. And the Colorado-based Focus on the Family is continuing its Stand for Christmas campaign to highlight the offenses of Christmas-denying retailers. The campaign was launched, according to its website, because "citizens across the nation were growing dissatisfied with the tendency of corporations to omit references to Christmas from holiday promotions."

See the rest of the story here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20091215/us_time/08599194759000

Here's my laywoman's take on the whole thing and it may not be popular with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. But I'm going to put myself in sacred shoes for a brief second. My birthday is in December. (No, really. It is.) Now, I already told everyone that it's not the day of my birth that I want you all to celebrate. I want you to celebrate maybe whatever good I do. Maybe my life after I die. Maybe nothing at all! I'm just trying to live as God wants me to, after all. (in Jesus' case, we should celebrate his death AND resurrection which is how we got the gift of eternal life.).

Now, no one really listens to me about that and they decide they really want to celebrate my birth anyway. But instead of doing it when I was born - December - they decide that it's warmer in June so let's make it June instead. And the celebrants want everyone on board so they make sure everyone knows, "We are celebrating Monica's birthday in June! GET ON BOARD!"

Now this is just me but why would I be thrilled with that? Still, I don't protest necessarily because it's always nice to be loved and honored. But really, does the whole thing not seem a little off?

The birth of Jesus is clearly important, lest we have no Savior. The death of Jesus is clearly important, lest we have no way to heaven. But the focus is not supposed to be on BABY Jesus because he's not a baby anymore, folk. The focus is not supposed to be on Jesus on the cross because didn't you hear? HE GOT UP! He's not on the cross anymore. The time to celebrate is Easter, when He showed the world who He was and is and covered all our sins for eternity (IF you accept Him, that is.)

I honestly don't get the commotion. We insist on sticking Jesus where He wasn't in the first place and get mad when the rest of the world doesn't conform. No, we don't want to hearken back to the days of idol worship - ohhhh wait. That IS these times still, isn't it?

So Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth, becomes this us-against-them mess when it most likely was church officials once upon a time deciding to sanctify some pagan holiday and force Christ on non-believers or at least people who didn't openly profess Christ. Frankly, when you can't control something, you get mad about the things you think you CAN control. Might this be one of those times?

People, people. Jesus never forced himself on anyone. He didn't ask us to either. He told us to be lights, cities on the hill. To let our Spirits speak for us. To let our actions tell to whom we belong. And yes, sometimes you must be very vocal, but really God needs no help. He can show Himself quite easily, thank you. We are told to talk about him but if people don't listen to you, shake the dust off your feet and move on.

I don't personally believe it's my believing in his birth that will get me through His gates. It's His death and resurrection. That's what He said. Everyone learned it at least once in Sunday School. "Whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." Believing in Him isn't just believing Jesus was born. It is believing IN Him and what He said, understanding that God and Jesus are one. "Romans 10:9 - If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord AND believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved."

There has to be a reason you don't find the day of his birth in the Bible yet you do find this:
Mark 14: 1 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2 "But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot."
Note the specific time of year is included here.

Mark 15:1 -6 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

2"Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate.
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.

3The chief priests accused him of many things. 4So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."

5But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

6Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested.
Again, time of day and time of year mentioned. I could go on but what you will find is more mentions of time of year and day. Clearly, TIME was a factor and it was important that everyone know it. His birth? Well, Luke talks about it for 20 versus. Matthew at least gave it a whole chapter, though he started off talking about genealogy first and it all totals 25 verses. Mark and John? They start off talking about the divinity of Jesus and he's all grown up here. And yes, I do know about the canon and the books of the Bible that weren't included (Master's classes in Religious Studies weren't for naught) but I just can't allow my spirit to get all frustrated and entangled in all this. God said, "Call to me and I will tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." So don't be confused and crazed - ask God and let Him give you the peace that passes all understanding about this topic.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't say toss Christmas. We are a people of tradition and that's why it takes so long to change things, even for the better. Kids love it and we love giving them this fun time of year. Tradition tends to get in the way of common sense sometimes, however.

We can enjoy the season and say He is the reason for it and it would be true in a creation sort of way - God DID make all the seasons. We can decide we just want to make this the time of year to say Happy Birthday to Jesus, even if he was possibly born in late October like some scholars say. We can give gifts to each other and say it's all in His honor (starting to stretch things a bit here). But can we just stop fooling ourselves? We do this because WE choose to, not because God asked us to. We want to really show our Christmas spirit when we should be showing our Christian spirit all year, but hey, a little once a year is better than nothing, right? We want to thank God for Jesus when again, we could do that all the time. The non-Christians take this moment to show they aren't pagans after all and they too think about God and that's good, but God wants YOU all the time, my friends. You'll have to talk to Him, however, about what that means in your life specifically.

I just don't want to get offended when people say Happy Holidays because there is more than one holiday going on this month. I don't choose to get offended if you say Merry Christmas to me because I know Jesus is OUR reason, but I seriously doubt He's as caught up in all this as we all are. I also don't care what you think if I choose to say Merry Christmas because I live with the traditions too.

I've said it before and I 'll say it again, I think we are ALL going to be very surprised one day to find out what DOES matter to Him that we didn't know or chose to ignore. The things He doesn't say that day will probably befuddle us all - "God, you didn't care about that? But we fought for it in your name!"

The world can try all it wants to but I just don't see it banishing God no matter how hard it tries. If those of us who love Him and follow Him can just do that - love Him and follow Him - He is sure to go nowhere. If we don't, He's still here but it's on our heads if we didn't share Him. We can do that on December 25th..and 26th...and 27th...and June....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Secret Santa Meets Spock

This is what I found on my desk this morning from my secret santa:


This is gift 3. Gift 1 was Rudolph's Rockin' Raspberry Lip Balm. Hmm. Someone knows I am addicted to chapstick but the world can tell that.

Gift 2 is when I knew my SS was asking someone what I liked. I found chocolate covered cherries on my desk yesterday. No one outside of my department would know I love those as much as I do. AND they got the kind with the clear liquid, not the milky stuff. Kudos to them!

Today, gift 3, it's Star Trek, and Spock no less, who has always been my favorite. Don't recall telling that particular detail to the elf helping my Secret Santa so if he or she (I think it's a he) is guessing, then it might be a little scary. Especially if the person is who I think it is.

Thursday shall tell all!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Children Say the Dumbest Things

I was born and lived in southeast D.C. until I was 9. I went to a private school, where the teachers sometimes let you spend the night at their homes. (It was indeed a different time.) My best friend at school was one of the most popular kids in school even though we were on the younger end of things. We mostly got along with the older kids, though, simply because they adored my cute and friendly best friend so life was good.

I lived on a REALLY long street (at least that's how I recall it) where you could literally see the financial differences between the homes as you drove from one end to the other. I was in the middle. My best friend's house on my street was pretty much as far as I could go on one end. It was headed toward the rougher end. Maybe that was partly why. We had block parties and everyone played together. I was even Miss B Street one year because of my grades. Life was good there too.

Right before 5th grade, my family and I moved to Philly. That's when life became a challenge. The kids in Philly had a knack for knowing I wasn't from there because I spoke "proper" or "white." (My private school was all black, by the way, including most if not all of the teachers.) If you don't know what speaking proper means, it means I use nouns AND verbs and some of my words may be more than 2 syllables. I'm sure any African-American can tell you the deal with this particular issue. It's right up there with the light-skinned/dark-skinned and good hair/bad hair crap we still struggle with today. (Oh yeah. My hair was long too and so in the early days some kids believed it was fake even when it was pinned up.) Basically, this is all stupid. But it's still very much alive and ruining lives on a daily basis.

I eventually found my people in Philly and by high school, found some relative peace. But you never forget the dumb things kids say to each other. As much as you hate to let it get to you, you know you are shaped by it for life.

That's why it slightly pains but mostly angers me when my kids come home with the latest grievance.

Today from 4th-grade Son: "Today I was mostly ignored. I spoke to them but no one really spoke back."

Yesterday from Son: "Mommy, some people told me my eyebrows make me look angry. When I raise them up, I look friendlier. Can I make them thinner?"

Last week from 1st-grade Daughter: "Today I was drawing and (Nameless Child) told me I have no imagination."

Last month from Daughter: "Mommy, ever since I started wearing glasses, people don't speak to me anymore. The only ones who speak to me are the other kids with glasses."

My response to every one of these? "Are you alright? Did that hurt your feelings? Well, do you know why that happened?" Generally, they say they are OK and they didn't know why the kids said what they did. After I see they aren't literally crying over it and feel certain they aren't going to have a break down or start trying to be different, I tell them that "friends" don't talk to friends that way. I tell them they can feel free to say, "Why do you feel that way? Yeah? Well, that's just stupid and you can keep on walking."

I do not love children. I love MY children. Big difference. So "stupid" is not a word I want to teach my kids but mainly because I want them to respect each other. They are the only siblings they have. I tell them not to use that word on each other but I'm short on patience so when I hear this, I tell them that kids sometimes just say stupid things to each other, like that black people aren't "s**t," (uttered by a Jamaican child), but they can't let it ruin their day. As long as THEY don't agree and WE don't agree, then nothing else matters. In the words of Mariah Carey, we gotta shake it off.

"Daughter, your glasses are super cute and you are super cute in them, I tell you. I never wore them but they look GOOD on you, girl! (They really do.) You tell them if they don't want to be your friend because you wear glasses, then they are ridiculous and you don't have time for it. Not talking to someone because of glasses is just DUMB. You tell them that, Daughter."

"OK."

"No, Son, I am not going to let you make your eyebrows thinner. Your eyebrows are perfect. In fact, they are MINE (before I started getting them waxed). And anyone who knows you knows you are not angry. You tell them that's just the silliest thing you've ever heard and you keep on going."

"OK."

Son already has to deal with the foolish friends who tell him that he's "big" while they are skinny. Um, yeah, silly ones. His father is 6' 3", you little loonies. His cousins are drafted for pro basketball. Stop trying to make him feel badly for being a developing child. One day you'll strain your neck looking up at him.

I hate to see them getting their feelings hurt over things they have no control over or that simply aren't true but the little tykes are too limited in their world view to know it. I hate to keep telling them their so-called friends are silly and maybe they need to rethink their definition of a friend, or at the very least teach those kids how to treat them - give respect, get respect. Give nonsense, get the back of the head as you walk away. (Fingers together. Let us chant - We will not resort to smacking people. We will not resort to smacking people.) I suspect one day they will say exactly what I said and then we'll have all this politically correct crap to deal with, but I'll be all too happy to show my color then and share with the school admins/parents that my children are my primary concern, not their need to placate everyone.

I am SO glad not to be growing up at this time. The stupidity just flows from old to young to younger to youngest. My son's sensitive nature makes me concerned for him. He internalizes and keeps it there but he still tells me about it - for now. My daughter tends to wear her heart on her sleeve too but her hurt turns to anger and eventually she shakes you off, but all the world will hear her shaking you off. My concern for her is that someone ELSE will get hurt one day.

They tell me these things and I get thrown back to my own childhood every single time. I come back verbally swinging and hand them the bat, but yet trying not to make these things into baggage they will carry one day. I may not be winning that particular battle. But for now, we'll keep on cleaning Daughter's glasses, rubbing Son's eyebrows in the mornings so they lay straight and telling them they are the coolest kids we know - because they are.

Coming to the Finish/Starting Line


It's feels good to finish things. I've got two pressing unfinished projects in my life that I know I will complete eventually. For now, I've allowed myself to be consumed by Village Works and that's OK because there have been lots of things to start and complete there too. It's been funny, though, because out of the three completely sets of jobs we have pressing right now, 2 of them are not complete because of outside forces - one printer screwed up and now we're waiting on the fix so our customers will get their greeting cards before they start singing Auld Lang Syne. The other is one last person waiting to receive their custom puzzle, which seems to be AWOL. Thankfully, we never do just one of anything and a replacement was easy to send off yet again. Still, this particular job was already held up by - you guessed it - issues with the printer, a different one from the one just mentioned above.

Bizzy Girl and I started this year saying it was a do-or-die year. We knew what we wanted to do and simply needed to get ourselves there. We knew what we wanted to earn but it wasn't really about the money just yet. It was about creating the space to have the success we know we can have. She and I teamed up with Graphic Guru and together we planned out the year, month by month, sale by sale, greeting card by greeting card. Even though Graphic Guru had her own budding business, we wanted to work together to help each other - she helped us develop a new line of greeting cards and we took her wherever we went vending and the like. We also needed new greeting card jigsaw puzzles. But first our focus this year would be the website.

It was a do-or-die year, a year of life-altering changes. And now, 23 days away from a new year and 1 project away from wrapping up this season, Bizzy Girl and I took a quick moment to realize it was a very good year.

  • Lots more consistency with our newsletter and special offers.
  • Bizzy Girl's summer program that took her away for months is now no more (but this was also one of our best clients so it's a mixed blessing).
  • We did our first big 2-day expo and met all sorts of great people.
  • THE WEBSITE IS REVAMPED AND READY FOR ACTION!
  • Graphic Guru finished the business workshop that Bizzy Girl and I completed some years back and now she's ready to step forward.
  • Graphic Guru also had to lay to rest a marriage that never quite got off the ground and by 2010, she will be literally in a new space ready to breathe again.
  • I don't know yet how many custom jobs we had this year but more than ever before.
  • Did I mention, THE WEBSITE IS REVAMPED AND READY FOR ACTION! This means in 2010, a whole new focus on marketing.

It's all good. Great, even. When we thought about it, we realized we were truly nonstop there from September until now. I've barely written about anything else because I am inhaling and exhaling Village Works. And there is still so much more on our list of things to do. Since we're not yet profitable, you'd think this was really a year to give up. But how can we? We learned we were capable of so much more than we knew or wanted to admit.

Growing a business when you have a family and full-time job is not easy. at. all. If you a super-disciplined person who can stay on course no matter what, you might have some of what you need to get to your goal. But it won't be easy for you either. Sacrifice is a part of this and something or someone gets shortchanged in this process. It may be us not being our healthiest or doing the little things here and there that make us feel good. It may be our kids who, in my case, stay up late a little too much waiting for me to come home to check homework and do all the before-bed rituals because daddy just doesn't do the homework thing. It may be our homes, like Bizzy Girl who has been organizing her office bit by bit for more months (years?) than I care to recall, or mine that still looks like we just moved in a month ago (well, just downstairs which is what everyone sees first). It may be our relationships, which Bizzy Girl isn't really seeking as long as her daughter is young and I can't complain about given how well things flow for Mr. T and me but do we see each other long? Well, his schedule is as much to blame as mine. It could be our jobs but Bizzy Girl and I have been blessed with jobs that we pour ourselves into and when we need to pull back, we have some room to do so. Still, how long can one do that before it's time to figure out a real schedule to balance the job with the business until the business can take over?

Sacrifice is what makes the process take so long for us. We simply aren't willing to take the all big steps we need to at the moment people tell us we need to, at least not all at once. A few late nights for my kids are just golden opportunities to goof off but I won't keep them on the back burner. Sometimes they have to wait. Sometimes the business has to wait. Sometimes I need time to convince Bizzy Girl to just pick up her fears and let's go! Sometimes she has to tell me to slow down. Sometimes the money goes to VWE. Sometimes it goes to our own needs. It's a bus probably riding its brakes a bit too much but we're all going to get their, families, futures, ourselves intact.

I was afraid we might have to make this our last year. Bizzy Girl and I, as different as we are in how we handle things, came out in the same place once again - you ain't seen nothing yet.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's All About the Business

I didn't do it. I didn't even try. Well, I WANTED to try so I signed up. But NaNo was a NoGo this year. I didn't write word one. It was all about the VWE website and let me tell you, it was truly all consuming. Calling the company during the day when I could to ask a question here. Logging on to the online support at night to ask a question there. I now have a favorite support person, I have contacted them so much. Her name is Hazel (I really think they are using pseudonyms) and she is on at 6:30 in the morning. Hazel is one smart cookie and the only one I would truly believe if she said there was no way to do something I wanted to do. Everyone else - just about - has proven to me that if they say it's not possible and if I even suspect it might be, then I am right, they are wrong and all I have to do is keep studying the problem. I can think of a least 2 times when someone said I couldn't do something, then as they continued looking for the answer or verifying it with someone else, I figured out the way around it. Yeah. I'm pretty proud of that. If you could see all the button and links and fill-in-the-blanks I had to deal with, you'd be proud of me too and doing the happy dance with like we were Pigpen's long lost cousins. This website project proved one thing for sure - that I am primarily a big picture person. I need to know the details AFTER I know the overall goal. But inside the working of a website template, all you see are details. It's a puzzle with no boxtop to guide you.

Thank God I love puzzles.

You see, our website is powered by StoresOnline. I won't bore you with the details of how we came to work with them but I can tell you this, we do not regret signing up not one little bit. We LOVE it. Now, that being said, it is a TON of work to get your website up with them because after all, unless you pay them to do it (and you can if you have a small fortune), you are the web designer and developer. So you better bring your imagination, your time and your patience or you better not come at all. I didn't watch TV for about 2 weeks during the most intense part of this thing, except to watch Nip/Tuck. Had to keep up with my show. But otherwise, my DVR overfloweth.

The things we can do with this site are more than what you see online right now. Have you seen it? www.vwepuzzles.com. Yeah, baby. I'm plugging away because that site represents about 2 months, late nights, early morning, lunchtime phone calls and loads of juggling my job and my website work to keep it all going because the site had to be done the day before Thanksgiving.

There were way more pictures to find and resize than anticipated. Lots of copy to rewrite because suddenly it just wasn't good enough. Lots of people to solicit for testimonials, which we should have gotten when we first did the jobs for them. (Those are slowly trickling in as we talk to people one on one.)

There was inventory to figure out and math - yes, math - as we worked on the pricing and payment methods. If you can see it, read it, click on it, my hand was in it some kind of way in order for it to be there. Sometimes, there was frustration and hours just doing one seemingly little thing. Sometimes I hummed along checking off one thing after another as the site started to take shape.

Part of the reason I am particularly thrilled with this site is because this was truly sweat equity. The price we paid to have this service was the sweetest ever. And it's far from done on that front because the homepage is not the homepage that will eventually lead you into the site. What I have there now is my own doing because I refused to let my deadline sweep by, but there is a graphic designer working on a special homepage that will allow us to have something a little less busy and a little more visually interesting for people to see. She is a very busy designer, however, with the added skill of teaching and she has been very much in the world of teaching so that my homepage has had to take a backpage until she is free again.

But that's OK. I'm still happy.

And now we have the work of maintaining the site and growing it from there. As we do that, there are more custom jobs we are working on and as we do that, we are finally prioritizing our creation process. Things simply are not as streamlined as I'd like them to be and it's time to get the wrinkles ironed out. I want to say what I mean and mean what I say and drop the stupid added explanations of why we can't do things the way people would like us to. That means Bizzy Girl having some meetings on her free Mondays. That means me better organizing our customer information as new people take us on and others become repeats. That means us taking more risks and even finding out about one risk that's not risky at all. If we get a shot at doing that one, I will happily blog about it and share it with the world.

This year, Bizzy Girl and I said this was a do or die year. Something changed in us and we have been more driven than ever. I suppose we simply aren't going to let things die because it took so much of our life to create it in the first place. And it feels good. The business is picking up and the dream of doing this full-time (aloing with my writing) becomes even more real to me.

And now, I need to get to my office and package up the most recent set of completed puzzles so their owners can get what they have been waiting for. After that, the next round of puzzles wait for me to get them going. Oh, and the church newsletter isn't going to edit itself. Don't I still need to get the greeting card order filled? I need some sleep.

I had a dream that a recent vending event would net us three new custom jobs.
We got three new custom jobs.

I told a friend in her first trimester that she would be having a girl because I wanted that for her.
She told us today that she found out it's a girl. (Yes. She wanted it for herself too.)

If you say it AND believe it AND work for it, it can happen right? Right.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No Love Lost Over Web Work

The past couple of weeks have been all about the Village Works website redesign - and "Lost." I don't really know much else, not even my book right now. I've been watching Lost in the between times because I wanted to watch it when it first came on but it didn't work out. So for all these seasons I've been listening to my co-workers rave about it. I decided to just do it because that is what I do - pile too much on my little plate of little time. So as I work on my website, I might watch an episode or two. I made it through season one and through lots of angst over the site, trying to figure out how to do what was in my head. After about 2 months of on and off attention, frustration, questions to support, and much thinking, the bells went off, the big picture finally came in clearly and I went into website design overdrive.

I took a tiny break to clean my office one Sunday afternoon and do laundry. I also watched more Lost - a lot more Lost. Truly I am lost in Lost. I am one DVD away from finishing season 2 but season 3 was nebulous. One co-worker had loaned me season 1. Another one had 2. But her season 3 is currently being sloooowly devoured by her sister so what would I do after I finished season 2? Netflix, here I come.

Monday was another night of hard website work and now I am a Netflix member to boot. Season 3 DVD 1 is on its way, though I still have to watch that last DVD from 2. The new and final season - 6 - starts mid-January, I am told, and I am pretty determined to be caught up by then. And you know what else will happen by then? Before then? The website will launch. That's the plan.

This website design has been a major exercise in patience and creativity. My laptop seems to be getting tired too and I can feel my hand being forced to go figure out how to speed it up as well as my desktop. It's the holidays (yeah. Admit it. It is.) and I don't want to spend money on computer issues right now. But my kids are on there as much as I am, so that can't be helping. Darn it all, I don't have time to learn how to care for computers but I have to if I want to get this operational some time this decade. I'll start with the computer people I know to guide me (thank God for people I trust who have this kind of knowledge).

In the meanwhile, I am pressing on. trying to work on one thing at a time and always finding something else to do that will improve some tiny little thing. Last night's "little" improvement took me about 5 hours to implement. It was a custom form I created to go along with the puzzles we offer for customization. I couldn't display those in the same way I could the regular puzzles we can sell one at a time. So I had to figure out how to create a similar display that worked differently. It was a simple form. That's all it was. Or it was supposed to be simple. I am still thinking of ways to tweak it.

The upside is by adding that form, I may have figured out how to do something the support people said I couldn't do and that will majorly improve what my customers experience on our site. I would tell you what it is but first I have to get it to work and then I'll announce it in one of our newsletters one day. It'll be one of the many little bells & whistles we'll be looking to add over time. Well, little to the rest of the world but no small feat to implement.

It wouldn't have been the first time I figured out how to do something the support people said I couldn't so as they say, where there is a will, there is a way. And if you can call/IM the support people multiple times over multiple days, you will probably find the person who DOES know how to do what you want to do.

I have to admit. I have worked with 2 web developers, interviewed maybe 2 more after them, I am working with yet another to do just a custom homepage and I knew this wasn't easy work. But I have a whole new appreciation for what they do. The time it takes to do the simplest of things. I am working with a template which is harder to wrangle than you might think. I can't imagine building things from scratch in code! And oh yes, I do use a little code here and there too. Our template is full - FULL - of all kinds of things to discover and when they said it was customizable, I thought it was a sales pitch. But they were right. And having all those options makes the work that much more challenging, though rewarding as you watch your vision come to life.

It is amazing to finally see all of Village Works in one place, at last. It's like going from a studio apartment to a high-tech mansion. And we aren't even fully moved in. So many buttons to push and colors to add. Our plan was to make our online store the only place you need to go for all things Village Works. You can see everything we offer. You can communicate with us. You can sign up for our newsletter. You can get quotes. You can find out how to work with us as wholesellers. You can find out how we can help you do a fundraiser. And hopefully, later, you can find out much more that is specific to you, the individual customer. And all you have to remember - and bookmark - and share with rest of the world - is www.vwepuzzles.com.

I am truly happy we went this particular templated road. I didn't want to. Didn't expect to. But it was a good deal, even with all the work involved. Right now if you go to www.vwepuzzles.com, you get an under construction page that looks like you got a computer error. It's not my style in the least. So hopefully tomorrow you will see a better looking under construction page. And soon, I'll have a select few testing out what I've done so far as I keep going. The plan is to launch before Thanksgiving and even then it will be just the beginning. You know I'll let you all know when you can see it live and online!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Web Wonders

If it's November, it must be NaNoWriMo time. I didn't do it last year, but because of the book I am working on, I quickly signed up this year as my way to force myself to get some more work done on it. And I have been. I started in October though, gathering the info. Now it's time to write. But I haven't. Not yet. Because I've been so very tied up in our revamped website. It's fun and tiring and overwhelming and so full of potential.

I am building it. I didn't want to. I tried not to. I wanted to give it away but it was so very hard finding someone with a vision that already was in line with my own so I'd feel like I could trust them to get the job done. But either the person was a disappointment and/or too small (we need major customer support at all times. No more 1-man operations for us.), or the company was too expensive for what we wanted. And I've always had a hard time settling for less. I do it when I have to but I go down fighting. Trust me.

So after a good year of searching and interviewing and maybe figuring out how we'll do this, we landed on our solution. The price was right - even better than the reasonably priced plan we thought we were going to go with - and I could get what I wanted...for the most part. And we were even able to get Graphic Guru in on it for herself. Truly a win-win.

Still, some concessions had to be made, but way less than before. It would simply require more work on our part to get there. We could have a site that showed what we wanted, when we wanted. People could EASILY buy. Everything connects there and it is good. On top of that, we have the extra bonus of being able to control our SEO work on the site and we even learned how to watch the competition too. Then I found a designer who could do some of the custom work I knew I couldn't do myself. We spoke on the phone and we clicked. I haven't seen her first draft yet but being the controlling person I am, I had already made a really detailed plan of what I wanted and created a visual to go along with it. You'd have to be totally about your own agenda and clueless to miss the mark on this. If she comes through like I think she will, it will be the icing on the cake.

So I haven't written yet. Because I have been wrapped up in the site. It is amazing just how many little pieces there are to put in place. And while doing this, we are also following though on Step 1 of our online marketing plan. But that will require time to complete since it shouldn't all be done at once. Bizzy Girl's sister agreed to help us out with all this and it's about time for me to bring her in on it now that I have a better handle on things. And that will free me up to write.

Am I being a little vague? Yeah. I know it. I can't give away all my business secrets after all. Though they aren't MY secrets. Just things we learned and decided to do. Anyone could do the same but I'm afraid you'll have to just watch us and see how we do. If you like it and want to do the same, I may be persuaded to share a tip or two. :-)

And don't worry. I will make time for some writing too and end the month with 50,000 more words to add to my book.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Movie Review: Drag Me to Hell

As much as I love movies, you'd think I'd share my personal reviews with you more often. This was the last time I did it, I think, but it didn't even come up when I searched my own blog. Gotta remedy that. Anyway, let's see if I can make this a habit.

Note: If you want to see this movie, some of this talk may be considered spoilers but movies don't get spoiled easily for me, even if you tell me everything that happened, so just consider the source before you read this.

I got to see Drag Me to Hell recently via a friend of mine who loves horror as much as - or maybe even more than - I do. It was not as serious as I expected it to be based on the trailers when they were out this past year. But I didn't know who the director was then - Sam Raimi who also did the Evil Dead movies (loved them but poor Bruce Campbell will never be able to escape being my visual icon for those movies), all gross and highly laughable but in a fun way. I got the same vibe from this movie so if you like Evil Dead, you'll like Drag Me to Hell.

There were some unfair times to me, and not just unfair in terms of what's happening to the loan officer heroine (that was unfair in a good way). Instead, there were clear moments that made you go, "Uh uh! That can't happen in real life!" It's not real life, Monica. It's a movie. Yes, I know, but even in the movies, you have to keep it honest if you want me to buy even a campy story like this one. I mean, really. NO ONE thinks her gusher of a nosebleed is something to worry about? Can one really get thrown about their home and NOT suffer a broken bone or twisted something or other? Not even once? But the whole thing was still fun. It made me jump big time even though I knew something was coming. There are plenty of startling moments to make the whole thing worthwhile but I can't help but go back to some things I thought were missed opportunities - like the very ending. I won't tell you what happened but I would be willing to bet you'd see this movie and just know it was going to end one way, it doesn't, and you're like, "Wait! My ending was way better!" Also, I was talking to the same friend about this and she made a good point - in most movies where any kind of devil is the nemesis, the main character or someone around them has the idea to try the church. Even the atheists. But God doesn't come up once as her possible solution to the problem. That was just odd. Maybe it's a reflection of the writer's/director's belief system? Maybe they are setting things up for a part 2?

I don't know. I just know this movie was fun but I warn you - if you have a sensitive stomach, don't eat before you see it. Just trust me on that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today is Her Birthday...

...Happy Birthday to her!

Daughter is 6. Daughter told the world she was 6. There's nothing monumental about 6 but she's loving it. Daughter went to the cub scout pack meeting with her brother and got to touch a snake - 2 actually - a bearded dragon and a hissing cockroach, to name a few.

Ew.

Daughter is happy. See?



She was up a little late eating candy from the pack meeting and ice cream cake. Don't ask me if she ate food. That was her daddy's job before we went to the pack meeting. Her brother signed her up for Club Penguin - his FREE gift to her.

Oh, and here's one of the snakes. That's Son at the head. He was going for the tail but the man switched it up on him. (God said He'd make us you the head, not the tail, right?)



Oh yes. It was that big. And Daughter took the picture. (That's why I'm getting her a camera for Christmas. Shhhh.) Clearly few things phase her.

Daughter was happy. Her birthday party is Saturday but for now, it was a good day.

Happy birthday, baby.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Encouraging Word


I've been writing - just not on my blog. I've been on my website - just not my blog. I've been networking and even talking to other bloggers - just not on my blog. So now here I am. On my blog. And I've got some cool people for you to meet. (and by the way, my new blog designer should have had her baby by now and hopefully in December - in time for my birthday or Christmas maybe? - I'll have a fresh new look in the place. It's gonna be great!)

You see I am writing a book. (You knew that.) But the first part was actually writing all my thoughts down and figuring out the chapters. (Check.) Then I needed to write a proposal. (Check.) Then I wanted to show it to an agent and get feedback. (Check.) The agent's feedback was for more info that I had already planned to write about so now I'm on the fourth thing - talking to other moms for my book. This has been so much fun so far and very encouraging...for me! Talking about the book keeps me writing for the book.

Teachable moment: So, if you really want to do something, my friends, don't keep it to yourself. Putting it out there helps you do what you need to do and keeps the momentum going. The vision in your head can't come to life if you don't let it breathe and circulate among others.

Who have I met so far, you ask? Well, I want to talk to 100 moms. I've got about 30 so far. I need to start getting them organized anyway so I thought I'd share some of them with you. I think you'll like them. Say hello to:

Coach Carrie Bliss - Get Your Bliss - Carrie is also an author and oh my goodness, this woman is a true multi-tasker!

Hypnotist Fern Tausig - My Healing Hypnosis - Fern is really disciplined and had some interesting things to say about making the family her priority.

Writer Rhonda McKnight - Urban Christian Fiction Today - Rhonda is a writer worth emulating and she's an editor too and you know how hard it is to find that combo? Very.

Coach Felicia Pratt - I Complete Me - Such a sweet person. She's just getting going but she's clearly got a vision and a message for moms in particular about finding themselves in the hustle and bustle.

Virtual Assistant Angel (that's her web name) - The Corner Office - I was amazed by Angel who is a blogger I follow. (Look for her in my followers.) She got her business up and running AND has employees in I won't even tell you the amount of time! Awesome.

Web magazine editor Diedra Chatman - Noir Mommies - Deidra knows what she wants and never hesitated about the steps she's taken. Like Carrie, she's independent and unstoppable.

Product developer Jennifer Covello - Frittabello - Fun person with a fun product - a journal for the first 5 years of your child's life. She's selling in stores and already getting accolades and it's barely been 2 years.

I am so inspired by these women and it's been fun talking to all of them. I have more on tap and some previous to them who I now need to call since I revamped by questioning. Some of these moms blog, like Angel and Felicia. I'm stalking them. You should too. Some of these moms are also on Twitter, like Jennifer and Diedra. Shoot. I need to go make sure I'm following them everywhere they are myself!

I can't wait to share what they shared with me for my book. I can't wait to talk to some more moms next week. If you are a mom and you want to start a business but you have a job, that's no reason to not move forward. It really depends on how much you want to do it and if you are open to the unknown. The first step is truly knowing who you are, how you do things, what you want to do and why. And even the what doesn't have to be crystal clear just yet. You can research that. It's all about being true to you while being the mother/wife/significant other/employee that you are. You were created for a purpose and frankly, while I know it's not easy and we all have different priorities, I don't believe God intended for you to hide your light under a bushel at any point in your life. It may need to manifest differently according to whatever is going on at that time, but no matter where you are or what you are doing, take the time to shine.

I need to talk to 68 more moms for my book. Moms who created businesses while working a job and taking care of a family. I want to talk to you if you feel successful, whatever success means to you. That means you don't have to be profitable yet. I just want to know you know you are on your road and have some wisdom to share. Should I be talking to you? Here I am. Contact me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Optimism

We've been busy - Bizzy Girl and I. Last Saturday we trekked back up to Hartford with our designing friend who I don't think I named for blogging purposes. I shall dub her Graphic Guru because she really is a great designer and co-creative force for part of my business. It's good to be surrounded by like minds.

The three of us have given Hartford much play lately. (And if you've been to Hartford, you'll know that's saying a lot. It can be a depressing sight.) Twice last month we drove up for the Get Motivated Seminar and the Women's Expo, which I still have to tell you more about. Bizzy Girl went back there later on for a 2-day financial workshop precipitated by the seminar. And this past weekend was a website seminar also the result of said seminar. We have truly been riding the wave of that seminar, let me tell you.

We went. We listened. We critiqued with discriminating ears because we have MUCH experience in websites and how they should operate at best, as well as the cost to get them done. We were promised free websites just for going but once we saw all we could get - the analyzing features that are available - we left there with paid sites, more enthusiasm than ever and me? I was slightly cringing because I knew the work ahead. I had done much of it before. But I knew this time we had Bizzy Girl's sister as long-distance help in getting the site together. We also knew the value of what we were getting and now going to be able to do (and the crazy good price we got on it). It's worth the time and effort it's going to take to get this ball rolling.

Last week, our young photographer showed us the product shots she did and they are fantastic. She's making adjustments to some of them and I can't wait to see the finished products. It won't be easy implementing the vision I have for the site but it WILL happen. Hopefully before 2010 but a launch of Jan. 1, 2010 is a goal worth setting. I'm going to be busy for the rest of this year.

October is proving to be interesting.

  • I am heavily into my interviews for my book. (76 more mommies needed please!)
  • I am heavily into the website redesign, WITH some new photos awaiting upload. (Nope. Not gonna Facebook those. You'll have to wait!)
  • I am restructuring my and the kids' life insurance policies after discovering they are not going to do what I wanted them to do and that is going to save me money I can now reinvest in my kids' 529 plans as well as my Roth IRA. (My financial adviser is going to love me.)
  • I am, consequently, killing a good percentage of debt and hopefully shifting that in a way that will lift a load for good and finally allow me to focus more on today and tomorrow with just a slight nod to yesterday as I get rid of it faster than expected.
  • This week, we'll be reassessing the business itself and getting a clearer plan in place with a little help from an expert.
  • And at the end of the month, 2 days of training on how to effectively use all the tools our website offers and really make it the success it's meant to be.
I'm feeling pretty good about the work ahead and I think I may even look into 1 or 2 additional streams of income as I work toward my ultimate goal - freedom to be me. I'm 39 later this year. 40 is coming. I am blessed to still love my job but I want to be emancipated before too long. There is much work ahead but this time last month, it was just a long-standing vision. Now it's a vision with an evolving plan of action. It feels good.

You want something different? Do something different.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Here I Grow Again

I did it again. I signed up for NaNoWriMo but not because I am a glutton for punishment. Instead I recently went to hear author and coach Jen Sincero at a workshop given by one of my networking groups. She was talking about book proposals, which I have finished, and as I listened to her, I thought about the comments I got on my proposal by an agent who was gracious enough to read it. What the agent wanted to see was certainly doable and was actually my next step for the book anyway, so here I am listening to Jen whose newsletters I get but I never expected to meet since she lives in California. I am also reading Tamara Lowe's book Get Motivated! and I can barely get through a chapter because every time she says to do something, I do it! This time she said to set a short-term goal - work on the next step of my book! - and to use our motivational DNA to help define how we'll accomplish that goal. What's motivational DNA? Basically the traits you possess that make you want to do what you do. (Really, you just have to read her book but if that's questionable for you, start with this test. It's gotten my co-workers really intrigued so far. If you stop at question 21, you'll have completed the part needed to do the test.) And just to tease you further, this was the result of my test:

Monica’s Motivational DNA Type is: PVI
(Production-Variety-Internal) The Visionary

Visionaries are persistent, energetic and confident. They are able to organize people and projects. Visionaries exhibit strong leadership potential and react quickly to crisis. Creative thinkers, Visionaries have the ability to craft a vision and get others excited about it. They enjoy working on multiple projects at the same time and like to be involved in exploring alternative concepts. Farsighted and imaginative, Visionaries are good at finding original solutions to difficult problems. Visionaries enjoy change and thrive under pressure. They have the ability to shift gears and turn on a dime. They are confident in their ability to master new skills. Visionaries enjoy challenge and desire personal growth. Visionaries want to know that their work matters and desire to “go where no man has gone before.”

PVI Motivators: Inspiring work environment, opportunity to originate and initiate ideas, peer respect, credit for work accomplished and a strong sense of mission.

PVI De-Motivators: Rigid structure, routine, delays, time-consuming details and bureaucracy.

Very on point. I gave the test to Mr. T. He's CSE - The Chief and it too was on point. Interesting stuff, I tell ya.

Ramble, ramble, Monica. Long story short, the agent said she wanted to see certain things. Tamara said set a goal. Jen said, "You can do it!" and so now I'm looking for mothers to interview who have started their own businesses from scratch all while working a job. They can be at any stage of the game but I want moms who feel successful at this and the definition of success is up to the mom. After all, we are all motivated differently, right?

So if I should be talking to you for my book, then YOU should be letting me know that!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Bittersweet Moment

Jobs you love are hard to come by. And when you love the people you work with too, you're doubly blessed. I've been blessed to have made really great friends at every job I've had so far and I stay in touch with them all. This one will be no exception as my little editorial group says so long now to one of our backbones who has watched amazing opportunities blossom in her and her husband's life, as it will for all of us in time.

See ya later, Kerri. (She's the one in the middle.) Enjoy this next phase of your life. Enjoy all the big and little things to come as much as we enjoyed having you in our lives in person. Back into the blogosphere you go but not without our hearts. We'll IM all our jokes and latest videos obsessions. We'll tell you about all the office mishaps and the community babies we are all watching grow up. When the dapper fella reveals yet another talent, you'll be among the first to know. Of course we'll be seeing you so it's not like it's forever. Just for now. Be good. Be happy. Have fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Little History Lesson

I am not a history buff in any way, shape or form but I had to say a little something right now. Son called me to tell me some silly 3rd grader on the school bus told him that African-Americans aren't s**t. Self-hatred is a sad, pervasive thing. It was a stupid comment and one that no child would say unless they heard it somewhere from someone they trust, respect, idolize, whatever. Now this is unfortunately not the first time I've heard some people of Jamaican descent distance themselves from the blacks in this country. Maybe that child wasn't a citizen? No idea. But it bugs me to no end to hear this type of stuff. We went to Jamaica on our honeymoon and I got the clear picture that OUR ancestors stopped there just like some came here.

So I ran over to www.discoverjamaica.com and pulled a little history to share because really, I don't care to go into this stuff too much. Just make a quick point and move on. And FYI, I really wouldn't mind the perspective of a Jamaican on this. Explain this to me, please.

In 1494 on May 4, Christopher Columbus arrived at the island of Jamaica. This was on his second voyage to the New World, which was afterwards called America. Columbus annexed the island in the name of his master and mistress. the King and Queen of Spain. But it was not occupied until Juan de Esquivel came from Santo Domingo in 1509. and for 146 years Jamaica remained a Spanish colony.

Jamaica was then inhabited by a gentle race of people called the Arawaks or Tainos. They had probably come from the country now known as Guyana, where Arawak Indians are still to be found....But the Spaniards made slaves of them and put them to difficult tasks. The Spaniards treated the Arawaks so harshly that in about fifty years all of them were dead. They had numbered fully sixty thousand. The Spaniards got slaves from Africa to take their place....In 1664 the first House of Assembly was called together. It consisted of twenty members elected by the people. It met at Spanish Town and passed 45 laws for the government of the colony....

Sir Thomas Modyford arrived from Barbados with a thousand settlers. He was a Barbadian planter and had once governed Barbados before he was sent to Jamaica as Governor. He helped and protected the English buccaneers under Henry Morgan who had moved to Port Royal from Tortuga. The ships and the plunder they brought vastly enriched Port Royal. Modyford encouraged agriculture, especially the cultivation of cocoa and the sugar-cane. During this time a large number of slaves were brought from Africa to Jamaica. However, the slave trade with Jamaica had commenced before this date.

Guyana, a region (state, I believe) that combines South American and Caribbean ancestry. And the culture of Jamaica:
Demography. The population in 1998 was 2.75 million. Fifty-three percent of the population resides in urban areas. The population is 90 percent black, 1 percent East Indian, and 7 percent mixed, with a few whites and Chinese. The black demographic category includes the descendants of African slaves, postslavery indentured laborers, and people of mixed ancestry. The East Indians and Chinese arrived as indentured laborers.

Note the word slaves. Where did those slaves come from? Here:


Clear?

The point? If you look even remotely like me, despite all the different groups that compose the black race as we are today, there is a HUGE chance that you are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. And our mother? Africa. Deal with it.

Moving on.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Skating Skills and Lack Other Thrills

Son went to a skating party this weekend. It was his second in a few months.

"I think I found my special talent, mommy!"

"You were looking for a talent? I didn't know one was missing."

"It's skating. I did 3 tricks. I was really good at it!"

"That's great, baby! But you know you weren't talentless, don't you? You're only 9. It's ok to not have it all together yet but if this is it, then congratulations."

"Can you get me skates for Christmas?"

"I'll think about it."

This is the same boy who looked at his energetic little sister at the bus stop last week and said to me, "I want what she has."

"Huh? What did she sneak out of the house this time," I asked trying to see over his head.

"Her sense of adventure."

My eyes hurt from looking at him weird but I had to smile.

"Her sense of adventure?"

"She's not afraid of anything! I want to be like that."

Sigh.

"It's ok to be YOU, Son. Her 'sense of adventure' cause me heart attacks sometimes."

"I wish I could just suck it out of her."

Um, slightly disturbing?

"You think before you leap, Son, and sure, you may hold yourself back a tad that way, but you do think and when you want to do something you do. You'll probably grow braver as you grow older anyway. It's ok."

My extra sensitive child, fighting some inner battle to be better than he is when there is nothing wrong with the way he is. Hmm. Now that I think of it, I think I'll have to try to reconfirm that tonight but I've been down this road. No matter what I say, he doesn't see any of the things in himself that I see in him. Maybe one day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to School Part II and More

I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with the month of September. It's a month full of all sorts of activities and possibilities from what I can feel and from what I am told. I really have no idea what to expect from one moment to the next. I do know a lot of stuff is going on with people around me and I am simply doing my best to go with the flow this month.

For instance, Daughter and Son finally got their beloved items from my parents. I was looking for one box but three arrived and not all at once. Two boxes one day and about 4 days later, the third box arrived with the highly coveted backpacks. Except Mr. T took a look at Son's and saw it was too small for his needs so he's sticking with what he has. Mr. T had just bought it about a month before school ended so it was still new enough. Daughter got her Jonas Brothers and all is right with the world.


And speaking of the kidlets, Mr. T says Daughter is an old woman because she just lost another tooth.


See that one in the middle at the top? That one is loose now too. Go figure. Son had two teeth pulled himself just last week. There's one of them on the bottom left there.


They're beginning to look like baby hillbillies (No offense to the hillbillies of the world who are proud gummers.) and I am rapidly running out of $1 bills as everyone pretends the Tooth Fairy is real but we all know mommy is losing sleep waiting on the baby hillbillies to conk out.

There are also lots of changes at work as co-workers come and go - more in this month than any other in the four years I've been here. Some changes I still am not at liberty to divulge to the world (but it has NOTHING TO DO WITH ME so calm down!). Work will be an interesting place too for a while.

And the business? Well, last week, Bizzy Girl and a friend of ours, who has partnered with us for the greeting card line, all went to get inspired at a Get Motivated seminar in Hartford and that was really quite a treat. I heard words from Joe Montana, Laura Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Colin Powell. All cool. Colin Powell is actually quite funny. But the people who had me on the edge of my seat were ones I had never heard of before - Tamara Lowe (I'm buying her book right after this), James Smith (this man is hilarious. That's him over there with the folded arms.), Phil Town, Zig Ziggler (whose name seemed to ring a bell) and Krish Dhanam (captivating despite his harmless look down there on the lower left). And the unexpected icing on the cake is that the majority of these previously unknown people credited God with their success. So very unexpected. Tamara (the lady in blue up there on the right) went as far as to tell the antsy ones to bear with her while she told the people who really needed it the prayer they needed to say in order make Jesus their savior. (And if you comment negatively about mixing God into these business-like things, it's going to fall on deaf ears and I'll delete it anyway so why waste your time?)

My friends and I were thrilled. We are used to being in the world but not of it. Just like we are used to being black females who worked (or have worked) in predominately white environments. It's just part of our reality. And these truly motivational words these people shared would have motivated us anyway. But because they spoke the words through their faith - our shared faith - it made the whole thing even easier to consume. I highly recommend you check these people out if you ever get the chance. And the profits from Tamara's book - ALL of the profits - are going to support various charities. A woman after my own heart.

After all that dynamic speaking on Wednesday, my same friends and I all trekked to Hartford this past weekend for the Women's Expo. Our first major, 2-day expo at which we were going to be vendors. This was not inexpensive to do but we had to try. I won't go into detail about this just yet. It deserves a post all it's own. But I will say it is very tiring to do these things and we learned quite a bit, which I will share with you as well. Nevertheless, it was fun if only because I haven't laughed so hard or slept so deeply in quite awhile and sharing a hotel room with Bizzy Girl and our partner in success was an experience worth repeating. I even got a short story out of the deal. It has something to do with blond hairs showing up in the oddest of places. (Yet another future blog post!) Oh! And our newest fun find? Fresh Company located in Hartford. I bought two fun bracelets from them (here's one of them below) and their prices are fantastic. Tell them I sent you!


Stay tuned for more from the expo!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to School Part 1

Day 1 of first grade for Daughter and 4th for Son, and yes, we started on time this time. But the school bus? (See link there.) The new driver is trying the route from two years ago! Can someone please inject some status quo here?

Anyhow, for Daughter, it's business as usual. Even the glasses, newly acquired in June, are becoming a fixture. For Son, it's all good except he has to be on a new lunch schedule with the 4th-6th graders. "It's later," he says. Hopefully that's all that really means to him.





See, this post is just Part 1 because when the kids came back from my parents' house, their new stuff was sent separately to keep from adding to the weight of the luggage. And that means Daughter did not get to start the year with the Jonas Brothers in tow, like she wanted, although I did get her a Jonas Brother lunchbox and that more than made her happy. Still, I'll have to remember to do a before and after shot once the beloved bags arrive because school just won't be the same without the pop trio on her back. (Roll eyes here.)

Can't wait to get home! Yeah sure, I do want to know about their day but more importantly, I don't know how to pronounce Daughter's teacher's name so I'm eager to find out!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Zzzzzz

Sigh. Time to get back on the ball.

What have I been doing? Absolutely nothing. Sure, we all went down south for a family reunion. Sure, the man and I went on our dinner cruise, watched a ton of movies, went to dinner enough to last the rest of the year, shopped for bedroom furniture and generally sat around the house looking at each other. But for the most part, while the kids were away, it was work and home and out to dinner and back to work and sleeping on the weekend and running errands and work again.

No writing. Little new business, just maintaining things. Little social networking. I disappeared on my critique group. (Sorry, guys. I still love you!) I'm STILL catching up to emails in my business account. My personal one hasn't seen me in about 3 weeks.

When the cats are away, the mice...sleep. And eat. And play a little too. That's all, folks. But the cats? Well, my parents kept them busy. I think they barely missed us.


















Mr. T is picking them up as I type. I can't wait to squeeze their little cheeks. Thankfully, they are still both young enough to want me to touch them. I just hope they remembered to pack my energy so they can bring it back to me. School starts Monday. I should be awake by then. Going back to sleep now.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hanging with Mr. T

Oh the silence. It really is a wonderful, boring, lonely, still wonderful thing.

I am always glad to let the kids toddle off for the month to be with my parents where they have the chance to see people from both sides of my family since most of them are in Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. Mr. T wasn't too keen on the idea the first time we did it. Son was 2 at the time so I could understand not wanting to let go, but since I had done the same thing growing up I could see the value of it so I told him he had no choice in the matter. (Yeah yeah. Communication, compromise, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes a spouse has to just shut up and deal with it.) I knew he grew up surrounded by extended family and had no idea what it was like for those of us who didn't, but he'd come to appreciate the "vacation" in time. And he has.

The challenge of course is to always remember that when you have kids and they take most of your time over the years, you run the risk of finding yourself married to a stranger one day down the road when the kids are gone for good. That is unless you take deliberate steps to stay connected despite the kids' schedules and needs. I think it's a necessity - for the sake of your marriage as well as your kids' future relationships, they need to see you two still dig each other. And that means time alone sometime. I think Mr. T and I having had seven years together before marriage and kids came into play helps us out a lot now when we find ourselves alone again.

We went out to dinner this weekend and I told him, "We have to be careful that we don't talk about the kids TOO much." Then we proceeded to talk about the kids - cleaning out their messy closets while they are away; the kind of people they may be one day; why every year at this time of year, many people ask us if there will be a baby #3. I think maybe we're both superstitious about this last one thing and don't want to say anything one way or the other so we just keep going forward and enjoying our time alone. It's pretty easy for us to go back into dating mode but I know it's not easy for everyone since some people never have alone time with their spouses and others get the time but then twiddle their thumbs wondering what to do with it.

Come on, ya'll. It's not that hard. Be creative! Or just allow yourselves to simply remember what it was like to date - except without all the game playing, uncertainty and insecurity. Here's a short list and anyone can feel free to add to it - but be, hmmm, decent, ok? My mother reads this!

  1. do I need to spell out the really obvious top of the list? Just be sure you're ok with the possible consequences of pretending to be rabbits, ok? ;-)
  2. go to the movies, a play, etc.
  3. go to dinner
  4. go to the zoo, park or some other outside place
  5. go to a museum
  6. go on a dinner cruise (mystery, jazz, etc.)
  7. go for a drive to some part of the state you never/rarely see
  8. plan a real away vacation at the same time as the kids' vacation (mine are still wishing they were with us for that one)
  9. do all the typical chores but do them together
  10. visit/hang out with friends (I confess. My friends know I tend to disappear about now.)
  11. rent every movie you can't watch with your kids
  12. a lot of daytime stuff is even better at night, so stay up late then go out and do stuff!
  13. Go play a game like bowling or pool
  14. Send each other text messages all day if you have to be apart (what you say is none of my business but when it comes to flirting, this counts and you may find yourself right back at #1)
Mr T. and I are food, movies and travel people, thus the list. But we're always open to suggestions!

So, I came out of my hole to do a quick post, lest I neglect my little blog, and if you'll excuse me, I have to go back into hiding with my husband now. I miss him.