Should You Talk To Your Children About Kylie Jenner, Wealth, and Cardi B?

We need to have a conversation about money.

I competed in Odyssey of the Mind in middle school, but I don’t remember much about it.

I just remember loving it, traveling with the team, and working as fast as possible to solve interesting, complicated problems.

My parents were always active in our schools. Someone was always there at the meetings, performances, games, and seminars. There was nothing worse than being idle, they said, and they were happy to keep me engaged, focused, and busy.

I liked to save the money I earned to buy books at Half Price. Whenever they’d let me, I’d buy CDs and cassettes too.

A few months before Christmas we had a competition at another campus. Our coaches thought we’d look more uniform if we all wore our Odyssey of the Mind t-shirts, so we did. Everyone except me.

I hadn’t bought one because they were burnt orange and big. I was much too stylishContinue reading “Should You Talk To Your Children About Kylie Jenner, Wealth, and Cardi B?”

Day 7, Week 10: Finish It

We need to have a conversation about productivity.

Everyone loves my father’s cooking.

Whenever anyone stops by, they ask if there’s anything left over. If he happens to be away at the store, they’ll casually and politely wait (even if their visit had nothing to do with food).

Because it was always good, it was always gone too quickly. When we were little, my sister would always hide some in the fridge. She always wanted a little extra to savor when she was all alone.

I was the fat kid in my house growing up and later in elementary and middle school. I bit off more than I could chew, and I ate with relish.

Her strategy annoyed me to no end.

Finish itContinue reading “Day 7, Week 10: Finish It”

What Do You Do With A Problem?

Work is not a marriage.

There were four of us.

We shared titles, responsibilities and stress. We shared deadlines, assignments and power struggles. We shared supervisors and, sometimes, file folders.

Like heroines on a supernatural quest, we each possessed one super-human ability. With our powers combined, we were uniquely poised to be effective, creative leaders… on a bridge to nowhere.

Throughout the assignment, we did what we could to motivate each other. We mailed cards and candy via Interoffice envelopes. We left thank you notes sandwiched between test scores and lesson plans. We sent motivational texts.

Donuts. Group pictures. Beer. We tried it all.

In less than three years we disbanded, most of us fleeing out-of-state in the aftermath.

About a year ago, a few years after our divine resignations, I received an unexpected, but welcome surprise in the mail. It was a children’s book, addressed from one of the other Power Rangers. It was aptly titled, What Do You Do With a Problem?

I laughedContinue reading “What Do You Do With A Problem?”

Day 4, Week 10: Measure Twice, Cut Once

He showed up in a miniature Toyota. There was enough room to seat four comfortably, but we were seven. Four of us over 6 feet two, 240 plus. We crowded in the tiny car, forty-year olds positioned awkwardly on the laps of twenty-something employees on an hour-long excursion to the outskirts. We argued about the radio. Ducked down when we saw patrol cars. Made it to the beach right before dusk and safely back to the conference hours before dawn.
We’d traveled from Chicago for a professional development conference down in Florida. There were about six of us arriving on different times on different days, but in close succession. There were less than 20 staff in the whole organization. We knew each other’s names and titles, but very little of each other.
The conference was strange. We walked away with goodie bags of questions. My presenter had taken classes with Einstein, and he’d devised a lecture on understanding your purpose. The audience was so impressed with his allegiance that the speaker let himself get off track.
He spent more than an hour talking about Einstein’s family, his failures, and his temperament. He said that Einstein’s mother was embarrassed by him and considered him a burden. Much of his work was done to make his mother proud.
After the conference we connected in the lobby and agreed to meet back at 6pm in the same spot. We planned to take a drive to the beach about 45 minutes south; explore the city and enjoy the weather (all hailing from Chicago).
There’d been tension before then. Frustration at the office. Anger over budgets, distribution of work assignments, and pay. Resentment over promotions, staff assignments, and unrealistic deliverables. A simple car ride and an unfamiliar journey made us colleagues and, if only for a moment, friends.
The move back to Houston was chaotic. I’d lived away for more than twelve years. He’d lived in Chicago for more than three. He was unhappy, frustrated; itching to return home to the east coast. I hadn’t lived home since college and wanted to know what it was like to live and work so close to family.
We didn’t think it would be easy, but the struggle was too real. We spent the first week in a hotel living out of our UHaul. We couldn’t find work. Savings ran dry. We didn’t have jobs, offers, or a home.
I’d had experience with refugees and recent immigrants; had learned of heart-breaking and horrific feats of sheer will and blind ambition. Surely, we could do this.
Measure twice, cut once.
It has become our  mantra. A reminder for us that action is necessary and important, but in our haste for progress and for change, we must always remember to be wise.
Week’s Successes

  • His artwork was accepted into the Bert Long Jr. Gallery at the Houston Museum of African American Culture. It will be featured from May until July, with an artist’s talk TBA. If you’re in the Houston area, please come out!
  • We went biking over the weekend, and I’m letting myself be persuaded to get one. He’s hoping I’ll do my first Critical Mass this March.
  • He’s gotten some new requests for paid commissions for artwork.
  • I’m halfway through my first book of 2017 (reading, not writing).

Week’s Failures

  • Patience and leadership

What were your successes? What were your failures?

Don’t Walk Away

Day 7, Week 9.

Dissatisfaction is a dangerous thing.

It can foster resentment. It can breed contempt.

Sometimes it’s hard to know why we are dissatisfied, especially if we consider ourselves part of a larger community, one that may have had fewer opportunities to experience what we now critique.

Sometimes we are dissatisfied with so many and so much that the idea of change is all-consuming and overwhelming. Sometimes we are ashamed of our dissatisfaction: we have no right to want more or to aspire.

We have everything that we need. We feel entitled and privileged. Our dissatisfaction is a burden.

When I left I was 21.

I was scared and hesitant, but dissatisfaction made me sure. I’d flown once before for a conference down in Atlanta, so at least there’d be one less first. I’d never seen the city before, had never even visited.

When I got the offer, I started making arrangements and started making plans.

The parts of me that are still growing up say that people make us unhappy because they don’t care about our needs.

They project their desires onto our lives. They project their fears and their failures.

If we’re young enough, or inexperienced enough, or not yet wise, we start to believe that we aren’t capable. We start to believe that what we want is unattainable; that we’re unreasonable and selfish. We grow dissatisfied with our choices and dissatisfied with ourselves. We grow dissatisfied with our lives.

His grandparents hailed from Japan, but he was second-generation American.

He was from the Bronx originally but migrated to Chicago after law school. Attorney by day, Starbucks Barista by night; he said he needed to meet new people constantly in order to feel whole (and school loans weren’t playin’ any games).

He hated suits and the people who wore them. He was always in sweats and sneakers, even on our first date. At first I thought he didn’t care enough to dress up for me, but I inferred from context clues that his persona and style were as much anti- “the man” and “the system” as an expression of his metropolitan identity.

We didn’t talk about race.
We didn’t talk about culture.
We didn’t talk about history, violence, or crime.

He made fun of me when I asked for “soda water” or teased him about his britches. He was a Yankees fan, a Chappelle lover, and a momma’s boy.

We had Halloween plans, but I was patiently waiting. It was too new so I didn’t know the expectations. We hadn’t communicated well and now it was down to the wire.

He wanted me to meet him at his favorite spot, and by the way, he was going as Jay-Z.

Sweet Christmas!

I knew without understanding that we wouldn’t see each other after tonight.

I couldn’t rationalize or articulate my anger.

His costume was absolutely perfect. He was a born and bred New Yorker, complete with all the trappings.

He was a little older than I, so he grew up on B-Boxin’ and Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo. He’d been an outsider in his community and rejected stereotypical archetypes.

He wanted money, power, and respect. He wanted notoriety. He wanted Black cool.

Was I supposed to be Beyonce?

Just for the party, or in real life? Because I was black and we’re from the same hometown? Or because that’s what he wanted?

Don’t walk away.

It’s usually the easier of the two. What’s harder and what’s true is to get down to the root of it, to the heart of it, to the ugly.

To decide if what’s needed is diplomacy or tact. To decide if you need grace, or time, or patience.

To decide if what you have and what you know can change their mind. Is it better to be hard and tough or kind and fair? Should you ask for permission? Should you ask for forgiveness?

Should you yell?
Should you whisper?
Should you twist and shout?
Should you raise your voice or your hand? Should you lift your flag in surrender or put your foot down?

You have to decide.

What has dissatisfaction taught you? What were your successes? What were your failures? 

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Day 1. Week 1.

I was feeling a little stagnant, so I asked a few friends how they unplug.

We decided we need to be more intentional or we’ll never make any progress, so he bought a cork board and starting posting stickies with goals.

I’m trying 1) to learn Spanish and 2) to write everyday, no exceptions.

He’s working on a series of video projects 1) about biking through Houston and 2) about creating his first coloring book.

We decided to give up Netflix during the week so we’d have more time to focus. TV days are now Fridays and Saturdays.

We’re on Day 3 so far, and I’m itching for some IZombie or Once Upon a Time (A sophisticated palette, I tell you!).

He’s maxed out on educational science/space exploration videos.

Progress is slow, but we’re excited for the first attempt.

I’m on Day 3, Lesson 4 of Duo Lingo.

He just started Page 2 of coloring book #1.

Video to come!

What are you working on? Where do you find inspiration?