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I don’t know about you but, I do the same thing at the end of every year!  Unfortunately, this includes waxing a little sad.  You see, it’s that time again.  It’s time for me to review the outgoing year, with as much honesty as I can muster!!  From the negative to the positive, I try to take an objective look in my mirror and assess what I have accomplished, who I have hurt, what I could have done better, etc!!

Yes, I said “try” because all you can do is try.  Mind you, I don’t beat up on myself or anything like that.  But, if I am minimally honest, I normally need to issue at least two to three apologies!

With any luck, the recipients will be unreachable!  LOL!

In the event that they are reachable, I contact them and just get it over with as quickly as possible.

Admittedly, apologies don’t come easy for me.  I guess if we are even remotely honest, not many people like to apologize.  We’d rather be the recipient of an apology.  However, I have found out it can be very medicinal, humbling and cleansing to your soul.

I try to tread lightly since I never know how the recipient of my apology is going to respond. Sometimes, the recipient didn’t even anticipate an apology from me at all.  Sometimes, I have to remind the individual of what happened and why I am apologizing—which somewhat diminishes either my remaining guilt or the impact of the groveling.  Other times, they are extremely grateful because I took the lead.  Occasionally, my apology is not accepted.

Sometimes, the individual I contact owes me an apology too.  Sometimes—if I’m very lucky—they reciprocate.  Sometimes—more often than not—they don’t.   Sometimes a friendship is saved.  Sometimes, a relationship is lost.  Whatever the outcome, I try to remember that I am only responsible for my half of any relationship.

So, I do it.  I apologize.  I do this not because I am a martyr, but because I just gotta be happy with myself.  I guess my reasons for apologizing are somewhat selfish.  You see, I gotta be able to respect who I am.  I gotta be able to close out yet another year without dragging the old year into the new one.  I gotta be able to close out the year without further ado and without regrets.

At the end of the day, I wanna be able to look in that mirror—gotta be able to look into that mirror—so, at the very least, I can review the coming year with less and less to apologize for.  Maybe next year, I’ll be calling just to say Hello!

Can anybody hear me?

There are literally dozens of websites dedicated to finding one’s ancestors.  In fact, new sites are popping up every day.

This, of course, works out well for anyone wanting to find out about their lineage.  People can easily see if they really are the descendants of royalty and well-known explorers.

As an added bonus, long lost living relatives/friends can be located as well.

Here’s my problem:  It’s wonderful to see those people on TV who have tearful reunions with their loved ones, but what about the long lost relatives/friends who want to remain just that, long lost?  What about individuals in witness protection programs, or rape victims, etc., who purposely don’t want to be found?

What recourse do they have?

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.  You can certainly understand why SOME people may not want to be located.  However, there is probably a lot less understanding for individuals who never endured a particularly traumatic situation but still do not want to be located by family members/friends in search of them.

I am a firm believer that most people are in contact with the family members/friends that they actually want to be in contact with.  The ones that have dropped off are, most often, intentionally cast aside.  For example, we may have stopped answering their calls until they stopped calling, changed our phone numbers, moved without a forwarding address, or simply stopped opening the door.  It seems pretty obvious that the honeymoon is officially over.

Okay, okay…every now and then there is that someone who fell through the cracks.  Somehow, you lost contact with them and, consequently, you don’t mind being located/reunited with/by them.

But, for the most part, we all have relatives we deliberately avoid, like Uncle Bill and Aunt Sue.  Their publicly unhappy marriage being on display at every family function you can remember was only part of the impetus.  Their rowdy offspring, tendency to pilfer things out of your home when you aren’t looking, inability to repay loans and startling lack of accountability were also factors.

Ironically, or maybe just annoyingly, these are the family members that don’t allow you to get away.  They show up at every family reunion, so you end up not attending just so you can avoid them.  Unfortunately, some innocents get caught in the cross-hairs.  The alternative is that everyone goes from quiet avoidance to pistols at dawn.

So, for the sake of peace—your peace—it is what it is.

Can anybody hear me?

Political Correctness…

What does it mean?

According to Wikipedia, political correctness in modern usage is terminology that is used to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.

This sounds innocent enough but, what does it really do?

For me, political correctness is a destructive, unnecessary muzzle on the mouth of truth.  It inhibits anyone from speaking the truth to anyone else (regardless of substance) for fear of repercussion/ostracism.  Furthermore, it actually leads to the sort of resentment and disgust that mark the language it’s trying to curtail.

Think about it for a moment.

Does it promote education to be more tolerant of others?  No.  Does it teach the history behind the abuse or mistreatment of certain groups and explain WHY the statements are wrong?  No.  So what does it do?

It forces us to pretend and, if that isn’t enough, to provide fake comments/responses in all areas of our lives under the guise of not being offensive to others.  However, in the process, we offend ourselves and our beliefs.

Now, I’m not advocating that we have a free for all.  I’m not suggesting that we impose our personal truths, beliefs and choices upon everyone under the guise of freedom of speech.  To be clear:  Everyone has the right to govern their own personal truths, beliefs and choices.

Nevertheless, when these personal truths, beliefs and choices become the norm or mainstream, we have a problem.  And what’s worse is that if you don’t get on board with this madness, you become the problem.  YOU become the anti-social malady that needs to be removed.

When a country such as the United States purports that it is built on Christian principles and provides the Bible as the foundation on which it stands only to modify the teachings thereof to suit personal truths, beliefs and choices, this is not a sign of progress.  This is a mistake and “not” correct politically or otherwise.

Either the Bible is the Book that governs the lives of Christians or it isn’t.  You cannot have it both ways.  You cannot rewrite it for your convenience or to suit your lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong.  Other religions and religious beliefs have a right to be.  The individuals who profess these other religions are tasked to adhere to the rules thereof just as individuals professing Christianity are tasked to adhere to the rules of Christianity.

Love them or hate them but, The Ten Commandments, from the Bible on which this country claims it stands, are clearly stated regardless of race, creed or color.  If you state that you are a Christian, you are tasked to abide by the rules.  Period.

Now, I’m not discussing things like smoking or drinking even though the drinking of strong drink/alcohol consumption is addressed therein.  Let your conscience be your guide.

I’m not even going to discuss racism and the vestiges thereof.  I am not going to bring up the murder of African-American citizens in the streets of the United States at the hands of law enforcement and any other citizens who deem them inferior to themselves. I’m not even going to discuss sexism at all.

That’s because there are other behaviors mentioned in the Bible that are clearly condemned and deemed an abomination.  One such behavior is homosexuality.

Oddly enough, no matter what these religions agree or disagree on, they all seem solidified on that subject.  To me, that implies something.  The idea that religions that are, in many cases, literally at war with one another can agree on this and other things speaks volumes.

Can anybody hear me?

Ever hear somebody telling a really long story? You know, the kind that drags on and on for several minutes longer than the actual content would suggest is possible. Have you ever noticed that, right as they are finally getting to the end, they add: “And another thing,” before spewing more nonsense? I mean, you are already almost hating the sound of their voice as well as their deviated septum when, just like that, “and another thing” puts an end to any hope you had of getting away.

Somehow “and another thing” leads to another couple of minutes, which then leads to hours of more talking and often a word for word re-telling of the entire story in every painful detail!

For the sake of politeness you, once again, try feigning interest while your mind is wandering here and there. After all, you were raised to be polite, right?

Anyway, a couple of well placed, “Aha’s”, “Oh’s” and “You’re kidding’s,” really come in handy and make it seem as if you are somehow remotely interested in what this person wants to—not “has to”—say!

Oftentimes, the storyteller is so wrapped up in their own story (and relatively minor glory) that they don’t seem to notice the glazed over look that you know has to be in your eyes.

Do you ever wonder if these individuals—you know, the ones you run from when you see their profiles on the horizon—even know how annoying they truly are? You have to wonder, are they having fun at your expense? Can they not see the emotions you are trying to suppress? Are they ignoring your obvious discomfort or do they not care? Or, worse still, are they really THAT oblivious?

We may never know.

What I do know is there are more than a few of them walking around in my general circle (i.e. place of employment, at the family reunion, etc.). Somehow, they seem to make a bee-line to me.

Who am I kidding?

I’m a freaking magnet for all things crazy, annoying, stinking and needy. People see me and immediately decide that I am the one to bother, sit next to on the train, question about the intricacies of life or solicit monies from, as if there is a tattoo or neon sign on my forehead inviting all matter of nonsense to come my way.

With the invention of answering services, caller ID, etc., I have been able to control the flow of foolishness that comes from many of my annoying family members and former friends. However, handling the annoying public is another animal altogether. Nowadays, you must navigate this hazardous land carefully to keep from being shot, stabbed or worse, talked to death!

Can anybody hear me?

Time

Time is truly slipping away. I know, I know, it sounds very cliché, but time really is moving quickly . . . far too quickly.

I don’t know about you but, I cannot seem to catch up on anything! No matter how big or small the project, I find myself falling further and further behind and constantly treading water.

I’ll give you an example: it seems like only yesterday I moved all my furniture to the center of each room before painting every room in my house. Now, as I survey my home, I can see that it is in dire need of painting AGAIN. “Wait. Didn’t I do this just a couple years ago? Oh wait, never mind. It was more like eight years ago!”   Where did all that time go?

Between housework, grocery shopping and cutting the grass, there doesn’t seem to be much time left for anything. There is certainly no time for “me days” involving beauty parlors, nail shops or spa trips. And don’t even think about buying a gym membership!!

I cannot tell you how many times I have signed up for a gym membership only to attend the first meeting and then quit. The same holds true for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and a slew of other places. Only after paying the fees and buying the first week of this or that did I find that, not only don’t I have the time, I don’t even have the energy! No matter what time I go to bed, I wake up tired and disorientated.

I guess my sleep schedule’s a separate blog though.

Anyway, I’m starting to feel more than a little bit defeated. In the era of the Superwoman (i.e. the one that can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan), I’m just not coping very well. In fact, it’s fair to say, I’m really not feeling any of it.

All I wanna do when I’m at work is go to sleep. All I want to do when I’m at home is eat first and then go to sleep. Instead of going out and doing fun things, I’m stuck in recovery mode.

With the work days moving so swiftly and the weekends moving even faster, the only thing I have on my mind is to get to the end of the day. So, on weekends, I find myself planning sleep time instead of happy time. I hurry to and fro all over town, running all my errands at breakneck speed so I can get back to my warm, comforting, nurturing, heavenly bed and sleep.

But, once there, I find myself watching the clock, always aware of the ever moving time. Before I can even begin to drift off, I am struck by the bitter and depressing realization that, while I’m lying there, there is something else I need to be accomplishing.

Or, perhaps, it’s the other way around. Perhaps, it is the clock that is watching me! Maybe it’s just waiting for me to close my eyes so that the alarm can blare in my ear. We all know that clocks move faster when you’re at home then when you’re at work. Maybe there’s real malice involved. Maybe the clock really is speaking to us — mocking us by saying “Rest easy, Van Winkle. I’m sure you won’t miss TOO much.”

Can anybody hear me?

Is it just me or does there seem to be a lot of celebrity men taking custody of their minor children from their very alive and very capable mothers? From Usher to Master P, the new trend seems to be that fathers are taking more of a role in the raising of their children. At least, it APPEARS that way. But looking deeper, something much darker seems to be at play. More and more, men are describing their ex-wives as psychotic or crazy and labeling them unfit mothers. To prove this, they drag the mother and their children before the cameras at every opportunity, hoping to prove their case in the court of public opinion. Because of this, children are finding themselves in the midst of these battles like never before.

Look, we all know that kids have been in the center of divorces since the beginning of time. Most often, women received full custody of the children (unless they were proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be lacking) and men were relegated to paying child support. From there, additional court actions ensued in order for these women to receive court-appointed support. Granted, it wasn’t a perfect system (as many unfit mothers were allowed to slip through the cracks themselves) but it was one that at least gave the illusion of civility. As with any conflict, things sometimes got very ugly, but at no time was the public treated to such sideshows as they are now. So, why is this happening more and more often now especially amongst celebrities? Why do modern day marital conflicts end with someone’s reputation being destroyed and relationships being ruined forever?

In my opinion, most of these men, especially those married to less-prominent women, are only now figuring out that you cannot pre-nup a child. Even with tough pre-nuptials agreements in place, having a child changes the situation entirely. So, in order to get out of paying child support for some 18 to 25 years, they have opted to take custody of the minor children and leave the wife as she was. And the courts are in full support of this rising trend.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I feel that men cannot parent their children. I have always known that they could. Nor do I mean to suggest that actually taking custody of the children is somehow a “better deal” financially than paying support. Anyone with children knows that to be false. My problem is the motive behind the taking of the children, as well as the fact that these minors are then being turned against their mothers by their more wealthy fathers. Though my interactions with millionaires are, admittedly, rather limited, I have the many ways that men, of ALL social rungs, have attempted to hurt their ex-wives. Even those paying a pittance for support want an itemized list of everything the mother intends to do with the “vast wealth” that they are sending. Should the mother buy a pair of shoes for herself, even if she uses her own money, the fathers cry out that they are misusing funds meant for the child. Wealthy men seem to be no different.

Each and every one of these famous men could easily afford to give the mother of their children SOMETHING for her years of marriage and parenting. They choose not to. Not because they can’t, but because they are worried that the mother may actually be able to have a life of her own and not simply wither and die in the gutter somewhere. I mean, do we truly believe that somehow EVERY wealthy man managed to marry a psychotic, gun toting, drug addicted woman? Somehow every woman in these custody disputes is unfit both as a mother and as a human being? Seriously?

Now, I am aware that some would argue that women have turned children against their fathers after divorces too. I have to concede that some have. But let’s place some emphasis on the word “some.” Some did. But some is not the majority. And let’s face it, many of these women never had to as the non-payment of child support is a testimony in and of itself to children as to their importance in their fathers’ lives.

Nevertheless, I am questioning why this is happening all of a sudden? In my humble opinion, finances are the root cause of the almost minstrel show-esque proceedings. The children of today aren’t the same as the children of yesteryear. They are much more aware of the world around them than previous generations were. As such, they are aware of what happens to children should the non-wealthy parent win custody. Fear of being disinherited makes their loyalty for sale. Maybe this isn’t the case for all children who find themselves in this situation, but it is arguably the case in this latest fiasco between Master P and his wife.

As many of you know, Master P recorded his minor children making accusations against their mother as if to show the world that he is the better parent. However, rather than make that point, all I saw were very disloyal children who threw their mother under the bus in favor of their rich father. His adult son, Romeo, put the icing on the proverbial cake when he interjected that his mother “needed to be a better parent.” I mean, who amongst us who are parents don’t need to be better?

For me, it was what Romeo’s statement didn’t say that gave me pause. I mean, why no comment about his father’s parenting skills? Are we to assume that his father doesn’t need to be a better parent? His father is accusing his soon-to-be-ex-wife of using illegal drugs like marijuana and drinking alcohol. Are we to assume that Master P does not engage in these activities? If not, did he just learn of this? Did she just start using? Or, did he allow this so-called unfit mother to poorly mother his children for all these years without complaint until it came time to divvy up some assets?

I mean, we all know that people tend to marry within their culture. Very rarely will you see a celibate with a strumpet. Is it unreasonable to think that Master P, who is part of a drug and crime culture, would marry someone like himself? Did we really expect him to be married to someone who does not participate in these activities? So, are we really surprised at this disclosure? Did anybody think he would be married to someone like Oprah Winfrey or Gail King? Do we really think that he is a saintly man who somehow fell for a sinner? Or is it more likely that he married someone he could relate to, and now wants to use that to his advantage by making himself out to be man of the year?

Can anybody hear me?

The more control I try to gain over the things that I do, eat, say, etc., the more I binge and lose total control.  Let’s start with my diet.  For the last ten years, I have lived in a world of fantasy.  Since I never had to diet as a youngster, I continued well into my thirties and forties with the same practices of my teens and twenties.  Needless to say, this did not work out as I thought it would.  I now find myself struggling, battling, overindulging, starving and, squeezing into clothes that used to fit.  When did that happen?

Nobody told me that I would feel this lost and confused in my 50’s.  Nobody told me that weight would come out of nowhere and that losing it would be next to impossible.  Nobody told me that I would sweat profusely and not lose one pound.  Nobody told me about bone loss and hot flashes.  Nobody told me that I would have to work doubly hard in order to feel half as fresh as I used to.  But why didn’t they?

I keep hearing that “The Change” is different for everyone.  But if that’s the case, why are so many women looking and acting just like me?  They are walking around in an almost zombie-like state trying to figure out what is going on with them, their bodies, their vision, their hair, their skin and their minds.  All the while, they are pretending that all is well.  Every day they wake up in a daze, trying to smile and control the things that make them cry and argue for no reason.  Where did that iron control go?  And how do we get it back?

Drink soy milk.  Eat soy products.  Don’t eat this or that.

Whatever.

None of it works.  I’m always hot, hot, hot or bone chilling cold, cold, cold with no in between.  Everything is extreme.   And, what about the hairs on my chin, neck and nipples?  When did I start puberty as a young man?  Do I get to have my own room and use the car for dates soon?  Or are those just more things that are out of my control, seemingly until the end of time.  Can anybody hear me?

The other day, a co-worker came running towards me shouting that she is about to become a grandmother for the first time.  Needless to say, I was excited for her  . . . that is . . . until she went on to say that she was glad that the baby would be going home with the girl and the girl’s mother since her son and the girl are not married.

That’s when I exploded.

I mean, aren’t we women first, and the mothers of sons second?  When did we lose our empathy for the women that we supposedly were teaching our sons to love and cherish?  When did we forget the treatment that we received at the hands of no account men and condone, if not outright encourage, that same behavior in our sons towards young women?  How did it happen?  When did it happen?  How/when did we become so uninterested, so uncaring, so maliciously unconcerned with regard to the girls that our sons mess over (during their learning/experimental phase) while simultaneously nursing our own bad relationship and abandonment wounds?

I confess… I am sorely disappointed by my sisters.  Not all of them, of course.  My disappointment lies solely on the women who have sons (not daughters) and allow their young “men” to devastate the lives of other females without repercussion.  This is particularly sad given the fact that more than a few of these same women are single parents themselves.  Whether abandoned, despised or just plain ignored, they have found themselves in the same position that various young women have been left in by their trifling sons.  These same women raise sons but somehow don’t get the message across to them that it isn’t okay to engage in casual sex with females, make a baby and then go on their merry way, leaving the mother of the child sidelined.

I know, I know, it is important that we make our daughters understand that it is they who are taking the majority of the risk during intercourse (most often, not even good intercourse but, that’s another blog).  Men can participate during the pregnancy; the rearing of the child; and the financial, spiritual, emotional, psychological and educational development of the child if they “choose” to.  Women, on the other hand, don’t have that same level of choice/flexibility.

This is not to say that women are saintly, innocent and/or don’t make mistakes.  Neither do I mean to imply that women are always good parents or bereft of responsibility when it comes to sex.  On the contrary, I mean to emphasize that women are the ones who end up pregnant, not men, so any decision she makes (be it to give birth, to give the baby up for adoption or to abort) will have a lifetime effect on her that it will not have on the man.

In this generation where females have more birth control options at their disposal than ever, there is really no excuse.  Yet, women continue to play Russian Roulette with their lives.  They continue to take unnecessary risk with their futures by depending on and believing in a male (yes, I said male, not man) who makes a lot of pre-sex promises but will fail to deliver. So, perhaps, the mothers of sons can take a different approach.  Perhaps, our sons can benefit from being forewarned that the reality of their momentary need for pleasure is the merging of two families, FOREVER.  I mean, is just any girl worthy of carrying on your family lineage?  Or maybe mothers can teach their sons that the bitterness they feel over the absence of their own father is the same as the child feels for their absence.  Is your absence somehow more reasonable and right than that of your own father?  Can anybody hear me?

I still find myself reaching for just the right words to describe mothers and fathers.  That’s because a mother’s/father’s job has no set description.  They are on-call 24/7/365.

I am aware that not everyone has a wonderful mother or father.  Nevertheless, know that, regardless of who your parents were, they were just people.  They were just human beings, like you, with the same flaws, the same dreams, the same hopes and the same fears.  They were not superhuman, even if, at times, wanted them to be.  They were not immune to illness, failure and pain.  At trite as it might sound, they were only human.  Try to remember that if you ever feel you have been let down by them.

Instead of focusing on rating your parents’ performance, learn to respect them whether they were good parents or not.  After all, no matter how bad they are/were, you would not be you and, most importantly, you would not be born without them.  You owe them for your existence.  Honor them for this if nothing else.

If you are a parent, try to give your children what you feel you didn’t get from your parents (e.g., more hugs, more kisses, etc.).  But, be warned that some children are bottomless pits that cannot be filled.  No matter what you do, it will never be enough.  In the end, you just have to do the best you can.

At your best efforts, you may find that you are not as good as the parent you criticize.  Realizing the limitations of both yourself and others is called maturity, and it is that maturity that can and should lead to your having mercy on them.  The mercy and understanding you show will earn you some of the same from your own children.  Remember, in the end, you are just as humans as your parents were.  For all your efforts, don’t be surprised to find that your children are no more pleased with you then you are/were with your parents.  Only time will tell.

If you have no children, try not to be too judgmental of those who do. Parents find themselves in situations for which there is no preparation.  Even the so-called parenting books are just someone’s opinion on what should be done.  They aren’t the concrete gospel because one just doesn’t exist.  Believe me, you don’t know how you will react until the time comes.  When it does, hope and pray that you can react with the same wisdom, grace and maturity that you demanded from your parents.  Can anybody hear me?