Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Do You Give or DoYou Take?

Hurricane Katrina slapped America in the face and drew blood and death. That’s not the worst of it though. The mean weather lady unleashed immoral conduct in New Orleans too. I have watched the news and was saddened by what came out of the storm. Yes, homes were destroyed, families uprooted, and businesses demolished. All of that can be replaced. What can’t be restored is trust in the Black residents of New Orleans.

The news showed the rest of America and the world, the mind set of some residents in New Orleans. I saw people become thieves. Yes, you heard me, thieves. Cameras reveled stores being looted by people with no where to go with the stolen goods. What bothered me the most was each face in front of the cameras was Black. The faces of law enforcement were present also.

Now explain to me why instead of looking for housing and safety, Blacks in New Orleans went searching for material goods. Where in God’s name are they going to put them? They have no homes. They have no food. They have no transportation. What are they going to do with stolen goods? Sell them, to whom?

I realize that when Mother Nature and her children decided to play we can’t control where the playground was built. But we can control how we respond to it. Looting is not a response. It is a reaction. What hurts me the most is the reaction is coming mostly from Blacks. Instead of concentrating on retrieving, rebuilding, and reinventing, the Blacks in New Orleans are focusing on taking.

Personally, I have lived through one horrific tornado and one terrible riot, both in the sixties. Both times I watched looters take what didn’t belong to them. Each time I was amazed, amazed that it never occurs to looters that they are not gaining, but losing all around. Don’t they realize that the cost of the storm and all following reactions is going to be paid by them? What New Orleans residents normally can’t afford to buy and must steal, they won’t be able to keep later. Why? There are no closets to hang clothes. There is no electricity to plug in a TV. There are no shelves to stack can goods on. There are no hot spots to show off the bling bling. Open your eyes. Look around. New Orleans today isn’t what it was last week. Never will be again.

If all of the residents, Blacks included, don’t immediately start looking for ways to repair the city and it’s neighborhoods, it will become just a page in history books. Hurricane Katrina has done the damage. It’s time now for Blacks in New Orleans to start fixing what is broken, not adding to what Katrina started. But then, I only see what happened, I don’t live there. Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

School Days

It is that time again, time to get the kids ready for an additional dose of education. Guess what? I have to get ready for school too. For some reason last Fall I felt I was in the need for more brain input. Blame it on my unsatiable desire to know or on what I saw as a need, either way, I think I will be going to school forever.

When I was a youngster, I always said if there was ever a profession of a professional student, I would be that. I can’t even fathom why children of today don’t like school. Going to school has always been one of my most happy moments in life. I love learning something new, challenging thoughts that I am taught, and wondering if I can create. Why don’t the children of today see what I see in acquiring an education?

That is the sad part of society today. Most Black kids have no wish to complete an education. The reasons are varied but, they are incomplete reasons. What I mean by that is, no money, no clothes, no transportation, no glasses, no help is just a sample of excuses, not reasons. I seem to remember slavery. You know when Blacks would be killed or severely punished for getting an education? It didn’t stop them though. They suffered whatever it took to open a book and learn to read, write and do arithmetic. I know the Lord blessed them for trying.

Whose fault is it? Who cares? It’s already a done deal. Let’s just fix the problem. We need to find a way to inspire the children of today. Give them justifiable reasons to pursue an education, not avoid one. We all know what happens when they don’t. They end up in prison for thefts and robberies, selling or on drugs, becoming abusers, and lacking any self esteem to create instead of destroying. Hello, what will it take before we realize, they need guidance, guidance that will lead them toward productivity, contributing to society, and not wrecking havoc.

My love for an education most likely stems from my parents. They came from the south, where an education was the open door to a prosperous life. If you knew what you were doing, you would succeed at what you were doing. In other words, learn a trade, master a skill, enhance a gift, then build upon that, and you could never fail. You would also never be held back from anything your heart desired. All of it is possible through an education.

Turns out, it was all true. I got my education. It took a while, but I got the paper. I now know if I want it, I can have it. What is it? It is a career, a career in writing. So that is what I do. I write for a living. I also, teach and speak. I share my knowledge with others about writing. That is why I went back to school, again. This time I went back for the kids. I want to do my part. The part, that is, part an inspiration and part requirement. I want the kids to develop the same desire I have for learning. I know how to teach and I think I do it pretty well. But for my own satisfaction, I want the credentials that say the same. Who knows, maybe one day I will be your kid’s instructor.

In the mean time, I will continue to write. I will never quit going to school. I know this because there is still this nagging little thing in me that whispers, law school. Don’t ask me why. I have always had an interest in law. It just takes more time than I have right now. Trust me. I will find the time one day. Until that time, I will keep looking for ways to help the kids understand the importance of an education. What are you going to do?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Education. How Much is it Worth to You?

Early one morning I found out about a school in Chester, Virginia, to be precise, a failing high school. I asked myself, is it the only school populated by minorities that are failing? No. Is this something the country and its citizens are unaware of? Another no. The problem with the situation in Virginia exists in so many urban areas across the country that, identifying them is easier to do than pointing out the ones that are successful.

Why am I writing about this? Because I hurt for the innocent ones. The ones that still possess open minds we’ve lost. If the schools are failing and those that can teach are not there, where do innocents go now? How will the innocents survive? When I was growing up, school was my world. I was in the future teacher’s club, a cheerleader, future nurses club, and a class president one year. I had meetings before and after classes. I studied art, cooking, sewing, drama, and civics. You heard me, civics. Did you know that not one child I have ever asked knows what “civics” is? These are the voters of the future. HELLO! If the people of America don’t want to get involved now, what are they going to do with this generation when they become in charge tomorrow, after they have failed today?

Is there a solution to the failing public school system in America? Yes, most likely. What we have to do is what we haven’t done before . . . look for it. We here in America had in the past pointed fingers, slapped on band aids, cried money blues, and spewed a myriad of other excuses. Enough is enough. I don’t know about you but, I am tired of being tired. Tired of knowing a public school education is a joke.

The only educated children that become a success are the ones we pay for. And that seems to be the problem. We don’t want to pay one copper penny to educate anyone. Yea, schools need money but, all the money in the world is not going to motivate, inspire, encourage, guide, and assist a young child. Buy all the books in the world, build state of the art facilities or even pay tutors. It will not, and I repeat, will not make a child want to learn. Until we, the parents, teachers, clergymen and women, neighbors, extended families, shopkeepers, corporations, entrepreneurs, and celebrities make room in our planners to give some time to the children, the schools will continue to fail. Public or private, without all of us “paying it forward,” one day we will look back and see that we never left where we are right now.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Gas? It’s Called, Economics

What is this world coming to? First insurance rates went up, then the cost of a home, new or old. College costs are going through the roof while the job market goes up and down on the whims of corporate America. I won’t even go into what the pay scales are now. Just ask those who were downsized or displaced. What is the world coming to? I’ll tell you. It is going to _____. You fill in the blank.

As a freelance writer I have watched my means to be self reliant dwindle to almost nothing. When I first started in this line of work back in 1997, if you could master a message in scripts which got someone going, you could make a living as a writer. Now if you want to live a decent lifestyle, while making a living in any profession, start praying. The list of things increasing in cost is ever growing. We can now add gas to it.

What most people think of when they think of gas, are their cars. What most people don’t realize is, gas doesn’t only affect your automobile it affects other things in your life. For example, live in a northern state? It will cost more to heat your house. When you grocery shop are your goods packed in plastic? That will cost you more. How about that credit card you swipe? Yep, that’s going to cost you a tad more too. See where I’m going here?

We have got to stop taking things for granted. We must start learning to conserve and accept. We really don’t need to drive everywhere. Have you ever tried turning that thermostat down just a little, maybe even having the windows replaced? You could try walking to the corner store. It wouldn’t hurt if you paid cash for some of what you buy. Little things like this not only will bring some of your cost down but, they are healthy too. The other thought is, if you need less, you buy less, and the law of economics turns around. Instead of demand out weighing supply, supply would out weigh demand. When this happens, prices go down.

Do any of you remember the early eighties? There was an oil crisis then. Citizens said $%#& we won’t pay and they didn’t. The cost of gasoline came down and we went from 90 plus cents per gallon to seventy something cents per gallon. If my memory serves me right, it stayed there until around the mid nineties. The cost of gas is unbelievable right now. At the rate of increase it is going, we all will be paying quadruple that before long. It is already past triple 70 cents if you know your math. I say we can reverse that. But that’s just what I think.

Out of Control - Part Three

Ok you already read about the first two times I had no control over my circumstances. Get ready for the last time.

My son and I were both getting ready for work. He, having to leave a tad earlier than I, went out the door and to the garage, pulled out his car, hit the remote and then . . . bang! The garage door comes tumbling down. No, it did not roll down it slammed down. Naturally, this made my son get out of his car and see what the problem was. Lo and behold, the spring that controls the tension of the door as it rolls up and down had snapped.

Ok, ok, you know what they say happens. Leave it to say the words that came out of my mouth at that time was more like *#$%. He came in the house to tell me of the snafu and we together decided we must remove my car before he leaves and leave the door down until the next day. It is that day he will see what he can do to repair the door. My son takes my car keys and proceeds to bring my auto out of the garage. As he lifts the door by hand, to his surprise more pieces of the garage starts falling like rain drops, piece by piece it began to fall apart.

As most people now a day, my son carried a cell phone all time. He dialed me in the house and said, “Mom you are going to have to come move your car. Come out here and you will see what I mean.” Naturally I thought my son was losing a few marbles. Couldn’t he drive a car out of the garage?

I went to the backyard and my son was holding the door up with his hands. He informed me the door would come crashing to the ground if he let go. And yes, as I looked around, pieces of it were everywhere. I bent down, worked my way under the door and saw what had happen. Quickly I jumped into my car, put it in gear and drove out of the garage.

To myself, I thought this should be it. My memory was going through some of the things I had heard as I was growing up. Bad things happen in threes, three strikes and your out. This is number three. Now it is over, hopefully. One, I went without water. Just set me back a little time. Two, I lost my teeth. Will cost me quite a bit of money. Three, now the garage is in disarray. It will cost me more money. No wonder I can’t get ahead.

I obviously have been out of control of the situations I have been put in. I had no control over a water line break, no control over the garage door wearing out and no control over my teeth being lost. I know, I know, that last one you are saying, “Yes you did.” Well, I don’t think so. I blame that one on the menopause I am going through. And I have no control over that. It’s just my point of view.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Out of Control Part Two

I’ve done it again. For the fourth time in seven years, I have lost a body part. No, it is not life threatening. It’s more an embarrassing issue. You see I have lost some teeth, my partial to be exact. Back in 1998 when I had to submit to an oral correction of my mouth, I was fitted with a partial. Two teeth in the front of my mouth had loss bone to keep them in place and had to be amended with fake teeth, hence, a partial.

Now when I first got it, it took some adjustment on my part. I had to get use to a foreign object in my mouth. Unbeknownst to me, it wasn’t easy. Unlike that open mouth kiss all of us enjoy, this foreign object did not bring joy or pleasure. Therefore, every chance I got, I took it out. It was removed when I was home and among friends. I only wore it when I was out in public doing speaking engagements or teaching a class of some sort. The first time I lost it, was in a mall. The next time was in a restaurant and the third time was in my own garbage at home. Please don’t ask. Just write it off to, sometimes I don’t think before I act. The first incident was so comedic that I ended up writing a story about it and it can now be read in my memoir that you can buy. Suffice it to say, I obviously don’t like wearing a partial. So without any hesitation I will remove it from my mouth and set it aside without any forethought.

Each time I lost the partial before, I had very good medical coverage, so it would cost me little to replace it. I was still employed by a financial organization. Now I am in a quarry. As a freelance writer, with unsteady income, I have to pay for everything out of pocket. Which includes prescriptions, visits to family doctors, ophthalmologists, dentists and any other specialist I would have to see. As of today, funds are low and bills are high. Summer is the slow time for freelance writers you know. So what will I do? Pray and pray a lot. I have three speaking engagements coming up in October and November. I don’t think my audiences will take me seriously if speak to them with an empty space in the front of my mouth.

Many times I ask myself why these things happen to me. Remember earlier I mentioned the things we can’t control or possibly God talking and I’m not listening. Well, I am still trying to figure out where I go wrong. Do I not pay enough attention to the signs? Do I take on more than I can chew? No pun intended. How about being overworked and under paid?

I write, I sell, I promote, I advertise and the results are the same . . . not too good. Should I give up this life? You know, go back to corporate America? I think this over a lot. And over and over I realize that it’s a bad fit. The way wearing the wrong size underpants would be. You by them too big and they either bunch up or buy them too little and they pinch in all the wrong places. So I find my self stuck with searching for ways to make my life easier. More writing assignments, workshops, and speaking engagements. No wait, I have to get a new partial before I increase my presence before a crowd. Dam! When I get the new set, I am going to see if it can be connected to the other teeth in my mouth, the real ones, instead of being removable. That’s one way of looking at my problem, you think?

Out of Control

Sometimes you lose control of things and there is nothing you can do about it. My last two weeks have been a string of coincidences or God trying to tell me something and I wasn’t listening.

Part One

It is July 29, 2005, 7:00 a.m. I wake up, go to my bathroom to do you know what and brush my teeth. I turn on the faucet and nothing comes out. I go to the kitchen and turn that faucet on and nothing. Dam! No water. My first thoughts are, did they turn my water off? Hell, I paid my bill, what’s up with this? I stepped out on my porch and saw the problem. A water pipe that runs under my street was broke and it was shooting water out of a newly formed fissure in the road. Again, dam! Now what am I going to do. I have to use the toilet. I proceeded to the bathroom and released myself because I can only hold the liquid so long. I had to remember to “not flush.” That was the beginning of my weekend.

I originally had planned to do some laundry, wash my hair, and, it was water my lawn day. So much for cleaning up and replenishing the soil. Dam! I realized that I, and I’m sure you and others, depend heavily on water. We need it to feed our bodies as well as clean them. We need it to clean our clothes and cars, not to mention, feed the lawn. I found myself unable to do much of anything that included water, so much for having an organized day. In other words, to hell with my plans. I made the phone call to the Detroit water department. Yep, they knew about it and would send someone to investigate. Investigate? Investigate what? The water line broke, it was gushing water onto the street and no one on the block had any water in their house, what’s there to investigate? How about someone to fix the darn thing, I’ve got things to do and goals to meet. My weekend starts on Friday and ends on Sunday with a ton of water related work to be done. If I didn’t have any water, how was I to accomplish them?

An investigator came, marked the gas lines, put a barricade around the break and left. My neighbors and I spent most of the morning discussing how we might get the water department to move faster on resolving this dilemma. Not many went to work that day. No way, as the old saying goes to, “shit, shower and shave.” So we talked, talked about the city and its service, or lack of it I should say. “We won’t get any water probably until Monday.”
“My mother lives around the corner. I’ll just go to her house and clean up.”
“I’m going to keep on calling the water department until they get somebody out here.”
One comment after another we all made, not many could I write in a public domain. Our mission, to get the water line fixed. We wanted our water on and running like it always was.

Anyway, as time went on, we found out the water line would not be repaired until the next day. Now how soon or late that would be, was anybody’s guess. Although, a supervisor swore it would be morning, none of us trusted the city’s water department. There had been some political issues concerning the water department and turmoil was rampant within it. All we could do was cross our fingers, pray, and hope that we didn’t get lost in the mix.

I proceeded to get ready to visit my sister to bathe because I had to go to work. As I was gathering my things required to clean my body, the news came on and a suburb in our metro area had the same problem that morning. To my surprise, their city immediately moved on getting the residents in a condition that they could live with. They supplied drinking water and rigged hoses from another source to each house. This so that residents did not have to do without water, not even for one day. Now I was MAD. I e-mailed the news station and gave them a piece of my mind about Detroit’s water department and the way they handle the same problem. I got a reply. In the reply, I was informed it would be sent to the night news editor and someone would get back to me. Not having time to wait, I went on to my sister’s house.

Later, as I returned home, there was a message left on my phone’s answering machine. I was to call the station when I got in. They wanted to talk with me about my water problem. I did and the producer asked if I was still without water. “You dam right I am.” By the way, it was now 10:00 p.m. She said she would make some calls and get back with me. Well, I never heard back from her again but, the water department was on the block to make repairs the next morning. Now this may sound like nothing much to you but the city of Detroit’s water department doesn’t work on weekends. So to see them on Saturday morning working to fix a water line break made me smile. I wondered if my call to the TV station and their interest in what kind of service I would get, prompt a little due diligence on the water department’s part on good press. It’s definitely my view point on the matter.