Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Just Call Me a Navel-Gazing Blogger
We've been blogging just long enough (not quite a year now) to have spotted at least seven distinct types of traffic-generating blogging Styles.
Just as there are different styles of investing, there are different approaches to traffic generation. Aside from the occasional, reclusive J.D.Salingers, most writers want to be read as widely as possible. Some bloggers literally will do anything to gain audience, others have defined boundaries. Site traffic is a subject close to bloggers' hearts, and is front-of-mind right now, thanks in part to the misadventures of Pajamas Media.
Not every blogger practicing these distinct styles gets as much traffic as they might like. However, each style has the potential to drive traffic. Other styles of blogging, such as the let's-discuss-what-I-ate-for-lunch style, aren't suited for driving traffic, unless of course you're talking about what Madonna had for lunch. As a rule, navel-gazing gains an audience of one...
I don't really think of myself as a 'navel-gazer,' but this could be me...
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
No One Can Take That Away From You: Another Personal Story
Here we go again with another personal story. This story profiles my friend Alisse. I knew from the beginning that there was something very similar in our backgrounds and to some extent in our personalities. I met Alisse many, many years ago when we were both in school. We were both so shy and vulnerable then. I know, hard to believe. Since then, it seems we've had a number of similar life experiences. One thing I really admire about Alisse is that she can be comfortable in almost any group of people. It sounds simple, but it's not. The socio-economic, race, gender, academic, global environment doesn't matter. I have met only a few people who have that gift. I suppose it's because she's been pushed so far out of her own 'normal,' that those things have lost their meaning. She also has this quiet strength that several other friends have noticed and admired too. Here is her story.
My mom grew up on a farm in Clarksville, Mississippi. She is the second of six children. My mother’s older sister introduced her to my father, who is also from a small rural town in Mississippi. My mother left the farm when she got married at 17, but didn’t have kids until she was 20. During that year, both of my parents moved to Syracuse, New York. Neither of them had family there. They just moved to have a better opportunity. Eventually, all of my mother’s brothers and sisters moved to Syracuse.
My twin sister Anita and I are the youngest of seven children. The next oldest sibling is three years older. Our two other sisters had kids by the time they were 19. My brothers were all over 25 when they had their kids. We were a surprise. My parents divorced when Anita and I were born. The divorce didn’t affect us. You don’t miss what you never had. The divorce had a bigger affect on my brothers. My mother was working, and was always gone. My dad came back 4 or 5 times a year. My mother worked all day and came home and went to school at night. She knew she had to pay bills. She got up even though she didn’t feel like it, because there were other people depending on her. There are other people who say, “I don’t think I will go to work today,” or “I’ll just spent this money on education, but I think I’ll flunk out.” I think, “You have got to be kidding!” When things are given to you, you can have this lazy mentality. My mother had to get up and had to keep going. During the day she was key punching and tried to go to school part-time at night. I remember her always taking classes when I was a kid. When my mother was around, she was tired as heck. She would work until 3:00pm. Then, she would go to school. From about 4:00pm until 8:00pm, she took classes. I don’t think she finished her Associate’s degree.
We were raised on public television: Dr. Who, Mr. Rogers, Evan Seven, 3-2-1 Contact, Nova. I liked to read a lot. My brother went to the army when Anita and I were 7. He would ship us books. RIF also came to our school every year. I remember being in the 2nd grade reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In 4th grade I remember reading Cricket in Time Square.
We had great teachers in Syracuse, New York. If they thought we were good at something, they would steer us in the right direction. One teacher in high school was Mrs. Valerio. She had known Anita and me from 9th grade on. We were ‘the twins.’ We didn’t know anything about the honors society. It’s not like our mother told us about it. She sought us out and made sure we were involved in the honors society and things like that. Mr. Myers was our English teacher. His description of Crime and Punishment made me want to read it. He assigned college level books in class. He didn’t have us read the whole thing, just parts. Mrs. Kirkland suggested that I read Nikki Giovanni’s book about her life. One teacher pushed us to take Algebra in 8th grade. Most students took algebra in 9th. In our senior year, we were able to take the Calculus pre-qualifying exam to place out of Calculus in college. We both had high enough scores to place out of college level Calculus.
I had a brother who went to Rochester Institute of Technology, and we started talking to him about college. He said to us, “If you like math, you can do this. If you like chemistry, you can do this.”
Anita and I ended up getting scholarships at a small, Jesuit college in upstate, New York. It was a small school of about 1200 students full-time. We left there owing about $2000. I enrolled in one of their 3-2 programs. You spend the first 3 years studying physics and last two studying engineering. After three years, I decided to just get the physics degree in 4 years. Anita and I worked through undergrad. I had a summer job from 14 until I finished graduate school. We were in upstate New York. A lot of people had never ever actually seen a black person – only on television. It was a white world for them. It didn’t affect me as much as I realized other people were affected by me. They would look at you weird when they met you. I would wonder what the problem was. You can get passed people trying to hinder you because of that though.
I wasn’t going to go to graduate school. I decided to work in a national lab. My sister was applying to graduate school at the University of Maryland. She kept trying to get me to apply. She finished up my application for me. I ended up going to her interview with her. I really liked the campus. I looked at the programs. I thought, “Why am I trying to get into a national lab when I could stay in school?” I ended up talking to the acting chairman of one of the engineering schools for an hour and a half. We hit it off. After talking with me, he wanted to give me a try.
Once I started graduate school, I think I was dealing with a lot of things at once. The school was a large research institution. The [engineering] courses were very different [from physics courses]. The class sizes were very different. In college, I had a nuclear physics class where I was the only student. Here, there were students from all over the world. One professor in graduate school gave unlimited hour tests. They were open book tests. He would test your understanding of the material. For his first exam, I sat there for six hours. During the second exam I was there for four hours.
When you are going through a graduate program like that, you are no longer number one. You are competing with students from all over the world, students who have done the best in their schools. You start to learn that you are very small in the scheme of things. I was competing with students who had experiences far beyond what I ever had. For example, there was this student, Amit. He told me once, “My father was an engineer. My father’s father was an engineer. And my father’s father’s father was an engineer. Here I am a first generation engineer. I just kind of chose something that I thought I would be interested in. I felt like I was disadvantaged. I didn’t’ have a mentor to guide me through. A mentor might have told me how to make up for not having the engineering background. A mentor might have given me advice about avoiding pitfalls. I kept saying to myself, “I have got to get out of here by the time I’m 27.” I was focusing on the wrong thing. A good mentor will be a sanity check.
What is the value of a PhD in engineering as a Woman of Color? At the end of the day, I have my credentials. No one can ever take that away from you. It’s an indicator of what you can do, of what you can take on. I know. I have heard people say it doesn’t matter. I know it does from the response that I get. No one can say, “We won’t give her that challenge because she can’t do it.” If you apply for a job and people don’t know you have a PhD, they’ll assume certain things about you. How many black women do you know that have a PhD? The people that I work with don’t come across that very often. How can I put this? They put women, and in my case black women, in a box, and put PhDs in a whole different box.
When we were growing up, my twin sister, Anita and I were always together. We are fraternal twins. We lived together until I was 29. I always had a companion. We read books together, we watched television together. If I didn’t have money, Anita had money. In graduate school, Anita was having a tough time. I was having a tough time. [Anita ended up getting her PhD in molecular cell biology.] We would study together. We went to school together everyday (we had one car). We went home together everyday. She would meet me in the engineering library. We thought things through together. When I wanted to quit, she told me, “You’re so close, why would you want to quit? What you will gain? What you will lose?” It helped me put things into perspective. After graduate school, I chose to go to Michigan for a few years. She chose to stay. When I came back, I lived with mom again. Anita was there for 3 months until she got married… Then Anita had my son. (That’s what I call him, “my son”.) I was in tears when I saw his face. My nephew (Anita’s son) will be 16 months on December 9th. We are really trying to develop a love for books early on so it is not such a challenge later. He needs to know that he has many options, not just basketball. I would like him to develop a desire to be the best. And I would like him to have a sense of competitiveness, but not so much that it gets out of hand.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Breaking Free of the Daily Grind
My sentiments exactly.
“Take Gus Lignos. He’s a 44-year-old sales executive at Scintera Inc. a San Jose, CA semiconductor company. He likes sales; he’s good at it…once a week, Mr. Lignos and a friend Kevin Hardiman, cut loose as hosts of a local radio station’s sports show. They gab for an hour and then they’re done. The pay is trifling, ranging from zero to $150 per appearance. But Mr. Lignos says it’s a thrill to be a radio personality for a brief spell, speaking his mind and getting feedback from callers right away…
Something similar happened with my father the decade before he retired. He was a well-regarded professor of chemistry, specializing in objects of the solar system and beyond. Early in his career, he used to come home excited about each new research paper. Later, the papers came and went more quietly. His great joy was a side job, serving on an experts’ advisory board for the Encyclopedia Britannica..
At a recent barbecue, an optometrist friend held us spellbound with stories of his expert cases. There wasn’t much drama in his regular routines of eye exams. But his side job, analyzing eye-care disasters and then matching wits with feisty lawyers in cross-examination, was fascinating. Everyone paid Mike the highest compliment that partygoers can offer – they clustered around him, eager to hear more…
The best projects are like that. They brighten our mood, and they help us develop fresh skills and career connections. Most important, we avoid stagnation in a world that is constantly discarding old ways of doing things.”
Sunday, November 27, 2005
This Weekend, I Chilled
Friday, November 25, 2005
Tough Love Part II
It will get worse before it gets better (that is my prediction). No one wants others to see ugly warts. And since the boys have been responsible for themselves for so long, establishing boundaries that stick is going to take some time. And it will be painful for all of us. I sent the boys home on Thanksgiving because - like most boys I suppose - they were doing lots of little things that add up to poor behavior: touching things without asking, saying they didn't do something when they did, being too rough, being rude, mumbling under their breath when I discipline, not listening (Everyone participated including LO.) They really weren't as bad as it sounds, but I need to make it clear what is and what is not acceptable.
I've been seeking advice, but I am such a novice. I'm getting right up into one or the other's face and telling them if they are doing something wrong, why and telling them not to do it again. I know that the yelling, shaming stuff will not work. They've gotten enough of that. I've got to do something different. Phew! This stuff is no joke! All I know is that LO comes first. The moment I feel like the situation is harmful for him this ends.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Happy Virtual Thanksgiving!
Why do we buy and serve too much food every year? I buy too much. I eat too much and have too much left over. It's sick!
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Angela Merkel Elected Chancellor of Germany
Today, the Bundestag elected Angela Merkel Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. She received 397 (or 61 % of the) votes… Merkel is the 34th chancellor of Germany, the 8th chancellor of the Federal Republic and the first woman to become German chancellor.
Via Fruits and Votes:
New Chancellor Angela Merkel needed 308 of parliament’s 611 votes. She got 397; fifty-one members of the coalition parties (CDU[Christian Democratic Union]/CSU [Christian Social Union]) and SPD[Social Democratic Party of Germany] voted no, including several dozen from her own party.
This is another story of an extraordinary individual who beat the odds. It doesn't look like Merkel has the inclination or the power to make any radical changes, but logically, she should not be Chancellor of Germany.
* She is a Christian
* She grew up in East Germany
* She is a woman
* She is not charismatic, flamboyant or master of the 30 second sound bite.(Merkel's doctorate is in physics. She later worked as a scientist in quantum chemistry)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I Grieve The Things She Missed: Another Personal Story
In order to understand my parents, I’d like to talk about my grandparents. My dad is from Georgia. His parents were farmers. My grandfather didn’t get beyond third grade. He was an intelligent man, but he had to go to work. My grandma went through high school. She also got a teacher’s certificate. They got married – eloped. Her father told her if she got married he wouldn’t pay for her college tuition. His understanding: once women got married they just have babies.
My dad was born in 1932 in the middle of the depression. He was the oldest of three. He graduated from high school with 15 seniors. He was the only one of his siblings to go to college. He was considered different. My dad is a very smart man, so in some ways school was a pleasure for him. He was not interested at all in farming or athletics. He went to the University of Georgia. He didn’t date much because he said you need money to date. When he wanted to snack between meals, he would buy a bag of carrots. They were cheap, they lasted a long time, and they were actually good for you. He majored in journalism. My mom was the youngest of three. She grew up on a farm in Ohio. She was always sickly. She was really shy and introverted. My mom grew up as a skinny, tall, stringy kid with glasses, and the youngest of two kids. Just like my dad, she knew the farm wasn’t where she would survive and thrive.
I grew up with kids from the First United Church of Christ. We called ourselves the “Temple Clubbers”. I don’t have anything like that now. That was something I totally took for granted. For every holiday, there was a 'get together' – Memorial Day, Labor Day. There was always something being planned by Temple Clubbers. There was a core of them that always got together.
My parents were big readers. We always had books around. We had a bookshelf in the bathroom. I used to love to be read to. That’s really from my dad’s side. He had an intellectual curiosity. He is the master of the arcane fact. My dad is a man who can discuss anything – more or less. He can talk about the abstract. My mother lives by emotion. She busted me many times just by hearing the inflection in my voice.
My parents always made it very clear to me what was right and what was wrong. You don’t cheat. You don’t lie. You don’t hurt someone if you don’t have to. You don’t break the law. You don’t do reckless, dangerous things. In lots of ways they demonstrated what they believed in.
If we broke the rules, our parents would let us know in no uncertain terms and that they were disappointed. It was big because they were so deserving of respect. They weren’t much for corporeal punishment, although I had my fair share of spankings. After the age of 7, I don’t think the spankings were needed anymore. I never got grounded. You would just have to explain what happened. You felt like a fool with your lame ass excuses.
I have one daughter and two step sons. Blended families are devastating. I was a single parent for 10 years. My current husband is a wonderful father in many ways. My daughter is in a much better place now because of my current marriage. As wonderful as I think I was as a single parent, it is not the same. It’s a whole different thing having two adults in the house. When you are a single parent, you make all the decisions. It can make you crazy. There is no one to back you up. There is no one to support you. There is no one to play good cop to your bad cop. My daughter got exposed to more things than I would have liked. She got exposed to me dating. She got exposed to me grieving. I felt like I was at the end of my rope and I didn’t know if I could keep our heads above water. She is affected by the fact of the divorce. She deals with who and what mom is because of the divorce. No matter how you try to shield your kids, they are going to see you. Sometimes they have adult burdens that they shouldn’t have to share. It skews the relationship. There were times when I was like my daughter’s sister rather than her mother (when my daughter was 7). I would fight with my daughter the way I fought with my sister. My daughter had depression and anxiety that took a long time to diagnose. There were times I wondered if we would survive.
I have a fierce pride in having survived that. I had to be mom and dad. I had to be the breadwinner, homemaker and parent, and I had to navigate the 1990s and 2000s. I grieve the things that she missed:
- A neighborhood of kids (I lived in a condo of empty nesters).
- Two parents. For the rest of her life, events would be attended by one side or the other.
- She has no siblings – this goes back to connectivity and history. I never wanted her to be an only child.
I hope my daughter will realize how strong and smart and beautiful she is. I hope she will enjoy her life and be able to obtain the things that make her happy and fulfill her. I don’t say that lightly – you have to identify it to get it. She is exposed to my husband’s unpleasant divorce. I’m afraid she will reject marriage. My husband and I agreed that we would show our children what a relationship could be.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Jumping into the Ocean: The Secret is Out
Friday, November 18, 2005
Who Are My Ancestors?
Did you ever wonder about your most ancient ancestors?
The Genographic Project will introduce you to them, and
explain the genetic journeys that bond your personal
lineage over tens of thousands of years.
They send you a kit which you will use to swab the inside of a check for a minute or two. They send you (by either tracing you matrilineal heritage or patrilineal heritage) the path of your ancestors from Africa. We are all brothers and sisters after all. It is an interesting project and one guaranteed to fascinate LO.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I Just Love Charlie Rose
It's always enlightening to hear the Dalai Lama speak. I wish I'd taken better notes, but below are a few interesting questions and answers (using my jumbled notes).
Question: How do we have compassion in a world so brutal?
Answer: Don’t just look to the word compassion. Compassion is important because when you have more compassion, you can see everything better, clearer. You will have a calm mind. You can see the picture more clearly. When you have hatred, anger, attachment, you are in your normal mind, a calm mind is not there. These are obstacles to seeing reality. Nobody wants trouble, but trouble comes. Compassion brings us deeper value. Open the mind, that brings more inner strength, self confidence and a calm mind.
Question: What do you think about suicide bombings in the name of religion? Don't you think Muslim leadership should speak out against the violence?
Answer: I have been attending a conference on science. You know, science or knowledge is just a method. The thing is how to use that. Science itself is wonderful. Sometimes we use that knowledge for destruction. It’s not science's mistake, it's our mistake. Similarly, some people manipulate religion in the wrong way. It's not the fault of religion, it is the fault of people and politics. People talk about dirty science. There is also dirty religion and dirty politics.
Question: What’s the evidence that compassion wins over hatred, anger etc.?
Answer: Without education, knowledge, we keep our old way of thinking. The reality is different. We are still using the old way, but there is a fundamental lack of knowledge. Through education programs, media, talking about truth, people hear explanations about a new reality. People perceptions broaden, they become more realistic.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The Carnival of Education is Up!
There are several interesting posts this week. Here are a few that resonated with me today.
One interesting post is from Wawascene, which is written by Superintendent Dr. Mark J. Stock, of the Wawasee Community School Corporation in Syracuse, Indiana. How about using a weblog to facilitate communications between school and community? Now that's forward thinking! Good for them. When was the last time you heard someone say that about a school?
My personal favorite this week is from the Common Room. The post is based on the Headmistress's notes from a book entitled, "Norms and Nobility" by David Hicks. Here is an excerpt:
But education is, or ought to be, nobler than that. The goal is, or ought to be, to move and motivate the students to will a noble act- to give them the intellectual tools to understand that, the emotional tools to enable them to want that for themselves, and, for Christians, to put them in touch with the spiritual resources that will enable them to do so.
This is a different sort of education, and some would say it is elitest. But Democracy is elitest. Classical education was never for the masses, but neither was freedom, Hicks points out. Democracy makes privileged classes of us all. We all have leisure, voting rights, property rights (even if we have no property, we have the right to own property and the right to keep it if we do attain it. Unless Kelo... but that's a post of another sort). We all have the political and legal freedom to travel, to move at will from one state to another if we like. Never before has so much freedom been scorned by so many. Since we have the political freedom only dreamed of by previous philosophers, why can we not attempt the sort of education those same philosophers dreamt of as part of that wished for freedom?
Why must everything come down to a question of dollars and cents and future capital profits?
"If there is no value in learning other than getting a job, what is the value of teaching, other than getting paid?" Hmmmm.
I love the Headmistress. The woman is 100% genuine. No apologies, no excuses. She stands tall on her principles and I couldn't respect that more. Her writings are straight from the soul. Check out her Carnival post. It's a great reminder of what matters. If you can, see some of her older posts too. She talks about her own personal story - inspiring! In my "personal stories" interviews, education is the common thread (well, along with race and class issues) that weave the life stories together. Education is portrayed as (and I believe it is) a powerful tool that gives people options and can open the door to more opportunity.
The Headmistress provides us with an important reminder that I feel is worth mentioning here. Education is a powerful tool, but it is just a tool. Education is not knowledge. Without education, your life could be a heck of a lot harder (not always, but often). Of course, life doesn't always allow you to take the traditional path. For a million and one different reasons, not everyone has had the opportunity or even the desire to get the college or graduate degree. You make the very best of what life offers you and move on. But education, in itself, cannot make life better or worse, it doesn't create meaning in life, and neither does an extra trip to the zoo, or reading an extra book to your child at night. I believe it is the powerful cocktail of knowledge, love, spiritual guidance, exposure, and passion that makes this life something special. It is easy to get caught up, looking and thinking about the bills, the job and the things. It's harder to encourage curiosity, passion and skills so that the child can inspire herself and create her own opportunities to do the things that really 'turn her on.' Some do that full-time at home with their children, some do that working outside the home with children, some do that with other adults and some make it happen in front of a computer screen. It's all good and a nice reminder on a hump day.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Never Be Satisfied: Another Personal Story
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My mom never graduated from high school. She finished her education in the eighth or ninth grade. She was married by the time she was 14. Back then, if you got pregnant, you had to get married. My mother had two children by the time she was sixteen and quickly had two more. I was not expected. My next oldest sibling is 11 years older. I grew up not with my siblings, but with their children. I have a sister, who is a borderline genius. She happened to get pregnant and eloped at 16. She was valedictorian of her class, but had to dropout. My other sister had kids at 19 and 20 – nothing major. I watched my mother struggle while my father was in the military. My mother had the option to go with him, but by that time she had 5 kids. She didn’t want her kids hopping from place to place. She raised my brother and sisters by herself. My father came home once in a while. Then, he didn’t come home any more and started having children outside of the family. In the end, my mother raised my sisters, brother, and their kids by herself.
What really drove me was seeing my mother’s hard work. What was lacking in my life was love. Materially, I wanted for nothing. I just didn’t have support. You have to understand, I didn’t have anybody. My mother worked 14-16 hours a day. She would drop me off and kiss me, but then I wouldn’t see her again until the next morning. I spent a lot of time alone, searching for love. What does it mean to be loved unconditionally? I knew my mother loved me, but I never felt nurtured. People think that huggy, kissy stuff comes naturally when you are a parent. No. I have to work hard to do that because I didn’t have it growing up.
I was saved [born again] at 10 years old. I believe that God chose to save me early – that’s what kept me from being a prostitute or being on drugs. In the small town where I grew up, people were either in the church or on coke. I really believed in the word of God. I feared God. I was a member of an Orthodox, Pentecostal, very, very, strict church. Church was everything to me. Church kept me off the streets. At 12, I believed I was ordained to be a minister. And technically, I raised myself.
How did I stay at the top 5% of my class? I was in competitive classes. Nobody helped me with my homework. I have always been driven by my environment. I saw kids in my school having kids and having abortions, and I said to myself, that’s not going to be me. Because I was light-skinned and had long hair, people assumed that I was going to have babies young and that I wasn’t going to be anything. And they didn’t have any problem telling me that.
Having one parent had a profound affect on me. All my life, I have lived with the fear of losing my mother. I went through a lot of periods of depression. Even now, I feel very alone. I was hard on men. I was very hard on my husband. I saw the way men treated my sisters. I always said to myself, ain’t no man going to treat me like that. I’m not going to let any man treat me any kind of way. I was looking for friends who just wanted to be friends with me. People always wanted something from me. I didn’t trust people. I felt like anyone you have is going to go away, so why trust them?
Although I’ve always aligned myself with people who get through the easy way, I have always had to struggle. I have never shown extreme talent. For example, I fought for my bachelor degree in music at a historically black university. The Chairperson of my department wanted me to sleep with him. I wasn’t feeling that. I had paid my tuition. He was sleeping with many of the female college seniors. He kept giving me Fs. My sister would go to talk to the Vice President of the University. During graduation, my name wasn’t on the list of graduating seniors. My sister went to the Chairperson of the music program and asked him, “Why is my sister’s name not on the program? See that woman over there? That’s our 65 year old mother. If my sister doesn’t come across this F’in stage, I’m gonna turn this ‘MF’in place out and this university is going to be called ‘our University.” I didn’t know anything about it. I also didn’t realize that the microphone had been turned on early. After I graduated, he was fired.
I went to another historically black university for my master degree. I was accepted to the graduate music program. Soon after I started, the Chair of the music department called me into his office. It was a Saturday and I was a graduate assistant. When I got there, he said, “You know everyone is going to think you are my woman.” I didn’t get it. He called the Chairperson from my undergraduate school right in front of me. (This was the undergraduate professor who wanted me to sleep with him.) My new Chairman said, “She didn’t give it to you, but she’s gonna give it up to me.” I told him that no one was on the phone. He gave me the phone. I said hello, who is this? Then, I thought “Oh my God!” My old Chairperson said “You didn’t give it to me, so you better not give it to him.” The new Chairman actually signed me up for a fictitious department. So eventually, I had to transfer from the music department to the department of education. But when I tried to graduate, I was told I was part of two programs and couldn’t graduate. I was asked to go “work that out with the Chairperson of the music department,” and he wasn’t trying to hear me. I got a Jewish lawyer. He told the school he would smear the name of the school and that they better hook me up by the next semester. As it turned out, the Chair of the music department was being investigated for allegations of sexual harassment. I finally got my master degree 10 years after I started the program.
[After working in the school system, getting married and having three kids,] I applied and was accepted to the school’s doctoral program. I just completed my EDD in Education Leadership. For a lot of schools, Christianity is not welcome in the classroom. Since I’m a music teacher, I tell people that you can’t talk about the evolution of black music without talking about Christianity, and without singing spirituals/gospels. It was a way of bringing God into the classroom. It is medicine for the soul and helps the kids feel free. It also expands their spatial reasoning and improves their ability in math and reading. The people tell me, “sing that inspirational music” It helps the parents feel free too.
My house has always been a learning environment. At first my kids went to an independent white school. The teachers weren’t motivating them. My kids were always ahead of the other students. Those teachers need to love the kids. If my child is an A student and she gives you D work, why would you accept that? Teachers need to care about the kids and not the paperwork on a due date. My oldest daughter is a straight A student. She just received a letter from a children’s mock ambassador program in Washington DC. She was nominated and selected to go to Scotland and England for 20 days. I want to expose my children to the world. I didn’t get on a plane until my senior year in college. My kids get on an airplane every year. They dance in a professional dance troupe. My entire paycheck goes to my kid’s education. I believe that if I can give my kids the best education and exposure now, later they will get full scholarships to college.
Children that are gifted and talented get special programs. Children with special needs get programs. Well, average kids struggle too. Nothing was given to me. I didn’t have scholarships, I just focused. My next step will be to open my own school. I want to take disadvantaged kids and show them the world too. Recently, I had the opportunity to take 40 kids selected from 80 on a choral tour. The kids nearly freaked out just because there was a bathroom on the bus. Riding through Buffalo, New York, there was a lot of land, horses and cows. They had never seen that before. We went to the restaurant and I said, “Order anything you want.” The kids couldn’t believe it. People told me these were the best behaved students they had ever seen. I say, “Don’t be satisfied with the basics, even if you are average.” I was average, but I had drive and there was always something special about me. People call me and tell me how I have blessed their lives [including yours truly]. Always push forward to get what you want. Always reach higher. Never be satisfied.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Give a Blogger a Break
Drum's basic position is that the blogs he reads are either (like Eduwonk and JoanneJacobs) "mostly just links with a little bit of connective tissue" or (like the Howler), "offering commentary so detailed that it's all too easy to get lost in the weeds."
Now I'm not sure if those descriptions are entirely fair to Jacobs, Somerby, or Rotherham, but they do have some truth to them -- and I agree with Drum's overall criteria...
Good Grief. It's bad enough that this blogging thing is pro grata. Would any bloggers like to comment about how much time they spend if they are posting daily? Some folks use their blog to stay on top of the issues in their field. That way, maybe the time spent feels worth it. Some bloggers are really willing to put some time in to provide up-to-date analysis on topics of the day. (How do these people get anything else done???)
In spite of the potential to make about $5 every 6 months through ads, blogging actually does provide financial and career benefits for some bloggers (Michelle Malkin, Instapundit, La Shawn Barber, Daily Kos.) Good for them. I'm all for putting the time in and hustling to create opportunities. Whatever their doing (which I may like or dislike) its working for them. Forgive me because I'm new to this whole blogging thing. I'm honestly curious. What's the right standard to use in judging a blog? And what's the appropriate standard to use to judge comments? How important is it that people stay on topic, or make lengthy and substantive posts? And why the heck does it matter anyway?
I'll just speak for myself (it's safer that way). The blogs I like the most are written by bloggers who show me something about themselves and tell me something a little different. If I want to use blogs to help me learn more about a subject, I'll check out 3-5 blogs in a subject area (say education) and note the most common and most interesting issues or perspectives. I know there are plenty of blogs that provide a daily detailed analysis of issues in a given area. That's cool. But to judge a blog by that standard when it's a volunteer gig, is a bit much. But like I said, I'm new.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Mentoring is Awsome: Part II
I also worked with Stephen on a report. There was a little too much huffing and puffing at first, but this is part of the deal. You want to continue to have fun, you must do some work. I think our big challenge was to reinforce boundaries. It's probably a boys challenge, but we weren't doing a very good job of listening. And, of course, LO picks up on that. So, we (my husband and I) had to make it very clear that we don't tolerate that. Period. (Because it doesn't get easier, it will get harder.) It shook them up a little bit, but that's still nothing compared to the discipline they've experienced in the past. Needless to say, they want to come back and were trying to figure out how many hours until they'd see us again. (They agreed that - whatever the number was - it was too many.)
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Mentoring is Awesome!
We had a blast. The kids watched the movie and put puzzles together (a favorite night time entertainment combination for LO, but it didn't take any encouragement to get the other two boys into it.) At one point, Johnny wanted to look at the books, and both boys just wanted to look around. They wanted to touch everything and after several warnings, the exercise bike was off limits. It definitely makes a difference when Mr. Jones is there. He is an imposing guy, but fun. They respect him, and like him very much. We had to keep drawing boundaries, but they still had a great time. LO decided he was not going to go with me to take the boys home. In the car, Johnny (the tougher one at ten years) asked me if we would kindly never move away. My God. I've told Sister Josephine that I would start tutoring them a bit. I'll do what my schedule allows - that's what I told her. This is absolutely one of the best things I've ever done. And as I've said before, it is as good for me as I hope it is for them. O.K. enough mush. Tomorrow, dim sum.
Friday, November 11, 2005
New Woman President of Liberia
She's got some significant challenges ahead of her. She must deal with the likes of former warlords, associates and relatives of former dictator Charles Taylor, and a "deeply fragmented bicameral congress." See Fruits and Votes via Head Heeb for a detailed analysis and proposed solutions.
Moving On - Homeschool Blogging and Mentee Plans
It's been a while since I've written a homeschool post. Since we're transitioning, thought I would share. It is time to move on from Ancient Egypt. I got the message. LO is growing tired of it and I don't want to turn him off. I'm going to follow the Well Trained Mind curriculum. I'll see if we can check out some interesting picture and story books on Sumer. We're using The Story of the World as well as Ancient World and The Usborne Book of World History. I'll supplement with cool library books. I hate to say it, but at LO's age, it almost doesn't matter which books you use. He really won't remember. I'm just trying to give him a sense of ancient history, familiarize him with some of the concepts, and keep him interested. We finished Egypt, so he's somewhat familiar with mummies, pyramids, the fact that people worshipped many gods at that time, and the fact that people's lives were very different. That works for me. And it wasn't a turn off. Maybe I have low expectations, but I'll take it.
LO is also begging for a nature walk to find different kinds and colors of leaves. So we'll take our first formal nature walk of the season (in the neighborhood since we don't live near a trail anymore.) Since I don't know the different trees by sight (I'm embarrassed to say) I use our Golden Guide, see Trees, A Golden Guide.
We're still reading about 45 minutes to an hour every night (whoever is willing and available). It's nice snuggle time, I must say. I'm getting a little sick and tired of the dinosaur books though. It's not all LO checks out from the library, but you can count on him trying to bring home at least 3-5 dinosaur books every week. We need to branch out a little more. That's the hope.
As for my mentees, Stephen and Johnny, we'll have a family movie night tomorrow, then we'll take them after church to go to dim sum on Sunday. It should be fun. It will be interesting to see how they do. The restaurant is an authentic Chinese restaurant with authentic Chinese food, and there will only be a few non-Asians. They could love it or hate it. Wanna bet how they'll react to the food and environment? For a nine and ten-year-old, I'm guessing shock at first, and then they'll be fine. I doubt they've even been in an all Asian environment. It'll be good for them...and I get to chow down. Yummmmmmm!
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Things that Drive Me Crazy... In case you were interested
1) The smacking of chewing gum
2) Incessant crying and/or whining
3) Incessant barking
4) Incessant rain
5) Shrinking underwear (O.K. Maybe IT'S not shrinking)
6) My son trying to sneak a frog into the house, again.
7) Bad meals (I'm not a great cook, but I make about 5 decent meals.)
8) Stockings (A necessary evil)
9) Makeup (It just doesn't seem practical anymore - except in special and emergency situations) The upside - I can avoid the extra 15 minutes in the morning. The downside - I look my age, and I'm getting to be the age that I'd like to start counting backwards.
10) Looking in the mirror to discover that I'm growing facial hair - ugh!
Aren't you thrilled that I'm sharing???
It's Carnival Time (kindof)
The Storyblogging Carnival
The Carnival of Education
The Carnival of Personal Finance
The Medical Grand Rounds
The Education Trust has honored five schools for disspelling the myth that poor, minority students can't succeed in school.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Joan Didion - My next book...maybe
It is in that context that I read Didion's book review. She writes about her grief after her husband of almost 40 years dies. At that time, her daughter was very ill and died soon after the book was finished. I've seen comments that essentially say she's a whiner. Let your husband and child die in the same year, and then talk to me about whining. I'm inclined to give anyone who has gone through that a little room to experience their grief however the heck they need to. So there.
Here are some reviews. Here are some Didion junkies. (Ten Writers Admit to the Things They've Taken from Joan Didion)
Here's a quote from her (not from the book).
A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Journey To The West: Another Personal Story
This is another friend of mine. I met Mei Ling a long time ago when I was in China. She is the most genuinely confident individual I know. She has given me some great practical sister-to-sister advice. How do you look at life? Why worry about what others are thinking or doing? Decide what you want from your life experiences and take it. No apologies and don’t look back. (We also both love food, but that’s another blog.) Hers is an interesting story of the kinds of struggles families endure, and I believe sparks some interesting questions about family and education. What is a strong and stable family supposed to look like? Mei Ling was somewhat pressured to get on an academic fast track early on. Her family asked her for her opinion and resisted some of this. Mei Ling clearly remembers the experience suddenly giving her an awareness of grades and academic competitiveness. And what were her fondest memories of learning…playing poker with her grandparents, and exploring possibilities with her father during her long (45 minute) walks to high school. This is her story.
On my mother’s side, my grandmother had three children, two sons and one daughter. My father had one brother - it was a small family by Chinese standards. My grandpa on my father’s side was a manager of a pharmacy chain store. He didn’t own anything. His family lived in ChangChun, the capital of Jilin Province in northeast China. He lived in different cities, including many years in Shanghai. My grandma ran the family. She was very frugal. Based on stories I have heard about her, she could have been quite a good business woman if she had had the opportunity. She invested grandpa’s money in high risk mortgages. She would lend money to people who had bad credit, but had land. She lent the money at a very high interest rate. If people could not repay the loan, she would take their land. That’s how she accumulated land for the family. She was a wise woman. She died soon after I was born. My father had a very deep connection with his mother. I remember from time to time he would just cry, because he was thinking about her. In China, we lived in such a small space no one had any privacy. My father would tell my mother he had been dreaming about my grandmother. I remember several times he did that. All my cousins would talk about my grandmother in a very respectful and loving way. My grandpa remarried after she passed away. None of the grandchildren truly accepted it, but grandpa needed someone to take care of him.
My dad went to college. He studied automotive engineering. I think my mother graduated from high school. Her family members were basically landlords. My grandparents’ family (on my father's side) were truly landlords. At that time, their ancestors were officers in the government. They had status in the village and had money. My grandpa passed away at an early age. My grandma is a very independent and strong willed person, but everything was controlled by her mother-in-law, everything. She said she felt like “a bird in a cage.” So she ran away. When she first ran away she left her children behind. Then she ran to Shanghai. She became a street vendor; she sold cigarettes; she was a maid, anything to make money. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law, published an ad in the newspaper denouncing her. She managed to sneak back and took my elder uncle away. The story always sounded like a movie. She came back in a boat. She found my elder uncle on the beach and she took him away. She left my mom and the youngest boy behind. She could only afford to take one child at that time. She brought my uncle with her while she was street vending etc.
I was raised by my grandma. She liked to tell her story. During the Cultural Revolution, her in-laws ran into trouble because they were land owners. Her father-in-law was beaten to death. He was a nice man in the village. None of the people in the village could beat them, because he was such a nice guy. They had to hire someone (for several barrels of rice) from another village to beat him. He didn’t die immediately. My grandmother was crying at his side. It took a couple of days for him to die. When he did, my grandmother's mother-in-law had to rely on my grandma. (Isn’t it ironic?)
My mother was able to find a job as a secretary. My father was an intern in that factory. That’s how they met. They started to date and got married. When my father graduated, he was assigned a job (at that time, the government assigned him a job) in the midwestern part of China. My mother and father were separated for eight or nine years until I was seven or eight. They had a long distance relationship. I don’t remember seeing my father often. I lived with my grandma for the weekdays, and my mother would take me on the weekends. My mom wanted to raise me by herself. At two or three years old, she sent me to day care in the factory. In a month, I developed some mysterious high fever. That fever persisted for a month. My mother took me to see all kinds of doctors in the city. Nothing worked. So my grandmother said I must be afraid of something in the day care, and I must have ‘lost my soul.’ So they needed to find a way to get my soul back. I remember the ceremony of getting my soul back. I was terrified. It happened in the middle of the night, candles all around. My grandmother was burning aluminum foil, calling my name. I always remember how serious her face was. After that I recovered. Nobody wanted to send me to day care. After that I was raised by my grandmother in case my ‘soul got lost.’ I never lived long with my parents until age 14. I would spend weekends with them.
My grandmother really adored me. I was such a good student and didn't cause any trouble. At age 11, I started to read classic Chinese novels likeJourney To The West, a very popular series, almost like Harry Potter is in America. They were very entertaining. I was so young – 10 or 11 years old. I just hoped that the teacher wouldn’t assign homework. I really hated homework,
I got sick again. My grandpa, my grandma and myself would spend the afternoons playing poker. At that time, my father came every day. He tried to teach me. He wanted to make sure I wouldn’t fall behind in my school work. He came at 7-8 am, before he went to work. He probably came back at the end of the day for a whole school year. When I went back to school, I took the final exam to see if I should move on the next grade or stay with current grade. Everyone thought I wouldn’t pass. I almost got a perfect score! The school got excited. They thought they had a genius. This is when my life became miserable. The government at that time, wanted to identify talented students at an early age to put them on a ‘fast track.’ That was Deng Xiao Ping’s vision for socialism. Then they thought, maybe she can skip another grade. I think my father asked me what I thought. Did I want to skip a grade? I said no. My father told the teachers that I should stay on the regular track. That experience built my awareness of competitiveness. Before, I don’t think I had a concept of that. I still wasn’t too serious.
My father stopped tutoring me. But I started working a little harder. I had the status of being a talented student. I was getting used to how teachers talked about me and I wanted to keep it that way. I was always being cautious. Since my father moved back to the city, I was a very rebellious child too. I wouldn’t conform. To my grandma, I was a perfect child. To her it was inconceivable that my parents would spank me. My grades were perfect. I never made trouble. And I knew what to say to conform to the communist way of thinking. I remember my rebelliousness in middle school when I was reading a lot and listening to my family story.
For example, in class there was a passage selected to read. It was about a landlord that lost her property. She hated the peasants who took away her property. The class had to discuss the passage. The question was, “Why does the owner of the orchard hate the peasants so much?” I gave a reason. The teacher said, “It’s not her property, it’s the people’s property. All the trees in the orchard were grown by peasants. The landlord never spent her labor.” The message was that she was basically evil and that’s why she hates. I remembered the right answer, but I never accepted that answer because I remembered my grandmother’s story. I remember discussing that with grandma. I said it was wrong to take someone’s property. My grandma scolded me. She said, “Never contradict these things in public.” One day, I played a game I made up called ‘new society versus old society.’I often played by myself. (The new society was the communist party.) I was taught that people lived much better lives in the 'new society.' I was also taught the value of being humble and modest. That’s a very Chinese way of thinking. You always have to say that other people are better than you. In my role play, I would play with those philosophies. There were two people. One person is the ‘new society.’ The other is called ‘old society.’ I couldn’t understand why the new society would say that new society is better than old society. This violates the Chinese value of modesty. So one day my grandmother caught me playing the game. I was pretending to be new society saying “Old society you are much better, I have a lot to learn from you.” I used to play with philosophies in my imaginary sense. If you are truly the best, why do you have to keep promoting yourself as the best? I think I was like 10 or 11 maximum at that time.
When I lived together with my parents, at about 14, it offered an opportunity for us to have a relationship. We had very good dinner table talk. I walked to school everyday. It took me about 45 minutes. Sometimes my father walked with me. Those 45 minute conversations were always the best part of the day for me. He would just challenge different views of life. Why you think that way? How about this? How about that? When I asked him a question, he would ask me, “What you like?" "What don’t you like?” "What are some other possibilities?" He never forced anything. He let me make decisions.
When I graduated from elementary school, I took entrance exams for middle school. I started to become more competitive in middle school and high school to be better positioned to get into college. That was self-driven. My college had a special program where they waived entrance exams for select talented students. I got into that program. It was like hell to me. It was a much more competitive environment. Which major was I going to choose? I asked my father, what major should I choose? We had several conversations. My father asked one of his friends to give me a psychological test. He and I had a one-on-one conversation. I don’t remember the conversation, but I remember the conclusion. He said, “I don’t think you are very creative.” In the scientific world you will need to identify something other people aren’t able to do. I don’t think you have that talent. You are very good at following orders. You are good if you are given an order. You can organize and execute. He thought that I could be a manager. I asked him, “what does that mean?” I knew that my mother was a manager. The problem is business was not an area respected by the Chinese at that time. It is second tier. That’s a dilemma. I picked a top university that waived my entrance exams and started a department in international trade. It seemed a very good comprise.
When I graduated, so many students were studying for TOEFL. I thought, “why don’t I take the TOEFL?” It was my competitive nature. I wanted to take it just to test myself. My major was international trade, and so English was very important. I was working at CITIBANK. All of a sudden they started hiring students who had a master degree from local programs and put them in special programs, better than us. It was just unacceptable to me. Then I said, if that’s the case, I want a master’s degree. I wanted that from America. In my mind, I wanted to get into a true MBA program. And at that time, I started to be interested in finance. Because of the exposure at Citibank, I understood part, but not all of that world. In my mind, America was the only place you could truly learn these things. I started to study for the GMAT. So that’s how I decided to go to America. I had to have a full scholarship. I applied to my top choice. They had scholarships, but by the time I applied, the funding was gone. The next year, I applied to three or four schools. I went to the school that gave me the most money. It gave me the sense of being secure. It was a full scholarship, tuition fully waived.
[She is pregnant with her son due on December 23rd.] My hope for Peter... I just want him to be happy and be healthy. I hope that he can have reasonable personal comforts, food and basic living needs. And I hope he can feel happy with what he has. I want him to be logical and practical and wise. I will guide him, provide him with different perspectives, just to stimulate his thinking. My father and I often had long conversations, he challenged my thought process.
Many teachers were shocked that I chose international trade as my major. Some of them tried to push me into biochemistry or medical school. My father said that’s nonsense. This is the time I say do not follow your teacher. Make up your own mind. I would like to have those conversations with Peter.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Jumping into the Ocean
BTW, I also ran into them this afternoon (Sunday). Big kisses from me to the boys. They love it. LO expects the attention and love. It's precious to him, but he takes comfort in knowing that his parents are crazy about him. These kids are starving for love and positive attention. I can just see it.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Books That I've Loved Most
Here's the first version of my list
Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandella
To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson
Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Power Of Myth by Joseph Campbell (CD)
Friday, November 04, 2005
Finding My Voice
This blog has been cathartic for me. It has helped me get things off my chest, and is helping me rise to my own expectations. As I have mentioned before, this blog has led me to mentor two young African American boys. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time, but I just couldn't keep writing about the need to take action, and not jump into the ocean myself. I don't know if I'm doing a good job or not, but it's a priority and I'm doing my best. For now, that will have to be enough.
This blog has also led me to begin sharing a series of "personal stories" which I will call "personal histories." Their not just stories of my friends for your reading pleasure, but individual histories that are touching, and textured and sometimes profound. I stumbled onto them. At first I thought I was answering your questions regarding race and class, but later realized I deeply wanted to get a bird's eye view into what made the people I admire so admirable. I wanted to know what those things were from their childhood and adulthood that somehow came together to make them, in my eyes, at once interesting and extraordinary. I'm discovering more about my friendships and my values in each subsequent interview. I hope they are also interesting to you. (BTW, the Carnival of Education is keeping me to a rhythm of engaging and learning from close friends.)
I'm finding meaning through my little serendipitous little blog project. A blog of about 5-15 regular readers has driven a change in my life? Weird huh?
Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge
LO is sick this week, so I am especially sensitive to the issues.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
The Carnival of Education Has Been Hijacked
Gotta love creative teaching methods. Teaching Voice in Writing via Bud the Teacher: Now, to better understand how I teach, know that it is common place for me to have a puppet on my hand, a King Arthur puppet to be exact, to talk about speaking with formal language (I do a great English accent) and another puppet who looks like a Muppet reject because he looks so wild and weird, to talk about informal speech. I'm VERY theatrical when I teach. So when I read Junie B., animated doesn't quite cover it...I tell them, "You have 10 minutes to find a book, one in either this room, in your desk, but in this room, and find a passage that is an example of good voice." Off they go...
What's Important in Math Education via Chris Corea includes five principles. (Here's my takeaway: If the school doesn't deliver, pick up the slack. Got it.)
1) Whole number arithmetic and the place value system are the foundation for school mathematics with most other mathematical strands evolving from this foundation. This foundation should be the subject of most instruction in early grades.
2) In every grade, the mathematics curriculum needs to be carefully focused on a small number of topics. Most mathematics instruction should be devoted to developing deepening mastery of core topics through computation, problem-solving and logical reasoning.
3) Instruction should be mathematically rigorous in a grade-appropriate fashion. All terms should be defined with language that is mathematically accurate. Key theorems and formulas should be proved, whenever possible.
Disciplined, mathematical reasoning is one of the most important goals of a school education. Although it is difficult to assess on statewide tests, it must permeate all mathematical instruction.
4) Most students should be taught the mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills needed to succeed in college. Students planning for a Bachelor’s degree in a quantitative discipline should take a more demanding mathematics track in high school which prepares them to start calculus when they enter college.
This isn’t controversial stuff. Interestingly enough, I can’t think of a U.S.-based curriculum that does all of these things very well.
Now I need to think about how we are going to serve the community during Thanksgiving. We could always volunteer in the soup kitchen. I'd like to do something a little different this year. Any good ideas?
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Thousands Pay Last Respects: Rosa Parks
Today, thousands waited at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple Church to pay their last respects to civil rights pioneer, Rosa Parks. At a time when there is so much media focus on what communities are doing wrong, it is a pleasure to see people of all races coming together to honor a woman who may not have acted alone, but certainly inspired the civil rights movement. Now, after her passing, she has become the first woman and second African-American to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington.
Here are some neat quotes from the funeral.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
You Couldn't Walk in My Shoes to Save Your Life: Another Personal Story
My mother was raised in the country by her great grandparents. She was an only child. My father was in ‘town’ and was reared in a two-family home with his father and mother. My father’s father was a barber and he sold moonshine. He had 14 children and he didn’t own any land. What he was doing was considered illegal, but he had to survive, so he took risks. He had eight or nine boys, the rest are girls. My father was fortunate to go all the way through college. He went to the military, and went back to school to get his PhD. He started investing his money in real estate. When I was born, my father was married to his current wife who was not my mother. I am the product of an illegitimate relationship. My father and mother were high school sweethearts. My mother wouldn’t marry him because she said he was a ‘player,’ but they continued their relationship. I didn’t know my father growing up.
People would say to me, “get out of here looking like Patterson.” I would always ask about him, but all I ever heard were those comments. When I got older, I started calling everyone in town with the last name Patterson. My father never responded to me. His mother, my grandmother, used to send me $10. Ten dollars is a lot when you got nothin’. When my father’s wife got wind of my relationship with my paternal grandmother, our relationship took a different turn. My grandmother couldn’t see me anymore.
I finally met my father when I was 12. His wife’s reaction to me was that I wasn’t his child because “you are light skinned and he is dark skinned.” She didn’t know who she was talking to because then I was mean. I went into the kitchen to pick up the butcher knife, because I believed in killing. My mother stopped me. My father’s response to me was “when you get older, I’ll explain it to you.” When I was older, I went to him. He didn’t explain. You never know what people have come through to get where they’re at.
When you feel as though you are not wanted by someone who should love you, you feel like why would anyone else believe in me or want me? I heard my mother once say that she didn’t love me. That creates a whole mess. Since 2nd or 3rd grade, I ran away from home every year, and my mother never came to get me. But the family I ran to would finally come to her. I was miserable. I never got a spanking, but emotionally, the lack of love - just feeling like you were not wanted... Always people telling you to “get outta hear, don’ nobody want you here. I was a bad kid at home. I was a liar and I was a thief. I couldn’t disagree with you. My one question is what did you do to encourage the child? You can say you did, but what did you do to love that child? I was dealing with some crazy stuff. I got pregnant in high school.
I was supposed to have 6 children and be in jail, but the scripture says let go and let God. I don’t know anybody of my great grandfather’s children that has two master degrees. What I have been able to achieve, I’ve done by myself. My mother had my daughter when I was in college. When I went to college, no one gave me a dime. I didn’t take the SAT. I went to a business college. My mother said fine, go to college, but I’m not going to pay for you, so I took out loans in my own name. Before I got there, I never saw the college. I told my mother I didn’t know how to get there, so my mother said she would take me as far as the train station. (I couldn’t bring my daughter to school because I didn’t have anyone to take her. My mother kept her. When I went home and left, she would cry because I left her.) My mother never saw the school. When I got to the school, I didn’t have a piece of linen. I only had clothes. The campus was a 20 minute car ride from the dorms. I didn’t have a car. I started getting to school by catching rides every day. I didn’t know anything about the bus system. It was very traumatic to get back and forth to school. After going through all of that, I graduated with an associate degree. At my graduation, my daughter and mother were there with me.
The day I graduated, I got my daughter back. I knew I had to move out of the apartment. I’d never heard about saving. The day I graduated, I was walking on the highway with my daughter and had no place to go. A lady stopped, backed up and asked us where we were going. I said I didn’t know. We didn’t have nowhere to go. I’ll never forget it - she told me to get into the car and she offered me a place to stay. I didn’t stay long, but I didn’t have to be homeless that day and that night. I tried to get me a little job at a temp agency. My daughter got sick. I was a single parent and I didn’t have any help. I wanted a full-time position, and they wanted to offer it to me. The supervisor talked to a black lady employee. She discouraged him from hiring me full-time. She had seen me take off because my child was sick. They don’t have a clue of what it’s like to not have any help. They couldn’t walk my footsteps to save their God given life.
People see others on welfare and make assumptions - you don’t even know what they’ve been through. I worked at the Radisson Hotel from 7am -3pm and from 3pm – 6pm in a day care center. I’d work for free at the day care so my daughter could stay there during the day. She would be there for 12 hours - it was the only way I could do it. I got fired from the Radisson for ‘fraternizing with the guests.’ (I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to take free tickets from the guests.) When I lost the job at the Radisson, I ended up in a homeless shelter and stayed there for a couple months. (I’d just had my second child). I was trying to get some help. I went downtown to social services. The woman realized I had a degree. She invited my daughters and I to spend Christmas holiday with her. Her godfather said, “if you come to where I live [a different state], you’ll always have a place.” Little did I know that his family was a bunch of drug dealers. I didn’t call home and say “Oh my God mama I made a mistake.” He did help me find a place. I had been in the new state for three months. You have to be on welfare for 3 months to qualify for the ‘American works’ program. I had been on welfare for 3 months and 1 hour. My new job was as a claims agent. America works did this big write up on me. I worked and I worked. I applied for a promotion, but they wanted a bachelor degree. I said at that point, “I will never be turned down for a job because I don’t have the education.” Because the new college didn’t accept credits from the business college, I had to start all over. I was discouraged for a minute. I met Dr. Hakim and he encouraged me through the process of getting back in school. After about a semester, he took me over to the Board of Education. He introduced me to Dr. Jackson. She was the Provost at the center office of the university. She took me under her wing and started to develop me. God has really put some wonderful people in my life. There was something special that they saw in me. She was always encouraging me. Eventually, I got two masters. I didn’t get the degrees to get a better job. I didn’t want anyone to deny me an opportunity. I defeated all the people that said I was stupid.
My mom never tried to make sure I had a relationship with my father. I always made sure my daughters had a relationship with their fathers. I knew that knowing their fathers would help fill a void in their lives. This past weekend, in a workshop, they were discussing the word ‘nigger.’ The daughter that I was the most worried about said, “we are leaders and we can make changes. If I had said something like [the “n-word”], my mother would have snatched the word right out of my mouth. To hear her - good Lord. It worked. She got it. My youngest – she wrote a poem. It was something like ‘recognize that the word was used to degrade us. It was used by the slave masters. When you say “what up nigger” - you just killed your brother.’
I sometimes don’t recognize what God has asked me to do. God has put his hand in my life and I recognize that. If I was directing myself, I would probably have killed myself. Let go and let God. If it was left to other people, I would not be here. The biggest thing that ever brought me through was when Dr. Hakim stepped into my life when I went back to school for my bachelor degree. He had faith in me and talked to me about the things I could do in my life if I just made the decision to do it. Dr. Hakim gave me an opportunity. He didn’t know me. He didn’t owe me nothin’. He didn’t have to have anything to do with me at all. By the end of the first semester, I got a 1.9 GPA. It was devastating. He didn’t beat me down. He just offered options. And he let me make my own decision. He just cared enough to show me there is another way to do this. He gave me away at my wedding. He had to leave early because his wife was in a car accident, but he kept his word. That’s more than my father ever did for me. He always had a door open to me. I knew there was no one else that would do that for me. That propelled me. He is the most powerful person that I have ever known.