Brief Reflections from The Shack

Brief Reflections from The Shack

There are books that have been on my reading list forever and ever. I even think of some of them when I’m moving on to my next book, but somehow I never quite choose them. The Shack was one of those books until last month, someone special told me I should read it and that she has reread it multiple times because it really speaks to her. This someone was one of the first to share with me her personal story way back when I was preggo and hadn’t yet fully accepted what my life was turning into and still very much ashamed, terrified, and hopeful that maybe once my son was outside of my body that his father would choose to be a daddy. That particular morning, I just so happened to be volunteering and ended up in a small room organizing clothes with two women, whom I always just considered strong and dynamic women without a thought that they could possibly have had major strife in their personal lives. I learned that morning, after I dropped the veil of excitement about my pregnancy, that they both raised their children alone, and while of course, they acknowledged the hardships, they felt blessed through it all. That day was just one of many that was set up by God to get me through the turmoil. The respect I have for them magnified that morning, and it was a reminder that you really just don’t know what people have gone through. So, two years later, her suggestion that I read The Shack bumped it up to the top of the queue.

And it was a blessing. Last year, I read more Christian fiction books than I probably ever had before, and I think what makes this book different from some others that I’ve read is that it’s not preachy. I found it very inviting and paradoxically, light in the way that a heavy box is light if you have a dolly. And as I traveled with the main character through the story, I ended up highlighted tons of phrases and quotes. So, with that, I just want to share a couple of the parallels of my life and Mackenzie’s.

1. The Great Sadness is real. It’s frustrating to know that some people think “Just get over it” is sound advice. Some tragedies in life affect you so deeply that it feels like something wraps around you and even when you make a concerted effort to look on the bright side, this blanket is still just there no matter what. And some tragedies never go away because either it or the consequences are never-ending. I can’t really “get over” being a single mother, even if I have gotten through the grief and anger of the initial abandonment, because I am confronted daily and monthly with decisions and tasks as a single parent. So every time I pay the daycare bill or see that Frederick has outgrown something or the countless other things that parents encounter, I am reminded that I’m by myself–but I am learning to refocus my thoughts instead of reliving the initial trauma. Mack couldn’t really “get over” his tragedy because even if losing a child wasn’t enough, he was having to deal with the daily task of trying to help his other daughter. I’m happy that I was able to lift my Great Sadness some by seeing a counselor. But it wasn’t an easy process.

“Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly.” She waited a moment, allowing her words to settle. “And if it’s left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.”

2. One of the most difficult things in life has been accepting that I don’t control much of anything. Mackenzie and I share a tendency to take credit for things we can’t control if we tried. It took me a looooooooong time to stop being so hard on myself and to really release myself from punishing myself for someone else’s choices (think about that–the negative consequences that exist just by virtue of the bad situation PLUS self-inflicted punishment because somehow in my brain, it’s my fault). Just like Mack kept trying to recreate his situation in head, thinking of what he should have or could have done differently, I have done that  countless times too. At the detriment of peace of mind. Even if we could go back and do something differently, it’s not up to us. It’s not in our hands–so there’s nothing we could do in either of our situations to make it turn out better. When that happens in life, you have to trust and believe that the part of the story you can’t see yet will use that craziness for some bit of good.

“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” – Thomas Moore

3. As hard as it is to forgive, I’m sure it was as comforting to Mack as it was to me that forgiveness is not an automatic “poof, you’re forgiven” act. It’s a process that you have to work at, and it doesn’t end in forgetting what happened. In the same way that tragedies are not it happened today and by some expiration date it’s over and the impacts that result disappear, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to have whatever natural emotions arise–you don’t have to buy into the notion that something is wrong with you because you feel “some type of way” about how someone mistreated you. The emotions are there for a reason. And actually, I’ve found that many times there is wisdom in my anger–if I allow myself to analyze it and not just blow up. It’s just not okay to let those emotions consume you and take over your life because when that happens, it affects no one but you and possibly the people who actually care about you, which many times does NOT include the offender.

“It does a soul good to let the waters run once in a while–the healing waters.”

4. Pre-Shack Mack and I think too much. When Jesus told Mack to start walking on the water, I kept thinking what would I do? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to think I would have just stepped in on impulse, but who knows? I also probably would have thought myself into a frenzy over the author of the note that led Mack back to the Shack. Talk about paranoia. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about a negative comment on Facebook or subtweet on Twitter that I felt certain was aimed at me. Sometimes I can laugh it off  and say to myself “I know you think this tweet is about you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu,” but other times I actually craft what I would say if I felt like the person was worth knowing how I feel. Or if the person was worth it, if I felt that our already clearly shattered relationship could handle it. See, thinking too much. Aye-yi-yi.

“Well, I am afraid of looking like an idiot. I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that—” “Exactly,” Jesus interrupted. “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster.”

5. We need closure. We’re human. We need someone to apologize. We need a resolution at the end of a contentious discussion. We need to know we’re understood, or at the very least, listened to. We need the funeral. And although it may not be the easiest thing to accomplish, it’s so necessary. It did MY heart good to read about Mack burying his daughter. Sometimes  letting go just isn’t official until you get that last note. And it might not even involve the person who caused you the anguish. That’s why many people do the burning paper with their negative thoughts thing. Closure is a beautiful thing.

“Today we are on a healing trail to bring closure to this part of your journey— not just for you, but for others as well. Today, we are throwing a big rock into the lake, and the resulting ripples will reach places you would not expect.”

I would share a bit more, but I want you to read it. If you have read it, please share with me some of the nuggets that touched you. Happy reading!

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Mommy’s Night Out

Mommy’s Night Out

Last night, I had the good fortune and great timing to go to the concert of one of my favorite artists. Frederick was well-taken care of by Tee Rashida, and Mommy threw on a vintage sweater outlined in pearls, some red lipstick, and some thigh high boots with silver buttons running up the fronts.

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So, in music loving fashion, here are a few comments:

1. Rahbi is a trip. Wasn’t feeling his attire, but I loved his mashup of Loveeee and When Doves Cry.

2. Rahbi’s background singers outsang him, yikes. Those girls sounded wonderful! Let me add, though, that his voice reminds me of Stokely’s from Mint Condition. So his voice is nice, don’t get me wrong. But those girls behind him did their thing!

3. Roman GianArthur is a nice singer, but I walked away thinking about how that brother played that guitar. Great opening act! I’m going to have to check him out more than the brief research I did before the concert.

4. JANELLE MONAE has incredible energy. I feel like she blessed the start of my new year. She sang and danced and hopped all over that stage and never seemed to get tired. I left at midnight and she was still singing, lol (though I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss anything because she introduced the band before I left).

5. The first song she sang that’s not on Electric Lady is the song that made me a real fan (I was a fan before Metropolis, but this song sealed the deal). It’s def one of my top 3 fave JM songs. But her singing “Sincerely, Jane” at that moment was just like her singing Happy Birthday to me.

“Are we really living or just walking dead now? … Daydreamers, please wake up; we can’t sleep no more.”

6. She sang almost all of the songs I really wanted to hear live. Yes, “Mushrooms and Roses” from The ArchAndroid too. Love love love.

7. I loved that her encore was a whole new production, lol. We got our money’s worth fo sho.

8. One of my favorite things about Janelle Monae is that the music behind her vocals is ALWAYS on point. There’s a song where she yells out “Kellindo!” and you hear a ripping guitar solo. Well, I got to see Kellindo in action and that thang knows he plays that daggum guitar. And I would be wrong if I didn’t talk about his hair. I don’t watch the “My hair is laid like” videos, but I kept thinking he would be the perfect subject–his hair was part of the show!! She also has an 4-piece orchestra within her band. I kept wondering if Frederick’s future teacher would disapprove of me buying him the acrylic outline violin or cello if he decides he wants to play a stringed instrument like mommy. Probably so, but those instruments had me in awe!

9. I’m thankful for Alisha who came with me. We were co-workers at my job before my current one, which was over 5 years ago, and she’s still been in my corner ever since. Smooches!

10. I love connecting with new people too. I’ve been in an email group of people who are all friends with one person for years, and I’ve only gone to one or two group outings. But when one of the members (Tonda) emailed if anyone was going to the concert, I told her I was so we met for the first time, and she’s great! Definitely plan to keep in touch.

11. This was one of the best bday gifts I’ve given myself in awhile. Happy birthday to me!

What Should I Read?

What Should I Read?

According to Shelfari, I’ve read 27 books this year. Whoa! That’s awesome. Last year, I read 19 books. So I wonder if I really need to know that or I may embark on an everlasting competition with myself on how many books I can read per year. LOL.

So anyway, help me decide what I should read as my last book of 2012. 🙂

Note that all of these are on my reading list, and I’ve actually read the Kindle samples (which is about 3 chapters each) of 11/22/63 and The Litigators, so I’m kinda leaning toward those. I have the sample for 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, but I’m not in a rush to read that one. I also have some nonfiction books on my list, but I need something fiction and entertaining for my vacation next week. Here are the Amazon links in case you really want to help me decide and need the synopses. 🙂

In Defense of a Revolutionary

In Defense of a Revolutionary

If you didn’t know already (I’m sure you do, right?), Afeni Shakur is much much more than Tupac’s mom or the recovering crack fiend in his song Dear Mama. She was a leader of the New York City Black Panther Party and part of the famous New York Panther 21, a group accused of a conspiracy to wreak havoc on NYC. Pregnant with Tupac, a young Afeni ended up having to defend herself  against over 150 charges–and she was acquitted. If this piques your interest, I have two ways for you to gain more details. The first is pick up her biography, Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary by her friend Jasmine Guy. The book was a super quick read and very conversational. I enjoyed every second and gained so much insight about the atmosphere during that time.

The second is a play entitled Afeni Shakur: In Her Defense and exhibit that premieres tonight at the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation in Stone Mountain. Inspired by one of the most expensive political trials ever in the State of New York, this play is opening 40 years exactly from the day Ms. Shakur’s acquittal. The accompanying exhibit includes court records and TV new coverage. This is sure to be well worth the trip out to Stone Mountain ( 🙂 @ my outside of perimeter friends). It runs until May 22, so put this on your calendar as soon as possible!

And don’t worry–I’ll be back to share my thoughts as soon as I see it! I’m so excited!

The Colored Museum

The Colored Museum

A group of us went to the True Colors production The Colored Museum.

First, it was great to see the new Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center. Great venue!!

The play was very interesting–after an introduction that consisted of a flight attendant giving us directions about flying on the Celebrity Slave Ship, which was partly funny and partly informative, each scene was an “exhibit” in the museum. The flight attendant, very eager for us to assimilate to the times we were traveling to, asked us to repeat after her: “I don’t hear any drums, and I will not rebel.”

That was funny in itself because I’ve had conversations with friends about how drums and music have always been so integral to the African American culture. I think unbeknownst to many, rhythm has been a means of communication beyond the obvious–our souls are tied to certain sounds and we react to them subconsciously. So as an aside, I definitely agree with those who say we have to be uber cognizant and picky about what we’re listening to.

Anywho, my favorite “exhibits” were one that I called the War of the Wigs, where two wigs, one a proper long and straight and one a spunky afro. At the beginning of the exhibit, the woman who owned the wigs wasn’t aware of their conversation about her and her need to drop her zero boyfriend. They talked about how she switched her hair depending on what he was interested in or where they were going. Then, the wigs began to argue about which one of them she should wear to the break-up lunch. That’s when it got super hilarious. They eventually made their ability to speak and observe her life known, and of course she was floored. It’s amazing how our hair is so tied to our emotions and thoughts and even interests.

The other exhibit that had me completely rolling on the floor was the Tyler Perry-like episode, where everything was way overdramatized. The usual suspects were there–the mama sitting on the couch, her overly angry 30 year old son who can’t get ahead in life no matter how hard he tries, the wife who is miserable and has a dream of more but is stuck, and the sibling who has traveled the world and has a different outlook. These times 10. Eventually, “the man” shot the angry black man, and the cast began to sing him back to life. The lyrics went a little something like this:

If only he had been born into a black musical… no one ever dies in an all black musical…

Another one I enjoyed was of a man who was trying to throw away his blackness. He threw away his albums, including some Stevie Wonder!!, certain clothes, etc. Then “the kid,” presumably his childhood spirit, fought with him over it. After a long, funny battle, he ended up throwing “the kid” away too. It really made me wonder what some will do to “fit in” into mainstream majority–and if doing all that actually works. If they ever feel like they “arrived”–and if they do on the surface, what they feel when they go to bed at night.

There were also a couple of exhibits that I didn’t quite understand… Maybe they were too deep for me? One was of a soldier who died (I think) at battle and realized that no matter what, the soldiers who would make it back home would never find happiness. So he proceeded to kill them all.  Yeah… I dunno, folks. Shrug.

The other one I really didn’t get was about a little girl who gave birth to a bunch of eggs. I thought I got it–she was a poor black girl whose mother never told her anything positive about herself, and she ended up getting pregnant by a delivery boy or something. Well, I thought I got it until her mom locked her in a room for several days and she laid an egg. After that, shrug.

Overall, though, The Colored Museum made me think. About all the different “stereotypes” and truths of the African American culture, and how many things seem opposite but all apply. And even how some things that seem positive can really be negative, and the other way around. The play runs through Sunday. You should totally get tickets and check it out. Then log back on and tell me what you thought (and explain what I didn’t get). Enjoy the weekend!

Broke-ology

Broke-ology

Wednesday night, I took a MUCH needed break from working long days (and nights) and went to see the True Colors Theatre production Broke-ology with my neighbors.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the title, but the play definitely surpassed my expectations.  Not focused just on the fact that the family was poor and how some things in life are just more important than how much money and possessions you have, this play explored many issues that hit close to home: how to take care of an illness-stricken family member, the responsibility of being close to home versus being limitless in chasing dreams, family planning, and even how people deal with death.

Since I want you to go see it (it’s at Southwest Arts Center until Sunday), I won’t get down into the details of the plot (except where it relates to my impending ramblings).  Suffice it to say that despite my sleep deprivation this week, I didn’t fall asleep for a second!

I love when art causes me to slow down and self-reflect, which definitely happened Wednesday night. One of the characters went home to Kansas City, Kansas after receiving his graduate degree from UConn.  His brother never left home, and although he works at a wings spot, he has been instrumental in helping to make sure their father, who is suffering from MS, is okay.  The younger brother, the UConn graduate, has no idea just how difficult it has been for the family and is extremely torn about staying at home and helping out but knowing he will likely get “stuck” or moving back to Connecticut after a summer position with the EPA and following his desire to teach and do environmental research with his academic mentor. Can you say para-llel? I’ve often felt the same way–except not as torn just because I go home semi-regularly since I can drive there. I’ve considered moving back home sooner than later (I at least want a second home there), especially when I see how stressed my mom gets trying to help the rest of my family.  Or even when I think of every day things that I could do if I were there that I never have time to do during my visits, like playing spades with my family like the characters were playing dominoes or learning crocheting techniques from my grandma for more than an hour or two here and there. I love being at home, and I love my family more than anything. But I’ve always been the explorer. The adventurer. I’m not quite ready to lay my roots down there. As far as my career is concerned, I could make some small strides at home, but I’m really flourishing here in Atlanta and I’m not ready for a slight career change, a veer on the road if you will.  I could work for organizations who are my clients currently, but I like being the consultant, and I love working in different communities, seeing the different dynamics.  But I always have my family in the back of my mind. Wondering if I’m being selfish. But I know in the grand scheme, I’m not because I give back and help out in my own way. But is it enough?

I got a little sentimental, though, when the older brother who has been in Kansas City the whole while told his younger brother that if he moves, he will miss all the milestones of his baby that’s on the way.  I immediately thought of my nieces and nephews, who I can’t be as close to as their aunts and uncles that are in town. I write letters, keep up with them on Facebook, spend time with them when I go home, but I’m definitely not doing nearly as much or being as influential in their lives as I would if I lived there. But on the other hand, I think back to my own aunt Vernita. She was an explorer like I am. She lived in DC until she was murdered when I was in the 9th grade. I remember vividly being so excited to see her and spend time with her when she would visit.  Although she lived so far away, I didn’t care as a child.  I can still remember her smell and her smile, even her laugh, and I would just bask in her presence. I still think about her from time to time, and it hurt me to the core when she was taken from us. I never begrudged her being away–in fact, it inspired me. My mom has told me countless times over the years that I remind her of Vernita. And that makes me feel close to her, even though I didn’t spend as much time with her as some of my other aunts and uncles.

I would keep going, but this post is getting a little long. And truthfully, I’m getting a little misty thinking about my aunt.  So… I’ll leave you with this: Cherish your family, no matter where they are. And seek to be a part of solutions, not problems.  Happy Friday, people!

In a Musical Mood

In a Musical Mood

So I was thinking–what are the best covers out there?  I mean, there are tons of awful remakes, but some artists are able to get it right.  Here are some of my faves. (Yes, the remakes are kinda old too–but y’all know me–good music is timeless to me, lol).

Am I Dreaming?

Atlantic Starr (1980)

Old Skool, featuring Xscape and Keith Sweat (1998)

Slow Jam

Midnight Star (1983)

Usher, featuring Monica (1997)

Yesterday

The Beatles (1965)

EnVogue (1992)

Emotion

Samantha Sang (with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees on the background)  (1977)

Destiny’s Child (2001)

These are just a few, and both versions of each are great!! What are your fave remakes?  Who do you think did it as good or better than the original?