The Roads We Travel

A few days in a life journey.

I Did a 10-Mile Trail Run

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A few weeks ago, I started running. Well, more like jogging. Actually, I probably walk more than I jog or run, but I manage to get a bit of it all in there.

A friend inspired me to start running during our conversations about a half marathon in Santa Barbara this coming June. I’ve never run a half marathon or anything other than short sprint races in middle school.

That was many years (and pounds) ago.

Last weekend, another friend invited me to do a training trail run with her. She’s an experienced marathoner and I’m always in awe of what she accomplishes. At first, she said we would do a 6-mile training run, but when we showed up the morning of the run, the training group leader said we would actually be doing a little more than 9 1/2 miles that day.

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Ummmm, what? Is it too late to back out? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

But, my friend was a great coach and motivator. She encouraged me the whole way and never left me, even when I suggested that she should save herself and leave me to rot.

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In the first mile, our run took us up about 500 ft and on a steep incline. I truly didn’t think I would make it, but I kept going. Four and a half hours later we emerged down that same hillside and I was truly amazed.

I didn’t think this body could… would, but it did.

There were moments I wanted to puke. Moments that I cried. Moments that I vowed never to speak to my friend again. Moments when I doubted myself, my sanity, and even my ankle strength to carry me one step further.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

I persisted, we persisted and we finished.

My friend said to me that this run would be more mental than physical. She said that when you cross the finish line, there’s a feeling of accomplishment that no one can take away. You start to understand that any goal you put your mind to you can achieve.

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I’m so grateful for the opportunity to push myself in this way, mentally and physically. I’m looking forward to my first race and crossing the finish line. Of course, I have a feeling that it won’t be the end, but more the beginning.

Written by Shara

February 12, 2017 at 1:29 am

Happy Birthday, Love.

Last night, we spent an hour at Target trying to find “a really special birthday gift for daddy.” My seven-year-old had a gift idea in mind when we arrived, but when she saw the options that Target had she felt they just weren’t special enough. I tried to calmly walk her through some other options, but she was fading fast and getting frustrated. The WHOLE of Target and NO-THING was special enough for her daddy.

That’s love.

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Yeah, I know. I should have planned it out months ago, and there wouldn’t have been the last minute rush, but if you know me, then you know that’s just my flow. I thought about it last month. I had lots of great ideas, but the planning time got allocated to squeakier wheels, and here we are, December 8, 2016.

Today, I wanted to share just how much I love my husband. Although, I feel like I expended all my mushy note writing on our anniversary Facebook post last month. That was just 8 days after the election, and I was feeling kind of emotional anyway, nevertheless, all of it was heartfelt.

Last night, I binge-watched Insecure on HBO. The show is hilarious, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud. At 1:00 in the morning, I was thinking, “Girl, you are crazy, you need to go to sleep… the alarm goes off in just five hours!!”

Did I mention, I am NOT a morning person?

But, I finished Season 1 and then drifted to sleep. As I did, scenes from the show had me thinking that I’m so glad I’m not in my 20s or 30s anymore. I mean we all would take a dip in the fountain of youth if we could, but there were a lot of tough lessons to be learned in those years. I’m sure there will be tough lessons in the years to come as well, but the show just reminded me of how I met my husband when I was only 23. We dated off and on for years and then finally married in my 30s.

It takes a while to figure some shit out.

I’m so glad that we figured it out together, though.

Last month, on our 9th anniversary, my son did some quick math on the car ride to school with my husband. “Cat’s out of the bag,” my husband announced when he got home. Apparently, my son figured out that we did NOT have our shit together BEFORE he was born.

It’s cool. I knew this day would come, I thought, as my Christian guilt started creeping up.

“Well, what did you tell him?” I asked, scared to know what was really said.

He told my son that he figured he already knew since he was in our wedding!!

 

 

Apparently, my son thought it was an anniversary celebration, not our wedding and let’s just say we really haven’t discussed it at length until now…

9 years later — as they stand nearly shoulder-to-shoulder.  My husband has been by his side since he took his first breath, whether we were together or not, he’s always been there for our son. I love this man.

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So, as another year marches by, we’ll turn the page and start a new chapter. I love being your wife, your best friend, your companion on this life journey.

Happy Birthday, love.

Written by Shara

December 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Perceptions of Racial Reality in Media

On the way to school this morning, I asked my son to name one of his favorite shows (which are mostly cartoons) that had a girl or woman of color as the lead.

“What do you mean? Like Sandy in SpongeBob?”

No… close, but no.

I explained, think of a show with human characters or human representations in the case of cartoons. Is there one you can think of where the main character isn’t what we call White. I also explained that for some reason I don’t like the words White and Black as descriptive terms for skin color, they don’t truly represent the different shades and hues in our beautifully diverse world, but they do help to get the point across quickly.

He thought some more and couldn’t come up with any.

Then, I asked what about supporting characters. He quickly named Maria from Sesame Street, who he mentioned had recently retired, and another character from Rugrats. There! He sat back with a smile and kinda proud of himself.

Good job, son, but the conversation wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

We talked about how media shapes our perceptions of beauty and how he uses terms he’s learned through media to define beauty. Terms like “hot girls” which he almost always tends to use for girls scantily clothed with blonde hair and blue eyes. So, I asked, if this is the standard of beauty set by most of the media we consume, then what message does it send to girls who don’t look like this?

He didn’t know.

He thought some more and then said. Well, it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t need to see people who look like me on television to know I look good.

Swag.

I know, son and that’s great, but much of that is because our society doesn’t use beauty as a standard of value or success for men. Not so for women. Can you see that?

Yeah, I guess you’re right, he agreed.

So, what do you think we should do about it?

I guess just like the saying goes, “we should be happy with what we have.”

Maybe, I said, but what about the saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

I told him that the world needs his stories and that little boys and girls who have brown skin, like him, deserve to see main characters who look like them in their media. If we don’t see them, we shouldn’t sit complacently, we should ask for them and more importantly, we should create them.

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I’m having more conversations about race with my children, in a very intentional way.

Sewing seeds.

I need my children to understand the country we live in wasn’t necessarily designed for them, but it needs them. They have an important role to play now and in the future. If they don’t understand that perceptions are both created for and skewed by a dominant culture, then they might mistake this perception for their reality. But it’s not the whole truth, far from it.

Do you have conversations about race with your children? Are you scared to talk about it? I’d love to hear more.

Written by Shara

December 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm

How to Appease Anger and Frustration

It was the same routine. This morning, my lovely darling didn’t agree with the clothes that I picked out for her to wear to school. This always happens when we don’t jointly prepare the week’s wardrobe in advance. “Okay, but we don’t have a lot of time and if you aren’t helping me out, then I’m going to lose my patience,” I warned.

I gave her a few minutes to come up with a reasonable alternative given the drop in temperature this week. She couldn’t find the right leggings to go with the dress she wanted to wear. In a rush and in my haste, I lost my patience.

“Just put the clothes on that I picked out so we’re not late!” I snapped.

I have a late gene and I’m afraid that I’m passing it down. It was passed down to me from my mother and her mother passed it along to her. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to fix it. We even got a note from her school about my affliction and I’m trying, really trying, to do better.

“Mommy, it hurts my feelings when you yell at me,” she said — after she was dressed and her hair was done. “When my feelings are hurt, my face looks like this,” she sulked. The alarm on my phone went off and I hit “Snooze” because I’m gonna need another reminder in five minutes. It’s time to leave so we can get to school with a few minutes to spare.

“I know. I’m sorry, but I did warn you that I was losing my patience. Did you brush your teeth? Let’s get that done and head out.”

I usually try to acknowledge when I’m in the wrong, even when I’m feeling under pressure. I want to have endless patience and I want to get her to school on time.

My son’s morning prep game is tight. He’s dressed, hair brushed, teeth brushed, sitting on the couch, earbuds in, head bobbing. Boys!! SMH.

As she slowly walked to the bathroom to brush her teeth, I added that I didn’t want her face to be sad and that I didn’t want anyone to have that control over how she was feeling — including me. “I don’t want you to be sad. I just want you to hurry up and get ready,” I reasoned … with a seven-year-old.

Ten minutes later, we’re in the car and I’m waiting to turn onto the road in front of her school. One final argument about what she’s wearing and how I don’t understand the kids at her school and what they will say about a jacket with thumbholes. I suggest we can donate all of her clothes that don’t match her schoolmate’s requirements including this new Justice jacket and that I’m sure there’s some kid somewhere who would be thrilled to have it. “I’ll place a call to your friend’s mom before I buy you any more clothes to make sure she has the same thing,” I added to make my point clear. “No, no, no!!” she exclaims. Then, her brother initiates a discussion about yelling at mom. The game of “I’m not/You are” proceeds.

She now has two minutes to run inside before the bell rings. I open the van door, “Okay, I love you. Have a great day!” I smiled, genuinely. I really want her to have a great day. I want the last words she hears before heading into school to be words of love and support.

As I pull away and watch her run into the school building, my son sits trying to understand why she yells when she’s frustrated, but then tells me it hurts her feelings when I yell. The apple/tree thing hasn’t quite dawned on him. He wonders if he could have said something different to get his point across to her.

At which point, I explain that when someone is angry and frustrated, they usually are not listening. Nothing you say will matter and in most cases, it doesn’t even matter how you say it. Their response will come from that place of anger and frustration. The best thing you can do is to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” Once things have calmed down, you can try to revisit the topic if it’s important, but trying to reason with someone who is angry and frustrated is a fool’s errand.

Conversations with my kids are very enlightening.

I’m still angry and frustrated about the presidential election. I have every right to feel that way. You can appease me by using calming words. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” But, I’ll still be angry and frustrated. I’m not listening. I’m just reacting from a place of anger and frustration.

Don’t call me a victim. Don’t call me an out of touch liberal. Don’t tell me it will all work out, just wait and see. I’m still angry.

Don’t tell me we’re all in this together because clearly some of us don’t even recognize the humanity of others.

If you can’t commiserate with me, then just limit your response to, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” And be sure that IF you’re saying it, you mean it, genuinely. Otherwise, best not to say anything at all.

Written by Shara

November 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Sadness, Anger, and PB&J

My sister reminded me that I feel better when I write.

The last week has been unreal. I really thought Hillary would win. Now I’m sad, then angry, then sad again, then sad and angry all at the same damn time!

Peanut butter and jelly is my best friend. I’m eating PB&J like a five-year-old. #ComfortFood

I come from the generation of Coca-Cola teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony. You know the “We are the World” generation. I grew up watching shows on television that spoke to Black families and people like me for the first time: Good Times, The Jeffersons, and The Cosby Show. We were breaking barriers and creating new, safe spaces for people who look like me. I will never forget A Different World, which was exactly what I experienced heading off to college in the early 90s.

Everything was hope and promise, but you had to work hard and show up. I learned that I had an obligation to let my voice be heard whenever I’m in the room. I learned that sometimes my voice has to represent an entire race and culture. It’s mind-blowing and humbling at the same time.

And certainly, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination and ugliness — reminding me that though we’ve come far, we still have a long way to go. I learned about “otherization” and “hate speech” firsthand from the moment in high school when a friend said, “Hey, look at me, I’m walking like a nigger!” to the time when my college roommate had a guy friend over who called me a nigger in my own dorm room. That was painful. But even more painful, when I shared the experience with the people I trusted most, nobody did anything about it, including and especially the Black men on my campus who I thought would stand up for me (more on that later).

In college, I learned that some of the issues I experienced weren’t necessarily because of my dark hue. I learned to understand the impact that my presence had on the world as a woman. I remember a college administrator saying to me the process is like getting a new pair of glasses, once you put them on, you’ll see the world as it is and you can never unsee it. She was right.

In grad school, I told a professor that I thought women could do anything and be anything. “Why not?” I asked. My mom raised two girls all on her own without the help of my dad, who was largely absent from my life until after college. I saw my mom do everything, be everything, and never did she say “I can’t because I’m a woman.” She would just figure that shit out. I remember that same professor asking me if I was a feminist. I answered almost immediately, “No.” I didn’t want to be categorized, labeled, or regarded as some sort of troublemaker. Always the good Christian girl that I was raised to be. But she encouraged me to think deeper on it and I decided later that year that I was indeed a feminist. I didn’t want to start any trouble or burn my bra, but I was definitely a feminist.

I voted for Bill Clinton in ’92. It was the year that I turned 18 and the first election that I could vote in. I was so happy when he won. I felt like my vote helped. I remember when Hillary took on a more policy-focused position in his administration. I remember admiring her for breaking out of the traditional First Lady role. I’ve been a fan and supporter of Hillary’s for a long time. I realize that some of her issues in this election were of her own doing, but I also know that many of the problems she faced were because she is a woman trying to make a huge difference in a man’s world. Glasses on.

Remember when I said the Black men on my college campus let me down. Remember when I said my father (another Black man) was absent growing up. Yeah, he let me down too. Now fast forward to this election year and take a look at how Black men voted.

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I know there’s plenty of blame to go around regarding why we didn’t see higher numbers from everyone for Hillary, but in particular, Black men have been impacted by 90s policies that led to them being targeted by police and jailed in unprecedented numbers. Even with that in mind, I’m still disappointed that they didn’t contribute a larger percentage of votes for Hillary.

They let me down. Again.

It may be an irrational thought to have, but I figure maybe if I put a voice to it, then I can begin to resolve it.

WHY didn’t Black men vote in larger numbers for Hillary? 7% voted for a third party, which everyone warned would be a throwaway vote unless your plan was to see Trump elected and in that case, just vote for Trump. If they didn’t feel they wanted to vote for themselves, then why didn’t they at least show up for us, Black women. Clearly, my history says that it’s just too much to expect. Sad, angry, sad again, then sad and angry! More PB&J.

Now, I’m trying to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward. What do I tell my children about why the bully won? How do I prepare them for the mean, ugly things that they will likely see and hear in the not too distant future?

I blame myself, too, for believing that we’ve come farther than we actually have. Blind hope. I blame myself for choosing not to have those conversations with my children on a regular basis, early on. I just wanted to guard their innocence for as long as I could, build a healthy self-esteem and a natural love for their differences. Now, I have to include conversations about how their differences will (not might) make them targets of hate speech and discrimination. I also need to provide them with the tools to deal with it. It’s exhausting enough just parenting and managing normal child development stages.

That said, I think the tenor of this election and the ugly words that I’ve heard from people on the right and left (including myself at times I’m not happy to say) suggests that it’s time we all have these conversations with our children on a regular basis and starting early on. We should all be teaching our kids about the concept of “otherization” and not stick our heads in the sand as if we don’t teach them what it is and how to confront it, then they will never see it or have to deal with it. We can never have blind hope again. I can’t and you can’t. Hope still has to wear the glasses.

If we want the next generation to do better than we have for humanity, for our country, for our planet, then we have to teach them.

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This is all of the nonsense running through my head at the moment. I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you’re dealing with the election results.

Written by Shara

November 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm

I’m With Her… Shhh! Not So Loud. Not Here.

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We recently joined a tennis club in our community. I know, I know! It sounds like some high-end shit… at least it did to this girl who grew up in a tough Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. But, 13 years of motherhood have worn away my tough facade and all I could think about was what I would do with my kids all summer.

The tennis club offers tennis camp, swim lessons, fitness facilities, social activities, babysitting and more. Yes, please!

It didn’t occur to me that people like me (a Democrat) might not usually join a tennis club in this community. I mean, I’m usually one of a handful of African-Americans in most of the places I go, but I’m used to that. It is 2016 after all, right? Most people are kind and polite. At times I almost forget that my skin color is different. I said, almost.

So last night at the tennis club, while the kids were busy playing in the kids club area, I made my way to the cafe for a drink and to catch a bit of the Democratic National Convention. After all, just last week the Republican National Convention was playing on the big screens there. Surely, they would have the DNC on?

As I walked in, the two televisions around the bar were set to ESPN. I thought, well it is a tennis club. Duh!

So, I asked the bartender if he could put on one of the other televisions (away from the bar) for me. Sure thing. He was happy to do so until he found out that I wanted to watch the DNC. You would have thought that I just cussed him out, and then forced him to drink a jug of salt water. Ooo, he was salty!

He didn’t even turn up the volume when he finally found the right channel, but it was fine because I had closed caption and wanted to work until Hillary came on. Then, when Chelsea took the stage, I went to the bar and asked him to turn up the volume for me. He walked over, turned up the volume and snarked, “Did she ever find out who her real dad is yet?” He snickered and walked back to the bar. Really?

My husband joined me shortly after his tennis lesson. I told him how I was recently informed by a “friendly” that I’m surrounded by sharks (Republicans). He laughed.

Then, Hillary came on. I think the volume in the room around me increased by 50 decibels. I’m thinking this is the time everyone decides to be loud and boisterous. Okay, they are around the bar, but last week when the RNC was on television you could hear a pin drop.

A woman walked in the cafe and up to the television, she looked at Hillary and said, “Wow, how many face lifts has she had?” Then, she looked over at our table, expecting a response. I was mute. My husband said, “As many as it takes?” and they both laughed as she walked off.

My husband is good at diffusing tense situations. Me, not so much.

When I hear the outlandish, hurtful things that Trump is saying, I used to think, Who is he talking to? Who thinks this is okay? Now, I know.

Written by Shara

July 29, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Why I’m Getting Really Good at Accepting Failure

Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to work on a project full-time onsite with an amazing company. I was super excited!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the flexibility of working from home, keeping my own schedule, and working for various companies on fun, diverse projects. Still, the allure of one steady paycheck was too much to overlook. I could use some consistency after having a couple of clients decide to just not pay for work already completed. Yeah, accounting and collections aren’t my strong suit. 

So, I lined up our current projects and worked with my team to take the lead on keeping those going and off I went to try out this new venture. It lasted three weeks and half a day before I went running for the hills. #epicfail

Uggh! I forgot how bad I was at office politics and kissing hiney! And BTW, I have no patience for bullying and intimidation. I know that I work best in environments where team leaders and managers set you up for success. I try to do that for my team members as well. I figure we all want to succeed and have a great outcome.

The truth is, however, I am only one part of the equation in any project that I take on. And, I’m getting really good at accepting failure. Saying that probably makes you think I’m terrible at my job — I’m not. But, honestly, I fail at things every day. I’m pretty sure everyone does, but you shouldn’t be defined by your failures or shortcomings — or the collective failure of any group to which you belong. Don’t take that on! Don’t define yourself that way! Other people are going to judge you and say mean, horrible things, that’s life. Bye Felicia!

Like Former President George W. Bush recently said, “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

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Wow. Never thought I would be quoting Dubyah with such a profound statement, but no matter the source, truth is truth.

I think the problem is that we’re always judging… ourselves and others. But, it’s really not our job, so why take it on?

Once we accept that failure happens to everyone, then we can just move on to the next opportunity to fail or succeed. It really could go either way!

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try your best or make every effort to get things right, but it DOES mean that you’re not the only part of the equation and sometimes timing isn’t right, people aren’t the best fit, budgets are off, or any number of elements that you just don’t or can’t control.

I once had a really wonderful and bad-ass friend tell me, “Show up, be present, give it your best, and don’t be connected to the results.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing something she probably heard from Oprah, but those words come back to me often.

A lot of my women friends take on the full responsibility for failures. Failure in a job or on a project. Failure in a relationship. Failure on a diet or new fitness program. Failure as a parent. I know I fall into that trap. But while you don’t need to take full responsibility for these failures, in most cases, you should get really good at accepting them and knowing that they don’t define you. Tomorrow is another day (God willing) to get up and try again or try something else.

So, let’s see… did I fail to complete the project — yep, I did not complete the project despite my offer to do so off-site. But, did I fail to protect myself from a soul-sucking journey into a neverending battle against bullying and intimidation? Well, I think I got that one right and the stars must have aligned because I’m happy with my decision. That’s #winning, to me, every time.

How do you deal with failure? Are you really hard on yourself when things don’t go the way you planned?

Written by Shara

July 12, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Musings

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