The Roads We Travel

A few days in a life journey.

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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Being there when you’re not actually there

Recently a friend and I had a text conversation about a miscommunication that happened in a group chat with some of our other close friends.

I’m glad that I texted her directly to ask about it because I learned a lot.

We both came to the same conclusion that even with all of the technology in our lives, it’s hard to be there for your friends when you aren’t there geographically or physically. I mean with all of the mobile technology, video conferencing and social media sites, you would think it’s easy to keep close tabs on how friends and family are doing, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

See, I know what Facebook and Instagram are all about. For the most part, friends are sharing the happy moments. Every now and again someone goes on a rant — perfectly acceptable but with limits. No one really shares the nitty gritty about their daily lives on social media. Not only would it not be well received, but it’s too embarrassing.

Okay, well, truth be told, I have a couple of friends who “overshare” and I can tell by the lack of likes, or I guess we’re calling them reactions now, that sometimes they go too far. Heck, I’ve done it once or twice myself, but I can always tell when “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Seriously, I have to stop myself from posting stupid thoughts like, “OMG, I’m cooking fish sticks again… for the third night in a row!” I mean it’s not the worst thing in the world. Right?

I want someone to commiserate. I want people to sigh along with me and say, “Yep, we understand.” The truth is that there’s too much judgement, too much scrutiny, and not enough compassion and understanding because when I post about fish sticks for the third night in a row, well, it’s really not about the fish sticks, is it?

Texting with my friend made me realise that for some reason we’ve adopted that same attitude in our girlfriends group chat. This is a private group chat with 8 of my besties. We all know each other from our college years or shortly thereafter. We all know the dirt, the crumbs, and the back stories of each other’s lives. I mean, there’s really no line we haven’t crossed and there isn’t a favor too big to ask — although the answer might be “hell no!”

These are my just-say-the-word girls, and yet somehow, we’ve adjusted our personal flow and friendships to the formalities of today’s social tech. WTH!

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Facebook. It’s a lifeline for me living so far away from family and friends now. I get to keep up with the fun and exciting things in their lives, and I’m very grateful for that. However, there’s just no denying the relationship void that sets in with distance; and social media, or really any of today’s technology, won’t fill it.

So far, the only way that I’ve found to be there without actually being there is by making a good old fashioned phone call… but ain’t nobody got time for that! 

jk lol 🙂

Written by Shara

March 8, 2016 at 2:43 am

Posted in Friendship

An Even Year!

It’s the strangest thing, but for some reason, I love even years. I get really excited when their time rolls around.

It’s not that odd years are bad, not at all. I’ve had great odd years. For example, 2015 was pretty decent. So it’s not so much about disliking odd years, it’s just that I really look forward to the even years. I was born in an even year, graduated high school and college in even years, met my husband in an even year, had my first born in an even year. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

So here we are in 2016. Not sure what this new even year will bring, but I’m starting it off by thinking positively about my career aspirations, personal dreams and family goals.

I have some tough decisions to make, right out of the gate, but it’s all moving towards greater happiness, peace, health and prosperity.

Happy 2016!

Written by Shara

January 22, 2016 at 2:33 am

Posted in Musings

A Vegetable Video Game with a Special Message… Even If You Lose

My son is obsessed with Veggie Tales lately and I can’t complain too much — of all the things to be obsessed with at least he’s learning some great lessons. Of course, I want him to find interests that are more age appropriate, but in our house we take baby steps. So, we talk about balancing consumption with creativity. You can consume media, but make sure that you are creating more than consuming. That’s the goal anyway. He recently took a video game development class after school and came up with a Veggie Tales-inspired video game.

In the game, you are the asparagus with the yellow cap. The goal is to use your arrow keys to dodge the bouncing vegetables and stay out of their way. There’s also something that you’re supposed to pick up to move on to the next level. If you can do that through the first screen without losing all of your lives, then you’ll make it to level two…. I haven’t made it that far, so I can’t tell you what happens then. I can tell you that even if you lose on level one, there’s a special message for you. 🙂

You can click here to download the game. It’s kid-friendly. Enjoy!

Veggie Tales Inspired Game

Written by Shara

October 20, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Intentional Parenting

It’s no secret that I love this time of year. There’s something about it… It’s like a rebirth, or call it a do over.

There’s a lot I want to do with and for my children, but once summer rolls around I start feeling like there’s not enough time to get it all done. That art class or community service project just goes by the wayside. Then I think,  maybe we can squeeze it in during summer. Ha!

Maybe it’s because of counting school years that take us from August to June vs. the calendar year, but Back to School feels more like a New Year’s to me. There’s the shopping, new teachers, new friends, new schools (in our case) and the excitement of what’s to come. What IS to come?

Well, the strategist in me wants to hunker down and create a  plan for the school year. What are the top goals and priorities. If we accomplish those, then everything else is gravy.

Sometimes I forget that the plan should be inclusive and I  set about it on my own. Willing it all to happen and dragging everyone along by their scruffs. That’s always a recipe for disaster.

Sometimes I try to get others to take ownership of said “family plan” and when it doesn’t happen, I get salty. Yes, I admit it! I’ve been known to give a stink-eye or two.

So at age 40, here I am still trying to find the right blend of leadership, initiative, influence, inclusion and motivation to get our family plan created and implemented this school year. At 40, I’m hopeful that THIS will be the year we strike the right balance.

I wish it came naturally to me — to us. My husband and I both came from broken homes, so we have no model from which to work. We start with and always come back to our foundation of love and respect for one another. Everything else has to build around that.

But, the struggle is real folks.

Maybe there shouldn’t be a plan at all. Maybe we should live and let live — just let the chips fall where they may. Free range parenting. I contemplate this often.

I’m just a believer in intentional parenting. Nothing major, yet, but if I want my children to have an appreciation for the Arts, then I have to make the time to introduce them to art at various times in their lives and in various forms. This year, it’s piano. So we’ll all suffer through the practice rounds of  “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with our eye on the bigger prize — a deeper understanding of the music we love and listen to everyday.

I’m genuinely curious about other parents though. Do you create a family plan for the year? Why? Why not?

Written by Shara

August 30, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Marriage, Parenting

Tagged with