What It’s Like: Working With a Muslim Family

I want to start off this post by saying that I am very grateful for my life and the series of choices and happenstances that have put me in this exact spot, in this very moment. I am very, very fortunate and I am practicing being more grateful and observant of my good fortune.

One of the things that I am most thankful for is the many opportunities I have had to meet different people. And by different, I mean people who are of a different race, religion, background, nationality, gender, and experience than I am. You know, all of the typical things that humans use to segregate themselves and to judge the ones not in their special little circle.

Sometimes the opportunity to meet different people come because of me reaching out or because of some other self-directed involvement or effort. Most of the times, however, I find that opportunity comes simply by being open to it coming.

A few months ago, I started tutoring two children from an Eastern block country, near Russia. I will provide as few details as I can about this family, in an effort to protect their identities and keep the focus on the story and my experience, and the religion of Islam, which I am in no way qualified to even begin to discuss.

The first time I went to their house for a tutoring session, there was no answer on the phone for 15 minutes. Tardiness angers me, and over time, I have had to learn to manage my anger when people are late. But, this time, anger kind of got the best of me. I’d driven almost 50 minutes in hellish Houston traffic, just to be on time. And there I was, still on time, even after navigating around a big wreck, and the people were not answering the phone.

I looked at the clock on my dashboard and said to myself, “I’m only waiting 15 minutes; then, I’m leaving.”

I also had a bunch of other bad thoughts about these people BEFORE I even met them. Perhaps they were sharpening their saws, so they could cut me up into little bits? Is there such a thing as the “Tutor Strangler” in any popular movies? They must be absolutely terrible people; how dare they be so late?

I worked myself up into an almost seething frenzy when my phone rang at exactly 14 minutes past the hour. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

The frenzied sounding father apologized profusely and asked me to please excuse them and come up to tutor the children. Not wanting to break the rule I’d set for myself, I reluctantly went up to meet them.

I immediately thanked myself for the decision to try, the decision to trust the universe, which is absolutely not something that I usually do.

Upon entering, the entire family came to warmly greet me, one by one. The father told me that he appreciated me tutoring his children and that he trusted my abilities as a teacher. Having taught public school in rough areas for several years, hearing the words “appreciation” and “trust” the first time I interacted with a parent was a rarity, to say the least.

After the session was over, the mother meekly came up to me, and handed me a warm, paper towel wrapped bundle. I said thank you as graciously as I could, not knowing at all what was customary or rude to them, realizing I knew nothing about the culture of their home country, and also realizing that my “American guilt” is still pretty strong.

I left the apartment and walked to the elevator and opened the napkin. She had given me two freshly baked rolls of bread, the steam gently greeting my grinning face as I pinched off a piece and ate it.

At that moment, I realized that something really beautiful had happened. A shared experience between people who are seemingly nothing alike, joined together by the universe’s pull and their own collective abilities to extend a bit of trust to another human being.

For the family, they had trusted a strange American to enter their home, the first time they met them. Given the media and hatred and negative messaging about Muslims in America, if I were them, I do not think I would have had the courage to invite a strange American into my home. But, they did.

For me, I had continued with the tutoring appointment, even though I was angry that they were late and a little afraid of going into a strange home. I also greedily ate home made bread from a stranger, something that I am pretty sure children are taught not to do, and there I was, as an adult, eating a stranger’s food, in an elevator, no less.

By the time I reached the first floor, I loved those people. I loved the children. I loved their kindness. I loved the open and loving energy that you can feel in their house. I texted my mother and told her I was all right and that everything went well and I even told her, “I love them already.”

I continue to work with the children and the family continues to treat me better than any parents have in all my years of teaching. They have invited me to stay after the session to have dinner with them. They have given me other food gifts. They’ve taken the time to share things about their culture and food with me. They’ve even let me hold their infant child, which for a woman who is terrified of small children, was a big feat for me to even agree to do such a thing.

Somehow, the fact that I know almost nothing about Islam, or their home country, or their language, yet I am still able to share very human experiences with the family makes me feel incredibly fortunate.

My experience with the family is truly a testament to what great things can happen when, even if you are scared or emotional, you can summon up the courage to trust others and the universe.

You just might not be disappointed.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

 

What It’s Like: Being an Entrepreneur

It’s horrible. The END.

 

Wait, sorry, please come back, and I’ll tell you what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. And, before you stop reading, this is not some post trying to sell you a class on entrepreneurship. This is just an honest, one woman account of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

First, a little bit of my backstory.

I guess I could say that entrepreneurship is in my blood and my nature. My father was an entrepreneur for as long as there are stories about him, at least the ones that I have heard. I did not grow up around him, but I know some things about his entrepreneurial adventures.

My father owned a nightclub, neighborhood grocery store, and a mechanic / tire shop. My mother told me that she had no idea why he owned a nightclub; he did not like people and he especially did not like drunk ones. I suppose that I get my misanthropy and dislike for alcohol through my father’s blood line.

All of his businesses were successful and he was successful. He lived well and drove nice cars and had a nice house. I never saw the inside of the houses or the car, at least in my memory, but I have heard about them.

My elderly uncle once told me a story about how my father was also kind of a shrewd / asshole / rule following kind of guy. My uncle said that once, a guy went into my father’s grocery store and practically begged him to let him buy beer on a Sunday. My father told him no, and didn’t budge.

I am starting to see a theme here: I look like my mother, but the inside of my head and the darkness of my soul are thanks to my father. I would have done the same thing, if it were me. Get out of here with your Sunday beer money, sir. Come back when the laws change, duh!

I’ve never had much interest in rule or law breaking unless it’s speeding while driving. I just cannot stand to go 35 mph. I simply must go 38 mph. Call me a rebel.

My own foray into entrepreneurship began in middle school. In between the bell rings for us to change classes, I sold cookies to the greedy and hungry kids. I even sold them after I was caught with “contraband” and sent to the principal’s office. I retract my previous statement about not breaking rules. Those rules would have negatively impacted my business. So, perhaps, I would have sold that guy a beer on Sunday.

I majored in Business and Entrepreneurship in college. Then, one day, years after graduating from college the first time and the second time, I had a dream of opening a bakery.

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of opening a bakery. The idea of it is crystal clear in my head. I even recruited a friend to help me figure out numbers, costs, all this stuff. It’s a somewhat secret dream of mine (as in everyone I know knows about it), and I would like to make it happen one day, hopefully soon.

But for now, my life as an entrepreneur is based on the reality of needing money and paying bills, you know the unsexy stuff. Right now, I am loosely a writer (kind of) and I work for clients. It is terribly unsexy, but it is a good way to put my pinky toe into the world of being a bonafied business owner, a self employed guru in the making.

So, what’s it like?

IT IS TERRIFYING.

I do not have the finger strength to write all the things I could write about the fear I have experienced and continue to experience as an entrepreneur. When you’re first starting out, the learning curve is so steep, that you just have to commit to feeling like you’re drowning. You might feel like that for the foreseeable future. So, commit to being uncomfortable and get on with it.

YOU ARE NOT SLEEPING ALL DAY.

This past week, I have worked so much that I couldn’t even turn my brain off. So, even when I was asleep, I was still having some weird dreams about due dates and such. I barely took lunch breaks and I certainly was  not napping!

YOU WORK NO MATTER WHAT.

Sick days? GTFOH. Pain? Work anyway. Tummy aches? Work anyway. Sick and tired? Get your ass to the desk.

THERE IS ALWAYS WORK TO DO.

As a service based entrepreneur, it’s kind of like feast or famine. You either have so much work that you want to run away or there’s no work and you consider becoming a street beggar or gypsy.

YOUR BRAIN IS RARELY OFF.

See above explanation.

IT IS REWARDING.

Yay! The “man” is YOU. You get to boss yourself around and make yourself miserable! It’s great.

YOU HAVE SOME FREEDOM.

Unless you’re farther down the entrepreneurial road than I am, then there’s not a shit ton of freedom. You have to find your own customers, please the customers, deliver the product or service. Basically, you might be able to work from 9:48 am – 7:02 pm, but you’re still bound by your need to make your business successful.

YOU HAVE ALL OF THE RESPONSIBILITY.

This one is a doozie. It is both liberating and misery inducing. You are the king of the castle and it’s great until you realize that all of the knights and peasants are looking at you to direct the show.

 

With all of those things in mind, I am still incredibly fortunate to even have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. My route to entrepreneurship was convoluted and almost terrifying (to say the least), but I am happy to be on this road.

Enough talking to you; I’ve got to get back to alternating between working and crying in the corner.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

PS! Are you an entrepreneur? If so, what’s your business? Leave me a comment below!

Awaiting Death While Enjoying Kindness

A little over a year ago, I reconnected with an uncle-in-law that I used to see often as a child. He is now 82 years old, having had his most recent birthday on New Year’s Eve.

He was married to my Aunt, who passed away a few months before I graduated from college. Since I was the first person in my family to earn a Bachelor’s degree, walking across the stage and knowing she wasn’t in the crowd was both exhilarating and heartbreaking, at the same time.

He has outlived her for many years now, and thanks to a mismailed letter from the good ole United States government, I have reconnected with him.

I go to his house, on average about 3 times a week. I help him with his finances; I run errands. I now know that he gets a kick out of it when I bring him family sized bags of Ricola lozenges. I introduced him to Ricola lozenges, and when I first gave him a bag, I sang the all too familiar REEE COOO LAAAA jingle from the commercial. Now, sometimes he sings it back to me when I show up with a new bag.

He uses a lot of cough drops because, among other health ailments, he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD. It prevents him from breathing while sometimes keeping him occupied with a lingering cough.

He doesn’t venture out of his house much anymore. And even though he has a cable subscription, he enjoys watching the same black and white westerns that I imagine he watched as a child and much younger man.

And even though his body is failing him, his mind, and his awareness of his long life and long suffering, are still very strong. Most days, his mind is clearer and stronger than mine is or has ever been. He remembers street names, people names, events, and lots of other things from my childhood that I have long forgotten or perhaps never even knew.

Today, I went to visit him. I took him two bags of the family sized Ricola lozenges and two stacks of low sodium Pringles chips. He was delighted to have the surprises. I also took him homemade biscuits and white gravy with sausage, both of which I made this morning. I also took him two bowls of homemade stew, which I made two nights ago. Everything turned out great and I think he enjoys and understands the value of homecooked food more than an average person.

You see, my now elderly Uncle was married to the most prolific cook in our family. My Aunt cooked EVERYTHING and all the time. I have heard stories of her banging around pots in the morning, and when she was discovered cooking at those wee hours, she simply said, “You want something to eat?’

She was simply amazing.

I think of her every time I cook something for my uncle. I actually think of her in two ways: one, an impossible way, when I ask myself, “How would she have made this?” Alas, that question is impossible because I generally have no idea. Second, a bittersweet way, when I think to myself, “I think she would approve” when something turns out good.

I know that nowadays, a lot of people eat out for almost every meal. I totally understand; I picked up a “chicken box” (as my mom calls them) from Church’s Chicken on the way home, not wanting to bang around my own pots and spend more time in the kitchen today. I also have another takeout box in my refrigerator right now.

But, to me, there’s something very special about home cooked food, especially when someone who cares about you makes it. When I make food for people, it is always with great care and hope that it will be really, really great. No, I do not always make the best tasting food, and certainly it is not all restaurant quality, but I have never served something to other people that I just flopped together, carelessly. I like to reserve my lower skillset for myself, on those nights when I feel self critical about dialing up a delivery man to bring me some grub.

Today, when I took my uncle the food, he went on and on about it. In my work of getting to know myself better and understanding why I am the way I am, I have recognized that I love the admiration of an eater.

Oh,  your cake looks beautiful! (*blushes!*)

Oh, your cake is moist! (*double blushes!*)

Oh, this cake is better than box / store bought! (*oh, gosh, don’t kill me with your kind words!*)

After he thanked me for the food and assured me that he knew it was delicious before even trying it, we talked about the city where we both used to live, many years ago, my hometown. Today, he didn’t mention his own death, but he usually does. Today is less somber; today he is excited to learn about my new client. And he told me another story about my father, whom I never knew personally, and how yes, I am like him in a lot of ways in terms of my personality, but no, I shouldn’t worry about it because even though my father had a well-deserved reputation of being a cold, rule following asshole, I am still a good person, even if I have some of those traits. Or, even if I have all of those traits.

I leave there feeling good about myself. I feel appreciated. I feel like I did a good thing, hanging out with my uncle for a few hours, and taking him food that might somewhat resemble the food he used to eat from my aunt’s magical hands.

If you have time tomorrow, hang out with someone who will truly enjoy your company. I suggest picking someone ages 0-10 or 60-the rest. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

 

Here’s to Having a Good Time

I am loved.

Some days, we might not feel like it. Other days, we are fortunate enough to have our cups runneth over with love. Today, I had one of those overflowing with love kind of days.

The worry and heartache of the past 18 months or so have given me a new found gratitude for almost everything. Now that I know what it is like to worry all day, every day, the feeling of being in the present, and recognizing all the ways that I am loved, well, let’s just say it’s amazing.

Even when I am alone I feel loved. Tonight, I had an amazing opportunity to have a new experience with an old friend…to celebrate me being older. You can’t beat that.

I am just so thankful.

A few days ago, driving across town, I got into a short space of an almost meditative state. Even though I was driving on the freeways, my mind slowed down to appreciate the bright blue of the sky, the shimmering glass of the towering buildings whirling by, the flight of the synchronized birds overhead. It was lovely and I felt loved, even in that moment of almost organized chaos.

I am so thankful.

Being thankful and more mindful has helped me loosen up my definitions of myself. Before tonight, I would have emphatically said that I was not the kind of person to go on stage during a burlesque (what they call “boylesque” , since it featured gentlemen) show. But now, there’s video proof that I did go on stage and rhythmlessly girate my huge ass around for about 90 seconds. That video proof my night ever see the light of day, but, it exists.

I am just so blessed, so thankful, so loved.

I hope you are , too.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

My Calm Birthday

Today is my birthday.

Last night, I had to pleasure of sitting around a large table, in a restaurant, eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of people I am fortunate enough to call friends.

I also did not have to wash a single dish yesterday or today, which is the beauty of going out to eat.

I love the energy of my friends. I might not see all of them very regularly, but I love them all the same, regardless of the frequency of our visits.

Today was my actual birthday, however. I turned 35. I don’t feel particularly old in my heart, even though I often times feel a little beat up or achy in my body. I am working on remedying that through a better diet and more active lifestyle.

I think there are a few clues to the youth of my heart, however. My mind  and soul are old. My body is getting older. But my heart has the joy and interests of probably any teenager. Here are some random highlights from my day.

I Tried to Help

The first thing I did when I left the house today was to check the mailbox. My mom had sent me a card and I went to get it. Somehow, the door of the mailboxes had come undone. I honestly stood there, in mild horror, trying to figure out how to fix it. I even looked around for an older person, even though, one could argue, that at 35, many people would consider ME the older person.

I thought: maybe if an older person, or a handy looking man (or woman) walked by, they’d know what to do. They’d have tape. Is it ok to put tape on a mailbox? Is that a federal offense? 

Not wanting to commit a possible federal offense by using tape on a mailbox, and not wanting to draw much attention to myself as the discoverer of the undone mailbox, I left it in this state, using some construction materials I found lying on the ground.

It is not the best solution, but perhaps there won’t be mail and sales flyers all over the place by tomorrow, when the real adult, ermm, I mean, the mailman, comes by to check out the situation.

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My Music Tastes are Both Low and High Brow

John Mayer’s “Badge and Gun” is one of my favorite songs, but I say that about almost all John Mayer songs. I mean, really, it’s like he’s in my head sometimes.

The song is about a guy who has tried really hard to do what he was supposed to do, whatever that was, and now he’s just going to go on about his way, both metaphorically and literally.

It’s both joyous and somber, which I know sounds odd, but those are the things I feel when I listen to it. It’s basically an ode to the peace one feels when you can honestly say, “I tried real hard” but in the next breath say, “But I also give up.”

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And while it’s nice and all to be all cerebral and listen to the seemingly deeply personal lyrics of a John Mayer song, of course I also had to listen to “In Da Club” by 50 Cent because there’s literally only one day of the year when, yes, shawty, it is indeed, yo birthday.

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My Fashion Tastes Are De-Volving 

Devolving is the opposite of evolving. For a long time, I was a school teacher. Then, for a longer time, I worked in corporate America. My wardrobe has changed, but just between you and me, I absolutely LOVE fashion with whimsy. I will buy and wear almost anything that is red, any shade of red, from light pink to one of my favorites, a deep, moody shade of oxblood. I love it all.

These shoes make me especially joyous and with the light wind and crystal bright sunshine, they seemed to dance off my feet. A random guy even passed me and yelled: I LIKE THOSE SHOES. He, too, was wearing red shoes.

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I Am Still Working on Other Parts of Being an Adult

I am working on reorganizing my closet and I ordered this thing from Amazon. Of course it came flat packed and required assembly.

It was pretty easy to assemble, but I absolutely hate assembling things, so I had to fight my disdain for 30 minutes and use another 30 minutes to assemble it. But, when I was done, I was actually quite proud. I did something productive on my birthday, and that was nice.

However, I am also a 35 year old woman who bought a $16 fabric thing from Amazon to put stuff in. Shouldn’t I be at Ashley Furniture, buying a proper chest of drawers? Perhaps, when I am 40.

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Over all, it was a beautiful day. I had a very peaceful day and am still reeling from how thankful I feel for all of the people in the world who love me.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I Am Not My Hair

“No way it’s not real,” he said.

“Way, it’s totally not real,” I assured him.

He looked at me with those squinted eyes one makes when you’re not sure what to believe. He gazed at my hair again, back at my face, twisted his mouth, and replied,  “No way.”

All those years ago, way back when I was a freshman in college, at the age of 17, I first experimented with changing the look of my hair.

I kept insisting to my then boyfriend, with pride and odd enthusiasm, that I had, in fact, added a few tracks to my hair.

My natural hair, back then at least, was so thick that it blended quite seamlessly with the faux hair pieces. This made me giddy and proud.

Now, when I look in the mirror, both today on the cusp of my 35th birthday and every other day for the past year or so, I see hair that has thinned from the glorious lion’s mane that I used to proudly sport. I remember that once, my mother scolded me for lamenting about my thick hair. “You’ll miss it when it’s gone,” she warned me. As with lots of other warnings about life, momma was right.

I am currently suffering from thinned hair thanks to lots and lots and lots of prolonged stress. According to my stylist, it will grow back. According to my mirror, it’s already growing back. Where once there was a flash of scalp, now there are little hair warriors, returning to the battle, hopefully ready to stay put, on the front lines, for at least a good remainder of my life.

To be honest, I’ve always had a pretty good relationship, at least mentally, with aging. I know lots of people who died violent deaths at a young age. I know lots of people who died when they were good and old.  I know lots of people who died somewhere in between, at the age where one might say, “He wasn’t even that old” instead of “But he was so young.” Aging, and it’s ultimate outcome, has been on my radar for a while.

I’ve been to lots of funerals. When I was a child, my grandmother took me to lots of funerals, in small country towns throughout north Louisiana. I’ve probably seen more than my fair share of dead strangers lying in caskets.

With these experiences, death is kind of normal to me, as normal as it can be to a person who still has lots of desire to live. Aging, however, is deeply personal, it’s something that I cannot disconnect from or interact with by just sending flowers or sympathy. Aging is the part of dying that happens to you personally, and you get to experience it in your own personal way, the same way that you must experience and live your own life.

Although I am not happy about how stress manifested itself on my scalp, I am happy that I have had the opportunity to live this long. Having seen death around me since such a young age, I have always lived with the realistic fear that death is always just around the corner for any of us, at any time. It is a beautiful chaos in which to dwell, both frightening and invigorating.

So tonight, regardless of what my hair looks like, I am meeting with friends. The energy of other people, these people, people I am privileged enough to call friends, provide calm and love on the eve of my birthday.

And regardless of my hair, I am thankful to still have some of it left up there.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

It’s the Little Things

Don’t laugh, but YES, that is a photo of a storage bench from Target.

A few days ago, I decided to finally rid myself of a problem that I have had for almost a year: no where to sit my fat ass down to put on my shoes.

For almost a year, I have stumbled around, scooting on my shoes, while leaning against the wall. Or, I would carefully hover my fat front half and the fatter back half of my ass on the side of the tub, praying that I wouldn’t fall in, as I tried to put on my shoes.

Have you ever done this? Have you ever tortured yourself in this way for a YEAR?

During the summer months, it wasn’t so bad. I usually wore flip flops, so I didn’t need any stability to slide into a pair of shoes.

However, during the winter months, trying to put on a pair of booties is not quite as carefree as scooting into a flashy pair of flat sandals.

So, a few days ago, I bought this bench. And today, I worked up the strength to carry it from the car to the bedroom. When it was time for me to put my shoes on this afternoon, I danced out of the closet, over the bench, and, yes, out loud, I said, TODAY I GET TO USE MY NEW BENCH!

I sat down and put on my gold booties. It was so easy. I was so damn grateful. Sometimes, it’s the little things. Or the things that are the size of a bench.

What are you grateful for today?

Until tomorrow, friends…