Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Best Girlfriend Was a Guy!

Every woman has her own original definition of best girlfriend. Mine is one that is loyal in the face of adversity, honesty, tenacity with the vengeance of the bull, purity of motive, an understanding heart, compassion, courageous, boldness with pride in oneself, authentic, a real example of living their life, adventurous, ability to look at the (wo)man in the mirror, tolerant, vivacious, persevering, motivating, and one that can lead by example. My expectations are no more than what I am willing to give of myself.

My life has certainly been one of much adventure with a huge question mark from society through every desired experience. Beginning with the deep well thought out or off the cuff questions beginning at eight years old that required deep prepared consciousness through respected personal investigation, I challenged our society. In the latter years friends and family would look on as I went out into the world to experience the more challenging choices of life such as; dating and marrying across race lines, refusing to be defined by sexual gender preferences, speaking out against injustices, standing for equality in every arena, stepping up and out when it was for the betterment of humanity, knowing that it would or could bring dire consequences.

Life is meant to be an adventure, not everyone gets the thrill of the ride. Fear can stop one from even getting on! However limited or guarded one wants to live their life is a personal choice. For me, life has been one of some choices and others were just by living the hand that fell on the table, but it all has been a ride of a lifetime not regretted.

I remember through a lot of my young woman challenges, there was a “Best” girlfriend by my side and she was a guy! Her name was Melvin. Through my ups and downs, Melvin was my cheerleader. Always having a smile to lift me, an embrace of compassion, laughter that gave me joy in my difficulties, and encouragement to always get up; to keep moving on.

There was a difficult time one night, whereby after I came out of a club by myself that I was jumped by a guy with a gun and forced into his car. He demanded that I drive to an abandoned house and then he stuck a gun in my back forcing me inside. Once inside the house, he threw me down on an old mattress and tore off the buttons on my blouse. Then he told me to pull down my pants while he held the gun to my head. I can still feel the chill when I recall that night, not to mention the stench of alcohol on his breath. In complete fear for my life, I did as I was told. All I could think of was getting out of there alive. After what seemed like hours, but probably only 15 minutes he passed out on top of me. I managed after he started snoring to slide out from under him. The gun was lying on the bed. I knew I could shoot him right then, but all I could think about was getting out of there. I grabbed his keys and the gun. When I got outside I threw the gun as far as I could into the woods and then I started running down the dirt road. I wasn't going to take the risk of being traced by stealing his car so I just ran hoping that he didn't know or would remember who I was. After running for quite awhile, I threw his keys as far into the woods as I could. It wasn't long before I could hear traffic. It must have been about 4 a.m. and I stumbled out to the highway. Within five minutes, a tractor-trailer truck came to a stop. Without a second thought, I held my blouse together and hopped up into the truck. Scared and crying, the driver asked me if I was okay. Telling him what happened, calmed me down but suddenly I realized I was talking to a complete stranger. He was a very compassionate truck driver, maybe he was an angel. All I know is that I was so grateful that he came by. He dropped me off where I asked him to and said that he would keep me in his prayers. I believe he was my angel, because I made it safely to my best friend's house, Melvin's.

When Melvin answered the door he knew immediately that something was wrong. Melvin and his friends were still up from just getting in. He told his friends that he would be back and turned to rush me up to the master bedroom. Sitting me on the bed he went to get a hot bath cloth and towel. He came back and wiped my face as he pulled me into his chest to embrace me. While he stroked my hair he allowed me to pour out my story, while he cried with me. His sympathy and compassion was just like a big sister. I felt so secure in his embrace. All of a sudden I started to laugh, and he looked at me strangely as if to wonder, was I losing it? I turned and said to him, “I don't know how, in the hell you guys do what you do… that shit hurts!” Melvin starts to laugh with me and says, “Well honey, first of all we don't do what we do in fear, because that causes one to contract. Plus, a big jar of Vaseline is a queen's best friend!” We both rolled on the bed and started laughing. His other friends came up to check on us because we were laughing so hard. We shared the moment with all of them then cried and laughed together. We looked like a bunch of teenage girlfriends rolling around on the master bed giggling and laughing about queen stories. That was the most I ever needed of therapy and when the guys went back downstairs, Melvin stayed with me for some stabilizing words of wisdom.

You listen here honey, he said. You came out of this experience with your most precious possession, your life! You have a precious daughter that needs her mother to protect her from the predators out there, so be grateful that the idiot didn't kill you. I am not demeaning that horrendous act at all, but he could not steal your precious soul which will pass on to other women the wisdom you gain from this experience. Honey, you only lost a petal, you are still the “Rose”! You know that all you have to do is say the word and we will be on him like white on rice! I know Melvin, but you have already done enough! You have been my best girlfriend, all of our days together. Oh, that was easy honey! Not always girlfriend, but most days, it's been a piece of cake! Oh Melvin, I love you. I love you too sweetie, now you get up and go take a hot shower, if that's what you want to do. Here's some pj’s and sleep in my bed this morning for as long as you like! Okay, thank you again Melvin. Don't mention it girl, that's what girlfriends are for! “Best girlfriends” Melvin, I said smiling.

To this day over 30 years later, I have not spoken of this experience because after being nurtured by Melvin I was empowered to go on and live my life with my head held high. I'm sharing this story now, because I know there is another Melvin out there that is somebody's best girlfriend and I want to salute Melvin’s life with this story. I saw that guy about five years later after the incident, and he acted as if he was going to approach me with an angry look on his face. I stood my ground and told him, “look here, you short SOB, I have family that said if I only say the word, you'll be looking for more than just keys and a gun in those woods!” He put his hand on his crouch turned and walked away. I never saw him again.

I dedicate this piece to my “best girlfriend” Melvin, who is no longer in this world but he’s always with me. I know this story is for someone out there and if you have a best girlfriend like my Melvin, be blessed. Know that a best girlfriend is not determined by the color of their skin or gender, but only by their character.

Hard Times… Home Is Where the Heart Is!

I didn't see it coming, but I understand now the inevitability of change! Just like everybody else, I was thrown off my rocker when I showed up to work after Labor Day in 2006. On the door was the notice announcing the closing of our company. Everybody at the company had been talking about closings all around us but we were truck drivers hauling the US mail, so we didn't think that we were that much at risk. We always had to be concerned at contract bidding time, but we were a well-established company with over 25 years at providing good service, so we all were pretty comfortable in knowing that. Every couple years, we got new trucks, and I was very happy with being still until I retired. There would be no company jumping for me. I had finally found a company that I was proud of. We had a union and in the South that was unheard of. The union to me was just a unified effort for the employees to be heard at the table without the “good old boy” system running things.

When the message came down the pipe to the drivers, we discovered that the owner was sick, and he just wanted to cut his losses and retire. However, the company that bought out the contracts did not accept the drivers because we were union represented. There was a long drawn out court battle, but the new companies attorneys found loopholes (politically correct; bought the contracts/ they bought the equipment and the contracts went with it) and over a hundred plus drivers were looking for work, including me. Normally in postal contracts the employees’ rollover with the new contractor, this makes sense, because of the familiarity of the run and continued on-time service. This did not happen, because we were union members. A lot of drivers had to return to over the road driving which they had not done for years. Our runs were to a point, and we had condos or homes at the destination we stayed in until time to bring the load back, which was an eight to 10 hour turnaround.

I understand when a business owner has to do what is in their best interest, however, as employees we always hope that they will take into consideration that what the owner walks away with as profit came from the hard effort of the employees to build that business. In saying that, I recognize that I had only six years with the company but there were those that had been there since the beginning. Most employees left with a good package however, there were a lot of drivers not ready to retire or able to. There were also drivers over the age of 50 that had to go back out into the job market. Even with experience, in our business that can be tough competition in hard times. I was blessed to find two local company offers. I lost about $15,000 a year in pay, which put me in a financial straitjacket.

I had just bought my first home at 45 years old. The monies had come from a lawsuit against a nursing home where my mother had passed. I dedicated my home to my mother's memory, so it was more than just a home for me. I hung onto my home for three more years living paycheck to paycheck. My credit score bottomed out, because everything was getting paid late and I was losing my health to the stress. Finally, I gave up after the entire emotional trauma of letting go and feeling like I had let my mama down. I realize now that my mama would have been the first to tell me not to stress over material possessions. So many times in my mother's life she had to start all over. I remember how happy my mother would be to just have her health to where she could start over. There was never a material thing, that mama held onto above her love for me. If we could just sit in a one-room apartment and break bread together, she was happy. Had I got to the point that my material gain had started defining me? Maybe? I think that this transition has caused me to look at the importance of family, because everything else material can change unexpectedly depending on an economy.

I think a lot of people have been learning this for the last eight years. It's been trying times for a lot of people, but it also has caused people to look at where they placed their value. Hard times cause people to look at what's really important. I've always tried to do better financially for me and my children. I realize now that nothing material can replace the time together,that building memories with my family has provided for me. I hope this has been the case for families all over America and the world. It is the strength within families that build communities which build the world.

The three years I spent trying to hang on to my home was more about the memory of my mom and the wrong that was done to her. I didn't spend those three years fussing about the economy, the politics of the country or that the union failed me because I've been a business owner and that part I understand. Life goes on, and we all begin to realize that with faith, determination and strong will, we will survive. The country is only as strong as its citizens and their families. I am grateful that I had all of the major areas of my life covered by the grace of God and I am blessed to understand that “hard times help us to remember that home is where the heart is!

My heartfelt prayers go out to the families everywhere that are rebuilding their lives with what they have in their new discoveries and understanding their true meaning of home!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Being True to Yourself… Prerequisite to a Happy Life!

I am going to stir the pot on the back burner at my café. It has been said that when something is dead it floats to the top. That may be a true statement; however, I'm no expert on dead stuff. If this piece floats anything to the top, let's throw it out! I try to keep myself present with life giving recipes.

I realize that by stirring this pot it could steam up the kitchen, but that's what it's all about here at The Writer's Café. The goal will be, to create a little steaminess and then when it clears, we’ll see what the fallout will bring. When we're always going with the same old recipes, it can make for a pretty boring existence. Some people can get very nervous at trying new things. However, until we are willing to try, no one will ever know what is really for them. Or, would we rather just stay in our little comfort zones of not throwing someone else off kittle?

When it comes to being true to yourself, it can be a task to separate oneself from the “group” analogy and listen to one's own personal intuitive response. Normally in our society, one does not trust their own instincts. They had indoctrinated themselves to the point of overload on what is acceptable for the group, rather than what is right for the individual. Where in all the chaos is the peace for oneself?

The questions one may ask themselves, from my experience, comes from a very unfamiliar authentic place within. What or who is steering this place is a question one may ask themselves. All of these observations and experiences of life through my lens, carry my own opinionated answers. Here at the café, you are allowed to have your own opinion without criticism.

I have listened to several conversations, whereby great souls question their own wisdom for what would serve them well. At the last minute, they will still be controlled by the “group” thought, amazing! Your own “happy life” can only come from your experiences, introspection and choices, not someone else's for you. Living in someone else's shadow will only steal your own shine. Being true to yourself can be (a)lone road towards an authentic life. What defines one's happiness may not be the same recipe for another.

Breaking free from “group” analogy does not mean that you have to sever ties; it just may mean establishing boundaries towards your own freedom. Sometimes a change of venue can be what the inner doctor orders. Your directives will come when you learn to trust yourself. Trusting yourself gives you the courage to know who to trust, with you.

Living in a world that is more than willing to advise you what to do is all the more reason to get in contact with you, the real you! If you don't know you, you will be directed by everybody else. We begin our lives by trying to fit in somewhere, so it should be no surprise when we wake up one day feeling like we don't know who we are or what we believe about anything.

The majority of our society lives on borrowed beliefs anyway; so, the road to discovery of yourself can be just as long as the road you've already traveled. I realize that this is not a comforting thought, but it can be a real one for lots of people. Believe me; I have these conversations every day with somebody. If you really open yourself to others to hear their stories, it will start to resonate within you that none of us are all that different.

I am discussing this topic because it is a recurring one across gender, race, age and religious lines. So, you thought that when people have religion, they are free of this topic? Not hardly! Probably this is the largest group, with all the self questioning of being real. To blame everything in your life that is not authentic on God is hardly an excuse. Being true to you is one of the biggest requirements in true happiness. God's business is “true happiness”!

Being a “great impersonator” is about observation, and within the eyes of the beholder. We learn as children to impersonate adults, because we want attention and acceptance. What are our excuses now? Be the originator of who you are now, because there is no one else you have to please! Living in your own skin is up to you. Just do it!

Still trying to figure out who you are? Take your time, one step at a time. Redefining oneself is all about your discoveries. This is your journey towards the person you really want to be in the world. When you look in the mirror, do you really know that person? If not, neither does anyone else! Present to the world, what you want them to remember. Live free… dance your dance… be true to yourself, what ever that means for you. Live from the place of the person you know, and allow others to know him/her also. Live your “Happy Life”!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Doing It My Way

Like every seasoned chef that knows her way around the kitchen, I know that one has to come through many trials and errors to make the mark. Doing it my way has been the theme of every quest I have set out on.

There have been many times in my kitchen of life that well-meaning friends and family have wished that I would have prepared my recipes, the way they desired. Better yet, followed someone's already tried and tested ones but I always had to do it my way.

Now, mind you, I have completely burned up a few dishes and had to start all over again many times! Some of them even left the lingering burnt aroma in my kitchen, whereby others could detect it coming in the door! However, it was all those burnt dishes that cause people now to keep coming back to my café! There is something about tenacity in trial and error and doing it your way, which will even eventually lead you to a signature authentic serving. Many times it will cause people to come back for a second serving.

I share with young chefs in my kitchen to not be afraid of mistakes in their dishes, because it is rare that you will be pleased to satisfaction on the first testing. Great chefs spend lots of time doing things over towards perfection. That's why there are so many chefs calling their kitchens, Hell’s fury because it can get so hot, sometimes they just want to scream! The secret to cooling a hot kitchen is to breathe, flow and dance your dance. Enjoy the many combinations of spices that your life experiences bring to your recipes and never be afraid to alter it into your signature piece, by doing it your way.

Here at The Writer's Café, we welcome your authentic signature pieces done your way. There is no right or wrong way here. Your taste testing of life is appreciated, and all we ask is that you be willing to taste other dishes as well. Everyone has something to offer. Sharing each other's dishes brings us more in contact with another's experience. Once we have a little taste sometimes we are pleasantly surprised. There are also times that we discover, there are going to be dishes our pallets just don't take to. I have learned over the years to just be open to trying new recipes, to diversify my forte’. When I discover something that doesn't agree with me, I don't criticize it, I just bookmark that piece for later testing. It doesn't become an absolute no, until I've tried it prepared by different chefs. By just placing it on the back burner, it awaits further investigation at another testing, whereby it may or may not be more agreeable.

Life is that way. We don't always agree with something the first go round. There are only a few things in life that are absolute, mostly life or death. When I share life experiences with those that have chosen to diversify and stay open to life, I am willing to listen to their input. Their willingness causes me to have deep consideration and respect for their position of doing it their way. Rarely am I opened to even hearing those that are rigid in their thinking or one-sided in their belief system of my way or no way. That is usually my queue, to not spend much energy on them, because they also have turned their ears off to any of my suggestions. A promising chef of an authentic signature piece will be open for suggestions, and then they'll put their twist on it.

I am looking forward to the recipes that others choose to serve up at The Writer's Café. Your link to your kitchen will be posted for others to come on over, sit down and have a tasting. Hopefully you will be encouraged by their visit and continued to do it your way!