What Is the Most Important Lesson Your Parents Taught You?

Da Realist 1: Standing up for myself

I was very fortunate to have lots of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles around when I was a little girl. And I think I learned some of my most important lessons from them. My great aunt Audrey had a tremendous impact on me. She never had children of her own, which is probably why she liked to have me around. She was a no-nonsense kind of person who was serious about good manners and education. She used to tell me, “You MUST BE intelligent.” So, it was clear that I didn’t have a choice.

Here is Auntie, all decked out in her Order of the Eastern Star regalia.

Here is Auntie, all decked out in her Order of the Eastern Star regalia.

Aunt Audrey (or Auntie–pronounced Aint-TEE–as we called her) taught me to stand up for myself. I was always shorter than the children my age and a little timid as well. I stayed with her one summer when I was about four years old. She would drop me at “Octavia’s”, who would babysit while Auntie was at work.  At some point, she began to notice bruises on my back during my bath time. When she asked what happened, I would say “nothing.” Finally, she was fed up and said she’d spank me if I didn’t tell her what was going on. I, of course, spilled my guts. “Mike,” the babysitter’s son, was beating me up every day. He was also terrorizing his two sisters–one was younger; the other was my age. We told Octavia, but she never did anything.

Mike was one or two years older than I was, so I was afraid of him. But Auntie told me that I better not let him beat me up again. And if he tried, I was to “bite the shit out of him” and don’t let go. The next day Mike was up to his old tricks again–bullying. He hit me, and I latched onto his closest body part, which just happened to be his stomach. I’m good at following directions, so I did not let go. Octavia came and tried to pull me off, but still I hung on until my jaws were tired. According to Auntie, he’s probably still got teeth marks on him today.

Octavia asked me why I had bitten her son. And I was happy to relay that “my Auntie told me to bite the shit out of him.” It’s probably not advice that anyone would give children today, but my aunt was old school. I did not become a habitual biter as a result of the incident, but I did learn that I could stand up for myself. And I’ve had to do a lot of that over the years.

Da Hype 1

If you sit down for any length of time with either of my two parents, they are certain to engage you in a conversation of politics. Both of my parents were working class, blue collar folks, who were heavily engaged in their unions. In places like Maryland, that also meant that they were engaged in the activities of the Democratic party.

My parents never banished me to a place for kids only when an adult conversation was in process, so I heard their thoughts on politics and their thoughts on the way politicians operated our city, state, and federal governments. My first political education came from my home. And, as I became older, I was even expected to participate in those conversations.

When Mrs. Amina, the lady up the street needed people to knock on doors for voter registration and to ensure that voters had a ride to polls, my mother was happy to volunteer me for that job. That was my civic duty. So, when the time came for me to vote, I did so, without reservations. I knew what the inside of a polling booth looked like because I had gone in with my mother for years before.

So, I learned how to engage in politics from my parents. They taught me to stay politically aware, engaged, and most of all active.

Ok, 2 Dope readers, it’s your turn. What’s the most important lesson that you learned from your parents?

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Having a Blue Christmas

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitaPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitaPhotos.net

As I noted in last week’s Wacky Wednesday post, I love Christmas, especially the decorations. But I understand that this time of year is not always joyful. In fact, there were times when I’ve had a “Blue Christmas” rather than “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” My Christmas wish was to be on a cruise to the Caribbean rather than sitting at home alone in my apartment, listening to sad songs and watching fictional characters make merry on television.

Feelings of loneliness are often compounded during Christmas, and it is just one of the reasons that the holidays can be difficult. On Sunday I called my mother, who I usually talk to daily, and discovered that she had been deep into her “holiday blues” for a couple of days. She hadn’t called because she didn’t want to burden me. She feared that she would make me sad as well.

For my mother, this season reminds her of the people she loves who have passed away, especially her parents. Both of her parents died in December, although it was years apart. I was only two-years-old when my grandfather died, so I can’t remember him or his death. But my grandmother’s death is etched in my memory, even though I was living hundreds of miles away when it happened. She died December 26, 1995.

On December 25, just as my grandmother, my mother, and their guests were about to sit down to Christmas dinner, my grandmother had a severe pain in her head which turned out to be a stroke. She was conscious as the paramedics were putting her into the ambulance, and that was right about the time that I called home. I was on my way to work that day, but I wanted to find out how Grandma liked my present.

She was in the emergency room for hours while doctors tried to lower her blood pressure, which was skyrocketing. According to my mother, however, they never really provided much treatment. Eventually, later that night, they released her. As my mother was driving Grandma home, she screamed and slumped over. My mother rushed her back to the hospital. Grandma had experienced a cerebral hemorrhage; she slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. She was taken off life support the following day.

My mother feels things very deeply, so I understand how this season affects her. But I chastised her for not calling me. (Even though we live in different states, we are constantly in touch.) I am sure that not talking to anyone only deepens her feelings of aloneness and sadness.

There are so many people who are hurting during this time of year. I have opened this window into my world because I think it is an important topic. Please reach out to family and friends who may be having a hard time. And if you are sad, blue, melancholy, or depressed, you are certainly not alone. Reach out to your family and friends. Let them know how you are feeling. And if your depression is really serious, do not be too proud or afraid to see a counselor.

Wacky Wednesday: What Are You Reading?

Da Hype 1

Junie B. JonesRecently, my 6 year old has gotten into to Junie B. Jones books. I have enjoyed reading these books with her because I love watching her fall in love with a character. I have learned that reading a book series allows children the opportunity to get engaged and stay engaged with a character. Since she was a baby, we have read entire series of books. The characters are familiar to her and she looks forward to the newest experiences they face.

Junie B. Junes, who will not engage you unless you call her by her entire name, gets into trouble and she is brazen and fearless. She is spunky, and she gets into the type of mischief that was historically reserved for boys in literature. She is also creative and smart. I like reading about her new escapades and discussing them with my daughter. Her behavior also provides us opportunities to discuss how I want my 6 year old to behave.

I love watching my daughter explore literature and I am happy that we can now explore it together.

Da Realist 1

I just completed While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of whileworldwatchedAge during the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Maull McKinstry. As the title suggests, McKinstry was at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church when it was bombed on September 15, 1963. In fact, she had just seen her friends Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair in the bathroom before the explosion.

I was interested in Maull’s perspective as teenager and as a survivor of such a tragic, violent event. As one might imagine, she had survivor’s guilt. She lost her best friend in the bombing. Psychologically she was traumatized, but she had no opportunity to discuss her feelings. No one talked about what happened–not at school, not at home, and not at church. When the church’s damage was repaired, the bathroom where the girls were killed was literally walled off. When she left Birmingham to attend college, she began drinking as a method of coping. It took her many years to come to terms with her alcoholism and her feelings about the bombing.

While the World Watched is compelling when discussing events that Maull participated in or witnessed. But the sections on other historical events and actors (like JFK and “Bull” Conner) are much less effective. Her narrative is not written chronologically; as a result, it is somewhat repetitive.

It was important for McKinstry to share her story of survival and illustrate the impact of the bombing on her life. While we mourn and pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement, we give considerably less attention to the effects of violence on those who lived through it. Though I may have issues with this book, I’m glad she wrote it.

Wacky Wednesday: What Is the Most Important Lesson Your Parents Taught You?

Da Realist 1: Standing up for myself

I was very fortunate to have lots of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles around when I was a little girl. And I think I learned some of my most important lessons from them. My great aunt Audrey had a tremendous impact on me. She never had children of her own, which is probably why she liked to have me around. She was a no-nonsense kind of person who was serious about good manners and education. She used to tell me, “You MUST BE intelligent.” So, it was clear that I didn’t have a choice.

Here is Auntie, all decked out in her Order of the Eastern Star regalia.

Here is Auntie, all decked out in her Order of the Eastern Star regalia.

Aunt Audrey (or Auntie as we called her) taught me to stand up for myself. I was always a little shorter than the children my age and a little timid as well. I stayed with her one summer when I was about four years old. She would drop me at Octavia’s, who would babysit while Auntie was at work.  At some point, she began to notice bruises on my back during my bath time. When she asked what happened, I would say “nothing.” Finally, she was fed up and said she’d spank me if I didn’t tell her what was going on. I, of course, spilled my guts. Mike, the babysitter’s son, was beating me up every day. He was also terrorizing his two sisters–one was younger; the other was my age. We told Octavia, but she never did anything.

Mike was one or two years older than I was, so I was afraid of him. But Auntie told me that I better not let him beat me up again. And if he tried, I was to “bite the shit out of him” and don’t let go. The next day Mike was up to his old tricks again–bullying. He hit me, and I latched onto his closest body part, which just happened to be his stomach. I’m good at following directions, so I did not let go. Octavia came and tried to pull me off, but still I hung on until my jaws were tired. According to Auntie, he’s probably still got teeth marks on him today.

Octavia asked me why I had bitten her son. And I was happy to relay that “my Auntie told me to bite the shit out of him.” It’s probably not advice that anyone would give children today, but my aunt was old school. I did not become a habitual biter as a result of the incident, but I did learn that I could stand up for myself. And I’ve had to do a lot of that over the years.

Da Hype 1

If you sit down for any length of time with either of my two parents, they are certain to engage you in a conversation of politics. Both of my parents were working class, blue collar folks, who were heavily engaged in their unions. In places like Maryland, that also meant that they were engaged in the activities of the Democratic party.

My parents never banished me to a place for kids only when an adult conversation was in process, so I heard their thoughts on politics and their thoughts on the way politicians operated our city, state, and federal governments. My first political education came from my home. And, as I became older, I was even expected to participate in those conversations.

When Mrs. Amina, the lady up the street needed people to knock on doors for voter registration and to ensure that voters had a ride to polls, my mother was happy to volunteer me for that job. That was my civic duty. So, when the time came for me to vote, I did so, without reservations. I knew what the inside of a polling booth looked like because I had gone in with my mother for years before.

So, I learned how to engage in politics from my parents. They taught me to stay politically aware, engaged, and most of all active.