The House Built On L♡VE & Shenanigans

The In's and Out's of Family Life in Charlottesville, VA


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Respect My Recycle

For years now my sister would get on me about recycling.  Of course, every time we’d stay with family in Baltimore, I’d invariably need to throw something away.  Whether it was a damp plastic cup from a recent trip to a local food joint, orange peels, bread crusts, a milk carton that one of my daughters just finished off, or an empty can of tuna; my only concern was how quickly could I find a place to dispose of it, so I could move on with my day.

Not being a recycler myself, I wouldn’t hesitate to toss the waste into the nearest receptical I could find.  But soon after doing so, I’d hear my sisters agitated voice booming at me from the kitchen, “MAAARC, YOU’RE MIXING GARBAGE WITH REUSABLE’S AGAIN…RESPECT MY RECYCLE MAN!!!”

Dude, come on, ain’t nobody got time to be going through all that organizing, sorting and picking through trash.  I’ve got better things to do than rummage through all that mess.  This is what I thought to myself as I walked back into the kitchen to receive yet another lesson in “what goes where” from my sis.

It’s not like I didn’t see the value in recycling, I just had never gotten into the habit because:

  1. It takes more time (stay-at-home dad with three daughters…time is at a premium).  For me it wasn’t very convenient.
  2. It was just so confusing. I didn’t know what was recyclable and I had better things to do than to figure it out, I justified.
  3. Mostly I’d just plum forget to recycle…not an activity that was in the forefront of my brain!

Ignorance is bliss!

Plus, even if I did recycle, where the heck was I supposed to take all that stuff?  Seriously, I’m expected to put my hands in all that rubbish to sort out that junk then load it up in the car and lug it somewhere too? It’s not like we have curbside pickup for recycle.  Please…I just wasn’t gonna be able to do it.

This went on for years as I continued to toss out pound after pound of perfectly reusable materials, doing my part to increase the size of my local landfill without a hint of guilt or shame (well maybe just a ping of remorse).  But not enough to cause me to make a lifestyle change, even though somewhere in the back of my mind – probably from the seed planted by my sister, it seemed that recycling was the right thing to do.

And then my well guarded bliss was suddenly shattered like glass, splaying a thousand splintered daggers across the recesses of my mind!

Well no, it wasn’t that dramatic, but it was interesting that one day out of the blue, one of my girls had randomly suggested that we should start recycling; not realizing that just the day before, I had for the first time seen an obscured unassuming sign marking the location of the McIntire recycling center.  This center was so close to my house that I must have driven past it over a hundred times, never realized it was there.  I knew of its existence from word of mouth, but I never knew how conveniently located it really is.

Realizing it’s close proximity to our residence and coupled with my daughter’s random recycle request, a light bulb went off inside my consciousness, illuminating my dull state of unawareness.  It was as if something was whispering to me through this case of sheer serendipity.  The alarm had sounded and the bell had tolled.  I had no more excuses.

According to conserve-energy-future.com, there are many reasons why we should recycle, and one individual or family can truly make a world of difference.  “Averagely, every American produces about 1600 pounds of waste every year and that up to 1100 pounds of waste, is able to be recycled every year per person.  That represents a half a ton per individual.  This means a family of four can minimize waste by more than two tons each year just by the easy task of recycling.”

This week marks one month since we as a family made the commitment to recycle.  I don’t know that I’d agree that it’s an “easy task” to recycle, but it certainly feels good to believe that you are doing something good for the environment, while teaching your children a valuable lesson about their responsibility to our global community. For we are all one people, and are responsible for one another.

The girls have really taken to sorting out the different types of reusables, and it’s become yet another fun activity heading down to the recycling center.  We feel our efforts are going a long way toward preserving our environment because surprisingly, it seems that more than half of the stuff we used to throw away can actually be reused!

I always knew about recycling, but knowing about it and actually doing something about it are two different things.  I’m glad we have now made it a part of our lives.  And now like my sister, I’m a proud recycler.  There was a time when I scoffed at this proposition, now I put some “respeck” on it!

 

MB

 

 

 


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Listen Up!

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“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” – Mark Twain

Marley came home from school recently and firmly declared, “Dada, we are supposed to listen more than we talk. That’s why we have two ears and only one mouth.” Apparently, she picked this idea up from one of her teachers who obviously used this proposition, as a “classroom management technique.”  And since the teachers are required to wrangle with nearly 30 kids all day, who could blame them.  There is certainly a strong case to be made about the importance of this particular sentiment with regard to the way we choose to communicate.

There are many forms of communication that we use daily.  Verbal, which uses the spoken word to communicate one’s message.  Non-verbal, for example uses body language, gestures, and facial expressions.  Listening, is also one of the more important communication skills, but unfortunately it is the one that is probably practiced the least.  It would seem that our society has put more emphasis on “getting our point across,” to the detriment of actively listening to what others have to say.  I’ve often wondered if when we are engaged in conversations, do we really listen to what the other person is saying, or are we merely waiting for our turn to talk?

At boundless.com, they discuss the importance of listening, as well as the degrees of active listening.  They make it clear that, “listening is a skill of critical significance in all aspects of our lives–from maintaining our personal relationships, to getting our jobs done, to taking notes in class, to figuring out which bus to take to the airport. Regardless of how we’re engaged with listening, it’s important to understand that listening involves more than just hearing the words that are directed at us.”

What better way to for us to fully understand one another and connect on a deeper level than to listen?  Old angers and resentments will begin to vanish, and frustrations will seemingly melt away.

Written communication of course is also a major way of conveying a message or point of view that would be difficult to do with speech alone.  The deeper I delve into practicing the art of writing; I’m discovering one truly important fact.  As I desire to increase my skill as a writer, I’ve also begun to understand that to be a better scribe, I need to FIRST become a better listener.

The photograph above shows yours truly apparently eavesdropping on a conversation (although I would have needed The Rosetta Stone to decipher what these sculpted fellows were saying…BA-DUM TSHH).  However, it’s not really eavesdropping, but a great way for a writer to create dialogue, which is an important component to our fiction writing.  Not to mention a great way to get ideas for your next story.

So if we want to be successful in our creative pursuits, business endeavors, or in our various relationships, we could choose to do as Marley suggested, and in fact improve on our ability to listen.

Out of the mouths of babes oft times come true pearls of wisdom!

MB

 

Source: Boundless. “The Importance of Listening.” Boundless Communications. Boundless, 13 Apr. 2016. Retrieved 13 May. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/communications/textbooks/boundless-communications-textbook/learning-to-listen-and-helping-others-do-the-same-5/understanding-listening-29/the-importance-of-listening-132-8285/

 

 


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The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff, Ready for Festival Season!

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We are pleased that on November 1, 2015, after a considerable amount of time and effort expended by a family of committed people, we were able to bring The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff book project to life!

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This young reader seems very pleased.

I continue to feel truly grateful and in awe of how well our labor of love is doing.  The book is  finding its way into the hands of many readers, bringing tons of smiles to the faces, and joy to the hearts of the many little ones who have experienced this thoughtful tale.

And now I’m pleased to announce (drum roll please) that The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff, was accepted to the 2016 Virginia Festival of the Book! 

As a part of this 5 day event, I was invited to present at:  The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Thursday, 3/17, and The Village School on Saturday, 3/19.

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Corbin H. loves the book!

I will also host a program at the Congregation Beth Israel on Thursday, 3/17 at 10 am, and I have a book signing at Alakazam Toy & Book store on Sunday, 3/20 from 3-4:30. All of these events are in Charlottesville, VA. so if you happen to be in the area, please come and check us out.

In addition to that, the book will also be presented at the 2016 Baltimore Book Festival! This festival is taking place on Saturday, September 24, 2016.  Please visit my website for more updates (times, locations, etc.) as they become available.

My hope is that this “little-book-that-could,” will continue to be used to inspire both young and old to follow their passion — to be bold, and to live this life on your own terms, by truly living and breathing your unique authenticity!

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That’s what we are here for!

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Kojo S. shows off his copy!

To create, love, encourage others…and to dream! But we mustn’t stop there.  Oh no homie, we must then act on those dreams in an effort to BE the change we seek to make in this universe.

Thank you to all those who have supported our book.

Let’s keep it movin’!

MB

 


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Pull Your Pants Up

 

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I was reading an article on the website Stereogum, about a comment that Chance The Rapper made about Spike Lee’s new movie Chi-raq. In it, Chance criticized the movies message by describing it as being on, “some Bill Cosby, ‘pull your pants up’ type stuff.”

Chance contends that it isn’t so much the lifestyle choices that young people are making, (ie..sagging pants) but that PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is actually more responsible for the troubles that are affecting communities nationwide.

Chance says, “Kids as young as seven, and younger than that, have seen people murdered in front of them, so that starts a paranoia in your mind that you’re walking around with. When you’re walking around and you feel like people are trying to kill you, you shoot when you get scared. That’s a problem that even I have. That’s a problem that a lot of people suffer.”

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You’ve seen this fashion statement plenty of times before.

I’ll concede that he has a point!

I don’t want to argue the validity of  his assessment of causality for now, so let’s back up to the some Bill Cosby, ‘pull your pants up’ type stuff comment that Chance made.

I’m not much for preaching the cultural, ethical, and moral ramifications of something as trite as  fashion, and I’m a bit turned off by any talk that does.  Maybe that’s because it’s just not that important for me to spread my brand of morality to people.

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Can’t Get Right played by actor Bokeem Woodbine

At times when I was a youth, my nickname could have easily been, “Can’t Get Right,” just like the character from the 1999 movie, “Life.” Back in those days, there was a period when I just couldn’t get my act together. In other words, I’d fallen short of my own expectations for myself and those of others (and at times still do).

But as I consciously and continuously evolve, I’m learning what works best for me as I strive to grow nearer to living my own authentic truth.

I can only practice being the best person I can be, while encouraging others to do the same.

If you find it necessary to wear your pants down below your butt (even though I wouldn’t) who am I to judge that, or to try and attribute your choice to the systematic decline of society? Your personal style is your prerogative – a byproduct of the beauty of free-will!

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MLK’s pants were not sagging and this still happened to him!

So to all those who still concern themselves with other people’s clothing, and the manner in which they wear them, (as if these decisions will lead to some great calamity) I ask you this question.

Are you being your best self?

The truth is, only you can answer that for yourself!

The point I feel Chance was making from the perspective of a young person is that, older folks act as if we know what’s best for everyone simply because we are old.  It’s true that experience is the best teacher, and I believe that we should respect our elders.  However there is a difference between experience and wisdom.

Unfortunately, wisdom does not always come with age alone.  There are many philosophical thoughts on how one obtains Wisdom, but generally speaking, it is acquired through the learned ability to discern (decide between truth, error, and what’s important), and to show discretion (speak without being offensive).

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I used to be a rather unruly young person. Yes, that is “the bird” on full display there…along with MY SAGGY PANTS!

An unwise person may come across as preachy and authoritative, while a wise person may allow someone to find their own way, by simultaneously providing gentle guidance toward helping them become their best selves.

This is also the mark of good parenting, and the approach I strive to use most often with my children.

We must be mindful to avoid our natural tendecy to be self-rightous in our approach to dealing with young people.  Because remember, it wasn’t long ago that we old folks were having OUR fun, and doing things that the previous generation thought was questionable at best.

When it comes to things of merit, issues of great importance, it is our duty to speak up! But when it comes to superficial things like fashion, we could probably afford to pump our brakes a little bit.

I know it’s difficult to do so, because the hardest thing about business is…learning to mind our own!

MB

 

 

 

 

 


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Black in the Day – Sarah Rector

Sarah Rector

Ever hear of Sarah Rector?

Well if you haven’t, you’re certainly not alone.  I stumbled across her name by accident while reading about another intriguing historical topic (slave holding Native American tribes) online the other day.  I consider myself a serious history buff, and since I’d never heard of her, I was astonished to learn of her fascinating story.

This rags to riches tale involves young Sarah Rector, who was only 10 years old when she became one of the richest African Americans in the US during the early 1900’s.

Her story is also a sad testament to the great lengths to which some folks will go to satisfy their desire for control and power.  They’ll use all means of corruption to gratify their insatiable greed.

Sarah Rector smallSarah Rector was born in Oklahoma Indian territory in 1902.  She and her family each individually received a land allotment as a result of their so-called “membership” in the Creek Nation, along with many other blacks at the time.  The US government and the Creek nation agreed that the Creeks, and their former slaves, would be given land grants.

Mind you, this is before Oklahoma was granted statehood.

She and her family where among the thousands of blacks who where held in bondage by five slave holding tribes –  the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, and Creek Nations.

So she and her family took possession of their stony, less than ideal, plots of land that where difficult to farm due to its rocky terrain.  But their fortunes changed as dramatically as Jed Clampett’s did, when oil was found on her portion of land – Yes, Black Gold, Texas Tea!

That’s when all the money hungry crows and buzzards descended upon her.

Sarah Rector article 3Efforts were made to place Sarah under the guardianship of whites so that they could more easily control her money.  People came out of the woodwork looking for loans and handouts.  She even received a flood of marriage proposals, all while businessmen clammered to take control of her estate.

There was even an effort made to declare her white, so that she could travel in the first class section on trains, and also to ease the discomfort that white folks had regarding a little black girl possessing so much money (absurd).

She went on to study at Tuskegee University and then moved on to live in Kansas City, MO.

By this point, Sarah had managed to “own stocks and bonds, a boarding house, a bakery, and the Busy Bee Café in Muskogee, Oklahoma, as well as 2,000 acres of prime river bottomland.”

Although much effort was taken by unscrupulous businessmen to separate her from her fortune, she managed to retain much of her wealth until she passed away in her 60’s.

Her’s is a little known story with a big source of inspiration and pride.

MB

 


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Hooray, The Books Have Arrived!

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Great news!

My first shipment of books arrived in the mail today.  Hot off the press…fresh out the box, and ready to be delivered to your doorstep.

Just in time for the holiday season!

Be sure to pick up your copy on Amazon November 9th.

Thanks again for all those who have supported this project.  I truly appreciate you all.

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For all those who’ll be in the Charlottesville area, I’ll be reading the book and signing copies on Sunday, November 1st at 3pm in Crozet, VA. at Over The Moon Bookstore.  Come on out and bring the kids.

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MB


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Whoops!

Have you ever had one of those days where things just don’t seem to be going the way you expected? Well let me tell ya, I seem to be having one of those WEEKS.

I can’t figure out exactly why, but maybe it’s because we are in the process of moving and our place looks like a warehouse, filled with stacked boxes, tape, and bubble wrap, that was hit by a typhoon. Couple that with all that goes along with moving (transferring bills, forwarding your address with the post office, renting a u-haul) has me feeling a bit addled.

Or is it that I’m still adjusting to having all the girls in school which has me feeling out of sorts?

With all that’s going on lately I’ve been very preoccupied – which has led to a series of minor mishaps.  As a result, there is one word that has defined my week and has become a main stay in my vernacular, and that word is…WHOOPS!

Here’s a brief list of the happenings that have led to my new overused expression:

  • We went out of town over the weekend and I left my cell phone charger at home. Whelp, no phone calls for me for a few days.  WHOOPS!
  • On the 3 hour drive back to Charlottesville, took the wrong highway, which added an additional 1 1/2 hours to the trip. WHOOPS!
  • Got back and began unpacking and realized that I left my laptop charger out of town. WHOOPS!
  • I was working on a blog post and pushed the “Publish” button instead of “Save Draft”, and accidently posted an unfinished piece that was totally not ready for public consumption. WHOOPS!

It’s all so annoying, frustrating, inconvenient, and unpleasant when this stuff happens to us. Those times when we don’t get what we want or things don’t go our way.

And here I sit typing this post on an IPad that belongs to one my girls because without my power cord, the battery on my laptop died days ago, which is an awkward nuisance and disruption to my routine.

I guess I could sulk around, cursing the heavens, while wondering, “why is all of this happening to me right now?” Or, I could choose to put all of these worries into perspective.

I’m quickly reminded of the poem by Michelle Sedas entitled, Welcome The Rain:

As the first raindrops fall to the ground

A businessman lets out an angry sigh.

Knowing traffic will be slow he thinks,

Why me? Why today? Just tell me why!

Outside of town, a farmer scans the horizon

As the storm clouds begin to roll in.

With joy and celebration he calls out,

We are blessed! At last, this drought will end!

In every life storms will come:

Adversity, Inconvenience, or Pain.

Only we can choose how we respond:

To be overwhelmed or to

Welcome The Rain.

When we are in the midst of our troubles it’s difficult to conceive that when these storms roll into our lives, they could be designed to make us stronger. These tough times never last, and if we gain nothing, hopefully we understand that they may serve to remind us that we’ve survived them before.  And by going through it, we have greater empathy for others who may also be struggling.