The House Built On L♡VE & Shenanigans

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


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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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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.


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Fun At The Farmstead

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The afternoon sun was beating down heavily on top of my freshly shaved, uncovered dome.  The decision to leave my hat in the car was a bad move, I thought, as prickly beads of sweat begin to slowly creep down the back of my neck.  And there was not a tree in sight large enough to shield this weary body of mine.  Yet the constant happy chatter and the sound of spontaneous laughter indicated that my kids were somehow immune to this fiery inferno.

We were back in the Kansas City area recently for my brothers wedding, so we found ourselves at one of our kids’ favorite destinations – Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.

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Deanna Rose is a charming petting zoo in Overland Park, KS that’s set up to feel like a family farm.  According to their website, it is a 12-acre “children’s farmstead” where little ones can bottle feed goats, milk cows, take horsey rides, and take a ride on a horse drawn wagon.  Plus, it’s FREE during the week!

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Of course we did all of these things and more.  And after I retrieved my hat from the car, we strolled down to the pond to try our hand at fishing with an old school cane pole.  There were plenty of fish swimming around because we could see them, but unfortunately for us, we couldn’t seem to snag not a one!  Either they didn’t like the worms we were using for bait, or we really need to brush up on our fishing skills, but one things for certain, they were not fooling with us!

The girls where mighty disappointed, especially since there were other kids around who were actually catching fish and shouting with glee each time they pulled one flapping outta the water.  I think it was just my imagination, or maybe my ego was getting the better of me at this point, but it seemed like one little boy actually looked at me as if to say “Na-nana-naa-nah!”

“Oh no he didn’t,” I thought! Oh, he’s lucky I didn’t just reach out and snatch his pole – but I didn’t wanna start nothing up in the family farmstead.

One little girl was catching so many that we tried to ease on down to her spot hoping that some of her magic would rub off onto us! This tactic proved to be ineffective as she STILL caught two more while we stood right there next to her!  There we where, on the soggy bank of the pond, looking dazed and confused with no fish, just a big ol’ useless slimy bucket of worms.  This was around the time that the girls conveniently began to complain about being bored, so we decided it was a good time to hang up our pole.

 

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Aside from the heat, and being bested by those wily fish, we had a blast as usual.  It’s times like these that remind us how much fun it can be when we place our focus on creating joyful experiences for ourselves vs. concentrating on buying too much stuff, in an effort to find fulfillment.  Simply enjoying time together as a family was the order of the day.

Mission accomplished!

MB

 


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Giving Is Living – So They Say

IMG_1955Since we packed up our house in Kansas City, and began our more compact life in Charlottesville, we’ve been keeping the bulk of the overflow furniture items and knick-knacks from our former house in an onsite garage. For an additional fee, our apartment complex conveniently provides this extra space for those who are fortunate enough to land one – and we were hallelujah happy to get ours because they are in high demand.

Many of people who luck up and grab one of these garages, use them to house their cars, motorcycles, canoes and such, but they don’t come cheap.  So if you don’t absolutely need one, you probably need to let it go.  With this in mind, and in our pursuit to live more simple and frugal lives, we announced to the good folks at the office that we were giving up the garage for our second leasing term which begins this month. Unfortunately, that meant that most of our stored unused stuff would have to go!

First of all, I don’t like to part with my things, period! I’m not a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination; I just have a “thing” for my things! I mean, I bought it, it’s mine, and if it’s still nice, I wanna keep it (if I can) regardless of whether or not I’m currently putting it to good use.

 

Goodbye comfy easy-chair, we had some good times.

Goodbye comfy easy-chair, we had some good times.

One of our neighbors spotted me rearranging the space in my patio storage closet (the one that every tenant has) in anticipation of the disposal/relocation of items mission, and inquired if we were moving. I told him I was hoping to free up enough room in this tight closet to be able to stuff in and keep as much of the “stuff” that’s sitting in my garage as possible. In a good natured attempt to bestow a kernel of wisdom upon me, he offered this thought,  “if I haven’t used a particular item at all within a six month period, then I get rid of it.” Well I guess I still have to work on becoming more evolved, because needless to say I was less than receptive to his insight at the time.

In fact, I wasn’t trying to hear any of that – I smiled and listened to him pleasantly, but as he went on his merry way,  I thought to myself, “shoot I ain’t giving up nothing!”

But like in a funny movie when the sound of a record scratch abruptly bursts someone’s bubble, Rach put an end to my stockpiling dreams in her usual way.

 

IMG_1952No problem you might say, just sell the items you can’t use, and pick up a little coin in the process, right? Well, the problem with that is, we had a busy summer – which is also code for we procrastinated to point that it was far too late to try and sell the items before our September 1st leasing agreement deadline, and we didn’t want to have to pay for the garage for another year. So what we couldn’t creatively cram, fit, force, stash, or shove into an open nook or cranny inside our apartment, got donated to Goodwill – Rachael’s suggestion of course.

You see, Rachael doesn’t hold the same attachment for material things that I do, so she seemed a bit too comfortable…no, down right eager to partake in this whole purging process for my taste!

We can’t just give all these good ol’ possessions away, I thought – I mean, this is our stuff…these are our things…

Rach sweeping out the now empty garage.

Rach sweeping out the now empty garage.

And like a flash, I remembered a passage I read in Michael Bernard Beckwith’s book, “Spiritual Liberation” which said: “Evolved people give to live until they live to give. As individuals expand their understanding of universal law, they learn to give in order to live a life of inner wealth. This is a process of growing out of a mindset of getting something from the world to letting something from within you be freely given.”

I realized that I may had formed a potentially unhealthy attachment toward these objects that no longer served me, but could be of greater service to someone else.  At least that’s what I told myself as I watched the long-haired burly Goodwill guy charting away my chair, coffee table, and other once cherished items.

I admit that I’m still a work-in-progress, but I’m working to become more willing to give in and do the work that might help me live a more happy and abundant life.

 

MB