My New Normal-Living with Loss

I started typing this over a year ago, right after the loss of my grandfather. I could not even form whole sentences, find words or describe the emotions swirling around in my head ad heart.

When you lose someone so integral to your very existence, how do you process? Those stages of grief do not even scratch the surface. I know for a fact I did not experience them in any rational order. Without getting too deep into the stages one by one, I’ll just say I am still going through them one by one. It seems I am cycling through them faster. I’ll be happy at the glance of a picture of Pop and in the very next moment, sad that There will be no more of them. Then back to happy as I am grateful to have had the moments to cherish. Again, to mad at the thought of him not meeting his great-great grandchildren.

Just typing those thoughts is evoking an overwhelming sense of sadness. Yet this time I am not paralyzed by my grief and deafening silence of this ever present figure. He was and still is a part of my conscience.

My grandfather, by birth, was truly the grandest father I have ever met. He loved his family and children in an unconditional way that made you want to do better and try harder.

We all continue to strive to do the right thing and more importantly take care of each other because that is what Pop would wanted.

When Pop was first diagnosed with cancer, he was digging in for a fight. literally, the fight of his life. He was a feisty crazy little man (spunky). He rarely walked away from confrontation. He though it best to “nip it in the bud”.

Even though we all are smart, we ignored the statistics. If they say 1 out 10,000 survive, then we were foolishly thinking that our Pop was going to be that 1. He really was a larger than life figure that always seemed to beat the odds. So, why not now…

While I don’t have the answer to that question, I do know that my life is fractured into a few chapters. We’ll just call this chapter Life After: The New Normal.

I lived with or near my grandparents my entire life. So for almost four decades, there was Pop. We had traditions.

Now what? As I see my entire family splinter apart and fracture, I still don’t know. Only this time the person that would be able to fix it has transitioned onto a higher plane. He has left us to tend it these problems ourselves.

In one year, I lost my grand father, my 11-year-old dog and got evicted from an apartment I live in for 18 years! My new normal was traumatic, scary and still defining who I will be for a long time.

My new normal is filled trying to honor the spirit my Grand Father embodied. Passing on the lessons he taught me, to not just my sons, but to all I encounter. Symbolize the integrity and confidence he lived. The truth he always championed, even when it was hard. To Pop, right was right and wrong was wrong.

My new normal has flickers of light and hope. Now, the things and experiences I know he would have been proud to witness bring me an unbridled joy. I still feel the love and pride, as if I could hear him saying “ya did good kid” every time.

Again, as the tears begin to stream down my face as I think about him, they are bittersweet. Bitter because no new memories. He is gone and that is final. Sweet because he is not in pain anymore. This strong, rugged man no longer has to suffer the humility of us caring for him. He hated every moment of it (and he let us know too. He caught my uncle with a jam to the mouth to prove it).  Also, sweet because I have four decades of memories, experiences, photos and videos to comfort me. My sons knew him, not just of him. That in and of itself gives me joy.

I’ll share more about Pop later. He really was a renaissance man (He went back to school late in life-before it was cool. He started a whole new career). He was pretty funny too…for example, I wanted to buy a fake (artificial) Christmas tree. It is a cost saver and they look just like the real ones. Plus you can buy the pine fragrance. So it’ll be more authentic. I tell Pop my plans. He looks at me and with a confused expression says, “Girl are you crazy? You’re going to buy a fake plastic tree and then spray it with fake pine scent? That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard! What’s next? You buy a toy burger spray it O-day-burger and eat it??” After I thought about it, he was right. To this day I have never bought a fake tree (or a fake burger). The real ones just smell so much better.

My new normal will be full of great memories, as many as I can fit into the years I have left on this earth. In this new leg of my journey, I often ask myself WWJD (what would James do)?



Pre-trip Thoughts & Jitters…

ALL my life I have had to share my birthday with the Grand Old Diva I call “No-Thanks Givens”. She is greedy, glutinous and inconsiderate. She’s the popular girl that gets all the party invites and only goes to one party, fashionably late of course. You are nervous to meet her. You want to make a good impression. However, every year you are happy she is gone so you can get to planning to host her more jolly cousin Chris-short for buy my things X-mas. Don’t even get me started on this guy (oy vey!)

This year I got the bright idea to be selfish and take my entire birthday week. I use to (ok I still do) laugh at people who over-celebrated their birthday. I’d hear things like it’s my birthday month. They were genuinely excited. That excitement, excessive marketing and constant reminders of the upcoming minor holiday aka their birthday, was contagious. People cared.

In my case, I never was able to maintain that excitement. I learned early on, “it’s not about you right now.” “We’ll celebrate later.” “I know it’s your birthday, but  I need your help.”

I remember being excitement and anticipating my birthday as a kid. Even though I knew I wouldn’t see my school friends until  after the break or that the only reason everyone was at our house was because of the holiday. I still got some by-product birthday wishes, but never the celebratory fuss of an actual birthday.

I was content though. Not this year. I actually want to create a life of adventure. Thus, content just won’t do.

Disclaimer, they all were not good birthdays. I don’t want to give the impression that I was Cinderella or something.

It wasn’t until I actually started to see the importance of celebrating a birthday and the joy of being celebrated that I started wanting to join in. Since, I’ve never been too patient I started to plan things for myself to do on my special day.

Great! Right?? But this is probably a less than ideal time. My grandfather is sick battling cancer. That is a whole other thing.  My partner and I just went through an extremely emotional and traumatic situation. The concept of loss is real, ever imposing upon me daily.

I will be using this week for a few things-to reconnect with my art, with my god, my inner fighter that is slipping away, to find the point in this existence again and to just think.

I’ve never travelled by myself. It is both terrifying and liberating.

Stay Tuned….

Shelter in Place

I love words. Not because I’m some grammatical gremlin trolling for dangling participles. I love words because when given context they can change meaning.

For as long as I can remember (it’s pretty far back), I’ve always been so amused to learn a new word or phrase. Instantly, I would wonder where it came from, it’s origin or root.

When you grow up the way and places I did, you would have heard some real humdingers-that’s one of them.  Ain’t got a pot to piss in, hauling ass, cruising for a bruising, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, (need I go on)

A while ago while in a training class, the instructor of the active shooter session said something that stuck with me. I didn’t think about it until recently. He said if you are really trapped, pinned down and cannot find a way out of a room without drawing attention and danger to yourself, the best option is to shelter in place. I had this class at least a year ago. But yesterday a co-worker asked a question about how would she get out of the office of there was an active shooter.  I just started rattling off  the exits and strategies like a tactical officer.

Just today, this term “Shelter in Place” made me sad. If is haven’t explained a thousand times already, here it is again. My mind works like a big game of word association. It’s weird to others but it makes sense to me. The topics seem unrelated to others, but to me they are so connected, irrevocably so.

I was standing in hallway waiting for someone to come open the front door for me. I had my backpack on, with everything in it (wallet, iPad, folders, papers, bills, lotion, mints, etc.) I thought to myself about how heavy my bag feels. Then I thought wow this guy is really taking his sweet time to open this door. Next, at least I’m in the hallway out of the cold and nice refuge form teh elements. (Yes that was my actual thought). Then, I was like wow you are packed as if you’re about to take a trip.

I’ll spare you all the bread crumb of thoughts but I felt a bit of fatigue thinking about my past and my future.

I am forty years old (and young). I am still renting. I have no roots. The word shelter just feels so distant to everything I know right now. I realized that I am still, in a sense, living out of a box or a garbage bag. Just never really settled-having no real shelter from these storms.

The safety provided by a shelter, the comfort, has eluded me my whole life (both personal and private). Yet I have physically been places for years!  Never felt secure…That thought of a fugitive’s life or a vagrant’s welcome are my true reality.

I thought about how my life and its turbulent events have battered me and in essence I have been sheltering in place all this time.

The places I have lived were not of my choosing. They were more survival tactic by-products. I needed to move and this is where I landed. over and over and over…just making the best of bad situations.


In this moment of clarity, I am thinking about where do I want to live, the things I want to do. Now that the emergency, the danger or the scary people have left, I can uncover my eyes, left up my head and crawl out from underneath the desk. I can stop hiding. I can make my way to my loved ones and go to a place of my choosing. No longer the survivor of life’s lessons, I am a creator of destiny.

As I have learned in my years here, there will be other emergencies. Those survival skills are needed. But I cannot live in survival mode forever and I can no longer shelter in place for years either.

No more hiding….

The Duty of Truth

As I meet more people and expose myself to new experiences, I learn that I have very strong opinions. I am more comfortable not knowing things than most people.

I used to think those people delusional, crazy, weak-I was just not here for those people and their shroud of lies. Now I see it as a survival technique. Everyone is not able to walk in truth for long periods of time. Some folks need to escape. There are some things they just need to be true, whereas I would like them to be true. I am rarely surprised when they are not. A cheating spouse and lying relative maybe a crooked business partner-none of it would shock me.

Of course I wish I could escape at times. The gravity of a situation is never lost on me. Often times it is an inescapable burden. Thus it is a lot of work for me to stay positive. Think positive. Don’t get me started with my game of “what-if”

I know I do a great job of handling this burden when people are shocked by my responses to certain questions. People seem to think that I am this optimistic, motivational person, that is inoculated against human fragilities.

One night me and my significant other (no I didn’t dump him after the cruise. He apologized.) were watching television. A commercial about a bipolar medication came on. The lady is unmotivated to paint, play with her daughter or do anything. Without thinking I said “I feel like that a lot”. The shock on his face was shocking to me. with concern soaked words, he asked, “when do you feel like that?” I replied, “I am not bipolar but I feel unmotivated to do things. Maybe it’s depression. I’ll never know because I will never go get my label.” This time he sat up straight and at full attention and said , “Babe, when do you feel like that? You can talk to me, you know?” Yes of course I knew. But here’s the thing. I was there to cheer him up. I wasn’t about to let me regular gloomy cloud rain on his parade.

I think that he was so shocked by my statements because he really thinks I knows me  so well. I don’t think he ever entertained the notion that he didn’t. He’s been there for me through some really horrible events (death, murder, lost, family fallouts) and he’s been there for the really great stuff too (graduations, successes, births). Bonds forged in the fires of life. But, unlike many, I never have been able to be 100% honest with people without some backlash, judgment or negative consequence. So I’ve learned to give people what they can handle. I go a wrestle with my own demons. Then I rejoin society. It’s how I’m wired.

People always feel like something traumatic has to happen in order to justify the feelings of sadness. Yes, that definitely is true. But after those tragedies are over. I do the work to regain some sense of normalcy or try to adjust to the new normal.  It’s like I am leading a fractured life. The life uninterrupted by tragedy and this new augmented existence. At times, I mourn the lost of what “could have been.” It is really rough when the present life is beating the hell out of me. What would my life have been like if everyone had dealt with theirs shit? How would I have turned out if I was told I was beautiful and smart as a child? If my abilities were recognized and nurtured early? If I was told that men touching your  overdeveloped young body is wrong, every time?

I know that people are evil and kind. I even learned early that you can have a kind person doing evil wicked things. Then a glimpse of kindness from a hate-filled person. I am comfortable with that truth. But my peers and many like them want no parts of this truth.

I used to wonder why people were like that. I believe it is fear. Once you know (I mean really know-deep down in your soul)  you have to do something about it. If not, then you are choosing the misery, the sadness, the pain. It is easy to what to know the good stuff, and choose to enjoy it. That other side of that dark coin, where the scary monster lives is where few want to tread. I am ok there. It’s not so scary actually.

Who’s job is it to be the truth teller? Ironically, I don’t feel any obligation to rip that shroud off. I feel like it is not my place to force people down their paths. I really think ‘who the fuck am?” Who appointed me the truth fairy? I believe you will always be disappointed loving a version of a person as opposed to the person. Thus the duty of truth (to seek it, believe it, live in it) is all of ours, especially since we all have our own truths.



I wrote this last year and just never posted it…I was so conflicted about the town I live  in. Here are just some thoughts I had on the way to the voting booth one morning. My grandfather had passed away a few months prior. He was a revolutionary in his own way. He had strong sense of duty and unwavering moral beliefs. Voting was our duty not a luxury or right not to be taken lightly. That morning I struggled with my view of this city vs his.

“I walked to the voting booth early morning. I live in Newark, NJ. Yes, that Newark. Strolling through a city like Newark at this time of the day can be a unique experience. Since it is May and the sun rises at 5:47am, it’s the usual scary crime scene. There are hardly any people outside, only two types of people-The people up to something (i.e. going to work, school, exercising) or those up to nothing (bums, criminals, those still up form yesterdya’s activities).

As I walked the few blocks, an engulfing wave of sadness, failure and deafening disappointment silenced the thoughts normally swirling in my head.  In the absence of the normal distractions, all that is present are the structures of decades of oppression and low-self esteem. It angered me. It broke my heart. On my way to vote for these politicians that claim to love these citizens, I was disgusted.

My family prides itself with staying involved. Being the change we want to see. Walking the talk so to speak and not being hypocrites is a creed. Here I was contemplating not sticking to the script. Saying fuck this and going home, packing my shit and fleeing this bullshit.

It made me think about the activists saying that the intelleinget and finanacially upwardly mobile black people need to NOT leave the “hood”. I get pissed when I hear that. First, I feel lucky (not blessed), fucking lucky to have survived this succubus  of a place. Secondly, what kind of future can you have here? In my loudest Paul Revre voice, “The wealthy are coming! The wealthy are coming!” It is definitely bigger than race at this point; this is a class problem. I stay. Then I am being priced out of any decent housing by displaced New Yorkers. What is the pay off? The Prize? Living next to new neighbors that will keep calling the cops on me, my family, or friends for pseudo-criminal activities?  Lastly, the only reason I stayed as long as I did was because my grandfather loved this city. Why? I don’t know. I think about how promising of a place it must have been for him to move from South Carolina to put down roots here.

He always saw the beauty in this godforsaken town. I tried to look through those rose colored lens. Every time the delusion was strong and secure, something would reach out and smack my face. Getting robbed, shot at, cars stolen, car crashes, danger, gang wars, drugs, drug dealers, dirty cops, fake politicians, bad ass kids, bad ass parents, lack of education, lack of decency, lack of care, litter, trash, shit, stray animals, etc. has finally worn me down.

I think when trauma happens it leaves a scar and a spirit of unrest. No good will take place here, no matter who tries to build upon it. There has been to much blood shed on the streets of Newark. The ghosts and lost souls are plentiful. Too many dreams have died here for a future to prevail.”


When Getting Along goes Wrong…

“Maybe marriage is not for you. I really don’t see you getting married until you are about 50. You are just too much. No man is going to deal with that.”-James Parker

I’ll get back to how this seemingly jarring statement is very insightful,  almost prolific even.

A little about me and how I grew up. I am the product of a blended family; one might say a well-blended family. Making compromises on certain things (traditions, goals, and how to raise kids, finances, etc.) is not new.

My situation was even more different since I grew up with my grandparents. They were hyper-traditional yet very progressive. My grandfather embodied masculinity and owned the role of the “Provider”. Then my grandmother, who was younger, pushed me to embrace my power. The inherent power that comes from being born a woman. She would often say that although men are physically stronger, woman are the ultimate powerful being.

Women are created to move the world and can change (save or destroy ) lives with just a mere thought. Early in life I believed that I could make a difference. My presence mattered. In some ways I still believe that, just not in the relationship sector of my life.

Both grandparents came from the south, with families that migrated to the north. Both on their second marriages and seeking that comfort of “home life” and “family”.

Here I sit- an open minded, curious, hopeful individual that is also pragmatic and logical.

I am on vacation with my current boyfriend and his family. It’s their family reunion and vacation.  He has shown me a side of his personality that I am not accustomed  or familiar. If I hadn’t grown up with the grandparents I grew up with, I probably wouldn’t even have recognized the mistreatment, jealousy and selfishness behind the sharp tone.

My grandmother used to say that my grandfather changed when he was in his element. I never knew what that meant. I couldn’t even see it. I used to think that she was being a drama queen. Oy vey!! Boy was I wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, his family is great. But he is like two different people. When we are in the bed, he is usually loving, attentive, caring, affectionate,  all of that syrupy stuff (yes cavity causing). When we are out and about, he wants my undivided attention. I just feel a meanness behind the statements he is spewing. The old adage of it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it applies.

I don’t like who I am when I am with him. Sometimes when we are together, I don’t like the way it seems to always boil down to “it’s my way or no way” or this “what have you done for me lately” ora.

During this trip he has said some pretty outlandish things.

Here are the top hits:

1. I embarrassed him (He embarrassed me and puts me on the spot all the time! I just grin and bear it and asked him to not do this or that. He dismisses it as me being uptight.)

2. Are you on vacation by yourself? (Excuse me?! I definitely like to get more bang for my buck. I plan activities to do. I am not a fan of winging it (whether on vacation or not.)  If I was on vacation by myself, this would have been a different experience. I wanted to go to the beach, but the family didn’t want to go to the beach in the Bahamas. I conceded and acquiesced. I made the best of it. They like to do shots. I am not a frat boy, so I don’t.  But I was trying to be a sport about it and did one. He knows I don’t like to do shots, yet every fucking time we are near a bar, he is pressuring me to do one after the other after the other. Then, when I put my foot down, and opt out, he teases me, even joins in on others teasing me. Still I grin and bear it.)

3. You should have opened your mouth and said something. Just wow. My only reply was “when did you give me the chance? Every time I open my mouth, you snap at me.” Message received! Sit, down and shut up.

I hear people say how they fear becoming their parents. It seems my unique and awkward childhood parental figures have be reincarnated. Just like my grandfather, he too is self medicating with alcohol. Just like my grandmother, I have recolied into a ball and am distracting myself from the inevitable conversation or end.

Back to the comment from my grandfather. For some people, home has a hold on them. No matter how far away they travel from it or how long they are gone, they feel the draw of familiar and familial. My grandfather was that person.

On this one occasion, he got the insatiable urge to go down south aka South Carolina. If he couldn’t get anyone to go with him, he’d just up and go on his own. He was in his feelings and stewing in them; his pride wouldn’t let him admit he needed help. Family-real family-will never make you say it. They know and they show up. That is what my uncle was doing. He said, “my dad wants to get home, I’m going to make sure he gets down there and he’s good.” My grandfather got a little tipsy and began the “truth hour” which began with my uncle (how he hasn’t changed, he is up to something and unreliable.) Then it was my turn. When he first began, I just ignored it. As we packed up the car, he kept going on and on about how I’m just like my mother. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or critisism. I guessed it was the latter. Still I ignored it.

We are on the highway on our way to pick the last passenger for the trip. By this time, I had heard enough of how my mouth and attitude is a problem. He leans away from me. Presses his back damn near up against the passenger side door. Out the corner of my eye I can see him looking at me, very suspiciously too. Then I hear, “mmm, hhhmmm!” I say, “what now? Whats’ up?” He replies, “why all of a sudden now you wanna go down south? You don’t wanna go no other time.” I jokingly try to lighten up the mood and say “well maybe I’m trying to go find me a husband. A good ole boy.”

He laughs and scoffs for a good length of time. My eyes get wide. I tighten my grip on the steering wheel and ask “ what the hell does that mean? Dang?” He utters those life changing words. I was hurt and it silenced me.

Presently, I feel like those words foreshadowed my life present day. I am doubting my ability to blend in (to get along for the sake of getting along). DO I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER? Am I not marriage material? Are my standards and expectations too damn high?

I feel stupid right now. I almost bought into the myth “there’s somebody for everybody.” Maybe if I look at it as I am the somebody, then maybe I can feel less duped? IDK

Right now, I do not believe that. I don’t think I will ever believe that again.  Also, Pop was wrong. At 40 years old, with adult sons, a bright budding career, with plenty of entrepreneurial aspirations, maybe my love life is were all my regreats will live and die.

I refuse to be reduced to a failure because I cannot deal with a man’s bullshit. I will not get along just to get along. If I’m not happy, everyday, I don’t want it. Ive seen what going through the motion looks like, feels like…it is damaging. It will change you, not for the better. You become less and less of yourself. That kind of existence demands a sacrifice.

As my trip chugs on along, I will rethink my next few moves and the players in this next phase of my life.

I have had time to really tune into my own thoughts and feelings. I am convinced I am a genuinely nice person. I am a good person. I deserve to be ridiculously happy. So happy that people think it’s fake.

Until I feel THAT, I will keep looking.

PLOT TWIST (my safe words and way of accepting that things don’t always go according to plan…and its ok!)



On this Day Birth and The Reborn…

This has been an epic journey. Of course I know and have heard, that very few if anyone would voluntarily take this trip.  Sheer astonishment, concern, even confusion was the gamet of responses from peers and family when I told them what I was doing for my birthday.

I am used to not being able to explain what I know I need to do, correction I am compelled to do. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, regardless of the popularity of them.

Today started out with me waking up early again. This time not by my internal clock or my alarm clock, but by the hack of a fellow passenger. I mean I thought his lung was going to come flying up front at any moment. I think it was so constant that he stopped trying to quiet it. It reminded me of a friend of mine who will try to stop herself from coughing in vain. Only to make the cough more vicious and persistent. She’ll be fumbling around in her purse or pockets frantically looking for a mint. The frivolous futile effort to stop the cough only draws more attention to the initial event. I laugh just thinking about it. Every time it happens in my presence I tease her and say, “Just cough dammit!” She’ll reply in between these tiny coughs with, “Shut up.” I’ll continue the mocking by adding, “Oh, you can Let out a clear “shut up” but you won’t let that cough out?”

I transferred to a new bus three times in total. I went through a host of cities. As I visually devoured each image, every skyline and faces, I kept noticing interesting details. I’ll talk  about that more a little later.

This was the first time in a long time I didn’t buy myself an actual item for my birthday. I definitely needed to get away. As long as I can remember, I’ve always searched for the meaning of life, what’s the point of it all. I think everyone gets there at some point. The difference is I lived there.

Even as a child in grade school I would struggle with what I deemed busy work. You know that shit adults give children. Some adults think they are actually helping. They are providing the child structure or some discipline. Other adults hail from the school of “I did it and you will too!” They don’t really know why they did it and cannot explain why they instinctively perpetuate it onto the next generation.  If challenged they get upset and regurgitate a “Because I said so!” On a rear occasion you will meet adults that value the question “but why?” They don’t feel challenged. They delight in educating a young person.

The why of ones’ life changes. What you lived for or would have died for will surely change from decade to decade. As a kid, I was all about protecting my little brother and sister. I could take, ignore and overlook a lot. But where I drew the line was when it came to those two. I always say that God only gave me one of each because he knew that would be more than enough to keep me busy for a lifetime.

Then when I became a mom of three young men of color in a world that refuses to value or see them as human, my life’s purpose was to protect them from this world while preparing them for this world’s bullshit, inequalities, double standards, harsh realities. This is a balancing act that many parents will not have to deal with. You want to tell about the world as it truly is an unforgiving soul consuming succubus. But you don’t want to sour them to the possibility of hope and positivity.

If you teach your children from your pain, they will never discover their own joys, instincts or discover the world for themselves. So, I toughen up and let them explore.  They know I’d scorch the earth (heaven and hell) if anybody hurt them. At times my intensity has scared them and it amuses me each time. I can be so quiet but fuck with my sons and see the Momma Bear appear without warning.

Then my sister had three little people aka my Beige Posse or simply the Lil’ People.  I knew a new kind of protection and felt more love for a stranger than even I was prepared for. I was ready at times to go to battle with my own sister over these little nuggets. Unapologetically defend the future of them. That’s a weird position to be in. A position of judgment for me is uncomfortable. I firmly believe in live and let live, but not at the expense of another, which is often impossible. There I stood at the intersection of Judgement Lane and Hypocrisy Hill.

What does the Big Momma Bear do when she ain’t got no cubs? She adapts or dies…


City Similarities 

Each town we rolled through had some obvious similarities.

Flatness-There was a lack of height present. I imagine that because land was so abundant there was no need to build up. I could look for miles and not have any horizon obstructions. It was empowering. In NJ, you are hard pressed to get a view of the sky without some interference.

Warming & Welcoming Darkness-out here you can see even the smallest star twinkling. The larger stars seems to dance with illumination. It is akin to people if you think about it. When there aren’t that many other people around it is easy for you to stand out. Whereas, when the crowd is bigger you have to fight harder for top ranking.

Proverb: big fish: little pond, little fish: big pond. Some have this misconception that people move to the big city to seek fame and fortune. In that they are brave taking on this big challenge. I think there is more bravery in succeeding in a small town. There is no starting over there. Everyone knows your back story, your dirt. The spotlight is also a source of heat, especially if you get too much of it.

In these small towns, unlike the big cities, they move in the darkness with ease and a sense that they will be fine. They don’t over illuminate their environment for fear of a Boogieman. They take solace in the lights provided by the heavens.

Homelessness-it is everywhere-speaks for itself.

Cigerattes are popular-It is truly the first war on a drug and we lost. Everybody was smoking at every stop. It, like many things, crosses all population lines.

Invasion of Development– everywhere I went there was some construction of every kind going on. Retail, residential and commercial invading the surrounding areas like a persistent mold. Will all this space even exist in the future?

Other Interesting Points…

On route 325, exit 269 I saw a peculiar sign: Northwest Suburb…Huh? In most places the line of demarcation between the rich and poor -the proverbial Haves and Have Nots- isn’t that clear, nor is it advertised in such a brash manner.

For instance, in a gentrified area, they will start by giving it a trendy hashtag worthy nickname, i.e. DUMBO, The Heights, the Ironbund section, etc. Everyone that lives there knows you have to be rich to live there. Everyone who doesn’t live there knows why they are not welcomed and can’t live there. It’s more subliminally present. This IL highway sign, probably rooted in a painful and historical white exodus from the city to the suburbs, was jarring.

This made think about  all the scary news stories you hear about Chicago. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared. I mean it’s nickname is Chi-Raq! Biting my overly sanitized nails, as I got off the bus in a hurry for fear that some gun toting hoodlum would run off with my luggage as soon as it hit the pavement. It was there and no hoodlums in sight. But a fellow passenger did say someone stole her cellphone from the outlet. I’m sure that won’t make the news.

I found a big bus station, full of art, helpful staff, polite security officers, etc. What do I do next? Well my dumbass goes outside. Surely, the scary stuff is out there. I can’t be afraid of things unseen. Nope, no robbers and no rapists there either. Because I looked out of place (probably lost too) people of varying races, ages and genders offered help and information. I walked around for a while. I saw clean streets, franchises, homeless people and more development. I wonder why (sarcastically) only the worse events gets reported?

As my final bus continues to take me East and I type this, I am listening to my music. I look forward to the next forty years of adventure. Answering questions asked and unasked. Solving problems of presence and to come give me something to battle. Instead of this battle being an internal dialogue and a singles match of old me vs new me, it will be a conversation. I will seek out thinkers and doers to interact with.  Looking for people who want to get shit done instead of just bearing witness.

Now, four decades on this planet I find myself again asking that question: “WHY?” While I still don’t know the answer to that weighted question, I am more aware of my strengths, limits and the value I add to any situation. I know I am meant to do something really important. That could be in a small or large setting, for one or many, in the US or abroad- I don’t know. Maybe I’m suppose to influence the people I encounter to make moves and changes…to be continued.

Happy Birthday to me.  I make my resolutions on my birthday, not New Year’s Day. On this day, I resolve to keep fighting for good to exist. I promise that I will take my truth and share with those who are open to it, while not letting those closed-minded people shut me down, or sway me. I will not retreat into darkness but seek out the bright spots and joy.

That’s not to say my naturally cantankerous ways are no more. It’s too much damn fun.

A toast to rejuvenation…Onto my next chapter…it has been a pleasure sharing this journey and trip…later.


Hump Day and Thanksgiving

WEDNESDAY, The day before Thanksgiving 

I woke up early again. I hit the ground running. I began my preparations for my trip home (physically and mentally). Physically I began to gather up my things. I had to return the car rental. Because I was traveling on Thanksgiving and the bus station would be closed tomorrow I had to go check my bag in early.

My OCD forces me to keep checking the drawers, the closet and under the beds. I know I didn’t put anything in the drawers or closet. The room has platform beds. I wouldn’t be able to put anything under there even if I wanted to. Nevertheless, I keep checking. It shaved a few minutes from of my rental deadline of 10:30am.

I check the website for information before I leave the hotel. It opens at 7:00am. I plan to get there at 8am. I get to the bus station.  This Greyhound Bus station is very underwhelming.

I get there at 8am and it’s closed. I look at the sign with the station hours. It says it doesn’t open until 8:30am. Ok- now I have a half an hour to kill. That’s fine. It gives me a chance to scout out the place.

As I sit in the car people watching, I notice quite a bit. This bus station seems to attract a few types of people: young travelers, down-on-their-luckers, and me.  The young travelers had the big hiking backpacks, a few food bags, athletic sunglasses-overall very practical gear. The down-on-their-luckers had a good sized bag, got abruptly dropped off at the curb, stood outside to smoke and converse, and just looked worn out. Then there was me! I was overdressed, too much make-up, big hair,  no bag, and too excited it seemed for my present company. What all of them had in common was hospitality, a calmness. Even though the place opened late, no one, except me was even remotely bothered or upset. I looked like a rageoholic knocking on the door.

As I stand in line waiting my turn I look around the station. Again, caught off guard by the lack of size. It was a dingy off white room the size of a large living room. I was told by one of the locals that it used to be open 24-7 but due to the spike in the homeless population they began closing at night. This was the first year it would be closed on thanksgiving day.

The polite lady at the counter was quick. I still was behind schedule. I try to make up some time. I hurry to the Walmart for a few last minute items. I’m racing through the store like they are taping an episode of Supermarket Sweep. I’m out of there in a few minutes. But I’m still behind schedule.

I hurry to the gas station to fill the tank. I definitely don’t want to be charged extra money for that. In my haste at the station, I manage to cut my knuckle, spill some coffee, buy some lottery tickets and make it out of there in a few minutes.

Off to return this car. I get there in good time, about 10 minutes before it was due back.

I go have a seat on one of the benches near the car return area and soak in the mountain views. I cannot get over how beautiful the weather is here. You think Colorado and you may think cold, snowy. It is warmer here than in NJ.

I try in vain the take a picture of the views; my phone does me no good. This is a site you’d have to see in person to experience the godly influence. It is a natural wonder that instantly makes you feel every inch of your humanity, your frailty. You feel insignificant yet privileged to see this.

Once I stopped drooling  over the scenery, I hightailed it back to downtown Colorado Springs via Lyft. My driver this time was Malcolm. He was a nice older guy. When I got into the car he asked if he could turn on his Christmas music. He said he wife won’t let him play it until after Thanksgiving. I said of course. I could use the cheering up on account of the morning I had.

The radio is belting out one classic holiday tune after another. I reminisce about our Parker holiday concerts. My grandparents would play all the classics, traditional, R&B, and kids versions of Christmas songs. One minute we were Alvin & the Chipmunks. The next minute we were pretending to be the Temptations. We would sing those songs until the tape popped and we never grew tired of it.

“Here ya go!”, said Malcolm. I scramble to gather my bag totally lost in my head. I thank him, wish him a happy holiday.

Back to my normal travel activities (take the public transportation)-I got a chance to actually take the bus here. I took the Metro from the college to the quaint downtown area. I teased my son about the small downtown. I said calling it downtown is kind of overhyping it. I told him from now on I will call it “over yonder” because it really is right down the street. You are setting yourself up for disappointment calling it anything else.

I get off the bus at the bus terminal that looked like a few parking spaces. I aimlessly wander around Over Yonder. There are boutiques, small unique restaurants, thrift stores, tattoo shops, etc. I thought the Over Yonder section would be overrun with weed dispensaries, junkies and bong shops. It wasn’t. I also was surprised by a couple of things: 1. There is no sight of Dunking Donuts and 2. There were chain restaurants (Arby’s and Pizza Hut to name a few).

Later that Wednesday night my son and I decided to catch a movie-Thor Ragnarok. We both had already saw the Justice League movie. While I liked it, he was not impressed. We managed to pick the most secluded little movie theatre in town. The downside (or upside) to “winging it”. We got there super early. since neither of us wanted popcorn for dinner, we had a pizza delivered to the movie theatre. We stood outside, ate our delicious pizza with extra marinara sauce, and had delightful dinner conversation. The ever present mountain views fade to black. They disappear in plain sight.

At the end of the night, as my son walked back to his dorm I got very emotional. I watched as if he was that little kid walking to school alone for the first time. In that moment I was overcome with the feeling of my age and how much things have changed and will continue to change. It was not a sadness, merely a long overly dramatic sigh. I was also missing my other sons and thinking about my family.

The last update from my mother was that Pop has MRSA, has been moved to a single room (isolated) and will be staying in the hospital.

Again, I’m thinking WTF? Not like this God. This man has worked his whole life taking care of people. Don’t take him without him being able to enjoy these last few years. God damn it. I hate that I’m thinking about him dying. All my selfish ass can think about is how I’m not ready to deal with that.

I go to my room and I cry like I haven’t cried in years. It was ugly and it was served with wine. A red semi-sweet I found during my wandering. So while I cried I sipped and sipped then cried. I did that for hours.

THURSDAY (Happy Thanksgiving)

Again, I’m up early. This time I didn’t spring out of bed like previous days. It was a slow sloth-like crawl. I was excited about cooking with my son.

I checked out of my hotel and casually stroll to his apartment. As I cooked him and his roommate keep me company. We laughed, talked and sampled. They could have just been humoring my old behind, but I had a good time. I met another one of their friends, a young lady. These three were talking about cartoons and Pokémon. It was the most wholesome thing I’ve seen college kids doing in a long time. I swear just when you think the world is a big rotation piece of cosmic shit, God will gift you an innocent moment. It was also interesting to see men actually being friends with a woman.  Dare I say progress…

They have enough food to last for a few days. I introduced them to the awesomeness of the turkey tenderloin and herb crusted potatoes.

All too soon it was time for me to make my way to my bus. I got sad all over again. It’s weird and complex to want to stay and leave at the same time.

My son insisted on walking my there and seeing me get on the bus. I joked with him that he is treating me like a house guest you want gone or that keeps coming back.  He simply said, “I want to make sure you get on the bus safely mom.” He sounded like an overprotective big brother. I felt proud. I did good.

The Bus Odessy Home…

4:05pm, Cue the angry bus driver. Maybe he is upset because he is working on the holiday or just hates the job. “Ticket PLEASE!” This being my first time on a Greyhound, I walk up to him and try to build a rapport. “hi. here ya go sir. Do you want me to put the bag in there? Or do you take it?” He replies, ‘I got it. Get on.” And off we go.

My first transfer is in Denver, CO. I was down here the other day with my son. I’m expecting something nice, modern and clean. I arrive at the Greyhound bus station at around 5:40pm. I go to the restroom. GOBSMACKED, Flabbergasted, YiKes!!! Ok without making anyone vomit in their mouths I will try to accurately depict the scene I had the displeasure of walking in on. At one of the sinks there is a lady changing her clothes. She is in her underwear, has one tube sock on. Leaning on the sink for balance, she is putting on the other sock. I look, pause and begin to look in the stalls. One nightmare after the other reside in these spaces. I find one remotely clean. How? I have not idea, but there it was.

There are some sketchy looking characters, but no more than any big city. Security and the police were vigilant. They knew the regulars and the visitors, who they gave extra attention. They checked tickets and asked the non-ticket holders to scram.

7:15pm, Enter the competent no-holds bar driver of BTW company. I was standing in line waiting to board. He said, “come on let’s get this started.” There was an inebriated passenger trying to board. He politely but firmly denied that request. Called security and told the guy to get on the next bus. Bam. Upon departing the station, he made it clear he was not having any shenanigans on this bus. (Inside I was applauding him.) Just by doing his job, he made my trip that much more enjoyable.

I’m on my way to Omaha, Nebraska. In a few hours I will be 39 years old. WOW. Still I’m hit with multiple emotions. Instead of fighting them I deal with them by acknowledging them. Then I am able to move onto the next thing.

Off to Denver We Go…


Yesterday, my son was kind enough to bring me my wallet and crash at the luxury hotel with me. It reminded me of the road trips my sons and I used to take. All four of us would be bunched up in a room laughing and joking all day and night. We got on each others nerves and enjoyed each other’s company. We listened to comedy, judged each other’s music and food choices. Ultimately, we enjoyed ourselves.

This time he and I simply stayed up late watching the Nickelodeon show “Hey Arnold!”

I woke up early Tuesday morning, like pretty much every morning. I had to get this guy up, check out and go pick up a car rental. Although, I usually like to take public transportation when I travel, that is NOT an option here. Things are just too spaced out to enjoy on foot or via Lyft. There aren’t even any sidewalks in many places. So reluctantly to the car rental place I go.

We Gots Wheels!

After my son and I picked up the rental, my mind began to race with thoughts of where to go first. But first we must tend to the basic human needs.  I was starving. There are only a few things that get the best of me: fatigue and hunger are the main culprits. Mama has to eat.

As we drove toward downtown Colorado Springs, I realized that my eldest child was a grown man. It really just smacked me upside the head. My baby was not a baby; he wasn’t a teenager. At the unripened age of twenty years old, he had a life, thoughts and a view of the world that I couldn’t wait to learn about. I began to think about my other sons as well. I wonder what they would’ve said if they were here. Would they fit in here? Would they like it?

I often worry about my sons in this world. This young man decided to go to college all the way across the country. This world is scary. Life can be cruel, ironic. I always think about how horrible it would be to survive the inner city of Newark NJ only to encounter violence in a midwest suburban small town. But I digress…our long ride up to Denver was fun. We do the round robin of conversation topics; all topics are discussed, nothing off limits or too taboo. I must say that we rarely talk about me dating. I often ask him if he’s met a nice girl or anyone special. He says no and that he’s focusing on his studies. While that sounds wonderful, I know people need more than studies. But I don’t force the topic. I simply say, “You’ll know when you are ready. No rush.”

While we have moments of quiet during the drive, my mind cannot help but drift back to home. My mother has been keeping me posted about the health of my grandfather aka Pop. He went to the hospital on Saturday. He came home that night. He was due to get a chemotherapy treatment Monday.  I get a text from my mom that he cannot get his chemo treatment and is being rushed into surgery for his hand. It is infected and swollen. Surgery over, but they need to schedule another one tomorrow. That is not good. In fact it is horrifying.

Damn, that’s today-Tuesday. Is there anyway I can get my ass back to NJ sooner, Thanksgiving week on short notice? I need to check.

The GPS voice interrupts my inner monologue of panic. We are here. “Arrived.” My son has only spent a little time in Denver; once when his flight was rerouted here due to inclement weather and another time on a school outing. Thus, he was scrambling to find things to do. We settled on going to Union Station.

We aimlessly wandered around the area. Took in the sights. And tried to compare it to more familiar locales. It was a beautifully designed city. Full of development: high rises, restaurants, retail, etc. Small boutiques and businesses set up thoughtfully on every street, block after block. In between these shops are tons of restaurants of all flavors.

No-it is not like New York, as there are no herds of crowds pushing and shoving to just get a step ahead. People here are actually making eye contact, warm smiles, friendly head nods, aware of others, considerate of space. No-it is not too suburban and definitely not rural. It was very modern, trendy even.

We determined it was its own thing. This place has a big city feel with small town appeal.   (We should go into marketing he joked.)


After wandering around Denver for a while, we had to get the fiddles for Thanksgiving dinner. What kind of mother would I be if I came all the way out here and didn’t cook for my baby? A HORRIBLE ONE, that’s what kind.

My sons have this innate ability to ignore everything I say to them, until the very last minute. I believe this power is a genetic gift that all descendants of Parkers are blessed with. We are on our way to the register to check out. My son says “Mom. Would you mind cooking for a vegetarian friend if she comes over?” Now, mind you I asked, several times through the day, if I was cooking just for me and him OR was he inviting anyone else. Every time he was looking at me like “Lady are you crazy?”

Long story short, I bought double the amount I originally planned for and I still don’t know how may people I am cooking for. Oh well, I’ll be spending time with one of my sons and I get to meet the people he is spending time with away from home. WIN-WIN situation for me.


After my busy Tuesday, I definitely wanted a cold adult beverage. I stopped at the local 7-11. This time I had my ID ready. This clerk was like “oh no honey you don’t need that.”

I don’t know if I was more offended now or yesterday. I got my beer but I wasn’t a young vibrant thing anymore. C’est la vie=that’s life!

Gearing up for my Greyhound Bus Ride…I’m still excited.

The Prep, The trip and Touch down…Then What

The Prep
My procrastination tendency will never let me prepare for certain things in a timely manner. For some reason I am convinced there is more than enough time to do forty things in an hour. It always seems doable! I fall for it every damn time.

Late Panic Pack
Over the years I’ve noticed that when I plan things for other people, I am meticulous, a bit obsessive even. I plan it down to the second. However, when it’s for me, I am usually a bit more relaxed. I’m ok with making up the plans as I go along. The problem with my approach is it makes it hard to pack a bag. You don’t know what you need. I stayed up late Saturday night into Sunday to pack.

Hard Farewells
I woke up on time Sunday morning. Said my goodbyes. One good bye was super hard and stopped me in my tracks. When I went upstairs to say bye to the old people. That’s what I call my grandparents (no, they don’t mind). My grandmother was in the kitchen and grandfather was in the bathroom. So, I yelled “see ya later Pop” through the bathroom door.

I went on with gathering my things for my ride and saying good bye to the rest of my family. I was all the way outside and had to run back upstairs. I needed to see him before I left. There he was sitting on the couch in his pajamas. He looked exhausted, tired but he tried to perk up to greet me. I went over to give him a hug. Since he looked like he was unable to get up, I bent down and hugged him. He was noticeably fragile. I cried as I ran back downstairs. I pulled it together by the time I got back outside. I didn’t want my partner to see me upset. His birthday was tomorrow and he had enough to deal with.

Also, I was trying to keep myself from cancelling all my plans to stay with Pop. I knew he’d be mad at me. He always tells me I should enjoy my life. He worries about how much I work. He gives me the cautionary tale of his life; often begs me not to repeat his mistakes. I pull off from my house…

Airport Observations
Hitched a ride to the airport. Check in was smooth. This time I didn’t get stopped for the extra pat down and I didn’t have to take my shoes off.

I had plenty of time to wander around the airport, people watch and entertain my regrets.

Here are some of my random observations:

1. The expected rude airport staff was ever present. I get it. They have to repeat themselves thousands of times. It’s frustrating. They feel unappreciated. If that is how they see everyone (bad, annoying, ungrateful), then will they ever be able to see the good ones?
A. Bright spots: when I go to places with a reputation for not being the nicest to customers, I seek out the bright spots. The people there that actually are nice and trying to spread some cheer. I found a few. There was the lady that helped me check in, the young girl at the screening check point who grabs the bins for me after people kept swiping mine. Then the cashier that helped me figure out how this new cafe check-out system worked.
2. These teenaged Asian students: they all had on school uniforms. Some of the girls had on face masks, the kind doctors use. They were giggling and playful, even rowdy at times. What really struck me was the uniformity of their appearance (not in a racist “they all look a like” way). Their haircuts, their accessories, they were like little carbon copies of each other, even in the playfulness. It was even more noticeable when other asian travelers walked by. These other travelers were trendy. They seemed more in line with typical American or popular fashions. When the chaperone came to prepare for boarding, she got their undivided attention. It was an impressive sight to see over fifty students stop playing and giggling and immediately line-up.
3. Right behind the crowd of Asian students, was the America Store. I saw all kinds of “Make America Great Again” swag and merchandise.
4. With my Fitbit egging me on to get more steps, I started to walk around. I pass a guy in a wheelchair with a persistently bloody nose. This thing just would not stop! The airport employee charged with the task of waiting with him for EMS looked like he was about to vomit.
5. I guess because this is Thanksgiving week there were more people traveling with kids. I never have had the pleasure of taking a flight with all of my sons. I think I would have enjoyed that. Definitely need to plan something before they grow too old and scatter to the far corners of the earth.
6. This lady with 2 small children comes and sits right next to me. The baby is maybe a little over a year old and the other little girl is about 3 years old dragging her little suitcase. The mom wants to take a picture of the baby and not lose the other little traveler, who is racing back and forth between mom and dad who is standing in line. As mom goes to snap a pic of the baby, she falls over in the chair. Yikes! Then she pulls out a banana and the kids proceed to smear it all over the two seats. FYI-I’m allergic to bananas.
7. Seeing all these families together, I can’t help but think about mine. When I think about my family, I get teary-eyed. I don’t know why. Is it because I feel like I let them down some how? I don’t feel as close to them as I would like to be? Am I worried about them? I really don’t know.
8. Two classes of travelers: the Stylish versus the Causal. One couple that caught my eye was an older gay couple. They were standing in front of me. I noticed their Coach backpacks, which coordinated well with their jeans, awesome eyewear, sweaters, shoes and accessories. Endless sea of leggings and stretch pants.
9. Interracial couples of all ages-just when you start to believe that hatred is winning, god will give a sign of the truth, which is that love wins always.
10. I think to myself, “Oh dear God, please don’t sit me next a little kid” fingers crossed.
11. It’s 9:44am, as I wait for them to call my boarding group, the inefficiency of the system crosses my mind. Why do the people paying the higher fares rush onto the plane first? Just to sit there while us cheap & poor people walk pass bumping them with bags. I just don’t get it.
12. As I swipe my boarding pass, I get informed that I am in the emergency aisle seat. I have to help in case of an emergency. Perish the thought.
13. As I walk down the ramp toward the plane, Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” comes on. I bop down the ramp. Listening to the lyrics, I cannot help but identify with some of them. “Going back to a simpler place and time…”
14. While finding my seat, I hear all these weird noises. I notice that in the row adjacent is full of crew members or airline employees. They all a reading books and clean cut middle-aged Caucasians. They are unbothered by all the commotion. I am in the dreaded middle seat. —-The lady near the window has a lot of gadgets. The guy on the left is with his family that is sitting across the aisle. At first I think, “Houston we have a problem!” She has the absolute worst charger. The cord is short. With every movement the plug comes out. Of course she has to continuously plug it back in. One time she hit my foot with the charger. In the absence of an apology or any acknowledgement, I put my foot over the outlet. Only then does she use her manners. Yet her fidgeting continued. She attempted to cross her legs but in vain. She was a health girl and those thighs were not cooperating. ——On my left he begins to cough, without even trying to cover his mouth. Now I’m thinking about those asian kids with the face masks. Then gadget girl pulls out a banana. The kind that you can smell before its even peeled, brown spots and all. I reach for my Benadryl.
15. I dozed off…it’s 10:50am, we were supposed to take off at 10:15am. Still on the ground.
16. We take off. The seatbelt light goes off. A Jewish passenger gets up to use the restroom. He has a yamaka and sunglasses on his head. I marvel at the balancing act happening on his head.
17. We arrive a little late. I barely reach my connecting flight in Houston. I was lost for a bit but managed to find my way.
18. We board a much smaller, less updated plane. I have a window seat this time next to a mother traveling with her son and daughter that sat across the aisle from her. In front of me, there’s a lady and her husband. She keeps coughing. I mean like every few minutes. Again, I long for a face mask. In lieu of a mask, I open the air vent above my head to create a forcefield around my face from her germs. Yeah I know-it won’t work, but it made me feel better.
19. We land in Colorado Springs slightly ahead of schedule.

Colorado Springs
This is not my first time here. It is my first time here for a vacation. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. It is calming, peaceful. There is something extremely humbling to stand at the foot of a mountain.

The people are friendly but not too friendly, which is fine with me.

I check into my hotel room and unpack. All the while, thoughts of my family back home, what my week will be like, missing my boyfriend, and other things swirl around in my head.

My phone ringing interrupts my storm of cerebral hyperactivity. It is a guy from Greyhound calling to tell me that the station is closed on the day I am due to go back home. My mouth drops open. What the hell? How the hell am I going to get home? He proceeds to tell me that I have to come a day early, get my bags tagged and then all should be well. okay??

I go to my son’s dorm to see him. He’s the oldest. He is an awesome young man, in my proud mommy voice. I meet the roommates. They seem just like the kind of friends I’d imagine him having-smart, polite, good sense of humor, quirky. They were watching the Real House Husbands of Hollywood starring Kevin Hart (SUPER FUNNY).

I buy them dinner and I get the heck out of there via Lyft. My Lyft driver was nice. Maybe some people just have a need to share. Maybe they sense that they should share with me, I don’t know. In my short ride back to my hotel, he told me about his family, being raised by his uncle, his recent move to Denver only 3 months ago, his working three jobs, his ambition to buy property, revisiting his family in Louisiana, how old he thought I was.

Back at the room, I make some loose plans for the next few days and relax. Then I realize I left my wallet at the dorm. That changes my


I woke up feeling not so great. I wished my boyfriend, my partner, a happy birthday. He has been the quiet strength propping me up for the past few months. He fully understands why I need to escape from time to time.

I slept in later than normal. I read some and I wander-not too far though. One place I stop at is 7-11. I get a few items. I wanted a beer. As I checkout, the cashier asks me for my I.D. I look up to see if he is joking. I’m almost forty years old. I laughed because my twenty year old son has my wallet. This guy cannot be serious. He was. No beer for me with my young looking self.