I'm Gonna Write A Letter!

An Open Letter:

In response to your offer I must say ABSOLUTELY NOT!  It's not that I wasn't satisfied with your service when it was operating.  It suited my needs very well, but when there was an issue, you showed a blatant disregard for customer satisfaction.  I shouldn't  expect any better when calls to customer care are answered by representatives who can't comprehend my concerns, much less address them.  Our initials may be the same, but beyond that, I bear no resemblance to Rosetta Stone.

I am quite surprised by this offer since my service was unceremoniously suspended with a promise to resolve the issue within seven days.  Months later, this offer comes.  Fortunately for me, I am now connected with a carrier that is committed to customer service and the satisfactory resolution of issues.  Your equipment sits here, purposeless, awaiting its fate, yet undecided.  I considered repackaging and selling on Ebay, but could not, in good conscience, saddle a fellow human with the complications associated with your service.  Unlike you, I love and appreciate people and value their trust.  So no, there will be no checking out your "$5 Broadband2Go plan!"

Furthermore, our mobile phone affiliation will, most likely, be similarly dissolved as I await the seven-day resolution Alex/Alejandro promised.  I anticipate a transmission from your team, informing me my dispute is settled while my service remains compromised, but I would rather that than spend time on a call with an agent constantly placing me on hold to consult a team leader or Google Translator.  Your calls have all the intimacy and ease of a lubeless, gang rape. Work on that.

If I seem angry or bitter, there is hope for you, but probably not us.  I refuse to pay for poor treatment nor will I condone anyone else doing it.  When we part, I will speak often of our relationship, both internationally and domestically.  I plan a rigorous campaign to steer potential customers in another direction. The blog community relishes my rants and I've even started a storyboard for a Youtube production.  I look great on camera and really know how to engage an audience.  I have no doubt we'll go viral.

By the time you respond to this I will have most-likely moved on. Therefore. be consistent.  Don't even bother. 

Rodney Snell

"... whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8 KJV

Acquainted With Grief

On Saturday evening, after nearly a month of trying to get my shine back, I checked out of the physical realm, embarked on an excursion of spiritual cleansing to discover my shine was never compromised.  I did lose sight of the light of some people very dear to me.  For a moment, I entertained the notion our shine ends with death and nothing is further from truth.  When Spirit is liberated from the vessel needed for physical experience, it soars unfettered in its actual form – as energy.  Energy, which always was, continues to do what it always has. 
Automobiles begin to depreciate immediately upon leaving the showroom and life functions similarly.  Once the umbilical cord is severed, we begin to die.  Youth grants a very brief period of distraction, but our concern with mortality increases as time passes and the body depreciates.  While advances in medical science allow for the repair and replacement of parts, scheduled service and maintenance cannot change the inevitable.  Bodies weaken, decay and turn to dust, but Spirit flourishes, grows stronger, more powerful and determined to survive.  Religion relies heavily upon the power of Spirit; its liberty proclaimed even as we eulogize the dead, comforting the bereaved and encouraging the faithful.

The sting of death, coupled with the pain of grief has the capacity to alter perception, attack our core beliefs and rob us of hope.   For twenty-seven days, I was bound by grief, mired in uncertainty and clothed with fear, but over seventy-two hours of silent isolation and reflection, stretched prostrate before the universe, I reconnected with my center,.  While reflecting on my journey thus far, it became clear I had drifted off course; not entirely lost, but far enough from the intended path to warrant concern.  It became first in a series of issues presenting themselves as I further reflected and unpacked my baggage.   
It is more than slightly disturbing to discover you are not the person you set out to become, but among the unachieved goals and abandoned dreams are things to celebrate.  I am a much kinder and generous person than I set out to become. I have also developed an inclination toward forgiveness that would have eluded me on the intended path. Like Paul, I have learned how to be humble and how to prosper. In each and every situation I have learned the secret of being full and of going hungry, of having too much and of having too little.  I have received and continue to cultivate my gift of discernment and I accept full responsibility for what I release into the universe.  These are only a few of the gems scattered among rocks.

Thirty dawns from the day I “shacked up” with grief, I emerge renewed in my resolve to let my light so shine.  While in seclusion, I recalculated my route, established some short term goals to bring me closer to being the greatest me possible.  I also thought of others, struggling to realize their purpose without ever pausing to consider it already achieved.  While many of us may not discover a cure for cancer or compose a symphony, our lives are no less significant.  There is purpose in simply being.

Going Forward: With Gratitude

Sitting, perched at the start of a transitioning year I recognize that each day is the beginning of a new year; potentially, the start of a new life. The clock and calendar, in an attempt to provide markers that signal our beginnings, designate 12:01 am on the first day of January as our collective annual beginning. They allow us to pass time, aware that others hear the same clock tick and watch the same calendar flip. It’s an illusion that fools us into believing we have brought some order to a universe we had no part in designing or maintaining. Who are we to establish a beginning of time when we have no control of our own physical beginning or end?

We are offended by incongruity and need an explanation for everything when none really exists. Therefore we enter into a social contract that at best, allows us to follow an established set of rules to ensure harmony. Some operate outside of the imaginary lines. We label them criminals and confine them to spaces where they can exist apart from the “law abiding.” Yet we all live just outside the collective boundaries in our personal existence. None of us share identical experiences, supporting the assertion that common sense does not exist, but our need to establish order dictates that we force ourselves into believing it does.

We have no control of time or authority over how others choose to pass it, but we can still attempt to control how we show up. Basing that on how we are perceived by others is certainly permissible, but must still produce some degree of personal satisfaction. The apostle, Paul, wrote in his epistle to the church of Phillipi “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need,” He could affirm his satisfaction in any circumstance, with secure faith in Christ to make all things possible. I share the same. Faith in my higher power gets me through each day. I learned long ago that I do nothing without assistance.

Going forward I resolve to continue walking in humility, appreciative to the universe for allowing my brief existence in this particular state of consciousness; to be always aware that each moment is a gift and make every action acknowledge the gift. I am grateful to and for the moment, humbled by its awesome greatness to be present for me in addition to countless others. I am shocked and saddened by the audacity of anyone who feels entitled, walking with assurance and not hope that the moment will pass for them. Don’t they realize people who had moments yesterday lack them today? Their ignorance loudly proclaims ingratitude. It’s an abomination committed by so many against not just the moment, but also other gifts from the universe.

I am reminded of experience shared with me by a friend who recently encountered a celebrity. While at concert he noticed the person of note, occupying the adjacent box.

“Excuse me, are you (insert name here)?” his companion politely inquired.

The celebrity, a veteran soap opera actress, pointing to her cotton stuffed-ear, replied that she couldn’t hear and spent the rest of the evening, behaving as though she’d been insulted. It was a crushing disappointment to a fan that had long admired her work. While I respect the celebrity’s right to private moments, it cannot be expected they will occur in a public setting.

The decision to pursue a life in the public eye must include an acceptance and appreciation for recognition, but so often humility departs with the acquisition of fame. The famous should be constantly humbled, not by their greatness for we all possess the capacity for greatness beyond our imagination, but by the fact that anyone notices. To have one’s work acknowledged indicates that perhaps it’s worthy of appreciation and should inspire a worker’s sincere gratitude. A performing artist’s income and longevity rely upon public recognition. When folks stop checking, you are officially no longer hot. It makes sense to appreciate the loyalty of fans who tune in everyday to watch your post-menopausal ass play a blind, pregnant woman. I’m just saying.

Ideally, ours should be a society of mutual admiration and appreciation, but collectively we fail to admire or appreciate the planet for sustaining life. In 2011 we need to get GRATEFUL!

Christmastime is Here: My Christmas Play List

For as long as I can remember there has always been music and it has always been synonymous with the holiday season. My heart is lifted the very first time I hear a favorite playing in a department store or supermarket. I will sit with that Yule log as if burning embers will fly from the television set and ignite the rug. Without music Christmas would be a different holiday for me.

To mark the season I have compiled a few of my favorites and made them available for all to download and enjoy. I encourage you to go out and purchase these for your holiday collection. In the meanwhile if you like my list, email me and I will reply with a link to where you can download it.

The Christmas Song – Nat ‘King’ Cole

Aunt Sarah absolutely loved Nat Cole. She could tell wonderful stories of hearing his trio play at New York hot spots in her youth. I imagine she must have been distraught when he died of cancer in 1965 because she would drop the needle on the record and cry as if she’d lost her best friend. Then again, it didn’t take much to set her off. She would cry if she were glad to see you. For years, she never opened gifts in front of the giver. It’s rumored that she would wait until she was alone and cry over the thoughtfulness and generosity of each one. I always think of her when anything from the album plays.

Christmastime is Here – The Vince Guaraldi Trio

I love Charlie Brown’s Christmas. My favorite part is when Linus uses his blanket for a tree skirt. The entire soundtrack is classic. This song is my favorite.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams

This is the tune that makes me ignore the hustle and bustle of the season. It makes me more patient when someone cuts in front of me on line or is in “12 items or less” with groceries for the year.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas – McCoy Tyner

This is actually one of my favorite songs to sing. I nail it every time. As a child I always wanted my entire family home for Christmas. My grandparents were always so happy when everyone was together. So was I.

My Favorite Things – Al Jarreau featuring Kathleen Battle

Despite her reputation for being a most difficult diva, I adore Kathleen Battle. I’ve had the privilege of seeing three of her live performances. She’s a perfectionist and it’s apparent each time she opens her mouth. I imagine this session with Jarreau, another perfectionist was something to behold.

Our First Christmas – Maureen McGovern

McGovern has one of the most glorious voices with an insane range. Her holiday collection, long out of print, was a gift to me from my pal, Joey. I have played this CD so that my player no longer accepts it. This particular song is my favorite.

What A Wonderful Time – Yolanda Adams

Bouncy and joyous, this song displays the versatility of Yolanda Adams and presents her in a way she’s never seen; with a large swing band. It makes me want to hear her sing jazz standards in a smoky room. Imagine that!

Christmas Medley – The Swingle Singers

Two of my favorite tunes, Carol of the Bells and O Sanctissima frame this medley by one of the most amazing acapella groups of all time. The second is actually the first song I learned to play on piano.

That’s What I Want For Christmas – Nancy Wilson

I’m a Nancy Wilson fan because of my cousin, Philomena. She introduced us when I was about three years old and I’ve loved her since. Anytime I hear Nancy, I think of Philomena. What a wonderful association.

Medley: Let it Snow, Count Your Blessings, We Wish You a Merry Christmas – The Ray Conniff Singers

This group was a favorite of elevator travelers for most of the Twentieth Century. I believe my grandmother and I picked up this album at a garage sale in Rumson, New Jersey when I was about 8 or 9 years old. It became one of my favorites.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald

Presented by Judy Garland in one of my favorite films, Meet Me in St Louis, this song has been covered by just about everyone. I like the way Ella swings it.

This Christmas – Donny Hathaway

It’s not Christmas in any black neighborhood until you hear it.

Give Love on Christmas Day – Ledisi

One of the most amazing vocalists I’ve encountered in my lifetime, Ledisi made me extremely happy when she released her holiday collection.

Christmas Waltz – Frank Sinatra

Another holiday song that I put my own special stank on, Sinatra does it justice and makes me want to sing along.

This is the Season – Rahsaan Patterson

Patterson is another truly gifted vocalist I’ve stumbled upon during my journey. I’m not enamored of his entire collection, but I’ve included two of my favorites.

Caroling, Caroling – Nat King Cole

Silver Bells – The Supremes

My Aunt Jane made ours a Motown household. Not just at Christmas, but anytime the family gathered there had to be some Motor City sounds. You should see her dance to Hitch Hike. It’s a treat.

Sleigh Ride – The Ray Conniff Singers

Last Christmas – Wham

This contemporary song became a classic when it appeared on Music From the Edge of Heaven in 1986. I love to hear it.

White Christmas – Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters

Most folks first heard this while watching Home Alone. Aunt Sarah introduced me to Clyde McPhatter back in the 70s.

Jingle Bells? – Barbra Streisand

Nothing tickles me more than the little Jewish girl singing Christmas carols. This twist on an old favorite is a Christmas classic yet so very Hebrew.

Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms

For some reason I always associate this song with J.J. Newberry in Long Branch, New Jersey. They used to have a lunch counter and uniformed waitresses with updos. Marie, Ms. Pearl and Ms. Gloria were on hand to make your shopping experience a pleasure and make sure you didn’t pilfer from the candy aisle.

Christmas Baby Please Come Home – Various Artists

Some of the most amazing artists have leaned against Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Darlene Love leads this song featuring all of Spector’s discoveries.

O Tannenbaum – Nat King Cole

Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

When I hear this song, visions of decorated trailer parks and truck stops dance in my head.

Father Christmas – The Kinks

When I sold trendy clothing with Steven Isaac at Merry Go Round at the long-defunct Seaview Square Mall, built on a landfill in Ocean Township, New Jersey, this song was part of the holiday play list sent from the home office in Joppa, MD. That mall was responsible for the death of Asbury Park, NJ, where we used to do a lot of Christmas shopping way back in the day.

Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses

Another selection from the Merry Go Round play list.

Wonderful Christmastime – Rahsaan Patterson

Originally recorded by Paul McCartney in 1979, this has become a popular holiday classic. I really like Rah’s rendition.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town – The Jackson Five

Again, Christmas in the hood would be incomplete. RIP MJ.

Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

Madonna be damned! Here is the originator and the innovator. Kitt purrs this tune like the greatest little gold digger that ever breathed. Even Mrs. Clause had to wonder if Santa tasted this tart on the side.

Frosty The Snowman – The Ray Conniff Singers

I sat and watched Frosty and Frosty Returns the other night on the floor and for a minute thought I was in my grandparent’s den on Sixth Avenue. I wonder what ever happened to that beat up console we watched for years.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer – The Temptations

Aunt Jane loves her Temptations. She can identify lead singers and cheers them on as if they are giving a private concert in her living room.

The Chipmunk Song – The Clark Sisters

It’s not Alvin, Theodore and Simon, but the sensational Clark Sisters have fun with this Christmas classic from their new Christmas CD. When they start screaming for Alvin, I always imagine they’re calling Jackie.

Amen – The Impressions

Aunt Jane loves her Impressions as much as her Temptations. I always remember this from the greatest hits album that we had when I was a kid.

Celebrate – John P. Kee

Jesus is the reason for the season and no one can call on him like a Kee choir, especially his screaming sopranos. “Let us rejoice! Let’s Celebrate!”

Emmanuel – Norman Hutchins

I first heard this at Clear View Baptist Church in Irvington, NJ by the choir under the direction of Yolanda Grice (Lil’ Twinkie). I instantly made it part of my holiday must-haves. Thanks David Jones!

O Come Emmanuel – The Clark Sisters

Adeste Fideles – Nat King Cole

A Star Stood Still (Song of the Nativity) – Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson’s Silent Night: Songs For Christmas, my mother’s favorite Christmas collection was played to death in our house. I wore out two copies by myself. Sometimes my grandmother would sing these songs and I would wonder why she wasn’t famous. She has an amazing voice. I didn’t think anyone but me knew until my cousin, Jeanette, commented.

Mary Had A Baby – Kathleen Battle

I’ve loved this song since Pam Singleton sang it at a Long Branch High School holiday concert in 1980. Kathleen makes me love it even more. The last note sends me right to heaven.

Medley: O Holy Night; We Three Kings; Deck The Hall – The Ray Conniff Singers

Who Would Imagine A King – Whitney Houston

The Bishop’s Wife was one of my favorite holiday movies growing up so I had to love The Preacher’s Wife. Whitney may be no actress, but she sang her wig off on every track.

A Child Is Born/Some Children See Him – Maureen McGovern

O Little Town of Bethlehem – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Tharpe was willing to cross the line between sacred and secular by performing inspirational music in nightclubs and concert halls. Her style has been characterized as “witty and idiosyncratic.” Though many church folks found her offensive, she never let them deter her from singing the gospel. Here she sings one of my favorite songs to an entirely different melody.

Peace on Earth - Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby and David Bowie

Another holiday tradition from childhood was the Bing Crosby specials where he pimped his family and sang with popular artists of the day. This recording is from one of those specials.

Away In A Manger – Nat King Cole

Gracious Good Shepherd – Vanessa Williams

I’ve loved Ms. Williams since she sang Happy Days Are Here Again and was subsequently crowned the first African American Miss. America. Over the years she has continued to justify the crown taken from her over a youthful indiscretion. Her holiday collection is a favorite at my house.

I Wonder As I Wander – The New York Voices

Another song I heard at that Long Branch High School holiday concert, performed by the Madrigal Singers. This vocal quintet gives it jazz flavor.

I Saw Three Ships – Nat King Cole

I'll Go – Ledisi

Go Tell It On The Mountain – Mahalia Jackson

Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child – Mariah Carey

On this track Mariah sounds like she was born and raised in somebody’s church. That is due to Melonie Daniels, one of her former background singers, who is church trained. Daniels can be heard all over this song.

Joy To The World – Whitney Houston

Ring Christmas Bells – The Ray Conniff Singers

Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring – Russ Freeman

From a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, this song, also heard at weddings, never fails to create a peaceful mood. Russ Freeman of The Rippingtons plays it beautifully on his guitar.

Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid

The inspiration for We Are The World, a tune penned by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and performed by music royalty to raise relief and awareness of Ethiopian famine, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote this song to benefit the same cause.

Do You Know It's Christmas – Maureen McGovern

Someday At Christmas – Stevie Wonder

Another song performed by every Motown artist on their Christmas album, Stevie’s is the best rendition.

Let There Be Peace On Earth (Let It Begin With Me) – Gladys Knight and the Pips

This is my grandmother’s favorite Christmas song. She tells wonderful stories of singing it as a child in Mount Vernon, Georgia.

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – The Arthur Blythe Quartet

I just love Christmas jazz!

Christmas Time Is Here – The Vince Guaraldi Trio

Silent Night – The Temptations

Customer Disservice

Whenever possible, I like to visit my neighborhood grocer around noon on any given weekday. By that time, they’ve put out the day-old bakery and I can get what I love at a fraction of the cost. Day-old bread toasts the same. I had a wise mother who taught me to stretch a dollar and get the most value from a supermarket, even if I have to bruise my own melon.

So last Thursday found me in my neighborhood at the magic hour. I ducked into Blankety-Blank for a quick peek and hit pay dirt. In addition to bread, there were English muffins, brownies, pies and one-quarter sheet cakes. I grabbed a loaf of multi-grain, a dozen brownies, a blueberry pie and a sheet cake because, for some strange reason, I love store-bought birthday cake.

With arms full I proceeded toward checkout and ran into Ms. Neicy, my downstairs neighbor. We share a fire escape, which each of us has used after letting the door slam behind us without keys. She had clearly gotten her support check because the cart was over packed and hard to push. Since I was in no particular hurry, I got on line with her so we could catch up.

I appreciate Blankety-Blank for a number of reasons. In addition to bakery, they do a similar price reduction with meat and bruised produce. Weekly sales are usually good, they keep the place clean and it’s only a four-minute walk from my house. I also love that they employ people with disabilities as baggers during peak hours. It improves their esteem, provides a sense of purpose and improves the flow of traffic.

As “Jacquie,” the cashier sent items down the belt, Bill, a legally blind gentleman, waited to grab and bag what he could see and feel around for what he couldn’t. As payment, Ms. Neicy presented three crisp Benjamins, getting in return twenty-two cents and a receipt that dragged the floor. She moved down to assist with bagging, not missing a beat in her narrative about the white woman who came to see the vacant apartment across from hers that morning.

“Becky was in the building,” she said, borrowing my terminology.

My bright smile turned to a look of disbelief as Jacquie picked up her cell phone and began to text. I look at Ms. Neicy, who just shook her head. We both jumped when the woman very loudly popped her gum.

“Excuse me. What are you doing?” I asked.

“Huh?” she said, looking at me like I was crazy.

“You could greatly speed this process by bagging,” I said, condescendingly.

“Sir, you can step down to express,” she said, impatiently and continued to text.

“Perhaps, but they can’t,” I said, acknowledging the line behind me.
“He likes to do it himself,” she motioned her head toward Bill, “and it IS why he’s here,” she said, rolling her eyes, earning what she was about to get.

“I’m sure he does,” I began. “He clearly takes HIS job seriously and he’s here to help the flow, not be your personal assistant. His presence does not change your job description”

“Look, sir,” she said, finally taking her attention from the phone, “you don’t work here and have no right to tell me how to do my job.”

That’s when my mouth and brain disconnected.

“No, I don’t work here, but I spend money here and that makes me more important. On some level you do work for me. I realize it’s not the best job, but had you better prepared, you might be doing something you enjoy.”

That’s when she got loud.

“You don’t know anything about me,” she screamed.

“Is there a problem?” the floor manager appeared from nowhere and began bagging before completing the question.

“Shawn, this man is trying to tell me how to do my job… you need to tell him something.”

“Or what…?” I asked, genuinely curious. I quickly explained to Shawn the situation from my perspective.

“I told him he could go to express or customer service,” she interjected.

By that time, Ms. Neicy’s groceries were bagged and in the cart. Shawn told Jacquie to ring me up, but directed the others in line to the next register. Bill stepped over to bag for that cashier. Jacquie was HEATED and threw my receipt in a show of protest. That’s when she was ordered to apologize and take her break. She stormed off without mumbling a word. Today, I'll check to see if she still works there.

Halloween Etiquette

The older I get the more certain things annoy me. I hate calling a customer care center, only to reach someone with no clear command of the English language. Similarly, colloquial speech in professional settings also grinds my gears and I really can’t tolerate when people (myself included) ignore signs; not just directional symbols, but also the actions and behaviors of others. Keener observation would improve our lives exponentially, but that is another blog entry.

My current state of aggravation stems from my recent Halloween experience. It is probably my least favorite among all the holidays for a myriad of reasons. Unpredictable weather probably tops my list of most obvious reasons. The northeast already experiences all four seasons in one day, but autumn, like spring, which I call transitional periods, can kick up unpredictability several notches. As days grow shorter, limiting our exposure to the sun’s warming rays, we are seldom treated to a steady descent in temperature. Instead October 31 can find itself on any line of the thermometer. This year, the night temp did a nasty nose dive.

The more subtle reason for my lack of enthusiasm can be traced to early childhood when my grandparents’ utter disdain for the day became clear. Hard-working, extremely proud and unfamiliar with the ritual’s historic significance, all they saw were children begging, which was unacceptable.

“If these children want candy, we can afford to buy it,” my grandfather would grumble.

It didn’t take long for me to embrace and adopt their attitude. While my preteen peers walked through the better neighborhoods, ringing bells, I gladly stayed home and watched television.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve also discovered society’s dependence on sugar and struggled with my own addiction. No doubt the childhood Halloween candy binge has produced a number of diabetic adults. I am a huge advocate for healthier snacks and applaud those who opt to hand them out in place of candy. However, those homes develop a reputation early in the day and experience a huge decline in foot traffic.

This year I was particularly disturbed by the disproportionate number of teenagers in poorly-planned, hastily constructed costume, soliciting treats. Not only were they too old, they were also aggressive and rude. While out getting some last-minute items for my own costume, I noticed several businesses along Church Avenue in Flatbush (Brooklyn, USA) handing out treats. While I think it’s a great way to thank their patrons with children, I have to wonder if it’s a wise business decision for establishments that sell candy to give it away. One creative Chinese take-out joint gave fortune cookies, which I thought was great.

“Who the #%*@ wants a fortune cookie?” yelled an ungrateful, poorly-costumed teen.

From the bulging sack he held, it looked as though he’d been shaking down folks all day. I know if I’d found him on my door step, I’d have to wonder if he came for the Snickers or my DVD player. Of course Cousin Michelle can flash a beatific smile as she passes out candy to a group of carefully-screened children, but how wide would that smile be if she happened upon Shaq, dressed as Shrek?

While I don’t believe Halloween is strictly for children, I do believe trick or treating is and if there is a question about whether your child is too old, here is a general rule of thumb. If they can no longer fit the children’s costumes in your local Walgreens, it is finished. Give up the ghost.

For The Graduate

Blessed child,

I commend and congratulate you on satisfying the requirements of your high school to obtain your diploma and be accepted to college. I am extremely proud of you, but also grateful to God because I know what it took for you to reach this point. Not just on your part, but also those working on your behalf. You may never fully realize all the prayers and hopes that carried you from the womb to this moment.

Please accept with love the small gift I've sent to mark this occasion. It should by no means indicate the value I place on your accomplishment, but please know as small as it is, It doesn't come without sacrifice. Make sure you send me your address when you get to campus. Periodically, I will send a little blessing. Again, it won't be much, but it will come in handy. The occasional five dollar bill, sealed in a security envelope, by any one of my aunties kept me in clean laundry for three years.

I would be remiss if I didn't send you off with some sage advice from an elder. You are surrounded by and covered in love. We send you off to college with only the expectation that you accomplish the goal before you. I also expect you to make lifelong friends, take advantage of every opportunity for travel and have lots of fun. You may even have a boyfriend, but don't let anything deter you from the path set before you. It is not unusual for a woman to meet her future husband in college and many a candidate may pass your way, but accept this challenge. Think of a man that in your mind exemplifies a woman's ideal and raise the bar even higher. Allow a man to rise to your standards. Don't sink to his.

You may have needs and desires (make sure they're yours and not his... or hers. I don't judge... lol), HANDLE YOUR BUSINESS. You understand the implications and risks of unprotected sex. A baby is the least of your worries. You could die. Protect yourself and the life that so many have worked hard for you to have. While you won't die, an unplanned pregnancy can really throw you off course, making things difficult and uncomfortable. If it should happen, I support whatever your decision, recognizing your right to choose. However, also remember choosing a few simple items at the pharmacy can save you a lot of aggravation. Steering clear of temptation altogether is an even better look. Let me put it like your great-great auntie if that will help...

“If you ever let any of these nasty boys touch you, you will stink and everyone will know what you did and think you're a whore.”

Okay... maybe not, but it used to work on the middle school girls. Just weigh all your decisions, recognizing your life hangs in the balance. I pray that doesn't create too much pressure. Along with that here are some other tips that will lead to a pleasant and productive first year.

  • Be yourself, but know you are a work in progress.

  • With your roommate(s) decide what kind of environment you want to live in. (I suggest you designate your room a sleep and study zone)

  • Establish good study habits. Don't seek distractions until you do.

  • Be nice to people, even if they're not nice to you.

  • Smile a lot and make an effort to always remember names.

  • Network and meet people in positions to help you (march yourself into the President's office and announce you'd like to introduce yourself)

  • Become friendly with the people in Admissions, Financial Aid and Student Affairs. They can make or break the entire experience.

  • Don't go home every weekend

  • Don't eat too much. The freshman 15 is real and your back porch does not need an extension!

More will follow as it comes to me, but remember I love you and am here as a resource.