The Comfort of Grits (Love in the Morning)

A taste of home

A taste of home

I woke up wanting grits this morning. I wasn’t necessarily hungry for food, but for the comforts of home in yesteryear. Daddy and Mom had a comfortable routine every morning when we were growing up. Both arose at the crack of dawn, and while she ran a warm bath to prepare for a day of teaching, he made his way to the kitchen, turned the radio on elevator music (which is where my love for Karen Carpenter originated), and began preparing a full breakfast for the three of his children before leaving the house for work.

His menu ranged from pancakes and warm syrup to chicken livers and grits….ummm, grits. I’ve since shared my Daddy’s “recipe” for smooth, creamy, tasty grits with numerous friends over the course of my moves and maneuverings as an adult. It’s the one thing I’ve turned to for calm and security on any given day. So on this particular morning, I’ve made my way downstairs, pulled out the right- sized pot for my delectable dish, poured the dry hominy, carefully and repeatedly rinsed it with water to remove the larger, pebbly grains that determine the texture of the final product, and then put it on the stove at medium-high. Seasoning includes a little salt, pepper, real butter, a dash of sugar, and maybe a little chicken stock—tasting along the way. Flashbacks of the various types of accompaniments we had—fish, hot dogs, bacon (even though Daddy didn’t eat pork—he later found beef bacon), chicken livers, or sausage—brought a smile to my face. Here today, though, it was either bacon, leftover fried catfish bites, or chicken apple sausage; Mal and I chose the latter.

As the hominy began to simmer and the bubbly sounds of the ground corn heating up and mixing with the liquids and seasonings took over the quiet of the kitchen, I said a little prayer of thanks for a Dad who never saw cooking as women’s work, and did it with pure love. He cooked things we could eat even though he couldn’t. He got up early enough to cook and have the meal ready and piping hot with a side of cold OJ by the time we sat down, and even roused us awake when it was time for us to prepare for breakfast before school.

To this day, I can eat breakfast food any time of the day. The memories fill me up and satiate my soul.

**Author’s note: Mom had her turn after school, with healthy dinners that were rarely fried, and always home-cooked.

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Writing Through My Tears: A Message From Trayvon

Malwhoodie

I wrote this first in my love journal– a journal I bought expressly for love notes and thoughts because the verdict handed down on the Trayvon Martin case has everything to do with a lack thereof.

I concede that we, as a people– just like all people– have had and continue to have our own infighting issues. But that does not excuse one more murder. I believe if Trayvon were able to speak, his message might be something like this:

To the America where I lived and thought I was free:

When I was born into this dichotomous world of love and hate, I had a purpose just like everyone else. My life had its ups and downs– one of the highlights may have been the simple and overwhelming joy I brought to my parents as their son. I can even say that my friendships gave me pleasure. My downs became more apparent as I entered the teenage years. Just like most teenagers, I was coming into my own and trying to find out what I, Trayvon, liked and didn’t like and how I fit into this big, complicated world. Then George Zimmerman stepped to me. He came, uninvited, threatening, preying on my vulnerability as a youth who was naturally unsure of myself. I was rattled by this stalker who chose to abuse his power, joining legions of those who throughout history have done so not just because they can but because they lack the love and respect we should all have for one another.

So I get it now.

My message was my short life underscored by my parents’ demonstrative strength, grace, faith, and love. If I were to put it into words, I would just say, “Handle your business.” Too many have lost their lives at the hands of hate and injustice. It’s time to join our fellow man and strengthen our civil disobedience strategy by working to change the laws like Stand Your Ground that somehow justify disrespect and hate.

Wake up everybody.

You still can. I can’t.

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What Can I Do? Good, She Would Say.

Jameson "Jamie" Kirk Hahn

Jameson “Jamie” Kirk Hahn

*Author’s Note: I met Nation and Jamie Hahn nearly three years ago during a strategy session for a political candidate. After Nation was introduced, he told us that of all of his experiences and achievements, by far the best thing he had ever done in his life was to marry Jamie Hahn.
 
In the back of my mind, I still wonder why bad things happen to good people. As we sat in a packed church in memory and honor of 29-year-old Jamie Hahn and listened to her husband, friends, and clients speak of her unforgettable influence, it was as if we had all become one. We were linked by this precious soul being laid to rest. In the back of my mind, I still struggled.

I mean, we need all the warriors we can get as we push through life– the warrior types who stand for life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Those who advocate for the marginalized. Believe in justice. Yes, even the idealistic and optimistic. If we could all rally together around common good and work toward making our world a better, safer place to live in, we’d make better progress. So, I still can’t help thinking that progress is stilted when one of us is taken away.

But what I do know is that it is not for me– or any of us– to understand. Senseless acts of violence–a redundancy in and of itself– should move us to action.

I was sitting with friend and colleague Lisa Sullivan, who also blogged about Jamie’s influence. Lisa and I struggled together during the service to maintain our composures. We pushed through the shock and the grief because we both know that it is up to us to keep Jamie’s light shining. After all, she died trying to right a wrong.

So, I’m suppressing that which only raises more questions in order that my strength might be saved for action. Jamie’s husband Nation said they both admired the Kennedys. Her service program bore this quote from Robert Kennedy:

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

During Jamie’s service, we were encouraged to “remember her with deep thanksgiving,” as a “bridge-builder”, an idealist who was pragmatic enough to know that in order to achieve change, resources are needed.

Above all, Nation said, she made everyone feel like they mattered. She was a class act among the “total” Kennedy referenced. Her spirit is still with us, prodding us to link up and do good.

Thank you Jamie. My “Whys?” have now become “What?”

 

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5 Unselfish Acts To Take Your Mind Off Your Troubles

It may be easier said than done, but more times than not, I elect to live by the Nike theme: Just Do It. Here are a few ways to distract yourself from your own issues and make the world–even your own– a better place:

1. Read, study, digest, then share a biblical scripture before day’s end.
2. As soon as the thought of a loved one pops into your head– or spirit–call or write him or her. Your gesture
may be the highlight of their day.
3.  Perform a random act of kindness.
4. Generously tip a hard-working waiter or waitress, hairstylist, barber, or grocery clerk who bags your food and takes it to the car for you.
5. Write the words THANK YOU on a sheet of paper and list just one thing for which you are grateful.

There are many more ways to show gratitude in your life. Stay tuned and feel free to share a few of your own.

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How To Grieve

My Mom told me once that as I got older I would become more aware of death and its sting. She was right.  As optimistic as I am (my sister-in-law says the Kimpsons are the most optimistic family she’s ever met), I mused to her that it seemed that too many were dying. Facing harsh reality never really becomes easier, but now that I have your attention, let me confess that this post wouldn’t dare to tell you how to grieve.  It’s such a personal process. But I can share with you some of the things I’ve done that in retrospect worked rather well. I say retrospect because when you are in that dark place, your will to survive and your literal soul pull you through the muck, mud, and mire. It is only after you’ve emerged, battered, bruised, and dirty and when you stand on your feet and dust yourself off that you can look back and say, “I made it through.” But that’s just my take. And here’s what has worked for me:

I allow myself to grieve– constructively. One of my besties told me it was  okay to own my emotions because they’re mine. My mom told me to cry, shout, and moan all I wanted, to wipe my tears, and then to step away ready to face another day. So while the doctor is quick to give you something to take the edge off, be determined to put that prescription aside and push through.

When my grief pulls me into a fetal position that paralyzes me, I time myself. Pretty soon, I’ve graduated from half a day in the bed to two hours to 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

I look in the mirror as I cry and face my grief.

I reach out to others and offer a helping hand.

I reach out to my family and true friends who understand me– who don’t hover– but whose prayers and presence remind me that I have support.

I save inspirational voicemails from friends and family and replay them when I need to hear an uplifting word.

I write about my experiences and my emotions.

And when I am ready, I share my story because I am not alone in my grief-stricken experiences.

After all, my testimony may make a difference for someone else.

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Parenting’s Strength

Wikipedia describes synchronized swimming as “a hybrid form of swimming, dance and gymnastics, consisting of swimmers (either solos, duets, trios, combos, or teams) performing a synchronized routine of elaborate moves in the water, accompanied by music. Synchronized swimming demands advanced water skills, and requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater.”

It has occurred to me that parenting skills–ever evolving– can be likened to this sport.  With a teenager, a 20-year-old two months short of 21, and a 22-year-old, I don’t profess to have all the answers. As a matter of fact, I probably don’t have any.  But I do have the privilege of reflection, and share my thoughts in list form based on the experiences I’ve had:

1. Parenting training begins on the shore of your childhood. You watched and interacted with your own parents or guardians, family members, and friends, and the way they made you feel has stayed with you, part and parcel, for better or for worse. How you choose to use your experiences is totally up to you.  Some of us opt to continue living with dysfunction because it’s familiar, try to create a utopia based on the wondrous events of our youth, with variations in between.

2. Once you leave the shore, parenting begins either with a belly flop, a swan dive, a feet-first jump-in, or even a toe dip. (Mine were pretty much feet-first experiences.)

3. While navigating the waters with your baby, your love and watchful eye serve as his floating device and life raft. You teach him how to swim, from the freestyle to the breaststroke, the backstroke to the butterfly, depending upon the circumstances.  Just as importantly, you teach him how to float because being patient and still and taking stock of a situation is a must for survival.

3. Along with adolescence comes the push-and-pull, first one wave then another relegating your involvement to part spectator while you tread water nearby.

4. By the time he reaches his teen years, you’re coaching ever so fervently and every once in a while you have to step in and show him the way.

5. When he becomes a young adult, you’ll find yourself engaged in synchronized swimming, an advanced sport that still requires a leader as well as “great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater.”

Going for the Gold.

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After the Homegoing

After participating in the heart-wrenching but celebratory homegoing service for my dear family friend “Daddy Mac” who slept away peacefully at the age of 90, I am reminded of the advice my Dad gave me nearly 20 years ago about supporting friends and family who lose loved ones.

He could speak first-hand about the death of my mother when she was 28 and I was 11 months old.

Here’s what he said:

Make sure you visit or check on the friend/family member three weeks after all the “chicken and pound cake are gone.”  Dad says he was so grief-stricken he really couldn’t remember who was in attendance at the service.

After you’ve asked how they’re doing, carry on a regular conversation. They may want to talk about the loss, they may not.  Let the conversation play out organically.

Six weeks after the event, ask them to dinner or for coffee. Most everyone has gone back to living their lives and the bereaved is or may feel “forgotten”.

Send a note of inspiration and uplift to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them.

In other words, reach out, communicate, let them know you’re there for them. And then, be that. A simple gesture after the event means much more than you know.

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