The Birthday Project

15 Dec

I saw this story about a man (Doug Eaton in Oklahoma City, OK) who gave away money on his birthday and was immediately inspired to do something similar. I figured it would be even easier for me since I am only 25 (insert LOL). I made a mental note of it but when I went to search for the story again I came across this article which mentions Robyn Bomar’s The Birthday Project. Inspired again, I quickly changed my plans.  So I set out to commit 25+14 (wait that sounds even worse than 39) random acts of kindness in celebration of my birthday.

Some may ask  why anyone would want to do such a thing.  I can’t speak for anyone else but here’s why I was inspired to participate:

  • Kindness is nice to receive.  I have personally been the recipient of random (and intentional) acts of kindness and it’s good to be on the receiving end.
  • Kindness if nice to give.  It’s twice as good to give than it is to receive when it comes to kindness.  So, yes it’s a bit selfish but doing good makes one feel good.  It also helps me to remember “It’s not about me.”  Focusing on others makes it harder to focus on what I think is lacking for myself.
  • Most people like being kind and doing good (ok, except for maybe The Grinch) but like most people I don’t always make that a priority in my everyday world of “me me me.”  Having a project just seems to work for me.
  • It’s my birthday and I can do whatever I want.

In hindsight I should have started earlier. Squeezing all 39 things into a week was, well a squeeze.  And yes, I was reaching on a few of them but 39 was so far away.  The photos are sorely lacking.  I found it a bit awkward to try to do something nice but ask people to pause for a picture first.  Here’s the end result.

birthday project

1. Played hopscotch with my 7-year-old neighbor.

         hopscotch
2. While checking out at Walmart, bought a $5 gift card and gave it to the woman in line behind me.

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3. Put tokens in the washing machine in the laundry room at my apartment complex.

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4. Put tokens in the dryer in the laundry room at my apartment complex.

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5. In the McDonald’s drive-thru gave the cashier $2 toward the total of the person behind me.

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6. Took out my co-worker’s trash.
7. Walked into Red Lobster and placed a $10 gift card on the table of a couple eating in the restaurant.

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8. Gave a gratitude note to a nice lady.
9. Hid a freebie coupon in one of my favorite books at Barnes and Noble (did this 3 times).
10. Hid a freebie coupon in one of my favorite books at Barnes and Noble.
11. Hid a freebie coupon in one of my favorite books at Barnes and Noble.

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12. Gave free bowling passes to two teenagers wrapping gifts at Barnes and Noble.
13. Returned shopping carts for people at a grocery store.
14. Gave a free $10 off coupon to a lady at the check-out counter at Kohl’s.

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15. Donated blankets and clothes to charity.

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16. Went to the drive-thru at the bank and gave the teller a gratitude/appreciation note.
17. Put some decorations on my mom’s windows.

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18. Pumped gas for an older lady.
19. Took a thank you note to the staff at a nursing home.

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20. Taped quarters to the coke machine with a note.

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21. Complimented a stranger.
22. Bought some cookies and gave them to people I saw walking.

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23. Gave my neighbor who’s in the army a card to thank him for his service.
24. Bought Banrock Station wine (moscato) (instead of another wine) which contributes to conservation projects around the world.

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25. Got a free birthday meal at a fast food restaurant and paid for the order of the person behind me.
26. Went to Marble Slab Creamery and gave the girl who fixed my free birthday cone (which was in a cup) a tip just for being nice.
27. Gave two soldiers free bowling passes.
28. Put coins in a gumball machine so a child (or adult) could get a freebie.
29. Put coins in three trinket machine so a child could get a freebie.
30. Let several people in front of me in traffic throughout the day (as opposed to my usual strict “1 person per day” policy).
31. I was browsing around JC Penny when a lady found a blouse she liked but couldn’t find the other ones like it. She asked a salesperson who said it was a clearance item and that was probably the last one. A few minutes later, I found a rack full of the blouses she was looking for and searched the store for the lady to let her know where they were.
32. Donated a bunch of comforters, curtains and pillows to Good Will.

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33. Bought two toys for the Salvation Army toy drive.

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34. Got a free sub for my birthday at Firehouse Subs.  I was still full from breakfast and already had dinner plans. So, I had every intention of giving it to a homeless/hungry person. I drove to all the spots I usually saw people holding signs but no luck. When I got to my mom’s house, she hadn’t eaten so I gave it to her.

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35. Bought my mom a new can opener to replace the archaic one she had that looked like a weapon of mass destruction and I had no idea how to operate.

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36. Put money in one of those claw/crane/grab a prize machines for a child who was eying the stuffed animals inside.
37. Put $2 toward the total of the person behind me in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s (again). It was one of those “pay at the 1st window, pick up your food at the 2nd window” places. The lady had quite a long conversation with the cashier when she stopped to pay for her food.
38. Gave a man a 20% off card for Moe’s Southwest Grill.
39. Gave some soup and crackers to a homeless man who came into the office.

Love Absolutely

24 Feb

A few months ago I took an active roI am Troy Davisle in protesting the execution of Troy Davis, a man convicted of murdering Savannah police officer Mark Macphail– a man who may very well have been innocent of the crime he was sentenced to die for.  I signed petitions, wrote letters, sent emails, called the governor and even carried a protest sign outside of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA where Troy was eventually murdered by the state of Georgia.  I stood side-by-side in a little church with college students, ministers, men, women, black, white, Latino, Asian, old, young –  people from all walks of life – united in support of the same cause.  I did not feel the slightest bit out-of-place there as I’d never been in favor of the death penalty.  I’ve never been unsure of my position or had any difficulty or hesitation explaining why I felt the way I did.  But I know there were  people at that protest, people signing those petitions, sending letters who were in favor of capital punishment but also against the execution of this particular man due to the circumstances, lack of evidence and recanting of testimony from witnesses surrounding his case.  In spite of their general position on this controversial topic, they joined together to fight for Troy.  We were all Troy Davis.

 

Even though at that moment it didn’t matter whether you were pro or anti death penalty, I always knew where I stood.  I always knew that in order to prevent travesties such as this one from happening again and again, the death penalty must be universally abolished.   I don’t believe that any human being has the right to decide to take the life of another.  As love of God first and love of my neighbor second were the foundations of my entire belief system, I could not in good conscience advocate for the taking of another person’s life regardless of the crimes they had committed.  And then, of course, there was forgiveness.

I say that because as long as humans are in charge of the system that decides who lives and who dies, it will never be fair or just.  It will always be tainted with bias, racism, sexism, agism and every other “ism.”  And as we all know the justice system is heavily influenced by the amount of money one has.  Those who have tend to fair better than those who have not.  Some of these biases may be intentional and some unintentional.  Whatever their origins or motivations, they exist and operate in the criminal justice system.  In addition, people make mistakes – jurors, judges, attorneys, law enforcement officers, medical examiners included.  It’s foolish, barbaric even, to willingly allow even one innocent man or woman to lose his or her life and then say “oops.”  There are people who served decades in prison before being exonerated.  What if they had been executed before proof of their innocence was discovered?  Oops doesn’t cut it.

I said all of that to emphasize how easy it was for me to speak out and stand up against the death penalty in Troy Davis case.  In doing so, I made myself aware of and signed up for communication from a few anti-death penalty organizations.  Recently, one of those organizations asked for support around death penalty case. Another man waits on death row.  I don’t remember the state or the man’s name at the moment but I remember reading the story of the case.  I read the account of three men breaking into the home of a mother and her three-year old child to steal money, weapons and drugs.  They subsequently molested the little girl and slit her throat when she would not stop screaming.  Her mother was killed as well.  The feelings that welled up in me as I read that story were far from love.  It didn’t leave me feeling mobilized to take a stand on the man’s behalf or write any protest letters. It took me a while to type this blog as it is still quite disturbing.  I’m sure my reaction is typical and well-accepted by society.  However, I struggled to find love and mercy for the young man on death row- the same love and mercy that were so easily elicited for Troy Davis.  I hold only myself, and no one else, accountable to the standard of love everyone, always.  The faith I profess to, the religion I participate in and the God who sustains me require it of me.  Yes, love even for a child molester and murderer.  I fully understand that there must be punishment and justice when the law is broken.  But, while justice and love are not mutually exclusive they do not have the same motivations.

Love is absolute.  It is without condition. It cannot be separated from forgiveness and compassion.  It is my guide, my goal, my mantra, my mission and the mark that I press toward.  I will get there.

Execute justice not people

My Obligatory Valentine

11 Feb love letter

love letter

As Valentine’s Day approaches the only related thing I’ve done was buying some Valentine’s socks at the dollar store.  That wasn’t for Valentine’s Day though; it was more because they were pink with cute little hearts on them- and they were only $1.  No, I don’t generally do much for Valentine’s Day.  I find it a bit nauseating how store shelves change from red and green to pink and red immediately after Christmas.  After all, it is truly about commercialism.  There’s nothing romantic, sweet or sexy about that.

I guess I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  On one hand I don’t think much of it because it’s so commercialized and many times the gifts that are given are given out of obligation and not out of sincerity or love.  On the other hand, most holidays are commercialized.  I suppose that’s the world we live in.  Christmas certainly is with all the emphasis placed on shopping from black Friday to stores being open on Christmas day.  All of that is lost on me though as I stopped the doing all that Christmas shopping years ago.  Although the commercialism of the season turns me off, I don’t let it stop me from celebrating the birth of Jesus and the real reason for season.   And even though the Martin Luther King holiday is just “a day off” to many people, I still recognize the significance of that day.  So, maybe all the commercial Valentine’s hype shouldn’t stop the celebration of true love either.

Also, any day set aside or reason to celebrate love is a good one to me.  I wouldn’t tell anyone not to express their love for their loved ones on Valentine’s Day if that’s what they want to do.  I just hope that’s not the only day it’s done.  Love should be expressed, celebrated and cherished 365 days a year.  Wives, girlfriends and significant others should not expect anything different on Valentine’s Day. However, I don’t advise guys to break tradition if you know it’s important to your lady without discussing it first.

When I was growing up my dad sent my mom a dozen red roses every year for Valentine’s Day (and her birthday). I think they probably went to dinner and she bought herself a gift from him.  But the whole red roses every year thing got to be a little tired and obligatory to me.  I’m all for tradition but not when there’s no meaning or sincerity behind it.

If you want to recognize Valentine’s Day and celebrate your love, why not try something a little different this year?  Get each other gifts that does not cost any money or involve going to buy something at a store.  Make something.  Cook a meal. Give a massage. Write a poem or love letter. Design a card.  Do his/her favorite activity. Slow dance.  Go on a picnic… in the living room…by candlelight.

candlelight

Save the flowers, candy and stuffed bears for the other 364 days of the year that they are not expected. Live and love outside of the box.

The Power of Words

28 Aug

It’s been said many times, many ways- no, not Merry Christmas.  I’m talking about the fact that the words you speak create your reality.  Whether you call it Proverbs 18:21 (Death and life are in the power of the tongue) or the Law of Attraction, the principle is the same.  It’s been said so many times, so many ways because it’s so true.

I want to address specifically how the power of language as it relates to relationships between men and women- even more specifically how women speak about men.  Women, talk shows, chick flicks and books have been accused of male bashing.  I’m not even going to deny it.  I don’t have to go very far to hear a woman downing men.  Our co-workers do it; we do it in groups on girls’ night out; we do it at the hair salon.

  • Men are dogs
  • Men are crazy
  • Men are liars
  • Men cheat
  • Just like a man
  • Men ain’t sh*t

These are the adjectives and phrases used often when women speak of significant others, husbands, baby daddies, fathers, cut buddies and other male figures.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  It gets much worse than that.  I don’t think most of it is malicious though.  I think many times it may stem from aggravation, hurt or a general lack of understanding of male behavior.  Even though we’ve learned that men and women communicate differently, women sometimes still don’t understand the male way of communicating or being in a relationship.  Sometimes we have legitimate reasons for being confused or angry. Other times it’s because we’ve analyzed, dissected and evaluated a man’s words and behavior to death- far beyond what he actual meant- which was “hello.”

Regardless of how it starts, this language is so damaging to all parties involved- the speakers, hearers and subjects.  This quote from Calling In The One by Katherine Woodward Thomas sums it up:

If you complain that ‘all the good ones are taken,’ then you’ll probably meet only married or engaged people that you are attracted to.  If you believe in your heart that you’ll never find true love, then my guess is that you’ll probably be right.  ‘I thought you would never get here.’ [she] said.  ‘ I know, and that’s what took me so long…’ writes Marianne Williamson.

So, we dog men out, complain about them, slander their names and those are the very men we wind up meeting and later entangled with and repeating the same cycle with.  That’s powerful!  It’s bad enough that adult women do it but we teach girls to think, talk and manifest this way as well.  Let’s go back to square one.  Before male and female we are all human- all divinely created for the same purpose with the same value.  Then we have different roles.  One is incomplete without the other; neither is better than the other.  We need each other.  I often wonder when I hear women complaining about men- do you like men?  Listening to the animosity and absolute venom coming from them, one would think they despise men.  I doubt that is actually the case (consciously) but the consequences are the same.

I love men!  I love everything about how God created them- strong, protectors, loving, kind, kings, leaders.  I love how they fix things, kill scary bugs, open tight jars, lift heavy objects, navigate trips (even if they won’t stop for directions), stand up for women and children, live and breathe sports, open doors, head households and all the other things God created them to do perfectly.  I love how they think differently than I do even if I don’t always understand or agree.  I love how they balance and complement my divinely feminine, emotional, nurturing, intuitive way of being.  Of course, some of them make me mad, hurt my feelings, irritate me, lie, break promises, disappoint me or don’t meet my expectations.  Then again, so I do and as do most people (women included)- not intentionally of course.  It doesn’t warrant maligning an entire sex and it certainly isn’t worth the malevolence that those words and thoughts invite into our lives.

So, when I’m upset or confused and tempted to lash out with vicious generalizations about men, I remember two things: 1) my own flaws 2) my deep, trusting, hopeful, persevering, forgiving, unfailing love for men.  I consciously choose to invite the people and circumstances I desire into my life with the words I speak, the thoughts I have and the conversation I choose to be a part of.

Much love ♥

All dressed up with the wrong accessories

9 Aug

Women are known for taking a long time to get ready.  Yes, men are also known to complain about this fact but it’s unlikely to change.  You have to understand all that goes into the entire process.  There’s hair, clothing, make-up, accessories, skincare and so many details involved in just those areas alone.  Yes we bought all of those clothes in the closet; so technically we should like all of them.  But, we must choose the perfect outfit for the occasion and it must be one that makes us feel beautiful.  And it’s not just the outfit that must be considered.  A woman has to choose just the right underwear to compliment the outfit she’s wearing, conceal pantylines, boost bosoms and give her that extra little umph.  I really don’t think men have any idea the lengths women go to to stay beautiful, get glam and turn heads.  Most men would be appalled and frightened at hair removal alone!

So, you can understand why “fine” is not the answer we’re looking for when we ask how we look.

As a woman, I understand all of this- the preparation, the extra swing in our hips, smile on our lips and stride in our steps when all that preparation does not go unnoticed.  What I do not understand is why a woman would go to all that trouble to look flawless and fabulous only to ruin her look with a “stank” attitude when she receives attention.  I see it and hear about it all of the time.  Women know they look good going out for a night on the town with their girlfriends but when they are approached by a man, especially one who is not their ideal, but any man really, the attitude goes full tilt.  A man may approach just to say hello or give her a compliment.  Her eyes roll, head turns and her neck may even snap as if she is annoyed that this lowly, trifling man (whom she knows nothing about) had the audacity to approach her majesty when he should have known to just admire her from afar like the rest of the peasants.  Instead of smiling and saying thank you, she mutters something to make sure he knows that his attention is more unwelcome than a mink coat in the desert.

This may be a problem with all women but I am speaking specifically to my African American sisters who seem to be angry with attitude for no reason.  Usually when someone is recounting one of these stories to me or when I observe it firsthand, I’m thinking, “Why in the heck didn’t you just wear sweatpants and a t-shirt or better yet just stay home?”  That’s guaranteed to keep all the undesirables far away from you.  It’s just not logical.  No one is saying you have to marry or even date every man who speaks to you.  Just have some common courtesy to treat every man, every person with respect and kindness.  Practice (yes, practice) being gracious, feminine, open and approachable.  If these qualities do not come naturally to you, you must practice.  Every compliment received and word spoken to you is an opportunity to practice- and improve your karma.

Although these women may act as if the world revolves around them and they are it on a stick, I tend to think that internally they feel quite the opposite.  If I feel good about myself and who I am there’s no need to lash out at other people.  There’s a serious lack of self-love going on in my opinion- yes, and in some cases a bit of narcissism and snobbery.  I don’t care how good you think you look, how expensive your clothes are or how perfect your beauty regimen is- it’s all ruined by a negative, angry attitude.  Love, joy, gratitude and kindness must be abundant within to radiate without and that radiance is the most priceless fashion accessory we can adorn ourselves with.

Just Say No to a Pre-nup

11 Jul

Not long ago a friend asked me if I would sign a prenuptial agreement if asked by my fiance.  I paused for a moment to at least appear to give it some thought before I answered no.  He (yes, he) then told me why he didn’t like my answer.  He said that made it look like I was out to get what he had and that if the marriage didn’t work out everyone should just walk away with what they had.  I listened attentively even though I’d heard that reasoning before.  I completely get that people don’t want to be taken to the cleaners in the event the marriage goes sour and ends in divorce.  While marriage does involve a sort of business partnership, it is not supposed to be solely a business investment whereby people enter into it for the purpose of acquiring assets.

My answer came from a different slightly perspective though.  I think it’s quite indicative of the culture we live in and the state of marriage that people immediately think of “if it doesn’t work out.”  Divorce is so commonplace that marriage is hardly viewed as a “til death do us part” covenant anymore.  For many people divorce is an option, an escape or a solution that is on the table even before the “I do”‘s are said.  They may not speak of it to each other but in order for there to be a pre-nup it has to be on someone’s mind.  I don’t think this has always been the case.  Way back when I don’t think divorce was as common an option as it is now and people entered into marriage with no expectation of an “end date.”  Of course that could be bad in some cases as there are certainly situations where people need to separate and cut ties.  But, by and large divorce is entered into much more casually.  You should begin with the end in mind.  If you begin with failure in mind, what does that say about where you’re headed?

I would not sign a pre-nup because divorce will not be an option.  I fully expect there will be problems, issues, disagreements, fights, ups, downs, etc. I also fully expect that through all of that at the end of every day we will stay married come hell or high water.  We may not like each other very much on some of those days but doggone it we will still be married and work it out.  No, I’m not living in some Pollyanna world with rose-colored glasses on and my head in the sand.  I know I can’t predict the future and something could happen to make me want a divorce.  That’s all the more reason not to prepare for one from the beginning as far as I’m concerned.  If something catastrophic should happen (abuse, criminal activities, etc.) divorce lawyers aren’t in short supply- even without a pre-nup.

Another reason I say no to a pre-nup is to make divorce difficult if ever it did come up.  Yes, you read that right.  People (men and women) might give staying married more consideration if getting divorced might cost them half of what they have.  Again, it’s certainly not my desire to take what he has but I bet he’d think twice about signing the papers if he knew they might be one of the consequences of divorce.  If my intention upon getting married is to stay married permanently, why then would I want to make it easier for either of us to leave the marriage?  Again, I’m not talking about life-threatening or traumatic events like abuse or discovering he’s an ax-murderer hiding body parts in the freezer.  In those cases, I guarantee you I won’t be concerned about trying to get what he’s got so much as just trying to get the heck away.  My point is that divorce is so perfunctory, careless and common and if the possibility of losing one’s assets makes one think twice about ending a marriage, no pre-nup for me.  Some would say the high divorce rate indicates that marriage has become obsolete. I disagree.  Certainly it’s not for everyone and that’s okay. I think rather that it’s a bigger indicator that we aren’t honoring marriage and maybe entering into it too lightly.

My friend said he had never thought about it that way.

Much love ♥

Love and happiness aren’t for everyone

4 Jul

I recently ran across a blog post (not a recent one) complaining about the show “Down Home with the Neely’s” on Food Network.  The author seemed to feel the Neely’s were just too affectionate with one another with all their pet names and lovey-dovey banter ever so sweetly delivered with the cutest southern drawl.  The writer even said they were “not quite food porn” but might be a little too hot for TV.  When I went to search for the blog again, I ran across some message boards with similar comments.

A scowl made its way to my face as I read the blog.  I can truly say it’s not because I’m a die-hard fan of the Neely’s.  While I have seen the show a few times, I don’t even have cable.  So, I’m certainly not an avid fan.  The author suggested all their affection was a bit much for the Food Network and the powers that be might want to slap a PG rating on the show.  Really?  Really!

Have we become so stiff, unloving, cold, rigid and down right prudish?  I really hope not.  I hope that most of the people who read that blog (if anyone else did) disagreed with it as fervently as I did.  Yes, I know we must keep salacious sex and violence away from the kiddies and educate them on the dangers of unprotected sex, sex before marriage, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.  But this is a happily married couple (or at least they appear to be) showing their love and affection for each other.  There’s no nudity or profanity involved.  Even the most religious, rigid rule-followers shouldn’t object to that.  Yet, we have no problem with gratuitous violence in movies and even on TV or even sending the kids off to see those movies.  There’s a reason some people are so uncomfortable with love and affection and more comfortable with violence and drama.

This is how all husbands and wives should behave in front of their children so they will know what love looks like.  Children imitate what they are shown. They learn what their parents teach them.  If we teach them love is a piece of paper that says we’re married and give each other gifts on major holidays but don’t show affection toward each other, that’s a mighty dysfunctional lesson to pass on.  Sounds like some major hating going on to me- especially when all the high-tech televisions nowadays make it so easy to change the channel.

Maybe it’s not the affectionate behavior of the Neely’s that really bothered the blogger but rather the Neely’s themselves (as opposed to if it had been Paula Deen and her husband).  But that is another topic and post altogether.

Anyway, I choose to embrace love rather than hate on it.  I embrace what I embody and what I desire.