Archive for the ‘althea’ Category

Shero

May 27, 2010

Yesterday was my 14th wedding anniversary. To some, that’s a long time and to others, we’re still babies with some “stuff” to go through. I started reflecting on my husband, Maurice, and my parents and grandparents. My parents made it 16 years before they ended everything in divorce. Maurice’s parents were married for 29 years before the untimely death of my mother-in-law. But our grandparents – that’s a different story all together…

My grandparents on my father’s side were not only married forever, but when my grandmother fell ill from a stroke and needed 24-hour care, my grandfather stayed by her side for YEARS, nursing her, bathing her, feeding her, watching television with her. His love and allegiance was not only in words, but he showed it in his deeds. My grandmother passed away a few years ago, and my grandfather is still going strong at the age of 90.

My grandparents on my mother’s side were also married forever. They were hilarious because they were COMPLETE opposites. My grandmother was loud, boisterous, and big. My grandfather was soft-spoken, a man of few words, very strong (physically and mentally) and extremely thin. I loved laying in their bed because you could tell where she slept (big dip in the mattress) and where he slept (higher than the rest of the mattress). They had 13 children, but 3 died before I was born. The remaining 10 included 7 boys and 3 girls, one of which is my mother. Those 10 were SO close-knit and supportive – I’ve lived with two of them and consider all of them my surrogate fathers and mothers. Their children are more like siblings to me than cousins. And we cousins have continued the tradition of closeness. 3 of my younger cousins have lived with me for various reasons and I’ve become like a surrogate mother to some of them. My children and my cousins’ children are as close as I am with my cousins. My mother’s parents provided a real-life example of what family is. We stand up for one another, we’re there for each other, and we help each other whenever it’s needed… even down to raising each others’ children if necessary.

But the real reason for this blog is Grandma Alice. My husband’s mother’s mother. My grandmother-in-law. She died earlier this month at the age of 90. Maurice, the kids and I went to be with her during the Easter Holiday, because she’d fallen very ill and the doctor’s didn’t think she’d make it long. A month later, 12 of her 13 children and their spouses and children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were gathered together in a small church on a hill in the heart of Vicksburg, MS for her home-going services. It was truly a celebration as we sang, clapped and laughed at memories of a diminutive woman with a sweet voice, but a quick and, sometimes sharp, tongue. She said what was on her mind, but said it with the sweetest smile.

I named this blog “Shero” because Grandma Alice and her late husband Monroe did something I’ve never known anyone in my life to do. They raised 13 Black-American children in segregated and racist Mississippi in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Not only did they raise these children without one dying, but each and every one of the boys and girls were educated and went on to some level of success. A doctor, successful business men and women, honored military officers. Not one of them a criminal, not one addicted to drugs or alcohol, not one a high-school or college drop out. Now, some families may be able to boast of this, but how many would also be able to say they are as close-knit as my mother’s family? The 13 children were present and supportive of each others’ college graduations, successes, marriages, and the successes of their children. Even though they’re spread out among Texas, California and Mississippi, 2 or 3 live in the same cities to be a support for one another. And like my mother’s family, their children know each other more like siblings than cousins. My kids cried when we had to come home from Mississippi earlier this month. They didn’t want to leave their cousins and the activities in which they were engaged. That’s what family truly is.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the challenges that Grandma Alice and Grandpa Monroe must have faced living in racist and rural Mississippi throughout the 1930s before they moved to the city of Vicksburg. I thought about the stories I’d read and heard of lynchings and brutality against Black people in cities throughout Mississippi from slavery to present. I’d heard of a lack of amenities like running water and, in some places, electricity. And the education system was and still is one of the worst in the nation. But despite all of these statistics and facts, a Black couple with dark skin, short and stocky in nature, African features and not much money birthed 13 children from the 1930s to the 1960s, educated them, taught them values and love, and didn’t lose one to the negative statistics of the time and place. The typical reasons Black people give for their failures, the Williams family overcame – 13 times – and more with the grandchildren they also raised.

Times are different now, but are they really? There is still blatant racism and segregation all around me in my little southern community of Lilburn, Georgia. I spend the majority of my time with my sons teaching them respect and love for each other and their peers. Unfortunately, I also have to explain why someone may look at them differently than the White children in their class or in the store, especially since they both have “dreadlocks.” My husband and I have to teach them to be strong in their values and beliefs, know the history of Black people in America, and value education in all forms. Just like our parents taught us, we’re teaching them they have to be better than good, because good is simply not good enough.

I have only a couple of heros – people I admire for doing things against the odds. Grandma Alice is right up there with Malik el Hajj Shabazz in my mind and heart. But because life is different for a woman than a man, she gets the higher distinction of being my Shero. I’m glad I was able to experience a few years of her light before she moved on – I am encouraged to keep teaching love, values, education, and strength to my sons because of her example and others like her.

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Reflection

April 15, 2010

I’m planning my 40th birthday celebration. It’s not until December, but I like to plan. Because I’ve started so early, I find myself reflecting on the last 20 years. It’s strange for me, because I don’t feel like that many years have passed. It feels like I did a whole lot of stuff in just a few years.

For most of the people I know, they become morose and depressed as they reflect on the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s of their lives. When I think about my last 20 years, I smile, laugh out loud, shed a tear, and wonder – “How did I do that?”

I didn’t leave college with a plan. I just did what was expected after you leave business school – I went to work for a major company in their management development program. All of my peers did the same thing, and many of them are now Directors, VPs and top executives at companies around the world. But I knew early on, it just wasn’t for me. I hate pantyhose – always have. I love to wear heels, but not the kind that are appropriate for Corporate America. I like to wear suits, but my taste is a bit more colorful, shape-showing and sometimes Bohemian. Not exactly the right fit for a Fortune 500 company. So I left the rat race – against the advice of my peers, friends and mother – and started teaching aerobics and personal training in a gym. I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.

I didn’t have a plan for a relationship or it’s future. I just did what felt right. I continued dating my college sweetheart after graduation and between multiple long distance moves, because no one was better than he was and is. When he asked me to marry him, I was shocked because – unlike most of my college friends – I wasn’t trying to hook a man, I was partying and enjoying life. So… we got married. I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.

When we found out I was pregnant, we – and my entire family – were completely surprised. My family was concerned because I loved to travel and get lost and end up in weird places and explore and come home whenever I felt like it. I loved to party and sleep and get up whenever I wanted to and… just be free to be me. But sure enough, along came my first son, and I fell in love immediately. And he simply traveled with me and got lost with me and explored the world with my husband and me. Having a child stifles some people. For me, it made exploring and learning even more fascinating because I experienced the wonders of life through my baby’s eyes. And I didn’t stop partying – I just got a babysitter and kept on dancing with wild abandon to drummers and house music and hip hop. I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.

I decided to take advantage of an ad I saw in a fitness magazine for aerobic instructors to teach while traveling. So, I taught Yoga and dance and water aerobics at resorts in Jamaica for many years. I got free vacations, made wonderful friends that I still talk to and visit in Jamaica, and I feel like I have another home to go back to. I explored Jamaica with my husband and my son, and had one of the best girlfriends’ parties ever there. I was REAL happy and having LOTS of fun and that’s what life is about.

One year, I thought I could make a fitness video just like Donna Richardson. So I did. In fact, I made six of them that sell internationally. And I made a television show that aired for two years. And I hosted the fitness segment on the weekend news for over a year. And I started presenting on the fitness conference circuit. So what if I was pregnant with my second child and raising a 3-year old toddler. I did it all anyway. Why not? I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.

Who decides to pack up their entire life – spouse, children, tv career, local fame – and move to another state and start all over again? Me. And it was the best move of my life. I spent a year getting my children settled in a new house, in new schools, and personally making new friends. Then I thought about what I hadn’t done in life and still wanted to do. I wanted to open my own fitness studio. So I did. The classes are packed, we’re hosting private exotic dance parties almost every week, I get to do Yoga every day, and I’m positively changing peoples’ lives every day. I am happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.

Who thought a woman that likes to dance barefoot, water ski in a thong bikini, and knows more hip hop history than most men raised in the 80s could be a community leader? Not many people. But sure enough, I’m the president of the a local business organization, a regular fixture at the county’s Chamber of Commerce, a former representative for the school board, and very involved in local economic development. I am happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.

Was it all good times and easy street and fun? No. There were – and still are – challenges, struggles, mistakes and painful endings. But those things make life interesting and colorful. They also make the good times feel so much better. They create character, empathy and understanding. They keep hypocrisy at bay. Most importantly, they offer wisdom that can only come from personal experience.

So here I am. 8 months shy of 40. I’ve done more with my life in the last 19 years than most people do in a lifetime. I have absolutely no regrets about any of my decisions in life. I’ve experienced life as a single person and a married person, a mother of a newborn and a mother of a son as tall as I am, an employee and a business owner, a face in the crowd and a leader in the community, a shy wall-flower and a party animal, a student and a teacher, a magazine reader and the cover model on a magazine, an avid reader and a popular writer. I don’t have limits. I don’t allow people to tell me what I cannot do. More importantly, I don’t allow me to tell me what I cannot do. I live every day like a new opportunity to create an adventure without restrictions. I am happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.

Business Meeting @ Chuck E. Cheese

February 18, 2010

I recently had a flashback to Fall 2002. I was living in Baltimore and my fitness outsourcing business was just beginning to grow. I had 2 corporate contracts and new companies were calling me to hire teachers for their fitness centers. There was a fantastic Pilates and dance instructor I’d been dying to bring on board, but we could never seem to get our schedules to mesh.

“Can you do 11:30 on Monday?”

“Uh, let me see… nope, my oldest has a playdate. What about 5:30?”

“Nope, soccer practice at the Y. How about Tuesday at noon?”

“Can’t. The 2-year-old has TumbleTina class. Can you do earlier at 9:30?”

“Uh-uh. Sesame Street 9-10.” (sigh)

Finally, we agreed that the only way we would be able to meet was to schedule a business playdate at the local Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t like to use the word “hate”, so I’ll say, I truly dislike attending functions at Chuck E. Cheese.

Anyway, Chuck E. Cheese it was on a weekday around 11:45 am. Our 4-year olds chased each other in the jungle gym, while her 2-year old tossed colored balls into the mesh netting enclosing the ball bath. We each held a child, nursing, to our breast as we wrote quickly into our Franklin Planners and notebooks (yes, I was still doing Franklin Planner in 2002. I’d had a bad experience in 2000 when my Palm Pilot died unexpectedly and I didn’t know when or where I was going and couldn’t find numbers to call anyone to find out. It was 3 years of fear and mourning before I could return to electronic scheduling).

An hour and a half later, our meeting was done, the kids had all been fed, and a playdate had been knocked out all at once. Triumph.

Fast forward to 2010. A contact from the Chamber of Commerce called me and indicated we needed to meet immediately. Both of our schedules were booked solid with meetings, luncheons, and presentations. We both sounded fatigued and stressed as we scanned our Blackberry and Outlook calendars, trying to find any open 2-hour slot in the next few days.

Suddenly an idea came to me. Jeju Spa. The Korean bath house located only minutes from both our homes. Jeju is not your typical American spa. Yes, it has saunas, whirlpools, steam rooms and massage. But it also has wifi, CNN on plasmas, and computer work stations tucked quietly behind gigantic saunas Jeju refers to as “igloos.”

“Can you meet me at Jeju tomorrow morning? I have a window of time between kids leaving for school and my first presentation at 11:45am.”

“Perfect. If we meet at 8:30, I can fit in accupressure and still make my 11:00 meeting at the Chamber.”

When I combine relaxing barefoot on a heated marble floor with closing a business deal as the scent of jasmine and sage float in the air… bliss is the only word that comes to mind. The spa is my golf course, and it’s definitely a step up from Chuck E. Cheese.

Why I Wore My Robe In The School’s Front Office

January 22, 2010

I have a perfectly legitimate reason for standing in the front office of my son’s elementary school in my robe and a raincoat this morning. See, what happened was…

My husband, being the kind and considerate man that he is, quietly prepared for work without waking me. Before leaving, he reset the alarm clock for 8:00 am – the time my older son needs to get up and get ready for middle school. Slight problem… I needed to wake up at 7:00 am to start getting the younger son ready for elementary school.

At 7:45, I woke slowly and blinked uncomprehendingly at the alarm clock. Did the clock mean 7:45 as in the bus would be pulling up to pick up my younger child in 10 minutes? The child that was still slumbering peacefully upstairs?

Since I wasn’t scheduled to teach or attend any appointments until 11:30 am, I could wake him, get him ready and drive him to school. No problem, right? Right. I put on my red and white flowered robe, went upstairs, woke both kids, talked with them while they got ready, and made them breakfast as we packed lunches.

I glanced at the clock, saw that I had 15 minutes before the drive-thru child drop-off lane at the school would close, and leisurely suggested my son grab his coat and backpack since we only live 5 minutes from the school. I put on a pair of black sneakers with my red and white robe and threw on a short, hot pink raincoat. I thought to myself, “thank God for the drive-thru child drop-off,” and proceeded to reach for my keys in the key jar.

Keys. Where were the keys? I looked around the key jar, I dug in the bottomless pit of my mom-purse, I searched my coat pockets from yesterday. Nothing. Nowhere. I glanced at the clock. 5 minutes had elapsed. Only 10 minutes left. The keys had to be somewhere. I searched the kitchen table, the family room couch, and the floor beneath the dining room chairs. Nothing. Nowhere. 3 more minutes gone. My younger son began to feel my mood changing and he became tense. “Mommy… am I going to be late?” This was not a question I felt like answering right at that moment.

Just then, I saw my husband’s house keys on the dresser in our room. If his keys were here, that meant… Yep. He’d taken my key ring to work. My ring with the van key on it. Where in the world were the spare van keys?! I dug everything out of the key jar until I found it and raced out the front door with my son jogging breathlessly behind me.

Sigh… the last car was pulling out of the drive-thru child drop-off lane onto the main road just as I was pulling in. I had no choice but to drive up to the front of the school and park. Then it hit me – I was still wearing my red and white flowered robe with black sneakers and a short hot-pink raincoat. I blinked twice, took a deep breath and walked proudly into the school’s crowded front office like it was normal for a woman to be dressed as I was in a public place. I signed my son in, kissed him goodbye and walked back to my van with my head held high. Just then my cell phone rang.

“Hey Althea, the 9:30am Yoga teacher just canceled. Can you get here and teach her class in 20 minutes?” Sigh…

The Adventures of Mommypreneur!

January 21, 2010

The last thing I did before going to bed last night was mentally go through my schedule of activities for the following day:

7:45am Attend Governmental Business Meeting
11:00am Conference Call w West Coast
12:00pm Teach Corporate Yoga Class
2:00pm Conduct Audition & Interview for New Studio Instructor
3:30pm Get Younger Son from Bus & Mommy-Time
4:30pm Older Son Home & Mommy-Time
7:30pm Lead Meditation Discussion Group at the Studio

Here’s what actually happened:

6:45am Younger Son Vomiting & Diarrhea

7:00am Older Son Disgusted & Concerned at the Same Time

8:00am Washing Younger Sick Son’s Soiled clothing and Linen

9:00am Consoling Sick Son, Cleaning Poop Off Floor & Arranging Doctor’s Appointment

9:30am Paying Bills Online, Typing Newsletter, and Responding to Business Emails

10:30am Rushing Sick Son out of Bathroom to Make Doctor’s Appointment on Time

10:45am Late for Doctor’s Appointment & Stuck Behind Slow-Moving Cement Truck

11:30am Still Sitting in Dr. Waiting Room While Sick People Cough Around Me (Ew)

11:45am Using My Cell Phone in the No-Cell Phone Zone in Dr. Waiting Room To Find A Sub For My Yoga Class

11:46am Staring Down Angry, Coughing Man That’s Staring At Me For Using My Cell Phone in the No-Cell Phone Zone

12:00pm Soothing Crying Sick Son While Dr. Flanges His Ears and Swabs His Throat

12:30pm Dropping Off Sick Son’s Prescription @ Drugstore

12:45pm Enjoying Chinese Food with Sick Son Who’s Not So Sick Anymore

1:30pm Rescheduling 2:00 Audition, Writing a Magazine Article, and Folding Laundry

2:30pm Returning Missed Phone Calls, Preparing Notes for Meditation Class, and Entertaining Sick-Not-So-Sick-Anymore Son

4:30pm Discussing Why Preteen Girls Need to Work Their Triceps in PE with Older Son

5:30pm Cleaning Kitchen, Cooking Dinner, Responding to Emails, Updating My Company’s Facebook Twitter LinkedIN YouTube SlideShare Blogger and WordPress Accounts

6:30pm Kissing Husband, Asking Him About His Day, and Smiling As I Listen Attentively

6:45pm Printing Handout for Meditation Discussion Group

7:30pm Using my Soothing Voice to Lead 12 People Through Breath and Visualization Exercises in the Dark

8:45pm Discussing My Favorite Topic, Mind/Body Connections, With Meditation Class Members

9:00pm Listening to Mom Chastise Me For Letting Her Grandson Get Sick

9:30pm Walking Around in Circle in Kitchen Confused About Where I Should Be and What I Should Be Doing

10:30pm Looking With Dismay At The Mess of Papers and Bills and Crap I Left On My Bed at 9:30am

10:31pm Leaving Bedroom Because I Cannot Handle the Mess and Clutter Right Now

11:00pm Blogging About Today Because I Can’t Get In My Bed To Go To Sleep