Monday, December 31, 2007

So another year has past and a new one has begun. It’s time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Ok, that is what everyone says and few do. I did a little of both yesterday and this evening. I remember that 2007 was a year full of big failings, large mess-ups and great disappointments and if I stopped there depression would be my best friend, but 2007 was much more than that. There were small victories, like losing 30+ pounds, being slightly more consistent in daily routines, and going to church more often. This year was also a year when God showed Himself to me in mighty ways and with grace beyond measure. The entire ordeal of my herniated disc showed me much of God and led me to a closer relationship with Him. He taught me faith, chastised me for failing to bring glory to Him through my relationships with my employees and partner. He burdened me to be content in whatever situation He places me. 2007 was a good year.

Now on to 2008. The question on my board for this year is: “Where are you?”

God asked Adam this when he sinned, not because God didn’t know where he was, but He asked to make Adam consider his actions and decisions. I will be asking myself that question this year to make me think about what I am doing every day. Am I closer to God? Am I more disciplined? Am I closer to being debt-free? Am I closer to finishing my novel? I could go on, but you get the point. I spent an hour or two tonight writing out a list of goals for 2008. I am on the second page and am not done. I know ‘they’ say not to bite off more than you can chew, but I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I also know there is a lot that Eric has been slacking on and it is time to wake up and get to work.

Well, the party is over, the reveling is done. It’s time to buckle down and make 2008 remarkable.

Happy New Year, y’all!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A swinging good Christmas!

I celebrated Christmas with my daughters and one daughter's boyfriend today. It was FANTASTIC! I have two daughters, Jeni & Laura and a 'daughter', Marla that I sort of adopted. My youngest daughter's best friend, is basically a part of my family now,so I say I have 3 daughters. When the girls came over this afternoon and added their presents for me and each other, my tree looked like it was being overwhelmed. The girls were insightful in their gift buying, not only buying things off my list, but since I like to cook and they like it when I cook, they decided I needed some things to cook with and filled my kitchen with new kitchen wares. This is especially nice, since I will be moving into a new town home in a month or so and would love to start my kitchen off right. I was able to give them a surprise or two, so the gift giving was great.

The highlight of the evening came with their final three gifts for me. First, I opened a gift to discover a silk white tie, then another revealed a pair of white suspenders and finally a five dollar bill. I was literally scratching my head trying to figure out the significance, when Laura gave me the clue that tied the gifts together, swing dance lessons and dancing. Laura has been swing dancing for sometime, she met her boyfriend swing dancing. She has wanted me to go for the longest time and I have wanted to, but have always been too busy. The girls decided to find the time for me. They wanted me to look the swing dance era part and they all wanted to dress up, so that explains the gifts. I must say, I did look dapper! Now, if all it took to be a good swing dancer was looking good, I would have been a star. Unfortunately, you have to learn some steps and put them together with some spins and a partner and music and well, let's just say, I need more practice. I had a blast, even being nervous about having 3 left feet, didn't stop me from having fun. This was Jeni's first time as well and she took to it like a fish to water. I am so busy concentrating on the steps that I lose the music, so my natural rhythm is stymied and when I focus on the song, I forget the steps and then get flustered. I am going to find some links that teach this and practice, so I can catch up to Laura & Robert (her boyfriend) and keep up with Jeni & Marla. This wasn't Marla's first time and you could tell. She helped me some with keeping my body centered. Marla's brother Michael-b went with us. He has learned some from Laura and Marla, but this was his first time at the club. It was like pulling teeth to get him to leave when we were headed to Denny's. He was good and smooth with the ladies.
I think for me, the best part of tonight was simply having the family together and having fun. I miss that and thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday, December 24, 2007

God gave what man needed even when man didn't want it.

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A proud dad showing off his daughter's work.

I'm going to be a typical dad and show off a paper my youngest daughter recently turned in for her English class at North Greenville University. She is an excellent writer and this paper really shows that.


Harmonious Dissonance:

African-American Cultural Hybridity in the Harlem Renaissance

Voices heard or unheard, voices of different tone and pitch, voices from different walks of life, voices lyrical and poetic, voices direct or even mundane have called out, intertwined in struggle and purpose, exposing the harmonious dissonance that is African-American identity. Pulled from a swamp of oppression, ill treatment, and shame, African-Americans in the 1920’s faced a social atmosphere of racial tension, which required them to face head-on the problem of double consciousness. Would the black man become “white” in order to gain acceptance in culture? Would he dull his “African-ness” and become a whispered African in order to become a shouted American? Did only the racist majority define a black woman by the color of her skin or did she confine herself to be dictated by her exterior in the name of black pride or supporting the beauty of her race?

The voices of the Harlem Renaissance speak to this plight. Looking through the lens of American literature, specifically that of the Harlem Renaissance, one can gain incredible insight into the struggle of cultural hybridity for the African American. The literature exposes the precarious balance between African and American and the fight for the ability to enjoy one’s current country and yet remember one’s roots. Not every voice within the era sang the same tune. Some voices rang out deep and strong for the beauty of the African race and defied any attempt to be made white, while others sang their own song as an individual and sought to keep race on the exterior instead of internalizing it into who they were as a human being.

Langston Hughes

“One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, ‘I want to be a poet – not a Negro poet,’ meaning, I believe, ‘ I want to write like a white poet’; meaning subconsciously ‘I would like to be a white poet’; meaning behind that, ‘I would like to be white.’ And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself.” (Hughes 1512) This quote from Hughes epitomizes the driving force behind Hugh’s mentality. Langston Hughes possessed a strong African voice. He spoke out against the black culture of the day that, in his eyes, tried to be as white as possible in order to fit in and have a successful life. Hughes saw this as a denial of an African-American’s true identity and an affront to black culture. To Hughes, the greatest thing was to be black and to be proud of it. In his poem “I, Too” he unveils this superior mentality through the smug laughter of the narrator. Even though the white men had always demeaned the black man, he stood strong and proud of his beauty and worth. Hughes wrote a series of short stories entitled, “Laughing to Keep From Crying” in some of which he portrayed multiple situations of black men with white men and the ensuing events depicting the social landscape and attempting to bring out the superiority of African-Americans. Hughes’s voice was very clear on his opinion concerning race. The black race was a beautiful race that had been suppressed and denied the right to glory in their worth. Hughes used his pen to paint African colors and emotions in such a way that would inspire his race to rise up and take a stand. Hughes’s works teemed with the theme of African-American identity and he pushed with all of his might that African-American’s might recognize their heritage and beauty instead of assimilating into the colorless world around them.

Claude McKay

“For the dim regions whence my fathers came / My spirit, bondaged by the body, longs.” ( 1922) Claude McKay’s voice joined Langston Hughes in his support of the African portion of the African-American identity. Although not an American by birth, McKay’s literature addresses keenly the struggle of the African-American, and his work speaks to suppression of African culture. The above quote is from McKay’s poem “Outcast” which bemoans the loss of the African-American’s identity due to the influence of the west. When McKay penned the words, “My soul would sing forgotten jungle songs. / But the great western world holds me in fee, / And I may never hope for full release / While to its alien gods I bend my knee, / Something in me is lost, forever lost, / Some vital thing has gone out of my heart, / And I must walk the way of life a ghost” (1689) he vibrantly illustrated what occurred when, from his perspective, African American’s became “Americanized.” The “whitening” of a black man was more than just an accommodation or assimilation; it was a stealing of soul and worth. A black man under the intense pressure of a white world was not free to be who he really was. McKay, like Hughes, depicted this struggle and painted pictures of African-American culture. He used his voice to sing out in harmony with Hughes to support the African of an African-American.

Zora Neal Hurston

“But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. … Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster.” (Hurston 1711) In dissonance with the songs of Hughes and McKay, the song Hurston sings sounds less strongly of black pride, and heavier of individuality. Rather than depicting the pain, sorrow and oppression of African-American culture and allowing the promotion of her race to drive her, Hurston used her knowledge of her culture and study of the oral narrative tradition to present balanced pictures of African-American life. She did write about her culture and history, but not with the same driving passion and burning anger and resentment of Hughes. Hurston sought to balance her life as an individual with her roots and her depiction of that in her writing. In “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” Hurston uses the analogy of colored bags containing basically the same contents, give or take an item or two to describe humans of different skin color. Unlike Hughes’s and McKay’s poetry intertwining so deeply the color of a man’s skin to his soul, Hurston uses this analogy to show that the color of skin, the exterior need not define the soul of a being. While not dismissing the culture and totally assimilating into a white world, Hurston’s voice sang a different tune than that of other authors during the Harlem Renaissance by pulling a step back and identifying herself as an individual rather than a black woman.

Phylis Wheatly

“'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, / Taught my benighted soul to understand / That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too: / Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. / Some view our sable race with scornful eye, / "Their colour is a diabolic die." / Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain, / May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.” (Wheatly) While not actually a writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Phylis Wheatly was the first black woman poet and offers a distinctly different song. In the struggle of African-American hybridity and the fight for identity, the voice of Phylis Wheatly sings a sweeter, calmer, more peaceful song. Wheatly herself was a slave and of all of these writers seems to have the most reason to be bitter and fight for black freedom and pride. However, while in slavery, Wheatly was introduced to Christ and became a believer. This transformation in her life caused her to find blessing in what others considered the worst curse. Wheatly’s treatment of America within her literature was gracious and loving, for it was the place that brought her to her Savior. The slave ship was not a ship of death and oppression for Wheatly. She even chose to keep the name given her by her owners, which is something that would have been an affront to the later African-American writers like Hughes. This first published black woman author presents irony when contrasted to the later Harlem Renaissance authors, but her calm peaceful tone as a result of the change Christ had made in her heart might be a healing balm in the wounds of present day African-American culture if one looks deeper for the reason, and sees Christ, not an African-American woman selling out to the white world around her.


“Jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America: the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro Soul – the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.” (Hughes 1512) Langston Hughes’s “definition” of jazz begins to touch on the importance of this music to African-American culture. With so many voices intertwining in this identity struggle, jazz was almost a centralization, a unified voice of African-American identity. Rooted in the Negro spirituals and some would claim, even deeper in African music, jazz is truly African-American, truly hybrid. The rise in urbanization brought spirituals to the city and intertwined the city life of black men and women with the rhythms and soulful expressions of African music. Langston Hughes viewed jazz as essential to African-American culture and used it as a voice to speak the heart of his people. “The Weary Blues” takes on the form and rhythm of the music it depicts and the reader can almost feel more of the meaning within this poem than he could read straight off of the page. Zora Neal Hurston, in “How it Feels to be Colored Me”, seems to claim that one of the differences between her race and others is contained within the ability to relate to jazz. As an African-American, this music speaks deep into her soul and pulls from within her the African that sometimes lies sleeping, while a white man simply enjoys the toe-tapping tunes he hears. The syncopation and improvisation of jazz broke into the heavily structured music around it and awoke something within listeners that gave it a communicative ability unmatched, some would claim even to this day. Jazz affected the form of literature by infusing a musical strain into words, but it also dug deep into the struggle and soul of a culture. The music that originated simply within the African-American sphere spread like wildfire and transformed the whole of musicality. “The ability of African performance arts to transform the European tradition of composition while assimilating some of its elements is perhaps the most striking and powerful evolutionary force in the history of modern music.” (Gioia 8) The power that jazz possessed within culture could have stemmed from many things, but when considered in conjunction with the literature and the social landscape of the time, it seems that some of its power comes from the fire it was born out of. Jazz is not simply a little tune someone came up with one day; Jazz is the expression of thousands of souls, the cries of millions of voices, the heartbeat of a culture steeped in turmoil. With that source, it is no wonder that it transformed the landscape of music.

The unique, harmonious yet dissonant song of hybridity for the African-American weaved throughout a tumultuous landscape in the 1920’s and further and left that land forever changed. What is an African-American? No unified answer responds to that haunting question. Even into the present authors and artists still fight for a definition. The struggle, however, left behind a beautiful legacy and inspired a nation. This battle for identity continues almost inevitably because the tension forever remains. The hyphen always separates the African from the American, but somewhere along the line there comes a recognition of an identity that does not lose itself in that struggle.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Things are seldom what they seem.

Like most people, I make snap judgments about people based on their surface behavior. I bark at the woman who takes my spot at the gas station. I shake my head at the parent that appears to be neglecting their child at the store. I listen to people say things about family, friends, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, etc. and decide I know enough about these people to form an intelligent opinion. When in reality, I don't know enough, I don't have all the facts, I may very well be wrong in my opinion.

We tend to forget that people are the sum of their life experiences, that people can be annoying and endearing, lazy and hard working, polite and rude all in one body. We seldom can be defined by one action or one series of actions. Sure, people have distinct personalities, they display repetitive behaviors, but these things are not necessarily who they are.

The clerk that does not fawn over you like you are the greatest person she has ever met when you buy your soda and candy bar might not even be responding to you. She may be sad and distracted because her child is at home sick and she can't be there to take care of him. She might have just been cussed at by the last three customers and is simply wanting to avoid #4. She might be attracted to you, but is painfully shy. She might also be a rude, arrogant person. The point is, give people the benefit of the doubt. Also, it is not all about you.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

All restrictions lifted.

Sounds like I was just let out of "time-out". In actuality, that was what my surgeon told me today. She said that since she was certain that she removed all the offending disc, and since I appear to feel absolutely, positively no pain, that I can resume my old life style. Ok, not quite my old life style. I realized after I left her office that I will have to adjust how I do things if I want to see her again only in the supermarket, theater, etc. I have always been the "big guy", the guy everyone turns to when they need to move or they need some heavy work done. I also am the guy that gets frustrated waiting for help moving things and simply muscles through. No more! I have to be smart, lift properly, wait for help, allow others (preferably younger "big guys") to do some of the work. This will be especially trying when I am on a job site, wanting to get started and there is some over-sized file cabinet that MUST be moved before we can start. I will fight the urge to just shove it out of the way myself. I think I can adjust. I also have to begin the stretching and strengthening exercises that Dr. Mina gave me. I need to make this as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth. Problem is, brushing my teeth never takes 45 minutes, so I will have to work on it.

I am so blessed and can not stop praising Him for his help in all things disc related.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So much happens on the way to blogging!

I have intended to, planned to, decided to, etc, blog for days now. Lately, I have felt that my life was like a journey down a river. Sometimes, I have enjoyed floating carelessly in a sturdy paddle boat on a slow meandering river, being lulled into a peaceful state of mind. Other times, I have been desperately clinging to a thin piece of cardboard as I hurtle down a Class 6 white water rapids, certain that things couldn't get worse, only to find that they can! I know that sounds overly dramatic, but at times, it fairly describes what is occurring in my life. I am learning to be content in both situations and the myriad of experiences that fall between the two extremes. Often, I have wanted to stop and blog about things, good, bad and indifferent, but I don't. I come to this page, sign in and stop, wondering, "Do you really want to hear this?" "What should I say?" "Forget it, I will do this tomorrow." Thus, no new entries. Maybe I will write again soon.