The Relevance of Change and the Importance of Decisions: Letter To My Daughter

Mother and Daughter
(Photo: By B. Goodjoin)

I have been journaling for most of my life–not consistently—but, enough so that there is a pretty clear track record of the ups and downs I have been through since middle/high school. Every year since your birth, I have been writing you poems and letters on your birthday. Letting you know how much you mean to me in writing. Thinking about it, I have actually written you enough birthday letters that we could actually publish them into their own chapbook (Happy 34th Baby!)

Today, I am not sure, but this may be a long, rambling note that goes, God knows where. I awakened early 3 a.m. reflecting on my life and how I actually ended up here . . . in this home, with a wonderful husband, 2 children that I am proud of, and a grandson who is as witty and intelligent as Daniel is. I am truly blessed, and I don’t take that for granted, but I also know that things I have gone through haven’t been easy. I’ve had joys and sorrows, up and downs; I have had moments of elation and times that have been so heart-wrenching that I wanted to die–prayed to die–but God kept me here for this moment in time. Tears may fall as I write, I am sure to have misspellings and bad punctuation as I write, but This is me.

My earliest memory of myself, is of me standing on the front porch of a clapboard house (painted white, as they were back in the day). I am on the front porch with my mom and some of the aunties and cousins…in my minds eye, I am probably about 4 years old. I remember being happy (seems like granny had made some parched peanuts lol) and we were eating and playing.

The snapshot changes–to elementary school. I started first grade along with my brother Shawn. Everybody thought we were twins, but, our birthdays were about 9 months apart (imagine that). I loved him like he was my twin.

We were half grown, when he died in the car accident so many years ago. I thought I would die with him . . . but I didn’t. That was the first real heartache that I can remember. I was about 22 and you were 2 years old. Your uncle “Shawnie Boy” (his nickname) loved you, so much. He would walk around carrying you or pushing you in the stroller. Take you for drives to the store or to the park, and just spoil you for no reason (just because). I thank God you were not in the car with him when he hit that tree, because you were the reality that kept me going. You were the routine that kept me breathing after he passed away.

My middle school years and high school years were not that dramatic. I was and have always been a book nerd. Never was good at sports (any of them), I was never a social butterfly (still the same), never went to a prom (not interested and couldn’t afford a dress if I was interested), and met your dad (who I liked very much).

As I got older, married ( had your brother, and divorced), life continued to have ups and downs. Despite the hard times, and sometimes bad decisions, I managed to weather the storms to see this day. Even with the peace that this early morning has for me, I know that there are days that are going to come that hold uncertainties (good and bad). It’s the changes that we face in that build our character and strengths. The decisions that we make and implement help define the outcomes that we have to deal with.

The one consistency, throughout my life, has been my mother (your grandmother). She is the one who I have leaned upon and confided in and there have been times when we have had to hold each other up as we weather through life. I think it’s important to have a “sounding board” with whom we can reason with. Even when she told me something I didn’t like or we had an occasional disagreement, I know that my mom has always wanted nothing but the best for me. Even in those “I told you so” moments when I had to tell her she was right (through the snot and tears I cried) she was there for me to help me get out of the situations in which I found myself.

Another rock that I leaned upon was your Aunt Niecy. My sis and I have argued and fought, but there has always been a bond between us that nothing could break. My big sister the antagonist, and my she-ro who will help us without question. When you needed a car and I couldn’t afford it, she bought you a car. That car carried you through college and through your first years of “scraping” by after graduating and getting a job, and supporting “D”. Family is important. Your uncles “G”, “B”, and “P” have all been integral in your life. Always willing to do what is needed to help without asking for a dime or anything else in return. We have always been close knit through family dinners and family vacations, weddings, funerals, etc. I pray that as they have supported you throughout the years, that you also are there to support them whenever they should have a need.

I started this letter in regards to change and decisions, didn’t I, well the point is this . . .

Cherish the moments of your youth, for it (youth) is fleeting. Take time to honor and show love to those ,you love, for tomorrow is not promised. Every decision that you make determines what happens, so, choose with some thought and wisdom. Change is going to happen, both positive and negative, so as you react to it, react with as much grace as possible. Especially with the hard, difficult, heart-wrenching moments, don’t make them worse by reacting in anger and seeking revenge. It’s easy to lash out without thinking. It can hard to try to apologize for our actions, and even though angry words and actions may be forgiven, they will NEVER be FORGOTTEN.

Every decision that you make and everything that you encounter is life is leading you to your present. I want you to consider the things that you do and the impressions you make upon your sweet child. At 10, he needs less phone and game time, and more face-to-face time with you and with all of us.

Here at home, I deleted all the games on the devices and changed the passwords so we could not have those distractions. I encourage you and his dad to help build “D’s” confidence and creativity, by doing the same. I have seen too many children and adults ( ) tune out the people who love them because of addictions to gaming. It’s in the building of social skills that families, communities, and societies are made. We need to hone our own creativity in order to build and succeed.

When I tell both you and your brother that YOU ARE MY GREATEST GIFTS TO ME, I mean that to the utmost! I would not change one thing in my life good or bad, because you two are the result of everything that made me, who I am. If I erased one joy or one heart-ache, it would change everything. But, I can say that I pray that you and “J” will have lives full of meaningful moments and deep true love. I pray that you both will build off of every word and action that I share with you in my lifetime, in order to leave a legacy for future generations to build upon.

Thank you for being a great daughter, a great mom, and for being successful in your field. Cherish all the good (keep the memories) and use them to keep going when things get hard and problems seem insurmountable. I am not going to get all “preachy” and tell you to get closer to God, but, I will say that having a spiritual connection will be a positive in your life. Meditation, prayer, and quiet times with nature will help be a light on your darkest days, and will also give you a deeper appreciation of the good and joyful times.

As long as I have breath and wisdom to share, know that I am here for all of you, but your life is your life. You have to live it to the best of your ability and grow into your season.

Loving You With All My Heart,

Mom

FALLING FOR THE WRONG SCRIPT

“JULIA” actors Diahnne Carroll, Lloyd Nolan and Mark Copage.  (I do not own this photo)

Television is a powerful tool. The images (movies, commercials, photos, music, etc.) become ingrained into our lives and cultures.  Television is a wonderful learning tool for both positive and negative ideas.  

As I was perusing the channels to find quality programming, I was once again disheartened at the amount of violence, and abuse that is fed to the general public 24 hours a day.  Particularly disturbing in the severe lack a programming that portrays a positive image of people of color. People that look like ME!.  

Most of us have heard the term “Blaxploitation” which is the exploitation of black people especially when it comes to stereotyped roles in movies and television.   The roles for black people (even in 2020) are centered around the negatives of society such as drug dealers, gang bangers, verbal abusers of others, an excessive use of foul language, and the list goes on and on.

My reality and the realities of others I know and grew up with has been severely twisted by TV portrayals of African-American families.  I blame the media for most of the hate that is directed toward people of color because of the misconstrued  ideas that have shaped the attitudes of the world in regards to our culture.

First, I want to applaud the producers of the series “Julia” starring Diahnne Carroll, Lloyd Nolan, and Mark Copage pictured above. The series ran from 1968 – 1971. I vaguely remember seeing re-runs of this series and it is the one positive that I can recall in the earlier years. The series featured the main character  Julia  who was a nurse and was raising her son alone after the death of her husband in the Vietnam war.  This series encountered criticism because it portrayed Julia as a working professional with a nice home, a family that spoke “good” English who treated each other with respect, and it encouraged a populace to strive for better and dream bigger!

After “Julia” was canceled other shows came along like Sanford and Son (1972-1977) and Good Times (1974-1979).  At the time these two productions were on TV, black people were just glad to have anything thing on that had black people starring in it.  I can understand that need.  I can also understand that being a black actor/actress was harder then, and actors did not have the luxury of  picking and choosing quality roles if they wanted to have a career. But I, am greatly saddened that these are the shows that framed the image of blackness to the world watching. I am appalled that generations fell for the WRONG SCRIPT  of American Life!   The burgeoning of Blaxploitation!

The list positives of Sanford and Son and Good Times is short. 1-Both Shows portrayed families. 2. Both families strived to be employed and make a living.  The problem I have with both programs is that there was constant put downs and verbal abuse that was labeled as “comedy” and even though these were fictional characters, mainstream America and people from other countries actually believed (and still believe today) that this was in reality the “black existence”.   Even worse,  the black populace began to take on the negatives of the roles of these characters and make them a part of everyday life.  

I can remember my brothers all wanting  to be “JJ” from Good Times.  The catchphrase was the handclap and yelling “Dyno-mite” after jokingly putting each other down.  I remember people idolizing “Fred Sanford” as he called his sister-in-law “Ethel”  ugly and saying other mean and hurtful things. Even though I was a young child, I could see the change in a culture that was striving to get an education and a career, turn into a culture of comedians and I saw families who started verbally abusing each other and thought they were showing their comic genius‘.  Yes, Good Times had “Michael” who wanted to be a lawyer, but Michael did not get the screen time,  laughs and attention that JJ did.

Even with all of the other shows and movies that came along.  The main characters were the tough guys who had the muscles and the chicks , the drug dealers with the money, honey’s, and nicest cars. The “hookers” had the nicest clothes and hair, and the best lines. When that is compared to the hard working student who stays up late to study and get a degree in physics, law, PH.D, etc., the emphasis is always put on quick money and witty humor that demoralizes . . . SAD.

I applaud my mother, who encouraged our family to do better.  I applaud my grandmother who instilled in the family a good moral behavior.  I applaud the generations of my family and others who encourage and teach their offspring to use correct grammar and speak to each other with respect.  I applaud the producers, directors, and actors of today who take the  opportunity to  actually showcase the genius and value  of people of color. 

But still . . .People of color have won Grammys, Oscars, Academy Awards and Tony awards. . . mostly for playing roles that involve slavery, drug dealing, being the help, and the drivers of the other. In my opinion, I would love to see people of color win awards (in movies and TV) for playing roles like Cleopatra, roles of ancient philosophers, black heroes of the bible, a black Lone Ranger (historically he was black), and even present day roles that have been white-washed–to many to name.

There are cartoons like the Princess and the Frog, or Doc McStuffins that have made head-way and caused a ruckus because the leads were black. Lately, The Little Mermaid (Ariel) was caste as black and there was an uproar…(no such thing as a black mermaid…?) Recently, there was the mega-hit The Black Panther that went from comic book to a production with live actors that set records across the U.S. and other countries. The success of this film was amazing, and as an added bonus, I even heard kids of different ethnicities “arguing” about which one of them was going to be the Black Panther in the game they were playing. They settled by agreeing to take turns–I listened and laughed with joy. That was a perfect example of what a great film can do for culture, and how people are perceived.

Why am I discussing “characters” when there are so many real life black success stories? Because people live vicariously through the television, and movies, and videos that give them a visual image to attach to right in their own homes, computer screens, and cellphones that we take everywhere with us. People remember what they see and hear and it becomes a part of their chemistry . . .We are inundated with negativity and WE FALL FOR THE WRONG SCRIPT. Imagine the change in behavior if we all had a Leave It To Beaver or an Andy and Opie who looked like us! Could you in any way imagine a Caucasian Stepin Fetchit?

For everyone who reads this, I know that the struggle is real.  Not every household is the epitome of greatness. Being poor and disadvantaged is a real problem.  The lack of opportunity and finance for education is a real problem.  Red-lining is a very real problem. Racism is a  rampant sickness that we deal with everyday the moment we step outside, in business, banking, and politics.  The key is to work together, help each other, and focus on shaping our minds and our children’s minds that we can create a better reality by writing a script for achieving success and making it a part of our daily life.

I applaud Sidney Poitier and others who take on roles of merit. I applaud the musicians who don’t use the “n” word and don’t label black women as ho’s and bitches. I applaud the writers’ and their artistic truths about blackness. I am excited about Tyler Perry who went from being homeless to owning his own film production studio. I am enthralled with President Barak Obama, his wife Michelle and their girls who made it through 8 years in the White House despite the hate and abuse leveled at them daily.

It’s time for us as a people to change the script we are feeding to our people. Remember the past, from the indignities of slavery, to the marches for equal rights and assassinations of those who tried to make it better. Build on the foundations of education, Mom’s and Dad’s be there for your children, erase the legacy of gangs and drugs and misogyny . . .Write a script that your family and people can build a great legacy upon . START WRITING YOUR SCRIPT FOR A LEGACY THAT GENERATIONS CAN BUILD UPON, TODAY!


THE SPACE BETWEEN US

Photo credit: Makersmark007

 
What lies in the space
that separates you and me--
Is it as empty as it seems?
White space between words on a page
Black spaces like the holes in space
that yearn to be filled with a hand, touch or word.
Yawning space to be observed
yet, still, needing to be filled by a thought or caress or
anything that will fill the hole left bereft.
I do not care for the space
that separates you and me.
Space that is filled by differences
as deep as the sea.
A space that is so narrow, yet so wide,
Space that envelopes
like an unending sky.
I need the space that separates
you from me.
Space in which I can grow
being free to be me--
Space in which I can unfurl
my tucked in wings
and strengthen them for
the tests ahead
that I must face on my own.
What lies in the space
that separates you from me?
The space is filled with opportunities
we have yet to see.
Space that is filled with roads
waiting for the signs
That we will leave
When we decide which way to go.
What lies in the space
that separates you from me?
It depends on the moment
It depends on our needs.
Sometimes hope--with a dash of fear
Then there is love for those we hold dear.
There is hate and malice
and murderous ire—
There is patience and lust with wholesome desire.
It is a space full of life
with moments of death.
There is mystery and pain
of youth and of age.
The space is a space
that holds all that is desired.
The space is full
of ashes from past fires.
What lies in the space
that separates you and me?
In one word…
P O S S I B I L I T I E S

WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN

With the windows open…

I listened to the chirp of crickets—

the burps of frogs.

Felt natures’ winds creep within

softly billowing the curtains…

in the darkened hours.

With the window open…

the stars looked in upon me—

the moon glowed with curiosity.

I snuggled beneath the sheets…

resting upon downy pillows…

and slept like the baby

I could never be again.

Night Moon (Photo by B. Goodjoin)

THEY COME SILENTLY

Originating from the ground or from the roots of trees, they come silently, growing overnight with an unbelievable strength. They creep, crawl, slink, and grab without a sound. Nothing can withstand their strength and cunning–No man can destroy them, they are backed by the superior knowledge and skill of nature!

The Strength of a Wall (Photo by B. Goodjoin)

Their mask of innocence is the “green of spring,” The favorite color of mankind . . . Our senses are dulled as they (the vines) beautifully drape themselves over walls. We stand in glory as they cover pergolas giving us shade from the sun. We stand in awe at the dexterity that allows them to soundlessly climb trees, and even the walls of our homes . . . We, not realizing that we are indeed being over-run as invisible cracks appear (though hidden by luscious growth). Foundations, begin the weaken and give way (in the slowest of motion).

The Silent Take-over (Photo by B. Goodjoin)

Before we realize it, the damage is done. The tiny cracks and missing bricks that were hidden by the beauty of vines appear suddenly as the wall falls into an unglamorous heap. Our foreheads wrinkle in thought and confusion as we wonder “how it happened” or “why didn’t we notice something sooner?

Brick wall eroded by vines. Photo taken at the Greenville Downtown Post Office
Photo by B. Goodjoin


The March of the Vines (Sung to the tune of the Ants Go Marching)

The vines creep silently over the wall, hurrah, hurrah!

The vines creep silently over the wall, hurrah, hurrah!

They come without a sound and then,

They start to work as the walls weaken

and the bricks come tumbling down, to the ground.

We start building again, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

.

ARIZONA SUNSETS

Arizona Landscape (Photo by B. Goodjoin)


In October, my family and I traveled to Tucson, AZ for a few days of vacation and visiting friends. We enjoyed the flights to get there and had a chance to explore the area (above and below ground). Arizona is a place with a fascinating history from the Buffalo Soldiers, to Wyatt Earp and the Trail of tears. It’s of place of mountains and desert land, Indian reservations, cities and dreams. A place of riches and poverty.

Exploring Underground Cavern
(Photo by L. Weymouth)

I never imagined I would be going caving, but due to “peer pressure from my wonderful children, that’s exactly what I ended up doing. Climbing and crawling through tight areas served to remind me that I really need lose a few pounds and exercise more. It was quite an adventure. As I looked up towards the ceiling of the cave, I hoped that the hundreds of thousands of pounds of rock would continue to stay in place. “Please God, no earthquakes right now!” I prayed and my children laughed…nervously and told me to “shut up.” I was spoiling the fun. Yes, I did take a big breath of air when we made our way to the surface. Would I do that again? Yes. It was exhilarating!

Giraffes at the Pheonix Zoo

My grandson’s favorite part of our stay was the zoo. I think it is his goal to visit every zoo in the United States–maybe even the world. I have to admit that compared to the zoo in the city where we live, most places we have traveled to have more expansive areas for their animal inhabitants to roam and live. Tucson has the Reid Park Zoo, but these photos were taken at the zoo in Pheonix, AZ.

According to what I read, the Pheonix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the US. It was founded by the Maytag family.




No matter where I go, I always travel with a camera and a notebook. Writing and photography are my passions, and I enjoy the inspiration that comes from new sights and meeting new people along this journey of life. My favorite times of day–early mornings and the evening sunsets…with a cup of hot tea or coffee–stirred–not shaken 😉

On the evening this photo was taken, I was introduced to a poisonous caterpillar and told to look out for rattlers, so I picked a place sit where I had a clear view of the area around me. My son, Jay, kept an eye on me to make sure I didn’t try to bring any new pets home. Usually I am the one to rescue turtles, frogs and lizards, but creepy crawlers that are poisonous are a little out of my league!


My poem Arizona Sunsets was born here…Thank you to my daughter (L. W.) for the photo of me at work.


The kids are ready to hop another plane or train for another escapade, and I encourage them not to be afraid, just to go for it. Wherever you go, take time to learn some of the history of the place and enjoy doing new things. Whether you travel by car, plane, helicopter, train or hot air balloon, it’s always nice to have friends or family to travel with, but if you don’t, join a travel group or “go it alone”. The world is bigger than the hometown or state in which we were born, so expand your horizons…


Flying higher than the clouds, yet I still look up to pray–B. Goodjoin







THE POETIC VOICE

This poem is a tribute to just a few of the poets and writers who have inspired me over the years . . . Most, if not all, are known world-wide for their talents and activism. Two of the poets mentioned are from here in Greenville, SC, (Moody (Black) and Glenis (Redmond). Both are traveling poets and have their own unique style. They teach and they also inspire me to learn and improve my craft of writing and speaking the words that are in my heart.

A poem dedicated to poets…

ANGELS OF THE WOOD

Young bucks and does in a herd of mule deer on a beautiful late spring afternoon.
(Photo from iStock (royalty free)

The angels melt into existence from the dark of the trees, quietly grazing on grass and leaves.
They move (wingless) on silent feet, as light as feathers in the gloom of eve.
The angels of the wood look at me with the darkest of eyes. Spiritually prancing in the light of the moon . . .from a star-filled endless sky…
One crowned with antlers, standing a head above all, whispers a blessing to me . . .
With raised hands, I thank the blessed Holy Trinity!
In awe of the angels power–I behold their amazing grace.
They melt back into the wood, leaving silence in their place,
Following a trail only they can see, again, I thank the heavens for the peace they leave with me . . .


I AM AMAZING

A Poem of Origin. A Poem of Praise

Black swan in pond (photo by B. Goodjoin)

I am the dark coffee that brews early in the morning

Before the break of day.

5 feet 2 inches of time ticking, ticking, ticking that

Loud tick-tock of the clock as the

Alarm readies to sound the

Changing of seasons from summer to fall.

Like a chameleon of form, I can soar to heights

Far above the clouds and

Lick the snow-capped mountain peaks.

I morph into the lowest depths of earth and tend the

Flow of Nature ( Photo by B. Goodjoin)

Jewels that glitter and grow in the depths of my soul.

…And still I rise as a stream flowing into a running creek

that merges into an endless ocean of blue . . .

 an ocean that gives birth to hurricanes with the

Ever-watching eye of peace that leaves

Calamity in its wake.

 I am amazing.

Sun-Kissed Soles (Photo by B. Goodjoin)

ROLL CALL FOR LOVE

If you are present, please make your presence known:
Patience, Tolerance, Hope, Forgiveness, Trust, Charity, Sharing. . .

If you are present, please make your presence known:
Giving, Listening, Tenderness, Loving Touch, Sincerity. . .

If you are present, please make your presence known:
Joy, Consolation, Sympathy, Empathy. . .

If you are present, please make your presence known:
Caring, Uplifting, Faith, Goodness, Kindness. . .

If you are present, please make your presence known:
Selflessness, Generosity, Welcoming, Cheerfulness. . .

If you are present, please make your presence known:
Praise, Encouragement, Comfort, Helpfulness. . .

If you are present, PLEASE MAKE YOUR PRESENCE KNOWN:
L O V E. . .
--B. Goodjoin