oh baby. (an expectant father’s thoughts)

expecting a baby is a phenomenon.

it really is.

the fact that my wife is growing a human almost leaves me speechless, which if anyone knows me, is hard to do. kelli is only about 14 weeks pregnant, but each week builds upon the anticipation of our little one’s arrival.

i also struggle with what to call this baby, since i don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl yet. calling the baby… it… i don’t like that so much. so i guess i’m just gonna keep saying baby g. if it gets annoying, well… i’m sure you’ll get over it.

it’s funny the things i look forward to:

finding out baby g’s gender… the suspense is killing me.

introducing baby g to the world, and the world to baby g. i have high hopes for both and i expect them to be good friends

buying little things for the baby. i’m sure that my wife is thinking about all the practical things like changing tables and diaper bags and what color to paint the nursery. my mind is on making sure baby g is properly equipped with just the right amount of sports gear. baby g’s gonna have to represent our teams in style! yes, i have looked up pacifiers and onesies with my favorite teams logos on them.

on that note, is it weird that i’m already looking forward to watching baseball games and other sporting events with my kid asleep in my arms? k, i didn’t think so.

i think finally the overall realization that this is happening has sunk in and the excitement is starting to take over. i’ve waited a long time to become a father and when it became a real thing, all i could do was kinda freak out a little.

on a little more serious note, i’m pretty sure that i won’t always be the world’s best dad, or even the coolest one. at some point baby g won’t be a baby anymore and won’t even want to hang out with me. but i’m pretty sure that even if my kid doesn’t like sports or maps or writing or panda bears and is into things i have no clue about, i’m going to be a proud dad. i’m pretty sure that writing about my kid will be the easiest topic, and maybe the toughest too. i’m sure i’m going to be tired a lot and there will be plenty of nights when i lay awake wondering when this kid will come home. i know that because my parents did the same thing. i know that starting in about 6 months i’m going to start appreciating my parents a whole lot more than i do at this moment, and i’ll have a deeper admiration for mothers and fathers who have been doing this for a lot longer than me.  i’ll probably finally start asking for advice on things because baby g will get the best of me at times.

i’m excited about being a father, it’ll be the most important task ever given to me. someone asked me the other day if i’m ready for it, well, i don’t know that it matters if i’m ready for fatherhood. either way, it’s happening.

the best thing is knowing that no matter what, it’ll always be okay. even when things aren’t going the way i would like, it’s always well with my soul. it’s a motto i try to live out and now i get to pass that down.

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loud noises.

there is so much commotion in the world these days.

sometimes it seems like the world has turned upside down. you know what i mean? we are living in a world where donald trump is a front runner to lead the free world, the gun debate rages people more and more and the water in flint, michigan has potentially destroyed the lives of many of its citizens.

there are so many lies to be told. we hear them everyday.

“obama is coming for your guns”

“only those who deserve healthcare should receive it”

“i’ll make america great again”

“(The water) is coming out of the plant in great condition…It’s clear and drinkable.

it’s just a bunch of loud noises.

we are even to a point where donald trump is more accepted at a christian college than a tenured professor expressing her beliefs.

loud noises.

i’m sure you’ve picked up my opposition to the trump campaign. for me, i guess i assume it’s an obvious choice for all of us. clearly it’s not. but what i have a hard time deciphering is the idea that christians are more accepting of someone who has been documented speaking against other religions, races and economic classes than someone who wishes to stand in solidarity with those different from her.

what i don’t understand is how loud the clamor to fight for the ability to carry a gun is, despite the main point being that no one really wants to take away guns from people who carry them legally and responsibly. it truly is amazing that we can be a society that ignores crucial elements of a text or story, just to bend the narrative the way we want it to be told.

i’m tired of the loud noises, even if right now i’m heaping coals onto the burning embers.

the loud noises scream for freedoms, even at the expense of freedom for those different from them. does that make sense? christians want freedom to discriminate against other religions. that’s essentially what it boils down to. instead of understanding the narrative, many christians have decided that all muslims are bad and shouldn’t be allowed into the country.

gun owners, terrified of losing their guns, are willing to let innocent people die in the streets, as long as their guns aren’t taken away. though that option has never been on the table, nor has it really ever been discussed.

loud noises discourage an appropriate discussion. loud noises distract from the truth.

in flint, political authorities decided to save money and draw water from the flint river, instead of from lake huron treated from detroit. since then, high levels of lead has seeped into the water. this is water that men, women and children drink, bathe in and cook with. despite tests proving otherwise, officials insisted that the water was safe.  now, it’ll cost over a billion dollars to correct the problem and the city is under a state of emergency. was it worth it?

instead of blustery speech and blowing smoke, we should be able to have transparent and honest discussions. differences in opinion doesn’t mean we can’t work together for effective solutions. even if we don’t have the same religion or agree on all topics doesn’t mean we have to be on separate sidelines. we all have our beliefs and it’s good to stand firmly with them. but we shouldn’t be foolish about it.

instead of the loud noises, maybe we just need to quiet down a little.

whoa. baby.

i can study maps for hours, and sometimes i do.

i love how it’s not just about the destination, but the routes we can take to get there.

there’s never just one way.

and sometimes the rockiest roads are the quickest, and sometimes the safer routes take longer and you have to be patient and enjoy the scenery. sometimes there’s exciting cities to pass through, and sometimes there is nothing but plains for hours. you can make the most amazing memories in places no one has ever heard of and the most anticipated destinations don’t always live up to the hype.

life is like this. life is like a map.

lately, i’ve been trying to map out my life. i want to figure out not just the destination, but what roads to take.

the route just got a little more interesting and much more adventurous for us. a couple of months ago my wife showed me a pregnancy test with a plus sign on it. because i’m pretty smart, i looked at it and said… what does that mean? so baby g is on it’s way and will make a july entry into the world.

so yes. now we have a new map to discover. i’ve imagined this many times before, even tried to create a map, a timeframe, for this type of event. but when it’s real, it seems so different. i’ve realized there isn’t really a map that charters this whole thing.

it’s amazing we even have the ability to create life. it hit me when we saw baby g on the ultrasound, we created this life. with maps, someone else made them, we just follow them. in this case, we created it, now we are responsible. we are in charge of creating a path for this little one.

someone told me the other day to make sure i started buying all the books about having a baby. i just shrugged. i’m sure we will, but at the same time there is something comforting about knowing that this is a new road for us. that we simply don’t know what we don’t know. i’m okay with that.

we get to travel this new road together, for the first time.

Bye Felicia. I mean… 2015. 

i’d like to think i’m a glass half full type of guy.

then i realize that i’m probably more of a glass half full but wish the glass was completely full type of guy. you know what i’m saying? how come no one talks about the glass actually being completely full? what’s so bad about that?

yeah, it’s cool to be positive, but why not have it all? it’s lame, i know.

anyway, here’s the thing. 2015 was not my favorite year. at all. looking back, i can see that pretty much the entire year was filled with wishing i had something more than what i already did. i wasn’t unsatisfied with what i had, i just wanted more. it’s the basic “lose perspective” situation that we find ourselves in every once in awhile. sure i have an amazing wife and a house and puppy that’s basically a human to us and a decent car and a job with benefits and something like 6 weeks of paid time off… yeah i guess for me that wasn’t good enough. pathetic right? i want to take solace in knowing i’m not the only one but, whatever. i’ll own my patheticness

this year was rough for me in so many ways, and not just because of donald trump. he’s not the issue, at least not in this post. unless we are talking about how he’s seemingly the only person who can get away with saying sexist, racist and completely ignorant things on a daily basis. somehow there are people who still think hillary is worse. but we aren’t talking about trump. not today. this year was rough and that’s okay. i grew a lot. i learned a lot. i’m a much better man for it. that’s the benefit of seeing the finish line. you start to get some of that missing perspective back.

going into 2016, i doubt i’ll do any resolutions. they don’t really work anyway, not for me at least. what i do want to do is look back at this past year and remember the good and the bad and even all of the ugly. i don’t want to forget the lessons and the laughter and the moments that stopped me in my tracks. i want to remember that every moment is part of the journey. yep, it’s corny and all, but sometimes corny is cool. i don’t know if 2016 will be the year dreams are made of, unless trump finally disappears, but i’m hoping that i keep perspective the entire year this time.

outsider.

i should probably be considered an outsider in my family. i’m different from them in so many ways.

i mean, that’s to be expected when you grow up in a very conservative family and vote for obama twice, register with the michigan democratic party and overall be fairly liberal. (though in my younger years i did vote for bush twice as well. we all make mistakes here and there.) oh and i’m black and most of my family is white. there’s that too. i should expect to be shunned right?

but that’s the beauty of this nation. we are not all the same. we can’t hide this fact. we don’t all look the same and believe the same things and that should be okay.

somehow the narrative has fallen off the rails. we’ve developed an “us vs. them” mentality.

the funny thing is, i’m probably a liberal thinker because of the values my parents instilled in me. they taught me to care for the people around me, not build walls to keep them away. though conservative, my parents are the most caring and loving two people i have ever known. still, i am very different from them in how i approach my thoughts and values. but should that separate me from them?

i worked at a church for five years (where i became a bush lover) and i heard more hate speech there than i ever have anywhere else. one of the colleges i considered going to after high school was liberty university. now their president wants to “end those Muslims”. this is just another example why i have such a difficult time identifying myself as a Christian these days. i just don’t believe this is how Jesus would approach the situation. it’s not us vs. them. at least it shouldn’t be.

we fight with each other. we fight against everyone else. we think it’s supposed to be an exclusive club and you can only get in with a special invitation. the only thing is, religion is not a country club.

we cannot follow a man like Jesus if we only want people we like and understand to be given a fair shot at life. we cannot follow a man like Jesus if we want to disturb the peaceful lives of millions of people because it serves our own fearful and selfish impulses. we certainly cannot follow a man like Jesus if we openly discuss murdering people the way the liberty university president did.

a few years ago, i wrote that the streets are on fire. that we are just sitting here fighting with each other about stupid and irrelevant things while the world around us went up in flames.

and now donald trump is trying to be president? and i read on facebook that someone i know (from the same church from earlier) would “vote for him in a heartbeat”?  the man who wants to kick out millions of peaceful, law-abiding people because of fear? and people agree with that? wow. the same man who wants to kick Mexicans out of the country and makes faulty claims about black people and crime? that guy?

we are the most violent country in the developed world when it comes to guns. we have a mass shooting nearly every day. yet there are people in this country who continue to look the other way. the NRA has these people so riled up, i’ve never seen anything like it. people cannot think straight because they have swallowed the poison pills the gun lobbyists have fed them. i’m not a hunter, but i cannot imagine the need for handguns to shoot deer and turkeys. no one is trying to take away your guns. unless you think you need military weapons to shoot pheasants.

children are getting killed in the streets, being lured into allies to be executed. the police are shooting those they have sworn to protect. companies have to update their policies on workplace violence and what to do in case of a mass shooting.

but still the crazies think there is no problem. even worse, they think the solution to the “no problem” is more guns. really.

talk about the streets being on fire.

it gets tiring. trying to fight with each other about all of this nonsense is getting us nowhere. we hate having discussions about it. we hate even more when we disagree. these days, having discussions with people we disagree with is a sign of weakness.

and honestly, some who will read this are people i love who don’t think the way i do. you might want to vote for donald trump, and while i couldn’t disagree with you more, it’s alright.

it’s alright because we are all different. but being different should not mean we continue this barrage of attacks against each other. we just need to start working harder at accepting our differences. we need to realize, that as a nation of immigrants from all over the world, different is inevitable and amazing. pushing fear towards the masses is a horrible and dysfunctional tactic.

sideshow.

“can’t you see that all that stuff’s a sideshow?”

-let go- frou frou-

from what i remember about my childhood, not a whole lot mattered more to me than sports. collecting sports cards, playing sports, watching sports, listening to sports, reading sports… that’s all there was. i had one mindset. sports. well, and girls… but i never had enough nerve to actually talk to girls, so i just focused on sports.

then i got older. and more aware. i realized slowly, and with my mom’s insistence, that there was more to this world than simply sports. my brain was shocked.

i learned about politics and religion and that traveling is good for the soul. i learned in high school that girls could get me in trouble, as would lying to my parents and stealing candy from the gas station.

then 9/11 happened and i learned quickly that the world was full of hate. not just from those who hated america, but from americans who hated the outside world. remember “freedom fries”? we hated the french because they wouldn’t go to war in iraq with us so we took the one thing we know would get them to understand we were serious… how tough we americans are…we would call OUR fried potatoes “freedom” fries because…dammit…fried food is american and we stand for freedom more than anything. fried. potatoes.

i learned that people with power could and would go to great lengths to get what they wanted. i started to realize that the religion i had believed in was not what i thought it was. that jesus is somehow bigger than that religion.

i watched as obama won the election and for some reason i thought that would unite america. it did not. clearly.

i realized that there is a lot outside of my control, and what i cannot control doesn’t matter anyway.

how much of what is in our lives is just a sideshow?

how much are we influenced by what is around us and not what is in us? how much do we forget about the people who actually matter to us everyday?

there are all these factors competing for our attention. we live in a hyped up world. no matter what it is, it’s overblown. unless it’s about the good in the world. we don’t hear so much about that.

so much of what is around us is just a sideshow.

there isn’t much we can control these days. there never has been. instead of fighting about who should pay the most taxes and racial tensions and same-sex marriage and whether pete rose should be in the hall of fame, what if we started blocking out the noise? what if we started focusing on people and how we relate to each other? we spend so much time focusing on all the things that really do not matter and forget that what really does, people. maybe then we can start to see past different skin tones and religious beliefs.

when we start breaking down all the nonsense and leave the sideshow behind, that’s when we truly see the value of why we are on this planet.

it’s time to talk

this page is like a blank canvas. i get to say whatever i want. i don’t know if very many people read what i write and that’s fine. it’s a therapy, it’s a hobby and it’s a tiny little forum for me. maybe a soapbox.

i don’t write often, not these days. not because there isn’t enough to say. i don’t write as much as i used to because i’ve been struggling for the right words. as a writer, this is a terrible feeling. to have so many thoughts and not enough words to describe them. what sucks is that a lot of times, i find myself writing when terror strikes. it sucks a lot.  it sucks to me that 1) terror strikes and 2) that’s when i find my voice.

i’m writing this because a friend of mine posted on her social media about the need for discussion in this country about racism. suddenly i started to think about what i had to say about the issue. i have a lot to say about it.

we all should have a lot to say about it.

here’s the thing… racism is bullshit. i don’t know if i can say it any clearer. and it makes me angry. and it should make you angry. i should be able to drop the mic and end this post right now. what else really needs to be said right? but there is more.

what happened in charleston this past week was terror. pure terrorism. and it’s time to talk.

these events keep happening. why? because these are madmen? because these are crazy people who are just an abscess to society? or is the subtle tone of racism in our country becoming a little less subtle everyday?

the talk should not be about mental illness. the concept that only mentally ill people can walk into a church and shoot black people because “you rape our women… you have to go” is a lie. racism pervades our society and it’s not a mental illness. it might be a sickness, but sweeping these types of acts under the rug as “oh he’s crazy” is shallow and wrong.

we’ve got to start having real conversations about this.

i remember when i was probably in first or second grade, kids calling me names on the school bus, making fun of my skin color.  i was the only black kid on the school bus. i was also the only black kid in the school. and the neighborhood, and the town. i was different than what the other kids knew. i grew up in very white america. and that’s okay. i have fond memories of my childhood. i also have very painful and disturbing memories. but i learned to bury the painful parts. i learned to just tolerate it.

but that’s what we do. we tolerate. if we don’t like someone, we tolerate them. we don’t learn anything about them or get to know the backstory. every person has a story. we just don’t take the time to learn it. we do what we have to do to not let them infringe upon us. we don’t learn to love. we learn how to not hate, because well… hate’s a strong word. strongly disliking is acceptable.

this is my least favorite topic to discuss. i’ve always resisted this conversation. it’s a painful reminder of the struggles that so many people have had to endure for so long. i’ve experienced racism for as long as i have memories. some subtle, some blatant. i’ve experienced racism disguised as compliments, “you are pretty smart… for a black kid”, i’ve endured racism as stupid jokes “how high can you jump?”, “can you teach me ebonics?” i’ve had to answer the question, “yes i like fried chicken and watermelon and kool-aid! who the hell doesn’t?”  i’ve experienced racism as a threat to my safety and i’ve been called a nigger. as recently as 2013.

 so i don’t like talking about racism. i don’t like having to discuss my fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being mis-identified by police.  do you know how terrifying it can be to always have people tell me they thought they saw me somewhere that i wasn’t? i’ve had that fear since i was about 8 years old. don’t tell me it’s not a real fear.

but what does not talking about it do? ignorance and silence gives license to these kinds of hate and builds deeper fears. we may not murder because of our hatred, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t deadly. i used to think that talking about it and writing about it only gave voice and attention to the worst of society. i used to ignore it. when people would say, “James, you aren’t really black” or “James, you are the whitest black person i know”, i used to blow it off. because all of my white friends in white america were such experts on black culture. they even meant it as a compliment, that’s the amazingly sad part. it was racism in it’s subtlest forms and i knew they didn’t even realize how wrong they were. the concept of a black person speaking clearly and having intelligence was foreign to them. i was never really angry then, i was just sad for them. ignorance is a sad and lonely trait to carry. but the thing is, by me not addressing it, i was giving license to ignorance. not every black man listens solely to rap music and has a low IQ. but my white friends were stunned when i could form a sentence using proper grammar and my favorite band is U2. why is that? who set that up as a thought?

one of the saddest things i’ve read about the charleston case is the comments by the killer’s roommates. they’ve said he would make comments about black people, how he thought that black people were “bringing down the white race”. they said he wanted to escalate a race war. yet they said they didn’t take him seriously. really? they thought he was joking. really? we’ve got to start having conversations about this. it’s time to talk.

so where are we? maybe the question is, who are we? who am i? me, i am a black man. does that change anything for you? what is the first thing that comes to mind? what do you fear? why do you fear? where does that fear come from? there are many questions, probably more than answers. that’s okay too. we cannot live in fear any longer. fear of what others think, fear of each other, we have to start somewhere. the best starting point, i believe, is to start with ourselves.

it’s not just that black lives matter. all lives matter. we have to find a way to treat each other with the common respect and decency we crave for ourselves. it isn’t enough for us to tolerate, we have to come together. there has to be more. we have to learn to love our differences. that’s what makes us real. that’s what makes us the human race, our differences. not our similarities.