Finally eighteen. He said, "I'm legal now, Mom!" He's still my baby.
What Can I Do…
The greatest Superman I’ve ever known – my dad, who was taken from me by his Kryptonite. #myforeverlove
Invincible. His seemingly bionic arms lifted my tiny, six year old frame just above his head. Soaring through the sky with the clouds kissing my face, I challenged the sun’s brightness. Flying in his arms was my superpower, and the playground was our perpetual haven. Who needed Superman to save the day? My dad could do anything, and I couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
From toddler to teenager, I loved him with an inseparableness unrivaled by any symbiotic relationship known to man. His tenor tickled my fancy from his sugary serenades for my stunning mother to his bellowing ballads for his baby girl – me.
I adored his flashbacks to the fifties and sixties, reminiscent of times when music was pure and poignant. He was handsome and heroic; artistic and articulate; caring and compassionate and happy and – human. Perhaps more human than I had ever realized.
Despite my conviction that he was inexplicably flawless, I began to notice that sometimes my dad was…different. He’d slip into dazes that seemed unusually energetic. It’s why he’d clean the house from top to bottom, fueled only by rapidly eaten bananas with peels cast on the floor. Until 3 a.m. in the morning. On a weekday. Without ever sleeping.
It explained our unannounced trips to the bowling alley for fun-filled rendezvous with my three year old brother and I; but, our attire consisted of warm and fuzzy pajamas. We’d have to sneak out. And our start time was around 12 a.m. While Mom was in bed. On a school night. But we thought it was fun…
Sometimes when he was different, he didn’t seem energetic . He seemed angry. He used words that I remember were really loud and sounded harsh. They were the words from the movies that you weren’t supposed to hear.
He never said them to me, but I remember him saying many of them one night in our tiny home in Chicago. Our kitchen was bathed in yellow-ochre circles and colors that reminded me why seasons inspire the most beautiful tiles. I was then only standing at his knees, but I couldn’t help staring at his face.
My mom’s soft brown curls cascaded around her petite bronze face, while her countenance ebbed and flowed into a crestfallen portrait. They were screaming, and I didn’t know why. I was too young to understand all of the words. I do remember a refrigerator door that slammed so hard that the elements inside rattled with ripples, shaking in fear at the force that had sent them scurrying.
A two-liter Pepsi was pummeled in the midst as the cold cola spilled and lapped at my bare toes. No sooner did the stickiness set in on the soles of my feet did the somber conclusions seep into my heart. Something is wrong with my dad.
I’m not sure who cried more that night, me or my mom.
An eerie silence rushed over my sorrows when two strangers knocked on our door. They were giants, clothed in dark blue coats and furry hats with flaps. Their shiny metal badges reminded me of cowboys from TV.
They were extraordinarily friendly and wiped my tears as if they had known me all my life, and they were duly armed with the hardest Bazooka Joe bubble gum I’d ever attempted to chew. Its pink ridges were thick, lightly dusted with powdered sugar. It preoccupied me well enough for me not to notice that somehow with their presence, the house was quiet. And in their absence, my dad was gone. For a little while. But I never knew why.
My teenage years were far more revealing. Many hospital visits and institutionalizations later, I realized that my father suffered from an extreme and lethal combination of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, manic depression and alcoholism. My memories were seared with images of broken glass and bizarre behavior. Sirens summoned my sorrows, and collect calls calmed my fears.
Countless days were punctuated with notices from local law enforcement informing us that he had been retained in a place that I didn’t want him to be, and I was heartbroken. I knew what ills befell him. I’d too often seen him hurt, and some of the hurts couldn’t be seen.
The older I got, the worse it was because people he met outside of our home didn’t know him the way we did. They would return him to us broken and bruised. His manners left him mangled. His affections, accosted.
The Vienna sausages he insisted on feeding the stranger’s dog cost him a flap of skin on his face. The scar never healed well, and when I saw him lying on the curb as the blood oozed from his head, I was almost hit by a car – because I fell to my knees in oncoming traffic. I couldn’t breathe when I thought he was taking his last breath.
His diagnosis was dangerous. But something changed. Not in him. In me.
Understanding that I couldn’t control when he would be in an out of episodes, I begin to wonder, “What can I do?” So I learned. I researched his illness as a freshman in high school and made his plight the prima facie of my public speaking potential.
I grasped every opportunity when he was sane and stable to spend time with him. How I’ve savored those vital vignettes. We dined together. Visited parks. Drew portraits. Shared songs. He’d sing, and I’d play.
I wanted my children to know him like I knew the clouds in our sky. They had to know him before they saw him crash like the thunder that topples the towers of our lives…so they wouldn’t be afraid.
I didn’t know that one day, his powers would wane. Before, when I was hurt, I would call for my dad. But with passing years, and the unforgiving folly of living on the streets, he began to make the calls. When he was hurt, he called for me. From that place. The place where the walls are white and the smell of bleach blares.
The doors are only opened with the buzz that bends your ears. You cannot come in or go out unless they release the clinical Kraken; the hovering reality that reminds you that despite the efforts to heal and protect in a realm of the clinically astute, fear and isolation are inescapable for patients that feel ultimately helpless.
I made the most of it. I relished each visit as if it was my last. I convinced myself that it would be an adventure as I contemplated how much I loathed being wanded and searched upon my arrival. I happily brought his favorite foods and listened to the stories he told as he tried to convince me he was now an alter ego.
I watched him laugh hysterically about deadly run-ins, cry uncontrollably because of times when love ended, and swear vehemently that during his stay, he had been denied of his most basic rights. I agreed with almost everything – if it would soothe his soul.
My super hero seemed broken, and I wanted to curse his Kryptonite. So I became the parent and advocated for his rights. I signed his papers and met with his providers. I called social workers and contacted doctors. I poured over websites and pulled coat tails and questioned and queried and sometimes quarreled about – everything. Because he needed me.
And I thanked my mom. Because what I didn’t know is that before I did it, for decades, so did she.
For a long time, we were afraid. Of what could be. Of a phone call. A chance happening, and we were right to be. They called. I collapsed. He collided with fate, and he did not come back to me and I was devastated, but then – I remembered – everything he was to me.
And I made his day the most wonderful remembrance of his exceptional essence. His music and his art. His voice and his valor. His calmness. His candor, and I sang the songs of our love.
I didn’t know his illness would leave me informed in a way that would catalyze my empathy for others. I learned not to judge him for his shortcomings, for we all have our struggles, but to appreciate the days when he won so many of his battles.
I see his face – in each of my four boys, and I remind myself that we wouldn’t be here without him, and I esteem every task and talent borne out of my instruction from his ingenuity.
He was torn from my heart seven years ago, but his strength still lifts my tiny frame. When I close my eyes , the clouds kiss my face and I challenge the sun’s brightness. Basking in his truths is my newest superpower, for I hold his sage advice deep within my spirit. I don’t need a Superman to save the day. For in my heart, I’ll always have my dad. He told me, I can do anything.
Untainted Moments in Six Word-Memoirs
Isaiah celebrating his 10th birthday with his bestie, little brother and his brother’s little friend at Sky Zone this past weekend.
Friends from different worlds are celebrating. Two were born in Houston, Texas. One was born in Denver, Colorado. One, from New York via Zambia. Their frivolity is unfettered and unfeigned. Wishing they could stay here forever. There are lessons we could learn. If only the important things mattered...
Six-Word Memoirs inspired by joanmsd of Ink and Bean
Kindness on Aisle Five
The stranger I met less than an hour ago who treated me like a life-long friend. And his name just happened to mean, “Friend of All!”
Vegan foodie that I am, the grocery store is easily among my happiest places. I always inhale deeply as I pass through the floral galleries. I’m enamored with the fresh and vibrant produce. I find the seasoning section to be scintillating – and of course, I am thrilled to be in my wee little vegan sections. Nevertheless, tonight was originally, a bit wearisome.
I was feeling terrible, but pushing past my discomfort (as most moms do). The basket was so heavy tonight, it felt like a strain to lug it, whether in front or behind me – I tried both. My mind was a bit all over the place, as I worried about forgetting something (of course, I didn’t bring a list); yet, I didn’t want to get too much. More to carry. More to put away – and because I was so scatter-brained, I kept forgetting items that were in sections far away, but I was too exhausted to take the basket everywhere with me.
I decided, it was time to check out, and there was only one cashier with a line open. I saw two full baskets ahead, and one that appeared unaccompanied – but, there was a young man not far away. I approached him gently and said, “Is this your basket?” In hindsight, I think I should have started with, “Hello. How are you?” which is my usual. Again, scatter-brained.
He seemed unbothered, and said, “Yes.” Then, as if we’d been friends forever, I said, “This is my basket. I’ll be right back – I just need to get one thing!” There was taco seasoning calling my name, and I couldn’t stand the idea of toting that heavy basket with me.
“Sure,” he said. As luck would have it, I took a few steps, and the line was already moving. I whipped around rather quickly to move my basket – but I didn’t have to. He was pushing mine and his, too. “Wow!” I said. “That was nice!” I continued hurriedly along my little trek, eager to get back as soon as possible. I didn’t want the line to move too quickly and others find me absent.
As I was coming back from my quick trip, my heart sank a bit.
I saw the young man getting out of the line…
Why is he doing that?” I wondered. “Did something happen?”
I looked up, and I saw the light had been turned out where the cashier once stood.
“Oh no! Now, I’m going to have to do this whole basket in self-check out. #ugh!”
But before the dismay had time to settle, I noticed – he was going to another line.
He was taking his basket.
And he was also taking my basket.
As I got closer, I realized the entire line had moved; but, this was several aisles over. Quite honestly, his first kind gesture would have sufficed. I was glad that he nudged my basket where we were. That he took my heavy basket and his – simultaneously – several lines over to ensure that I didn’t lose my space was a seemingly small act that I found to be most unbelievably generous!
I felt so terrible. I wanted so badly to go home. My son had been waiting for me in the car, and I couldn’t move fast enough. Quite frankly, this warmed my heart. And of course – I wanted to write about it! So feeling courageous (and reluctant at the same time – again, looked a mess!), I said, “Can I take your picture?”
I did this at the risk of him thinking I was a strange and unusual woman. I promptly told him I wanted to blog tonight about how kind it was of him to move my basket along – twice – in my absence. Thankfully, he believed me!
He posed politely, and though it wasn’t my best shot (glare in the back that I saw later), the essence was achieved. I wanted people to see this young man whom I’d never met that so considerately thought enough of me to bear my burden with his own tasks (and he was helping three other people with his cart as well)!
I asked his name, and he said it was, “Arvin.” I expressed my appreciation for his kindness, and then he went on to tell me that his mother chose his name. It meant, “Friend of All.” I was enchanted at the irony of it all. Thereafter, we had the most pleasant conversation as the cashier rang up my items. We spanned global compassion, all things vegan, my 20+ year marriage and his upcoming wedding all within a span of moments.
I showed him my blog on his phone after he generously let me type it in so he’d know that I wasn’t fabricating the whole thing. And as I looked quite – uh, different (not feeling well, remember – smile) I explained that I was a speaker and a professor and kept saying, “I look better on my website.” His response only warmed my heart more.
“I don’t judge people from the outside. It’s like a book in the bookstore,” he said. He went on to discuss the shiny, new books which we so often gravitate to vs. the one you may unexpectedly find in a ‘thrift store.” He noted, “The cover may be torn. The pages may be worn; but, that’s an indicator that book has been through many hands; touched many people…”
Now at this point, I’m thinking, how fortunate I was to run into Mr. Arvin who shared such great insight and authentic kindness in such a small amount of time! Though we’d never met before, we were of kindred spirits. We agreed that kindness everywhere can make a difference anywhere. It is among the least of things we can do with truly monumental impact.
I am hoping that he will have the opportunity to read this post sooner than later; but, if he doesn’t, I will forever appreciate his act of kindness on Aisle 5.
Thank You, Mr. Arvin – and best wishes to you and your new bride.
#drcarlamichelle #speaker #professor #author #coach #quadmom #20plusyearbride #kindness #peace #love #veganfoodie #betheone
Woke up at 4:30 a.m. to start my day.
Read my Bible.
Spent time in prayer.
Helped my quad squad get ready for the barber shop.
Spent almost a couple of hours making my motivational video, “Got a Minute” for the day.,,which meant:
- Writing my text
- Memorizing the words
- Styling my hair
- Completing my makeup
- Choosing an outfit
- Selecting earrings to match
- Prepping my camera
- Fixing the lighting
- Recording on TikTok (personal page and my story)
- Downloading to my phone
- Uploading on FB (personal page and my story)
- Uploading on FB (business page and my story)
- Uploading on Instagram (account and my story) and
- Uploading on Linked In
It took so many retakes for so many different reasons; but in the end, it was so very worth it.
Researched glitches with our HR system.
Troubleshot our hiring issues.
Sent updates to clients.
Finalized arrangements for my 10 year old’s weekend birthday party.
Watched my favorite Asian drama so I could talk to my mom about it, who lives in Texas (while I’m a thousand plus miles away in Colorado).
Consoled my heartbroken friend.
Had a heart-to-heart with my big brother.
Got sound and reassuring advice from my mom about a major life issue.
Reviewed correspondence that gave me pause.
Planned additional support for one of my Littles in his hardest subject.
Gave an impromptu session on kids and literacy 101 to a concerned and receptive parent (which was so heartwarming).
Encouraged a member of our leadership team who left our conversation inspired and on fire.
Had dinner with my love of 22 years with vegan dishes that left my palate pleased.
Considered and conversed about our future and family and fervor.
Came home to snuggle in my bed with the realization that I needed to get my Slice of Life done before the deadline.
Recalled the last post I read that started, “Today I…” and jumped into typing mode with the enthusiasm to try something I’ve never done before.
I like this. Filling fulfilled.
~Dr. Carla Michelle Brown
Where Love Is…
Take me to a place where love is. Hopes are anchored truths revealed ideas encouraged dreams fulfilled grace given wrongs repealed and promises are kept. Help me build a space where love is. Ears are open minds cleared change welcomed energy geared thoughts illumined progress neared and problems are not swept. Help me show the face of what love is. Eyes are gentle hearts opened fears silenced spirits boldened wrongs righted barriers broken and kindness seeks new depths.
A beautiful piece I saw on social media that evoked effervescent memories of my maternal grandmother
It’s amazing how a single photograph can transport you to many moments in time. When I saw this today, I immediately thought of the grandmother who helped raised me. She was Grandma to me, and to many others, Ms. Harris, Mother Harris, Mama Harris; but, this picture reminded me that because of her, I learned the word, “crochet.”
My grandmother, using this same pattern and tools like the one pictured above, spent many thousands of hours creating blankets, clothing, pot holders and even shoes (“booties,” she called them”) out of bounties of yarn. In fact, when I was in elementary school, she’d make a pair for every teacher I had – and they loved them. She made them in all sizes, complete with her own measurement system, and there was always an annual pair for me and my siblings under the Christmas tree.
It looked so calming, soothing even. I remember the bag that hugged her yarn; the softness and the warmth; the colorful combinations she strategically chose – and how special it felt to wear something that she created first in her mind and then made with her hands.
Her crochet needles were iridescent, some thin and narrow while others looked fat and plump. I loved the way her fingers weaved like magic and I was forever fascinated by the quintessential quilt that she made with unique pieces that I loved to snuggle under.
So often, we lose many of our precious memories because there’s no picture, no conversation and a recollection that is tucked so far away it could be lost. Today’s random photograph across my social media reminded me how important it is for me to cement my treasures in writing. Such a powerful catalyst to invoking a cherished memory. This time, I won’t forget.
Rest in Heaven Lucille Walker Harris
How Sweet It Is
Sugar at its best.
Cake, cookies reimagined.
Step into heaven!
Delving into Decadence on My Own Terms
A recent vegan delectable that brought me unfettered glee, dark-chocolate covered strawberries
"The Way I See It..." I unsealed the lid with insatiable enthusiasm, and I was greeted with an aesthetic aroma. Ripened berries nestled in elegant liners, beckoned for my attention, clothed in the unctuousness of coffee-colored chocolate. My senses sang in tandem. The crimson credence heightened my excitement, as I knew it would offer a rich and tangy reward - perfectly complemented by bittersweetness. Gently breaking the cultivated cocoa, I sank my teeth into the tender flesh. It was moistened by nature's ethereal goodness and summoned memories of romantic rendezvous. In the moment, citrusy notes soothe my cravings while the darkened delicacy delights my soul. I shall savor this moment and those thereafter - Intentionally. Intensively. Insistently. Pleasure abounds! We are both blushing. Bon Appetit!
How enchanting are the lines that line each of these pages. In them are sages filled with wisdom, fire, candor, ire, affection, reflection and so much more. How liberating are the pens that ink these narratives. Interrogatives and declaratives that insist, inquire, challenge and require contemplation of what we hold to be true. How powerful are the thoughts that precede these conclusions. Dismantling illusions, unsettling delusions that should not be accepted nor etched into the minds of societies. How rewarding are the efforts grounded in serenity embracing the affinity for capturing the heart with the essence of art. Words that sing our most beautiful songs.