Cup A Joe

Photo by JElite Photography

I’ve waited months to write this article. Since the conception of this space to share my expertise on my own ideas, I have prepared for this post. I always imagined calling it Happy Mother’s Day, but it is not Mother’s Day. It is Father’s Day and I have but one thing to say to that…

I am not a father!

I appreciate the text messages, telephone calls, Facebook tags and the like wishing me well over the years with “for the single moms holding it down and playing both roles, Happy Daddy’s Day.” I understand the thought behind your sentiment but there is a fallacy in your expression…

I ain’t no damn daddy!

I am a mother. I am a woman. I am a lady (why can’t you say that without a Shanaynay accent). My sons have a father. I do not now, nor have I ever been a father and unfortunately for the two little boys under my care, as great as I am, I cannot fake that. I know what it means to nurture a living being in my womb. I know what it sounds like to hear that first cry. I know how it feels to nourish an infant with my bosom (and FYI, no matter what they say about how good it is for the baby-it hurts like hell).

I am a mother.

Mother & son-ballin' by JElite Photography

I don’t know how to teach sons to grow into men. I cannot fathom the spirit of brotherhood. I have no idea what it means to be the paternal member of the household. I misrepresent concepts like hollerin’ at girls, developing swagga, marking territory, pissing standing up or hocking up phlegm. Sorry to burst your bubbles out there but I have my limitations-fatherhood happens to be one of them.

I know there are many women who profess to be momma and daddy, but I am not disillusioned. I completely comprehend the concept behind the differences behind males and females, and there are significant differences beyond the physical. I get that you are holding things down in the absence of your child’s father, but you are holding it down as a mother, don’t get it twisted. You are a single parent, specifically, of the maternal order. You are not a father, please stop pretending to be both and stop discounting the need for male (real male) role models in the lives of our children.

I’m thankful for what keeps me going, and it’s not just my cup a joe, it’s also my cup a joe. My daddy, Joe, gets that I am a mom, a real mom, a girly mom, a take-a-book-into-a-NBA-game-and-look-up-once-to-ask-did-we-get-a-touchdown-kinda-mom, and he acknowledges that my sons need regular influences, fatherly influences. He steps in without request and handles the paternal roles placing us in an informal co-parenting relationship. 

My dad, always the character...

I love that my sons can call Joe and ask “why does one testicle hang lower than the other?” and sit locked in the bathroom, as if security locks out sound so I cannot hear the answers. I love that they can send him a secret text after one of my “Michelle Obama dinners” that is followed up with a rib dinner delivery as they sit in front of a game or WWE exhibition and pig out on meat with a side of meat and wash that down with a cup of sauce. Sure these are questions I could answer, things I could do, but I am not a father and I just don’t get it.

Tomorrow while I’m boarding an early flight with what is sure to be my second cup a joe in hand, my boys will be basking in the beginning of their ten-day stay with their cup a joe and for that I am happy.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there…

…and to all the mothers out there holding it down as a single parent, have a great day.

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Exhumed From the Tomb

‘What is ur tomb constructed with? Do you visit it often? Too often? Live there? Leaving ur tomb requires faith, courage, hope and love of God and Shannon!’ ~text message received from MD

I decided to follow the minister’s challenge from Easter Sunday’s message and pinpoint exactly who or what assembled my tomb(s). Now I believe in boundaries (if there are boundaries in blogging or all forms of social media for that matter) so I’m not about to rattle off a list of offenders, but I will release a few personal revelations.

1. This was no easy task. It’s natural to know people have hurt you but it is quite difficult to travel back in time and remember exactly who and exactly why. It is even more difficult when the damage is situational and not individual. For example, one may blame their child molester for their adult promiscuity but where do they direct the blame for the sexually transmitted disease they contracted during that time if the culprit is unknown.

2. In brooding over those things that others have done to you, you inadvertently recall those things you have done to others (at least half of it, ok, maybe a fourth); that is if you have a conscious and are in the least bit decent but let’s be honest, if you don’t and if you aren’t, you probably are not concerned with living outside the tomb. If you are genuinely trying to come out, you can’t come out hiding behind half the truth. What is done is done, own it, apologize for it, learn from it and move on.

You know what else…just because you are trying to come out doesn’t mean your offender will; your tomb may be their home. For the record, I don’t want to be in my own tomb and I don’t want to be in yours either!

3. At some point you realize that much of the tomb is built by your own hands. Maybe you didn’t lay the initial brick, or lay the complete foundation, but you didn’t need any help enclosing yourself. I realize that in some cases, I have closed the tomb over and over again as if putting a box in a box in a box. In other instances, I have found my way out of the tomb and then found my way right back in. I give the slow head shake-horizontally, to the idiot who continues to go to jail for the exact same thing. Yet I am guilty of the stupidity I mock.

By the way….if you must build tombs, build your own. Don’t go around engineering tombs for other people. Celie said it best in The Color Purple, “The grave you dig fo’ me is the one you gon’ rot in.”

4. There is freedom in speech (this is not a reference to the first amendment to the United States Constitution). Once you have spoken/written those devices of embalmment, your resurrection begins. The revelation is the beginning of the process by which we come out of the tomb. Undoubtedly, you will return to the misery of decay, but acknowledgement is a step toward freedom from darkness and toward light. Who doesn’t want to live in the light?

Today I had the opportunity to be entombed, I elected to be exhumed.

Tomorrow is unknown but I am fighting not to be buried alive. What is keeping you in your tomb?

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Forgive me in advance for putting you through the cliché tribute to St. Valentine and the Hallmark obsession created in his name. I too want to vomit my regular Friday night thin crust Pacific veggie pizza (minus the tomatoes and onions plus pineapples) at the mere mention of chocolates, flowers and heart shaped candies that taste like chalk but nevertheless, here I am-writing and here you are-reading. So let’s just get through this moment and this thought so I can return to tweeting.

 I have seen quite a few February 14ths, 32 of them to be exact. I have minor recollections of cards with perforated edges and red lollipops attached filling brown paper bags just before the call of blue bus. Tomorrow my sons will cut out 20+ names (because why write them all when there is glue and scissors) and strategically decipher who gets what, making sure the boys get ‘hey friend’ and that one special girl gets ‘be mine’.

By age 12, I had graduated to actually having a Valentine and traded Betty Boop cards for a red, heart shaped, velvet box of chocolates. My excitement on the seventh grade hall of Leroy Martin Middle School was not met with reciprocal enthusiasm. Upon opening my locker, just before first period, I found a note. I assumed that it contained two pencil written boxes asking me to profess or negate my affection for a young man ignited by the spirit of the day. Instead, I found a Dear John of sorts that read “___ ______’s legs aint locked.”

That day after school, as Michael Jackson’s Remember the Times video premiered on BET, I washed down chocolates with tears.

The next year, I received a blank thank you card from my then boyfriend that read “Happy Valantine Day, I love you like a sistas.”

Needless to say, I was not developing an affinity for February 14th until two years later when I received an enormous white stuffed teddy bear with two huge balloons that read ‘I [heart] U’ and ‘Be Mine”. I was hooked; not on the holiday but on the feeling that came with it.

LOVE, is not that feeling. It’s not being loved or spoiled or surprised that sends our emotions over the top. No my dear friends…that pleasure…that titillation…that sensation is GLOAT! It’s the ability to feel ten feet tall as the florist enters the office in slow motion and announces ‘I have a delivery for Shannon Bennett’ while every other woman sitting at her empty desk says a silent prayer to be the recipient of such public exclamation of affection. It’s the arrogance that accompanies the knowledge that everyone unanimously hates you and hopes you choke on a raspberry filled chocolate. Even though they’ll “oooo” and “aaaa” and graciously accept one of your delicacies as they congratulate you on having found such a good catch, rest assured there will be infinite texts that begin with “she think she all that…”.

If those same red roses and gourmet truffles were sent to your house you would accept them with little more concern than a certified letter from a bill collector and for that reason may I make this suggestion-please add your work address to your email signature, highlight in bold and attach a link to flowers.com.

Cheers Continued…And Why Cold Medicine Sales Skyrocketed

There is something symbolic in watching the rain fall on the first day of a new year. Like a morning shower washes away the debauchery from the night before or a car wash removes evidence of inclement weather, the pounding rain is cleansing the earth of a year passed.

I would love to confess, and engage your jealous streak, that I welcomed the New Year on a yacht off the coast of Miami. After dancing lights died and the sky was returned to black, I boarded a private plane and landed in Los Angeles just in time to toast in the New Year once more. Impossibility aside, I would love to flood your imagination with this tale….but I cannot.

Truthfully, I brought the New Year in as picture perfect as a Picasso, in the arms of my two sons. Adventurously, we made a last minute decision to head downtown amidst hundreds of people intoxicated with the spirit of excitement and well just spirits. We saw very few children and stares from grandmothers questioned my parental capabilities, but none of that mattered.

We ate funnel cakes, drank hot chocolate and tried on tons of illuminated glasses and silly hats. The boys gazed in at news anchor, Tisha Powell as she danced to a song only those in the WTVD 11 station could hear and received a wave from Fred Shropshire as he prepped to go on air. We counted over thirty sparkly gold dresses worn by women in their 20’s who either missed the weather report or ignored it in hope of attracting that one kiss. “You’re going to have pneumonia in the morning” one of my dates shouted from the rickshaw we ran down to avoid walking any further.

When the countdown began my sons wrapped their arms around my waste. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Happy New Year!!

On the ride home, my inquisitive riders questioned why there was an acorn, to which I explained that Raleigh is called the City of Oaks. Then they questioned why the event was called First Night Raleigh when it was actually the last night and the first morning, to which I had nothing. When we all tucked into the community bed about an hour later, they marveled at how I am the best mommy in the world…adding, “but do you think Child Protective Services would get you for that?”

I can’t think of a better way to begin a year….

But since you don’t have to be 20 something to wear a sparkly gold dress, I may just adorn myself in one next year…in Miami.

Cheers!

Alas, the end is here. This is not a proclamation of the apocalypse, of that end I do not know. But the omega of the year two thousand and ten is upon us.

It is on December 31st when many begin to reflect on the 364 days, 52 weeks, 12 months that have passed in recognition of their achievements but most importantly in the evidence of their failures. Why is that? Why are we more likely to acknowledge our shortcomings as opposed to our successes? I have pondered over the year all day and it puzzles me that I cannot remember one resolution of 2010 that I achieved. However, I can rattle off without hesitation those I did not.

Please don’t misunderstand; I have had a very good year. To have awakened every day is a success in and of itself. But there were other accomplishments. I made it to the state of my birth (Alaska) after a thirty year absence, I was blessed to meet an extension of my family, and I was trusted with a promotion at work. I also triumphed over fear and started writing again; you are currently reading the evidence of this success. There are many other things, things that cannot be measured but are equally as important.

In the doctor’s office yesterday, while ear hustlin’ (hi, my name is Shannon and I am an eavesdropper) I overheard the conversation of two women with many decades behind them and hopefully, a few ahead of them. One was wearing Coach sneakers, presumably from a granddaughter trying to keep ‘Nana’ hip with coffee brown stockings. She was telling the other how she only makes resolutions every ten years because if what she did for one year worked, why change it for at least another nine? I laughed to myself before exiting the waiting room with her idea in my mind. Truthfully, I think I may have had the same declarations on January 1st for the last ten years.

I am compelled to believe that the reason they have followed me year after year is because I have made unrealistic resolutions. So this year, I will make just one; one that can be achieved with enough sacrifice to make me appreciate its reward but without so much effort that I become discouraged in its attempt.

I resolve to live.

Here’s wishing that 2011 brings you everything you need and most of what you want.

Wish Lists

In a few days, homes will fill with the laughter of little ones overwhelmed with excitement over presents under the tree. With that wonderful sound, the aroma of holiday scented candles, hot chocolate and Christmas dinner will add to the sight of dancing lights, glittering ornaments and perfectly wrapped boxes unraveled at each seam to create a sensory buffet.

I remember my favorite Christmas present. A Cabbage Patch Doll. For clarification, not one with the yarn hair, but one with the silky hair that could be combed and styled. I desperately wanted one of those dolls and that alone would have made my year. The morning of December 25th, I tore into the red glossy paper and there she was, Madeline Hope. She wore a beautiful blue dress with white lace trim and white walking shoes (much like the corrective shoes I wore as a child). I cherished that doll for many years after her birth.

My sons are now at the age I was when I asked for that baby doll. Their Christmas wish list is very different from mine then. Laptop. Nintendo DSi with games. PSP games. PS3 games. NFL jerseys. NBA jerseys. And, most of all-a flat screen LCD TV. I searched their list up and down for anything that identified them as children, prepubescent kids and I found nothing. No toys. No bikes. No games that do not require energy of the electrical sort. The list could have easily been one from my teenage or adult brothers. Their list is as indicative of 2010 as mine was of 1985; for good or for bad, times have evolved.

This morning we are boxing up over 100 action figures to take to the Helping Hand Mission. It wasn’t even a year ago when John Cena, Batista and Big Show filled their hands as they battled each other for the WWE title. I still catch them playing with them from time to time, but only when the television and anything connected to it is off limits. It’s time to pass these things along to another little boy in the prime of his wrestling obsession.

I worry that they are growing too fast; that I have taught them too much too soon. I worry that their maturity at 7 and 9 will backfire at 17 and 19. I worry that I will fail them as I’m sure all mothers do, but no other mothers are responsible for these two.

And just because I want to keep them kids as much as possible for as long as possible, I put NFL action figures in their stockings.

Is Santa Real?

He looked up at me with innocence and inquisition behind those big drops of coal. “Auntie Shannon, is Santa Claus real?” Peering around the corner in the next room, I could see my sons and the horror on their face that revealed they had killed the fantasy. I had no idea what to say so I popped a whole coffee drenched ginger snap in my mouth, giving myself a moment to think.

This is not the first time an offspring of mine murdered the myth. When the oldest was four, I received a frantic call from his teacher “Uhmmm…can you just come get him…quickly. I’ll explain when you get here.” I entered a classroom full of crying students and a red faced teacher who was desperately trying to maintain some since of order as she unraveled what had happened in the moments before.

The students were coloring holiday pictures when the little girl next to Cameron expresses her excitement over Santa’s upcoming visit….

Cameron: You do know Santa isn’t real.

Pigtails: Uh huh, how do you think you get the presents under the tree?

Cameron: Your mom and dad put them there.

Pigtails: That is not true! He comes down the chimney and everything.

Cameron: No he doesn’t. There is not a Santa Claus!

Pigtails: Mrs. McGinnis (screaming) Cameron said there isn’t a Santa Claus!

Cameron: Because there isn’t!

Emotions erupt in the class as students start yelling at Cameron and crying.

Cameron: (now standing on the table and yelling) There is not a Santa Claus! And if your parents tell you there is they are lying and all the liars are gonna go to hell!

Hence the phone call.

As the teacher is telling the story, she admits that she too tells her children that Santa is real and wonders if she is also going to hell for the little white lie. We made it out before pick up and the lynching that was sure to occur due to my little preacher.

The ginger snap has now dissolved and the little one is egging on my response. “Yeah mom, is he?” The smile in his eyes proves he is taunting me. I turn to the eight year old and say “Baby, every family has their own belief about Santa. Some believe in him and some don’t. I think the important thing is that whatever you believe is true for you.”

His response: “Just like Jesus.”