Friday, July 28, 2006

Travel and Human Nature

I must admit; mentally I was not prepared for my trip to New York. There wasn't anything particularly wrong it's just that I really wanted to stay home, spend time with my children, read a good book, soak in the hot tub – things I really enjoy. I wasn't looking forward to the long lines, security checks, hotel room stays and rude travelers that accompany most business trips. Follow me, because I'm trying to set the scene. I admit to already being off balance before I arrived at the airport so I am fully prepared to concede that I might have been a tad bit sensitive and predisposed to irritation. But then again, maybe it's just everyone else that happened to be flying between O'Hare and LaGuardia airports last weekend that's crazy. I even spotted our very own editor, Roland S. Martin looking a little disheveled.

So I have compiled a list of my five biggest complaints about what folks do while traveling: (drum roll please)

1. Folks who can't control their kids - I understand that they are just children. I have two of my own. The flight is boring and they need to be entertained. I get it. But to let them act like wild banshees at 30 thousand feet in the air is just totally unacceptable. Look either let me put that rug rat in one of the overhead luggage bins or let me order him a double jack and coke so we both can take a nap.

2. Folks who crowd the baggage carousel - Is it really that serious that you get your luggage off before anyone else that you practically cause a stampede? And have you noticed, it's usually the folks with the worst luggage? You should wait until the entire airport clears out to grab that junk. And for those of you, who can't seem to keep your kids off the belt, please reread complaint number one.

3. Folks who stand up before the plane comes to a complete stop then hold up the line - It's simple, just follow instructions. When the plane stops, grab your stuff and move on. Don't stop and turn around and discuss the landing with the folks behind you. Don't ask questions about the weather. Save your conversation for the terminal. I'm trying to get to baggage claim first. Note to self: re-read complaint number two.

4. Folks who stand behind the check-in desk - What are you typing? Look, I know my first and last names have exactly ten letters between them. Why is it that you type for a full minute after I give you my identification? I know security measures have been increased but last time I checked I didn't have TERRORIST stamped across my Illinois's driver's license. Another note to self: Next time, leave the hand grenade at home.

5. Folks who designed the airplane bathrooms - Who exactly is the airplane bathroom made to fit? If you are over 5'8 and any wider than a brochure, then you are plain out of luck. I can sit on the toilet and wash my feet in the sink. This is like using a washroom in a phone booth. And don't even get me started about the lines of women waiting in line to use it. Just a suggestion: Please go while I'm waiting for the people who are talking instead of exciting the plane. Thank you.

Disclaimer: no animals or children were harmed in the making of this column but I did emotionally scar a flight attendant.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Am NOT My Hair

"Good hair is the kind of hair that stays on your head," is often what I say in response to any kind of hair discussion, unless of course, you are bald by choice and proud of it. Michael Jordan is an excellent example of that.

Unfortunately "good" hair versus "bad" hair, the debate - often heated and always charged - continues. "Good" hair normally describing hair that is close to the texture of a white person's hair and "bad" hair referring to the extremely curly hair that is also referred to as kinky or nappy. I was reminded of the insecurities and inconsistencies of the issues that black women have with our hair during a conversation I overheard in a local Starbucks. Apparently Latte and Locks; Pastries and Press n' Curls were on the menu that day.

In the eye of the story was a women who hadn't been hired for a job because of her twisted hairstyle. Last time I checked braids and other natural styles were often associated with socially conscious and self-confident black people, the kind who would fit nicely in corporate settings that like to say diversity is a priority. But companies tend not to hire them, and black people with those hairstyles tend to gravitate toward work that's necessarily non-corporate. Yet surely we have all earned the right to wear our hair as we please.

Not so says one popular public figure. Mablean Ephriam, the black TV judge from Fox's popular "Divorce Court" - who says she lost her contract this year partly because of irreconcilable hair differences with the company - perhaps said it best in a slightly bitter parting statement that concluded with a quote from Maya Angelou: "And still I rise." Do you think she was talking about her hair?

Also consider this: A Louisiana sheriff said this month that anyone on the streets in dreadlocks "can expect to be getting a visit from a sheriff's deputy" because a murder suspect answering that description remained at large. In April, Susan L. Taylor, the editorial director of Essence magazine, canceled a campus speech when she discovered the college forbids its students to wear "unusual" hairstyles - including braids, which are Taylor's signature look. This was significant because the college was Hampton University, one of the nation's oldest historically black campuses. Then it was discovered that Black Enterprise magazine had a similar ban for student interns. Talk about adding insult to injury.

But not only is it an emotional issue, it's an economic one as well. African-Americans spend billions of dollars every year on their hair, whether on wigs and extensions, moisturizers and relaxers, curling irons and hot combs, sheens and gels, scalp and follicle conditioners, shampoos and lotions, or cocoa butter and other oils. In fact, although blacks comprise only 10% of the U.S. population, it is estimated that they consume over three-quarters of the country's hair care products. No wonder Koreans and Egyptians have moved into our neighborhoods at such an alarming rate. They know a lucrative market when they see one.

But while they've moved in - the majority of us have remained stuck, rooted (no pun intended) in old fashioned ideals and shaky self esteem issues relating to our texture of hair.

Think about it: when a song entitled, "I am not my hair" is considered controversial to sing in 2006 - we've still got a long way to go.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I Don't Ever Want To Get A Job!

I know it sounds weird but it's true. I don't want a job. I worked a job once and determined two weeks into it that I never wanted to work one again. And before you even ask the question, of course I have bills to pay, children to feed and me to spoil which all requires money.

Of course I had to make certain sacrifices. I went back to school to get a degree forcing myself back into poverty but I loved every minute of it. I loved that I was actively participating in pursuing my passion. It's a decision that has never brought one ounce of regret. There was no room for regrets because I was totally engrossed in following my designated path in life. I had found my passion. My true calling.

So I ask you: have you found your true calling? The reason you're alive. Your personal mission in life. Your passion. Your TRUE Calling.

If you don't have a clue what I'm talking about, take a couple seconds to complete this quick quiz:

1. Are you doing EXACTLY the kind of work that makes you want to leap out of bed each morning excited to begin a new day?

2. Does your work satisfy a need deep within to express yourself, your talents, your values, your unique and precious gifts?

3. Does your work allow for a balanced life - one that leaves time for family and friends, for exercise or hobbies, for you?

4. Are you doing what you love and loving what you do?

If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, congratulations! There's a good chance that you have achieved what the Buddhist's call "Right Livelihood."

If you haven't yet found the work you were meant to do, then you're merely passing the time, just existing. Because when you find that calling that is uniquely yours, your life will be transformed on all levels. Guaranteed.

"The way to find out about your happiness," said renowned mythology scholar Joseph Campbell, "is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you are really happy - not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy."

Now ask yourself how you feel each day as you get ready for work. Do you hit your snooze button on your alarm clock two or three times before you get out of bed. Do you then drag yourself out of bed, dreading another day at a job that's high on stress, short on satisfaction and even shorter on money? Because when you really love your job you don't need an alarm clock because you can't wait to get out of bed and dive into another day where your work feels more like play. Now that is not to say that you won't ever face a challenge or have issues even after you've found your passion - because you will. But when you're focused on your goals and happy about where you are in life, you meet those challenges with a different energy and understanding.

Now just a note about monetary rewards you're your passion: When you find your passion, the money will follow. It's a given. You may not be "rich" but you have more respect for a paycheck when you don't feel as if you've slaved to get it. A mentor of mine once told me, "When you stop working for money - money works for you." Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world.

It's the difference between a job and your passion!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

All I Ever Did Was Love A Man

"All I Ever Did Was Love A Man" was the name of the book that was chosen as the July selection for one of my book clubs. I read it in less than three hours over the Fourth of July weekend. The debut novel by Dr. Sharon Denise Allison-Ottey is part-fiction, part self-help novel that educates readers on the reality of AIDS.

The main character, Sabrena, had a challenging search for love until a doctors' visit changed her life completely. After learning she contracted AIDS, Sabrena starts the painful process of informing her love ones and confronting the man she suspects passed the virus to her. Real-life lessons of true love, courage and friendship inspire Sabrena's acceptance of her fate.

The book is filled with enlightening information about AIDS including a lot of misconceptions. With an alarming number of AIDS cases stemming from the African-American and Latino communities, this novel is a must-read for those uneducated about this epidemic. While the author contends the character of "Sabrena" is loosely based on a former patient, she saw many "Sabrena's" live and triumph with AIDS.

I was moved by the article but was so busy with holiday activities that Sabrena's plight quickly left my mind.

The very next day I read a magazine article about Chanya, a mother in her 30s trying to raise four children. She does not fit the typical profile of a person living with AIDS. She is not a man who has sex with men; she is not a prostitute; she does not use IV drugs. She has engaged in no behavior at all that is high risk for AIDS, except for one - she got married. Her husband, tragically, did engage in high-risk behavior: he had unprotected sex outside his marriage. After acquiring HIV, he passed it on to Chanya. Now her greatest fear is that her children will be orphans.

So I googled the phrase, "married women living with AIDS" and was floored by the amount of links popped up. There were pages and pages of websites filled with stories of women who are now living with a life threatening illness when all they did was marry a man and expect him to remain faithful. Talk about being blindsided. As I read on, I became even more dismayed to see the number of single women who are also contracting HIV/AIDS from boyfriends, one night stands, booty calls, etc. When asked why they didn't protect themselves, the responses varied from "he didn't look like he had AIDS" to "I never thought this could happen to me" but the overwhelming response was "because I loved him."

And it made me think. I've been in love before - with two men in my lifetime and I can remember doing some pretty stupid things but I've never not used protection no matter how crazy about the person I was. That is until I got married.

But things have obviously changed and the stakes are much higher. Lives are on the line now. In fact, your life could be in jeopardy so your feelings for another person are no longer a cute or valid reason not to request that your intimate partner not "cover up". And if they don't want to, then you should probably rethink the relationship.

It's that simple.