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Listening at the Speed of Life

– by C. J. Wade –

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bloglikecrazy

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #12

To my RHOyal SoRHOrs of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. –

Happy Founder’s Day and Happy RHOvember! I won’t be too mushy — promise. lol

Here we are celebrating 98 years since our Founders agreed to spread more service into the world.

It was a risk. Being women in college was an accomplishment alone. Being Black women on the predominately White campus of Butler University in the 1920s was a rarity. Organizing to uplift other women in times of suppression was deemed a sign of protest. I think about these factors often when facing hardship especially during times like these. The opposition was immense back then, but they did it anyway. They extended help for present needs while keeping the future in mind. They had us in mind.

I know the world gravitates toward the photo opps, but prior to social media and ready-to-snap cameras, all they had was each other, their word, and their actions. That’s it. If no one saw it, the impact was still made. They knew the fruit of their labor was real.

SoRHOrs, may we be encouraged to take that same spirit of tenacious scholarship, sisterhood, and service and multiply it everywhere. No service is too small. No act of sisterhood is too far. No scholarship is too great. Let’s continue to check on each other. Let’s support each other’s efforts and hug each other’s children. Let’s continue to be there for the wins and create a strength circle around the losses. Our seven Founders knew those sentiments all too well as they were called derogatory names and fought through obligatory and ridiculous red tape. They knew that every closed door meant another one had to open for another woman. They kept going and I’m so glad they did. I wouldn’t have met you.

Of course, we believe Sigma is the best and my God, are we diverse. lol I pray that the authentic spirit of our Founders causes a tidal wave of solidarity among all Black Greek Letter Organizations. We were founded on greatness — all of us were. I hope we pump lifeblood into every situation. I pray that we are breath of fresh air in our personal and professional arenas. I want every industry to have poodle prints all over it. It’s not up to our famous SoRHOrs to do it — every member has that power. That’s how we got here. We saw a Sigma and she made an impression on us enough to take a step toward doing the same thing for others. We decided to multiply.

Remember why you joined. Remember why you stayed. Remember why you’re here. I love you all.

On The Shield Always,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #11

Hi, Military Family.

This letter is going to sound so random, but I guarantee it will host everything I want to say without the whole thing sounding sad. OK? OK.

Many people say thank you (me included), but I want to be specific in my gratitude. I appreciate your ability to say “yes,” when most of us would say “no way in hell.” Your yes provides us the opportunity to sleep well at night because we know you’re on 3rd watch. I know you hear it all the time, but it truly is a sacrifice and I never take that lightly.

The sacrifice you made/make causes me to pause at every soldier I meet and say “thank you for serving,” but I often pray that we continue to serve you and your family once your assignment is over. It angers me that some retire well and some end up homeless. When I taught veterans at a career college, it infuriated me to hear of the repeated runarounds of their simple requests at the VA or that their mental health wasn’t being taken seriously.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

That’s another thing… your state of mind. It takes a lot to do what you do — to be trained to be a machine on demand. I appreciate your ability to do that too. Undoubtedly, it is necessary. It’s the 2nd half of this call-to-action is the aftermath. I’m sorry that you have to experience PTSD in various forms. Yeah, I know… don’t feel sorry for you, it was an honor to serve, and you love your country. I’ve heard it all. My family tree and friend circle are full of Armed Forces and I’ve seen the effects. Your honorable nature doesn’t detangle the mess it can leave behind.

So, I pray for you often. I pray for your safety and for your fight. I pray your skills stay sharp and your family bonds stay tight. I hope that you never forget to tell corny jokes as necessary and to remember that you matter. Remember funny stories about basic training and don’t forget to help others thread memories together so they can stay warm out there too.

I appreciate you all. I love you big. Thank you for being you.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #10

Dear Beautiful Black & Brown People,

I love us.

Our variance in skin color rivals the rainbow. The texture in our voices is unmistakable. We have seemingly endless creativity. Our stride over the last 50 years has been remarkable, let alone the last four hundred.

We are ridiculously resilient.

Repeatedly, we are broken and crushed beneath the heavy boots of injustice and stupidity, yet we soar past the smoke and wipe the mud off our glasses to see the future.

Repeatedly, we provide delectable food, incredible art, and exceptional existence. It amazes me that there is someone from our culture still breaking boundaries post-slavery. The First Black this and the First Black Woman to do that… it gets me every time.

Photo by Wherbson Rodrigues on Pexels.com

It should make us stand taller and put guns down more.
It should make us stand up for equity in public education more than standing in line for sneakers.
It should generate wealth for our children more than indebted sorrow.
It should make us remember that we come from kingdoms.
It should make us look at each other as kinfolk.
It should make us look at each other — period.

I love us; I just don’t understand us sometimes. To celebrate our magnificence seems easy, yet on the day-to-day we forget to uplift our neighborhoods. I’m not talking about a “I hate White people” mindset here. I’m referring to the unfortunate misdirection of some of our energy. If we took half of the potency we pack into the arts and food and circulated it into other channels of empowerment, it wouldn’t matter who is President (refer to the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma circa 1920 or Wilkinson County near Toomsboro, Georgia in 2020) — we would still be fine.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

So, can we fix that? I love us too much to let it go. Even if it’s tutoring a student in your friend circle or attending a webinar together or supporting one another’s businesses (and stop wanting everything for free)… every stretch in our community’s arm will strengthen us. Yes, there are disadvantages and they are emphatically in place to mute our voices or press down our equity. I am aware of gerrymandering affecting our voting, schooling, and housing opportunities and so much more. Unfortunately, the best way to overturn these moldy practices are to change the system from the inside out. That’s where local government and Congressional elections come in. I know it’s disheartening, but whew, chile… if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s how to rise from the ashes.

Photo by Nathan Martins on Pexels.com

I love us.

I love our brilliance in the midst of darkness. I love our cookouts and our confidence. I love that our fingerprints are on every genre of music and our footsteps are etched into every continent. It’s OK that others want to sanitize our watermarks. They will never go away because they live in everyone on this planet. So, drop that off your shoulders. Just keep doing what is in OUR control — monitoring our time, talent, and resources. Stay truthful. Stay well. In some cases, just stay. Stop criticizing. Start doing. Start living. Start protecting. Start being. Start loving. In most cases, just start. That’s what everyone before us did… that’s how we got here. That a Black Woman with Native American roots can live in a South that used to hunt and breed her like an animal and she is now using the World Wide Web in the same South to reach thousands is a miracle that had first steps.

Everything is just a matter of time and effort, my Loves. Everything. Let’s keep going so we can be the elders our children speak highly of.

I love you,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #9

To my awesome Grandparents:

I must say… *sigh* I am soooooo glad that you were my grandparents. You did an excellent job! Ahhhh!!!!!

I am the daughter of so much coolness. Military and entrepreneurial blood move through my veins. Intellectual stealth crowns my head. The relentless pursuit for better fuels my tank and that’s because of you.

My observational skills were on point whenever you were around. I loved your laughter and your wit. They worked seamlessly together every time. Watching you cook, listening to you dissect newspaper articles (giving me the comics, of course), and rummaging through your music collections were the highlights of my day… and when we “went to town,” I was in heaven. That backseat of the Cadillac was my cozy little makeshift office with paper and books strewn across it. You never bothered me about until it was time to go inside the house, then you would say “All right now, clean up your little house.” That’s how you all were — teaching me lessons along the way for my tiny feet to follow. I remember competing with you in wordsearch battles to see who could finish the book first. I was fascinated with your mathematical wizardry; you could count anything in your head. You knew phone numbers of almost everyone in the neighborhood. And let’s not talk about the way you dressed… Whew, you could put a runway to shame. You only bought quality. Period.

Photo by Raphael Brasileiro on Pexels.com

Because of you, I’ve never been afraid to take public transportation. You taught me how to read the bus schedule and highway signs so I wouldn’t get lost. We walked the streets of Downtown Birmingham like it was Times Square. I watched the cobbler fix your shoes. I noticed how you spoke to the pharmacist. I saw you mourn with friends and feed the poor. You taught me loyalty, integrity, and how to be part of a community. Those sentiments still run deep in me.

I truly believe you were undoubtedly made for me. All of my quirkiness didn’t scare you. My shyness was your friend. You knew how to tap into my heart when I wanted to keep it closed for safekeeping. Somewhere between time and love, our souls met in the middle and my life is richer because of that sweet collision.

On many days, I wish you were here, then on others, I’m glad you’re not. You would probably hate being here right now, but the selfish me would love having you near. As grown as I am, I would most likely be at your houses every week talking smack, listening to wisdom, and cooking on your stoves. We would play cards or board games as usual and I still wouldn’t mind helping you with anything.

I miss you so much, but I’m glad you’re safe. I’m glad your souls are at rest and I can’t wait to enjoy heaven with you. I love you forever.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #8

Hello, Beautiful Couple.

Below is what I wrote during one of flights as I quietly admired your interaction. Your love was so sweetly expressed that I have it in etched into my memory with a smile. I hope you are still loving each other as I virtually speak. – CJW

I returned to my reading material but I couldn’t stop glancing every now and then. Truth be told, it was more than “now and then.” They were adorable and I admired the love and care radiating from their atmosphere.

Salt and pepper hair and aged to sweet perfection. A beautifully seasoned pair. My guess is they traveled often… together.

This time, she was tired. As she leaned on his chest for a short time, she eventually laid her head in his lap. He was still and careful to read his book without disturbing her. You could tell she was at peace in his arms. And when it was time to awaken, instead of her being jolted by our descent, he gently caressed her shoulder to let her know it was time to return to the world. And she did, slowly rising up like a nubian Queen on her throne. I should have felt badly for being an observer but I didn’t. I was in awe. In front of me, I witnessed something sweeter than molasses, louder than a sonic boom, and enchantingly obvious. This was Love over time and it was immaculate, authentic, and my attention wouldn’t let it go.

I said to myself “Now, that’s what you want.” You want someone that you can sleep in peace with… where your heart is at home no matter where you are.

So. Dear Sweet Couple on the Plane, you inspired me though we never spoke. Thank you for showing me what God’s Love looks like on Earth as we flew high above those clouds. You were simply being yourselves and that was dessert for my soul.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #7

Hey There!

Why am I writing you if you were not a pleasant addition to my life? Simple. Because I want to.

After all, you always did what you wanted at my expense. I took it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t leave wounds to irrigate later.

Calling me darkie, inkblot, nigger… it all fortified my breastplate of righteousness. When you walked up to me and slapped my elementary-aged face for no reason except to get some laughs, my body grew hot like a bonafide member of the X-men. As weird as it sounds, I knew even then that anger was dangerous if left inside of a soul.

Don’t worry — I’m nowhere near bitter and this isn’t a “See where I am now” message. I don’t have time for that. I don’t have anything to prove to you. My life is enough. My peace is my proof.

Photo by Evelina Zhu on Pexels.com

I do want to thank you for strengthening my chops. It made me bend so I wouldn’t break and and it concentrated my self-discipline. My mental prowess is as sleek as a panther now. My vocabulary expanded the shortstops of your lips and that’s all because your teasing made me generate responses I was too scared to say… so they germinated and lied in waiting for future situations.

You were good for me. I hated the experience, but your bullying was great training ground.

You don’t know it, but I prayed for you… relentlessly and despite my tears. My mother made me. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’m glad she did. It prepared me to dig up and dismantle bitter roots sooner than later.

So, I truly hope you are doing well and that the wounds you were hiding or the evil you were hoarding have been flushed out of your life. I hope to see you soaring and not in the same toxic state of mind. I pray no one else is disintegrating from your actions and you and God are best friends. Everyone makes mistakes — some enough to burn a hole in your heart… but even they should have forgiveness on their plate.

Thank you again. You were a blessing. Peace and Blessings to you and your families.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #6

Hey, Sweeties!

You already know that I love you to the moon and beyond. I think all of you are absolutely exceptional. Your minds work so fast because you grew up in a world where it had to. Your creativity is so diverse that I’m just grateful to have a seat in the audience.

Unbeknownst to you, I loved you before I saw you. For real. In most cases, I was with your mother and/or father up to the final hours before you graced us with your presence. It was so cool to stroll down the memory lanes of our friendship as I held you for the first time or shared our first conversation. It was official — you were an addition to my village too. It’s difficult to fathom, but your parent(s) actually had a different life before you got here and I was in it, so by default, you’re part of a tribe. A loving tribe.

Let me tell you some things that you may forget later.

First, the world owes you nothing, so do not hold back who you are. Do exactly what you were born to do — no exceptions. If that’s being a mechanic, you better shine doing it and let me book a service appointment. If that’s being a fashion designer, you better throw your whole self in it and let me buy one of your pieces. Remember that you will always have access to me. Some of you already have proof of that as we’ve laughed, learned, or navigated difficult conversations. Others have yet to redeem that perpetual offer, but you know it’s there. Either way, you have a support system, Love… a whole tribe. Don’t let anyone or anything make you feel alone.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Next, work smart and play hard. Laziness will get you nowhere and you know I will call you out on it, so don’t slip. I’m hard on you because I know what you can do. I know the stock you came from. I know how serious your parent(s) was about your health, safety, and education before you were a teenager. I know how hard they studied in school. I know how many times they picked themselves up after being knocked down, so I know what’s in you. I accept nothing less your best.

Lastly, I hope you soar beyond thunderstorms of negativity and that every word against you bounces off your Loving armor. Trust me — more clouds are coming but they don’t have to be gray. The lightning bolts of unexpected failures don’t have to take you out of the game. When you feel overwhelmed, remember that moment is just a blip on your life spectrum. It does not define you and it will pass. I promise.

I’m so proud of you already. You are exquisitely created to go beyond this generation into the deep waters of progress. Move forward and know that I will always have your back.

See you around,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #5

Hello There, Thinker.

There are so many avenues in you. I do so much without your permission. From creative to correlative, I stretch you more than Elastigirl’s arms.

One of my fears is that you will forget everything. I’ve seen it happen to my loved ones and it was detrimental to the spirit of their existence. They forgot who I was. Their temperament changed at the drop of a dime. Sometimes they would stare off in the distance and I longed for them to return. So, I stretch you — daily. I weave the needles of my to-do lists in and out of you like a skilled seamstress. I hope it works in our favor.

Remember when you couldn’t grasp the concept of negative numbers, but you easily understood neurological transmitters? I was so frustrated with you and I thought you were defective. I didn’t know that I was gifted. I simply felt weird and out of place.

Photo by Ololade Masud on Pexels.com

Remember when I prayed that God would make you normal so I would stop being teased? It took awhile, but I learned to embrace the way you work. You compute situations in futuristic tense yet turn off before you overload. How exceptional is that?

Remember the first time I envisioned choreography while my eyes were open? Wow, did it take my breath away. It felt like I was teleported into a creative universe. You tried to process so many pictures at once, so much movement in a moment. I pray we never forget it. I pray we never forget anything.

Store my memories well.
Hide them safely.
Let them roam free if the dark times are coming.

I don’t speak the worst over myself, but neither did my loved ones. It just happened. So, when no one is watching or while everyone sleeps, tiptoe to the file cabinets and pull out whatever tickles your fancy. You hold great things in the folds of my humanity and I have experienced incredible moments.

Here’s to you remembering them all. Here’s to recalling names, places, and things. Here’s to laughing at old jokes and dancing to my favorite tunes. We’ve got a ways to go, I believe, so I’m asking God to keep you safe and sound. In the meantime, thanks for all you do. Thank you for processing critical thoughts. Thank you for digesting everything I slam on your plate. The various mental tabs that open throughout the day. The big ideas. The little details. You do great things because a great God created you. For that, I will always believe that He will take care of us.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #4

Pop, you’re the real MVP.

After raising children on your own, you decided to accept a single mother as your wife and a bitter pre-teen as your daughter. I couldn’t be more grateful for you.

I’m so glad that I was able to tell you everything I wanted to while you were here. I have absolutely no regrets in our relationship. My love for you grew into a beautiful tree that I still pick from well after you’re gone. The fruit of our memories are so sweet.

Photo by carol wd on Pexels.com

One day, I watched you walk down into the dog lot and I said to myself — “They’re Friends.” You walked with God daily. I could hear you praying through my bedroom wall every morning. I saw you bless those that outwardly cursed you. You didn’t just pastor a church; you lifted the Word from the pages and let them saturate your life. You helped widows. You kept deacons out of trouble. You sat at the dining room table with at least 5 books open as you combed the Scriptures (Internet who?). You gave vegetables from your garden to anyone who wanted them. You mentored other ministers. Even when rif rafs broke into our home more than once, you said “Let it go.” I simply remember your kindness toward people and toward my mean self too. It wasn’t you. It was my fear leaking into my actions. I was scared that my mother wouldn’t have enough space in her heart to love us both — after all, it had just been the two of us for all of my life at least. It’s so ludicrous to say aloud, but it was definitely how I felt back then. I’m glad we ended up talking about that too and hugging it out. Your arms were wide enough to handle anything I brought to the table.

I remember the time the school office called you because I needed to be checked out. Mommy was at work and you were at home being amazing as usual with home-cooked meals, clean laundry on the clothes lines, and a freshly mowed lawn. After your stroke, you couldn’t go back to work, so you took care of our home lives without a shred of complaint. That day, severe menstrual cramps caused me to vomit and shiver. I was doubled over on that carpeted floor in anguish. I couldn’t sit up let alone stand up. Trying to hold on to my perfect attendance, I held on until after lunch then I caved and agreed to let them call as I rolled over to my side. With no cell phone in our worlds, you came to the rescue in that old pickup truck with the dog pen in the back like real Marvel Comic hero. The limp from your stroke couldn’t stop you. Your swollen hand couldn’t prevent you from steering to me. It never did. You were the cavalry that day and all the others thereafter.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

What about when you washed my clothes and the whole load turned pink… *giggle* I was so mad as I pulled my shirts and underwear out of the washer like they were sprayed by a skunk. Then, I heard the Holy Spirit say “At least they’re clean.” *laugh* I couldn’t debate that. Then came Mommy’s wisdom about you being man enough to do my laundry while I was at school and how I should be grateful. Needless to say, I didn’t complain again.

I sure do miss you. The snowy white strands of hair on your head. Your quick wit. The multiple pair of overalls. I can still hear your voice clearly giving sound counsel when I want to go off on someone. You had so much trust in me… that I would make wise decisions. You even helped my mother to trust me too. As I write this letter, I am smiling so wide because I had the best experience as your daughter. I was in good hands. You told my mother that you wanted me to feel a father’s love. Well, congratulations Pop, I did.

I love you always. Have fun up there.

CJW

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