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Listening at the Speed of Life

– by C. J. Wade –

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family

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #18

To my Church Families:

Lee’s Chapel Baptist Church in Brookside, AL
First Baptist Church Graysville East in Graysville, AL
St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Graysville, AL
Mason City A.O.H. Church of God in Birmingham, AL
First Baptist Church Carver in Bessemer, AL
Cathedral of the Cross in Birmingham, AL
Gateway Family Church in Trussville, AL
Zion Church in Landover, MD

In some way, shape, or form and at some point in time, you completely changed my life for the better. Each church listed up there hosts memories from my childhood to now and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

Cold ankles in lacy socks at Sunday School. Red Baptist Hymnals. Your sense of community. The smell of wooden pews. The whir of the Leslie when I turned on the organ. Music bouncing off the walls. Sausage and biscuit breakfast before worship service and free lunches every summer. The smiles on your faces and the sternness of your voices. Sequins and pearls adorning your suits. Tie pins and cufflinks that could rival any corporate executive’s attire. I remember thinking that you were the smartest people in the world when you read verses aloud. You were walking art and I was your canvas.

Photo by Dan Whitfield on Pexels.com

I call you family. Whether you prayed for me at the altar or laughed with me in the church parking lot, you played a major part in the woman I am today. You taught me that community is more than a word, it is an action that is always in season. We fed the poor, tutored children, taught God’s Word, and consoled each other at funerals. We forgot about the troubles of the week together. We danced until we felt free. Our hands lifted up and so did our hearts. God met us both inside and outside of those buildings.

Thank you.

I appreciate your light and life lessons. I pray that you continue to shine just as brightly as you did in my life. Keep smiling. Keep saturating yourself in the Word. Keep being a light. Keep encouraging youth so they can grow up to be grateful like me.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #16

Dear Aunts & Uncles,

This may sound elementary, but I mean it — I think you’re cool!

I know I wrote about you before, but I just had to say it again. You’re so diverse and wise. I soak up your spirit when you’re around.

Thank you for never telling me I can’t do something. Whether it was nailing shingles on the roof or planting seeds, you always said “Go ‘head. You can do it.”

Uncles, you always made me feel safe — safe in your wisdom and your presence alone. No matter where we were, I knew I was good hands. I knew that you would fight for me as fiercely as my mother would if anything happened. I trusted that you had my back. You had a way of treating me like a strong soul instead of a fragile princess. Thank you for that. It made my feminism formidable.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Aunts, you always taught me something. Both of you are so creatively crafty. You can literally take something ordinary and make something beautiful. It’s amazing to watch your mind work fast and your hands work even faster. And let’s not forget our talks… they were and still are epic. If I felt misunderstood, you listened and spoke my language. Lastly, you’ve lived through so much that it seeps from your pores. I am so appreciative that you share yourself with me.

I reflect on my childhood often and see flickers of your sweetness everywhere. I am so grateful for you. My mother had a tribe to help her raise me. She had a support system that cared so deeply. The fruit of your love sprinkles to those around me, especially to my village kids. My prayer is that I can show them at least half of the awesomeness that you showed me… that they feel empowered and enchanted. Thank you so much for being in my tribe. I forever love you.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #14

Shawn!

You would be having a complete field day right about now! For real!

Between the pandemic and pandering politics, we would be having the best conversations if you were still here. Seriously. Your wit would be making me laugh aloud and you would be amen-ing your frat brother Roland Martin’s commentary per usual. I can hear your quips as I type — coming at me like rapid fire.

Can you believe that people are making political stances about wearing facial coverings to slow the spread of a virus? I just heard you chuckle. lol

Science. That was your jam and I know you would have something sarcastic to say about all of this. We would probably chat around mid-afternoon and about the latest foolishness concerning our country and the world-at-large. Our conversation would undoubtedly include the current state of educational affairs be it that you were an exceptional educator. You were the physics half and I was the social half of our scientific duo, but we met in the middle when it came to distress of public education. *insert fist bump here*

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Part of me is glad you’re not here to experience this mess and part of me wishes you were so we could decompress at length. You said I was the pontificator between the two of us, but seriously… that was you. You knew how to make a kid’s meal out of the most difficult math and physics problems. The context in which all of this craziness is floating is complex to say the least — the perfect ingredients for your beautiful mind.

We would be having some hilarious conversations right now, my friend. I believe that. We had finally reached that place before you left Earth and for that I am grateful.

Rest In Peace,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #13

Dear Children That I May Have,

The first thing I want you to know is that I love you already. By this time in my life, I thought there would be two or three of you bugging me about our next family trip or having a dance-off in the living room. Since you’re not here (possibly yet or not at all), I’m having enough cool experiences to share plenty of memories with you.

Let me be clear — I didn’t wish for you when I was child playing with dolls. I didn’t pine for you to be here faster because I couldn’t live without you. There will never be a lie between us (that’s how my parents raised me, so, you’re stuck with that), so I won’t start with those. I did know that if you showed up that I would welcome you with an open heart and my love would pour all over the place. That’s just how I am and that’s probably how you will be too.

Thank you, Desiree Danielle Beauty & Photography. You always slay.

You have a dope mom. Yep, I said it. It’s OK… you’ll find out if you get here. I learned to be a strong woman in the midst of adversity yet soft enough to listen to your spirit. I learned to encourage myself when no one was around and I learned to lean on Jesus for my Peace of mind. I pray that is passed down to you as well. Your mother is a survivor and you will be too. I’ll do everything I can to help you, but I won’t coddle you one bit. I give you my word that I will laugh at you when it’s funny and hold you when it’s not. I’ll have your back and your front. No matter what gender you are, I’ll remind you it’s OK to have a sensitive heart and a strong will. Both of them can co-exist.

You’ll be amazing humans that will find your own way. You will grow up in a loving environment with plenty of culture and dialogue. It won’t be perfect, but it will be healthy… and I promise to let you and God have your own relationship. Period.

I hope you make it here, but if you don’t, your mom loves you and I’ll see you when I get up there.

Sincerely,

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 #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 #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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