Speaker Series: The Love Below – Combating Global Poverty in Lansing

Dear friends,

This post is a simple, shameless plug. :)

I am speaking at the East Lansing Public Library as a part of this month’s Capital Gains Media Speaker Series – TONIGHT!

At TEDxLansing, I was challenged with 15 minutes to tell you all about a three week trip of a lifetime.  Tonight, I will be dragging out all of the best photos and videos for you to see.  This will not be any ol’ slideshow.  This will be an unveiling of my heart as I learned about the individuals we serve through the supporters of The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project.  Bring a friend, your smart phone and plan to head to an after party at the Dublin Square later.

I look forward to seeing you all.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

PS – Watch my short presentation below and RSVP to this evening’s event here.

Leave A Message

I almost wrote you an answering machine message tonight.

“Hi!  You have found Tashmica’s Mother Flippin’ Blog!  I am not here right now.  Leave a message and I will be sure to get right back with you.  Bye!”

This space has felt pretty empty lately.  Sorry about that.  I have just been too busy.  I have had plenty to say.  I have lots of words scribbled here and there to remind myself of things I meant to tell you.

Tonight, I am writing and scarfing down two egg sandwiches with tomato, avocado and chipotle mayo.  My body is aching from a pretty good derby practice and my mind is all discombobulated from a productive day at work.  I am also a little scared and my nail polish is chipped.

I have done two things this week that make me want to pee my pants.

#1 – I started researching my father for my book.  So if you happen to be the Nancy Drew type (Gosh, I loved her!), let me know!  I could use a good sleuth in my life right now.

#2 – I enrolled in my first college course since I was pregnant with Isaiah.  That would be nine years, ladies and gentleman.

I am scared.  Legitimately.  I am afraid that I will not be able to pass a class.  I am afraid that I will never write this book and that I am just going through the motions like an old record player without a needle.  What if I can’t write it well?  Or, even worse, what if I am too weak, fragile, mentally broken to stick with the story.  It is a hard story to tell – even with my wit and charm the details can still send me to bed early with a bottle glass of sangria.

*inhale*  *exhale*

It doesn’t matter today.  I just took a flying leap out of a boat not quite on shore and landed sturdy on solid ground.  I am asking the questions I need the answers too.  It may never fill a book.  It will fill empty spots in me that I need corked.Image

I am going to get that damned writing degree and then tattoo those letters behind my name.

I have already learned so much.

So, now.  I have left you a message.  I hope you are all well.  Be fearless.  Give me a call sometime and we will do lunch.

Fear facing,

Tashmica

PS – I forgot something else!

#3 – I made an appointment for my quarter sleeve at Fish Ladder Tattoo.  Yipe!

It’s Okay Michigan, We Say Vagina Here!

We have had our share of awkward conversations in our household.

We have discussed body parts to no end.  We have talked about nipples, stretch marks, penises and my uterus.  We have discussed the inappropriateness of calling your testicles Nutterbutters with our three sons – even if their mother cannot stop giggling when they do so.

So it was no big surprise when I heard Vito say to our sitter,

“Allie, I have a penis. Isaiah has a penis. Isaac has a penis.  What do you have?”

This happens every time one of my sons turns three.   We start playing the game, “Who Has A Penis”.  I usually fall into the column of the Haves at first.  Why wouldn’t I?  Their father has one, they have one – even the dog has one.  I explain gently that mommy is in the Have Not column.  I have a vagina instead.

I hear Allie shuffling her feet.  Her sentences were stalled.

Uh…..erm….well…

I stopped on my way out the door for a date night with my guy.  I spun on my stiletto and leaned out of our kitchen to say,

“It’s okay, we say vagina here!”

Allie was instantly relieved.

I laughed.

I felt the same way when faced with the question of genatalia by my eldest son.

I balked.  I stalled and then *hangs head in shame*  I called it a flower.

My guy was appalled.

“Oh, no.  If mine is a penis, then yours is a vagina.”

I quickly recovered and told Isaiah that I had a vagina.  I was so thankful for my husband’s black and white sense of fairness in that moment.  I am wiser now.  I no longer balk. It is fact.  I have a vagina.  They have a penis.

I have called it many things but at the end of the day, my vagina is not my flower.  No matter how much I love saying that my glory is almost showing, it does not change the fact that at the end of the day, it is still my vagina.

Apparently, in the Michigan House of Representatives, there was a bit of confusion over whether the word vagina is acceptable last week.

Wait, wha?

I won’t rehash the whole story.  You can read it here.

I don’t have time for that anymore.

I did make time to sit on the lawn of the State Capitol to enjoy a performance of the Vagina Monologues headlined by the amazing Eve Ensler.  She was supported by talented actresses and even the likes of Gretchen Whitmer, Barb Byrum and Lisa Brown.

I didn’t call a single friend to see if they’d be there.   I had no doubt that they’d all be there somewhere.  I was right.  They were or they were posting that they were there in spirit all over Facebook.

I was grateful.

I was grateful to be considered mixed company.

I was moved to tears several times as I heard stories that I related to and as I saw women that I was connected to.

I read signs.

I heard attendees join in on parts of the monologue that they had memorized.

I rejoiced in the wonderful opportunity that ignorance can create.  My spirit sang in solidarity.  I was strengthened by the women circling the wagons.

And as my husband dropped my children off to me at the edge of a huge crowd yelling vagina, I smiled because they knew the word already.

As for me and my house, we say vagina.

Michigan, your house should do the same thing.

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Equally Limited

We traveled through the busy roads of Kampala until we came upon the sign and a single Muzungu (besides myself, of course) standing in the road waiting for us.  He guided us down bumpy, hidden back roads to where the orphanage was situated.  The gates at M-Lisada were covered in a painted mural.  Outside the gates painted with the smiles of children playing instruments, were children playing together.  They stopped to see the new muzungu pass.  Curiosity disturbed them.

I grabbed my camera and climbed out of the car to finally introduce myself to Chris.  The story of how we came to meet in Uganda is an unlikely one.  His mother Pam, sent me a handwritten letter at my day job to see if we knew of any resources that she could use to mail supplies to M-Lisada.  You can read about that here.

I wanted to see what other organizations were doing to help serve the AIDS Orphans of Uganda.

M-Lisada has a different plan than ours.  They are an orphanage.  We are a school.  When you hear the stories of both founders, you can kind of understand why their routes were different in attempting to solve the same problem.

Jackson Kaguri grew up in Nyakagyezi, Uganda.  His family strained to pay for an education that was believed to be the one way ticket out of poverty for all of their children.  Jackson studied hard, excelled and returned to find devastating poverty hanging heavy over his hometown community.  His answer was the answer given to him in his own childhood; an education is key to combating poverty.  The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project set about building schools and creating a holistic system to keep the children in classes/

Segawa Bosco was a street kid in Kampala.  He and a band of young men like himself longed for the opportunity to learn how to play musical instruments.  That passion united them to combine their resources to gain an education, pool their resources and start an orphanage.  This is the statement on their facebook page…

We are a home for street kids of Kampala, Uganda. We use the power of music, dance, and acrobatics to discover the family within each of us.

M-Lisada is now home to 80 street children between the ages of 3 and 18.  They all participate in some form of liberal arts and raise operation funds through their performances.

I wandered around their home heartbroken.  It wasn’t a sense that they weren’t being cared for.  Just that day, a group of volunteers had arrived with school supplies for the children.  I was excited to watch this exchange.

   

Children celebrating and cheerful givers recording the moment for those unable to make the journey.

I wasn’t heartbroken because of the facilities.  A home with eighty children will have its challenges but this place was clean, cheerful and full of laughter.  You could see how connected the children were with the staff as they came home, changed out of their school uniforms and came to greet us all.

That was how I met Beatrice.  She came to me proudly with school books filled with perfect handwriting.  I encouraged her by saying that I knew many adults who could not write as well as her.  She was smart as a whip.  A little conversation was all it took to see the light firing in her mind.

After a little while, the children gathered around and started asking me about my tattoos.  We chatted about school and then it was time for the jazz band to practice!

Beatrice then asked to use my camera.  She started snapping away.  This photo was my favorite.

The heartbreak didn’t come from the talent of the children playing their hearts out.  They played jazz standards led by Chris.  Counting, snapping and scatting along with their enthusiastic renditions.  I smiled and posed for another of Beatrice’s photo.

The heartbreak choked me a couple of times and I swallowed it back.  I stood in a tiny room with these two children and counted the beds triple stacked.  I watched them go in and out of the bathroom changing their clothes and putting away their school things.  I saw children standing outside the gate, milling around.

The heartbreak made no real sense.  These children were being given a safe place to lay their heads.  Most of them were in school and many children in the community use M-Lisada like an after school program.  They are doing good work.

At the end of the day, I shoved money in the Directors hand and stumbled out the door.  I could not fathom him thanking me.  I quickly escaped his gratitude.

The heartbreak is the limits.  The limits of my income.  The limits of the world’s generosity.  The limits of the funding.  The limits of the children that they can serve.

The sky is not the limit.

Today, eighty is the limit and standing in their home, that is heartbreaking to me.  I think of the backpacks I help my children clean out.  I think of tickling each of them and barely making my arms touch each of them equally.  I think of the times they fight over sitting next to me on the blanket, at the table or in the theater.

My arms, my love always stretching to the ends.

Dear world,

I wish I could turn you over and shake you out.  I wish our limits measured how little poverty we will allow as a global community.  We can do better and we don’t.  That is my heartbreak.

An equally limited.

Tashmica

Giving Up

I finally found that stupid little cord that connects my Droid to my speaker dock thing.  It only took me a year or so.  Around that time, I dropped my iPhone in the toilet and decided to go with a Droid as a replacement.  I realized I had misplaced the cords the first time I tried to turn on a bedtime story podcast for my children.  Apparently, I had tossed the additional connectors….somewhere.

Fudge.

Fast forward a year, and there it sat with dust covering every inch of it.  I found the chords in a grandmother basket sitting about two inches away from the dock.

Really?

I happily blew dust off of the speakers and plugged everything in.  Beautiful music filled our upstairs.  Beautiful free music from my Pandora station.  I want to pay for music.  I also want to buy groceries.  Food always wins.

Music is the perfect accompaniment to bathing, dressing and organizing children for the next day.  We love our Norah Jones station.  Jack Johnson sings us into our jammies and Norah allows me to sing duets with her to Vito.  Listening to yawning, settling children while rocking a sleepy almost non-toddler to bed just under the sounds of lullabies is heaven to me.

When my husband climbed the stairs, I was still humming while tossing dirty laundry into baskets finally empty of clean clothes.

He smiled and gave me a warm hug.

“I love that you’re humming.”

I smiled.  He ventured into a messy six-year old’s closet to sort pants that fit and those that do not.  I continued my humming as I chased Vito around a corner and into his bed.

Just then, the song started playing.

I stopped.  I told Vito to stay in his bed with his bedtime snack.

Even though he had just started working out the pants situation with Isaac, I stopped Paul too.

He met me in the hallway and we danced.  I shooed away children, sent them to their beds.

“I am having a moment with your father.”

This song is for people who have dishes piled sky-high in their sinks.  It is for mommies and daddies with paint chipping off of the walls and bills piled on their desks.  It sings to the soul of my love of the messy realities of relationships.  Listen. Dance. Give up.

Our lives don’t always split open to find romance running through it.  It’s usually the opposite.  When a moment arrives that makes your heart stutter to a happy skip, you must stop.  The children will enjoy peeking around the corner at you.  They will push their hands into the small space between you and try to find a place for themselves.

You will reach down to find love in small hands in your pockets, pulled tight around your waist and wrapped around your shoulders.

The house will be a little dirtier.  There will be a pause in practicality and function.  You will feel a little idealistic and foolish.

A little romance never killed anyone.*

A lightly dancing and humming,

Tashmica

PS – “Like” my Facebook page! 

*Except maybe Romeo, Juliet, and the couple from the Titanic movie…but that’s it. ;)

Mother’s Day: Part Deux

I know.  Mother’s Day is over.

You have had your day to sleep in.  Your breakfast in bed, no matter how questionable, has been eaten.  You have gotten your handmade gifts, adulations and praise.  It is back to real life now, baby.

Who’s excited?!  Can I see a show of hands?

*crickets*

Something has been bothering me.  There’s just a little monkey on my back.

My Mother’s Day was lovely but some of you got a whole lotta nothin’ for Mother’s Day.  You woke up to the same roles and responsibilities.  Laundry loads went in and dishes were stacked up with your invisible name all over them.

Some of you could care less about holidays.  You don’t celebrate birthdays, Christmas or even, Halloween.  There are people who don’t celebrate everything in a big way.

 I am not friends with any of those people because they won’t come to my parties.

Everyone is different.

What about you?  What did you want?

Take a moment.  Breathe.  What did you want.

Don’t get upset if the day was a total shit show.  Don’t get mad if your husband looked at you like, “what” when you reminded him that it was Mother’s Day.  Maybe it’s not totally his fault.  Maybe you were not clear with your expectations.  We tend to do that as women.

You know, the martyr thing.

Maybe you’re a single mommy and there simply wasn’t anyone around to do anything for you.

You don’t need to panic.  You don’t need to get mad.  You simply need a redo.

Have you ever had your child give you a smart alleck response and you offered him a chance to try again before you took away his entire universe of toys?  Your husband may need the same opportunity.

This time, mince no words.  Practice with me.

  1. I want to sleep in.
  2. I want a hot shower to myself. (If a child so much as leans into the bathroom door, so help me…)
  3. I want to have tea with my sisters.
  4. I wanna dance with somebody.

If you have to, call a girlfriend who loves you and tell her you intend to celebrate the love of your single motherhood life with some quiet time recharging for another year of raising a wild animal into a genteel adult of perfect character.  I’ll bet you, she will cover you.  She knows how hard your job is and she respects you for all the sacrifices you make every day.

Motherhood is the hardest job in the world.  It is not the pretend hardest job in the world.  It is the real deal.  In one day, you deal in so many kinds of crap, you should be handing out enemas and sometimes it feels like you are.

Single mommies, give yourself a do over.  You are a valuable woman doing a valuable job.  Honor yourself.

Mommies with a slacker or miseducated husband, schedule another date for Mother’s Day.  Let him know that, just like a sloppy child working on his handwriting, he will have as many opportunities to correct his mistake as he needs.

Finish it off with this statement:

“I get one day a year.  Don’t eff it up.”

It doesn’t have to be much.  Sometimes a letter like the one Scott Nagele wrote for his wife on his blog called Snoozing on the Sofa: Fatherhood’s Finest Hour will totally fit the bill!

*kleenex alert*

And in the end, if it still doesn’t happen for you.  If the world looks down on you with your screaming toddler, empty potluck hands and jacked up pedicure, know that I am right here with you.  Laughing in the face of perfection and waving the flag of mediocrity every single day.  Solidarity, sisters.

Happy Mother’s Day, ladies.

From the trenches,

Tashmica

PS – for the record, my husband has gotten progressively better at celebrations since he met me.  Therefore, I am a behavioral therapist specializing in all manner of hoopla and shenanigans related to festivities.  I will have to add that to my business cards.

Scrotal Emergency

I had just gotten both of my skates on and laced up when my phone rang.  It was my husband.  He was lucky to have reached me because I rarely check my phone once I get to roller derby practice.

When I picked up, he sounded upset.

“What’s wrong?”

“I think I am going to have to take Isaac to the emergency room.”

Heart in throat, I start untying my skates.

“What happened?”

“He slipped on the sink and cut his scrotum.”

You could hear the panic in my guy’s voice.

“Excuse me, what?”

“He climbed up on the sink to get his toothbrush, lost his footing and slipped.  I think it is punctured, babe.  I don’t know what to do.”

Seriously.  Seriously. Who’s life is this?

“If I were there now and you didn’t have to worry about my attendance points, would you take him to the ER?”

We have two other children that were going to bed at the time.

“Yes.”

“Then I am coming home.”

A strange mixture of laughter and concern filled my voice as I told my coach I had to go home because my family was having a scrotal emergency.

“Family comes first.”

“You betcha and my future grandchildren are being threatened.”

I ripped of my skates and headed out to the car.  On the way back, I call to find out how my Little Fish was doing.  My husband said that he thought he might have overreacted.

“Isaac is fine now. Go ahead and go back to practice.”

Too late buddy.  I am already worried.  What if there was a scrotal rupture?  No way was I going to practice and leaving my son’s junk hanging in the balance.

When I arrived home, I jumped out of the car and ran up the stairs.  I was not prepared for what I found.

Isaac was laying on my bed with one arm folded behind his head and the other holding a Garfield comic book.  His legs were wide open and his little package was covered by a towel and a bag of ice.

It looked like a scene from a bad college frat house movie.

“Oh, my poor baby.  Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” *sweet sad face*

“Can mommy take a peek to make sure we don’t need to go to the hospital?”

“Sure.”

I lifted the blankets, the ice and the towel to find the tiniest cut.  It was maybe a half-inch long and more like a scrape than a puncture.

I covered him back up.  Men and their penises.  My husband went to code red immediately.  It all reminded me how Oprah once said on a show that the world disregards female genital mutilation but if there were men wandering around with injured penises, the world would stop.

“That must have hurt.  You have to be careful when you climb up to get your toothbrush, honey.”

“It wasn’t the climbing.  It was the soap on my feet.”

*Laughter*

“I can see the problem.”

After a few pages of Garfield and a couple of warm cuddles, I sent my Isaac to bed.  I watched him tenderly hop off the bed and limp into his room.  I think the strained walk was a little bit injury and a little bit numb scrotum from all of the ice.  That probably felt really wierd.

After my husband and I put all the kids to bed, we had a relieved laugh.  The final words of hilarity, that I will probably never forget were sadly stated through pained tears when Isaac first hurt himself.

“I wish God had made armor for my penis.”

Indeed, little buddy.  You and every other man on the planet.

image
Our survivor.

It doesn’t seem fair when you see armadillos, cacti and even bugs with exoskeleton, that your penis is so vulnerable to the hard sides of sinks, girls shoes, pinata sticks and other mishaps.  Life is not fair.  Not even for penises.