Meet the Band of Misfit Heroes.

The cast of characters is gathered in a coffee shop. Danyo is making lattes and iced coffee for everyone. They are waiting for Steven to come into the room.

Danyo- Steven had another weird dream last night.

Genesis- About what this time.

Danyo- It was about Gorilla’s; at the end of the dream, he was riding on a bus. A gorilla was driving the bus, he also said the Gorilla was wearing white pants, and a red and white striped jacket, and hat. He looked like Harold Hill from The Music Man.

Akemi- Steven is on his way.

Danyo- ( hands Akemi a latte)- made with Almond Milk just like you enjoy it.

Akemi- Thanks! I think he is going to lock the book today and cap the characters.

Steven walks in and sits down. He calls everyone into the room. The seats are occupied by the main characters of the story, Danyo walks around with a tray of drinks, some take lattes, some take iced coffee.

Steven- Ok, everyone, we are set. Here is the plan. We have ten characters, I thought of killing a few of you off, and I still may, but for now, I have a soft spot for all of you, and the good news is you will survive the book.

Danyo- ( turns his head and whispers to Akemi) He really should kill a few off, but you know he gets both sentimental and stubborn at the same time.

Steven- This is the plan- I am going to go around the circle and let everyone introduce themselves with one sentence about your role in the story.

Let’s start with Keziah.

Keziah- Hi, I am Keziah, my name used to be Laura, but Steven changed it. I stole a spaceship and crashed it into a baptism, triggering a nuclear explosion.

Steven- Awesome and Keziah, please tell me who you are related to and use that as an introduction to the next character-

Keziah- Yes, I am Danyo’s mother, I just turned up pregnant one day, no Father. So here is my son Danyo.

Danyo- Greetings, I am Keziah’s son, I was immaculately conceived. I play the villain of the story. My goal is to steal the soul of Satan, and use it to raise the spirits of persecuted native Americans and slaves, and bring about the destruction of America for its crimes against humanity.

Steven- Got it, Danyo tell me who you are related to-

Danyo- I am the sinful nature of Genesis Jackson that jumped out of him at baptism. When Keziah’s ship crashed into his baptism, it triggered a spirit split. I am introducing Middle-Aged – Genesis Jackson.

Genesis Jackson- Hi, I am middle-aged Genesis Jackson. I am a United States Senator running for President. I am married to Sheri, who I will introduce next.

Sheri- Hi, My name is Sheri Jackson, I am the wife of Genesis Jackson, and I am also a demon temptress, I met Genesis in middle school, and my Father and I have been secretly grooming him to unleash the four horsemen of the apocalypse on the world once Genesis is elected President. Now here is my Father.

Father- Greetings, my name is Prescott Everton. I am the demon Father of Sher, I was a minister in the 1700s, but preached the slavery was justified in the Bible, when I died I thought I was going to heaven. Still, instead, I was sentenced to eternity as a demon tempter. Next, I want to introduce Travis.

DJ- Greetings, my name is DJ. I am a Divergent Thought Extracter- DTE for short, I was going to be the best man at the wedding of Keziah and DJ. Instead, I backstabbed Travis. I was going to run off with Keziah. She ended up swindling the both of us, stealing my ship, and jumping into another multiverse. Here’s Travis

Travis- Thanks Travis, yes I was set to marry Keziah, DJ stabbed me in the back. Still, now we have been assigned to track Keziah down and prevent Danyo and Father from carrying out the plans they have set in motion because now the entire multiverse is threatened with extinction.

Steven- Travis and DJ – I see, and how do you plan on accomplishing this?

Travis- We will have to create another spirit-split- The first spirit split created Danyo, the next spirit-split does the following let me introduce- Genesis Jackson- The teenager.

Genesis Jackson- Hi I am Genesis Jackson, the teenager, I exist in a different multiverse, but I will be brought into the universe with Danyo and my future self. I will be bringing Aquafunkapus with me.
Steven- Who is Aquafunkapus?

Genesis Jackson Teenager- Aquafunkapus is a character that I doodle when I am bored in class; for example- I made a comic called Malcolm X Clan Hunter; in the comic, Aquafunkapus saves Malcolm X from the KKK.

Steven- Awesome, great job everyone. Here is the plan for the next several weeks. I am going to interview each of you. The book is going to an editor in October and then should hit the kindle store in December or January.

Danyo- Steven you forgot someone!

Steven- OMG- So sorry- Akemi

Akemi- No worries, I am Akemi, I work with Danyo, I am the brains and muscle of the our duo. I like to use swords, and I read Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler novels. My speciality is cutting the souls from demons.

Steven- Now we are finished!

Genesis runs for President.

This is a short piece from the novel I am working I started it during Nanowrimo. I am now working on it in the Writing in Community Workshop. The following excerpt shows the character Genesis Jackson giving a speech.  His wife Sherrie is a demon and her father is second in command to Satan.  here is the speech-

Genesis steps to the lectern, to the roar of the crowd. They chant his name, are waving placards in the air. In his mind he had a secret that his wife didn’t know-He knew his wife was a demon, he knew that he was being groomed to unleash the four horseman of the apocalypse, yet he loveds her, and he has a plan .
He waves, the crowd begins to quiet down a bit.
Thank you! Thank you! You are far to kind.

I stand here tonight on the shoulders of giants . The Presidency is no small undertaking, seeking to be the leader of the free world is quite a task. One that I do not seek for power or position, but to humbly serve the citizens of this nation. The ideas of liberty and justice have not been lived out by those before me, tonight I hope to move the ball forward. I am forever thankful for my mother and father for the love they gave me, and the values and spirit they filled me with. My Father in Law for his mentorship, and guidance, helping me to be a leader in the Senate representing the state of California.

Last but not least, my wife . Sherri you have stood along side of me all this time. You are my toughest critic, and most strident supporter, if you wanted to you could be presenting this speech and announcing you candidacy, you are a great mom, and a strong , powerful woman.

Tonight is no ordinary night, and these aren’t ordinary times, some say they are dark, others have lost hope in the dream of America. Tonight it is my attempt to put us on the correct path.

It is true that I am an independent. People have told me, that you need to pick a side. I believe that I have. You see being independent takes conviction. The steadfast believe that you will put aside your own personal opinion in order to serve both sides of the aisle. You see you can’t simply serve the people who agree with you. When an individual takes the oath of office. That individual has a responsibility to serve and listen. This stance isn’t popular, and people still attempt to persuade me, and I do listen to their exhortations.

They came to me and said Genesis, you need to come back to the Republican party. The party of Lincoln that freed the slaves, the party of Frederick Douglas, and Booker T Washington. We share your values, good jobs, more opportunity. I said you have a point. Then I asked this question, If you stand for me, why do you stand for the racists? You ignore our Fathers who fought in your wars, you ignore our ministers who preach in your churches. You condemn our protestors and claim that we don’ t love America. Your Southern Strategy was an open tent for the Segregationists, who left the Democratic Party, we watched Ronald Regan announce his candidacy for the very office I seek in Philadelphian Mississippi home of the klan where civil rights workers were killed. So no, tonight I am not coming back to the Republican party.

Yet then there is the Democratic Party. We give you 88-90 percent of our vote, reliably every election. You made us a promise. We give you our votes and you will end suffering and in justice. Affordable Housing, Jobs, Health Care, and Public schools that we could send our children to. Yet instead of ending suffering , it seems to have increased. The price of Real Estate continues to climb, while the wages are low, our health care costs consume our salaries, we graduate college with more debt, and lower salaries, and the sadder of it all. You promised to end the suffering of homelessness, we gave you billions of dollars, and we look outside of our windows and we drive down our streets, and the amount of people living in tents has increased ? How is this possible? Where did the money go? We have seen what I call the Democratic Deception.
You promise to end suffering, but it goes up, and where does our money go? It goes into the pockets of the people who run the studies, endless studies, and people who write rules, that cancel out other rules. Our streets are divided, one plays for the red team and one plays for the blue, and we those of us on the side line suffer. So they have asked me, Senator Jackson, What are you going to do? Well tonight I am going to tell you what I am going to do. For far too long we have accepted without question the two party system, but I am here to tell you tonight, that you are pledging allegiance to a broken flag, America isn’t beautiful, it is broken. The choices are The Democratic Deception or the Republican Racists.

My parents named me Genesis. If you know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It starts with the words in the beginning. Under this nighttime sky, and the beautiful mountains behind me, and my creator watching me, I am announcing a new party. A collation, of Black, Brown, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and all of our White brothers and sisters who want to be in the struggle with us.

This nation owes us a debt. We fought your wars, We feed your children, we pick your crops, we built your railroads, Tonight we are here to say. This land is OUR LAND and not your land. This land was made not just for you. But for you, and me, and they, and them, he, and she. We are the party of the people. What will be our name? What will be our logo? Our name is Justice for the People. Join me tonight Genesis Jackson, as I seek to become the President of The United States of America. In November choose Justice.

The crowd roars. In approval, Sherrie comes out and joins Genesis on stage, he hugs her and she puts her arm around him, they stand and wave at the crowd. They are truly Americas couple. Father stands in the corner, and if he wasn’t wearing sunglasses, you would see his eyes glowing demonic red.

What I can change.

One of our favorite family pandemic activities is to walk to our neighborhood seven-eleven. My son enjoys the pizza, my wife will get Swedish fish, and I enjoy the seven elven brand of BBQ chips.

Across the street is an art gallery, and on the wall of the building is one of my favorite murals. Featuring this Maya Angelou Quote- If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change, it change your attitude.

This past week I found myself reflecting on this quote. I try to navigate through all the noise that comes from our news media.

I don’t like how the media is reporting information these days. It is bombastic and highly politized. Each day I get triggered by stories that affect my day to day. The quote helped me to develop a reframe.

I realized this. I am not a news producer/ or a newspaper editor. These are the people who put the stories on the air and make decisions on what gets printed. They are going to continue to print and televise that which makes them money, the messages they put out aren’t for me.

So here is my other option. Change my attitude. I can decide what I am going to read or watch, I am going to set boundaries and intentions or choose not to watch. CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and all the other print publications are not the producers of my attitude.

Rather than constant consumption driven by others, I can be a careful consumer who sets the agenda for what I allow and what I keep out. For me, the changing of my attitude is a way forward.

 

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Your Senior Year- Hack for the multpotentiated person.

I am a multpotentiated person In case you don’t know what it is a good working definition I found – R.H. Frederickson et al. defined a multipotentiaedl person as someone who “when provided with appropriate environments, can select and develop a number of competencies to a high level.”

There it is. I have the ability to do multiple things at high level. I am not going to beat myself up anymore over it. I find myself getting cranky when I hear people tell me, you have to pick one thing, you have to focus, etc. I consistently push back against that advice and rhetoric, Why do I need to sacrifice something I enjoy?

Here is my hack that allows me to enjoy being a mulpotentailed person.  First, get in the right environment. I feel like in my groups, I am surrounded by similar people. Check. Now I am in the right environment. 2- Here is my answer to how do I get it all done. Simple, My Senior Year. I sat down and wrote out my schedule from my senior year of High School. School started at 7:25am and ended at 2:25. In between, I had 8 periods of classes. When school was over, I went to work. No one ever said to me, Steven, you need to give up Third Period American Literature if you want to be successful, you need to focus on one thing and be the best at it. I could’ve done that. Guess what would’ve happened? I wouldn’t have graduated High School, and I wouldn’t have gone to college, and I wouldn’t have a career today if I followed the one thing advice. American Literature was a requirement for graduation.

 

My senior I just got my schedule and followed it each day, I didn’t have all of this angst over if I was doing the right thing.

Now I can simply look at my activities, enjoy doing them and do them every day.

I think our talents and abilities are requirements to enjoy our life. If you are a multipotential, lean into it, embrace it, celebrate it! Do your ten things! if I begin to get stressed when I see my growing to-do list, I simply say Senior Year. What is your hack? Do you enjoy being a multipotentialed?

Thoughts on Hamilton

I loved Hamilton. I was about to just end the daily right there. My family and I watched it on Disney+ this weekend. I enjoyed it for so many reasons. There was a literary technique that I noticed in the story. Most people know the story of Hamilton, In the story most people know that Burr kills him in the duel. Now even if you don’t know that, in the very first song of the play, at the end of the song the character who plays Burr, says that he kills Hamilton. So there it is, we know that this story ends with a death. It won’t be a mystery, no twist. The author reveals it. So what is this called? Why do author’s who write decide what to reveal and how to reveal it?

This brings me to my own story, what do I go with?  Authors write stories write multiple takes on a scene, characters, various endings some wind up on the chopping floor. The best end up in the story. The unused parts get repackaged and sold under titles like directors cut, or extended version. Notice they never say, This is the stuff that wasn’t good enough to make the book or the movie.
I guess lessons for my writing- Just write several versions, get feedback, and pick the best one. I am going to try that this week.

The Four Agreements- Not those Four Agreements, by My Four Agreements

Currently, I am participating in a wonderful Akimbo Workshop called Writing in Community. The goal of the workshop is to write a book and publish it on the Kindle Platform. Each day we write and submit to the platform. This is one of the posts that I wrote as I was working through the commitment that I am making for the next few months with the goal of publishing the book- I have read the book the four agreements, and owe this post to Austin Kleon. I am stealing like an artist- I wrote this post 12 days ago- I am leaving it as is without edits.

Today is Saturday, and I am winding down my set up process. Soon I will begin to write pages. When I took Seth Godin’s Altmba, I remember him talking about having a process, using formula’s and being a professional. I apply this to my writing—the lessons I take away from Seth- The work matters, and ship daily. Before I begin to write pages, I need to make agreements with myself. I have four agreements.

Agreement One- Get a process for daily writing.
When I do Nanowrimo, I follow a math formula for my daily writing-
I put in the following process. For Nanowrimo- The goal was to write 50,000 words in 30 days, – So I made a mathematical formula-
50,000 words.
30 days
1667 words a day.
After this, I just sat down and wrote until I hit 1667 words.
I took me between 40-45 minutes a writing session to do that. Now I had a baseline, I would just write. I gave myself the flexibility to write whenever I wanted and would split things into sections. I would write extra on the weekend and give myself a cushion when I needed to take a day off. The key for me is this is a marathon, and I need to pace myself.
I am going to follow a similar formula. Still, I am not going to be going for word count. I am going to build around 30 days of writing, the reflection, then 30 more days, I take time to reflect and revise my systems based on how the workshop is set up.

Agreement Two – Reject the Resistance. I took a Screenwriting Program, and The model was The Secret To Writing is Writing. Here is my perspective.
If I have 15 minutes a day, I can either sit and think or write something. I basically have two choices, write or don’t write. I can only fill the 15 minutes with one, but not both. A junky page is better than an empty page. Someone can give you feedback on your writing if you produce it, no one can provide you with feedback on a blank page. Basically, the little voice in my head is wrong. If the low voice talks me out of writing, I need to own it and call it what it is. I didn’t write today. That’s it.

I know a lot of people here read Seth’s work. I have heard Seth telling other people not to give in to the Resistance, but I can’t recall a post where he talks non-stop about his Resistance and then uses it to take a day off, or skips a project, maybe I am wrong. This is why I reject the Resistance. The Resistance exists, but to me, it is not a voice I need to follow.
I have been in so many writing classes, and o many people would show up without work done, without pages. They would complain about being overwhelmed. Which is fine, everyone gets it from time to time. What shocked me is that these workshops cost money. I know it was none of my business, but I was like, wow, you must have it good to show up with nothing done week after week after the financial investment you made. The financial investments I made at times, were a sacrifice. I owed it to my wife to make sure I gave a hundred percent, even today when I have more disposable income, I need to give 100 percent because the money used in a workshop can still be used elsewhere.
I need to remember the primary goal .- I am here to write and publish a book. I will be a generous person by giving feedback, receiving feedback, and making friends. Yet if I am not writing my book, then I am in a social club. Which is fine. Just own it. I make a commitment to myself that I am going to finish this book, and if I don’t, then it will be because of situations that are out of my control.

Agreement Three- I write out of order. In my writing, I get stuck, but my mind isn’t blank. It still has a ton of ideas running around, so I write them. I tell myself that I am doing the writing process, and putting the story in order is part of the editing process. This happens in movies all the time. Things are left on the cutting room floor, or they end up in the director’s cut special edition, which is odd. Why do more money pay for rejected material? Back to 15 minutes of writing or a blank page, I can write my way out of anything; attempting to think my way out of a problem leads to anxiety then I find my way back to the couch or the fridge. So I Choose writing. I tell myself, so what if I am undisciplined or not following conventions or a textbook? An undisciplined writer is still a writer. If I decide to sit on the couch watching TV but not produce pages, well, how can I be a writer? Writers write. I am not talking about resting, or anti tv watching or anti couch. I have the UFC on right now on my IPAD as I write, but the difference is I am writing.

Agreement Four- Embrace and Celebrate my quirks and weirdness.
Back to Seth and Altmba for this one- From the Art of Possibility- Remember Rule Number 6. Don’t take yourself so seriously. I don’t have a contract waiting for me, and I am not trying to use this book to pay rent or fund my app, get clients, or build my email list. I am merely taking a workshop and writing a book. After this course, I will retake TMS and then work on my email list. For now, my quirks include the anchors that help me write- For example – I have a squishy Eleven figure; if you watch Stranger Things, you know who Eleven is. I also have a Black Panther figure on my desk. These superheroes and they inspire me. For fun, I have an hourglass. I stole this from Elizabeth Gilbert. I use the hourglass to time my daily writing from time to time.

There it is Agreements. Agreements I make with myself to prepare myself to get down to writing pages.

 

For my Dad

 

 

My Dad died of Pancreatic Cancer when I was 17. I would drive him back and forth to the doctor from time to time . He died in October but the summer months of June, July he went into remission. I remember him telling me one day, “ Steven if I would’ve had the opportunities you had I would’ve been a millionaire several times over. At that time I didn’t have any idea what he meant.

My Father would have conversations with me. I wasn’t excited to have them . They were very intense . Yet my Fathers words were an investment. What I was too immature to understand as a child, I fully understand as an adult. 

Youth is wasted on the young, and my immature brain didn’t understand the wisdom I was getting. I also believe that deep down my dad knew his time with me was short, and he had to make sure that his youngest son was ready to face the world .

I didn’t feel particularly blessed, I was a grumpy teenager, school felt like grudery, I enjoyed playing music, hanging with my friends , watching sports , and reading books. I had applied to college and got accepted to several schools . It didn’t seem like a big opportunity it just what I did. As soon as I hit high school I began preparing to go to college. In my mind getting into college was a box to check.

 

 Today I know why he said what he did. My Dad words came from a place of pain, but also from a place of hope and optimism. His road was challenging. The example he said is what guides me today. I don’t have my dad to talk to,but I do have his memories to guide me. Parts of my dads life were triumphant, but others painful, I didn’t see the pain that day, know I know where it came from.

My Father was a mail carrier for almost 40 years. He was great at his job, he took pride in it. One of the things I enjoyed was every Christmas helping him make Christmas cards for the people on his route. He had a stamp that said from your Mailman Tommy Thompson, he would let me stamp the cards and put them in the envelope. My birthday was after Christmas and each year he would give me money, amount would be whatever age I was that year. I know that some of it came from the money that people would insert in the cards they gave to him each year.

 

 My Father also had another gift, he could build things, he walked into McDonald’s looked at a booth and then came home and built it for our kitchen. He designed our home and built it as well. His vacations would be used for building projects. In addition he would build for our extended relatives, and before he passed away one of his last projects was remodeling our entire basement, which I would use for years to entertain friends.

 

Today I know where that comment came from- My Father was a victim of racism. My dad’s path to millions wasn’t the post office. My dad wanted to be an architect and the schools around where he lived didn’t enroll blacks. My Father fought in World War 2. He left for the Pacific Theater in 1942 and left in 1945. He spent those years serving in Company B 91st Engineer General Service Regt. He began his service in Louisana  then moved to New York. 

 

The company left New York in March of 1942 and arrived in Brisbane in April of 1942. He spent his time building roads, airfields, and working on transportation vehicles. When he came back to the states he should’ve been able to use the GI Bill as a reward for his service- so he should have been able to find a school that would enroll him , sadly the GI Bill failed him and many other African Americans. My dad never became an architect, but that didn’t stop him from building homes. 

 

What if my Father had the opportunities I had? Today I am a Professional Educator, I have been through five academic programs in order to get my teaching licenses, and later my administrative licenses. All I had to do was fill out an application, and I was able to secure admittance. This was not an option available to him. You are black, you can’t enter. Knowing that I know that I have an obligation not just to him, but many others who were denied opportunities because of race. My dad had the talent, the skill, and the ability, and he proved it throughout his life by the projects he did build, for our family and many relatives, but the question What if, makes me sad for him on this Father’s Day, and thankful for the example he set for me. I am glad I have a picture of his medals.

Baxter and Chloe

I just took Bernadette Jiwa and Seth’s Godin’s Story Skills Workshop. This is the story that I recorded. I used Sonix to transcribe the recording. If you would like to see the audio it is here 

This is a short story that I may build on in the future.

Baxter is a desk, and Chloe is a chair. They live in a classroom in a school for students with special needs. Throughout the years, Baxter and Chloe have had many students sit on Chloe and write on Baxter. Those students have gone on to live extraordinary lives. Baxter and Chloe helped the students connect to their gifts and their talents.

But these students weren’t always happy or hopeful. You see, the students that sat in Baxter and Chloe over the years had faced tremendous trauma. What made Baxter and Chloe special ?

They weren’t ordinary desks or chairs. You see, Baxter and Chloe housed the spirits of family members who had passed away, and those spirits freed from the bondage of racism and poverty—encouraged their children to succeed.

Every year. Baxter and Chloe would have new students who would sit in them and work on them.  These were new spirits that would occupy them—this year. D.J. is a student who works with Baxter and Chloe.  DJ has a diagnosis of an emotional disability as a result of trauma. His father was killed in front of him when he was eight, by the police in a traffic stop.  After his father died, DJ began had violent outbreaks at his school. He would start fights; he would tear up his classroom; he would try to hurt himself.  DJ was sent to a special school. At the special school  he met Baxter. and Chloe. On the first day, he threw Chloe across the room.

But his teacher had compassion on him. DJ sat down on  Chloe. When he touched Baxter, he felt different. He began to work. He would read books about the triumphs of his people. He would create works of art. He would still have outburst when he was away, but there was something about Baxter.  It was his father’s spirit that lived inside the desk. Baxter and Chloe had been a great help to DJ.

After spring break. DJ doesn’t come back to school. The school was closed due to COVID 19 outbreak. So Baxter and Chloe sat in the classroom with all the other classroom supplies,  they were sad. They worried about the children. The kids had not come to them had come to visit them—day after day after day. Baxter and Chloe and the other classroom supplies sat in the classroom. Mr. Griffin the teacher would go into the classroom each day, and he turned on the computer, When Mr. Griffin would leave for the day, the computer would give them updates. The computer would talk to the supplies. He would tell them what was going on in the outside world.

One night. A ghost came into the room. It was the ghost of DJ’s mother. She had passed away. She was a nurse who was exposed to somebody who had. COVID 19. She occupied Chloe. At first DJ is placed with a foster family, he began to have violent outbursts.  As a result, DJ was moved into a residential lockdown facility.  Mr. Griffin lost touch with DJ.
He was not informed of where his group home was.

Baxter and Chloe would not lose hope. Late at night when everyone was gone  Baxter and Chole were able to talk to the computer. They were able to hack into the bank, and get enough money for a lawyer’s retainer fees. Next they searched for a lawyer. The computer sent a letter to a lawyer to advocate for DJ. He would tell them that DJ needed his desk and his chair. The argued that DJ needed to be able to sit in Chole and write on Baxter.

The group home was exasperated at this point; they didn’t know what to do. DJ was having violent outbursts. every single day. He was hitting staff. He was breaking windows. He was tearing up. the room that he lived in. Yet nobody knew that DJ was in pain. They thought that DJ had a problem. They thought something was wrong with him. They gave him lots of medicine, but this did not help. The lawyer was able to get a court order approved to have Baxter and Chole shipped to the group home, aided by the spirits of his mom and dad.

Baxter and the Chole were shipped to the group home. They were put it into DJ’s room. DJ. looked at Baxter. He looked at Chloe; he knew he was safe. He sat down and Chloe. He felt the loving caress of a mother. Then he began to write on Baxter. And he felt the spirit of his father encouraging him to be his best. And on that day. DJ.. Was able to write. And he was able to read. And he was able to design beautiful works of art. He was able to do this because he had Baxter and Chole; he also had his mother and father.

Burn the Strawman

My Father grew up in Sulligent, Alabama, at the height of Jim Crow laws and the Black Codes. At 16, he lied about his age, joined the Army, and was shipped to the Pacific and fought in World War 2.
My father never talked to me about his military experience. As far as I knew, he never talked about it with my brothers either.

One conversation that I do remember him having with me was before we took a trip to Alabama. As a young boy, I was excited to travel out of the state. I was going to see the family farm in Alabama. My Father has told me so many stories about it. The night before we left, he sat me down and said to me. Steven, Alabama is different, you can’t look at a white person, you can’t say anything to a white person, and whatever you do don’t say a word to a white woman. As an 8-year-old boy, I had no idea what this meant. I went to school with white people, my best friends were white, and I had crushes on white girls, so where did this advice come from?

What I didn’t know at 8, I remember clearly he was referencing the memory of Emmitt Till. Emmitt at 14 went down south and was murdered. He was brutally killed by a mob for looking at a white woman in a store. His mother held an open casket funeral to show the world what had happened to her son.
Today I have an eleven-year-old son. I know that I have to have a similar talk with him. After seeing George Floyd murdered and Ahmud Arbery killed in front of me, I am petrified of needing to talk with him.

Conversations need to be had in our country, but with conversations, we need people to listen.

Too many times in our national conversations, we succumb to the Strawman Fallacy. The Strawman logical fallacy is when you attempt to negate an argument by introducing another problematic topic, and we use that topic to avoid talking about the original problem. Here are two common Strawman arguments. Colin Kaepernick takes a knee to start a discussion about police brutality. Its intent is to talk about why police officers are killing unarmed men. The Strawman introduced is that they are disrespecting the flag. We all agree that disrespecting the flag is wrong. Yet the original discussion is about Black people being murdered by the police. The Strawman takes us away from that conversation. The second example of the Strawman is George Floyd being killed, and people start looting and rioting. The Strawman is talking about looting and rioting. Why?

One man was murdered in public, without a trial. A family is grieving and mourning. A daughter lost a Father. Comparing and Contrasting looting is Strawman. Another Strawman is – You hate the police,- no we don’t hate the police, we know that we need the police to serve and protect, but murder isn’t serving and protecting. I am held accountable at my job, as are most Americans. Why do we have immunity laws? Why were the 2015 Police Commission recommendations rejected by the current administration?  I know we have opinions on looting, rioting, and the flag. I am neither agreeing with your views nor disagreeing with your beliefs. I am merely asking to have one conversation at a time. My question to the people who introduce the Strawman is why? What painful emotions are the people who present the Strawman trying to avoid? Why do some people get to make the rules of the debate, and I don’t?

When I hear these arguments as a Black person, they come off as someone telling me what to do and think. Think about it Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffery Dahlmer, and Richard Speck. All notorious serial killers were arrested, tried, and died in jail. Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd Brianna Taylor, killed in the street or their homes. So why do serial killers get a fair trial, and people of color are killed in the street? This is the question to answer. A lecture about black on black crime, hard work, welfare, or any other tropes tells me that to get the answer about people dying is to be perfect. A burden that this country can’t live up to. One final image, the image that this is a history test. Question number one is . 1. Why do unarmed people of color have to die in the street 50 points 2? Why do looting and rioting occur 25 points ? 3 What is disrespecting the flag mean? 25 points. Seth Godin addresses the idea of listening in this blog post and he makes it clear that when you react to another person’s viewpoint you could be avoiding difficult emotions. If you introduce the Strawman.

You see, by skipping number one and only answering two and three,  even if we gave you full credit, you only would have earned 50 points, 50/100 is an F. This means you fail the test. Today the teacher is handing the test back to you, with a chance to answer number one.

Seperating the knots.

Life right now is different. Each day brings highs and lows.

I began to reflect and came up with an image that helped me process all the experiences and emotions each day would serve.
The picture in my mind was one of a ball of Christmas tree lights. You know what it looks like, a tangled mess full of beautiful colors that you look forward to seeing on your tree. Yet if you plugged in the ball, it may light up, or it may not.

You are then faced with a choice you can throw the lights away and go out and buy new lights, or you can choose to untangle them, string by string until you have one straight line.
This is the exercise I did. My ball of lights was my thoughts, opinions, likes, and dislikes. By laying each one out, it helped me to process and move forward healthily.
Knot one- What do I think of COVID life? Do I miss my old way of life?

I don’t miss waking up a 4:30 am to get out the door by 6 am. Hitting my desk at 6:45 am and leaving the office at 5:00 pm to fight through an hour and a half of traffic.
I enjoy waking up without an alarm. My body clock still wakes me up at 4:30-5:30, but I don’t have to rush. I make coffee for my wife, my wife makes oatmeal, I put berries in my oatmeal, and I sit and eat it. In fact, that’s all I do, I don’t check emails, I don’t send texts, I don’t plan the day. I look at my oatmeal, and I gaze at the berries, and I think this is good for my body.
I worked from home for five years before heading back to a sight-based position last year, so one part of me is happy to be in this position.
Then comes the next knot. It is hard to enjoy it. The world gives me so much anxiety. The noise is coming from so many directions. Questions with no answers, just opinions that can be received as directives. Once we were unified and stayed home to flatten the curve, now in California our governor is a tyrant because people can’t go to the beach, people are carrying guns into statehouses, and the noise gets louder and louder,

I feel the anxiety in my body. I turn off the news, I stop reading the newspaper.
I want comfort- So instead of the news, I watch the Flintstones, I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I buy a set of LEGO’s not for my son but for me. I can go back to my youth to a
a time where there wasn’t COVID or a 24-hour news cycle.

So now what does all this mean, as the strings are laid out, I see my creative life which I enjoy, my family and friends, whom I like. I am even irritated not by Zoom but by people who are saying how they are bothered by zoom. I want to scream at that I have been using Zoom for multiple years, and I rarely have said jeez I am sick of Zoom. I love the mute button, so when someone is talking I can yell across the room when someone says something I don’t enjoy, I can speak to my wife, I can turn off my video and go to the bathroom. I can do work on another screen. I can turn people off. These things at hard to do in a physical space. I can make my own coffee, use my own bathroom, I can edit a video on my phone while watching a documentary or listening to music. I can walk into my son’s room and check on him. I can get curious about my wife and her day today.

Once all the strings are laid out, the natural question is, what’s next? What decisions do I need to make? Once I plug in the lights, what will come on?
I decide not to plug in the lights. I am just going to look at all the choices, and just enjoy the next month, day by day. I am sure some will feature joy, others’ pain, and most days both. There is room for my hands to hold both pleasure and pain while continuing to move forward. I will be content to go for walks. Take pictures of flowers and share them.