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Making the Best of a Situation

Making the Best of a Situation

I tell lots of stories. One of the stories I don’t think I’ve ever told stretches back to the last birthday party I had in 3rd grade.

Having a birthday in December meant I had just changed schools that previous fall. Beginning the school year at a catholic school in a neighboring town, I didn’t think to invite many kids from my previous town (and school). However, I did invite my best friend, Ari. He was known to have a good time and get a little out of control like myself. He always managed to keep it together just a little bit more than myself, so he made for a good governor.

3rd Grade Birthday Party

At my 3rd grade birthday party, I asked my dad to have it at an ice rink. Ari, was the only friend I invited from my old school. Everyone else was from the new school I was attending.

After a few laps of skating the rink, I found I wasn’t having much fun. Something inside was telling me that the party wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The skating rink seemed something like my new friends from the parochial school would be interested in. My old friends wouldn’t know what to make of it. Internally, I felt I wasn’t really into it.

It didn’t matter, I convinced myself to keep up the facade. No matter what, I had to make believe I was having a good time. Otherwise my father wouldn’t let me hear the end of it.

Within a few minutes my best friend Ari came up to me and said, “This isn’t fun!” I knew he was right. But I wanted to impress my new friends. I kept on skating around the rink and hoped Ari would act more like them. I pretended I had a headache. Ari did silly things to get me to laugh.

Hindsight is 20/20

As much as I wanted to laugh and have a good time with him, I didn’t bother. By the end of the day, I just hung out by myself. My new friends from the parochial school loved Ari and I was miserable. The party hadn’t turned out how I wanted it to. Ari was the star of the show. People wanted to hang out with him. I was supposed to be the big deal but no one seemed to notice.

As I look back on the situation with 20/20 vision I realize now I shouldn’t have compromised who I was. At the time I knew it too. I didn’t trust myself enough to be happy being myself (who I was inside). I thought assimilating to the new culture was more import. Since then, every day I kicked myself for leaving Ari left out in the wind trying to make me laugh by have a good time.

Now, I am an adult and I hope my children don’t make the same mistake I made as a child. I pray they will be themselves no matter who is in front of them. I hope and pray they will unapologetically be themselves. As dad, I’ll clean up the pieces proudly so my children grow to be themselves.

 

Red Sister Book Review

Red Sister Book Review

On Goodreads I gave Red Sister by Mark Lawrence 5 stars. The long and short of it is: I didn’t want to stop reading the book.

From time to time, I purchase a book for my Kindle then buy the narration through Audible (I listen while traveling to and from work). Those kinds of books are special books. When listening to Red Sister I found every excuse to stay in the car or take detours going the long way to work. That’s because Red Sister is more than special, it’s spectacular. Listening to Red Sister had me pulling into the parking lot at work like…

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Elantris Book Review

Elantris Book Review

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson delivered on all fronts.Sanderson is a premiere author in the world of fantasy. If you are new to the Cosmere, this is his first widely published novel, so this is a good starting point.

I’ve read a number of Sanderson’s books (Steelheart, Firefight, Calamity, Awaking, & Warbreaker) and I have never been disappointed. The magic, powers, and easy writing style gets every reader hooked. I was so hooked I bought the Audible version to listen in the car. Before I finished reading Elantris I bought the Kindle edition because I knew this was the kind of book I wanted to read again and again. 

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One Parent Walking Out the Door

One Parent Walking Out the Door

My wife is incredible. Seeing her in action is like watching a conductor in front of an orchestra. However, there are times when one of us is getting ready to leave the house and things seem off. Do you ever feel like your kids are out of control at those times too? Don’t worry. You are not alone. My kids are that way too. You’re in good company whether you admit it or not. 

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Looking for Book Lovers and Literacy Specialists

Looking for Book Lovers and Literacy Specialists

Book Lovers, Teachers, Literacy Specialists

Avid readers and writers, I’d love to pick your brain on anything literacy. Teachers, book lovers, literacy specialist, you all have seen nearly every kind of reluctant reader and energetic reader. I want talk about success of building a reading life, possible book titles to share with kids or anything else you think important to developing the love for reading.

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Blood Song Book Review

Blood Song Book Review

Walking through the newly renovated town library, I stumbled upon one of my favorite books in the fantasy section. My eyes narrowed at the red words on the spine that read “Blood Song.” My hands grabbed the book of the shelf as if they had a mind of their own. I’ve read the book a number of times, but I’ve never written a review. Here goes.

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A Letter to My Mom

A Letter to My Mom

Recently I teamed up with an incredible mom blogger from down under. She runs All Things Mom Sydney. I was given the unreasonable task of writing a letter to my mother in 350 words. It was difficult because I’m pretty wordy and my mother encompasses more than 5 paragraphs. With that being said, I narrowed my focus. I wrote what I should have told her year ago.

Hamburgers!

A Letter To My Mom

Dear Mommy,

I know I don’t tell you this enough so here goes. Hamburgers.

Mother, I miss you cooking hamburgers. It’s cliché for people to tell stories about mom taking care of their needs at home. All that is true and more. Let me tell you why “hamburgers” is important to me.

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Second Child Blues

Second Child Blues

I used to have the second child blues, or at least I thought I did. For years, I always thought my parents just did what was convenient. You see, with me being a second child it seemed to me that my parents had me wear my brother’s hand me downs because the clothes wasn’t that worn out, yet. I always seemed to be in trouble because I broke everything. I had to do whatever activity my older brother was doing or had done. And as you could expect, the list goes on and on.

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The Society We Live In

The Society We Live In

Tonight I snuggled and hugged my 2 year-old son extra close. We watched his favorite movie instead of reading a bedtime story. The nighttime routine is sacred but in the light of the most recent shootings, I am at a loss for words.

I’ve almost always got something to say. I usually refrain from posting anything political or something can be taken the wrong way. I like my job. I don’t want social media to make providing for my family a challenge. BUT, I can’t believe there are people out there who are Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 9.24.41 AMnot outraged.

Last night as I watched news coverage into the early morning, I thought back to first day my mother let me ride my bike to the Bloomfield town pool with my brother. My mom said, “If a cop stops you, do what ever they say. If not, they’ll shot you dead in the street and go home to their own family. Don’t be a statistic.” If you’ve ever met my mother, you know she says outrageous things that’ll make your head spin. I thought my mother was losing it. Obviously I told me dad what she said. He looked at me and said, “You do whatever a cop tells you to. Whatever trouble you think you are in isn’t worse than being dead.”

I was in the third grade.

How many parents have had a similar conversation with their children? How many families have had to learn the hard way? Were my parents instilling a perverted version of reality? At the tender age of 8 I sure thought so. I still remember Officer Jennings coming into school. He told me police officers were going to keep me safe. If I needed something, they would be there to help me. But the message about police I was getting at home was eerily different than the one I received in school. At home it was duck your head and comply while in school it was the police are there to protect and serve.

As I grew older I realized the message coming from my parents about complying didn’t apply only for police. It applied to every aspect of life. When store clerks followed me through stores and demanded I turn out my pockets, I never told my parents. My parents would have assumed I was doing something suspicious. They’d have told me I was keeping bad company. They would have marched me in the store to apologize and I would have been punished at home. It took a bit of time but I learned only to speak my opinion in a small, trusted environment, never be the loudest voice in the room, and always play it safe.

Throughout high school and college I heard countless times, “Oh that’s Chris Bruff. He’s comes from a good family.” Magically, I’d be granted more opportunities. “You’re well spoken and a deep thinker.” Miraculously, my words no longer fell on deaf ears. Everybody, including myself, understands if you want to advance and do things in life that it is all about who you know and how you represent yourself. I took every advantage I could. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
As an adult I began to talk to my dad about things that happened. Lately I shared with him that people have said to me that I got my job because I am a black male. Apparently, that makes me an attractive candidate. What do you say when you hear that? Thanks. My dad would say in his Jamaican accent, “Just smile and make dem gwan.” So, I smile politely and work harder to earn my keep. I mean, it’s easy to get worked up about any and everything. You’d get nothing accomplished and prove their point about why I was hired.

In my opinion, the problem is greater than police shootings. There is a lot happening that culminates with police shootings. One of my best friends is a police officer and her husband is too. We’ve had long talks and friendly arguments about any and everything there is about race. She has assured me there are good and bad people in the world. Most often we don’t hear enough about the good officers who do the right thing day in and day out. All too often we hear a sensitive story that makes us question the people wearing blue uniforms who put their lives on the line. That isn’t my intention in this post either. I pray and hope that every officer does their job to the utmost degree, I’ve got a lot of livin’ to do.

I have developed a somewhat healthy respect of the police. I pretty much pray they don’t notice me. They usually do since I’m 6’2 and often I’m the only black guy in a room. When I’m not the only black guy in a room, it’s because I’m with more big black guys, like myself, who played sports. And that is when I pray to every god I’ve heard of that no one finds us intimidating. To be frank, I try to keep to the Rule of Three when I go out in public with other black people: One is a token, two is a intimidating, three or more is a gang.

My wife thinks it’s funny when I walk around my non-diverse town and I nod to all the black people I pass. She thinks it’s some kind of secret black person nod like fight club or something. Maybe she’s right. As I think about it, I usually look the person in the eye. If they’ve got the look in their eye like, “You may want to think twice about going the direction,” I need to know these kinds of things. Obviously, I’m being facetious. In all seriousness, seeing another friendly face that made it safely through the neighborhood is a welcoming sight.

Should I be thinking that way? Am I a product of parenting because my parents instilled a “ridiculous” fear in me when I was a child? Probably. Just a few days ago I was enjoying a beautiful day in my garden. With my recently sharpened pruners in hand, headphones in my ears and the volume turned all the way up, I turned when I saw a shadow on the ground and almost had a bowel movement. A squad car pulled up to the edge of my driveway. I put both hands up in the air as the officer opened the door and walked along the sidewalk to my neighbor’s house.

I kicked myself because I remember watching Cornbread getting shot in the back because of a misunderstanding in the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me. I don’t want a police officer showing up to my house, wondering why I am not responding while I am holding sharp tools and reaching down to he ground. No thank you.
Thinking about the future, I don’t even know what to tell my son when he gets older. I’ll have to start with, “You are black. People may judge you differently even though I’ve raised you to respect everyone the same.” I’ll wait up at night for him every time he leaves the house the same way my father and mother did when I lived at home. I’ll hope things will be different so my son can make it there and back again, no matter where there is.

I’ve got no idea what lead to the circumstances of both individuals losing their lives. Maybe we’ll never know. There is something I do know, one of those people who lost their lives could have been me. It could have been my brother, my cousin, my friend, a teammate, or a student of mine.

Long story short, I don’t want my son to grow up thinking it could be him.