Tag Archives: learning

The Reverend Mason Betha Devotional: Book of Life After Death, Chapter 10

Every Monday I will share an anecdote and/or existential life lesson based on teachings from your favorite rapper’s favorite pastor, Ma$e.

“Stay humble, stay low, blow like Hootie.”

Prosperity preachers often get a bad rap. The public perceive them as pompous and pious people who pillage Peter to pay themselves. Most miss the undercurrent of humility and thankfulness in their message. Ma$e is an expert propagator of this narrative.

Rev. Betha grew tired of speaking as a gun-toting product of his environment. His contribution to 112’s ode to showing one’s woman love the way God loves us all, “Only You (Bad Boy Remix),” aka “Songs of Solomon, 1996,” garnered the young man a clear path to success.

Spending time with a different crowd, M-A-Dollar Sign-E felt compelled to explain the entrapment of success with the world on a song called “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” The newcomer felt obligated to expound on modesty and servant leadership.

Had Cuda not schooled Mase to the game, he would not have known his duty. At 19 years old, the good reverend was “mostly Dolce down to the tube socks” because God sent Cuda Love to guide him.

The most salient advice Mr. Love had for his protégé  was given in one incomplete sentence: Stay humble, stay low, blow like Hootie. The seven-word parable was layered with information. There was a fictional tale about a black man who made country and rock music named Darius Rucker from South Carolina.

In this tall tale, Rucker was the lead singer of a band called the Blowfish. They toured the southern states of America playing to audiences that loved his music; but wasn’t too fond of the pigment of his skin. The racist crowds disliked Darius but loved his music so much. To get under his skin, these audiences referred to him as “Hootie,” a derogatory term for disgraceful music that originated with Bell BivDeVoe’s second album, Hootie Mack.

Rucker took the high road by “staying low.” He already stood out like a sore thumb as the one black guy everywhere he went; but the music was most important. Instead of making a fuss, he quietly changed the name of the quartet to Hootie and the Blowfish. They sold millions of records and whenever they asked if Darius was Hootie, he’d say “That’s just a name for the band.” Once again, this is all folklore…Charlie Pride and Nelly were the only two black people that made country music.

Ma$e told the world he never would have made it without mentorship and humility. Yes, he danced in tunnels, threw his Rolex in the sky and waived it side to side; but he was still the same ol’ pimp with a changed limp. Scholars have argued the Harlemite’s limp was because he too wrestled with God like Jacob in the book of Genesis; but that’s for another devotional.

We all need and have Cuda’s in our lives. They are the proverbial villages that raise us, tell us right from wrong, and give us guidance we often miss when directly displayed from the divine. Nelly too listened to Cuda’s fable of Hootie and the Blowfish; it worked out very well for him.

 

The Homework Struggle

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April 28 will mark one year since Cydney started preschool.  My first post on this blog was titled “I Wasn’t Ready,” in which I lamented about my then eighteen month old daughter starting daycare that ended with me saying “That first day is going to be a bitch.” (Looking back at that first post made me cringe. We all have to start somewhere so thanks to those who have been reading since day one).

Cyd is an exceptionally functioning four year old and preschool has played a major role in this.  She comes home, tells me about her day, what little fights she got into with the other little girls, and then it’s time to do homework.  I hate homework time.

One would think something as simple as tracing letters and coloring something in would be simple.  Hell no.  Theoretically, it should take no more than five minutes; but on average it might be about twenty and even a half hour some days.  Why?  Because it’s Cydney.  She wants to do her own thing.  Her teacher says that she listens very well but sometimes gets into her moods and can be difficult.  Cydney is extra difficult with me just because I’m daddy.

We sit down, we pull out the pencil, Cydney will trace one or two letters, then she blows a spit bubble, she’s a lefty and starts writing with her right hand saying “I’m both handed!”–which actually is something I encourage, jumps around, makes noises, and then gets started on the next letter.  The whole time I am saying “Cydney!” in a soft tone that crescendos to the point where sometimes I am yelling.  She jumps, gets back to it, and then repeats the cycle I mentioned at the top of this paragraph.  I feel like I need a drink and go to bed but it will be 5:30 pm.

As Cydney evolves, so do I.  If I see something isn’t working, I must be proactive in changing how things are done in a manner to get the results I am looking for.  Cydney is practically scared of the number five.  This is because whenever she is behaving in a manner I don’t deem suitable I begin to count down from five.  If I make it to “one,” she knows I just might pop her or something is getting taken away.  As soon as I say “five” slowly and in a calming voice she jumps as if I just came out of a bush and scared her.

The five count has been my solution to homework time.  For each letter she traces she gets five seconds.  I’m not going to do anything to her; but I think the timer helps push her.  I count from one to five and once I get to six I begin to count louder.  Some letters take a little longer than five seconds, so in those cases I take it easy.  It has worked.  Most of the time, homework is completed within five minutes.

Well, that is about to change.  Cydney is an incredibly bright child and gets bored in class.  In an effort to push her, Cydney’s teacher has been giving Cydney less letters to trace and she has to write the letters on her own.  It takes a little longer and Cydney feels the urge to celebrate every time she finishes a letter and it looks good on her own.  I’m okay with this kind of distraction because she is encouraged to keep trying.  Eventually I will have to figure something out when this is no longer new to her.

Two Years Later: What I Have Learned After Regaining Custody of My Daughter

On April 3, 2012 my mother and I left New York around midnight to drive to Hampton Virginia to get my daughter Cydney who had been in her grandparents’ custody since her mother Timile passed away months earlier.  For my new readers, this story can be read in detail here. We got to the Hampton Sherrff’s Department at 8 a.m.  I called my lawyer and told him that I was in Virginia to pick up my daughter.  Virginia law states that if a father has evidence that he is a biological parent then he can take his child.  Timile’s parents didn’t have legal custody of Cydney; she was just with them.  My lawyer said that if there were any issues to give him a call.  That wound up happening.  Cydney’s guardian as litem-court appointed lawyer to oversee what is in her best interest-was contacted and scheduled an impromptu temporary custody hearing for April 4 until the final hearing which was May 21st.  

I’ve had Cydney since the guardian ad litem granted my visitation the afternoon of April 3rd.  Ever since then things have been much sweeter.  Looking back on how the last four years have played out there has been a lot to think about.  The stress that has come along with it has began to overwhelm me recently as I have been running without too much time to process what has transpired or even just to grieve.  It’s been one thing after another.  I looked at myself in the mirror while getting my hair cut yesterday and didn’t like what I saw.  My barber 360 is a good friend of mine and he looked at me and said “Are you alright?”  He knows what I’ve been going through and has been someone I’ve talked to through these last couple of months.  My eyes aree always red, the bags under my eyes are dark, I’ve lost a lot of weight because I don’t even eat regularly–I look a mess.  I look like someone who is in need of a vacation and when I get one just turn my phone off.

With all of that said would I do everything again had I known how things would turn out?  Absolutely.  I will never forget the first time I cried to Timile.  It had been maybe three weeks into when we started dating.  Out of nowhere I was just overwhelmed with sadness.  She asked me what was wrong.  My response was “I think I’m gonna lose you.”  I didn’t know how or when but I had just felt that one day she was going to be gone.  I was right and for the last two months having that conversation after watching The Godfather 3 on my couch in Atlanta has been ringing in my head and I have pictured the moment as vividly as the day it happened.  If I knew then what I know now I would still follow almost all of the same chains of events.  I wouldn’t change the arguments, the breaks, the good times, or even all of the struggle and stress that came along when she got sick and after she passed away.  They defined me.  They made me a man.

I may not be anywhere near my goals in life, but this process has made me a very strong individual.  While I am much more cynical and I am still a big kid who is optimistic and faithful that things will turn out for the best.  I am hardened a little more but I think that since I haven’t lost all of myself or even faith in people is a testament to my resilience and is something else.  I don’t think God would have placed me through the things that He has if I wasn’t built for it.  I am very self-aware and a healthy paycheck every two weeks from fully being self-actualized.  

Honestly, I probably would be much worse off if I didn’t have Cydney through all of this.  Being the father to a little girl makes me smile more and has brought out my inner teddy bear because I really love to hug, kiss, and cuddle with my baby girl.  I would have lost the rest of me that is silly if I had a son because I would be seeing the world as a cold place and would have tried to make him a man way too young.  I smile more than I used to (I didn’t really smile at all before).  My laugh [sometimes] is more than a nonchalant smirk that comes out of the corner of my mouth.  I make an effort to communicate way more than I did before.  I have a patience that just might rival Job and the spirit of Nehemiah .  Sike; they got me beat by a long shot but I feel like it in my head.

From a relationship standpoint I have all of the confidence in the world.  While I am still very shy I am fearless.  I’m pushing thirty but I can say that I have lived every vow one takes on their wedding day.  While most people I still interact with or have dated are still figuring out how to sustain a relationship or get married I know how to do it.  Sure everyone is different but the process is always the same.  I’ve lived through pregnancy, and I am a father.  I am thankful and blessed because I can say that God made someone for me to learn how to love, the unconditional service that comes along with it, bore me a child to learn responsibility and how to make things happen for her.  This wasn’t just for me…it was for whoever I choose to marry.  Not that I think super highly of myself but that person is incredibly blessed that God made all of this happen for that woman.  Cydney and I will be handfuls but it’ll be worth it.

Two years ago today I had no idea what life would be like.  I didn’t even know what Cydney really looked like that morning.  But I say all of this to say that adversity may seem like a hindrance but it is in face defining.  Another conversation I had with Timile when she’d told me about her childhood was I explained to her the process of gold.  As a mineral it first takes millions of years to develop.  Someone recognizes that it as something potentially of value and then plucks it from it’s natural habitat.   It has to go through the fire, be melted down to liquid, molded into shape, and then polished before you see what we consider valuable.  Gold may melt but it does not fear the flame.

The process is in fact perfect even if we do not see that while we’re going through it.  That is what I have learned these last two years.

 

Starting Preschool At Home With Cydney

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Cydney may not be in school, but we’re starting homework. She’s really smart and it’s time to get started. My mother came up with the idea of giving her stuff to do that kids in preschool do. She has a book where we’re starting off with sight words, coloring in shapes, and counting. She can already identify colors in English, a few in Spanish, and can count to ten in both languages (she’s been able to do that for well over a year). I looked up a decent preschool schedule so I can get her acclimated before she starts hopefully in April.

I’m also going to work on her Spanish. Mine is God awful now, but if I practice and just read to her she’ll pick it up. She knows what it is. When I say to her “hola” she responds “I’m not Dora!”

Here are some pictures from the first session:

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She's a lefty but she will switch it up.

Confident Parenting

In my college Educational Psychology class, my professor mentioned two things that have stood out to me for the last seven years: 1) Children are geniuses until they’re five years old.  Parents mess it up. 2) A child’s fears are learned behavior they pick up from their parents.

I want to expound on these.  It does take a genius to take a blank canvas who learns to talk just from hearing words being spoken around them and be able to express one’s self with those same words and phrases.  If you speak several languages to a child they can decipher on their own which language is which without any explanation.  It’s difficult to do as an adult.  Their world is nothing but observation that they mimic and form the bedrock of their own personalities.  If you’re afraid of spiders and your kids see it, more than likely they will be afraid of spiders as well.

When it comes to Cydney, I do my best to not let her see the fearful side of me.  I’m not afraid of much, but I have my moments.  She rarely sees me sad, with a frown, or even moments of doubt.  All she knows is daddy who smiles and handles all situations accordingly.  In spite of hard times, handle and walk into all situations confidently.  At this point, that’s all she knows.  It’s paid off.  Naturally, Cydney is a shy person.  When I first regained custody of her, she used to hide behind my legs when people would say hi to her and interact.  When she warmed up, she would come to life.

Nowadays, Cydney is still a little shy.  However, she is much more inclined to speak first to people.  It depends on her setting.  If we are out and about at a store, she is hesitant to say hi back when someone speaks to her.  When she is in a social setting, she will talk to any and everybody confidently and someone becomes the life of the party.

I like that Cydney is so confident.  While she may be a little shy by nature, she pushes past that and it shows.  People gravitate to confident and charismatic people.  It insinuates that one is self-aware and that is a quality people spend their whole lives trying to reach.  This comes from what she sees, she mimics.  I want Cydney to be a better version of her mother and me.  She has the rest of her life in which people will try to tear her down and damage her self-esteem.  Even at the times that she is temporarily knocked down, it will not be for long.  I think that is one of the top three most important things I can teach my child.

Watch The Throne-Potty Training pt. 9: Pee Like a Dinosaur

I went into potty training hardcore last month. One day it was diapers, the next day it was panties and I didn’t look back; well until about a week ago. I went back to pull ups. Pull ups made me lazy. They made potty time less urgent. There was a reason for it though. Since we’ve been running around a lot it made sense. Traveling on the bus to DC, being at weddings, and such made it convenient to not have to be constantly changing outfits while being out and about. As opposed to asking about the potty every hour, its been more like every three hours or so and a few accidents along the way. She still lets me know when she has to go though. Today, Cydney took it upon herself to take down her own pants and attempt to potty today.
Whenever Cydney goes, I have to go too. After she goes, she asks for paper towel and says “Daddy’s turn!” I have to drink plenty of fluids to keep this up. I mentioned this before. Its become a game. The new game is “Pee like a _____.” I’ve been told to pee like a Daddy, a turtle, and a mermaid. Always confused how to do so, I get creative. Peeing like a bird required flapping my arms like wings and making tweet noises. That was interesting since as a man I’m standing and doing this. Her favorite one is peeing like a dinosaur. I don’t even know how she knows what these things are. I assume its Nick Jr educating my child on such animals and such. This requires doing hands like a tyrannosaurus rex walking to the toilet, doing one’s business and roaring simultaneously. Whatever, you do what you gotta do to make the kids smile.

Jaded

I had a conversation with my mother yesterday. She told me that my nephew was heartbroken the other day from our first go round of tossing the football around. He signed up for football in August and he’s excited about it. He told my mother that he needs to practice throwing the ball with me every day to get ready.

Now, I can relate to that. When I was eight, all I wanted to do was play football. My parents wouldn’t let me because they were a little nervous. Whenever I could, I wanted to play it in the streets with the kidso or at recess. That summer of 1994 I watched Little Giants so many times I still know all the words to it (Side note: Timile got me the DVD one year for Christmas. That was the kind of thing that made her awesome).

When we went outside to throw the ball around I showed him how to hold his hands so he doesn’t get hit and how to catch properly. He wasn’t getting it and the ball kept hitting him in the chest, and stung his fingers a few times and he was crying. I was operating under the mantra of he’s gonna hate this feeling so he’ll figure out how to hold his hands up. No matter how much he cried, he got up and was determined to keep going and I was impressed by his will.

When my mother told me about how he felt I understood. She told me that I have to remember what its like to be his age. I remember that excitement he had and the encouragement my father gave me in those times. The hard thing for me is that I’ve become a little jaded. While deep down I am still a big kid I have become so bogged down with being an adult and all that has come along with my last three years its been difficult for me. Recognizing that is a start to doing something about it.

Yes, I’m hard on him because everyone else is kinda soft. My mother is grandma to him all the while doing mom things on a day to dat basis. Grandmas are supposed to let you get away with murder and spoil you. Maybe its that you’ve already raised your kids so you’ve seen the being tough route doesn’t work and much more. She said to me to look at his circumstances and that neither she nor I know what that’s like or how it will effect him later. His father has never been around and his mother his doing what she needs to do to take care of him, but that isn’t in New York with him.

She said she looks at Cydney and feels sad as well because she doesn’t have her mother. I know that not having a parent effects both my nephew and Cydney. I just don’t think about those things often. Once again, I’m in the routine of trying to make things happen I don’t sit back and think about the circumstances that effect them. When I make assessments I figure those things out, but then I go right to trying to fix the problem. Maybe doing both at the same time is that parenting thing that grandparents have figured out new ones haven’t just yet.