Tag Archives: parenting

Hiatus

By mid-August, I was approximately halfway through a series on Instagram I’d dubbed #Summer97: several 200+ word essays I wrote once a day. As I concentrated on the music that inspired my current worldview, I’d hit a creative zone. I was approximately two weeks away from celebrating the five year anniversary of this very blog and felt great. One day, it all came to a screeching halt.

It was a rainy afternoon in Lower Manhattan. I stood outside of my 9-5 on my lunch break and began my then-daily ritual of planning my #Summer97 post. I looked up from my phone and noticed a man that made direct eye contact with me. Without breaking connection, the man walked over and said “You’re a lucky man. You always find yourself in a lucky position and things work out for you.”

I replied with a customary thank you. The man then iterated “But your luck will soon run out.”

A little confused, I gave the guy a look as if he needed to repeat himself; he did. The second time, he explained that while I am a lucky man, things are about to change.

The New Yorker in me almost told son to his face a mantra I live by: I create my own luck, b. I decided not to pull a Chad and run my mouth. I thought before I spoke and realized this man looked as if he had been outside all afternoon; but he was bone dry and wasn’t carrying an umbrella. He must have been a Yogi or Shaman or some shit; he definitely had a spiritual aura. In retrospect, I should have known that. However, I didn’t want to stereotype him by his attire.

I am a firm believer in a spiritual realm in which people have been blessed with gifts; apparently the dry Shaman in the rain’s was to see spirits and their potential trajectory. We conversed for about five minutes. He even told me what I should do to change what seemed to have been a change in my luck.

Boy was that guy right. However, all of the squeezing lemon juice around my neck, doing the hokey pokey, and turning myself around that Dry In the Rain Man suggested to change things around would not have altered what would happen next.

A few weeks after this encounter, life got very intense. My workload increased drastically, my uncle died unexpectedly, familial issues on steriods, school started for Cydney, and of course girl problems were in there, too. At some point, I can and maybe will go into detail about some of all that went on. It became difficult to channel this negative energy into my creativity. Before I knew it, all of my artistic innovation momentum ceased.

There was another way to look at all of what happened. I have believed for some time I created my own luck. Rarely-if ever-have I prayed for anything twice. I felt as if doing so is a lack of trust in the God I serve; a lack of faith, so to speak. My mantra for life is “Everything will work out because I’m me.”

I could have continued to push through, write, and do all of the above simultaneously. My imaginative impetus would have continued and the work could have been great. But it wouldn’t have had direction or that umph behind it that would have been the difference between entertainment and something meaningful.

For the past five months, I have been asked several times by readers, followers, fans, friends, and family when I would write again. I’d reply with some variation of “soon.” I meant to and meant well but life just kept happening. In some capacity or another, I have written close to 1,000,000 words. On average, I penned approximately 2,000 a day and other times I’d binge out 30,000 in a week. I grew tired of my focus being on the same things, over and over again.

In spite of no published material, there has been plenty to catch you all up with. The dust has begun to settle. Somewhere between faith and practicing what I preached, it was time to begin telling the tales again.

Advertisements

The Eulogy I Couldn’t Give My Uncle

December 6, 2017. Today would have been my Uncle Jeffrey’s 55th birthday. Unfortunately, God called him home three months ago and my familial dynamic has been very different.

I knew I was speaking at my uncle’s memorial service; I wasn’t quite sure what I’d say. He was a street guy, so there were many things I wanted to say that would have been inappropriate in a church. So I wrote them all down:

Can I kick it? Well, I’m gone…

Friends, family, and acquaintances: you are waiting for me to finally say one thing and one thing only; so we will all say it together: Chad, you look just like your uncle.

Second only to “I can’t with you,” the phrase “Chad you look just like Jeff” is the most popular phrase I hear regularly. Walking down the street, a lady walked up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and said “Hey Jeff!” I didn’t want to make her feel bad by saying “I’m his nephew.”

It is difficult to speak in Grace United Methodist Church about Jeffrey Mumford without there being some “Murdock Ave” moments in this eulogy. Also, humor is my coping mechanism; I just want to get that out of the way before I get started.

There are times in which my mother cannot stand me because I remind her of my father. On the other hand, my mother and I get along very well because I remind her of her brother.

I am a lot like my uncle. We’re both Sagittarius’s, tall, charming, funny, and have a tapered haircut with curls, a mustache and goatee that don’t connect because Mumford men are babyfaces…and forgetful (word to the beef I had with him when I was six years old when he borrowed my Mickey Mouse watch and I had to ask him incessantly for it back).

All jokes aside, I looked up to my uncle. He was cool; he was respected in the streets, and just had an aura about him. My earliest memories of him are him mixing records and my grandmother’s basement, looping the break in “Yes We Can, Can,” by the Pointer Sisters, over and over. He was the person in my family that was hip hop and I loved that.

We shared an affinity for getting into trouble for marching to the beat of our own drum with a disruptive cadence. On elementary school field trips, I was the kid that needed his own chaperone; and Uncle Jeffrey was the one that would come along (and all the girls thought he was so cute); we’d have a great time, too.

The day before my first baseball game, right over there at Peter’s Field off Liberty Ave, he took me in my grandmother’s back yard, drew home plate on the ground with a crayon, and showing me how to swing when someone is pitching the ball.

My uncle was that uncle; the wild uncle that said and did fairly crazy shit. Nonetheless, that was part of what made him charismatic. Somewhere between nature and nurture, I picked a lot up from him. As a teenager, we would drive around Queens and he taught me valuable lessons my parents couldn’t; that’s what uncles do.

With the latest mixtapes as the soundtrack, we drove around South and Northside Jamaica, and he would tell me about his life while dropping gems. I learned how to roll a blunt from my uncle, what to roll one with (Never use papers or Philly’s. Dutches-NY for Dutch Masters cigars-burn slower); as well as how to properly smoke weed while driving (You keep a slight crack in the driver’s side window. It blows directly out the window like a vent and doesn’t smell up the car)….I didn’t smoke weed at the time; but those words wound up being useful information at another point in my life. My uncle was the first person to let me hold a gun and taught me how to shoot using a beebe gun in my grandmother’s basement (those holes are still in the wall).

During our walks and drives, he would tell me stories about his adult life. He knew how much we were alike and felt as if telling me was a second chance for him to do what he chose not to. “Let me tell you about hoes…” was his way of informing me that women can be a distraction and loyalty to one was more important (“But if you do, strap up,” he’d say). He would tell me to stay away from drugs by giving me his encounters with wise words such as “Withdrawal is a bitch.”

My uncle was a street guy and I picked up some of his nuances. In no way am I a street guy; but I know how to conduct myself in that manner. It’s the underlying edge I have that every once in a while slips out and I say some fairly hood shit…I’ve seen girlfriends of mine who didn’t know that side of me at all scrunch up their face in disbelief and ask “What did you just say?!”

We’re both frustratingly nonchalant and made a joke out of everything. The stoic face was-and is-the setup for a hilarious punchline we’d say out of the corner of our mouths if you were close enough to hear it. As recently as Easter Sunday, we joked around, saying that if we didn’t make fun of you, we’re not really your friend.

Hip hop was our covalent bond. We listened to A Tribe Called Quest a lot (my second beef in life with him was at 16, when I had to repeatedly ask “Can I have my anthology CD back?!). He knew Kid Hood from the “Scenario Remix.” Hood told my uncle he got on the record and was killed the next day. He told me how he’d played ball with Tribe at St. Albans Park, Phife sucked, and my uncle busted his ass. So I guess the last thing I have to say is I hope he makes it his business to catch up to Kid Hood and tear Phife up in that rematch.

But now for what we’ve all been waiting for: I was driving the other day, with my cap not fully on my head and cocked to the back, and my glasses on as I rapped along to whatever I was listening to. I was finally able to admit to myself “Damn, I look like my uncle.”

Letter To Timile Pt. 2

Timile,
The other day was the first time I’d spoken to you in a very long time. It was rude of me to not have said a word in God knows how long and the first thing I did was vent. Telling you “I’m just tired of this shit,” in reference to several things going on. That was selfish of me. 

While I’m aware you’re looking down, you can’t see my thoughts; but you’ve been on my mind a lot recently. Well, I shouldn’t say that. You frequently cross my mind; nonetheless, it’s different these days. 

What’s prompting this letter was a conversation I had with Chase the other day. I laughed about him being married and the talk of having a kid. It was really funny hearing him of all people sound so domesticated. He sounded like someone in his thirties; but I still remember the 18 year old I met at orientation that wore his collar popped up all of the time. It’s funny because our peers are at the age where they’re settled down and starting families…they’re just catching up to us 10 years ago and couldn’t relate to our lives in 2007. I’ll never forget the time I went to visit Devin in DC a few years ago and this guy left because he and his wife were having a family meeting…it was just the two of them, so every conversation they had was a family meeting. That was the same guy who didn’t quite “get it” when I moved differently because of you.

Anywho, in the conversation, I was telling Chase how I recently lied to someone to get out of explaining myself and you were a part of it. He asked if I felt bad about having to do so. I told him “Not one bit,” knowing that you would’ve understood. You know how we did; we shut people up by any and all means.

In our talk, I told Chase that my time with you feels like a lifetime ago, we both more or less have moved on. A couple of years back, Cydney first told me you were married; then he was just a boyfriend and eventually it evolved to “He was just a boy who is your friend.” So I kind of want to talk relationships with you.

So who is he? I’m happy for you, so I’m curious and would like to know more. There are just so many options up there I presume and it’d better not be someone from the bible or something. How’d y’all meet? Not like I’d really understand because Heaven is kind of past my realm of understanding right now. How’d he die? Is it a he? You could have a girlfriend and Cydney didn’t quite know how to explain it. I have so many questions because I’m a curious guy.

You know none of this comes from a jealous place. I told you when we first started talking, when a man’s on his job, there’s no need to seek anything else…and did the best I could to live up to that. There were times you went astray and in retrospect, I understood. We were young, still living in a world of ideals, and experience hadn’t equipped us with an arsenal to combat the not-so-great times. No matter what, there was never any question of where my loyalty lied.

You’ve seen where I’ve been these days. I can’t seem to escape the wildly dramatic stuff. I be feeling like Carlito’s Way: Every time I get out, I get pulled back in, pull off the caper, try to flee town, and there’s Benny Blanco from the Bronx popping three off in the stomach in point-blank range…I’m trying. But on the other side of that coin, this shit is kind of fun. Whenever I do settle down again, there will be no regrets or stones left unturned…I needed that.

One of the most relevant aspects of our relationship helped me grow was learning how to argue. I used to get my ass kicked in our disputes. Then I became a writer, I remembered learned lessons of backing up my premise with convincing points and facts that can’t be refuted. In my interpersonal relationships with women, I may lose the fight; but I’m going to win the argument. Actually winning the argument is why I’ll lose the fight. I’m okay with that.

Underneath all of my bullshit, I’m still a teddy bear inside. That side just doesn’t get to be seen by anyone outside of my daughter and well…you know. The person that I am at 32 years old, you wouldn’t stay with. Not because I’m some bad person or we wouldn’t have been able to work it out; I have just evolved. There’s a possibility that maybe it would have worked out because we would have grown together. But that wasn’t God’s plan, so I don’t want to go down that lane and second guess perfection, nahmean?

Shit, if you’re married or whatever up there, I’m still trying to grow up and be like you. I presume dating in Heaven is different than on Earth. For starters, I’m on Earth and you’re in something…that in itself makes a big difference. I’m sure whoever made the cut was someone who knows who I am and because he too is in paradise, is happy for Cydney and I, and doesn’t really have a care in the world or insecurity. That shit is really dope. 

Down here, you’ve been the elephant in the room a few times. And I guess I understand that, especially since a few of these people I have dated were people who knew you. I just chuckled because I just heard you saying “Tell them to stop acting like little bitches,” in your snarky tone. Years ago, I had a very interesting conversation with one of these young ladies who said they were a little wary because they feel like you’d be mad. You and I both know there’s only one person you’d really be mad if I dated/talked to and that actually happened about five years ago. I reassured her that you would be happy if I chose her. You and I know you’d be happy because she doesn’t look like what you were afraid I’d cheat on you with.

Either way, I’m just chillin’ and so is Cydney. She’s really trying to marry me off. She wants younger siblings badly. I think she’s tired of being the bottom of the totem pole and wants someone to boss around. But really, she wants me to be happy first and second, finally fill that familial void she’s missing. But that little girl no matter what just wants me to be happy and find happiness. She calls me on my shit all the time. Holy fuck I’ve never heard a kid talk so much about when I need to find a girl by. Cyd said by September, I need to find a girlfriend so that we can all go to WBLS’ Circle of Sisters. I’m sure it’s killing you that Cydney is really Chad Milner, Jr.

This was a great talk I think. I will make sure I do this more often. This season of my life is a transitional one. I’m rapidly evolving and experiencing some growing pains. As of today, I like to think of our relationship as if we were divorced but still really good friends. There’s still love; but no “what if’s” because we just weren’t compatible as lovers. We’re Winny and Kevin from The Wonder Years…

Until next time,

Solo 

Father’s Day Hangover Pt. 2

One of the cards I received Sunday…

​Maybe one of my favorite all-time movie dads, King Jaffe Jofer was right when he said “There is a thin line between love and nausea.” I wake up with a hangover every Monday after Father’s Day. I wonder if I’m the only person who feels like this. It’s possible so much recognition causes my body to go into shock and it needs to recover.
The gifts, the BBQ’s, brunches, and what have you are all cool (I’m jealous of you rare dads that get to have alone time that weekend). The reason why Father’s Day means so much to us patriarchs is very simple: validation for our work.

In spite of some issues, Father’s Day was amazing. My daughter Cydney wanted to have a barbeque for me and my favorite people-unfortunately my dad couldn’t make it-in attendance. My nephew wanted to try lemon pepper wings; I made that happen and he loved them. I taught Cydney how to ride a two-wheel bike. I got cards with handwritten notes from my kids and my best friend…and I contributed to a video for Attn: that racked over 100k views. My work was working.

Over the past week, I have been giving the word validation a substantial amount of thought. My good friend, K-Star made a joke in our group chat and it resonated with me. After every clever quip he made, he followed with “Good one, K-Star.” I thought it was brilliant.

K went on to say that he had been giving himself hi-fives all week and it made him feel great. Somewhere between finding it funny and believing my friend, I gave it a shot. I first tried it in the group chat and it felt pretty good. I then tried it out in real life. While working at my desk at a job I’m not too enthralled about, I gave myself these little hi-fives after completing each task. 

K-Star pointed out the elusive obvious, or the thing that was right in front of us and we didn’t see it. How often do we validate ourselves? More often than not, people tend to let their insecurities drive them. Our brains are wired to unconsciously push us into circumstances for us to say “I knew I was _____! See?!” The balance to this is that people have a slightly exaggerated viewpoint of themselves as well. For as much as we try to coerce ourselves into thinking we aren’t good enough, we do the same to say “I am great.”

More often than not, we look outward for this validation. There is nothing wrong with that because we are human creatures. However, we tend to neglect the person who matters the most: us. 

An hour after K shared his epiphany, I felt amazing. As a very competitive person, I wanted to keep finding things to do to tell myself “Good one, Chad.” My mood changed. I began to ask better questions and finish tasks in record time at work. My writer’s block completely went away and I began to pen a fairly ambitious project. Something as simple as giving myself an inner hi-five was the beginning of a paradigm shift.

By the time Sunday came along, external validation had greater intrinsic value. Maybe I felt hungover because my body was in shock from all of the validation. Good one, Chad. Good one, K-Star.

I think all of you reading this should give this a shot. Do it for a day and let me know how it made you feel.

Little Women’s Intuition

To be six years old, Cydney Milner’s ability to read people is nothing short of Godlike. Underneath all of her quirks, clamors for attention, and always something to say is a keenly observant little girl who pays attention to everything.

My daughter is becoming a girl. I don’t mean in the sense she likes pink and princess-y things; she is beginning to think like a girl. To be honest, that freaks me out a little bit. As a twin, I witnessed the stages, thoughts, and behaviors girls go through in real-time. She has begun the cognitive evolution that will result in a disconnect in how she interprets information from me.

I guess the perfect phrase to describe what I am witnessing from the apple of my eye is little women’s intuition. As a guy, I wholly believe that such a thing exists; but I have witnessed so many adult women swear on this phenomena and be dead wrong (I’ll save this for another post because Lord knows I have lots to say). Nonetheless, Cydney seems to be very in-tune to nuances and behavioral patterns. Because she is an extroverted kindergartner, she completely lacks filter and needs to express herself or she’ll burst at the seams. 

Cydney’s “little women’s intuition” most often surfaces around my dating life. It makes perfect sense because the end result of whomever I choose affects her life as well. Cyd knows what she and I want, who I like and who likes me, and who is truly a platonic friend. Since she was two years old, my child has done things such as walk off to a table of women knowing I’d have to follow, told a girl “you’re flirting with my dad,” arranged meet-ups, and a litany of other ways to tell me “cut the shit, Daddy.” At four years old, my daughter told me what her mission was: I’m the bait, and you reel them in. I’m thankful Cydney knows nothing about sex; otherwise she’d call out tension, every time. 

The force is strong with my little one. I let her filter-free forthrightness rock because feelings are abstract and the older we get, the more we keep them to ourselves. She knows when I am searching for an answer and can’t find it, so she blurts it out. To most, her words get written off as a kid saying the darndest thing; but I know she’s dead serious. Statements like “You’re not here for me, you’re here to see my dad” could easily be followed with a wink directed at me.

My daughter calls me out, also. She knows that I get in my own way and who better to assist? Moments like “You’re just happy you got to face time with [redacted]!” are her ways of telling me to not be so nonchalant and girls need to see that. That may be my biggest hurdle, playing things down. Without knowing all of the details of relationships, I get the feeling my kid wants to grab me, shake me, and say “DADDY BE THE WAY TO HER THAT YOU ARE WITH ME, DUH!” If I asked her, she would say “Yep.”

I ran into a friend from high school at a 7eleven a few weeks ago. As we caught up, the friend asked me how I have been. I gave my cliché answer “Just keeping busy and out of trouble.” Out of nowhere, my daughter chimed in “I like you being single, Daddy,” and gave me the biggest hug. The truth is she loves that she has me all to herself; but she doesn’t want it to be that way for much longer.

From One Single Father To Another: A Letter To Myself

​I didn’t remember what today was until Facebook reminded me. I have posted the same picture every morning and this year, it slipped my mind.
Five April 4th’s ago, I waltzed out of court with custody of my daughter. My mother-who had breast cancer-related surgery a week before-and I drove from New York to Virginia to disrupt the five months of Cydney living with her grandparents. That was the beginning of my happily ever after and the genesis of my adventures as a single dad.

It no longer feels like a big milestone; it’s been five years. A lot of the traumatic experiences and hardships that made 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 feel like a lifetime ago. Nonetheless, I do feel like it is healthy to acknowledge that time; but keep it moving. 

Hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. If we know where we are going, life would be no fun. However, it feels good to revisit old memories because one’s present is a culmination of past experiences. I’m sitting here asking myself if there was anything 31 year old Chad Milner could tell himself on April 4, 2012, what would that be? Fuck it…here goes nothing:

Ayo Chad,

If you could write me back, the first thing you should say is “Damn, you look good! Facial hair and all the weight off was the move.”

Anywho…You deserve how you’re feeling right now. While it is an uncertainty to us both, I believe Timile is smiling down on ya; shit, on both of us. Remember this feeling.
The reason I’m telling you to remember how you feel at this very moment is because the most important advice I can give you is to treat all victories-big and small-like right now. Not only will that keep you sane, it’ll become part of the charm that’ll continue to bring you good fortune. You attract what you currently are; so gratefulness will bear greatness.

All of these years of writing are finally going to pay off. You have spent almost all of your life writing music, only to feel lost, some resentment towards Timile for the decision, and all that shit, b. It will not be for naught. You have been developing a unique voice and people around the world will “Read it because I-we-wrote it.” Hell, all of that arguing with Timile and losing badly will turn into an asset because you will always stick to your point and back everything up.

You will spend a lot of time alone. Debt will rack up and you will be hustling continuously; but don’t let that stress you out. I know how you feel about being along, especially after we’ve been through. Look at it as well-spent time reflecting. I’m not going to tell you to not smoke because as backwards as it may sound, it’s a cathartic breathing exercise and many of your greatest ideas will come while exhaling poison. You’re going to quit, anyways.

For the first five years, December 9th -the day Timile died-won’t be a good day. Not because you will be sad; but that will be the day everyone will unconsciously deem “Let’s push Chad to his limits.” I’m not even going to tell you to shrug that shit off. Get mad and put that bass in your voice; people need to see that you’re human. As much as people will fuck with you that day, they will understand.

Do a better job at being human. Our experiences have toughened us; but you need to let people in a little more. Most of your articulating how you feel will be through text; but it will make you a better writer and readers will be able to feel you. Everything works out for a reason.

Life is going to get really interesting. What most people think is beyond crazy will just be another day for you. Nothing will ever be too hurtful that you can’t find the humor in it. You will find yourself getting closer to God through your shared twisted and ironic humor.

There will be women…lots of them. But hey, what’s the first word of your brand and site? Single. That shit is going to be lots of fun and a shit ton of drama. Believe it or not, you will learn the most about yourself in these five years through the ones you date. You will fall in love, you will have your heart broken, you will break hearts, you will piss a lot of people off and all of that. No matter what, remember this: whether it’s one date or a lifetime, do your best to treat them how you’d want someone to treat Cydney. In fact, they are all “Cydney” to someone.

Speaking of Cydney, that little girl right there is something else. She’s a wrecking ball. She is you and Timile if y’all had a baby and that’s entertainingly scary. She’s smart. She pays attention to every little thing you do because she will follow you everywhere you go. She’ll be your good luck charm.

Cydney will require a lot of patience. The amount of physical, mental, and spiritual endurance she will require will really make a man out of you. As much as you’re raising her, she’s raising you. Five years later, I’m still wondering what is God’s reason for the amount of fortitude this little girl requires. But you’ve been built and primed for it.

Also, your nephew is watching you. You are the day-to-day male role model for him. You’re going to be hard on him; almost too hard. But fuck it, everyone else is kind of soft and lets him get away with murder. Just keep him from being too smart for his own good. 

You have to let him win sometimes. Nah, fuck that. Actually, no you do. He’ll need that to boost his confidence because he is looking at you right now like “I want to be just like my uncle.” It’s kind of scary because you’re not used to dealing with kids that are his age. It’ll be all good, though. 

Get some words of wisdom from your grandmothers. They are going to understand you more than anyone else will. Stine won’t be around for much longer; but she’s gonna plant some seeds. Connie is still here and is about to be 90…she’s living proof of what life is all about. Talk to Donnell Tyler at least once a week. He’s going to hold you down until 2015. He goes, too; but goddamn it’ll be time well spent.

Live like tomorrow isn’t promised. That is no longer just some phrase to you; it is now applied knowledge. We have no regrets about Timile passing away because we let her know how we felt. Do that shit with everyone, yo. Everyone ain’t gonna do it back but that’s not why we do it.

Take joy in the little things. Annoy Cydney and Courtney because that shit is fun. Work on music with your dad. Your mother can’t take a joke; but keep teasing her. Clean up around the house a little more…that’s her love language. Don’t write your sister off; while you are twins, you have your own paths to walk and hers is glorious.

Don’t sweat the little shit because it’ll turn into big shit and because shit is real, we don’t need any more shit. Stop forgetting all of the little logistical things…

I think that’s all I got for you right now. Yep…no formal closing because you’re me and I’m you, so you know what it is.

There’s no need to right any wrongs; they’re all a part of the process.

Oh…things are going to get really interesting in about a year. Your greatest story begins April 2013. You’ll just know.

The Reverend Mason Betha Devotional: Moses, Aaron, and Blinky Blink

Every Monday I will share an anecdote and/or existential life lesson based on teachings from your favorite rapper’s favorite pastor, Ma$e. This week’s installment is a day late but never a dollar short.
“Now Angelica’s the one with all the exposure. Dil is the one who drop in the stroller. Tommy got the whole world on his shoulders. And Dil cries to sleep ’til his eyes get bleak. I couldn’t be Chuckie, Chuckie to petro[fied]. Chuckie get scared, Chuckie says “Let’s go.” If I was a Rugrat, it would’ve been so real. Me and my twin would’ve been just like Phil and Lil.”

By the fall of 1998, Mason Betha’s platform for had him sitting on top of the world. He even wrote a song about it (That’s for another devotional). Many top acts of the time solicited the good reverend and his ministry of self-love, self-awareness, and prosperity to magnify their own music.  

Somewhere between promoting his debut album and Harlem shaking the sophomore jinx with Double Up, Mase was going through a rough time. His first album had sold four million copies and his flame burned white hot. When mo’ money lead to mo’ problems, the Bad Boy found difficulty listening to his inner voice and preach.

In the middle of penning a piece about following man-made religions vs relationships with God called “Niggas Done Started Somethin’,” Mason received a phone call that changed everything. Legendary producer Teddy Riley solicited Rev. Betha’s services on for a song on the soundtrack to Nickelodeon’s full-length biopic, Rugrats, the Movie. Unsure of his own capabilities, Mase agreed to participate under the condition that his childhood friend, Blinky Blink gets to share the spotlight.

As he drove a car shaped like Reptar the dinosaur, Betha dropped the loaded gem mentioned at the beginning of this post. On the surface, it seems as if he is rapping about the characters of the film; he is referring to himself and how we all are Rugrats.

While he confidently sang, danced, and refused to keep his eyes on the road, Mase felt like Chucky. He was scared and needed inspiration; a Tommy so to speak. He remembered the story of Moses who was afraid to face the Pharaoh and free his people on his own. To boost his confidence, God sent Moses’ brother as accompaniment and the rest is history. In that moment, Blinky Blink was the Tommy to Mase’s Chucky/the Aaron to his Moses.

Being a little transparent, I related to Mase’s words. Had life been a little different, he and his twin sister, Stason Betha. For those who are familiar with the Rugrats chronicles, fraternal twins Phil and Lil did everything together; but fought like cats and dogs. 

Being a twin can make for an interesting dynamic. The phrase “Born alone, die alone,” doesn’t apply to us (I too have a twin sister). Sometimes this can cause difficulty in one finding their own voice and ultimately having more “Chucky” moments than others. 

Mase was so overwhelmed by the sheer mention of the Lil to his Phil, Blinky Blink immediately jumped in to let him know “You’re my little brother that I’ll run wit’.” 

Whenever we step out on faith, God always sends a Blinky Blink. Who is your Blinky Blink?

Thinking B.I.G.


“Biggie got killed,” were my mother’s first words to me on the morning of March 9, 1997. Somewhere between shock and déjà vu, the moment felt surreal. 

The passing of both B.I.G. and Pac felt like the end of childhood innocence. My world was beginning to expand in sixth grade: I went to middle school on the other side of the planet—northeast Queens—and began taking the MTA on my own to basketball practices. My worldview was becoming larger than my parents’ sphere of influence. The onset of adolescence required a different soundtrack. 

Twenty years later, I am the father to a six year old girl and a father figure to my nephew who is in the fifth grade. I have become my parents because I never want to listen to the nonsense my boy is into. They’re stuck listening to as Cydney says “that old school stuff” when they’re rolling with me.

Cydney and Courtney respond differently to my music. My nephew could care less; he’ll opt to blare Drake or something from his headphones. In my head, I still feel youthful; so if I play something like “Unbelievable” and he doesn’t nod his head appropriately, I feel old. He can’t relate and that’s fine…I did the same thing in 1995.

My nephew and I have talked about the difference between our musical preferences. He feels a similar way 10 year old Chad did about Earth, Wind, and Fire. I will tell him “See, B.I.G. was the greatest of all time. The way Hot 97 plays Drake all day, every day, is how they did with B.I.G.’s records.” My nephew will never understand how essential it is to live and die by the “Machine Gun Funk.”

Cydney on the other hand is her father’s child. Whenever I wear my t-shirt with Ready to Die album cover on it, she says “That’s Biggie Smalls, right? That’s the Notorious B.I.G., right daddy?!” 

If I play [edited versions] of the Brooklyn emcee’s songs, she begins to roll her neck to the beat and jam. She loves “One More Chance” and “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” But “Hypnotize” is her favorite. 

“Daddy, can you play “Hipmitize?” You rap the boy parts and I do the girl parts.” I’ll cue it up and she mimics that hefty “Uh…Uhh!” that let us all know the King of New York was about to say some shit in ’97.
Cyd wants to be in and a part of everything I do. She at the age in which I can do no wrong in her book. If I like it, she loves it, and she wants me to notice. In spite of being over my “old school stuff,” my daughter wants to be a part of it with me. She knows that music-especially hip hop-is a very large part of who I am. It’s in my walk, talk, attitude, and how I raise her. She wants to rap to instrumentals and play rhyming games.

Biggie Smalls died at 24 years old; he was just a kid. In my thirties, I have had a very hard time taking most things people in their mid-twenties say with seriousness (not you guys, of course). The concept “applied knowledge is power” is a brand new one because life is consistently kicking your ass. 

Listen to B.I.G. or a ‘Pac interview. They sound like kids who think they know more about life than they actually do. If that was your 23 year old cousin, you would listen intently and say in the back of your mind “Shut up! You don’t know shit!” However, reckless abandonment made that time in our lives so much fun.

For some reason, our generation doesn’t see B.I.G. as a kid we would ignore. His words still sound profound because it takes us back to that time in life when we looked at him as our big brother. The generation before us think of him as one of their homies who shared a similar struggle. We all have surpassed him in age and experience; but that’s the power of music. 

While “Blunts and broads, titties in bras, menage a trois, sex in expensive cars,” still sounds like a hell of a time, I’m listening that shit in an office thinking to myself “Once I get off work, I have fifth and sixth graders to coach, my daughter wants attention, and the other day I had an awesome ass date where we did laundry.” But there’s a brief moment I picture the week when “Hypnotize” went from the new song everyone tried to memorize to learning the words in memoriam.

Twenty years from now, Cydney and Courtney will hear “Juicy” somewhere. At 26 and 30, they’ll recall being the kids in the back of the car that looked up to me.

The First 10 Days of 2017


​If I could use one word to describe the first 10 days of 2017, it would be “fuckery.”

Yep…Fuckery.

Call it a dark and twisted sense of humor; nonetheless, I find beyond-belief ridiculousness amusing. Chris Brown and Soulja Boy opt to turn their social media squabbling into a celebrity boxing match? My only question is “Who is throwing the fight party?!” Shirley Caesar’s support of Kim Burrell’s “sermon” makes a gospel legend the new Ken Bone? Y’all ain’t know who she is until the end of “Hold My Mule” became “beans, greens, and KFC fixins.” Hell, as I am typing this, there are think pieces being entitled “Who Are Migos?” because of the Golden Globes. Someone has literally been assigned the task of deciphering “Rain drops drop tops. Smokin’ on cookie in the hot box.” (Note: At first, I thought Lil Uzi Vert’s verse was Kevin Hart as Chocolate Droppa).

You know your life is fuckery-filled when your friends refer to ludicrous happenings as “Chad stories.” I like to think that my circle comes to me because while there is lots of laughter-often at someone else’s expense-I give insight in navigating through otherwise troubling waters. I am more than okay with this.

I don’t make resolutions that begin January 1. It sounds like a lot of overthinking to me. Somehow, this year I am doing so. A text message sent to the wrong person, a funny story and inside jokes on Snapchat, and [redacted] made me finally embrace the fuckery. 

Why am I doing so? Honestly, I love that my life plays out like a well-written sitcom. While staying calm and collected, I facilitate hurricane after hurricane because it’s adventurous. Last week, my supervisor gave me an apology for being thrust into a department adjusting to a new paradigm. With a look of sincerity and shrug-off, I let her in on one of my finest attributes: I thrive in chaos.

While I do need to work on processing emotions and wanting to “feel” more, that’s not who I currently am. If there is one person on the planet my friends and family can put their money on that will not lose their cool, it’s me. I am the cause of all of the foolishness that seems to find me. I attract who I currently am which is someone currently looking to sharpen themselves for the sake of helping others around me.

While there were others, 2016 is when I fully embraced being single. My drama-free life got dull in February. It feels as if saying to myself “Man, I am in a great space. There is no ridiculousness!” was enough for the universe to say “Say no more.” Said universe heard my statement, combined Paulo Cohelo’s famous quote from “The Alchemist” with Murphy’s Law and needless to say, life has been nothing short of a hoot. There is never a dull day, over here.

When in doubt, I am always in control. I may not have much governance over others and what they do; but I rule and run me. With that said, bring on the fuckery, 2017. I can’t wait to write about you next January.

Assorted Thoughts On January 4th

This morning started like many others: my 6:45am nap on the Long Island Railroad to a soulful soundtrack. As I waited for the A train, I looked at my Facebook account and saw a memory. It was a video of Cydney. It prompted me to shut off DMX’s folk ballad “Niggas Done Started Somethin’,” and press play. 

Three years ago, my daughter wished her mother a happy birthday and blew a kiss. A smirk crept out of the corner of my mouth as I remembered it was January 4.

Five years ago, I was getting dressed to go to court. It would be the first of several hearings in two states over the course of two years. I knew my in-laws would not drive from Virginia to New York to attend that day. 

I wanted them to know I meant business. Timile hadn’t been buried three weeks. For her first birthday in heaven since 1986, the Browns had to deal with me…and I didn’t give a fuck. January 4, 2012 was the day I became fearless.
My time with Timile Brown taught me how to love with no limits and that made me a dangerous person. FDR’s famous quote “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” became reality. If I continuously strived to get out of my own way, what was the worst that could happen? They died of cancer and custody hearings for my child before the body gets cold? Shit, everything else in life was light work.

I was more than prepared to go toe-to-toe with Timile’s parents five January’s ago. Two months prior, my father in-law’s intimidating tactics scared the fuck out of me and I rolled over for the sake of peace. It wouldn’t have happened that day in court. Hell, it wouldn’t have happened today, either. That morning, I decided rarely would I ever lie down in passivity again unless I absolutely had to. If I did, it damn sure wasn’t going to be because I was scared.

How do I currently feel about Timile’s parents? I still don’t like them. I still have trust issues because of them. I absolutely hate that they only call Cydney on her birthday, Easter, and Christmas; that shit really irks me. However, they’re the ones who are missing out. Cydney is an amazing little girl who is happy. I would tell them everything I have written here to their face, as well. 

I have no malice in my heart for Cydney’s maternal grandparents. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean that I don’t love them (I accidentally said it to them last Christmas). Forgiving them set me free from a lot and it might be my biggest act in fearlessness. Forgiveness just might be the most courageous action in all of our lives.

Nowadays I rarely refer to Timile by name. It isn’t because she has become a ghost that I am afraid of or anything like that. It has become a habit. Most of the people I associate with didn’t know her, so to many she is “Cydney’s mother,” or “my daughter’s mother.” 

The main reason I have this habit of not saying “Timile” is because of Cydney. As a Kindergartner, her classmates all live in her neighborhood. She sees all of the kids and their moms; there is a heightened awareness that something is different for her. 

Cyd seems to get put off-guard when Timile is mentioned around her. It triggers something and she begins to feel sad. One day, while driving home, Cydney says to me “Daddy, I don’t want people to mention my mom. Why do they?” Time and time again, I tell her “Because she meant something to many of us that knew her.” It’s the only thing I can think of to say.

Last week, I was in the midst of my morning ritual mentioned in the first paragraph. A creature of habit, I pulled out my phone and opened up Facebook as Dark Man X growled and yelled “Is y’all muthafuckas ready or what?!” A picture of a very pregnant Timile and I showed up in my memory cue. I immediately pulled up a picture of Cydney from Christmas day and thought to myself “Man, Cydney is a perfect blend of the two of us.”

When Cydney was first born, all I could see is Timile. As my daughter has matured, Cydney Moriah Milner has become a miniature version of me but with no filter. 

In writing all of this, I have come to a realization. I’m kind of “over” this. I am-and have for years-been more interested in the future. As soon as I post this, I still have work to do. People turn their past experiences into demigods and elephants in the room. Fuck that. I don’t subscribe to that mindset. Just acknowledge, let the assorted thoughts come, and move on.