As with everyone, my life is a personal journey. Recent events have illuminated surprising and unknown pieces of my foundation. As I continue my adventure, I intend to share my thoughts

0n relationships,

current events, and the multifaceted landscape of our society.

So why the title "The Cotton Picker Scat?" It ties into some great family history of mine!
My literary research thus far has proven to be priceless. I want to share my failures, my joys, my successes, my lessons. My story.

Because what is mine, may also be yours.

I'm glad you're here! The journey of the cotton picker continues…

Friday, September 10, 2010


        Fortunately, I am not disturbed to the point of wanting to light a match to any of the Quran haters who are making the news. I am disturbed by those who claim to be patriotic, God-fearing Americans, who cannot in any way, shape or form, prove their venomous statements. If we are to respect the Constitution, then respect it all. I would imagine that those who are ready to deny religious freedom would be on the streets in protest if you tried to repeal the right to bear arms.

         I am a Christian, and happy to be so. It was an act of faith that was my choice. Christianity is a garment for my soul that fits me very well. And having read the bible a lot, I can tell you straight up that Jesus did not condone his people burning  property that didn’t belong to them. He never said that if someone disagrees with you, vilify them. He never tried to blackmail someone into following him.  He always gave people choices. He did teach, however, that making the wrong personal choice may catch up with you later. But his actions never involved, let’s say, hmmm, burning your boat if you didn’t put down your nets to follow him.
        I don’t need hateful teachers who spout words of anger without proving them. I need what the Bible teaches in the New Testament. I need to examine myself to make sure what I speak is pure and honest. I gotta look in the mirror, and judge myself first. I need to love, to encourage, to help, and to teach.  To love God, and to love others. The colors of Christ are warm, encouraging, inviting. Not cold and hateful.

"Jesus is Love!" The Commodores

        So would u media folk please find another story? Can u talk about Ms. Lohan some more? (God bless her.) Didn’t someone somewhere get stuck in an air shaft trying to rob a bank?  Would you please turn the camera off this guy in Florida, and anyone else who sounds like him?

        They ain’t representin'. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Eyes Have It!

            My first blog last week was a complete success! It was my first post, and I was humbled by the feedback I received. In just two days, I was blessed with seven followers of the site. In addition, I have over 100 followers on my Twitter accounts combined. It has taken me some time to get used to that bird. Shout out to @JustJoeJohnson (my Buckeye godson) for really helping me start tweeting!
One great joy of tweeting (YES, tweeting can be joyful!) is communicating with folks who share similar interests. One of the first communities I hooked up with is #DadsTalking. Fathers from all over the world tweet about the joys and challenges of fatherhood. Hey, if there are dads who boldly proclaim the love of their family and want to share their enjoyment of fatherhood…heck…those are the fellas I want to twitter around!
One of the more prolific men in this group is @DadStreet. His profile says he’s 30ish and has two kids. He lives in California and, via his avatar, represents Cali cool with his sunglasses. So when I am sitting down with my first cup of coffee at 9 a.m., worn out from getting my one son on the school bus, it’s only 7 a.m. where @DadStreet resides.  He’s already up and on the road! He talks about the Cali sun, his great kids, and “hey guys, let’s get moving!” Barf. He’s an ex-hippie…figures. I’d rather hear from @ExhausDad (get it…like exhausted Dad?). He talks about being tired from staying up all night (lovingly, of course) with his crying baby, and about not getting much sleep. Ahhhh…that’s what I’m talkin’ bout. The good ole’ days.
Just as every dad story is different, and every baby is different, there are scores of birthing and parenting techniques. Natural or cesarean, breastfeed or bottle, cloth or diaper, stay-at-home or work, spank or time-out, yada or nada. Most of these early choices involve the health/well-being of the child or mother. And that’s the way it should be. The early care of your child is of the utmost importance, and it’s imperative that mom be able to heal, relax, and bond with the baby in a peaceful environment. But there will come a time guys, and it comes quick, when we must seriously step up to the plate. And after fifteen challenging years of fatherhood, I believe I know one of the top ten keys to successful fatherhood.

The eyes have it.

As my wife and I prepared for the birth of our son back in late 1994, I was reading every parenting book I could get my hands on, and there were plenty. So to weed them out, I picked the ones with titles that made sense to me. No need to read about ‘The Yoga Parent’ when I can’t even cross my legs. I perused the ones that I felt in my gut would work with the kind of dad I visualized myself as being. Yeah, gut. Now that I got.
I believe that the responsible husband and soon-to-be dad can use this period to prepare for the future. Not just to begin a college fund (good luck with that one, btw), or to make sure the crib isn’t on a recall list. You are preparing to train another human being; to be the male role model for a person who will be contributing, in some shape or form, to the global community. Wow! It really is an amazing assignment to take on. I honor all fathers who have chosen to accept.

Anyway, I read somewhere the importance of establishing a visual bond with your child from the first time they open their eyes. The article’s premise was that if you connect with your child through staring at him or her, the child will feel comforted, supported, and safe. Made sense to me. I loved sitting on the couch with my baby boy, leaning over him and looking at him straight in the eye. I will always remember the first time that HE really got it, and he let go a really big grin. It was then that I knew he saw me. He gurgled, giggled, and drooled. What a moment! The eye-bonding advice has since become #1 on my list. (Wait… ReTweet with comment: “It was then that I knew he saw me. I gurgled, giggled and drooled.” Sorry).
            Additionally, I believe there is a hidden disciplinary aspect that comes with the eye contact process. I realize the term ‘discipline’ is the unturned stone in parenting, especially when looked at from the father’s perspective. The roster of choices reads from “don’t spare that rod!” to “I would never hit my child!” I’m not a child psychologist and won’t condone any particular brand of discipline. However, I have established a simple disciplinary relationship with my son, and it doesn’t involve me raising my hand or opening my big mouth.

I just look at him. Although he knows he’s loved, safe, and cared for, he also knows when dad is not playing. Things get done when I give him my cold eye. When he was younger, he’d sit down at McDonalds, or stop acting up at school. As he’s gotten older, he knows that he needs to take the garbage out, or clean up after himself. I also use it to reinforce positive behavior. I’ll give smiling eyes when he does well in school (along with the mandatory high-five or ubiquitous fist bump), or I’ll look at him and tell him to hold his head up and walk proudly, looking others straight on as well. I believe that the truth, honesty, and integrity of a man comes first from his eye. That’s just how I roll.
So from the moment they open those wrinkled lids, look at your child and smile. Look at them as the precious bundle of joy they truly are. Smile and silently communicate to them that you will be there for them when they are in need, that you will take care to provide them with comfort, peace, and safety. Look at them for so long, you get lost in the innocence of those sparkling, marble-sized gems. Look at them and whisper “hey, I got your back.” Time flies, they’ll make mistakes (BIG ones!), and other influences begin to sneak up before you know it. Hopefully, they’ll always know you are there, even though they can’t see you. But the comforting visualization of looking at dad may sway them in a direction that will contribute to their maturity, and to the satisfaction that you have done your best.

I appreciate the dads at #DadsTalking. Our chat last night (weekly on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET) was in regard to video games: age appropriateness, privacy settings, etc. If you’re a dad, come join us. It’s wireless group therapy! WITH NO HOURLY FEE! So, a big shout-out to my daddy tweeps! And if you aren’t on Twitter, and don’t know an @ from a #, I don’t have time to help you. I’m too busy looking at my son.

For Josh and Vince

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Forty Years and a Mule

     I am almost speechless. September is here. Forty years ago this month I began the eighth grade, the final frontier before high school. CTA only cost about fifty-cents per ride, and transfers were a nickel. The Jackson Five, Soul Train, Ed Sullivan, the Miss Black America Pageant, the Brady Bunch, and Julia. “DOOM!” equaled today’s “SNAP!” Telephones seemed to weigh about 100 pounds and had one - just one – ringtone. I sang about peace on earth at school. And I never, ever wore blue jeans on Sunday in Chicago.

     1970. The start of the 70’s. Finally, untainted numerals to designate a new era. No more shadow of the 60’s. Yet the wounds of Martin Luther King’s and Robert F. Kennedy’s assassinations were only two years old. Wounds fresh enough to be tender and painful. It’s agonizing to remember that these history-making events occurred just two months apart. MLK is a hero, and rightly so. But I wonder if today’s youth even know who RFK was, let alone what he stood for and his accomplishments. One hero shot on the balcony of a motel, the other shot in the ballroom of a hotel. The black and white photos of these fatally injured crusaders now serve as desktop screensavers for my mind.

     It seemed the moon returned to its first house, and Jupiter and Mars went their separate ways.*

     Mayor Daley and the city were still reeling from the events of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Ancient videos show crazed young people with long hair being grabbed and hand-cuffed by crazed men in white helmets. The grainy film gives the era a ghostly feel. I remember driving with my family through Grant Park toward the end of the melee. It looked like a tornado had defied the laws of avoiding tall buildings. It was a mess, and I would never complain again about cleaning my room. The flower children were empty-handed as they wandered aimlessly through garbage and trampled signs. Those demonstrations are faintly remembered now for their attempts at creating something different.

     I remember, however. I remember the fear, the uneasiness, the distrust, the pain. I remember it well.

     Cities burned with untamed fire and with the rage of people who were tired of promises and non-existent goodwill. Neighborhoods were destroyed with the fierce anger of those who had witnessed heroes gunned down. Once-great cities still struggle to rebuild. Children and young people, filled with restlessness and a maturing power, grew to forget those travesties. They instead began to fuel a new, invisible fire with chants of “we finally got a piece of the pie!” Injustice and greed remained, continuing to fan the eternal flame.
     The events of this past weekend in Washington, D.C. caused me to reflect on the time when the fires raged. There are stark differences between the two eras. During the original civil rights movement, countless American citizens were murdered, tortured and abused. Young people, of all colors, gave up their lives to canvass the south for freedom. Dogs attacked peace-seeking citizens, their already bruised skin damaged even more. Houses were torched. Crosses were burned in darkness to give light to the hate. But powerful speeches that children still memorize today were spoken to a desperate and anxious nation. Speeches encouraging us, all of us, to hold on to hope, to wait for the promises to be delivered. The children…the mountain top…the dream.
     We, as a country, continue to plow, sometimes treading ground already sown. My fear is that despite our efforts to move forward, we’ll end up right back where we started. Or worse. That our plows will break, and our mules will die from exhaustion. If we don’t stop and observe, we‘ll overlook important pictures we’re painting for our community. Scenes that may have nothing to do with freedom, equality, or peace. How dishonorable it would be to all shades of our forefathers and foremothers if we do not teach personal responsibility, sense of community, and the power of failed good intentions. In our efforts to be ‘transparent,’ we ultimately resemble glass patio doors that haven’t been cleaned after scores of Chicago winters.
     Due to fear of the unknown, our society has grown comfortable with listening to cardboard leaders without valuing our own individual worth. I hereby propose that we stop. Stop and investigate our history. Read about George Washington and our nation’s founders, and then keep reading. Read about slavery, Sojourner Truth and Malcolm X. Research the rich history of Native Americans and Hispanic Americans on the soil we now call “America.” Research stories about the Holocaust and the persecution of religious groups throughout history. Read about the Asian muscle that went into building our railroads. Then teach and discuss what you’ve learned with your children, with your community, to those with whom you have relationships. Closely compare how some themes shouted today may resemble unfortunate chapters from our past.

     I was a child once, and I was a dreamer. And now, magically it seems, I am a middle-aged adult, trying to learn and harness the abundance of outrageous technology. But I’m still a dreamer, and I still sing. Most importantly, I still have hope. I invite you to hear my voice, and share my hope. My song may not be all that different from yours. They may even be the same, just written in different keys. Perhaps we can attempt to sing in harmony, even if we’re a little off-key. Harmony takes practice, but our children will reap the benefits. And like the air, harmony has no color, just the sweet melody of a smile.

     “Well, I’ve got a hammer, and I’ve got a bell, and I’ve got a song to sing, all over this land!
     It’s the hammer of justice, it’s the bell of freedom, it’s the song of love between my brothers and sisters, all over this land!”
(Words and music by Lee Hayes and Peter Seeger)

Wow. I remembered the lyrics without having to look on Wikipedia. DOOM!! I think there’s life in this aged mule yet. If you recall, I said I was almost speechless. Now if I can just master this tweetie bird thing…

* If this sentence caused you to say "HUH?" please go to your nearest music download application. Search for The Fifth Dimension (artist) and/or "The Age of Aquarius" (track). The Fifth Dimension is/was an ancient, Afro-American, non-neo-soul pop group from a galaxy far, far away. The song is from a pre-historic Broadway musical called "Hair."  It was made into a movie, but we won't discuss that here. 

For my father, Gerald, with love