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What Do You Pack?

When you go somewhere most of the time you need to take a few things with you.  I know depending on where you go determines what you take with you. What do you pack it in?

Opening Suitcase

The idea of a suitcase was an afterthought. At the time it was created, only rich people traveled, and they used large trunks because they could also bring servants to carry them. The chosen method of travel were ships, and trunks worked best in the bottom of a leaky ship that tossed items around. Trunks were made with metal bases, sealed with rubber to keep water from getting in. It made it difficult for a person without servants to travel.[1]

According to the Smithsonian, more people began traveling for the sake of traveling at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Transportation was better with many more ways to travel and it was not just for rich people anymore.

The suit case was originally created to hold a suit. There was a compartment inside for the shirts, and sometimes even an attachment box for a hat. It was designed to hold a suit and had a handle to be carried. Before that, there was a carpet bag which could hold a few items and was also able to be carried.

Once the idea of suit cases caught on, it became an industry.  Historians said that our luggage reflects our modes of transportation. This is very true today as we have to pack our suitcases based on whether we drive, fly, sail or travel by train.  Each mode of transportation has its own rules about what we can/cannot bring.

As I think about what I will take on this journey, because I know everything and the kitchen sink can’t go, I have to think about what will I carry it in. I think about this a lot when I travel because I know, whatever I take, I will carry.  Let me say that again, whatever I take, I will carry.

One of the things I learned in 2018 was that I have to carry the things that I want. I do. Not my kid, or family, or friends. I should not load things up in a car or a cart unless I intend to keep the car or cart as long as I keep the things. I have to carry my own things.

I try to choose suitcases that make that job easier. I like smaller ones that I can lift. If they have a handle and wheels that can rolls then I am a superstar.

I know choosing the suitcase before I decide what to put in it is the best way for me. So how do you pack for your trips

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-humble-suitcase-180951376/

Inner Journey

In order to go anywhere, your mind and body have to be ready to go. I believe this is why most people don’t travel far from their home. We are not willing to leave behind the familiar to seek out the unfamiliar.  For some of us, there is too much danger in the unknown.

Red Prayer

In Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote how he remembered his childhood as a small one stick fighting with his friends in their village. It was one of the happiest times of his life. The only clothing they wore was a blanket across their shoulders.  When he moved to a larger village, he had to dress differently and learn new customs. He missed his village, but the new places brought on new adventures and new opportunities.

Like Mandela as a child, those moments of learning create conflict for us. I know I hate being made to feel stupid for not knowing something. But I realize not all families have the same values or customs which makes you have to have a conversation with others about how things should function. We are too frightened to ask someone why they do things a certain way.

Everyone has gaps in their knowledge.  We do not know everything about everyone. We all need to learn something from someone else. If we are fortunate, we are surrounded by people who can give us that information. Other times we have to do what we can with what we got. And this is where the adventure usually comes in.

I am a product of integration, which means I went to white schools most of my life. My parents did not go to white schools. So there were times when we would have a conversation about things they knew nothing about. It is difficult to advise a child when you don’t know what they are talking about.  Yet my sisters and I learned to adapt. Many times we just handled it ourselves.

Example, my parents had no concept or idea of sending me to college once I graduated high school.  But I decided I wanted to go and started investigating it. Many of the kids around me were going to college. It seemed like the logical thing to do. (I had no concept of going and getting a job which was probably their idea of what happens after you graduate high school.) There were times they looked at me like I was crazy, but I just thought they were dumb parents.  I had no clue I was defying all of the odds against me.

Because I did not have a source of folk to ask questions, I forged ahead. My ignorance was bliss, and it worked for me. I also had no idea of college cost because I chose one of the most expensive universities in the area.  And the truth is my parents were probably happy I was leaving their house. It was good to get rid of an obnoxious teenager.

The truth is the journey starts in your head and heart. If it is not there, then your feet are moving for no purpose.  If there is a fire inside of you, then it can get you through anything. If there is no intention behind what you do, then you are like snow blowing.  You are moving here and there not sure where you will land.

My experiences during that time have taught me something about myself and my journey. Sometimes there are going to be gaps. It keeps you humble. You have to admit you don’t know something. You have to be willing to learn new things. Opportunity comes when you combine the two.

Fascinating Places

2019 will be a fascinating journey for me. It has started with a bang.  I have spent the first part of January reading books that take me deep into the jungles of the African continent. I read the story of one of the last people brought to the United States on a slave ship. He spoke of what his life was like before being captured. He spoke of his family and their customs, the rituals to become a man and get married.

More important, he spoke of the process of being captured to be a slave and what it was like watching everyone he loved being murdered. Like the author of the book, for many years I thought that the Europeans had seized the Africans from their native homes. But in Barracoon by Zora Neal Hurston, the old African man told a different story.

He spoke of other African tribes who ruthlessly killed entire villages just to capture the young and strong people to sell to the Europeans.  These killers left their regular way of life, which was farming, to become slavers. Motivated by greed, they created soldiers that could terrorize and take out a whole village. These soldiers were paid by the number of heads they brought back. The skulls were collected as a prize by their king.

It made me think. As these greedy people sold off all of their strength for material wealth, they were not prepared to fight the colonization that would overtake and suppress them. It reminds me that the greedy people today won’t get away with their evil deeds. They are just getting prepared to be undone by something more evil than themselves.

Another book took me into a different part of the continent. I loved reading how Nelson Mandela’s father was the family historian. He could recount the family’s history for hundreds of years, yet he could read or write.  Our history was repeated by word of mouth through the generations.

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It reminded me of my own family who would sit and tell stories of the way it used to be.  Even today I question older relatives to the point of annoyance because I want to know more. I want to know what it was like and what they did. But I am finding that some of the secrets older people tried to keep, are coming to light.

But this part of the journey makes me appreciate a history told orally and through art, like masks and other sculpture. It tells us what is beautiful. What is powerful. What is important. The thing I appreciate about African Art is that it finds beauty in the work. It is not an exact replica of someone or something. It just is.

We need to do the same. We need to tell our children the stories orally of our family. We need to create art that represents what legacy we leave behind. Many of the previous generations of my family were poor and undereducated. They did not think they were leaving much behind, but the truth is they left a lot.

I love the story Nelson tells of the first pair of pants he wore. They were not a brand new pair fresh from the tailor. They were an old pair of his father’s pants. His father cut them off so they would fit, and used a rope around the waist to hold them up. Nelson said it was one of the proudest moments of his life.

Think about what legacy you are leaving your family. What kind of objects are you making to represent it? Do your children know your family’s story? Do you? Remember when you carve out your part of your family history, it does not have to look like someone else’s. Like the African mask, it only represents what you want it to.