So, I'm that girl.

The girl who has been trying to run from her past. The girl who has grown into a woman who stuffs her emotions and expects people to understand why - oh and avoid the land mines. All knowingly...

So, I'm that girl. Exhausting others and myself because I only release bits and pieces from behind the wall. No wonder I don't make sense sometimes. Well, look here I am doing it right now. Telling you stuff without telling you anything. Since this isn't necessarily my forte, I'm going to hone in on a specific hidden terrain and share a little more about me, with you.

In 1997, I was married to my first husband. He was a Marine and I believe that he loved me. He probably loved his country a bit more though. So when he deployed for Iraq on June 5, 2004 (our son's golden birthday), I was not surprised at his commitment to the military and his desire to serve his country. Though I met him as a Marine and learned all of my respect for the service of our veterans through him, I will readily admit here that I did not think that he would be injured or die due in this war. Niave? I don't know, I just didn't think it could happen to us or any of them really - even with casualties that had been experienced.

I have no thoughts about the "war on terror" or the hidden bombs they were looking for or George Bush or any of the politics surrounding Operation Iraqi Freedom. None. I will not waste my breath on any of it. It is not because of his death, but because of his unwavering commitment to his "yes" to the Marines. Semper Fidelis - he lived this loyalty.

I'd like to think that I am a loyal person. I don't know how to define it, but I like this word on my short list of descriptors. I was very loyal to Chad and ultimately proved that loyalty when after nine months of attempted rehabilitation in over a half dozen hospitals around the world, it became clear that we would never have him back, and I ended the life support through Hospice Care. We buried Staff Sergeant Chad Jerome Simon at 32 years old in a nearby cemetery and attempted to grieve and move on with our lives.

Fast forward 8 years later to today...

Our son just returned home from a camp for kids like him. Kids who've lost a service member in anyway. Free, week long and fun with many opportunities for grief counseling. It may seem like something small, but for me as a mother who has been hiding (another post for another time) for years, it's become clear to me that my child needed this. And God sent it, just as our young teen started asking questions. Lots of questions about his dad. Who I must say I can hardly remember.

I mean, I remember, but it's so fuzzy that it's almost easier to think of things in snapshots than moving frames or scenes. And when it's that much work (and current things are not going as anticipated or hoped for) it's much easier to freeze my mind on things that were positive and good and to stay there. However this worked over the years watching my son go from 5 to 14 (time flies) it is no longer good enough. 

I don't recall how we heard about the camp - thank you to whoever you were - but it is great that he was able to attend. I just penned my thank you to the organizer (thank you again Neil) and my biggest takeaway was that for the first time my son was able to work through his pent up anger. Able to release the pressure he'd placed upon himself from the words that some well meaning stranger uttered to him so many years ago - that he "was now the man of the house". Angry. He asked me today on the ride home from camp...
"How was I to be the man of the house when the one to show me was taken away?"

Yes, these things make so much more sense to me now - what I should have done. What I ought to have done, what he needed - I get it. I was grieving the losses myself. It's not just death that you experience, it's so much more than that. The routines, the smells, the person's voice. How do you even explain it? 

Anyway, this a little bit more about me. I'm a widow. Or was a widow, since I am re-married. Hmph, unsure of the correct wording there.  Living after death is difficult, especially when you don't grieve regularly and freely. So thankful to Camp Hometown Heroes for making it okay to grieve with others who understand.
 
 
Well, sort of.

As a classroom teacher the two words above meant something completely different than it does now as an administrator. There are two weeks "off" but I'm not really doing that great of a job of being on vaca so far. 

I'm trying to remain balanced as I recuperate from the end of the year wrap up and as we get ready for the next school year. With my shorty away at camp and the opportunity to catch up with friends and family (and let's be honest, episodes of Drop Dead Diva) I'm working diligently to make sure that I am resting.

Resting my heart, head and spirit. Being still and taking the time to reflect on what we were blessed to accomplish this past year. Parts of the year, I do not recall and I'll be honest, I'm okay with that. It just went so quickly. (insert whiney voice here) It's so surprising to me that our first year in a founding year is...over. We made it, praise God!

Five weeks and a half weeks remaining of this summer vacation. While I welcome the slowed schedule there is much to accomplish - at work and on the fun front; I mean hello blog world, reading for fun, enjoying the garden we just planted... 

Still the desire for balance, even while on vacation. 

I just caught myself and realize that some reading might consider this post a complaint about the lack of free time that I have as an educator. Please don't camp there, no complaints here, not about the length of my summer vacation but only slight concern that I will not seize the opportunity to rest. 
 
 
If you live on planet Earth, and specifically in America, you've heard of the week long celebration of teachers called, "Teacher Appreciation Week". In areas where the average household has two parents and is considered "middle class", the week for noting the work of teachers can (and often does) go on all five days of the week that has been set aside in May each year. Recommendations from parent/teacher associations are chocolates, candies, hand-written notes, flowers and even gift cards. 

When I taught in the classroom (2000-2004), I don't remember the week being as much of a success or priority in the school where I worked so I never became super attached to it or knew that it should even be a big deal. So, when returning to education as a teaching assistant last year in the suburb we live in and now this year working in the city of Milwaukee, I realize some things had changed on the 'inside'. Where parents in many districts step up and direct most of this celebration, the leadership does take time out to honor and encourage its staff - at least the wise leaders do. 

At our school this during this week, we had something everyday but all of the surprises and encouragements came from our leadership team. Flowers, hot breakfast, signs from the kids, special desserts at lunch and an appreciation video directed and edited by my filmmaker son. They were so grateful.

If you don't know, teachers really are the single most effective person in the classroom. A teacher that learns and grows as they teach and develop can grow kids like nobody's business. We need them and as educational leaders, we know that our time must be invested in them having the support and resources that they need, so they absolutely deserve a week. But...

I had to admit that when Principal's Day came along and the kids celebrated and made posters and songs for her, I felt a little slighted. I know, I know - grow up right? But, I wanted to see that my staff and students appreciated and saw the value of the work and dedication that I bring to the job but did not believe it would be appropriate to ask. And then it happens...

Our principal created a "Food Appreciation Staff Day" and then a "Director of Operations Day" and sent out emails inviting us to donate money towards the purchase of a small gift, to write cards and have kids make cards and do small but thoughtful things and I knew there had to be a day for me too. When? I wasn't sure, but was so glad. 

So, it came on Wednesday, June 5th, the same day my son turned 14 years old and it couldn't have been more perfectly timed. Though busy, it was a day where I was able to sit down twice (very RARE), had many, many tight hugs and warm, sincere smiles and received cards from the staff encouraging me in my work and development of the school. One of the best gifts? Reese's Peanut Butter Candies, 4 different variations. So good.

Only 10 days from finishing my first year in educational leadership as a dean of students (like a vice-principal) and I am so thankful for the encouragement and small marker of success in my career. It has been surprising the things I've learned from our staff, students, families and being a part of the HOPE family but mostly, I am so thankful for what God has shown me about His love for me and what He believes that I can do while being me.

I have signed on to serve in this role again this next school year and am eager to help our school build on what we've already been blessed to see and go beyond it towards doing even more for our children. Easy? Certainly not. Enjoyable? Most days. Rewarding? Absolutely. 



 
 
I think I may be on such a high from actually COMPLETING my May Challenge that I am ready to announce and begin to go after my JUNE CHALLENGE.

For the month of June, I will only listen to music performed by Black Artists. 

If you've been with me since the start (January), you know that this blog was originally started with a focus on my "blackness'. Me exploring it, educating myself about it and calling out the stereotypes about being black in America. The blog was called, "Black As I Wanna Be'. Clever name, right? Can't take credit, it was the brain child of my creative husband to title it that. It got a little limiting though and I was treating life like too much of a book report. So, while I want to expose some of the "we've taken care of this race thing already, why are we still talking about it" mentality, I began to become hyper-focused on this one area of myself and didn't like where it was taking me. Hence the change in the focus of the blog. And the journey into the sea. Of Gigi. I am more than my blackness or any one part of me and wanted to be sure I was being balanced in my approach to learning more about myself and what I'm sharing with all of you.

So, I'm still interested in being black (whew right?) and dispelling myths and stereotypes about it (even the "good ones") and decided that in order to this, I might want to branch out and listen to black music. "Real" black music. So, in this month's challenge, I am planning to listen to a lot of music from many genres and artists; the only requirement? That they be black. 

Let me explain the need. I've.never.listened.to.Tupac. (Breathe)

Researching the plethora of musical genres, it became clear that I must narrow the field and determine more of a focus. So here it is...

I will take any and all recommendations for black musical artists, but will prioritize those that fall into the 22 genres listed below. 22 genres of music. Some of them I've never even heard of and some I'm unsure of whether I will be able to find to meet my quota. Hello?!? European Music?!? Classical?!? Hmmm....I think I just did some stereotyping. The goal will be to listen to at least ten artists in each category and then choose my top three favorites in each genre. I will post about those artists and their best song (in my opinion) and why I chose them.

My motivation to carry out this challenge comes from a couple of things. ONE. I am out of touch. I listen to the same music that I listened to while I was growing up and as a teenager in a suburb outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where at the time I was one of few black teenagers in the city we lived in.. Ahhh, the good old days. I am stuck because I don't really like all of the commercials on the radio, am unwilling to purchase XM/Sirius radio and lean towards the same music that I already like on Pandora. TWO. I am out of touch. (It's so true I had to repeat it.) As the vice-principal in a school where our student population is 100% black, I know nothing about what they listen to and enjoy or even what is inappropriate so that I can call them on it. I want to open myself up to new artists and see what my newly forty year-old self likes. 

Let me just say this. One whole month without Adele is going to be rough, but I think I am up for the challenge. 

Your recommendations are welcome. Enter them here in the comments section or email them to me as you think of them. I will update you once or twice each week with the plan being to submit a finalized list on July 1st.

Here's to fun in the sun and beats in my ears. June...here we go.
Genres
  •  Alternative Music
  •  Blues
  • Christian 
  • (Rap) J'Son, LeCrae
  •  Classical Music
  •  Country Music
  •  Dance Music
  •  Easy Listening
  •  Electronic Music
  •  European Music (Folk / Pop)
  •  Hip Hop / Rap
  •  Indie Pop
  •  Inspirational (incl. Gospel)
  • Candice Glover
  •  Asian Pop (J-Pop, K-pop)
  •  Jazz
  • Herbie Hancock
  •  New Age
  •  Opera
  •  Pop (Popular music)
  • Rihanna
  •  R&B / Soul
  • Rihanna
  • Usher
  • Reggae
  • Rihanna (used to - one song on her LOUD album displays her previous genre of music)
  •  Rock
  •  Singer / Songwriter (inc; Folk)
  • Michael Franti
  •  World Music / Beats
Artists - Favorite Song(s)
A



B

C
Candice Glover - I Am Beautiful

D

E

F

G

H

I

J
J'Son - Making Me Over, Parent Me

K

L
LeCrae - Killa, I'm A Saint, Unashamed

M
Michael Franti - Say Hey, Smell of Sunshine

N

O

P

Q

R
Rihanna - 95% of her LOUD album

S

T

U
Usher - Something Special

V

W

X

Y

Z
 
 
Picture
I reached my goal!

The yard is now landscaped. Well, as far as I plan to this season. You know how sometimes when you work on something, it leads you to want to do more. This project was the same. 

We will need to spray the weeds that are coming up between the bricks on the patio, figure out to do with the big pile of heavy clay-dirt near the garage and then eventually switch out the railroad ties that hold the beds for something that can not be infested by ants and bees. Projects for another day.

It is so exciting to have done the work and in the time frame that I set. It looks pretty good; so very fun to pull in and out of the driveway everyday and look at the new blooms that are popping up. 

Thank you for the encouragement and support.

On to June's challenge: To listen to only music by black artists in all types of genres.

 
 
I don't like to pack so many things into one day. Every once in awhile though, there is a day like that and today was one of those days. All good things (hang time with kids from school, encouraging a co-worker, building new relationships, getting gas, going to the bank, watching my son score the only goal at his soccer game and studying the Bible with a woman who wants to become a Christian) but a lot of running and going all.day.long. So when I finally got to sit down and eat dinner it was fun and engaging and I'm glad to say that it was great end to a very busy day. 

Though it didn't begin that way...let me take you back.

I enjoy trying new things. Really, as much of an introvert as I am, I really do like having new adventures and I enjoy taking others along with me. So, when livingsocial opportunities come my way (two each morning via email) I often find things that intrigue me or items that become "must haves". Since I've done a lot of purging of stuff in the house, I've been looking for more experiences in the city of Milwaukee. 

The Dinner Detective showed up on my livingsocial links a few weeks ago and I was immediately drawn to the idea. It is in many, many cities across the states and is worth the money. A ton of laughs and mystery, also a bit of an chance to play a part. I took a girlfriend who I thought would not be shy (and she wasn't). After arriving in a frenzy - check out their requirements for their dress code; we were nervous - we got registered, chose our names (no boring names allowed), read the guidelines and got down to work. Well....we grabbed a glass of wine and then began our investigations.

Since I did not realize that I myself would be a suspect, I did not have my backstory filled in like some others had done, so when I introduced myself as Gigi and other suspects/participants asked what I did for work, I said that I "trained leaders to manage the little people in their countries". Yes. I said that. Out loud. To five different people. That speak and understand English.

Thankfully, we were whisked into the dining room from the cocktail area and seated at our tables and the "show" began. I won't give too much away except to say, pay attention, listen and have fun. Be yourself. Interact and engage with the actors and those at your table. It was a really, really great time. I studied the clues and listened to the conversations and was harassed a couple of times by the detectives.

Do you know they had half the room thinking "I had done it". And since I had developed a bit of a headache and was so into the show, I eventually began wondering if I had actually done it myself. Seriously, there were a few moments where I was like...how is this about to play out. Can you say, paranoid?

I won though. I actually figured it out. I knew who the murderer was! How? I listened to the show, fully immersing myself in the fun of it and trusted my gut (or rather my suspicions). Recently, a friend told me to focus on my intentions going into a situation rather than having a pile of expectations. I did that. And I had a wonderful time. Not here and now, but probably in some quiet times over the next few days and months, I will consider how I might regularly do this in my everyday life/innermost being and eventually live more of a free life in Christ. Free to live in my intentions to follow Him rather than so many expectations of my weak and sinful self. Yet, I digress...

Back to the Dinner Detective!!! A.k.a. - ME!!! 

Talk about being in the right place at the right time? We were seated at the same table as a woman who just opened a restaurant that makes red velvet waffles with fried chicken. Yep, go 'head, slap yo mamma! One of the actresses involved in the show, seated at our table (without our knowledge) could not feign her disinterest after a picture was passed around. Everyone at the table is eager to frequent this place - don't worry, I'll blog about it.

In a fairly small banquet-y room at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Milwaukee, positive, fun, funny, memories were made. And then the topping on the cake? When I told my son about it, he was so proud of me and insisted that my victory had come from our watching Psych episodes together.

All we could say over and over again was how much fun we'd had. 

Pinch me. I still can't believe I won - I don't win stuff. Really, I don't ever win things. But tonight I did and tomorrow morning, I am looking forward to sipping my coffee from my newest mug.

Yours truly,

THE Dinner Detective
The Hyatt Regency - Milwaukee, Wisconsin