The Proposal

It was a cool evening, a perfect 68° degrees outside when she asked me out for a walk. And as we walked we carried on a sweet conversation about our busy days and how we both look forward to moments such as these. She is my favorite form of decompression after a long and hectic day. We walked along the sidewalk in a familiar path toward the gazebo that quietly sits atop the gardens across the street from the home we share. She asked if we could sit and chat for a bit. I noticed the flickering light and felt we were walking into someone else’s quiet time, so I tugged at her for us to go back. Something slowly built up around my heart as she gently continued to pull my hand telling me to go on. “It’s ok,” she said. As we got closer I came to recognize the candles from our “Zen” room. I thought, “Sweet as always” here she was surprising me with another date night. She pressed ‘play’ on the already cued player and our song began serenade us. I had to fight back the tears even then but little did I know. She talked to me about forever, talked about our forever. She asked if I ever doubted that she has always known what she wanted. I told her how my only doubts came from recognizing how amazingly rare she is, how I felt humbled by the thought that she would chose plain little old me. I nearly lost all feeling in my legs as I saw her kneeling down before me. I honestly think I forgot to breathe. She told me she never again wanted me to doubt for one second that I am what she’s wanted and the one she wants to be with forever. And with those words she simply said, “Will You Marry Me.”  I did forget to breathe and in that moment I couldn’t make myself remember how. I couldn’t even speak and so, I cried. Quiet tears made their way down my face and in a whisper I finally said, “Yes!” She slipped a ring on my finger, I buried my face in her neck, and for what seemed like forever we held each other tight.

It was a little while before we made our way back home. I hadn’t even thought of what my ring looked like. I was still trying to get feeling to return to my legs and get back to breathing normally, when we finally made it home. She said the ring was a very special one and so we sat down as she introduced me to my new sparkly friend. She is a custom, hand-made, ebony beauty with pearl inlay and solitaire diamond in the center. I fell in love. I fell in love with this ring that made me feel so special and fell in love with her all over again for thinking so highly of me that she would go to such lengths. I feel loved and now I get to spend the rest of my life showing her the same. Here is to a lifetime of love!

Till next time…I’m off to plan a wedding!

A Special Place

A Special Place

Atlanta is home to one of the most diverse communities in this great country of ours. Typically, you move to this city (finding a native Atlantan these days is like finding buried treasure) and you will find that it’s people are welcoming and just all around affirming. Here in Atlanta anyone can feel free to be who they are and we will love them for it. That is until, you step into a little niche found within the neighborhood of Druid Hills. A place now known to some and as the ‘stepford’ wanna be ‘twilight zone’ of the “A.”

Druid Hills is a sweet looking little place nestled in the city of Decatur. It sits quietly, just outside the hustle and bustle of tall skyscrapers and harried commuters. It is a safe haven just outside this great metropolis that is Atlanta. Driving through you’ll see the typical signs of suburban life; mom’s strolling about pushing baby carriages, folks jogging along trails of horticultural masterpieces, dog’s playing with their human families on the well manicured lawns. It is regular Norman Rockwell kind of stuff. Druid Hills has so much to offer but, there is a little gem, within that indisputably lovely little place that makes Druid Hills just that much more special.  It is known as The Frazer Center.

Every town in every city has a number of academies and schools.  Druid Hills is no different. What is different is that in this affluent area of private schools and prep academies also lies one of the greatest learning environments this city has to offer. The Frazer Center is an inclusive learning environment that offers vocational training to adults with special needs and a rich education for preschool children at all levels of ability or disability. The center was founded in 1949 by a couple who had been disheartened to find that very little was available in terms of early education for their own child who had Cerebral Palsy. Though the Frazer Center started in the basement of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in 1952 the center was relocated to where it stands today.  Through the years the center has grown and expanded in so many ways. The center began to offer services to adults with disabilities in the 80’s and in the 90’s a beautiful garden was added. The center has continued to evolve and serve the community in immeasurable ways. Much like the center has changed, so has the neighborhood surrounding it. Beautiful homes were erected throughout the perimeter of the Frazer Center’s lush grounds and the small enclave known as Druid Hills grew to the picturesque small utopia that we see today.

Utopia would be the perfect word to describe this a area of Druid Hills if we could base the truth on mere appearances. The reality however is a sad one. See, all of those beautiful homes that popped up all around the center serve as dwelling to a group of citizens who are not at all impressed with the Frazer Center, what it has meant to a great number of families or what it continues to do for those who really depend on it’s existence. I must clarify, I do not imply that every homeowner of Lake Claire shares this sentiment but the handful that does have made quite an impact. For some time now residents of Lake Claire have all but declared war on the Frazer Center. It seems that those pesky special transportation buses have posed a danger to the neighborhood of magnanimous proportions. To hear the feedback from the “select few” neighbors one would think those busses are more like torpedoes barreling down their perfect roads just aiming for unsuspecting victims to demolish in it’s path. The “select few” have brought up a number of concerns and have caused such a ruckus in getting those concerns heard that this non-profit special needs center has been forced to spend an obscene amount of money to defend its right to be there. To say that this is a sad situation is an understatement of monumental proportions.

There is enough by way of research on the subject to find that at the onset of the issues the neighbors may very well have had some legitimate concerns, however since the disputes have gained steam, the arguments have become less compelling and the neighbors of Lake Claire firmly secured a place in the Ogres Hall of Fame! Time is their weapon and bullying is their ammo. They sit at the back gate of the center watching each and every car that goes in and out of the center. They log every little detail and write letters of complaint to all who’ll listen about it. There actually is a woman who apparently has enough time on her hands to whip out her RADAR GUN and literally clock the speed of cars as they drive by. At this point, honestly, will anyone care about the concerns and see any validity in what these neighbors have to say? From where I stand, these “select few” now look less like concerned citizens and more like suburban bullies. They make demands almost on a daily basis and as much as those demands are addressed by the center, it is never enough. The center has had to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars (did I mention this is a non-profit program) no only to pay attorneys to defend them and their right to be there but they have also made numerous modifications in order to address the neighbor’s concerns good faith. Anything and everything that the Frazer Center can do to alleviate the situation has been done. The only thing left would be to close its doors. Personally, I think that is the outcome that the “select few” are aiming for and I don’t believe they will rest until they get it. My question is, why? Why have they sunk their teeth into this center which has been there much longer than most of them have? What is the outcome that will finally allow this center to get back to what it was created to do: serve special families in the community? When will the center be able to use their resources to purchase much needed special needs equipment instead of wasting it away in defense of their right to be there?

I believe that the Frazer Center is a very special place; a place of selfless devotion to the care of the flourishing futures of special children and adults. I also believe in another special place.  I believe in a special place for people who pick on the weak; a special place for those who have a selfish disregard for others. A special place for those who lack the diplomacy to express themselves or meet their own needs without decimating the needs of others.

Some Resources:

VirginiaHighland-DruidHillsPatch Residents, parents, discuss frazer center traffic issues http://vahi.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/residents-parents-discuss-frasier-center-traffic-issues

http://www.lakeclaire.org/wpsite/2013/05/a-request-from-the-frazer-center/

http://www.eavbuzz.net/forum/off-leash/need-help-legislation-to-block-frazer-center-bus-service/

A Cultural Experience

There is so much that I admire about the African American culture. It is an indisputable fact that this is a culture of copious strength and virtue. I have come to know this through my interactions with friends and their families in the past but recently I have had the pleasure of living it for myself. My partner is an African American woman from a deeply rooted family. As our relationship grew so did our connection to each other’s family. Her parents treat me like another daughter and her siblings routinely call me “sis”. It is not lost on me that I am privileged to be welcomed into this tightly knit fold that is The Family.

The African American culture as it is known today has evolved through the years yet much has remained the same for centuries. Family has always been a paramount aspect of who they are and reverence of elders is a very essential part of that. Family reunions are a regular occurrence and big Sunday dinners are quite the routine. Recently I had the honor of taking part in a family reunion. I have to say that it was an unforgettable experience for me. Fish fry on Friday, picnic on Saturday were just some of the things that I had always heard of and just now got to experience. Sounds silly to some perhaps but it was meaningful for me. There were folks who had not seen each other in years and others who had actually never met. The tie that bound them all was family and that was a palpably strong tie felt throughout the entire weekend. The most memorable thing for me, as the outsider welcomed in, was just that; the welcoming. As soon as I was introduced and it was known what my connection was to the family, enough said. To be part of so much love and affection among people who rarely saw one another was humbling.

As I mentioned earlier, the elders are revered in this culture and that was certainly the case in this experience. There was always a place of veneration for them whether it was the head table at the main functions or the comfy couches prominently placed near the activities. Whatever the location, the sovereignty was there. Recognizing this makes me all the more humbled by the connection that I have come to build with my partner’s Family, especially her grandmother. I met her years ago when my partner took me back to her hometown. I remember feeling nervous about meeting her family for the first time. During that trip, I sat and listened to her grandmother talk about days gone by and tell stories about the family. I loved listening to her. I loved watching how her grown children still behaved as that, her children. This is something that I have found to be quite characteristic of the African American culture. A continued respect regardless of the age or status in life. That experience allowed me to see first hand how deeply held are the values of African American families. And now here we were, family reunion time and having vicariously developed the same values, I eagerly looked forward to seeing grandma again. The best part of it is, it seems she was just as excited to see me. As my partner walked up to her grandmother and gently kissed her cheek ‘hello’ grandma’s first words were, “where’s Liz?” My heart was full I saw her face light as up as she saw me come to her. Now I understood what it felt like to have the most respected family member acknowledge you. Just another dimension of the family values of African American families.

I have come to experience the closeness that African American families are known for. I have come to learn first hand what makes a family strong and deeply connected. I am very aware that my own lineage is not what allows me the privilege of this knowledge but the warm and open-heartedness of a people who haven’t always experienced the same unconditional regard from others. Despite the painful history, African Americans have continued to be strong, loving, tight knit, family oriented folks unwavering in their ways.  I am blessed to now consider myself a part of that.

Sincerely,

The honorary Inductee J