All posts by bronsonbitsandpieces

I'm a retired college instructor living in sunny California. I'm also a holder of three master's degrees, writer, mother, grandmother, aunt, auntie, cousin, in-law, published author, lover of Gospel music and jazz, I melt at the sound of babies giggling and gurgling, and am an admirer of all the beauty in God's nature--and all in no particular order.


I have some very nice friends on Facebook; some I’ve never met in person, some I haven’t seen since I was a kid, some are just a faint memory of what seems to be another life.  But, what connects us is a common interest in news, memes, politics, pictures, or just plain crazy talk.

That brings me to what I ignore.  Some days I can’t repost fast enough.  Some days almost everything I read hits a cord on some level.  On other days, however, I am on information overload.  On those days I can’t read another article about a kid lynched in the South using modern day methods (guns, vehicles).  On those days I might not feel so witty and my mind seems to purposefully shut out all the negative noise, even though I may go back to it on another day.

The religious posts are ones that I’m less likely to respond to, and if that’s all my friend posts, I’ll probably hide it because my conversation has to be more expansive than that.  Some of the memes I like and will pass on, but if that’s all that’s posted for that friend, I won’t see it unless I go on their page.

And then there are the games.  I don’t like the games.  I don’t like congratulating someone on something they posted only to get an IM saying I am now caught in the game web and I have to play so I can catch some other unsuspecting friends.  Maybe I don’t want to test the level of my friendships, or maybe they will react the same as I did about taking the bait, but, no matter how much I enjoy the friendship, I.  Just.  Can’t.  There are other game requests for something I have no intention of even responding (like candies, or farm animals, or something to do with hearts) to no matter how many requests I get.

But then there is Words With Friends.  I love this game.  It keeps my mind working as I try to outwit my opponent, but I don’t have as many players as I’d like.  I do, however, have a faithful competitor that always keeps me on my toes and I look forward to playing the game with him.  This is the most fun for me, and it was the best distraction I had when I was grading papers before I stopped teaching.

So friends, keep posting so I can pick and chose what impacts me at the moment and I’ll do the same.

CRS can be debilitating

Okay. I need to come clean to all my friends and family. I suffer from the little known disease called CRS. Yes, I can admit it now that I’m more secure in who I am (or think I should be).

The first time I heard about CRS was from a friend of mine, Terry Cross, a retired Navy guy at church. We were just joking around and, BAM, Terry admitted he had it. Wow! I thought I was the only one, but soon noticed that it ran in my family, but mostly with the older folks. If that was the case, I thought, I’d be fine until I get older. Nope. It happens to younger folks, too; it only gets worse when you get older.

Then I began to do so research and learned it’s more prevalent than I originally thought. It affects what I thought I said, what I thought I did, when I thought I did it, how I thought I did it, how long I thought I did it, where I thought I was when I did it, and even who I did it to. At one time it seemed like it would be a good dissertation choice, but I couldn’t find any professor who would approve the topic.

Unfortunately, the older I get, the more it affects my life. Just recently I got into an argument with my daughter about how to train her dog. I thought we were on the same page, but she kept telling me I wasn’t doing what I said I did (she can be so thoughtless). The argument bothered me so I decided to refresh my understanding of what CRS is, so I Goggled it and learned the following:

CRS can be a crippling disease. It affects what you thought you said, what you thought you did, when you thought you did it, how you thought you did it, how long you thought you did it, where you thought you were when you did it, how often you thought you did it, and even who you did it to.

By golly, that’s EXACTLY what I thought it was, but my daughter might have been right and I just forgot! Well, because the website had an additional symptom, I thought for years it couldn’t be me, but then I realized that the first time I researched the topic I only had two symptoms; now I have all except one.

Thus far there is no medication to treat the symptoms and the only thing close is Lumosity, which keeps you on a treadmill of answering questions and completing puzzles. You may know this disease by its full name, can’t remember sh*t!

So, the next time you can’t remember sh*t, try to find the CRS site and see if the symptoms fit you. Unfortunately, I can no longer find the site. In fact, none of this makes sense because I thought I was writing about dog training. Dog training? Where did that come from? We have a dog? Sh*t! We have a DOG! Don’t know if it’s a male or female (maybe it’ll come to me later, or maybe I should just pick it up an look). Pick what up? Look at what? Sh*t! There it goes again. I can just see a worm crawling through my brain like a Pac-man icon eating up those lonely cells fighting to hold on. Wow, Pac-man! Where did that come from?

Anyway, you get the picture. Picture? What picture? CRAP! Stop that! Like I said, sh*t creeps up on you out of nowhere.

[Originally posted 2/25/14]

Living life like an unmade bed

Pessimists kind of take the default position in life, in that it takes less effort to maintain a relationship with another person because it’s going to end anyway.  Saying things like “people mistake my extreme realism for negativity,” is like saying a bear is just a big brown thing; no matter how you try to disguise it, it’s still a bear.  That whole pessimistic attitude is kind of like not making your bed in the morning when you get up because you know by the end of the day you’ll be back in it.

Holistic health calls for optimistic thinking, just like positive psychology teaches us.  If you constantly tell yourself something bad will happen it’s like drawing that which you don’t want directly to you; like a universal magnet.  Optimism teaches us to think about the good things we want in life, but it takes practice to be optimistic.  You can’t try to be optimistic for a few moments and when things don’t change right away, you blame it on bad luck, or repeat a mantra of how horrible life has been to you.  You have to practice optimism as hard and as often as you once maintained your pessimistic attitude.

A student once said to me, “I have realized that by not hoping for things I know will not transpire and by always expecting the worst I will never be disappointed.”  Did she not think that may be a cop-out?

Do we realize how much of our actions we’re role-modeling for our children to behave in a similar fashion?  We tend to look at life either with an I-make-my-luck (internal locus of control) or “if he/she would only do “x” my life would be so much better” (external locus of control); if-then situations.  It’s true that sometimes we flip-flop about how much we want to take personal responsibility for anything that goes wrong (someone else is at fault) or right (I created my success all by myself) in our lives.  That external locus of control factors in on how much of our situation we are directly, or indirectly, responsible for creating consciously, or subconsciously.

I hear parents brag all the time about how smart their kids are, but when it comes to how the parents’ behavior is affecting those smart kids, the parents swear that they don’t act like badly in front of the kids, and/or are teaching them better.  I have to remind people that before kids had language, before they knew what basic words like stop, mommy, daddy, hot, and no, because they read your body language.  Any parent knows that you can terrify a baby just by walking in the room when you’re so angry you can’t even talk.  That baby will pick up your body vibes better than a Hoover picks up lint, and the only way they know how to respond is to cry, tense up, and become extremely agitated and/or angry.  A kid will pick up bad vibes that Aunt Lucy or Uncle Tim isn’t a good person when you think Aunt Lucy and Uncle Tim are so great you wished they had been your parents instead of the people who raised you.

Think about how we vow that we’re going to be different with our children.  We tell ourselves that they will never be put through the things we went through as children.  Do we ever wonder if our parents made mental commitments to us the very same way?

We are in relationship with our children always even when they aren’t in the room.  When the environment in their own homes are toxic to them and they can feel the calm in their friend’s home, for example, they may try to stay there (at the friend’s home) as much as possible.  They can feel the tension between you and your spouse even when you’re both smiling across the dinner table.  They act out when they know their parents are unhappy, or are on drugs, or are drinking more than the average person but don’t think they’re alcoholics.  The kids will know/feel the discontent before another adult can even acknowledge the possibilities of it happening.  To think we can be one way when our kids aren’t around and another when they are is only fooling ourselves.  It’s a façade we can’t maintain for any length of time.

I am well aware that the student who was “always expecting the worst” must come from a hurtful and painful past and just like they learned about heartache and disappointment, they can learn about hope, faith in a positive outcome and the belief that there is more good in the world than bad.

We have it in us to be the best person, best child, best friend, best parent, best sibling that we can be.  Just like that unmade bed—if we don’t learn to make it in the morning, the crumpled pillows and all the wrinkles and disarray will still be there waiting for us at the end of the day.

Things change, yet stay the same

Last week was an interesting week.  Before I continue, let me preface it with my understanding of the word smiling. I’ve heard that smiling is a form of submissiveness, it puts the receiver in a more comfortable position because it is (or once was) a precursor of my behavior as being friendly; at the same time, it is also disarming to people who see my skin color and align it with “threat”.

I learned to smile because I worked in a white environment (sometimes I was the only token) almost all my life (with the exception of those few months as a clerk at North Division in Milwaukee after my graduation).   My schooling was in a similar environment (I smiled A LOT!).   Back in the days when I first started living in the world outside my community, the people I worked with never (or rarely) came into contact with Black people in their communities, nor went to school with them, so I wanted to make sure that if they ever said they didn’t like Black people, they would have to check themselves because they knew me.   I imagined one of their thoughts would be, “I don’t like African Americans, except Carol, she’s nice”; not as much vanity as mental self-preservation.

Christelyn Karazin says in a blog, “Smiling is a sign of weakness on rough streets–it’s a sign of compliance and submission, which is probably why some black women have awkward entrances into interracial dating.  All men, especially white men, are socialized to positively respond with more confidence about themselves when women smile at them.  One guy on Dr. Lyubansky’s facebook page said, ‘Constant smiling makes a man a moron while if it is a woman it tells about a happy character.  Serious women make a man to feel uneasy'”. []

I understand Christelyn’s comments because I have made men (particularly Black men) uncomfortable when I didn’t smile.  I always wanted people to feel easy, comfortable in my presence.  That’s the caretaker part of me.  The people pleaser.  My mother, too, was a smiler, but that always annoyed me when she did that around white people because her whole physical manner changed.  She lowered her head and wouldn’t look white people in the eyes (even her doctors in progressive California) and fiddled with her hands.  She learned that from growing up in rural Mississippi where hanging was the norm to teach Black people their place.  I thought I was different because I at least looked people in the eyes, but in a final analysis, I probably wasn’t that much different.

Thinking back to those early days this happened:  One day close to 20 years ago here in San Diego, I went to work and was annoyed at something Andre’ said before I left for work.   Unsmiling (but ever pleasant), I walked down the hall at work and Sandra, a coworker, passed me in the hall and I greeted her, just not smiling cause I had stuff on my mind.  In retrospect, my brow was probably furrowed and I probably looked concerned.  Maybe half hour later, Debbi, a friend (African American) in the library called me and asked me what was wrong.  Puzzled, I asked her what she meant because I hadn’t seen her that day and I hadn’t really interacted with anyone since I came in earlier than most of the other staff.  How, I wondered, could she think something was wrong with me? After all, I was pleasant, just not cheerful.

She told me that Sandra said I looked like I was on the warpath, or angry about something.  Knowing I didn’t glare at her, or snap, or act indignant, I was astounded.  I told Debbi that nothing was wrong, and I sat back and tried to figure out what happened.  What had happened was (I smile when I say that) before that time I was always smiling at people (I do it now at people in stores, in the mall, doctors’ offices, etc.).  If someone came into my office, I stopped what I was doing and smiled, no matter what was going on.  I would smile at people even if I didn’t know them; it put them at ease.  To Sandra, a white woman, even the gentle me was menacing if I was not smiling even though we had worked together for about 7-8 years before that.

Back to last week.  I say all the above because last week really was an interesting week on a curious level.  My husband’s boss quit and suggested to his superiors that they hire Andre’ into the position he was leaving as manager.  Andre’ has management experience and much more.  Instead, they chose to put another manager, a white woman, into that position, which meant she doubled her teams, which, I assume, also doubles (or at least increased) her paycheck.

Then my second youngest daughter got written up because someone in a daycare center (where her clients (children) are) said she looked mean; unfriendly.  Mind you, none of the clients or their parents made such a comment.  As this was going on my youngest daughter (in a different city) was told at her job something to the effect that she looked mean, and this is the one who almost always has a smile on her face.  She was also told that her input wasn’t wanted after one meeting, then was told that she was too quiet following another meeting where she refrained from inputing her ideas. Not mixed messages, whiplash messages that constantly keep you unbalanced.

All of these pissed me off because it was like deja vu–all over again. That day encountering Sandra was only the last, most recently significant, time I can remember when smiling was an obvious issue that put me in the defensive position.

Let me break it down more.  Two of my daughters, both work for different organizations, live on opposite ends of the West Coast, yet have white people telling them they need to (basically) shuck-and-jive just like they did hundreds of years ago.  What?  If we’re not smiling, they’re still not happy?  There’s no excuse these days for that kind of behavior from them, because whites are much more likely to interact with African Americans at an early age now than they did in my youth.

So, basically, things have changed, but have stayed the same.  Things I experienced in my younger days I see being repeated in the life of my children.  It seems more absurd to me now than before how a person, any person, can assume the worst of someone because they are not smiling.  I think of that term, mad-dogging, that young people, mainly males, do today to show how tough they are.  Maybe if Trayvon Martin had smiled/shucked and joked/jived to put Zimmerman at ease, he would still be alive today.  Maybe.

My mother used to think that when all the “old white people” died off, we wouldn’t have any discrimination because the younger people (usually) didn’t have the same prejudices.  After all, there were thousands of whites who supported the Black Civil Rights movement and did many things to show how far we’ve come and ensure that it would happen.  Miss Ruby, my mom, didn’t seem to consider that those “old people” would ingrain their values into their children and grandchildren.  And those horrors she experienced in her generation would continue into that of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  We need to make sure it doesn’t stay the same.


Like many members of my family, I struggle with depression.  In my family, both of my biological kids, at least one niece, and two sisters have struggled with it.  One sister (that I know of) has been medicated in order to recover some degree of normalcy.

My sister takes medication for depression.  One of the side effects of her medication is that she giggles at everything she says.  Every-frickin’-thing.  On a kid that might be attractive.  On an elderly person it might seems as if she’s jolly (to outsiders).  On my sister, it’s annoying as hell.  However, over the years, I’ve become so used to it, I don’t really hear it as much.

Depression isn’t fun.  Not that anyone would think it was, but it’s a b*tch to deal with.  Onlookers think that all one has to do is to “snap out of it”, but that’s not possible.  Ours is hereditary; a chemical imbalance that wasn’t satisfied to stop with the first ancestor, so it carries on down the line.

When life gets really tough, like many people, I fight to keep from just shutting down.  Because my mind races faster than I can blink, I quiet the thoughts with television, or reading, or mindless games.  Sometimes, however, my thoughts can override anything I’m doing to control them so then I pace.  When we had more space, I paced around the house so much I used a pedometer to keep track.  I found out that I could put quite a dent in an exercise routine without leaving the house (in Memphis).

When my thoughts trigger my depression and I begin to feel like crying, I do something to distract myself.  That distraction keeps me from going into hysterics.

Depression is (r can be) debilitating.  It can totally control anything you plan to do and bring you to a standstill.  It pisses me off.  I fight to control it because I don’t like being controlled by anything.  Any.  Thing.  Period.  That’s probably why I never thought about dabbling in drugs.  Drugs control people.  I don’t like being controlled.  Case closed/solved.

Sometimes minor things can bring it on, but it’s mostly major events.  An example would be when I was in grad school.  Let me preface this by saying I absolutely LOVED school.  I can literally get lost in researching a subject and can write a paper in mere hours.

At the beginning of my second attempt at grad school (and after I had one master’s degree), I sailed through my courses with little effort to pass.  I had a full time job, a husband and six kids still at home.  I juggled practices, plays, rehearsals, and PTAs like everybody else did, but I did it dressed in African attire, and looking good.

Then, I had two asshole instructors; a Black man (the head of his department) and a Japanese woman (he was her boss).  I’ve been toted as a good writer since elementary school.  I’ve taught English, grammar, vocabulary, keyboarding, communications, 10-key calculator, computer literacy, math, and psychology at the college level.  Add to that, every single faculty I had, even all, ALL, my bosses, gave me glowing feedback until…I took classes from these two.

This Napoleonic man who ALWAYS targeted one student ever year, in an evaluation meeting, told me that even though I thought I could write, I wasn’t good at it.  He also said that I was moving too fast and he wanted me to slow down.   He did this every chance he got over a period of about two years.  Just like that.  It wiped my slate clean.  It was debilitating, defeating because I am, and always have been, a people pleaser.  I worked hard to do things the way he wanted, but always failed.

What he said overrode every single atta’girl I ever received about my writing.  I mean, I wrote letters for my boss to the Chancellor of the school.  No, top that, I wrote letter for my boss later on, who WAS the Chancellor.  And all that disappeared behind the nastiness in the shame of a tiny black (small case b) man and his crony, a Japanese (second generation) woman, who was fighting for tenure and a permanent position, which he controlled.

The Japanese woman helped support his analysis by returning every paper I wrote in her class with grammar corrections that rivaled nothing I’d ever gotten.  When I, feeling overwhelmed, just gave in and changed everything to what she wanted, she would correct it again and return it with virtually everything worded the way it was  in my original paper.  This was the most defeating thing I had to deal with.

That period of time was the absolute worst time in my life.  My depression was so great the sound was deafening.  I WANTED to be hospitalized, just so I could get some rest.  I was bullied and harassed like nothing I had ever witnessed.  When I got an attorney, the Vice Chancellor suggested I not use one so that we could settle the matter internally.  Never happened.  The school administrators (where I worked, too) seemed to be afraid of that minuscule as swipe, but I could never find out what was behind it.  That was the reason I didn’t complete my doctorate.

Then, I transferred to another school and I, once again, was sailing through my courses.  Then, one of my faculty sent me a note saying I was doing great, but suggested I slow down and enjoy the journey.  That, albeit innocent statement, was received by me like a knockout punch.  It took me a while to connect why it devastated me so, but I literally stopped my dissertation process fearing an unseen danger.

I have been ABD for a few years now.  And in that time I have realized it doesn’t take much from faculty to make me fear progress. When I returned back to school last year with a suggestion of my topic, Black hair, one person’s feedback was that my direction wasn’t the way she wanted me to go.  It stopped me.  Again.  Dead in my tracks.  Instant depression.  That’s a shame for someone my age not to have more control over someone’s feedback.  She didn’t say it in a mean way and I’m sure she doesn’t even know the impact her words had on me.

But, maybe, 2014 will be my year and I will gather enough courage and mental armor and charge ahead.  Beat depression.  And get my PsyD.