Thursday, December 20, 2007

Five Holiday Gifts from That Johnson Boy

Today's blog is
dedicated to my
blue-eyed soul brother
and beloved brother-in-law,
Edwin Dearlove.

Your eyes gave hint of a kind heart.
Your smile simply confirmed it.

Happy Holidays! 'Tis the season for gift-giving and That Johnson Boy has five incredible gifts for you. In fact, these five will even make the Grinch smile! They pack well, won't cost you one copper penny ($0.00), yet are absolutely, positively, priceless! Shall we begin?

Gift #1 - Live In The Moment - This past week, I traveled to South Beach to celebrate my brother's 50th birthday. In reality, this year marked his 51st birthday. However, December 2006 found us all too busy, too strapped, too certain that we could recapture this special moment at a later date. In retrospect, allow me to add "too stupid" to the list.

A visit to his favorite 5-star restaurant was a complete disaster. How bad? More than once I scanned the room to see if we were being "PUNKED" (a/k/a Candid Camera moment for the 50 & over crew). It took me two days to get over the disappointment of the evening. But, on the plane ride home, the metaphoric brilliance of the restaurant hit me.

The restaurant is definitely 5-Star. The food? Exquisite. The service? Heavenly. But, you can't show up late - not just late but 365 days late - and expect an incredible evening. Fifty years earlier, God reserved the perfect time and place. Yet, in our arrogance we glanced at our blackberrys and elected to tinker with time. Guess what? Time won, we lost.

My friends, the gift of "Living In The Moment" is priceless. Practice living in the moment until it comes naturally. This holiday season, there is always someone else to see, some place else to go. But the words of our Grandmothers ring true: "Still yourself, child" and live in the moment. Embrace this gift and you'll unlock a special bonus gift more precious than silver and gold. It is the gift of cherished memories.

Gift #2 - The Gift of Touch - For all of the warm images we associate with the Holiday season, the truth is for many it is the loneliest time of the year. The gift of Touch warms like no fireplace could, and in fact, might actually save a life. Reach out and call that friend, family member, co-worker and let the warmth of your spirit shine through. Save the "I was worried about you speech" for another day. Same with the "wish you were here." This gift is about living in the here and now, and letting the love of your heart flow through. Ya feel me?

Give #3 The Gift of Tolerance - Each of us are unique. We are unique in our approach to life, how we love, laugh, play, work, process, pray, dream and the list goes on and on. Your children will never raise their children like you. Your sister will never prepare her collard greens the way you prepare your world famous greens. Your brother's outlook on life will never be yours. As my family prepare to say goodbye to our loved one, Edwin Dearlove, one thing is certain. None of us - not one of us - will approach the grief process the same. But, the gift of tolerance allows us to respect, and perhaps even appreciate, the difference in our approach. The gift of tolerance is like a welcomed sigh of relief. It just feels so good through and through.

Gift #4 - The Gift of Forgiveness - I know what you're thinking... that's an Easter gift, right? Perhaps. But, consider this - the essence of forgiveness was born on Christmas Day. What better way to inject Christ back into the commercialized Christmas? In the spirit of The Christ, let's give the gift of forgiveness. Not even the magical glow of a child on Christmas morning can compare to the glow of forgiveness. Trust me, no box and ribbon can contain it!

Give #5 - Living Life To The Fullest - On December 25th, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, The Christ. He is the ultimate gift - God's gift to mankind. In the spirit of this day, let us embrace God's gift and live life to the fullest. I know you already know this, but it bears repeating: God has some incredible plans for you. He's already opened the right doors and made reservations with the right people. Every gift, talent and "I didn't know I could do that-ism" has been divinely implanted in your DNA. Don't worry that you don't see them now. They're on a time-release formula, and just like God, they'll always show up right on time! It's the season of renewal and birthing greatness. It's the season to live your life to the fullest. Embrace Gift #5. Go 'head... I dare you!

Happy Holidays from That Johnson Boy!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Take This Job And...

Would I be standing here?
After all these years...
Among the stars above;
Maybe not...
If It Wasn't For Your Love.
Gordon Chambers

That Johnson Boy has a new gig! That's right folks, on July 24th I began a new chapter and joined the Operations side of ASCAP.
Earlier this year I graduated from ASCAP's groundbreaking MOVE Leadership Program. It was a grueling, but gratifying nine month experience. Shortly thereafter, the Head of ASCAP's Royalty/Distribution came a courtin' and I listened. I loved my job as a Membership Rep - having risen through the ranks from Executive Assistant to the Sr. Director, Creative Affairs in ASCAP's NY headquarters. Yet, as we concluded our initial meeting, the nervous energy that only a good challenge can produce was undeniable. I was seduced. A few rounds of intense interviews and negotiations and the deal was done.

On July 24th, I headed into my new gig with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and exhilaration. Why then, less than two weeks into my new role, did I find myself declaring...

"You Can Take This Job and...".

Have I lost my mind? Perhaps the transition from night owl to daywalker was more than I could bear. What could make a reasonably intelligent, ASCAP-invested person emphatically state

"You Can Take This Job and...?"

What was it that woke me up at 3am in a cold sweat? Was it the steep learning curve or the constant flow of data? Was it the never-ending stream of acronyms that made me a foreigner within my own department? Does ANYBODY speak english here? These ingredients alone were rendering me unconscious shortly after the street lights came on!

Perhaps it was the realization that I've been charged with leading an area vital to the distribution of over $680 MILLION in royalty payments to our songwriters, composers and publishers. That's 680,000,000 reasons to lie awake at night.

Maybe it was the challenge of managing approximately 30 individuals. That's 30 unique INDIVIDUALS with individual needs, desires, goals, etc. How will I feed them? How will I grow them? How will I challenge them?

My initial response was to hit the gym. I ran on the treadmill like a man possessed. I figured I'd burn off the energy until I was too tired to worry. It did produce sleep, but failed to resolve my core issues.

My deliverance arrived via a phone call from one of my closest friends and Ph.D candidate, Kenney Dickerson. Dr. D shared with me something he heard at a recent educator's conference. "We come into this world with everything we need for our entire life journey." That means we arrived complete. Fully-loaded. Pimped out. Diamond in the back; sunroof top. You get the picture, don't you?

Why did I feel anxious? I wanted to succeed. I wanted to deliver the goods. I wanted to make a substantial return on ASCAP's investment. Why would God honor my prayers and give me the desires of my heart if I wasn't ready?

I don't remember the time or what I was doing, but I do know this... at some point the words of Dr. Dickerson took hold. I found within me a seed planted before birth and nurtured by an early illustrated children's bible. I can honestly say that I haven't recalled the story in 40+ years. But, in the spirit of Abraham, I gathered up my new job in it's entirety, and returned it to it's rightful owner.

"Lord, You Can Take This Job and
Have Your Will Be Done.

Not My Will but Thy Will."

I returned to Him that which He had so graciously given to me.

Twenty-four hours after my offering, I was standing before 30 or so individuals curious to hear what sayeth That Johnson Boy. As I rose to speak, I did so fully confident that together we will accomplish incredible feats. Together we will grow leaps and bounds. Our future has been forever altered by the humblest of pleas. "Lord, take this job and have Your will be done." And for all that we shall accomplish, to God be the Glory!

Thank you Dr. Dickerson. You are my brother and you remain as you've always been, the wisest of counsel. In the words of Donald Lawrence, "You Speak Life!" May God continue his divine work in your life!

To the rest of you, know that everything that you need for your life journey was imbedded in you before the beginning began. That makes you uniquely qualified to do the unthinkable, achieve the impossible and have a wonderful time along the way! Love always, That Johnson Boy!

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Interdependence Day!

That Johnson Boy here, and all I can say is Wow! So much has transpired since my last posting. I have tons of good news to share. I'm talking projects so exciting that I hate to go to sleep. But today's post is not about my projects.

Today's posting is dedicated to the
Parents/Family/Friends and Teachers of the
Graduating Class of 2007.

To the parents of the Class of 2007, you have my utmost praise and respect! Little did you know that graduating that cute little bundle of joy would produce more stress than the San Andreas Fault. Remember how you marveled when your little genius said their first words? Now, this same genius is contaminating your good DNA with some type of mental affliction that befuddles parents/teachers and the medical profession alike.

Why didn't you turn in your homework? "I dunno."
Explain to me why you did your homework, but didn't turn it in?
"I dunno."
>Are you even graduating? "Uhhhhh... I don't... I just... dunno."
We'll call it I-Dunno-itis and by all accounts it's extremely contagious.

From the moment your genius "I dunno-ed" graduation, you became the unwilling co-star in the greatest cliffhanger of the modern era... Stay tuned for the next episode of "Will he or will he not... Will she or will she not... graduate?" It's must've been a humdinger of a cliffhanger because family, friends, and co-workers called daily for a sneak peek of the final episode. In fact, this cliffhanger was so intense that you couldn't sleep a wink!

But, what did you do, my proud parent of the Class of 2007? No, I mean... what did you do after the 4th of July-style explosion and fireworks? No silly, I mean after you rationalized that a Taebo-style kick to the "hindpott" would constitute a crime punishable by jail time.

What did you do? You did what you've always done. You took off work - just as you had in the early years when your genius came down with yet another ear infection. You took off work - sometimes at the expense of advancing your career and often times under the scornful glare of childless colleagues. And you did this even as your little genius appeared indifferent and resigned to failing. But youngster had no idea that his parent was his advocate, his mediator, and chief negotiator. Nor did he know that you left the building with an action plan in place and that you would literally will that child to graduation day. Ok, a dose of tough love/rough love/"And I Am Telling You... You're Not Leaving These Books Unless You're Not Breathing" kind of love.

Because of your love and your actions, the entire world will know what you already know... that your baby really is a genius and a graduate! Trust me parents when I say your sacrifices have not been in vain.

To the family and friends who refereed, tutored, or even pried fingers from the throat of the unsuspecting genius, take a bow! Your contribution was right on time (wasn't it genius?).

To the teachers/administrators, I hear your frustration loud and clear. The emphasis on standardized statewide testing systems have all but eliminated true teaching and learning. I once thought "I-Dunno-itis" was just a phase or the "so cool it's dumb" thing to do. After talking with a many of you, I fear that we're systematically breeding "I-Dunno-itis" by failing to fully develop these young minds. I think each of us may need to look at the emphasis and time put into test preparation and ask our education leaders and ourselves that simple, yet effective question... "How's that working for our children?"

Lastly, to my graduates of 2007, my heartfelt congratulations! Whether you're like my niece Kelsey, who graduated early and with Honors (go Ms. UCLA!), or more like That Johnson Boy (don't ask), you have accomplished a great and wonderful milestone. I have a special gift for each of the graduating class of 2007. The gift will be released on Tuesday, August 14th. Be sure to join my email list to receive your Special Gift!

My friends, I have much more to share and share I shall. In the meantime, to the parents/family/friends/teachers and graduates of the Class of 2007, Happy Interdependence Day! We've been independent far too long. As you can see, it takes an entire village to raise up one child. Let us celebrate our interdependence and together we can and shall change the world! Much love from That Johnson Boy!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

All Roads Lead Home

Back when polaroid pictures were king, my family would pile in the car and hit the road. My sisters would be sleep before we left D.C., but I would sit staring wide-eyed in utter fascination at the world beyond our Nation's Capitol. I would count out toll money or mentally map our route while bobbing my head to Pop's "don't leave home without 'em" collection of 8-track tapes. Junior Walker's "Shotgun" blared from the moment the pedal hit the metal. Gladys Knight & The Pips fueled the middle stretch. It was left up to Sam Cooke's "Live at the Copa" to close the show. I'm talking complete and total sensory overload and I loved every single musical mile!

Perhaps our family road trips are the reason why I, along with my brother Taz, view our lives as one big, exciting road trip. Earlier this week, our road trip came upon the strangest of places. This town should have been called Wishful Thinking, nestled deep in the heart of Not In Your Wildest Dreams. But, make no mistake - we somehow had made it here, and were about to navigate the intersection of "You'll Never Guess What Happened Today" and "Oh, My God!" Rather than ease into the intersection, Taz -- in true Taz-like fashion -- sped thru the intersection while spewing the good news from his lips...

"They promoted me to Senior Vice President!"

Oh my God! My brother, the Tasmanian Devil himself, has been promoted to Sr. Vice President at a Fortune 500 company! The conversation that followed blurred like fall foliage when speeding along at 110 m.p.h. (yes, we do know what that looks like). But, my mind was slowly trying to process... how did we get here?

Briefly, ours is a relationship forged in the simplest of gestures. One of my earliest recollections is of him walking up to me, throwing his arm around me while saying, "Hey phathead... you want some ice cream?" And with that, I let loose one of those wide "Howdy Doody" smiles because... I had a big brother! He was my first football coach. His reputation alone made me bully-proof (you really didn't want to mess with Gangsta Shorty). He would laugh hysterically while I practiced my rap on his girlfriends. I can still recite Phillipe Wynne's rap from "Love Don't Love Nobody" so convincingly that you'd think it was my own. While I would soon grow taller than my brother, I would never outgrow him. How could I? He is, and always will be, my big brother.

But what road does a little inner-city kid from Washington, DC take to ascend to Senior VP?

The map-maker in me would tell you to head south with the Washington Monument shrinking in your rear view mirror. You'll pass Civil War battlefields and acres of corn fields. Keep driving until the asphalt runs out and gravel pummels your car's chassis. The world you knew is but a cloud of dust in your mirror. Unfolding before you is the lush utopia and safe haven we call "Grandma Charlotte's House." I don't know if it was when he demolished Granny's mailbox while attempting to drive a stick shift or when he put on his Sunday's best clothing to walk back to D.C. Either way, we should've known then... that boy's going somewhere!

Make sure you drive back to D.C., and circle past Shaw Jr. High School, an inner city school manned then by the late Dr. Percy Ellis, band director Lloyd Hoover and an army of teachers/administrators who genuinely loved teaching and profoundly impacted the lives of every single student to walk thru those doors.

Now, head north to the City of Bethesda, Maryland. There you'll find Georgetown Preparatory School. Truthfully, the school and its academic counterparts could have been the model for the present day SURVIVOR television series. You see, despite all of the atrocities endured by the civil rights marchers, one of their few assets was their strength in numbers. But, for civil rights babies, there would be no such luxury. They were the one's who integrated the Georgetown Preps, the Muhlenberg Colleges and American Universities in the same manner Noah populated the ark - two {max} at a time please! They would endure cultural shock, isolation and the pressure of assimilation, yet still manage to keep their afro's looking tight most of the time.

Now hop in the car and fly by the U.S. Air Force Recruitment office and join up. Twenty years of service will ensure that you are well indoctrinated on the importance of loyalty, teamwork and the 11th Commandment of "no man left behind." Both terms are as valued in the office as they are on the battlefield. And while you're at it, go to night school for what may seem like an eternity. But you'll emerge - Master's degree in hand and ready to tackle the world!

Make a right turn on Corporate America Blvd. For all of the guru books on Business, that Taz is fanatical about simplicity. His strategy? Establish a plan of action and then... everybody row like hell! If you know him, then you know this about him. Plan, then get to rowing! In fact, his dedication to goal-setting was the topic that launched this blog (Little Goals).

With my thoughts and facts in place, I think I have the major components for mapping Taz's success. I know my mental map is lacking - marriage, children, family and friends, etc. Surely there's enough information to get one from Point A to Point S.V.P., ... right?

Just as I opened my mouth to render my expert opinion, my brother said to me in a voice that cracked with humility...

"Brother, it takes the Man upstairs to make this happen.
You don't get here without HIM."

And with that, my map was made whole. God's divine presence has been there every mile along the way. Every wrong turn, He's right there. Every detour, He's right there. Every "Road Under Construction," right there. As my big brother, Taz never told me what was cool, hip or fly just for the sake of being any of those things. He always told me and showed me the truth. And on this day, having navigated life's latest intersection, the simple truth is this...

All Roads Lead Home.

Congratulations Taz... you devil you! I'm so very proud of ya!

And to all of you - whether you're striving for C.E.O. or Chief Cashier, stay encouraged, keep believing, plan your work and get to rowing. Your blessing is coming! Believe that!

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Life's Little Pleasures

Did you know that the littlest things can bring unspeakable joy? I'm talking the kind of joy that you can't contain and makes you look as silly as I do in this picture.

This eruption of unspeakable joy was ushered in this morning by the new CD from Gordon Chambers, "Love Stories." I uploaded the songs onto my iPOD weeks earlier, but for some strange reason the files disappeared. Lo & behold, the files miraculously reappeared this morning and the biggest grin engulfed my face. I danced my way to work and along the way decided to find out what other little pleasures were there for my enjoyment. Here's a brief glimpse of what I discovered:

Little pleasures like...

  • smiling at the tall, regal woman stepping with a quickness along 5th Avenue this past weekend. I watched her, clad in a brown herringbone pant suit, chocolate hat tipped just right to allow her silver mane to flow in the haste of her pace. She embodied the Harlem Renaissance, and I have no doubt that those beautiful, brown hands stitched every single thread of her suit. To my beautiful, brown sista ~ wherever you may be today ~ thank you for making me smile.
  • remembering my first seamstress, the loud and talented Ruthie Harris. She's the reason why I can say with certainty that Ms. 5th Avenue was a seamstress. She's also the inspiration behind the name, That Johnson Boy. After all these years, she still calls me "Johnson" and I appreciate it. She is my reminder that we honor our ancestors when we carry our name with pride, honor and dignity. Thank you Ruthie. I promise to always beam with pride at being called That Johnson Boy.
  • looking out into a room packed with knowledge seekers at Clark Atlanta University. I challenge anyone questioning the merit of Historic Black Colleges to visit Clark Atlanta. There's no shortage of bright, articulate and ambitious future leaders walking the campus. And in true HBC fashion, y'all KNOW your fashion game is sick!!!
  • Meeting the Diva of all Divas, Diahann Carroll. Her show was incredible, but it's how she received my sister and I that made meeting her so special. We stood quietly watching as she did the meet & greet thing with the Park Avenue social set. When she walked to us, sista exhaled (as if kicking her shoes off) and said, "Can I tell you...". Our conversation was as warm and familiar as Saturday morning conversations in the Johnson Family kitchen. Thank you Lady Di for making me, along with every man in the building, smile profusely!
  • Smiling with joy as one of my budding superstar writers gave birth. I was working late Sunday night when I received a call from one of my writers, Latavia Parker. She asked "can I play a song for you?" She turned on the track and began singing the lyrics in my phone. Sista was singing her heart out and the song was bangin! God must've known that I needed a special treat, and a very special treat is what I received. Have you any idea how difficult it is to put your work before people for critique? Yet, here she was breathing life into her words (& Ms. Parker can sang too!). Thank you Tay-Tay for letting me come into the delivery room and for making me smile!

Lastly, to the singer-songwriter whose music jump-started my day, thank you Gordon Chambers. I'm dedicating a blog to your new CD in the very near future. Until then, thank you for blessing this world with some incredible music!

As for the rest of you - you do know what's next, don't you? Life's crazy, hectic, challenging and everything in between. But, do us both a favor and take some time to meditate on those little experiences that make life so wonderful. We all have them. You just may need to slow down long enough to enjoy the view.

Love always, That Johnson Boy!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

An Unforgivable Breach of Heart

"...tell me (since you think you know so damn much) how I can keep my heart supple when every time I look in the mirror I see a damn fool. That's what love has done to me. Tell me something before I do something that I'll regret."
(emailed response to my Valentine's 2007 post)
I'll never forget this email. Never.

I received over 60 emails in response to my Valentine's 2007 posting. This particular email remains stuck in my consciousness. Her words show up uninvited every morning. As much as I advocate that we must keep our hearts supple and loving, her question is a valid one that demands answering.

How do we do that?

I woke-up early Wednesday morning with her email pestering my groggy head. Even worse, the incessant chatter set off my own bad relationship flashback -- I'm talkin' the kind of flashback that makes ME nervous that my middle initial is O, last name J. Come on Johnson... detour 'cause that's a dead-end street. Ya feel me?

I grabbed my blackberry in search of my daily inspirational email from Joel Osteen. His emails usually arrive like clockwork. Nothing! I lazily rolled out of bed, got down on my knees and attempted to pray. Have you ever muttered a prayer so weak that the entire effort seemed pathetic? That was me. Frustrated, I resorted to old faithful... the Lord's Prayer and even that felt weak and contrived. Still I continued on cruise control until I heard my voice say...

And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us...

Did I just asked God to forgive me in the same measure in which I forgive those who cause me harm?
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us...

Forgiveness? God, are you trying to tell me something?

Is there anything more physically, emotionally and spiritually debilitating than unforgiveness? Reflect for a moment on how your entire being contorts at the thought of them that cause you harm. Not pretty, is it? Consider still that the mere recollection of their unforgivable act is oft-times as painful as the original misdeed. That's pretty scary. Of course, you would never spend time dreaming up acts of revenge or wishing ill will for their unforgivable acts... would you? Nope, not you. But, the rest of us have done just that!
For their crimes against us, we banished the guilty party to the prison of our unforgiveness. Lost in the emotional turmoil is a simple truth. In banishing them, we unknowingly sentenced ourselves to a life imprisoned. You do know that a loving and supple heart is a liability in prison, don't you? Here we are locked away in this prison of our choosing, all the while our unforgiveness clogs our spirit like bad cholesterol. Left unchecked, the arteries harden and block off life-sustaining flow to all of the vital organs. Without this flow, the heart dies - plain and simple.

My friends, we can't script a life devoid of relationship drama. Our ability to exercise forgiveness may be God's prescription for keeping our hearts supple and spirits warm and loving through it all. Now understand me, practicing forgiveness is a mother...! Easy to speak, but extremely challenging to live by. Yet, if we are the sum of our habits, then we must habitually condition both mind and spirit to making true forgiveness a lifestyle.
As for those occasional bad memory flashbacks, know this: you can alter their course. Bad memory flashbacks are like bad television. You can sit there and be consumed by it; or you can stop everything and change the channel immediately. Simple as that - change the #@#* channel! When we stop dining on the anger and hurt, we eliminate the crap that feeds the crippling spirit of unforgiveness.
And while you're in the forgiving mode, do yourself a big favor and begin forgiving yourself. In fact, that's a wonderful place to start. Promise?

Almost forgot: at 9:08am, my pager finally received the daily devotional from Pastor Joel Osteen. His message?

"But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father
which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
(Mark 11:26)

So what is the best prescription for maintaining a supple heart? Forgiveness. Let's commit to embracing the spirit of true forgiveness as if our very lives depend on it. Truth is, nothing could be closer to the truth!
Having been confirmed and affirmed, That Johnson Boy is signing off. But not before bidding you a wonderful day!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

How Far Are You Willing To Go In The Name of Love?

Happy Valentine's Day!

That Johnson Boy here - typing feverishly on this keyboard in the hopes that warmth will return to these frozen fingertips. It is freezing cold here in NYC, but I think the following question will raise the heat in very short order. So, tell me folks... on this a Nationally Recognized Day of Love, I just wanna know...

How Far Are You Willing To Go In The Name of Love?

The question arose during my morning commute. I headed out to work on Valentine's Day and came face to face with a rather wicked ice storm. Luckily, I had already peeked out and realized that the Snow Emergency Rules were in effect. Translation: residents of Gotham City are granted permission to park their trendy attire on the opposite side of the closet in favor of unfashionable cold weather gear. Yet, even in my parka, timbaland boots, gloves and thermal underwear, I was still painfully cold.

Halfway into my commute, a delivery guy boarded the bus and created quite a commotion. In his hands was a huge tent of plastic, which he held in front of him as if carrying the Holy Grail. As he inched towards the rear, the mass of commuters parted like the Red Sea. I noticed that the female commuters were eyeing his package as if they were staring down a Victoria Secret's Buy One Get One Free sale. All the while I'm wondering what could create such a reaction in the normally staid Upper Eastsiders?

Mr. Delivery Guy exited at my stop. I caught up with him on the subway platform. Dude was shivering uncontrollably, his moustache and beard sealed in ice, but his package was intact. I could make out the bow... a splash of green... a mass of red... aha! Dude was delivering a bouquet of roses to some lucky recipient. The arrangement wasn't big at all. But the tent of plastic created to protect the roses was enormous. It's as if the florist created a temporary greenhouse to protect the roses from the elements.

And that, my friends, got me to thinking...

If the florist was willing to go to such great lengths to protect a token of love, then what about us? What are we willing to do to protect the real thing? What are you willing to do in the name of love?

We all know that relationships can be as brutal as today's icy Nor'easter. And like today's storm, they'll make you ponder how anything so beautiful can be so painful. The twist and turns of the average relationship is more than enough to invoke Marvin Gaye's "Make Me Wanna Holla, Throw Up BOTH My Hands." Simply put, overexposure to the unpleasant elements of love and relationships can leave us numb and send us scurrying into hibernation.

Don't get me wrong - I do understand. If you read my last posting, you know that I understand the painful aspects of love gone wrong.


Much like the florist, we must do everything we can to protect our ability and willingness to love. Most of us excel at protecting our hearts from others. But, on this cold-as-heck Valentine's Day 2007, I need you to know this: most of us need to protect our heart - not from others - but, from ourselves.

Hmmm, maybe I need to say that one more time. In the spirit of James Brown, can I hit it two times?

Most of us should concentrate on protecting our heart from ourselves.

Most of us (self included) are Master Bricklayers. We are the one's who encase the most delicate of organs within brick walls. We are the one's who continually administer the numbing I.V. long after the healing could've/would've/should've taken place. We are the one's who unintentionally allow the destructive seeds of cynicism to take root and fester in our spirit. But we don't call it that, do we? We call it survival. We call it doing what we gotta do... playin' the game (even as er'body declares they don't want to play games). We call it everything but what it is - a tragedy.

So, my friends, last year I gave you a Valentine's Day gift from my heart. This year, I'm asking you to grant me a Valentine's Gift from your heart.

Grant me a Valentine's Gift that you'll do whatever you have to do to keep your heart and spirit pliable, open and receptive to the enormous possibility of something beautiful happening in your love life. That means warding off the cynicism, as well as those who live to recruit members to join the Miserable 'til Death Club (a/k/a Men/Women ain't $#!# Club).

Grant me a Valentine's Gift that you'll do whatever you have to do to remove the walls. Learn from the florist. His plastic tent was ample protection against a fierce ice storm, maintained the perfect temperature for the delicate roses all the while allowing admirers a seductive glimpse at the beauty that lie just inside the tent. Each of us would do well to replace the brick and mortar with something more pliable that allows our beauty to shine through.

And, just in case you suspect I might be living on Fantasy Island, consider this...

Last year, in response to my posting entitled, "Something New For Valentine's Day, " I received an email from a very successful, single mom. She thanked me for the message, but also shared "if a man were to sing the lyrics from 'For Your Precious Love' - at this point in my life - he'd have to yell them as I don't think I'd be able to hear him." She's beautiful, funny, quite accomplished and yet, there was no one to whisper those beautiful lyrics in her ear. What she didn't write, but definitely implied was that she was open to hearing the lyrics and in fact, would love to hear the lyrics sung to her.

That was February 2006. In October 2006, I saw her at the Terisa Griffin CD Release Party in DC. She was in great spirits and introduced me to several of her invited guest. Didn't think anything about it... that is, until yours truly intercepted bits and pieces of the secret sista code - something about "new love" and a certain someone being "full of giggles." It seems that Ms. "He'd Better Yell" has a very special man whispering the Iceman's lyrics and by all accounts she's hearing him loud and clear and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. (And you thought you could keep a secret from That Johnson Boy???!!!)

Ladies and gentlemen, let me state emphatically -- I believe in love. I believe that each of us can enjoy healthy, loving relationships on THIS side of heaven. Let us all commit to gifting to ourselves the promise to do whatever we must do to keep our hearts supple, our spirits warm and our outlook and expectations refreshingly optimistic. That's work. I know it is. But, trust me - bricklaying is hard work (and no benefits to boot!). And when love comes calling... AND LOVE WILL COME CALLING... it won't have to bring a jackhammer to tear down the walls that you forgot were there. As for you and that special person? Y'all can embrace John Legend's "definitely worth listening to" ballad... you know the one... "Take It Slow." And, in time y'all can up the ante by calling on the Iceman. "For Your Precious Love, Means More To Me...".

That's how far I'm willing to go in the name of love. How 'bout you? Wishing you a truly wonderful Valentine's kinda love from That Johnson Boy, that's who!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Think You Know Your Man?

My Dear Valentine,

Morning is near. I feel its presence, even as the room remains cloaked in darkness. I'm wondering why is it that matters of the heart prefer the midnight to 6am shift. Tonight is no different as once again sleep passes me by. What is different is that tonight you fell asleep in my arms and hours later I'm still holding you close. But my heart... my heart... my heart is beating out this letter, even as my mind says no... don't. Or at least, not yet. Even in the warmth of your embrace, I've never felt more naked... or more alone.

As morning draws near, the warm memories of our first mornings seem lost in a dense Pacific Northwest fog. Funny, there was a time when your smile was all that was needed to burn off the thickest haze. As I lie here... tracing your hairline with the tips of my fingers, I still can't resist the beauty of your smile. We laughed, we loved, we explored our lives with gusto and passion. You even begrudgingly accepted my honest assessment that our combined body heat made full body spoonin' through the night a serious dehydration risk. Yet, here I am, holding you tightly; hour after hour... minute after minute... while bead after bead of sweat flows from our bodies.

As morning draws nearer, I find peace in the ebb and flow of your spirit at rest. It's been a long time since we've had peace. Nothing comes simple anymore. Your questions, my answers, our responses both spoken and unspoken are complicated beyond measure. There must be a chapter in the relationship handbook that says "The pursuit of happiness must grant a right-of-way to the pursuit of peace." Perhaps I'll contribute a chapter, if only to illuminate the unspoken truth about love and peace. The pursuit of peace isn't a truce between man and woman. It is a truce between each individual's head and their heart; between logic and intuition. And if you really believed that God granted the gift of intuition exclusively to women, think again. Although... right about now... this gift of intuition feels strangely like a curse. But, what do men know... right?

Morning is almost here. I spend the waning moments trying to eliminate any gaps between our flesh. The sweat is pouring profusely from our bodies. You know that I hate the tickling sensation of sweat's trickle. But, what you don't know is how hard it is to let go. Maybe we can lie here... sweat out the hurt, our heartaches, the overbearing sense of frustration. Maybe if I hold on tight enough, the voices screaming from both head and heart will evaporate into the morning light. I lie here, holding you close, yet sensing the futility of my "maybe if's." All the logic within me won't stop me from gently kissing your cheek and offering up one last "maybe, if..." all the while partaking in that silent universal (albeit pathetic) ritual of wondering are you awake?

I want you to know that I know... Mourning is here. Has been for some time now, but here in the final moments before dawn Mourning's kicking my ass. Seems Mourning is pissed at me, and truth be told, rightfully so. I've committed the unthinkable crime of passion - yelling out another's name while in her clutches. I want Ms. Mourning to know that I didn't slip when I called her by another name. Hell, I even convinced myself that her name was "job stress."
I was just trying something - anything - to avoid the reality of her arrival. It's not the first time she's paid me a visit, but I don't think I'll ever become accustomed to her sewing my curtains shut tight or pounding my stomach with her relentless body blows. Most of all, Ms. Mourning, I know that I'll never grow comfortable calling you by name.

Unfortunately, I can't hide nor deny my reality. Mourning arrived with the fury of Patti Austin's bittersweet plea, "Love Me By Name" bellowing in her wake.

This letter excerpted from "Before You Give Up On Him"
Copyright 2007 Keith O. Johnson

PS... you might be wondering who is my, she?
You might be better served asking "who your HE might be?"
Think you know your man?

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Get Ready For The Journey Of Your Life

Wow! It seems like just yesterday that Nikki Woods inspired me to post my inaugural blog, Little Secrets Behind Achieving Big Goals. A year later and I'm still here and for that I say, thank you! You have encouraged, challenged, inspired and expanded my point of view with every email and posting. I sincerely mean that.

Now, take a moment and study the photograph (double click it to enlarge). Make a mental note of everything you see. Then, write down what this picture means to you. Don't worry, you won't be handing in this assignment.

Now, here's the story behind the picture:

"Come... you must visit our rainforest." Those were the exact words of my lodging host. I assumed that we were visiting the rainforest. Standing at the trailhead, it became clear that he wasn't joining me. However, the explorer in me wouldn't let me back out.

"How bad could it be?" It was on the grounds of a historic sugar plantation, so it had to be safe... right? Besides, I was a UCS (Unofficial Cub Scout - had all the gear, but never went to the meetings). Since then, I've backpacked and camped throughout the United States. I could handle this... right? RIGHT?

So off I trekked into a rather noisy Caribbean rainforest. The air was as thick as a steam room, making the downward sloping trail as slippery as frozen stairs. With every descending step, the canopy of tropical foliage blocked out all but the most determined rays of mid-day sun. The dark, vast crevice which ran alongside the trail made my stomach knot up. Here I was, clad in a t-shirt, shorts and canvas sneakers peering into the deep abyss. Two thoughts surfaced rather quickly: (1) this wasn't Central Park and (2) I had violated the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared."

My host instructed me to follow the trail to the main attraction, the unmistakable Big Tree. Confession - I never saw the tree. For the first hundred yards or so, I never took my eyes off the narrow trail. My eyes darted to and fro looking for snakes while my ears kept track of what sounded like something stalking me. My camping experience tried to reassure me that it was leaves falling to the ground, but I've been in the concrete jungle too long. I did what any New Yorker would do. I stopped in my tracks, and assumed the battle position to face my stalker head-on. I stood quietly waiting, all the while nervously peeking downward to make sure the jungle creatures weren't attacking my feet. Yes, I'll admit it -- full blown paranoia!

Should I turn back and climb the steep, slippery trail? Should I press onward, despite the fact that the trail ahead was cloaked in darkness? I grabbed my camera and began shooting pictures. I shot where I'd been, but they came out blurry. I shot the crevice, but it was too dark. I then turned around and shot a picture of the trail before me. What came into the LCD screen caught me off guard. There was a strong ray of sunlight streaming thru the jungle canopy and just beyond that was a little wooden bridge. Where did that come from? I hadn't seen that before. I stared ahead and still didn't see the sun nor the bridge. Am I coming down with Jungle Fever? I looked back at the screen, then ahead to the trail. Slowly, everything came into focus. There was a little wooden bridge that would transport me over the deep, dark abyss. And there was ample sunshine to light my path. From that moment on, I made like Forrest Gump - I was run-ning!

The picture is now my background on my computer desktop. No profound reason other than I found it beautiful. Then one day, the essence of the picture hit me with one of those Aha! moments.

We each have a personal path to follow. It isn't a group trail, family toll road or congregational highway. It's your personal path and has been divinely appointed specifically for you. At times it may appear too narrow, but there's more than enough room for you. The lack of width makes turning around difficult. Not impossible, just difficult enough for you to reconsider before retreating. The foliage alongside the path rings the alarm. Hear that foliage crunching under the weight of your footprint? That's you... treading off that path.

The riches of the path are available to each of us. Yet, I suspect that faith may determine how much bounty we can actually partake. My jungle foray was an exercise of little faith. Teeny, tiny faith believers tend to keep our eyes peeled to the path, sometimes at the expense of knowing which direction we're headed. We may learn to appreciate, even find beauty in this limited view. Why then do we arrive at life's checkpoints, having missed the experience of the journey, and saddled with a nagging sense of, is this it?

We, of budding faith, raise our sights just enough to see the foliage, perhaps even the crevices that lie ahead. We appreciate the blessings of our journey, yet are sometimes stumped by what we can't see. Yet, we continue forward in the belief that by faith, a way has already been made for us.

What that day in the jungle taught me is this: those of great faith -- faith that can move mountains -- enjoy the full harvest of their life journey. They experience the journey, hear it, taste it, smell it and feel it. They see untold beauty. However, they don't have a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. They, too, see the crevices and the impending darkness ahead. They don't always see the bridge or the sun rays. But great is their faith. They don't just believe the bridge exist to carry them over the crevice, they know it. They see the darkness, but they know the Light will come to illuminate their path. They know it. Because great is thy faithfulness, their eyes are fixed on the rich blessings of the journey. Because Great is thy Faithfulness, they rest assured knowing that their trail is the perfect width, length and destination for them, with the perfect accompaniment of the Most High God!

So, I ask you my friend. Are you ready for the journey of your life? I am! I believe you are too. In fact, your journey is destined to be so exciting that I want to be part of it. So, count me in. Just remember, faith the size of a mustard seed shall propel us through 2007 and beyond!

Mustard seed size chart = o
(One size fits all)

Happy New Year, from That Johnson Boy!

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