Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I’m not big on New Year resolutions, but I recently came across this Lifestyle Map exercise at one of my favorite websites, Carrie & Danielle, and it seems a bit more intrinsic in assisting me in becoming the person I aspire to be.

Carrie & Danielle assist women in identifying their Style Statement. Your style statement captures the essence of your true self. My style statement is vivid ease and for those of you intimately familiar with mango mama, I think you’d agree that this suites me quite fine. Now, let’s be clear, I couldn’t afford Carrie & Danielle’s $500 consultation fee, but one of my best buds, is totally into what they do and with a bit of research, she’s collected their questions and with her incredible intellect and insight, she’s sort of appropriated their process, but that’s a whole other story.

Now, back to the Lifestyle Map exercise. Unlike New Year resolutions, the Lifestyle Map is a great tool for examining what’s working and not working in each area of your life, and in identifying what you want, they ask you to detail how meeting each goal will make you feel. It’s an interesting and challenging prospect, because oftentimes, it’s the sense of accomplishment, contentment, etc., we’re searching for in the first place. I also can’t believe, Carrie & Danielle are offering this process for free, so hop on over to their site, download your map and let the dreaming begin.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Let There Be Light!

When I was younger; before I met and married Loverman, I was always looking for those large, grand gestures from whatever man I was dating at the moment to indicate the depth of his affections for me. Since I’ve matured, I’ve come to learn that real love is demonstrated in simple, yet thoughtful ways. Case in point, when we first moved into this house nine months ago, the motion detector light in the driveway wasn’t working. This is just one of a dozen small things that’s needed to be addressed. A few days ago, when I got home after 9pm, I noticed the light was activated and I made my way to the front door with no problem.

Way to go Loverman, I love you too!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Cheesecake Factory

I recently had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory for the first time. My lunch was great, but it was way too much food for one person and as I looked around at the other folks at my table and at the patrons at the surrounding tables, I noticed no one completely finished their meals. Sure, it’s a great bang for your buck, but it’s also systemic of American culture, extreme excess and wastefulness.

hello stranger

Yesterday, my girl, Alexis, and I drove up to North Jersey to spend the afternoon with one of our line sisters, Lisa. It’s been almost 15 years since we’ve all been together and we had a ball catching up. In fact, yesterday’s activities fit quite well with one of my intentions for the new year----- make a sincere effort to spend more time with friends.

I’ve always had a tight group of gal pals, and infrequently ventured outside of this core nucleus of friends, but while in college I met and enjoyed many folks that I’ve simply loss touch with over the years and since I’ve had the kids, forgetaboutit! It’s time for this to change. I think it’s especially crucial since both Loverman and I are only children, neither of us have a large extended family. It’s really easy for us to become insulated, like we’re on our own little island and that’s not the type of environment I want for our family. You need to have other energies around as a sort of barometer, to let you know if you’re balanced or veering a bit off course.

Touching base with Alexis and Lisa yesterday really helped me feel a little less like just mom to Olivia and Yannick or wife to Loverman, and more like my old self. It was nice to reconnect with both them and me. I see now, that I’ve missed us all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I am a sandwich

I am a sandwich or better yet, I am of the sandwich generation. I am in my early forties and I’m sandwiched between my two younger children and parents in their mid-sixties. My experience with my father this week has made this painfully clear.

For the last year or so, my dad has been in extreme discomfort from his right knee and earlier this week he had knee replacement surgery. When Dad mentioned he was planning to have this surgery, I was really happy, because of course, if something could be done to alleviate his pain, I wanted it done. I was also concerned as to how we could manage his recovery because my dad lives alone. I’m an only child, and since my parent’s break-up about 4 years ago, my dad and I have been forced to deal with each other in a more production way, as we’ve tried to heal our challenged relationship.

When discussing his operation, my dad assured me he had everything covered and really wouldn’t need my assistance. In fact, he said he didn’t need me to come to the hospital during the surgery. Well, I explained nothing would keep me from being with him at the hospital or as he weathered this ordeal, but I needed to have some idea of what I’d be in for. I mean, what about getting him up and down the stairs in his house? How much weight will he be able to put on his right leg by the time he goes home? My dad’s 6’1” and about 250lbs, he’s not a small man and I didn’t know if he should really be managing in his house alone for the first few days after the surgery. I’d already planned to go to his house each morning to fix his breakfast for at least the first week following the operation. I’m off for the holidays until January 3rd, so it really isn’t a big deal. Again, my dad’s assured me this isn’t necessary.

Well, yesterday I learned my dad has no idea of what he’s in for and the few things he does have in place are woefully inadequate and will not address his immediate needs once he’s discharged. When I went to the hospital yesterday afternoon, my dad’s nurse, Marsha, introduced me to Tracey, my dad’s caseworker. Tracey peppered me with at least a half dozen questions, which I wasn’t prepared to answer. She told me I’d have to buy a portable toilet and walker. For at least the next three weeks, a physical therapist and homecare nurse will come to Dad’s home to assist him, but someone should probably be staying with him for the first week at least. Once Tracy gave me a more comprehensive picture of my dad’s situation, I was pretty mad and disgusted with my dad.

I’m angry because this is a lot more than I anticipated and because I’ve been asking my dad for weeks to sit down with me and devise a plan to make this work. Now I find myself having to rework my plans to accommodate his needs. I’m not proud that I feel this way, but I would be more amiable about helping him out if my dad asked, or at least, sat me down to explain what the recovery was realistically going to look like. At this point, I’ve found myself in this position by default.

I’m also realizing that as my parents' age, I will probably find myself in this position a lot more often, sandwiched between their needs, and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. But, if this were my mom, the circumstances would be a lot different because my mother and I have a much better relationship. We communicate and work well together. This current situation with my dad reflects our ongoing struggle, one in which in his mind, I’m still a 12-year-old child, who has to do things his way, without question, and to a certain extent, I guess I’ve played into this scenario, but if I value my sanity and that of my family, things are definitely going to have to change.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A New Superhero's On the Scene

First, let me contextualize the set-up for you. Loverman is a vegetarian, only seafood, vegetables and soy products for him. The kids and I do all of the above, plus chicken and turkey, but no pork or beef.

The Set-Up-- Yannick is sitting at the kitchen table and I’m at the sink putting dishes in the dishwasher.

Yannick: Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be a mental-vegetarian.

Me: A what?

Yannick: A mental-vegetarian

Me: Baby, what’s a mental-vegetarian?

Yannick: It’s a superhero that squashes all beef!


True story

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What's my real story?

I just finished reading One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life--- A Story of Race and Family Secrets, a memoir by Bliss Broyard. One Drop details Bliss’ search for self after learning her father, Anatole Broyard, who lived all of his adult life as a White man, is indeed Black. Bliss and her brother, Todd, are told this family secret only days before their father’s impending death.

I first learned of One Drop while reading a review on My American Melting Pot. It peaked my interest because of the history of passablanc (passing for White) in my own family. Both sides of my mother’s family are extremely light and on my mother’s maternal side, my mom has a first cousin who simply walked off one day and never looked back. Within our family lore, it’s pretty much common knowledge he went on and lived his life as a White man, with a White wife, and with seemingly White children.

I remember family stories my grandmother told me of how she and her four sisters would pass for White now and then as they were growing up. It all seemed impossible to me, because most Black folks can spot their own, no matter how fair, with straight hair, they may be. I used to ask my grandmother about her grandmother, but she explained that she didn’t know her grandmother because her mother married a dark skin man (my great-grandfather), and my great-great grandmother didn’t approve. She didn’t want anybody darkening up the family.

When I was younger, I found these stories amusing and these assumptions of “if you’re White, you’re alright, but if you’re Black, step back,” outdated. As a small child, I remember my Aunt Pam bopping to James Brown’s anthem, “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud,” but as I got older, I realized that I, too, needed to come to terms with my own color struck issues.

Away at college, I became acutely aware of the intra-racial assumptions Black folks make solely due to the color of one’s skin and the texture of hair. I remember a heated exchange with another girl, who told me; I thought I was cute because I had light skin and green eyes. At the time, this was all news to me because as light as my mom’s family is, but dad’s crew has a lot of deep mocha brown throughout and in my immediate family it just wasn’t an issue, but, if you had “good” or "nappy" hair, now that was an issue, and I was one nappy-headed chile.

During my sophomore year, I read Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby and The Bluest Eye and thus began my uninformed attempts to level my privileged light-skinned playing field. These efforts included cutting the perm out of my hair and letting my natural nap to take hold of my head; dismissing light-skin brothers for no reason, other than the color of their skin; and adopting an Afro-centric veneer. To this day, when it comes to re-upping on my make-up, I gravitate to the very berry or chocolate drop lip colors, all of which are way too dark for my skin tone. Thank God for good, honest girlfriends, they let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I can’t rock these darker shades.

I readily admit part of my attraction to Loverman is his undeniable African features, his full lips and darker hue. I’ve always wanted Black babies and one of my most potent memories is minutes after laboring Olivia into the world, my mother commented that Olivia had absolutely no color and she looked directly at Loverman and in her sassy fashion taunted, “Well son, what do we need you for, if you’re not going to add a bit of color to the line?”

Earlier today, when I discussing One Drop with my mom, she admitted to understanding why Anatole Broyard did what he did. I cautioned mom to remember that all of our lives we’ve benefited from our light skin status, by being identified as “a little bit better,” because we’re not dark skinned. For me, I’ve often joked the sins of my grandfathers are written all over my face--- meaning my lighter skin, light eyes, are a result of White misogynist domination of my female ancestors, but I don’t know if this is really the truth or not. It’s simply romanticized reasoning I’ve made up. For me, I think I’m at a juncture where it’s time to find my truth, so I can pass concrete facts onto my babies and finally put the speculations to rest.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Is what you see, all you get?

One of the reasons I headed to NOLA last week was to check out a bunch of performance work. A big part of my job is to identify artists/projects/work to bring to the Painted Bride Art Center, a multidisciplinary presenting arts organization here in Philly.

So, in addition to networking with colleagues, eating way too much fried food and checking out the recovery in New Orleans, I also saw A LOT of performance work. In fact, Saturday I spent nine entire hours watching performance after performance. Now, before Saturday, I’d imagine an entire day of watching new, thought-provoking work, without my kids or any other distractions, would sound like heaven, but in actuality, it was hell. It was just too much and by the end of the day, I was ready to run from the theater. My senses were on overload and I was outdone, because there was a lot of nudity, I’m talking butt-naked, or artists in various stages of undress and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I’m completely over nudity for shock value. Don’t waste my time; find a more creative way to provoke me or turn me on.

I did dig Miguel Gutierrez’s Retrospective Exhibitionist and Difficult Bodies. The hour-long excerpt Miguel presented was fun and engaging, but my boss would argue that he wasn’t completely nude because he wore funky red Converse throughout the piece--- whatever!

The night before this daylong festival of performances, I checked out a cabaret featuring Louisiana-based artists. The State of the Nation Art & Performance Series was hosted by the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. It was a fun night and included local artists of all ages and disciplines. Two spoken word artists in particular blew me away, Sunni Patterson and R. Moose Jackson. Sunni reminded me of my girl, Ursula Rucker. Sunni’s work is dense and should be studied by high school students everywhere, and I’ve been haunted all week by one of Moose’s lines--- “I’m not alright, but I’m upright.” This country boy is BADDDD! Moose remained in New Orleans throughout the storm and its aftermath. You can tell he’s seen some things. Too often, I find spoken word performance passé, but these two artists are the real-deal Holyfield.

Finally, Sunday night I found myself in the middle of Guillermo Gomez Pena’s Mapa-Corpo 2. Listen folks, this shit was deep. The piece included a man wrapped from head-to-toe in plastic wrap, a burka-clad woman who birthed a pork loin, then took a huge bite of the raw meet and ate it, at this point I headed out to the theater and right for the bar, because I knew I need more of a buzz to experience the rest of this piece. Other elements of this interactive performance included the burka babe completely disrobing and laying on a table while an acupuncturist sticks acupuncture pins, featuring flags from nations around the globe. While all of this is going on, Guillermo is walking around adding bi-lingual commentary on the colonized body politic--- like I said--- DEEP. I ended up videotaping a lot of this piece because I knew I wouldn’t have the words to explain it to Loverman. Words don’t do it justice, and I have to admit, I left the theater wondering…WHAT THE HELL?!?!

I often myself in this place, seeing and experiencing new work and not fully understanding it’s meaning or purpose. Ultimately, it’s an exercise of letting my judgments and expectations go and allowing myself to just feel or go with the experience. When I’m evaluating whether or not I’m interested in bringing the work to my center, I just look for the humanity in the work presented. Does it transcend the specifics and touch your soul, and for me, its got to do more than show a little bit of skin.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's a girl gotta do?

This afternoon I caught the last half hour of the rebroadcast of Oprah’s Favorite Things. Now, all I want to know is how can I be down? I mean, DAMN! What’s a woman got to do to get on that show? Do you know anyone who’s ever participated in this gift fest? Is there some secret society? Shoot, it must be good, because I get goose bumps just watching the gift getting, and if I’m ever granted an invite to that particular party, all of us will benefit, cause Lord knows, I can’t keep the entire booty for myself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Collective Black Guilt Syndrome

With all of my 42 years, I still cannot seem to shake Collective Black Guilt Syndrome (CBGS). For those of you not familiar with CBGS, it’s the misplaced sense of “one bad apple ruins the whole bunch.” An example is when I’m lying in bed, watching TV and the news breaks in with a developing story of a deadly shooting, and the first thing that comes to my mind is, “Oh Lord, I hope the shooter isn’t Black.”

I got to thinking about this after checking out a recent post on the blog, Mes Deaux Cents (MDC). The post detailed the vacuous nature of Sherri Shepherd on The View. According to MDC, Sherri’s a disgrace to Black women everywhere and I tend to agree with her. When Miss Shepherd admitted to not knowing if the world was round or flat, I wanted to reach through my TV set and shake some sense into her. But, why do I feel like Sherri’s representing Black folks/women everywhere? She surely doesn’t represent me.

Earlier today, Loverman caught a promo for today’s Oprah and the topic was a man who videotaped himself physically abusing his wife and before they showed a picture of the abuser, the first thing out of Loveman’s mouth was, “I hope it isn’t a brother?” Unfortunately, it was. A few years ago, when the D.C. area was terrorized by a series of seemingly random sniper shootings, I remember feeling pretty confident that a crazed White man would be identified as the shooter and I, along with many others, were shocked to find out how wrong we were.

The flip side of this syndrome is collective pride folks feel when we bask in the glory of the likes of Oprah, Obama, Malcolm and Martin, but somehow, it’s just never enough, and many of us feel saddled with the vestiges of Willie Horton, welfare moms and video hoes.

I’m sure this syndrome has something to do with how Black folks are represented historically, as well as in mainstream media, but for me, it’s an area where I need to do some personal work. I definitely don’t want to pass this tendency onto my kids. I/we cannot carry the burden for an entire race of people on a daily basis. It’s just too heavy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

NOLA Update

Well folks, I’m back and happy to report my sojourn to NOLA was not for naught. I think I caught a glimpse of change. A day or so before I departed, Brad Pitt announced his Make It Right initiative which will focus its attention and resources on rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward.

Last Thursday, I traveled to the Ninth Ward and I saw the deep pink tarp structures indicating where the Make It Right homes will be built. When I toured the Ninth Ward in March, I was stunned by the absence of energy, but this visit I saw a few people and work crews and I felt the conjuring of energy, movement, maybe even progress.

I recently learned that historically, the Black folks and Creole of New Orleans are known for their expert craftsmanship, with longstanding participation in the building trades and as with most folks, they aren’t looking for a hand out, but a hand up. Will Brad & Company simply step up to the table to build these quirky looking green homes, or will this innovative initiative offer real opportunities for folks to get back on their feet by providing jobs and job training, while contracting with homegrown minority contractors ensuring sustainable change for members of this devastated community?

Time will tell, people. Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bearing Witness

Tomorrow I’m off to NOLA for the National Performance Network’s (NPN) Annual Meeting. Despite the fact that I’ll miss the mango tribe terribly, I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and seeing new performance work. I wish I could say the same about visiting New Orleans.

This will be my second trip to New Orleans this year and as with my previous trip, I’m heading to the Big Easy with lots of trepidation. I’d visited the city years earlier, but Katrina and its aftermath completely ruined my charmed view of the city. Another sad reminder of this country’s disdain for people of color, but of course, that’s a whole ‘nother post.

When I arrived in New Orleans for a business meeting last March, I grabbed a shuttle to my hotel in the French Quarter and during the ride I silently surveyed hundreds of homes in various stages of rebuilding. I saw hundreds more that appeared to be completely abandoned in all types of neighborhoods.

While meeting with my colleagues, I tried to find the right moment to request a tour of the 9th Ward. As I hemmed and hauled looking for the right words, the Louisiana natives I was meeting with, looked at me plainly and asked, “Do you want to go on a disaster tour?” “Uh, yes,” I stammered and went on to explain I wasn’t looking to see the devastation just for a sensational thrill and my colleagues explained that they want as many folks as possible to see what's really going on because they feel as if most people in the country have no idea of how slowly, and in some instances, nonexistent the recovery is. They needed folks from the outside to be a witness.

About five of us went along for the tour and it was unbelievable. As I mentioned, our hotel was in the French Quarter, which appears as if Katrina never happened or at least is a distant memory. Folks were partying up and down Bourbon Street like all’s well with the world.

During our disaster tour (I still can’t believe that’s what they call it) we visited a number of neighborhoods in addition to the 9th Ward. In all of the neighborhoods, except the 9th Ward, I saw dozens of FEMA trailers parked in front yards and driveways. The woman taking us on the tour explained that she was having trouble getting her bearings because so many street signs have been swept away and whole streets are actually missing. She also explained how to read the markings on every house. Each home is marked with a big X and in the Xs four quadrants are numbers indicating what authorities found when investigating the property after the storm. This info included the number of dead bodies found in the house, the date of the inspection, if any pet carcasses were found and so on. Each house also had a line that wrapped around the entire structure and was usually found close to the roof. These are water lines and indicate the water at its highest level. I remember thinking these Xs, numbers, and lines are post-Katrina hieroglyphics.

By this time I was totally bummed, but nothing could prepare me for the absolute bareness of the 9th Ward. At least in the other neighborhoods there were signs of life, activity, things were happening. Here in the 9th Ward--- nada. The silence was deadening. There was an absence of energy, life. We drove for maybe two miles and all I could think of was that at one time, this place was home for thousands of people and now no one is home. It actually looked like a movie set designed to look like a disaster zone. I thought of all of the people who want to return to their home, their city, but can’t because there’s no infrastructure to provide their most basic services, gas, electric, water…etc.

It took hours for me to find words to describe what I’d just seen. I bought back photos and shared them with everyone and anyone who would listen. I relayed stories I’d been told, the generosity and grace I’d witnessed. I was touched by the human spirit’s ability to forgive and heal. I learned that residents of the Gulf Coast no longer trust or depend on the federal government for shit, but their faith lies in their fellow man, their neighbors.

On Thursday, I’m going on another disaster tour, with a busload of people and this time, I’m hoping to witness change.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Finding Your THING?

When I was pregnant with Olivia, Loverman used to spend hour after hour wondering what our little girl’s THING would be as she grew up. He did the same while we were expecting Yannick, too. I listened and dreamed, praying only for their safe passage from the womb to the world.

As the children grow, the two of us catch glimpses of what we think may be their THING, maybe more like leanings toward their THING, but today when Olivia came home with a partial scholarship to an intensive Saturday art program at a local university, our hunches were confirmed. Olivia is an artist.

It’s really not a surprise. Our lives are surrounded by art and artists. My mom is an incredible jewelry designer, my husband’s a filmmaker, I program for a multidisciplinary presenting arts organization. In fact, years ago, I curated an exhibition which included shadowboxes made with found materials and this exhibit included some of Olivia’s early work. I think she may have been three at the time.

From day one, Yannick has been musical. I’d be surprised if music isn’t his THING. It’s in every pore of his little body. His nickname is Be-bop, because even as an infant, he’d bop back and forth to any rhythm within earshot. As a baby, his favorite book was Charlie Parker Played Be-bop. As he’s gotten older, his musical tastes seem to be gravitating towards world traditions including the polyrhythmic North Indian tabla and all things Beatles.

What a gift Miss Olivia has been given! To be affirmed of her talents at such a young age. I think knowing your THING helps to ground you. I know so many folks who are still looking for their THING, or haven’t been given the space and time to really develop what they think their THING may be.

Now, the challenge for Loverman and I will be to strike the right balance between providing support and encouragement, while not allowing this revelation to limit this child as she explores her other talents and interests. We’ve got to know when to step aside and allow nature to run its course, because who says that you can only have one THING?

Score 1 for the little guy!

Yesterday, my entire mango tribe was heading home after the usual Sunday-get-ready-for-Monday errands and Yannick was trying to tell us a story. He's a little chatterbox and as usual, Olivia was butting in and tramping all over the details he was working so hard to provide. When they took a breath, I jumped in and scolded Miss Olivia for never letting her little brother tell the story all by himself. I’m going on and on, blah… blah… blah… blah, about letting the little guy speak and the importance of active listening, when Yannick quips in and says…. “Yeah, like you’re doing right now Mommy.”

We all fell out laughing and afterwards mango mommy just zipped her lips. Point well taken, little guy.

Yannick: 1
Olivia & Mango Mama: 0

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Forget the Boogeyman

Condolezza Rice scares me, she always has. Condi is the embodiment of the Ice Princess, with only ice running through her veins.

I guess you’re wondering what got me thinking about this? Well, this morning I learned there’s going to be a new Condi biography dropping on Dec. 11, Condolezza Rice: An American Life and while I listened to the interview with the book’s author, NY Times reporter, Elizabeth Bumiller, I tried to separate the personal from the political and of course, that’s totally impossible. It made me wonder how as a child this woman, who lost a friend in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, could feel at peace with waging such horrors upon others.

Now, I’m not one of those women who thinks every woman needs a man (or another woman), or have children, to be happy and fulfilled, but if Ms. Rice had babies of her own, she wouldn’t be so keen on sending someone else’s into harms way.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I didn't see it comin'

It just snuck up on me. I haven’t felt this way in years, maybe decades. In fact, it wasn’t until this morning that I was even ready to admit it, but I’ve decided there’s nothing wrong with it, so I might as well own it. So here goes… I’ve got the Christmas spirit.

I don’t mean I’m rushing out buying ooo-gobbs of sense less gifts for everybody or I’m running around wearing those tacky holiday sweaters, but I am feeling full of good will and cheer towards my fellow man and (wo) man. I’m not cringing every time I hear a Christmas carol and this morning I even convinced Loverman to get the Christmas lights out so we could dress up the house a bit. I headed out to Targé this afternoon and bought a really great wreath for the door and the cutest holiday cards.

I’m not sure where all of this is coming from, especially because today’s only Dec. 1, but I’m o.k. with it. It sure beats my usual emotional state when the holidays roll around. For as long as I can remember I ducked my head and moved through the holidays with as little fanfare as possible. Since the kids have come on the scene, I’ve tried my best to get with the program, but beyond getting them presents, throwing a tree up in a corner of the living room and baking a few sweet potato pies, I haven’t done much. I’m not proud of my former bah-hum-bug attitude, but it is what it is, and I just haven’t seemed to have the energy to do better.

What’s different this year? Is it simply my attitude, or better yet, my sense of gratitude? Maybe, I’ve been doing a lot of work on trying to focus on what’s going right, as opposed to dwelling on what’s not just the way I want it at that very moment.

The kind of Christmas spirit I’m feeling is the kind where I’m looking forward to everyone losing their edge for a few weeks and instead of running around like chickens with our heads cut off, we’re encouraged to take time to be with family and friends. We eat good food and savor our blessings, or if we’ve had a particularly crappy year, we can look forward to better times and better fortune in the coming new year.

So, it might feel a little foreign, but I’m prepared to go with the flow and ride this holiday spirit wave to wherever it takes me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Inevitable Milestone

My dear sweet, Olivia, recently experienced a sad milestone. Olivia’s 8 and in the third grade and yesterday, while in school, she got into a discussion with one of her classmates about religion. The other little girl is Jewish and she and Olivia have been in the same class since kindergarten. During this discussion, the other little girl proclaimed that she didn’t believe in Olivia’s God, Olivia countered that there’s only one God, and then the little girl went on to say that not only didn’t she believe in Olivia’s God, but she didn’t like Black people either.

Now, most Black folks can vividly remember the first time they experienced an overtly racist moment and for Miss Olivia it was yesterday. As prepared, as I know Olivia was for this moment, it didn’t dampen the wave of sadness I felt as I realized the bloom in some respects is off the rose. There’s no way to get around it, a layer of Olivia’s childhood simply slipped away with this exchange.

When I asked Olivia how she felt about her classmate’s comment, Olivia said she thought the girl said what she did because she wanted to hurt Olivia’s feelings. Olivia didn’t seem to take it too personally, in fact, she thought it was sort of funny that this little girl could make such a general statement about not liking Black people, because from what Olivia’s observed, this young lady doesn’t seem to know too many Black people, so how does she have enough experience to declare that she doesn’t like any Black people?

After discussing the day’s events with Loverman, we agreed I should reach out to the little girl’s parents, especially since I’d developed a friendly rapport with her mother over the past four years. Hell, Olivia and the girl have even had a couple of play dates over the years, and despite the fact that Olivia seemed to have weathered this exchange unfazed, I wanted to let this mother know that her daughter had come to a place where she was feeling comfortable with voicing her budding prejudices. I’m also aware that these pronouncements come from somewhere; it may be in school or even at home. Maybe the parents need to check the racial overtones they may be unconsciously projecting.

The girl’s mom made a surprising admission when relayed her daughter’s comments. Over the past few weeks, she’s heard both her daughters make mildly racist statements. This alone is scary since her daughters’ ages are 9 and 7. She went on to lament that she and her husband didn’t know where these feelings were coming from and were at their wits end as to how to address it. I asked her if other than at school did she and her family have any contact with people that didn’t look like them? “Not very often,” she sighed. Well, for me, therein lies the problem.

When discussing this incident with my mom, she reminded me of some of my early racially motivated encounters. Throughout elementary and high school I was the only Black student in most of my classes. Nowadays, schools don’t want students distributing birthday invitations in class if every student isn’t being invited, but back in the days before political correctness, I was often excluded and rarely received an invitation as they were doled out among my classmates. My mom recounted the numerous times she told me she wasn’t paying the school’s tuition for me to be invited to birthday parties. I can’t remember when I stopped caring, but believe me; I don’t have many fond memories of my elementary or high school years.

Look people, it all boils down to breaking the cycle and when these precious creatures come into the world they don’t have preconceived ideas of black, white, green or yellow. They get those cues directly from the horse’s mouth. Let’s be mindful.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Addiction

Yesterday, I came face-to-face with one of my greatest (and sweetest) temptations and I’m very proud to report that I did not succumb! This is a huge step for me because late last spring I developed a non-ceasing jones for Whole Foods lemon bars. My desire for this lemony treat was primal and I’d lost total control under its spell. I rationalized this indulgence by not eating an entire bar in one day, but even just a half a bar a day is way too much. Instead of eating the damn bar, I should have just slapped it up against by rear end and rubbed it in, because in my more rational moments I knew that’s exactly where it was headed.

The seriousness of this situation revealed itself one Sunday afternoon in August when I stopped by the local Whole Foods to pick up my week’s supply (like this alone wasn’t a red flag!) and they didn’t have any. I felt a bit stressed, but decided to just let my fingers do the walking and I came home, grabbed the Yellow Pages and called around to the other Whole Foods in the area, only to find that none of the stores had them available. Management told me, that there was a problem with the supplier. That’s when not only the real panic set in, but also disgust when I realized that I’d become tricked out by this little yellow bar.

Right then and there I decided to take control of the situation, but I wish I could report that I said adios to those lemon bars and never looked back, but that’s not what happened. I just moved on to another addition--- cupcakes, the world’s most perfect food. That’s right, when I couldn’t get my hands on the Whole Foods lemon bars, I went online and found a recipe for lemon cupcakes and baked the most scrumptious lemon cupcakes with butter cream frosting. The upside of this confectionary passion is that I enjoy baking the cupcakes a bit more than eating them, so I satisfy my craving with a few finger dips in the batter, then share the bounty of cupcakes with family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, the mailman--- anyone, just get them out of my house. My repertoire of recipes has expanded to chocolate chip cupcakes, vanilla and chocolate cupcakes and this weekend I’m going to try a delightful red velvet cupcake recipe--- Mmmmm!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I've been tagged!

Well, Miss Nerd Girl tagged me (thanks Girl for including me!), so it's my turn to participate in this meme-thing. I'm not sure if I've even done this correctly, but here goes, 7 random mango mama tidbits...

1. When I was in 5th grade, Roots was broadcast for the first time. I was the only little Black kid in Sr. Stevens class and I was pretty feeling good about myself and enjoying all the attention Roots was getting. Hey, it was back in the day and there still weren’t a lot of options featuring Black folks in all of our glory! Anyhoo, one day Sr. Stevens came into class and started calling me Kizzy. I couldn’t believe it. When she first did it, I looked around the class, because I just knew she wasn’t talking to me, but sure enough she was looking right at me and I was mortified. Why was this crazy nun referring to me as Kizzy? Well, she did this for the rest of the day and I went right home and told my parents. They were as confused as I was and contacted the teacher the next day. Sr. Stevens gave some convoluted explanation that Kizzy was played by Leslie Uggams, and Miss Uggams was Sr. Stevens’ favorite colored actress and since I’m Sr. Stevens’ favorite colored student, it just made sense that her pet name for me should be Kizzy. Go figure? My mom and dad explained in no uncertain terms that referring to me as Kizzy, a young slave character on Roots, was unacceptable and if she kept it up, a lawsuit would soon come.

2. Although I’m a ferocious reader now, this wasn’t always the case. In kindergarten, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and thus began four years of intense tutoring to develop skills to cope with it. This was news to my parents, because they thought I was practically reading when I went into kindergarten, but what they learned is that I had become an expert at memorizing everything by repetition and sound, so I wasn’t really reading the little board books, but I was just repeating what they’d been reading to me. This was a really painful time, because each day I was separated from my class to go the “special” teacher and I hated reading aloud in the class. Something clicked when I was in the 5th grade and all of the skills I’d learned, especially the one which taught me to mentally flip each of the letters, really kicked in and I began reading with a vengeance. I sometimes still have dyslexic episodes, like when I was in college, if I stayed up too late studying, I’d start seeing everything backwards and couldn’t retain any of the information. It was better for me simply to go to sleep and get up extra early to get my studying on.

3. I met Loverman at the Cannes Film Festival back in 1998 and told him just hours after we met that he would be my husband one day. Fortunately, he believed me and we’ve been together since that day. I knew when I left for this trip to Cannes that something life changing was about to happen, in fact, I even broke up with the joker I was dating for the few months leading up to my trip to France. I just knew I needed to clear the way for the blessings about to come.

4. I dated Jesse Jackson, Jr. when I was in my late teens and through some of my college years. Sorry, I won’t be offering any more details on this one☺

5. With each of my two pregnancies I didn’t have very many food cravings, but I did suffer horribly with olfactory cravings. I had the strongest urges to sniff fabric softener sheets (Bounce was my preferred brand) and cedar shavings for the bottom of hamster and gerbil cages. My poor husband was so concerned he actually called and checked with our midwife to see if this would harm the baby in any way. I alternated sniffing these two things through both of the births and the cravings ceased hours after the births.

6. I love listening and singing along with Frank Sinatra—don’t ask.

7. My maternal grandmother’s family, the Bascoms, is one for the first seven freed Black families of Philadelphia and if you saw how fair this particular lineage was, you’d understand why!

Now, I'd like to pass along this meme chain onto:

Melissa the Mouth
The Crones' Kitchen
Hatha Mama
Tag, you're it!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Man or Woman in the Mirror

When I was a younger, my mom used to urge me to choose my friends wisely, because they’re a reflection of you. She’s right and through the years I’ve also learned that if you’re lucky, your friends can reflect the person you’re aspiring to be.

Case in point, today my sister, Allyson, is leaving for a two-week journey to various villages in Nigeria to offer her medical services, free of charge, to whoever needs it. She’s working with the Nigerian-based Pro-health International. Allyson is my sister by nurture, not by nature. She’s actually a distant cousin, and we didn’t meet until we were 18, but from the day we met, we’ve been thick as thieves, and vitally engaged in each other’s lives. Through Allyson, I’ve learned the importance of consistent nurturing of familial relationships. Allyson is not only my girl, but she’s actively engaged in the lives of my children and husband. As Loverman and I struggle to do our best to raise loving, intelligent and insightful children, Aunt Allyson is here to fill in any blanks that we may miss along the way.

I’m also happy to say that Loverman inspires me daily. I often tell the kids that in my eyes I’ve already done my best by them because I’ve given them the best daddy in the world and anyone who personally knows Loverman, will agree that this is the absolute truth. As a dad, the only thing this man hasn’t done (other than the physical labor to bring them into the world) is breastfeed. Because of Loverman, I am learning to be a more patient and present parent.

I could wax poetic about all of my friends, and the fact of the matter is I’d be hard press to identify even one who in some way or another doesn’t challenge me to be a better person. I hope that as a sister, wife, mother and friend, I’m not the slug in the group and in my unique way, I do the same for them.

Friday, November 23, 2007

An update

Last Sunday, I posted a story about how I sometimes I make up stories to amuse myself. I shared one about a house around the corner from us. Well, I’ve got an update for you. There’s now a For Sale sign on the lawn, so I guess Loverman’s hope that wifey has returned is for naught and unfortunately, my prediction that brotherman got on her last nerve is true and she gathered up her babies and flew the coop. Oh well…. sometimes I get very little pleasure in being right.

Out of Control

I know I’m not the only one totally sickened by the nonstop Black Friday, After Thanksgiving Sale commercials cluttering the airwaves. No one can escape it. But what’s really pushed me over the edge are the stores that have chosen to trump their competitors by actually opening and pushing their wares on Thanksgiving, i.e., Kmart and Wal-Mart. Gee whiz, isn’t anything sacred anymore?

Yeah, I understand we live in a consumer driven society and we’re a country of gotta have the biggest and baddest for the cheapest, but Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family and sort of disconnect from the hustle and bustle of life to reflect on what’s going right in our lives.

Now, maybe you can't gather with your family or your family is totally dysfunctional, you don’t have to celebrate the holiday with them, use the day to slow down, or volunteer with some social service agency feeding the less fortunate, or hang with the some friends, anything, just don’t add to the coffers of the these merchants, who have totally chucked this once no shopping zone, only for the benefit of their stockholders. It’s only one day for God’s sake and then the day after, Black Friday, all bets are off and everyone can get their shopping on!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving. I’ve loved Thanksgiving all my life and it may be the only American holiday that I truly buy into. I mean what’s not to love, you’re given a feeding frenzy pass and you can let yourself go and enjoy four full days of laying back and literally chew the fat.

When I was a kid, my family and I would gather at my Aunt Minnie’s for the holiday and I was always the center of attention as the only kid on the scene; and the Sunday following Thanksgiving, everyone would gather again, but this time at my grandmother’s to enjoy the leftovers. We followed this same routine well into my college years, and honestly, it was fine with me. I’ve never been big on change.

I can’t remember the year things shifted to having Thanksgiving dinner at my parents, but I was cool with it, because all of the living players followed the meal to my parent’s house, so it was simply a change in location.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve really learned to appreciate the stability of my childhood and our traditions, and mourn how much things have changed and the family members who are no longer with us. I expected that I would pass these traditions onto my children.

When I express these feelings to my mom or Aunt Pam, they explain that it’s up to Loverman and me to create new traditions for the kids. For the last few years we’ve had Thanksgiving at our house and my now separated parents have joined us with my elderly aunts. This isn’t going to work this year because tensions between my folks are at an all-time high.

This year we’re joining my cousin Allyson. She’s like a sister to me and she’s had one hell of a year and is in search of creating a few new traditions of her own.

I think I’m finally getting pass this wishing for the good ‘ole days and looking to focus on the larger picture, not the interchangeable details, like the fact that regardless where we land for the meal, we’re surrounded by loving friends and family and our blessings are abundant.

Have a wonderful holiday people.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mammy Two Shoes

As a kid, I was pretty serious and I didn’t like most cartoons. Other than The Flintstones, and maybe The Jetsons, I could care less. Since having my children, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for animation and cartoons and sometimes I even find myself thoroughly absorbed in the cat and mouse antics of Tom & Jerry (one of my son’s favorites).

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m totally consumed with raising media literate kids and the subliminal messages of many new and old cartoons can be deep. The recurring housekeeper character, Mammy Two Shoes, in the earlier Tom & Jerry cartoons is particularly disturbing.

Mammy Two Shoes appeared in the very first Tom & Jerry cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot, and is portrayed as a loud, overweight middle-aged Black woman, yet as stated in a Wikipedia entry, she was famous for never showing her face; like girlfriend had a choice, she is an animated character created by the dynamic duo Hanna and Barbera. The portrayal of this stereotypical character was inspired by the Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel, from Gone with the Wind and the underlying tone is your Black and faceless, like the countless women who commonly worked as domestics in White households throughout this country.

Over the years, Mammy Two Shoes has seen quite a few changes to reflect the current political climate. In the mid-1950s, with a burgeoning civil rights movement, a white, middle-class couple replaced Mammy and audiences were treated to seeing their faces. In the 1960s, old versions of Tom & Jerry cartoons were re-edited, by a process known as rotoscoping, to replace Mammy with a thin white woman, and the voice on the soundtracks was replaced by an Irish-accented voice and again, you can see her face.

When watching these cartoons with my kids, I often ask them to tell me, in detail, what they like and dislike about what we’ve just watched and my brilliant brown babies always question why we never see the African American woman’s face. I try to use this opportunity to introduce ideas about representation and we discuss how other African American characters are portrayed in some of their other favorite cartoons, i.e. the sassy and neck-rolling Black female on The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, or the smart, talented and sensitive Gerald on Nickelodeon’s Hey-Arnold.

Before the advent of 24-hour programming and cable television, parents had greater control over cartoon/media consumption, but now children are inundated with images from the moment they exit the womb. In addition to mediating their viewing choices, it’s imperative to contextualize these images and messages, because if not, we run the risk of mindlessly perpetuating these stilted and harmful stereotypes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Let me tell you a story

I often make up stories. I don’t mean fictional stories or lies. I mean sometimes I encounter situations of which I’m simply an observer and I’ll make up a story in my head to fit the scenario. I do it just to amuse myself, or to pass the time. Unlike the story I’m about to tell, I rarely share these stories with anyone.

I did, however, share the first part of this story with Loverman a few weeks ago. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we moved to this neighborhood last spring and in an attempt to guarantee that we have some solo, adult time everyday, and consistent exercise, Loverman and I take our two dogs out for a walk twice a day. These daily walks have been great in acclimating us to the neighborhood and meeting a few of our new neighbors. One of our neighbors included a household with two parents, twin little boys and a baby daughter. Throughout the summer, these kids would play in their backyard and run over almost every evening to pet our pug, Chester, as I came around the corner. Their mother and I would wave and exchange pleasantries. As the summer came to an end, I noticed that I hadn’t seen the kids or wife in a while, but I didn’t give it too much thought. A few mornings I’d see the husband riding his bike to his house and he’d give me a little nod to acknowledge he’d seen me. I’ve never spoken to the husband. A few weeks after I’d noticed not seeing the wife and kids, a dumpster appeared in their driveway and after two days it filled with old furniture and other odd items. The dumpster was removed within the week. And, after dark, there would be few lights on in their house, but it would be enough to see that the house looked pretty empty with no photos or art work on the walls in the living room. The energy around the house was too still, it was void of energy. I guess it dawned on me sometime in October that not only hadn’t I seen this man’s wife or kids but also their car was never in their driveway. I guess it was about this time that I began making up this story.

The story I imagined was simple, nothing too morbid, yet I didn’t share it with Loverman until the end of October. Finally, I shared with my husband that I think the Mrs. picked up the kids and left the husband and even though the thought made me a bit sad, I guess the husband was cool with it because it didn’t take him too long before he hired a dumpster to clear out all their left over stuff. As expected, Loverman hadn’t even noticed not seeing the kids or wife over the last six weeks. What can I say, Loverman isn’t very observant!

Well, guess what? Last night as we made our way around the corner with the dogs, a car very similar to the one the wife used to drive was in the driveway. I’m not sure if it’s her’s or not, but Loverman said, “What about your story now? It looks like they're back.”

As much as I hope this is true, my longstanding addiction to Law & Order and Snapped, assures me that this is not a foregone conclusion and few scenarios could be at play:

a.) the wife and kids may have returned
b.) the husband got himself together and got a car
c.) none of the above

Loverman says if the leaves in their yard are raked up in the next few days, wifey and the kids have returned. I say, if they have returned, the wife was called away to nurse a sick relative who lives in another state and thought it best to take the kids with her.

To be continued…

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pushing buttons

In my digital storytelling workshop with the high school girls we’re exploring issues of conflict resolution. We’ve been discussing how people push our buttons and I’ve been trying to help the young ladies understand that by responding negatively or with aggression they are allowing the other person to have control over them. I often have this same conversation with my two kids.

Well, the other day I found myself in a too familiar situation and I allowed my buttons to be pushed and I pushed back with attitude.

It all started when we got the kids to school a little late on Thursday morning and if you drive up to the school after 8:25am, you have to park the car and sign the kids in at the front desk. It’s a huge hassle, but a terrific motivator to get the kids to school on time.

So, Loverman parked the car and I hauled the kids to the elevator to make our way up to the front desk with a bunch of other late families. When we get to the front office, there’s a line with about 5 people in front of us, and about 10 folks behind me. I instructed the kids to make their way to their classrooms as I waited to handle the sign in. I’m patiently waiting when I notice Mr. White Man, who was behind me, leaves the line and decides to stand right next to the folks currently signing their kids in. I’m next in line and I look him squarely in the face as he huffs and puffs and makes all sort of gestures signifying he’s in a hurry. As soon as the woman ahead of finishes with the clipboard, this joker has the nerve to grab the clipboard and handle his business. I couldn’t believe it and I tried to count to 10 before I opened my mouth and say something completely inappropriate. In the few seconds before he finished, I tried my best to just let it go, but of course, I couldn’t. I had to say something. I needed this fool to acknowledge the wrong he’d just done. As he took the time to shove the clipboard my way, I, sarcastically and loudly say, “You could of at least said, excuse me.” The joker looked at me in the eye as if he was seeing me for the first time and asked, “What do you mean?” I went on to ask him if he didn’t realize that we all were in line and this fool then exclaims, “Yes, but I have to get to work.” Well fool, we all do. I’m on my way to work. Loverman, waiting in the car, will go to work after he drops me off and I’m sure all the other parents behind me have somewhere to be after they get their kids to school.

As this man is looking at me like I’m a piece of new fruit, he couldn’t seem to understand why I chose to call him out, and a part of me wishes I could have simply sucked it up, appealed to my higher self and silently wish him well, but I just couldn’t. Unfortunately, this particular scenario has happened to me and countless others too many times to count, and each time to happens, it’s just like the first and I want the insult/disrespect to be acknowledged. I want a sincere apology.

I may be wrong, but I believe race dynamics are at play in these situations. Why did this man think that the other (mostly brown) people waiting didn’t have a job to go to? Does he really think his interests supercede the rest of us? If I’m going to be honest, I’d say it’s how he’s been socialized and some might go on to say that I’ve been socialized to feel victimized or slighted by his actions. Maybe, but sometimes people dismiss how simple, thoughtful gestures and positive intent can do a world of good in healing race relations.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Reacquainted

Every now and then I come across something I remember enjoying tremendously in my past life. I don’t mean past lives as in before I was born into my present being. I mean past life as in before I became someone’s wife and mother. Like the other night, I was channel surfing and I came across a broadcast of a Nina Simone concert at the 1994 Montreaux Jazz Festival.

Ms. Simone was fabulous and I enjoyed seeing her working it out at the piano as she sang a string of her haunting hits, and she even got up from the piano to treat the crowd to shameless shimmy as she sang See Line Woman. The woman was bad and she lived her entire existence unapologetic of her solidly African presence.

I remember imagining myself sophisticated and worldly, many lazy Sunday mornings as I played my various Simone discs, gravitating between cruising the Sunday Times and catching a few catnaps, something totally foreign to my current situation as a mother of an 8 and 5yr old.

A lot of Ms. Simone’s work is now relegated to movie soundtracks. I’m happy I could put my hands on some of her old CDs and as I listened today at work, I realized many of her recordings are more relevant than ever.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Media Literacy

Up until my daughter, Olivia, started kindergarten she thought the car radio only broadcast news and information and her favorite DJ was Terry Gross, from NPR’s Fresh Air and that was absolutely fine with me.

My husband and I are big music fans, but once the babies came, it became too hard to constantly monitor the lyrics broadcast across the airwaves, so we either listened to NPR or popped in a CD.

It took but a minute once Olivia started school before she came home asking, “What’s a Beyonce?” Right there and then I knew the jig was up and Loverman and I would have to definitely step up our game. No, we cannot shield our kids from all the world’s evils or even the simply questionable, but we must provide them with the skills to process/decode the images and messages by which they’re being bombarded.

I’m currently facilitating a digital storytelling project with a group of high school girls and we’re exploring their conflict resolution issues. Every week we begin our sessions by discussing what the girls watched on television the previous week, and I ask each girl to provide a critique as to what they watched. I’m trying to get them to identify and articulate what they like and dislike aesthetically--- basically to develop a vocabulary that provides clarity as to what may turn them on or off. This has proven to be a bit challenging, and although this is an urban high school, it is a privately managed, charter school. The school is provided ample resources to ensure the success of its students and its progressive programs, yet in spite of this exceptional support, the students still fail to see beyond what's placed right in front of them, to dig deeper.

My girls’ use terms like, “I’m going’ to cap her ass if she doesn’t get out my face,” or “she better watch her back cause I’m packing.” When I question if they’re really threatening to shoot each other, or if they’re carrying guns, they (and the school’s administrators) assure me that they’re not and I believe them. What I don’t understand is why these young ladies have chosen to adopt this ghetto/gangster/gun toting’ lingo to hawk their wolf tickets?

The problem is they haven’t learned how to distinguish fact from fiction and they’ve bought, lock, stock and barrel the ghetto fabulous imagery that surrounds us all.

It’s imperative that we teach our children the power of words/images and the power we give our words/images once they’re released into the universe.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bee is for Bad

I may be digging a bit too deep, because it is just a kid’s movie for God’s sake, but the Bee Movie is BAD.

I feel pretty qualified to make this assessment. First of all, before I became a wife and mother, I went to graduate school for film and after graduate school, I taught a few film courses for several semesters at Temple and Loverman currently teaches film at the same university. Hell, I even met my future husband at the Cannes Film Festival.

Since having my babies, our visits to art film houses have been replaced by a Netflix queue and frequent visits to the local metroplex to check out the latest animated offerings with the kids. In April, Loverman and his partner even released their first feature-length kid’s animated film, The Adventures of Teddy P. Brains. So, when I heard Jerry Seinfeld convinced Steven Spielberg to spend $150,000,000 to make the Bee Movie and another $150,000,000 to market the flick, I wanted to check it out and since the kid’s school was closed today, it seemed like a today was the day.

Well… it was a total bust. I guess the filmmakers did a good job in conveying the invaluable role of the bee in our eco system, but beyond making that point, the movie isn’t engaging at all. Over the years, there’s been several animated films released that engage both children and parents, like the Shrek franchise, A Bug’s Life and my all-time favorite, The Incredibles.

What makes these films stand out is the filmmakers understanding that the devil is in the details, not only in the character development, but also in crafting the story and this is what The Bee Movie lacks. You’re not given enough of a back story to really care that “Bruce the bee” has fallen in love with a human or why a “drag queen” has sold out her colony and that colony is now resigned to producing honey for the pleasure of humans. The film doesn’t even have a banging soundtrack and everybody knows that when the credits roll, the booties should shake.

But, should I really expect Seinfeld to pay attention to the details? For years he created a NYC where again, he ignored the diversity and nuances that make the city so dynamic.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mommy Rule #232

This school year I adopted a new “mommy rule,” if the kids are off from school, mommy’s off from work.

I guess while treading the hamster’s wheel we call life, getting the kids to school on time, working a full-time job, homework, soccer practice, and all the other daily crap, I somehow missed that the kid’s school is closed tomorrow for staff professional development activities and Monday for Veteran’s Day--- oh, happy day or two!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Sincere Apology

“I apologize to his family. I never meant for this to happen." These words came from John Lewis, the confessed killer of Philadelphia Police Officer Chuck Cassidy. Cassidy was shot in the head last week as he walked into a Dunkin Donuts on his beat in the northwest section of the city.

Philadelphia is currently one of the deadliest cities in the country, and last week’s murder of Officer Cassidy is simply a sad addendum to a seemingly never-ending story of gun violence which grips this city. The city’s response of outrage and sadness for Cassidy’s family and loved ones transcends racial lines, despite Cassidy being White and Lewis being Black. Folks here in Philly are just fed-up. We're at a complete loss as to what to do to address this plague.

Lewis was on the run for the past week, as local, state and federal authorities worked overtime to identify and capture the officer’s killer. He was finally tracked down in a homeless shelter in Miami, where he surrendered without incident. Lewis offered his unsolicited apology as police placed him in custody, surrounded by reporters and photographers.

In the last couple of years we’ve heard several high profile celebrity apologies that reeked of insincerity and the polish of a publicist spin, i.e. Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Isaiah Washington, and the stark contrast of Lewis’ admission of guilt and apology may offer little comfort to Cassidy’s family, but for me, it at least demonstrates that despite his heartless act, there is a soul that acknowledges and regrets his deadly deed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Powerful Thinking

I’m so blessed. I’m grateful for so many things, yet when confronted with life’s little challenges, I lose all perspective of what really matters, like the fact that my children are healthy and thriving; and my husband loves me and we’re maintaining a loving and balanced home for our family; or that I have a job that I enjoy most of the time.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been on the edge of a complete meltdown and it’s as if even the smallest thing stresses me out. I believe most of my anxiety is rooted in a lack of financial security. Like many folks, we’re living with very little cushion financially and I’m constantly waiting for some imaginary shoe to drop and Loverman and I will find ourselves unprepared to handle.

It’s no Secret that if you give too much energy to any one thought, there’s a good chance you’re going to bring it to fruition and guess what… that’s just what happened today. After dropping the kids off at school this morning, Loverman and I were in the left-hand lane at a stop light and when the light changed to green, a school bus in the right lane went to make a right turn, but didn’t take note that we were in the left lane and they didn’t have the span to make the turn without taking out the entire passenger side of our family’s only vehicle. Thankfully, no one was hurt, there were no children on the bus and our car is still drivable, but aesthetically the car is jacked up. Yeah, we’ve got insurance, and it will get fixed in the next few weeks, but I do believe this is the shoe I attracted with my frantic/worrisome energy over the last few weeks.

I don’t like feeling this way; it makes me feel ungrateful for all the things that are working in my life. I’ve got to develop some strategies to cope better, but I need help. Before we moved last spring, we attended church regularly, but the church is now about a 40 min. drive from our new home and our attendance has been spotty at best. I enjoyed going to this church. I liked the people, pastor; message, experience, everything and now I see it did help me in keeping my eye on the big picture.

And since I can name my fear—lack of financial security, I need to address the situation and release its power over me, so tomorrow, I’m going to open an ING account, something I’ve been promising myself for the last couple of months.

Writing this post has even alleviated some of my anxiety, so I think every now and then I’ll take time to check in and put some of these things on paper, maybe by getting it out of my head and out into the universe will help me to keep things in perspective and on task.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What's up with this?

This weekend I was determined to go to the movies with Loverman. I even let Loverman select the movie. My only mandate was that Pixar couldn’t be in the credits. It seems like a month of Sundays since we’ve been to the movies without the kids.

It wasn’t a surprise when Loverman decided that today’s flick would be American Gangster. Sure, the movie was entertaining and Denzel is in top form. In fact, the role didn’t seem like much of a stretch for Mr. Washington, but besides all of this, can somebody explain to me how some folks think it’s appropriate to bring their babies/toddles/children to violent, foul-language laden R-rated movies? This drives me nuts. I know, not everyone has a lot of support, or is able to drum up a sitter, but if this is the case, then sit this one out for goodness sake. It’s only a movie and believe me, even though kids may not understand everything that’s going on up on the screen, much of it is being encoded somewhere in the precious wiring of these kids.

More importantly, as parents, we’re constantly forced to make choices and sacrifices and not seeing this movie, the very weekend it’s released is not much of a sacrifice--- get over it because right now, unless you have an available sitter, all of your movie choices may have Pixar in their credits.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Men are simply aliens. That’s right, women are human and men are from a far and distant planet that has yet to be discovered. Forget all that Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus bullshit. Men are aliens and there are concrete facts that have been identified and confirm this well-kept phenomenon. The most important being that their mothers are used as the portals by which these aliens are delivered to Earth.

Another well-known secret is that they speak a completely foreign tongue. Now it may sound like a familiar dialect, but in actuality it’s a highly devolved language that rarely translates to reflect what the male really means to say, but only what he thinks we want to hear. You only have to look to our most recent Presidents to confirm this fact. Who could forget Bill Clinton’s attempt to redefine the word “it,” and George W’s never-ending spins on his justification for going to war in Iraq. Sometimes this language barrier can even confuse those of their own alien race.

Now, I did not become aware of these facts until after I married my husband at the ripe old age of 36. Up until this time I’d been traversing the dating landscape blindly, stumbling in the dark trying to find my ideal mate. The last couple of years before I met my husband, I had somehow become the girl he dated, right before he met the woman who would become his wife. I’ve labeled this role-- the primer. I was the girlfriend who got the guy into the marrying mode. By the time these fateful pairings went belly-up, I’d molded most of these guys to appear to be picture-perfect boyfriends... potential husband material. They’d mastered the prerequisite skills including spending quality time with my friends and family; giving adequate gifts for birthdays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day; and finally, resisted running for the hills whenever I mentioned the ticking of my biological clock, yet despite all of this, I’d yet to find my way to seal the deal. These guys were all really great guys, but when it came time to shit or get off the pot, each one of them left me and went right into the arms of another, and I was left trying to figure out what was wrong with me. None of my sister friends, or my mother and aunts, sat me down to explain, that it wasn’t my fault, but I had not learn to decode this ancient alien behavior.

Well… it’s high time we remove this veil of secrecy and expose these extra-terrestrials cohabitating among us. Now, even though no one told me about this, there are millions of women around the globe who are aware of the male alien status and some of them have made conscious decisions not to engage in the time honored ritual of finding a male mate--- their known as Elective Lesbians. Yes, many women are born lesbians and have known since a very young age that they are attracted to girls and not boys, but within the lesbian community, there is a growing sect of women who have made an informed decision, after being kicked about in the dating scene, and have chosen to no longer participate in these mixed match pairings-- thus, elective lesbians. It’s just like the recent boon in elective plastic surgery. Those of us, who are hearty heterosexuals, cannot make this choice so easily, but God bless those who have made the switch. I first noticed this trend a few years after graduating from college. Some of the women who I was friendly with in college and with whom I shared crushes on a few of the guys, had sworn off men somewhere between graduate school and their first bona fide “grown-up” jobs. Maybe some of them had been faking it in college, but smart money says that more than a few of them just got sick of male/female duet and decided not to participate in the dance anymore--- or at least not with their alien counterparts.

As most women get older, we do become more adept in our dealings with the male species. But, these are often hard fought victories and lessons learned by old-fashioned trial and error. I think most women would make sounder choices in selecting a mate, if we knew earlier in the game, the truth about the other team.

The truth is, men and women are fundamentally different. Our overall make-up follows the basic principle of yin and yang. Women foolishly expect men to feel and see things the way we do--- BIG MISTAKE! The yin/yang principle is all about balance and if followed properly, male/female couplings should seek partners who compliment their ideal balance. This means that if you’re an extrovert, then Mr. Life of the Party may not be the right guy for you.

There are a few preventative measures women can take to navigate the demands of living with and loving an alien (especially if joining the Elective Lesbians is not an option.) The first being, recruiting the vessel of their deliverance to earth as your ally, or in other words, become friends with the man’s mother. This may be a bit challenging, but in the long run, dear ole’ mother-in-law can be your greatest asset and advocate. A man’s mother usually knows the man she raised better than any other person on earth and by developing an independent relationship with his mother, she will learn to look at you as a confidant, while providing you with invaluable insight as to how to understand your particular alien. All aliens may be created equal, yet it’s important to learn the operational quirks of your specific model. If your alien’s mother is no longer a part of his life, if she’s dearly departed or maybe simply too dysfunctional to employ as your alien navigator, then look for a reasonable facsimile with which your alien has a close and loving rapport and this does not include ex-girlfriends. It may include aunts, sisters, cousins, etc. The goal is to get someone from our Earth team, to give you the lowdown on your chosen mate from the alien team.

Another tried and true tactic of maintaining a meaningful relationship with this alien creature is learning to deconstruct the alien tongue. As stated earlier, despite its similarity to the languages we speak on Earth, the male language is nothing like ours. It’s rife with multiple definitions for the same word and oftentimes, what begins as an innocuous conversation morphs into an endless diatribe peppered with sports metaphors. While learning their alien tongue may be difficult, it is essential and can be achieved with practice. Other techniques include listening more and talking less; trying to participate in the conversation will only lead to frustration. While listening try to identify clues to what they’re really trying to say. For example, when you ask, “What would you like for dinner this evening?” and they listlessly respond, “whatever,” what they’re actually saying is, “I’m sick of your cooking, so let’s order take-out.” Don’t be offended; simply look at it as an opportunity to get out of the kitchen for the evening.

As we enter this age of enlightenment in understanding our alien male counterparts, hold onto these truths. Always trust your intuition in your dealings with the other species. Nine times out of ten, your gut will usually lead you in the right direction. Remember to take good care of your physical, as well as emotional well-being as you build a life with your alien, because you’ll need all your faculties in establishing a bi-species household; and finally, create a support circle with other women. An invaluable truism my mother did share and should have tipped me to the down low about the whole alien thing is that you should never look to a man for nurturing, most are incapable. That’s why girls should take the time and develop solid and supportive relationships with their girlfriends. My mother urged me never to dis my girls for a guy, because a great, genuine friendship with your girl will probably last far longer than most male/female romances.

Can somebody explain this to me?

Last night I checked out the CNN special report, The Noose: An American Nightmare. For the most part it didn’t tell me any more than I already knew, if anything, it left me even more incensed. Why is it that the swastika is readily acknowledged as a symbol of hate and intimidation, but not the noose?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat... definitely a treat!

This evening I took my kids’ trick or treating for the first time and we had a ball!

Halloween has been a tricky holiday for our family because my husband completely rejects any celebration of the “dark side or gothic anything,” and until this year we lived in a neighborhood where I didn’t feel comfortable traveling on foot with my kids after dark for any reason, much less for a booty of candy. Our Halloween celebrations have included a few harvest and costume parties. The kids were satisfied with these muted celebrations for the first few years, but as they've gotten older and a bit more sophisticated as to what’s at stake on Halloween, they have become quite vocal about wanting to add the trick or treat component to our Halloween activities.

I’ve had numerous conversations over the years where my friends and I commiserate about how different the world is since we were kids, but tonight, as I watched Olivia in her cheerleader costume and Yannick outfitted as Wolverine, go from house to house announcing “trick or treat,” I vividly remembered my happy romps collecting candy up and down Bonsall Avenue. And, just like my mom, I’ll have to make some of the candy magically disappear, or my husband and I will be paying a hefty price in dental visits.

But, for me, this annual nocturnal tradition, offers neighbors a chance to step out of their doors and reconnect with each other and this is what was sorely lacking in our old neighborhood. It’s what I had growing up and I want no less for my brown babies.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Mighty Opportunity.... Missed

Yesterday, during a lazy, rainy Saturday morning, I busted a totally self-indulgent move and lay curled up in my bed and checked out A Mighty Heart on DVD. The film is based on Mariane Pearl's account of the terrifying story of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl's life and death. The movie starred Angelina Jolie and was produced by her man, Brad Pitt’s company Plan B.

Before the film was even released, I was disappointed when I heard Jolie would be playing Mariane Pearl, who was born in France and is of Dutch and Afro-Cuban descent. To look at Mariane, you can definitely tell she’s of color, with a head full of tightly coiled kinky curls and with a skin tone slightly richer than café au lait.

This film and the role of Mariane Pearl could have offered a ripe opportunity for several Black/bi-racial actresses in Hollywood. It could have saved Thandie Newton from the degrading and demeaning Norbit or allowed Miss Halle Berry to demonstrate her acting chops without disrobing while fulfilling the wild, exotic fantasies of men everywhere, or they could’ve dug a little deeper and considered Jennifer Beals from Flashdance or even Cynda Williams from Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues, I mean come on… the list is freakin’ endless with possibilities.

Other than simple nepotism, I don’t understand why Jolie was chosen for this role. I expected more from the Jolie/Pitt machine, especially in light of their apparent interest in following the footsteps of the great Josephine Baker in creating a modern-day Rainbow Tribe. In my eyes, there is absolutely no reason for Angelina to pull a modern day Pinky.

The film opened to moderate fanfare with a screening at the Cannes Film Festival and appearances with both Jolie and Pearl on Oprah. My irritation with Jolie’s casting was dampened a bit when I learned Mariane completely endorsed this selection, but this lasted only for a moment and for months I simply simmered with outrage. I must admit, I’m not proud of this stance, because it is Mariane’s story and she has the right to tell it any way she sees fit and I’m all for a more global perspective and in a perfect world, I’d like to move beyond seeing things in only black and white, but by-golly sometimes I just can’t and it is what it is, and in this case, we all know that Hollywood offers woefully limited roles of substance for women of color.

When the film was released on DVD, I added it to our Netflix queue and to be honest, I don’t know why. I guess I wanted to see if my outrage was justified. Well… it was, through the entire film, I couldn’t take my eyes of that helmet-head wig on Jolie’s head and even though it was a well told story, I just couldn’t get beyond thinking, if only….

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's time to go...

I’ve come to a rather momentous decision. It’s time to shed the dreads. This will be the third time I’ve shaved them off, but this time I think it’s for good. I made an appointment with the hairstylist for Friday, so I guess I’m pretty committed to the idea.

I mentioned my intentions to Olivia because it’s not fair to spring this on her, especially because her own self-image with dreads is so grounded in both Loverman and I having dreads. The last time I cut off my locs, Olivia was four and she didn’t like it then, and my sense was she wasn’t going to be happy with this newest revelation. We talked about it last night and sure enough, she’s been trying to change my mind ever since. I’m trying to explain to her that I need to do this for me, because I feel like I need a change. For me, it’s important for Olivia to understand that one’s beauty/attractiveness emanates from within. I don’t want her buying into this Western standard of beauty crap, where all that is good and lovely begins with long, cascading hair. At this point, I think she gets it because she’s very proud of her locs and I can tell they make her feel special and unique.

I started getting a hankering for this change in the summer, but I opted to simply cut off a few inches into a cute little bob. This worked for a few weeks, but soon after this clipping, Miss Dae, who’s been grooming my locs for more than 10 years, announced she would no longer be working this side gig come the New Year. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I have a sweet set-up with Miss Dae. She comes to my house; we drink a glass of wine, chitchat, and watch Law & Order while she twists my hair. Since I’ve grown my locs, I developed a lack of tolerance for the salon experience, so Miss Dae’s declaration may have expedited my decision. I don’t see myself going to a salon for my usual loc grooming sessions. I guess I'll have to learn to handle a quick visit for a monthly shape-up.

There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to with my new natural short ‘do, the first being feeling the warm water of the shower hitting my head and running down my face and neck. I’ll enjoy sporting all my hats and funky earrings. I wear earrings every day, but my hair often covers them, so I’m looking forward to actually having them make a statement with my outfits. Next summer, I’ll enjoy jumping carefree into a pool with the kids and helping them with their backstroke, instead of worrying about how long it’s going to take my hair to dry.

I’ll miss my locs. I’m little afraid I’ll regret this decision, because I’ve often had alarming dreams of not having dreads and when I awake, I’m so relieved that my hair is still locked. I haven’t had one of these dreams in a while and I don’t know how I’ll react if after Friday, I have one, only to awake with just a short cut.

In the past week, I’ve been acutely aware of countless beautiful sisters with fabulous, striking, short naturals, some cut closer than others, but all fabulous and at this stage of my game, that’s what I’m looking for.. a little bit of FABULOUS!