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 cafĂ© 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!

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Shoutout to My Girls!

I had a great weekend. My girl, Tam, and her family traveled from North Carolina to Philly for a wedding and spent the night with the family and me. Tam and I go all the way back to freshman year in college and we’ve remained tight ever since.

Our friendship really deepened when she moved here for a job in the mid ‘90’s and we navigated our way together from single to married women and eventually mothers. I love her and consider her one of my closest and dearest friends. About two years ago, Tam and her husband decided it was time to move from the big, bad city and return to her Southern roots, a bit closer to her parents and sister. Being that I live close to my family and honestly don’t know how Loverman and I could do the hoodoo that we do without their support, I completely understood their decision to move, especially after the birth of their daughter, Mali.

Around the same time Tam and family relocated, my girl Kim and her family moved to be closer to her family on the west coast. Kim and I have been friends since we were preteens and with five kids, she’s really my model for motherhood. Having both her and Tam move beyond a stone’s throw threw me for a loop. I remember feeling completely unanchored and incredibly sad.

I’m an optimist, so I tried to focus on the positive and spend more time with my friends who still live in the area. I even made a few half-hearted efforts to make new friends, but I soon learned that I’m too old to make new, good friends. At this stage in my life, most of my energy is focused on the kids and my husband and anything outside of this sphere usually just doesn’t get the attention needed to cultivate deep and abiding friendships. That’s not to say that I haven’t developed a few really worthwhile relationships, but most are rooted in my role as a mother.

In some ways, maintaining contact with my girls has been seamless. We chat regularly and email photos of the kids, but honestly, nothing can replace the physicality of friendship. Just seeing Tam, Kim, or even my girl Alexis, who now lives in L.A., makes me feel more like myself and don’t even get me started on not seeing their children on the regular. Kids grow and change so quickly and I just assumed all of our children would grow up together, but distance prohibits this and I think this may be what I miss the most.

My friendships with women have always been important to me. I’m an only child and the emotional intimacy and nurturing nature of sister-friends is vital to my mental well being and keeping me in check, making me a better woman, mother and wife.

Spending time with Tam and her family was wonderful, but these visits are always way too short and leave me feeling melancholy, reflective, yet thankful for all my incredible, dynamic, loving and insightful women friends both near and far. I cannot imagine my world without you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007



I wrote in an earlier post that I don’t tolerate being called or referring to women as bitches, so I rarely check out Girlfriends on the CW. Years ago, when the show first premiered I watched all the time, but my enthusiasm was quickly dampened due to the characters repetitive reference to each other as “bitches.”

Well, I’m happy to report that Monday evening I took a peek at the show and I’m happy to report that this episode addressed their use of the word. One of the girlfriends, Maya Wilkes, was surprised by her teenage son’s flagrant use of the word on his videoblog and when she questioned him about it and his apparent disrespect for women, he flipped the script and explained that he thought it was cool because he often heard her and her friends refer to each other as bitches---- forcing Maya and the girls to rethink their use and power of their words.

It's true, when you know better, you do better. Kudos Girlfriends!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's a girl to do?

The change of seasons here in Pennsylvania can be absolutely breathtaking. On a Sunday morning last year, Loverman and I even took the kids up to the Poconos for the day and I was awed by infinite shades of reds and oranges--- INCREDIBLE.

But, with the change of seasons, comes that in-between stage where I cannot figure out what the hell to wear. Every morning starts out chilly, but by lunch it’s warmed up and I’m peeling off layers. Now, I’m no fashion plate and beyond identifying my best colors, I’m clueless, so the added pressure of dressing for the daily fluctuating temperature just about pushes me over the edge.

This weekend I did start to transfer my summer wardrobe for my fall/winter stuff, and other than determining that I have very few pieces that I like, I have no idea what to wear to work these days.

So, if you fashion forward women out there have any suggestions… bring ‘em on, because I need all the help I can get.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Earning His Keep

When I found Max two months ago on Craig’s List, he was a cute, black-stripped tabby in search of a forever home. Since that time he’s morphed into Mad Max, a furry terror destroying my beloved plants and breaking picture frames left and right. His cuteness is wearing thin quickly.

Up until I had my kids, I considered myself a pet person, but once the babies hit the scene, any creatures that depended on me for sustenance, are merely a pain in the butt. When Loverman first moved in, I inherited Nia, a street-wise cat, that didn’t just kill mice, she pulverized them. In fact, that’s why Loverman named her Nia, because in some West African language Nia supposedly means purpose, and Nia’s sole purpose was to rid our home of the occasional little, fuzzy vermin, and she did so with a vengeance. The only evidence of her crime was a few smudges of blood in the tub or along a floorboard. Unfortunately, Nia died earlier this year, thus, the search for her replacement on Craig’s List.

Now, for those of you not familiar with the habits and tendencies of cats, it’s important to note that not all cats are mousers, and from what I’ve been told, most cats simply swat mice to death, but I’m happy to report, last night, Max lived up to the legacy of his predecessor and actually caught and ate (well most of) his first mouse.

Mad Max, welcome to the family!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Morning Madness

So, this morning in my usual chaotic attempt to get the kids out of bed, washed, teeth brushed, dressed and down for breakfast, I was stopped in my tracks when my 5 yr. old complained that he couldn’t brush his teeth.

“Why baby?”

“Because the batteries in my toothbrush are dead!”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New World Order

Even though my oldest, Olivia, is only in 3rd grade, homework time is often stressful, and I guess it’s understandable since Olivia’s homework is in Spanish and neither Loverman or I are native Spanish speakers. Both Olivia and Yannick are in an immersion program at their school and they learn most of their lessons in Spanish. From the first day of kindergarten through 4th grade, their teachers speak to them in Spanish and the kids are expected to respond in Spanish, so for Olivia, this is her 4th year of Spanish and she surpassed her parent’s Spanish comprehension by the middle of 1st grade. Yannick’s only in his fifth week of kindergarten, so fortunately, we’re still of assistance to the little guy, but he’s a quick learner, so I guess we’d better watch out.

When family and friends hear that the kids learn in Spanish all day and find out that Loverman and I don’t speak much Spanish, they often ask why we chose to put the kids in a Spanish speaking program and for us it’s really simple, we’re preparing our children for the new world order.

Both Olivia and Yannick are bright, curious kids and when it came to finding a school that complemented our worldview, this school and its progressive academic approach seemed ideal. Sure, homework can be stressful, and communication with the mostly native Spanish-speaking teachers is sometimes challenging and sometimes, there are cultural nuances that need to be addressed, but overall, it’s exceeded our expectations. See, we’re teaching our children that yes, we live in the U.S., but we’re also citizens of the world and both within and beyond the borders of this country, Spanish is widely spoken. Actually, 400 million people worldwide speak Spanish.

Children are sponges and adapt quite easily to learning a new language, culture, etc. Oftentimes, it’s the parents that must step outside our comfort zone to truly prepare our children to be competitive globally.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

And still I rise...

The other morning I was listening to Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and the subject of the show was the war on women in the east Congo. Top U.N. officials are calling the sexual violence towards these women the worst in the world. Marty’s guests, Christine Karumba, who was born in the Democratic Republican of Congo (DRC) and is now the country director there for Women for Women International, and Stephen Lewis, who is a former United Nations Envoy on Aids in Africa, are calling for the creation of a U.N. Women’s Agency to devise a plan to end this horrific violence in east Congo.

Over and over during the discussion, Moss-Coane asked both her guests and those calling in, why isn’t anything being done? Why isn’t this on anyone’s radar? Why isn’t it the lead story on CNN? And guess what… no one had the courage to simply say, because it’s Black African women who are being ravaged and ultimately, the world could care less about Black women, whether it’s Black women being raped and mutilated in Africa, or a Black woman kidnapped, tortured and raped in West Virginia.

Could the answer to Marty’s questions really be this sad and this simple?

Thursday, October 4, 2007


O.K. before I get into this I should offer full disclosure. I’ve never had a hair weave or even wore a wig. I’ve had dreadlocks or a natural short cut most of my adult life. I may, in some circles, even be considered a natural hair snob, yet I do understand the versatility and convenience offered by both weaves and wigs.

What I don’t understand is the large number of beautiful, brown girl children with weaves going down their backs. What’s up with this? Who puts a weave on a child? Again, is it about convenience? I remember the days when little girls simply had cornrows or pigtails, maybe even a press & curl. Now, we have these young girls with Nubian Yak and Ripple Waves, hairstyles that make them look like little grown women. Don’t even get me started on the subliminal messages we’re sending these children, the first being--- what they’ve been given naturally isn’t good enough.

On many fronts, our society encroaches on the innocence of children and childhood, and I guess this is just another example, but for young Black female children, I am especially concerned. The portrayal of Black woman in popular cultural is often characterized as sassy, loud, overweight or hypersexual. For young Black girls, sassy and loud still apply in both live action programs and cartoons. Bratz dolls are marketed to our girls with thongs and tight shirts with cleavage. Parents have to work double-time to identify alternatives that celebrate and affirm our children. If you ask me, it’s time for us to go old school, like back in the day, when you had to be a certain age before you got a perm or even wore your hair “out.” It’s fine for adults to make these choices for themselves, but until our children have an honest sense of self and all of their beauty, I think it’s best to keep it as natural as possible.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Listen up! This is an easy one. I am not, have never been and will never be a bitch. I don’t want to be called one by the men in the “old boys club,” or by the frat boys in the pub, or by the brothers hanging on the corners or in the clubs, or by my Girlfriends, or the Queens of Comedy or by Isaiah Thomas. It’s totally unacceptable. No one gets a pass on this one.

I can’t seem to figure out when the use of the word “bitch” became so pervasive, but it’s been out of control for a long time and it's time to put the bitch to rest. Calling a woman a bitch is often hurtful, and mean and never cute or endearing. It’s demeaning and more importantly, it’s not how I want our young girls to start characterizing themselves. R.I.P.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lessons Learned

Last spring my family and I moved into a new house. This move was in response to a break-in nine months earlier one evening when the kids and I were home alone. We lived in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia. The house was on a major thoroughfare, with motion lights all around the perimeter, locks on all the doors, and an alarm system. We thought we were safe. Fortunately, neither the children nor I were physically hurt, but the emotional toll was indelible, especially for Miss Olivia and me.

For months following the break-in Olivia and I didn’t talk to each other much about what had happened. I didn’t want to upset her and she was doing the same for me. When we finally did talk about it. I was amazed by the details she remembered. At the time, she was only 7 years old, but she remembered the police waking her up with their guns drawn and her father grabbing her out of her bed assuring her that everything was o.k. My heart broke when she asked why I chose to grab her brother from another room, but not her. I explained that her brother was only a few feet away from me, but to get her I would’ve had to cross the hall, wake her and get her out of the top bunk of her bed. I didn’t want to draw any more attention up the stairs. In a split second, I opted to leave Olivia asleep on the 2nd fl. while I made my way to the telephone on the 3rd fl. Fortunately, she understood, and I thank God every day for making this move possible, because there are countless families that feel their living in a vulnerable situation, but don’t have the resources to move.

Despite the trauma of the break-in, my family and I have experienced many blessings from this incident. It’s brought clarity to what Loverman and I want for our family. We decided it was time to abandon our urban adventure and really acknowledge the violence that plagues our city’s streets. This is not the type of environment we wanted for our kids. It’s also taught me the importance of not underestimating the capacity for understanding of our children. By sharing my fears and thoughts with Olivia and encouraging her to do the same, we’ve been able to dispel misconceptions about the events of that evening which could have negatively impacted our relationship for years to come.

You can learn more about my story by checking out the following link: or by clicking on the title of this post, LESSONS LEARNED.