Monday, December 29, 2008

No Go, Go Phone


I know this next admission may make me sound like a fossil from the dinosaur age, but I was slow to jump on the cell phone bandwagon. I’ve only had a cell phone for about 3 or 4 years and when I did get one, I did so begrudgingly because I didn’t want to have to deal with an additional bill and I cringed at the idea of folks having unlimited access to me.

I went with a AT&T’s Go-Phone because the no contract, pay-as-you-go seemed ideal for my emergencies only cell phone policy. This lasted for about a year, then slowly but surely I started using my cell more frequently. This was cool since I never used all my monthly minutes and with my pay-as-you –go deal I even got to roll over my unused minutes from month to month.

When we moved into our house about 2 years ago, I noticed I didn’t get a good signal in the house or even in the surrounding blocks of our street. I called AT&T to try to rectify the problem, but was assured that there are plenty of cell towers in my region and I should be able to get a signal. The only thing they could come up with is the fact that we live in a stone house and maybe the stones were interfering with the signal. After a while, I didn’t give it a second thought and simply instructed everyone to call my home phone to leave a message if they couldn’t reach me on my cell. But, soon I realized this could be a problem since my primary purpose for having the cell phone was for emergencies and what if I ran into an emergency in my house or in my neighborhood and needed use of my cell? Well… I’d be ass out! So, I got back on my landline with AT&T in an attempt to solve this problem. I was even willing to purchase a new cell if they thought maybe my current phone was the problem. The customer service rep couldn’t identify the reason for my lack of a signal and agreed a new phone may be in order. She suggested I go to an AT&T store, so I could return the new phone if it didn’t solve my signal issues. I followed her instructions, bought a new phone and was pleasantly surprised to secure two strong signal bars if the far north corner of the master bedroom and on our front steps.

My satisfaction lasted for about another two weeks until I shared my experience with a friend of mine, who also used AT&T and lived a few blocks from me, yet got great signal use throughout her house and our neighborhood. The only difference is she was one a two year contract, and I was using the Go Phone (or what had become my No Go, Go Phone). My friend told me to give another call to AT&T or to move on to another carrier since I wasn’t on a contract. I called AT&T for a third time and told the rep that I was about to move on to a new carrier because of this signal issue. She reviewed my account and guess what she told me… or should I say admitted? Customers using the pay-as-you-go service don’t have access to all the cell towers and are provided with limited service. Can you believe that shiggity? Why did it take almost 2 years to learn about this? Is this vital info provided in the fine print of the paperwork that comes with the phone? What a flim flam!

Well.. once I thanked the customer service rep for providing me with the real deal, I made my way back to the AT&T store and switched to a two year contract and upgraded to a great phone for which I received most of its purchase price back in a rebate. I rushed home and as soon as I hit my neighborhood I checked the phone and was happy to see 5 strong signal bars, and these bars followed me all the way home and throughout my house.

Talk about deceit in advertising… sheesh!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Walking Up Hill


I went to my chiropractor, Barry, on Wednesday. I’ve been seeing him regularly since the kids and I were rear-ended in mid-November. I’ve been feeling loads better, but thought I might need an adjustment after spending the last few days stuck on airplanes and sleeping in a strange bed in a Marriot in Seattle.

Yesterday, when I got up in the morning, I noticed my lower back; butt and thighs were really sore--- maybe even a bit tight. At first, I chalked it up to my visit to Barry, but as the day wore on, I didn’t feel any better and felt like I was waddling around like a little old lady.

I was about to pick up the phone and give Barry a call, to ask what was going on because I’d never felt like this following a visit with “Dr. Manipulation,” when I realized the soreness wasn’t a result of Barry’s “adjustments,” but the hills I tackled while walking the streets of Seattle. That’s right, I’m simply feeling the burn from some old-fashioned walking uphill. Guess I should be doing this a little more often---huh--- ya think?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Clipped Wings


I’m finally decompressing from my five days in Seattle for a business trip. The trip was cool, but getting there and back home again on Monday was a big pain in the butt.

We were scheduled to fly out on American last Thursday morning, but when I called to check on our flight status, I was informed it had been cancelled due to the heavy rain in the region. When I asked about putting us on a later flight, the agent informed me there were no other options for that day and we had been booked on a flight for 6:30am the next morning. Whatt????? Now, I don't know why no one had contacted me with this info, especially when they request both a home and cell telephone number, as well as your email address when you book the flight.

I went on and tried to explain my need to get to Seattle earlier than midday Friday, but was told there were no other options. I was stuck. Loverman suggested I have my co-worker, who was traveling with me, call the airlines. She’s white and he suspected she might have better luck on getting us on a later flight on Thursday. I didn’t agree, especially because all my life, I’d been told I sound “white,” but my co-worker and I decided to give his little social experiment a try. Believe it or not, it worked and she got us on a direct flight to Seattle late Thursday afternoon. To tell you the truth, I don't know if I'd been dealing with a slacker agent or if I'd been a victim of voice profiling, but I could of cared less how I got out to Seattle at this point, I was just ready to get out there to get down to business.

When we finally got on the plane, I found myself sandwiched between a man who slept most of the evening and a woman who was flatulent the entire six-hour flight to Seattle. It was almost unbearable and I couldn’t ask for a seat change because the flight was packed. On top of this, American doesn’t even offer its coach passengers a complimentary beverage--- they even charge for water! I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was to finally get to Seattle and off that plane.

On the return trip, we miraculously got on our scheduled plane on time, but as we taxied down the runway, the pilot noticed a problem one of the engines. We made our way back to the tarmac to try to fix our engine problem. About 90 minutes later we were on our way, but knew we wouldn’t make our connector in Chicago. Once we did get to Chicago, we thankfully found ourselves booked on a later flight, which would arrive in Philly only three hours later than our original arrival time.

Sure, I know most folks have air travel nightmare stories to share and in the grand scheme of things, I made out better than most, but the entire travel ordeal exhausted me and I just don’t understand how flying has devolved to the point that it’s like taking the Septa’s C bus down Broad Street.

Gas prices go up and the airlines raise ticket prices and begin to charge for checked baggage. Gas prices go down and I don’t hear a peep from the airlines in eliminating these additional fees. Airlines pack us in like sardines; offer no amenities if you’re flying coach and their customer service is just about non-existent. I used to look forward to getting on a plane, but no more--- unless it’s absolutely necessary, I’ll be keeping my feet on the ground for a while.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Get Dressed!


Have you noticed this stupid new sartorial trend being sported by mostly suburban teen girls--- wearing flannel pajamas outside as fashion? Most cap it off with shuffling around in sherpa-like slippers.

Just yesterday, I saw a young lady, no older than 13, with her mother, and this kid looked like she'd simply rolled out of bed, into the car and unexpectantly found herself at the dentist office. The child looked a hot mess and what was her mother thinking letting the girl venture out the house looking like that?

So, why isn't there the public outrage, like with young Black men started wearing jeans hanging off their off their butt? I've always had little tolerance for this particular fashion choice. In fact, I know if most kids knew the root of the slung low pants is in prisoner culture as a calling card for the brothers willing to engage in sexual activity with other men, a lot more brothers would pull their pants up with a quickness. I'm sure most are more tolerant because it's mostly blond haired, blue-eyed Susies in their pjs.

Whatever! --- These girls look stupid and sloppy and need to get dressed before they head out the door.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fever Broken


I’m happy to report that the fever of my addiction related to anything even remotely pertaining to the 2008 Presidential Election has finally broken.

How have I come to this conclusion you may ask? Well… for one thing, I haven’t watched Keith Olberman’s Countdown since last Tuesday. I’ve also begun to limit my daily visits to The Huffington Post and CNN.com. Last night I even checked out Unsung on TVOne. In fact, right now as I write this post, I’ve got my old standby Law & Order on the boob tube.

Now, these may seem like baby steps to you, but for me these mini milestones mark real progress, because for the past eight months, all things Obama have consumed me.

So, barring a relapse, I really do believe I’m on my way to returning to that well-rounded Mango Mama my friends and family has come to love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Turkey Day

I love Thanksgiving. Hands down, it’s my favorite holiday. Sure, the food is great, spending time with family and friends is fun and having a four day weekend is fabulous. But what I enjoy most is the spirit of the holiday. For me, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to take a whopping cleansing breathe of thanks for my countless blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary


Seven years ago today, Loverman and I got hitched. Yup, it’s our anniversary and true to form, both of us forgot this momentous occasion was almost upon us until late last night when while speaking to a girlfriend about her Thanksgiving plans, she mentioned heading to Vegas for her father’s nuptials later this week. Well, my friend’s plans sounded pretty familiar because that’s exactly what we did two thousand fifty-five days ago today.

I’m sure you’re wondering how can I forget my wedding anniversary? But, it happens every year. In fact, when our first anniversary rolled around, it was Loverman who remembered and not I. I felt pitiful and made a mental note not to forget again, but each year the date seems to creep up on me and I either forget about it altogether, or I remember at the last minute, too late to even run out and grab a card professing my unending love to my life’s partner/babies’ daddy.

It’s not that I don’t think taking time out to celebrate my union with Loverman is important, it’s just that we seem to be rolling along quite fine and instead of reminiscing about the day we exchanged our wedding vows, we’re earnestly working together to take care of this family and raise these babies. We’re living our life in the now. The date also usually falls on or around Thanksgiving and I guess our focus is on our plans for the holiday.

But, like I said, it is important to take a moment to acknowledge this wonderful man and father I am proud to call my husband. Through him, I have learned how to be a better person and mother and I’m honored to be his wife. I do love my Loverman!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Making a Comeback


My weekend is not complete until I make run to Target. Now, let me be honest, I usually get to Targé more than once a week, but it’s a given that at least one of those visit will be on Saturday or Sunday to stock up with provisions for week.

Today, as my mom and I headed over to Target, we were surprised by all of the traffic headed in and out of the shopping center. Once we finally found a parking spot and made our way into the store, it became quite apparent that consumer confidence is making a comeback, because folks were buying up a storm.

It will be very interesting to see what happens later this week on Black Friday, because if today’s any indication, folks are primed and ready to spend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Good to Share

A few weeks ago I mentioned allowing Miss Olivia to get her own email account. It seemed like a good idea at the time, she corresponded and resolved an issue with her 4th grade teacher and sends weekly updates to her grandparents in California. The downside of her new email habit is she expects access to my laptop on a daily basis. It’s driving me crazy!

After picking the kids up from school, we head home, jump right into homework, fixing and eating dinner, then cleaning up the kitchen and at about 7:30pm, I’m finally seeing the light at the end of my tunnel of the day and all I want to do is get on the computer and do a little blogging. But, no… now I’ve got to share the computer with Olivia so she can check her email and Yannick’s not to be left out, so he wants to hop on and play a few games on pbskids.org. All of this must be accommodated before their bedtime at 8:30pm.

I knew this day would come, just not so soon. The kids have a desktop PC in the playroom, but we’ve never wired it for the internet, and to do so, would require us to add a phone line to the room.

Loverman and I are extremely cautious when it comes to the kids to extending their digital footprint. We’re also pretty strict when it comes to allowing them to play video games. They each have handheld Leapsters, but that’s only because Leapster only offers educational games. I have been lobbying Loverman to loosen up a bit because both are jonesing for Nintendo ds or at least a Game Boy, yet I’m completely on the same page with Loverman in my concern that these handheld video games often distract children to the point where it stunts their social/emotional growth and they become less social and able to engage folks in meaningful conversation. Let’s not even get into the content of some of the video games. It’s ridiculous. I do suspect we’ll be just as vigilant with the amount of time the kids spend playing with these things as we are with monitoring the amount of time and what they’re watching on television.

But, back to my limited access to my laptop… I really do want them to be completely computer literate, but ever since I invested in this swanky Mac laptop, I’ve viewed it as “mine,” and the kids’ insistent interest in getting their grubby and often sticky fingers on “my” toy, is really challenging Mango Mama when it comes to the concept of sharing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WWBD?


The Mango Tribe found itself in a nasty situation this past weekend. It began when I left Olivia’s soccer game to take Loverman to work. I’d called my dad and asked him to sit in on the last half of the game in our absence. On my way back to the field, my dad called told me to meet him, Olivia and the rest of her team at McDonald’s for a team lunch. Once I arrived, I was confronted with several team parents relating a nasty exchange that occurred at the end of the game when a parent from the opposing team rushed on the field, grabbed Olivia by her sleeve and aggressively berated her for spilling water on her daughter. Olivia burst into tears and tried to explain that it was an accident. My father immediately tried to console Olivia, and by the time he turned around the offending mother was nowhere to be seen.

I called Olivia aside and asked her what happened? She related the same details and recounted how frightened she was by this woman’s behavior. Olivia’s coach approached me and asked me what he’d like me to do as other parents from our team offered to act as witnesses to the event. I was flabbergasted. I wasn’t sure where to start, but decided to collect their numbers and make a call to the league’s commissioner. Let’s call him Rob.

I called Rob and he explained that he was on the field when the incident occurred, but didn’t see anything, and went on to say, “The situation had been resolved.” When I asked “how,” he assured me someone had spoken with the out-of-bounds parent. I asked, “who?” He said he wasn’t sure, but again tried to assure me that issue had been addressed. I asked if the soccer league had a policy in place to address such situations and he replied, “no.” I couldn’t believe this and informed Rob that indeed the situation had not been resolved. I told Rob I wanted this parent’s name and telephone number to speak with her directly.

Once I hung up with Rob, I called and relayed the details of the event to Loverman and he then called Rob directly, again demanding the contact info for this broad. Rob called Loverman back in less than 5 mins. with the woman’s name and telephone number. Think he had the number all the time?

Loverman immediately called the woman, introduced himself and before jumping in her ass about putting her hands on our girl and speaking to her in a menacing tone, he asked if she had been on the playing field hollering at a player. She admitted that she had, but didn’t know the child’s name. Loverman asked the woman to describe the child and after stuttering for a few seconds this is what she said----- “A colored girl with those long braid things.” No lie, four days after the election of the first African American president, this biddy is still referring to Black folks as “colored.”

This, of course, illustrated exactly what we were dealing with and we proceeded knowing this woman isn’t ready for prime time. She went on to pitifully apologize for her actions offering that she knew now that she was wrong and didn’t mean to make my daughter cry. She even said she didn’t even remember how she made her way onto the field and has no recollection of putting her hands on our girl.

After reading this woman the riot act and threatening her with legal action, Loverman instructed her to call me immediately. She did and offered another lame apology, begging us not to call the police. I put my foot further up her behind and informed her that she needed to apologize to Olivia directly. She complied. Olivia accepted her apology.

But, for us, the story doesn’t end here. I’m really peeved with how the Lansdowne Boys and Girls Club (LBGC) handled the entire situation. Why did Olivia’s coach ask me what did I want him to do 45 mins. after the fact and why did the league’s commissioner tell me there is no policy in place to address inappropriate parental/adult behavior? Why did no one step up and advocate for Olivia right there on the field? If I’d been there and someone had put their hands on a kid that wasn’t my own, I know I would have been right in that adult’s face letting them know their actions were unacceptable. Why did no one from the league contact us, why did we have to reach out and demand this contact info to attempt to get resolution for this situation?

As Loverman and I grappled with these questions, I decided to contact the LBGC president and ask him these questions. He promptly responded to my email and informed us that there is a policy in place and this offending parent has been banned from next week’s game.

I’m not sure where to go from here. I do know this incident is making me put into practice my new internal barometer--- WWBD (What Would Barack Do). Olivia hasn’t mentioned the incident since Sunday and doesn’t seem to be dwelling on what happened. Some of my anger has dissipated, but I still think more should be done, not only on Olivia’s behalf, but also to ensure a message is sent that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. I do know Lansdowne’s Boys and Girls Club needs to be doing a much better job in informing both their leadership and volunteer coaches of the league’s policies.

It’s also clear to me that as upsetting as this situation was, the divine was definitely at work, because if either me or Loverman had been present when this occurred, it would have erupted into an extremely ugly scene and Olivia wouldn’t have been the only person leaving the field in tears.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

say it, spell it, say it


Yannick has his first spelling test tomorrow. His list of words include:
•nada
•solo
•el oso
•el nené
•el mono

In preparation for this quiz, we’ve employed the very same game plan my dad used with more than 30 years ago. It includes writing each word on an index card, with the definition on the back of the card, or in Yannick’s case---- the English translation; then using these flashcards me, Loverman and Miss Olivia take turns reviewing the spelling of each word using say it, spell it, say it method.

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I remember my dad telling me that this is the method used my the Scripps Spelling Bee folks and to be honest, even though it used to drive me crazy, I am a very good speller. It seemed only natural for me to employ the same method when Olivia started learning how to spell a few years ago and since she and Yannick are learning in Spanish it’s made learning to spell even easier because Spanish words are spelled just they way they sound.

So, let’s wish the little guy well. He’s studied hard and is really prepared, so I guess the moral of this story is----- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and say it, spell it, say it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Buzz



Yesterday, I had one of the most amazing days of my lifetime. And this morning, I awoke full of hope and good cheer, but also with a hazy head and a slightly unsettled stomach that I’ve carried with me for most of the day. Despite the fact that I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol last night, I feel as if I have a hangover--- that’s right a happy hangover—an Obama Buzz.

Monday, November 3, 2008

No Ordinary Day


I’ve received dozen of emails warning me not to wear any political paraphernalia to the polls here in Pennsylvania, and I will follow the rules and be sure to remove my Obama/Biden button before I head out tomorrow morning, but in my mind’s eye, I imagine African drummers lining the sidewalk, drumming their heart out as I make my way to the polls and the pouring of libations calling out the spirits of the ancestors who made this moment possible. So clearly I see my grandmother, Veronica Nelson, a community organizer and an alternate delegate for Jesse Jackson’s bid for the presidency at both the 1984 and 1988 Democratic National Convention, taking my hand--- leading me forward to cast my vote. I imagine the spirits of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm, Martin, Shirley Chisholm and countless others crowding me and I add my voice to this historic election. Sure, I’ll follow Barack’s impeccable example and tow the party line, but make no mistake, tomorrow is no ordinary day— God willing, it will be an historic day which will change our lives for better days to come.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Putting It In Context


Rosa sat... so Martin could walk.
Martin walked... so Obama could run.
Obama ran... so our children can fly.--- Anonymous
YES WE CAN!

Monday, October 27, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes


Last week I experienced examples of both the best and the worst of this country’s efficiency and can-do spirit.

Last Thursday, Loverman and I joined about 300 volunteers to build a playground for our kids’ school. It was amazing---- it’s like extreme makeover for playgrounds. We actually built a brand new playground from the ground-up in less than 7 hours. You can check out the slideshow of photos from the day’s activities on the right side of this blog.

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that the school was awarded a grant to build a playground from Kaboom. This is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. and their mission is to ensure that all kids have a great place to play within walking distance of their home. They partner with local corporations to subsidize the creation of these playgrounds. For our playground, IBM and SAP stepped to the plate to make our playground dream a reality and in addition to funding the project, they elicit the support of their workforce to volunteer their time and sweat equity to actually build the playground.

So, after six weeks of mobilization and preparation by various committees, including logistics, public relations, and construction, we all came together and with a lot of muscle and elbow grease, transformed a dilapidated and neglected space into a playground. In addition to the swings, monkey bars, monorail, sliding board, and rock wall, we also painted a mural and transportable chess and checker boards, built 6 planters, and planted flowers and trees.

I cannot remember the last time I was so physically tired. My feet and legs hurt like hell by the end of the day, but I also cannot remember the last time I felt so sated and full of goodwill for my fellow man. I didn’t know half the folks I was working along side, but that made no difference. We were all there for one common purpose and we worked together like a well-oiled machine.

Then after my productive Thursday, came Friday when I had to deal with a issue that had presented itself a week earlier at my annual OB/GYN appointment. Usually, I breeze in, hop up into those stirrups, relax my legs, let the midwife check things out, grab my prescription for my annual mammogram and then I’m outta there. Well… not this year. The midwife found an enlarged thyroid and a dense lump in my right breast. She ordered a diagnostic mammogram ASAP.

You’d think I’d be freaked out, and maybe I was, but didn’t know it. I just moved forward, had my blood drawn to check out the thyroid, and made an appointment for the mammogram. Once I slowed down long enough to process the possibilities, I was more concerned about getting drawn into this country's screwed up medical system, than the possibility of having breast cancer.

When I went in for the mammogram, I was immediately sucked into the inefficient vortex known as a managed health care. The well-versed receptionist explained that the industry standard for a digital diagnostic mammogram includes an ultrasound, but I would need a referral from my primary provider for this ultrasound. She offered to call my primary to get a referral faxed over, but I knew this would be easier said than done. First of all, my primary didn’t even know I was having this mammogram and secondly, it was late Friday afternoon and I knew the folks in my primary’s office get their hat and hit the road extra early on Fridays and the office was more than likely closed. I also wondered that if an ultrasound is “industry standard,” then why didn’t the prescription include the ultrasound or why hadn’t this been mentioned prior to my visit, so I could have gotten the referral for the ultrasound before heading into the office to get the mammogram.

Once I gave the receptionist approval to bill my insurance for the ultrasound, I moved onto the technician who would do the mammogram. This lovely young lady reviewed my file and noticed that my last mammogram was in November 2007 and despite the fact that I was prescribed this diagnostic mammogram ASAP, she was only allowed to look at the breast in question--- the right breast, and I would have to secure another prescription from my OB/GYN for a mammogram of the left breast for next month.

What the hell? Can you believe this? What kind of convoluted sense does this make? By this point, I didn’t even care and didn’t have the energy to make a stink about this (remember I had just built a playground the day before), I just wanted to get this boob checked out and go on with my day.

Fortunately, all’s good, I just have lumpy, dense boobies, but the whole experience was very draining. I’m consistently stunned by the inefficiency of our medical system. I know most of us are looking forward to some of the health care changes Barack has proposed, but I bet if we simply chucked all the bean counters who have created this dark hole and reviewed and refined the system to work in a more intuitive and effectual manner we’d be worlds better.

See, just the day before I learned firsthand what can be accomplished if folks are committed and of the same mind and not simply a bunch of boobs sitting around trying to devise a complicated scheme to bilk folks for all their worth.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It Could Get Hot


Is it me, but are some White folks starting to look at me a little differently in anticipation of a win by Barack Obama over John McCain? Sure, I live in Southeast Delaware County here in Pennsylvania, and it’s an area known to be a Republican stronghold, but Barack is up in the PA polls by a significant lead. And up until recently, I felt perfectly comfortable sporting my Obama t-shirt, but yesterday when I made a quick run into Kohl’s not far from our house, I do believe I got a lot of funky looks from my brethren of the lighter hue. It may have been just my imagination, but I don’t think so.

I think that in addition to getting folks out to the polls on November 4th, we also should prepare ourselves for a backlash from certain sectors of our community, due to the change of the racial dynamics of the residents of the White House.

Be prepared because while most of us are basking in the glow of an Obama victory, some will view his election as a call for all “good ‘ole boys and girls” to get buck wild and act on their racist and divisive views. In other words, it could get hot in here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

KaPow(ell)!

She's Got Mail


For the past two weeks Olivia has been coming home from school, not as her usual bubbly self, but in a foul mood. When I pressed her about this, she’d say nothing’s wrong, but finally admitted she didn’t think her 4th grade teacher, Maestra Amaya, liked her. “Why,” I asked? Olivia went on to explain that when she raises her hand to answer a question or participate in a discussion, she’s rarely called on. O.k. I thought, not such a big deal, I suggested maybe Olivia could ask to speak with Amaya privately to address her concerns. Stubbornly, Olivia huffed that she had no intention of speaking to this teacher about anything.

Let me provide a little back-story. For the most part, Olivia has been treated like a little star since her early days in preschool and it’s only continued once she hit elementary school. I’m sure it has a lot to do simply with how she looks; she stands out with her bright smile and head full of dreadlocks. To top it off, she’s a great kid. She’s friendly, can engage anyone in conversation and acts her age. So, I’m sure Amaya’s seeming lack of overt enthusiasm over my girl may have taken Olivia aback. This is Amaya’s first year at the school, she’s still finding her way around, learning who’s who and what’s what and probably hasn’t been peeped to Olivia’s status.

I continued to urge Olivia to speak with her teacher, explaining she may be reading Maestra Amaya all wrong, but unless she talks to her about it, she’ll never know. I’m pretty big on communication, trying to talk things out, owning your feelings and where you stand in a situation, and as Olivia gets older and starts to navigate pre-teen social dynamics, I know these will be useful skills if she starts exercising them early.

Well, as Olivia continued to mope and dismiss my calls to talk to her teacher, I offered another option. I suggested Olivia write down her thoughts and feelings and send them to her teacher in the form of an email. She’s been asking for an email address for the past few weeks and although Loverman and I have been pretty restrictive when it comes to video and computer games, we felt ok with her getting her own email address.

Olivia fell for the bait and agreed to send her teacher an email once we got set her set-up with an email address. She spent about a half hour getting her thoughts together and writing the email. Once she was satisfied and feeling accomplished with what she’d written she released it to the universe and pushed “send.” Olivia went on and sent additional emails to Loverman, me and a few of her friends at school. Later that evening, she asked if she could use the computer to see if anyone had responded to her emails. “Sure,” I said and to Olivia’s surprise, her teacher had responded with a detailed email addressing Olivia’s concerns. She also asked Olivia if they could meet during snack time the next day to continue their discussion.

When I picked up the kids the next day, Olivia was her usual upbeat self and when I inquired about her meeting with Amaya, Olivia said they had spoken and she now has a better understanding of her teacher’s position. Amaya told Olivia that she does, indeed notice Olivia’s continued interest in participating in class, but not all of Olivia’s classmates participate at the same level and she feels like if she has a choice between selecting Olivia or another student who may not participate as often, she selects the other student. Amaya also told Olivia how much she appreciated Olivia’s email.

I am so proud of Olivia and I’m happy this particular incident has been resolved to Olivia’s satisfaction. She learned a lesson and so did I. I learned that in spite of my efforts of denial, my girl is really growing up and for the most part, she really listens to what Loverman and me are saying to her. I know that my years of total control of what she does, whom she interacts with and my handling of all her affairs are fleeting, but I can see that she’s going to be just fine.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

She Touched Him!



Barack Obama was in Philadelphia today. He made four stops throughout the city. As astonishingly as it must sound, the Mango tribe was not able to check him out. Nope, we were too busy with soccer games and work commitments.

But not to fret… our friends and family did follow him to various locations (some may call it stalking), and below is a gloating email from my girl Lori. She actually, physically touched him. She also took this accompanying photo. Lucky girl!

Ladies,

I touched Barack Obama today and it was everything I thought it would be. Please excuse me while I pause to take a drag from cigarette.

I have attached one photo to this email. I apologize for not having more to show, but these were taken under adverse and hostile circumstances, for I had quite aggressively muscled my way past several people in the crowd to get closer to Barack. With shouts of "Where the hell does she think she's going?! We're all here to see the same damn thing." at my back, I valiantly held on to both my balance and my life. Were these people insane? Alas, I was not there to merely see – but also to touch, feel, and even taste had the opportunity presented itself. The gods be damned! I was going to emerge victorious from this crusade even if it meant leaving children, the elderly, and the handicapped in my wake. So it was done.

The details:
We touched with our left hands.
His – large with long fingers, soft, warm. He has a strong, deliberate, and genuine shake. He holds on for a moment, squeezes, then gently and slowly lets go.
Mine – frantic, desperate, obsessed, and vice-like. We all know I'm unstable.

Wish you all could have been there and touched him also. Enjoy the photo.

Love,
Lori

Friday, October 10, 2008

(Fun)draising?


Do you kids Cherrydale? I mean does the PTA at your kids’ school participate in the Cherrydale fundraisers? Our school does and I hate it. Sure, I understand it’s a necessary evil to bring additional resources to the school, but having to schlep those catalogs and order forms around, asking family, friends and associates to order this crap, and finally, collecting and distributing the stuff when it arrives is an absolute pain in the booty. I’d rather just give the school an additional 50 bucks and call it a day.

Up until now, I’ve deftly avoided our participation in the process, but this year I was double-teamed by Olivia and Yannick and succumbed to their insistent begging to join the race to garner the most sales among their classmates. It didn’t help that the school staged a slick marketing campaign showcasing some of the stuff possible top sellers can win, including a limo ride to a restaurant for a family dinner, a MP4 player, and tickets for four to a 76ers game.

I firmly explained that sure, they can participate, but I wanted no parts of it and if they wanted to do it then they’d have to handle it themselves. These terms are fine with them, and for the last few evenings, they’ve been hitting our neighbors up as soon as they get home from work. They’ve practiced their sales pitch on both Loverman and me and if early sales are any indication, it looks like they’re going to be quite successful.

Fortunately, most of our neighbors are very friendly (and tolerant), but the first day Olivia attempted to make a sale, one neighbor, Gayle, sent Olivia home with her daughter’s Cherrydale catalog with the pitch that she’d make a purchase, if we made a purchase from her daughter, so Miss Olivia got her sale, but I’m out of $18 for some useless kitchen utensil. It’s simply a vicious cycle.

Thankfully, all orders are due by the end of next week and I’m sure that in addition to helping to raise funds for their school, there are additional redeemable lessons their learning as pitchmen/women, but for a busy mom and dad, it’s just one more thing added to an already full plate.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Coming Out


I am COMING OUT. For most of my adult life I have been running from my deepest, heartfelt desires, making compromises to accommodate how I think others see me, expect of me.

Tonight I took a major step forward in actualizing my true self. It began as I was trolling the aisles of DSW. After I spied and grabbed the Aerosoles boots I’d been looking for, I mindlessly continued to walk through this shoe emporium. Just when I was about to move towards the cashier to purchase my boots, I spotted them… a black leather, Dansko-like clog, seductively calling me to take a moment and simply try on a conveniently supplied 7.5. Once I put them on my feet, I was done. Decades of denying my attraction to this style of shoe just melted away and I experienced complete comfort. No breaking these babies in… it’s as if my feet were born in these shoes.

I’ll admit, I’ve never been a sexy, stiletto type of gal, but for years I’ve worked diligently to keep up appearances and purchased shoes where fashion often trumped comfort. I feared being labeled a granola-crunching, tree-hugging hippie, always in search of a sartorial statement reflecting my true self. Well, no more… at 43 years old I know that being comfortable in one’s own skin is extremely sexy and with this evening’s purchase, I’m embracing this awareness and taking a bold step forward in my funky new kicks.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Heading the Call


Early Friday afternoon I was hit with a huge wake-up call after taking a dose of Sudafed to battle a headache I’d been suffering with for almost three days. I took the Sudafed, rested on the couch in a back room of our offices for about a half hour when I decided I should put something on my stomach. On the way back from grabbing some soup, my heart started to race, my head continued to pound, my hands and feet began to tingle and the world started to spin around me. The next thing I knew, I was stretched out on the ground with my boss demanding that I stay awake.

When the EMT guys arrived they took my blood pressure and it was through the roof. Despite my protests, I was soon in an ambulance and on my way to the hospital. By the time we arrived at the hospital, my blood pressure started to come down and the EMT guys suspected the Ephedrine in the Sudafed might be the culprit of all this drama, but when probed a bit deeper, it became glaringly apparent that the last few weeks have been much more hectic than usual and maybe the Ephedrine acted as a catalyst for a good old-fashioned anxiety attack.

What?!?!?! Me, Mango Mama, not able to handle (with grace and ease) all being thrown my way? Say it ain’t so. Sure, trying to juggle Loverman’s new work and travel schedule, three nights of soccer practice for the brown babies, with two games on Saturdays, weekends of work-related performances or workshops may seem like a lot for mere mortals, but not me--- no way! Not true. In fact, I sensed things getting a bit out of control when Loverman announced he had to head out to L.A. about two weeks ago. He would only be gone for the weekend, but it was the same weekend when I would be tied up working with an artist with press appearances and performances. My mind raced as I tried to figure out how I could meet both my work and familial responsibilities. I finally decided to reach out and get some help. I was able to hire a young lady who works as a babysitter for a good family friend to come in to stay with us for the entire weekend and work as a mother’s helper.

In spite of my careful planning and logistics management, Friday afternoon I still found myself flat on my back in the emergency room. I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t slow my brain down enough to understand how serious this situation could get if I don’t make some changes. As I watched the meditative drip of the I.V., I fretted over who was going to pick the kids up from school, especially since Loverman was in the air on his way to Los Angeles, and never for a minute did I consider rescheduling the press appearances for the artist I was working with, but what took me over the edge while I lay there was hearing the emergency room nurses commenting on how Sarah Palin touched them the night before during the vice presidential debate. I couldn’t believe it! These broads went on and on about she was speaking “their” language and seemed really down to earth. One went on to say, “She couldn’t do much worse than what we currently have, and what do we really know about Barack Obama?” By this point my heart was about to jump out of my chest and I knew I had to get out of there if I was going to get my anxiety under control. I called for a nurse and explained that I was feeling loads better and needed to be on my way because I had to get my kids by 3:30pm. A few minutes later, after the attending physician looked me over, I was out the door, right on time to meet the rest of my responsibilities for the evening and the weekend.

Now that this weekend is finally behind me and other than the little side-trip to the emergency room, all went off without a hitch, but that’s not the moral of this story. The moral is that I have more going on than I can handle by my lonesome and in addition to asking for help, I need to make time to take care of myself. I haven’t had a bit of exercise since the pool closed on Labor Day. I haven’t had a day off since Sunday, September 21 and I won’t until this coming Sunday, October 12. I’ve gotten up every morning for the last three weeks at 6:30am and sometimes I don’t get to bed until 11:00pm. My mind is constantly racing and instead of being present in the moment, I’m thinking about what needs to get done next. This can’t be healthy.

But, I’m overwhelmed simply thinking about how to make some obviously needed changes. I don’t think I can get up any earlier to take a much-needed walk. I’m hoping things will slow down once soccer season is over, but I can’t seem to get my head around some me-time. So, if I’m going to be completely honest with myself, at this point I’ve only heard the wake-up call, but how I’m going to address this call is still a complete mystery to me.

Monday, September 29, 2008

hood vs. hoodie


I’m all for dress codes in schools. My kids’ school’s dress code includes blue pants for boys and either blue pants, dress/jumper or skirt for girls. Both boys and girls must wear shirts with collars in white, blue, yellow or pink. I think a dress code levels the playing field and eliminates all that “keeping up with the Joneses,” and on a more practical note, I think it’s a lot cheaper than having to outfit the kids in the latest duds on a daily basis.

When I got home from work on Friday, Olivia announced that she could no longer wear her blue sweater in class because hoodies are not allowed. I, of course, rolled my eyes in complete disgust, because this scene was an exact replay from last year when I had to go to the mat with the school’s administration about the difference between a hood and hoodie. Stupid, I know, but the school’s dress code bans all hoodies, because as it was explained to me, many of the middle school teachers spent too much time asking their students to not wear the hood of the “hoodie” in the class. Cool--- I understand how this could be distracting, but handle your business responsibly and give the middle school kids an ultimatum--- if you wear the hood in my class, you lose the hoodie. Case closed! When I pushed the point a bit further with the school’s dean of students, I also caught a faint whiff of the “thug-like” persona associated with the hoodie, but she never came out and admitted this inference.

Despite my intense disdain of singling out hoodies, because of some perceived association with “ghetto fashion,” it’s also impractical--- have you ever tried to find a jacket or sweater for a child without a hood? I haven’t seen one in Target or Kohl’s in the last two years and believe me--- I’ve tried. It seems as most teachers are reminded of this particular school policy by the school’s administrators instead of differentiating between a garment “with a hood” and a hoodie, most just tell their students that hoods are not allowed.

So, what’s a Mango Mama to do? Well, I emailed Miss Olivia’s teacher this afternoon detailing my position, copied the dean of students and school’s principal and I guess I’ll be hitting that mat again this year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Too Sweet, Sweet Tooth


My baby boy needs major dental work. He’s suffering from cavities in his upper back teeth on both sides and after my discussion with his pediatric dentist today, we’re looking at no less than three appointments for extractions. Now, before you jump on me about indulging the little guy with too much candy, let me explain that the boy’s current state of dental damage is due to his nursing too long and at will throughout the night and the natural sugars in my breastmilk would sit on his teeth until he brushed them in the morning. Not good.

Yes, I am a proud former breastfeeder, no… let me be more specific, I was a human Häagen Daz machine and I couldn’t pry this boy off the boob until he was 3 yrs. old and even then, it was a delicate negotiation not unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis. I enjoyed nursing and thought Yannick would wean naturally himself like his older sister, but after making a few halfhearted attempts, it became painfully clear that this boy would nurse until adulthood unless I took drastic action. I broke him off cold turkey, but now I realize the damage was already done.

So, now we’ve got to help our little guy weather this new storm. I’m sure it won’t be pretty, especially because Yannick can turn on the drama when he wants to, but unfortunately, we don’t have a choice. Looks like it may be a funky fall y’all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Personal


We’ve got less than 49 days until what may be the most important presidential election in our lifetime and things are getting tight. Being totally devoid of an agenda to address our hemorrhaging economy, failing education system and skyrocketing healthcare costs, McCain, his side-kick Palin, and the Republicans have resorted to outright lies and distortions in an effort to divert the American public from the real issues.

Yes, I am a proud and vocal Obama supporter. I have read many of his policy papers and support his positions. I believe this man is America’s best hope for securing a better future for my children. In past presidential elections, I was offered very little choice and I cast my vote for the lesser of two evils, but not this time. We have a real opportunity to do better, be better--- much better.

But, make no mistake, everyone does not feel as I do and despite the fact the choice is clear to me, I’ve encountered folks still sitting on the fence, proclaiming they haven’t made a choice yet, or who outright declare themselves as McCain supporters, or don’t offer an opinion either way. The lesson here--- don’t assume.

Believe me, voting for Obama is not a Black thing, or a Democratic, liberal thing, we’re beyond that, it’s all about striving for more than mediocrity. I’m not interested in electing a president who I’d be comfortable sitting down having a beer with. I want intelligence, integrity, thoughtfulness, diplomacy and vision.

Yes, I respect everyone’s right to vote for whomever they chose. Yes, on most issues, I’m mature enough to agree to disagree, but not when it comes to this presidential election. This is too personal. The stakes are too high and the McCain/Palin ticket has yet to demonstrate any sort of understanding or empathy for the issues me, my family and community are dealing with daily. In fact, their stump speeches are totally devoid of any specifics, offering little in terms of a policy change of the current Bush agenda.

So, for me it’s quite simple. A vote for McCain/Palin is a vote against Olivia and Yannick and that’s totally unacceptable.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Evangelical Christian Defined

Back in February in the thick of the Democratic and Republican primaries, I posted a short piece asking for someone… anyone to please define what the heck is an Evangelical Christian. I went on to ask if it was simply code for White, Christian, Ultra-Conservative

I didn’t get many responses to that post, but I continued to ask the question and about ten days ago while checking out Michel Martin’s Tell Me More blog detailing her experiences at the Republican National Convention I decided to ask the question again. After a few days, I returned to her blog to see if she or anyone on her staff had responded--- and they hadn’t. But, Wednesday when checking my email, I received a request from one of the show’s producers asking if I would be willing to be recorded asking the question for use on today’s broadcast. They invited two religious leaders to respond to my question during the show’s weekly segment, Faith Matters. Check it out--- listen here! Be sure to click on Questions Abound About Palin's Faith.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New School Year/New School Home


These last two weeks have been hard. Loverman has taken on a second gig and we’re all adjusting to his new schedule. The kids don’t go back to school until September 15 because we’re moving into a new building and due to the construction schedule the school didn’t receive its certificate of occupancy until September 1st. It got so hectic with trying to get childcare, I decided to simply use some of my vacation time and stay home with the kids for the remainder of the week. I’ve been home with them since Tuesday.

We had an opportunity to tour the new facility earlier this evening. I couldn’t wait to see it because the building we’re moving into was once Durham Elementary and both my mom and her older sister attended Durham when they were children. It’s fabulous! Bright colors, big windows that open, and a new cafeteria with our own chef Gus to cook wholesome, fresh food for our kids, it’s more than I could ever imagine.

Located at 1600 Lombard Street in Center City, this building is 100% better than where we were. It’s a charter school founded 8 years ago and since its inception, it’s been housed in a building originally used as office space. In fact, the building is the designated FEMA headquarters for Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. So, the students were safe from hurricanes or a terrorist or nuclear attack, but there were numerous challenges not conducive for growing children. The windows didn’t open, the HVAC system was suspect and there was no dedicated outdoor space just for the school’s students. For recess activities, the school used Washington Square, a short walk from the school and an historic landmark that was once a burial ground during colonial times. It worked for a while and the administrators and teachers made the best out of a difficult situation, but with the school’s rapid growth, it reminded me of the old lady who lived in a shoe… We had simply outgrown our original home.

I recently rotated off the school’s board, but during my two-year tenure, most of the board’s energy had been consumed with deciding whether or not to move. For me, this wasn’t really a difficult decision, if we had the resources to move to a more appropriate space, and a detailed plan to execute the move, then I was all for it. In fact, I was surprised that there were even parents who opposed the move. But, for many families the school’s space challenge was trumped by its location right smack in the middle of city’s Independence Mall. The building was less than a block away from the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross' House, Carpenters' Hall and the new National Constitution Center. Our new home is a whopping nine blocks from this cradle of America’s birthplace. But, what we may have loss in immediate access to historical hotspots, we’ve gained in spades with a facility designed to meet the needs of a progressive learning environment.

Acquiring, rehabbing and preparing the school for Monday’s opening have done wonders in reinforcing the school’s sense of community. A parent of a student in Olivia’s class is an architect and the school hired her to oversee the entire project. Another parent has a moving company and the school hired him to move us from one building to the other. Every step of the way the school’s board and administration did their very best to ensure that as many voices as possible were at the table to create this dynamic space. A group of parents even worked together with the school’s principal to secure a KaBoom grant and later next month, the school’s community will join employees of IBM and SAP to build a world-class playground, one of the numerous wish-list items we wouldn’t have been able to fulfill without additional financial support.

Walking through the school’s hall this evening, I was overwhelmed by the intangible benefits the school and its students will reap from its new location. It’s almost like we’ve walked into our first home, with all the pride and pregnant anticipation that comes with home ownership.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On New Stands Now

Shameless Self-Promotion Alert! Mango Mama and her lovely book club buddies are showcased in the current issue of O Home. I’ll admit, I’m buggin’ a bit, appearing in the same publication as the Divine Miss O, but more importantly, I hope folks will check out the book featured with our story, What is the What by David Eggers, because it’s an incredible story and all proceeds go to aiding the Sudanese in America and Sudan through the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation.

So check out the Fall 2008 issue of O Home, and our feature, A Novel Affair, and be sure to let me know if you can figure out which one of us is me--- Mango Mama!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Clampett's Go to Washington


On Friday, I simply blew it off as a campaign stunt. McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate came out of left field, but at first glance it could have been written off as McCain trying to shake things up, adding youth to those concerned with the Republican nominee’s advanced age; securing the party’s conservative base.

By Saturday, I began to get a sinking feeling that this is more Machiavellian than a campaign stunt. It’s been reported McCain had only spoken with Palin once and had only one face-to-face prior to her selection as his running mate. He knows her about as much as I know the guy who delivers our monthly treat of Chinese take-out. Here’s a man who’s been trumpeting the importance of experience, soliciting the services of a woman who’s been governor of Alaska for less than two years and who didn’t own a passport prior to becoming governor.

The Republican talking points touting Palin’s qualifications include she’s the mother of five, with a staunch conservative background, executive experience, and she’s not a Washington insider. She’s pro-life, a lifelong card carrying member of the NRA, and a hunter who is known to head out to the Alaskan tundra, shoot, skin and prepare a moose for a hearty stew dinner. Palin was also a runner-up in the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant, and former star on her high school basketball team. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Idaho and has no additional advanced degrees.

Are we supposed to believe McCain decided on his own to throw caution to the wind and select Palin for his running mate? I think not! In fact, if I was John McCain and somehow I found myself winning in the general election, I’d sleep with one eye open because the powers that be are looking to have someone under they’re total control and Maverick Man, you may not fit the bill. This uniquely unqualified broad is simply a prop and for those of us who have been befuddled by how in the hell George W. won two terms as President of the U.S., Palin’s ascension as the potential second-in-command should not be taken lightly. There is definitely something funky afoot.

Today we learned Palin’s 17 year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant and this is on the heels of the recent birth of Palin’s five-month old son, Trig, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. It’s also been mentioned that Palin as an additional special needs child. While I do applaud the woman’s ability to multi-task, it would seem her plate is beyond full and maybe more of her attention is required at home; and as much as I respect Alaska’s right to choose whomever they wish to manage their state’s interests, Sarah Palin is not qualified nor prepared to have such a paramount say in my interest or those of my family.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iconic Moments


I remember clearly, my grandfather, Big Ray, scooped me up out of my grandmother’s bed and gently placed me in front of their small, black & white TV. I didn’t really understand what was going on because when I caught a glimpse out of the living room window it was still dark on St. Albans Street in South Philadelphia. It wasn’t yet morning, but Big Ray insisted we watch what was about to come on the television screen. Moments later, I saw the grainy image of the first American astronaut walk on the surface of the moon. I was only four years old and I don’t remember being excited, only a desire to go back to bed.

February 11, 1990 I whooped and hollered, shook and shimmied as I watched Nelson Mandela triumphantly join his family and nation as he was released from Robbins Island.

Eleven years later on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was pregnant with Yannick, preparing to drop Olivia off at preschool and make my way to work when the telephone rang. It was my mother asking if our television was on. It was, Olivia was checking out Elmo on Sesame Street. My mom urged me to turn on the news and as I tried to digest what I was seeing, I called for Loverman to come into the room and just as he approached we watched in horror as the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. It was incomprehensible. I wasn’t sure what was happening and after watching the news for just a few short minutes, I returned to going about the business of getting my day started. Looking back on that morning, I cannot believe Loverman and I went ahead and dropped our little girl off at school and proceeded to work. It wasn’t until I sat at my desk did I begin to realize the severity of the situation. I was in shock and as I continued to process all that was happening, I immediately felt the need to gather my family close. I cried for days sitting in front of the television, wondering how could we possibly bring another child into this mad, mad world.

Three years ago tomorrow, Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated America’s Gulf Coast and again I sat paralyzed in front of the television as I watched thousands stranded…no, abandoned in the world’s richest nation for over a week.

Tonight I’m primed and ready to witness what may be the most iconic moment of American history in my lifetime--- Barack Obama accept the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America, and just as my grandfather felt compelled to wake me to see that iconic moment on April 20, 1969 for myself, I, too, will sit with my two children and celebrate this most auspicious, historical occasion. YES WE CAN!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm a Wreck

I’m a wreck, and although it’s only Wednesday, it feels like it will take forever to get to Friday and the long holiday weekend. I’ve been crying at a drop of a hat and feel emotionally fragile.

I don’t find myself in such a state very often, but when I do, I need to identify the cause. Some of it has to do with the fact that my kids don’t go back to school until September 15th because their school is moving into a new building and they won’t receive the certificate of occupancy until September 1st and they’ll need the next two weeks to get settled. This is a problem because all of the summer camps I know of closed for business last week and Loverman is preparing to go back into the classroom next Tuesday to teach his own classes at Temple. Our game plan is to take it one day at a time, lean on family and friends and I guess I’ll have work from home for a few days, but I can tell already it’s going to be a bumpy two weeks.

Another cause of my funkdom is the unofficial end of summer--- never liked it, never will. Summer is my favorite season and I am mournful.

Finally, this week’s Democratic National Convention has consumed me. I am a political junkie and for me politics is not a game, and I take it quite personally, probably too personally. Until Hillary’s incredible and unequivocal endorsement of Obama last night, I was feeling some sort of way about her and her husband’s tepid, at best, support of Barack since the end of the Democratic primary and I’ve been totally outdone with the pundits constant questioning what Obama needed to do to win over Clinton’s supporters. The question is offensive, tinged with racism, because the man has done all he has to do--- he followed the rules, won the necessary number of delegates and thus secured the nomination. Now, it’s time for us to get our act together and battle the true opponent—John McCain and the Republican Party. Our children’s future is dependent on the success of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and anything which takes our focus off winning back the White House and righting our country’s ship both domestically and internationally is counterproductive.

I was born in 1965 and raised with a ringside view of the political process. My paternal grandmother, Veronica Nelson, was elected as an alternate delegate and attended both the 1984 and 1988 Democratic National Conventions and throughout the primary season I imagined how proud she would be of Barack Obama. She would be working tirelessly on the frontlines to ensure his success in the general election in November.

Because of the incredible access my grandmother’s political activities offered me when I was younger and in spite of my wholehearted attempt to view the world from a global, We-Are-the-World perspective, I firmly believe America is still very much a racist country and when I hear bullshit like, America just needs to get to know the Obamas and then America will feel more comfortable about voting for Barack, I want to throw up. Let me say this, if you want to know them, then get to know me, because the Obamas are a reflection of my family and ideals and those of many of my friends and associates. If you don’t know them or me or people like us, by now, it’s simply because you don’t want to, but know this… Barack Obama is this nation’s best opportunity to live up to the ideals upon which it was founded.

We are at a most critical time in our country’s history and this moment is pregnant with possibilities and never in my lifetime have I released myself with such abandon in hope that we finally live up to our true potential.

Monday, August 25, 2008

They Call Me Peaches


Summer’s winding down, I know, but for me, summer isn’t summer without a peach cobbler. Until this weekend, I hadn’t had an opportunity to bake one this summer season, so when I ran across this recipe, I made a beeline to the grocery store and picked up the necessary ingredients. It’s delicious. Check it out!

Peach Cobbler

Ingredients:
9 fresh peaches
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup of butter, chilled
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons white sugar
¼ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:
1. Preheat oven 400 degrees
2. Submerge peaches in boiling water about 1 minute. The amount of time required to make the skin easy to peel varies with the degree of ripeness. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon, and run peaches under cold water. Slip off the skin. Cut peaches into wedges, and place in either a deep 10” pie plate or a 2” deep 2 quart baking dish. Toss peaches with lemon juice and ½ cup of sugar (I added a bit of cinnamon.) Cover with foil.
3. Bake 15 minutes, or until the peaches are hot and bubbly.
4. Whisk together flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or a knife) until mixture resembles small peas. Add buttermilk and toss with a fork until mixture clumps together (I added a dash of vanilla extract.) Drop heaping tablespoons of dough over the peaches. In a small cup, mix 2 teaspoons of sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle over biscuits.
5. Bake until biscuits are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still Waiting...


I’m still waiting… Sure, I knew it was some sort of promotional stunt, but still… I was/am waiting for my text message from Obama giving me the heads-up for his VP pick.

Yeah, I heard earlier this morning when I rolled over and turned on MSNBC, Joe Biden is the man and yes, I’m pleased as punch because I know Biden will add the bite Obama’s been reticent to take, and in my humble opinion, that’s what it will take to beat crotchety old McCain and his dirty tricks. So, let the games begin!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Be Bold


She told me to be bold. I’d reached out to her for a bit of advice in navigating a professional matter. It was pertaining to a workshop I’d been asked to facilitate and when the conference organizers sent me a deal letter to confirm my participation, there was no mention of payment or even an honorarium. Trust me, I know I should have inquired about payment earlier in our discussions, but I didn’t and I’m trying to figure out why?

Most who know me, would probably think my needing to be reminded to be bold is a bit funny, because for the most part, I am pretty bold... forthcoming… frank, etc., but if I’m really honest, I am much more at ease when advocating on someone else’s behalf, rather than for my own. Somehow along the way I’ve gotten very good at identifying and staying well within some perceived parameters. I’m coloring within my own life’s lines, not rocking the boat. I can see now this is where I need to do a lot of self-work.

It may be a woman thing, or even a Black woman thing; because we are often taught/conditioned to take care of everyone else first and place ourselves at the very bottom of the totem pole. My parents didn’t overtly teach me this, but I learned by my mother’s example. She too often went without or put her own self-interest on the back burner to accommodate either my dad or me. She now sees me following this same pattern, calls me on it and tries to set me straight. It’s not always easy.

Now I recognize a boldness in Miss Olivia and I love it. I want to teach her to trust and follow her own voice. I witnessed her boldness on Sunday afternoon. We were hanging out at the pool and she was itching to swim in 11ft, but the club’s rules mandate that all children pass a swimming test before they’re allowed to jump off the diving board or swim past 5ft. Olivia felt ready and without saying a word to me or Loverman, she marched right over to the lifeguard and asked to be tested. She had to swim the width of the pool from 11ft. to 5ft. back and forth and tread water for 2 minutes. By the time I even realized what was going on, Olivia had passed the test and was about to jump off the diving board. I cannot tell you how proud I was of my girl. She didn’t wait for me, her dad or anyone else to tell her she was ready. She knew she was ready and she handled her business.

I want more of this for both her and Yannick. Hell, I want more of this for myself. I need to protect and promote my own self-interest unapologetically... boldly.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mama Knows



What is scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever is a term used for strep throat with a rash. Strep throat is a throat infection caused by a type of streptococcal bacteria.
What causes scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever is caused by streptococcal (strep) bacteria, the same bacteria that cause strep throat. There are many different strains of strep bacteria, some of which cause more serious illness than others. The type of strep that infects the throat and causes scarlet fever is called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus (GABS).

It started with a fever late on Sunday evening, and by Monday, Yannick didn’t want to get off the couch. His fever would subside with a dose of Children’s Motrin or Tylenol, but it would reappear every six the eight hours like clockwork.

I called our pediatrician’s office on Tuesday morning, and they said if his fever didn’t break in the next 48 hours to give them another call, but they assured me that it was probably just a little viral infection. O.k., I tried to live with that, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure. Since Yannick became sick, I wasn’t sleeping well and if I did fall asleep, I’d wake up with extreme thoughts about the boy. I’d awake worried, sad and agitated.

We kept a close eye on him, I even had him sleeping in the bed with us, and he did seem to perk up a bit, but every time we thought his fever had finally broken, he’d fall back into this listless state and then a few times he’d wake me wailing about really bad stomach pains or a bad headache. On Wednesday, Yannick’s face was covered with little bumps, rough like sandpaper, and his cheeks looked flush like he had bad sunburn. He was still eating and drinking fluids, but I knew something else was going on.

Thursday morning, Yannick awoke without a fever and said he felt good and was in great spirits. I felt better, but still wanted him to take it easy. He seemed fine for most of the day, but by late afternoon, he again complained about bad stomach pains. I gave him a few Children’s Pepto Bismal tablets, and the pain seemed to subside pretty quickly. By this time, I’m convinced more is going on and I decided to call my girl, Leslie. She’s a nurse; in fact, she’s the nurse at the kid’s school.

After detailing Yannick’s symptoms, Leslie was convinced Yannick was suffering from Scarlet Fever. WHAT??? I didn’t know folks still got Scarlet Fever and back in the 1800’s when folks did get it, didn’t they die from it? Leslie explained it really isn’t a big deal; it’s a form of strep throat. After thanking my girl, I called the pediatrician with an update of Yannick’s condition. They suggested I bring him in the next morning.

When Loverman came home, I gave him the 411. I could tell he was humoring me when I mentioned Scarlet Fever, but he agreed the boy needed to see a doctor.

The next morning, Yannick again awoke with no fever, and most of the rash on his face had disappeared, but even with this big improvement, I wanted the boy to be checked out from head to toe.

As we waited for the doctor to see us, Loverman made a few jokes about mommy and Miss Leslie’s extreme diagnosis, but when the doctor walked in the office, took one look at my boy, she too, suspected Yannick was on the up-side of a bout of Scarlet Fever.

A-Ha! I waited a moment while Loverman picked his face off the floor and asked the doctor to repeat herself. She did and went on to assure us that after a 10-day regimen of antibiotics, Yannick will be fine.

I cannot tell you how relieved I am. Last night, both Yannick and me slept like babies. I’m convinced my mother’s intuition has been on overdrive this week and it’s because of this sixth sense and insights provided by those other mothers my sisters’ circle, that my boy is now truly on the mend.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Give Me Strength


Last summer it was “hugs” at the Y camp and this summer it’s Meet the Browns at the church camp--- WTF? Some may call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t think either is appropriate for young kids.

For the uninformed, hugs are those ridiculously sweet concoctions of sugar, water and food coloring served in little plastic bottles shaped like barrels and Meet the Browns is rated PG-13, on top of being Perry’s worst film to date, and features this clip detailing their recently deceased daddy’s taste in women. PITIFUL! Olivia came home asking me, “What’s a ho?”

We didn’t return to the Y camp because they served hugs last year and sure they stopped after several parents, myself included, complained, but the staff was simply unprofessional and made more than a few questionable calls throughout the summer. My kids came home wiggling, jiggling and repeating rap lyrics they didn’t hear on our watch. This summer we opted for Camp Joy based on the recommendation of a dear friend and other than the Meet the Browns slip-up we were pleased with the set-up.

It just seems that as the kids grow, it becomes harder and harder to control their access to influences and ideals we find problematic. I guess now it’s all about preparing and providing them with the skills to discern what is of value, from that which is straight-up garbage. Give me strength.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Baloney!


Back-story: The kids and I don’t eat pork or red meat, but we do eat chicken/turkey/fish. Loverman only eats fish and vegetables. The kids have never eaten red meat or pork (or at least not to our knowledge).

Olivia and Yannick have been attending a local church camp, Camp Joy, for the last three weeks and the camp provides free lunch to the campers. At first, Olivia and Yannick were excited to participate in this free meal program, since we don’t allow them to eat their school’s lunches. It’s crazy because Loverman always lays out a fabulous breakfast and packs a great lunch, but you know how it is---- the grass always looks greener on the other side, so my two babies were psyched to partake of the camp’s lunch menu.

Well… this lasted for about two days and pretty soon the kids were begging Loverman to get back into the lunch-packing game. “Not so fast”, we said. “You’ve got to be careful for what you ask for.” Maybe a dose of the yucky camp lunch on a daily basis would make them a bit more appreciative of Loverman’s efforts once school starts, but when we received the weekly lunch menu we realized we would have to supplement with our own lunches about 2 or 3 times a week because bologna/ham sandwiches were scheduled to be served frequently.

Today’s Scenario: When I got in from work Loverman was laying across the bed watching the news and the kids were in the spare bedroom watching TV. We exchanged an update of our day’s activities when Loverman mentioned that today’s camp lunch was not cheese pizza as listed, but a bologna and cheese on wheat.

MM: What happened?
LM: Some sort of screw-up.
MM: So, what did the kids eat?
LM: Olivia said she ate a bag of chips and a juice box. She was starving when we got home, so I made them a sandwich.
MM: and Yannick?
LM: Well, my boy said he went ahead and ate the bologna sandwich.
MM: What? No way! I think he was just messing with your head. The boy knows not to eat bologna.
LM: Well, I looked the boy in the eye and he said he was hungry, so he ate the bologna.
MM: I don’t believe it. The boy did not eat bologna.
LM: You can ask him, but I believe him.

A few minutes later I was in the bathroom, and as usual Yannick came bursting through the door, asking me what I was doing and as usual, I asked him what does one do when in the bathroom? After we went back and forth as we do every day, I asked him what he had for lunch?

Yannick: Bologna!
MM: No you didn’t, tell mama the truth, what did you have for lunch?
Yannick: I ate the bologna sandwich because I was hungry, but I took out the cheese, ‘cause you know I don’t like American cheese.

MM: Boy, why are you messing with me and your father? I know you know better and I think you’re joking, but that’s O.K., cause God knows the truth. He knows if you really ate that sandwich.

A few moments of silent contemplation…

Yannick: Well, I know the truth and God knows the truth.. and the both of us know I ate that bologna sandwich and it was GOOD!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Laying of Hands



As I was about to shut down my computer last night, I decided to check my inbox one more time and there was one new message and it contained this incredible photo which bought tears to my eyes and chills down my spine. It was taken on July 5, 2008 at A.M.E. General Conference.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Co-Opting Playdates and Time-Outs


In my last post, I mentioned hosting my book club meeting on Saturday afternoon. We had a great time catching up, discussing the book, eating and drinking sangria and pomegranate margaritas. I always enjoy this time because the women in the group are wonderful, warm, interesting and intelligent and I’m guaranteed to have a good time. In fact, I come to refer to these dates as a “mommy play date.” That’s right, I’ve co-opted the term “play date,” and just as I plan these important and vital activities with my kids’ friends and classmates to foster friendships and assist in the development of their social skills, I, too, see the need to identify and organize “adults only” activities so my brain doesn’t drift into atrophy as I raise my children and navigate parenthood.

I'll also share another secret--- sometimes instead of sending my kids to “time-out,” I put myself in “mommy time-out.” This one works like a charm, because I usually put myself in time-out right in the middle of some melt-down between Olivia /Yannick and instead of banishing them to their room to get themselves together and to “think about it,” I sashay off to the sanctity of my own bedroom, admonishing them not to disturb me until my time-out is over. I don't use this one too often, but when I hit them with this little role reversal, they're so dazed and confused they usually forget whatever they were fussing about. I’m convinced this little maneuver has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Personal Aesthetics


Do you have a design aesthetic? I think about this a lot, especially since my girl Zenia introduced me to Carrie and Danielle and their book, Style Statement. I’m confident I have a design aesthetic when it comes to my home. I like bold colors on the walls, comfortable, inviting furniture, and artwork, framed photos of family and friends and bookshelves filled with books in every room. I want our home to be a welcoming and peaceful space.

I’m not as confident about my personal aesthetic when it comes to fashion. Again, I gravitate towards color--- orange is my favorite, but I also wear lots of greens and browns. Outside of colors, I’m at a total loss. I think this may have more to do with body image than anything else. I honestly need to lose about 20+ lbs., but I have been feeling a lot better about my weight since we’ve joined the swim club and I’ve been both swimming regularly and participating in a bi-weekly water aerobics class. I am satisfied with other aspects of my appearance, specifically my haircut, but I felt just as comfortable with my dreads. Or maybe, I should say that up until I cut them off I felt good about them, because one morning I just woke up and knew that this was the day I needed to cut them off. I suddenly felt like I was hiding under the weight of my hair and I wanted to see myself again without having to pull my hair away from my face. I wanted step into the shower and feel the water on my head every morning. I had the dreads cut off that very day. I never looked back and I won’t be growing the dreads back like I did that last two times I cut them off. I wear short hair well. It suits me.

Earlier today I hosted my book club meeting and in preparation, my cousin/sister Allyson offered to bake a blueberry pie and when she dropped it off, she also handed me a gift she picked up somewhere on her daily travels. The package contained the funkiest serving tray and bowls. It had Mango Mama written all over it. Allyson does this sort of thing all the time, she’s always keeping mental notes, remembering some off-handed comment you made months ago, like when I thanked her for the beautiful serving platter she bought me during her trip to Mexico in May. I was so excited when I saw the platter because I’d recently determined that the Mango Tribe entertains on a fairly frequent basis, and we’d grown beyond the festive, plastic serving bowls I picked a few years ago. It was time to step up our game. Well, I guess my Fairy God-Sister Allyson took note and when she ran across a sale at Pier 1, she decided to hook a sister up and I’m thankful.

For me, having a sense of your personal aesthetic is a reflection of how comfortable you are in your own skin, a barometer to gauge if you’re living in an emotional/spiritual space of personal authenticity. Allyson’s gift affirms that on some level, my personal design aesthetic is being translated, because she nailed it and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to break out my new pieces.