Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gaining Perspective

I’m learning there’s a lot to be gained when one’s vacation does not meet one’s expectations. How do I know you may ask? Because last week, I was on vacation with the Mango Tribe, and my in-laws and from the moment we checked in to our timeshare in Hilton Head, we were faced with a series of unforeseen challenges, the least of which included a mosquito’s nest festering in the closet of the loft bedroom I was to share with Loverman. When we approached management we were offered a few options, none of which included moving us to another unit or resort altogether. So, instead of packing up all of our crap and heading home, Loverman and I decided to man-up, buy a air mattress and sleep on the floor in the living room, while Olivia and Yannick slept on the couch and loveseat, and my in-laws lived it up in the lap of luxury in the master suite with the Jacuzzi tub. Let’s just say, I wasn’t happy, because when I go on vacation, I’m looking for a bit of fantasy, with accommodations swankier than what I have at home and instead of the Ritz Carlton, this joint was more like the Bates Motel.

Things did begin to look up when we ventured out for day trips to Buford, Charleston and the incredible, pristine beach at Hunting Island State Park. We even chartered a boat for a leisurely afternoon sailing along the Buford River, with Captain Bill’s River Safari.

But, it seemed as if whenever we started to head back to the timeshare, my spirits would dim and every little thing would get on my last nerve. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the extremely close quarters and lack of privacy, and even though I love my in-laws, a vacation that includes a party of six, does not equal much fun or relaxation for Mango Mama.

Now that I can feel myself begin to decompress from our week on holiday, I sense a more balanced perspective settling in. I’ve also learned a lot about myself—the first being, I’m now at an age where I cannot sleep just any ‘ole where, because my back and neck are totally jacked up from that damn air mattress and even though I love spending time with my kids and family, I need an ample amount of time alone or I’m not going to be my usual pleasant self. Going forward, it will have to be just the Mango Tribe on these summer vacations, because this is one scene where the more the merrier doesn’t fit, too much time spent with consensus building for the simplest tasks, like what we’re doing for dinner.

I was so happy when we arrived home early Sunday morning. I almost cried with joy when I saw my bedroom.

For me, the ideal vacation includes a sandy beach, blue water, fruity drinks, enjoying the kids, lots of time with Loverman, while suspending my role of family facilitator/coordinator for at least a week. What’s yours?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Funky Fundraising

I’m not sure if this troublesome urban phenomenon happens in other cities, but here in Philly, I absolutely abhor seeing our young kids “fundraise” on medians in high traffic areas. It’s often both boys and girls and some look as young as 6 or 7 yrs. old and almost 99% of the time these are African American kids. You can find hot medians or street corners with this ghetto hustle year round, but it's extremely pervasive during the summer months. Sometimes they carry signs detailing how the donations will be used, usually for their local community football or or drill team; and they collect their cash in anything from plastic sand pails, jelly jars or even tin cans.

I never give donations because I don’t want to support this form of solicitation. But I often wonder who would allow their kids to get out and fundraise for whatever reason in busy traffic? In fact, are these kids even fundraising at all or simply pandhandling? What’s wrong with the old fashioned bake sale or car wash to beef up their organization’s booty? Do I even know their cause is legit? Am I just too cynical?

I’m all for teaching our kids how to be fiscally responsible, but unlike my local volunteer fire department, I have no way of verifying that these kids, hustling for some change, represent a certified 501C3 and if the money is really going where they say it is. I’m also all for encouraging our children’s participation in community service, but this form of fundraising is a bit too shady for my tastes and what’s more, it’s just plain dangerous; and let's be clear, somewhere in this picture there's an adult, selling this as an appropriate form of earning money for whatever reason and it's with those individuals that I really have a problem with. It’s also indicative of the lack of opportunities or activities many of our children face during the long summer months.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In Mermoriam: Punk Rock Mommy

I did not have the honor of knowing her. I was introduced to Andrea Collins-Smith's battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) and her blog by my co-worker, Lisa. Andrea died earlier this week, but her audacious and honest postings and those of her incredible husband, Kelly, and her six amazingly awesome children will continue. Check them out (www.punkrockmommy.org) and spread the word because the spirit and energy of this woman and her family will surely make this world a better place.

Rest in peace Miss Andrea and may God continue to bless your family.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Beyond Clean House

O.k., I just finished watching Clean House’s Messiest House in America 2 on the Style Channel. I’m a huge fan of Clean House and absolutely adore Miss Niecy Nash. Olivia and I watch it religiously and on more than one occasion I’ve asked myself how in the hell can the people featured on the show live in such clutter?

For the second year, Niecy and her crew have ventured out of California in search of the “Messiest House in America,” and this year a hapless couple outside of Allentown, PA won the dubious honor. Homeowners Phil and Mindy are obviously down on their luck and seem to be at their wits end when it comes to taking control of their lives, but what they presented to Clean House and exposed to the rest of America is not the messiest house in America, but possibly the nastiest house in America. I’m talking a house reeking with pet urine and mounds of cat poop in a hole in the wall. Surprising, there was no sign of a cat and when this was mentioned, Phil and Mindy explained they haven’t had a cat in over a year. Ok, now! Phil and Mindy went on to admit not having cleaned their tub or toilet in over a year. What the hell?

The show goes through its usual process of trying to pry all the unnecessary crap away from the homeowners to be sold at a yard sale, but unlike previous episodes, the usually bright and positive cast seems totally outdone by Phil and Mindy’s mayhem and make overtly snide comments throughout the show. I understand. Recently, I read a Washington Post article about this particular episode and the cast and crew of Clean House was posted up at this nasty crib for an 11-day shoot. I’m sure it’s difficult to keep the niceties up in this sort of filth for a full 11 days.

These folks do need a home overhaul, but first they need serious mental therapy to determine how these two enablers joined forces to live in such abhorrent squalor. Phil and Mindy need more substantial help than Clean House is prepared to provide and unfortunately, there’s no way this couple will be able to maintain the physical transformation done to their home.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Summers at the Nile

When I was about five, my mother spent lots of money on swimming lessons at the local YMCA. Let’s just say that instead of being money well spent, most of the money sadly went down the drain. It wasn’t until the summer months came and we started spending our days at the Nile did I truly learn to swim and thus began a summer ritual that lasted well into my teen years.

The Nile is the oldest Black-owned swim club in the country and my grandparents and some of their neighbors were founding members. The club was created in 1959 when a group of progressive African American residents of Yeadon, PA were denied membership to the all-White Yeadon Swim Club. This was no small accomplishment because this endeavor required they pool their resources, buy a plot of land and build a pool, clubhouse, snack bar and modest recreational facilities, and ironically, as the Nile continues to offer its members a family-friendly respite minutes away from Philadelphia’s city limits, the Yeadon Swim Club no longer exists. As a kid, I remember my White classmates hosting their summer birthday parties at the Yeadon Swim Club and it was simply understood I wouldn’t be invited because of the club’s no Blacks allowed policy.

It looks like history may be repeating itself, because two years ago Loverman and I invested in a series of lessons at a Y in the city hoping that our brown babies would morph into brown water babies and share our love for swimming. Didn’t work. Fortunately, neither displayed a fear of the water, but it seems for the money we spent, we should have gotten beyond a flailing semblance of a doggie paddle.

Since moving to a neighborhood not far from my childhood home, I often found myself fondly smiling as I drove past the Nile. I vividly recall riding my bike to the pool everyday from the last day of school in mid-June to Labor Day, becoming tanned way beyond my usual shade of cafĂ© au lait. This year as summer approached both my mom and aunt suggested Loverman and I invest in a membership for our family. It sounded good to me, but with all of the other summer expenses, I didn’t know if it was possible, but two weeks ago I decided to stop by the club and pick up the membership info, and as I looked over the grounds I was flooded with the most wonderful memories and rushed home to crunch the numbers to see how we could make this work.

Later that evening as Loverman and I were reviewing the membership options, we went on the Nile’s website and on its homepage there’s a digital postcard featuring archival photographs of the Nile back in its heyday. There’s a photo of Harry Belafonte at the Nile, followed by The Supremes at the Nile and then I got the biggest surprise--- a photo of my grandmother, Veronica Athealea Nelson, looking her diva best with some friends at the Nile circa 1959. I couldn’t believe it, what an amazing, unexpected gift. For me it was incredibly clear my grandmother was beaconing me, telling me it was time to come home.

Well, we have joined and on our first visit I was welcomed by and reconnected with folks I haven’t seen in more than twenty-five years, people who have known me all my life and remember me when I was Olivia’s age. Although some things have changed, like there are fewer members, and there are even some White members, ultimately it’s just like I remember it. The sound system stays tuned to ‘DAS FM and the young lifeguards run a tight ship to ensure everyone’s safety and everyday adult swim is from 6:00 – 6:30pm and for that blissful half hour I can get my workout on and swim laps. Olivia and Yannick are now swimming like guppies and have browned almost to a crisp and the water really seems to wear Yannick out because after a day at the pool the little guy sleeps for a good 12 to 13 hours. Nirvnana!

It’s feels good to be back, like I’m contributing to my grandparents legacy and efforts to be apart of something bigger and benefits the entire community. A lofty concept sure, but it’s true and its without question the best investment we could have made this summer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mango Goes Shabby Chic

For the past couple of months I’ve been looking for just the right piece to go against the wall under our living room stairs and last Friday while rummaging around a second hand spot not far from my job I spotted this table, or is it a breakfront, I’m not sure? Whatever you call it, the owner of the shop sold it to me for just 10 bucks! Can you believe it? It works perfectly and yesterday I found this great table runner at Kohl’s on sale for $7.00, so I got this fab new look for the bargain basement price of a whopping $17.00. Can’t beat that with a baseball bat!