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

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

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


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.