Thursday, January 19, 2017

So Hard to Say Goodbye

Dear President and Mrs. Obama,

I have been putting off writing this note for weeks--I actually had selected the right card and knew most of what I wanted to say in gratitude for these past eight years. But then I never got around to writing anything, debated whether that one small 3x5 or 4x6 card would be insufficient to contain all of what I wanted to say, and then I look up and today is January the 19th.

I am currently staring at a blank screen with the same look one has when looking down on a blank piece of paper--with the anticipation of everything I want to say, along with everything I think I want to say, but without the precise words to say anything. I want this statement to be eloquent, beautiful and moving, but most importantly genuine and real. I want you and your family to KNOW what you have meant. Perhaps my inability to articulate my feelings comes from there being too much to say...

I am a perfectionist, and it has dawned on me that I have spent an entire paragraph trying not to be too effusive or stumble over myself and get repetitive and awkward. I am just so full of emotion right now. So here goes: (Deep breath)...first of all, thank you for making it to the end.

A lot of folks were afraid that you would not live to see this day because they assumed that your real enemies preferred to see you dead, rather than see you fail. Many of those old folks lived through the 60s so they assumed the worst, but thankfully those are the same old folks who came up through conditions that were so unimaginable to our generation, so those are those praying-all-through-the-day-and-night old folks. They prayed as hard for your survival as they pray for their wayward grandchildren.

Second, thank you for finishing your tenure with no major scandals. Unfortunately high-profile black elected officials tend to leave office in disgrace. With twelve hours left, I think it is safe to assume that your escort from the premises tomorrow afternoon will look nothing like a perp walk.

Third, thank you for your beautiful daughters. Thank you for shielding them from the glare of a too hot spotlight that would seek to fry their very souls. Thank you for allowing us to see them act like sweet little girls, then like bored and uninterested teenagers, and now like poised young ladies. Thank you for punishing Sasha on the night of your last speech (because I am not buying that she had a test the next day)...but then again, even if she really did have a test the next day, thank you for making her stay at home to study because that is what good parents do sometimes. Thank you for allowing Malia the space to take a year off, which I hope means that I will absentmindedly walk into a Baby Gap somewhere around the city and spot her folding sweaters. I would be even more grateful if Sasha applies to my beloved Spelman College.

Thank you for marrying Michelle LaVaughn Robinson.

And because saying thank for Michelle is not the same as saying thank you to Michelle: Thank you Michelle Obama for being that ultra-fly girlfriend; that always stylish big sister; that cool Mom who brings the healthy snacks; that around-the-way girl who never did take off her earrings even when she was tempted to remind you that she grew up on the South Side of Chicago; that ultimate Busy Black Woman!

Finally, thank you Mr. President. Black nerds like me definitely appreciate the fact that you made being intelligent look cool. You have freed us from the box that confined blackness to the hood or to the stage or on the field or in the pulpit or in prison or in premature graves.

I would cite some of your policy successes, but I won't. I will allow those to be evaluated by historians. I know that the plans are underway to eviscerate many of your accomplishments, and it is just too cynical to believe that this was all just a dream, but because I know otherwise, history will decide how you rank.

And I am just about done. I wish I had met you while you were the President. I wanted to work for you, but life had other plans for me. I wish that my mother could have met you before Alzheimer's robbed her of even knowing that you had served in office. I wish that my father would have listened to me about following protocol for getting you to send a letter of condolence to the family of the White House usher from his church who passed away last Fall (maybe we can still work something out). I wish that my daughter would be able to remember your time in office. I'm pleased that someone printed a picture of you for my Hub to pose next to in his office. I'm proud that I volunteered to get you elected in 2008.

Mr. President, I am 43 years old. If we are blessed to live another 43 years (or more), there is a lot more I hope to be able to say to you. So I will just end it right here.

Thank you.

Marching Forward - January 21, 2017

After the election, when it was announced that there would be a Woman's March on DC, I dug in my defiant heels and refused to even consider participating. Like many black women I know, we were pissed when it was revealed that one of the larger voting blocks to support #45* was educated white women.

And despite various news reports and queries about my intentions, I had not given the March that much thought until last week. I heard discussions of the city's plans for managing the swarm of expected protestors and listened to testimonials by women intending to wear pussy hats at the demonstration. I was prepared to ignore those reports until this past weekend.

I belong to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. which just commemorated 104 years of existence. Two other black greek letter sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Zeta Phi Beta, also commemorated their founding this past weekend. Each of us boasts strong legacies of service and political engagement. In fact, all nine of the black greek letter organizations can claim this same legacy and mission.

In particular, though, it was in reflection of the first public act undertaken by the 22 women that founded my organization, that has me reconsidering my initial denouncements. These students, along with civil rights activists Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells Barnett, participated in the Women's Suffrage March of 1913, which occurred the day after the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. We staged a reenactment of that historic event for our centennial back in 2013.

From newspaper reports I know that those 22 women were not entirely welcome at that suffrage march. They had to march in the back and as Dorothy I. Height, one of our past presidents once told us, they were admonished to "go back to your kitchens" because it was inconceivable that black women would join such a crusade, let alone be allowed to vote. So in some sense, history could be seen as repeating itself as black women and other women of color find themselves not fully represented by the goals of this upcoming march.

No, we have not been asked to march in the back and I am pretty sure that anyone who suggests that we ought to go back to our kitchens will suffer the same fate as some woman named Heather W (who mused aloud about slavery and needing a maid and got DRAGGED on the Facebook)...but we have been relegated to supporting status because when the march was announced, we were not among the organizers. The march for people of color was convened for MLK weekend by Rev. Al Sharpton.

I still have a lot of mixed feeling about this March, beginning with the level of attention it is getting precisely because of that other march that took place here just last weekend. I am assuming that most media outlets find the Women's March more compelling because the Reverend Al is essentially Chicken Little when it comes to organizing protest marches. Perhaps there is some newsworthiness in the historical parallels to the original Suffrage March, especially given #45's past statements about women. There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical that this will simply be another "inclusive" photo opportunity that accomplishes nothing for women of color except more marginalization.

But I am going to set aside my doubts and join the effort. On Saturday, we will actually be out of town for the Abomination, but there will be satellite marches and one happens to be taking place near the hotel where we will be staying. And despite my plans to take the Babe to see a show, I will see if there is some way for us to take a slight detour so that she and I can take to the streets together.

I wrote a note on Facebook to some friends that I suspect will get ignored by those who are either heading out of town or are as ambivalent as I am about the outcome of this march. One of the points I tried to make was the necessity of having women of color in the number so that we cannot continue to be ignored. As much as we love them, men of color are NOT going to address women's issues--they are race MEN. Far too often, we show up and do the heavy lifting for both race and gender issues, then watch as others reap the benefit of our sacrifices. It can be a 'fool me once, fool me twice' kind of scenario for many of us. Yet, no one can overlook us if we show up and demand to be seen.

My Founders comprised a small delegation in that Suffrage March, but they showed up. I mentioned to my friends how there have been small numbers of black and brown women in rooms full of white women...and how no one deigns to treat them like washer women and kitchen help. So, even if it doesn't result in that much initial progress, we still need to be visible. The glass ceiling that Hillary didn't break is still there, covering us all.

I want my daughter to remember this period of time only through pictures. In a few years, she can ask me about the pussy hats (although I probably will not wear one), and I hope to be able to say that it was in response to a stupid remark made by someone whose tenure as President was limited to just four forgettable years. I can tell her how this most recent wave of activism began with the release of "Hidden Figures" a film about three members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. who helped make space travel possible. I can tell her about our disappointment about the presidential election, but how we were encouraged by the elections of Kamala Harris (CA), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), and Maggie Hassan (NH). I will tell her why she should always be a proud Latina like Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

I will tell her how her future was shaped by the women who showed up anyway, got into the room, and were heard.

(*Side note, I want to give credit to my line sister RB who identifies the incoming President by that number designation. Of course, I might use different versions of his name and will use various portmanteaux to ridicule him whenever possible, but out of respect for the office that he will assume tomorrow, I will use #45 for my serious critiques of him and his policies.)

Out with the Old

So here we are, 17 19 days into the new year and three days 23 hours before the Trumpacalypse (started writing this the other night). Did you send a thank you message to the Obamas and do you have your doomsday rations?

My New Year started with a bang, but not in a good way...still dealing with the aftermath with no signs of improvement on the horizon. So I've decided to take my lemons and add some vodka (because I am so over lemonade). I won't bore you with too many details, but I'm going to share some of my New Year's declarations/resolutions:

A new blogger template. I liked the old one, but it got boring so I found something different. It is still a generic Blogger template, which probably means it is way past time to upgrade to a different platform altogether, but baby steps. Because...
I plan to incorporate new features, such as Facebook Live! Last year my on-the-fly Election Day post got 500 hits, so imagine what could happen if I planned something specific? So my goal is to post a live video of me in the midst of my busy-ness a few times a year. I am also going to start a Busy Black Woman Podcast! I might need some help from the Niece or some other kid with technical proficiency to get it going, but I want to take my brand to the next level and podcasting is the next big thing. I have several ideas, so look for our maiden voyage sometime this Spring.

More busy-ness. I am finally going to do a new shirt, which means I need to get rid of the old ones. Stay tuned for more information on getting one of our vintage, limited BBW original tees. And look for the great reveal of the new shirt coming this Spring/Summer.

I am also working on a projects for the years ahead. On the FB page I acknowledged that I have been doing a lot more political writing, which would normally be better suited for the Cafe, our sister blog. I need to figure out what that means for the BBW blog because that might alienate some folks if I don't continue to serve up anecdotes about my life, but I happen to believe that a lot of my political opinions have resonance here. So for now, the compromise will be to cross-post to both blogs.

Allow me to tease out one of my upcoming political projects by beginning with this statement: I am just a housewife. My daughter is almost 2, and you already know that I am a caregiver to my mother. I try to stay active in some community activities (and plan to get re-engaged where my commitment has slipped of late), so I have what you might call a full plate. Yet since the election, I have spent a lot of time wondering what more I could do. I am not actively practicing law anymore and it would take a while before things are in a place for me to get a job, so my persistent dilemma was what could I, a mere housewife, do? I'm so glad you asked.

The Sunday after the election I went to hear my Spelman Sister, Soror and all-around Busy Black Woman Marian Wright Edelman speak at Howard University, and one of her standout statements was, "Enough fleas can move even the biggest dog." I've heard several prophetic words since then that echo her sentiment and so I am declaring right now that this Busy Black housewife plans to become a pest (just not a flea :), so stay tuned!

Finally, a stronger commitment to self-care. I want to live long enough to see my Niece elected to the White House, beam with pride when my daughter invents the flying car, and witness my Baby Niece surprise the world with whatever gift God has given her. I want to be a Delta Dear, a Golden Girl, a Diamond Daughter, Notorious like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and dap like Betty White. I want to be around for as long as the good Lord will allow, but in order to do that I have got to take better care of myself.

So, I will be returning to dance class next week, doing a lot more walking, eating more salads, drinking more water, and making sure that I'm not too busy looking at my phone to notice if I'm about to get hit by a car. I will see more movies and enjoy more live performances (even if it has to be a Disney movie or Daniel Tiger Live). I will travel the world. Last night the Hub bought season tickets for the Nationals, which is huge because he is a pin-stripped Yankees fan, but you get my point.

Even on the cusp of uncertainty, we have to keep living. That is my ultimate declaration/resolution for 2017, so let's do this!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Call of the Wild

I don't need to tell anyone who has a toddler that this has been quite a year. I've probably already told you several times that I am in way over my head. To borrow a phrase from my Spelman sister DYN, parenting ain't for pussies! So if the Babe makes it unhurt to midnight tonight, I ought to do a cartwheel. In fact I need to do an Olympic caliber floor exercise.

Yesterday could be categorized as an epic Mommy fail because I had good intentions that went awry as soon as I took my eyes off the kid for a few minutes. I was on the phone in the bathroom, she opened the door, and then she walked off with her toothbrush and toothpaste. I am unsure how much time elapsed, but when I last saw her she was watching TV.

I wrote this recap on the FB page, so feel free to enjoy the short version.

Now here is the long version, augmented by several of the details I omitted. So I mentioned that I was in the bathroom and the she had taken her toothbrush and her toothpaste with her into my bedroom, found a quiet spot on the floor in front the TV, and was busy watching whatever was on PBS Kids for a few minutes while I was on the phone. Right there, several veteran parents should be shaking their heads.

For the rookies, you need to know that my first mistake occurred long before I left the Babe to her own devices. My first mistake was to get the Babe dressed and ready before I got myself dressed and ready. You see, my plan for the day included a few errands on this side of town before we were to be at my parents' house by 2pm. I had my itinerary mapped out, I was showered, so I just needed to get dressed and to pack the car.

I was dilly dallying on the phone and it was about 11:30 when I realized that she was too quiet and discovered her covered in toothpaste. We didn't leave this house until 1:30. My FB status update came just before 2pm while I was waiting in line for gas at the Costco. I had just texted my Dad to let him know that I was on my way to the house per our understanding that I would relieve my mother's caregiver because my brother was out of town. I also texted the caregiver to let her know that I was running a little late. In response, she asks me to get a few things.

Mind you, I am sitting in the car with a finally napping toddler, watching the parking lot at the Costco fill with folks anxious to stock up for the holiday weekend. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Top Ten: Part Two

It is either sad or hilarious that I just posted an "I Hate Christmas" piece this weekend with several of the same reasons I cited when I wrote this piece about how much I hate Christmas a few years ago. I really might be a to avoid any nocturnal otherworldly visitors, I wanted to create a list of things I like about Christmas (let's just hope there are ten):

1. Pictures of children with Santa. I especially like to see pictures of crying children on Santa's lap because well, it's a rite of passage (and I promise to post a picture of my kid wailing on the big guy's lap on the FB page).

2. Classic, unadulterated Christmas movies that we all recognize as classic, unadulterated Christmas movies: It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and A Christmas Story (1983). I can even enjoy a modern classic like The Family Stone (2005). But no colorization and only certain modern remakes like The Preacher's Wife (1996).

3. Stevie Wonder's Someday at Christmas album, which is absolute holiday perfection.

4. Any rendition of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. I need to start playing it in the car on long rides with the Babe, and of course once she is old enough, we will be front and center watching it performed on stage (will begin taking the Niece this year). Ovation TV will soon air different versions again this year although I guess I will never see my absolute favorite with Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland on PBS again (hint, hint Great Performances)...

5. Last minute Christmas shopping with my Dad. Funny how something that probably was not intended as a tradition (because my Dad does everything at the last minute) has become something that I have come to cherish.

6. If you are of a certain age, you probably have memories of elaborate department store window displays. We used to make a special trip downtown just to see them. Nowadays, you don't even have to make a special trip if you have creative neighbors like these folks in Dyker Heights, NY.

7. Holiday decorating and general preparation. Until it becomes a series of never-ending chores, I really enjoy getting ready for the season: decorating the tree, finding a unique way to display holiday cards, writing our holiday newsletter, mailing cards, wrapping presents, making coquito, etc. And I'm on it, just as soon as I finish this piece...

8. Christmas cookies baked by my niece Mandy. True holiday happiness can be found in her three-layer cookies.

9. Handel's Messiah has grown on me over the years. My Mom invited me to accompany her to a performance at her church many years ago and I had no appreciation for it at all. I went with her a few more times, not reluctantly but as a tradition of sorts, each time gaining a bit more tolerance. It got easier to enjoy when Quincy Jones' Soulful Messiah was released. Recently, I have been taking her to the performance at our church. I have no idea if the music is making any impression on her anymore; I am just glad that she can still attend.

10. Of course I love, Love, LOVE Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and almost every rendition of it on film, stage and in animation. Almost. I do not like any modern version that has Ebenezer Scrooge re-imagined as a Martha Stewart/Oprah-esque old maid or as a heartless corporate tycoon (too soon). My absolute favorite version is George C. Scott's definitive take, who sets the gold standard of miserly perfection. I could try to list my favorites, but there are too many: from Bill Murray's comedic turn, to Albert Finney's musical version (don't judge me, Thank You Very Much), to the Michael Caine version with the Muppets, to everyone's animated favorite starring Mr. Magoo.

It is a little known fact that I almost got to portray Scrooge back in the eighth grade; alas, I was the only one who learned all my lines so I never got to undergo the transformation. Perhaps that is why it has been easier to dwell on all the things I hate about Christmas...when in fact I actually do love this time of year. And in the spirit of the season, here is a bonus:

11. I love the opportunity to give. The older I get, the more I realize that life itself is a gift, so whenever one has a chance to spread a little cheer, it is so worth doing. Someone recently called to simply wish me a happy holiday just because I had once been kind to him. I had no idea that I had made such an impression and it just proves that even a small gesture of generosity can be a priceless gift.

So in the words of Tiny Tim: God Bless Us, Everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Top Ten - Part One

Recently on the Book of Faces, a couple of friends challenged others to post their non-political unpopular opinions, with the posts ranging from the mundane to the outright absurd. For a self-described unrepentant Scrooge such as myself, the timing of this trend so close to Christmas gives me an excuse to list all of the humbug I endure between Thanksgiving and the New Year. So here is my official non-political list of things I hate about Christmas:

1. The obligatory Christmas album recorded by the pop tart of the moment, which always includes some sappy secular ballad (Snow in California) and a remake of a beloved classic (Santa Baby).

2. Radio stations that play continuous Christmas music that literally starts the moment when the last piece of Halloween candy has been distributed, and abruptly ends just as the lines start forming at the mall for gift exchanges and returns. And why come they play all genres of Christmas music except for gospel?

3. D-list celebrity Christmas specials and very special Christmas sitcom episodes.

4. People who complain about spelling Christmas as Xmas or being wished a "Happy Holiday".

5. Christmas decorations that go on display in August, but never go on sale until December 26.

6. Crappy holiday cards, like the kind that one finds at the Dollar Store with animals dressed in tartan sweaters while frolicking with cardinals and snow families. Equally bad are those of you who email PDFs of your holiday greetings.

7. Hallmark/Lifetime holiday movies. I hated these movies before I read this article (because yeah, duh), but also because they suck. Worse, Hallmark preempted the Golden Girls in order to keep this crap in constant rotation, which is just blasphemous!

8. People who wear Santa hats in public.

9. Those inflatable decorations that people put in their yard. I swear they must be sold as 'buy one, get five free' because no one ever has just one on display. And isn't it just a little creepy that an eight-foot tall Mickey Mouse Santa is standing next to the Baby Jesus alongside inflatable Wise Men and Frosty the Snowman?

10. Anyone who complained about the black Santa at the Mall of America and for that matter, anyone who complains about Santa's race but stays mum on the topic of Black Peter.

This is my humbug list, but as any good Scrooge who finds religion after the visitations, check out my list of what I like about Christmas in Part Two.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Staying in Your Lane and Other Holiday Observations

Today is the Friday after Thanksgiving. For some, it is the beginning of your Christmas/Holiday shopping; for others, it is the day when you travel back to the homes you left earlier this week. There are plenty of things you might be doing right now--holiday decorating, making lists and checking them twice, TV binge-watching, cleaning house, or otherwise enjoying the day. Whatever you might be doing today, I hope it does not include licking wounds from any hurt feelings you might have received yesterday.

Meaning, I pray that you did not make the mistake of doing or saying something that was unappreciated. Pretty much from now until New Year's, you need to avoid hitting the third rail of holiday gatherings by saying, seeing and doing anything offensive. Try not to be like the Hub, whom I had to drag on the Book of Faces yesterday for making the unbelievable suggestion that I substitute Sriracha for red pepper flakes in my collard greens!

(If you are reading this and maybe do not get why this was absolutely the stupidest thing he could have said, let's just say that he should have stayed in his I-didn't-grow-up-eating-greens lane.) Look boo, I know you think you done learned a little bit about soul food by watching the Neely's, Sunny Anderson, and G. Garvin, but that don't mean you know anything about cooking greens! Sitting there on the sofa making blasphemous flavoring suggestions...and then got the nerve to try and 'splain yourself by listing the ingredients of Sriracha, as if that matters. Dude!?!

See how I did I went from mild-mannered wife to Busy Black Woman with an Attitude?
How he's lucky I found the red pepper flakes (hidden behind something in the cabinet because he still does not respect my shelf organizing system) and he only suffered some minor ribbing?

And what's funnier is that he was not the only offender yesterday. I won't name names, but some of y'all had some dry, over-cooked turkey because you let the wrong person take charge of the bird. Somebody thought they were being helpful by bringing a less-than-appetizing side dish to the table. In the words of someone else's FB post, Thanksgiving is not the time to be experimenting; yet, somebody wanted to impress the family with some new dish she saw on Pinterest. Nor is it, contrary to a rather misleading assertion from the New York Times, the opportunity to provide a "grown up version" (read alternative) of a classic dish like macaroni and cheese.

Naw folks, you don't go improvising when it comes to the most anticipated family meal of the year. Somebody's mama set the precedent eons ago by staying up all night to produce the most sumptuous meal, and daggonit in her memory, you will not mess with the formula! You will not bring a store-bought pumpkin pie. You will not substitute white sugar for brown in the yams. You will not set a vegan dish on the table and not expect to take all of that crap back home with you. You will not offer any credible excuses for why something got burned. If you don't know how to cook, just say so and bring a bottle of wine or a liter of soda.

And even if you have been savvy enough to avoid those landmines, then don't mess up by asking questions about new hair, how many tattoos, whether someone plans to get married, when did someone else finalize their divorce, who/where is the daddy, or can we watch something else other than football. Don't even discuss the election unless you know in advance that everyone at the table voted for the same candidate. Don't brag about the half-marathon you ran that morning, not bring anything, and then take home a shopping bag full of leftovers.

Too late? Did you already commit one or more of these sins? Well, lucky for you this is a holiday season that runs through January so you'll have other opportunities. You will remember next time not to wear something too new, too cute or too tight (unless you are under the age of seven). You will remember not to debate that relative who gets all of his news from the left-wing radio station. Because you aren't seven or younger, you will not wrinkle up your face while asking what is in this (instead you will scoop a small dollop onto your plate, take a taste, politely excuse yourself to go use the microwave, and then dump it in the trash). You will pace yourself, not drink too much, help clear the table, and pray that Auntie doesn't remind everyone how you were the one who brought the burnt corn bread at the last gathering.