Monday, January 31, 2011

Nothing in Particular

It is Sunday night and at the end of another whirl-wind of a weekend, I just want to be.  Be quiet.  Be still.  Be a little tipsy.

Not that my weekend was one of my typical get-it-all-in-before-the-sun-sets sort of deals.  In fact, by my normal standards, this weekend was rather quiet.  I had time for brunch yesterday, got a chance to see the Baby Niece, and got out of dance rehearsal at a decent time.  I had time to window shop for more than an hour at two stores and get this--I even had time to read an entire magazine at the bookstore this evening!

This is so not my life...but I could learn to enjoy it.

This evening I do have a few projects to finish before I head up to NYC in the morning, so there have been moments of normal.  And as I look at the calendar and realize that tomorrow is the last day of January, I could panic over all the undone projects that required my attention two weeks ago.  But in the zen spirit of this moment, I will just BE still and quiet (but unfortunately, not tipsy).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Down for the Cause(s)

I need to make a public service announcement: I BELIEVE:
  • in preventing heart disease in women, so on February 4, I will Go Red for Women.
  • in HIV and AIDS Awareness, so on February 7, I will participate in National Black AIDS Day.
  • that HIV and AIDS present public health crises for women and girls, so on March 10, I will Rock a Red Pump.
  • that we need more research to cure auto-immune diseases, so on April 16, I will walk to Create a World Free of MS
  • that we need to continue the fight against breast cancer, so on June 4, I will Race for the Cure.
And that is just the first half of the year.

The husband jokes that while my disease-of-the-month appeals are well-intentioned, they are a bit excessive and I counter that well...they are not!  If I were a doctor or a medical researcher, I would be doing something about all of these things, but since I am just a lawyer, I can only do that which we do best--advocate (or in the vernacular, guilt people into helping me raise money).

So just know that the BBW will be soliciting your assistance at some point in the future and come June, this list will be updated to reflect the public health causes that I will champion during the second half of the year.  Your resistance is futile (channelling my inner sci-fi geek).

Monday, January 24, 2011

I am Not That Crafty

I am clever, but I am not a crafter.  This is not a well-known fact, but I thought that I would share this with you anyway. 

When I was still single, I thought that crafting was cool.  I subscribed to Martha Stewart Living, and since I fancied myself as a party planner, I thought that my niche would be homemade favors and gifts.  And Martha's magazine was chock full of little projects, many of which I attempted with varying degrees of success.

Fast forward a few years later when I became a homeowner.  Although I was no longer into party planning as a side hustle, I was still into the idea that homemade items were cute and worthy of making in my spare time.  My thinking was that I would point to some cute little homemade knick-knack and proudly proclaim "I made that" and then proceed to wow my listeners about my adventures with the hot glue gun.

Fast forward to yesterday when I found a few remnants from my crafting days collecting dust in my basement.  Without so much as a second thought, I tossed them and then it occurred to me that if I tossed everything from those days, I might have a half-cleaned house.

Before this turns into yet another lament about my chaotic surroundings, let me make another admission: I am a collector of random stuff.  It started when I was a kid and used to collect all of the weird discarded and dislodged stuff that could be found underneath the clothing racks at the local mall.  In those days, I thought of myself as a future engineer, so all of these pieces were going to be put to good use in one of my "inventions" (of what, I had no clue).

As I got older, it appears that I never quite grew out of that "collecting" habit...and my house is evidence of this.  Instead of picking up stray pins and and makeup samples, I buy a lot of random things: ribbon, yarn, wooden dowels, silk flowers, stickers, baskets, scrap book paper, letter cut-outs, hole punches, glitter, paint, etc.  To do what with, I still have no clue...

These purchases were tied to my desire to be a Creative Crafting Diva (CCD), but now that I am a Busy Black Woman, I need to choose or at least compromise.  Perhaps these two personas can work wonders to plan fabulous parties; until the inevitable clash when the party is over and I need to decide what to do with all of the leftover crap.

One solution is to wipe the slate clean and invoke my Word of Wisdom solution from two weeks ago--purge.  Several of the crafty hobbies that I attempted, but have since abandoned can just be tossed: sewing, quilting, knitting, rug-hooking, paper-macheing, scrap-booking, tee-shirt reconstructing, framing, calligraphy, gift-basket making, silk-flower arranging, candle-making, jewel-making...I think you get the point.

Another solution might be to get therapy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mean Mommies

I finally decided to read the article written by the self-described "Tiger Mommy" to see what the big deal was.  And yeah, well she's a bitch...

However, I am not going to dismiss her tactics outright because if they are as successful as she described in getting her children to excel, then there are a lot of children in this city who might be better off with Chinese mothers.  A lot of children who end up standing in front of judges by the age of 14.  A lot of children who have children themselves.  A lot of children who get older but never seem to grow up.

In a sense, the BBW can see the virtues of adopting some of the ways of a Tiger Mom.  It is a good idea to expect academic excellence from one's children, and it might be a good idea to limit the number of extra-curricular activities a child pursues.  In all likelihood, your Busy Black Mama exhibited a few Tiger Mom attributes of her own--my mother's uncompromising approach to academic excellence can be credited (or blamed) for my adult perfectionism.  I think the Tiger Mom's explicit nod to the strictness of other ethnic parenting styles (Jamaican, Indian, etc.) is an honest acknowledgment that there are commonalities, especially among the parents of immigrants that propel their children to success in ways that the parents of native-born children might not.

But that is where my support of the Tiger Mom ends.  There is encouragement and permissiveness and then there is outright cruelty.  Parents who encourage their children to think creatively often produce adults who can think outside the box and come up with novel solutions to complex problems.  These people might not be mathematicians or rocket scientists, but they might be business owners or artists instead. Then there are the permissive parents who make excuses for their children's bad behavior--the ones who go on the Today Show and get all weepy and defensive about how the unfair coach who benched their budding Olympian had it coming.  Then there is the Tiger Mommie Dearest who is lucky her children never tried to kill her in her sleep.

For the record, I am not a mother and my opinion is probably irrelevant, but it seems to me that the best parenting is that which guides a child towards a path paved with love, discipline, and the foresight to eventually get out of the way since each of us has our own unique journey.  This is the way that most Busy Black/White/Latino/Jewish/Catholic/Buddhist/Muslim/Hood-Rich/Suburban/Country-Fried/Vegan/Carnivore/Lesbian/Straight/Stay-at-Home/CEO/Single Head-of-Household/Married/Widowed/Democrat/Republican/Tea Party/Coffee Club/Paper- or Plastic- or Reusable Shopping Bag-carrying Mamas have done since before any of these distinctions ever existed.  And most of us are just fine.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


So the other day I was attempting to tackle four tasks at once and it occurred to me that I have ADD--Attention Deficit Disorder because after four hours, none of those tasks were completed and I had started about three more as well.  This happens to me a LOT and it explains why there are so many half-completed home improvement projects around here.

(BTW I love acronyms, but that has a lot to do with the fact that I live in DC where acronyms and initials are our primary form of communication.  "Where do you work?" "Oh, at the SEC over on 6th and D across the street from DOJ and the AARP building.")

See what I mean?  I am supposed to be writing about my inability to complete anything and I get distracted by all of the pretty letters...

Seriously, this is a major issue and it probably explains why I call myself a BBW in the first place.  A busy person claims to have a lot going on (which I do), but that is because my focus is scattered all over the place.  I need to wash the dishes, but I also decide to mop the kitchen floor because I just cooked, and then I decide that I need to put the garbage out because I just cooked and generated a lot of garbage that might smell, but then I realize that there are no more bags, so I put on my coat and head to the store to buy more bags, which becomes an entire afternoon of shopping for other assorted household needs.  By the time I get back home, I am too exhausted to mop the floor and out of everything else I purchased, I forgot the garbage bags.  I go back to start on the dishes, but by then the water is too cold, so in running more hot dish water, I decide to fill the bucket (might as well) to mop the floor.  While waiting for the floor to dry, I see something else that requires my attention in some other part of the house and I never get back to finishing the dishes.

See how this cycle goes?

The husband encourages me to write lists, which I do.  And when I do that, I manage to cross off a lot of the stuff but that is only when I know that most of these things can be done in a single setting.  As in, I can remember to make appointments and return phone calls and even respond to a bunch of emails because each of those things can be accomplished without me having to leave the room.  But of course, that is only if everything I need is within reach.  If I have to go off to look for something, that brief moment of efficiency is likely to be short-lived.

Another tactic has been the reward-punishment system.  For example, if I complete a task, I will reward myself by having a glass of wine.  If I do not complete something, I might punish myself by eating something unhealthy.  That has not been working too well lately...

But I am determined to tackle my BBW ADD--I just need to focus on the task at hand, which for the moment involves sitting here at my desk.  And I plan to sit here until it is all done; although it is almost lunch time and I have to go down to the kitchen to get something to I suspect that there is a 50-50 chance that I will end up washing those dishes after all.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

DC Restaurant Week - Get Your Eat On

The week that all DC Foodies anticipate is upon us--DC Restaurant Week!  Even if you are not a foodie, Restaurant Week (RW) is a great excuse to get out to try something new.

But of course, there is the fine print...the first is that it begins tomorrow, which gives you exactly 16 hours to make your selections for the week.  The second is that your options may be limited because foodies like the husband have been plotting RW options for weeks.  Third, the really popular places that are still making reservations may only offer RW deals for lunch.  And then most places offer a limited menu of RW options.

Try anyway!  The great thing about RW is that there are so many choices.  And the price is still reasonable at $20.11 for lunch and $35.11 for dinner (not including beverages, tax and gratuity).  What BBW would want to miss a chance to discover the next happening place?

No time for DC Restaurant Week?  No worries if you are game to travel outside of the city to sample the fare in other locales:

Alexandria RW January 21-30 ($35 dinner options)
Bethesda-Chevy Chase RW January 24 - 30 (a little cheaper than some of DC's offerings)
National Harbor RW February 15 - 27 (look at PG County stepping up to generate some foodie buzz)

Do I have any specific recommendations?  Yes, if you really cannot participate this time around you need to mark your calendar for August when many of the same establishments offer the same deal.  Tip generously so that we can finally put to rest that myth that black women are the worst tippers (please).  Be adventurous and try something familiar prepared in a slightly different way.  Know that while the wine pairings or drink specials look enticing, they are not part of the deal and can double your tab.

Oh and please do not bring your cousins...last year we sat near a group of folks who loudly proclaimed that they had eaten better biscuits at Red Lobster and literally the entire room froze. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's a Holiday, Right?

MLK Day is the first holiday weekend of 2011, and as usual, the BBW must decide how best to honor this occasion.  Should I attend some "official" MLK Day parade/scholarship fundraiser/prayer breakfast/benefit concert?  Should I spend a few hours "on" engaged in some feel-good service project?  Should I watch all three parts of King the Miniseries?  Or should I hit the MLK Day sales at the mall?

Too many choices...

I grew up spending MLK Day (which was then commemorated locally on January 15) at the MLK Day parade on MLK Avenue in SE Washington.  The kids gathered to watch their friends in the local high school bands, the junior high school drill teams, or the elementary school pom-pom clubs march down the avenue; the adults presumably came to hear a few speeches.  Really, everybody just wanted to hear Stevie Wonder perform "Happy Birthday".  Back then, MLK Day was a day off from school and/or work to celebrate the life of a great man and his role in an important chapter in our nation's history.

Then it became a federal holiday and suddenly everything affiliated with it became "official" the way Kwanzaa became Black Christmas.

Take the "Official" MLK Day Parade that I participated in as a freshman in college.  I was not dressed for the weather*...and the speeches ran long...and because this was Atlanta where King was born, raised and educated...the speeches ran extra long...including six speeches by members of his surviving family...who were all wearing coats...and for some reason I feel like there may have been speeches given by every member of the Atlanta City Council, the Mayor, every black member of the Georgia Legislature, the Governor, both Senators, and even Dr. King's best friends from elementary school...and to reiterate, I was not dressed for the weather (*because as one of the banner carriers for the Marching Band, let's just say that our uniforms were not intended for winter activities).  I almost "officially" died from hypothermia.

Alternatively, MLK Day has been declared a national Day of Service so you can opt to spend the day engaged in do-goodery as opposed to sitting around all day in your PJs.  After all, "MLK Day is a day on, not a day off!"  Whatever...

Not to sound self-righteous, but the whole idea of "day-on" community service activities rubs me the wrong way, as if the needs of a community can be met in a six-hour symbolic gesture.  It is a good idea to encourage more people to embrace community service, and if we need to use the excuse of a holiday weekend to make the case, then so be it.  But I want to see more people engaged beyond Monday.  The BBW does a lot of community service and it would be nice to get a little more help--more folks mentoring young people, assisting our seniors, and caring for the least of these (Matthew 25:40). 

At the same time, the BBW understands if folks prefer to just enjoy the three-day weekend.  Some of us are still recovering from Christmas and could use an entire day of retail therapy or TV rerun marathons to decompress. 

Wait, isn't that why we get New Years Day off?  So I take it all back!  Find something useful to do on Monday...Sing, Celebrate!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Remind Me Again

So when it comes to making plans, the Busy Black Woman thinks that as a common courtesy, those desiring to enjoy my company should expect that unless we have had a conversation about our intentions for a future meeting, outing, dinner, or other excursion of some kind, I am probably going to need a reminder of some sort.  This reminder can be in the form of an email, FB message, post-it note, tweet, phone call or even a smoke signal, but some type of action that will reinforce the appointment in my mind is greatly appreciated.  Otherwise, there is a 90% guarantee that I will forget.

Case in point: the husband likes to make plans, but he has a very bad habit of mentioning these plans in very off-handed ways, then gets irritated when I forget.  His defense is always along the lines of "I told you two weeks ago" or (my favorite) "I emailed it to you a week ago."  Well, I get irritated because he seems to think that I am a receptionist, as if it is my job to remember random dates and plans.  I do not work for him; I live with him, so why doesn't he know this about me after all these years?

My parents are also guilty of this except they do not tell me anything in advance; they wait until the last possible minute to "remind" me of some function to which they already bought tickets.  My father, who is the main culprit, will say, "Well I just thought you'd like to go" and then he proceeds as if being my father grants him the special privilege of screwing up my schedule.  My mother is only slightly better in that she will at least tell me weeks in advance that she already bought my ticket without ever bothering to ask if I already have plans for the date in question.

Look people, I am called the Busy Black Woman for a reason...and it is not because I can, at the drop of a dime, be anywhere at anytime.  I have a lot going on, and since you already know this about me, then none of this is news.  But here is a refresher:
  • On any given Saturday, I am in a meeting or at a function or in rehearsal.  Make that every Saturday.
  • Two nights a week I am in ballet or yoga class, which means no, I did not get your message if you called/emailed/texted me between 6 and 7:30pm on a Wednesday or Thursday evening.
  • No, I cannot meet you somewhere on the fly in 10, 15 or 20 minutes.  Most likely I can meet you in 2 to 24 hours.
  • Yes, I probably got your email, but I also received about ten others at the same time.  If you did not receive a response within a certain time frame and it is a matter of life and death, by all means, pick up the phone and call me.  But if it is not an emergency and you send me a snarky follow-up an hour later requesting an immediate just might get one.
  • I need concrete plans.  I am a grown woman, not an impulsive teenager.  Give me details so that I can make informed decisions.
  • Writing things down on your calendar at work is not the same as telling me, even if we are married and live in the same house.
  • Yes, I am your daughter, but I do not think two weeks advance notice is too much to ask.
  • I will assume that a text-messaged invitation was sent as an after-thought unless it is truly the type of gathering that one organizes at the last possible minute.
If you forget any of the aforementioned tips, just remember, when in doubt, call to remind me anyway. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Everyone is an Expert

The BBW has noticed that there are a lot of new blogs out there, several started by friends and acquaintances for the New Year.  In the words of a college professor, "Claim your space!"

The good thing about blogging is that anyone can write about anything...and that of course is also the dark side to blogging.  Rumors, innuendo and outright lies get hurled around the blogosphere like insults in Congress.  And there is no fact checker capable of policing everything that gets written.  It is truly a marketplace of ideas...buyer beware.

The BBW does not endeavor to tell anyone what to think, what to wear, or how to be liked by others.  Nor do I want to offer any advice on how to improve your life since that would presume that I have it all figured out on this end.  (OK, so maybe I did kind of suggest the other day that laundry and closet cleaning and goodwill bag stuffing are good things, but the choice to do those things are totally up to you.)  Those who can persuade, style, teach or advise should share their talents with the world.

Of course, a lot of this newfound interest in over-sharing is due in part to the Queen of Oversharing getting a 24-hour cable network perch.  In case you were not paying attention to all of the promos and interviews, I am speaking of none other than the fairy god-mother of Busy Black Women, Oprah Winfrey, or "The Oprah".

By the way, I LOVE The Oprah, but I have yet to watch more than five minutes of OWN.  She is great and wonderful and admirable and all of that, but she is a bit much to take in one hour, let alone for 24 hours.  I know that she is not on for all that time, but I have a feeling that she is a lot like that stage mom who performs the routine with the child in the wings.  As you are trying to watch the kid fumble through the performance, you keep getting distracted by the mom's flawless delivery.

So how is The Oprah responsible for all of these new bloggers and webpreneurs?  Surely not because she inspires everyone to have something that belongs to them--an outlet for their individual expression...nope!  Every single one of those folks wants to appear on her couch.  Everyone knows that winning the approval of The Oprah is akin to finding the golden ticket.  Before it was just her talk show and maybe the magazine that launched the careers of countless writers, sold products by the truckload, and elected a President, but now that she has 24 hours of programming to fill, the possibilities are endless.

Heck, I would only need about 5 minutes myself...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Natural Hair Revolution

For those who know me personally, the BBW has been relaxer-free since 2005.  The six months leading up to this transition were marked by constant hair and skin woes that could not be explained or resolved by healthier eating, vitamins or regular trips to the salon.  Then one fly hair cut accompanied by a bad batch of relaxer changed everything...I went into shock as I began shedding hair like an animal.

I went to the dermatologist wearing a scarf, dark sunglasses and toting a plastic baggie full of my hair.  The doctor took one look at me, diagnosed my ailment, and then politely coaxed me into parting with my baggie of lost hair.  I heeded her advice and since then, I have joined yet another sorority of black women--those who embrace their hair in its natural, kinky state.

I am writing about this today because of the actress Kim Coles' big reveal on afrobella and twitter of her new hair style.  And the other day #naturalhair was a trending topic on twitter.  Oh, and I have spent the better part of the last four days searching the internet for feedback on the goopy product my stylist used on my head to see if anyone else had similar negative experiences...  To my pleasant surprise, natural hair care is a very popular topic these days.  Apparently everyone who has made the transition has a blog, tee shirt line, or YouTube channel with tips, product reviews and general opinions.

The BBW is so proud!  Not only is a natural hair revolution underway, but she might have a potential fan base in some of those multi-tasking sisters...

Mind you, the BBW has no intention of even trying to dispense useful advice to anyone looking to transition.  So rest assured that there will be no competition from me ladies.  When I have the money, I get my hair professionally done because the amount of work, time and effort needed to style my own natural hair without a cosmetology degree has been enough to make the BBW want to go bald.  But the good news is that I have never been tempted to go back to the creamy crack.

However, the BBW respects the decision of her fellow BBW sisters to stick with what works for them, and for many, that is still the relaxer/weave/wig/pressing comb route.  However, the beauty of the natural hair revolution is that black and multiracial women can now make the choice to wear their hair as they see fit without having to conform to any specific standards.  As Kim Coles stated in her coming out article, her new style is not a political statement, but a personal one. 

And that reminds me of something very important that I have needed to do for years, which is to update the photo on the blogs.  The one you see now was taken by my uncle back in 2003.  I used it for the Cafe because at the time, it was the only photo I had of myself on the computer (yes, the BBW was a little late in adopting digital photography).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Setting Priorities for 2011

So the BBW started 2011 off in the best possible way--at the first birthday party for the Baby Niece, my little BBW in training!  And now that the fun is over, the rest of the year awaits!  This week I need to hit the ground running on several activities and projects.  Although tomorrow (today) is Sunday and only the second day of the year, I already feel behind.

I am starting the year off by not attending what will likely be a major social event for BBW movers and shakers in the city tomorrow.  As much as I like the incoming mayor, I am acting quite non-BBW like in deciding to skip his inaugural festivities.  Sure, this could have been an opportunity for me to make a few contacts and to get a few balls rolling, but I pass.  I'm feeling that I need to focus my evergy on other pressing projects like the pile of laundry that is threatening to take over my bedroom.

Would I prefer to spend the day tomorrow schmoozing with the who's who of DC?  Yes, but the need for clean underwear is more pressing.

And though I declared just yesterday that I do not make New Year's Resolutions, I really do need to make a few changes in my environment and that has to start with my house.  Thus, in addition to doing my laundry, I plan to spend my day sorting through my clothes in order to purge those things I no longer wear or want.  Ugly sweaters (gifts) that I never intend to wear, items that are too small, shoes that hurt my feet, and all the other stuff that no longer fits into my BBW lifestyle are going to Goodwill, Dress for Success, or some other charity.

Hence my first BBW Word of Wisdom for 2011 is purge.  Yeah, I probably should have done this closet purge last week before the year changed in order to receive the tax benefits, but that is not the point.  What old or unwanted things are taking up space in your life?  Are you holding onto your single size clothes in hopes that you will lose weight to fit into them again?  Do you keep those painful shoes in hopes that you will one day find the right outfit for that great date with the person who might be the One?  Do you really look your best in that old coat that some long gone deceased relative gave you?  Do you honestly think that plaid, gingham, and polka dots are appropriate for grown a$$ women?

Get rid of it all!  Guess what, even if you do lose the weight, why would you want to wear the same clothes you wore in college or on your first job?  Those shoes are still going to hurt, and here's a tip: if he notices your shoes, you might want to reconsider...  Perhaps the reason why your dear departed relative gave you that old coat in the first place is that she did not like it herself.  And no, no and NO!

See the BBW just wants you to look the part, and in the process you might learn a few other things that could improve your life.  I might not be a fashionista, but even I know that you cannot be fabulous in 90s club clothes.  Purging your closet might be emotional, but once you do, you will find that you have actually made space for better things to come.