Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Many Happy Returns!

It has been a month or so since my last dispatch, and because today is a special day, I just thought that I would offer up a list of 39 things for which I am eternally grateful:
  1. To be alive, reasonably healthy and generally sane.
  2. That I have a crazy husband whom I would not trade for anything, not even the Powerball.
  3. When my mother has a good day, because one good day can make up for several bad days.
  4. Caring and attentive neighbors and friends.
  5. My parents' 40th Wedding Anniversary Celebration (and that it exceeded our expectations).
  6. My brother's engagement (finally).
  7. That my Baby Niece is really a lot like me, so watch out world!
  8. Dancing out of my comfort zone.
  9. Good friends who accept me for me.
  10. Found treasures that once belonged to my grandmother.
  11. New relationships and opportunities.
  12. The ability to start all over again, and resolve to do much better this time.
  13. Old friends and the blessing of reconnection through Facebook.
  14. Grace.
  15. The necessity of letting go of the hurts from the past.
  16. Blessings that are being bestowed on others.
  17. True sisterhood and the work that sustains it.
  18. Online shopping.
  19. Yoga (yes, it has been bringing me peace).
  20. That this old house is not yet falling apart, despite our negligence and DIY disasters.
  21. That we can bless others with the little bit we have and no longer need.
  22. This blog and the growth I am claiming for it in 2013 and beyond.
  23. That *free* makeover I underwent a few weeks ago.
  24. That scripted television has made a comeback.
  25. Humor.
  26. Wisdom, growth and maturity.
  27. A new church family at Shiloh, and extended church families at St. Theresa of Avila, Tabernacle and Canaan Christian Fellowship.
  28. Butterflies, ladybugs and dragonflies.
  29. The 90s.
  30. That I went to Europe this year unexpectedly.
  31. Sometimes obsessiveness is a good thing.
  32. That I am the proud Big Sister/Auntie/Titi to several wonderful young people.
  33. These gray hairs on my head that insist on asserting themselves no matter what.
  34. That God saw fit to surround me with great men.
  35. Health insurance.
  36. The 2012 election. In America, we can agree to disagree without bloodshed and chaos.
  37. Christmas as seen through the eyes of children.
  38. Inspiration and dreams.
  39. Animal print accessories.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fried Chicken Wednesday: The Election Edition

America, how could we do this???  How did we manage to re-elect Barack Obama without  conclusive election results from Florida, an obnoxious Twitter rant by a loud-mouth attention whore, a riot at a University that just celebrated 50 years of integration, or a massive drop in the stock market?

It is the Barack-mageddon!!!

Be honest, you are so going to miss the 2012 Election!  Because if this had been a meal, it was the crispiest, butteriest, juiciest, fried up-diest platter of slap-my-grandma-this-was-so-good Southern fried chicken wings ever!  And now as we stare at the pile of bones, loosen our belts, and snooze off the -itis, what in the heck are we going to do with ourselves for the next two years until the next Presidential challengers announce their intentions and fake like they really want to live in Iowa or New Hampshire?

What now America?  Especially since RuPaul's All-Stars can't last forever...

(Disclaimer: I acknowledge the inherent concerns about using fried chicken metaphors to describe the election results. So that joke about wings and mumbo sauce that I was about to include will be recast as a joke about shrimp fried rice and soy sauce.  On second thought, nevermind.)

Because now I need to be serious...the Busy Black Woman is really looking forward to the day when disappointment or discouragement about the accomplishments of this President are not cause for inappropriate chicken, watermelon, monkey, witch-doctor, or other racially insensitive references on social media. 

See, and I really mean this, I am optimistic that when the next black man gets elected (and yes, it will happen again--this was not a fluke), or when the first woman, Latino, or openly-gay Republican gets elected, we will be that much closer to becoming the America we purport to be.  If this is truly the land of opportunity, then we all need to believe it. 

So let's evolve. Let's exhale. Woosah. There will be another election in four years. And if Obama leaves behind a mess, the next President can spend the next four years cleaning it up. That is what we do as Americans. We start over.  We rebuild. We endure.  Surely, as people of faith in our own exceptionalism we cannot accept that the end of civilization as we know will be brought about in one election.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Men at Work

As the East Coast continues with the arduous task of clean-up after Hurricane Sandy, I had an interesting revelation.  The President, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg of New York, Governor Christie and Mayor Booker of New Jersey, and generally all of the other elected officials (most of them men), did rather well under the pressure of extreme crisis management.

Thus, in recognition of the fact that each man stared down one helluva storm and did not blink, I hereby bestow upon them the title of Honorary Busy Black Woman.  For one week.  And today is Thursday (so only until Saturday). 

Crisis management is literally two-thirds of what the average Busy Black Woman does. She has to negotiate how to make it across town to run several errands, chair a meeting or two, get dinner, handle the chores around the house, and make it all look easy.  Let's face it, men are not feted for their crisis management skills.  Men are celebrated for bravery, which does not require much planning or thinking.  Bravery requires the split second decision to kill or be killed.  And as a wise woman once said, any fool can be brave on a battlefield. 

By the way, I am not suggesting that men are fools. But I am suggesting that the extraordinary events of this week required characteristics that most of us are unable to summon in even the most ordinary circumstances. 

As you know, this Busy Black Woman tries very hard to remain non-partisan, but I am human and have very strong opinions about this never-ending presidential election.  The fact that my mind has been made up since 2007 notwithstanding, I have to say that the events of the past few days have given me a newfound respect for the job of being an elected official.  And so if I can add my own spin to the words of Margaret Mitchell, any fool can look presidential (or gubernatorial or mayoral or just official) on television...

For those of us who got spared by this storm, we need to count our blessings and pay it forward.  Say a prayer and then give to the American Red Cross, the United Way, Salvation Army, or whatever other reputable relief organization you choose.  Don't just feel bad about what happened; do something that might ease the suffering of others.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fried Chicken Wednesday: Halloween for Dummies

My favorite holiday is Halloween and because it falls on a Wednesday this year, I am inclined to compare that love to a platter of buttermilk-battered deep fried chicken!  I'm not sure how long I've felt this way, but maybe it is because I have lots of great Halloween memories: like the year that the future husband and I spent an entire afternoon in my parents' basement with a bunch of kids carving pumpkins.  (Of course, the same is true of every other major holiday with themes that encourage creativity with construction paper, scissors and glue sticks.  Which is probably why I have yet to find the excitement in Thanksgiving.)

However, as an admitted Craft Project Junkie, Halloween takes me there without pushing me totally overboard like Christmas.  Let's face it--there comes a moment when no amount of tinsel, glitter, glue guns, beads, baubles, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, felt, and artificial snow will make up for the fact that no one really cares that you made all those crappy ornaments and decorations yourself.  Yet, people are actually impressed when you make your own Halloween costume, even if all you did was dress in all black, accent with a few leopard print items already in your wardrobe, staple some cat ears made from construction paper onto a headband, and draw some whiskers on your face.  Voila, you were a cute kitten and you can wear that belt again! 

Of course, Halloween has its downside.  There are those weird people (like my grandmother) who give away toothbrushes, fruit and rolls of pennies instead of candy.  Or the people (like my Dad) who pass out candy that no one wants like candy corn, butterscotch or Almond Joy.  Sometimes there are overly protective parents who politely chastise you for not offering alternatives for kids with nut allergies, or mannerless children who neglect to say thank-you after demanding extra pieces of gluten-free candy.  Among those in the the too-old-for-trick-or-treating-set, there are teenaged girls and grown women dressed like slutty naughty maids, cocktail waitresses, nurses, police officers, animals, angels/devils, cheerleaders, or anything else that encourages fishnets paired with micro miniskirts.  This is especially problematic when the male compliment is a pimp costume...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Just Another Busy Saturday

On Friday night a friend was IM'ing me and attempting to understand what had possessed me to book an entire Saturday from morning to night with activities.  I tried my best to explain that it was just another Busy Black day in the neighborhood, but she was not buying that and almost as if she was hexing me, she accurately predicted that I would get sick--and wouldn't ya know I'm sick RIGHT NOW as I am writing this piece?!

But let me set the record straight.  I am not sick from overdoing it.  I am sick because I spent 2 hours in a germ factory masquerading as a Halloween party for kids.  I am sick because in addition to being in an enclosed space full of coughing and oozing children, I was too close to farm hay and as a person who is allergic to everything, I apparently neglected to take my antihistamine yesterday morning.  And just maybe I am sick because instead of going straight home to bed after returning the Baby Niece to her father, I sat watching in amazement as she shot back and forth around the room like a firecracker, all the while ignoring the congestion taking hold of my chest. 

I assure you, I did not overdo it yesterday.  It was a typical Saturday for me.  I started the day at the Alzheimer Walk, attended a college fair, visited my parents, went to dance rehearsal, and then took the niece to the aforementioned Halloween party.  Sure, I missed church this morning because I woke up in the middle of the night terrified that I might have pneumonia and then overslept well past the time for me to have been respectably late for church.  But this is not an illness that will keep me down for too long.  My body will heal itself and I will be back to running around hither and yon just in time to prepare for Frankenstorm.

Because I've got too much to do to be sick.  I've got a two parties to plan, tulip bulbs to plant, recital pieces to rehearse, a conference to attend, tee shirts to sell, articles to write, an election to monitor, prospective students to recruit, a committee meeting to lead, and all of that is before I even think about Thanksgiving!   

So, no my dear friend, I appreciate your concern, but this is not running myself into the ground.  This is what Busy Black Women do.  Saturdays are supposed to be tiring, which is why I don't feel all that bad about missing church this morning despite the fact that I haven't missed in a month of Sundays...

OK, maybe a little guilty.  But as you aptly pointed out, I cannot be all things to all people nor can I be everywhere all the time.  God understands and will forgive me. 

But if it turns out that you were right and I do have pneumonia, it is all YOUR fault for hexing me!!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Grown Folk Problems

One of the downsides to adulthood is the preponderance of real-life problems.  Remember how easy it was to solve problems at age 25?  Broke?  Move back in with your parents.  Lonely?  Adopt a pet.  Overweight?  Eat cabbage for a few weeks.  Overworked and underpaid? Get used to it.

Lately, I have been suffering through a series of oh-my-goodness, I'm really a grown woman panic attacks.  Daily.

If life was a romantic comedy, this would be the scene in When Harry Met Sally when Sally (Meg Ryan), cries to Harry (Billy Crystal) that she is going to be 40...eventually.  If this was a horror flick, it would be that moment right before someone got stabbed.  If life is really just an 80s melodrama, then apparently I am Sally Field.

In Norma Rae, she portrays a reluctant union organizer.  In Places in the Heart, she is a Depression-era widow.  In Steel Magnolias, she loses her daughter.  Currently, in The Busy Black Woman Chronicles (of which I am the star), I am a reluctant cat herder Recessionista who is losing her mind.

I am making light, but this is no joke.  I am just not ready for this very adult role of being the de facto family matriarch. I am not Claire Huxtable--most days I feel very much like Denise. 

(Of course, Lisa Bonet is all grown up and crazy, so maybe I should pick a better role one of the Olsen twins.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Working, Working, Working Day and Night

A couple months ago I was in Atlanta and observed an all-too familiar phenomenon--Busy Black Woman cell-phone coaching. Or put another way, a woman was on the phone with some poor clueless person (significant other, child or supervisor) who was obviously dependent on her to keep the world upright on its axis.  In the scenario that I witnessed, a woman was giving directions to someone from 600+ miles away.

Now the humor in this is not the other person's failure to use a GPS, but it is the fact that this sister excused herself from a social event several times to speak to the same person!  And even funnier was the fact that at least three other women had to the same thing...

I've done it too.  During that same weekend, I had to excuse myself to take a phone call to give instructions to family members.  Except in my case, the scenario was not at all funny as this was an emergency regarding my mother.  Of course, I doubt that it ever occurred to anyone back home that there was very little I could do from 600+ miles away.

I suspect that many of my fellow Busy Black sisters find it exhausting having to think for the collective, kind of like the Borg Queen.  Fans of Star Trek will remember that she was the only individual among the drones in the borg cube. 

Come to think of it, quite a few of the most formidable leaders in the Star Trek pantheon were women--the Dominion, Kai Winn of Bajor, the Romulan Commander Sela, T'Pau of Vulcan, and of course, Captain Janeway (yes, I am a Trekkie). But I digress...

The point being, the person who takes the lead, takes the fall when train goes off the tracks.  I cannot begin to tell you how often I hear 11 million versions of the same excuse: you didn't tell me what to do so (a) I did nothing; (b) I did it wrong; or (c) the blank stare.


Can a sister get a break? Can I trust you to use the common sense you've gained from several years of living on this planet, or to use that expensive education that you are so proud of to make just one decision that does not require my approval?  Or better yet, can I trust you to think outside of the box and do what I would do in the same situation?  Do I sound like one of the adults from a Charlie Brown cartoon?!?

Woosah! Namaste! When is Happy Hour?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Ode to Yoga Pants

The husband recently made a comment about a pair of pants that I was wearing. Specifically that I was once again wearing my brown yoga pants, and for that reason, maybe I should give my mother a pass for wearing the same three outfits all the time.

[Insert neck roll].

First of all, I had not been wearing the same pair of brown yoga pants. I had been wearing several different pairs of yoga pants--three black and one brown. Second, I had long ago ceased to comment on my mother's attire even though she insists on wearing summer clothes all year.  Third, when the h3ll did he start paying attention to my clothes?

Although I cannot find it on YouTube, comedian Kathleen Madigan has a routine about yoga pants being great for many things, including but not limited to yoga.  I would agree and add that for most women--especially Busy Black Women--yoga pants are a more stylish alternative to other workout clothing such as baggy sweatpants, booty shorts, or anything on last week's what not to wear list.

What is there not to love about yoga pants? They are made from stretchy opaque material, have an elastic waist band, are multi-functional, and of particular benefit to me as a tall girl with hips, they come in an array of lengths and figure-flattering fits.  Unlike shopping for jeans (which is akin to preparing for battle), most women can find a decent pair of yoga pants anywhere.  So yes, yoga pants are my default option for most non-formal situations.  Travel? Quick errands to the store? Impromptu coffee shop run? Flea market browsing? After work lounge wear? Pajamas in a pinch?

Check, check, check, check, check and check.  If I could get away with, I would not wear yoga pants every day.  I would at least switch things up and wear a dress to church. 

And for the record, the husband is dead wrong about me being in a wardrobe rut.  I am simply a victim of too many clothes with not enough places on my weekly itinerary to wear them.  If the best going out opportunity I get presented with on a Saturday night is dinner at Chipotle or carry out on a Groupon, then yes, I am probably going to throw on a pair of yoga pants since no one really cares what the next person in line is wearing anyway.

And another thing, I am proud to say that for the first time since April I've actually worn yoga pants to YOGA class recently! And they were not the brown pair, so there!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Red Beans and Rice Monday: Steel Magnolias Remake

I just don't know where to begin...

So, let me start off by offering my take on the general concept of a remake. Hard. Very hard. Super hard when half of the folks in your intended audience are old enough to remember and recite lines from the original.  And let me add, a much beloved original.

Not that remakes can never be successful, but certain conditions have to be met. First, the update needs to offer a different take on the original. Second, the remake should be influenced by, but never an outright clone of its predecessor. And finally, the new film should be able to stand on its own merits.

So, with all due respect to the very talented Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Queen Latifah et al...your magnolias were just not made of strong enough steel.

This remake fell short on every one of the conditions, starting with the most obvious reason for its existence: the casting.  Queen Latifah was miscast as M'Lynn. Jill Scott was miscast as Truvy. What's her name was miscast as Annelle. Phylicia Rashad's daughter was miscast period.  And as much as I wanted to love Alfre Woodard and the aforementioned Mama Rashad, I just didn't.  At one point, I actually tweeted that someone should have called Jennifer Hudson, but I am sure that the casting director would have found a way to misuse her as well. How does one film have so many character flaws?

Perhaps I was too distracted by the six degrees of Queen Latifah thing that was going on in my head: remember how she was in Barbershop 2, which led to Beauty Shop in which Alfre Woodard co-starred (along with a Eurotrash Kevin Bacon!) and Keisha Knight Pulliam, who starred in The Cosby Show with Phylicia Rashad who starred in Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls alongside Anika Noni Rose, who was in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency which starred Jill Scott, who also happens to be a Tyler Perry alum from Why Did I Get Married which also starred Janet Jackson, who as you remember appeared on Good Times as the abused daughter of Chip Fields who is Kim Fields' mother in real life and on screen in Living Single, which also happened to star Queen Latifah.  And should I mention that Queen Latifah starred in Joyful Noise alongside Dolly Parton, the original Truvy?  I need someone to make a wiki of all this...

Bottom line--since the racial conscious casting did not quite work, the movie needed to chart its own course in order to stand on its own as an independent work.  Which, ironically it does, despite the fact that it only made a few minor departures from the original film.  However, those subtle changes modified the central theme from a story about a diverse group of strong-willed southern women to a mother-daughter melodrama set in a southern beauty shop.  Unfortunately, that was enough to make this just another run-of-the-mill Lifetime movie.

Thus if given the choice, I will always prefer the original, which is sad because I desperately want to see more actresses of color breathing life into empowering stories.  I will avoid dissing Tyler Perry today to say that at least he tried to do something original with For Colored Girls and generally he tries with most of his work to offer his version of strong black women (even if Madea is a man in drag).  The point is, for better or worse, he does his own stuff.  There is no shortage of excellent material written by women of color that could be adapted, so must we wait another 10 to 25 years for the next The Color Purple (1985), The Women of Brewster Place (1989), The Wedding (1998) or Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005)? 

Oprah, do you read me???

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Monday

Today is the first of October, one of my favorite months of the year.  For me, October marks the true start of autumn--my favorite season of colors, food, clothes and holidays.  As usual, it is shaping up to be a pretty busy month for me, but I will not complain just yet...

On the Facebook page, I posed a question about new beginnings because for many of us, October marks a transition point.  October is the start of the fiscal year in the federal government (something that every DC denizen knows).  Today is also the first day of the new Supreme Court term (something that every law nerd knows).  October is the month when most women change over their wardrobes from sundresses and sandals to sweaters and boots.  October is the month for observances, such as Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness.  October brings us Oktoberfest, which like most good Americans, I enjoy despite the fact that I am not even a smidge German.  October is also Apple Month, Caramel Month, Pizza Month, and Sausage Month. 

Are you suddenly craving candy apples or sausage pizza?

Yesterday I attended a baby shower for a friend and it gave me hope (again) that God can and will show up when least expected. So on this October 1st, I am choosing to believe in miracles!

And for now, that is all I wanted to say.  Happy Monday and Happy October!

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Not to Wear

Every now and then, the Busy Black Woman feels compelled to offer unsolicited advice because well, I know things and this is my blog.  This past weekend, I was in New York City, the so-called Fashion Capital of the United States, but let me tell you, I saw plenty of unfashionable faux pas(ses) on the streets.  Mind you, I do not claim to be any kind of expert on the subject, but let's just say that a lot of ya'll need a Clint and Stacy intervention. 

And no, this is not about the Emmy', doing my best David Letterman impression, here are the Busy Black Woman's Top Ten Fashion Pet Peeves:

10. Team apparel - Americans love their sport heroes and proudly display their team preferences all year round, even in the off-season.  My disdain for team apparel reaches its zenith during football season because errybody and their mamma in DC is either a Redskin or Cowboys fan, but I don't care if you are wearing a football, hockey, soccer, basketball, or baseball jersey.  If you are not physically at a game, in a sports bar, or seated in front of a giant flat screen in somebody's living room eating hot wings and watching a game, then wear some real clothes. I do not want to be seated next to you and your children at church dressed in matching Lakers gear (and WTH)!

9. Stripper heels - Maybe it is because I am a tall girl and I think this obsession with higher and higher heels is over-rated, but the very description of this footwear suggests that no self-respecting woman should be teetering down the street in 6" heels.  The average woman can barely stand to walk around in heels half that height, so why in the name of all that is holy would you want to submit yourself to such torture?  Just say no to skanky ankle-spraining shoes!

8. Brown flip flops on men - A few years ago this viral parody made the You Tube rounds and it was kind of funny when it was noted that every guy in Arlington wore brown flip flops (right around 1:57).  Then I noticed that it was not just an Arlington thing as brown flips are apparently the universally preferred summer weekend footwear for men.  Not that I go around judging men's feet, but maybe I wouldn't have such a problem with this look if women were allowed to walk around with ashy ankles, crusty heels and unclipped toenails...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

You Never Know

Last year a hurricane was expected to blow through these parts, so I dutifully went about preparing by buying groceries for my parents, my aunt, my then-crippled brother and the husband.  While I did resist the impulse to stock up on toilet paper and batteries (since I already had plenty in reserve), I did buy lots of tea bags, freeze-dried coffee creamer, canned soup and crackers.  I also went by the stadium and got a couple of sandbags in case of flooding.

For this, I was mocked mercilessly by the husband.  What good are sandbags, he asked, if we do not live anywhere near the river?  That might be a head-scratcher for some, but I suspect that even if we never have to use them to guard against a flood, we always have the option to split one open to use for traction in case of an icestorm.  Mark my words, they will come in handy one day!

I am admittedly an over-preparer.  An over-planner.  I am not a Mom, but I would be a great one since I always have wipes, snacks and anti-bacterial hand gel somewhere in my purse or in my car.  I am that friend who can respond favorably when someone asks for an aspirin, Tylenol, Advil or a Motrin. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

So Let Me Start By Saying...

This is the long-awaited recap of all the articles that I started, but never finished.  Instead of finishing them, I thought you might enjoy a little amuse-bouche of what I would have fully served:

Queen's Jubilee - I am a big fan of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, so like a good former subject, I celebrated her 60th year on the throne by watching the ad nauseum Today Show coverage with Matt and...Meredith???

Ann Curry's Exit - I was a fair-weather fan of the Today Show until they curried Ann in favor of the perfectly bland and unoffensive Savannah Guthrie. I have to say that while everyone in America except Ann knew that she was at best an awkward fit, nothing was more awkward than how NBC auf'ed her.

Sarah Palin on Today - Yes, because if your ratings are slipping why not take a chance on the maverick?  After all, that worked gangbusters for John McCain!

Mitt Romney - Snooze button (I'll come back to him in a few).

The Olympics - I actually wrote a lot about the Games on the FB site. And the sum total of all I need to say: GO TEAM USA!!!

Meeting Michelle Obama - Yes, the Busy Black Woman can honestly say that she was at a White House event where our gorgeous First Lady made an appearance. But no, I didn't actually meet her...I did, however, take a somewhat fuzzy picture of her on my cell phone camera.

Growing older - My birthday is in a few months which means that someday (not anytime soon, but someday) I will have to change the advertising on my blog to say that these are the musings of a forty-something Type A personality. Yikes!

Mitt Romney - Snooze button...(give me in a few more minutes).

Growing older, part deux - Unfortunately, a side effect of aging is losing people. This summer felt particularly tragic for me because several people I knew passed away, including an aunt and the woman who gave me my first professional job. It is sobering to realize that the safety net most of us had while growing up is fraying; yet, because we are still here, it is being rewoven with us as the fiber for the next generation.

Summer B-cubes - Yeah...too late for that one.

Soapy nights - I was not initially psyched about the return of Dallas until I saw the first episode and then I had to watch every single one and now I'm thinking that I need to join a fan page or something because WHOA!!!  (Oh, and I also liked what I saw of Scandal.)  So dear sultans of pop culture, if you have any compassion, you will usher out reality TV as quickly and efficiently as you did the macarena.

Mitt Romney - Snooze button...(last time, I want to talk about his convention first).
The Year of the Woman 2.0 - Is it me, or did the GOP really try to repent for its 1950s-like obsession with birth control and invasive ultra-sound procedures with Ann Romney?

Clint Eastwood - As I watched his speech, I kept reminding myself that this was the RNC Convention and not some random awards show where the cue cards got shuffled.

Paul Ryan - Apparently the dashing young VP candidate thinks he's Superman...

And finally, Mitt Romney - Snooze.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Life is Relentless

I have been meaning to write for so long and have so many unpublished pieces in the cue that the only person left on Earth who still believes in this blog is me (and there are days when I'm doubtful).  But today I had a revelation that compelled me to write this:

Life is relentless. 

There is always a bad time for something important to happen. There is never the right time for something unexpected. There is always something--the very next day after you come back from the other side of the ocean with a head cold, someone needs you to part the Red Sea or feed the multitude with a can of tuna and a box of crackers.  It never stops!

Life just keeps going.  The only way to keep up is to keep moving.

So that means that instead of making excuses about how difficult it has been to write these past few months because every time I turned around there was some catastrophe that needed my immediate attention, I will just come clean and say that when I might have had a spare moment to write, I just didn't--I chose to sleep/shop/drink/whatever.  However, today I am choosing to write.  Later on I will get a drink.

This past year (and yes, this particular phase started a year ago tomorrow) has been hell and I expect that it will not be the last time that I will make this declaration in my lifetime.  It was hell when I lost my mother in law a year and half ago. It was hell when I lost my job. It was hell when I turned 35.

But so what. Get up and get busy, Busy Black Woman! Inspire others to do the same. And have a drink after everything goes to back to hell.  Cheers!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's Time to Cue the Music

I read an article this evening that might have, accidentally on purpose, described my life:

Chaos Theory: A Unified Theory of Muppet Types

Apparently, I am Kermit the Frog, an Order Muppet.  There might be legitimate arguments that I am a closet Chaos Muppet, but the first one to come to mind was Super Grover, the hapless hero whose superpower is causing trouble (but that would better describe the husband).

Years ago, my friends and I were up late one night and decided to assign Muppet identities to others in our group.  I am more than sure that my alter ego was Big Bird, which was hardly a stretch given my tall, yellow, awkward appearance.  We handed out some pretty hilarious, yet remarkably accurate Muppet identities based on personality and appearance--from Miss Piggy to the Count, Fozzie Bear, Beaker, Guy Smiley, Dr. Teeth, Oscar the Grouch, Biff and Sully, and of course, Elmo.  (Yes, I remember exactly who was who, and NO I am not telling :) 

Some twenty years later, I would have to reject the Big Bird label in favor of someone more mature.  Although I often feel like the overly fretful and neurotic Telly Monster, I would hope that I am not that depressing.  Like Kermit, I am predictable, particular and I have to have things just so.  I am a manager, director and producer; I am not the self-centered needy talent. I stay in on Friday nights to get ready for the meetings I have to attend on Saturday mornings.  I miss social events because I have work to finish.  I am always planning and plotting and strategizing for the next big move.   

It's not easy being green (and believe it or not, that was one of my favorite Muppet songs as a child).

Now that I think about it, I always preferred the Orderly Muppets to the Chaotic Muppets--Bert (individualist) to Ernie (psychopath); Scooter (needed the show to go on) to Gonzo (overrated hack); Snuffy (perennial pessimist) to Big Bird (clueless dodo bird); and the critics Statler and Waldorf (totally honest) to the Two-Headed Monster (no idea).

What does any of this mean to a Busy Black Woman?  Personally, it meant that someone understood me long before I ever thought to give my mania a name.  I am not a monster or a freak--I am just your average hard-working frog...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Don't Leave the House with a Run in Your Pantyhose: A Belated Mother's Day Tribute

I know that Mother's Day was weeks ago and that the stores are now stocking up for Halloween, but I wrote this piece last month but never got to post it.  Of course, as you already know, that goes with the territory of being the Busy Black Woman (edited slightly):

"Don't ever leave the house with a run in your pantyhose."

Last month, I offered up this statement as an example of something my mother had taught me.  It was a lie.  My mother probably never said this to me.

But she never had to say it because as a rule, she refuses to leave the house with even a small run in her pantyhose.  One Sunday I made myself late getting her for church after I discovered a ladder traveling up the back of my leg in the expensive ‘no run’ pair I was wearing.  Thus, when asked to contribute to a group discussion about lessons learned at mother’s knee, this was the first thing that came to my mind.

Of course, I can think of plenty of things my mother did not teach me, like cooking.  She rarely let me into the kitchen when she cooked, so everything I’ve learned has been through trial and error, very good cookbook recipes, and a few panicked phone calls to my late Grandma Wheeler, whose spirit I invoke whenever I fry chicken or wash pounds of greens in preparation for family holiday gatherings.  My mother did not teach me how to do laundry, a fact that became clear when I attempted to wash my very first load in college and wasted at least two dollars in quarters despite successfully loading the washer with carefully sorted clothes but NO DETERGENT.  My other late Grandma Hawkins taught me how to iron…bed sheets.  My Mom might have tried to teach me how to keep a clean house, but clearly that is not a lesson I took to heart.

Wait, I think she taught me how to wash dishes, but if memory serves, it was my fastidious father who insisted that there was a proper way to stack them in the drying rack…so that probably qualifies as a lesson rendered by both parents.

May, I Never

The title is a pun to describe the roller coaster that was the month of May.  May I never again:

1. Fail to respond to a situation that makes me uncomfortable.
2. Walk around in high heeled shoes on the concrete floors of St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
3. Believe the Baby Niece when she insists that she does not have to use the potty.
4. Expect that members of my family will actually read the very detailed emails I send.
5. Assume that I cannot be replaced.
6. Sell myself short with respect to talent.
7. Doubt that God can do anything!
8. Forget that everything happens for a reason.
9. Allow others to define me.
10. Say never again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Been So Long

It has been almost three months to be more exact.  There is so much to say, I almost don't know where to begin.  So, I'll start at the beginning.

Last Fall a series of events occurred that made it clear to me that something in my busy life had to give.  This revelation came at the most inopportune time as I felt that I had just hit a sweet spot with respect to building an audience for this blog.  I had been meeting some great people through various social media networking events and overall, things just seemed to be pointing in a positive direction.

But, as the old saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, start making plans.  In November, my family had what the old folks call a "come to Jesus" moment. 

I have alluded to the situation in very guarded language previously, but last September my Mom was diagnosed with early onset dementia.  By November, the painful and sudden reality of this diagnosis became clear when she went missing for hours.  If you can only imagine what goes through one's mind in a sitation like that...thankfully, she returned home safe.

Some members of my family would rather that I not even utter the word dementia, let alone Alzheimer's disease.  Some would argue that I am compromising my mother's dignity by exposing something so personal.  Others might argue that by accepting the diagnosis, I am admitting defeat and demonstrating insufficient faith.

Well, this is my blog. She is my mother too, and if you only knew how far I've come on half a mustard seed of faith without losing my mind...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red Beans and Rice Monday: Grammys 2012 Recap

For the first time since high school (or maybe a year or two of college), I stayed up to watch the entire Grammy telecast.  And as one of my FB friends said it best, now I totally remember why I stopped watching it so many years ago. 

To say that the show sucked might be an overstatement...but it would also be true.  Frankly, as another FB friend pondered, I am not sure if the Grammys haven't always sucked.  It occurred to me that we were all so mesmerized by the pop superstars of the 80s and 90s that we forgot how God-awful boring the rest of the show could be.  So here are a few of the Grammy moments that got the Busy Black Woman's attention (from the good, to the bad to the downright WTF):

1. LL Cool J - Did just alright as the host--which means that he was one of the bright spots of the entire show. He started the show on just the right note with that prayer for Whitney.

2. Bruno Mars - If only he had performed at the half way point...his line about folks getting off their rich a$$es was priceless.

3. The commercials - The best performances of the evening!  I LOVED the two Target commercials and have alternately been singing Alouette and Rolling in the Deep all day.  Oh and since I missed the Superbowl I was not quite sure what to make of that Pepsi ad with Elton John as Jabba the Hut or the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland.  But I liked the Willie Nelson Chipotle ad and I thought that the McDonald's ad with the old guys was hilarious.

4. Jennifer Hudson's tribute to Whitney Houston - simply beautiful.

5. Adele - I am still singing her song, but I suspect that has a lot more to do with the Target ad than it does with her performance.  One of my FB friends commented on her June Cleaver dress and I forgive her because if it had not been for her in that June Cleaver dress and her quip about "rubbish relationships", I might have tuned out after Bruno Mars.

6. Old Guy Radio Reunion - Who exactly in the Grammy target audience cares about the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, the Bruce or Sir Paul anymore?  They all did well enough to receive an honorable mention on my list here, but really, no one who still listens to their music was watching last night.  And while I think that we truly appreciated the Glen Campbell segment, again, I am thinking that the folks who remember "Rhinestone Cowboy" best were watching Downtown Abbey on PBS.

7. The tribute to deceased artists - Twitter went wild when folks began to question why Don Cornelius was left out of the photo montage along with Vesta and Etta James.  Someone suggested that anyone who had died in 2012 was ineligible for a photo tribute, but then there was Whitney whose death the night before clearly meant that the rules could be bent.  The alleged tribute to Don C that followed was just plain wrong on every level imaginable.  And still, not even a photo of Vesta.

8. Etta James tribute - On the one hand, it proves my point that the 'rule' about honoring dead artists who passed in 2011 was bull.  On the other hand, Etta James did not die 24 hours before the show so if someone thought enough of her to organize a tribute, surely they could done better than that tepid segment offered up by Alicia Keyes and Bonnie Raitt (no disrespect to those two who did an admirable job on Sunday Kind of Love; it just could have been a lot better). 

9. Nick Ashford slighted - And this is my final gripe about the dead artist segment, but I think Nick Ashford deserved a lot more than the nothing he got.  I mean, he co-wrote I'm Every Woman, the Busy Black Woman anthem! 

10. Rihanna. Chris Brown. Lil Wayne. Taylor Swift. Etc. - Let me refer back to #6 and the Old Guy Radio Reunion segment to suggest that the music business is in real trouble if any one of these artists receives a lifetime achevement award in 40 years.

11. The untelevised awards - I would be lying if I said that the Grammys should air some of its less popular categories like jazz, world and classical music.  But I am confident that I would have appreciated those a lot more than the above referenced performances.

12. Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross as presenters - Really?

13. Artists who rely too heavily on shock value rather than talent - Because there is nothing unique about crazy costumes, fireworks, aerial stunts, and alter egos in popular music...and that brings me to

14. Nicki Minaj - WTF?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For Whitney

I have been trying to come back to this blog for a while, but circumstances kept derailing my better intentions. I actually thought that I would return next Tuesday just in time for a snarky Valentine's Day piece...but again, circumstances intervened. 

Whitney Houston regained her voice yesterday.

There is no way for me to properly eulogize Whitney because there is nothing to say that has not already been said about her enormous talent, storybook career, troubled personal life, Icarus-like fall from grace, or her ill-fated attempt at a comeback.  There is nothing left to add or spin differently to make her life story any more or less tragic than what it was.

But I can tell you how my shock, sadness and utter disbelief have now metamorphasized into the firm recognition that God never makes mistakes.  Whitney's voice was once His gift to us; now He has seen fit to give it back to her.  Hallelujah!!!

In the age before music videos, little girls used to sing to themselves in front of bedroom and bathroom mirrors into hairbrushes.  We sang along to the likes of Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Teena Marie and Karen Carpenter.  We sang about love to adoring audiences of younger siblings, dolls and stuffed animals or even to imaginary boyfriends.  For my mirror performances, I borrowed my mother's lipstick and jewelry to really look the part.  And I thought I was something until I heard and saw Whitney Houston. 

Whitney was poised and beautiful and could sang (like the old folks in church would say).  She was the original American Idol.  She had the X factor.  She was The Voice. 

And in spite of everything else--the awkward dancing, the stiff acting, Bobby Brown, and many other questionable lifestyle choices, there was that phenomenal voice.  Until of course, it began to fade...

The last Whitney Houston CD I ever bought was her greatest hits album released several years ago.  I played it constantly to relive some of those hairbrush/mirror memories, but also to marvel at the purity of her voice.  And though it happens to every great singer eventually, there is a point when it became obvious that her voice had changed.  Unfortunately, it was not in a good way, and I finally put the CD away because it was just too depressing to listen anymore.

And in that sense, Whitney's demise is practically biblical--the story of Samson comes to mind.  Blessed with enormous strength, Samson squanders it by giving in to the temptations of Delilah.  After suffering humiliation at the hands of his enemies, Samson gradually regains his strength and uses it in a final triumphant act of desperation that results in both his death and that of his tormentors.  Whitney squandered her magnificent blessing by giving in to the temptations of excess.  She suffered the loss of her career and was ridiculed mercilessly while trying in vain to regain her footing.  But in death, her past mistakes are consigned to the grave.

And her voice is restored!  The most circulated clips from Whitney's past performances were interchangeably the most triumphant from her career: the Star Spangled Banner, the Greatest Love of All, I Will Always Love You, and One Moment in Time.  For those who are too young to understand the grief expressed by millions of now grown hairbrush/mirror singers, the only Whitney Houston they will ever know is the one with the incomparable voice.  And that is how it should be.

Rest in Peace Whitney.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You Need a Break!

(Note, I began writing this in November.  It has been edited and updated to reflect the passage of time :)

So a whole three-four-five months after the fact, I wanted to write a public service announcement of sorts to extoll the virtues of doing absosmurfly nothing (or as little as possible)...

If you recall, the Busy Black Woman endured more than a few trials and tribulations this summer, so in an effort to refocus, I declared that I would spend the month of September resetting my life in order to finish the year in a better space.  Well, the result of that effort was comme ci comme ├ža (for the reasons you can read about in the Reset Journal or here).

Now it is the end of January 2012...and reflecting back on the time spent on the beach last October, I am ever so grateful for the chance to get away for I know that I will not always have the luxury of a tropical vacation (update: except for the fact that I will be headed back to PR in just a few months, sometimes God blesses you and I ain't complaining!)  Given that some folks believe that not even the President is entitled to a few days off, the next best thing is to figure out how to best to chillax in the midst of chaos.  So how does one take a break from it all with the current state of the economy and the precariousness of living from paycheck to paycheck?

For starters, it begins with breathing.  Now that I have returned to yoga class, I am reminded that there is peace to be found in five minutes of deep breathing.  And then there is sleep.  Sure, there is plenty of advice out there to suggest that the most successful people regard sleep as a waste of time, but they lie--witness how the dire need for sleep killed Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger.  And every now and then, it is a good idea to disconnect from the inter-connectedness of the world via cell phone, laptop or tablet/e-reader. 

And then what?  Well, nothing.

Because even if you cannot afford to go anywhere, you need to take a break.  You need to sit still.  You need a time out.  Your friends and loved ones and coworkers and those random people driving in the car next to you on the highway need you to be sane.  I am offering this as both advice to you and as a reminder to myself because I had a moment yesterday.  And it just so happens that as I had been plotting a return to blogging and just happened to check in just for a quick looksie, I found this post and knew right away why I needed to post it.

More to come, stay tuned...