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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Time to Exhale

It is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I will get down to the business of cooking shortly. I just wanted to take a minute to remind everyone that is time to breathe.

Take a deep, cleansing breath. Relax. Drink a glass of water. Let your child run around in circles until she gets dizzy. Back away from the Twitter, the real and fake news articles, the petitions, and even Facebook if it is causing any form of agitation. Turn off the cable news and switch to the Food Channel, the Disney Channel, the Hallmark Channel, or the Game Show Network.

Please y'all, just take a damn break. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I know. We can decide to be upset about the origin story of friendly, unsuspecting Native Americans feeding hungry, opportunistic European colonists who later killed them with diseases and war...or you can choose instead to read the proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln that established this holiday. I urge you to do the latter.

If nothing else, this year has reminded me that life is precious and special. We were in the midst of an actual Civil War that threatened to tear this country apart when President Lincoln issued that proclamation. And somehow we managed to come back together (however imperfect). We can and will survive this.

And that is it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Hits Keep Coming

I found out about the death of Gwen Ifill earlier today by accident. I was driving and heard the new text message 'ding' on my cell phone, but I did not see the Hub's text; instead, I saw that someone had reposted an old link from the Busy Black Woman Facebook page with an "RIP" tag...

So I broke the law to look at my phone since someone had actually reposted one of my old links! And then I spent the rest of my drive trying to process my disbelief.

Can I just start with the announcement that 2016 has about six weeks left and there are several beloved famous, well-known folks we need to check in with, just to make sure that they know before it is too late that we love and appreciate them? And then there is everyone else whom we actually know that need to be told, right now before another shoe drops, that we love and appreciate them.

Because I did NOT see this coming.

I did not know Gwen Ifill personally. This being DC with about two degrees of separation among black people, I knew people who knew her. I never had the pleasure. I had a neighbor who knew her. I did a stint at the organization currently run by her cousin. She was my Soror and I attended her initiation. I followed her on Twitter and I occasionally watched her on the News Hour.

I may not have known Gwen Ifill, but I mourn her passing. In fact, I am totally blown.

Because I did not know her and did not have a chance to watch the entire "Evening with Gwen Ifill" rebroadcast that my Dad is DVRing for me, I can only say that my emotional reaction is akin to the sudden death of Tim Russert eight years ago in the midst of the 2008 election. Every now and then, I wonder how Russert would have moderated a particular debate, especially this year when it seemed that a certain person was allowed to say just about anything without ANY serious follow-up or challenge to its veracity. And I place Gwen Ifill in that same pantheon of take-no-shit-from-professional-BSers, which is why her absence due to illness during this election cycle was indeed noticed.

I do not have much else to say because I just considered her to be decent, polished, insightful, witty, and always prepared. I have written several of these quick remembrances this year for various people and it is getting to me because with each memorial, the loss seems more personal. I may not have known Gwen Ifill, but I did. She was a Busy Black Woman icon.

Friday, November 11, 2016


Can I be honest? I have been faking the funk these past couple of days.

I am mad. I do want to get out there and take to the streets and raise hell. But I have been in my house, either curled up in the bed or on the sofa. I have been writing to keep from crying. I am going through every stage of grief on a continuous loop like this is Groundhog Day.

I know that I am not alone in feeling so utterly confounded by what happened on Tuesday. I am not as surprised as I am disappointed. I look at this and wonder if I have been living in the Twilight Zone for the last 30 years.

Because for me, this is less about what happened to HRC than it is what is happening to the rest of us who saw this country make a LOT of progress from the stories we heard from our parents and grandparents. For me, this is less about seeing the first Woman or the first Black family or the first Latina, Muslim, Hindu, Asian-American, etc. in positions of power that were previously only occupied by white men. This is about seeing folks celebrate the victory of a person elevated on the strength of his bigotry and ignorance. This is insane!

So let me get this out of the way so that everyone understands that this is not about sour grapes that a Democrat did not win. We have lost plenty of elections, and believe me, NO ONE would be out in those streets in protest if Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz had won. Hell, even a Romney win four years ago would have been met with disappointment, but definitely not protest. And an HRC win would not have resulted in protests either because in spite of the hatred she inspires, NO ONE thinks that her presidency would have meant the end to our civilization as we know it.

But this???

I am trying to minister to myself here (and maybe to the three other folks who read this blog), because I know that almost no one who voted for him reads this blog...but if by chance you happen to come across this and get curious, please understand the reason why so many of us are just inconsolable right now. We thought we had evolved past mob mentality.

My husband called me in tears on Election Night. TEARS. This man has only called me in tears one other time in our marriage and that was when his mother passed. He expressed his fears about what this means for our daughter. You might think that is over the top, but you have to consider that she is Afro-Latina. Her father believes people are going to look at this child and hate her on sight and not consider her life as having the same value as the pretty blond girl seated next to her. Other black parents like me understood this all along...and he just got it the other night, but not because his Nuyorican life has been so rosy. He got it the other night because his life has NOT been all that rosy and like every other parent, he wants the world to be better.

Unlike some of my peers who are cursing at third party voters, I applaud your courage in NOT yielding to the temptation of choosing between choices you found unconscionable. Believe it or not, that was the right thing to do. Anyone who thinks that voting for someone you hate is easy, well at least those people did not choose HATE. So you've missed me with that anger.

No, my ire is at every voter who just made it clear that you could care less about the least of these in this world. All of you so-called Christians. Have you seen the pictures of Aleppo? You are worried about refugees, but not their plight, just whether they will come here and stain your suburban world. And by the way, you voted for the man who admires the Communist dictator who supports the dictator who created Aleppo...yeah because that is what Putin is in case you haven't been paying attention. A real fucking Communist (which by the way, Obama was not). And because I am so mad about that, I just need to remind you that it is Veterans Day and the fight against Communism is why we went to Korea, Vietnam, and spent billions on a Cold War which is why we have been in Afghanistan for decades--but you wanted your country back, and just gave it away!!!

And that isn't even the surface of what pisses me off about this election because I have yet to address racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and every other box of bigotry that gets checked off every time he opens his mouth or takes to Twitter to insult someone. Let's just focus on the fact that the man who will become the next President is a BULLY who takes pleasure in insulting people based on their looks, their infirmities, and their perceived weaknesses. 

I'm almost done with my rant...but that is pathetic.

But in order to be a light in this darkness, I will not fight fire with fire and call anyone names. I will not demean anyone with insults. I am going to pray for you, your families, your communities, and your lives. I will pray for mercy, understanding, and grace. I will even pray for the President-elect.

God help us.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Sun Still Rises

The election from hell finally happened, but our long national nightmare is just beginning...

The Busy Black Woman has some post mortem thoughts on what happened the other day. Feel free to agree or disagree, but just know that after all of the finger-pointing, the head-banging, the binge-drinking, fear-mongering, and name-calling ends, we've got work to do.

First - All of you pollsters were WRONG. And all of you poll watchers (like the Hub and my Dad), y'all need to come up for air and observe the world around you more. There was a lot happening that you missed while you were analyzing data, mainly that the people who voted for the President-elect were not responding to polls. They were in the streets.

Second - A trending hashtag that came out this summer after the convention was #girlIguessImwithher...that ain't enthusiasm; that is resignation. It was only in the closing days that more people were willing to declare #Imwithher but that was because her best argument was that her opponent was scary and that his supporters were crazy. Yep, but now the Boogey Man won and the crazies have taken over the asylum.

Voting for someone is not the same as voting against someone.

Third - NO ONE, and I mean practically NO ONE in my very demographically diverse, progressive, and hip inner city neighborhood had Clinton yard signs. We don't have one. Even my political consultant neighbor didn't have one. As a matter of fact, you could drive through DC and see a lot more old Obama-Biden bumper stickers. Between now and Inauguration Day, I guarantee folks will be buying more Obama gear.

Fourth - Too much of the conversation about the lack of civility in our national discourse has been one-sided. Sure, the Troll King and his alt-right followers are mean, but what about us? Has calling anyone a racist ever made them change? Did mocking the supposed stupidity of our fellow Americans make them wise up and make different choices? Nope.

Perhaps we should take closer look at our shady moral high ground. I'm going to leave that metaphor there for you to ponder while I get some tea...

Fifth - I did a little something and got Lil Ron Ron and 'nem to register. I voted early and took my parents to the polls. The Babe and I wore our matching pantsuits. The Hub donated and traveled to do his Election Day job. But what did you do, Boo? I saw a lot of social media activism and a lot of talking, but when the action is taking place in the streets, are we commenting, posting pics, or are we MARCHING?

So let me confess that what I did was NOT enough. I made the excuse in the days leading up to Election Day that I am a new mother and the adjustment has been cray (and it has, more on that in another post). But I also once made the argument to the Hub that the mothers during the Civil Rights Movement never shielded their children from the ugliness. I do not have the luxury of pretending that my beautiful Afro-Latina daughter will not encounter a whole lot of ignorance in this new reality. My job is not to stay home in the protective bubble of this messy house that I ain't trying to clean...

This is not about HRC and any disappointment we might have felt about not shattering that particular glass ceiling. Elections are not about making history, they are about setting policy. I am mad as hell that a morally bankrupt reality TV personality will be the next President, but I'm not sad for our country because this is how democracy works.

I ain't scared either. If folks are hanging nooses and singing Dixie in the streets, they have that right. But this is also my America, still the land of the free home of the brave. And I'm ready to get back to work.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Forward March!

Well. This is NOT the piece I expected to write today.

I honestly don't know where to begin in terms of expressing the various emotions I have experienced. I went from excitement to exuberance to nervousness to disbelief to shock and then finally to defiance this morning. Since then, I have fallen back to disbelief with occasional bouts of resignation. But I am here to write about resolve.

So Hillary Clinton will not be the 45th President, nor the first woman. This was still a historic moment because electing a woman to the highest office in this country is still a possibility. Just not today.

The work we have ahead of us is clear. We must prepare for the future by nurturing the next generation of leaders, regardless of race, gender and whatever other categories we need to obliterate as invisible barriers to achievement. We need to educate everyone about the way government really works by encouraging more civic participation. We need to ensure that our children know that this nation is a work in progress, which is why we are already great.

Yesterday was not a failure. It was a stumble, thus we have learned a valuable lesson in humility. Sometimes we lose the good fights, but we get back up and try again. And again.

For a paragraph can I tell you how I have been very discouraged at times about the direction my life has taken? How I have been mired in despair by uncertainty and questions of my relevance? How I have felt hopeless...but then all it takes is a small breakthrough for my mustard seed of faith to take root. For example, just yesterday this blog got a lot of traffic because I posted a quick live video on Facebook, despite the fact that I have been writing for years. But I will take it!

So we regroup, we strategize, and we move forward. Some of us will put on our marching shoes and take to the streets as necessary to continue to fight. Others of us will click our heels on those marble floors of power and demand to be seen and heard. We will survive to fight again. And again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Those Parents

Have you ever been somewhere public and there is a crying (make that a screeching) kid in the vicinity, but you see no signs of any harried parental units? And this is not at the library or at a museum where everyone, including agitated toddlers, is expected to remain silent, but it is in a public place where at least someone should be making an effort to comfort the inconsolable child by removing him/her from the situation…but nothing.

Have you been a person who is appalled by the apparent apathy of that parent? Do you know someone who fits the description of that unconcerned parent? Have you been that parent?

I issue the preemptive disclaimer that because I know my child, I have maybe once (thrice or more times) been that parent. My child recently had an epic meltdown at my parents’ house and I am sure that my parents, my brother, the neighbors, and the construction workers who were repaving the sidewalk down the street were wondering what kind of horrific torture was this child enduring. And I just let her scream, yank on my leg, and even watched her throw her little body to the ground. She just needed a nap.

I have also been that red-faced parent who has fled the room with a child on the verge of a nuclear meltdown. In those instances, the circumstances called for her immediate removal or risk the public shaming that comes from not heeding the warning signs of pending disaster. Like last week when we left the Kennedy Center during a performance. I had anticipated that our evening might end earlier than planned, and the beginning of the end came when the Babe decided to produce a load as soon as we sat down at our seats. Luckily, we were seated in the mezzanine section at my request, specifically to hasten our departure with minimal interruption to the rest of the audience. This happened mere minutes after I had schlepped across town and found a parking space; after I read the sign at the entrance of the lobby that indicated the play was for mature audiences only; and after we had left the inaccessible bathroom with no changing table. Despite the diaper change it became clear that the Babe had no intention of sitting still for even a few moments, so I did a quick scoop of our belongings, waved goodbye to the friend seated next to us, and literally exited stage left.

I have been guilty of over-estimating my child’s attention span, like in September when we were kindly escorted from the IMAX Theater at the Air & Space Museum. Right before our expulsion, the manager announced that any patrons with children in the audience who could not keep it down would be asked to leave and given a refund. The Babe had just sat through the first film with minimal agitation, so I gambled that she could make it through the second film and lost. But I was a good sport about getting kicked out since I got my six bucks back and there was a McDonald’s on the premises!

I usually know better than to venture into certain situations because I am the rational parent…so you already know that this my mea culpa about how I made the most egregious mistake of abandoning my common sense by listening to the husband. I let him convince me to take our child with us to a cocktail party, and though I had an exit strategy in mind, it was still, in a word, STUPID.

I will skip ahead to the conclusion—there was no meltdown. But let’s just say that we will forever be known anecdotally as those parents who brought their 18 month old to an adult cocktail party. The Babe was reasonably well-behaved for an 18 month old at an adult cocktail party. And while the hosts were gracious enough to have given the husband the thumbs up in advance to bring her, it was evident as soon as we arrived that I should have faked an illness so that we couldn’t leave the car. Because she was the only 18 month-old at the adult cocktail party.

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, I would never be that parent…well maybe you would not be that parent on that particular day. But I know you have been that parent under other circumstances (unless you have no children, in which case, I hate you). I was that parent who chose to skip Homecoming (again) this year and I’m still a little salty even though I know that I made the right decision. I am becoming that parent who realizes that this child-rearing thing involves a lot of trial and error, and it is alright if there are more than a few harmless errors. Like how it might be okay to take the kid to an R-rated movie during the day at the Mommy Matinee; but probably not such a good idea on a Friday night.

We live and we learn. Although I’m still not convinced that the cheap diapers are equal in quality to the more expensive ones...