Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Busy Black Woman Gift Giving Guide 2018

Another Christmas has come and gone and I survived! This year, I decided to do most of my holiday shopping with small businesses, so in the spirit of sharing, here is the premier Busy Black Woman Gift Giving Guide for 2018.

Here's an interesting tidbit: one of the very first posts to this blog way back in 2010 was a gift guide. Yes, this blog has been around for that long...and it is interesting to look back on that old post and to realize how much has and hasn't changed. Anyway, I wanted to provide an index of all the businesses that provided me with gifts for my loved ones this season (I also posted pictures to the Facebook and Instagram pages earlier this week). The uniqueness of this list is that most of the items featured here were purchased from small businesses owned by women and people of color. Where possible, I included a picture and/or link to a website.

Another timely tidbit: Even though I do not personally celebrate Kwanzaa, I do want to highlight that this index is offered in the spirit of the fourth day when the focus is Cooperative Economics or Ujamaa.

BZB International, Inc.
Back in 2012, I began attending this annual holiday pop up bazaar that takes over the Family Life Center at my church every weekend in December. Because it reminded me so much of the Market Fridays that used to take over our Student Center on campus, my first impression was that it would be a cool place to do personal shopping for jewelry and maybe some stocking stuffers. Well, every year I've found more unique gifts and have managed to do some serious shopping, so it sucked that I was only able to go once this season, but here are a few of my finds (past and present):

Black Pack Playing Cards
I saw these and immediately thought of my younger brother, who has been a card shark since the age of four. Seriously, he would play spades and bid whist with our grandfather for hours, and by the time he was a teenager, he had graduated to black jack and poker. This probably isn't the type of deck he would want to use, but it is definitely a collector's item that I hope he will display.

Lisa McFadden Millinery
One of my favorite vendors at BZB is Lisa McFadden, who is making quite the name for herself these days. One of her designs is on display at the MET. I met her when she beckoned me over to her table and styled one of her signature CRUSH hats for me. I bought two hats that year; this year, I bought three, one as a gift for my mother. And I can tell you that the hat pictured here kept my head nice and warm on a recent trip to the city via the Staten Island Ferry.

Persona Luggage Tags by Helena Deneen
This is one of those gifts that I should have bought for myself, but in the spirit of the season, I bought one in every color for each of my sisters-in-law last year. I put it in the category of gifts that become practical when you realize that you need something like it, so I can't wait to find out if I can get one personalized for myself.

Handcrafted Pens by Marjorie
Here is another gift that I should have gotten for myself because I am always digging down into my bag in search of my car keys. I bought seven of these clips for my sisters-in-law this year (two married into the family on both sides). Such a cute idea!

Agape Dolls
There is always some crafty person who can turn everyday items into works of art. I came came across this vendor of hand-crafted ornaments this year and thought that some would make nice additions to someone's tree. I bought two ornaments made of natural materials and one doll.

Woodcrafts by Obanion
I had a lot of time to really browse last year, and this is one of the artisan vendors I discovered. I bought this piece, along with a mirror for my niece and her husband last year as a housewarming/wedding gift.

Bases Loaded Authentic Clothing and Kaps (B.L.A.C.K. 4 U)
This is another one of my favorite vendors; alas, I missed them this year because of that stomach bug that grounded me the weekend before the holiday. They have been my go-to for Negro League baseball themed gifts for the Hub and my brother. Last year their offerings expanded to include merchandise for the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen. Pictured below is the first jersey I bought the Hub:

Izzy & Liv Brown Sugar Box
Everyone has a subscription box these days, and this is my second year of membership with Izzy and Liv. The great thing about this box is that it offers its own name brand tees and accessories, but it also includes various products from other small businesses. I had a lot of options for all the women in my family as well as several friends. And believe it or not, I managed to keep several cute items for myself as well!

Businesses on Social Media
I discovered Izzy & Liv thanks to an advertisement on Facebook. Many of the businesses listed below were also advertised on social media, and after placing initial orders at other points in the year, I was pleased to patronize them again during the holidays:

Mented Cosmetics
One of my line sisters suggested this brand to me, and I believe that it was before Rihanna introduced Fenty Beauty. I was unsure if I wanted to repeat my brown matte lipstick phase of the 90s, but I bought the Fall trio in 2017 and now wear Nude La La practically everyday. They have expanded their offerings to include glosses, shadows, and blush, and I can't wait to try new some new colors. I gave the lip gloss sets to my nieces.

Blended Designs
I was introduced to this brand in an online group when someone posted a picture of a travel bag that had been created for Spelman alumnae. Another member of the group raved about the quality of the backpacks, so the next thing I know, I'm ordering this adorable lunch box for the Kid last summer and a backpack for the Niece. I had to buy a replacement lunch box this Christmas for the Kid (mommy mishap), so I bought myself a tote bag that I cannot wait to show off in the coming months.

Puzzle Huddle
I saw this company advertised on FB this summer right after I had placed an order for a set of puzzles by another brand on Amazon. Those puzzles were too easy for the Kid, who had suddenly advanced to more pieces, so it worked out for me try this out this company's offerings. I ordered two puzzles--one box was the size of a cell phone, but the other was normal size. I gave the smaller one away and ordered a few more as birthday gifts. Pictured is the puzzle the Kid received for Christmas, and yes she insisted on wearing her leotard while putting it I think this answers any questions you might have about the impact relatable images have on children.

Mess In A Bottle
Someone referred me to this Baltimore-based brand, and just on the social media feed alone, this is an interesting company. The owner has a compelling personal story, but what's more intriguing is her 'each one teach one' philosophy of offering classes on how to start a tee shirt company! I've ordered a couple of shirts, and my only complaint is that when I purchased multiple shirts in one order, I only saw the option to include a bottle with one shirt for a $9 shipping up-charge (check the FAQs, which I neglected to do). However, that is a minor issue and I will happily buy other tees in the future.

Copper and Brass Paper Products
This is one of two paper companies owned by Spelman alumnae that feature Black Santas (I am placing an order with the other company, Midnight Reflections, as well). I saw a congratulatory post on Facebook based on an Instagram posted by a local Atlanta celebrity, so I placed a quick last minute order thinking that I could just save the bags for next Christmas. My Sister not only responded immediately with my order, but she also has interacted with me on social media, and I appreciate that personal outreach. Most of the photos I took of my gifts were taken with the C&B Santa design in the background. I look forward to seeing what other design options are available throughout the year.

Christmas in Color
This is another company that is owned by a Spelman sister. I saw something posted in one of our Facebook groups, and also saw a recommendation by another friend to check out their Black nutcracker decor. Initially, I could not think of anyone to receive these (because everybody I know has way too much Christmas stuff), but at the last minute I decided to order them for a neighbor and they arrived just in time. I bought the ornaments for my parents, so I am excited about adding some new colors to the tree.

Melanin is Life
I saw this company mentioned in an article about Black-themed tee shirts. The same younger brother who is a card shark also collects unique tee shirts, so I picked out the classic X tee from their Black History 365 Collection. I saw a few other shirts that I liked, so I shall return.

Scotch Porter
A bearded friend told me about this brand, so when I saw the advertisement on Facebook, I thought about my other brother who has a beard and is always concerned about ingredients. The promotion was for 50% off, so I bought the travel size Beard Collection and the brush. It's a little pricey for me to give to anyone other than a close relative as a gift, so this is a recommendation for other Busy Black Women to consider as gifts for the gentlemen in your life.

Rapid X Charger
Technically speaking, the Rapid X 5-port charger is included on this list because it was recommended by the Oprah on her list of favorite things for 2018. And something suggests to me that until Oprah made that fateful choice, this company and its products were better known among techies than the masses. But they delivered on time, the brother-in-law who received it spends a lot of time driving his kids places, and he was really excited about putting it to good use.

Brick and Mortar Local Businesses
I wanted to distinguish these businesses because they are actual brick and mortar stores that I have visited (and plan to visit again in the New Year).

Hunny Bunny Boutique
I drove by this cute boutique every week for almost two years before I ever ventured inside. When I did finally go inside, I met the owner who was very courteous and helpful. Then I returned to replenish some product with the Kid in tow, and she remained patient and courteous in spite of...she also carried handmade soy candles by Freres Branchiaux, which I bought as gifts for my teen nieces.

Petals, Ribbons and Beyond
This card, gift, and flower shop is run by a Spelman sister and is literally down the street from where I live. I've been buying flowers there for years, beginning with the arrangements she designed for my wedding back in 2002. On a recent visit, I bought two Spelman umbrellas as gifts for friends to support the fundraising efforts of her class, which will celebrate 50 years in 2020.

The Spice Suite
For our 10th line anniversary this Spring, the Spice Suite was one of the sponsors of the festivities. I don't recall what that entailed (possibly one of the activities I skipped), but I began to follow her on Instagram this Spring. In addition to having a unique concept, the space also hosts other small businesses for a weekly pop-up. I finally found my way there, and met the owner who was very friendly and helpful while assisting me with my selections for my sisters-in-law.

Toys, Babies, and More
I went into a Toys 'R Us for the first time in decades in for the record, count me as one parent who, despite the nostalgia for the store that was, shed no tears for the chaos and crazy it had become. I saw this article on Facebook and made it my business to check out this new offering (but didn't make it to the actual store until Christmas Eve). Thankfully the owners were genuinely patient and helpful, and the toy Santa brought has been appreciated. I plan to return in the future because good customer service will always make up for other shortcomings like a limited selection.

Independent Bookstores
In an era when it is so much easier to order books online from Amazon, it takes real effort to venture into a bookstore. It takes more effort to find an independent bookstore, but somehow we're seeing a return of those small shops in the city. Thanks to the East of the River Book Festival, I bought several children's books from some really cool authors as gifts for some of the new little people in my life. I finally made it over to Mahogany Books, where I bought a nice gift for the Hub and for a few other young people. And though I went to Busboys & Poets to buy a him gift certificate for lunch/dinner, I ended up buying a book for my Dad and for the Kid instead. I need to include an honorable mention for Politics and Prose, where I intended to buy a book for the Kid's classroom book exchange (but the location I visited was closed on Mondays).

Dawn Price Baby
This local store just announced plans to close its doors in the New Year, which is sad. I don't remember when I first shopped there, but one of my fondest memories occurred the day after Easter in 2015 when I was nine months pregnant and hanging out with my then five-year old Niece. I waddled in and watched her play with everything from the classic Fisher Price toys to the toy trucks. My daughter has done the same thing many times, and the staff has always been tolerant and helpful. My last purchase there was the aforementioned book for the Kid's classroom exchange, and perhaps I will make it there before the doors finally close at the Capitol Hill location.

Beyond Christmas
So guess what, Christmas comes only once a year, but entrepreneurship is a year-round thing. Below are several other small businesses I patronized at other points in the year (and hope to do so again soon):

African American College Alliance
Ask Me Tees
Bailiwick Clothing
Beaded Souls
Brown Girls Do Ballet
Buffalo Dallas
I'm So DC
Jacq's Dolls
Loren Statianery
Mann Made Designs 
On Us Tees
Oyin Handmade
Popcorn Queens
Sugarfoots Dolls
Waju Designs on Etsy
Urban Intellectuals
Your Destination Day Spa

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Salty Pretzels: Baby, It's Stupid Outside

The Great Christmas Debate of 2018 has been much ado over a song. A song that features a duet between a man and a woman wherein the two exchange flirty banter over whether the woman will spend the night with the man. A song that was written in the 1940s when such a suggestion was completely scandalous. A song that includes a vague reference to there being a spiked drink that might lower the woman's inhibitions and protestations. The song, as depicted in this scene from Neptune's Daughter, that won an Academy Award back in 1949:

A song that has essentially become the latest indication that people are committed to arguing over utter stupidity, especially at this time of year when we already have more than enough to keep us preoccupied. Nothing says Christmas quite like an argument about writing "Xmas" or whether to say "Happy Holidays" to your non-Christian neighbor or whether it is sufficiently festive to drink your over-priced coffee in a red recyclable cup.

A radio station in Cleveland banned the song from its playlist after receiving a few complaints. Then there was a station in San Francisco that polled its listeners for a decision on the song after it received backlash for a similar decision. A station in Denver stopped playing it too, so I guess that is why the daughter of the song's composer lamented that her father's legacy was being tarnished by association with Bill "say what's in this drink" Cosby. Thus, we find ourselves in the throws of a pop culture civil war, with the decision by a radio station in Louisville, KY to play the song for two straight hours serving as a Ft. Sumter moment.

Over a song that was deemed problematic by three (3) radio stations. Mind you, there are other radio stations in Cleveland, San Francisco and Denver that probably did not remove the song from their playlists. And if you don't live in any of those cities, then it is safe to assume that you still had access to this song at least six times or more per day (as is required by the special FCC rules that mandate how often we are to subjected to various versions of the same Christmas song in a 24 hour period). So there was no nationwide effort, just a highly publicized decision made by a handful of program directors.

I am sitting here with a bag of special sour dough pretzels dusted with peppermint bark because in response to local programming decisions, the snowflakes have declared that #metoo has gone too far. All because of their sentimental attachment to a 1940s ditty about a guy begging for some booty. 

Never mind that no one has taken to the streets in pussy hats or tiki torches. Apparently I missed all of the furious organizing behind the scenes that called for boycotts of the radio stations that opted to keep the song in rotation. I'm assuming that women will be asked to wear their best LBD in protest to the office Christmas holiday party. Because my God, what else is next on the hitlist #metoo???

In the same week that folks were whining that #metoo is spoiling life as we know it, former CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves found out that his sexual harassing azz could not pass Go and thus, could not collect $120 million in severance. In the same month that a victims' event for R. Kelly accusers was shut down by a fake bomb threat, a major Black media outlet was hosting a poll to determine if he deserved to be honored as a King of R&B music. (I guess the real movement to #MuteRKelly doesn't matter, so feel free to keep this remixed version of that song on repeat this season...somehow I'm sure he would approve.)

Look, I am of the opinion that this song has issues (and plenty of people hold that same opinion), yet it's harmless, and I acknowledge the slippery slope arguments that have been offered in its defense. It is a legitimate question though, when does seduction become coercive? And maybe the hoohaw caused by this faux controversy will give us an opportunity to contemplate an appropriate response. It isn't #metoo that has gone too far; it is our acceptance of sexism, even in its so-called benign forms, as tolerable. Because if you have ever been alone with someone, you can attest that this "harmless" scenario could easily veer into a dangerous, life-altering tragedy if the other person ignores your requests to stop. If no means no, then it shouldn't matter if the person is singing it, saying it, or shouting it.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Santa Maybe?

To all of the ruiners out there (and you know who you are), this is a special message from the Busy Black Woman aka, the The Grinch who kind of likes Christmas (for the most part):


I don't know what you should tell your children. I don't know what I plan to tell my child. Right now, she seems to be uninterested in the idea of Santa, but that could change. Last week at a kiddie party, Santa made an appearance and she avoided him. Thus, I expect that if we decide to take another mall photo this year, we might not do much better than this --->

Yet, I don't plan on shattering her innocence by telling her not to believe. Because I don't want her to be that kid whom everyone remembers years later as the killjoy whose parents thought it blasphemy to cede credit to a mythical fat white guy who somehow never gets arrested for breaking and entering.

Yes, I know that it means I have to devise a credible cover story with various contingencies for the inevitable questions that will come as she gets older. Maybe I can sell my version as a children's book to help parents explain why Santa Claus is depicted as white in popular culture, but is Black at the mall.

Until the Kid was born, I had never given much thought to what children thought of Santa. My nieces and nephews accepted whatever explanation their parents offered, even if it didn't account for the fact that the big family gathering occurred on Christmas Eve and lasted well past midnight. They woke up the next morning to the same excitement that I did without any doubts that Santa had come at some point while they were asleep.

Honestly, I didn't intend to give it this much attention, but in several of my parenting groups, this topic has arisen as a point of contention between the believers and the non-believers. There are folks who are insistent that Santa doesn't deserve to exist because their children ought to know how hard Mommy and/or Daddy work to provide for them. Then there are the true-believers who feel that children should be allowed to maintain a willful ignorance about the ways of the world because real-life will disillusion them soon enough. There are the hard-line Christians who fault Santa and Frosty for X-ing out Jesus, which has led to teen pregnancy and red disposable coffee cups. And then there are the ecumenical secularists who gave us Festivus and Chrismahanukwanzakah.

You know what, this generation of kids is much smarter than we were. They know how to use technology. They will just ask Alexa or Suri. They will quickly realize that the Santa on the Coke bottle looks very different than the Santa in those Rankin-Bass specials or in every modern cartoon. Or they will come across one of those lame made-for-TV movies that offers an inconsistent back story. Or like me, they will figure out that something is off because there is a bunch of random stuff under the tree like puzzles and books that weren't on my list.

Until that day, why spoil the fun?

Your children can still believe in Jesus and the Elf on the Shelf. Or if you are Jewish, then they can go with the Mensch on a Bench (which really seems a lot like the Hanukkah bush, but I'm not judging you). The Black Santa at the mall is not there to acknowledge Kwanzaa, so do not tell your kids to greet him with Habari gani?

Just go with it because there are children in this world who would love to believe in everything Santa symbolizes. Those bins that collect Toys for Tots and those Angel Tree projects go to children who do not the have luxury of magic in their lives. The children who have lost everything to massive wildfires or whose families are still trying to rebuild after devastating floods. The migrant children who have been separated from their families. The homeless children and those caught up in the foster care system wish they could believe in Santa.

I'm not trying to bring anyone down, but Santa Claus is harmless. If you need to receive appreciation for being a parent, then I sincerely hope that works out for you come Mother's/Father's Day because kids who get everything rarely appreciate anything. I have no idea how this is going to unfold for my daughter, but I hope she chooses to believe in Santa because I did and still do. In spite of all my complaining about Christmas, I derive great joy from giving, which is the essence of Santa Claus mythology and the point of the season. There is some guy who selflessly chooses to bring joy to children once a year. Why be cynical about that? Why not just believe?

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Black Girl (Revisited)

Recently two friends, both Spelman alumnae, posted the same article to the Book of Faces about the experience of being a Black girl in a private school. While reading it, I was transported back in time to nearly 30 years ago when some of the incidents recounted in this article could have been mine. Days later, I am still trying to process the impact of those memories.

Let me offer some background: I attended an all-girls' Catholic school in the 80s. My alma mater, founded in the 60s, was located just outside of the city. I had cousins who attended the school years ahead of me, including one cousin who was still there when I arrived in 1986. The school closed in 1992, after a rather controversial period of time when several other historic single-sex Catholic schools inside the city closed and merged.

Like many Catholic schools that operated in this area at that time, my school was integrated, meaning there were no racial restrictions on attendance. There was a display case of senior class photos near the main office which I recall looking through and noticing a gradual increase of brown faces. By the time I enrolled, I would guess that the ratio was about 65/35. By the time I graduated, that was still the ratio but the demographics had flipped. The explanation that had been given for the school's closure less than two years after we had been assured that our future was intact was the decline in enrollment of Catholics.

Of course, none of that addresses the issues that were raised by that article, but at least that offers some context for some of what I perceived during my high school tenure. It brought to mind this piece I wrote several years ago after reading about an incident at a Texas high school (which apparently took place in the same time frame as the experiences shared in the Madame Noire piece).

I hated high school, and despite the fact that was a lifetime ago and we're all Facebook friends now, I am sometimes angered by those memories. I do not hold my peers accountable for the various micro-aggressions I endured, and I am pretty sure that if any of them read this piece they might interpret things differently. But my blog, my truth.

I was accused by a science teacher of cheating on an assignment with no real evidence and for no reason that I can recall. I was told several times that I could not keep up with my peers in the Honors English class. I was accused by the school principal of damaging my school uniform so that my mother could scam a refund from the company. All of that happened during my first semester in the 9th grade.

Eventually, I found a way to fit in better as my awkwardness subsided and my grades improved. There were still incidents, though, like the time a nun complained on the school intercom about us applauding in church because white Catholics didn't do that. Or the time that our Black History program got rescheduled to the evening because of too many snow days. Or the time that we were warned not to be seen attending services at the rogue Black Catholic church (led by an ex-communicated renegade priest whose new church now happens to be in the building behind our old school).

Given that I am reflecting on an era in the mid to late 80s when there was rapid change in every direction, it might be easy to overlook the impact of demographic shifts in the county where my school was located. Until the late 70s, the county had been predominately white, and without making any inferences about why that might have been, the county had also been under-developed and more rural. But as more Black federal workers and military retirees settled into newly constructed suburban tract communities, the school became an attractive prospect for their daughters too. And from what I remember, the school eagerly recruited students from my inner city Catholic middle school, so there was no reason to believe that I would be entering a hostile environment.

In hindsight, it was never overtly hostile. I just believe that no one was adequately prepared for what would happen when suddenly, there was this influx of non-Catholics (mostly Black) in an environment that had been built around a 50s happy homemaker ethos. Our presence forced too much change on a school whose alumnae were expected to become good Catholic wives and mothers. It didn't help that the 80s brought rapidly changing gender norms and expectations as well. I arrived in 1986 with dreams of going to law school...can you imagine how ridiculous that must have seemed to a bunch of old-school nuns?

When I started writing this piece, I did not expect that I would come to any revised conclusions about my high school experiences, but it seems that I have. The article that prompted this reflection recounts the fate of two young friends, one who unfortunately self-destructed; thankfully, none of my peers suffered that same fate. For the most part, we've all done very well so maybe I should blame those nuns for some of our successes.

Because I definitely had a chip on my shoulder that propelled me to defy what I felt were their low expectations. I was never disrespectful and I never caused any trouble, but I stood my ground and stayed in those Honors classes. By the grace of God I went to Spelman--a school that I had been told was out of my reach. When I graduated from law school, it felt like the ultimate repudiation. I not only survived private school, I thrived.

Indeed, not all Black girls survive private school, and a lot of the reactions I have seen to that piece confirm that so many of us can relate. It is also true that there are spaces in this world that are difficult to navigate regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical attributes, ability, socioeconomic status, and I could keep going until I tick your box. Adolescence was brutal for practically everyone I know, but what helped us to survive was the hope that things would improve.

If you are a parent, aunt/uncle, older sibling, teacher, mentor, or neighbor to a young Black girl the message you need to share with her is that this too shall pass. It might be rough going right now, but stay the course. Do your best. Be yourself. Dream big and shoot for the moon. If you're lucky, one day you will look back on this time and smile.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Mommy Card

You know how some folks tend to complain about certain cards that get played in uncomfortable situations, like the 'race' card? (You know, because it totally makes sense to get defensive whenever race is an issue in an obviously racial situation.) Or the 'woman' card because somehow, being a woman comes with all of these perks and advantages like pay inequity and monthly periods.

During a recent job interview, there was a crucial moment when I got stuck trying to think of an appropriate response to an important question. First of all, let's mention the fact that I had my first job interview in yearzzz. Second, let's celebrate the fact that it wasn't at a fast food restaurant. And finally, let's reflect on all of the reasons why it might be a big deal for someone like me at this moment...because:

<--- THIS has been my life for the past three and a half years. Before that, I'm sure that I was sufficiently civic-minded and engaged, but I forgot about all of that because it was so long ago. Before I spent my downtime on a family trip doing laundry. Before I stopped caring that my house is really messy. Before I drove an SUV. Before people stopped calling me by my given name. Before my TV options included PBS Kids and really bad Disney sitcoms. Before I became susceptible to the type of embarrassing brain freeze that causes one to forget an entire chunk of relevant life experience.

Before the Kid. Here is my Mommy Card.

Alas, no one is all that interested in hearing about any of the nonsense I endure on a given day. Like the fact that my child appears to be rejecting all of the potty training that she has received, so it makes perfect sense that she would be wearing her ballet tutu when I arrived to pick her up from school. It is not at all strange that she can recite the list of items that come in an Old McDonald's Happy Meal but cannot tell me where she hid the toothpaste tube. It is just another normal day when she shouts 'Christmas' in response to a request to clean up her toys.

Unfortunately, the Mommy card doesn't pack the same punch as the others. And it doesn't help that there are people in this world who peddle foolishness disguised as biblical truth. You know, people who preach the gospel of selfless contentedness. The type of person who might not appreciate why I would want to work outside of the home after all of these years. The person who posted this ---->

What makes her so happy? Why don't I share in any of the joy she lists here? I love Jesus too, so what the heck is my problem???

Suddenly I feel like I'm back at that interview and this is the instant replay of that pivotal question. Before my brain freezes and my mind trails off to wonder about the unidentified stain on this suit which I haven't worn in two years, I sit up straight like a seasoned poker player and put my cards on the table:

I am the Busy Black Woman. I have a three year old Busy Black Child. To the extent that my attendance at various civic and community activities was possible (i.e., stroller accessible, didn't interfere with her sleeping/feeding schedule, kid-friendly, or child care was available), I participated. Now that she is older, I hope that I will be available to do more during those hours that she is in school. If that works for you, wonderful. If not, then I appreciate your time and you can validate my parking.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sundowning, Birthday Blues and Other Side Effects of the Season

It is December 1st, and y'all, I am really going to try this year...despite my Grinchy inclinations, despite my annoyance with various family members, despite my exhaustion, and despite the fact that this time of year exposes all of the flaws in my life (all the proof that I am really just a Busy Black hot mess). I am really going to try not to give in to end of the year despair.

But it doesn't help that once my birthday comes in a few days, I will have truly hit that point where there is a lot more life in my rearview mirror than in my windshield. Maybe. Because I could live to be 90 years old or more, and I hope that I could live that long in good health and in my right mind. Maybe. And with something to show for all of that time.

Maybe this book that I started writing this summer, but have not revisited since September, will have been a best-seller at some point in the next 45 years and I will get a New York Times profile article that acknowledges my body of writing. Maybe I will get to talk about my writing process and share how I kept at it for years in obscurity until one fateful day. Because every writer dreams of being able to share that journey, and so it is my hope that I will get that opportunity at some point.

But can I be honest?

When it is a few days before your next milestone birthday, and you are surveying all of your nonaccomplishments and unfulfilled dreams, it is really easy to get depressed. It is so easy to see the carefully curated lives of your peers and acquaintances and still be envious, even though you suspect there is a lot hiding in plain sight that you just aren't noticing. But even if you did notice their imperfections, you would still convince yourself that yours are more obvious.

So you take on tasks that you hope will help you to achieve something. You keep trying, in spite of the fact that for years you have felt like a fraud. You have been writing for yourself. That success is illusory. That whenever you thought you had the chance to ascend to another level, life intervened and you failed to overcome the obstacles. That whenever life intervenes, it is in service to someone else's needs, definitely not yours. That it often feels that those voices that urge you to support others are only speaking to you. That those encouraging memes and sayings and motivational posters and stuff--all nice for decorating empty walls, but not much else.

But you've realized a few truths about life in the last few years. Never say never. Expect the unexpected. Just when you are about to throw in the towel, you have to use it. And that graveyards are full of bones and stones. As long as you are among the living, you can still pursue your dreams.

I can still pursue my dreams or can dream new ones if I have outgrown the old ones. I can see this birthday as a starting point. I can be proud that I have the means and ability to support others, which is a blessing. I can look in that rearview mirror and smile about a lot of what is behind me. I can choose the road ahead of me. Here I come.