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29 to Life: The Movie????

I knew it would eventually happen.
Looks like there’s a movie out that share’s the title of my blog.
No check for me. I didn’t bother to buy a domain for the blog, so there’s nothing to fight over. However, it’s very funny to just google my blog and see a movie is out this year!
The good news is, my blog appears right front and center on the google search! Maybe I’ll get some new followers! Tee hee!
Thank you for your service, movie people… But maybe I should watch it, just in case they took some inspiration from this blog and a check is in order…
Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog!


How Prepared Are You Really for a Natural Disaster or Emergency?

I like being prepared or at least feeling prepared.

I can be meticulous about meetings and presentations, especially if I am the one who is leading it.

I ponder and stew on possibilities, I aim to think of my audience, or stakeholders and I try to anticipate how they take in my information and how they can apply it in a meaningful way.

I care about how I look, and that the technology in the room is working correctly. Conference call numbers are given in advance, I edit Powerpoint and ensure I am able to share the visuals with remote participants. I show up early to test the equipment and if I have five minutes to spare, I use it to take the final breath before I dive in.

Usually things work out, and folks are impressed.

I like being prepared when I travel. I print out everything, and I look up restaurants and shopping wherever I’m headed, ready to make a suggestion when everyone else is tired, hungry and indecisive. I make sure I have necessities that are useful to myself and even to my traveling partners. I’m the one who thinks of poopoori (the toilet spray. I’m the REAL MVP), pain relievers, hand sanitizer, feminine products.

But it didn’t occur to me until recently after seeing so much loss, devastation in areas like Houston, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that when it comes to preparation for emergencies, I really didn’t have a plan. And I knew better. I really did. So much so, as a young reporter, when the rain came down harder and harder and Hurricane Katrina was making her presence known along the Gulf Coast, me and other young reporters were having a meal and telling each other to ignore the pages blowing up our beepers from the office for at least five minutes, before we all answered and headed out to cover it. Little did we know what was coming in the days, weeks and months ahead. Little did we know the privilege we had because we were reporters… more on that later.

The U.S. government has a website called Ready.gov and they show a series of commercials that poke fun at families half-assing emergency drills and preparing by not preparing at all, or considering their conversation about preparation being sufficient.

But as people who the general masses may consider conspiracy theorists gear up for God-knows-what November 4, while I hope things are smooth and no electromagnetic pulses, or Antifa wars uprisings start, it got me to thinking about natural disasters, and also times like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. Even being not far from Baltimore and seeing the curfews put in place during the Baltimore uprising where people are told to stay home, I wondered how long could I stay in my home and what kind of rations would I be able to adequately live off of, or do I have a bag ready in case I needed to make a move quickly.

Back in the day, as a reporter, because you were so busy working the story, I didn’t realize how much my parent company looked out for our basic needs. We were safe and had options even if our homes had damage, or no electricity or running water. The newspaper paid for hotel rooms where we could rest and shower, the newspaper offices had generators, and although we got sick of pizza, there was always food to eat and a dry, safe place to be.

We were provided with gas for our personal cars, and rentals to help us get around to report the news. Our minds were generally clear, our personal security in tact as we poured ourselves into meeting people struggling with the devastation and the unknown and being able to accurately tell their stories and help them get help from the rest of the nation and the world. We’d visit makeshift communities set up by FEMA, emotionally drained by the end of the day, but secure in knowing we had someplace safe to go ourselves, not a shelter with strangers.

But now that I’m a civilian, I realize if something does pop off it’s all on me.

I think there’s a value to making sure everyone keeps basics in their homes and that’s why me and my boyfriend are making an emergency kit.

I realized I’m not Katniss, and shows like the Walking Dead started to come to mind. I wondered if faced with disaster and lack of modern conveniences, how would I fare? It made my heart tighten for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who are still roughing it, thinking of creative ways to survive and take care of their most vulnerable citizens who still need a lot of help. Their new normal is far from the life they are used to. Like those people, when faced with such disaster and uncertainty, they are winging it too and doing what humans are built to do, adjust. I don’t ever want to be in a position to find out.

I don’t think we realize just how fortunate we are and how much we depend on technology to do really basic things. As an 80s baby, I think our generation is the generation who remembered simpler times in an analog world, while we don’t have a problem with technology, we won’t bust a blood vessel if the wi-fi is down… temporarily, of course.

Bear in mind, in the US and in highly developed countries, our dependence on technology and our seemingly inability to function without it, should make us all reevaluate how we think about our needs and wants. I have various friends who have traveled to other countries and everyone comes back saying the same thing, there are healthy, happy people living in places where we would be afraid to lay our heads, thriving and being fulfilled not by stuff and technology, but by human interactions, kindness, ingenuity to make something out of nothing, or out of garbage.

Having clean water is simply a blessing that people don’t take for granted. After studying public health, having a place to use the bathroom without contaminating your entire community is a VERY BIG DEAL. Using fire and making delicious meals for an entire community is not unusual for people living in other parts of the world. Could we do the same, if forced to? Would there be something within us, some instinct that would show us the way?

Sometimes I force myself to carry cash, and the times I’ve been told computers were down, I was relieved I could move to the front of the line, while everyone else scrambled and were literally frozen, or demanding that they try the machines again. And this wasn’t during some kind of disaster. Carrying cash is not like being able to fish, or clean and then cook a fish over a fire, but small steps…. See, doesn’t that sound silly? First-world problems, yall. First world problems.

It makes me think, do I have non-aromatherapy candles? A well-stocked first aid kit? Do I have non-perishable goods, that I’d be willing to eat if necessary? Do I have batteries, and a good supply of water?

I’m not the type of person who likes to dwell on doomsday scenarios, but weather disasters happen. Living in the DC area during 9/11 and being from NY reminds me of the panic of not being able to use a cell phone, and the relief of being able to contact family with landlines.

We live in highly uncertain times, and while I’m not sure if I’d win the Hunger Games our outlast thousands of zombies based on sheer will and learn-as-you-go survival skills, I’d like to give myself and the ones I love a small head start.

So I’ll start with an emergency kit. I hope you do too.

Diner en Blanc Baltimore, We Got In!!!

If you thought you heard a high-pitched squeal anywhere in downtown DC, a little after Noon today, that would be me.

Me and one of my dear friends will be going to Diner en Blanc in Baltimore in just a few short weeks. (Check out the Forbes article that breaks it all down.)

I’m thrilled, I’m amped and I’m excited. I’ve heard about Diner en Blanc which started more than 20 years ago by a Frenchman who basically invited a select group of friends to dress elegantly in all white and set up a picnic in a beautiful public space and enjoy each other’s company. Truth be told, I’ve been starved for an event that requires people to put in some thought and effort. I’ve lamented in this blog how our casual attitude towards our lives, our meals, our going out and our interactions have really just made us a blah society. I can rock with some of the formality and style of the French and Italian and folks in other countries. Joie de vivre. Enjoy life. Enjoy each bite of food and swallow of drink and wear nice clothes and engage and enjoy your company. Put care into the smaller details. Yup, sign me up, if only for one night.

Each year, invitees from the previous year invited other friends, and it grew. It grew so much that the event has been taking place in major cities all over the world. At this point, thousands of people show up to appointed places at appointed times and then are sent by foot, public transportation or chartered buses to the selected spot. The spots have ranged from the Louvre in Paris, to the Usain Bolt Track in Jamaica. DC revelers have even partied at the foot of the Lincoln Monument. The photos are a true sight to behold.

So, when it comes to the inaugural soiree in the Charm City, one naturally assumes, we’ll wind up in the Inner Harbor. But, that may seem like the super obvious choice. So, my guess would have to include outdoor spaces that would make for great photos near iconic buildings or with potential views of the harbor.

If we don’t end up directly in the harbor, my top guesses are City Hall and Orioles Park or any area where ArtScape or the Baltimore Book Festival have taken place where large groups of people are able to gather and streets can be shut down. The Maryland Zoo and Pimlico Race Track are my wild card choices. They aren’t immediately downtown, but there will be enough spaces for buses to load and unload a bunch of folks.

My guesses include:
1. The Maryland Zoo
2. Right in front of City Hall
3. Fells Point
4. American Visionary Art Museum
5. Walter’s Art Museum
6. Oriole’s Park/ M&T Bank Stadium
7. Pimlico Race Track

There’s a lot to do. I’m using all of my strength to avoid purchasing a new outfit and try to find a lovely white number inside of my closet. I’m already against it because I feel it’s more for a power meeting at work. My go-to site is ASOS (every ASOS dress I’ve worn, the compliments pour in) and NY and Company is having a great sale. Those dresses always tend to fit me well and are made of comfy fabrics and are insanely easy to dress up with accessories due to their simplicity and versatility.

As for the shoes, I personally hate white shoes. They make everyone’s feet look like Fred Flintstone. Totally unflattering. White shoes no matter the style, make me think of the usher board and their sensible nursing shoes walking up and down the aisles at church. I do plan to follow the rules. I think gold and silver shoes are allowed, but either way, I’ll figure this out. Moving on.

I was determined about getting to my computer on time to get into the registration period for new folks, better known as Phase 3. Phase one folks are people who have attended previous events and get automatic invites to the next. From what I understand, Phase 2 folks are guests of phase one people who have attended before and Phase 3 are the newbies like me, who have never gone and managed to sign up for the wait list.

I was really excited today about being able to get in, I haven’t been this crazy about logging on exactly at 12 noon since getting tickets to see Prince. I willed Ticketmaster into submission and even went solo to increase my chances. Seeing Prince was a serious thing for me and I’m so thankful I did that. The following year, he passed away. See, good choices?

But anyway, I was amped. When I asked my boyfriend if he’d be interested if I managed to get registered, he politely declined. I let it be. He probably would have been miserable and probably the thought of him pulling together an acceptable head-to-toe white outfit in two weeks was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

My boyfriend was not about us lugging a table, chairs and our own food to a secret location dressed in all white, so this was a mission for one of the local homies who is always down for an adventure. I was able to quickly rebound from his rejection.

This homegirl is the type of homegirl who makes everything fun. Like gut, busting, silly, loud-singing, fun. I could have a bowl of cereal with her, or get lost in some random city with this chick, and shenanigans will ensue. We ALWAYS have a great time whether we are sitting around the house making mini pizzas, watching the Muppets and putting on clay face masks, or checking out an art exhibit. Yup, as soon as I sent the text, “We’re In!!” we’ve been texting and thinking of ideas on how to decorate our table… yes, that’s a thing and there’s even a prize for the best decorated tables.

According to Pinterest, folks go all out. Yes, I’ve stalked Pinterest and read every article. This is probably why my boyfriend wisely passed on attending this with me. While I’ve seen some elaborate setups, we plan to keep it simple, if for no other reason than not wanting to lug around a lot of stuff.

Diner en Blanc vets recommend having a hand truck to lug your goods. I will be investing in that.

So, yes, my boyfriend’s observation is right. He’s the more sensible one of our pair. This is a lot of work. But I’m actually very excited to pull this together and so is my home girl.

Yes, there are articles that poke fun at how much people end up spending to have a picnic in a public park, and even people calling it elitist and super snobbish because of the air of secrecy and the element of exclusivity due to the original invite only premise. There was another honest article from Washington City Paper about how much it really costs to attend one of these things, from buying or renting tables and chairs and linens, buying your own food vs. buying directly from Diner en Blanc to ordering your wine or champagne, because you can’t bring your own. Sniff, sniff. The costs do add up. I did go ahead and buy one bottle of wine through the website after registering, because dang, after all of that, it’s not about to be dry. We will need to toast. That is non-negotiable.

Is it bourgeois? Most certainly. I don’t care. We live in perilous times. I’m desperately seeking Trump-free, non-partisan, fuck-my-student-loan, joy.

It’s a moment to share with thousands of people, on a hopefully lovely night weather wise. Sure, people will be doing it for the ‘gram hard core, it’s a social media wet dream. Serious, google the pics. But, I really am interested in doing something unique this summer and just having a really great time, even if there is a bit of effort that goes into all of this. I’ve been looking for moments to engage in joyful things, and looking at pics from all over the world, I know that this is it.

I want to see other people’s creativity with their tables, what they decided to bring to eat, and then enjoy the entertainment and dance the night away with a breathtaking Baltimore backdrop.

So let’s get it.

Pop Culture Is No Longer for You After 30. Guess What? That’s Perfectly OK

We are self-centered. We are built that way. We know nothing else.
I’m not saying this in a bad or negative way. I’m saying it in the I-only-have-one-life-i-can-never-be-anyone-else kind of way.
Our perspective is the only one we can go on. Can we empathize and sympathize with others? Yes, and we should so we don’t become complete assholes and are able to have successful healthy relationships with the other people we share this planet and our lives with.
So we don’t see it. As kids, our parents usually center their lives around us, and then as teenagers, we know that this world is all about us, for us and eagerly waiting for us to grow up so we can solve all the problems and make this place better, because we have the energy and the heart and we aren’t jaded.
In college, we attempt to equip ourselves with the intellectual tools, to in fact, go out there and make the world a better place, make the workplace a better place and be able to afford the lives we want.
So during those kid through college times, there’s a lot of marketing geared towards us, and towards us nagging our parents to get us the things we swear we need, so we can run faster, be cooler, etc.
The marketplace seems to be for the young. The music, the pop culture, the clothes we see on the racks in the stores.
It’s not until you reach your 30s, you realize that your tastes are changing and that you are looking elsewhere to find the types of things you want to spend your money on. Or based on certain habits, those things are finding you.
Over the years, I find myself in the mall less and less. I’m either bored or outraged with the options.
I look around in the mall, and I see kids who seem so young, but they are in their 20s. Then, I see women my age or older attempting to wear the same clothes, and I feel embarrassed. I try not to look too hard, but I can’t help it.
Then a moment of fear comes over me. When I’m not at work, do I have some ill-fitting clothes? Should I give up on shorts as my 40-something sister has resolved to do?
I wouldn’t take it that far, but I am conscious that I don’t have the same body I did in my 20s, and I think that’s perfectly fine. I actually am pretty glad about it. While there are certainly things I can improve to make sure I’m not cutting off circulation, or I can triumphantly put on certain slacks or skirts without elastic waists, but generally, I’m cool.
Things are going to continue to change, so I need to care about my health and I need to do my part to ease the aging process on my body. Fine.
But, I do notice my distance (ok, complete lack of knowledge of) from current slang and lingo. I gravitate to certain radio stations and certain music, and I don’t know who some of the biggest stars are now, because I hate their music. Me and my friends commiserate over how wack the new hip hop is, and discuss with great affection the old days of the 80s, 90s and 2000s. We gasp that some of our favorite movies are older than 20 years old, or that some of our favorite musicians have been gone for that long too. Some newer artists that I’m giving a chance to, I notice in their lyrical content, or even the style of how they are singing, they are not of my generation. They are something else, they are speaking to someone else. They are speaking to their peers and not to me.
It’s ok that 20-somethings have SZA, because I had Lauyrn Hill, Mary J. Blige and they were speaking and still speak to me on certain levels.
A lot of women spend their 30s wanting to turn back the clock, and we can’t. Even if we did, what we think we’re looking for is no longer there and we won’t fit as we are.
So, we have to embrace the present. We have to champion the things we like, and the things we love with no apology.
Blast the music you love to blast. Play a CD or vinyl if you like. Rock those jeans in the larger size, they look just as good as long as they fit your body correctly. Eat that piece of cake. Take a walk later. Go for a swim. Dance for three songs straight while you’re blasting the music.
We spend our teens trying to eek out who we are based on who we were around, who raised us, who we wanted to be like and who we didn’t want to be like.
We spend our 20s really trying to validate all of those findings.
I don’t want to spend my 30s searching for youth in a time that does not belong to me. I want to spend my 40s free and my 50s in unapologetic truth, bliss and satisfaction with the life I’ve been leading.
So, maybe we’ve passed a time where everything appeared to be for us, be it t.v., fashion and music.
That’s ok.
Because being older means being wiser and it also means enjoying the satisfaction of truly doing you.

The Pleasant Practice of Finding Joy

I’m in a book club. I’ve mentioned this lovely group of former co-workers who I join throughout the year to discuss books. We normally discuss books that are related to race in America as we are a diverse group, in age, race, marital status, children or none.

I love meeting with these women and sharing thoughts on such things, which turns out to be enlightening for all parties. It’s a safe haven, with excellent conversation and amazing treats and goodies to eat. The hugs and laughter is warm and genuine. It’s a respite.

But in reading these types of books, whether fiction or non fiction, I found as a black woman, I was greatly fatigued. I enjoy reading for fun, but dissecting Baldwin and DuBois or even looking at fictitious works by black authors, and the natural, normal pain of generational trauma that shows up in the subtle and overt, it just wore me out.

So, this summer, we are taking a break. I suggested that we find fun books to read or something from the arts, and we share that with one another.

I’m on a hunt for joyous things. I’m quite interested in pleasure. Kicking that off, I watched Julie Dash’s Tour de Force and the rumored inspiration for Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” “Daughters of the Dust.”

There was something very beautiful about seeing black women, young and old always wearing white and living lives of simplicity, isolated on an island where they could trace their ancestry back to the Africans who landed on those shores in chains.

Living on that island without whatever modern luxuries of the 1920s were, they worked hard to raise families and feed the entire community, everyone shared, everyone did their part, everyone respected the elders and lavished love on the children.

Even among the young women, there was an air of innocence still, and they played and danced and ran along the beach wild-eyed and free. Even the cousins who may have gone off to the mainland and tease them for being country and isolated and naive, could not deny the ties that brought them back home, feeling familiar, feeling safe and loved, eating familiar foods.

Watching that film, and after reading so many books fiction and non fiction, while struggle is a large part of life, carving out those moments of joy seem all the more important.

I think of how I feel when I hear a great song, or watch a beautiful play or see gifted dancers dance.

I think of what my favorite foods taste like, crab legs on a summer day sitting on a large deck facing the water in Annapolis, or floating on my back in clear waters in the Caribbean.

I think of laying in my bed with the one I love and turning over to kiss him good morning and see he’s already awake and looking happy and serene and I’m the reason.

So, this summer, the idea of joy and pleasure come to mind. What people, places and things make me feel good when the working day is done?

Where can I find moments of joy during my work day and after? I don’t have to wait until the weekend.

Am I making time for pleasurable moments? Can I walk slower from lunch? Why am I rushing all of the time?

Do my sheets smell and feel good when I get in my bed at night?

Did I drive a different way home? Did I use fresh groceries to make my meal?

Did I have a good conversation with someone I love or haven’t spoken to in a while?

Have I let go of some dumb shit from the past that has nothing to do with the present?

I’ve asked my friends on Facebook to share with me things that bring them joy and if it is a book, or recipe or whatever, I’d like to experience that. It can be music, a YouTube video, a restaurant recommendation. Whatever brings a feeling of joy and comfort, I’m interested.

What’s With the Holes In the Shirts?

The $1,625 T-shirt. NY Daily News

Hey everyone. I’ve been having a lot of back-to-back “I’m an old-head moments” as of late.

I’m 35, and I’ve been peeping my very persistent strands of grey hairs from time-to-time and I attempted to watch the Billboard Awards and I didn’t know who a majority of the acts were. Then, on top of that, I was most excited about performances by Celine Dion and Cher and shaking my head in disbelief that the biggest movie of my teens, “Titanic” had turned 20 when I wasn’t looking. This is some nonsense.

Then, I told my sister on the phone to hold because I had a meatloaf in the oven.

I might as well invest in a “Clapper.”

Da party done.

My most recent shopping trip involved key grown lady things.

I had to get a bodyshaping navy bodysuit, because I was wearing a formal dress that had serious sideboob, if I was going for drama. I was not. The navy bodysuit would help me accomplish the goal of remaining tasteful if I happened to raise my arms, without ruining the dress. I had several comments including “regal.”

At 35, being sexy is fine, but there’s something kind of cool about being described as regal.

Then, during this trip, I was bugging out because Ann Taylor Loft had a sale. I swear I really started digging Ann Taylor and Loft and I just don’t remember when it happened, but hey, I’m glad it did. It’s the right lane for me in terms of stuff to wear for work and casual stuff that I can jazz up in my own way.

So, yeah, after buying another pair of cargo pants but in a lovely pale blue color, and a great sweater jacket perfect for work all under $60, I was on a high.

But I needed one more thing. Inserts for the shoes I’d be wearing to the wedding I was going to later that day.

As you get older, you stop making fashion sacrifices for your feet. When your feet hurt, you are miserable. You can’t walk another block, you can’t make it across the dance floor, you beg for mercy. So, proper inserts are a practical and life-altering move that you will be happy you made, because, hey, you are grown.

Speaking of fashion decisions as we get older, I think the cold-shoulder trend looks great, but in my opinion it’s tooo trendy. That’s why I refuse to buy a cold-shoulder dress, shirt, tank or sweater. Once this trend it’s done, it’s so done. I’ve even advised my friends not to go this route. Instead, I offer up off the shoulder looks. I think off the shoulder is a steady classic that always comes back around. Cut outs at the shoulder are past its prime.

Speaking of random holes and things. I’ve been really confused about tee shirts, sweatshirts and whatever else with raggedy holes in them. Ah, the distressed look. Pardon me. Cosmo gives a primer on the stars rocking this trend.

It certainly follows the whole Walking Dead, Hunger Games Kanye Fashion thing, which he will probably take credit for. One really holey shirt is running a cool $1600… Yeah. Hell naw.

I don’t know about you, but our parents and their parents worked really hard to supply us with good clothes. When they had holes in their clothes, they worked hard to patch them up.

So why are people going around looking like swiss cheese? I know, I sound so old. But, I’m genuinely confused.

Ripped jeans or holes in jeans? I’m down for that all day long. But these struggle swiss cheese shirts? They just look really raggedy.

Does anyone else feel old? What current trends have you shaking your head?

A Mother’s Love Will Transcend Mental Illness

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and for all of us– whether you have a great relationship with your mom, or you don’t, or she’s passed away or still with us– people take the time to reflect on the power and love of moms.

I think that’s a good thing, because none of us would be here without our mothers (we literally couldn’t live without them for 9 months), and I’m told that becoming a mother is a unique experience that infuses you with a love you’ve never experienced before, but can’t imagine living without once you’ve crossed that threshold.

Mother’s Day is emotional for a lot of people, and for very different reasons, and it should be.

It gives us time to be thankful for not only the women who brought us into the world and cared for us, but all of the women standing in the gap when maybe our own biological mothers couldn’t be mentally or physically present.

It gives us an opportunity to show love to our friends who are mothers and to let them know, “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.”

I tend to feel strange about Mother’s Day because of the situation with my mother. I’ve spoken about this before on this blog, but I want to reach out to children of mothers struggling with mental illness specifically.

Mother’s Day can be difficult, but try to be present and show your love the best way you can. Even if it’s just saying to your mom, “I love you.” Or, “Thank you.” She still needs to hear it.

When I was younger, all I wanted was for my mother to be fixed, healed and back to herself. I wondered if there were ways I could give her a push. I wanted her problems solved, her pains eased, and I wanted to go back to having a normal life. I cared about her, but I cared about me. I cared about what I felt I was lacking because my mom just couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t leave the house, she couldn’t put on her nice clothes and be her old self. She was selfish, I was the child. Why was she putting me in this awful position? I still needed her. I was robbed.

Now that I’m older, I can’t imagine how difficult that must be. For your world to change, to know you have a teenage daughter and a husband and a grown daughter far away, but you are out of gas. You can’t keep up with the life you built for yourself, and maybe that life somehow became a prison. What is it like to not feel like you have a support system to start trying to let people know something’s not right before getting swallowed whole.

I think of arguments I’ve had with my mother and they were always about me and my loss and my anger and what I needed from her. I think of moments where I didn’t try hard enough when she was trying to be present, and how much that probably hurt, because on that day, it was probably the very best she could do, but I was still mad, and that effort wasn’t good enough, because only good enough was her going back to normal. But my vision of normal may have been the hell that broke her. Keeping that up for me and for my father and for everyone else, may have just been too much.

I was very jealous of friends who had close relationships with their mothers, and knew it would be a miracle to ever get my mother out of our house to go to a tea, or spa, or fancy brunch.

I’m madly in love right now (it’s about time, right) and I think of marriage often. I think about my wedding day and I also think about feeling a sense of emptiness on one of the most happiest days of my life, because as I’m getting ready, I will have a circle of women friends and family I hold near and dear, but my mother will be missing from another major life event because of her paranoia, depression and anxiety.

I get sad thinking about my father having to support his child in this moment, but not be able to share it with his wife together as happy, proud parents.

Because it’s Mother’s Day, I don’t want to make this post about me and the loss I feel. But over time, I do feel like I’ve come to accept things for what they are. Keep in mind this has taken nearly 20 years. I accept and understand the fragility of all of our emotional and spiritual well being and there are things we may never ever know about the people we love, the past traumas hidden deep, and burdens our loved ones shoulder to protect us.

I do believe that my mother gave all she could give to me prior to her illness and what she gave me was enough. She got me to 16 and in some ways, she still has me. It’s just different now. I had so many women throughout my life step in and nurture me, guide me and cheer me on, no matter what state I lived in.

They may have been older than me, they may have been peers, they may have been mothers or aunties of my friends who I connected with or who saw something in me to give me some special love.

We are a community. So if you are a child of a mother who has a mental illness, or even dealt with issues around substance abuse, or maybe your mother is incarcerated. These circumstances will make you feel self-conscious about who you are, it will make you afraid that you will become your mother and manage to hurt the people you love the same way her circumstance hurt you, it may even make you ashamed or even over protective of your mother and you stress yourself out over what the world may perceive your mother to be or not be.

Having that struggle is okay. Don’t avoid asking yourself all of those questions, don’t ignore being angry about what’s happening to your family. All of your feelings are real and valid. But it is on you to figure out how to heal and it is on you to actually take the necessary steps to heal.

Now as an adult woman and being a friend to other women and hearing the stories of their lives, there’s absolutely no shame in our moms who struggle. Yes, their struggle is more visible, but they still struggle. Part of my mom’s illness is probably directly connected to her wanting to appear strong and in control and I see that in her when I visit.

I know so many women who have dealt with great losses, who have endured mental and physical abuse (almost always by people who should be protecting and loving them– never creepy strangers as we are led to believe), and have suffered in silence for years and years. Then the expectation is that they forget and carry on as if nothing happened.

They carry this pain while fighting off their own insecurities and the ones tossed at them by society. All of this secret pain happening is happening in far too many women. So it makes me think of our mothers and our mothers’ mothers who lived in very different times. They didn’t go to or couldn’t afford therapy or even luxurious vacations or spa trips. They had to really live with their pain. Swallow it, and be expected to smile, take care of children, grown men and not nurture their own spirits.

The neglect of a woman’s spirit has serious consequences to families and to society.

Our mothers paid in pain so maybe we’d at least have a little less. In their deepest hopes lies our happiness and success, even if they never come close to having it themselves. The generational emotional sacrifices mother’s make can’t even be quantified. Mothers can look down the road and see what’s ahead and they sacrifice themselves to make our journey a bit easier. They know what it is to be a woman, they know the burden.

I know my mother loves me. I know she worries about me and I know she wants me to be happy. She always asks about my health, if I have enough money and if my love life is good. No matter her condition, she’s always asked about what I NEEDED.

Gaining this deeper understanding makes me realize that a mother’s love can transcend mental illness just as it can physical illnesses or distance. We may never know the toughest decisions our mothers had to make to save us, to keep us alive and to keep our spirits alive so we could thrive and know something better, even if their lives are a reminder of the importance of our self care and our mental health.

You’re Trippin, He’s Not A Racist. Enjoy Your Vacation, Girl.

I hate to admit it, but I often have myself on high alert in public spaces to see how people treat each other and treat me.

This alert has heightened since using public transportation everyday, where passive aggressive behavior and social/class/racial warfare by way of microaggressions happen as naturally as breathing.

There’s the hierarchy of who goes first, who takes up space and who should make themselves smaller. Empty seats next to other humans on crowded trains and the quiet refusal to just sit down.

I’m particularly interested in how these things play out when I’m traveling. I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Jamaica, I got some rest, I made incredible memories with my amazing boyfriend and I got to experience a culture and a world different from my own. Food was awesome, water and sunshine was a balm to my soul.

I always appreciate traveling within countries that are tied to the Black diaspora, because I still feel at home. The folks working in the hotels and during the tours seem to have a certain familiarity and even if they are playing it up for better tips, they successfully increase my comfort level and I tip generously. I get hookups.

I recently read a story about a black man from Zimbabwe visiting a posh hotel in Uganda who jumped into a pool to enjoy it like the other guests. The white guests left the pool immediately. He posted a pic to social media and said that it was nice to have the pool to himself so it was their loss. Others have lamented that it’s absolutely odd to go to a country of black folks, have no problem with said black people in service roles, but all exit the pool when a black person who appears to be on or above your socio economic level is enjoying the same experience as you.

A moment I had at the beautiful Dunns River Falls totally came to mind.

Like the man from Zimbabwe, I was determined to not let someone’s ignorance ruin the extraordinary experience, and I even waited to tell my boyfriend later.

Our tour group was nearly 40 strong.

The first part of our day, we’d play in the freshwater of Dunns River Falls, take photos then off to Usain Bolt’s restaurant Tracks and Records for lunch and then we’d wind through the highest of hills to visit the home and final resting place of Bob Marley.

Our travel companions collected from hotels all over Montego Bay came from various parts of the globe: Americans, Canadians, English and German.

A key part of ascending Dunns River Falls is forming a human chain by holding hands to make the 600 foot climb. Our tour guides were full of energy, ready to serve as cameramen, cheerleaders and occasional spotters as we navigated the rocks, and shallow pools serving as resting areas and places to pose for pics and play.

The guides arranged us boy girl, boy girl, so men could help the women behind them. Cool. At first it’s awkward holding the hand of a stranger, but we all came for the same experience. So people loosened up, especially if they had a slip or two in the water, the hand you held was indeed a life-saver.

For most of the trip, the gentleman in front of me was a pleasant guy, who was traveling with his girlfriend. They were Americans. He was happy to support me and help me up, while my boyfriend was behind me. We all laughed while taking funny pictures at the different stopping points and all was well.

Somehow the order of our group changed up toward the end. This time, a German couple was ahead of me. There were natural points where the group began to link hands to climb tricky areas, but this new arrangement changed up. The group started to link hands again and I was about to reach forward to take the German man’s hand. Just as I had done with the fellow American ahead of me.

He never looked back.

I waited.

He started awkwardly rubbing his head or stretching his fingers or using both hands to help his lady, until I started climbing on my own or turned to my boyfriend.

I tried to think of every semi logical reason to eliminate what I already knew it was.

Maybe my slim, five-foot-nine, usually pleasant, quiet demeanor boyfriend made him anxious about touching me?

Maybe he is an Orthodox Jew? They do not touch women. Ha.

Ok, I had to laugh at myself for that one. Hell naw.

He continued to avoid looking at me, as I climbed the rocks super carefully. I missed my original partner who was further up the group, oblivious and helping others just the same as he helped me throughout our climb. At this point, behind me, my boyfriend was dutifully helping some other American women who were a bit heavy navigate the rocks.

So, I kept climbing, and muttered to myself that I didn’t need him, or his funky assistance and I was glad not to touch him due to some hideous rash on his back anyway.

And then, I gleefully took more photos and kissed my boyfriend under a waterfall.

I waited till much later to tell my boyfriend, and he told me to not let it get to me and that we were going to have a great time and you gotta let stuff like that roll off your back.

But I’m very interested in social science. I wondered out loud how a white person could go to a country of black people, have no problem with the folks serving them. They smile, laugh and make jokes, but then have cold interactions, ignore or even cut other black patrons in the lines without a second thought? My boyfriend just shook his head.

My boyfriend and I purchased the video of our climb. And we laughed at ourselves while watching it. We bragged that we were the best looking couple and made the video great. But whenever the camera turned to the German man, I saw something that speaks to that phenomenon. The same man who avoided touching my hand, neglecting to offer me any assistance despite the language barrier was suddenly someone else who I didn’t get to encounter. In the video, the German man happily parroted back phrases like “ya mon” and “I love Jamaica” and “No Problem” on que and high-fiving the black tour guide and mugging for the black photographer,  I couldn’t help but feel bothered.

Maybe he can’t touch women.

Maybe my boyfriend was scary.

Maybe I’m too sensitive.


David Chappelle Vs. Key and (mostly) Peele in 2017: Game Blouses

I’d like to start off by saying, Dave Chappelle started it.

He came for Key and Peele and he continues to do it in interviews and in his recent comedy special on Netflix. Now either it’s healthy professional jealousy, i.e. Chappelle and Kevin Hart, or it’s coming from a real place.

I think it’s the latter.
However, I’d also like to say, I have been a huge Dave Chappelle fan over the years. So much so, in my college newspaper office, I delightfully annoyed everyone around me quoting from various sketches from his wildly popular “Chappelle Show.” I was depressed when he said no to what would be a wack ass final season that Comedy Central threw together without him. I purchased all seasons of the show, including the wack ass last season, and I’ve only done that for one other series, “Sex and the City.” I was so annoyed with “Girlfriends” work- out-the-kinks season one, I never purchased it. I may go back and complete the set because I adore Tracee Ellis Ross.

Anyway, the point of this post is, these days, I’m conflicted about Dave Chappelle, who he was, who he is now and who I am when I first enjoyed his comedy as a college student, to where I am now, at 35, in a post-Obama, Trumptonian world.

A lot has changed.

In today’s woke world, these are murky, fickle times for a black artist. While political anti-Trump satirists are killing it, folks are arguing since Chappelle’s latest stand up on Netflix (Chappelle ain’t so antiquated to see the coins in streaming), he’s behind the times. He hasn’t grown. Folks weren’t particularly thrilled with his jokes about rape, transgendered people and the LGBT community. And during those moments, I cringed too. Even his jokes about race– where Chappelle originally created a lane of his own, they just didn’t have the same punch. Some say he phoned it in. Some critics from GQ argued that he came out there like a rich guy in his 40s who lives in Ohio, which is exactly what Dave is. Some argued his performance was just want America needed right now, no political correctness, tell it like it is. But it seems like the folks who love the no-holds-barred, say whatever you want brand of comedy are typically white, male, are heterosexual, and able-bodied. No one is saying Dave should become Sinbad (known for a successful clean comedy career), but I wonder. I expected to laugh the way I did as a college student, while watching the special and I was disappointed that I didn’t. Who changed? Him, or me?

It was probably me.
I had the biggest laughs in the first show of two about millennials and about him taking his son to a Kevin Hart show and being a hater about it.

Which brings me to Key and Peele. They were certainly beneficiaries that filled the void post Chappelle, but brought a different, awkward spin on not only racial comedy but pop culture. My favorite skit was about absurd names of athletes during introductions of televised sporting events. But, they were a mirror of the times– here are two bi-racial comedians commenting on the world, pointing out things from their point of view. They were younger, and as Chappelle was to me in college, they had an audience too (current statistics say there are 9 million people who identify as bi-racial in the US not saying all of them watched the show, but just saying the racial and cultural make up of the world is changing and will continue. The browning of the world, and climate change is real, folks). We had a bi-racial commander-in-chief. America collectively thought we were one big happy family. When it came to dealing with race in comedy, Chappelle brought it in a clever, honest way, during a Bush administration we are affectionately remembering these days. Bush the second is mild by today’s standards. He was Tupac, while Key and Peele may have been more like an MC Hammer or a Will Smith. It’s still rap. But it’s happy rap.

It appears that Chappelle was still smarting over the fact that the longer format for sketches was something he had to fight for while Key and Peele were able to do it effortlessly and make it the cornerstone of their show. He even said so during an interview. But instead of being salty that they took the format and ran with it, I think Dave should take comfort  in the fact that sometimes, Key and Peele’s skits were too long and they drained the juice out of it. They may have expanded on Chappelle’s format, but they didn’t necessarily elevate it. Your legacy is still in tact, Dave. Chappelle’s long sketches were solid from beginning to end and never ran out of steam.
But doesn’t this happen to all trailblazers? You fight to make it easier for the folks coming behind you. It just is what it is. Charge it to the game.
I’ve been thinking though.

Moreso about Jordan Peele than Keegan Kay. Peele came out of nowhere and hit us over the head with “Get Out” a new modern, American classic horror film. It was a huge hit and a cultural phenomoneon. Peele took it to another level. Peele made an excellent movie that was both for and not for the white gaze, which makes it even more brilliant.

Chappelle always said white frat boys were the ones who packed his shows and remembered him from the immature, weeded out cult classics like “Halfbaked” or “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” It seemed black folks came along once Chappelle really started heating up on his own show.

So, is it just that simple? Chappelle performs for his core? As a black artist, once black people start liking you en masse, do you have to perform a certain way? Do you need to tailor your content? Who are you really performing for?

I’ll say it, for a lot of Black folks, they’d say they found Key and Peele corny, save for a few skits. So, wouldn’t Chappelle, Key and Peele have more in common than meets the eye? All three were cool black dudes to white folks. Can’t we all just get along and get this money?

In my mind, Peele is winning in today’s times moreso than Chappelle. That’s just clear through the heavy critiques circulating about Chappelle’s specials. In today’s times, it’s to be expected. Social media and the saturation of blogs gives everyone a seat to critique and thinkpiece til their heart’s content, and someone, somewhere will agree or disagree. But it’s unfair, Peele has moved in a completely different direction, movie-making. And while I still break out Dave’s musical documentary “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” right up there with “Wattstax” still totally different balls of wax, different genres, different goals.

I think both movies were total labors of love for each, but Peele came for everyone’s necks. I think “Get Out” was Jordan Peele’s Beyoncé Black Ass Superbowl performance where she introduced “Formation.” No one was ready. Black folks were giddy, white folks were confused. But like Beyoncé, Peele’s film was filled with intelligent references and nods to several issues.

So all in all, my final assessment is my feelings for Dave Chappelle are similar to that of exes I cared about when I was younger. It worked then, we had a good time. I have fond memories and I wish you well, but I don’t really fuck with you like that no more.

Dave Chappelle don’t need me anyway. He’s good. LOL. This was another interesting article asking if we are overdoing it on analyzing Dave Chappelle and making the argument that, what we see and what we’ve been seeing exactly what we get. The culture has shifted.

Poverty: We’re All in the Same Gang

Watching the deep divides in our country turn from large and unsightly cracks into straight-up craters you can fit airports and football stadiums in, I want to share a simple observation about poverty, in particular, that, of all things, is inspired by a song about violence in America’s hoods.

“We’re All in the Same Gang” (1990) was an all-star Hip-Hop West Coast “We Are the World” that echoes the same problems and issues with police, intraracial violence, poverty, crime that their East Coast musical counterparts sang passionately about in the track “Self Destruction” just the previous year in 1989.

While “Self Destruction” had the uber woke factor with groups like Public Enemy bringing social and historical context, the West Coast rappers like NWA, did what they did, telling it like it is, from their geographical perspective. All descendants of the Great Migration, whether East or West, they were dealing with simply different flavors of the same kind of urban problems facing people of color.

If Donald Trump were the president in the late 80s and early 90s, I’m guessing he’d declare South Central Los Angeles as a war zone with crime and murder running rampant, the way he’s been describing Chicago this week, threatening federal action, if this “carnage” doesn’t improve. Like modern-day Chicago, shit was real in L.A. So real, that as a native New Yorker, and only 8 years old at the time, I vowed never to go there, for fear that I, or someone I loved would be killed on the spot for wearing the wrong color.

Fear is a powerful thing. Misinformation combined with fear is even more powerful. To say today’s times are challenging is a total understatement.

Which brings me to the original reason for this post. I can discuss the merits of “We’re All in the Same Gang” and “Self Destruction” all day, but my real point is while Easy-E, et. all rapped about how the rampant, senseless violence primarily among the rival Bloods and Crips had to cease, when we address poverty and who is deserving of charity and deserving of blame for their circumstances, as Kendrick Lamar so eloquently pointed out we’re “set trippin all around.”

And these “sets” are defined by race, whether a poor person is rural or urban, and if things like proximity to long gone industries in desolate towns in predominately white neighborhoods make people more trustworthy and more deserving of our sympathy than a person living on an Indian reservation or Black and Latino people living in public housing in a projects that rise up to the sky in urban metropolises, we all missed the damn point. Poverty sucks for everyone. Not one group is better than another, we’re all in the same gang. And prior to his untimely death, Dr. Martin Luther King was just getting started on uniting people around poverty, because it was something everyone, regardless of race could feel. Conspiracy theorists have long surmised that if Dr. King could successfully get people to rally together on issues of poverty, and not being fixated on something as ridiculous as skin color, that’s when he would have truly been dangerous.

But capitalism, for better or worse, is our greatest strength- it keeps the lights on while we enjoy our other freedoms- but is our greatest moral weakness.

I hate, hate, hate, the way in which on the national stage the media reports on poverty. Reporters, as well-meaning as we try to be report from this established lens of bias, and may even be encouraged to report on poverty in this way by our editors. And it needs to stop. At one of my publications, I was the “hood” reporter. By the editors’ logic, being young and black were perfect qualifications– it seemed that the citizens would respond better to me, or I’d blend in. Folks wouldn’t be as hostile to me. And off I went, being used for a certain purpose, but also seeing my color as currency to tell these stories with more heart, with more compassion, asking the questions that my white colleagues may not, inserting observations of things they’d neglect as irrelevant.

And while it’s very important to outline the nuance of poverty through those lenses of race and gender and locale, we lack the ability to amplify the similarities all of these people share– regardless of race, or if they live in a trailer park in a small town the South, a Midwestern town still holding on to hope for outdated jobs in outdated industries that left decades ago, or a low-income housing project in a major metropolitan city.

As a society, we arbitrarily determine who is the “deserving” poor, and who “fell on hard times” and just needs a hand up and who is just “lazy” and exploiting the government, looking for handouts, uncivilized and should be left to figure it out, like the rest of us.

We base these things on:

our varying levels of privilege,

our own experiences where our pride and or feelings got hurt due to some injustice or act of blatant unfairness

and whether or not we were able to face and overcome challenges with little, or no support.

During this exercise, we manage to simultaneously pat ourselves on the back for whatever degree of success and stability we’ve achieved, while kicking people who are obviously down for reasons that are none of our business. But we liberally dole out the judgement and then argue amongst ourselves online or over wine and apps about why people are poor, whose fault it is and what an inconvenience it is to us all, meanwhile poor folks are probably looking at this tired ass, masturbatory debate saying, “You know we’re right here, right?”

The acceptance of the invisibility of the poor and the lengths we go to to keep it that way to protect ourselves from feeling shame is the reason why, I think poverty articles in the mainstream don’t really go there.

We can help our fellow man, but it requires some sacrifice and discomfort.

As little kids, we are all taught to share. We should have grown up to be better citizens, but life.

Most little kids see need and say here’s what I have. Let’s fix it. Let’s be happy, we don’t want this person to be sad or scared. How many times have you been in the company of a child, and their innocence and concern led you to give money to someone in need because the child noticed that person, and forced you to see them. The Invisibility shield is single-handedly destroyed by children’s unbridled compassion without pity. A child’s sense of fairness is absolute and they are the experts. They have no problem with identifying what’s unfair, and letting you know about it and demanding explanation about why the problem is being solved in the manner in which it is being solved, or not being solved at all. They are indignant. Good for them. Because they are the most honest humans of us all until taught not to be for self preservation. They don’t see zip code or color, they see need, pain and that something is not right and needs to be corrected immediately. To them, the answer is simple. Help.

Coverage of poor communities tend to go two ways and per the usual, the fault lines begin with race. I’ve read stories about outraged white suburban housewives who land or languish in poverty under various circumstances that can further derail all women in poverty (bad choices, domestic violence, drugs, abuse). These women get sensitive feature articles about being shamed at grocery stores when they pay with their public assistance and are judged for the “luxury items tax payers feel they shouldn’t be paying for” in their carts.

There is sympathy for the stories about poor white people struggling with heroin and meth addictions is overwhelming and so far reaching, it makes its way into successful legislation and social programs in cities and states where the majority of citizens are white. These programs often include experimental initiatives that provide clean homes in safe neighborhoods, particularly for white women with families,  and get this, these programs get full support from both Republicans and Democrats in those areas. And then the comments that accompany those stories are filled with a lot of support and sympathy. Occasionally, you will find the equal opportunity ass hat who at least blames everyone for their own misfortune, who doesn’t want his or her tax dollars going to lazy bums.

But the narrative and response to Black, Latino, Native American and Trans women in poverty is a predictably different story altogether. They are seen as generational, inevitable, problems and they are blamed for creating their circumstances, which leads to the logic that their birthing children into poverty continuing to perpetuate the awful circumstances in urban areas. These women are expected and told to appreciate the little they have and dare not demand or expect more if they see the quality of the “same” types of social services are better, in other places. These women aren’t to be rescued like their counterparts in Western and Pacific Northwest communities that benefit from really great programs and opportunities.

If you’re from the South Side of Chicago, or East Baltimore or Southeast DC, you deserve what you get. And if you get a penny more, it is a hand out that contributes to vices, addictions and undeserved luxuries.

And while it’s not surprising, because the consistent uplift and protection of white women of any economic status is embedded in our history, and has been the root cause of false imprisonment and death, we should know better now. We need to truly value all lives. We should correct it. This is why writers are making astute comparisons about how safe the recent Women’s March on Washington was. It wasn’t just because the protesters were “thanking” the officers, who are already very well-trained on how to handle several thousands of protesters anyway. The tone of how large crowds are policed is set by who is in the crowd. There’s a different feeling in the air and a tension when certain concerts or events attract certain types of people and the police respond in kind (riot gear, vs. not using riot gear) whether we want to admit that or not. This is another reason why the argument is being made that after the women’s march, white, female support and attendance is crucial to preventing harsh brutality imposed on protesters by the hands of police at the demonstrations at the pipeline and Black Lives Matter marches because police don’t see them as a threat.

Beyond the example of white women, there is a sympathy extended to dilapidated former factory communities, that is not so readily extended to pockets of poverty in other places.

While comments regarding Flint simply told residents to “just move” if the water is bad, or “just leave” before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, my response is you’re right,  don’t you think they would have left if they could have? Poverty is a weight. It keeps you stagnant. It cuts off your air supply and your feet. You need help to move and breathe, you can’t will yourself into a better life if you’re just making minimum wage. The middle class is barely middle class. What it takes to own a home today is drastically different than it was 30 years ago.

And while Flint residents demand something basic like water and New Orleans residents just wanted help to leave and help to rebuild, they were rebuked for wanting handouts. Meanwhile poor residents of dead factory communities have the ear of a brand new president to bring their obsolete jobs and factories back? Hold up. How is one situation asking for a handout, and the other asserting one’s right to economic recovery, and the government’s responsibility to facilitate it? The same type of poverty that keep people in Flint and in the Wards of New Orleans, is THE SAME poverty choking the life from people in Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. And that inaccurate representation of who is deserving of help has to be changed.

We all need safe, clean places to live. Poor parents want their children to be safe, to be able to feed them and send them to school where they can get a quality education. They all want to be able to visit the doctor and get adequate healthcare before small problems turn to life-threatening issues due to neglect and inability to pay for services, medication and ongoing, consistent treatments.

We need to rethink of poverty among our citizens in a holistic way and tie together the similarities of their struggle in our stories about poverty. Black or white, rural or urban, America’s low-income communities have the SAME PROBLEMS PERIOD.

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