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Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Killing Me Softly: “The Wiz” Gets Me Everytime

Over the years, “The Wiz” has become one of my favorite movies ever.

There are a million reasons to love it: Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, amazing music and dancing and very cool, yet sophisticated references to black American urban culture.

But the thing that resonates with me most is just Dorothy’s transformation. She was a quiet wallflower, doting on her aunt, uncle and doggie and pretending to be satisfied with her super ordinary life. So much so, the elementary school teacher isn’t even considering a job offer to teach at a high school outside of her Harlem neighborhood.

Eventually, in order to find her way back home from the very strange world of Oz, she’s forced to pull it together to slay evil witches, meet the mighty OZ and help her new friends she’s made a long the way become better, eh, lions, tin men and scarecrows.

I love to watch this movie over the holidays, but I’ve found when I’m going through a tough time or I know I’m in need of a serious change in my life and I end up watching this movie, I’m crying like a baby when Diana starts singing “Home.” Then I need someone to pick me up off of the floor by the end of Lena Horne’s song, “Believe in yourself.”

I feel like Lena’s Glenda the Good Witch was literally willing me to get it together, when she throws in that “whoo” and a “yeah” in there. Tell me you won’t want to change the world after watching this!!!

For some reason, those parts of the movie in particular, hit me like a ton of bricks. There have been times in my life I have been stuck in situations that I didn’t like, but I stayed out of fear of trying and failing even more miserably.

All throughout the movie, over and over, each character had to stand up, be brave and just try something new and step out of their comfort zone. It’s almost like the times I decide to pop that DVD in– on some subconscious level– is when I need to hear those messages the most.

I’m reminded to reconnect to the people who love me so they can recharge me and I need to gather up my confidence again to do something– anything bigger than what I’m doing at the moment. Happy holidays, yall!

Why My 30th Birthday Will Be Held at Medieval Times

”]You read correctly.

I’m going to have a fantastic time celebrating the big 3-0 at Medieval Times.

I’ve gotten a range of responses from my friends. Some friends have totally gotten it and they understand me and my personality and they are excited.

Other friends have either made faces or just asked “Why?” With a blank stare.

Then other friends expressed their lack of enthusiasm for my choice of venue to other friends and not me. Keep in mind, my big day ain’t until February and I’m already starting to catch some static.

So this is how I feel. (Explaining myself about things I want to do for me is something I plan to leave in my 20s, FYI. I’m making this exception for the blog.)

One: I’ve been trying to get to Medieval Times  since I was a kid and never did. It always seemed cool to me even as an adult, but I never had a good reason to go. I didn’t want to go alone and I couldn’t convince people to go with me any other time besides my birthday.

Two: I’m tired of the club.

That’s right, I said it. I’ve been to a bunch of birthdays where people have bottle service to pay at a minimum, $200 just to have a place to sit while you drink said bottle. For that amount, I can almost pay for every one that I’ve invited with the online discount!! By the time you are tipping the oh so trendy waitresses you hardly see all night her mandatory 20 percent and paying for valet; besides the hourly personal shout out from the DJ, what did you and your peeps really get?

Three: More bang for your buck. At Medieval Times, you get a meal, and you get entertainment that you wouldn’t normally get on a regular basis. You’re eating with your hands, you’re screaming and yelling while real life people are jousting, riding real life horses.

Four: I’ve lived in non-poppin cities and learned that fun is what you make it and with whom you make it.

The people who have tended to give me the gas face about my decision are folks who have a tendency to highly enjoy the pomp and circumstance that comes with being able to skip a line and look down on the peasants from lofty VIP perches. I have enjoyed those moments personally, but it just ain’t what I want for MY birthday.

I’m a silly girl. I’m no-frills. I don’t “put on airs.” I love jeans and tee shirts and hats. I’m artsy, I’m a nerd. I’ve been described as “quirky” more times than I can count. I’m the girl who wants monogrammed mason jar glasses (they exist!) in preparation for my Juneteenth party next year.

For the friends who actually know me for real, celebrating this way isn’t a surprise at all. I’ve had great random moments with friends that included filling watermelons with vodka and eating the fruit all day and playing double dutch. Or taking impromptu road trips. I’ve had moments with friends where we went to festivals and drank wine on blankets all day or got lost wandering museums. I’ve had great moments at sporting events or plays or outdoor concerts with the people I love most. Those moments are the ones I have most treasured and none of them took place sitting behind some rope or getting squished on a dance floor at a club or über trendy restaurant.

Five. It’s just different.

It’s just a different kind of experience. Like I said, everyone does the club. Everyone does a restaurant or tries to throw a party at a hall. I’m shaking it up a bit.

What I also keep telling people is, the party just ain’t going to be Medieval Times. I’m going to have a ridiculous after party with great food and lots of drinks.  The following day, I want to have brunch. My goal was to have a fantastic weekend surrounded by friends whom I enjoy spending time with and to make some really great memories.

I will say this. I do appreciate the friends who after questioning my plan and or making a face, just simply shook their heads and said, “Hey, it’s your birthday so we’ll do whatever you want.”

Now that’s the friggin spirit.

I’m about to be 30, and with that also comes a stronger ‘I don’t care’ attitude. So really, I’m not going to trip off of the people who don’t show up because they didn’t think it was a cool way to celebrate MY DAY.

I’d rather them not show up and ruin the groove of the people who are there and committed to having a good time– no matter what we do.

Bring on the paper crowns, the swords, the massive turkey legs and the hot knights. Here ye, here ye, I’m turning 30!

BONUS POST: As for Kwanzaa, I’d Rather Celebrate Juneteenth

Earlier today, a good friend hit me up asking if I thought Kwanzaa was wack, because he had just seen this blog post.

I had to chuckle, because since the late 80’s, I can recall going to a lot of well-meaning, half-ass attempts at churches and local community centers to observe this made- up holiday that was supposed to instill pride in black Americans everywhere. Watching people light the candles and try to pronounce the principles of Kwanzaa was torture. Yet, trying to be all conscious and whatnot, we went along with it. I’m still mad at the leather Malcom X hat my mom used to rock…

If you want to spend a few hours trying to understand Kwanzaa please check out the “Official Kwanzaa Website” at your lesiure.

Frankly, I think I understand the meaning of Wu Tang’s 36 Chambers better than I do Kwanzaa, and find it much more exciting. No disrespect.

In my house, my parents used Kwanzaa as a threat if we weren’t acting right for Christmas. “Yall better act right, or else we’ll celebrate Kwanzaa instead of Christmas, and I know you don’t want US to make your presents.”

Some super conscious black folks would balk and say that’s ignorant, and this blog post is ignorant. But hey, once again why do all black Americans have to accept this holiday some brotha made up? That’s just as ignorant.

I have a couple of problems with Kwanzaa.

Mainly its identity crisis. I just can’t co-sign.

1. Why are you competing with Christmas?

First of all, a lot of black people aren’t big fans of winter and the cold (stereotype yes. True, yes). How many of us are in the winter Olympics for real? The timing is wack.

However, I think it was courteous of the creator, Dr. Maulana Karenga
to start Kwanzaa the day after Christmas, not to offend the many black Christians who have already been fighting to keep Christ in Christmas in the first place.

2. Why are you trying to be as long as Hanukkah and have as many candles?

For this reason, I kind of agree with homeboy’s conspiracy theory about just making up a holiday and saying it’s rooted in African tradition… hmm. Africa is huge and made up of so many different nations and individual tribes within nations. Black Americans are mashups of all of them and Europe and everyplace else, we can’t possibly deem anything just “African.” Seriously, you gonna rip off Hanukkah?

3. Why do gifts need to be even involved? (See problems one and two) the super long website explains this.

4. Why do they need to be handmade? Let’s just get rid of the gift thing altogether, you just had Christmas. Dang. The super long website explains this, something about self-reliance, etc.

I actually have a couple of solutions. I do think that the principles of Kwanzaa are valuable and should be upheld and celebrated in the black community.  But let’s face it, today’s black folk prefer their life lessons from T.I. (when he’s not in jail, he kind of makes sense and seems like a cool, and caring dad.) So good luck with that. However, schedule-wise it shouldn’t be squished in between Christmas and New Year’s.

1. Move it to the last day of black history month.

Black people love, appreciate and respect black history month, and non-black people may have a greater appreciation for Kwanzaa too with it not being during the major holiday season. Make it one day. It doesn’t need an entire week, people’s attention spans are terrible.

2. No Gifts

3. Do a major community service event involving the entire community

4. My personal favorite: Abandon Kwanzaa altogether and focus on Juneteenth

Sounds wild right? No, it’s not. Juneteeth (June 19) is the epitome of the African-American experience. It is the celebration of slaves in Galveston, Texas finding out (albeit well after the Emancipation proclamation was signed 2 and a half years later) that black people were indeed free.

Naturally, black people in southern states tend to do a way better job of celebrating this major event in American history formally than in other places.

I attended such a celebration once in Shreveport, Louisiana. There was music, food, a really great time and it felt like a celebration. We really take advantage of and take lightly just how far we’ve come in this nation. I was the first one yelling and screaming when Obama took the oath of office (I was there with thousands of other people of all colors freezing), but how easily we want to forget about this nation’s horrible past.

Juneteenth is a far more brilliant, worthy and personal holiday for black Americans to get on board with than Kwanzaa in my opinion.

Instead of trying to make up rituals that  “Africans” someplace or everyplace may or may not do, during a season that’s already jam-packed with traditions and rituals, let’s stick to something that is REALLY tied to our true ancestors here. The weather is warm (we can barbecue–yes another true stereotype), and there’s actual facts and history right here on American soil tied to it.  It is indeed our own identity as black Americans.

Why I Have a Secret Work Bathroom

twobee/freedigitalphotos.net

Is it just me, or do you avoid taking a dump at work as much as you possibly can?

It has to be a dire situation for me to lighten my load in a public bathroom, especially at work.

It’s worse for women, because women like to go to the bathroom to talk, do hair, re-apply make up, readjust their spanx and even brush their teeth.

The problem that I have is when I’m taking a dump in public, I really want to be invisible. I want to be alone.

When no one else is in the bathroom and a person decides to set up shop in the stall next to me, it makes things worse…I’m afraid to make any sounds, I’m restricting my bowels now for the 1.5 minutes I think you need to pee and also trying to halt the gas I really needed to release in the first place.

I want the heifer next to me not to look at my shoes and match them to me later. I try not to look at other women’s shoes, while handling my business, but I do. I haven’t matched a person yet, but if I did, I’d laugh.

It’s horrible.

The one thing that kills me every time, is realizing that dumb broad who made the conscious decision to get in the stall next to yours (while no one else is in there) is trying to take a dump too– and is waiting YOU out.

No one wants to be the first to rip the toilet paper or have the other person on the other side hear them rip the toilet paper.

Eventually someone gives in and their bowels finally give out. I like to fumble with my clothes until the chick is done washing her hands so I can come out in peace and both of our identities can be protected. I think that’s courteous.

I try my best to be a polite public dumper taker, using the flash-flush method flushing as I drop each one, but it doesn’t help me be invisible.

To remedy all of the aforementioned stuff that bothers me in the public office bathroom, I have not one, but TWO secret bathrooms on two different floors in my office building.

Unless I’m about to explode, I refuse to use the bathroom on my female dominated floor that my co-workers use. I know that they know everyone poops, but I just hate that feeling of coming out to wash my hands after being in my stall for longer than the acceptable 1.5 minutes for a number one and making small talk with the woman brushing her teeth.

I just took a massive shit, and you are in here with your mouth open.

Now we both feel damn awkward.

Yes, I go out of my way to hop on the elevator and go to floors where there are fewer people.  Even if someone comes in the bathroom whilst I’m blowing it up, I don’t care. They don’t know me, I don’t know them and they won’t be able to pick my shoes out of a line up.

A Stand Up Moment

As I’m trying to navigate my professional future, I was reminded of a past situation that was similar in the way it made me feel.

Let’s go back to my sophomore year in high school.

I was a pretty good volleyball player and most people– including other girls on both JV and varsity squads– were certain I’d make varsity that season.

I didn’t.

Everyone was shocked. I was hurt.

My dad who was noticeably pissed too, calmly told me to hold my head up and just do really, really well on the J.V. squad and shame the varsity coach every time I stepped on that court.

I did. I was a captain, a stand-out and I was doing as my dad so wisely suggested, using this time to improve and show the folks who didn’t accept me that it was a dumb decision.

Mid season, the coach asked me to join varsity. But I noticed the sophomore he chose to bring up to varsity instead of me wasn’t really playing that much. I  loved leading my J.V. team and all the support my teammates gave me and all that prime playing time I had. But I had a tough decision to make.  Wasn’t I finally being recognized? Wasn’t being a sophomore on Varsity worth it, even if it meant I could possibly be sitting on the bench the majority of the time, waiting my turn behind juniors and seniors?

I had another heart-to-heart with my dad. He said he had my back regardless of what I did, but he thought I should take a more honorable stand and stay with my J.V. team, play well, have guaranteed playing time because the coach passed me over when it really mattered. He surmised that this was either a half-hearted attempt on my coach’s part to make things right or to make scrimmages among the varsity team more competitive, not necessarily a move to make me a star.

I listened to my dad,  and I turned the varsity coach down. I said I didn’t want to leave my team now, and frankly it hurt not getting selected the first time around. The varsity coach was shocked, and told me if that’s what I wanted, then he couldn’t force me, but he wished I changed my mind. My J.V. coach was shocked, but she understood where I was coming from and she even gave me a big hug and we resumed practice.

I still went on to have successful seasons on varsity junior and senior year, but the lesson I learned as a sophomore was something that crossed my mind recently.

Sometimes in the work world, you might be really good at what you do. You may get passed over for promotions, but when the chips are down, people in charge want to “bring you up from J.V.”, and pick and choose when your gifts are only beneficial to them.

They will psych you up and have you to believe a shiny new uniform and the appearance of status should be enough for you, and that sitting on the bench in that uniform should be enough. Because after all, you’re “only a sophomore.”

I learned then and there I should never let anyone put a ceiling on what’s “good enough” for me, except me.

Looking back, that “just a sophomore anyway” premise was faulty.

I was a sophomore.  But in a number of classes, I was already taking junior honors classes and excelling in them the same way I excelled in my sport.

I appreciate the lesson my father gave me. Never dull your shine for anyone, and sometimes what looks like taking a step back, is just that. It looks that way; it doesn’t mean you did.  It was true for varsity volleyball, and it’s true right now.

Dreams of a Life Is a Serious Wake Up Call

A trailer for a documentary called “Dreams of a Life” as been making the rounds among my artsy friends on Facebook. I was fascinated. I was haunted. The story just wouldn’t let me go.

A beautiful, young woman in the UK died, had been dead for three years in her apartment and no one knew. Eventually, she was found, horribly decomposed on her couch with the television still on.

As the story unfolds, you find out she was an amazing girl, with a lot to offer. She was talented, and had social-climbing talents akin to Rebecca Sharp from the classic novel Vanity Fair.The unfortunate part is the fact that everyone interviewed thought she lived this fabulous life from the outside. Meanwhile, inside, something else was going on. What it is remains a mystery and appears to be up for debate.

This holiday and beyond, I’m making it my business to do a better job of reaching out to loved ones, even if it’s just to say hello for five minutes. I do think if anything happened to me, folks would call out the search teams in a decent amount of time, but this movie is a sober reminder of how isolated we can all be from even our own friends and family in a modern world. It doesn’t take much to just check on someone every now and then. You don’t realize how much you could be helping them.

I know this all too well from the last year I had. Even when I wanted to be completely alone for several weeks at a time, there were people in my life who wouldn’t let me and they’d call and they’d come and check on me. I’m quite thankful for that. May Joyce Vincent rest in peace. May we all learn from her tragic story.

My New Year’s Date

Idea go/freedigitalphotos.net

Yes. I already have one, believe it or not.

One of my dear besties, who is organized beyond comprehension had already booked her flight and our hotel for the grand festivities at a lovely Washington, D.C. hotel sponsored by the local grown people’s radio station.

I’d been wanting to go to this event for probably the last three years.

Three years ago, I was unattached and a local friend who was supposed to go said it would be pointless because we’d have no dates and it seemed too “old” for her.

Two years ago, I was attached and one half of the couple who was supposed to join us, was totally against big parties.

One year ago, I was ending an engagement.

I’m actually looking forward to ringing in the new year this year with one of my most amazing, ride or die, seen-me-through-a-lot-of-mess-ugly-mess friends. She says what she means, she means what she says, and she’s going to be there on time and have enough money (even if it’s hidden in her bra).

Over this last year, with her listening ear and understanding of my penchant for Hooters wings and dark liquor, she’s seen me through possibly the worst of times and when we were in person, she came prepared to supply all of the aforementioned items.

Another thing about this friend that I adore is she won’t let me sulk for too long, but she allows me to and she will even do the ultimate anti-optimistic thing and agree that my situation sucks and is fucked up. She kindly reminds me that bail money is available certain times of the month after her bills have been paid of course, in case I am forced to react to things in a way that may not be rational or legal.

We’ll be dressed to the 12s and we are going to sing loudly and badly, raise our glasses, and if we don’t rustle up some men to kiss at midnight, it ain’t gonna matter, because one of the people I have always been able to depend on, will be right there.

It’s been a stellar year for her. She got her Masters, she got a great job in a career where I know she’s going to have an excellent future, she lends her time and talents to wonderful causes and she’s just doing her right now in a most fabulous way.

We will celebrate that in the year two-thousand and eleven, she thrived, and I survived. (Tee shirts?? I can wear one that says with an arrow, “2011 she thrived” and she can wear one with an arrow that said “2011 she survived”)

When the clock strikes midnight, we will celebrate that we are leaving the old and raggedy and triflin behind (Praise Jesus). We will celebrate what’s new, and the fact that we still can’t get rid of one another for yet another year.

Paying A Little More for a Night Out Is More Convenient in the End

One thing I’ve noticed as I’m getting older is I’m way more willing to pay for convenience and quality instead of trying to save a few dollars.

I’d like to share a list of things I used to go out of my way not to pay for in my early 20s that I now don’t even think twice about. Some people may disagree with me, and if you do, let me know because I don’t want to go out with you for a night on the town. Your nickling and diming will just infuriate me and will totally embarrass me. I always take Fergie’s advice, “If you ain’t got no money, take your broke ass home.” I’ve been known to sit a few outings out, because my funds weren’t right.

Great entertainment.

Yes folks, if there is a great concert, play or sporting event, I’m down to plunk down a nice amount of cash to truly enjoy the live experience. I used to try to find the cheapest seats possible, but now I think it’s pointless and you won’t enjoy the experience as much. I don’t have to be front row, center, but I will splurge for a really great event.

Parking.

At this point in the game, I can’t circle and circle looking for free street parking anymore. It makes me late for stuff, I get frustrated and even start getting sweaty. I’m willing to pay for parking garages and occasionally reasonable valet when I go out. You just have to incorporate that into the cost of going out and deal with it. I really used to be a stickler about finding free parking. I wore it like a badge of honor. Now, not so much. If I can’t make it happen the first go round within a block of where I’m trying to be, it’s time to find the garage. Either I’m not as optimistic as I used to be, or I’ve gotten enough tickets where I could have just paid a little more up front than after the fact.

Coat Check

As I got more grown, I realized me and my early 20-something friends looked like scantily clad idiots running from the parking lot to the club in the damn snow to avoid paying for coat check. We thought we were saving money, but in the end we probably ended up paying more for Halls cough drops, Vicks vapo rub and all the tea and chicken soup we had to take down to fight the cold we caught running around like that. It’s not so bright to also leave the club all hot and sweaty, back into the insanely cold air.

Drinks

I’m a woman and while it’s nice to get free drinks from men, sometimes those “free” dranks come at an irritating cost. I’ve found older men will cut their losses early if they bought you a drink and the convo just isn’t going anywhere and they bow out gracefully with a “nice meeting you, have a nice night.”  Unfortunately, I’ve run into my fair share of  immature men of all ages who will act like they bought you a Birkin bag just because you said yes to a rum and coke. Avoid the drama. Stop a stalker dead in his tracks. Just go ahead and buy your own drink, especially if you can tell the kind of man you’d usually give your undivided attention to is nowhere in sight.

A really nice meal. Every now and then, sometimes you just have to go to a really nice restaurant. If you already know what the deal is (you yelped it, you took a look at the menu, you aren’t forgoing important bills to fund this outing), then you are prepared and you won’t be embarrassed. You deserve a splurge. Nothing is sexier than an awesome meal. I wrote a blog about sexy meals…

Spa services. Companies like living social and groupon have changed the game by providing really great deals for things like massages and facials and making it much more affordable. But even still, I also believe in tipping the folks who provide those services well. If you gonna ball out and have a spa day, then do it right, and tip appropriately.

Well-planned parties/fundraisers. I am an alumna of Howard University. Home of the super insane Homecoming. There are gazillions of parties to attend, its hard to pick one.  These days, I refuse to pay to go to a club (I prefer lounges these days).  If organizations like sororities, fraternities or young professional groups throw something at a nice hotel or on a boat, I’m usually game. That $75 ticket or higher raises the bar and usually weeds out the pretenders and the folks too short-sighted to realize it’s actually a good deal (Most of these events have open bar and food. You do the math.). The type of crowd that tend to attend these events want to have a good time, look good and network without the foolishness and raise money for good causes. Usually, you aren’t standing in some stupid long line for an obscene amount of time to get in, and there are usually places for ladies to sit and rest your feet because you have been working those heels. Win!

As you get older what are you willing to pay a little more for in the name of convenience and greater enjoyment?

Friday Fun Music: Janelle Monae “Lettin Go”

I’ve had some real heavy blogs lately. I stumbled onto this early Janelle Monae song and I just love it. Makes you want to dance and throw the duces to your worries!

The Reality of Your Parents’ Mortality

One of the harshest realities of getting older is the fact that everyone is getting older too, including your parents.

I’m not even 30 yet, and I’ve already had a number of friends lose a parent or be faced with the challenge of standing by and taking care of a parent who is seriously ill.

A good friend traveled to see his father in the hospital recently and while he was there, it seemed his father improved. Unfortunately, his father has gotten worse since he left town and he told me simply, “What it comes down to is he’s dying and the most important thing is to keep him comfortable.” He said the family will have to now start looking at hospice options and prepare to say goodbye.

My friend is trying to take it all in stride, while being a rock to his siblings.  I told him if he needed anything to please let me know, but I’m sure there is nothing I can do or say to give him enough comfort in such a difficult moment.

Sometimes my father tries to talk to me about his concerns after he is gone and I really can’t stand it. It makes me uncomfortable, it scares the crap out of me. I’d hate to think that my superman will ever leave me. Aside from Jesus, he’s the only man who has NEVER let me down. I’d hate to think that someday my mom won’t be able to make me hot tea so perfectly when I come home or feel her hugs. Who else will tell me bluntly, when I’m just not on point as I should be?

As our parents age, and as illness comes, the tables start to turn. We become protective of them, we admonish them to take better care of themselves, some of us even go as far as physically dragging them to the doctor ourselves. Maybe these actions are our desperate attempt to possibly outwit the inevitable, but we do whatever it takes to keep them here forever.  No matter how grown we are, our parents keep us grounded, our parents make us feel safe and they give us their strength and wisdom. When we stop being stubborn and difficult, we accept those gifts and we cherish them. They remind us to be better people. They take pride in our successes and they build us back up when we fail. Even in the face of old age and or illness, our parents continue to prepare us throughout our lives, for our lives. If we are blessed to have them in our adulthood, they are working even harder to prepare us for our lives without them.

When we lose them, there is a pain that can’t be described, I am told. Those scars remain, and I notice that on holidays, birthdays and special occasions, while my friends who have lost their parents do their best to carry on, there is a private part of them that is solemn. You may catch them quickly in a special thought or memory looking out with a faraway gaze. When I notice it, I dare not disturb it. It is fleeting and they’ll usually sneak back into the groove unnoticed. Even for my parents, while my grandparents may have been gone for decades, I know there are times they really miss them still and wish they were around to guide them or share a moment.

My sister often jokes that when she goes to visit our aunt’s grave, she imagines our Aunt Mae telling her, “Girl, stop looking at this piece of stone in the ground. Don’t stay too long, because you have to go out and live your life.”

For some reason, I think our lost loved ones do believe that wherever they are. It is more than alright to remember (it is our duty), but we must not linger too long, because we must live the lives they wanted for us and to live them well, filled with happiness, because one day, all too soon, we too will be gone.

Side note: I don’t want anyone to take this blog too literally to apply to biological parents. Whoever was a parental figure to you, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, adoptive parents, this is for everyone. 

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