Monday, December 04, 2006

The Thing About Birthdays

They are important opportunities for self-evaluation. Mine is tomorrow. I'll be 33. Here is a summary of my major accomplishments:

I finished law school ten years ago. I have a decent job that keeps me pretty happy. I've had a chance to live one of my dreams as a dancer. I write and there are a few folks out there who like what I have to say. I am healthy. I am married. I have my name on the title of a piece of real estate in the city. I have family that loves me, and I love them too.

All things considered, at 33, I've lived more than a third of my expected life span. So maybe it is time for me to figure out what I need to have accomplished by the time I reach 66.


In the first third of my life, it was vitally important for me to declare some measure of accomplishment by achieving various dreams and goals by the age of 30. Looking back, I can honestly say that other than graduating from law school before the age of 25, everything else has been a happy coincidence. Nothing else has really gone according to my plans.

So as much as I would like to specify my goals and objectives for the next 33 years, I can't. I will just hope for the best, deal with what comes, and thank God for it all along the way.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Its That Time of the Year Again

I'm sick with some weird sore throat that I developed after cleaning my bedroom. That could mean several things:
  1. I need to clean my room more often.
  2. I need to pay someone to clean my room for me.
  3. I collect too much crap.
  4. I get too much crap in the mail.
  5. Newspapers and napkins should be tossed after a few days.
  6. I still can't find my Beatles CD.
  7. I don't know how I slept in a full size bed with another person for the past five years.
  8. I really don't read in bed, so I shouldn't act like I will by stashing books on the side.
  9. The queen bed takes up only a little more space than the full bed did.
  10. If the delivery guy was sick like he said he was, then I got this from him.

Since I'm making lists of things, I need to add that I couldn't think of a single thing I want for Christmas or my birthday this year. So instead of material things, I am going to ask God to bless me with some focus so that I can write more consistently. Well, maybe a laptop...


Monday, November 13, 2006

Random Observations About Misplaced Priorities

This is not to make light or make fun of all the people who are mourning the death of R&B singer Gerald Levert. After all, it was shocking to learn last Friday that Levert had died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 40.

40 years old. Seven years older than I will be in less than three weeks (God willing). Three years older than my husband. Too young to leave this world.

Yet, in my shock, I have put this in perspective, the same way that I put every sudden death in perspective. It is tragic because he had children who will now grow up without a father. Sad because his own father is still alive and must deal with having to bury a child. Ironic because he was reportedly working on a reality show about his efforts to lose weight.

But to all of the people who are acting like this is the end of the world--GET REAL.

Why is it that every time a black musician or performer dies, we act like someone has just slapped our mammas? I knew to expect tributes this morning all over black radio because the news came well after most of morning shows had aired last Friday. But, I was not expecting what I have witnessed in the last 72 hours.

The weekend tributes were actually sane, but it it all got out of control this morning. One woman wrote into the Steve Harvey Show to share her grief over the news, which was okay until she mentioned her "full-length" Gerald Levert tattoo and how happy she was that he got to see it... Then there was the conversation on the Tom Joyner Show in which Jacque Reid (former serious news anchor on BET) suggested that this was a really big deal and that she was disappointed that the mainstream media had not caught on and given this top-notch coverage.

Of course, all of this was going on at the same time that people were gathering on the National Mall to break ground for the Martin Luther King Jr., National Memorial. You remember Dr. King, the civil rights martyr who was killed because of his dedication to equality?

So not to take anything away from those who are truly mourning the passing of Gerald Levert, but just out of curiosity, have you donated to the King Memorial Fund yet? I ask because the effort to raise money for this memorial has been underway for at least five years, and I was wondering--just suppose we had channeled that same amount of energy towards building the King Memorial. It would be built by now.

Think of all of the money that was spent on Gerald Levert CDs and concerts and such...and then realize that it took major corporations to kick in enough money to finally dedicate the King Memorial ten years after President Clinton signed the legislation. Ten years after Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. began to solicit money.

Comparatively speaking, if this effort had to wait on us, it would have taken another 20 years.

And I am not dissing your love of Gerald Levert. Your money is yours to spend on whomever and whatever you want. But I just think that we need to realign some of our priorities. It should not be left up to corporations (who want their names etched in stone and receive the residual benefits of goodwill advertising) to build our memorials for us. Black people should feel just as compelled to remember and honor the legacy of Dr. King and the many others who sacrificed for equality as fervently as they mourn the death of a singer. For most of us working black folks, a commitment of $50 would not break our budgets. So what are you waiting for?

Somehow I get the feeling that there will be a lot more Gerald Levert CDs sold in the coming weeks than donations to the King Memorial. And that is just as tragic, sad and ironic.

I want to acknowledge "60 minutes" and "The Larry King Show" for devoting their entire programs to remembering the life of Ed Bradley, who also passed away suddenly last week due to complications from leukemia. It was very touching to see his colleagues remember someone whom they truly admired and who seemingly had such a profound effect on so many people. Twenty-five years ago when Bradley made history as the only black anchor on 60 minutes, I doubt that any other black journalist would have been similarly remembered.

I mention this because I wanted to correct an assertion I heard this morning that the mainstream media often fails to acknowledge the lives prominent of African Americans. The complainers then suggested that attention to these issues usually comes from black media, black radio in particular. Perhaps...

But are we that shallow? Doesn't it make more sense that black radio is the venue for honoring Gerald Levert's career since radio was his primary medium? Ed Bradley had been on TV for nearly 30 years, so maybe it was just more appropriate that the tributes to his career took place on that medium.

Let's not lose perspective on this because in the grand scheme of things, we must recognize our own shortcomings when it comes to setting priorities for the future. Does it matter whether the mainstream media responds if we fail to place a priority on remembering our own?

The best tribute we can make to each of of these men--Ed Bradley, Gerald Levert, Martin Luther King and every other great African American pioneer, legend, crusader, etc.--is to invest in efforts that ensure that they will not be forgotten. Give to the King Memorial fund, to HBCUs (both King and Bradley were graduates) or join one of those campaigns to Save the Music in public schools. Or maybe become a mentor to a young black male so that his life will be worth something.

Just a thought...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Streaming Consciousness

I know what I need to do, yet I can't get myself together to just do it.

I want to write my book. I've started on a few chapters, but I can't seem to keep my focus. The husband says that I need to take a writing class. He thinks it will keep me centered.

I think it will drive me bonkers. But I admit that having writing responsibilities might actually be a blessing in disguise. I might actually succeed without realizing it.

My problem is that I am an unrepentant procrastinator. I've been writing this book for years. And now that it is November and I got the NaNoWriMo email reminder, there is the temptation to just spout on for the next few weeks until I finish something.

Except I don't want to waste the effort on a crappy book. I want to write a good book that will get me started on a career as a writer.

Ok, in reading that sentence back, I almost believed that statement.

I already have a career as a writer. I write. I publish. I'm just an obscure, undiscovered talent.

I'm also tired because I've been up with the husband while he waits for election results. Somewhere along the line, he and I switched places. He is now the political junkie and I could not be bothered this time around. (Actually that is not true...I really did care, but I chose not to do anything special this year).

I'm more focused on my teaching. It keeps me grounded.

I really should go to bed now since I am supposed to be switching mattresses before the new mattress arrives. I am also supposed to be moving the bed frames around. All of this and cleaning up the house (which clearly is not going to happen by 2pm tomorrow afternoon). I'll be lucky if I wake up by 10am.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Why I Hate My Life

I don't have any readers anyway, so I'm entitled to a little self-indulgence every now and then...

I hate my life. I hate the fact that I never have any money. I hate the fact that I never have enought time to devote to my own projects. I hate the fact that I never have anyone around when I want to do something other than work. I hate that I spend 70% of my time alone. I hate that 20% is commandeered by my husband. I hate that the other 10% is commandeered by others who never seem to have any time for me.

I hate my life.

I got the bright idea that my best friend and I should go to Atlantic City this weekend. It was a spur of the moment type of impulse, and when I called her to see what she thought, she said no, then she said that she would think about it. I thought it was a perfect idea, since today is her birthday, and her big plan was to spend the time in Baltimore. I'm thinking, we can go to Baltimore anytime since it is just 30 minutes away.

But she blows me off. I call her back to see if she's changed her mind, and she already left for B-more. I call her cell phone and I had to leave a message. And now I'm peeved and terribly disappointed because now since I already promised that I would, I'm going to have to drive to Baltimore tonight instead of spending the evening pulling the levers on a slot machine and getting a small break from my pathetic life.

Yes, I know that I am being selfish. It is not my birthday, and she has a right to want to spend it as she pleases.

But dammit, why can't I ever get a break? I just wanted one night away from this sh**ty life I have. I wanted one night away from my boring husband and his annoying habits. One night! I just needed one lousy damn night away from it all.

I am not going to have any chance to do something like this again. As of next week, my every weekend from now until January is jammed with other people's projects and needs. There is not another moment free for me to do anything other than what I normally do. I just wanted to be spontaneous, but over the next few weeks, that will mean that get to spend more time alone in a restaurant somewhere with my head in a book. I can't seem to buy a decent time anymore.

I no longer have co-workers. I have very few friends. I have no money. And the only semblance of a life I seem to manage these days is my daily game of spider solitaire and my twice weekly visits to Starbucks. Oh, and dance classes every week, which now take up any additional moment of free time.

This is so pathetic. I thought life was supposed to get better. My life seems to have gotten worse with each year. And no, I don't want to count any blessings right now, because to do so would make me feel worse than I already do. I don't want to look around me and see that other people have worse lots than boredom and solitude. I don't want to even think about it.

I f**king hate my f**king life.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You Are Not Where You Eat

I laughed when I saw Chris Rock’s mother on TV with Al Sharpton a few days ago. I thought it was one of his jokes, but apparently she was really complaining about the racist treatment she received at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in South Carolina. And Brother Al took his usual place beside another so-called victim crying over spilled milk.

I mean, if she went to the Cracker Barrel expecting first class service, then she is clearly delusional.

Cracker Barrel is one of several southern style restaurants whose ‘aw shucks’ theme evokes images of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. The exterior resembles a typical southern style home and its most inviting feature is the wrap-around porch cluttered with a row of rocking chairs that entice visitors to take a load off and enjoy the scenery (usually the parking lot). There is a general store attached, with such southern knick-knacks as checker boards, peach preserves, and "homemade" lap blankets. They also serve that most southern of refreshments, sweet iced tea, something that people north of Richmond just would not understand. When I ate there for the first time four years ago, I distinctly remember that our waitress sent us on our way with the most southern of dismissals, “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?”

All of this “southern hospitality” is available for a modest price, just a few dollars more than the cost of a value meal at McDonald’s. It is a very quaint, but very cheap place to eat. I do not recall if the service was particularly good or bad--it was adequate for the type of place one finds in the parking lot of an outlet mall.

As welcoming as the Cracker Barrel appears, Mrs. Rock is not the first person to complain about poor treatment there. A few years ago, Cracker Barrel was on one of those hastily arranged “do-not-patronize” lists that floated around in cyberspace because someone’s mother’s best friend’s cousin got treated shabbily there. It took the spot formerly occupied by Denny’s in the early 90s when black folks still couldn’t buy decent service at that establishment (yet, many continued to patronize it). In a few years, I suspect that the Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s and other major chains will also have their turn on the list.

The alleged victims of are always these self-proclaimed affluent, well-educated black people. Despite the fact that the word has been out about racial bias at the Cracker Barrel for years, why do these people--my people--continue to frequent these places? If you are what you claim to be, then (a) you can certainly afford better, and (b) you should definitely know better. Damn, black people, raise your standards!

When did respect become measured by the courtesy extended from a waitress who earns less per hour than the cost of a hamburger and fries? If you really want respect at a restaurant, go somewhere with a white linen tablecloth and a wine list. As long as your Visa bill is current, no one would dare treat you shabbily at a place like that.

Of course, when allegations of bias are levied against one of these chain eateries, the common refrain is that complaints to the manager yielded no improvement in service, so it follows that the only way to regain one’s dignity from such an affront is to file a lawsuit claiming emotional distress and humiliation. The aggrieved parties then hire a lawyer and then make the obligatory media rounds. Frankly, I am unsure which is more humiliating—the treatment suffered at the Cracker Barrel or going on CNN to complain about the treatment suffered at the Cracker Barrel… That other intangible damage "principle" gets mentioned a lot, since no one ever pursues these cases for generous payday (mind you, there is no real money at stake since most meals at the Cracker Barrel cost about $7.95). I’m still trying to understand what great personal principles are at stake since there are plenty of other places along the interstate that serve hamburgers.

Forgive me for sounding snobbish, but common sense would dictate that if I enter an establishment and do not feel welcomed or appreciated, then I would leave. I do not need to waste my valuable time or spend my hard earned money somewhere it is unwanted. And with all of that hard earned money Chris Rock has, he could squash this whole thing by just buying that Cracker Barrel in South Carolina for his mother. Or he could invest some of that money in a chain of fast food diner-style restaurants where black people can go and not feel discriminated against…you know, like McDonald’s.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

No Effing Way!

Ok, Michael Knight's collection may not have been perfect, but there is no way that Jeffrey should have won on Project Runway. Did the judges feel bad because his workmanship was questioned?

He was always too over the top. And maybe I feel that way because I am a woman, and I'd like for the people who design clothes to take into account that real women tend to wear those clothes. We are not experiments.

I have to admit, I knew going into the finale tonight that Michael did not win, but that did not really bother me too much. I had accepted the fact that he probably over-thought his line (in much the same way that I have over-thought my book into non-existence). But as they said, he is still finding himself, so it is okay that he will get a chance to grow into greatness.

And, I really liked Laura, but I definitely saw her as a one-note tune for most of the season. Even as I watched her collection go down the runway, I knew without any prompting that only she could view lace as fashion and not simply as a table accessory. I guess when I grow up, I could buy one of her dresses.

Uli threatened to be a one-noter as well, but I consistenly liked her designs. I guess that limits my range when it comes to clothes, but because I fancy myself as a sophisticated beach bum anyway, I totally saw myself in her clothes. Either that, or I really need another vacation.

But Jeffrey...well there is no denying that he is talented and innovative, and I get that those are pre-requisites for a career in fashion. But I think those elements are precisely the reason why most women get their clothes off the rack. We just don't live on the runway. We need clothes that function and I'm sorry, but pleather leggings do nothing for me (and I bet the average woman feels the same way). I also hated his first design with the feathers and the ragged hemlines. Insane.

Oh well, I knew this was coming. If things were fair, this contest really would have included Allison in place of Laura. Additionally, they would have given Vincent the axe the first weekend when he sent that fruit basket with a light fixture pull down the runway as a fashion accessory. That was more bizarre than a sci-fi alien costume. And I never liked the fact that he got turned on by his own wacko aesthetic, but immediately backed down from his self-congratulatory stance each time the judges told him that his stuff was looney.

I would have loved to have seen more from Milan. He and Allison got the shaft too early in the process, even when it was clear that both of them were far more talented than their worst designs suggested. Even their mistakes were more interesting than some of the successes of the finalists (I thought the Minnie Mouse paper dress was strange, but not that terrible. Kaine's macaroni project was way worse).

Can't wait for season four. Auf Weidersen!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bad Taste in My Mouth

I am ashamed, so I must confess: I watched the finale of "Flava of Love 2" tonight.

Honestly, I could have cared less about the outcome. I saw the entire season last year, and that silly rabbit should have known better than to go back a second time on the same show...but that takes me off topic.

I should not have watched a single minute of this show. Last year, a radio personality lamented that he lost brain cells each minute he watched, and while I agreed wholeheartedly, I still frittered away an entire hour when I had way more important things to do.

I don't need to describe the ways in which this show goes well over the boundaries of taste. Other more eloquent people have written about the degredation, the humiliation, and the pure senselessness of the show. It makes black women look bad (blah, blah, blah), but that isn't even the half of it.

If this was even possible, this show actually redeemed Flava Flav! Here is someone who, for all practical purposes, (1) posesses no real talent; (2) is, well put mildly, unattractive; and (3) is a crackhead! Why would anybody go on national TV to compete for his affections?

Sisters, is it that hard to find a good black man? Is Flava Flav--the original clown prince of hip hop--the best a sister can hope for? Have we lost our damn minds?

I get that this show is simply a parody of "The Bachelor" and that Vh1 has set out to prove that has-been celebrities are far more entertaining than the current bunch of so-called reality show contestants. But come on, Flava Flav?

God help us if this man needs another installment to find his "true love" (which I thought he had found with Brigitte Nielson a few years ago). Apparently there are all sorts of women who are willing to do almost anything in order to enjoy 15 minutes of fame. And there are millions of people like me who enjoy car wrecks.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Conflicted Feelings

I did not want to dwell on this issue all day, but I saw something on TV that made my blood boil. It was a skit done in blackface.

I consider myself to be sufficienty enlightened enough not to give in to knee-jerk reactions to racial ignorance. After all, I am educated, and I tell myself that educated people can look upon these incidences and deconstruct them without allowing any emotions to take over.

Well, I've been lying to myself for far too long. I saw that skit, and it launched me on a two and a half hour crusade that has left me mentally drained and emotionally conflicted about my so-called rational approach to racism.

It was an episode of "Are You Being Served?", one of the Brit-coms that airs in the afternoon on the local public TV station. I was not actually watching the episode because I was on the computer, and it was on because I had been watching the previous program. Anyway, I overheard some foolishness (which is typical for this particular show) so I went into my bedroom, watched for about 2 minutes, and then returned to my work at the computer. A few minutes later, something else compelled me to go back into my bedroom to watch the end of the show. The ending was a musical number that was set up as a performance representing the ethnic heritage of one of the characters.

And then out came the smiling, dancing blackfaces. My jaw dropped in horror.

All of the main characters were made up in grease paint and wore black wigs except for one, a younger female cast member. I can only assume that for whatever reason, she chose not to go along with the make-up, but she still shuffled along with the rest of them. I could not believe it.

I immediately returned to the computer to gather research on the show and the episode so that I could send a strongly worded rebuke to the station. My angle was that I was offended not only by the content of the episode, but also because it aired without any warning. I suggested that in the future, the station should insert a commentary or disclaimer to explain the context.

I have gone through a kaleidescope of emotions since I sent that email this afternoon. This whole incident has me reeling, but I also have had to confront my beliefs about responding to racial insensitivity and ignorance. It has caused me to question my reactions when blacks also use racist imagery as an entertainment tool. What right do I have to get offended enough to fire off an email to PBS when I simply change the channel when I see something just as bad on BET, MTV or Vh1? Am I a hypocrite?

Do I feel more within my rights to hold PBS accountable because it is a public television station, and as such is owned by the viewers? Am I invoking white guilt because I know they will respond to an allegation of racial insensitivity raised by an African American viewer? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill...after all, the program at issue is a 25 year old British import?

The thing is, I should be just as indignant with my own people for similar offenses. After all, if I can't expose the shortcomings of artistic expression within my own community, then what right do I have indicting the shortcomings of others?

I have waged my own internal war against so-called negative images in the popular culture since college when I made the choice not to purchase or participate in any art form that denigrated black women. I have struggled to remain consistent all these years, and when I have tried to recruit others to my way of thinking, I have been accused of being self-righteous. Few of my peers agree that this stuff is garbage and that it caters to the lowest common denominator of commercialism.

I am going on and on, and realizing that this struggle for responsible images will persist for as long as I live, I just wish that I could convince more people that this is not so much about negative images as it is about negative intentions. The real distinction between art that uplifts and art that denigrates is the intention of the artist. I am not convinced that those old racist cartoons and blackface movies were attempts by whites to pay homage to black culture. If they were, then why was it necessary to include certain overt racial cues such as watermelons and fried chicken? And those who suggest that the modern imagery is merely sophisticated satire obviously ignore the fact that many of these actors are paid good money to make fools of themselves. Again, the real proof lies in the intention. Just ask Dave Chappelle about that thin line between a biting satire and a mocking insult, and he'll explain why he walked away from $50 million.

I don't know what to expect from PBS in response to my email. I probably will not be able to enjoy another episode of "Are You Being Served" without a knot in my throat, because I cannot believe that blackface was an acceptable joke in 1981 Great Britian. That was barely twenty years after black folks on this side of the pond supposedly overcame, and less than three years after the ground-breaking mini-series "Roots" aired (which was the name of the offending episode). Clearly, the intention was ridicule, and I'm sorry but racism isn't funny when expressed in southern twang, in inner-city Ebonics or Spanglish, nor when it is dressed up in an English accent.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And the topic of my next regularly scheduled outburst is...

this damn war!!!


I teach a lot of military personnel, and it burns me up that some of the nation's best and brightest are headed off to a country to fight a war that we have no business waging. I hate the fact that I have to accept the possibility that I might be teaching future casualties of this mess.


Tonight I had a wonderful encounter with the sweetest guy--the type of young man that I would set my daughter up with (if I had a daughter). We talked about his desire to attend school, but then he dropped the D-bomb (deployment in January). I had another favored student detonate that same d-bomb on me just a few weeks ago, and he is probably on a plane headed to Iraq right now (if he isn't there already).

Damn this war. Damn it!!!

I don't know why we are sending these kids to Iraq. I understood when some of them had to go to Afghanistan, but I have never been given a satisfactory explanation for this Iraqi quagmire (it can't even be called a war anymore, because we supposedly won it back in 2003). All I know is, I can't stand the thought of my former students--someone's son or daughter--on a battlefield fighting over this load of Bushit.

Damn. I can't even articulate my anger and disgust. I just pray to God that this is not all in vain. One day, it could be one of my nieces or nephews. Or if the draft gets reinstated, it could be one of my brothers. It could be me (I'm not yet 35, and I don't assume for a moment that women would be exempt).

God help us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Feeling Misunderstood or Un-Appreciated Lately?

Good, tell me all about it. But in a minute, I need to get some things off my chest:

I have had it up to here (imagine that I am raising my hand above my head to reach six feet) with you needy people! You useless bunch of...


Everywhere I go, there you are. In my family. At my job. Across the street. Crowding my inbox. My life is full of needy people. I imagine myself swimming at the deep end of a pool surrounded by needy people, only I am not drowning in neediness because I am the only one who can swim.

And depite the fact that I have reached my daily recommended intake of neediness, I am not allowed to say what I really think. Just once, I want to look one of you little needles in the eye and respond after some typical heart-breaking outpouring, "not my problem." That would be so nice.

But no I can't do that because I have been cursed with an over-abundance of empathy which requires that I sit patiently and listen to all your tales of woe, then politely excuse myself later to retreat to my computer to vent my feelings:


There. All better now. You may proceed.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Where Have I Been?

Apparently, I've been gone long enough to forget which buttons not to push on my computer while preparing to blog. I accidentally pressed return, and suddenly my title was published without any words to accompany it.

But as you might have guessed, I'm mixing blogging and merlot, so mistakes are bound to occur when one's judgement is slightly impaired. I'm celebrating my 5th wedding anniversary! And while I'm blogging, my husband is downstairs watching a baseball game.

Yup, we are a typical happily married couple.

And I really mean it. We are happy. I gave him an Ipod for the occasion, to make up for the pathetic birthday gift I did not give him two months ago. And although he genuinely seemed pleased, apparently I was more excited about the gift than he was. But that was because I spent four hours on Tuesday programming songs into his gift so that I wouldn't have to continue to share my Ipod with him when he goes to work out.

Yes, that is the secret to staying married--share only when absolutely necessary.

Ironically, just as we are celebrating the 5th year of our union, we find ourselves at that age when some of our friends are transitioning from a stage of married bliss. One of his friends who celebrated with us five years ago just got divorced. Other compatriots of mine are contemplating separation. And yet, we press on.

We are lucky because the secret to our marriage has been to stay true to who we were on the day we said "I do" (by the way, the vows technically require you to affirm "I will", but no matter...). I am still the same pain in the ass I was before we got married, and so is he. He hasn't changed, and in spite of myself, I have learned to live with him, warts and all. And I guess if you asked him, he would say the same thing.

I was listening to Chris Rock's most recent HBO special today and he had some interesting observations about marriage. Things change, and yes, marriage is terribly boring. I have endured dinner party conversations with other married folk about such riveting subjects as water heater repairs and dulahs. We probably had more sex before we got married (and yes, I am distracted by at least ten other things that seem more important). But I am happy because every night, I know where to find my husband and I have very little to worry about.

But as we celebrate this milestone, I am starting to worry about the next one, which is not another year of wedded bliss, but the increased frequency of the "when-are-you-going-to-have-children" queries. I think I need another five years to come up with a suitable response...


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Been Gone Too Long

I have been thinking about this blog, only because it has been over a month since my last post. In that time, I have actually managed to get more things accomplished, which leads me to conclude that blogging, unless one is paid for it, is a big waste of time.

Of course, I don't really believe that. In my case, blogging has been enormously helpful to me in expressing those things that no one else cares to hear from me. My "audience" has been a cheap form of therapy. So whenever I question why I do this, I think about the fact that I usually feel pretty good about myself after the fact.

I miss writing. I have been teaching since the summer, and with the exception of exactly one day, I will be teaching straight through to next summer. This would really be a great job if (a) it paid more money and (b) I actually got an office where I could go to escape my house. And, I would want (c) a permanent campus assignment where I could go for every class instead of travelling to all corners of the state. These benefits would make my life gravy.

Another boon would be if I could take a week or two off from being me. Essentially, I need another vacation, only this time, I need to be by myself somewhere with just a computer, a warm blanket, and some wine with my meals. I would also love to take my bike and a good pair of walking shoes. If someone would be willing to plan such a retreat for me, I would be ever so grateful.

I also need a sounding board. Someone who is detached enough from the daily hum drum of my life to offer me advice and counsel as necessary. Such a person would have been really helpful to be today in the midst of my level-5 break down this afternoon. But since my ballet classes are free, I guess that will have to be my stress relief for the time being.

I could go for a yoga class. Something close to my house or to that imaginary campus so that I wouldn't have to travel out of my current orbit. I could take yoga at the dance studio, but then I'd have to pay, so another requirement for the yoga class would be that the price must be right (as in free or somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 - $8 per class). As the popularity increases, the prices have also increased, which in turn, causes me to stay perpetually tense.

I could go on with my wish list of things, but I will conclude with a list of the things for which I am grateful (in other words, here is my yin and yang):

My husband, because he tolerates me.
My parents, because they made me.
My brothers, because they no longer need me, and love me anyway.
My extended family, because they remind me of who I am .
My mother-in-law, because she loves me for no particular reason.
My other in-laws, because they bring me joy (especially the little ones, who remember me).
My friends, because they are special gifts to me.
My job, because it gives me purpose.

I have to do the black thing now and thank God, because He never makes mistakes.

And that's all folks. Ciao!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sideshow Bobblehead

I waited until the last minute again, and failed to make a timely hair appointment. Thus, when I took out my twists this weekend, there was nothing else to do but cover my head with a scarf. Although my hub likes the un-tamed look, I know better than to go outside with my hair all over my head. After all, it is not the70s, I do not live in Hollywood, so I cannot successfully channel Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson or any other bad mama from that era.

So, I am going to take the plunge and attempt to wash and style my hair...again...please pray for me...

The truth: I love my natural hair texture precisely because I pay someone else to make it look good. If left in charge of my own styling, I would eventually end up bald. I don't want to look like my brother.

Another truth: That is the real reason why black women perm. Our mothers could not wait until we were old enough to get that first relaxer because trying to style a little black girl's hair is a half-day job. Mamma needed a break.

More truth: A lot of sisters are right to be concerned about the "professional image" of natural hair. Braids are fine for a few months and dreadlocks may become more acceptable, but for those of us in between those two looks, there are not that many natural hair styles that translate well into the corporate marketplace. As much as I like my stylist, she set me up four weeks ago with an off-to-the side flat-twist style that made me look like a ten year old child. It was cute, but I am long past the point of being cute on a regular basis.

Last bit of truth: I will probably spend the next three hours pulling at my hair, so I'd better get moving if I plan to get anything else done today.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I Heart Project Runway

OK, so in the midst of my hectic semester, I find myself scouring the Internet for all thing Project Runway. Have I ever been this obsessed about a TV show before? Perhaps, but thanks to my new cable modem, my obsession is fueled by my ability to check multiple websites with a single click!

This season is by far the best. I was not that into the first season, although I did spend one crazy weekend watching the marathon. The second season, while much better, also did not intrigue me as much since I just saw the finale the other day. But this season, I am watching as it unfolds, and I am loving every moment.

Last night, Michael Knight, my man from the ATL won and I could not have been happier. And apparently, a bunch of other PR fans are pleased as well. This group of designers is so talented that I think it is anyone's contest.

Well I've gotta run, else I'll be late for class. Auf Wiedersehen!

Monday, August 07, 2006

More Doubt and Self-Loathing

The past six weeks have not been a great. I think that once you experience a certain plateau of joy, life spanks you and forces you to swallow some horribly bitter pills. Most people call it reality. I call it self-flagellating torture.

I came back from Europe feeling on top of the world. I was well rested and my mind was reasonable clear from the cares of my daily life. I took a few days to get back into my normal routine (more or less), and then I forged ahead with plans for an exciting semester and other good things to follow.

Then I started to get the old familiar pangs of under-employed guilt. I wondered whether I was just convincing myself that I was in a good space to avoid the reality that I was still broke, idle and lonely most of the time. And as soon as I allowed those feelings to take root, they've been nearly impossible to yank.

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling kind of blue , so I called my parents to check in on them. My father answered the phone and relayed a very cryptic message for me to "pray for guidance". It made me cry, and even after rationalizing to myself that he was just trying to be helpful, it still makes me cry. He hasn't explained his rationale (he left that up to my mother), but I can only guess that his concern about my future has been building for some time now. A week or two earlier, he handed me a stack of job announcements.

Then last night, my younger brother offered his thoughts on the conundrum of my future. He jokingly said that I was headed for soccer-momdom (of course, assuming that I ever have children), so he wanted me to figure out a way to fill my time until mommyhood becomes a reality. I feebly defended myself on the basis that I am trying to figure things out.

The thing is, I've been trying to figure things out since 2003. As much as I try to put a brave face on things, the truth is, I am more confused about my purpose than I ever was.

I like teaching, but I am not sure that it can become a permanent career move. For one thing, the pay is so lousy compared to the amount of work involved, thus I would need a second job, which is exactly the position I am in anyway. If I want to really change careers in that direction, then it would mean an additional investment in another degree, which I am not able to make. I still need to pay for this expensive law degree...

So then the only other logical choice is to return full-time to the law. And that is the rub. As much as I like being a lawyer and solving people's problems, I have not found this field to be particularly hospitable to me. With a few exceptions, my jobs were disasters. And the reality is, the problem is not the profession, it is me.

I was never cut out to be the type of lawyer one needs to be in order to be called a success (read rich). I have the chops to be a pretty good lawyer, but in some ways, I feel that I lost the confidence necessary to achieve that before I even got started. I've never been able to shake the notion that I don't deserve this, that somehow, all of this has been a fluke. Who wants a lawyer like that?

A friend forwarded me a website started by this woman about leaving the legal profession. I was intrigued, not because I am ready to give up, but because I was surprised to learn that there were people out there who also found aspects of the practice frustrating. Thankfully, when I've entertained that sentiment in the past, something always happens to make me reconsider, sort of like divine intervention.

Now that I have written this all out, I don't feel as terrible as I did an hour ago. An emotional burden has been lifted, but then writing has always been my cheap version of therapy. So now I'm thinking that in some very odd cosmic way, I'll be okay. I'm not a failure afterall.

It has been said that in life, it is when one is just about ready to give up that an opportunity is revealed. Instead of heading off a cliff of uncertaintly, I could be right where I need to be in order to receive the next challenge life has in store. So dear readers (all four of you), keep your fingers crossed that there is a blessing headed my way...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Back into Michael

It started last week at a crab feast. While we picked through mountains of Maryland Chesapeake Bay crabs, someone played the Michael Jackson "Best Of" CD. While sipping the cheap beer and watching the children dance around on stage, we discussed the joke Eddie Murphy told many years ago about the lyrics to "Billie Jean" and how Micheal must have thought he had fooled all of us because the video was about a mystery man who could light up the squares in the pavement of the sidewalk--nothing at all to do with a young man who might have gotten a girl pregnant.

Oh, Michael! What the hell happened?

Who didn't love MJ as a child? He was the most fantabulous entertainer of all time. His music, his ground-breaking music videos, and his electric performances entranced us. We were not distracted by the fact that he looked weird and had a high pitched voice and wore sequins even in the daytime and wore high-water pants and white socks with penny loafers and colorful leather jackets in always hot and sunny California and had that drip-drippy jheri curl and travelled with small children who were unrelated to him and never seemed to have a girlfriend and lived in an amusement park and seemingly disappeared when his sister Janet released "Control" only to re-emerge a few years later looking even weirder and whiter. We still loved him. He was the greatest.

Even when we all moved onto to other musical interests, Michael still had the power to draw us back. We all thought "Bad" was a decent enough album in hig school and "Dangerous" was a big hit among my friends in college. I don't recall that I bought "HIStory" (as a matter of fact, I don't even remember when it came out), but I might go buy it today simply because Michael released it. And that last album with Chris Tucker in the video, if I knew what it was called, I would buy that one too.

No matter what Michael has done (or hasn't), I will always be a fan. Anything he puts out is infinitely better that the music most of the other popular artists have released. I just completed a music survey and I hated almost everything they had me evaluate. MJ is one of these rare artists that never go out of style.

My recent MJ rehabilitation has a lot to do with the fact that I never accepted the conventional wisdom that he was a unrepentant freak. He is crazy, but then again every child of Joe and Katherine Jackson seem to have inherited some level of insanity (has anyone else noticed how off the wall Janet has been since she hooked up with Jermaine Dupri?). I just don't believe that this is a man who would ever intentionally harm a child. I think he did some inappropriate things with children, but like other celebrities who behave badly, he just needs some therapy, a new agent and wait the obligatory five to ten years to make a come-back. By that point his own children will be old enough to sit next to him during the mandatory Oprah interview to insist that he was just misunderstood.

While I don't buy any of the conspiracy theories that there are people out there who are out to get Michael Jackson, I think it is time that we face facts so that he can finally do the same. MJ is a victim of his own self-inflicted excesses. His troubles are representative of the fact that he surrounded himself with unscrupulous people who used him. At some point, I hope that his real friends will step up and save him, not only from the bad people, but also from himself.

In the meantime, I plan to revisit the classic Michael Jackson. It is a lot easier to remember that he was once less strange than he is today, but it gives me hope that one day he will recover. It has been said that there is a very thin line between genuis and insanity, and he is probably the most tragic embodiment of that fact. Instead of treating his life and career like the proverbial car wreck on the freeway, maybe we all should just politely look away and keep going (all the while jamming to "Billie Jean").

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Too Much TV

I spent a good half of my day yesterday watching "America's Top Model." I spent three hours on Sunday glued to "Project Runway." In any given week, I can watch as much VH1, E!, TLC, and Lifetime to have written several books, cleaned my house at least three times top to bottom, and any number of un-done tasks around my house.

I am a TV junkie.

Is there anyone else out there who can attest to my addiction? While watching a few hours of "The World Series of Pop Culture" I realized that I could answer at least a third of the questions. If I had known that there was a nation-wide search for contestants, I would have signed up. Why not get paid for all of the TV I watch these days?

I've written about my TV obsessions before, but the issue now is the paralysis I feel whenever I waste significant chunks of time in front of the tube. I do accomplish other tasks, but it just feels as if my life is still passing me by as I watch repeats, makeover shows, baby shows (my new obsession thanks to TLC) and court shows. Let's not forget that I still enjoy my Brit-coms. And I've been staying up at night to watch "Sex and the City" and Keith Olberman's "Countdown."

Actually, it is not as bad as it seems. It just feels that way because TV has replaced human beings for me in terms of regular interaction. I can watch TV and forget about the fact that it is too darn hot to do much else. I bet that this current phase will end as soon as the weather breaks and I can go outside to do things again. That, and when I finally get a little money in my pocket.

Ok, I get it...I need a life and soon.

On a brighter note, I did complete one of my short story ideas. I need to edit it, but I am very proud of myself. It took an entire day (one that could have been used for something more productive), but at least I did not waste a day on TV and I got something done for myself. Yay me!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Series on Black Men in the Post

The Washington Post has been running a series on black men, and I thought that I might be able to post in the Live Discussion with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. I am not a big fan of his, so I wanted to query him on his vendetta against Bill Cosby.

But after I wrote out my comments before-hand and logged in to post them to the discussion board, someone else had already asked a similar question. And since I am very passionate on this issue, I started on one question and ended up with several that I thought I might pose to Dr. Dyson. They too had been posed by others. This means that I probably will not get to see my question or point of view on the website.

So, yesterday I was contemplating the future of this I am using it as an outlet for one of my rants. Here goes:

I personally think you have capitalized on the Cosby comments, and the longer your “dispute” rages, you continue to make money on book sales. This is not to suggest that there is not a genuine disagreement, but it just seems that the “difference” in your respective opinions is overstated. Unlike the paid black conservative talking heads who act as mouthpieces for reactionary think tanks and politicos, Cosby is speaking his mind to black audiences on his own volition. What profit does he derive from his public appearances?

Bill Cosby single-handedly contributed to the high college attendance rates in the 90s through a popular TV sitcom and several multi-million dollar gifts to HBCUs. Contrary to your assertions that Mr. Cosby has avoided the subject of race throughout his career, I believe that he has made numerous efforts to address the topic, but has done so through subtlety. Must all black public figures thump their chests and set out to be openly defiant?

With respect Dr. Dyson, many rational people, both liberal (like me) and conservative agree with Bill Cosby on the need for more personal responsibility in the black community. That does not diminish the reality of racism—it just accepts the fact that each of us must play the cards we are dealt in life, and that even with a bad hand, the right moves means that one can survive stay in the game. Racism has always persisted in our society; I suspect that it always will. So does it mean that we just give up? When do we become accountable for the condition of the black community?

Well, that was all I wanted to add to the conversation. I do want answers to these questions, but unfortunately the nature of a so-called live chat doesn't really allow one to exchange ideas with the chatter. He gets to be selective and evasive as necessary. So I suspect that my questions, even if he provides "answers", won't necessarily be resolved.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pondering my Return to the Blog

I needed to take a break, and it took me all month to decide whether to return to my blog. It isn't that I had gotten frustrated with the lack of readership (which I hadn't because I never promoted this thing), but it was a question of futility of a different sort. Was this really worth it?

In terms of other blogs that I've read, I don't say anything especially profound, and when I do, no one ever really sees it. My initial goal was to get into a habit of writing on a regular basis, and for a while it worked. But then I fell into familiar habits and patterns, and my once a day expectation became a once a week, then a once a month visit. I haven't written anything in nearly a month.

So I am torn. Do I give this up or do I stick it out? There are a lot of reasons to give it up, mainly because of the footprint this thing has left. If someone wanted to find out something about me, a quick Google search later and this blog would probably appear. I might have some explaining to do (assuming that a potential employer would care). On the other hand, I think it has been good practice for me to write here, even with the small audience. The feedback I've received has been generally good.

What to do? Why should I even stress over this?

Cause it's my way. If I don't stress over this, I'll stress over something else. It is in my nature.

I'll let you know what I decide. Ciao!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My Devil Wore St. John's

I saw my younger self onscreen today. My best friend and I saw "The Devil Wears Prada" and it was a bittersweet reminder of what it takes to be a powerful woman in the corporate world. Actually, it could be a metaphor for what most young women in with dreams of wealth, power and success endure.

The trauma often begins with the stress of the first professional job search. Rejection letters, unreturned calls, useless networking meetings and unacknowledged resumes are rites of passage, so when the moment of truth arrives and that first job offer is extended, most of us are ready to walk through fire because we are so grateful to even make it to that point. By the time I got my first professional job, I was willing to do almost anything, as long as I could hold my head up and proclaim that I did something.

I spent nearly 18 months in a desparate post law-school job search. I was intially told that I needed to pass the bar exam, so I studied like my life depended on it, drove everyone crazy because I was determined to pass on the first try. After taking the exam, I continued to send out resumes, but was only able to secure work as a glorified baby-sitter/tour guide for a bunch of high school students for two months. When the good news arrived, I just knew that a "real" job was right around the corner.

To make a little extra money for all of the lawyer clothes I would need, I got a job working at the mall selling high end soap for a little more than the cost of pantyhose. I dutifully continued to send out resumes, and I ate lunch with every single person that someone recommended who might be able to get me a job. This went on for months, and I continued to sell soap for the sister of one of my closest friends in law school. To add insult to injury, one of my classmates from high school, someone whom I knew to be not so swift, came into my store and essentially treated me like a stupid salesgirl. And if that was not enough, my student loan payments became due, and I barely made enough to even make the interest.

Eventually I ditched that dead-end job and flirted with the idea of becoming a solo practitioner. I was inspired by another temporary job I held as a data entry assistant for another lawyer. The big guy heard that I was a licensed attorney, so he sent me over to the courthouse to handle an uncontested divorce. It was exciting, but it was a one shot deal, and my subsequent attempts to recapture that moment were never quite as thrilling (or as successful).

The following year, I was so exhausted from being poor and so demoralized by my lack of business acumen that I took matters into my own hands. On the coldest winter day, I walked the halls of power and personally handed out resumes to every politician who had advertised for vacancies. And my plan B was to repeat the personal service routine until every judge, government agency, and public interest organization in the city had a copy of my resume. Lucky for me, it didn't come to that.

Fast forward to my first week on the job. I got chewed out for answering the phone "incorrectly." Then I got chewed out for writing down notes with a pencil (even though I had just loaned her my only pen). Then she chewed me out for asking her to hold on while I searched for an answer to a question she had just asked. Then she told me that she hoped I had been a better lawyer to my clients than I was to her, because at that moment, I was an impossible incompetent.

Yup, all of this during the first week on the job.

Later, our relationship stabilized to the point where I could speak to her without genuflecting, but those moments were rare. Then one day after a particularly rough week of enduring her demands, I snapped and got so bold as to argue with her in public. In that instant it became clear that I had crossed a line with her that would never be forgotten. She would never fire me, but she would put me in my place by working me harder than everyone else in the office and by paying me less than every other person in the office. For the next six months she tethered me to her like a dog, and berated me incessantly. But because I had developed thicker skin (and a bit of a backbone), I resolved to anticipate her ridiculous demands and act accordingly.

Of course, this relationship has been the single most important professional experience of my career. People generally are impressed that I survived a year with her (actually it was 50 weeks). And while I would never go so far as to call her a mentor, I would say that she gave me more career guidance than the counselors that were paid to do so at my law school.

She taught me that life is about choices. The choice to become a powerful, successful, woman is one that requires more than just the sacrifice of a quiet, tranquil life. It requires everything--your mind, body and soul. You must think about your work all of the time; you must physically be at work all of the time; and you must possess the fanatacism of a religious zealot to keep you on the top of the game. Success is not for the woman who wants to settle into a "normal" life. Success is not for the woman who wants to have time to herself. Success is not for those of us who want to find someone to share it with.

Success is a solitary pursuit. That is why there is only one queen in a bee hive. She is the ace-zero-no-higher. It is her world, and we are just lucky to be in it.

So as I watched this movie and thought back to my own Miranda Priestly, a St. John's suit-wearer, I realize that I am here because I made the choice not to be like her. I wanted to have a husband who would actually like being married to me. I wanted to have a flexible work schedule so that I could do more than just work and sleep day and day out. I wanted to continue to help people, but I wanted to be able to say no when things got too overwhelming. I also wanted to pursue some of my interests, such as dance and writing.

I wouldn't be able to do any of those things if I had followed in the footsteps of my old boss. I wanted to live my life on my own terms, and in the end, if I can accomplish some measure of happiness, then that is all the success I need.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Home at Last

I returned from my big fat Spanish vacation on Tuesday. In a word, fabulous! I am tanned and relaxed, and I finally feel unencumbered enough to get back to work on the various projects on my personal to do list.

Project #1 - WRITE. I can work on my novel, write a few days worth of memiors about my trip, write a few short stories, some blogs, whatever. I just want to get back in the groove and take advantage of the time I have this summer.

I did very little writing in Spain, mainly because the hub and I spent most of the time on the move. Very little time was spent sitting in one place. And on the few occasions when we were not looking for something to do, to eat, or for a way back to the hotel, I was reading a book. For more months than I care to count, I haven't had leisure time to read a book unrelated to school, so it was a welcomed experience. Now it's time to get back to work!

Project #2 - PREPARE. Summer classes start in less than a month, and I have an entirely different subject matter that I'm teaching for the first time. This will be the test of my ability to teach for real, since this is not a topic with which I am familiar.
Project #3 - PLANT. My yard is still an overgrown mess. I didn't plant anything prior to my trip for fear that they would die while I was away. So I need to get some veggies in the ground if I plan to have any type of harvest by September.
Project #4 - RELAX. It is summer and that is what I plan to do. There is no reason for me to continue with the crazy pace I had been following. I am declaring the rest of this month as ME time.
And that's all for now. Hasta!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Random B.S.

One of my friends emailed me the following:










It was sent by some anonymous quack in response to Mr. Cosby's recent graduation address to the Spelman class of 2006. Parts of Cosby's speech were printed in the Washington Post and USA Today, so it had the desired result of getting people's attention. And this jerk thought he could make an alternative point by sending this to the Spelman community.

As an alumna I could be offended, but instead I laugh at b.s. like this because sentiments like this are probably all over the internet. Free speech is one of the things that make this country great--you can be as offensive as you like, and as long as your comments do not cause riots and anarchy, you have every right to express them.

Of course, I could be accused of giving this moron a platform to spout his ignorance, but I am not worried about that either. I intentionally omitted the link to his "proof" in the form of a song, so he will not get any assistance from me in guiding traffic to his website. If anything, all I want to do is expose him for the idiot that he is.

But I am sick and tired of the degredation black women receive at the hands of the men within our own community. We get the message loud and clear from mainstream society--we are not beautiful, friendly, demure, feminine, or respected, yet we endure the blows and persevere. And in return, we come home and get bombarded with more negativity from a bunch of overgrown male-children whose only ambition is to get rich or die trying.

I don't need to defend myself, or the choices I've made with respect to how I live my life. Nor do I need to defend Bill Cosby or the mission of my alma mater (their accomplishments in uplifting the black race speak for themselves), but I do want to speak up on behalf of black women in general. The writer is only half right--black women have been on the front lines since the 60s, but that was necessary because too many black men failed to show up.

In the time since the Movement, too many black men still fail to show up. They fail to be fathers to the children they produce; instead they opt to be absentee baby daddies. Instead of maturing into men, too many remain tethered to childhood as mama's boys and spoiled brats. If half as much energy was spent on developing business plans, getting an education, parenting, or mentoring as is spent on leisure, loafing, and whining, then maybe more young black men would be on the path to productivity instead of in jail or in the streets on the road to nowhere.

No other ethnicity or race of people expend as much time and effort in self-hatred as we do. Most people can agree and disagree without being branded as disloyal traitors to their heritage. In our society, women from every walk of life can aspire to both great and small things, but when black women express similar ambitions, then we are derided for being weak on one hand, or too strong on the other. There is no middle ground.

I'm spending way more time on this post than I intended. I have better things to do than rail on about some idiot's manifesto on the state of the black community (besides, I've said most of this before in previous posts). As a Spelman graduate who happens to agree with most of what Bill Cosby says, I guess my existence will always be offensive to people like him. Good.


Type-A personalities like me get a bad rap. Not only do we tend to be anal and controlling, but we are also over-anxious and very particular about certain things. Case in point: I love my Smartwater and I refuse to share it with anybody, not even my husband. It's mine and that's just the way it is.

So this trip to Spain next week finds me in Type-A overload. I've been planning my wardrobe for weeks. I've been mentally packing and re-packing my suitcases and carry-on bags. I've been carefully considering ways to keep myself entertained on the plane (just the right books, magazines, games and music to keep me occupied for eight hours). I've planned an in-flight menu of just the right foods and beverages (since no one feeds you on the plane anymore). I've made lists of the lists I need to make so that I don't forget anything.

And I am determined not to lose anything of value overseas. I read online that American tourists are typically targeted for thefts, so yesterday, I became obsessed with various decoy devices and throw-away items that I would not miss if stolen (yes, it is that crucial). I bought a fake pleather wallet-pursey thing to keep my stuff. I also bought a new CD holder so that I could keep better track of my CDs (not that anything was ever wrong with the other three CD holders we already have), and I spent all day burning copies of CDs so that I don't travel with the originals.

Yep, I'm a classic basket case. The trip that is supposed to help me relax has only increased my stress.

Last night I nearly lost my mind because I could not find my passport a week before my departure. To say that this was the King Kong of meltdowns would not be an exagerration. I seriously thought that forces were conspiring to make me crazy, and that I would be carted off to an asylum.

Of course, I had not lost the passport, I had put it away in a "safe place". That safe place happened to be an actual safe, the very one that stays empty and unused about 95% of the time. I only checked in there after I had gone through every piece of paper on my very cluttered desk about five times, screamed at my husband, and swore to God about 100 times that I had not moved the passport from the desk drawer where I had been keeping it since October when it was issued.

With the passport drama over, now the next dilemma is my ticket. It was issued in my husband's name, only I never changed my last name upon marriage, so we've been waiting for nearly three weeks to get this resolved. Why not just reprint the damn thing, you ask? Because that would be too easy. Air France is requiring a copy of the marriage license and a copy of the aforementioned passport as proof of my real name.

In a post 9/11 world, it should be expected that I would be subjected to intense scrutiny, but before I even get to the airport?

We'll see how this wrinkle gets ironed out. In the meantime, I need to go buy some more plastic baggies because I bought the wrong size yesterday and I need them for double-bagging my toiletry items :)

Yes, it is that crucial...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ca va?

I'm going to pull out my old French books so that I can brush up before I head off to Spain in two weeks. Of course, that makes very little sense to most people, but to me it is perfect. I can translate what I hear from the French much better than I would be able to through a crash course in Spanish.

I am really tired, but I was online posting grades and just wanted to check in to see if any additional spam had been posted to my blog. I think it is hilarious that someone would go through the trouble of posting something completely random to my blog. It was a total set-up because I was all excited that someone had read my stuff...them come to find out, it was just some weirdo.

The days leading up to the trip are going to be hectic. I now have to fit in another trip to NYC for family reasons, and it is only adding to my stress. I wish I had the courage to say what I really feel, but it would cause more drama than necessary. I guess I am the only person who feels that a last minute 7-hour car ride the week before leaving the country for two weeks is a bit extreme, but hey. Oh and it just so happens that I have my recital the day before, so I have to rush from the performance and get immediately on the road.

I have other things that are stressing me out, but no one wants to hear about them or even acknowledge that I have a right to be a little anxious about them. Everyone wants me to chill. When have I ever done that? As soon as we get back, I have to jump right back on the treadmill, and I seriously doubt that the husband is going to allow me that much peace on the trip anyway. And then my parents have been giving me grief over everything imaginable.

So, I am cranky. I read an advertisement today that suggested that I might be bipolar because like most people, I get depressed and have mood swings. Hello, I am a woman...but I guess this is just another tactic to scare people into believing normal life requires medication. Maybe Tom Cruise is right about psychology...

Anyhoo, I am rambling and I'm tired. Ciao!

Monday, May 08, 2006

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Of course, the topic was on how pathetic my yard looked, so I can see how this is related...

This looks like the type of scheme that gets people into trouble when they apply for executive level positions. They get these official sounding diplomas and degrees, but one day someone will do a reference check and will discover that the degree was actually awarded to a dead baby or a lab rat instead of the person named.

If there was any further reason to decry the state of education in our country, this is another one. Who would want to purchase a fake degree? What if someone actually had to rely on your competence in a particular area, and all you had to show for it was this sham? During the course of the nuclear explosion caused, what could you possibly say--oops?

I knew someone who tried to pull a similar scam once...and he almost got away with it. But he was kind of an asshole and had made too many enemies. I saw him recently, though, and he seemed to be doing well. At least that is what he said...

Three Weeks and Counting...

I am headed to Spain for a much needed vacation. I don't speak a wit of Spanish, and I will have to rely on charm and the hub for guidance. But I don't care, because for two weeks, I won't have to think about anything!

Nothing at all. No students. No clients. No bills. Nothing.

I can't wait! I feel like a kid doing the countdown to Disney World or Christmas morning. I'm so excited!

Of course, until the time of my departure, there is plenty of worrying for me. I have a settlement agreement to draft by Wednesday. An exam to draft by tomorrow at 4pm, which I then need to grade by Thursday for some and Friday for others. And then there are papers to grade, because everyone seems to be working on CP time when it comes to my class syllabus. And let us not forget the upcoming recital on the 20th, where I am dancing in four pieces. Then of course, there is the legal work I have yet to complete for my mother. There is always work for the alumnae association as well. I have the class to prepare for the second half of the summer, and if I want, there is tutoring, more essays to grade, and possibly some advocacy that I could sneak in before September.

I am always up to something. But for two weeks, the only thing I'll need to do is look pretty and flirt. I will take books that have nothing to do with school. I will work crossword puzzles until I can't think. I will let someone else do my laundry. And best of all, I won't have to drive. This trip will offer me more relaxation than I've had since...I can't remember.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Searching for Truth - Pt. 2

I was so fired up the other day, that I kept writing and ended up several different themes. So I'm publishing them as a series. I am posting the first two this evening/early morning, and hopefully will post more by Tuesday.

Another angle on the Duke sex scandal - Notions of hypocrisy and betrayal

The caller on the aforementioned radio show last week touched a raw nerve for me when she implied that a lack of support for this young woman was tantamount to betrayal. But by whom? Could she have meant the men in the young woman's life, and how their lack of responsibility made her seriously consider stripping as a career option?

Of course not, that irate caller was making a larger case about collective shame in our community, but she missed the mark. However, upon further consideration I think the caller has a valid point. This young woman was betrayed by our community, but not because some of us questioned her choices. She was betrayed when we accepted sexual exploitation as an integral aspect of black culture.

Remember “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”…

When we allowed the pimp to be resurrected as an icon of black manhood, then we betrayed every young black woman. Pimps are in the business of pimpin’ and the currency of that enterprise is the ho, a.k.a. the black woman. So when that song won an Oscar, it was not our proudest moment. If anything, it was an acknowledgment of how shameful we have allowed our culture to become.

When we accept the explanation provided by some rappers that they are only referring to certain women when they pepper their lyrics with the terms bitches and hoes, then we betray every young black woman. When we dismiss rap videos full of under-dressed young woman as overly stylized fantasies, then we betray every young black woman. When we dance to the beat but fail to listen to the lyrics, then we betray every young black woman. When we allow music executives to claim that this is what we want because we eagerly buy their products, then we betray every young black woman.

And this is larger than hip hop, because other so-called beloved entertainers have contributed to this betrayal. We embrace R. Kelly, even though he is accused of urinating on a thirteen year old child. I’ve heard people defend him on the theory that he was seduced—by a thirteen year old child! As for his annulled marriage to late singer Aaliyah when she was only fifteen: “Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Number”. Here is someone who is clearly sick, yet we celebrate him by selling out his concerts and buying his trashy music. But to bash him in public is to air dirty laundry that is best kept “In the Closet”…

We’ve looked the other way when black public figures disregard their black wives and engage in infidelity. Jesse Jackson spent less than two weeks in exile after it was revealed that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. His wife stood by him, but I wonder if she felt betrayed by the way the community ignored her pain. Countless other political wives probably endure similar humiliation. Our forgiveness of black preachers is legendary and best summarized in the oft-repeated refrain, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

We apparently have a soft spot when it comes to our sports heroes and their sins against women. When these guys father children from one end of the country to the next, why do we overlook their irresponsibility in sleeping around and aim our accusations at the women? When Allen Iverson put his naked wife out on the street in an incident that clearly indicated domestic abuse, why did we ignore it as personal drama and cheer him on at his next game? And why did we do the same thing for Jason Kidd and Warren Moon? Is Jim Brown viewed as an abusive brute, or is he still regarded as a sports icon? Do we really believe that O.J. Simpson never hit his black wife, and are we ready to believe that he probably killed his white wife?

If we forgive black entertainers, religious leaders, political figures, and athletes accused of behaving badly toward black women, then why should we be any less forgiving of white men similarly accused? If we don't hold the men in our community accountable for their behavior, then what do we expect?

I bet that question is on the mind of every Duke athlete on the lacrosse team.

Searching for Truth - Pt. 1

I have no idea what happened at that party involving the Duke Lacrosse Team and the stripper. She says things got out of control and that she was raped and sodomized; they say it was just a party and that she was angry about not getting enough money for her services. Seems like a classic cut-and-dry case of she said vs. they said, but that assumes that this is case is only about a stripper in a room full of drunken athletes. This case is of David and Goliath proportions with regard not only to race and gender, but also to class and privilege.

It could serve as an important teaching moment for our society. But I doubt it. We have already taken sides, and few of us are willing to deal with the complexities. We just want to settle old scores.

Last week a caller on a radio show complained bitterly about what she viewed as a “lack of racial solidarity with this young woman.” Apparently, several previous callers, mostly male, had suggested that because of the woman’s profession, she put herself in a position to be exploited. The caller went on to declare that this crime occurred precisely because of the victim’s race, and that fact had emboldened the lacrosse players in disrespecting her. The caller finished her tirade by suggesting that if the victim were white, none of this would ever have occurred. As the host of the program offered her amen to everything the caller said, I was completely mystified.

I understand the outrage of the black community in Durham. For decades, when a black woman was raped by a white man or mob, the community was powerless in the face of Jim Crow “justice”. Under regimes of state-sponsored terrorism, black husbands, fathers, sons and brothers could do little to protect their black wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. So when leaders of the local NAACP and clergy demanded action, they are responding to years of un-prosecuted rape and mayhem.

But that only scratches the surface as there are other implications of this incident beyond race of the victim and the perpetrators. Whenever drunken men get around half-naked women, someone is bound to take things too far. So where was her protection? Where was the black community that night? Why did this young, black, single mother have to strip for a living?

If we would dare to answer those questions, then we might see that our anger is misplaced. In overlooking certain nuances implicit in her life choices, we have again failed to address some painful truths.

Where was the father of her child? If he was paying child support, would that have led this young woman to become a stripper?

Ok, let’s assume that the answer to the second question is yes. Then, if she willingly chose this profession, then does she not also have the responsibility to accept the consequences of that choice? If that question blames the victim, then I will state here and now that I do not believe that any woman deserves to be sexually abused.

At the same time, no woman should have to engage in a profession wherein chief among the hazards is the possibility of sexual exploitation and abuse in order to support a child.

So while Jesse Jackson and others publicly form a hedge of protection around this woman now, they need to use this opportunity to publicly address the circumstances that lead this mother and other small-town black single mothers to make similar poor career choices because of absent fathers. For if she had an involved co-parent (and not another absent baby daddy), then she would never have been at that party that night. No self-respecting man would allow the mother of his child--whether he liked her or not--to work as a stripper for hire. He would care too much about the welfare of his child to allow that. And I’ve seen the darkened silhouette of her daddy in numerous TV interviews, so I’m wondering if he is hiding to protect her identity or in shame because his daughter had to pursue this lifestyle to support his grandchild.

Where was he when she needed him?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Allergies, Insomnia, Carpal Tunnel and other Maladies

Oh how I love Spring. I love it so much it's sickening! Really.

I have spring allergies. Every April around this time, I have to barricade myself indoors, or I have take allergy medication. When all of these new prescriptions came out a few years ago, I was estatic. I could finally take something that would not put me to sleep. Only, these medications have the worst side effects. One year I had back pain and flu-like symptoms. Last year, I got earaches and a sore throat. This year, I have the earaches and sore throat, and I can't sleep at night.

So, I stopped taking the medication, but now I can't go outside. To pass the time I have been working on my novel, blogging on a semi-regular basis, grading papers, doing some internet research for my class, and journaling. I would say that I have been rather productive lately.

Except now, I'm been experiencing numbness in my right arm. It was so bad last night that I was convinced I had some unspeakable neurological disorder. Now that the panic has subsided, I've settled on carpal tunnel syndrome. I used to laugh at people who claimed they were disabled by this. Now I'm not so sure that it's so funny anymore.

The insomnia has been with me consistently for weeks, so I can't blame that on the month of April. I had a rough February, and a ultra-busy March which leads me to think that there might be more to this because I should be exhausted. I forget things, I've lost interest in some of my activities, I never go to church, my house is a terminal mess, and I am more disorganized than ever. Maybe I have depression?

Nah...I just need a new bed, and a vacation. And a million dollars...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Writing Blues

So my computer ate my first chapter. That is my excuse for not finishing the writing sample and submitting it for the Writers' Workshop last week. And it happens to be the gospel truth.

Last Saturday, I got on the computer to edit the first chapter of my long-awaited-unwritten-as-of-yet-first-novel. My intention was to submit an initial draft of the first few chapters for a local writers' workshop application. Everything was going fine until I switched gears to complain about a the pathetic MLK day parade that I just saw on TV (a piece I plan to back-date and post very soon). After an hour or so, I wanted to get off the computer for a bit, so when I went to save both documents, I got this weird error message that my MS Word was not responding. After several tries, I had to exit the program, but since there is a little miracle called auto-save, I crossed my fingers in hopes that I could retrieve my documents.

This is where the whole story gets crazy. As I suspected, the auto-save had indeed retrieved both documents, and even though it was an earlier version of the chapter, I was not worried, because all I needed to do was to save the changes and then exit out of the program as I had initally intended. Simple, right?

WRONG!!! The same error message kept popping up, and then I started to panic. After an hour, I still could not save my documents. And I could not open any of my other documents. And my web browser would only direct me to Microsoft sites. And I was losing my mind.

I called tech support, and lets just say that I am really unhappy that these jobs continue to get exported out of the country...I gave up after being placed on hold for more than 30 minutes. I turned the computer off again and resolved to try again the next day.

Same scenario. This time, three hours down the drain. But at least a successful call to the Microsoft tech support and a promise that they would follow up.

Which they did several times, only I had to make other plans and spent most of the week on campus. When I finally spoke to the tech support people, it was Thursday and I had not turned on the computer in days. Of course, when I did turn it on, it was as if the whole thing never happened. The program did not freeze up, I could open and save my documents, and I was able to use the internet.

Alas I was not able to finish my draft. The guidelines requested 10 to 15 pages. Last Thursday, the day before the entry was due, I had only completed 4 pages. As of today, I'm up to 7.

So that is how the computer ate my chapter, chewed it up a bit and spat it back at me. It was all too convenient given the fact that I was working against a clear deadline and had resolved to make it. In the end, I could not make up for the days I lost. I was disappointed because I really wanted to get this done. However, the one bright spot in this little story is that I am still working on the piece. I am committed to working on the novel until it is completed.

No matter how long it takes.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Death, Taxes and Passwords

There are three things that this life guarantees:

  1. We will all die someday.
  2. We have to pay taxes every year at the same time, but people like me will always wait until the very last minute.
  3. At the most inconvenient time, you will forget your username or password. If you don't forget, the website you are trying to log into will.

I had to log into my blog, again, because I assume that after 10 days or so, Blogger decides to automatically reset the cookies on my computer. Why not just make me log in every time, instead of getting me to check that box that says "remember me" only for the site not to remember me?

But Blogger is not the reason for my foul mood. I am trying to file my taxes, it is after 6pm on April 14, and there is one teensy bit of information I need to make this process less painful. But the website that contains the said information is denying me access. TO MY OWN DAMN ACCOUNT WITH MY MONEY IN IT!!!

Add to this annoyance the fact that I just received one of those generic auto-response emails informing me that they will address my concerns on Monday, after I've just spent over an hour trying to get access to this information today...which is too late to do me any good for filing my taxes tonight.


I blame it all on computer passwords. Life would be much simpler if there were no computer passwords to remember. I propose that there should be one universal password, given to all of us at birth, that never got rejected. I know, it is called the SSN, but this one universal password would satisfy the different requirements of every website that demanded a word that is either case-sensitive, has both numbers and letters, or is otherwise "unique" in some way.

Mine would be TallGirl5
(legal disclaimer: that was totally made up for the purposes of this post only).
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The only thing I did accomplish today is to finally finish the first chapter of the book I've been to writing for three years now. Yup, only the first damn chapter...

I really love to write, but I can never devote the amount of time needed. I barely get enough time to blog. I keep wishing for a clear schedule, but then I waste the time with crossword puzzles, Brit-coms, and other people's problems. Finally, today I decided that enough was enough and I banged out that first chapter. Of course, the only reason why that happened is because I want to get accepted into a writers' workshop and it would help to have a work in progress...
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More on my pathetic writing output:

My Blogger counter says that I have written 98 posts. That is technically inaccurate. At least ten of those posts have never been published. Have they changed the rules and I was not informed?

If people read my profile and start reading my old posts, will they feel short-changed when they realize that the counter is wrong? Does anyone even care? Yes, I am descending back into self-absorbed panic--that no one reads my writing and couldn't give a damn if I filled this space with names copied the from the phone book.
-------------------- *

I saw the movie "Closer" and it is so hard-core that I forgot that I had to teach that night and watched the whole thing in the middle of the day. Why can't I write a story that intense? I know that I don't think on that level (sex is not my writing forte) but damn, it was so deep and I was so involved. In the words of a young teenager I once knew, "That movie went hard!"

Gheesh, I sound like a 10th grader.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What a Crafty Mess!

I saw an article in the Washington Post a few weeks ago and it has sparked another obsession--t-shirt reconstruction! I altered three old t-shirts and I have several more waiting for their chance to become something new. I feel like a teenager again.

Except, when I was a teenager, this is probably the last thing I would have done. I had very little interest in being unique--we were all too busy trying to look like each other. I won't even go into detail except to mention that I was a teen in the late 80s and very early 90s...basically the style nadir of the 20th Century.

I got the itch to get more creative with my clothing back in November after I saw "Flashdance" again and got inspired emulate Jennifer Beals. I have so many big shirts, leftover from the days when everything was worn baggy and boxy, so I had several candidates for alteration. To make sure that my vision was properly realized, I experimented with some of Rick's old undershirts. After two attemps I got the look I wanted, and then put the scissors to one of my old Cat In the Hat shirts.

I wear it all the time now. Before, it was at the back of the drawer.

There was also an episode of What Not to Wear that got me thinking about cutting my tees a few years back. There was this woman who had nothing in her closet but old tees and jeans that she wore to work everyday. Stacey and Clinton dumped her entire wardrobe, and she cried the blues. Then they surprised her by saving a few of the cooler t-shirts and altered them for her. They took a very boxy one and made it into a sexy baby tee.

So this Washington Post article rekindled my interest in this little craft, but now I can't find the paper or the article anywhere. I found some other cool designs on the internet, but none of that has satisfied me. I am on the hunt for the perfect t-shirt alteration. I need something that will allow me to look young and carefree, but not so much so that I look like a woman trying to act and look younger than she really is. I also need some ideas that will minimize the amount of sewing I need to do (afterall, I am not that crafty).

Of course, my fear is that this will go the way of scrap-booking, quilt-making, gardening and many of the other crafts that I've attempted to cultivate. I abandoned scrap-booking because it felt silly to set aside time to cut and paste like a kindergartner. I realized quilting was another temporary interest because I was just not that into sewing. And as for gardening--well I still haven't given up on that yet, although my disastrous attempt at blogging about it only made me more indifferent to the weeds and wild animals that were taking over my yard. The result of all these attempts is the ever-growing clutter that has consumed my house.

I've gotta go. Now I feel the need to do some housework. Ciao!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

In the End, Death is Unbecoming

I was browsing in the local bookstore and a strange book cover with what looked to be a smiling dead woman caught my attention. I picked up the book (which had no title or wording on the front cover) and began flipping through the pages. On each page there was a photo of a dead black person laid out on a black sheet.

I am not making this up.

These were not autopsy photos, but photos that had been taken after the bodies had been prepared for burial. The book was arranged with the photo on the right and a caption on the left that gave the person's name, when and where they were born, and then the date of their death. The subjects ranged in age and were equally representative of gender. For the most part, each person appeared to be dressed in their finest--one woman had on what was probably her wedding dress. Each person wore the same self-satisfied expression, as if they knew the punchline to the joke about human existence:

"Why are we here?" we ask. "Hell if I know!" they reply.
The average person would have felt like a creepy voyeur after viewing the first two photos, but as I have a fascination for most things morbid, it took a bit longer for my brain to process the appropriate gag reflex. Mine finally kicked in when I was about about halfway through the book, but it still wasn't instense enough to make me put it down. Instead, I flipped to the back to see if there was any credible explanation.

Apparently the photographer is someone who lives in Harlem. Three years ago, she took a photograph of someone's recently departed 101 year old great-grandmother and was awestruck by her "beauty". She took 30 more photos at the same funeral home and somehow determined that this would make a great coffee table book.

For the life of me, I cannot imagine that the "models" would have appreciated being photographed and cataloged like artifacts in a museum exhibit. Furthermore, I can imagine that most of them (especially the women) would have hated the way they looked. No matter how attractive they might have been in life, in death they all had the same eerie, bloated look. If not bloated, then ashen. Or plastic. Grotesque.

Death may be a natural part of life, but there is nothing natural about the preparations we pay morticians to perform on our dearly departed loved ones. We believe that by participating in these elaborate funereal rituals, we are restoring some sense of dignity to our lost loved ones. If a person was ill, we place the emphasis on who they were in the vibrant days of their life. We ask for the extras to camoflague the weight loss, cuts, burns, bruises, etc in the hopes that the final glimpse will represent what we believe to have been the person's essence. In the end it always seems that those efforts cross the line from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Years ago in Jet magazine, there was a photo of a man who was to be buried in a custom-made casket that had been fashioned into a car. He was seated in the driver's seat, with his stiff hands arranged around a steering wheel. His relatives reasoned that he liked to travel in style. In the book, one of the young men was dressed in a new Sean John sweatsuit, and in his hands there were crumpled dollar bills. Several of the women were buried in their Sunday hats.

I am not sure if any of this is particularly dignified. Death is the ultimate state of vulnerability, the ultimate loss of control. After they slice you open, remove your organs and stitch you back up again, I wonder if it really matters that whatever remains gets buried in your favorite suit.

In the end, death reveals more about us than we ever knew about ourselves.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My Latest TV Obsession

I've pretty much gotten over most of my old TV obsessions. I don't watch soap operas anymore, and my court shows have lost their allure lately. I've generally moved on from Cosby Show and Different World reruns. Although I still appreciate the earlier episodes of As Time Goes By, it depends on my mood. I have totally lost my enthusiasm for the countdown shows on E! and VH1.

We recently had an HBO preview, and I have to say that it was not at all as exciting as it was the first two times. We stayed up half the night trying to cram in episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but now that we have Showtime, The Movie Channel, Encore and Starz, it all seems so redundant. I am just not all that interested in Six Feet Under marathons.

I am getting hooked on makeover shows again. The premise is so simple and presented in just the right amount of time. Who wouldn't want to have a complete lifestyle change occur in one hour? I am so addicted to What Not to Wear.

I am actually becoming more attached to these women's lifestyle networks, although that does not include those crappy Lifetime movies. I am becoming a fan of Bridezillas on WE, and I still like Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? on the Style network.

I'm also a big Keith Olberman fan. His is the only countdown show I can stomach these days. I like anyone who dispenses daily disses to Bill O'Reilly (so I also like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert).

Finally, my most embarassing TV obsession is A Baby Story on TLC. Last week, I watched at least six episodes. I am not at all excited by the "miracle" of childbirth, but I have to admit that I like the back stories that come with the arrival of the new babies.

Most of all, I like having a remote control that can go through 150+ channels in under 5 minutes. When I add in the movie channels, it means that at any given point in the day, I can either discover something new to watch or choose to rely on an old stand-by.

Which means that I need to get out of the house more...