Monthly Archives: January 2011

Libilibi Labalabalaba Konkonsa

Konkonsa: translation – to gossip; a gossiper

Konkonsa is the act of eavesdropping, rearranging the gathered data, and disseminating it to an unintended audience. Most children are not konkonsa…but many are masters of lapore , meaning they love to tell on other children (and in exceptional instances, tell on adults. If you’re an adult given to violation of ‘the rules’, the last thing you want is a lapore baby riding in the car with you. This is a mighty feat; the equivalent of single-handedly slaying an elephant in the world of lapore ).  “Run tell that” is a phrase in African-American culture (recently  revived and popularized by Antoine Dodson) referenced  by one individual who dares another to inform the relevant authorities of some indicated atrocity or infraction that has taken place.

Some kids are wired to ‘run tell that’, and my second born, Aya, has all the electrical connections, battery clamps and motors of a Tell That Bot. Like Saturday for instance. Nadjah and Aya were playing pretend princess or some such nonsense. They chattered noisily as they typically do, with Nadjah barking out orders. Within minutes, the inevitable took place:

“Maaawwmmmeee!!!”

Sigh.

“Yes, Aya.”

“Nadjah said I can’t have the mermaid because burss burzz burzzee!!” (Aya speaks really fast and I often have a hard time understanding her. It doesn’t matter what she’s saying though. It’s a complaint.)

“Who had the mermaid first?”

“I did!” screeches Nadjah.

“Nuh uuuhhh!! I did!” Aya rebuts.

On this day, I didn’t particularly feel like refereeing so I just took the mermaid from both of them.

“Now no one can have it,” I say with finality.

This does not go down well with Nadjah.

“Aya!” she barked.  “Now look what you did. *Humph!* You’re not my friend anymore.”

“Maaawwwwmeee,” Aya wailed. “Nadjah said she’s not my friend anymore!”

Ugh.

“Yes you are, Aya. You are her friend and she is yours. Now don’t call my name anymore unless you guys are bleeding!”

As bad as I think my child is – in terms of telling – she is by no means unique and certainly not the worse. If a championship cup existed for ‘run tell that’ this little boy I encountered at the kids’ daycare had Aya beat.

I was in the middle of conversation with the director, Mr. E, when a rather thuggish little boy in baggy jeans and a knit hat briskly walked up to us. His eyes were wide, and he looked as though he might burst before he got whatever he needed to say out. He was clutching the straps of his back pack and looked to be about 4 or 5 years old (the ripe age for a master of lapore).

“Mr. E… Mr. E!” he cried excitedly.

“Yes?”

“Xavier passed gas!” His announcement echoed throughout the daycare halls.

We both stood there looking at him. I was too stunned to laugh.

“I said ‘excuse me’!” Xavier called faintly from the door on the other side of the room.

Mr. E sighed, his grey eyes registering exhaustion. It was only 7 am.

“Marcus, go wait at the front door,” he said wearily.

I finished my conversation with him, kissed the babies goodbye and headed out the door where Xavier, Marcus, and another little girl were waiting for the school bus. As I put my hand on the handle, I told them all to have a good day at school.

“Umm, ma’am?”

It was Marcus.

“Yes?”

“Xavier farted! He passed gas,” he repeated.

“Yes, I know. But he said ‘excuse me’, alright?” My tone said ‘knock it off’. “You guys have a good day, okay?”

None of them said a word in response, except Marcus.

“Xavier passed gas!” he whispered.

Jeez! You would think this little boy never farted in his life!

Kokonsa.

What if There Was NO Political Correctness in the World?

As a society, we’re all pretty nice people. The reason some folks are classified as ‘jerks’ and ‘douches’ is because they choose not to adhere to the niceties that the larger society imposes on the rest of us. I don’t know who came up with the unspoken rule that you just can’t walk up to a filthy individual with whom you happen to be sharing space and say the obvious: “Hey! You STINK. Why don’t you make a date with some Irish Spring and a hot shower tonight?” Instead, the polite, or politically correct thing to do, is to excuse yourself, move to a different location and PERHAPS inquire if said individual had a rough morning…as if insight into why said man/woman smells like a sack of moose balls is going to make the stink all the better.

It won’t.

So, what if we all said what we were thinking – exactly as we were thinking it? Would the world be a better place? Women claim they always want honesty and for men to ‘open up and share their minds’. I can tell you ladies, that that’s the last thing you want. A man’s mind is a dirty, dirty place. Hey! Let’s give it a go, shall we?

Real life: A man sees you in a restaurant. You’re all alone either because you’ve just broken up with someone, or you’re waiting on a friend to arrive, or you just like to have dinner alone. The reason doesn’t matter. You look hot, as in you’re impeccably dressed, not a hair out of place and you smell amazing. Some random dude walks by, stops, and asks if he can sit with you.

“Sure,” you reply noncommittally.

“I just had to tell you, you are a really attractive woman,” he begins. “Why are you sitting all alone.”

“Oh, I just like to enjoy a quiet evening from time-to-time,” you reply.

“What’s that you’re reading?”

“War and Peace.”

“Ahhh,” he says knowingly. “Shakespeare.”

“Ummm…no. Tolstoy.”

Unabashedly, he continues.

“I’ve never read anything so voluminous. Do you have a book club? Perhaps I could join you in it? I’m always looking at new interests.”

“Sure!” you say in surprise. “We meet every Wednesday at Borders.”

You exchange numbers, he promises to see you later, and he relocates himself at another table.

The Non PC World: Same scenario – the guy walks up.

“Hey! I just had to tell you, you are really an attractive woman.”

“Err..thanks?”

“I was thinking, you might look really good naked. I’m totally lusting after you right now, and I’d like to take you back to my apartment and shag you. I call my bed the ‘Bat Cave’…on account that when I pull the covers over my head it looks like a cave…that and I have Bat Man sheets. So how ’bout it? Wanna screw?”

Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what a dude really wants? All this business about discovering your interests, likes and dislikes is just the padding to soften the blow when he eventually dumps you 2 weeks or 2 months later…however long it takes a woman to hand over the booty.

Or how about in corporate life? This is one that I’ve experienced since my return to corporate America.

My boss, who is English, has no hesitation when it comes to his role as a purveyor of ‘truth’. He recently asked me to write an article on pressure gauges, and some other program that the company has instituted. Proudly, I emailed him my copy and confidently requested his feedback.

“Stop by my desk when you have a moment,” was his response.

I walked in and took a seat after he waved me in. He put his forehead in his palm.

“This is a load of bollocks,” he moaned. “These diagrams look as though they are just thrown into the document, and tell no real story. Equally, these two sections need more substance. Please redo them.”

I’m a strong Black woman, so I didn’t cry…then. I felt like a 5 year old who had drawn a pretty picture for her mom and watched her piss on it and then burn it in contempt after I handed it to her.

Now, the more PC way for him to tell me that I had done a crap job would be:

“Hey Malaka! Good effort for your first try, but what i really had in mind was blah, blah, blah.”

Would that have spared my feelings? Absolutely. Would it have motivated me to do my best? Probably not. I’m more hesitant to go back to him with a document that is less than perfect now.

So what is your feeling, dear reader? Do we need more raw honesty in the world (even if it burns going down), or should we continue to be as politically correct as we’re being trained to be? I honestly don’t know.

In Life There ARE Losers

My daughter Nadjah is overly obsessed with comparisons.

“Mommy? Who crawled the fastest when they were babies?” she often asks.

“I dunno, sweetie.”

“Mommy? Who cried the loudest?”

“I’d have to say Liya,” I generally reply.

“Mommy? Who was the messiest eater? Who pooped the most?”

God if I even care! You were all messy eaters! You’re killing me with these questions!

“Everybody was pretty messy, but Aya was the messiest.”

By this time, my nerves are pretty frazzled. I don’t have a high tolerance for ‘stupid’ questions – but she’s 6, and she’s trying to learn (I assume), so I indulge her more than I generally am apt to.

I thought this behavior was exclusive to our interaction at home, but after contacting Nadjah’s kindergarten teacher to make sure she was on target at school, her reply email gave me pause. Nadjah had previously told me that she was the only one to ‘fail’ at an assignment, and I wanted to see what the problem was.

Thank you for your letter. Nadjah is doing well. She is on level, but she is overly concerned about the other kids. She is not the only one that did not finish her contract. This is a routine we have started this semester. It’s new for everyone and half of the class did not complete all of their work last week (and we had a short week). We encourage them to finish, but most of the work is not graded and there are no consequences if they don’t finish.

‘Overly concerned about the other kids.’ Ugh.

In our society where individualism is so cherished, comparing yourself to other people is generally frowned upon. We’re all encouraged to see ourselves as ‘the best’ or as ‘gifted’, no matter how paltry the effort we put into our day to day task. As a result, America has succeeded in raising a generation of narcissists. At first I was alarmed that Nadjah was spending so much time benchmarking herself against her peers and even her own siblings, until I realized that this is healthy behavior if guided and directly appropriately.

 I am a hugely opposed to this culture of ‘everyone gets a sticker for effort’ we’ve instituted in this country. The first time I saw it in action was at an elementary school basketball game. My friend’s 11 year old son was consistently scoring on the team, so much so that they stopped keeping score so that the other team wouldn’t feel ‘bad’ when they saw that they had been defeated so utterly. Now how is that fair to this little boy who spent hours after school doing drills and training his hardest so that he could play his best for his team? America is obsessed with this notion that failure is going to do irreparable damage to our children’s’ self-esteem; so much so that we don’t even allow them to get into an environment where failure is even possible. On Tuesday night, President Obama talked about ‘winning the future’. How in the world are we going to win the future when our future leaders have no inkling what winning really looks like? American culture today purports we are ‘all winners’, and that’s not the case. Some of us are losers – and if you don’t want to be a loser, you need to train harder, study longer, work faster than the next guy…otherwise China and India are going to out-compete us every time. America has become far too complacent and reliant on its history as the world’s dominant leader, assuming its position as the global leader.  

This notion was hammered home when I was talking to my mother and sister-in-law, both educators.

“Just tell Nadjah that she is no different than everyone else,” my sister-in-law advised. “Everyone is the same. I think there’s a book you can buy for kids called ‘Everyone is the same’ or something like that that talks about it.”

It’s the same kind of speech they used to give us on those NBC after-school specials from the 80s: Great for making you feel good… not so great for preparing you for life.

“Uhh…no,” I disagreed. “Everyone is NOT the same. There are some people who are losers.”

“What?” said my mother-in-law. “That’s not nice, Malaka!”

“It might not be nice, but it’s true.”

And that’s the truth. There are frikkin’ losers in life, and my job is to make sure my kid isn’t one of them – End of story.

Juror No. 5

I was already pissed off because I had to take a day off from work and lose 8 hours’ worth of wages for the week. Coming off the heels of a fabulous birthday and birthday weekend, the news that I had been selected for jury duty did much to dampen the spirit of levity I had been enjoying 3 consecutive days prior.

I was scheduled to be downtown at 8 am. I left my house at 8:15. There was no way I was going to hurry up and wait to be somewhere I really didn’t want to be anyways. The summons said I was to park at the Orange Lot at Turner Field if I wanted free parking. From there, a shuttle would ferry me to the courthouse. Upon my arrival, I was pleased to discover that at least 30 other jurors were as late as I was. As we shivered in the gray January drizzle, I heard varying excuses for tardiness.

“Oh traffic was horrendous coming down 400!”

“I sat in my lane for 30 whole minutes without moving.”

“I had to come 2 hours away from North Fulton!”

I was watching yesterday’s episode of Oprah on Tivo, I muttered to myself.  

After what seemed like an eternity, the shuttle finally arrived. We crowded on and sat silently for the duration of the ride. When we got into the courthouse, I unloaded my coat and purse onto the scanning machine. A woman came from the back of the line and thought she was going to start her own check in lane.

“What are you doing ma’am?!?!” asked one of the guards furiously.

She mumbled something unintelligible.

 “Well we got a line here,” the female guard interrupted. “You can get back in where you started from.”

Welcome to Atlanta, playa!

When I walked into the jury assembly room, and obvious stay-at-home mom had brought her cub in to show the clerk that she had a child under 6 to care for. Clad in light khakis and a cargo coat, she nodded her bob-cut head to make sure the clerk knew that she was not trying to escape duty…she just had a child to care for. Without 2 more words, she was dismissed and sent away free. Jeez. Is that all I had to do? Show up with one, any one, of my four kids and I too could have experienced sweet freedom? No. I couldn’t do that to poor Liya. It was far too cold outside to expose her to 30 degree temperatures and the damp elements just so I could eschew my civic ‘duty’.

I looked around the expansive assembly room at the other poor saps that had been called into duty.  Like me, none of them looked pleased. Some of them were obviously pros at this process. They had laptops and snacks at the ready. Every type of person was in the room: gays, gang bangers, construction workers, restaurateurs, businessmen…even a homeless looking person or two. There was one girl who looked like she had just rolled out of bed. She had on pajama pants, her hair was piled on top of her head, and she wore a scowl – it was a sure bet that she would not be selected for duty. She looked cuh-razy. 3 hours after we had been waiting in the room, the clerk called out names.

“Mike Perkins! You’re number 1. Gina Reed! You’re number 2…” and so on. By the time she got to 40, I had not been called. An elderly Chinese man in an argyle sweater looked gleefully at me and gave me a thumbs up.

“Whew!” he said, wiping his brow. “We didn’t make it!”  

I smiled at him. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad…but we were not clear yet. 30 minutes later the clerk repeated the same process.

“M—“

oh God! She’s going to call me!

“Michelle Ray!”

Thank God!

You’re number 12.”

A slender blond woman dressed in brown and beige walked around the room looking for an IPhone charger.

“Excuse me,” she whispered, “do you have an IPhone charger?”

She asked every third person in the room. Finally, she asked a massive, goofy looking  brown haired man in khakis and a bright plaid shirt. He was reading a book called “The Juror’s Notebook.”

“No,” he said. “But my wife does at home!”

Yeah…that’ll do her a lot of good here. And you’re so goofy, none of us believes you really have a wife, so you can knock it off.

At this point, I’d been there 4 hours. Finally, Jackson Bedford, a superior court judge  walked into the room to introduce himself and explain how jury selection works. He thanked us for coming in, and assured us our presence was not a waste of time at all. He droned on enthusiastically about American history and how the system of trial by your peers was conceived.

“So don’t think of this as jury ‘duty’ or ‘service’,” he implored. “Think of it as a ‘right’. This is your chance to participate with your community.”

Yeah. Sure. It’s a ‘right’. Then how come I can’t choose to refuse to exercise said ‘right’? The summons I got clearly says if I don’t show, I can be held in contempt or forced to pay a fine. ‘Right’ my….

“Thank you all for your time!”

One woman held up both her hands in preparation to applaud. Idiot.

By the time the third round of jurors was being called, the goofy guy reading ‘The Juror’s Notebook’ was getting antsy. He anxiously looked around the corner to the clerk’s desk, as if willing her to call his name. Finally, they did. He was number 32. He eagerly gathered up his things and raced off in the direction of the elevator. Now there was a model citizen.

By this time, my Chinese compatriot was long gone, having been called some time before. I was famished. After being told I could not leave the premises for lunch because they had a new list coming up, I sat in my chair with my shoes off, legs akimbo. They would get no more polite behavior from ME! 5 minutes later a voice said:

“Remaining jurors. You are all free to go – “

We can go home!

“-to lunch.”

Crap!

“Please. Be back here at 1:00 sharp.”

Because the cafeteria takes cash only, I was forced to leave the premises, trudging down the one way street in the freezing rain and ill-fitting heels. Lunch was uneventful. I got hit on by the guy who puts the bourbon chicken on a toothpick and hands it to you. I smiled and said I have 6 years of marriage and 4 kids attached to the wedding ring he noticed.

“I can respect that,” he said.

“Thank you.”

I wolfed down my food and returned to wait in the assembly room, bitching to Marshall the entire time. Finally, after more than half a day wasted, we had a judge that need a jury. Judge Hicks.

“Malaka Grant! You’re number 5.”

40 of us entered the judge’s courtroom and took our seat in number sequence. The case we would potentially hear was on that of a young (Black) man who had been arrested with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

I was ready to play the race card if I got needled into serving. Guilty. He’s Black; he’s male; he’s what? 27? He did it. Guilty. I would say.

The prosecution and defense asked us all a series of qualifying questions.

Will serving on this jury result in a hardship for you? Have you ever been at the wrong place at the wrong time? Do you view all drugs as drugs? Do you have friends/family who are addicted to drugs? Have you ever been in law enforcement? Do you believe the police would never lie? Blah, blah, blah.

We were asked to answer honestly, so that’s what we did. Now, looking at this young man, I know he probably got caught up in some stuff he had no business being a party to. He looked way too scared to be a criminal mastermind, and was probably just the fall guy for his cousin Smokey who will be serving a lighter sentence for implicating Mr. Banks. Nah. The real guy they’re after is a wealthy White/Philippine dude with a loads of clout. Cocaine is a designer drug. It’s special – not like weed which all Black people have access to.

After the round of questioning was over, the Judge Hicks called the lawyers up to the bench. They mumbled, he frowned, and addressed everyone in the room in a condescending Southern drawl.

“Y’know, our judicial system requires us to have a jury to try cases. What has happened here is disappointing. A jury is supposed to be able to look at the evidence presented before you BEFORE you come to a conclusion. It’s a hardship for ALL of us to come down here, not just you guys. Of course it’s not disappointing for you all, because you get to go home. It’s disappointing for us because we have to go through this same process again tomorrow to select a (hopefully) qualified jury! You all are dismissed.”

He sneered.

Nigga what? A hardship for YOU? You get paid really (really) well to endure your hardship Judge Hicks. What did I get today? I wanted $20 in gas to get here, a day’s wages, $7 for a crappy lunch and 2 hours in the rain!

Needless to say, that did not go over well with many people in the room. They railed on the judge (in his absence of course) for scolding us for doing what we were asked to do: Answer the lawyers’ little fonky questions. One elderly White lady was particularly vexed.

“How dare he scold us,” she raged. “How dare he paint us all with a broad brush and call us unbiased! He gave us NO EVIDENCE to make a decision with!” Her eyes flashed and her head began twitch in that pulsing manner that all old White do when they are enraged beyond containment. I love it. “Just remember ladies, he’ll be up for re-election. Judge Hicks will be up for re-election. Tell your friends!”

I don’t vote for judges anyhow, but I’ll tell you one thing: If I ever get another jury summons, I’m putting on my Huck Finn hunting hat, catching the first squirrel I see and I using the state issued paper to wipe its little furry bum.

I Shot the Sheriff for My Birthday

Today I turn 33. Unlike my 30th birthday, this day is not filled with dread, fear and loathing. I’ve embraced my age; and while I have not embraced my body, I know that I am in a position to change it. Unlike the morning of my 30th birthday, I know for a fact that I will never give birth to another child ever again in LIFE, so an impending pregnancy will not negate the hard work I previously had put into getting fit again.

This weekend, my husband gave me the best gift that anyone has ever given me: And that is the gift of sending my children to someone else’s home for 24 full hours. It tops every diamond he’s ever bought me, every out of town trip I’ve been on – it even tops my 12th birthday when my dad took me and my friends flying in his Cessna.  On Saturday morning, I woke up, stretched, listened to the silence and got back under the covers. No one needed me.

45 minutes later I got up and peed without an audience. I took a leisurely shower without my son opening the curtain and asking me in toddler-speak if I was having a bath.

“Ba-ba-bath?” he usually asks, pointing to the water.

“Yes Stone. Please close the curtain so the water doesn’t get on the floor baby.”

“Ba-ba-bath!” he generally cries, flinging his plastic bath toys in at me as I shower.

There was none of that today. I turned up the water pressure and lost myself in the pleasure of washing my hair uninterrupted. I then got back in bed and proceeded to engage in a 2 hour 3-way call with my brother and sister.

“Hey Adj,” I said excitedly when she picked up the phone. “What do you hear?”

“Uhhh…nothing?” She was confused.

“Exactly! Nothing!”

My brother appreciated the silence the most. Customarily, he will excuse himself abruptly when the background volume is too loud (and aggravating) with the whining and crying of my loin fruit.

After we gabbed about everything from video games, to 80s movies, to weed (weed always makes its way into the conversation), my battery died and I got up to get ready to go to a bridal shower themed around the nectar of the gods – wine.

Two hours after my intended departure time from the drunk-fest, Marshall and one of my best friends, Toyah, ferried me to the Sandy Springs Gun club to fire off a few rounds. I’ve always wanted to shoot a gun, just to say I have. Marshall and Toyah chose to shoot a Glock 9mm and I had a 22mm Dirty Harry looking-ish gun. (I don’t know what it was. I was still giggly from the wine tasting and could only focus on one task. That task was shooting, not listening about what I was shooting).

Marshall, ever the purist, chose a black silhouette as his paper target. Toyah chose Osama bin Laden and I fired at a decrepit zombie chick. Upon firing my first 12 bullets, I sobered up rather quickly. The banging echo of each round fired pounded against my eardrums. The smell of gun smoke from the chamber stung my nostrils, and the kick back from the Glock nearly tore my wrist out of socket. You know how gangsters just go running through the street with their gun tilted to the side firing on rival gang members? Do you know what kind of physical shape you have to be in to accomplish that? Clearly I will never be a gangster. There’s a reason they all lift weights in the backyard and suck on 40 ounces for nutrition. You have to be out of your mind to devote your mind and body to that level of dedication.

So I didn’t really shoot the ‘sheriff’, for my birthday…I shot the ‘zombie’. And then I passed out after a nutritious dinner of pasta, cheesecake, coffee and 2 hours on the Kinect.

Best birthday ever!

Wedding Bells, Wine and Yet More Wine

I was only supposed to stay one hour – but that was before my first sip.

This weekend I was invited to a bridal shower in honor of my ex co-worker’s bride to be. (This would be a good time for me to mention that miracles do indeed happen when it comes to finding a mate. How he snagged a woman of such sophistication and class is beyond me. He is gauche, and has the erudition of an 18th century English street sweeper and she has the charm of a well-bred socialite. Instead of considering himself very lucky, he attributes his success to mastering the art of ‘game’. Right.) The venue was a quaint shop called WineShoe, just on the outskirts of downtown Atlanta. The floors, decorative ceiling and massive doors were made of varying wood blends, including pine, oak and a bit of mahogany…but I digress. What important for me to share with you is was why we were there…which was to drink wine!

Rasheeda (the bride) arrived looking very chic in a gold strapless dress, purple stockings and nude shoes. Whenever there is a gathering of Black women over a certain age (that age being 26), appearing in impeccable make up and stylish fashion are customary for every attendee. Fortunately, this was my birthday weekend, the kids were gone, and I actually had time to devote to completing these two obligations.

So back to the wine. There were racks and racks of the stuff everywhere. As I rule, I don’t drink – but I felt an obligation since this was theme and point of the event. After much arm twisting, which comprised of the owner pointing me in the direction of the table with dainty glasses filled with bubbly, I took my first sip and relaxed. Eager not to make too much of a spectacle of myself, I did my best to compose proper sentences and engage in lady-like discourse. I succeeded in not guzzling down my drink… But then I looked across the room and saw that another guest was on her third glass. Well heck – why not get one more m’self?

How many glasses we had collectively escapes me. The owner, Nora or Shannon, or whatever her name was – she had brown hair – would walk around and top up our glasses after describing the bottle. There is a white one that the Pope likes to drink with fish, a sweet red called Kiss Me or Touch Me (I can’t recall because I was too busy drinking ‘Me’) and a sweet white wine made by Seven Sisters. Seven Sisters, as it turns out, is Rasheeda’s favorite brand of wine; so favored that her cake was baked in the shape of a wine bottle and emblazoned with the Seven Sisters label. It was therefore incumbent upon me to sip upon this preferred vino, not only because it was the feted woman’s favorite drink, but ALSO because it comes from the only vineyard 100% owned by women from South Africa, and Black women at that. We have to support the sisterhood, don’t we?

Nora/Shannon then gave a demonstration on how to open a champagne bottle that was saturated with innuendo.

“You have to firmly grasp the head of the bottle with one hand and twist the cage six times,” she said. “You’re going to feel some pressure build up against your hand and the bottle will feel tighter and tighter. You’re going to think it’s ready to pop… but it’s not yet.”

I couldn’t hear what she said next, because everyone in the room was cackling so loud. A few seconds later I heard a loud “POUHP!!”, she was smiling, and we were clapping. She offered this technique to Rasheeda as a ‘tool’ to keep her marriage a happy one.

Three hours later (remember: I was only supposed to stay an hour), I left the festivity… not quite staggering, but calculating every step so as not to appear staggering.  Perhaps the best part of the party, other than watching Rasheeda open her gifts, was the roundtable/advice session from all the married women. There were divorced women, women who’d been married a few months, and women who’d been widowed. Having patience and keeping God first in your marriage were the most popular tips. But it was the widow who gave the best advice, as far as I’m concerned.

“Don’t be such a nag,” she said. “There is nothing worse than nagging a man. Be meek and humble.”

I don’t like that ‘meek and humble’ bit too much, until she clarified:

“A man will give you anything you want, if you’re sweet and don’t come screaming, demanding and hollering at him all the time. You gotta know how to work a man.”

She took another sip of her drink, rolled her eyes authoritatively and we all broke into applause.

Forty minutes later, I went to a gun club to finish celebrating my birth. I did a pretty good job hitting the target too. Who says you can’t mix guns and alcohol?

*Tip: If you’re looking for a great venue to have a girl’s night out or just a nice date place, take a departure from Outback or the bowling alley and check out WineShoe http://wineshoeatlanta.com/gallery/. Tell ‘em  Sheeda sent ya.

.

Daniel’s Fast Breath

 

Every New Year’s Day, my church begins the year with a 21 day Daniel’s fast. It’s based on Daniel 1:8-14:

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.”

I’ve managed to skate away from the Daniel’s fast for the last 2-3 years because I’ve been pregnant and/or nursing since 2007 or 2008. (Who knows?) This is my first year back on. When I was college, I did ‘the Daniel’ –as we called it – in earnest. I’d boil potatoes with no salt. I’d eat a salad with no dressing. Water and (tremendously) diluted juice were how I hydrated myself. So when I moved to Atlanta and saw that the members of our home/head church were eating vegetables WITH ranch dressing and eating savory vegetable soups, I was aghast that I had spent 4 years in self-imposed denial when I was clearly allowed to afford myself some level of comfort. That comfort now allows me to drink tasty fruit smoothies made with soy milk and as many corn chips as I can stuff in my face.

The benefits to the fast have been tremendous. I’ve lost about 7 lbs and can walk comfortably in my heels once again. I’ve increased my water intake. I have regular daily bowel movements. (Under normal circumstances I go twice a week – taking a dump is SUCH a chore) Dr. Oz would agree that these are all good things. However, there is one big drawback to the fast…that being the strength of my breath.

Oh sweet Shiva.

The exclusive diet of corn chips, cashews, peanuts and humus blended with olive oil and garlic do NOTHING to promote pleasant breath. It has a tart, stinging quality to it that only someone who is fasting or been around a person who is fasting can describe. It’s amazing…and not in a good way either. I have been in meetings these last few weeks where I’ve said virtually nothing because I could feel that icky white line that forms around your lips when you haven’t eaten sufficiently in hours. I’ve been forced into one-on-one huddles with perfect strangers where I’ve been reduced to a mumbling mass as I’ve attempted to mask the stench of my breath with my fingers. Who knew the pursuit of holiness, which is supposed to be inundated with beauty, could be so…stinky?

I’d have a breath mint, but they’re laden with sugar: a Daniel’s fast no-no.

*Whewoooooo*! Smell that? Got your eyes watering, didn’t I? That’s holiness in your face. Holiness ends tonight though. Tomorrow is the 22nd. Praise Him!

BIG Feet

Last Sunday I bought a new pair of shoes from Aerosoles at DSW where I work. I’d been eyeing them all summer long and they had finally gone on the discount/clearance rack. To my disappointment, there were none in my size – 9 ½, but they were SO cute that I begrudgingly took them in a 10.

“I’ll just have to flop around in them,” I thought.

To my surprise, the 10s fit…perfectly. It suddenly dawned on me: I’m NOT a 9 ½ anymore! I’m a 10. Ugh! Since I’ve had kids, my feet have gone from a 9, to a 9 Wide, to a 9 ½ and ultimately to a whopping 10. Good thing Liya is my last baby, or else you could track me through the forest with my Sasquatch sized soles.

Marshall likes to joke (or at least I think he’s joking) that I ‘collect’ shoes. I do NOT collect shoes. I have an appreciation for them as art and I do my best to give them a good home in my closet. Many of them have never been worn or had the tags taken off. That’s adoption, not collection.

Seeing that the 9s, 9 Wides and NOW 9.5s no longer fit my feet and need to give way to their larger counterparts, I am faced with a dilemma. What do I do with my babies?? A conversation on Facebook provided the answer. Good old Facebook – solving the world’s problems one post at a time.

I’m going to have a “I got pregnant and now my feet have gone from a size 9 – 10 and can’t fit these shoes anymore so come and buy these shoes at a steeeep discount” sale. The proceeds will go towards funding our move to South Africa. I think I will throw in a couple of the bags and clutches I’ve adopted over the years. I have good friends. They will find good homes, I’m sure. J

But hey! If you’ve ever been preggers: Do your feet shrink back…or am I destined to wear the same sized shoe as Clint Eastwood forever? Tell me there’s hope…!

Lay Off Amy Chua

Last week the whole e-Parenting world was abuzz and ablaze after an excerpt of Amy Chau’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was printed by the WSJ under the title “Why Chinese Mothers Superior.” In it, Ms. Chua describes how she would make her children practice piano and violin for hours on end every day, would not allow them to have sleepovers or play dates, no TV or computer games, participate in drama productions in school, OR complain about not being able to participate in drama or having to practice piano for hours on end.

She describes the difference between Chinese and Western parenting styles, saying:

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

She also says that Western parents are obsessed with the American concept of individuality and the average American mother considers herself ‘strict’ if she forces her child to practice a discipline, any discipline, for 30 minutes a day. You’ll have to read the article yourself (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html)  to judge how you feel about the ‘Chinese method’. After this article was published, Ms Chua’s in-box was flooded with angry emails and even some death threats. Really? She was raising musical prodigies born of her own womb, not the imbecilic inbred offspring who I AM SURE are the issue of the only boneheads who would make death threats to a woman discussing her child rearing choices.

The bad thing about the American media is that everyone forms an opinion and spouts it as gospel without ever doing their due diligence. The WSJ chose the headline and most likely the most controversial excerpt of the book. They may have even piecemealed several excerpts together to arrive at the final column – who knows? True to form, other bottom feeding bloggers took excerpts of THAT piece and assailed Ms. Chua for calling her children garbage and asserting that she routinely insulted them to get results. Clearly that is not the case, but it makes for more sensational reading, doesn’t it? One blogger proudly espoused that she makes sure that her children are well rounded and enjoy all types of activities, particularly drama.

“My son was even cast in an improve sketch in a local theater”, she wrote.

A witty commenter on her page shot back:

“Sounds to me like you would have benefitted from Ms. Chua’s parenting style yourself. Perhaps you meant ‘improv’? Try reading over your work.”

For my own part, I see the value in Amy Chua’s strict parenting style and instilling a sense of discipline in her children. While I myself could never go so far because I simply don’t have the TIME to hawk over my daughter for 3 hours while she clumsily played Chopin, I have taken a portion of her method in not allowing my children to give up and to do their personal best.

My daughter 4 year old Aya is a weepy, sensitive child. At the slightest challenge, she bursts into tears and proclaims that she “CAN’T DO IT!” – whatever ‘it’ is at the moment. In the past, I would tell her it’s okay, pat her head and tell her to lay down and watch TV. ‘It’ could wait.

That was before we went to Ghana (where we all learned a thing or two about real hardship) and before I read the WSJ article the other night.

That evening, unfortunately for Aya, I saw her whole life flash in front of her. It was mediocre at best, because I had never encouraged her to push herself. Uh-uh. Malaka was not having it. She stood in front of me, sobbing because she could not write the number ‘2’.  

“Yes you can, Aya. You CAN write the number 2.”

“No I caaaaan’t,” she sobbed.

“You can sit down and cry about it if you like, but when you’re done, you’re going to get up and write the number ‘2’. Understand?” I was firm and getting little pissed.

She stood there crying and I kept changing Liya’s diaper, giving her minimal eye contact. After sobbing a bit more, she sat at the table and wrote the number ‘2’ again and again until it was perfect. The child can write all her numbers up to 20. That’s why I was pissed that she was crying over the number 2!

This parent is grateful to Amy Chua for sharing her experiences and thoughts as mother. As she said, her book is not a ‘how to’ on parenting. She is merely sharing her insights with a clearly very sensitive American public who cannot STAND to hear that they’re not the best at everything. That data is there folks. The US falls last in the rankings for math and science amongst all the industrial nations. A report came out yesterday that the majority of universities in this country do not teach college students critical thinking and most of them have never written a paper over 20 pages long in their first 3 years. Instead of blasting Chua, why don’t we try taking the meat from the bones, actually read her book without paraphrasing,  and see if it holds any insights into helping our children succeed? I’ve already begun.

Photo source: Assoc. Press

Prose for My Period

After a 3 year continuous stretch of either being pregnant and/or nursing a baby, I finally got my first period. Yay. I am now reminded that I hate my period, and that it in return must hate me. This hate-hate relationship has inspired me to pen a written ode to Nature’s agent of terror. Ladies (as I’m sure no gentlemen will have gotten passed the title and will not be reading this piece…ever), I present to you in haiku, limerick, sonnet and couplet style:

My Period Hates Me and I Hate Her

 

I should have known by the appearance of Shelton

My temple pimple, that my period was on its way.

Shelton was accompanied by an awkward fellow

Whom we shall call Harry – a juicy, opaque white head

Perched lazily on my chin.

Yuck

The first pang hit me in my gut without warning

BANG!

I dropped to my knees in breathless surprise.

I crawled to the bathroom to suss out the source of my anguish.

It was my period. My bloody, bloody Period.

That slhore.

Over the course of the next two days

Blood soaks through my maxi pad

And runs down my leg like an angry Parisian mob

Cloaked in crimson cloth and storming the Bastille.

I was powerless against the flow.

It ebbed and rolled, ruining sofas and bed sheets for the next 3 days.

Everyone can smell it, I know they can!

I don’t want to do back flips and cartwheels like those

Stupid teenaged girls on those Kotex commercials.

I don’t want to go to the club and have fun now that my arch enemy has returned

Just wake me when she’s gone.

I hate my Period, and she hates me.

And like the Devil she is, when she leaves

She will return 7 times stronger in the form of

MENOPAUSE

Why, Heavenly Mother, Why??