Monthly Archives: February 2011

First Born Privileges

This has been a hard week for two of my mom friends – and indirectly been a hard week on me because I worry about them so much. Their lives are drastically different from one another’s, like some remixed urban version of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” centered around two African-American women connected by a peculiar protagonist (me) who irreversibly links them in ways we’re yet to discover.  In the meantime, what I have discovered is that their depression, worry and weariness is as a direct result of the number of children they each have – being one – not their marital status as they both may suppose.

Let’s see…what shall I call them to conceal their identities? Let’s call the single mother with the infant daughter “Margo”, and the married mother with the toddler son “Mrs. Banana-Hammock”.

Margo’s daughter is not sleeping through the night. She’s 8 months old and running her mother ragged. Margo was impregnated and abandoned by her Douche Bag boyfriend just before the baby was born, although he begged her to keep the baby. Now she’s struggling to make ends meet on a $13/hr wage. Although hoping to have a mate help her raise her child in the future, her immediate need is just to get some sleep. Her daughter sleeps no more that 2-3 hours at a time each night before she goes looking to nurse. She’s been doing this for almost a year now.

Mrs. Banana-Hammock has the opposite problem. She’s married, but her husband keeps a tight rein on their funds, which is virtually crippling her. Fiercely independent and accustomed to taking care of herself and her own finances, she’s struggling to deal with the new normal of being newly married, unemployed and caring for a child who just recently turned 2. She’s still battling postpartum depression, compounded by a depression caused by outward and ‘alien’ forces controlling and steering the events of her life.

Both these women sought me out, not necessarily for advice, but for a listening ear. I have what many term the “ideal” situation: I’m married, with a doting (and very helpful) spouse and children who do not often disgrace me outside the house. “How did she get so lucky?” I’m sure they wonder.

I wasn’t always so “lucky”.

As many of you guys know, I did a short 6 month stint as a single mother (like Margo, my Douche Bag had left me high and dry to take care of my baby on my own) too before I got married to Marshall. In those 6 months, Nadjah pretty much got away with murder…or as much as a 6 month old baby is allowed.

I was so depressed.

I couldn’t go anywhere without taking her in tow. I was always late getting to where I needed to be because I had to suddenly change a diaper or change my whole outfit because I’d been thrown up on. My body, that I’d spent 2 years crafting, was in shambles. All my discretionary income was being spent on diapers and formula. I was insane from not sleeping. Instead of planning evenings out with my friends, I was planning weekends in because I was too scared to take her out because she was born a preemie. I hardly ate, and when I did, I did not eat properly. There were times where I would go days without a shower because I was afraid she might cry while I was IN the shower. She was always in my face and I was always in hers.

I was so depressed.

By the time we had Aya, Marshall and I were married and had a good structure going. I bathed and ate regularly. I was no longer depressed. Well! It would seem that all I needed to do was getting married to set all my wrongs to right.

Ehhhh!! Wrong.

My depression had nothing to do with my marital status. It had everything to do with the birth order of my children. Nadjah got away with as much as she did because she was my first and I didn’t know any better. Whereas Na spent many months with me in bed (she STILL shows up in the wee hours of the morning), Aya was banished to her crib in the next room within months of her birth.

Nadjah would get scooped up if her face bore the resemblance of discomfort. Was that a tear? Oh my God! – I have to pick up my baby!!  Rarely did she ever get a full blown scream out. Liya, my forth child and poor soul, crawls forlornly around on the floor, wailing and waiting for someone to pick her up while we do our household tasks. It took years for me to realize that crying never killed a baby… that and I have to wash this raw chicken off my hands before I pick you up, otherwise we both end up with e-coli.

Nadjah still gets away with many things that escape my mind right now. The biggest one we’re dealing with right now is her inserting herself into adult conversation. It seems like I left that behavior unchecked for years (she’s been speaking fluently since she was 18 months old) and now it’s coming back to bite me in the butt. I’ve literally had to stop in the middle of a conversation to rip her head off. She ought to know better! I think to myself. Well how could she? I never nipped her interruptions in the bud. In turn, my 3 other children will most likely never have the opportunity to do half the things that Nadjah has done…and if they do, they will most likely be better at not getting caught or bringing it to my attention.

It all makes sense now. My brother is the worst of us lot (he’s the youngest), but I can’t actually prove that. No one can point to a single one of his infractions – he’s far better at concealing his transgressions from our parents than I ever was!

To my depressed mommy friends, I say again: Take heart. It’s hard right now because this is your first and only child, and you’re so eager to do what’s right that it’s running you ragged. You have 2 options 1) Choose to be practical or 2) Have another baby and have practicality forced upon you.

 I’d like to see you continue as you are with more children in your care! ;)

L’Oreal Flop

Background: Beyonce has posed in “blackface” for L’Officiel Paris magazine. The African-themed photo shoot pays tribute to the legendary Fela Kuti and is featured in the mag’s March 2011 issue, which also celebrates their 90th anniversary.

While “blackface” has always been controversial, the magazine stands by its decision, saying:

“The Fashion magazine is about to celebrate its 90th birthday. To celebrate this anniversary, the festivities start with the March issue, with Beyoncé on the cover. She agreed to pose for an incredible fashion shoot, with the theme of African Queen, paying a tribute to the legendary Fela Kuti. Far from the glamorous Sasha Fierce, the beauty posed for the magazine with amazing fashion designers clothes, but also in a dress created by her mother. [It is] A return to her African roots, as you can see on the picture, on which her face was voluntarily darkened. All the pictures will be available in the collector edition, on sell at the end of this month.”

*Blank stare*

Unfortunately I am compelled add my voice to the ‘Beyonce in Blackface’ hullabaloo. I have never minced words when it comes to Ms. Knowles. I think she is a mindless idiot, although a very pretty one, who has had the fortune of having an ambitious father and really good genes. That, in a nutshell, has been the key to her success. Is she a great singer? No. Is she an excellent entertainer? If you like women clad exclusively in leotards, weaves and high heels – absolutely.

The intent of this article is not to berate Bey. In my opinion, she can’t be held accountable for the poor decisions and/or series of fortunate and unfortunate events that have occurred during her career (such as routine photo finishing to make her look lighter and thinner). Those things are the fault of her handlers that permit them to happen. And once again, her handlers have permitted an absolute MESS to occur. The melee that has ensued has Black people in their right minds shaking their heads in disbelief and White folk scratching their heads. The question? Who the heck thought it was a good idea to put Beyonce in Blackface?  (And is something wrong with that?)

A simple search on the question will generate hundreds of articles (many just recycled with no real thought invested into them) on the topic. Of course, Beyonce and L’Oreal have defended the move; she by saying that Fela Kuti inspired her newest album and that this was a tribute to his work, and L’Oreal by defending it as “high art” that Beyonce voluntarily agreed to participate in. Again, Beyonce can’t be held accountable for this decision to participate because she’s what? A mindless pawn.

For anyone who is not familiar with Fela, there are 3 things you might want to know about him: He was a humanitarian, an amazing musician and a freak…and I mean a freaky freak. Since no one can ever accuse Beyonce of possessing anything resembling modesty, I suppose it is alright for her to align herself with someone who’s reputation as a sexual freak eclipsed his reputation as a humanitarian. Again, no one expects her to know better.

My larger issue with this whole thing is not the Beyonce was in blackface, but rather that L’Oreal failed to seize an amazing opportunity to distinguish itself as a beauty brand.

 How incredible would it have been for them to do some leg work and due diligence and search out – oh I don’t know – an actual NIGERIAN model who would have the double added benefits of actually being African while sharing Kuti’s nationality? L’Oreal didn’t even have to go far. I typed ‘Nigerian model’ into Google yesterday. Heh! Guess what I found?  A whole crop of Nigerian models, all of them beautiful! Oh? And what’s this? One of them was Ms. World? And she was the FIRST African woman to claim the title in the history of the competition.  Her name? Agbani Darego.

A have a gander at her.

 Doesn’t she look far more regal and elegant with her natural mahogany hue than this idiot in mud colored paint?

Big flop L’Oreal;  Big flop!

As Black woman, I am not offended by L’Oreal’s choice to take an overexposed, highly commercialized entertainer to sell their little fonky magazine. That’s certainly their prerogative. As an African woman, however, I am offended that they would take said entertainer, throw some poorly mixed brown paint on her face (and only her face mind you – we don’t want the world thinking she’s ALL black. That would just be unacceptable), drape her in cheetah skin and a bone necklace, and have us all believe that this is an homage to “African Queens” and to Beyonce’s “African roots”. Oh spare me. If you shook Beyonce’s family tree right now, 600 Irish people would fall out and smother the 1 Black dangling by his toes when they all hit the ground.

In my research, African queens have NEVER worn animal skin. The kings, yes, but not women. At the very least, L’Oreal could have done some anthropological research to make their ad campaign look somewhat intelligent and well thought out…but they failed to do that too. If this is the effort they put into their product development, I shudder to think what’s plastering the lips of millions of women the world over.

This is why I wear Revlon.

“I Go Pay You Morrow” Buyer

 

Last night I ‘sold’ my first pair of “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”  (http://mindofmalaka.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/big-feet/) shoes to my friend and senior from high school, Pearl K. (Please: When reading the word “senior”, pronounce it in a very Ghanaian way, with fear and reverence afforded to those who have earned the right to wear a blue/white shirt, while you a junior student are still in your junior school uniform material.) It’s always good to see someone from your past – particularly if you have fond memories of them. Pearl was a good senior, very kind and affable…not one of those who made it a point to ‘show’ you they were seniors.

Anyway.

She came over with her two very lovely children, Kiki and Josh who ate pizza and played outside with all my 8 of my kids. She and I caught up on our future plans and past events. Apparently, she was in Ghana this past December and had a very different experience from mine. She was in the very lap of luxury (which you should be if you’re shelling out thousands of dollars for airline fees and sitting in airports for hours with your luggage and your kids) and confessed that the allure was so deceptive that one could easily abandon their life abroad to return home, under the impression that life in Ghana would thereafter always be luxurious.

“Life in Ghana can be very good if you’re set,” she said.

As we know from my experience, life in Ghana can be very bad if you’re NOT.

Pearl asked about South Africa, and I told her about my hollering monologue at God and that I’m just waiting to see what He has planned next. I casually mentioned my shoe sale. She, having just as many children as I do, with the same frequency as I have, excitedly admitted that she had encountered the same problem with her feet: they had jumped sizes.

“Bring down your shoes and let me see them!” she said.

Oh what music to my ears. I love shoes, and I love showing off shoes to other people who love shoes! I almost tripped over my feet, clutching several pairs in my arms.

She rejected the purple pointed toe Rampage pumps, couldn’t get her right foot into the Kenneth Cole suede wedges, didn’t care for the Jessica Simpson sling backs with stiletto heels, and ultimately fell in love with the black and cork Bandolino’s with a peep toe and a buckle (which incidentally had a ¼ inch layer of dust that had gathered on them, a result of being hidden safe from view and use in my closet for years. I don’t even recall buying them…).

 Her face lit up when she tried them on and her perfect teeth lit up the room in a girlish grin.

“I don’t have any money on me,” she said. “Can I give you the money later?”

“Sure! No problem,” I replied. It was a very Ghanaian thing to do.

As if reading my thoughts, she laughed and said “Hmmm…these Ghana-styles. I’ll buy your thing and give you the money later.”

“Yes oh!” I laughed. “I go pay you morrow!”

She said she would make her payment on 34degrees.org and left with her new shoes tucked into her diaper bag shortly afterward.

‘I go pay you morrow’ is just that: a promise to pay the person selling a particular item tomorrow, or at worst, some time later in the week. Like susu, it’s something that has been done in Ghana for centuries. The premise is based on a mutual trust relationship with the belief that the person doing the buying on credit has enough integrity to pay what is owed and will pay on a promised date (morrow), and in return, the person selling the item will patiently wait for that payment. Unfortunately, ‘I go pay you morrow’ has been abused by many unscrupulous people and like susu has become a cultural anomaly.

This is why many kiosks in Ghana have the phrase “NO CREDIT” chalked across their buttresses.

Whether Pearl makes her payment/donation to our cause remains to be seen. Even if she doesn’t, it’s still alright. She brought my family with pizza and good cheer, and left with a new pair of–albeit dusty – shoes. Exchange is certainly no robbery.

Pimpin’ and Smackin’ Ho’s at the Circus

What do drugs, whores, pimps and violence have to do with the circus? Generally nothing, unless it’s the UniverSoul Circus. No really…the grand finale – the climax of the show – circles around the tale of a redeemed hooker. What ever happened to plain old dancing ponies and tigers that leap through circles of fire?

I was channel surfing on the radio with the girls in the car yesterday, only half way listening because I was on the phone, and I heard Ryan Cameron say the words “circus”, “cocaine”, “stripper” all in one sentence. Herh? I turned up the radio. UniverSoul Circus? Isn’t that where Nadjah and her GIRL SCOUT troop were going this weekend? What in the world?

If you live in Atlanta, perhaps you saw the story on the news this week. An offended mother walked out with her 8 and 5 year old kids following the show’s finale. What could affront a mother’s sensibilities so badly that she would gather up her brood and walk out of the circus, I wondered? A heart wrenching, soul searching look at life from a whore’s eye view, as it turns out. I shouldn’t say “whore”…the subject of the last act of the show is actually a stripper, but that may very well be splitting hairs over terminology. (The full story is here in this link http://www.wsbtv.com/news/26949071/detail.html?cxntlid=cmg_cntnt_rss)

“There are ladies pretending to strip, men throwing money at her, then a pimp comes on the stage and the woman’s boyfriend sells her to him and the pimp slaps her when she refuses to cooperate,” Brown (the offended mother) said. “They’re pretending to smoke marijuana and sniff cocaine.”

A circus spokesman defended the act, saying it has a message. “Our show is about positive messages and sometimes to get to those high you have to go to those lows,” said circus spokesman Hank Ernest.

Ernest told Philips (the spokesperson) the gospel-themed finale ends with the main female character giving her life to Christ and starting over.

After reading this account, I had mixed feelings about sending my kid to the show (that we’d already paid for. I hate to waste money.). Should I do the morally upright thing and pull her from the activity? Should I allow her to go and expose her to this very real life lesson, and HOPE that she learns something other than how to let a man abuse her? What were the other moms going to do? I was sure that my husband, who is far more prudish and has a lower tolerance level for ignorance than I do, would balk at this circus scenario, and would insist that I pull Nadjah from the activity. I pulled up the news story for him to read.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked when he had concluded reading.

“Huh? What do you mean ‘what’s wrong with it’?”

“They’re proselytizing,” he said. “It’s a redemptive story about Christ. That’s great!”

“Babe,” I said, my forehead beginning to pound, ”it’s the circus. It’s an audience full of 4, 5 and 6 year olds. If they want to talk about Christ, they need to have a blind man that gets his vision back or a lame person who becomes a trapeze artist because Jesus healed them…not a story about a murderous, cocaine sniffing stripper who accepts salvation!”

“Yeah, but it’s real life,” he interjected.

“But it’s not the kind of real life story you want to flash at a group of 4, 5 and 6 year olds!”

Gosh. Maybe I was being overly sensitive. Maybe it WAS alright.

Nah. It couldn’t be.

I immediately sent a text to my friend Algi, who is one of the Scout moms, and an authority on what is acceptable and what is just a load of hot crap.

“We’ve been discussing what to do amongst ourselves,” she informed me. “I go to the circus to escape reality…”

“Not to be confronted with more of it!” I finished for her.

We were on the same page.

The game plan is to have all the girls leave after the Russian acrobatic troop does their stint. Apparently, the whore –err, stripper – gets slapped, does her coke, shoots her pimp and gets saved after that.

Good old Girl Scouts. Because the last set of questions I feel like answering this weekend are those centered around the use of crack and/or any of its slang references SUCH AS: “Mommy? What’s booty dust and nose candy? If daddy pimp slaps you, will he make up for it by buying a white pony at the store?”

And my kid will be the one to ask.

Lily Skylar, Black M.D.

One of my old mates from Hampton (the REAL HU) got me thinking about a new show that ought to be on TV. In fact, I KNOW we ought to. I don’t think we’ve had a plot that surrounded a Black female medical professional since Diahann Carroll played Julia. That’s not true. There’s Jada Pinkett as Hawthorne. But they are both nurses. It’s time for a  doctor. With a stethoscope. Not a patient chart on a clip board.

Luckily for the TV execs, I’ve crafted the first episode.

Fade to TV Land

*****

Lily Skylar, Black Super hero MD!

*Guitar rift, turn table scratching, rap intro*

Weary of waiting for her imaginary husband to materialize, Lily Skylar, pediatric MD throws off the covers and hops out of bed. She watches the crisp down comforter settle into a pile on the bed, slowly deflating. It was a sunny Tuesday morning. A mock Spring breeze floated through the gap in her apartment window, inviting her outside. It was her day off and the weather was going to go back to being bad tomorrow. She may as well get out and enjoy New York, the city she loved but rarely ever got to see in the daylight. The relationship struck her to be one similar to a clandestine love affair with a married man.

Throwing on yoga pants, sneakers and green t-shirt, she scurried down the stairs and headed towards Central Park for a nice long run. Everyone seemed to be outside today – Old ladies with shopping carts, gay men with their puppies…even the wretched homeless guys had come out from their allies to enjoy the unseasonably warm air. Lily ran down in between a group of guys throwing a Frisbee to get to the running path. Suddenly, she heard one of them cry out.

“Oh God!”

Instinctively, she looked back and saw a gangly youth writhing on the grass in pain. He was clutching his chest, gasping for air. As Lily sprinted back towards him, a crowd began to form. She dropped down to his side.

“Give him some air!” she commanded, her Grenadian accent getting thicker with agitation.

“Who are you?” one of the boys friends asked in fear. “Are you gonna rob him? For godsake he’s gasping for air! How are you going to rob him when he can’t even breathe??”

“Shut up and call 911,” Lily snapped. “Just because I’m Black with an Island accent and telling everyone to clear out of here doesn’t mean I’m going to rob a dying man. I’m a doctor.”

“Oh God,” groaned another of the Frisbee throwers. “He’s dying!”

That was a poor choice of words, Lily muttered to herself. It suddenly occurred to her that this was the reason she’d been transferred to the adolescent unit and away from the toddlers…too blunt.

The gasping boy’s breath was getting more and more shallow. Lily tilted his head a peered into his throat. Something was lodged in it.

“Something’s caught in there!” she gasped. “We can’t wait for the ambulance. We have to get it out now!”

As if sensing the urgency of the matter, the Universe began to provide all that Lily needed. A Puerto Rican gang banger walked by, clad in spiked leather.

“You!” she yelled. “Banger from the 80s! I know you have a switch blade. Give it to me!”

Frightened by the authority in her voice, he obliged immediately.

“And you! Homeless guy sucking on Hennessey…I need that liquor to sterilize the blade.”

The homeless man hesitated.

“NOW!!!”

Lily poured the warm liquor over the shiny blade. The crowd murmured in anticipation of what would happen next. As she began to cut open his throat to dislodge to foreign object, everyone held their breath. Even the birds stopped chirping. The wail of the ambulance was far in the distance.

I need to create a pathway, she thought.

“There’s a little girl drinking a soda that her mom just bought,” she said to no one. “Go get her straw.”

“Couldn’t we just ask the vendor for a brand new straw instead,” asked one of the bystanders in a panic.

“We could, but that would be less dramatic for the pilot of my new show – Lily Skylar MD,” she retorted. “Now go get the little girl’s straw and make her cry!”

With the straw safely in hand, and the wail of a robbed girl and a New York ambulance getting louder, Lily stuck the straw in the dying youth’s exposed through. With her index finger, she scooped out what was blocking his airway. A walnut. There are no walnut trees in Central Park…

The young man gasped and began to breathe normally through his straw. The crowd cheered wildly, hoisting a bloody, visibly shaken Lily into the air. The paramedics arrived just then to put the young man onto a stretcher and to rush him off to the hospital.

His pale hand reached out to touch her, assumedly in gratitude. His eyes were wide as saucers, speaking volumes. It was a conversation only the two of them would understand.

“You’re welcome,” Lily said benevolently.

The boy stuck his middle finger up as he was being carted away. Lily balked in shock.

“That was his favorite Elton John t-shirt,” his friend explained. “And you screwed it up with his blood. You coulda just done the Heimlich y’know?”

He turned to play catch with his friends, leaving Lily lost in her thoughts. Where had the walnut come from? Hmmm….

 Stay tuned for our next series: Lily Skylar, P.I.!

If Only Men Were Actually Dogs

It’s a popular saying: “All men are dogs.”

It’s a phrase women use generally to console other women who have been “dogged” by a man, and in doing so, insinuating that men and dogs have equivalent behavior when it comes to the treatment of women.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if men actually did act like dogs? If they did, I daresay we’d have far more successful relationships and far less divorce in society. I think I read an article once the extolled the virtue of dogs. Think about it:

When you come home from work, your dog is always happy to see you. He wags his tail, runs up to you, and gives you a series of frisky licks. A torrent of doggy kisses, if you will.

Your dog will never complain about what you’ve prepared for dinner. A dog can eat Kibbles n’ Bits every day for all 20 years of his human life and never bark anything but gratitude for it.

A dog is a ready and willing companion when you want to go out for an evening stroll at dusk. He’s not going to get tired and complain about wanting to go back inside.

A dog will sit quietly next to you while you watch a sappy movie on Lifetime, never interrupting and asking if he can watch ESPN instead.

Let’s assume your dog does the worst thing a dog could ever to you: Chew up your favorite pair of red pumps and leave the shards at the foot of the bed. After your anger subsides, you realize this is a good thing: 1) It gives you the opportunity to go out and get a NEW pair of shoes and 2) Your dog will not whine and moan about the money you spent on said new pair of shoes. Because he’s A DOG. He can’t talk.

A dog is not going to leave his dirty socks all over the house.

A dog will not ride you about gaining too much weight. In fact, he will probably nuzzle his cute little head onto your ample lap and fall asleep on it.

If you get mad at your dog, he isn’t going to in turn get mad at you. On the contrary, he’ll do his best to make up misstep by being extra affectionate and un-learning his ‘bad’ behavior.

A dog will sit patiently in the car while you go into Nordstrom’s and shop as long as your heart is content to do so.  

A dog will guard you against all intruders. If he hears a strange noise, he isn’t going to tell YOU to go downstairs and investigate it or tell you “It’s nothing…go back to sleep.” He’s going to scurry on his four legs and check it out!

And best of all, you don’t have to ask your dog where he’s been all night or worry about if he’s been out with other women.  You know exacty where your dog has been all day and all night: locked up safely in the house/yard where you left him x hours ago.

So dear reader, if you’re looking for the “perfect” man, get in your car, go to PetSmart, and go buy yourself a dog.

Wanted: Rich, Godly (or kinda Godly) Philanthropist

The other night I got really pissed off with God. Let me qualify that: I wasn’t necessarily pissed WITH God – it was more with my understanding of how His process works. I was pissed because we’re supposed to be moving to South Africa in a few months and we don’t have wads of cash in our pockets or nary a box packed. We don’t have prospects to rent our house while we’re gone, NOR do we have the $x,000 to pay off the mortgage in lieu of a renter.

(In hind sight, none of this is really God’s fault, but I’d been working on snatches of sleep for almost a month. I can now say I was hardly what you call ‘lucid’ when I was making my complaint to Heaven.)

Anyways, here’s what I said to God, Lord Almighty and Master of the Universe in the midnight hour:

“You know what, God? If you want us to move to South Africa, then YOU make it happen. I’m not sending out any more letters, I’m not beggin’ no more people, I ain’t doin’ squat till I see some effort on YOUR part. If YOU want this project to work and this is YOUR will for OUR lives, then YOU work it out. I’m open to see what YOU got. There.”

Eish.

I’m cringing as I type this even now. I mean, the Bible says you are supposed to approach the throne of grace with humility. God draws near to a broken spirit and a contrite heart…and there was nothing broken or contrite about my approach. I mean, I was being a downright brat.

To backtrack, Marshall and I have decided to move to South Africa this year to do missions work. We’ve had loads of wonderful financial advice, but none of it has bloomed into anything tangible. We’ve been chronicling parts of our transition on www.34degrees.org. (click on it)

I guess in my frustration with God was that I had not hit the winning lottery number for $x million (never mind that I don’t even PLAY the lottery) or that Oprah and/or Bill Gates had not telepathically figured out that we need some money to move, live, and begin investment projects once we got there. I mean, hadn’t GOD told them? He knows we don’t have a salary waiting for us when we get there. Didn’t He relay the message to all His children who HAVE the money?

Apparently not. No one has magically dialed my (unlisted) number to offer me the logistical assistance we need to make the move.

My dad once told me (with worry and exasperation) that I prayed like I was fighting with God. I want to say “I’m sorry, God”. I don’t mean to yell…that’s just how I talk.

I still haven’t changed my mind about God making this happen…but I will be more mindful about my tone when I make my inquiries to the Most High. In the meantime, if you happen to be, or know, a millionaire reading this blog, holler at us at 34degrees.org! #notice

A Buck Saved Now, A Fortune in Therapy Later

One of the best things a woman can do for herself is to surround herself with other women. Conventional belief will dispute this assertion, but I think it’s a fundamental need for female survival, and always had been.

Just as important as it is for a woman must surround herself with other women,  it is also equally important that she take the time at some point to evaluate the quality of those relationships at some point. Women (in positive, un-Springerish relationships) nurture each other, support each other, offer each other practical/impractical advice, and so on. On occasion, we’ll even watch each other’s kids. It is at this point that a woman must evaluate the quality of her female associations.

 One of my dearest friends is Caroline, whom I’ve mentioned on this blog before. She’s recently had the misfortune of losing her job, as many people in this economy have. Fortunately for me, she made herself available to watch the children while I go to work at my new temp job. It’s a mutual benefit (I hope), because she earns an extra couple of bucks and I get to save an extra couple of thousand each month on daycare costs. Prior to Caroline’s misfortune, I had given consideration to having one of my old neighbors, Ms. Carla, watch the kids while I worked. I shudder to even think of the results.

Ms. Carla is in her heart, a very sweet woman. What comes out of that heart, however and unfortunately, are a wealth of hood rat antics and a dearth of refinement. She has always invited us to her bar-b-ques where she proudly informed us that the meat was supplied by a purveyor from the back of a pick-up truck; she’s offered me raw chitterlings, cleaned right there in her very own living room; and she’s even gone so far as to inform me that she could find a buyer for my old post c-section prescription pills if I needed one.

“I know a White guy who will pay you a hundred dollars for each of them Oxytocin you got, girl!”

She was terribly disappointed to discover that I had thrown them away when I didn’t need them anymore.

At one point she offered to watch the children for a nominal amount a week. At this time I only had 2 kids and was working full time at a hell hole called HireVelocity, where the days were long and my prayers for the building to burn down were even longer.   

“I watch de babies for you,” she said in her raspy voice, the kind that had acquired a unique edge from years of drug abuse and chain smoking. “I only charge you $70 a week too. Ain’t tryin’ to break your bank.”

In keeping with my habit and history of saying ‘no’ to each of her previous offers, I politely declined. I would just have to keep shelling out $1500 a month in daycare costs. I did not need the extra head ache.

Three years later, I found myself with 2 more children and not enough money to make that sort of sacrifice. I gave serious thought to asking Ms. Carla to watch the kids. I thought about the environment they were going to be in.

She used to watch a little boy called David, whom at 6 months she would set in a car seat with a bottle, and have watching everything from One Life to Live to Full Metal Jacket…in one day. She has two boys of her own – one who just got out of prison for ‘allegedly’ robbing and beating the pizza man, and the other who was doing alright. He is the cart boy at Sam’s club. (Both are in the mid-late 20s.) Her granddaughter, who she watches because her mother is a crack whore and her aforementioned father lives at home when he is NOT in prison, routinely quotes memorable lines from the show Cheaters and at the tender at of 8 can make her butt cheeks clap hard enough to put any stripper anywhere to shame. Ms. Carla is also adept at employing the f-word as an adjective, noun, adverb and verb – all in one sentence.

“I told dat muthof- that I will f-ing f- him up if he keeps f-ing with me!” she emphatically told me one day. I think she was talking about her pastor.

Despite all this, the ‘opportunity’ to only have to spend $70 a week ($280 a mere month!), compared to the potential $1500+ cost in daycare seemed far too good to pass up. I picked up the phone to call her. Her number was disconnected (for non-payment, I assume).

Enter Caroline 2 months ago, saving my life, and more than likely those of my children. We both didn’t know it at the time, but we collaboratively saved 4 children from a future of crime, sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, professional failure, and a fortune in therapy, one week at a time.

Thank you, Auntie Caroline!

Um, like, so yeah…y’know what I mean?

I was driving into work this morning listening to National Public Radio and a segment featuring two teenaged boys discussing their education came on after an update on Egypt. The presenter gave them a glowing introduction, mentioning that they both wrote for VOX (Voice of Our Generation), a publication written by and for Atlanta teens. My interest was immediately piqued. I love to hear success stories about our up-and-coming youth doing well. The first gentleman (his name escapes me because it doesn’t even really matter – and after I tell you what he said next, or rather HOW – you’ll see why not), spoke first in very measured tones.

“I take my education very, very, very serious,” he said by way of introduction.  

“You mean ‘I take my education seriously’,” I thought out loud. “But carry on.”

“I’m taking like, world history, and I asked my teacher like ‘What do I have to do to pass this class?’. And he said, like, I have to know EVERYTHING. How am I supposed to remember the history of the whole world?”

He laughed flippantly. His compatriot laughed and chimed in.

“I know! I like, study for math for hours on end. Don’t you think it’s crazy how people just slide by in their education, and you like, study so hard? I can sit on my bed doing my math homework at 5 pm, and like look up, and the sun is like coming up!”

“Yeah dude! Dude. It’s like crazy. What are like, your aspirations?”

After this point I zoned out. I didn’t, like, want to know what he was aspiring towards.

For starters, both of them could begin with using the work “like” a lot less in their conversation, particularly if both are well aware that said conversation is meant to be broadcast across the entire state…possibly even the nation.

But then that got me to thinking. Why do teens employ ‘fillers’ in their speech? My Kindergartner doesn’t, and she is assumed to have a poorer grasp on communication patterns than an average adolescent. She makes her requests and desires know clearly and concisely, rarely using “umm” and “like” when expressing herself. Perhaps she is unique.

I remember I was a dumb teen once and I have recently recognized another reason to be grateful for my secondary education in Ghana. Neither of my literature or grammar instructors would tolerate the use of ‘fillers’ during verbal exams. For me, that was extremely difficult. My filler of choice was “umm”. For the 2 or 3 other American girls in my class it was “like”. I can’t recall how my Ghanaian teachers broke me of the habit, but I believe it might have involved getting a point deduction for every “umm” I inserted in my verbal delivery.

“‘Umm’ is not a word,” I vaguely recall Mr. Quist dryly informing me, borderline disgust registering all over his face. His eyes were always half closed, as though whatever this sweaty 16 year old student was saying was of no consequence, had little impact on the world, and that he might fall asleep at any moment while you were giving your best explanation as to why Madame Bovary was such a crazy, ungrateful bitch. He reeked of sarcasm and smuggery (it’s always been one of my favorite things about him). At the time, I suppose I thought using “umm” made me sound very intelligent. I mean, like, all the American kids were doing it in the movies I watched! I resented Mr. Quist and that other Lit teacher from GIS for being so like, uncool.

Oh, but thank GOD they were having no part of it.  Sadly, millions of students will go through life without a Mr. Quist. Listening to American teens (and most adults) talk makes my teeth hurt.  To think I could be a part of their ranks makes me shiver inwardly. To prove my point, I offer you this video featuring this nation’s best and brightest in that all American platform used to display excellence: The beauty pageant.

Enjoy.

Valentine’s Day – The Pursuit of Booty

*This article is not for little kids. All you teenagers I’ve FB friended from church stop reading HERE!

I don’t want to be a cynic, I promise you I don’t…but Valentine’s Day SUCKS.

I used to be one of those people who would balk at other cynics who decried Valentine’s Day as “just a paper” holiday or a “made up Hallmark” holiday. I would launch into a monologue about St. Valentine and how the whole celebration of love began. I would emphatically go on about the 5 different types of love – with their Greek translations ( agapi, erotas and so forth) – and that it was important that we take time about to celebrate and recognize LOVE!

Strangely, since I’ve been married, I see Valentine’s Day for the farce that it truly is. Or at least what it has become in modern times.

As usual, advertising has ruined a good thing, and nowhere is this more evident than in Pajagrams ‘Hoodie Footie’ ads that have been flooding the airwaves for the last 4-6 weeks. What makes the ads so aggravating is not only the product themselves, but their choice of one particular spokesperson – the dreaded Sean Hannity. (He’s an ultra-douche opinion head on Fox News, for those who do not know him. I’m a conservative, but he takes it to a WHOLE ‘nother level.) The last thing I want on my mind while I’m supposed to be snuggling with my own husband is an image of Hannity nuzzled up with his wife, wrapped in the same pajamas I’m (assumedly) wearing, his obnoxious lips gabbing on about Obamacare and socialism, prophesying doom and gloom and a failed economy. Shut up and eat a strawberry, Sean.

Sale FAIL!

Then there’s all the PAPER that’s wasted on Valentines day! Every year, a small rain forest is decimated so little pre-schoolers can cut out crooked hearts and slather glitter on some ill constructed art “project”. Do you still have the sticky, misshaped Valentine card that your child created last year? No, you don’t. Don’t even try to lie.

And then – worst of all – there is the obligatory distribution of booty. Your man runs out to get you flowers, lingerie, candy, chocolates (and perhaps the aforementioned dreaded hoodie footies), all because what? He loves you? No! It’s because:

1)      He assumes you’ll get pissed if you do not have these tokens of “love” in your possession, as expected and

2)      He is hoping for some reward at the end of the night

John Mayer, strumming his little guitar once crooned “Your Body is a Wonderland” to the female object of his amour. I am the anti-thesis of that stamen. For weeks, my body can go on and on as a sexual Wasteland. It’s where attempts at love-making go to DIE. There is nothing that would aggravate me more than the expectation that I am supposed to reciprocate this manufactured gesture of “love” by parting with 10 minutes of sleep or TV time so that my mate can “part” me.  If you really want a genuine response from me surprise me with these tokens on an off day. Switch it up! Hit me up on St. Patrick’s Day. We can play Celtic games where you dress up as a leprechaun and perhaps there will be booty at the end of the rainbow.

Is my cynicism unfounded? Is Valentine’s Day still really about love, and friendship, and the like? I don’t think so. The shelves at Wal-Mart continue to prove me right year after year.