Monthly Archives: September 2011

Did This Woman Just Challenge me to a Duel?

So I mentioned an Oreo cakester one or two times on my blog. So I like chocolate and cake, and like them even better when the two are combined in a conveniently wrapped sheath of foil. That doesn’t give some woman, who resides in the back woods of Merrie Olde England the right to remove her leather gloves, fold them in half, smite me upon each cheek and challenge me to a duel!

Misty H., one of my blogging buddies, sent me a private message on Facebook not too long ago. I can’t recall everything it said, but there was a bit in there about losing 15 pounds by Christmas day, a ransom and a challenge to either defeat her or run away with my tail tucked between my fat thighs.

MY fat thighs? Now that’s what we call fightin’ words here in America!

Misty then went on advise me to break out my Spandex if I were brave enough to accept her challenge. Well I got news for YOU Misty. I don’t WEAR Spandex. It reacts badly with my PH and makes me smell like cat piss. I only wear 100% cotton. It’s breathable and super absorbent!

I have never backed down when the gauntlet has been thrown at my feet. Not even that time when I had that bet Cory, my team lead, that I could go for 2 weeks on a raw food diet. Oh God that was just disgusting. Have you ever eaten a raw potato? It’s degrading. What was worse was that I couldn’t even cheat at home, because he has mysteriously enlisted my husband’s help. Marshall…that SNITCH. In the end I lost, and was forced to wear a neon “L” that Cory happily painted on my forehead with acrylic paint. Guess who had to bring in the paint to facilitate her punishment?

Yeah. You got it.

I don’t know what it is with me and a challenge. Like I said, I never back down – but I also never win. I mean NEVER.

This time, things will be different. I am SURE of it. I have enlisted the help of another blogging buddy, whose body is SLAMMING and running on all cylinders at all times. In order to get that body, she runs 800 miles a day and sustains herself on a diet of tortilla chips and green goo. I want the recipe to that green goo.

Retta of Run Retta Run is working on a magic formula to help me achieve my victory. My Vietnamese cohort is going to plug my height, age and weight (which when combined sadly totaled 315) into her Awesome Asian calculator and send me the formula to success any day now. Aaaany day now. Granted, I sent her these requested stats over 4 days ago and have heard nothing back as yet, but I believe she will send me the Crabby Patty formula for thin thighs any day now. Retta, if you’re reading this, that’s a hint to get on it daggonit!

In the interim, I’m walking 3-4 miles a day, watching what I eat, and am doing leg lifts whenever I think about the phrase “your tail between your fat thighs.” I mean, who says that to another woman? Are those not fighting words??

If you’ve been wondering why there has been such a gap in my blogs, it’s because I’m devoid of inspiration and delirious from hunger. How can I be expected to entertain and amuse when I’m hungry? It’s little wonder Kierra Knightly has chosen the genre of drama over comedy. All she has to do is look into the camera and talk. There’s no strength to emit emotion when you’re famished! It’s far easier to scowl than smile when you’re muscles are competing for scarce nutrients. Have you ever seen a starving Ethiopian baby smile?

No.

No you have not.  

Good God I want a Cakester. Is there a healthy chocolate alternative out there? Somebody save me! I would take a picture of my ravaged face, but I’m too weak to hold up the camera….Perhaps if I used my thighs to leverage it?

Addressing Mommy’s Troubling Anatomy

The only thing that gives me comfort in my distress is the knowledge that I am not the only mother to suffer this type of humiliation. Yes fellow mothers – you may call me Misery; and I do enjoy your company.

In what has apparently become my children’s unending quest to destroy my self-esteem, I  have been forced to endure, yet again, an additional battery of quizzes concerning the oddities of my body. Now that the girls are back in school and getting reacquainted with scientific discovery and empirical processes, they have collectively redirected this rediscovery at an old target: ME.

I stepped out of the shower a few mornings ago, proud that I had succeeded in getting a work out done and finished my bath with the complete expectation that I was alone. As I drew the curtain back I saw Aya standing there, arms by her side and eyes transfixed on my emerging figure. Her face quickly went through several transformations, ranging from anxious anticipation, to concern, to perplexity. Without another word, she fled the bathroom.

Ooookay…

Two hours later, Marshall clued me in to the cause of her distress.

“Aya came downstairs and asked me why you have so much hair on your hoo-hoo. I told her it’s because you’re so old.”

Remind me to kill you later.

“Oh,” I mumbled. “I see.”

I tried to conjure up a snappy comeback, but my wits failed me. Later in the evening, Aya all too happily informed of her latest discovery, courtesy of her father. Her words came out in rapid fire, so quick that it sounded like a single utterance. They were swift, cutting me to the core like an ancient samurai sword.

“Mommy, I asked Daddy why you have hair on your hoo-hoo and he said it’s because you’re so old. Mommy, you’re OLD.”

“Yes,” I conceded. “I am old.”

For the next few days, the girls continued their relentless assault.

“Why do you have so many bumps on your face?”

“Has your stomach always been that big?”

“Is that a booger in your nose? Are you gonna pick it out? It looks disgusting.”

*Sigh*.

The final attack came just yesterday morning , when after failing to take a shower before dropping the girls off at school, Nadjah called me on it.

“Mommy? What is that smell?”

It goes by many names, I wanted to inform her. Coitus. Intercourse. Biblical knowledge…or as I like to call it: Morning Glory.

“What smell?” I challenged her. “What does it smell like!?”

She squinched up her little face in concentration, as though searching the recesses of her memory bank in order to access some data to aid her in identifying the unfamiliar scent. Failing in this attempt, she remained silent.

Uh huh. Score one for me! I may be pimply, hairy, Black and yes – I may even smell funny – but Dear God I’m still gittin’ some!

 

How Troy Davis’ Death Affected my 2012 Vote

I am a proud independent voter. I neither kowtow nor subscribe exclusively to any one political party, and that is something I take great satisfaction in. I see merits in the Tea Party’s opinions, the logic of the Republican Party’s view on economics, and appreciate the overarching compassion of the Democratic Party. I am one of those voters who keeps politicians guessing, and fortunately, I am in the majority; as it should be. A politician should never be able to bank on votes solely on the advantages of political allegiance. Unquestioned allegiance is a breeding ground for corruption.

As an independent voter, I have been very displeased with Barack Obama’s leadership as President. I think Mr. Obama is a fine, eloquent man and a great husband and father, but I also think he is unsuited to serve as leader of the free world in these perilous times. If this were a time of peace and prosperity, he would go down in history as an excellent president. Sadly, history will remember him as mediocre, unless he makes real changes. His policies have been proven to kill jobs, and he has not been largely unsuccessful in getting congressional members on either side of the aisle to work together to solve crucial matters, such as the debt ceiling debate.  In fact, he was nothing more than an observer during the entire debacle.

I understand that this President has been a divisive figure from the onset, in part because of some Americans’ prejudices, but he also divisive because of his policies, many of which rub many fiscal and moral conservatives raw. The fact that he initially chose to exclusively tackle healthcare and spun it as a (failed) vehicle for job creation has not helped him in my view at all. When president Obama came into office, unemployment was an 7.9%. He said if he enacted certain measures, it would never go above 8%. Those measures miserably failed, and today unemployment rests stubbornly at 9.1%.

With all this in mind, I decided early that I was going to start ‘shopping’ other candidates and give them serious consideration for 2012 in lieu of Mr. Obama, with the economy as my major determinant. Michelle Bachman is not a serious enough figure to even get my attention, let alone my vote. There have been no noteworthy Libertarians (like Bob Barr) on the playing field to capture my imagination, and in view of the dearth of options, I turned my attention to Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. I looked at their economic policy and philosophy and decided that they were sound. The results in each of their states speak for themselves. And Romney looks presidential – with his crisp suits and politically coiffed hair. I could care less about his Mormon faith; after all President Obama sat at the feet of Jeremiah Wright, who has his own list of unfavorable and “unacceptable” foibles. What’s a little celestial marriage when compared to Jew hating? I could get behind a Romney/Perry or Perry/Romney ticket.

And then there was a debate.

“Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,” NBC’s Brian Williams told Perry as the conservative audience broke into cheers and applause. “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”

“No, sir, I’ve never struggled with that at all,” Perry flatly stated. “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.”

The audience again cheered at Perry’s mention of “the ultimate justice.”

“What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?” Williams asked.

“I think Americans understand justice,” Perry explained. “I think Americans are clearly in the vast majority of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens, and it’s a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our citizens, and if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.”

For the record, I am FOR the death penalty, but this particular exchange gave me pause. I can only support the death penalty if there is irrefutable proof that the person being put to death actually committed the crime for which he is about to be punished. It has to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. In order for that to happen, hundreds, if not thousands of man hours doing investigations and witness interviews would have to be exhausted. The pursuit of evidence and irrefutable proof takes up many resources – and it would not be a stretch to consider that sum cost of those resources would number in the millions of dollars. I highly doubt that Texas invested that much money in their investigation of these 234 convicted killers. I am confident that Rick Perry has sent many an innocent man to his death.

Today, the state that I live in, Georgia, sends Troy Davis to his death at 7:00 pm. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave on Mars, you’re by now well aware of the controversy surrounding his execution: The dogged refusal of the police to consider any other suspects. The witnesses recantation of their original version of events. The revelation that these witnesses say they were pressured by police to point the finger at Davis. And then Mr. Davis’ own maintenance of his innocence for these 20+ years. Despite the lack of physical evidence and in the face of record witness retraction, Georgia is going to execute a potentially innocent man. There is too much reasonable doubt to put this man to death.

The widow (Macphail) of the slain police officer is eager to see Mr. Davis die. She will not hear of any talk of a case of mistaken identity. She says she wants closure, and she cannot move on with her life until Troy Davis dies. I feel for her, and I cannot imagine what it would be like to have my husband gunned down while in the service of his community. But I cannot imagine that she is going to feel any better if there is the possibility that the man who is about to be executed did not kill her husband. This is something I would want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, and again, there is just too much doubt.

However, Mrs. Macphail’s sentiments are typical of many of those in our nation: and that is someone has to pay for this gross injustice. Troy Davis looks guilty enough, and that appearance is apparently good enough to fry him. I have tried to steer away from race as I look into this case, but it keeps biting me in the nose. The parallels and the dynamics between this case and Casey Anthony will not let me look at this result outside of the lens of race. Does reasonable doubt in America work differently if you’re young, white and female? Perhaps it does.

Tonight, a Black man, someone’s son and brother is going to be murdered by the state of Georgia, with far too many questions and not enough real answers. The Savannah judge presiding in his most recent appeal called the defense’s new evidence nothing but “smoke and mirrors”. With all due respect judge, this is not a magic show – this is a quest to save a potentially innocent man’s life.

As the mother of a Black son, this is frightening for me. I have always feared rearing a boy in this country, because America is hostile to Black men, and probably always will be. There was a time in this country that if you were a Black man who kept his head down and eyes averted, you could survive – possibly even thrive. But a Black man is still a MAN, and no man can live that way forever. I certainly don’t want to raise my son that way, and I certainly don’t want him to live in a country who has at its helm a president who at his core wouldn’t bat at eyelash at taking his life despite the real probability of his innocence. I don’t know Troy Davis personally, and I’ll wager that he does not have a squeaky clean past. I’m just saying that just because he smells like smoke doesn’t mean he set the fire. I’m not convinced that the police did their due diligence in saying who did.

So when I go to the polls next year, I will hopefully have a choice in a candidate who is fiscally savvy as well as fair minded and objective when it comes to death or at the very least, does not possess a blood lust, as Rick Perry does. Because at the end of the day, what’s the benefit of an economic recovery when you that know as a certain ‘type’ of citizen your government could care less whether you lived to enjoy those benefits?

Afro: Apparently the New Terrorist’s Coif of Choice

 In a rare opportunity, I had the “pleasure” of watching the news last night (if you count being bombarded with reports of arson and murder as pleasurable) and to my surprise, Isis Brantley was on 11 Alive News! I immediately perked up. I am a fan of her products, and have featured them on M.O.M in the past.

To my horror, she was narrating how after going through the security checkpoint in Atlanta, a TSA came frantically chasing down after her on the escalator and demanded to know if someone had checked her hair. She was on the platform about to take the train to her terminal and answered ‘no’. She kept moving. The agent then said that they would have to touch her hair and check for “explosives”. She refused – after all, she had already gone through screening. The agent then informed her that if she refused, she would not be permitted to board her flight. She reluctantly succumbed, and after long moments of enduring the agent aggressively plying through her tresses, she begged them to cease with their inane search for explosives in her hair.

“Find any explosives yet? Can you please stop! This is humiliating and embarrassing!”

After finding no explosives (gasp!) they released her and allowed her to go on her way.

To my disgust, Ms. Brantley went on to describe how she was forced to endure this in the presence of the peering eyes of public at the WORLD’S BUSIEST airport: Hartsfiled-Jackson International. The TSA of course denies this, alleging instead that they offered Ms. Brantley the opportunity to do this extra screening in private and she ‘refused’. What bull. I don’t believe a word of it. The TSA does not have a reputation for treating the flying public with a modicum of anything remotely resembling respect.

Side note:

In recent months I have seen an increase in the number of combative blogs about the natural hair versus relaxed as proponents for either side verbally duke it out. Initially, I was one of them, until I came to the realization that it’s just hair for goodness sake’s! You can buy it or grow it, but in the end it doesn’t define who you are…or at least it shouldn’t.

Back to the point:

The last time I checked, Black women with afros weren’t blowing up the World Trade Center or setting off car bombs in Yemen. Despite the depictions of such images in the Blacksploitation films of the 70s, it’s actually impossible to hide explosives and/or weapons in our natural hair. The roots just aren’t that strong.  However, you realistically have a better chance of hiding them in the tracks of a sewn-in weave…the less terrorist-y and more mainstream hairstyle. Ironic, isn’t it?

I cannot imagine how Isis Brantley must have felt at that moment and the moments after the event. I myself would have been pissed enough to cry, and then possibly piss ALL OVER the TSA agent in my angst. It’s hard enough being Black in America, and apparently it’s only going to get harder if you choose to wear chemical-free tresses. It’s hard enough to get a job with natural hair, but now we curly chicks can’t even fly without harassment? As I did more reading online, I found that Black women with natural hair are increasingly having that hair checked for weapons in airports all over the nation. Incredible – just incredible!

But, there is a positive side to all this! At least I (and lucky you) now know how to style my hair before I fly. I’ve preemptively added a ‘fro to the list of items no longer permitted on America’s airlines – along with toothpaste and mouth wash.

In THIS image, I look like a terrorist.

But in THIS one, I miraculously don’t!

Good job America! So much for judging people on the contents of their character…we’re now a nation that judges people on the (phantom) contents of their hair.

How Krystal Tried – and Failed – to Kill Me

I thought the water tasted odd, but I drank it anyway.

Church service was going exceptionally long yesterday, so I slunk out of the building to go get something to eat. It was noon and they still hadn’t taken up the offering yet. As I cruised down Holcomb Bridge, I saw – to my delight – that Krystal had a 4 for $2.79 deal going on. Sold! I pulled into the drive through, refused the extra value meal the operator was trying to sell me, and requested a cup of water instead.

On a normal day, the choice to have a cup of water would be a boon to one’s health. On this day, that choice nearly killed me. I took a few sips of the fetid liquid – which tasted mysteriously like expired Paracetamol – before inhaling one of the mustard slathered “burgers”. Being in a giving mood that Sabbath afternoon, I shared the remaining three with some of the teenagers who were working in the nursery. One of them turned her nose up at my donation.

“Ewww,” she croaked. “Krystals? Don’t you know Krystals will make you sick?”

“That’s no way to talk about someone’s food,” I retorted. “I don’t talk about your face like that, do I?”

Her little cohorts laughed at my reply and gobbled down the room temperature patty.

Two hours later, church finally ended and I picked up my paper cup of un-drunken water and placed it on the arm rest of my car.

“Mommy? My stomach hurts,” said Aya, eying the fast food paraphernalia, hoping for a treat.

“Do you want some of my water?”

“Uh huh!”

She took long drags from the straw and left me just enough of the putrid fluid to quench my thirst. I drank the water without thought, listening to Aya babble on about Japanfest, which we had just attended the day before. By the time we pulled into the driveway at home, I felt light headed.

“Mommy? My tummy really hurts,” Aya groaned.

“Mine too baby.”

“I think I want to throw up…”

“Uh huh…”

I was walking away from her as she said this. I was feeling suddenly feverish and was making a beeline for my bed. I was hot. I was cold. I was delirious. Is this what it was like to be on crack? Oooh God this doesn’t feel good!

20 minutes later, Aya actually DID throw up. Chunky brown liquid matter sprayed all over the floor. She missed the toilet by 15 feet. I tried to induce vomiting, but was only successful in releasing rapid rounds of gas. My stomach felt so sour. I was going to die at that very moment, I was sure of it. I was going to die engulfed in a cloud of my own fart. Damn you, Krystal!  I cursed as I writhed about on the stained floor in pain. Damn you…

Then the world went black. Apparently, I had fallen asleep.

Poor Aya continued to vomit until nothing but bile the color of Mountain Dew came up. In a moment of lucidity, I called the Atlanta Nurse Line. They would know what to do. After suffering through the nurse grilling me about pain timelines and bodily discharge, she finally recommended that we go to the ER.

“Oh. Okay,” I whispered. I could have come up with that on my own.

“Call us back if you need anything!”

“Uh huh.”

I hung up the phone and went back into a puke induced coma.

It’s Monday morning, and I’m still ill. Aya went to school, but I’m sure they’ll be calling me to pick her up in a few hours. There’s no way she’s going to make it till the end of the day if she feels like I do. There had to be brain eating amoeba in that water. She’s supposed to do a presentation about Japanfest today. How is she going to present to her class if amoeba are eating her brain?? Damn you Krystal!

I can’t say for certain that any part of this post makes sense. The only thing I am trying to convey is my new intense hate for Krystal. Did I effectively do that? If so, I’m not so far into a vegetative state as I’d supposed. A vegetative state caused by imbibing ice-cold disgusting Krystal sewer water!

Did I already damn Krystal?  I can’t recall. Let me do it one more time, for posterity’s sake:

Damn you, Krystal!!!

KRYSTAL! 

 

 

He’s Not a Wicked God

Do you ever get sick of reading and watching the news? I have. You would think the world was going directly to Hell by Saturday morning. Ugh!

I went walking with a friend 2 days ago who was feeling really glum about her job prospects. She’d interviewed with one of the four major telecom companies in the area, and they hadn’t called her back. I myself used to work for Sprint, and while it wasn’t a bad job, it wasn’t a fulfilling one either. I brought her back from the brink of depression with these words:

“Have you ever worked at a suck-ass job?”

“Yeah…” she conceded. “I have.”

“And do you REALLY think that this job with ‘X’ company is going to make you happy? What – because you’ll be getting a paycheck?”

She silently looked ahead at the trail and kept walking.

“The answer is no!” I retorted. “That measly $30-35K that they are going to offer you is not worth being shackled to a desk doing mindless work to fulfill someone else’s bottom line!”

She stopped walking.

“You know what? You’re right.”

“Yeah. I know I am!”

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a realist. There ARE some people who should never run a business, never be put in positions of management, and never be given any responsibility that would directly affect the lives of others, either adversely or positively. They can’t be trusted. I have happily told some folk that. On the other hand, if you are a person whose vast potential would be deflected and wasted by dronish drudgery, I would do all in my power to encourage you in the opposite direction. My friend is one of such people. It would kill me (and her) to see her languish at some telecom company with an odious name tag that reads ‘Account Manager II’.

The conversation sharply took another direction. With all that is going on around us – the political chaos, the downward spiraling markets, the murder and mayhem, all which can rightly be attributed to our crumbling global economy – where was God? No seriously…if He (or His multi-breasted, eight armed equivalent) existed, wouldn’t He care to come down and fix things? I’m sure it’s a question that thousands of despairing people have asked while praying on their knees, if anyone still bothers at all.

The truth is, God has nothing to do with this AND everything to do with it at the same time. He created man in His own image, and gave us the tools to sort out the messes that we’ve created and mired ourselves in. WE have the power to change and manifest the destiny of our choosing. Besides that, He’s not a wicked God – He doesn’t get pleasure from watching us suffer! No matter what religion you ascribe to, I highly doubt that you will find a verse testifying to the ‘wickedness of God’.

I’ve been reading more and more about positive thoughts lately, and how those thoughts create our reality. I truly believe that we have to become a people who decide what we want and relentless pursue that desire to the exclusion of all else. It’s time out for conforming for Conformity’s sake. There were more millionaires created during the Great Depression than there ever were in American history. If you’re unemployed/unhappy in your job/unfulfilled in your work, the time is ripe to break out into a realm that you’ve never dreamed of before. Try something new. What have you got to loose, besides something that’s keeping you miserable anyway? At the very least, take a little leap and imagine would it would be like to live the life of your dreams. Deviate from the script!

9.1% of the US population is unemployed, and many of the jobs these folks held are never coming back. I read one analyst’s article that said that these people may NEVER work again. That’s bull. If they plan to eat, then logic says that they will definitely work! Many types of manufacturing jobs may never come back, but think about this: 10 years ago there was no social media as we know it. Today, there are hundreds of people whose sole job is to tweet or update statuses for companies or individuals who don’t have the time to do it themselves. And they get paid well. If you have a pulse, you can think; and if you can think you can learn a new skill; and if you can learn a new skill, you can get a new job. It’s really not rocket science.

All this, Reader, is to simply say: Do not despair. You were not created or born to suffer. That’s not your calling in life. You were created to prosper and to share that prosperity with others.  I’m no spiritual scholar, but of that much I’m convinced. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

*Descending from my soapbox and reaching for a yummy Oreo Cakester*

 

 

A Cultural Dilemma

Nadjah ripped open her backpack last week and thrust a sheet of paper in my face. It was a permission slip from her school, requesting my signature to allow my student to participate/try out in the school’s first ever Cultural Talent show.

“Presentations must be no more than 5 minutes long and must represent a specific culture,” it read. “Students will be notified on September 23rd if they have been selected to perform in the talent show.”

I groaned inwardly. There are few things I dislike more than preparing for a show, despite the immense pride I generally feel when my baby is on stage knocking her lines out of the park.

“Can I do it, Mommy?” she pleaded.

“Yeah…I guess,” I conceded. But you don’t have a talent. I wanted to add.

She rattled off some ideas about what she would do; none of them good, and none of them representative of any CULTURE. Fortunately for her, her mom is a Ghanaian, so I would have a canned and ready solution to this performance dilemma.

Or at least I should have.

I sat staring blankly at my child for what appeared to be an eternity.

“Why are you starting at me, Mommy?” she asked, obviously puzzled by my confusion.

“Because I don’t know what you CAN do for this talent show!”

At that moment, a whole new world of realization flashed before me. I had brought up my children exclusively as Americans, and had in effect erased any working knowledge of my own culture. As a child of the Diaspora, I grew up in a household where Ghanaians congregated to eat jollof rice and drink beer, but that was truly the extent of my Ghanaian exposure. Even when we moved back to Accra, there was a prevailing thrust to raise all the children in my neighborhood (Labone) in a Western fashion. Kids my age didn’t do adowa for our talent contests; we mimed to Black Street or did the running man on stage.

So here I sit, twenty-something years later with my own brood in need of my cultural input, and I have none to provide. I sent my BFFFL, Nana Darkoa, a message over skype. She always has solutions.

“Sisi! What is your godchild going to do for her cultural talent show at school?” I typed frantically.

“Hmmm. Can she model?”

“Modeling is not cultural.”

“I’m trying to think back to my own school days. Maybe she can sign ‘kyekye kule’…Is that even a song kraa?”

“No! It’s a game!”

“Well, she could dance adowa,” Sisi offered.

“She could, except she can’t learn adowa in 5 days. Adowa has to be done properly, and I’ll need several percussionists.”

“What do we even do for culture as kids?” she asked.

“Ah. Adowa, agbadza, that’s it!”

After failing to come up with a song, a monologue or a dance for Nadjah to do, we came (or I came) to the conclusion that we sha. How can I explain ‘sha’ to my American Readers…Aha! We’re wack.

My sister lamely suggested that she play ampe.

“Really Adj? By herself? For five minutes? And what about our culture is that supposed to showcase?”

Again – wack.

I spent the next few days agonizing over what she could possibly do. I was so ashamed of myself. The closest I had brought my kids to my culture was FOKN Boyz, and I couldn’t very well have my 6 year old serenading the proverbial ‘good chef’s’ buttocks and breasts for her 6 and 7 year old classmates. On the other hand, you could grab any given 6 year old of Indian descent anywhere in the world, and he/she can probably bust out a few thought provoking lines from Gilgamesh or thrill an audience with some quick steps from Bollywood. I was certain of it. Of all cultures that have immigrated to the West, the Asians (including Southeast Asians) are those who are most inclined to hold on to and instruct their children in their cultural ways. Africans are the least likely. Is it because we are ashamed? Is it because we see little value in our culture, beyond eating  jollof rice, beer, and wearing the finest kente/kaba and slit to events centered around the eating of jollof and drinking beer?

I thought I alone in this assessment until two things happened: Nana promised to tweet her followers to ask for performance options suitable for a child. No one responded. I sent a message to a local Ghanaian women’s organization here in Atlanta with the same request. I got no response. This is evidence that either no one cares or no one KNOWS about suitable performances for and by children.

I guess I could take solace in the knowledge that Nadjah’s best friend – whose parents are from the Virgin Islands – will not be performing this year either.

“Girl, I can’t put K in the talent contest. They’ll kick her outta school!” her mom ranted.

“That’s true. Y’all do tend to go naked in your parades….”

She cut me off.

“And we’ve raised the kids American! All they know is America – so that they can fit in.”

It should make me feel better, but it doesn’t. Somehow, I feel like I’ve cheated my kids and future generations to come.  I suddenly feel a need to take a page out of Gilgamesh and do as my Indian counterparts have done for years: i.e. instill stronger pride in my God-given culture to my children and not handicap them by forcing them to discover it on their own from someone else when they’re older. Certainly it’s worth learning now.

Frightening my Family into Fitness

They say that half of all Americans will be obese by the year 2030 if the trends we’ve seen in the last few decades are not reversed. Think about that: Fifty percent! Take a look at the person sitting across from you right now. If they’re not the one who’s obese, then it means that YOU are.

I digress.

With this dark future looming ahead, I made the decision to get my family involved in some sort of physical fitness. The girls have phys-ed at school twice a week, and I go walking with a buddy every day; but we rarely ever do any physical activity as a family. This Saturday, I invited my brood to join me on a walk. To my pleasant surprise, Marshall was eager to come along as well.

So we piled the kids into both our cars (because neither of us wants to trade our cars for a minivan) and drove to Roswell park. We parked on the west side of the park, far away from the playground, because I was not in the mood to hear it.

“Mommy can we play? Mommy can we swing on the swings?” they would plead.

“No!” I’d roar in irritation, “We’re here to exercise, not PLAY! Arrrgghhh!”

No playground, no confrontation.

The walk started off promisingly. The world was awash with color. Pewter sunrays filtered between the leaves of lush forest canopy and all four kids were happy to be somewhere other than our home. Nadjah and Aya ran ahead, squealing “hi!!!!” to every walker, runner and biker that crossed their path. Liya was babbling happily from her seat in the stroller and Stone commanded Marshall and I to ‘wook’ at the squirrels, rocks, moss and dead leaves in the trail. Not too long after we started our walk, we came upon a marker that read: 2.75 miles.

“If we make it to 3.75 miles, we can walk back and know that we’ve walked one mile each way,” I noted.

“Okay,” said Marshall. “That should be long enough for the kids.”

We carried on gaily, and I was proud that we had taken the collective step to be in control of our fitness. As I was considering my families health, we found ourselves in front of a map that showed at least six different trails around the park.

“Which way should we go?”

“That way!” shrieked the girls.

I looked in the direction that they were pointing in. “That way” the trail was uneven and un-tarred, but it didn’t look impassable.

“Okay. We’ll go that way.”

A hundred yards into the trail, I heard Marshall gasp in pain.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“I’m bleeding…”

“Huh?!”

“There. There’s some barbed wire in the trail. It cut me.”

I glanced at his leg and then back at the rogue wire in the ‘road’ (if you wanted to call it that). It was burnt orange and rusty. He could have been contracting tetanus at that very moment, but we had our fitness to think about!

“You can put a band aid on it when we get home,” I said glibly.

I picked up my pace and continued pushing our bulky double stroller down the uneven path. As time went on, the track became more and more rutted and less and less dependable. At one point it just turned to mud. It eventually led us to a crawdad infested pool of water, where Aya announced she had to pee.

“Welp, it’s a good thing you just came back from South Africa,” I said. “There’s a tree. Aim for it.”

She dropped trou and prepared to squat piss, but from her angle I knew she’s soon have pee all over her jeans. I lifted her up in a seated position and watched her fragrance the forest floor with her urine. It too was burnt orange. She needed to drink more water.

Marshall was beginning to limp along at this point. Above the rim of his sneaker, I saw the crimson gash get wider and wider. I conceded that we needed to get home so we could treat his wound. I thought about the distance we had covered so far, and wished there was a shortcut. As if reading my thoughts, Marshall pointed to another clearing in the woods.

“That path runs parallel to the river. It should take us right back to the car.”

“Let’s hoof it then,” I agreed.

The girls were far less amenable to the idea.

“Ummm…are you guys sure we should go that way?” said Nadjah.

“Yeah…it looks creepy and dark,” echoed Aya.

“Come on! Your daddy needs to get home and treat his leg!” I barked.

I had already started to push our massive, obsolete double stroller (which again, was constructed solely for terrain no harsher than the mall floor) onto the muddy footpath. Once we were on track, the forest immediately closed in around us. There was no way to turn around and go back, because to do so meant either falling into the water on the left of us, or pushing the babies into the unfamiliar foliage in an effort to make an about-turn.  Something large flew by my ear. Was it a bat? Did bats come out in the day time? Was that a griffin making a swan dive?? What WAS that??? The eerie silence, broken only by the sounds of scurrying woodland life, helped me to immediately understand why Black women hate the woods so much. I am convinced that we have a genetic disposition compelling us to despise thick foliage, rotting bark and wood, and the absence of concrete. The last time a Black woman was this deep in nature, she was running from bounty hunters and bloodhounds heading north of the Mason-Dixie. The woods were oppressive, and I suddenly wanted OUT.

Everything conspired against us, as if trying to keep us there. The footpath eventually disappeared altogether, its end marked by two fallen trees and a mass of moist yellow leaves. At this point, Marshall had hoisted Stone onto his shoulders and I was pushing Liya alone in our motor less truck. After we cleared the first hurdle, two Black men approached us with “fishing gear”.

Oh God. They’re gonna kill us all right here by the river. Why are they out here?! This is no place for human beings!  

“Good morning family!” they said cheerily, stepping to the side so Nadjah (who had opted to wear a lace skirt and pink flip flops to our workout) and Aya could slide by.

“Morning,” I muttered. Sweat was pouring into my eyes and blinding me. I squinted at them, determined to at least get a visual of my potential attackers, no matter how blurry.

Fortunately, they let us go unscathed. I kept an eye out for deer in the dense brush. If there were any out there, I was certain they were carnivorous.  We walked on in fear and misery for an eternity until the road finally came into sight.

“Oh thank you Jesus!”

I began sprinting in the direction of the car. The girls were already far ahead, ecstatic to be out of the “creepy dark woods.” 10 minutes later we found the 2.75 mile marker that we had seen when we initiated the walk over an hour before.

“I’d say we walked at least a mile….wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“If you include the stress put on our hearts from the sheer terror of going through ‘Freedom from Massa Woods’, maybe even two.”

Marshall laughed, and then bled his way to his car.

And it is precisely because of that terror –BECAUSE of that strain on my heart – that I chose to stay at home and eat a pack of Oreo Cakesters on the couch instead of working out today. If I’ve got a choice in the way I’m going to die, it’s not going to be screwing around in the woods while re-enacting ‘the-black-woman-always-dies-first-in-the-forest’ with my kids!

 

Cakester anyone?

The Rise of the Panther Mom

Move over Tiger Mom…or at least scoot over a tad. There is a new ferocious feline matriarch on the prowl, and her name is “Panther Mom.”

And, as her name suggests, she is Black.

I was visiting Mom Five Times a few days ago when she finally looked up from her incessantly buzzing smart phone.

“Girl, I’m about to go Tiger Mom this year,” she said in a tone that was far darker than her usual cadence.

Realizing that this was the first year that Nadjah would be earning letter grades, I shared her somberness.

“Yeah, I feel you.”

I myself was gearing up for a rigorous remedial reading and math program to place the girls into. The stakes these days are far too high, and my girls were going to have to be among the best – if not the best of the best – to compete in today’s market place.  Statistics say that because they were born Black and female, they have thicker and higher barriers facing them than the average American. My plan is to educate them into undeniable brilliance, so that they can scale and hover over those barriers like little brown cosmonauts. This is the charter for the Panther Moms.

In my mind I saw my girls repetitiously and studiously reciting their multiplication tables, dutifully informing me of the Latin and Greek roots for ‘x’ word; possibly doing some algebra before the end of Kindergarten and first grade. I mentally salivated over those thoughts, until  I heard tell of the (funny/ironic) tragedy that this type of radicalism can ensue as a result of an overzealous mom’s quest for scholastic perfection.

My friend has 5 kids. The older two are now in 5th and 4th grades. The eldest of the two is and has always been scholastically inclined, and works very hard to achieve excellence. The second merely does what is required to get by. By virtue of the fact that the eldest is the “first fruit”, she is held to a higher standard than her siblings, and has proven that she exceed expectations – unfortunately to her demise. One afternoon, she came bounding into her house, happily proclaiming that she got a 95% on a test.

“A 95%?” said her mom disbelievingly. “How did you get a 95%? What did you get wrong? Oh, I see. You should have done blah blah blah. Next time do blah blah instead!”

A little while later, the child had a quiz in class and missed two questions. So fearful of the tongue lashing she would receive, but even more concerned about disappointing her mother, she snuck into parent’s room and left her mom the following note:

Dear Mommy,

Today we had a quiz in science class. I got one of the answers wrong and I didn’t see the other, so I got that one wrong too. I didn’t want to tell you, because I knew you wouldn’t be happy. I promise not to get any more questions wrong!

Love….,

The note was decorated with a heart and a sad face.

My friend said that if someone had shot her in her left leg she couldn’t have felt worse. I chortled at the absurdity of it all, until I paused and realized that that could be ME in three years.

But what are we supposed to do? We’re stuck in an educational system that was once the envy of the world and are now watching former developing nations like South Korea outperform us year after year. Last night, President Obama laid out a jobs plan, but I have to tell you if I were in the hiring business, there are only a select crop of ‘native’ Americans that I’d be inclined to hire. We have a serious dearth of intellect, innovation and elementary instruction, and we can’t expect success in the future if we carry on this way. We have a serious lack of American grown skills, because we value ‘individuality’ so much in this country that English teachers – for example – are ACTUALLY allowing their students to spell words as they hear them or ‘think’ they should be spelled. Thus ‘phlegm’ becomes ‘flem’.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this fool I found on YouTube. You may think she is an anomaly, but keep your ears open and you will find that there is a majority of intellectual midgets, just like this one, rising.

America has got to do better, and stop being solely concerned about hurting our kids’ feelings. Their feelings are going to be more hurt when they can’t find a job (and there are currently plenty of them out there) because employers have to shell out H1 visas to get foreigners to do engineering and data analysis. We have to get our kids’ priorities refocused, starting with our own. A study came out that said  a whopping 70% of all college football players are Management majors. Many of them don’t start out on the ‘M’ train, but the sport leaves little time for labs and/or courses of study involving lengthy projects. Many of these kids start their four years believing that they will graduate with an engineering or physics degree, but leave instead with shattered NFL dreams and a copious degree suited for the no longer copious positions of CSR/Account Manager. Even those jobs have been outsourced.

If I have to turn Panther Mom to keep my babies from this future, then so be it. I’ll just have to temper my roar with an appropriate purr. And I’ll shoot MY OWN left leg before one of my kids makes an online video without first possessing the ability to properly pronounce “bondage”!

Lazers and Dragons and Siths – Oh My!

  This year is the 10th Anniversary of Dragon*Con, a multi-genre high fantasy festival/convention which, prior to my great geek awakening, I had never heard of. Imagine my delight when I discovered it was in my very own back yard here in Atlanta! A quick hop on the train with the stroller and 2 of my 4 children and I was downtown in the midst of ghouls, gunmen and gargoyles.

The festivities got underway with a parade, but the excitement had already started building at the Marta station. In true Atlanta style, only ONE of the ticket machines was working at the Sandy Springs station, and a Marta attendant was working feverishly to get people onto the train by pressing the buttons for them. This was actually a great help, because I personally haven’t ridden Marta since they stopped dispensing those gold/copper tokens eons ago.  I chatted with a 20-something woman who told me about her experience riding the Metro in DC for the Beck/Palin event and how the crowd surge compared to this phenomenon. Behind me there was an Indian guy who had his daughter dressed up as Snow White.  Even though the line snaked and barely moved for 10-15 minutes, time seemed to fly by as we amused each other with talk about nothing at all.

Huh: Republicans and Hindus assembling peacefully together in pursuit of their piece of geek. Maybe the road to unifying this nation has less to do with red states and blue, and more with what tint of red or hue of blue to slather on our Sith and Smurf costumes.

As I said before, the train ride prepared me for what was to come. A mousy girl with brown eyes was dressed up as the Mad Hatter. Never mind that it was (and still is) 90°+ outside; she had left no detail unattended. She wore a long tailcoat, velvet/felt top hat, boots and about 100 other articles of clothing. Her companions were a Jedi knight, a princess, a Red Cross nurse and an obese girl who looked like she had not been outside in the sun for years.

The parade was already underway as it started at 10. We arrived shortly after. Our guide for the day was Chris (whom you may know as the ‘Narco Nanny’), but he was late for the same reasons we were. While we waited to find Chris, I hoisted Aya up onto my shoulders so that she could see. At my height, all I could glimpse was the tops of every third person’s head in the throng. Then I had a brilliant idea.

“Aya! I’m going to give you Daddy’s camera,” I said cheerfully. “Can you take some pictures of all the cool things you see for me?”

“Yay! Pictures!” Aya clapped.

I let her down, put the camera strap over her neck, showed her how to work it, and smiled smugly to myself as she snapped away at the vehicles, zombies, fairies and princess that I barely saw from below. I was going to see them soon enough thanks to my little photog!

“Mommy, I’m tired of taking pictures,” she declared just a few minutes later.

“That’s okay baby. Let me see what you’ve got!”

I was giddy, imaging all the amateur shots that I would use for this blog. She took this shot – 35 times.

*Sigh*. I hoisted her back onto my shoulders as a pack of people dressed up as My Little Pony (on acid) walked by.

“Yay! I can see everything!” she squealed.

Yeah. Good for YOU.

The parade ended by the 20 or so folks that were in front of us making a hasty retreat.

“We gotta get outta here before the Jesus people come!” one of them shouted.

I looked up in the clearing and I saw this sign. A man was barking authoritatively.

“It is better to go to Heaven than Hell! Love God!!” he raged.  Judging from the lineup this weekend, he was going to be busy. Black Gay Pride and a Maroon 5 concert were all happening in venues around the area.

I fled the yelling man with the rest of the crowd and was thrilled by the visual feast. Was that Jem to my left?

“Aya! Get in the picture with her!” I ordered.

My daughter had no clue why I was so excited about this woman in pink hair, but I knew my sister would approve of the photo op. (Don’t ya Adj?)

Dear mercy. Was that Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?

“No, actually, I’m Pan – the god of the wild. We’re having a mythology gathering a short distance from here,” ‘Pan’ said solemnly.

“Oh…I see. Can I get your picture?”

“Yes, of course,” he said benevolently. He gazed, eyes unwavering into the camera, and blew into his plastic pipe.

At that moment, someone fell off the wall in front of the Hyatt. The crowd reacted by screeching for the police to get an ambulance. There was so much going on I hardly knew where to go.

“Ahh; don’t worry about it,” said Chris (by that time we’d found him in front of the Hooters), “the police know how to deal with this.”

“Oh. Okay.”

I hoped whoever had fallen the 10 foot drop was okay, but in the meanwhile snapped pictures like Japanese paparazzo, capturing the weird and awesome while attempting to do so ‘incognegro.’ At times, people would find my lens trained on them and would offer to pose for me.

“Sweet! Thanks!”

As we made our way to the registration line, things only got more interesting and at times, frightening. An Indian woman brushed past us, calling loudly.

“Brandon! Brandon!!! Brandon Singh!!!”

She was circling wildly, calling her lost charges name when a White couple appeared.

“Come this way! We’ve got him.”

I had been panicking with her, and shared her palatable relief. Just minutes before, I myself had ‘lost’ Liya when I let go of her stroller to take a picture while it (and she) went rolling down the street.

“That’s the good thing about Dragon*Con,” said Chris. “People will help you find your lost kids. ‘Yeah, we saw him drinking out of the gutter. We gave him a meal and took a pic of him with Darth Vader. Here’s your son!’”

We both laughed. We were interrupted by one of Chris’ associates, who informed me with pride that he was a veteran of DC.

“Well! I’m a virgin,” I countered..

He stared at me through his dark shades, looked at my stroller and my 5 year old, then back at me, and told me he was going to leave that one alone. After we three adults shared an inappropriate snicker, he moved on.

By noon the girls were beginning to fade, and I knew that they would need naps and air-conditioning quickly. I told Chris we would have to go home. He seemed disappointed. He had promised to show me the inner workings of Dragon*Con – an event he had once lost his job for- and now I had to bail on him so soon.

“But next year, I am definitely dressing up,” I said with resolve.

I got back on the Marta with all the other moms whose kids were not taking the heat too well. We pushed our strollers past each other and found a seat on the electric train, leaving the world of high fantasy behind us.