Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rounding Out Black History Month

Today marks the end of Black History Month. I don’t know about you, but this Black History Month was unlike any other that I’ve experienced before. There were a number of peculiarities that were rather novel, at least as far as I was concerned.

Being a parent has given me the opportunity to relearn many things. When my children ask me questions like “Why is the sky blue?” it becomes incumbent upon me to research the properties of light and its effect on water droplets, reflection and refraction and then translate all that data into elementary school speak. Similarly, it became incumbent upon me to inform my children about the heroes and the villains that played (and still play) a part in our history. I have to admit that I am looking forward to the day when we teach Black history as a part of American history, and there will no longer be a need to segregate the teaching of our accomplishments from the rest of the nation’s. In the meantime, I will continue to do my due diligence and fete Martin, Harriet and even Barack if obligation compels me to. The good part of being a parent is that it has forced my attention on circumstances such as this.

It has also led me to be more observant.

There are a number of Black History “fails” that are unfolding right before our very eyes. For instance, the first and only monument to a Black man – Dr. Martin Luther King – is currently going under reconstruction to correct a misquote.  The words “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,”  is an excerpt from a sermon he gave in Atlanta in 1968 and are chiseled in stone. The sentence was originally preceded  with the word “if” and by removing it, the curators of the monument made Dr. King sound like a pompous simp…something he never was, and the very thing that those who reviled him try to portray him as. This mishap only serves to reinforce the idea that nothing concerning my people is worth getting right the first time.

We eat a lot of Cream of Wheat at my house. Liya, the 18 month old,  prefers hot porridge for breakfast and since this is one of her easier demands to meet I try to keep the house stocked with warm cereals…like Cream of Wheat.

 Last night I studied  the iconic image on the box for the first time ever. He looked like a more jovial and dark skinned version of Chef Boyardee, but what was his name? Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima have their own brands, but the Cream of Wheat man was a relative unknown. I took to twitter to inquire who he was.

“His name is Rastus,” a friend tweeted back.

What?

“That’s a lie! Right? Right???” I tweeted back.

She told me she got the information from Wikipedia, so I went there myself to confirm.

Oh sweet Jesus. It was true.

“Rastus”, portrayed by Frank L. White, is a pejorative term  reserved for Black Americans. Prior to seeing this Wiki article, I had never even heard of it, but I know a pejorative when I see it. “Rastus” sounds mighty close to Ruckus, Rufus and Remus, all of whom are subservient and compliant in nature.

I desperately want to boycott Cream of Wheat, but Rastus does make a good point: it’s cheap and it’s good for you.

Damn.

Since we’re on the topic of pejorative, did you know there was a new one that has been coined for my race? “Nigger”, “darkie”, “coon” and “porch monkey” no longer serve the needs  of hard core racists, at least not in public where it is no longer permissible for them to use, so they’ve taken to calling us another name.

I’ll give you one guess. Ehhhh!!! You’re wrong!

Zombies.

“What?”

“Zombies,” repeated my  White transgendered co-worker who betrayed his race by relaying this information. “They’re calling Black people zombies, so that they can talk about them derogatory-like in public and not have to worry about it.”

“Why zombies?” I asked in utter confusion. I didn’t see anything particularly zombie-like about us. (I still don’t.)

“I dunno,” (s)he sighed. “But I’ll tell you what – all these rednecks are arming themselves in case President Obama wins again. They say Black people have an agenda and are trying to take over.”

“Oh please,” I scoffed. “We can’t even clean up our own neighborhoods! (or get the inscriptions for our most beloved heroes right, for that matter.) How are we gonna take over?”

(S)he shrugged and we continued to put shoes on the shelves, chortling at the absurdity of it all. #fail

So there you have it folks: Your Black History round up in 10 minutes or less. Not quite what you were expecting, was it? Ah well. Better luck next year.

Discipline Dilemma

For the last two weeks Nadjah, my eldest, has come home with a bad behavioral report from school at least 3 out of 5 days a week. It has been absolutely maddening for me. As long time readers of the blog know, Nadjah is not a hooligan, but she’s no saint either. She’s capable of her moments. These “moments” have just been more consistent and frequent than I care for of late.

The behavioral report tracks 6 markers:

1)      Completing assignments

2)      Being quite through transitions

3)      Obeying the teacher

4)      Respecting and showing kindness for other students

5)      Caring for school property

6)      Speaking only when appropriate

If they succeed in all these areas, they get a star at the end of the day, and at the end of the week the students with the most stars get a treasure from the classroom’s treasure box. She consistently violates 2, 3 and 6, and rarely gets to participate in treasure box. She’s a talker, and always has been. To my shame, some of that talk includes backtalk. Any African mother will agree that backtalk from a child is a cardinal sin, and never to be tolerated. Somehow, my sisters on the continent have managed to quell this desire in their children, where as I have failed to do so. Therein lies my shame.

As it turns out, Nadjah took a departure from the norm and violated rule 4 and 6 yesterday. After 15 minutes of investigation, I discovered that she had struck another student in class for laughing at her. Last week she threw a chair because she did not get a star, and as punishment, my husband made her write “I will have self control” 50 times. The punishment obviously had very little effect.

“Why did you hit the boy, Nadjah?” I growled.

“Because he was laughing at me!” she wailed.

“Did he hit you first?”

“No…”

“Did he hurt you physically?”

“No…” she moped.

“Are you supposed to put your hands on another student for any reason?!?” I said deliriously.

“No!” she sobbed.

She knows what’s right. As far as I was concerned, she was willfully being disruptive. This was worthy of a spanking. I was incensed, envisioning myself taking my child upstairs and beating respect into her. I told her to get her homework done and get ready for a spanking.

  Her eyes welled up with tears and she choked her way through her assignment, with far more efficiency than I’d seen previously. Homework usually takes 30-45 minutes for Nadjah to complete. Yesterday she was done in a record 10. I was not prepared for this level of productiveness so soon. The time to whop her came faster than I expected.

I chickened out.

I didn’t want to beat my child; I truly didn’t! I wanted to reason with her and make her understand the error of her ways so that she could consciously change them. In a stroke of brilliance, I gave her an opportunity to save us both. It was a warm pre-spring day yesterday and all her friends were outside playing. She looked desperately at the door, listening to their laughter and playful screams. I hoped she would make the right choice as I uttered my next words.

“Nadjah, I’m going to give you a choice,” I said menacingly. “I’m either going to take you upstairs and spank you and then let you go outside, or you’re going to have to read a book and do a report and stay inside.”

“I’ll do the report,” Nadjah said without hesitation.

I breathed a lot easier.

“A wise choice,” I told her.

Nadjah hates to read, but she hates to write even more. I figured this was a fitting punishment – making her do something she loathed – and I stalked off to make sure that the big kids did not hurt the babies while they played outside.

A friend of mine was over to visit and watched the whole match unfold. She shook her head disbelievingly before giving her opinion, which is generally welcome.

“You’re so soft,” she scolded.

“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked.

“Given the choice to have someone put their hands on you or to read a book, ANYONE would choose the book!”

I stared blankly at her.

“That’s not true,” I said in disagreement. “When I was a kid, I would much rather have taken the beating and been set free. I hated being cooped up in the house with my parents. Given the choice between a spanking and a grounding, I chose the spanking every time. I value my freedom far too much.”

My friend said I ought to take a poll.

“I’m sure you will find that you are in the minority,” she contended. “And you forget: Nadjah enjoys your company. Making her hang out with you is no punishment at all!”

This shocked me, and actually nearly brought me to tears. Only a few people know that I have a less than cordial relationship with my own mother. I haven’t spoken to the woman in years. To put it into context, my mother did not find out about Nadjah’s existence until almost 2 years after she was born. The circumstances of her birth were difficult enough, and I chose at the time not to complicate them with what I anticipated would be a less than desirable reaction from my mother.

Inwardly, I expect – and fear – that my relationship with my children will turn out very similar to that of my siblings and our mother…which is none at all. Instinctively I know that by not disciplining my children appropriately is doing my children in doing them a disservice in the long run. I would be okay with my children not loving me for this, but it would devastate me for them to grow up hating me. There is a subtle difference.

Fortunately my husband came home and added some balance to my leniency. He told her she could have no TV or outside play for the next two weeks in ADDITION to a daily book report.

M.O.M Squad: Think back to your days as a kid if you can. Would you have taken the beating, or done the report, given the choice? Would you laugh at your mother for even having this internal dilemma? Over to you. As always, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Potty Training Aids – The Battle Continues

After making so much progress, my son has reverted and returned to taking a dump in his diaper. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but when you consider that he is a 36 lbs individual who consumes portions of food fit for boys 3 times his age, you can imagine that he makes a very impressive dirty diaper.

For about a week he would dutifully inform us that he had to the potty, and we were thrilled. Suddenly, his cordial announcements of “I go poo-poo in de pottie!” ceased, only to be replaced with a silent – and pungent – advertisement by way of his soiled pants.  Our attempts to get him to conform to his old habits were stubbornly rebuffed. I can only surmise that this was for two reasons:

1)      There was no profit in it for him, since he did not get a reward for going to the toile ton his own and

2)      He had no choice but to create his own reward system by punishing me. I have caught him grinning and giggling on more than one occasion when I have had to splay his legs to clean up the massacre.

Desperate to find a solution, I have wracked my brains to devise a way to make him WANT to go to the bathroom on his own accord. I know that calling my parents or anyone of that generation is futile. I don’t remember being potty trained, but I can imagine that the secret of my success was motivated by not getting my a** whipped. An a** whipping is the go to solution for anyone over the age of 60 when it comes to child rearing. Child won’t eat? Whip his a**. Child won’t come here when you tell him to? Whip his a**. Child won’t tell you when he has to go poop? Whip his a**! The promise of/fear of  pain is probably a good temporary motivator, but I’m a “new age” mom who doesn’t care for this particular “old school” tactic.

I have given it a lot of thought. Like many things in this modern age, I believe technology can serve us greatly in this area.  There should be a potty training app. Why not? There’s an app for everything else! Here’s what I think might work for my Stonie.

I propose the creation of an app based on your child’s favorite characters. Stone, like many boys under the age of 5, is highly partial to Cars and Thomas the Train. He also likes dinosaurs, but I don’t think pterodactyls and T-rexes have any place in the toilet.

So, you place the child on the toilet first thing in the morning and put an iPhone/iPad/iWhatever in their hands. You click on the app and wait.

 “Hey buddy! It’s time to use the potty!” chortles Lightning McQueen. “Why don’t you go ahead and take a piss in my Piston Cup?”

The child giggles. It WOULD be fun to pee in something so shiny and apparently valuable.

“Go on! You can do it. Here, let me show you how it’s done,” urges Lightning. The animated hotrod then begins to simulate the sound of water trickling into the toilet, and just like that, your two year old is peeing in the toilet! Anticipating your child’s success, Lightning whops a congratulatory “KACHOW!”

There has been no screaming, no crying, no bribing and everyone is happy.

  Now that’s the easy part is out of the way, it’s time bring out your big guns. Thomas, who is described on his show as the “cheeky one” on his show Thomas & Friends, instructs your child on the fine mechanics of loading and offloading…his poop, obviously.

“You see that dark hole down there?” says Thomas in his condescending, snobbish English accent. “That dark hole down there in the toilet is the tunnel. Go ahead. SQUEEZE! Put your poo-poo in the tunnel!”

I for one know that this terminology would resonate with Stone, because my son has actually referred to the toilet trap as a “tunnel” – a tunnel that he has fished several items from.  I believe the key is to engage the child’s imagination. If you can get your child to picture himself succeeding at what you’re asking him to do, then you can get him to do anything! Is that not the way it works in our adult lives too?

The other option is to let him walk around with his pants full of poo, but as you can imagine, that has more negative consequences for me than it does for him. At the end of the day, I still have to do the laundry.

I know there are developers out there with kids reading this right now. This is possible, isn’t it? Then why haven’t you done it yet?!? It’s because you don’t care. Only a parent or someone who spends their days knee deep in poo would understand. This is a sincere cry for help. Answer it!

 

My 5 in 5 Interview on The Afropolitan Experience 2.0

It was all fun and games when I put on my jesters hat and poked fun at myself yesterday after recounting my insecurities concerning my debut web interview. The laughs stopped for many people when I apparently pulled out a whip and flogged myself publicly. A few of my readers contacting me privately and told me that they did not appreciate this level of self depreciation. In the name of humor, even at my own expense, I had unintentionally caused personal injury to a number of my readers by being so hard on myself.

I am here now to offer restitution for that injury by giving a revised account on what happened during my debut.

George, the gentleman interviewing me, scheduled for us to talk at 11:30 am CST.

“Perfect!” I said in response. “I’ll see you online at 10:30 am EST then!”

I didn’t get a confirmation from him, and on the day of the interview I eagerly sat in front of my PC waiting. He had not yet confirmed my skype request, and it was ten minutes to show time by then. Ah, this African man and his African time. Why is he not here? I wondered. Then I panicked. Perhaps I was no longer interesting enough. As it turned out, I just couldn’t tell time. I was a whole 2 hours early. Suddenly George materialized online as I was sitting there fretting and asked if I wanted to go ahead and do the interview then. I said I would love to. He worked with me remotely to figure out my lighting, frowning as he did so. I thought he didn’t like me. I thought he was irritated because I’d messed with his schedule. He informed me that we were ready to begin shooting now that we had all our technical details sorted out and began smiling.

And what a smile!

I don’t think my husband would mind my saying that George is a very handsome man, because he is. I mean, rice is white and George is good looking – and those are just the facts. He welcomed me to the program and I sat there smiling back obliviously.

Oh…me! He’s talking to me!

“Thank you for having me!” I grinned back.

Whew! The first part was done.

The five questions that I was meant to be answering sat safely in my email, unread. With no time to fabricate either in depth or superficial answers, I adlibbed my way through the entire interview. Most of the answers I gave related to things that most of my readers know about me: That I’m 34, that I have 4 kids, that I love shoes, etc. George also managed to get out of me what only a select number of people know. I also write for Adventures From the Bedrooms of African Women under a pseudonym: Abena Gyekye. If you go to Adventuresfrom.com right now you’ll see my grinning mug staring back at you.

After the interview was over, we had a chance to talk for a few minutes more. I told George that I really appreciated the work he was doing. I think it’s so important for Africans to be in control of the telling of our own stories. So much of the news coming out of the continent is about AIDS and malaria and war, so much so that the larger part of the world thinks that two African’s can’t have a loving (or lustful) relationship without contracting AIDS or go to sleep without catching malaria, or enjoying a holiday without having to look out for pirates.

There is an old adage in newsrooms in the Western media: If it bleeds, it leads. We all know that this is why our evening news is dominated by homicides, arson, robbery, and anything else you generally don’t want to hear about after you’ve had a hard day at work. George’s features cover art, politics, music and literature, all of which are part of the African and human experience, and all of which are deserving of equal attention, if not more. I am honored that 5in5 is the first platform on which I am featured as a writer.

What is this you ask? That is the cape I’m going to wear for all my interviews from now on. My superpower is wordsmithing.

WOOSH!

My 5 in 5 Interview on The Afropolitan Experience

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to do an interview with George Ukomadu, creator and host of 5in5Africa. The format of the show is 5 questions in 5 minutes featuring interesting people who are making Africa shine. Of course I was honored to be included in a group of people described as agents of Africa’s luminance, and it wasn’t until I went through a few of the videos this morning that I discovered HOW influential these people are. That is why I was horrified when I realized that THIS is the image that is going to confront people when George finally publishes the video.

Ugh.

That poor unsuspecting oaf.

The Afropolitan Experience features a number of very impressive people, from up-and-comers to the well established in the areas of politics, social good and the arts. I was particularly impressed with AiRis, a singer and song writer of mixed African ancestry and Yolanda Sangweni, a South African born writer and editor who is the founder of AfriPOP! and the entertainment editor for Essence.com. Both of these ladies were so poised and engaging during their interviews and I was left with a deep sense of failure when I reflected on my own taped conversation. When it airs, there are two things you are sure to notice: my enormous cowl neck and my enormous boobs.

With my friends I am gregarious and witty, and they all believe that this makes me “well spoken”. Everyone is well spoken in a comfortable setting, and what makes good public speakers great is their ability to create a comfortable atmosphere for themselves, no matter what the arena.

What only a few people  know is that I am deathly afraid of public speaking. There are a few things that come to mind that I’d rather be doing than addressing an audience of strangers. If you would be so kind, I’d like you to imagine me engaging in the following scenarios:

  1. Bungee jumping into the Zambezi
  2. Nursing sea sick sea lions
  3. Outrunning rabid coyotes

Given that I don’t live in close proximity to a lake, an ocean or forest, it would stand to reason that I have a better chance of being interviewed by a Nigerian (George) in another state than the above three possibilities. So there I sat in front of my camera, fumbling through my words and trying to organize my thoughts while willing my mouth to eschew the use of the word “umm”, at least for the next 5 minutes.

It turns out that I should have been more concerned about my wardrobe than my words. No one is going to be listening to what I’m saying. How could anyone concentrate with a pair of inflatable rafts in their face?! This is why God created stylists.

Have a great weekend everyone! Remember to do something special for someone.

Huh? Oh…yeah! Here is a link to The Afropolitan Experience channel on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAfropolitanEXP/featured

Hollywood is Ruining Marriage

Most savvy people (or at least those with a lick of common sense) know that the entertainment industry has ruined a number of virtuous things. Script writers and directors have used their skill and trade to elevate our society’s expectations for even the simplest of pleasures, all while knowing full well that these expectations can never be fulfilled.

When a fictional couple is walking in a New York park on a frosty winter’s evening nonchalantly licking an ice-cream cone and droning on about their mythical relationship, the viewer (or idiot) sitting in the audience looks at this long camera shot and says to herself (because no man is thinking this way, I guarantee it) “Wow! I wish I were in New York eating vanilla ice-cream with a man that is so smitten with me that he can’t tell that his nuts are about to experience frost bite. I want to do THAT.”

This would be a good time to inform a few people of the obvious: Ladies, there is no man who is desperate enough for your affections that he’s willing to brave the whipping winds of New York city in order to procure them. That’s a fantasy, one not so dissimilar to the aforementioned ice-cream cone. Have you ever noticed how those things fail to decrease in size, no matter how long the consumption process has taken?

I’m losing myself in a tirade.

One of the things that Hollywood has ruined, and perhaps the only one with the most far reaching consequences, is the American marriage. I tell you, people walk into marriages today thinking that every day is going to be a walk in a park…a New York City park! Anyone who has been married for more than 73 days will tell you that this is not the case. Life has to go on, and it’s not all rose petals.

I heard the most asinine story yesterday from my very good friend, the Five Time Panther Mom. She has a friend who has been unofficially dating the same man for the last 6 or so years. They do everything together. He’s constantly buying her things. He’s met her parents and they love him, and vice versa. He opens doors when they go out and pays for dinner. This woman is unsatisfied with any of this.

“What’d you say?” I queried, looking for confirmation on what I thought I heard.

“She said that he doesn’t know how to romance her,” Panther Mom reiterated. “She said he has never asked her out on a date. What does he have to ask her out for? They’re already out!”

“And he pays for everything?”

I was incredulous.

“Girl, yes. But she’s upset because he doesn’t send her flowers at work and show ‘romantic gestures’ like that. She wants someone to school him on it.”

Oh really? You see how Hollywood has messed this woman’s mind up?! Let me tell you what happens when your man is overly focused on romancing you, and the unintended consequences that focus brings.

*****

It was a terrible day at work. Your manager has been riding you about the same TPS reports that you’ve submitted 12 times, but she never seems to get in her inbox. You know that when you get home, you have to cook dinner, do homework with the kids, and handle any fires that come your way. Dagonnit! If only your husband was more romantic! You could use some romance, and you’ve told him so repeatedly. With a scowl on your face, you barge into your house and are immediately confronted with an unexpected sight. There are rose petals on the floor and they lead directly to the bathroom.

“Come and sit down in the bath tub, hun,” says your husband. “I know you’ve been having a rough work week and I wanted to do something special for you. I came home early from work to draw you a bath.”

Amazed, you glory in his attentions and in the pomegranate scented water surrounding you.

“Don’t you worry about a thing,” he says soothingly. “I’ll take care of the kids, the dog, the homework…all you have to do is relax.”

And so you do.

The next day when you come home, there are rose petals on the floor leading to the bathroom and bedroom. The same exercise is repeated for the next two weeks, by which point the carpet is stained with the remnants of crushed petals where everyone in your household has pulverized them with their feet. Your husband has had to leave work consistently early in order to get home and make dinner and draw your bath water. He wants it to be warm when you’ve walked in the house. He has also been making an extra effort to see you more, since both your jobs are so demanding and work hours keep you apart. He’s driven 20 miles each way to come have lunch with you 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks. You are so pleased by the effort and so spellbound by the romance of it all that you fail to see the obvious coming.

It is now week four and once again your floor is smeared with both wilted and fresh roses. You feel as though you’ve been romanced sufficiently and tell your husband as much that day.

“I think we need to get someone in here to steam the carpet,” you suggest.

“No, no,” he says quickly. “I can do it. It will save us money.”

“Well when are you going to have time to do it?” you ask, sipping your very hot coffee that you’ve just poured.

“I have all the time in the world. I was fired this morning.”

“Wh-what?!?” you sputter, burning yourself with scolding liquid.

“Ohhh…baby. Be careful,” whispers your husband. “Yeah! I had to leave work early so often to get home and make sure everything was perfect that I ended up spending more hours on the road than at my desk. Coupled with the 3 hour lunch breaks I was taking 2-3 times a week…it was grounds for dismissal.”

Bewildered, you ask your spouse what your family is going to do.

“I suspect you’ll have to be the main breadwinner for a while. At least until I get a job,” he mulls. “But in this economy, who knows how long that will take.”

You whimper.

“But babe! Don’t you worry,” he smiles. “At least you’ll have a hot bath at the end of the night – every night – when you get home from work. No more rose petals though. We can’t afford rose petals. How do you feel about marigolds?”

*****

See? Unintended consequences. Now look atcha. You look CRAZY.

If the one you’re with is being genuinely nice to you, can you PLEASE make the effort to appreciate it? After all, nothing is more romantic than unpretentious appreciation.

Things That Sound Good in Theory

This weekend we had the rare opportunity to have a guest over for dinner at our house. On a normal night, my family’s dinner conversation generally centers around the following phrases:

Don’t play with your food.

Chew with your mouth closed!

Sit your butt IN your chair.

Eat over your plate!

Oh my God. Are you done yet? Good. Just go wash your hands and get ready for bed.

A seventh person at the table therefore is always a happy departure from the norm.

When the kids had all been sent off to bed and settled in, my friend and I finally got to have some appropriate and very inappropriate adult conversation.

“Do you know what’s always such a romantic idea at the time but almost always turns out badly?” she asked.

I was stumped.

“No…what could that be?”

“Taking a shower with another person,” she replied, sipping her coffee.

“Oh Father, YES!” I agreed emphatically. “That’s never a good time.”

Now, I’m not saying that I have or have not shared a shower with another person, but I can confess to having an inkling as to how the whole event might unfold.

M.O.M Squad – I present to you: A Soapy Shower Snafu.

It was a warm spring night and the moon was full and pale yellow. The house was silent except for the sounds of creaking floor boards and a snoring dog slumbering at the foot of Mitchell and Michelle’s bed. (Obviously these are fictional characters. Surely you cannot expect me to betray their personas by giving details of two people you might be more familiar with…say a woman with FOUR kids?)

Michelle was restless and couldn’t sleep.

“What’s the matter, honey,” murmured Mitchell. “Something on your mind?”

“It’s just so warm tonight, and I can’t get comfortable,” she moped. “I think I should take a cool shower, maybe that would help.”

Mitchell was immediately excited about the idea.

“Why don’t I join you?”

  Michelle giggled and said why not. There were so many steamy love scenes in movies that featured couples showering together seductively. The event almost always ended with the two curled up together in crisp white sheets, stroking each other lovingly. Perhaps she and Mitchell could recreate that magic? It was worth a try. They had never showered together before, not once in the course of their 5 year marriage.

Michelle ran the shower water and stepped in. Mitchell got in behind her and yelped.

“It’s too hot!”

“Oh…sorry. I can add some cold water to it.”

She turned the knob of the hot water ever so slightly. She did not like lukewarm showers. She only felt clean when the water was scalding hot. When Mitchell complained that it was still not cool enough, worrying that his “balls would boil in the heat”, she finally found a temperature that would suit them both. By this time, the endeavor had pushed her beneath the stream of water several times, and her hair was soaking wet. It clung to her cheeks and blinded her every time she turned around. There was barely enough room to wipe her face.

“Move back,” she ordered Mitchell. “You’re taking up all the room in the shower!”

“No I’m not sweetie. I’m nearly pushed up against the wall.”

It was true. Their house, like many others that were constructed in the early 80s, had a tub that was one and a half times smaller than the ones pitted in homes of the new millennia. Neither one of them had noticed this before, seeing as they had always showered separately, but their combined girth seemed to constitute more than the confines of the porcelain tub could handle.  As they struggled to get their footing in the watery arena, Mitchell thought it would be a good idea to introduce soap. Perhaps the fragrance of the bubbles would calm them both.

Still blinded by the force of the water in her face (as she was by now standing directly underneath the shower head), Michelle was unaware that Mitchell had poured liquid soap into a wash cloth and was preparing to wash her back. The soapy sensation felt good.

“Mmmm,” she moaned. “That feels nice.”

Suddenly she froze.

“Wait…which wash cloth are you using?”

“The white one with the rose petals on it.”

“Ewww!” she screeched. “Get it off of me!”

Mitchell was alarmed.

“Wait…what? What’s wrong, hun?”

“That’s my butt rag.”

“Your butt rag?”

“Yes! The rag I use to wash inside my butt. I don’t use it for anything else. I also have a face rag. The lime green one.”

Mitchell grimaced. He surmised that it would be unwise to inform his wife that not only did he not have separate wash cloths for different jobs, but that he had also used HER lime green rag to wash between his legs on hot sweaty days. After 5 years of marriage he had never known his wife had different cloths for different jobs. Then again, he had never showered with her either.

Mitchell was still bone dry in the shower, and wanted to switch places.

“Come stand over here,” he said sweetly. “Would you mind washing me?”

“Where’s your wash cloth?” asked Michelle.

“Oh. Uh…I think I would like it better if you just lathered me up with soap. I like the way your hands feel when they’re roaming.”

Michelle smiled in the darkness. Her husband was so sweet. She picked up a bar of his favorite soap from the caddy and began to rub him with it. She reached up to wash his shoulders and dropped the soap. It hit the bottom of the tub with a thud.

“What was that?” Mitchell asked, turning around.

“Baby, don’t move. I just dropped the…”

Too late.

Mitchell’s right foot was on top of the burnt orange bar and he slipped in the wet darkness. His body hit the bottom of the tub with a crash.

“Oh God!” Michelle cried. “Mitchell! Mitchell!”

Mitchell’s world went blank after that. His only memory was that of drowning in a torrent of scummy water and rain.

When Mitchell awoke the next morning, his mother was sitting in the arm chair next to him.

“Ma? What are you doing here?”

She smiled and rubbed his cheek, just as she had done when he was a child.

“Michelle called me in a panic around midnight last night. She needed my help to pull you into the bed. She said you had an accident last night.”

Mitchell blushed.

“So you know that we were…and you saw my…Oh Ma.”

“Oh please,” she snorted. “There’s nothing that you have that I haven’t seen dozens of times before.”

She got up to leave.

“Now that you’re better, I’ll leave you to your wife. She cried herself to sleep last night in the guest room.”

“Thanks Ma.”

“Good bye son.”

Mitchell stared at the ceiling, feeling ridiculous. All that effort for nothing. If all his wife needed was a good cry to go to sleep, he’d just tell her that her face cloth also doubled as his nut rag. Few other things would make a woman more upset than that.

 

****

MOM Squad: What other things sound really good in theory? I can think of only a few more – Water guns at weddings come to mind. What are YOUR thoughts? Can’t wait to hear…

 

 

 

 

Meet Akalam Tnarg, My Kids’ “Other” Mother

Sometimes I wonder if my kids know how good they’ve got it.

At least four times a day, I ask one of them to pick up a toy or wipe up a spill that threatens to cripple a member of our household if it is removed from its precarious position.

“But I didn’t do it!” is almost always the answer I receive in objection to my banal request.

These objections generally end with my cleaning up the offending debris and saving my family from certain harm. Sometimes it’s just easier to clean up the mess than to argue with kindergarteners. But the other night, after hearing “I didn’t do it” and “I didn’t make that mess” more than I cared to, I finally snapped.

“You guys never want to help around here because you ‘didn’t do it’,” I raged. “Do you know what your lives would be like if I lived MY LIFE by that motto? Huh? Do you?!?! Let me tell you how different your days would be…”

***Lights fading out****

It’s Monday morning and I’ve been asleep for 12 hours. I went to bed at 7 o’clock the night before, because I didn’t have to make dinner. I wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t cook. As I stretch lazily, my bedraggled children knock meekly at my door.

“Mommy, can we come in please?”

“What do you need in my room at this hour?”

“We don’t have any toothpaste in our bathroom…can we use yours?”

I balk at this request.

“Why would you want to use MY toothpaste? Didn’t you go to store and buy your own?”

“Mom!” they wail behind my locked door. “We’re only 5 and 7 years old. We can’t drive!”

“Sounds like a personal problem to me,” I retort. I then get up to brush my teeth with MY tooth paste purchased with MY money. 10 minutes later, I see my children sitting naked at the dinner table.

“Why don’t you guys have your uniforms on?”

“Because they’re dirty. You didn’t wash them,” my 5 year old says forlornly.

“Oh? Did I wear your uniforms?”

“No.”

“Did I make them dirty?” I press, pouring myself a cup of coffee.

“No…”

“Then why would I wash them?”

The girls are stunned, shivering in the early morning winter chill. I advise them to go and get their uniforms out of the dirty clothes basket if they want something to wear that day. Aya is particularly alarmed at this suggestion, given her penchant for dripping spaghetti sauce on the front of all her clothes.

“But Mooommeeee! It’s not clean!”

“Well I guess you should have thought of that last night when you were busy playing with your toys,” I say simply. “Shoulda been bustin’ some suds.”

When the girls have set off for school, I settle in to spend the morning watching Maury, Jerry and Judge Anybody. A short while later, Stone approaches me.

“Mommy, I poo-poo,” he announces.

“Stone, Mommy doesn’t care.”

He looks at me quizzically. At 2 years old, his expectation is that I would immediately hop up from my perch to either shepherd him into the bathroom to prevent a nappy tragedy, or clean up the massacre that has taken place in his short already. I am willing to perform neither task. I didn’t take a dump on myself – HE did.

“Mommy!” he repeats. “I poo-poo!”

I ignore him and continue sipping my coffee.

6 hours later I leave to pick up the girls…and only because US law mandates that I do. I can’t have them walking the 3 mile distance from the bus stop to our home because it’s against federal regulations. When they get into the car, they immediately gag. They have been assaulted by the scent of compacted,  day-old feces.

“Mommy! Stone stinks!” Nadjah objects.

“Yeah, I know,” I agree. “Someone should really do something about that.”

I drive home and get out of the car. The only reason I unstrap the babies from their car seats is because society has this “thing” about leaving defenseless children locked up and unattended in a vehicle. Once they get in the house, they’re on their own.

“Mommy,” Nadjah and Aya ask timidly. “Can we have a snack?”

“Sure!” I say brightly. “If you can reach it. There should be some up in the cabinet.”

I wave in the general direction of where the food might be, and bite into a sandwich that I’ve prepared for my own lunch.

“Could we have a bite?”

I shake my head.

“No, no, no,” I say sorrowfully. “You didn’t make this sandwich. You can’t have any.”

By the time my husband gets home, the house is a wreck as the children have made several futile attempts at doing their own laundry, preparing their own snacks and wiping their young brother’s filthy bottom. There is poop everywhere.

“Babe!” he calls. “Where are you?”

“I’m in my room!” I call back. “Really busy right now. Reading a book.”

He seems stunned by my nonchalant reply.

“Well do you think you could come down here and help me clean up?”

He has some gall. Asking me to clean up a mess I didn’t create?

“No! I can’t. I didn’t do it babe. You and the kids are on your own.”

Finally, night falls and I thank my good Lord above that I’ve had yet another stress free day. Having children is incredibly easy, particularly when you play their games using their rules. I wonder if other moms have it this good. I close my eyes in anticipation of what the next day’s joys will bring.

 

****Lights getting brighter****

Sigh.

But my name is Malaka Grant…not Akalam Tnarg, and I’m not starring in the movie “Precious”. In the real world, I shuck, jive and jig for my kids.

The Funny Thing About Offense

There are so many people in the world with amazing skills and gifts. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a chance to showcase that gift on a national or international stage. There’s something in human nature that attracts us to excellence, which is why we shell out hundreds of dollars for concert tickets or waste valuable time in front the television watching a display of some feat that we ourselves are unable to perform. When a talent is truly rare, some spectators go the great and unusual lengths to show their adulation (sometimes in the form of stalking).  But as anyone who is good at anything knows, once you’ve exposed that gift, there will be some people who will love you – and there will be some people who love to hate you.

Take me for example. No, no, fear not. I’m not about to crow on as though I am some international bestselling author with legions of fans around the globe. (Although if I’d gotten round to penning that book that would be an amusing tongue-in-cheek segue.) I write for this blog and two others, and I’m pretty good at what I do, so I’m told. My opinions are largely middle of the road, and I’m usually content to allow other people to form their own opinions about what I say. I have a steady readership of a few hundred people, and I’m okay with that. Oddly I don’t aspire to be read by the world. What only a few people know is that the only reason I even have this blog is so that my sister has something to read in the morning while she’d having breakfast at her desk at work. That’s why the content is so campy.

But as I said, I’m fairly decent at what I do, and even with such a miniscule level of notoriety, my presence on the web has drawn out a number of spectators with their commentary; some of them welcome, and some of them less so.

One two separate occasions I have been confronted by passers-by on my blog who took offence to either something I’ve said or in the way I’ve said it. Like many people who are emboldened by the anonymity that the internet provides, they proceeded to blow up my twitter feed and most recently, my comments sections.

“We wish YOU would just go away. Poof!”

This (failed) attempt at sorcery was from some individual who went by the pseudonym of @torqflyte on twitter. He/she/It was miffed with me because I’d tweeted that I wished we could get some other news besides the constant coverage on gay marriage. Torqflyte assumed two things about me:

1)      That I am anti-gay anything

2)      That I enjoy being bombarded with the same coverage of the same topic all day, every day.

I have a short attention span, and I don’t like repetitiveness. I was tired of hearing about Monica Lewinsky, and over all the coverage of Jonbenet (God rest her) when both were relentlessly thrust into our consciousness. In the same vein, I quickly grew weary of the repetitive images of the same two men kissing on New York’s  Supreme Court’s steps week after week after week! Offended that I had voiced my displeasure on such a hot political topic, Torqflyte launched into a cyber attack that got more and more personal with every keystroke, saying that (s)he was disappointed in me because as a writer, (s)he would expect me to be more “open and accepting”. Who was this cat to say what a writer is or isn’t??

Never one to back down from a fight, I found myself embroiled in a ridiculous back and forth with this unknown anomaly until it was that point that finally struck me.

“WTH!!?” I tweeted. “You don’t even KNOW me. What do you care about my opinion anyway??”

Torqflyte didn’t have an immediate answer and I didn’t wait for one to come later. I blocked him/her/it and vowed never to tweet about Beyonce, or gays, or dogs whose owners dress them in thongs again. I’ll keep my views on those subjects to myself or share them only with people who have the capacity to understand my meaning.

Speaking of capacities to understand, that brings me to the second bizarre web encounter I had with a commenter. On February 7th I wrote a post entitled OMG! There’s Blood in my Chocolate which detailed my revulsion for chocolate sourced from farms the utilize child labor, and coincidentally elicited a series of visceral responses from some individual who went by the moniker of Raven. The whole affair would have been alarming if it were not so comical, for Raven truly believed she was an arbiter for fact and common sense, when in truth she came off as a blithering Bible thumping idiot who could barely string two sentences together. I encourage you to read the exchange if you have the time. But the best bit was when she declared the following:

Malaka, Long blank stare huh!…
When you post an article be ready for anything including criticism, not everyone is going to completely agree with your observation, not everyone will be seeking your approval,if it offends you then your not a true blogger & you aren’t ready to learn from others coz criticism isn’t meant to fault you it’s mean to enlightened you,so it’s an attitude issue how you take it (
She goes on from there, still utilizing poor grammar and zero punctuation.)

Now here’s the rub: I wouldn’t know Raven from a soggy three-day old turd, and her opinion means about as much to me. Given her responses, I assume that her intent was to offend me…but her words were hardly work taking offense over. I mean, the silly cow had managed to say a whole lot without actually saying anything at all. How could I take offense to nothing? She literally created a vacuum of knowledge with every word she spoke. Astounding!

I discovered that this is the funny thing about offense: You have to make a conscious effort to take it on, even when it’s blatantly clear that the other party is seeking to cause an affront, hence the phrase “none taken” in response to “no offense meant.”

Have you ever been verbally attacked by a stranger (for any reason) and asked yourself why you care so much? I really don’t think you should care at all. I personally could only be offended if the person giving me a critique or rebuke is someone I admired or respected, and those qualities are not embodied in the likes of the fly-by-night trolls who happen upon my blog through a random/odd web query. It is only the opinion of my dedicated Readers that I care about, and I know that they would never seek to intentionally offend me, nor I them. We have a relationship.

As for the rest of you: Screw you and all you stand for. I hope you’re not offended. ;)

Yes, It’s Valentine’s Day. Let the Games Begin

Everyone else is doing a post about Valentine’s Day, so why not me too?

The sky was dark and overcast in Atlanta on February 14th. The forecast had called for snow, but there was only snow in the mountains. The rest of the city was merely cloaked in a dreary gloom with neither rain nor a threatening mist to show for it. What was the point in a cloudy sky if there was no precipitation to follow? But then again, what was the point in Valentine’s Day?

Malaka Grant pulled her rotund frame from her queen-sized bed and padded to the bathroom to brush her teeth. She had 30 minutes to get her kids dressed, fed and off to school, just as she did every morning. Her second born came rolling down the stairs first, angry as always that she’d been forced from her bed in order to be sent to school.

“Good morning, Aya.”

Aya sneered at her mother and asked if the toast was ready. Then she sat down at the breakfast table to wait to be served. Nadjah was a bit more cordial.

“Good morning, Mommy. It’s Valentine’s day!” she squealed in delight.

“Shhhhhh!!!!” Malaka hissed. “You’ll wake the babies. And yes, it’s Valentine’s Day. Pour some milk on your cereal.”

Valentine’s day never came without some level of anxiety for Malaka. In principle, she hated the day as a superficial commercial celebration that made an abject mockery of love, but in reality she did like to receive chocolate (and recently only of the Fair Trade fare) and the devoted attentions of her loved ones. Still, because she had made such a stink about it on her blog, she was forced to say bah humbug to it all.

But then there was her husband, who was a hopeless romantic and would be expecting a gift.

After the bigger kids had been shuttled off to school, she turned her attention to the younger two.

“Well guys, I have to go get your father a Valentine’s Day gift, which means I have to leave you with the sitter.”

The ‘babies’ ages 2 and 1 wailed their protest. They knew that if there mother had put on her boots and thrown that shiny stuff on her lips, she was leaving the house. They also knew that if they didn’t have THEIR shoes on, she was leaving without them. She dodged  the sippy-cup full of milk that the youngest was flinging at her head in disgust and made a beeline for the door.

By now it was 10:30 am. She had just enough time to make it to the mall to buy a gift and meet her husband for lunch. The only thing she hated more than Valentine’s Day was the mall, but sadly there was nothing to be done for it. She had to pick up something.

As she drove down the freeway, it occurred to her that she might garner the perfect gift: A bottle of cologne. Men loved cologne, didn’t they? And women loved the way men smelled when spritzed with the appropriate amount. Pleased that she had conjured up a gift idea so quickly, she turned on the radio to set the mood for the afternoon’s pleasantries.

“I hate cologne.”

What?

“I’d rather a girl get me a bouquet of flowers than to get another bottle of cologne for Valentine’s Day.”

The 20-something radio jock was going on and on about how cologne was such a cliché gift and launched into an all out assault on the thoughtlessness of the gift. How was Malaka to know this? She hadn’t purchased anything for her husband in years. Well, maybe if she gave him some cologne and some booty…Everything is better when you sprinkle some booty on it. She changed the channel and decided that these two combined would be enough.

When she reached the mall, she amused to see gaggles of men scurrying in to purchase last minute gifts. At the Kroger across the street it seemed as though the same man dressed in Dockers and a sport coat ran in and out of the electronic doors with a bundle of flowers at least 6 times. The only thing that changed about him was his face and the direction of his comb over.

In the aisle leading into the mall was a perfume kiosk, manned by a young dark skinned Indian man. He pulled out his earphones just as Malaka approached his stall.

“How can I help you today?” he grinned.

“I’m looking for a cologne for my husband,” she said.

“Ah. I see. Did you need help choosing one or did you have one in mind?”

“Jean-Paul Gautier.”

“A nice choice,” he nodded in approval.

He produced a can that was hidden behind the rest of his wares.

“Is this a good valentine’s day gift?” she asked, hoping he would approve.

“Oh. I dunno,” said the young man as he rang up her purchase.

How insensitive of me. He probably doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, she thought.

“Ah. What do you mean you don’t know?” she asked aloud. She was baffled by his response.

“Well, I broke up with two girls within the last month,” said the man laughing mischievously.

“Eh?” Now Malaka was really confused. Was this goofy kid trying to say he was a player. “You mean you were dating two girls…at the same time?”
“That’s right!” said the Indian man chuckling hysterically. His brown eyes danced with delight at the memory.

“Well it sounds to me like they found out about each other and broke up with YOU.”

“Maybe…but I have a new girl I am talking to. I hope she’ll go with me,” he confessed.

Malaka did not share his sentiment, but thanked him for the purchase and wished him well.

“Just remember what they say about straddling two horses at the same time,” she added.

“What’s that?”

“I have no idea, but I imagine it would hurt your balls.”

He laughed again and put her gift in a black plastic bag, similar to the ones given out in a West African market.

“Don’t you have any gift bags?”

“No…”

“Then this is why those two girls broke up with you,” she concluded.

“Because I don’t have gift bags?” he asked, chuckling in disbelief.

“Yes. It’s all about presentation. Happy Valentine’s Day sir!”

“You’re welcome. I hope to see you again soon!”

They smiled at each other and Malaka went in search of a gift bag. Fortunately, there was a Spencer’s just at the exit door of the mall, which meant she did not have to go in search of a Hallmark store.

The gift bag selection was wildly inappropriate for the occasion.

Here’s you’re F***ing Gift! said one in bold print.

Sexy B**ch read another.

Oh sh*t! Here comes 50! read the last.

Somehow, she didn’t think her husband would care for any of these. She settled on one that was the least offensive.

By now it was time to meet her hubby for their noonday rendezvous. Unbeknownst to her, he had been tracking her every move on his iPhone. They had synched their devices so that they could check up on each other without having to call to verify the other’s whereabouts. Some people might call that “stalking” but they preferred to think of it as “convenient.”

He walked into the restaurant within minutes after she did.

“You look very pretty today,” he smiled.

“So do you.”

As he sat, she turned his attention to a young man who was sitting alone at his table waiting for his date.

“It would be so cliché, but I wonder if he’ll propose to her this afternoon. I’ve never seen a proposal in a restaurant.”

“That would be funny,” he mocked. Maybe he wasn’t as “romantic” as she had assumed.

Everything was going so well. The Thai restaurant where they were eating had curry lamb as the special of the day and the staff was uncommonly pleasant. Love was truly in the air. Neither Malaka nor her husband seemed to mind when two couples who sat down after them got their food before they did. They were each consumed with the presence of the other, making fun of their poor table manners. Malaka finally produced her gift with gusto, which her husband looked at with some level of disappointment.

“I already have this.”

“Well how come you never smell like it?”

“I guess because the spray part of it is broken,” he confessed.

“Well then here you go. You’re welcome.”

She noticed that he was hiding the gift bag she had purchased, as though he were ashamed of its exterior.

“You don’t like your bag??”

“Well…it’s um…”

“I went to a great deal of trouble picking out this bag. More than you’ll ever know!”

“Malaka, I can’t walk around with this bag,” he pleaded.

“Very well. Hand it over.”

She took it and put it her purse with a huff. He smiled in gratitude.

“Well, since we’re in the spirit of clichés, I have something for you.”

He whipped out two bars of chocolate and a card decorated in gold foil. She eyed the chocolate suspiciously.

“I thought you couldn’t find any?” she challenged. “I thought you said none of the stores were carrying it.”

“I made one last stop and found it at Cost World Market.”

“It’s…it’s free trade?” she said hopefully.

“Sure is!”

“Awww babe. Thank you!”

She took a nibble of the dark, semi-sweet substance. Love had never before tasted so sweet…and so salty. Who laces chocolate with sea salt?!? Still, she could eat this chocolate without guilt. (You hear that RAVEN? There’s no blood in this bar of chocolate!)

Dare she say it? She dared indeed. Happy Valentine’s Day, one and all.