Thursday, May 26, 2016

My Favorite Pair of Jeans Silenced a Big Bully

I bought my favorite pair of jeans with a Groupon for $11.

They are called Sessos.

The denim probably isn't denim at all.

I pray they were not fashioned by the hands of small children somewhere far, far away.

There was a big-ass pilgrim buckle across the back that I removed the second they slipped out of the plastic shipping envelope.

If you look too closely you will see that the fabric is strained and some of the elasticity is gone.

I wear them so much they are always a little wilted. Even after a wash.

They are so unbelieveably comfortable.

I love them.  Dearly.

They are very high waisted.

When I wear regular or low rise jeans, my gut looks like a massive tongue lolling over my waistband.

I am wrapping up my forties, and I have to admit I have been going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. I don't particularly care for like the wrinkles or saggy bits, but those aren't the things that have me tripping.  I still like the way I look.   My considerably rounder body doesn't stop me when I want to feel beautiful or sensual.  In fact, I own my body and looks in a way I didn't when I had a flat stomach and perky butt.

My gut is a direct result of having babies, including twins at an advance age, fluctuating hormones and a metabolism rate that has slowed to a stop.  The creases and rolls taunt and bully me. Constantly insinuating that I have wasted too much time.  Any opportunities for me passed years ago. There isn't going to be any literary break-out or break-through.  For heavens sake, what place does a 48 year old emerging singer songwriter have in the business?

Every time I pull on those high waisted jeans I silence those lies. The taunts and insinuations are comfortably bridled by stretchy denim and hippy blouses. I throw on my black suede Nike high-tops, fluff my wild hair and do my thing.  There is no middle-aged woman with a flabby misshapen gut. There is a no twenty-something with a flat stomach and perfect abs. There is only me.

I still get to do what I want.

Monday, May 23, 2016

My Daughter: The Sunshine to my Moonlight

My daughter is as bubbly as fresh ginger ale.  Her resting face is a smile.   Her goal on any given day is to make everybody laugh and smile.  She gains energy from people the way Superman is strengthened by the sun.

She is my flip side. I have to remind myself that the muscles in my face actually make a smile.  My resting face is...mean, or so I have been told.  Don't get me wrong, I can tell a good joke and I am known for being fun...when the situation calls for it.  I liken myself to an old fashion back-yard water spout.   I have to be primed - mentally pumped before I can let the good times roll.

Noelle is sunshine.  I am moonlight. I like the quiet and gain my strength in solitude and isolation.  I am a a fault. She is clearly a doer much to my occasional dismay.  Her progress reports are beginning to reflect her love for laughter.  She is frequently reprimanded for spreading her highly contagious sense of fun.  When I was in the 3rd grade I got reprimanded for daydreaming and taking my shoes off.

Still, Noelle carries a little of me in her ways.   She is a born story-teller.  She came out of the womb speaking in complete sentences. Her verbosity made her a bit of a side show attraction until she was about 3 years old.  I try to channel her verbal energy by encouraging her to write, but talking remains her favorite mode of communication.  I miss her knock knock jokes.  The punch lines were at least two minutes long.

Noelle is instinctively an optimist.  She believes that every moment in life brings you something different. She loves the newness in each day while I crave routine and steadfastness.  She has a way of reminding me that nothing is truly boring with the right perspective.

She talks. And talks. And talks some more, while I am silent for most of my day.

Like me, Noelle loves books.  Not just to read, but as objects to collect and admire.  Like me, she also loves music. Pop Music. Her brother calls her a 'Swifty' because she likes Taylor Swift.  When I was her age I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald, the Beatles.  I loved the music of the day like Rappers Delight and Heatwave.  But I sought out what was different.   We find common ground in Adele and John Legend.

For about a year, Noelle only made funny faces when we took family pictures.  It made me wonder if she was more uncertain about her looks than I suspected.   We had the "hair conversation" over a year ago.  I was doing her hair at the bathroom mirror and she said she wished her hair was "like this" and stretched one of her curls straight.

"Why?" I replied. "You have beautiful hair." I told her about the hundreds of websites and blogs dedicated to teaching women how to get hair just like hers.  I also reminded her that she had hair, "Just like mommy."   Now she loves to wear her hair wild and free.  Which is appropriate because she is indeed wild and free.

I am concerned that Noelle defaults to 'funny girl' when she is feeling shy or insecure.  She likes to dance, but when people are watching she morphs herself into spindly goofiness.  We laugh, because it looks hysterical,  but I don't want her to hide her talent the way I did growing up.  I realize there is a thin line between projecting your own issues onto your children and guiding them into self assuredness.

I want Noelle to be funny because she is funny, not because she thinks, "Funny is all I got."

Noelle is the other side of me.  Sunshine to my moonlight.  Happiness to my melancholy.   I want her to always be authentically happy.

She wants the same for me.  I know because she told me so.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Today I Hate...

Today I hate that I am going to be 49 years old on my next birthday.   I would rather be 35.

Today I hate that there are specific areas in my life where I still worry about what people think.

Today I hate that the physical therapist said I need to see her three days a week for my screwed up shoulder. Hmmph! That is what she thinks.   I have YouTube.

Today I hate that my son's pants are ripped at the hem and that he does not own one pair of shoes not riddled with dog teeth.  He still doesn't know what closets are for and my dogs are idiots.

Today I hate that I have conjoined pimples on my chin. They hurt.  I want them to die a horrible death, leaving me unscathed.

Today I hate that a bean bag erupted in my hallway. A CHEAP bean bag.

Today I hate that I started this really great blog post and got stuck.  Now look at me - writing a temper tantrum.

Today I hate that I may have to be on medication for the rest of my days.

Today I hate that I have to drive in the rain. Again.

Today I hate that I worry about my oldest son walking home from school just because he doesn't look like a little boy anymore.

Today I hate that I locked myself out of my online credit card account.  Stupid passwords.

Today I hate that I meant to clean my room, but didn't get around to it.  Actually, I could care less.
Guess what?

I'm smiling.

Hurray for me!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lauren's Dress: Reflections on Motherhood and Loss

Those who don't know,  I lost a daughter. Today's BlogHer writing prompt compelled me to pull out the little dress Lauren wore when they brought her to the my hospital room after delivery.  Whenever I calculate the time, I am shocked. Even though the pain and grief has lost its grip,  the memories do not at all feel distant and they certainly don't feel 10 years worth of distant.

Unlike many people who have lost loved ones, I see Lauren everyday in the flesh as I watch my other daughter grow.  They were identical down to the moles on their cheeks, inherited from your truly.  So I see the brightness of her smile and hear the heartiness of her giggle.  I know the clothes and shoes that would fill her closet and even know the names of what would have been her teachers and peers. But that is where my sight ends.  I can only guess at her fashion sense, or what would make her laugh and who would she would call friend.  These thoughts aren't at the front of the line. So to speak.  

Gone are the days when I simultaneously celebrated Noelle and grieved for Lauren. Noelle has her own orbit. What's hers is hers.

The BlogHer assignment was to open a storage box and take a photo of one item and write about it. Immediately, Lauren's stuff came to mind.  I sometimes worry about coming off as a sad sack, so I tried to pick something else.  For about two minutes I considered things that belonged to my other kids. Like Noelle's tiny preemie diaper that had to be folded down three times at the waist or Jon-Jon's first piece of art, a paper fried egg so cute I thought he was an artistic genius.  Lastly I considered Q's bubbly sonogram picture that when his brother showed it to him, he melted into a pool of sobs and tearfully asked, "Mama! Why did you do that? Why did you eat me!?"  But I pulled out the dress Lauren was wearing when they gave her to me in the hospital.

I never closely examined her dress before this morning.  I couldn't see past the tiny blood stains.  In fact, today may mark the 3rd time I have intentionally pulled this dress out  in 9 1/2 years.  Today I noticed that the fleur de lise embroidered on the bodice is actually pale green and white. I always thought it was blue.  For the first time ever I saw the "Threads of Love" label stitched right onto the front bottom seam.  Even though the dress is made of an inexpensive cotton/poly blend, is obviously made with care. I imagine a blue haired grand-mom in a floral sewing smock, zinging away on her sewing machine, just so I wouldn't have to freak over what to dress my deceased baby girl in.

I keep the dress unceremoniously in a zip lock bag, along with a creamy beige seashell,  a mini pink afghan,  a "you lost a baby" poem and Lauren's photograph.  Everything was given to me in the hospital in that ziplock bag.   The poem and photograph face each other so I don't have to face the dark and unflattering photograph of my baby lovingly (but badly) taken by the nurse on duty.  That photograph is the one and only thing that I avoid at all costs.  So it stays turned away and hidden in the folds of the tiny pink baby blanket.

I reject all this "get over it" crap.  How do you ever get over the loss of someone you deeply love?   They become all stirred up in our life like cream in coffee.  

You get over the flu.  Not the death of someone you love.

There is no removing, erasing or even separating what those you love added to your life.

Thoughts of my dad are never far from the surface and he died so long ago I lost count of the years. I keep his hairbrush.  Not out of sentiment or as a memorial, but because it is a hair brush worth having.  Those boar bristles that so efficiently slicked back his curls over 30 years ago still smooth my daughter's beautifully rebellious hair on an almost daily basis. He is still a part of my everyday.

Lauren is never too far away from my thoughts. There are times when she is more present than usual. Last week when I was justifying a middle aged-brain fart at my Drs. appointment, I laughingly blurted out to the nurse, "You have to excuse me I have 4 kids!"  It was the first time in a very long time I forgot to subtract Lauren from the equation.

Everyday I tell stories about my kids. Whether I am writing, sharing with friends over tequila shots, or giving the family run-down to my sister or mom.  I have a 14 years worth of stories for 3 children to choose  - but with Lauren there is only one.  It's a sad story but I am fine with it.  Today it was her turn.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Friends with Ella? Absolutely.

A good friend gave me a journal with writing prompts. It is called "Writing Prompts for the Creative Scribe".  I took it as a sign not to give up writing which I have been seriously contemplating.  It has just been too stressful to get it done.

Thanks Mai Tai!!

Welcome to my first post.  A few notes.  Writing is the only place where OCD keeps me from functioning.  Thankfully, with intervention there is recovery! You will see typos, you will see incorrect grammar and spelling mistakes because the goal is to get to "The End" in a reasonable amount of time.  By fighting the urge to re-write the same sentence a gazillion times, or press the delete button over and over again,  I am re-training my writer's brain to function as it should.   Writers obsess about words, or stories. They want 'it' to be right.  But I realized that is not what I do.  I am not trying to make my words, my story, my writing better.  I am trying to make myself feel better, to alleviate the pressure or stress of writing by backspacing, deleting, and then writing the same thing over and over again.   I have write and just let it fly.   Which I am not doing at the moment  - so I have to move on right now.

Eventually I will get back to all the norms and disciplines of a good writer.  Make no mistake, I am correcting as I go and this is not a free form, free flow type of deal.  But there is no working for countless hours  to get a blog post "just so."

Now - on to the prompt.

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? Where would you meet them and what would you talk about?

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella could put me into a trance of sorts.  I didn't lose myself or the world around me, it was the opposite actually.  Her voice could make me lock into place where I felt at home in my own skin and kinda sort knew my place in the world.

There was something about Ella that was healing and restorative for me.  Especially during college where I played her Gershwin Songbook over and over again.  Her voice, her phrasing, her musicality, her tone - when it all came together - I would be okay.  Somehow she sang "me" even when the lyrics painted images of a life that in no way mirrored my own.

I would want to meet Ella in her room.  That place where she felt the most safe, comfortable and inspired.  I have no idea where that would be.  Whether it would be in New York, Paris or down south.  I don't know if it would be a room from her childhood, or one from the height of her success.

I imagine it would be relatively small and cozy, furnished sparingly but with big comfortable furniture. There would be touches of non-pretentious beauty in artwork and photographs.  In my mind's eyes I see a clear vase full of fresh pink flowers sitting on top of a aged reddish brown baby grand tucked as much as it could be tucked in the corner of the room.  I see a window open towards the sun.

It would be around 1965.   Her hair would be short, pressed and pin-curled.  No need for her wigs and pieces. I imagine her in a simple grey dress with a rhinestone and pearl  star burst brooch near the shoulder.  She would slip off her shoes and lean comfortably on the arm of her sofa. I would be able to tell that she was in "her spot".  The place she memorized her lyrics or casually warmed up her voice.

I would be sitting across from her , but close, in a armchair.  A round table would be caddy corner between us hosting hot tea with no sugar and pound cake.  The old black bakelite phone was unplugged.

Ella would smile frequently causing her round cheeks to rise. She spoke gently and eased into her laugh.  The voice carefully smooth and light.

I would ask her what she felt when she sang.  Not the songs that the corporate music machine made her sing.  Not those.  I would ask her about the songs she felt a soulful connection to.  I would ask her what it felt like when she transcended being a singer and became the song.

I would ask her when she knew she was gifted.  What led her to realize she could hear and do things that others simply could not.  I would ask her when she first stood up for herself as a musician.

I would want to know how much she practised and how she perfected her gift.  I would want to know how many hours a day she put into her craft to become that great.  I would ask about the moments she wanted to give it up, but knew she couldn't.

I would want to know about the musicians she had to put in their place when they tried to treat her like just another girl singer.   I would want to know who was intimidated and who wasn't.  I suspect the real greats like Count Basie and Duke Ellington respected her.  I imagine some of the female singers of the time, particularly the white women who were told to replicate her sound, may not have been as respectful or kind.

I would ask her what Marilyn Monroe was like.  I would beg her to tell me juicy secrets about Bille Holiday and Lena Horne.  I would want to know if she knew Eartha Kitt well, and what she really thought off Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.  She would keep her laugh quiet and hide her smile behind her hand when she knew she was being 'bad'.  She was honest, but never cruel or vindictive.

I think Ella would be generous and kind.

Funny thing is that I did meet her once.  She performed an outdoor concert at my college.  I was absolutely floored by her talent and skill even though she was so old.  It looked as though her wig weighed more than she did and her glasses were obviously for cosmetic reasons, because she could not see a thing.  I remember people saying it was the best concert. Ever.

If I remember correctly, there was a trailer or private tent set up for her, and she was very welcoming as people came for autographs or to shake her hand.  We were not allowed flash photography, Ella herself explained that it hurt her eyes.  One guy didn't care, he came with his big black camera and started flashing away.  I remembered she cried out in surprise and me and another person that I can't remember yelled and shoved him out the way.

She signed my ticket stub, which was my prized possession until it disappeared from my apartment a couple years later along with the address and home telephone number of Gwendolyn Brooks.  I still kick myself for being careless.

A few years later I saw her at one of her last concerts.

Maybe one day, when all this is over and done with I will get to have my conversation with Ella.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Getting My Chops Back - Guest Blog on Jingle Jankle Jungle

Hey my good peeps.  Please stop by Mary Burris' Jungle Jangle Jungle where I am a guest blogger.  I share my story of getting my chops back!  I started singing out again!


Have a Great Week!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Backyard Camp Out and my Beautiful Pinterest Fail

Noelle's Photo of our Abandoned Tent
I didn't sleep last night.  At all.  I spent the night in a cheap, ebay pop-up tent laying on a multitude of blankets and comforters in an attempt to soften the stick and rock ridden ground.  Sleeping on an unprepared surface was more a result of my doing things in haste than of my camping ignorance.

My back hurt.
The air reeked of toxic bug spray.
My daughter talked non-stop for hours.
My allergies were going absolutely haywire.

The only preparation was the hour I spent trying to piece together a instruction-less pop-up tent we unwittingly disassembled, rendering the automatic pop-up feature useless.  It was a impromptu camp-out.

I loved it.  When I was a girl, I was fascinated with tents, forts and camping. I was greeted with laughter when I suggested to my parents that we camp-out as a family vacation.  We didn't know any black folks that went camping.  Still, I passed my love of quasi-outdoor life to my daughter.
I bought her the tent for her 8th birthday.

At any given time during our camp out, Noelle's head would unexpectedly pop-up, jerk around a bit and she would ask in a rushed semi-frantic whisper, "Whatwasthat?"

When she wasn't talking about cake fondant or listening for bear attacks, Noelle spent her time twitching and flicking with bug paranoia.  Bugs give her big-time heebie geebies and she swore they were in her hair, crawling down her pajamas and trying to fly in her mouth.  But my girl stayed put insisting she didn't want to sleep inside.  Her brothers - way too scared to camp out in the dark.

Camp-out Selfie

The entire experience got me to thinking about what it means to 'do you' as my friend Mel likes to say.  Noelle and I were simply being ourselves.  No snacks.  No campfire songs or the obligatory ghost stories.  There we were in a wilted tent, armed with blankets stolen from my son's bed, a Hello Kitty flashlight and a can of old bug spray. Our entertainment was watching a British you-tuber  on my iphone assembling a hot pink cake in the shape of a Louie Vuitton Alma bag.  In the Pinterest world, our campout would have been a remarkable 'FAIL".

That is how we roll.

At 4:00, as I was finally drifting off,  the blue of the tent flickered from a series of light followed shortly by the tell-tell rumblings of thunder.  It dawned on me as I scrambled to snatch up 30 pounds worth of blankets that I never bothered to check the weather.  I dumped the blankets inside, ran back out and struggled with stuffing my blue plastic adirondack chair into the tent. Who needs tent stakes when you have perfectly useful lawn furniture?

Not too long ago I would have be concerned about making it a perfect experience. A good mom would have cleaned and stitched up her daughter's sleeping-bag. There would have been a fire-pit and roasting of some sort.  Maybe even a evening movie projected onto the back of our house or a sheet magically suspended from the trees.  I would have tried it all, only to end up frustrated, stressed and remarkably irritated if any of it didn't live up to my idealistic, totally unreasonable vision.

At this stage of MY game, I thank God everyday, that even during the hard times when my insecurities and inner 'crazy' run rampant  - I do everything I can to be myself.  I remember my life and my mini-adventures with my kids don't have to look like a Pinterest wish list.  It is about the time, the moments together.  Even as I type this, I am still in my pjs,  Noelle and Q are playing Mindcraft in the bed next to me and the dogs are in their forbidden spot - at the foot of my bed.   I am surrounded by mounds of clean laundry, my night table looks like a hospital bedside and my kids and dogs stink.  But we are together and happy.

That is how we roll.