D is for Distraction

Are you watching? How could you not be watching? Don’t you call it up on your phone while you’re at work? Prop up your phone next to your computer monitor so you can work and glance over every once in a minute? I think everyone’s watching. Aren’t you watching?

Of course, I’m talking about the live feed of April the giraffe. April, who is going to have a baby ANY DAY NOW!! April, who has had three other babies before this one, without the benefit of a live feed. April, who has consumed an inordinate amount of my conscious time for the last couple of days.

April. Why am I glued to her YouTube channel?

But really, how can I not be? She’s beautiful. Her pregnant belly is beautiful. Little I’m-the-daddy Oliverr in the background is adorable.

Seriously, though. For her eyelashes alone I would be glued to this live feed.

Sigh.

April.

Back to work.

__________

And I Fell

It all started here
this moment. One open moment.
Started with silence
and then the call of my name,
the sound of laughter.
Your voice — a new, vast landscape —
all the mystery
of new, of magic, of you
I’ll remember. Beginning.

Oh, that one was hard … and I like it less than the last two. My head was definitely not in it. Far too much time spent watching April and Oscar. But I made it. Another chōka gets checked off the to-do list. Done and done. On to the next!



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To Bake or Not to Bake …

That is always the question in my kitchen. The answer is often a resounding, “Yes!” … but then I run into my nemesis: not enough time. It’s 10:10pm … and I’m just getting my act together to think about the baking?! Oy.

I did some baking around Christmas and New Year’s and then a little more last month. And, now that I’ve been being more intentional about cooking for myself, I’ve been doing more baking, too. I discovered a yummy recipe for nutmeg muffins, and I’ve made them a few times. I even made a batch a mini ones to bring to work for sharing. I’ve made two different kinds of biscuits (and both were delicious), and a couple of loaves of carrot-almond bread.  There are a lot of recipes I want to try. I haven’t yet made my mom’s bread — my favorite bread recipe because the bread is delicious and sturdy enough for sandwiches … and it sparks all kinds of memories from my forever-ago youth and my mom’s baking.

Tonight is going to be about cookies. I have a meeting tomorrow and I want to bring something to share. I’ve settled on chocolate chip. I know that’s pretty ordinary, but I realized when I was picking through my recipes that I’ve actually never made chocolate chip cookies before. Never. How is that possible? Even that crazy year when I made 31 dozen cookies, not a single one was chocolate chip. I mean, I even made cookies with rosemary and red wine that year, and not anything as regular as chocolate chip!

I sure hope they turn out okay. It goes against my usual behavior to bake something for the first time for someone other than myself. I like to test out a recipe first before sharing it with others — I have to know it’s good, after all. What if the recipe needs tweaking? Better to discover that on my own, not with company … I’ll never forget the time I swapped the amount of sugar for salt when making cupcakes for dessert when we had company over for dinner! The Horror!

Are you a baker? What do you like to bake? And who do you bake for? And, if you’re not a baker but a taster, what are your favorite baked things? And who bakes them for you?



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!

Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

Alliterative Descriptors — Blackety Black Edition

I stopped watching Scandal early-ish in Season 5. I was so tired, and it was so convoluted and conniving, and I just didn’t have the energy.

Then last week I went back. The new season is on and I wanted to be able to peek in and understand where everyone was and how they got there. So I went to Netflix and slid into Season 5. From the top.

And you know? Never mind that it’s still convoluted and conniving and crazy and cringe-worthy and all the other alliterative descriptors I might think to use. Never mind that I can’t stand Fitz and have never found that man – the character or the actor, but so particularly the character – attractive. Never mind that even Olivia turns me off and annoys the crap out of me most of the time. Never mind all of that. I need to be watching Scandal, desperately need what this show is giving me.

How have I never noticed the music? How have I managed to watch four seasons and never notice the music? Where have my ears been? This show – which should come as no surprise – is so Black. But sooo Black. Powerfully, unashamedly, doggedly, determinedly. If it had a theme song, it would have to be the fabulously nonsensical yet bizarrely affirming “I’m Black,Y’all.”

And it’s not because Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope is the primary character, although yes, she’s part of it. And Joe Morton as Papa Pope is part of it – he is, after all, everyone’s favorite Brother from Another Planet. But the Popes are barely in the real world, certainly not anywhere near what my real world looks and feels and smells like. They are definitely Black, but they don’t make the show Black. No. For me, all that unapologetic Blackness is in the music. The soundtrack to Season 5 is a glorious celebration of Black music as Black voice, Black mood, Black conscience … and I am so here for it.

Maybe I never noticed this before because I didn’t need it as much in the past as I do in this moment. Maybe I stopped watching in part because I was getting further and further away from Pope-world and the cognitive dissonance was too much for me. And, while I’m still plenty far from Pope-world today, I need to dive in anyway, need to gather as much Blackness around me as possible. So I was drawn back to the show … and found my heart and soul waiting for me there, the running conversation under the scenes.

Just so you know:

  • You Got the Love — Rufus (yes, featuring Chaka Khan)
  • Got to Be Real — Cheryl Lynn
  • Do Right Woman, Do Right Man — Aretha Franklin
  • How Do You Keep the Music Playing — James Ingram and Patti Austin
  • You’re All I Need to Get By — Aretha Franklin
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) — Stevie Wonder

That’s just in the tiniest toe of a dip into the first four episodes, people! So 👏 damn 👏 black 👏.

On Sunday I went to a meeting of an anti-racist group. It was a meeting only for the POC members of the group. They meet monthly, and I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but Sunday was the first time my schedule allowed it.

And then I woke up Sunday, and the weather was awful: iced-over snowy rain and so cold! I didn’t want to leave my cozy apartment, and certainly not to head downtown to a meeting place right by the river!

But the chance to sit in community with a group of POC working for social justice and equity was too great a lure. I got my act together and got myself to DUMBO.

Thank goodness, too. Those two hours were fresh air. I could be as serious, silly, snarky, angry, frustrated, amused, or sad as I wanted, and no one expected me to explain, defend, modulate, or disappear my feelings. I could just have them.

And so I gathered a little more Blackness to me, wrapped myself in it as I would a fleece and mink blanket. Blackness — POC-ness — is the balm for my head and heart these days. I’m not closing doors on white folks. Can’t afford anything like that. There’s too much work to be done.

There is so much work. And I won’t get any of it done if I don’t look out for myself, find ways to take care of myself. I need to remember my sanctuary spaces, need to find myself some peace, need to put some shine on all the Blackness, all the big, bold, bodacious, brazen, blackety, black Blackness. Those alliterative descriptors are set to become my new mantra.

Time to slip back in. Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, and more Aretha on deck. Shonda clearly has my back in this fight.

“I’m black y’all, and I’m black y’all
and I’m blackety black, and I’m black y’all …”


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In 2017, I’ve committed to writing an essay a week.

It’s not too late to join if you’re feeling ambitious! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!

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It’s Slice-of-Life Tuesday! Click on the badge to visit Two Writing Teachers and see what the other slicers are writing today!

It’s alright if you love me …

Had an audio flashback yesterday that’s still playing its tune today. I was sent back in time to the first time I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “Breakdown” was an instant favorite for me. Something about the way Petty sang those first lines:

It’s alight if you love me.
It’s alright if you don’t.
I’m not afraid of you running away, honey.
I get the feeling you won’t.

I’d never heard anyone sing like him. The sound of his voice, the sound of that lyric. They just clicked so hard for me. I was young and unworldly enough that I didn’t fully understand what Petty was singing about, but the song communicated with me all the same. Fox (my younger sister) and I used to sing this song all the time. I was Petty, she was the Heartbreakers. If we’d grown up Irish, “Breakdown” would have been one of our party pieces.

Heard five seconds of the intro guitar behind a promo for a news show on my way out the door yesterday … and I was cast back, back upstate, standing in the living room in front of the stereo, singing with Fox.

Woke up with the song in my head today. First thought, before “snowmageddon 2015,” before conscious thought. Thanks, NPR, for that musical time travel magic.

Something inside you
is feeling like I do.
We’ve said all there is to say.

Baby —

Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me.
Breakdown, honey, take me through the night.
Breakdown, now I’m standing here, can’t you see —
breakdown, it’s alright.
It’s alright.
It’s alright.


It’s Tuesday, friends. There’s snow on the ground, and it’s a Slice of Life day. Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see the rest of the day’s slices.

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With or without ripe, rain-swollen streams …

… April has arrived. That means it’s time for National Poetry Month!

As promised, my form for the month is the Arun, the form that somehow allowed itself to be created my me.  Very basic format: 15 lines, syllable count of 1/2/3/4/5 3 times.  I was writing with Naima (my Girls Write Now mentee) tonight, and struggling with today’s poem.  She read it when it was still missing its last line and said it felt like it needed something more, and wondered why I thought I only needed one more line.  I reminded her about the form, and she reminded me that I could write more than one stanza.  Oh.  Right.  So interesting how I can forget that every year.  It’s not where I needed to go tonight, but having that pulled back up to the front of my brain is super helpful!

So, tonight’s Arun:

Start
slowly,
held by fear.
But start, despite
these shadow roadblocks,
start
despite
fogged windows

and padlocked doors.
Only move forward.
Hold

both hands
wide open —
reaching, ready —
heart stripped naked, clean.

_____

Happy April, everyone!

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And, because it’s Tuesday, today is also a Slice of Life day!
See the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers!

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My title, of course, inspired by this bit of beauty:

Travels with PJ

PJ, aka my mom, was my travel partner on my little jaunt to New Orleans.  She is, in fact, the reason I went.  She called to say she’d booked a double queen room for the conference she’d be attending and why didn’t I just get a ticket and join her … so I did.

I haven’t traveled much with my mother as an adult.  We had many, many family vacations, sure, but as a grown up I’ve only had two trips with her before this one.  The first was a whole-family vacation to Ireland ten years ago.  And it was wonderful, but it was also a little overwhelming — so much family, so much to do, so little down time.  And then last year she came to Jamaica with me for a week.  That trip was heavenly.  Not only because going to Jamaica is always soul-filling for me, but because it was the first time I’d gotten to just hang out with my mother and relax in that way.  To be in that beautiful setting, to have nothing to do but whatever we wanted to do, to have gorgeous weather and lovely people around us and lots. of. time.  As I said: heavenly.

I knew the New Orleans trip wouldn’t be the same.  She was there to work, after all.  But we had every evening and morning together, and it was great. My mother, for someone who is actually quite finicky and particular, is also easy going. I’m not surprised to know this because I’ve known her a long time and all, but it bears saying as it makes her an easy person to travel with. As long as she’s treated well and folks don’t try to cheat her, she’s up for anything.

We didn’t do anything crazy in our few days, mostly just walked around and found places to eat. But like our Jamaica trip, it was the hanging out that had value (of course, the amazing jambalaya, fried chicken livers with pepper jelly, shrimp creole and chicken andouille gumbo had plenty of value, too). Such a luxury: night after night of talking and talking and talking with my mom. Again with the”heavenly.”

Her job, though responsible for bringing us to town, really got in the way. There were many things I would have wanted to do with her that were daytime-only things. And, too, staying out till all hours wasn’t an option when she had to be at the conference first thing in the morning.

And that tells me we need to look at planning more travel together, real vacations rather than me tagging along on her business trip. Why did it take me so long to realize how nice it would be to travel with my mom? I’m traditionally a solo traveler, and that’s surely part of it. I don’t really think about traveling with anyone. And I’m not saying I never want to travel alone again. Of course not, but how silly that this wouldn’t have occurred to me. I can see us going anywhere.

Stay tuned. This post might turn out to be “Travels with PJ, Part I” …

Last breath of April …

Should you be concerned that the last you heard from me was on 4/20?  Should you?  No, really not.   The day passed with no out-of-control homage from me.

No, instead I’ve just been leaving this posting business for way too late, and instead of sitting up and falling asleep on the computer, I’ve just put myself to bed.  The result is that I’m feeling much more rested (finally), but I also haven’t posted in days.  I think I might put the post I wrote on Saturday up tomorrow because I liked it.  We’ll see.

Tonight, however, I have other business.  Tonight I have to talk about last Tuesday, which was all about … me!  (Big surprise, I’m sure.)  Not just me, but me and the eight other women who were the featured readers/performers at a book party.  An essay of mine is included in a collection of writing about women’s literacy.  I’m excited about the book and was really happy to have the chance to read.  I was incredibly nervous about it, however.

I used to read all the time.  I was always nervous those times, too, but Tuesday was different.  Not only have I not read in years, this essay was very personal and it was hard to think of how I’d manage to read it to a room full of strangers, how I’d survive reading to a fair number of people I have professional relationships with … and even harder to imagine reading it to the half-dozen or so of my friends who were in the room. But I read and read reasonably well. I didn’t hyperventilate, didn’t shake so badly I couldn’t hold my papers still, didn’t suddenly forget how to speak. I was magically able to mostly be myself.

The essay grew out of the My Body Politic post I wrote here two years ago. There is much more in the essay than in the blog post, however. Much more focused on things about my life that I don’t generally talk about … such as growing up so “other” in my small, homogenous town that I felt I had to erase whole parts of myself to find a way to live under the radar … such as completely internalizing the cues that inspired that erasure.  It was strange to read all of that out loud to anyone. 

But it worked.  People laughed at the parts that are meant to be funny, gasped at the parts that are meant to shock, let me feel their warm resonating hum in the moments when they were feeling what I was feeling.  I wish I had been brave enough to invite more people.  There are at least another half dozen friends I would have liked to see in that audience.  Next time!

And, despite my silence here, I kept up with my Zeno writing over the last ten days.*  I even wrote one for Tuesday:

flowers in sun on a cold night.
wild, talented
women.
one
voice. eight women
sharing.
none
hidden, held back.
women,
stun.

And thus concludes my month of the Zeno.  Thank goodness!  It wasn’t awful, but it was definitely work.  Now it’s time to move onto the next challenge.  Yes, I’ve already taken one on.  Maybe I’ll talk about that tomorrow …

__________

*  A Zeno is a 10-line poem: syllables = 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, rhymes = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.