Current Events, Every Day Living, Grief And Loss, Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Irma Don’t Own Me

Disclaimer: I have legit hurricane-related PTSD stemming back to Hurricane David while living in St Maarten. I was four. But I distinctly remember my dad taking me to school and him picking me up in knee deep water. We walked home. Due to roof leakage, we lost half of our family photos at that time. I lost trust in aluminum roofs. Irma came and decimated St. Maarten and there went my plans to return for our 20th anniversary trip. It would have been my first time back. Pray for the people of St. Martin/St. Maarten. 

Andrew. Enough said. The people of those communities still recall the smells and sounds. I know colleagues who just couldn’t deal with it this time around. They just left. To preserve life and peace of mind. 

Wilma swung by and found me as a fairly new homeowner trying to keep grips on my one earthly major investment. We lost a patio, replaced a roof, and watched our pockets bleed dry from an insurance company’s piracy for many years to come. 

So when Irma came around, I was as ready as could be (or so I thought). The hurricane that never was (Matthew in 2016) had me in stores buying up all the canned goods I could get. What threw me for a loop was the water thing this time around. Water was gone by Monday, Labor Day. Like even the one you were supposed to get via Walmart Grocery Pick Up or Instacart. I got nervous. But God knew best and sent an angel our way to bless us as we had just days before blessed Houston. 

Hurricanes are a part of life in these parts. And as much as we would like to prefer it not be, it just is. But there are things to mitigate the level of impact physically and emotionally. Here’s a glimpse into some things I learned along the way. 

Don’t be cheap. Invest in the canned foods, rice and beans. They last two to three years and annual review of your supplies can mean blessing a shelter or homeless program with items that may expire soon. 

Invest in some big ticket items. Invest in a generator. Homeowners, you can’t go wrong with this investment. Your perishable items will last in the fridge and you can power up your electronics with ease. Invest in a deep freezer and keep it stocked with ice and frozen water year round.  This kept our stuff cold through five days of no power. Invest in a grill and/or table top hot plates. Hot food. Every. Day. Enough said. 

Invest in a portable TV. We kept updated with relevant news during that time. The not knowing can sometimes be at a detriment to self and loved ones. We were able to pass along info to others because of this. Invest in a stand alone or window AC. Our handy man gave us this idea one day before our electricity came back on. Twenty twenty being hindsight, I still would have gotten it. Thirty minutes of set up, a line to the generator and we had a guest room where my husband and I and his mom slept in comfort. Too bad we got the idea one day before power returned. We placed the AC back in the box. No we are not returning it. Hurricanes aren’t an IF but a WHEN type of occurrence. 

I used the word INVEST several times. Something that some may find to be a foreign idea. Simply put. One pair of shoes bought at Ross is a portable TV. One Dooney and Burke purse on sale at TJ Maxx is a portable AC. A Louis Vuitton purse from Nordstrom (2016 Damier) can get you a generator, grill, deep freezer, solar powered lamps, and fully stocked food and supplies. 

So when I told people I didn’t have power, it meant I took cold showers and didn’t have AC (until my most recent investment). It meant I read a book in one day. It meant my clothes were washed from the week before. It meant I ate hot meals and planned the day’s menu with my husband and his mom. It meant my brother and dad coming over for a hot meal. It meant catching the breeze with extended family and eating more avocados than the law allows. 

Don’t let your trying times overwhelm you into inertia. Not having power does not mean you don’t have POWER. I am no expert. Just a student of life who takes copious notes and learn from my experiences and that of others. 

Manage what’s within your realm and see what God does with the rest. 

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Current Events, Every Day Living

Irma and Harvey: Rude Awakenings

I got the chance to scroll through my timeline after the fact, marveling at the tenacity and wicked sense of humor that humanity has in the face of disaster. I saw coping skills that ranged from drinking to prayer to eating and back to drinking while praying (for some of you). I realized that I wasn’t a stress eater but rather a restless eater. If I’m out of things to occupy my time and mind, I will snack. Plantain chips. Lots of plantain chips. 

Irma slowed us down real good. Sent friends all over the country and kept others hunkered down for the onslaught of wind and rains. I think about those who didn’t have the option of catching a flight or preparing their own homes. Those who are half a pay check away from being without. Those whose support systems are on life support. Those who work and worship and live alongside us; grinning and bearing it as best they can. 

Irma reminded me that disasters don’t check for pay scales when they come through. They don’t check for bank account balances, overlooking those with less than others. They don’t check for status (real or imagined) and wherever the category 4 wind blows is where the wind blows. Just the other week I was sending off cases of water to Harvey survivors and planning on some hurricane service projects for local Houston schools. And literally within days, I’m the one pitching a fit because my Walgreens grocery pick up came without water. I had the means but the supplies were denied me. 

An awakening from my slumber. It isn’t my first hurricane rodeo and I gather it may not be my last. But having the means and being denied is a humbling experience. Outright scary to be honest.  But to have zero means to buy a flight, buy enough gas or buy the extra food needed, that’s an entirely different matter. Businesses are wiped out. Clients are scattered about. Schools are closed. Money isn’t being made. All dominoe effects that will cause fear to grip like a steel vise around one’s heart and mind. 

Rude awakenings aren’t meant to be shoved back in the drawer in hopes that this isn’t something one has to deal with ever again. It’s a pause to take self inventory of where priorities lie. Simply stated, my love of shoes couldn’t feed me or keep me hydrated. It couldn’t pay my bills before or after the storm. It couldn’t turn the lights on. All those clear boxes neatly stacked in my garage sat pretty while my Florida room gathered water from the incessant pounding of rains in that one direction. 

Rude awakenings are meant to bring  a great spiritual and mental pause. To relinquish control to God whose omniscience saw this day and knew I was built for it. To ask questions of oneself. To lay bare one’s failures. To admit to one’s short sightedness. The last major hurricane I went through, I was a school board employee who got paid regardless of whether kids were in school or not. This time around I am a private contractor enjoying the flexibility of a new type of lifestyle. The kind where pay isn’t tied to a union contract. The kind where if I’m not there, I don’t get paid.  Real talk. 

So after I call my insurance agent about that leak, after I run to Walmart for that table top grill (cause inclement weather and outdoor grilling doesn’t go hand in hand), after I exale enough conditioned air in my recently powered home and after I share one last hurricane meal with my brother before he goes back to his overnight shift, I will be calling my CPA, an attorney and a business colleague to shore up some loose ends that Irma gave me time to think about. 

Rude awakenings should be aha moments. Don’t let them be uh-oh moments. Nothing to fear but certainly something to act upon. The world is still spinning on its axis. Question is will you be off kilter barely trying to hang on, or are you as ready as you should be next time a storm (real or otherwise) comes your way. We will never be in full control of our future. But managing what is within our power is key in addressing the rude awakenings that life throws our way. 

PS- My shoes survived the storm. 

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Don’t Settle 

On a long overdue phone check in with one of my mentors, she dropped a boulder sized piece of wisdom in my spirit. We were fleshing out the whole making poor choices in life thing. “We just choose to settle instead of being selective,” she said. So after I told her I was stealing that for my next blog, I spent another week chewing on this notion that yeah, women do spend quite a bit of time making allowances in their lives. The casualties of those decisions are usually at the expense of self. I thought about the many ways we tend to settle as women not just in the obvious ways but in the subtle, soul-stealing instances where inch by inch we find ourselves trading in our very essence for emptiness. 

Settling in the workplace. If you know your worth and you know your skill sets, there’s no reason why you should dim your light to make the next person look or feel good. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for collaboration and teamwork in an organization. After all, it’s the driving force for the better of the collective. But if I could go back and undue each time I bit my tongue rather than spea up for myself, I just know my success in some work spaces would have been more meaningful. Taking one from the team is settling. Covering up for someone else’s mistake is settling. Pretending you don’t know just so you won’t offend anyone in the room is settling. Opting not to show your true talents is settling. If they don’t appreciate what your bring to the table, bide your time, build your network base and bounce! 

Settling in your quality of life. I won’t waste the characters needed to prove our roles as women is INDISPENSABLE. Our aging parents know it. Our children know it. Our significant others (better) know it. So when we habitually fade out when it’s time to care for self, just know that it’s detrimental to the survival of self and ultimately our loved ones. I can’t tell you how many women I encounter who think of self as dead last. The therapist in me goes on red alert when I hear and see moms who don’t remember the last time they went somewhere alone. Daughters, caring for parents who have not breathed in some air in total silence. Wives who have not allowed themselves the space to step away if for just one moment. You settle when quiet time/mediation/time alone isn’t part of your routine. You settle when an exercise routine isn’t part of your regimen. You settle when you can’t remember the last trip you took to someplace without the word Disney in it. You settle when you feel guilty for wanting to be self-involved; even if it’s for a finite and brief moment in time. Call your village. Plan ahead. Carve out some time for yourself. 

Settling in your relationships. So I know you may have preferred a whole blog on “settling for the wrong man” but that horse is deader than dead. Again. Not enough characters. Relationships, be they amorous, platonic, your clique, your crew, your whatever, can either serve to bring added value or drain you. Remember those middle school spats? The “he say, she say” drama-filled issues that lasted all year long? The ones where no one even remembers how it started? Well…we’re all “growed” up and the spats have evolved into epic shade and truly petty behavior. When people tell me their “friend” have been causing them all types of stress for some years now, I tend to wonder how far we have come from the real definition of friendship. Friends don’t ignore your boundaries and violate your trust. Friends don’t leave you defenseless when others attack. Friends don’t let you go out looking any kinda way. Okay. That last one I had to throw in there. But you get my point. You settle when you accept disappointment without change. You settle when you ignore the red flags and refuse to speak up. You settle when you accept poor behavior and don’t expect change. You settle when you don’t allow time and space for crucial conversations. Speak your piece. Identify your non-negotiables. Exit stage left when you’ve done all you could. 

Unbury yourself from compromising and losing who you are, all for the sake of keeping the peace or maintaining the status quo. You’re better than that. You deserve better than that. 

How have you settled in life? What are some steps you’re taking right now to turn the tide on that?



Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Traveling While Noire-Saving Your Coins

On the last post I griped about the side eyes and juju dolls being created cause you like to catch stamps and collect sky miles. This post will walk you through some steps to make your imagination become a reality. Your pockets and your wanderlust do not have to be a mutually exclusive thing. Practical things can jump start or even restart your traveling lifestyle. 

Start somewhere. I live in Florida so there is tons to do and see right here at home. So yeah I joked about Disney World on my last post. But part of my honeymoon was spent at Universal Studios. I know Irlo Bronson Highway like I know my own street. These days Orlando seems like right around the corner. I remember when it used to seem like millions of miles away. Start close to home and venture out. You will find there will be times you need a quick weekender and nearby locations serve a great purpose for that. Tampa, Naples, Port St Lucie are all great places to visit. St. Augustine is all history. Sanibel has the best beaches. Florida can be traveled in just under 12 hours. Take the time to explore your home base. You’d be surprised in what you discover. 

Create a savings plan. If you have the discipline to save on your own, create a vacation account. Look for the deals. More on that later. Look at your budget and be realistic about what you can set aside every pay week. Travel agents also accept installment payments. My annual vacations start getting paid on the Fall before. So that’s about ten months of setting aside already in play. Tithe on your traveling budget and see how much you can save. It means one less pair of shoes. It means less Christmas gifts for the entire family. It means buckling down and remembering you have a trip to save for and some things and people will just have to wait. 

Travel with like minded people. All my girls only trips and trips with couples have generally been about spending time with people I wanted to spend time with. I’m not paying gobs of my hard earned money to travel with anyone I’m going to be grinding my teeth about the entire time. Not happening. Travel with people who enhance the experience of discovering our world. Travel with people who will split the bill evenly with no questions asked. We all gonna eat good, sleep in nice hotels and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Travel with people who vibe like you do and who understand your quirks. If you’re on Oxford Street in London and you want to drop some cash on a pair of shoes, you don’t need anyone picking up their jaws from the ground and texting the world about your adventures. Your travel buddies have to know you and accept you in all of your bad and boujee self. 

Read more. So I don’t think some would expect this to be part of the plan. You want to travel but if I say Saint Petersburg, The Vatican, Christ The Redeemer, Stonehenge, Golden Gate Bridge, The Colliseum, Kimberley Diamond Mines, The Biltmore . . . and you can’t click with at least two of those locations, you really need to read up on your geography, history, and travel landmarks. Most of my knowledge initially came from reading Danielle Steele and Norah Roberts novels. Real talk. Don’t judge me. When I buried myself in my encyclopedias as a teen it was to discover a world without borders. Imagine reading about “New York, New York” all your life and finally seeing it for yourself at age 41. Times Square was once in my mind and twice in reality. Seeing Lady Liberty across the river was like . . . yeah, no words. The novels I had read about Ellis Island all flooding back. Visiting Martha’s Vineyard and seeing the Kennedy compound and learning about The Inkwell. Yeah . . .  Tighten up on your reading. 

Step out your comfort zone. Travel with friends. Travel with a mission driven group. Travel with organizations. Travel by yourself. However way you get to pack your bags and go, don’t hesitate to make it happen. On our way to Hawaii, there was a medical emergency. So I did my due diligence to get up and inform the flight attendance that a friend in my group was a medical professional.  As I proceeded to tell her where we were seated, she quickly interjected and said “Oh, I know where you’re seated.” Puzzled by her comment I returned to my seat. While I walked back, it dawned on on me, well yeah, she would know where I and my friends were seated. We were the only MELANIN POPPIN’ ON THE WHOLE PLANE!!!  A sea of white and Asian and Hispanic and everything else. And six Haitian girls from humble beginnings interrupting the status quo. That felt hella good. 

I laugh and I cry about that though. In 2017, you can count us like odd balls on the planes, the excursions and the seats. I always say my Haitian parents didn’t travel far from their home and work so damned hard all their lives only to have me sit in some self imposed prison of fear. 

Save. Plan. Travel. 

What other tips would you leave for our traveling sistahs? Leave them in the comment section. Bon Voyage! 

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Traveling While Noire-Unpack The Hate

The other day someone asked me if I was taking applications. Me like a dummy fell for the line of questioning only to be told that for the way I travel, they wanted to trade their job for mine. So I won’t dwell on perceptions and assumptions people have when they haven’t spent a day in your shoes (no time for the foolery on this blog) but I will gladly dig right into the myth that implies that only people of other cultures have the inalienable rights totravel without prejudice. And without side eyes. 

Last summer saw me in NC, then NYC, then PA, then HI, then NJ and then back to NYC to return then to FL. A boatload of circumstances, proper planning and plain ol’ Jehovah Jireh provided for all this galavanting across the nation. This spring saw me on a cruise, twice in GA and a fourth trip down to JA (that’s Jamaica for those who don’t know the island monikers). And I’m counting down to my trip to SC in September! Tongues can start wagging at one’s ability to pick up and go. People will volunteer to help you count your coins, just to help figure out for themselves, how in the name of ratchet and raggedy did you do all of that?!!!

What seems interesting in all of this is the acceptance that white folks can trek to Bora Bora and no one bats an eye. Someone from the Middle East can jet off on the Arab Emirates to Dubai and it’s just a regular news day. Europeans are expected to jet across the big pond and back with nary a word. But let a brotha or sistah make the same moves and folks on social media creepin’ and countin’ how many trips you have already made in less than a year! Show me this mysterious travel quota. Smh. 

Black brethrens and sistrens! We gotta do better! We simply have to do better. Anytime someone mentions “well when do you work?” or assume you don’t work, (cause remember if you’re not taking selfies at your desk on a regular, you don’t work), there is some hidden messages in those statements people. 

Where is it written that Disney World is the limit to my traveling? Where is it written that Miami Beach is the destination of the world? Side note: I’m from St. Maarten. You ain’t seen beaches until you’ve seen Simpson Bay, but I digress. Where is it written that you shouldn’t be able to endure a 12 hour flight to Hawaii. Yes your ankle will get swollen but you won’t be thinking of that while you slurping up them “scrimps” from Giovanni’s Food Truck on the side of the road. The next time you see that couple take flight to Dubai, don’t suck your teeth. Save the page and send them a text when you make your plans to take your own trip there. 
I may die tomorrow and never see the Motherland. But knowing that I know someone who did and that they shared their journey with mee will just have to do. Knowing that they can freely speak about their experience without being “travel-shamed” into submission is only fair. So instead of turning green with unreasonable envy, take notes and get your life. 
Let’s have a funeral for the hate that so controls us at the successes of others. Let’s bury the “crab in the bucket” foolery. Our experiences inform our existence and lend such a beautiful essence to ourselves. We can in turn bless others with the stories and inspire others to push their own boundaries and set aside the fears that have beset our culture for far too long. Now you won’t catch me ziplining anytime soon in the Amazon Forest but call me when you’re ready to go white water rafting (with my non-swimming self). 
Celebrate the innate wanderlust of our culture and the spirit of exploration. 
Next blog: How to save for your travel lifestyle. Cause it’s definitely not free. Unless you for a sugar daddy. And you’re selling yourself to the highest bidder. 😏

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Age Accordingly

The problem with Generation X is that we really ascribe to the Toys R Us “I don’t want to grow up” syndrome. Never in the span of the generations have we come across an age group that refuses to age accordingly. When you got the media reminding you that a certain R n B singer of questionable character is actually 50 years old but he’s dressing like it’s first day of school ’round here, we have to pause and contemplate the whys behind our fear of aging and aging gracefully at that!
No one is saying to turn in your Fabulosity and Swag for dentures and Icy Hot, but goodness! The way a 14 year old wears converse isn’t the way a 40 year old wears converse. Ripped jeans on a 20 year old should look different from ripped jeans on a 40-50-dare I say 60 year old. Future blog on when to give up the ripped jeans ghost coming soon. When I got my first pair of Jordan’s this year (at age 42 at that), I thought long and hard on how I was going to pull it off. Pinterest was no help either.  If I saw one more photo of skin tight jeans and a cropped top with them vampire nails! I had to eventually pair it up with a calf length spaghetti-strapped tshirt dress, the two layer ones, with a complimentary cardigan that framed my mama-inspired hips. There’s levels to aging and being cute. I have no plans to sacrifice one for the other. I just know well enough to stay in my 40 year old lane. 

The point to all this is to not fear the process of aging. I woke up the other day and found a gray hair dangling right above my eyeballs. The pesky thing got plucked and dang it, didn’t grow back! Then there’s this curly one up front and center acting like she’s a conductor of my Sisterlock symphony. She’s got no plans on leaving either. Under my eyes seem kinda tired of late. Not sure if it’s fatigue or age. I look at photos of my younger self and I see the change coming. My face isn’t as full. There’s an angular, leaner look to it these days.  But I can’t find any anti-aging commercials that will point my melanin self in the right direction.  My knees creak more and although I’m not giving up my heels (perish the thought!) I know well enough to keep some cute sandals in the car. Just in case. 

In my Game of Thrones voice “The Wrinkles Are Coming!” Unless you want to “Little Kim” your body into oblivion, accept the progress of time. Embrace those things that just won’t change no matter what you do. Fight fair in your quest for health. Eat right. Drink lots of water. Try to keep some level of activity going. Hang around the younger folks who will keep you feeling younger if nothing else. But accept the fact that the fountain of youth is yet undiscovered and no matter how many times social media would like to make you feel like you need to get your life, remember it’s just filters on that IPhone 7 Plus that’s got them looking like front cover material. What glitters is really never gold. 

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Eating White 

I will never forget the time I was working at a local high school as a school social worker. Sometimes the students would come up to my office and chill during lunch time. I’d usually take a break and eat with them. I don’t even recall what I was eating this particular day, but there was a lot of greens/veggies-no rice or French fries in this particular lunch meal. One of my students took it upon herself to ask “Ms., why you keep eating white people food?” My brain stalled on that one and years later I’m not even quite sure what to say to the countless curious Black folks who ask the very same question in different ways when they see me eating kale, quinoa, bulgur wheat, chicken that isn’t fried or whatever they just can’t readily identify on my plate. 

This whole notion that eating healthy is a white people thing or a “bourghie behavior” actually leaves some people *insert health conscious Black folks* feeling some type of way. That if salmon trumps ribs as your choice on a menu you’re just being extra. That eating healthy is other people’s habits and people of African descent only acquire this taste in food once they earn a couple of degrees and take flight to other parts of town. 

I’m Haitian. So I’m quick to remind folks, our ancestors ate and Haitians are today still do find their sustenance from the land. Our juices are made fresh. Our vegetables are a melange of eggplant, chayote (that’s militon for my Zoes), carrots, scallions, onions, garlic, parsley, bell peppers–all to create the legume meal that I love so much. I don’t need meat in mine. Some crab maybe. Some lambi (conch) maybe. With some white rice. And “sauce poi blanc”. Mezami, my tastebuds just took a detour! 

I remember being raised in a home where neither pork nor any shellfish was permitted in my diet. Part of that was my mom’s personal Levitical biases and part of that was that she knew better so she did better with our meals. Olive oil was a staple. Except for the time we lived with another family and overdosed on hotdogs and bologna, she preferred sliced meats from the deli that didn’t have all that salt added. Oh! Did I mention my mom wasn’t white and that we didn’t live in some uppity neighborhood? So it irks me to no end when people make broad stroke comments about diets being white or black. Granted I do maintain that Haitian food is THE best food in the world-and since this is my blog I’m only stating facts. Lol! Digressing again. 

So I got me and the hubster back on a juicing plan. I dragged out my Breville juicer and it is holding court right next to my smoothie machine on the kitchen counter. One bottle per day. Nothing major. He’s 45. I’m 42. Our bodies demand extra attention and what better way to do so than to make a concerted effort to get some extra veggies in our system the raw way. So we got celery, carrots, ginger, apples, lime, strawberries, kale all up in this latest batch. The celery gives it this refreshing taste. The ginger spikes it up a notch. The carrots and apple balances it off with some sweetness. And the lime, believe it or not, brings it all home flavor wise. 

There are some of us who didn’t grow up with the best cooks or best diets in our lives. And if you’re like me, living on my own in college caused all types of rules to be broken. I went from eating no pork to eating the Friday night griot. Every Friday. Of every week. These days I probably eat it once per quarter (yes I mind my junk food intake in terms of quarters) cause it takes about that long to leave your system anyway! 

Circumstances may not have allowed for healthy balanced meals. We all joke about the red juice that causes ADHD to go undiagnosed in many households. Food deserts is a reality. For me to get a juice on the go, I would now have to leave my predominately urban community and head either east towards the beach or west towards the Everglades. It takes effort to do right by your temple. It takes money and time. The first time I got back juicing I promise you I burned 1500 calories between the setting up, breaking down, washing and then mopping my sticky kitchen floor. Then you think of the time and energy you take to do some random activity and you realize the return on the investment really does beat out the annoyance. 

I have had non-Black colleagues quickly hide their amazement when I ask about the nearest vegan option or plant based option eateries. Once they get over the shock that I’m not asking for the nearest bbq joint (and no offense to them cause I can gets down with some ribs too), they are more than happy to share in the love of healthy foods. 

So next time someone makes some off color comment about your coconut black rice, adashah, kale, toasted coconuts and avocado lunch (and it’s usually some poor, misguided brotha or sistah) don’t give them the side eye. Take the time to let them know what’s on your plate and point out the health benefits of your meal. They may roll their eyes and go about their high cholesterol, diabetic living or they may dwell on your comments and who knows? You may have gained a convert to eating healthy–not White. 

Our ancestors would be honored to know that you too are eating off the land and honoring the food traditions that transcend race and yes even color lines. I’m Black. Been eating Black since 1975. Whatever that is. 🙄😂