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. 

Current Events

Christmas Got Cancelled 

I cancelled yet another Christmas this year. Yes my tree is up and my holiday tablescapes will be laid out. My lit mini trees are right on my porch twinkling through the night. My Pandora station stays on all things holiday and I’m a corny mess with the holiday movies. Yes I will have the holiday towels up in my bathroom and my kitchen with the peppermint soap to boot. Don’t come for me! *insert dare face and laughter*. But yeah…Christmas got cancelled. 

I turned my love of shopping for family members into shopping for children of incarcerated family members. I am making my famous banana pudding and randomly calling people up for a taste. I gifted a pregnant mom with some books I realized I will never use. Yeah, yeah I know Sarah had a baby when she was dirt old but I won’t be able to see to read them anyway. Smirk. 

I road tripped with some of my squad members to create more memories to belly laugh about. I joined the choir so I can hang with people I hardly know and mesh some beautiful voices while we sing our lungs out for Jesus and the church. I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift” because somewhere, somehow I think I lost my way to Christmas. 

Cancelling Christmas is really more about figuring out what should be important for you and less about what QVC says it should be. I swear that station can convince me to buy three crockpots if I let it! Who says that you need a tree? Who says you have to bake cookies? Who says you have to watch Charlie Brown Christmas while listening to Nat King Cole? Who says you have to learn karate to run these streets and jockey through the malls? All traditions rightly so, but they don’t have to be your traditions. 

If your anxiety level skyrockets while your finances plummet that my dear is a sign that you need to cancel Christmas. If your time and patience is stretched thinner than Stevie Wonder’s hairline, that’s your cue to fall back. You are doing THE UNNECESSARY most. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons and chances are you will resent your loved ones and yourself come December 26th. By the time the new year comes around you will be making resolutions not to kill anyone. 

So you got the decorating itch but your loved ones could care less. Go decorate a daycare or nursing home in your community. Have you ever seen a child walk into a daycare lobby and see the tree lit up for the first time? Kleenex please! You want to bake but those ungrateful family members just want to eat and run. Bake up a storm and take it to the neighborhood business you frequent throughout the year. My UPS guys think they love me now! Drop a gift card in your garbage man’s hand. He will be dragging your trash out on the days you were late in coming out. Speaking from experience, that’s a gift that keeps on giving! Call up some random people and use up those gazillion Olivia Pope wine glasses you got tucked everywhere and the tiny dishes you been dying to bring out. POTUS isn’t coming for dinner and you won’t be sending out another invite for the next four years anyway! *side eye*

Cancel the Christmas that Target wants you to have. You know the one where the jingle bell sounds are enticing and the loud red color is baiting you to do what you really shouldn’t be doing. 

Breathe. Relax. Enjoy. 

Current Events

The Black Narrative

My teachers back in St Maarten got me started early with the tales of how the Caribbean islands “came to be.” Here is the short and long of it. The Arawaks were savages. Were it not for Senor Colombus coming through with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, all would be lost in the Antilles. I swear we had to repeat those three ship names over and over and over. No mention of any slave ships. No mention of any slave uprisings. No mention of how all these colored folks came to land on these islands. No mention of a neighboring Pearl of the Caribbean’s influence on this part of the world. Just some tall tale about three raggedy ships and the man who “discovered” the islands. 

Fast forward to my American education. I pride myself on having a very good memory and impression. Nerd girls typically do. I read voraciously and school books didn’t stand a chance of catching dust in my book bag. Yet I’m rattling my brains more and more these days to think of anything that introduced me to the pivotal role my color, my culture played in human history. Yes there was the mandatory Black History month events. We even had a cultural day in middle school. And it was back to American education as usual. Science class with no mention of the sistahs from NASA. American History with its subtle warnings of what happened to black folks when they rebelled against this great nation and “our” forefathers. 

I’m sure my black teachers tried their best to infuse cultural pride. But standing on this side of education years later, I can see how their efforts may have been challenged at the risk of their livelihood. It took a Black Panther-esque black teacher, then later a hippie-esque Jewish teacher and even later a white woman to exert their respective privileges in the classroom and challenge me to go beyond Siddartha and Catcher in the Rye. Roots took  the scales off my lids. Malcolm X wiped some of the cold out my eyes. Kaffir Boy served like saline to my sight. Caged Bird freed my soul and made me soar. My sixth grade copy still holds a place on my shelf. I still weep for my lost autographed Ntosake Shange book. Colored Girls, suicide and rainbows was more than enuf for me. Beloved. The Bluest Eyes. Song of Solomon. These ladies kept pouring and pouring  and pouring a new story, a new narrative into me. 

Everyone knew that African American history class was for the kids that needed an “easy A.” My guidance counselor felt my time would be best spent taking the European AP class. Side bar: it was the only AP test of three that I ever failed. I had to beg my dad to take me to night school and wait the one hour in the parking lot. I wanted to learn about the Kings and Queens who ruled Mother Africa. You see, at one time in my life I could spit out stories of the Czars and Sun Kings and far eastern Dynasties but the African narrative… well… I was truly mute. 

I sense a hunger in the lives of a people to know who they are as a culture and as a people group. Anytime you have folks breaking down doors to watch a movie about a man whose blood long stained this earth, it is cause to pause and ponder. Our people shouldn’t have to wait for a movie to be inspired. They shouldn’t have to wait for 30 second blurbs on social media to get all amped up. If the Black narrative was the first one taught before all else, I’m willing to bet the trajectory of our lives and our children’s lives would have taken a different turn in human history. There won’t be too many people able to afford to tell the story about “us” on the big screen. The onus rests with us.  

It is the stories told while picking out barrettes from the cookie can, the political dinner table discourse every father and mother should engage their children in, the random moments spent with someone else’s child while babysitting/carpooling–those are the moments we should seize to help our future learn to be great. 

I stood in a circle with 15 other #BlackGirlMagics last evening imparting wisdom to a budding young woman. The moment wasn’t lost on me. Standing to my left and right were women who had to learn the Black narrative the hard way. We didn’t have the privilege of some rites of passage in our youth. It was by hook or crook to get into college. First generation immigrant children are the last on the “privilege” totem pole. The irony was not lost on us. Yet here we stood in unison praying down blessings upon blessings on this young soul. While those in the crowd were either too young to understand or too displaced to even care, we knew it was imperative she heard the words of our ancestors speaking through us just for her. 

I can’t peel off my skin, or cut off my Sisterlocks when I leave my house each day. It’s as much a part of who I am as my faith in Christ. I can’t pretend I’m not hurt when the woman at the theatre sees the “Birth of a Nation” poster and huffs “Oh, I don’t want to see that” and casually walks away. To believe for the betterment of my culture doesn’t mean I negate the value of others. It just means that mine needs some “tending to” right about now. I been looking after everyone else’s for much too long. 

Current Events, Grief And Loss

Survivors’ Stairs 

Leave it to me to make my first visit to NYC and opting to pay homage at Ground Zero.  I am sure my travel buddy husband would have preferred to head to Central Park or something else. But he humored me and we both were blessed by the experience.  I was 26 when I stood next to police officers at my old police payroll civilian job, watching some of the toughest dudes I know allow tears to fall freely.  We had just ran to the cafeteria in time to see the second plane hit.   Hands over mouth. Silent.

The memories of life before and after 9-11 came back in trickles then tidal waves of emotions at the 911 Museum. We walked into spaces with mangled metal. Timelines set minute by minute outlining what would be a defining moment in our nation’s history. Death had come to our soil. Terrorism had come to pay its due. We sat to listen to voices of loved ones sharing the memories of those who now make up walls of faces. Nearly 3000 photos of people overwhelmed one corridor. Wedding photos. Graduation photos. Fuzzy photos. Smiling faces. Stern faces. Mild faces. Serious faces. Young faces. Old faces. All faces no longer with us. Faces frozen in time. 

I think the room that hit me the most was the one of first responders realizing this disaster was truly beyond any earthly understanding. Hearing the radio chatter from one battalion leader to the next. Smoke. Burning flesh. People trapped on floors responders would never be able to get to. Making promises they knew they could never keep. And I’m sitting there hoping that they will be like the protagonist in the movies. That they will save the day and everyone goes home. We get to the end and none of them make it. An entire fire house gone. One survivor was exiting what is now known as The Survivors Stairs, the only stairwell in one of the buildings that was still functioning. “I saw the firefighters going up to help other people. I realized that I was going down to live and they were going up to their death.” 

In times like these, I am saddened by the state of our world. So much suffering. So much evil. There is yet that still small voice that whispers reminders of hope. The first responder who was just done signing off on some retirement papers made his way to Ground Zero. The architect and metal worker who knew how to dismantle this hundred year old edifice to find survivors made their way to Ground Zero. Total strangers who held on to purses and workbags praying and searching for their owners. Countless stories of humanity at its best. Refusing to bow to evil. 

There was one American not on Earth that fateful morning. From his vantage point, astronaut Frank Culberston was told by NASA that we were “not having a very good day down here on Earth.”  He was halfway done reading Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears” and felt halfway into fiction and halfway into reality. His words still ring true fifteen years later. “Many things will never be the same again after September 11, 2001. Not just for the thousands and thousands of people directly affected by these horrendous acts of terrorism, but probably for all of us.” 

When we now find ourselves along divisive lines with rhetoric as our weapons, I want us to think of that fateful September morning. When the dust and debris from the fallen buildings hid the color of one’s skin.  And that no one stopped to ask about creed or faith or beliefs as they each helped each other run/walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. As each person took steps down the Survivors’ Stairs escaping death, there was no checking for status or where you stood in your politics. It was simply humananity trying to hold on to each other for dear life. 

To the memory of those whose lives were cut short that September morning. 

Current Events

They Made It Possible

The impromptu trip to Martha’s Vineyard was literally planned on the way from Boston Logan Airport the day we landed.  The organizer in me would have probably benefited from some Yelp reviews and travel websites.  Dangerously enough, spontaneity reigned and I along with others (all of Caribbean descent) descended upon this beautiful and quaint island.  On the ferry ride over, a fellow traveler and his young daughter were chatting about the boats that sailed by.  She asked 101 questions and he was ever patient to answer them all.  His gift of this experience would undoubtedly be a memory she will one day cling to in the years to come.  

I think of my own parents and the many summers spent at home going to summer school and reading my books.  There were no summers in Cape Cod, no summers in an upstate New York art camp or whatever else privileged children were doing at the time.  My summers were spent nose deep in books, imagining these very same rocky cliffs with waves that crashed the shores with very little mercy. Of lighthouses that pointed the way to safety.  Of centuries old New England homes that truly stood the test of time.  No amount of modernism will trump the beauty of those cottages.  It was no longer imagination, I was finally here.  

The inner geek in me couldn’t wait to take the two and a half hour tour and listen to the guide’s stories of Chappaquiddick.  I saw the shores near where John John’s plane crashed back in ’99.  Not too far from his mother’s home.  I confess, my fascination with all things “Camelot” runs deep.  I finally got the low down on who ‘Martha’ really was.  How could a place that has no vineyards be named Martha’s Vineyard?  The highlight of my time of course was scoping out Inkwell Beach. I was here wishing it was Harlem Renaissance all over again so that I too could run down to the beach with my inkwell and write to my heart’s content.  Hey Countee!  How’s it going Langston! Hey Zora girl!  Didn’t I warn you already about this imagination of mine? Lol…

I scurried in and out of random shops searching for the perfect coffee table book.  Yeah, I’m one of those you know who’s . . .  I finally got my hands on Thomas Dresser’s “African Americans of Martha’s Vineyard: From Enslavement to Presidential Visit.”  OMG! Pages of pictures and narratives of people that look like me who spent time here first as slaves then as servants now as vacationers.  There’s a painting of Inkwell Beach I had to leave behind.  It’s colorful and filled with brown skinned folks chilling on the beach enjoying all the rights and privileges of being part of this beautiful island’s history.  Alas, I had to leave the painting behind.  Something about minding my budget and remembering priorities.  Le sigh…

I often think of the places I travel to that my mother had never heard of and my father may never see.  Their gift to me may not have included summers away to Disney World and beyond.  Yet it was the gift of books and the love of reading that has prepared my imagination to eventually become a reality.  A shop owner casually asked a sistah if she was there for the day.  I heard the pregnant pause before she said, “No, I’m actually here for the week.”  I smiled on the inside.  Yeah, you tell ’em girl!  You’re not here for a quick one day trip like me!  You are here for a W-E-E-K! It was as if WE not just HER were here for a week.  

Dresser’s book opens with a simple reminder, “Bless all those hardworking, fun-loving souls who preceded us and thus made possible our days in the sun on Martha’s Vineyard.” 

Yes, God bless all them good folks.  

 

 

 

Current Events, Faith, Life Coach, Uncategorized

Sistah Take A Seat: Limonade

What Haitian girl doesn’t like her self some “l’eau sucre” with lemons to make it tart? I love limonade/lemonade. That Simply Lemonade/Limeade is everything to my tastebuds. There is something about that sweet/bitter flavor that keeps me coming for seconds. Then in comes Beyoncé serving up her own Pitcher of Lemonade for millions to sip from. 


Disclaimer#1: I only watched it once. 

Disclaimer #2: I half watched it while typing up a report and still mulling over that last scene on Game of Thrones season six episode one. You just had to be there. 

Disclaimer #3: I watched it with a husband who kept asking me to decipher the double meanings for every, single scene. 

Disclaimer #4: I wore my psychotherapist lenses and kept my feelings out of the equation (yeah right). Bey was a client and I was the therapist/pastor wife/big sister who had no idea this was going on in her baby sister life. 

There was some seriously heavy stuff goings on in that video. Swinging bats a la Waiting to Exhale. Happily smashing out windows and riding on monster trucks crashing all them dope cars. Wow. In your face messaging.  My personal favorites: Two-timing daddy/husband. Like a magician. Living two separate lives. Malcolm X “Black women in America.” Most disrespected. Most maligned. Most all the bad stuff you can think of. Ashes to ashes. Dust to side chicks. Mezami! Call Becky with the good hair. Oh! #HandsOnMouth #HeadCockedToDaSide #Whoosh

Anger. Sitting in the very fire that threatens to consume your soul. You must go through the fire, the pain to see your way through. That’s what anger does to you. It eats, gnaws, erodes. Leaves wormholes where your heart should have been. 

Apathy. It’s the worst place to be. Middle fingers in the air. Peace signs with the hand twist. What woman hasn’t been in that mind space where a cold heart begs to be thawed but boo thang done did it again and there’s not a dog house big enough or a couch long enough to put him in. Reminds me of me and my squad during those college years. He dumped you? Well forget him! Let’s ride out and sing these sorry sad songs. R Kelly knew full well when he said when a woman’s fed up, there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. 

So many emotions. Given names. Given their equal share of air time.  Heart racing. Heart resting. Heart racing again. Heart standing still.  

How our first love, our daddies, can break our hearts like no other. How that bleeds into our relationships with other men. The first disappointment that prepares us for all future disappointments. When daddy hurts mommy, he also hurts baby girl.  

Intimate glimpses of her past and her present. Confirmation that yes, she was actually pregnant. Unless you believe in body doubles that is. Conspiracy theorists still at it. #SideEye 
Colors of gray. Black. Red. Yellow. Pasty white. Vintage beige. Off white. Ecru. Beautiful women. Who look like me. Who look like my friends. I see my nieces in there. My late mother. My grandmother’s wrinkles make an impromptu appearance too. My girlfriend’s locs. Cocoa. Caramel. Charcoal. Onyx. Colorism be damned. Hair issues be damned. 

You having issues with your man? You talk to your college roomies. Your daddy abused your momma and now she wants a divorce? You call up your ace. Momma bears her soul to you in a mother daughter talk. You take that to your grave. 

Mrs. Carter goes through similar issues, she gets to sing everything from country to rock to gospel, with a feast for the eyes imagery. But we all ain’t able. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have half the antebellum wardrobe  in my closet to process my personal angst. There is no huge monster truck parked in the yard to crush my personal demons. 
My prayer is that women of color begin and/or continue to acknowledge the pain that life has dealt us. That beyond the slayed hair, fleeked brows, and served face, there is a wounded woman buried deep; whose hurts demand attention, demand consoling, demand restitution. And when we come face to face with that bare face, no lipstick wearing, half browed self, we now elect to take the first steps towards personal healing. 

I walked into a marriage holding on to “daddy’s girl hurts.” I thought my husband should cure them. I thought he would repeat them. Then God reminded me–wait one minute. That’s My job. Not some mere mortal’s. 
This a reminder of the important role that human suffering and hurt plays in our lives and what should happen when our cup becomes too full. I can get real “preachy” right about now and remind folks about Jesus paying the ultimate price for those very same hurts. Or how He is near to the broken hearted. But I won’t. Yet I will say. He. Is. Enough. 

Grandma did it best. She took all those lemons thrown at her and made one helluva good pitcher of lemonade.