Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I woke up this morning, actually went to bed last night, thinking about those things that I am thankful for.

In the midst of wiggly kids during a praise service, a messy kitchen left over from the husband and said kids, and never-ending laundry, I decided to make a list:

1. God. Jesus. His unconditional love, His eternal forgiveness, His unending grace, His full acceptance.

2. My husband. He loves me and the kids. He works tirelessly so we are never without home, food, clothing, and our hobbies. He gives me room to grow and explore. He supports my writing and community efforts. He is growing and that gives me room to become myself.

3. My children. They are the air I breathe and my life is so much richer being their mother.

4. My friends. Some are lifelong, some are new, all give life to my life, they make me know the depth of my potential and relish in the width of my warmth. I adore them all.

5. My family. Some are gone, some are young, some are old, all share an ancestry that makes me thankful for being born. Each one is unique and brings me a complete picture of myself.

6. My girls. I am so honored and blessed that God put me in place to pour into the lives of these teenage girls, they are promise and hope.

7. My fellas. They make me smile every time I see one of them pulling their pants up when I walk into the room or drive up to the high school, they see and are listening. I see them and I see their drive, their hunger, and their hope. Tomorrow will be better because they are trying today.

8. My writing. Pen to paper is like water to ocean to me, unseparated, necessary, united, joined, forever. It is what gives me purpose and allows me to express the gifts of God in me.

9. History. I was alive during a pivotal moment in American history that I am still grasping. I will never forget where I was on Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 10:00pm, never, ever. At 44, I was alive and with a huge crowd to see something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Yes, dreams do come true.

10. Life. Simply everything.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That Mom

I am now that mom.

You know the one. She shows up at her son's wrestling practice and basically chews out everyone from the coach to the players. Well, not quite chews out, but it doesn't escape the entire team at Kirkwood High School that Joshua's mom is really mad!

I became that mom.

My son Joshua is a freshman. That should be enough said right there. He is also a little goofy, has the attention-span of a knat, and sometimes has science experiments growing under his bed. He is brilliant but scatter-brained, maybe an Einstein in the making. He forgets to turn in assignments or remembers at the last minute that he has a test tomorrow. His natural smarts let him make a B+ on his Geometry exam while I'm sitting here sweating bullets checking the online grade reports, assignments, and fielding emails from the teachers.

The other day I emailed all the wrestling coaches, one is his freshman counselor. I let them know in no uncertain terms that their 2.0 requirement for the athletes was not acceptable to me. Joshua had a 3.5 going into his freshman year and I'm bound and determined for him to not fall into the stereotypical dumb-jock mode. Their practices are six days a week from 3-5:45pm. That would be ok, for a normal household but with two little sisters, a dad with a demanding career, and a son that focuses long enough to sharpen a pencil, 2 hours of studying every night won't cut it.

I made Joshua skip practice yesterday because he had some assignments to finish. I dropped the kid off at the library at 3:15pm. I came back an hour later to find he had only finished a couple problems, I was ready to pull my hair out, well, maybe his hair. "Mom, can I eat?" He pleaded with me with woeful eyes. "Yes, when you are finished." I took his little sisters downstairs to the kid section and made him call everyone in his cell phone to finish a journalism project. We left the library at 7:15pm and he still had a couple sets of Geometry projects to finish.

Now my husband was at the St. Louis Symphony practicing for their upcoming Gospel Christmas. His Monday's have belonged to InUNISON for a few months now so I'm on my own with this homework war.

Joshua came home to raid the pantry with my commands to sit down whirling around his head. I already had dinner ready and just had to heat it up. We ate on paper plates for fast clean up. After his sisters were banished upstairs to take showers and play, Joshua was back at the books by 7:45pm.

My husband made it home after rehearsal around 10:00pm. Joshua was still doing homework. I was downstairs on the sofa with a voice that sounded like a frog and a growing heap of kleenex building by the sofa. My cold had little hammers beating me in the head and a frigid January chill happening in my body. This was a bad day for all this right before Thanksgiving.

"Joshua, aren't you finished yet?" "Mom, I just have one more worksheet to finish." I sighed, looked at the time on my cell phone, it was 11:00pm. "Just go to bed."

Sleep mercifully put me out of my misery until about 3:00am. Thank God for Lifetime Movie Network and the "Many, Many Mini Series" Marathon that is running this week. I had already watched the first of the five "Thorn Birds" and after a fresh cup of herbal tea, decided that sleep was futile. I closed my eyes momentarily and woke up to find both my daughters standing over me. It was 5:00am.

Oh well, I thought, I might as well get up. I started calling Joshua so he could finish his work. His English teacher graciously said she would type his major paper today if he came to school by 6:50am. This is the paper on The Odyssey that he hadn't finished even with the generous class time allotted. I think he was daydreaming. I called and called and he slept and slept. About 15 minutes later I decided to drag my body upstairs and wake him up.

It was at the moment that I was turning on his bedroom lights and pulling the covers off a slumbering teen that I silently thanked God for the example of Stanley Ann Dunham. President-Elect Barack Obama wrote about how his mom used to wake him up in the wee hours of the morning to do his school work. She feared the Indonesian school wasn't giving him everything he would need. To his complaints, that I'm sure sounded a lot like my son's moans, she said, "Hey, this isn't a picnic for me either buddy." I repeated that phrase to my son when he protested.

He finally got up at my insistence and flung his body downstairs to the dining table. I grabbed a quick shower and when I came down, he was tapping keys on that $125 calculator I bought for his class.

"Do you want some coffee?" I asked him as he was half frowning and half moaning. "No, I just want to go to sleep." "Too bad, you have to get finished."

I made myself my morning latte and talked to my youngest daughter who was still wide awake, now being entertained by cartoons.

Yes, I had become that mom.

The rest of the early morning was fairly uneventful. I answered emails for his Journalism teacher who assured me if he stopped by today, he could have until Monday to turn in the missing assignment. That was one thing I checked off the list while he packed up his bookbag and went upstairs to get dressed.

After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bagel, chocolate soy milk with flax seed oil mixed in, I smiled that Joshua was ready. His dad came into the kitchen and asked, "so is wrestling still on?"

I looked between the hopeful eyes of father and son and wondered, what is it about sports that makes even grown men act like kids? I just smiled, sipped my chocolate soy latte, and said, "that depends on if everything actually gets turned in today and my email conversations with the teachers." They looked at each other as if telepathically sending a message to just do what the queen says. In turn, the each left the room to gather up their things to drive Joshua to school.

"Have a good day!" I cheerfully called out to him as I tossed his wrestling bag at him. It was 6:40am, still time for another latte. Yes, I was that mom.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

I just came back from catching tonight's latest showing of "The Secret Life of Bees" starring Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophia Okonedo, and Dakota Fanning. I still feel a fullness in my heart that extended beyond the movie screen.

It was a rather impromptu date with my husband, the rare late Saturday when we are not in our respective worlds with obligations and kids. I was really very tired and almost ready to go to bed when he asked me if I wanted to catch the 9:45pm show. My body pulled itself from the cocoon of my Mitchell Gold chair and warm, red blanket. The milk chocolate of my calf boots seemed to pull themselves on my feet for I was too exhausted to go through the motions, it had been a long day. I wrapped myself in the sweater-softness of a pashmina he brought back from Harlem, hoping I wouldn't fall asleep in the theatre.

The movie transported me back to a time and a place that only existed somewhere in my soul. I was born in 1964, the year the movie was set. Like the character played by Dakota, I, too, lost my mother at age 4, only, it wasn't my hands that caused her death. I felt a beating in my heart as she struggled with the feelings of loss, anger, and frustration growing up without her. The backdrop and understory of the voting rights movement and the unspoken pain of May Boatwright, the character played by Sophie, sprang like soft melodies in heart, keeping time to a rhythm that was changing. Lily, like me, is a writer, although she didn't know this at the beginning of the movie, it wasn't until Neil, played by Nate Parker, gave her the precious gift of a journal and the mirror of May's written prayers, that she seemed to understand the power of pen to paper to free the soul, release the hurt, heal the heart, and offer love and hope to humanity.

I sat in that theatre, fully absorbed in their lives, each one, loving, mothering, bonding, nurturing. I wanted to be there, in that kitchen with May singing and making pancakes in a letter A. May's innocent and deeply spiritual understanding reminded me of the prayers my Grandmother carried in her heart and on her knees at The Rock Church. In watching them, there was a part of me that wanted to go to the NAACP meeting with June and claim a freedom that only unmarried women can possess. I thought about the magic of first love and remembered that feeling, that tugging. August and her motherly wisdom and understanding invited me to a place I have only dreamed about. Watching her, it gave permission to all the dreams I still had and the possibilities that still exist. Rosaleen, played by Jennifer Hudson, later dubbed "July" promised a hope of redemption just by changing venue and finding one's true calling. I couldn't leave the theatre, even to the last credits, it was that moving, that powerful.

The book by Sue Monk Kidd, I hear, is exactly like the movie. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith scored a winner again. Time, the campaign, and my own works would not allow me to read it before tonight. That will be my only regret of the evening. I will eventually get it, put it on my bookshelf, read it at a future date, and think about the many women who have mothered me, nurtured me to my dreams, and given me permission to live.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Issue With California

I never thought it would matter to me if they voted yes or no on Proposition 8.

To be perfectly honest, during most of the election season, my focus was primarily on the Obama-Nixon-Carnahan-Lavender portions of the race here in Missouri. All my major candidates won except Lavender and Trout, thanks in part to the heavily Republican district I live in. Kirkwood probably was one of the towns that voted for the gay marriage ban when it was on the ballot back in August 2004. Frankly, I don't even remember my vote, that was so long ago, many words ago, a couple surgeries ago for my daughter, and a son in another country ago.

So, the other day I was browsing the Internet, finding time on my hands since I'm not cooking for the Obama volunteers. I stumbled on some of the discussions pertaining to the California vote and how the mostly gay white males who were so upset that the ban is in effect took to blaming black people. Why? Because CNN, needing something else to report since Sarah Palin is a bore and Obama is busy building an administration, decided to wrongly report that 70% of the black people in California voted for the ban. The fact was that 70% of the black people POLLED indicated they voted for the ban.

The problem stemmed from a lack of campaigning, marketing, and getting their message out. Asians, Latinos, religious people, and even white people in California also voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. They didn't want a redefinition of what marriage is understood to be.

The other problem is that, to some gay and lesbian people, the issue is not to "be married" like heterosexual couples, but to have equal rights. I, like President-elect Obama, believe there should be civil unions if members of the LGBT community decide they want to make a life-long pact with their partner. That is up to them. The problem with the marriage issue is that marriage is largely a religious endeavor, especially with the three monotheistic religions in this country. It is a ceremony "before God" that has many spiritual connotations to it. To redefine marriage to include Adam and Steve, Eve and Yvette, would not necessarily give the LGBT community what they want.

I believe, the issue ultimately is around fairness. LGBT couples and long-time partners should be able to visit each other in the hospital, make final arrangements, hand down property, and adopt if they want to. The assistant superintendent of my children's school district is in a long-term lesbian relationship, they share a same last name, and are the two loving parents of two African-American teen males. What right do I have to say that they shouldn't be a family because of my religious upbringing? This is probably the point of Proposition 8, yet, from everything I gathered, the message wasn't communicated and that is not the fault of black people
The gay community didn't include many lesbians in their advertising or any real LGBT couples. There weren't any black gay or lesbian couples profiled and it seemed, they were not part of the agenda in the first place. So what is the point? Is it true that they want gay marriage to be taught in the public schools? Is it true that they want to force ministers to perform marriage ceremonies? Or is it that they want to have a public affirmation of their life choice? I don't know. I guess it bothered me because of the civil rights issues.

The Bible has been used to justify a lot of ills. Slavery was held for centuries because of interpretation of a passage of scripture. Yes, there are many scriptures that talk against the unnatural use of the body between men-men and women-women relationships. Yet, it isn't listed in the ten commandments and Jesus never spoke out against LGBT couples, perhaps He had greater concerns like the soul of man. Sin is sin, any sex outside a marriage relationship is sin, if the scriptures are to be believed. That makes the argument for allowing gay marriage like Massachusetts and Connecticut but that also is what made 30 states ban gay marriage. Perhaps that is one of the things that will still be discussed and maybe the LGBT community will develop a better ground game to get their message across.

Why did it bother me? Because in the height of celebrating President-elect Barack Obama and my hopes for America moving forward, the white, gay men in California ranting "n....r" and racist epithets reminded me we still have a long way to go. I can't hide my blackness or even my womanhood, but an LGBT person can hide their sexuality. It's not the same fight. And we are not the scapegoat. That is why it bothered me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why The Yard Signs Are Still Up

This time a week ago, as I looked out my family room window, I saw a sea of blue signs. My stomach was in knots as my son was out canvassing for now President-Elect Obama. I wondered about the next day and had a nervous energy as I prepared dinner for my children.

It has been an historic time! I was at the Chase Park Plaza celebrating with family and friends. The blue yard signs greeted me as I came home, still waving proudly in ordinary yards in Kirkwood. The McCain sign across from my home was gone by the morning after victory. Yet, the Obama signs still stand proudly.

The days since the election, I have taken short drives around my inner-ring suburb and have marveled at the signs still up. Certainly on my street, only one of my neighbors has taken down their Obama-Biden sign. I pondered this as my tour took me through middle class and upper class areas. There was a sense of joy as I drove past the huge homes on Woodbine only to see the rows and rows of blue.

I spoke to one of my Mocha Mom friends and she told me she just took her sign down today. I told her about the many signs still up. I think they are still waving, not to gloat, but to proudly proclaim, I really voted for change! I want change! And Change has come to America!

The yard signs represent a shift. They show that the politics of fear are over. The handcuffing along lines that would divide have been unlocked. The "us" versus "them" ends. They represent the hope and vitality that is the heart of every American. We are truly not red states and blue states, rural versus urban, white versus black, rich versus poor, educated versus uneducated, we are the United States of America. That is the signal of change by the yard signs still standing proudly in yards in Kirkwood.

We are the change we seek and the yard signs, for now, remind us that this change has truly come and this change was always here, in us, with us, it is us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Sun Is Shining

This is a new day in America!

I work up to the beautiful sun and an unusually warm autumn day in St. Louis. The grass is covered in the multicolored leaves, each doing a dance, each being their own beautiful self. It is a new day.

Outside, on my quaint street, there were lots and lots of Obama signs leading up to the election. I'm in the middle of our block so on the other end, were a few McCain signs. There was one right across the street from me. This morning, early this morning, that sign was gone and all the Obama signs were still up.

One of my neighbors was getting ready to take his teenager to the high school and we waved to each other, separated by a slight hill and five houses. I jumped in victory and he said, "the sun is shining today!" He was one of the ones in the early line yesterday. His family is white and have an adopted biracial son.

This day, there is an opportunity for America to carpe diem. Like the leaves dancing on the ground outside, all our cultures, ethnicity's, races, heritages, languages can come together and dance. I saw it last night at the watch party for Senator Obama held at the Chase Park Plaza on the Central West End. There were hundreds of people and all were a mix of America.

I smile and think about the possibilities. Today is new.


I just returned home, it is midnight here in Kirkwood. I attended a huge party at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel on the Central West End. There were hundreds of people there. My entire family was there. My Obama children were there, all the college staff from the West County office that I have been feeding were there! It was an amazing night.

I saw America anxiously waiting for the results. We arrived around 8:30pm. The atmosphere in the room instantly energized me after a long few days. I could feel the energy. My youngest son saw his classmates from Kirkwood High School. He had just been out knocking on doors today to make sure people in our precinct got out to vote.

President Elect Obama ran a wonderful campaign. He had an awesome campaign manager and chieft strategist. The ground game was unprecedent. The people that made phone calls, donated, talked, knocked on doors, wrote articles, cooked, all of it mattered and all of it added up to today.

I was there. I witnessed history. I was a part of history. I am one of many.

This markes a new day in America. The world was watching. My son in Japan sent me a message at 10pm. The world stands with WE THE PEOPLE and said we were more than the things that divide us, we are more than red state and blue state as new President-elect always said, we are more than the fear that blanketed us like a stiff quilt. We are so much more.

I know the elders are smiling. I talked to my elderly uncle in California who walked the block with his walker at 5:30am. He voted in Los Angeles. And he told me "congratulations." To him and his generation and to the memory of Dr. King, of my dad, of all the ancients, I say, "thank you."

There were children dancing and I'm sure this will be a memory of just a great party, they may not fully understand, but I have the pictures to show them. We did it and now tomorrow, when our eyes open up on a new sunsrise in this country of possibilities, we will get ready for the work. When people come together, under a common purpose, greatness can be achieved.

Black women in the room were especially excited. Finally, our beauty, our grace, our poise, our intelligence, our love can be celebrated. Michelle Obama embodies the women I honor in Mocha Moms, in the sororities and social groups that groomed and poised us to be more than what the stereotypes said and the glamor magazines wouldn't allow. A beautiful black woman will be in the White House.

Yes we did! We did! Ordinary people, we made history.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Voted for Our First Black President

It was absolutely amazing this morning.

I woke up at 5am, sleep would not hold me to my king-sized, solid wood bed this magical morning.
Darkness was still over us like a warm blanket, warming, and comforting. I dressed and made my way downstairs for some yogurt and a chocolate, soy latte. My husband stirred about 20 minutes later and prepared to go make history. We drove together the short three blocks to our polling place in Kirkwood, Missouri. We thought we would be one of the early ones. We were wrong!

We found our place in an already long line at 5:45am. In less than 10 minutes, the line was stretched down to the end of the block and there were over 100 people waiting. The earliest people in line arrived at 5:15am. I was so happy!

The most amazing thing to me was to see a daughter pushing her elderly mother, age 79, in a wheelchair. I gave my husband my coffee and went to help her across the street. It was my honor to assist one of our elders who lived through so many of America's dark days. She was coming to cast her ballot.

America was at my polling place on Taylor Avenue in Kirkwood, a little suburb in St. Louis County. I saw young people, I saw young black men patiently waiting, contemplating the history they were about to make. I saw couples, I saw fathers taking their sons to vote for the first time. The entire neighborhood was there, definitely 7 of the houses on my street were already there, I know 5 are Obama supporters. I was witnessing what he talked about in this long journey of a campaign.

I asked for a paper ballot and am thankful for the League of Women Voters and the Missouri Bar Association for their information on the ballots and the judges, respectively. The booklet from the LWV was the most helpful with the many amendments and propositions. I was able to use my time in line to review the other issues and be prepared to darken my oval.

The energy in the line was amazing and as the hour wore on, the determination to vote was evident. When I finally made it inside, my excitement jumped up. It was my time, my turn to make my vote for Senator Barack Obama and for the rest of the Democratic nominees in my state. I cast my ballot for my late father, for my great cloud of witnesses, for the many, many lives lost in this country to make this moment possible.

I voted and I am an American and I made history this morning. It was well worth the two hours.

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Memory

We offer our deepest sympathy to Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Michelle Obama, Sasha and Malia Obama, and the entire family on the loss of their Grandmother, Toot.

We hold you in the whispers of our prayers on this night before the winds of change sweep through our nation. Toot's memory and strength will carry you. We are so happy you were able to see her and send her with your love and heart.

Rest assured, she helped shape and mold a fine man. I honor her memory and her strength.

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