Monday, December 28, 2020


 I woke up early this morning, this third day of Kwanzaa, when collective work and responsibility is the principle driving our actions and decided heartedly that I was not going to jump into my usual Monday work.

This is my usual day when I pop in a load of towels, sip some coffee, and have a moment before the hustle and bustle of the week takes over the quiet still of a very dark New England morning.

Yesterday, while my son was getting ready to go back to Boston, I decided a think.

So I baked bread.

Well, am baking bread, biscuits, to be exact.

The yeast was sat out for a 24 hour hold and was met with the other ingredients around 5:30am.

After everything was set and the dough resting, I went back to sip some coffee and write. 

Writing by hand soothes me and reminds me. I am connected in a different way and attentive, so I gave myself some time to be present with just me. 

My library has near floor-to-ceiling windows and my favorite blue leather chair. I sat here, the sky was still nearly pitch black, the first inkling of indigo did not emerge until almost an hour later. The house was quiet, it is holiday break.

It was calm. Noiseless. Busy-less. 

The moment called for me to just be present with what she was giving me.

An hour later, the dough was ready to be separated and rolled to buns. By then, the shades of blue beckoned us to be alert.

After separating the dough and forming it for the baking pan, I popped it into the over and considered how many of my mothers did this morning ritual. It was by now, almost 9am. My house was no longer quiet quiet, the first moves and noises of still-on-holiday-break began to happen.

So, I baked biscuits.

And my daughter is taking a morning run.

And my husband is downstairs working, the pandemic altering everything.

We settle into a new kind of being, in these times when time seems to be all we have and yet, none of what we have.

I'm on holiday break for my work and wrapped my vacation around it so I could be present with my daughter home from college. 

One of the gifts of doing that is that I have slowed down, to look at all the books in my library, to put up artwork, to feel this house in my new state. And to bake bread, to be. And consider how much I want to seal this in memory and never take for granted the opportunity for quiet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


It is my first winter in Connecticut and last week, we were treated to 18 inches of snow.
The vast, smooth, white fluff covered the 2 1/2 acres around our house and requested to be noticed.
So, I paused to notice her.
She called me to listen to her, to open my front door, even if snow was all the way up to it, to just gaze upon her and deeply inhale.
The morning after the snow was so bright and crisp.
I looked at her and inhaled.
Then I closed my eyes and let the memory of her become etched in my spirit.
Yes, it was cold, yes, I needed to put on those LandsEnd boots we bought on a whim during a house hunting expedition back in July. We didn't know how much it would be and since we had lived where it snowed before, figured we could adjust. Still, we were compelled. Glad we did.
Then, when she came, she came fully and the Nor'easter welcomed us in the way that demanded that we take notice of her existence.
She wanted us to pause and take a deep breath, to be still.
This is the winter of our discontent, in a lot of ways.
First one in the middle of a pandemic that is mutating and so many lives lost.
Yet, this gift called us to be open to the possibilities of the universe hearing our calls.
I looked upon her and thought about breathing.
How often we have thought about that over the year since March.
Covid19 affects the ability to breathe, air being next to water for the importance of life.
I am a life long severe acute asthmatic, so lung function and oxygen levels have been a part of my existence for as long as I have known my existence.
I've masked, double masked, masked and Face Shielded when needed, and stayed away. 
Missed being in space, breathing in the essence of my extended family, adult sons, and sorority sisters. Missed the presence of writers and artists creating at my favorite coffee shop.
The stale muted aroma in bookstores, totally missed.
Missed and longing
That is something the view in my backyard invited me to consider as I looked out over the forest preserve.
Consider what could be possible when we are all open to being able to deeply breathe again, without reservation or discrimination
What could be possible if we paused, stood in silence, and looked at the snow to wonder.
It is the day before the day before.
It is the day after the day after Winter Solstice gifted us with the Bethlehem star.
There is still a there, there, an imagination, a playfulness waiting for us.
In the final moments of this year, as we quiet down, gather only with those in our home and reconsider what it means to celebrate holiday, we have a big box to unwrap, a box of dreams.
That is what we are invited to etch in our memories.
Breathe it in, deeply.
And be still.


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Second is not My Resting Place

 I've been thinking a lot lately about life, purpose, being, presence.

One of the things that prompted me to consider this is how long I have been in the place of "second."

In many ways, the place of second, or support, chose me.

I'm naturally observant, organized, and on. I unpacked pretty much this entire house, know where everything is (except down in the man cave) and can inventory everything without fail. It is something that I am good at. Support. 

This morning, in the darkest before dawn in the cold rainy Connecticut morning, I started thinking about the next years of my life and if I wanted to be in a supportive role for all those years. Perhaps it is because my last child just turned seventeen. That almost there time, junior year, flexing her growing independence. They don't really need me anymore in the ways they did in 2003 when I walked away from a lucrative marketing career. 

I walked through my living room to my dining room to the kitchen and just looked around. I decided to write in my kitchen instead of up in my office or down in the library. 

I'm the same age as the VP-Elect.

We were at HBCUs at the exact same time and had life followed the path I intended before transferring, would have been pledging our respective sororities at the same time. For me, that came many years later than her. And that is also part of my muse.

The part of putting aside, waiting, planning ahead for that one day.

But then Covid came in March of 2020 and like anything else that is disruptive of what we know to be, demanding an altering, attention, a reconsidering.

My oldest son has been after me to "write the book, Mama." and I keep putting it off. I have notes here and there and for years, thought that I wasn't old enough to tell the story he was after me to tell. I put it second on my list of when I have time to do it or when everyone involved is deceased, whatever happens first.

Who knows why we put some things off that are part of our reason for being and who knows how much time we have left to do it?

I was second to my husband's career, especially after we had the daughters two years apart and one had major illness that required my time. How could I pursue higher management and be sure that she lived through having multiple surgeries? Giving up one thing means that she is alive and thriving, at age seventeen, she almost nearly lives a life in remission. So, there is success and that her older sister is a college freshmen and all my sons are adults, two in their thirties. I put myself second so they could be first so that they can be first in their own lives.

I was second in the organization where I work. By design, I came in that way, was in seminary, and didn't have the time or interest to run a non-profit. I was already deeply involved in my own work, so a less-than-part-time gig was all I needed. Second worked.

Second works until it is not enough.

There is a joy in serving and being of service, of course, that is not what I mean. But sometimes, in giving up of oneself for so long, you can miss a moment to center your own dream.

As a wife, mother, minister, activist, organizer, writer, mentor, even as a professor and manager, I've centered the needs of others in many facets of my life. It was part of being present in someone else's moment. There is a space and a time for that, to be the one to pick up the plow and get things done.

And then there is a time when. you pause.

Glance out at the rainy morning, and ponder.

How many more of these do I have to center something I want to do?

None of us really know the answer to that.

That is the mystery of life.

But we do know and are able to consider is how we make a decision to place ourselves as the main character in our life. To remember we are worthy enough to be a priority. What you want to do, what I want to do matters.

It matters enough to claim it and make it a reality, even if that is in getting up earlier to have an extra moment before other obligations, or if it snatching glimpses of time throughout the day. We are worth having a pause to think of your own dreams.

Because for one of us, second was never meant to be our resting place.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Before It Is Light

I am an early riser.

Always have been.

Friday is my Sabbath.

Has been at least since seminary.

I rarely, if ever sleep in.

One of the gifts of the pandemic with my daughter being in virtual school and us being in a new state is that I do not have to interrupt my Friday repose by early morning forays out into the world. I am cherishing every moment of it. Coffee in peace, the entire house still asleep before the first light breaks through the darkness, nothing stirring, just me, in space.

This morning as I was sitting in my favorite blue leather chair, I sipped a latte, and thought about all the possibilities that are in an unfolding moment. 

My library is filled with books. Each one is carefully curated. As we are settling into our home, we are preparing to hang the artwork that will make this place complete. So I sat here this morning, sipping my latte, looking at the first crest of light, and thinking about how just being in space, in the dark, is a gift.

Too often, in the America of my adulthood, busyness was prized. That quest of success and being productive.  We prize burning the candle and all-nighters.

But what of the pause?

The moment?

Just being still?

The more this pandemic rages on and the things I used to enjoy seem like possibilities of disease and death, the more I think about how we could be missing what is in this collective pause.

No, the preventable deaths are not the gift, in fact, they are the curse of what should have been a reset.

How well are we attending to self and others?

In this Advent season of hope and expectation, I wondered, in the darkness, if we were missing the possibilities of renewed life.

What if the pause was for the Earth to replenish herself from the onslaught of human debris? What if she needed a moment to simply breathe in silence? What if this pandemic was her warning signal that we were going too far and doing too much and needed to reset?

I am thinking about what we could miss in the want of returning to normal.

It was never normal that shopping for fast fashion was entertainment. I remember having only one long Black wool coat that got me through the bite of Chicago winters. One Coach purse that I saved up to buy and one pair of Black pumps that took me to my professional job. I had one pair of jeans and one pair of athletic shoes. Back then, I only went to the Mall twice a year, usually centered around uniform shopping for my sons or the holidays. It was not an everyday thing.

The same thing about eating out.

Now, I enjoy good food. I love it, in fact, to be able to go to a local eatery and be on the other end of a chef's creations. Or pop into a local bakery or coffee shop. But, in this pause wondering how much of what was once special became ordinary.

What have we lost of ourselves that when the world pauses, the collective we are still trying to figure out how to live?

No, it is not normal to be in front of a screen all day. Whether meetings or virtual school or the never ending checks of our social media, it was never normal before the pandemic. We are missing life checking into the illusion of life on a device

Thinking about going into the long dark winter and what we can gain from it. 

Animals hibernate to give their bodies rest, to renew themselves to emerge in the spring refreshed and renewed.

What if it is a time for us to pull back in, turn it off, and renew ourselves?

Who can we connect with in real life through writing a real letter or picking up the phone for more than a selfie? 

Where can we find areas in our life to enhance our gifts or purpose for the sheer joy of being?

I am musing, in the dawning of this new day, and thinking about how to absorb this time I may never have again, to inhale deeply, exhale, and pause.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Art of Negotiated Space

 I've moved.

Something I've done before.

This is the first time I've moved across several states that required a plane trip to get here.

So, family and I are settling into this new space.

We selected this house, more like my youngest child, chose this house because she loved the hardwood floors, the space, and the scenery. We had been looking at houses for two weekends up here, besides a huge binder full of properties from the New York City line up to Hamden.  

We were moving in the middle of a pandemic. 

It was going to be the start of her junior year, so schools made an enormous impact in where we would call home, at least for the next two years.

The things we decided to do were not to buy a house immediately.

He was starting a new job as CEO of a community college, having retired from his long-time career in higher education, last as President of an HBCU. It was going to be an adjustment and a time of settling in. He only took a month to just relax before taking on a new passion. That, plus negotiating moving vans and figuring out getting our other daughter to college, we didn't want to add on the stress of trying to buy a. home.

Our realtor was amazing and took our list of needs to find us a nice house to rent for a couple years while we figured out life in the northeast.  She had to find space for me in my office and while we were only going to have one child at home, we have five and all of them could eventually visit here. We are still a large family, so bedrooms and living space was important.

This house we are in is perfectly suited for what we needed. It has all hardwood floors - my ask. It has lots of windows and a finished basement - husband's ask. The kitchen has enough room for us to do what he loves - cook and me - bake. It is quiet, a respite from living in a townhouse for ten years with lovely neighbors and sometimes loud kids riding bikes. We love only hearing the birds chirp in the morning.

Settling in has taken a bit of time and negotiation.

Marie Kondo (is that her name?) would probably cringe at our library. All the books are up, so no more boxes, but none of them will be downsized. It is a carefully curated collection. So nine bookshelves are full, would be ten, but the movers shattered one of them on the way from Missouri to Connecticut.  The girls each have a bookshelf in their room and I think there are some more boxes in the storage room that we haven't made it to yet - husband and I both are scholars, so our research is in there. She would probably shake her head at the family reunion t-shirts or the treasures our daughters' found in their thrifting clothes adventures. 

The thing we came to appreciate is that it is a part of us. 

It is not clutter, I don't like that. Everything has a home, from my seemingly endless mug collection to his vintage LPs, they all have a place. That was something we needed in the move, room. 

Room was something that we gave up when we moved across Missouri. We had our home that the last two were born in and was quite large for a large family. In that home, the great room was off limits to the kids. It was that beautiful space with the unused fireplace and the ten foot ceilings with his balcony office overlooking it all. We barely used it, except during the holidays and when we had company.

Coming here shifted some things about how we negotiated space.

While the. house was empty for almost two months before the movers decided to get out stuff here, we got to know her flow. We knew the dining room would be just for that, mostly on birthdays, holidays, and Sundays. The antique oak dining table would stay but there would be a new modern rug and once we find them, updated chairs.That table would be the feature.

The library was one of the first rooms we set up and the first room we purchased furniture for.He bought a swivel chair and I bought a blue leather chair and ottoman. We added a rug that he and the youngest picked out and thanks to the beauty of shipping, I learned to put together a couple side chairs. It was cozy.

What happened next, though, was what prompted me to think about space.

October when the movers delivered that final truck eventually became November and the realization we would not be traveling back to St. Louis for the holidays. We had to reconsider space for our daughter coming home from college and our son coming for Turkey Day (after quarantining, of course)

So, we bought a new sofa for the long empty living room that I only wanted to be the art gallery with walking space and limited seating

We negotiated.

I realized right then and there that a home, space,is meant for the people who live in it.Not a magazine or even minimalist icons like Marie Kondo. 

Once-upon-a-time, before social media, we had no idea what anyone had in their home. unless invited. We could not judge it or copy it. Their space was just for them.  If it worked for them, that was fine. 

Then, we turned the cameras on. 

Some to show their decorating style. Others because the pandemic made us invite the world into our spaces, we had to come home and do everything. Or because we were away from family and wanted to send greetings.

I already worked at home and had weekly Zoom meetings, so my office in Missouri was surrounded by books in our open concept town house. That wasn't a big deal. It didn't become so until the girls had to do school at home and the dining room became their study because I didn't want them inviting their entire class to their bedroom.

It is something so many of us are thinking about as we have to be present in many more ways.

How do we negotiate space?

I have the smallest bedroom that is my office and I keep thinking about how I am going to put up my artwork to have a more zoom-worthy background. Do I center my sorority pictures behind me or my family photos? What message does that send? Should it be my degrees that in my previous office I never had framed but kept in the original holders, sitting on my antique desk? What about the lighting? Would it be distracting if the framed pictures from a cherished vacation to the Gulf Coast remain on the uncovered window seal?

Thinking about space and how we use it is something that has come of the pandemic as spring moved to summer and fall to winter. We will be inside for a long time. For my family, it will be our first in Connecticut, none of us knows what it is like in the northeast in January or February. What we know is we will be in more.

So space becomes more than just a space, than just a room.

Daughter is in high school, one of the spare bedrooms that was to be her brother's room when he visits is now her study. Except she sometimes prefers the library or even snuggling on that new sofa in the living room so she can see out the windows to the surrounding woods. Scenery changes. Or the one home from college just wants to chill and since they were part of the negotiation that turned my wannabe art gallery into a family room, complete with a mounted TV, she just wants to Netflix in peace.

The pandemic has altered a lot of how we live.

And I realize I am blessed to have the "problem" of what to do with a room. 

I know everyone is not in the same position, some have had to quickly figure it out with multiple family members returning home to quarantine together. Some are precariously holding on to spaces since losing income in furlough. Some are unhoused and their space is a suitcase. 

The art of negotiated space, then, to me, is how we are able to exist, live, breathe, thrive, fully, for ourselves.

What do you need in the space where you exist?

Not what is in a glossy magazine or memories of walking through IKEA with wonders of how they fit an entire apartment in 650 sq ft. Not what we see on Instagram or Pinterest. But. your space.  Your peace.

What brings you peace and respite? 

That is what you should relish and cherish. 

For me, it is knowing that my family is around and in these times when so many are losing so many, remembering that as a gift. Even if I silently cringe at my daughter for leaving her schoolbook in the living room r the other one for leaving one of her makeup pallets on the table. 

We are living.

That is what matters.

The art is in the memories silently captured in moments of joy in the places we call home.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Resting on the Side of Hope

 I've been thinking a lot about 2016.

That election year and all that happened. All that folks were shocked about. The end result.

I was just into my seminary studies and had worked the day before as an Election Judge. Now, to be fair, I was busy that summer. It was the literary circle, pivoting my work so that I could study full-time, being on a long trip to Denver with the family, hanging out at Strand, honestly, living our lives.

We were like so many during the 2008-2016 season of American possibilities. Something gave us a sense that surely, surely, surely this country would not turn a dark, dark corner after enjoying these years. Were they perfect? No, because no man is perfect.  There are some that are disappointed in that president. But those were breathing years. Even in the midst of Cincinnati and Ferguson and Baltimore, those were still years that we did not have to worry about a coup.

Now, I am well aware of the evil puppet master who held a lock grip on the Senate those last few years. This same puppet master that his constituents put back in for a 7th term. I know that the enthusiasm that was a wave in 2008 was a drip by the midterms. People were missing the big picture for the small screen.

Bubbly up behind that, before smart phones captured our every move through video, was a growing sense of unrest in a part of American that again, many thought was yesteryear. It was the perfect setting for a narcissistic wannabe dictator to swoop in and stoke fears like the carnival barker he is. 

And he was successful, maniacal, masterful,

Because he started this in 2008.

Saw it as an opening. He is, after all, an opportunist and a grifter. He saw a crack and tapped, tapped, tapped enough to shatter all images of decency in American politics.

The thing was, the rest of us thought that surely, surely, surely the country would not fall for this failed businessman and barely relevant reality star.

But so many of them did.

The statistics are wavering, depending on who is reporting. What is sure is that a majority of the women who fawned over him voted for him. A majority of the men his age voted for him, All of them had power in their sights. Or perhaps it was fear.

They needed the worse image of the American man to replace one whose background and skin hue just could not lead to more of a sea change. Definitely not a woman. They had to reclaim their shattered egos and he was the way to get it done.

The puppet masters knew he was a walking dunce cap and if they just stoked his ego, he would use his big sharpie and sign whatever they put in front of him, especially if it was something that sun kissed man did when he sat behind the big desk.

So, that fateful day in 2016 left me with a sinking dread.

My youngest daughter was in middle school. She felt it. We all felt it. 

Reality was worse than a scary movie from my teen years in the 80s. 

Then, something happened.

A sea change of people who refused to let this continue.

First, 2018. A surge of possibilities.

Maybe, just maybe, something other than the last dying embers of hate and fear would fizzle out. End.

It was contentious, and still is, this thing in 2020.

Beyond the pandemic and so many lives, rests what we are clinging to. Hope.

Another sun kissed man, many moons ago, also sought to be a face of change in this land. He did not make it to that big desk, but he left it ajar for what could be. In so doing, he admonished us, reminded us, implored us, to keep this thing called hope alive, ever present before us, clinging to what could be in the better of our souls.

In 2020, we saw that turned into action.

Not perfect, but for the first time, we have an image of the this-could-be America. A man who slowly and steadily put his rhetoric into practice, far from perfect, but willing to learn, grow, change, And a woman whose story could only be possible in a place like this, from two sun kissed stories that etched lines in dreams here, far from their origins. And she came. Like me, same age, same time in college, same generational impact. And she came.

So, this morning, reflecting back and looking forward, I am standing on the side of hope.

Not a ok, we did it, time to go back to regularly scheduled programming hope. No, I'm looking into the hope of my daughter's generation that through a multihued tapestry of purpose, they will be more than a dream.

But we have to work at it, all of us.

That is where I am resting this morning, as the sun peaks through the barren trees in my east coast home, I see life emerging around me. In the cold of coming winter, we have a chance to cocoon, to rest for the work ahead, come January, and see a brighter day.