Reflections on Easter Sunday

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My So Called Glamorous Life:

For those of us who celebrate Easter, the holiday brings so many emotions, both religious and non-religious. I have such fond memories of family and friends at Easter. I originally wrote this post around this time last year because Easter continues to be one of my favorite holidays for so many reasons and I wanted to share them with you. I hope that each of you enjoys this week leading up to Easter Sunday and make many happy memories for years to come.

Lisa

Originally posted on My So Called Glamorous Life:

Easter-lily-macro_-_West_Virginia_-_ForestWander

Easter Sunday has always been one of my favorite days of the year.  When I was a kid, it was definitely because I got to wear my new Easter finery.   New dress, new shoes, new trench coat! Although, being from the Midwest, more often than not, it was too cold to wear my trench coat so, my new Spring dress had to be covered with my heavy Winter coat.  Oh, and don’t forget the snow.  Every once in a while there was snow on the ground at Easter.  Not to worry, I would wear my boots and just carry my cute shoes along with me to change into once I got to church.  I must admit that since I have had children, shopping for just the right Easter outfit has been, well…let’s just say that I don’t know who enjoys it more, my children or me?

As I have grown closer…

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Profiled

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Big Box

 

This morning after I dropped the girls off at school, I donned my mom uniform (jeans, t-shirt, flip-flops, purse and sunglasses) and went out to run some errands.  I needed to get them done and get home before noon because this weekend has the potential to be just ridiculously crazy-busy.  I need to get prepared.  So, off I went.

On my list of things to get were gift bags and birthday cards for the three (yes! three!) birthday parties that we are attending this weekend. Also, laundry detergent (for my never-ending piles of laundry), a wreath for my front door, some shorts for the girls and whatever else tickled my fancy.  Clearly it was time for a stop at my favorite big box store, which I am not going to mention by name (although, if you read my blog, Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter often, I’m sure that you will be able to figure it out) because the occurrence that I’m about to describe to you isn’t specific to this store.  It just so happens that this is where it happened today.

Once in the store, I got my cart, and headed toward the gift wrap.  As I approached I noticed that they had expanded the selection to the first two aisles. I started down the second aisle and saw a male customer standing in the area that I wanted to browse so I decided to start on the other side to give him a chance to finish. I found one bag then rounded the corner to the second aisle and the man was still there.  I smiled and said “excuse me” as I walked past looking at the gift bags.  He returned the smile and said “No problem,” but he was checking me out. Noticeably…like head to toe!  For a moment I thought to myself “Yes, Chica, you still got!” I know, and by now you know, that I’m a nut.  Not to mention that once I looked at him, I realized that he was young enough to be my son younger brother, so, he probably was not there to try to pick me up; but he kept looking at me very intently. My phone rang in my purse and he looked at it very carefully; he was studying me.  I was uncomfortable.  I finally found the right sized gift bag appropriate for a soon to be 8-year-old and apologized for walking in front of him so many times.  He smiled politely and I walked away in search of birthday cards. And Starbucks.

With  my decaf, iced Americano with cream and classic in hand, I went to pick up the detergent  then strolled right down the aisle toward garbage bags and there was the guy from gift wrap again.  I picked up my garbage bags and walked past, neither of us acknowledging the other.  The girls needed shampoo and conditioner, which I picked up and then went to find them some summer shorts.  On the way, I passed the mystery shopper three times.  Apparently we were shopping for the same things?  Except, I realized that he had no cart nor any merchandise.  I had a pit in my stomach and my head was killing me.  A clear sign that I was becoming stressed.  When I got to the girl’s clothing I bent over to pick up some shorts on a lower shelf and stood up just in time to see the mystery shopper walk by and then I knew.  I knew exactly what was happening.  I was being followed by security.  I had been profiled.

This was nothing new.  It has happened before in different stores and I dare say that it happens to most people of color at some point in their life.  It’s kind of like being pulled over for Driving While Black for Black males.  It’s a fact of life.  It’s uncomfortable and infuriating,  but most of the time I ignore it.  However, today was not a day that I could ignore it.  I have no idea why, but you know how on some days somethings just gets under your skin and you can’t let it go? Today was that day.  I get it honestly, I think.  Once, when I was in elementary school, my mom and I were in an upscale store in my home town when an over zealous security guard made the mistake of making himself a little too noticeable while following us around the store. Mom was irritated, but as I recall, we were searching for something specific that I needed for Easter, shoes or a dress perhaps.  When we went up to the register with our merchandise the sales lady made it a point to tell my mother that the selection was not on sale and would be full price.  That was when my mother “blessed her soul” which is a polite way of saying that she put the sales lady in her place.. She pointed out that not only could she read, but that she could definitely afford what she was purchasing.  “Furthermore,” Mom said, “You wouldn’t have said that to a White woman and the security officer wouldn’t have followed a White woman around the store! Now do your job and ring me up, please.”  After that we left, and I felt so ashamed,  Not ashamed of my mother, but ashamed that the store employees had assumed that we were “less than”.  Being Black meant that we were “less than”.   And apparently, it also meant that we were perspective thieves.

This morning I was alone, my younger kids at school and my older ones wherever, so I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing them.  On the other hand, I did think that what was about to happen could have been a very powerful teaching moment for all of us.  You see, I had moved past just wanting to call out someone’s BS. I wanted to have a positive impact on a really negative situation.   As I headed toward the check-out, I passed by my friend and stopped directly in front of him.  I introduced myself by name and asked him how long he had been working in security.  He was genuinely flummoxed. I almost laughed because I couldn’t believe that he honestly thought that he was being sly.  I then asked him what about me made him follow me around the store waiting for me to steal something?  “Did I do something during our first encounter in the gift wrap aisle that made me seem suspicious?” He said “Not necessarily.”   “So, what about me made you follow me?” I continued. By now he was a deep shade of red and I almost felt sorry for him, but not really.  He told me that he pays close attention to all of the customers in the store to which I replied “You follow all, each and every customer around like that?”  No, not really.  He agreed with me.  Yet, I pressed on as to what about me could have made him so suspicious.  He would have rather been anywhere else, but standing there with me. That’s when I asked him to talk to the manager with me.  Not to get him in trouble, but to clarify some things.

Ultimately, what happened is that I explained how I thought that I had been profiled as a potential shoplifter based on the color of my skin, the affluent neighborhood and the time of day.  They gave some weak rebuttal, apologized profusely and eventually admitted that there was some validity to what I had just said.   I then pointed out some of the dangers in their approach, the most obvious of which is that there may be shoplifters that don’t fit that profile who go unnoticed and uncaught.   Additionally, they are perpetuating a stereotype of African-Americans not belonging in certain neighborhoods, not being able to do their shopping like any other SAHM (during the day) and just being prone to being a thief.  They saw me as being “less than”. However, unlike when I was a kid, I wasn’t ashamed.  I was angry and this time I had the opportunity and where-with-all to push back.  Momma would be proud.

Hopefully, the next time that security officer observes another potential shoplifter, it will be through new eyes and with a new approach.  I want to believe that I did some good here and that one day my young children will not be faced with this situation.  I’m doubtful, but hopeful.

 

Midnight Mischief

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A few nights ago I was up late futzing around my kitchen – couldn’t sleep. A lot like tonight.  I tried watching television and reading a book, but then this happened:

Candy Bar Brownies

Candy Bar Brownies

 

Candy Bar Brownies

3/4 c. butter (unsalted)

2 c. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 c. cocoa (I use Dutch processed cocoa)

4 regular sized chocolate/caramel/nougat candy bars (you really can use any candy bar that you want)*

3 regular sized solid chocolate candy bars (I use dark chocolate)*

*Keep candy bars refrigerated until ready to chop and use.   

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and vanilla; add eggs and beat well.

2. Combine flour and next three (3) ingredients; stir into sugar mixture.  Fold in chopped nougat bars.  Spoon into a greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan; sprinkle with chopped chocolate bars.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Cool completely and cut into bars.  Yields about 2 1/2 dozen brownies.

To. Die. For.

What? Doesn’t everyone bake when they can’t sleep?

The Problem With the Radio

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music blast

 

I love music.  I am one of those people who turns on the radio as soon as I get in the car. When I was in high school, it used to drive my father crazy not only because he loathed our “new” music (“Just sounds like a bunch of noise to me and the words are silly.”), but also because it stopped him from being able to hear the car’s engine.  He was a car guy.  Always listening just in case the timing was off or there was some unexplained rattle.  Actually, all kidding aside, some of the best advice I got from him was to sometimes just drive the car in silence.  That way, you can hear what it sounds like when it’s running well, so you can catch a little something wrong before it falls apart.  I do take his advice, but not often.  My girls are just like me and Thing 1 knows every word to every song that I will let her listen to on our favorite radio station.  I say “that I will let her listen to” because I spend a lot of time changing the stations.  I know that I’m going to sound like a prude here but, the words to some of these songs just make me blush and trust me, that’s not easy to do.  I really don’t want to hear my daughters singing most of the stuff we hear on the radio and we usually resort to throwing in a Disney CD in order to keep things rated G to PG because the radio is increasingly rated R.

You think I’m over reacting don’t you?  I know. I’ve read a lot of blog posts and commentary’s about children not really understanding the lyrics so it doesn’t matter if they listen to it. While it may be true that they don’t understand what they’re singing, I think it makes it worse to hear an innocent child singing something so sexually explicit.  Let’s be clear, today’s music is vulgar.  I am a child of the late sixties and early seventies and music has been  deteriorating evolving for some time.  No longer are love songs about love (think “My Girl” by the Temptations or “Close to You” by the Carpenters), now they are about sex (Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” or Katy Perry’s “California Girls”).  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with sex but, really…do we have to sing about it…all of the time?

The other day I was listening to this Australian teenage boy band called 5 Seconds of Summer, who will be opening for One Direction’s upcoming tour.  No, I don’t generally like to listen to teeny-bop (do they still use that phrase?) bands, but I do like to keep up with new music.  Anyway, their new song is called “She Looks So Perfect”. The words are light weight and not too deep, but here is the chorus:

“She looks so perfect standing there
in my American Apparel underwear
and I know now, that I’m so down
I made a mixtape straight out of ’94
I’ve got your ripped skinny jeans lying on the floor
and I know now, that I’m so down…”

The band and its music, like that of One Direction, is marketed directly toward teenage girls – the very girls that we tell to keep their ripped skinny jeans on.  While the song may not be overtly sexual, I think the meaning is pretty clear. It gets worse. Jason Derulo is at #5 this week on the pop charts with his hit “Talk Dirty to Me”.  Check this out:

I’m that flight that you get on, international
First class seat on my lap girl, riding comfortable

‘Cause I know what the girl them need,
New York to Haiti
I got lipstick stamps on my passport,
You make it hard to leave

Been around the world, don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Get jazzy on it”

How would you like to hear your little one singing that number?  Actually, I don’t want to hear anyone singing that, even Jason Derulo, because not only is it really nasty, it’s really sexist.  I think that might be another blog post.  I love Bruno Mars, but did I want to listen to him sing about making love like gorillas? Nope!   Pitbull has great dance music, but too much talk about boobs and thong wearing butts.  It’s everywhere and there seems to be no sense of appropriateness anymore. Maybe I should spend more time listening to the purr of my engine than the sexually charged lyrics of my radio.

I do know that the more pervasive this type of music is, the harder it is to keep your children from it. The harder it is to help your children (boys and girls) grow into their sexuality at a reasonable pace and not be pushed into it by a society that is obsessed with sex.  What I do want my children to desire is to know a love that grows not only from a sexual attraction, but also from friendship, mutual respect and trust.  The kind of love that isn’t sung about very often these days, but creates lasting marriages and not just lustful weekends.  Not too long ago Big Poppa sang one of our favorite songs to me and while he is no Marvin Gaye or Luther Vandross, it’s the thought that counts.  The Song is Betcha By Golly Wow by The Stylistics:

“There’s a spark of magic in your eyes
Candyland appears each time you smile
Never thought that fairy tales came true
But they come true when I’m near you[Chorus]

You’re a genie in disguise
Full of wonder and surprise and

Betcha by golly wow (wow) (wow)
You’re the one that I’ve been waiting for, forever
And ever will my love for you keep growing strong
Keep growing strong

If I could, I’d catch a falling star
To shine on you so I know where you are
Paint a rainbow in your favorite shade
To show I love you, thinking of you

Write your name across the sky
Anything you ask, I’ll try cuz

Betcha by golly wow (wow) (wow)
You’re the one that I’ve been waiting for, forever
And ever will my love for you keep growing strong
Keep growing strong”

Now that’s a love song.

In Grandma’s Footsteps

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Piano Keys

 

There’s this very old piano sitting in the entry way of our home that used to belong to my husband’s, grandfather’s best friend.  I have no idea when or how it came to be in my husband’s possession, but it’s just been hanging around with no real purpose other than spawning the occasional sentimental story from Big Poppa. No one really plays the piano in our family – well, I take that back.  Big Poppa sort of plays, but not enough to really warrant owning a piano.  At any rate, I didn’t make too much of a fuss because I knew how much having this piano meant to him. So, we kept it and lugged it across the country when we moved to Texas…to collect Texas dust.

I think that I may have mentioned this before, but my mother, who is the late stage of Alzheimer’s, was a musician (pianist) and singer.  She mostly played gospel music, but also, when she was very young (that would be way back in the day), she used to play in juke joints and blues clubs.  Music was her life and she was very talented. Her talent is gone now, along with almost everything else about her that made her unique, but her music is the part of her that I miss the most.  As you can imagine, it was very important to her that at least one of her four children take up the piano or just any instrument for that matter. For a while one of my brothers played the drums, then the violin and my sister took a stab at the piano, but they both eventually drifted away in favor of other interests.  I think that although we all love music, we really didn’t have it in our veins like she did.

So, it’s very bittersweet that my youngest daughter would come to me now and say “You don’t have to say yes, but if you do that would be great.  Can I take piano lessons?”  I can’t say that I was surprised because she likes to tinker on it as she walks past and I’ve often thought that music lessons would suit her.  You know that I didn’t hesitate to say yes, right? The first person that I thought of was my mother and how she is missing this moment.  Only, of course, she has no idea she’s missing it.  I am the one who is all at once elated and sad knowing that mom would have been over the moon.  I immediately got the name of a piano tuner from a neighbor (because who knows the last time that it had been tuned) along with a piano teacher and set about making this happen for my little girl and for me.

I grew up listening to my mother play me to sleep at night.  I grew up sitting in the living room and just listening to her play song after song after song.  Her music provided the sound track to my life and the silence brought on by Alzheimer’s is now deafening. I have to admit that it did occur to me that one day in the not too distant future maybe, just maybe, Thing 2 will provide a new soundtrack.  Of course, when I was younger, I took all of this for granted not really realizing how immensely talented she, my mother, was.  I also didn’t realize how much of an impact her music had on my life.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to pressure my little girl to follow in grandma’s footsteps.  She can try it and if she doesn’t like it she can move on to something else.  However, I can promise you this, I will not take for granted one day spent sitting with her and listening to her play her music.  Ever. I will listen to every note, every chord and every melody – good or bad – and I will commit it to my heart because I now know how very precious it really is.

 

This blog post was written in response to the prompt “If I knew then what I know now…” given by Karen in my Rising Bloggers group.  If you would like to read more from the other bloggers,  just click here.

 

Some Brief Thoughts on: Education, Gwyneth Paltrow and World Vision

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Things were very quiet here on the blog last week.  I was around but, I was quite crazy from a lack of sleep due to my 7 – year – old’s month-long bout with insomnia.  As you can imagine, when your child can’t get to sleep or stay asleep, you don’t get to sleep much either.  Some nights we slept a total of two hours and by last week it had all caught up with me.  I was pretty much incapable of carrying on a conversation for longer than five minutes so, obviously writing blog posts was out of the question.  However, I did keep up on things as they happened in social media and there were a few (just a few) that captured my attention, albeit briefly.  I’m not going to pretend that this post is going to eloquently tie all of my thoughts together because it’s not. You’re just going to have to go along for the ride, But first, a little more on Thing 1′s insomnia.

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I have to say that it is extremely frightening when a child is begging for sleep, but simply can’t get there, or stay there, night after night and week after week. My husband and I had never dealt with this before with any of our other children and were at a loss as to how to help her get some rest.  Thing 1 is an extremely active girl who dances two hours a night, three days a week and does gymnastics two days a week.  We limited sugar in her diet, changed her eating patterns and her bed time routing to help soothe her.  She would sit up and read for hours in her bed.   None of this worked.  Finally, while taking her to the doctor for her asthma check up, I found out the real source of the problem: school.  The girl was stressing out about school – in second grade.  She admitted to waking up in the middle of the night worried that she hadn’t double checked her math work.  She worried about not having enough time to finish an assignment.  She didn’t want any of her grades to suffer because of silly mistakes.  She’s a stressed out seven-year-old and I am heart-broken.  School isn’t supposed to be this way for a child so young.  Don’t worry, I’m not about to go on a tirade about Common Core, the problem with education (although I do have a few thoughts on both of those subjects) blah, blah, blah.  I will do that another time, but, what I will say is that there is less of a focus on how well students are learning and instead more of a focus on learning the right things to perform well on standardized testing.  We are pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing to the detriment of our children’s peace of mind.  And, for what? So that they can regurgitate math facts in record time.  Tell me this, when in your life (after elementary school) are you hard pressed to recite your multiplication tables up to the 12′s in less than 2 minutes?  I’ll tell you when…NEVER!  Isn’t it just more important that the student understands what she’s doing, how she get’s to the answer and how it all relates to the next level of math or science, or geography, or whatever?  Do we really need to express to their little fertile minds how important it is for them to do well on a standardized test or they may be held back in the same grade the next year?   The fact that this could be true is completely ridiculous.  Learning is supposed to be fun!  School is supposed to be an adventure!  I said as much to Thing 1 and made it clear that nothing she is doing could make me any less proud of her.  Even if she did forget to check her math before she turned it in, there’s always tomorrow to get it right.  The important thing is that we work hard and in return you get to see the fruits of your hard work.  Our efforts may not always result in an “A” or even a “B”, however we will LEARN something, which is the goal of education.  Thing 1 took it all in and relaxed a bit, then that night she slept.  She has slept all night every night for the past week.  So have I and I’m finally almost human again. Almost.

Awkward transition…I told you this wasn’t go to be easy.

I was saddened, but not necessarily surprised to hear that actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin are “consciously uncoupling” (i.e divorcing). Honestly, initially I thought that the term “consciously uncoupling” meant that they had really made an extraordinary and thoughtful effort to maintain their parental and familial devotion to their children while no longer staying in their marriage.  Then I read the real explaination and was like “Huh!  Okay.”  Anyway, shortly after the announcement of their split, Paltrow gave an interview to E!  in which she bemoans the difficulties of being a celebrity/actress parent.
She so eloquently (I’m being very sarcastic here) explains how moms who work the regular 9 to 5 grind have it easier than folks like her.  Okay, I’m pausing right now to let you stop laughing – especially those of you moms who are at your 9 to 5 reading this while you make your grocery list.  You see, to her it’s most stressful to have your family uprooted and relocated to the location of her latest movie for weeks or months at a time.  Or even, if the family doesn’t have to accompany her, she is separated from her loved ones.  Yes, I get that the separation part can be unpleasant, but really Gwyneth?  You think that your life with all of your nannies, personal chefs, private jets, personal assistants and the like is harder? Cause I know when I travel and I take our nanny and my personal assistant with us it makes things so much easier!  Wait, what am I talking about? I don’t have a nanny and personal assistant and most people don’t  either!  We do all of that $%#& ourselves! When we move for a job, we get our neighbors to pack our U-Haul, drive our selves to our new location and pray that we can afford a house in a decent school district. Come on Gwyneth, step out of that privilege that you’ve spent your life surround by and get a grip!  Working a “regular” job, with “regular” pay doesn’t provide any of the perks that you live with on a daily basis.  Before and after work (and sometimes during) we are being moms and the scheduling of our lives to accommodate our jobs is simply out of necessity.  We need these “regular” jobs to pay our “regular” bills and just a few indulgences.  Like an evening at the movies to possibly watch you…but probably not.  Gwyneth, I think that I speak for a lot of non-actress/celebrity moms when I say just stop it!

Another awkward transition…sorry this is getting long, but I have to make sure that you get me.

Last week the Christian relief agency World Vision International announced that in a dramatic change of policy, it would begin hiring Christians in same-sex marriages. The organization said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it really wasn’t stepping into the fray of whether same-sex marriage was right or wrong.  It was simply accepting the help of homosexual, committed believers who wanted to be of service in this manner.  What happened next is what I want to talk about.  In the face of the policy shift, reportedly thousands of donors who supported children in need through World Vision cancelled their sponsorship.  Just one day later, World Vision reversed its decision and rescinded its welcome to the LGBT community and apologized to any current or former donors that may have been hurt by their (brief) change in policy.  Again, my comments here are not about World Vision itself, but about the thousands of people (Christians) who dropped their sponsorship.  I have to wonder what the motivation was behind your donations in the first place if these children in need could be treated like collateral damage.  If you are unfamiliar with the term collateral damage it is damage or destruction to things that are incidental to the intended target.  Let me just be clear here, I am a Jesus lover.  A Christian. A woman after God’s own heart.  I am not ashamed to identify myself as a follower of Christ, but I am embarrassed to align myself with those who could be so callous and thoughtless that dropping the child seemed like a good idea. Nelson Mandela was a master at partnering with people with whom he may have openly disagreed with on  several issues, however, he found the one thing that they agreed on to work toward a common goal.   That’s what this is about – a humanitarian effort to work toward a common goal for people in need.  What this is NOT is a flagpole for Christianity.  You don’t participate to make yourself look good, you participate to help someone in need.

Let me ask you, if your loved one were dying and the only doctor who could provide the cure was gay, would you refuse his or her help?  If your child was in need of a blood transfusion or an organ transplant, would you say only heterosexual donors need apply?  I’ve got to tell you, there are probably already members of the LGBT community quietly working for World Vision and other organizations that we, Christians, support.  That’s the thing, gay people are human and they live and work right next to us and often, we have no idea.  I found it interesting that while World Vision was apologizing for any hurt that they may have caused to their Christian supporters by the brief change in policy, they didn’t apologize to the LGBT community for the hurt that they caused them. This is so ugly.  We are behaving so very ugly.  There has to be a better way.  I could go on and on about this, but I think you get where I’m coming from.

 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”    John 13:35

 

 

What’s the problem with pink and princess? The marketing, not the moms.

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My So Called Glamorous Life:

Pink, pink and more pink! Once again author and college professor Rebecca Hains has climbed into my head and so eloquently said all of the things that I wanted to say about the “Pink Princess” marketing craze.

Originally posted on Rebecca Hains:

This week, New York and Slate published pieces asking why so many moms have a problem with pink and with princesses.

“What’s the problem with pink, anyway?” griped Yael Kohen in New York. Then, building upon Kohen’s piece, Slate senior editor Allison Benedikt demanded: “What is it with you moms of girls? I have never met a single one of you who isn’t tortured about pink and princesses.” Her annoyance is palpable.

Both writers proceed to defend all things pink and princess. “We treat pink — and the girls who like it — with [...] condescension,” Kohen states, while Benedikt adds, “Moms of daughters need to chill out.”

Oh… really? Let’s take a step back, please. I am the author of a forthcoming book called The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, and Kohen and Benedikt’s arguments are wrong on several levels. By pontificating on the subject without actually talking to the moms they’re criticizing, they’ve missed the…

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New Address…Same Me

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My New Web Address

My New Web Address

I have a new web address!  Isn’t it pretty?  Changes are coming to My So Called Glamorous Life and I thought I’d start by making it easier for you all to find me on the web.  Not to worry, I’m still going to be blogging and baking like I always do.  I’m just doing a little redecorating, that’s all.  Have a great weekend!

Born Strong

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Ladies, while growing up and expected to be “the weaker sex” , at what point did you feel strong and what made you feel that way?  I’m paraphrasing but, that was the question that author, college professor and fellow blogger Rebecca Hains asked her readers recently on her Facebook page.  After giving it some thought I discovered that this is a harder question to answer than I thought it should be, but I couldn’t figure out why.  Why couldn’t I think of when I felt that it was okay to be strong or that moment that made me feel strong?  I read through some of the comments and discovered that a lot of the readers apparently enjoyed climbing trees, among other things.  I’ve climbed a few trees in my lifetime, but I can’t say that it had that much of an effect on me.  Their answers were real and interesting…and totally un-relate-able to me.  Not because I didn’t do any of those things.  I did, but they didn’t make me feel the same way that they made those women feel.  I logged off and went about my day, but the question lingered and later I went back to Rebecca’s page and looked again.  This time, I looked closely at the pictures of those people who were commenting and it finally dawned on me why I couldn’t relate to this question:  I’m an African – American woman and they were not.

Black women strength quote

Yes, race makes a difference because as an African-American woman, I have never felt that society, as well as my family, has ever allowed  or expected me to be weak.  If I may be so blunt, the idea of a perceived feminine weakness is reserved for White women.  Consider this, African women were brought into this country as slaves. Chattel. Workers.  They were bought and sold based on their physical ability to perform hard labor while still having children to produce more workers.  The stronger the slave, the higher the price that the owners could get at auction.  Therefore, physical weakness was not a desirable trait. Often when slaves were sickly or had grown too old to be useful or unable to be sold, they were left to die or killed.  Obviously, it was also necessary to be psychologically strong, as well.  Beatings, lynchings and rapes were a part of life for the women.  Families were torn apart, with children being sold as soon as they were old enough to work the fields and marriages were not allowed by slave owners.  African-American women, like men, were not treated as if they were human.  Surely that would be enough to drive anyone mad.  However, their very lives depended on their strength.

Fast forward to after slavery, to segregation and Jim Crow.  African-American women were in the trenches with our spouses.  Most of the time, we were not afforded the luxury of being stay-at-home moms. We worked…hard.  Cooking and cleaning in the homes of White families and often neglecting the care of our own children while taking care of theirs. In the South, many of us still got jobs working in the cotton fields.  There were still lynchings, beating and Night Riders.  We were still treated as if we were not human and our strength was still necessary for survival.

Enter the Civil Rights Movement when we stood as one, as a voice against racism and inequality.  We marched, protested and picketed.  We were members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as, the Black Panthers.  We were active in every level of the movement and when they released police dogs and turned fire hoses on us, we were treated just like our African – American men.  Again, as if we were not human.  We were jailed and sometimes beaten, but we did not bow down.  Our strength remained our greatest asset.

Over the years, African-American women have continued to hold it down.  More and more of us are the head of household, whether by necessity or by choice.  More of us are obtaining advanced degrees and, as quiet as it’s kept, a lot of us are doing all of this while raising good kids.  Let me take this opportunity to say that I am sick and tired of the picture that is often painted of the child raised by a Black single mother as being a menace to society.  I realize that it doesn’t make good copy so you won’t read about it in the news, but there are a whole lot of us (as a former single mom) who have good jobs, are active in PTA, Boy Scouts, athletic booster clubs and any thing else we believe will enhance the lives of our children.  We are strong women.

My mother once told me ( no, I’m sure that she told me this more than once), “You had better not expect someone to come along and take care of you.  Whatever it is that you need to get done, you better learn how to do it your damn self!”   That’s how Black women are raised.  More often than not, we are told to believe that life is unkind because, historically, it has been unkind.  We just have to learn how to roll with it. Therefore, there has never been a time in my life when I felt like I didn’t have to be strong.  I never knew that I had a choice.  So, to answer the question “At what point did I feel strong and what made me feel that way?”  I was born to it.

What’s in Your Pantry?

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I cleaned out my pantry today.  I cleaned the refrigerator, too, but I don’t want to talk about that because for some reason cleaning the refrigerator is work and traumatic. However, cleaning the pantry is refreshing.  You feel organized and energized!  It also gives me a chance to see what we’re low on (Ramen.  My son loves Ramen therefore, we are always running low.) and what we are completely out of.  Granola.  We are out of granola and I really didn’t need to check the pantry because Thing 1 had already let me know of my failure to maintain the granola.  And, in case you didn’t know, it is considered a fail not to keep a well stocked pantry.  I know this because my mother told me so.  She had a HUGE pantry in our basement while I was growing up and  there were always extras on those shelves. With the aid of that massive deep freezer that she kept in the garage,  a meal was always at your fingertips, even if it was Hamburger Helper. I’m not quite that good.  I mean, I keep the basics like peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, some canned soups (for emergencies) and our favorite cereals, among other things.  But then there are some items that I consider necessities that I’m sure my mother would look at me with a raised eyebrow.  For instance…

Pantry Coffee shelf

Here’s my coffee shelf and I go out of my way to keep it stocked.  My mother used to keep one big can of Folgers in the kitchen.  Well, I’m not a strictly Folgers kinda of girl.  Some days I like a full-bodied Sumatran and other days it might be Duncan or an Italian roast. This girl needs variety and let’s face it – I would surely die without my coffee.

I do like to keep a variety of pasta because everyone like pasta.

Pretty Pasta

However, I like my pasta pretty.  Why have plain old spaghetti when you can have tri-colored hearts and flowers?  I like to make a pasta salad with olive oil, garlic and seasonings or pair it with pasta sauces that I find in specialty food stores, salad and bread.  It’s quick and makes everyone happy.

However, I have to admit that because I love to bake, the majority of my pantry is taken up with baking ingredients.  It is inconceivable to me that at any moment, day or night, I wouldn’t have the ingredients to make a really good chocolate chip cookie or a simple 1-2-3-4 cake…no box mix necessary.  Therefore, there are always at least 2 bags of milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in my pantry.  Same for baking bars (milk, semi-sweet, unsweetened and white chocolate).  I keep dutch processed cocoa, a really good vanilla (never imitation) and of course extra flour (regular and cake), sugar (white, dark brown, light brown and powdered), baking soda and baking powder.  There are a few other additional fun things, but basically, if you have these ingredients you’re ready.

Baking Pantry collage

I have an obscene amount of sprinkles, sanding sugars and other decorations.  It’s fun to do and the girls love it!  I guess that I can’t really expect all of you to share my passion for baking, but I am going to leave you with a very simple recipe to keep in your back pocket for that moment when your spouse invites a coworker over unexpectedly. Or, when you suddenly remember that you were supposed to bring a dessert to the church pot luck tomorrow. Or when you can’t sleep and you want something sweet so you need to make a cake, then singlehandedly demolish it before dawn.  I’ve never done that…just using my imagination.

Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake 

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup of sour cream
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and beat well.  Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with frosting of your choice.