Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

The Clintons redeemed themselves.

Hillary gave the speech of a lifetime and was the portrait of magnanimity by voicing her unequivocal, unconditional support for Barack Obama. By making the motion to nominate Senator Obama by acclaimation, she showed the nation's women how a real woman loses -- with grace, dignity, and pride.

President Bill Clinton, the DNC's prosecutor-in-chief, laid out, in no uncertain terms, the case against the Bush administration and the Republican party.

And Senator Obama reminded me why I am a Democrat and made me proud to be one once again. My love-hate relationship with the party is no secret. Today, I'm a born-again Democrat. Because I, too, believe we are a better nation than what we have been during the past eight years.

I had to work late last night, so I missed hearing Obama's acceptance speech live except for the last of it on NPR. So, snuggled up with a stack of reading from work and some Otter Pops (for the hot flashes), I watched the speech on CNN near midnight.

I am in awe. I knew Senator Obama was possessed of great oratorical and intellectual gifts, but as the young folks say, he broke it down -- he laid out in plain English what he's going to do and why we -- not just him -- are going to do it.

And he's so right -- the McCains of the world don't get it. His candidacy isn't about him; it's about us, everyday American citizens who can no longer stand by and watch our government serve the interests of those who don't have our best interests at heart.

When he reminded us, in language reminiscent of the Kennedys and Dr. King, that "we are better nation than this," it was all that I could do not to cry. He gave life to the feelings of everyday Americans like myself.

So, today, I'm fired up and ready to go. I will be hosting a phone banking event at my home -- tentatively titled, "Burgers and Beer for Barack" -- and will do what I can to get as many people registered to vote as possible.

Why? Because I'm a Democrat. A proud Democrat. A Democrat who was almost brought to tears when she was reminded by Senator Obama of what my party and my nation can be.

Because it's my Party and I'll cry if I want to.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

A Little 'Tang at the 'Stang

“You’re a phenomenal woman. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” These kind words from BMNB this morning as I was dragging my tail and my spirit to work meant the world to me. He could see that my heart was heavy and my eyes were sad. “Keep your head up,” he advised.

This morning we discussed our future. Or rather, he told me in no uncertain terms what he was willing to do to secure our future, financially and otherwise. To make joy a regular part of our lives, not an occasional treat. To put our little family first. In other words, he assured me that in no uncertain terms he had my back.

For all of that, I would have willingly allowed him the pleasure of a little “‘tang at the ‘stang.”

You see, BMNB just returned from three days on the road driving most of our worldly possessions from a storage space in Aurora, Colorado to Elk Grove. He was tired beyond measure when he called me from Winnemucca, Nevada.

“You know,” I started slyly, “you’re in Nevada, where prostitution is legal in some counties. I wouldn’t be mad at you if you took in a little “ ‘tang at the ‘stang,” I laughed.

He laughed right back. “You mean the Mustang Ranch? Are they even still in business?” I could visualize his arched right eyebrow, which he arches when he’s curious or doubtful about something.

“I don’t know, but if they are, hey, it’s legal there and the IRS is probably running it to pay for back taxes. Won’t mess with your security clearance.”

He chuckled. “Nah, that’s okay. I’m good.”

You see, I’ve changed my position about marital infidelity. Back when I started college, I told my freshman roommate Sheila that if a husband of mine cheated on me, we’d be through. Cheating meant there was no trust; if there was no trust, there was no marriage.

“You mean you’d throw away a marriage behind some ass?” Sheila was wise beyond her years, even at 18.

Now, at the age of 45, I get it. Especially where BMNB is concerned.

You see, BMNB doesn’t have any real vices. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t gamble, and doesn’t chase women (or at least I have no reason to believe he does.) He’s cheap to a fault and won’t do anything that might remotely endanger his security clearance. He doesn’t even have a golf jones – he only goes out to the links to socialize with his friends who are golfing. He has no anger management issues, he’s never raised his hand to a woman, he’s never been arrested or done time, and he has no deep-seated therapy-worthy issues. For the most part, he’s as close to perfect a mate as I will ever come.

So if BMNB got a wild hair and decided to chase some tail, I ain’t mad at him, as long as he doesn’t violate the ground rules: 1) No souvenirs (e.g., crab lice, STD’s or children); 2) No emotional attachment; 3) No lying; 4) No cheating recidivism; and 5) No messing with my financial assets if you violate Rule Number 2 and decide you want a divorce. There’s love and then there’s money. Don’t mess with my money.

Long story short, I’m 45 years of age. I don’t want to start over. I don’t want to date again. I don’t want to divide up my assets, and I sure as hell don’t want to sell the Google stock in my 401k, especially behind some tail. We’ve worked too hard to build this life together to let it run adrift behind a stupid indiscretion from a man who’s been far too perfect for far too long. No person, male or female, is this good, and even BMNB should be allowed to fail just once.

So, BMNB, the offer still stands. But knowing you, you’re too good to take it.

That’s why I love you.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

But How Many Did She Threaten To Kill?

Harriet Tubman remains a blazing star in the firmament of African American history. The “Moses” of African American slaves, the Conductor of the Underground Railroad, she lead many of our people to freedom. When her “passengers,” because of fear or other reasons, threatened to turn around and head back to slavery, she supposedly would pull out a gun and threaten, “You’ll live free or die a slave!” She never lost a single passenger, even when there was a $40,000 bounty on her head.

My question is, how many of her passengers did she threaten to kill?

I’m reminded of this because of an orientation speech given by the principal of PS 7 Middle School. In his speech, he talked about the character traits the school requires of its students, and one of them is “coachability” -- the willingness to take instruction and do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal. I would imagine that some of Harriet Tubman’s passengers may have ceased to be coachable when faced with swimming in snake-infested waters or when hearing the baying of blood hounds. A gun to the back of your head can make you pretty coachable, I suppose.

Well, my PS 7 experience is coming to an end on Friday. My great-nephew will return to his mom, as we have agreed to disagree on his coachability. I’m hoping he will continue attending the school, but, unlike Harriet Tubman, I don’t have a gun to threaten that he live free or die a proverbial slave. I just have to hope and pray for the best. This has been a wonderful learning experience for me, though, because it has reinforced what I knew in my heart to be true – that you can’t want something for someone more than they want it for themselves, or for their children for that matter. That you can’t make someone share your vision. Or, as Dr. Phil says, “Some people get it; some don’t.” I won’t waste whatever precious time I have left on this earth with people who don’t get it. I will wish them well, but without any significant expenditure of my time.

Besides, I missed my blog.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Broke Cuisine

I recently heard from one subscriber to this blog – my sister, to be exact. She said she hadn’t read my views on John Edwards’ infidelity (pretty much a Democratic party male norm, to wit: Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Antonio Villaraigosa, Rev. Jesse Jackson (not only a philanderer but a spiritual counselor to philanderers)) or seen any comments by me on the passing of Isaac Hayes or Bernie Mac (both major losses to the African American creative community). What happened to Black Woman Blogging?

She’s now Black Woman Sleep Deprived. Now that I have a ‘tween living with me five days a week and going to PS 7, my days are planned around carpools, back-to-school night, checking homework and making lunches. My day starts at 5:00 am and ends at 10:30 or 11 pm. A big transition from my DINK (Double Income No Kids) lifestyle of less than a month ago.

In fact, when I embarked on this path, I became yet again in awe of my mom, SWIE, and the fact that she did what I’m doing with not just one child but with six children, seven days a week, not five. And of how she would make dishes that seemed so special to us but were in fact the product of two facts: 1) She was broke; and 2) she had six mouths to feed. I call these dishes “broke cuisine.”

I started thinking about “broke cuisine” because I had a hankerin’ for one of my favorite broke cuisine foods: Egg rice. My mother used to make this for breakfast on Saturday mornings, and I couldn’t think of the last time I had had it. I asked BMNB if he’d ever had egg rice. He, the Southerner for whom a day without grits is a day without sunshine, turned his head sideways and looked at me as if I were an alien. Nope, he had never even heard of egg rice. I exclaimed, “Egg rice was THE BOMB!” When I mentioned egg rice to my older sisters, they reminded me that that was what SWIE would make us for breakfast when she was broke. It figures – egg rice consists of leftover white rice sautéed with onion, with a seasoned scrambled egg or two added with crumbled bacon bits and salt and pepper to taste. Good eatin’, folks. I had no idea as a child that we were having egg rice because she was broke. I thought it was a special treat.

As a child, I also thought that “breakfast for dinner” was a special treat. I would rack my tiny mind trying to figure out what we kids had done that was so special that we got to have breakfast for dinner – pancakes, eggs, bacon, you name it. Again, Mom was broke. When I would brag at school the next day that I got to have breakfast for dinner the night before, my mom would later tell me not to tell people that we had had breakfast for dinner. As a small child, I couldn’t understand why. Now I get it.

One of my older sisters reminded me of another “broke cuisine” specialty of SWIE: Pork fried rice. My mom would take one or two leftover pork chops or any leftover pork, chop it up into tiny, tiny bits, saute them with white rice, add soy sauce and saute some more until the rice turned brown, add a seasoned scrambled egg and – here’s the variation – green onions. To this day I think my mom made better pork fried rice than most Chinese restaurants.

My oldest sister reminded me of another broke cuisine staple: Bean burritos. SWIE would take leftover chili beans and put them in burritos with rice to make the beans stretch. Again, good eatin’. I was blissfully unaware as a child that this was indeed broke cuisine. I was too busy smacking my lips and going back for seconds.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be as creative in the kitchen as my mom was. Through her cooking creativity, she shielded me from the truth of our condition – that, more often than not, our family was broke. You couldn’t have told the six year-old me, though – heck, I’d just had breakfast for dinner last night, so life was good.

What’s your broke cuisine?

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Friday, August 8, 2008

My Life's Just Fine

It's been a long week, I put in my hardest
Gonna live my life, feels good to get it right

Mary J. Blige, "Just Fine"

This was the first week of a huge educational experiment. My (great)nephew came to stay with me during the week for the purpose of going to PS 7. Since he has a cousin and a family friend who also go there, I drove carpool.

And BMNB has been out of town, chowing down on Southern food in South Carolina, calling me with restaurant dispatches while he's ordering ("I'm at XYZ restaurant ordering seafood gumbo, and one of my colleagues is ordering shrimp and grits . . . ")

So, for two and a half days this week, I was the equivalent of a single mom.

I had absolutely no appreciation of how difficult that is. I am in awe and I bow down to your organizational skills and sheer will, single moms.

First, I realized that if I don't get up on time, nobody gets up on time, except maybe the dog, and that's because she's hungry.

Second, I learned that dinner delayed is pretty much dinner denied. A hungry child is irritable, unfocused, and just unable to function. Not unlike a hungry BMNB, but at least you can tell an adult to go fix his own damn dinner.

Third, I learned that I have to be at least as organized as the child I'm trying to organize. I have no excuse for being late for not being able to find something to wear when I've told him to lay out his clothes the night before. My nephew has an organizer for his homework. My Franklin Covey organizer is a shambles. Maybe I need to be going to PS 7.

Fourth, I learned that you can't give up or they'll give up. And you can't show doubt or they'll have doubt. It's like blood in the water to sharks -- they can smell defeat and doubt in an adult from miles out.

Fifth, I've learned that those last words you say to them when they leave your presence really, really matter. So choose well.

Sixth, I've learned that there's nothing more fun than bopping to Mary J. Blige's "Just Fine" while driving with a 'tween niece in the backseat, hearing her sing out loud, "So I like what I see when I'm looking at me when I'm walking past the mirror," hoping that this self-esteem anthem sticks with her in the years to come, and ignoring protests from my nephew that it's a "stupid chick song."

Or walking your dog with that same nephew and just listening to him talk about his hopes, joys and fears under a starlit sky.

Between cooking dinner, making lunches, checking homework, driving carpool, doing laundry, and coordinating with the village of family members who are all working together to make sure these kids take full advantage of this educational blessing . . .

Yep, "I wouldn't change my life, my life's just fine . . . . "

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Miss Oakland. I Miss Me.

It hit me when I was pulling into the parking lot at Peet’s Coffee to treat myself after surviving carpooling with three very sullen teenagers facing their second day of school. XM Radio’s “Suite 62” started to play Tony! Toni! Tone!’s soulful hit, “It Never Rains In Southern California,” and it brought back a flood of memories.

Tony! Toni! Tone! was from Oakland.

Once upon a time, I was, too.

No, I wasn’t born in Oakland, but in a way I was. Fresh out of law school in 1990, I landed in – no, made a beeline for – Oakland to begin my life as a Mary Richards-esque independent, working, single woman. In Oakland I had my first apartment by myself, up the hill from the Grand Lake Theater; my first independent single woman car – a deep red 1982 Honda Prelude (that my sister gave me, so maybe I wasn’t all that independent); and my first real job, working for a top law firm making $65,000 a year – more money than my parents combined, more than I could handle well, and Lord knows I didn’t. In Oakland, I felt young and smart and free. Like I had a checkbook drawn on an account of unlimited potential.

My attraction to Oakland, and the San Francisco Bay Area in general, began in my pre-teen years from visiting my cousin there. I had never seen so many upper-middle class blacks in one place in all my life. In my native Sacramento, all I saw was black people struggling. Not starving, mind you, but not thriving, either. Oakland was my first exposure to black intellectuals, to black wealth, to black power, to black success. In Oakland, anything was possible.

Now I’m a derided state worker in a city where I have no friends, where even a revitalized, bustling, clean, attractive downtown – in the capitol of the seventh largest economy in the world, mind you – seems beyond the capabilities of leaders of all races. I feel like I left behind the land of “Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it!” for the land of “I don’t think so.”

I miss Oakland. I miss me.

I miss riding BART and seeing young, successful, suited-and-booted black men full of themselves and smelling good.

I miss Peet’s Coffee when it was just a Bay Area thing.

I miss taking the Casual Commute to work (my dad said that if I kept riding with strangers, I was going to end up like Polly Klaas), and the stunning bay views on the bus ride home on AT Transit.

I miss the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

I miss Skates on the Bay, although it’s in Berkeley.

I miss my urban tribe of friends from all walks of life – law, business, education, the arts – all educated, all beautiful souls. They were people I wouldn’t hesitate to cook for, and I don’t cook for many people these days.

I miss the strength of affinity black folks in Oakland feel for their churches. It is stronger than any gang affiliation that routinely makes the mainstream media, but is hardly ever written about.

I miss the Charles Houston Bar Association and the Wiley Manuel Law Foundation.

I miss Marcus Books, although I’ve grown to love Underground Books.

I miss Grand Avenue – the bakeries, the thrift shops, the Grand Theater.

I miss Gertrude Stein’s, although it went out of business a long time ago.

I miss the art deco interior of the Paramount Theater. Not the acoustics, mind you, but the interior.

I miss the local judges of color who would rearrange their schedules to hear kids of all races from Oakland’s public high schools give their moot court arguments as part of the Wiley Manuel Law Foundation’s High School Moot Court competition.

I miss Oakland’s black judges, who mentored a generation of then-young black lawyers such as myself and encouraged us to reach higher than their accomplishments.

I miss the late Cecil Poole, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, for whom I clerked after law school. In particular, I miss watching Judge Poole balance his checkbook on the bench when the lawyers presenting their oral arguments had ceased to engage him, much less persuade him. I miss how he never felt constrained by his race. But black men from Alabama rarely do. That's why I married one.

I miss Piedmont Avenue and Zati’s Restaurant in particular, although I do get back there now and again.

I miss the Rockridge BART station and all the shops around it, especially the Rockridge Bakery.

I miss Jack London Square and Samuel's Gallery, where I learned that art is essential to one's soul, even moreso if you're black.

I miss Yoshi’s and Kimball’s East, which is in Emeryville, but same difference.

I miss going to Alameda just so that I could look at Oakland.

I miss the kind of music lovers Oakland has who can tell you where in the city Earl “Fatha” Hines is buried and that “House of Music” was really a music store, not just the title of a Tony! Toni! Tone! CD.

I miss running around Lake Merritt and dusting middle-aged black men who would first compete with me and then just smile.

I miss Cal students, with their funky wit and funkier clothing and hair styles.

I miss the tiny streets of the Oakland hills, and the large, daring houses perched on the ledges there, all with views of the Bay.

Perhaps the Oakland I miss doesn’t really exist anymore, but I wouldn’t have accomplished all the things I did if I hadn’t lived there at the time of my life when I did. In the time of Oakland’s life and mine when anything was possible.

I miss Oakland. I miss me.