Black Woman Blogging

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Get Your Own: Own Some OWN

On January 1, 2011, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will launch on what was formerly the Discovery Health Channel. If you're like me, you've been a loyal viewer of the Oprah Show and have probably, time permitting, also watched Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus and Rachael Ray as regularly as possible. You've probably purchased books chosen as Oprah Book Club selections.

I don't mean to sound selfish, but what have you gotten in exchange for all your Oprah loyalty? It's not like you could buy stock in Harpo, Inc.

But you CAN buy stock in Discovery Communications, Inc., which will own OWN 50-50 with Harpo, Inc.

That's right, it's time for you to benefit from all your years of Oprah loyalty. Own some OWN.

Although Discovery Communications, Inc. has issued various series of stock the differences between which I have yet to discern, I'm seriously considering owning some OWN, or rather, Discovery Communications, Inc., in my 401K. Sure, it's a bet that Oprah is as much of a programming genius as she is a talk show goddess, but I think it's a pretty safe one given the success of the shows she's produced. It's not like I'm going to sink my entire fund into Discovery Communications stock.

Now it's time for you to get YOUR ownership on. Consider purchasing an ownership interest in OWN.

Happy New Year!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teena Marie: She Was Us

I was shocked to hear of Teena Marie's passing. Just as there are those who will always believe that Elvis, Tupac and Biggie are still alive, I'm one of those who will always believe this: Teena Marie was black. Blacker than me.

Yes, I saw video of her mother on TV One's "Unsung." Yes, I've seen her perform on television numerous times. I just refuse to believe that a white woman could talk, sing, and move in the world the way she did and still be white. If we as black people could give honorary black status to anyone, Teena Marie would have been at the top of the list. But we wouldn't have thought she needed such status. She was us.

She didn't imitate R&B and hip-hop; she was R & B and hip-hop. She wasn't like us; she was us. Teena Marie could have used the N-word and I don't think a single black person would have flinched. She earned that right, if for no other reason, for putting up with Rick James' mess as long as she did and not turning away from us because of it.

It is because of her rap in "Square Biz" that I learned about Sarah Vaughn. I didn't realize until I was older that she was praising through imitation Sarah Vaughn's phrasing when she sang, "I'm. . . .talk. . . ing . . . square biz . . . I'mtalkingsquarebiztoyooooo . . ." Who else but a black woman could write a rhyme that sent up praises to Bach, Shakespeare, Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni in the same rhyme?

Teena Marie, that's who.

She lead the way -- no, blazed the way -- for so many female singer-songwriter-producers. She fought Motown and Berry Gordy and won, making legal precedent for artists so that record companies could not refuse to release their records while holding them hostage to their contracts. That she had the balls to go up against Motown near its apex and win speaks volumes.

But the moment I became absolutely certain that Teena Marie was black was when she was asked during the "Unsung" episode what she was most proud of and she replied, "My child." A black woman could be elected president, win the Nobel Peace Prize, and broker peace in the Middle East, but if you were to ask her what she's most proud of, she'd still say, "My child."

I will miss Teena Marie, but I will also celebrate her through her music. Our music. Because she was us.

And I don't care what anybody says, that sistah was black.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Gifts I'm Giving Myself This Christmas

My mother didn't wait for or expect my father to buy her what she wanted for Christmas. She just went out and bought it herself. I think her logic was simple and still holds true: Why wait for or expect someone to not only determine your wishes but also fulfill them? I don't know about you, but I've never given myself a gift I didn't like.

In that vein, instead of waiting to be "surprised," for good or for bad, with a gift purchased for me, I'm giving myself the gifts I want this year. And they're not all monetary or consumption-driven. Sure, I went out and bought three Mulberry for Target handbags simply because I thought they were cute. I tried to score those Isabel Toledo for Payless Toreador pumps that keep selling out, only to become a victim of Payless' online inventory glitch and miss out totally. But the gifts I really want aren't all monetary, and I'm in the best position to give them to myself. They are:

The Gift of Boundaries. Too often I twist and bend my schedule, sublimate my desires, and make compromises to make others happy. I don't speak my mind in the face of audacious personal questions and outright rude statements in order to keep the peace and not rock the boat. This year, I'm giving myself the gift of boundaries. When confronted with the possibility of inconveniencing myself to make someone else's life more convenient without any acknowledgement of or appreciation for what I'm giving up, my new catchphrase will be, "No, I don't think so." When asked something that's nobody's business, my new catchphrase will be, "Gee, that's really personal. I don't think I'm going to answer that." When confronted with rudeness, I'll calmly respond, "How rude," smile and walk away, boundaries intact.

The Gift of a Room of My Own. Marriage requires you to share. A lot. Finances, a bedroom, a bed, cookware -- well, maybe not cookware, since I don't let BMNB anywhere near my All-Clad pans -- but you get the drift. Virginia Woolf meant it figuratively, but I mean it literally -- every woman should have a room of her own, her own place to think, create, or just enjoy solitude. I don't care if it's a cavern or a closet -- it just needs to be your own. I've had an office in our home since we moved in, but I haven't really configured it for my easy usage until now. BMNB and I have been working on getting our home cleaned and organized because we will have relatives staying with us for the holidays. The beauty of this cleaning and organization is that I finally have a usable room of my own in which to do all these things. I can actually walk to my desk or sit on my "throne" -- a five-dollar used, overstuffed chair and ottoman I bought from a thrift store in Denver, cleaned, and covered with a crimson slipcover. I plan to enjoy my space, by myself, over the coming year.

The Gift of Not Cooking and Not Feeling Guilty About It. One of the things BMNB and I went 'round and 'round about before marriage was domestic responsibilities. When we lived in Colorado, I moved into his home. In turn, I started doing most of the cooking and cleaning until I looked up and realized that I was doing most of the cooking and cleaning in addition to keeping up with the demands of my own job. At some point, we had an argument about it, and I said, "If this is marriage, why would I choose this?" It wasn't as if I hated cooking and cleaning -- it's just that I now had double the work and half the help to do it. It wasn't fair.

As part of our pre-marital counseling, this was an issue we discussed. BMNB agreed that he would learn to cook more than his repertoire of seven dishes. I, in turn, agreed that I would attend church with him.

He didn't keep his promise, so I didn't keep mine.

During the political campaign I worked on this summer, I felt guilty that I wasn't at home more often to cook for him. For Thanksgiving, despite being exhausted from the campaign , recovering from a sinus infection, taking no time off from my day job, and still working on post-campaign issue, I cooked for hours upon end -- turkey, dressing, green beans, candied yams, homemade rolls, pies, punch -- to make up for my months' long absence from the kitchen.

Fast forward to yesterday, when BMNB informs me that he is going to learn to cook for our holiday guests. Not for me, mind you, but our guests.

Needless to say, I don't feel guilty about not cooking anymore. I will cook what I want, when I want, if I want, for my own health and pleasure. And I'll feel free to kick back a good glass of wine with those meals. Not all who drink are drunks, BMNB.

The Gift of Spending as Much Time as I Damn Well Please on Myself. Fantasia declared the new women's anthem this year: "I'm Doing Me." We women should follow suit. How many of us twist our schedules to do stuff for the good of our families and leave our own basic needs unmet? Not this year, ladies. I'm doing me. I think I'll give myself a gift certificate for 312 hours of MY time next year for exercise (6 hours per week), 182 hours of MY time to read books (a half hour per day), 120 hours of MY time for hair, nails and massages, and 96 hours of MY time to go to the movies, visit museums, or visit the wine country by myself. Thank you, Fantasia, for freeing the rest of us.

The Gift of Spending Christmas How I Want. Admit it -- haven't you ever wanted to travel for Christmas instead of spending it at home? I know I have. However, I've always tried to spend Christmas they way I've been told I should want to spend it -- family, cooking, home. Next year: Hawai'i, for no other reason than I've never spent Christmas there.

The Gift of Not Caring What People Think. How often do we stifle our words, our actions -- even the clothes we wear -- for fear that they may offend someone or that others might not approve? Enough. I'm so done with that. Don't like my hair style or my outfit? Not my problem.

The Gift of Truly Living. I know I'm so guilty of living my life in a triangle -- home, work, doing stuff for home, with trips to Starbucks squeezed in between. I don't go to movies as much as I would like, I don't visit museums, and I don't travel as much as I did when I was single. When I was single, it was like, "Have money -- will travel." Girlfriend's going to the Bahamas? I was there. Hawai'i by myself-- on someone else's dime, no less? Did it. TWICE. The funny thing is that I did more and enjoyed life more when I was single, earning way less, AND had bad credit. I traveled more with bad credit than I do now with good credit. I want to put that joie de vivre back in my life. This girl just wants to have fun. Cyndi Lauper never lied.

The Gift of Charting My Own Retirement Planning Course. Marriage means trying to plan your finances together. That only works if you share the same goals and the same approaches to money. Sometimes BMNB and I do; sometimes we don't. We have different approaches to retirement planning, and I'm giving myself the gift of charting my own retirement planning course instead of seeking compromise. We'll see who chose right in 2025.

Instead of waiting for others to give you what you want for Christmas this year, go ahead and give it to yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Merry Christmas and thank you all so very much for your readership and words of encouragement. I'm still working on the book, in a room of my own, no less.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Don't Forget -- It Is a Christmas "Season"

It's easy in the midst of shopping, planning meals, cleaning house and preparing for holiday guests that it is a Christmas "season." Seasons don't last forever. If you don't take time out to enjoy the season, you'll look up and it'll be gone.

Enjoying the season doesn't have to mean spending a wad of cash. It's as easy as walking around your neighborhood or any neighborhood at night to look at Christmas lights. When BMNB and I lived in Colorado, that was one of our favorite things to do around Christmastime -- drive around at night and see the Christmas lights in the different neighborhoods around Denver.

You can donate canned goods from your pantry to a food bank knowing that a family in need will be fed and appreciative.

You can take time for yourself. Take a walk and get some fresh air and exercise -- 30 minutes of walking a day can make a world of difference if you've been sedentary for a long time. Stop and meditate -- clear you mind of stresses and worry. Read a good book while taking a bubble bath.

You can attend a free performance of "Handel's Messiah" -- like the "Handel's Messiah Sing-A-Long" on December 19th at the Mormon Temple in Oakland, California at 6:00 pm. I'm sure there's a free performance of either "Handel's Messiah" or "Handel's Messiah - A Soulful Celebration" somewhere where you live.

You can attend local performances of any variety of "The Nutcracker" or other holiday plays or shows, from high school performances on up. One of my personal favorites is "Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum" by the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Troupe in Denver.

If you live where it snows, have a snowball fight with your kids. Make snow angels.

You can bake cookies and share them with neighbors.

Or, you can just put up your own Christmas decorations and marvel at them over a good cup of coffee or eggnog while listening to your favorite Christmas music and counting your blessings.

But hurry. Before you know it, the season will be over. Seasons don't last forever.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

A Prayer for Aretha, From All Her Daughters

I was saddened to hear of Aretha Franklin's pancreatic cancer and surgery. I am praying, as are many of her other spiritual daughters, that she will recover and continue to reign as the Queen of Soul.

Although Aretha Franklin has no biological daughters, she has millions of us spiritual ones. We learned to demand respect, tell men to think about what they're trying to do to us, and revel in what it feels like to be a natural woman just by listening to her songs. We rocked steady and went riding on the freeway of love. We learned of the universality of heartbreak when she demanded, "don't play that song," as well as the ephemeral hope within love lost when she promised to knock on her man's door, tap on his window pane, and walk by herself to prove that her love was true. Her songs, and the feeling with which she sang them, told our stories -- what we'd been through or would eventually go through as women. She reminded us and Lauryn Hill that "a rose is still a rose"and that WE still had the power, and then she put all of us and Fantasia "up on game."

If you are a woman, chances are that, at some point in your life, you drew inspiration, strength, or joy from an Aretha Franklin song. For a woman who didn't have daughters, you would have thought she'd been raising girls all her life.

In a way, she did.

Let all of us, Aretha's spiritual daughters, lift her up in prayer.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Prayer for Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards passed away today at the age of 61, leaving behind three children and joining a fourth. Keep her earthly children in your prayers.

Elizabeth had the forethought to record her advice and wisdom for her young kids knowing she would not be there when they needed it. It saddens me that she has left behind two children under the age of 18. I'm not a mom, but I know most mothers live for two things: To raise all their children to adulthood and, if they're lucky, live to see their own grandchildren. Elizabeth Edwards will not achieve either of these goals.

When I turned 18, it was the most momentous coming-of-age moment for my parents because my turning 18 signaled they were done. They had gotten six kids to the age of adulthood, without pregnancies or prison time and with high school diplomas. For two black parents who had not finished high school, they were relieved. Their job was done. And, they lived to see their grandchildren.

I'm not a mom, but I can't even imagine what a mother must feel leaving behind her young children and hoping that someone will love them as much as she would and will raise them as she would. Had John Edwards shown himself to be someone still capable of good moral choices, I would imagine this would not have been as much of a concern for Elizabeth. But he didn't.

I voted for John Edwards in 2008 presidential Democratic primary because he talked about issues of class divide and inequity, which even candidate Obama wasn't really addressing, and because I wanted Elizabeth Edwards to be First Lady. I thought her passion for children and compassion for others would be the gentle and loving presence the White House needed in a First Lady. I hoped she would lead us to be our better selves as people and as citizens. Luckily, through the example of how she lived her life and the words she left behind in the pages of her books, we can follow in her footsteps and be our better selves. I am thankful that she shared so much of herself with us.

I hope Elizabeth Edwards has ascended to a heavenly reunion with her son, Wade. Godspeed, Elizabeth Edwards, and may the Lord bless and keep you in his loving arms.

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