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My Only Resolution for 2014: To Use What I Have

As we approach the beginning of a new year, the default mode for most of us, myself included, is to draw up plans for the coming year.  Many of us have fallen away from those plans in the past, myself included.  This year, I've decided to keep it simple, making one resolution and only one for 2014:  To use what I have.

The idea came to me when I thought about how I had organized my pantry and, to my detriment, had to throw out a lot of food that had expired.  I wasted a lot of food out of sheer disorganization.  I could have fed myself, BMNB, and a whole host of others if I had donated the food before it expired.  I decided going forward to use what I have -- to look in my pantry before making grocery lists or find recipes using what I already have.

The idea of using what you have applies to more than food in your pantry.  Many times I think that if I buy this or that new gadget (Zumba DVD) or pay money for something I already have (a gym membership near my new job despite the fac…

A Double Standard in Judging Bigotry (Phil Robertson versus Paula Deen)

I noticed that Phil Robertson has been allowed to return to "Duck Dynasty."  Well and good. Actually, I don't know how you allow someone to return to a show that probably would not exist without him, but hey, what do I know.

But isn't this a double standard in judging bigotry?

I noticed last week in Wal-Mart that none of the "Duck Dynasty" licensed goods -- t-shirts, blankets, etc. -- had been removed from the shelves.  Yet, when Paula Deen was vilified for a racial slur she uttered decades ago, she not only lost her show, but her licensed goods were yanked from Wal-Mart's shelves tout suite.

So, Phil Robertson's comments that were offensive to two groups -- the LGBT community and the African-American community -- were less offensive than the one racial slur Paula Deen uttered in the '60's that was offensive to only one group?

Am I missing something here?

I guess calling ducks is more remunerative to corporate America than cooking them.

In Defense of Phil Robertson (The Right Thing To Do)

I haven't been following the dust-up about Phil Robertson's quotes in GQ magazine as closely as some, and I don't necessarily share the same feelings about them as does my sister, The Writing Diva.  I think issues of race and sexual orientation in the South are more complex than those of us raised outside the South understand.  When a white Southerner expresses a point of view about sexual orientation or race that isn't in line with moderate America's expectations, we're quick to dismiss that person as an ignorant, backwoods hick.

It's more complicated than that. 

Maybe it's because of Nelson Mandela's recent passing that I'm stepping back and taking the longer view on what Phil Robertson said in light of his life experience and mine.  Here's my life experience.

I lived in Mississippi for a year.  What I learned living there is that even if Southern or rural Southern whites believe that the Bible forbids what you're doing or how you'…

Home Ownership Is Not "Acting White"

This blog entry is dedicated to Bob "Treebob" Williams, who gave Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) the gentle nudge to buy his first home.  Rest in peace, Bob.

Sadly, there are many characteristics that my people write off as "acting white":  Being intelligent, speaking English well, doing well in school, having good credit.  But there's one that strikes fear in my heart for the next generation:  Home ownership.

The Housing Bubble and the Great Recession resulted in lots of African-Americans losing their homes.  Many of us have written off home ownership, thinking of the whole real estate market as being shady (and there's something to that; more on that later) and of home ownership as being beyond our reach and for white folks.

The reason this scares me is that the gains we as African-Americans made in home ownership in the late '90's and early 2000's won't be regained if we as a people simply write off home ownership.  Why does it matter?  Bec…

If Mandela was a Communist and a Terrorist, What Were the Afrikaners?

I had been reading all the online tributes to Nelson Mandela, learning things about him that I didn't know (his favorite dish was tripe, which the author incorrectly identified as animal intestines -- tripe is stomach), when I made the mistake of reading the comments below one article.  One commenter objected to the tributes for Mandela, calling Mandela a communist and a terrorist.

Really?  And what were the Afrikaners?

I usually don't respond to stupidity because the response elevates the stupidity.  But in this case, I won't let the ignorant corrupt history, anonymously online, no less. Never mind the fact that such comments violate the maxim that you should not speak ill of the dead.

We've seen this all before.  When a great political figure, usually a person of color, is known for having stood up to make humankind accountable to the principles of freedom and equality, they are politically slurred in death without any reference to the context in which they acted.  T…

Thank You to the Family of Nelson Mandela

There's not much I can say about the passing of Nelson Mandela that hasn't already been said.  I don't have the encyclopedic knowledge about him that historians and Wikipedia have.  I participated in anti-apartheid sit-ins once or twice, not with the same commitment to the cause as some of my college and law school classmates.  Much of what I know about him comes from accounts about him, not from what I observed first hand.

But there is something I can say that may not be said enough during this time of grief and mourning:  Thank you to the family of Nelson Mandela.

We often forget that when someone accepts the mantle of leadership, they serve their cause, their country, or both, usually at the expense of their family.

Nelson Mandela's leadership of the ANC, his imprisonment, and his leadership of his country meant that his family was deprived of time that might otherwise have been spent with him. I doubt he would have had it any other way.  His sacrifice was his famil…

For Those of You Who Didn't Pass the CA Bar Exam the First Time (I Am One of You)

For those of you who didn't pass the California bar exam on your first try, I want to encourage you.  I am one of you.

I remember getting the news that I didn't pass.  I remember doubling over in pain, laying on the floor of my Oakland apartment nearly unconscious, hobbled by an infection that ravaged my kidneys, bladder and entire urinary tract.

I remember the guy I was supposedly dating at the time calling to "console" me ("Sorry you didn't pass . . . ") and hanging up despite the fact that he knew I was ill.

I remember one of my closest friends coming to the rescue, literally picking me off the floor and carrying me to the hospital, where I was told that if I had waited any longer I would have had to have been hospitalized.

I remember having to tell my family over Thanksgiving dinner that I had failed.  My siblings tried to cheer me up and my dad reminded me, "You're the only one in this neighborhood qualified to even take the bar exam."…

The Gift of Order (My Sister's Gift)

It took days, but I finally organized my pantry.  Sure, the baskets from the Dollar Tree that I used to hold canned goods and condiments had already been labeled, and there was contact paper on the shelves (but not attached to it), but it wasn't organized and it wasn't functional.  Stuff I use regularly was up high, while stuff I use occasionally was within easy reach.  Now it's organized and functional.

This may not be a big deal to you, Dear Reader, but it is to me.  Organization is not my strong suit.  Nor is maintaining it.

I've been living in my house for five years, but I can say that I'm just now really moving in.  In order to organize my pantry, I had to unpack wedding gifts that I had not opened since I married ten years ago.  To be honest, I think that when Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I  moved in, we just put stuff where we could find it and kept stepping.  We didn't value functional organization enough to create it or maintain it.  This is desp…

God Bless The Child, Especially If The Pastor Won't

For S.T.  My apologies for the delay.

Yours truly has been asked her opinion of a story in the news about Pastor Marvin Winans' refusal to bless the two year-old child of an unwed mother in a church dedication ceremony for two year-old children.  The story states that the offer was made to bless the child outside of the dedication ceremony but not as part of it.

My response might surprise you.

Out-of-wedlock births present a problem for the black community, a large portion of which is steeped in religion and cultural beliefs.  How do you celebrate the child of unwed parents without approving the means by which he or she arrived?

I would not pretend to tell the leader of a church how to run that church.  I would not even think about telling Pastor Winans that he should do something he feels his faith compels him not to do.  I do, however, think he missed a teaching moment and an opportunity to bring an entire family closer to God.

If I were Pastor Winans, I would have blessed the c…

The House GOP Members: Burning Down the House

"Watch out.  You might get what you're after."

Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House."

It is only fitting that on the end of Day 15 of the Government Shutdown, and only one day away from the first-ever U.S. government default, I dedicate the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House" to the House GOP members.  I couldn't imagine for the life of me that our elected leaders would play Russian Roulette with the full faith and credit of U.S. obligations and would be willing to tank not only the U.S. economy but the world economy in an effort to get back at President Obama.

Do they hate this Black man that much?  Oh yes.  Yes they do.

Before you go all ballistic and accuse me of playing the race card, let's call a thing a thing:  This shutdown isn't about defunding Obamacare.  It's about embarrassing and weakening this African American president whom the GOP has despised since Day 1 of his first term, what with Mitch McConnell vowing to …

What the GOP Could Learn from a P-I-M-P (And Get the Government Running Again) (NSFW)

We're on Day 14 of the government shutdown, all because Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell don't know how to keep their party in check.  There's a lot that the GOP could learn from a P-I-M-P.  Hell, there's a lot they could have learned from Nancy Pelosi, who still keeps her party in check without benefit or need of the title of Speaker.

Mind you, I've written admiringly about pimps before, not because I respect what they do, but because I respect their ability to get something so morally bankrupt done with minimal (or minimized) transaction costs.  If pimps (well, real pimps, not government pimps) were running the GOP, Senator Ted Cruz' idiot idea of shutting down the government until Obamacare was defunded would not have gotten far. (And kudos to Bob Schieffer for repeatedly asking how the GOP let Ted Cruz get this far.  As far as I'm concerned, Bob Schieffer is the only thinking journalist on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.)

Dear Mr. President: Don't Blink, But Do Fart On Their Heads

Dear Mr. President,

When boys wrestle, especially brothers, the ultimate in victory is for the winning boy to not only sit on head of the defeated boy, but to fart on his head as well.  In families, it's usually the older brother who ends up sitting and farting on the head of his younger brother as a deterrent to future challenges.  Mr. President, you didn't grow up with brothers, but there's a lesson to be learned from the wrestling of boys.

But first, Mr. President, I have a message for you from my sister regarding this standoff with congressional Republicans:  Don't blink.

In this standoff/government shutdown, there's far more at stake than just a budget or the debt ceiling.  As you've so aptly put it, what is at stake is the ability to govern without being forced into false crises created by a small contingent of Republicans who are out of step with the majority of the nation.  So my sister's advice to you, Mr. President, is to continue to stand toe-to-…

The Hardest Part of Getting Old (The Stuff of Elders)

I'm 50.  It's safe to say that there are probably more days behind me than ahead of me and I am now an "elder" of my family.  The hardest part of getting old for anyone in my position is that, in these remaining days, you will be called upon to do the most difficult things, things you would not have been called upon to do as a child or even a young adult, if lucky, because they are the stuff of elders, and rightly so.

Most of the usual complaints about aging relate to health and body change -- diminishing eyesight and hearing, stiffness in one's bones, graying hair.  But all the while your body is changing and your faculties are diminishing, you will be called upon to do difficult things and, because of your stature as an elder, you will be expected to do those things with grace and magnanimity, and without showing grief or any self-indulgent displays of emotion.

You will be called upon to walk with loved ones who are older than you on their journey as they battl…

Until The Lions Have Their Own Historians (Trayvon Martin On My Mind)

Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

~ African proverb

I've been staying silent on the George Zimmerman trial.  But really, why are we calling it the "George Zimmerman trial" when in fact Trayvon Martin's on trial, and he's dead? Just as in the African proverb, George Zimmerman, the hunter, is being glorified enough to be acquitted.  I understand the difficulty of the prosecution's task -- disproving Zimmerman's self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt in a state that has a "stand your ground" law.  It would be the height of irony and cruelty if the "stand your ground" law allows you to stand your ground and defend yourself against a confrontation that, but for your own actions, would never have happened, especially since it involved a teenage boy.

I feel so much for Trayvon's parents.  I've seen this movie before.  My family has its own George Zimmerman.  His nam…

Affirmative Action in Higher Ed Admissions Still Holds for Now, But Don't Get Too Excited . . . . (Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin)

I have to admit it -- I've been more interested in the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming decisions on same-sex marriage and DOMA than I have been in the affirmative action in higher education case decided today, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.  When it comes to affirmative action in higher education, I guess I'm just battle weary.  I fully expect that, like the T-Rex testing the electric fence in "Jurassic Park," the opponents of affirmative action will, at some point, happen upon a persuasive theory and a receptive Supreme Court majority and do away with affirmative action.  I'm way past holding my breath each time an affirmative action in higher education case reaches the Supreme Court.

As you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised that the Supreme Court didn't strike down affirmative action in higher education in its entirety.  This case came to the Supreme Court as a result of summary judgment solely on the issue whether the consideration of rac…

If We Could Forgive George Wallace . . . . (A Conversation with Black Folks About Paula Deen)

Hi Black Folks,

Can we talk about Paula Deen?  Quite frankly, the question of forgiving Paula Deen for using the N-word in the past is, IMHO, a conversation that needs to reside within the black community since that word is used to demean us and strip us of our humanity.  So for all of my non-white readers, please excuse us while we black folks have a conversation about forgiving Paula Deen.

Oh, and for those of you black folks who routinely use the N-word -- rappers and the like -- you're excused from the conversation.  As far as I'm concerned, you're part of the problem.  I don't take a "do as I say, not as I do" attitude towards the N-word.  To my mind, there is no acceptable use of the word.  So, as far as I'm concerned, you have no place in this conversation, either.

Now, down to brass tacks.  First, I'll admit my bias.  I'm a Paula Deen fan.  I like her wit, her charm, her grit, her backstory of overcoming adversity and taking her greatest t…

The Makena Monologues, Part I: The Power of Rejuvenation

*Note:  This is the first in a series of entries I wrote in my journal at the Makena Beach and Golf Resort, Maui, Hawai'i.  The occasion was the week of my 50th birthday and Black Man Not Blogging's (BMNB) and my 10th wedding anniversary.

May 25, 2013

The weeks leading up to our sojourn were stressful.  I have been under the gun at work, being micromanaged and challenged, working crazy hours.  BMNB was pretty much left on his own to take care of himself and his mom.  I was doing well to shower and get to work.  We also had some major financial decisions to make in short order that were stressing us both out.

My life was waaay out of balance.  I think both our lives were.  I kept saying over and over, "I just need everything to stop."

The only reason we went on this vacation we really couldn't afford was we both decided we could not let the demands and stresses of our lives make us not take time to mark our ten years together as a married couple and my 50th birthd…

Here's to the Lionesses (Primary Breadwinner Women)

The Pew Research Center analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data and found that, in 40% of American families, a woman is the primary or sole breadwinner.  I briefly saw a clip from Fox News in which Megyn Kelly was giving a smackdown to some male talking head who said that it wasn't the natural order of things for women to be in this position.  I couldn't stand to watch the rest of the clip.

Not natural?  Tell that to the lionesses.

In nature, lionesses are the primary meatwinner -- I say "meatwinner" because lions ain't eating bread out on the savannah -- for their families.  The male lion is pretty much, well, useless, except for breeding.  With all that useless hair upside his head, he throws off the hunt by announcing his presence.  It's pretty much the lionesses -- basically one woman and her sisters -- bringing down the zebra and antelope and whatnot.

That's nature for real.  Ask the lionesses, or a female bear, for that matter.

What disturbs me more is the…

A Tectonic Shift in Priorities (Or Collateral Damage in the Mommy Wars)

We have a new person at work, who I will refer to as "NP" for purposes of this blog.  NP has an infant.  Today NP's boss, one of the highest-ups in the food chain where I work, blithely stated that NP would be assigned to work on an urgent assignment this weekend, without the slightest hint of prior consultation or consensus with NP.  NP sat there with a shit-eating grin and did not protest.  It sucks to be new.

Whoa, Nelly.

I thought to myself that if my boss had similarly committed me to work this weekend without consulting me, I would have said, "I have plans." Because I do.  And I plan on having plans for the weekend for the next fifteen years or so years.

Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I are getting closer to adopting a toddler-age sibling set through foster care.  As we get closer, I am alternately excited and nauseated at the prospect of what our life will become as late-life parents to young kids.  We're marking some major milestones as of late -…

President Obama's Comment About Attorney General Kamala Harris: I'm Not Offended, and Ain't I A Woman?

President Obama lauds California Attorney General Kamala Harris by saying she's brilliant, tough, dedicated and "the best looking attorney general in the country."

One of the local news channels here, CBS 13, showed a video of interviews with women -- and a guy or two -- asking them whether President Obama's remarks were offensive to women.  The women gave mixed responses.

None of the women were African-American, which pisses me the hell off because, as an African-American woman, I've got a way different perspective on this and I'm tired of white women being the voice of all women.  In the words of Sojourner Truth, ain't I a woman?

My perspective is different because I saw President Obama's remarks not as a gendered commentary, but a raced-and-gendered commentary, if you will, and an inside joke between friends.  I don't recall President Obama ever making a comment about the looks of a non-African-American female, which is why I, as an African-Ame…

Baby Boomers Are Asking Themselves, "What The Hell Am I Doing Here?"

I'm at the tail end of the Baby Boom and am ineligible for retirement under my retirement system.  I've had to sit back and watch those at the head of the Baby Boom make the decision whether to continue working or retire.  Sometimes that decision comes down to finances, sometimes it comes down to health.  For those who have the finances to retire and the health to enjoy it, I am increasingly seeing them ask themselves this question about their workplace:

What the hell am I doing here?

From what I've observed, this question is triggered in older Baby Boomers when workplace conditions become more onerous (like a bad boss), the pay becomes less (like furloughs), or they see someone in their age cohort with the same number or fewer years of service retire.  It's as if they see a proverbial clock of their lifespan on the wall inching toward midnight, and parts of their lives outside the workplace become a powerful counterweight against remaining in the workplace.

Like grand…

Middle-Aged and Tired? Sleep Apnea Is No Joke!

Not all who have sleep apnea snore; not all who snore have sleep apnea.

~ My doctor

I didn't get the 100,000 signatures I needed for White House action on my Port Chicago White House Petition.  What I did get in the interim may have saved my life.

I have been tired for a long time.  Years.  I just assumed this was what middle age felt like -- diminished energy, foggy thinking.  I just thought this was menopause or my ferritin deficiency (ferritin is the back-up iron storage in your system) and I had to get used to it.  I often wondered to myself and to Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) how I was going to be able to parent small children when it was all I could do at the end of the day to fall out tired on the sofa after work.

My exhaustion didn't really become an issue until I continued coming in to work late because I was oversleeping.  I went to get a doctor's note to verify my ferretin deficiency, and when I described my symptoms, my doctor replied, "That sounds like sl…

Make Black History: Sign The White House Petition to Pardon the Black WWII Sailors of Port Chicago

Two hundred and fifty-eight African-American World War II sailors were court-martialed, of whom fifty were convicted of mutiny, because they refused to continue loading munitions after an explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine near what is now the Concord Naval Weapons Station in California.They refused to return to work because they had been relegated to the dangerous job of loading munitions because of their race.It was the largest mass mutiny trial in U.S. Naval history.
On July 17, 1944, at 10:18 pm, an explosion occurred at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine involving 4,606 tons of munitions, killing 320 cargo handlers, crewmen, and sailors.According to the Navy’s own historical website (http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq80-1.htm ), African-American Navy personnel units were assigned to the dangerous work of loading munitions at Port Chicago under the supervision of white officers.In his book“The Port Chicago Mutiny:The Story of the Largest Mass Mutiny Trial in U.S. Naval His…