Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pimpin' My Water

I live in California, and we're in the midst of one of the worst droughts ever.  I'm old enough to remember the most recent worst drought during the '70's,when my dad did his part for water conservation by putting a brick in the toilet tank.  Our governor has declared a drought emergency, halted deliveries of water to central valley farms, and asked consumers to reduce their water usage by 20%.  It goes without saying that when the governor is willing to suspend water supplies to the state's largest industry (and no, it's not film making; it's agriculture), we're in dire straits, indeed.

The price of fruits and vegetables is going to go up.  And Yours Truly likes homegrown tomatoes in the summer.  How can I have my summer veggie garden AND reduce my water usage by 20%?

By pimpin' my water.

Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I are pretty water conservative.  We don't run the washer or the dishwasher without a full load.  We rarely wash our cars at home.  Our lawn is watered by sprinklers on a timer, and most, but not all, of our shrubs are on drip irrigation.  We have low flow toilets and low flow shower heads.  Although our HOA told us we could let our lawn go fallow, BMNB isn't falling for it.  "They'll be the first ones to turn around and tell you that you better get your lawn green after you've let it die."  He'd rather take the hit and water the lawn instead of replacing it later on.

What's a homegrown tomato lover to do?

First, you start conserving.  I've put a 5 gallon bucket (You can get them cheaply at Home Depot) in my shower, and when I run the shower to warm up the shower water, the cold water goes right into the bucket.  I keep the bucket in the shower for any bodily runoff.  Between me and BMNB, we're averaging about 5 to 7 gallons or more a day of reclaimed water from the shower.  I take it an additional step by taking "sailor showers," which I learned from my dad, who served in the Navy.  As one of six kids, shower time was at a premium when I was small.  My dad taught us to wet yourself up, soap yourself down, rinse yourself off, and get out, all without leaving the shower running completely during the process. As much as I love long showers with continuously running hot water, a homegrown tomato lover's gotta do what she's gotta do.

After conserving water, you start pimpin' the water you have.  That reclaimed shower water?  I'm using that to water the shrubs that are on drip irrigation as well as the ones that are not, like my Heirloom and Fiesta roses and my Freecycle irises (I got them off of Freecycle).  So far, they're looking good.  I've told BMNB to turn off the drip irrigation.  Most of our shrubs are drought resistant -- sage, lavender, Nile lily, rock roses, jasmine, Shasta daisies  -- and can take reduced watering.  The magnolias on our lawn are a bit more temperamental, but they get watered with the lawn.  We're cutting back on watering the lawn, too, but not so much that it will die.

I also reclaim any water I use to wash any laundry or CPAP equipment I wash by hand -- panty hose, delicate blouses, breathing hoses, you name it.  Not only do I reclaim the water they soaked in, I rinse each item over a bucket and reclaim that water, too.  I even reclaimed a tub of bath water and watered my front lawn with it.

The water that would have gone to the drip irrigated shrubs?  That's the water I'm using for my veggie garden.  I don't know if it's a one-for-one match, but I'm betting that it is.   I've always watered my summer veggie garden by hand, using watering cans.  It's easier for me to keep track of how much water I'm giving each row or type of plant.. BMNB could not get comfortable with the idea of using reclaimed water to grow the vegetables he would eat (I'm sure he thought of it as "booty water," since some of it rolled off our bodies in the shower), so I had to be creative -- pimpin' reclaimed water for use on my drip-irrigated shrubs, using the water I would have used on my shrubs to water the veggies, and cutting back my total water consumption as much as possible.

I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Does she love homegrown tomatoes that much?"

Yes, I do.  I really do. Besides, if I don't grow my own vegetables this summer, who will?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

No Experience Is Ever Wasted (Speed Dating for Book Lovers and My "Beloved" Moment)

No experienced is ever wasted.

~ Oprah Winfrey

Well, despite lots of preparation, attention to detail, and lots of publicity, no single men attended the Speed Dating for Book Lovers event I wrote about.  Not. One. Available. Man.

To be honest, I was mortified.  The worst had happened.  Well, not the worst -- I had been  having nightmares about potential damage to the African-American history quilts on display at our lovely venue, The Brickhouse Art Gallery, and that didn't happen.  So the second worst thing happened.  Epic. Fail.

I felt like I let the women who attended down. They were vivacious, beautiful, well put together, confident.  Many of them were understanding and lauded my efforts and encouraged me to try again, maybe on a day not so loaded with expectation and meaning as Valentine's Day, maybe with more outreach to guys.

My team, which included Black Man Not Blogging, The Outraged Citizen and his lady, The Lovely SJ, as well as The Writing Diva, the Single Parent Goddess, and Brickhouse Art Gallery owner Barbara Range, immediately got to work at 5:00 pm and set up the tables and the food with oh so much care and attention to detail.  The venue looked good and smelled good, too.  I carefully selected the songs on four separate playlists of old school R&B ballads and jazz, which I'll include below.  Black Man Not Blogging and The Outraged Citizen even dragged my dusty stereo system from the car, and Single Parent Goddess got both speakers working (she's a tech goddess, too.)

Yet. Not. One. Single. Man. Came.

After I had a little time to catch up on my sleep and put things in perspective, I asked myself, "If Oprah is right and no experience is ever wasted, what can I learn from this?"  It was then when I had my aha! moment -- that this was my "Beloved" moment.

Remember the film "Beloved"?  Remember how Oprah poured her heart and soul into the making of that movie, following on the heels of her success with "The Color Purple"?  Remember how it didn't do well at the box office?  I remember going to see it in a theater in Memphis, thinking that I wouldn't be able to get a ticket because surely in Memphis, a largely African-American city that was not too far from Oprah's birthplace (Kosciusko) and where she grew up (Nashville), this movie would be packed.

I was the only one in the theater.  Even the projectionist had stepped away from the movie projector.

I remember how Oprah took that disappointment deeply and personally and how it shook her confidence in herself.  It shook what she thought was her understanding of what people wanted.  And it definitely made her not as eager to work in film.

Similarly, I had put my heart and soul into this event, thinking, like Oprah must have thought about "Beloved," in relation to "The Color Purple," that this speed dating event would be as successful as the last.  Not so.

This was my "Beloved" moment.

Where Oprah and I part company on this same journey, however, is that I'm not going to allow this experience to shake me.  I'm really sorry for the women who attended, because I hate to waste anyone's time.  That said, I'm determined to learn from this and move on.

So, what did I learn from my "Beloved" moment?  Here goes:

1.  It's Never as Good as the First Time.  Sade never lied.  Just like "Beloved" was not as good as "The Color Purple," the second speed dating event was not as good as the first.  And it was unrealistic to expect that it would be because, like "The Color Purple" and "Beloved," these two events were two different animals, purple tulips notwithstanding.  Holding it on Valentine's Day put a lot of men off -- that day is just too laden with meaning and expectation.  The first event was held on a random date that had no meaning and, therefore, no expectations.

2.  I Don't Understand Men and I'm Not Willing to Learn. Although I reached out to a lot of men, especially black men, for this event, I did not know how to market to them.  And, quite frankly, I don't know if I care to learn at this stage in the game.  No, I'm not bitter.  Here's the thing:  Had I charged for this event, and even if I had sold every ticket, the profit margin would have been pretty small.  I tried this event as a test to see if there was a market for it.  I believe there is, but it is a market that will have to be cultivated and created, especially in Sacramento, where a lot of folks are unfamiliar with speed dating.  Given the small profit margin, it's not worth it to me to learn how to market to men, especially black men, to make the event a success.  What I do know how to do is to market to women and to create environments that women like, which leads to my next point:

3.  The Part I Enjoyed Working on the Most Was Creating the Environment, Not Marketing the Event.  When many of the women thanked me for my hard work, my response was, "I really enjoyed putting this event together."  I did.  I enjoyed putting together the look of the event -- the tablecloths, tulips, candles, books, even picking the songs for the playlists and putting them in just the right order.  The women seemed to really like they way the event looked.  That's when it hit me:

4.  The Better Business Opportunity for Me Is Creating Environments That Women Like, Not Creating Events.  Why?  Because there's minimal business risk and a greater potential for larger profit margin for being paid for the service of making an environment look a certain way, whether its for an event or for staging a house to be sold.  When you're paid for a service, as opposed to being paid when people buy tickets, you make money whether the event goes well or, in the case of houses, whether the house gets sold. It's like the difference between being Levi Strauss or a gold miner -- Levi Strauss made money on selling jeans and supplies to gold miners, whether the miners made money or not.  The miners only made money when they struck gold.  I'd rather be Levi Strauss.

5.  Play to Your Strengths, Decide Whether to Work On Your Weaknesses.  I have been told time and again that I have an eye for interior design or, as I would call it, redesign -- taking what people already have and adding to it at a low cost to create a space they like.  At my old job, I "redesigned" a break room, my office, my co-worker's office, and two alcoves.  It's an expensive hobby if you decide to do it as a labor of love.  But one former co-worker told me she would hire me to stage her house when she decides to sell it.  When people admire what you do and talk about paying you to do it, that's God's way of telling you your gift is also a business opportunity.  That is my strength.  My weakness is marketing to men.  I've decided not to work on that weakness.  My intention is to go into real estate and staging because, at the end of the day, the decision to buy a house is usually determined by a woman, not a man, even if she's not the one buying it.  And I know how to market to women and create environments they like.

6. Instead of Hanging on to Your Idea of the Way Things Should Be, Make the Best of and Enjoy What Is.  My second biggest regret, after wasting all those ladies' time, was not spending time talking to all of them.  I was literally hanging out by the door watching and hoping for some men to come in, not unlike a child of divorce waiting impatiently to be picked up for visitation.  And, like that same child, I was crushed when it didn't happen, so much so that I missed out on the opportunity to talk to and get to know all of these fabulous book-loving ladies.  Luckily, some of them stayed, and they and the team -- Barbara Range, The Outraged Citizen, Single Parent Goddess, The Lovely SJ, Black Man Not Blogging, and myself, had a good ol' time discussing things we had in common -- ties to the South, growing up in LA (for at least two of them), and a whole range of topics.  Quite frankly, I had a better time talking to these folks then I would have had shepherding people from one table to the other during speed dating.  If I had let go earlier of my idea of what the event was supposed to be and had embraced what it could have been, I would have had a lot more fun, and so would have the ladies. 

7.  Tear Off The Band-Aid.  The event started at 6:00, and many of the ladies were on time.  I waited until 7:30 to call it off.  I should have called it off sooner, but I was just unwilling to accept that it was going to fail.  Black Man Not Blogging and The Outraged Citizen literally went trolling barber shops and coffee shops in search of men to bring to this event, to no avail.  Finally, The Lovely SJ gently said to me, "Just tear off the Band-Aid.  The faster you do it, the faster you'll get it over with."  Mind you, I'm old enough to be her mother, but she was just as calm and wise as my own mother would have been.  I called it off.  Which leads me to my final lesson:

8.  You Can Tell Who Your Real Friends Are By How They Treat You When You Fail.  Barbara, Black Man Not Blogging, The Outraged Citizen, Single Parent Goddess, The Writing Diva, and The Lovely SJ -- not a one of them said anything negative about this event as it was going down in flames.  Instead, they got to work behind the scenes, blowing up social media, trolling for men in barber shops and coffee shops, circulating and talking to the ladies I was too embarrassed to face, all to keep the event on life support for as long as they could.  No shade was thrown, no sand pitched in my face.  They knew that, with my obsessiveness and anxiety, I was at my most vulnerable, and they cocooned me in good deeds and kindness.  They are my friends and family and I love them deeply for treating me as they did.

9.  Heed the Need to Create.  I have a creative side that I have let languish, giving it life on and off over the years.  Working on this event made me realize that I NEED to create stuff, whether it's redesigning an office, putting together the look and feel of an event, or writing this blog.  It's something I just need to do, whether it makes money or not.  I need to create.

No experience is ever wasted.  I thank the ladies who came out and I'm grateful to my team of friends and family for their support.  BTW, the picture above is of the event, and that's me in the middle.  And below are the playlists I promised.  If you choose to download the songs from iTunes, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day,


Speed Dating Playlist # 1

"Blessed," The Emotions
"Portuguese Love," Teena Marie
"Wild Child," Tony!Toni!Tone!
"Holy Smokes and Gee Whiz," Tony!Toni!Tone!
"My Love Is Your Love," Whitney Houston
"You and I," George Michael
"I Apologize," Anita Baker
"Angel," Anita Baker
"Fire and Desire," Teena Marie and Rick James
"Deja Vu (I've Been Here Before)," Teena Marie
"Hollywood," Rufus feat. Chaka Khan
"Everlasting Love," Rufus feat. Chaka Khan
"For All We Know," Donny Hathaway
"A Song for You," Donny Hathaway

Speed Dating Playlist # 2 -- Double Takes

"Anyone Who Had A Heart," Dionne Warwick
"Anyone Who Had A Heart," Luther Vandross
"Stairway to Heaven," The O'Jays
"Stairway to Heaven," Pure Soul
"The Makings of You," Gladys Knight and The Pips
"The Makings of You," Aretha Franklin
"Look Into Your Heart," Aretha Franklin
"Look Into Your Heart," Whitney Houston
"Cherish The Day," Sade
"Cherish The Day," J. Spencer
"A House Is Not A Home," Dionne Warwick
"A House Is Not A Home," Luther Vandross

Speed Dating Playlist # 3

"Valentine Love," Michael Henderson
"Here We Go," Minnie Riperton
"Hope That We Can Be Together Soon," Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes
"Feels Good," Rahsaan Patterson
"Half Crazy" Musiq
"I've Got So Much To Give," Barry White
"How Do I Know I Love You," Howard Hewitt
"A Love of Your Own," Howard Hewitt
"Wildflower," Skylark
"My First Love," Avant feat. Keke Wyatt
"Natural High," Bloodstone
"Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," Boney James
"A Sunday Kind of Love," Etta James
"Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time," The Delfonics
"Maybe Tomorrow," The Jackson 5
"I"ll Be There," The Jackson 5
"You and I," Stephanie Mills
"Feel the Fire," Stephanie Mills

Speed Dating Playlist # 4

"Just To Keep You Satisfied," Howard Hewitt
"A Different Kind of Love Song," Pharez Whitted
"A Long Walk, " Jill Scott
"Inside My Love," Minnie Riperton
"This Woman's Work," Maxwell
"Mello Sumthin (The Hush)," Maxwell
"Never Keeping Secrets," Babyface
"Let's Wait A While," Janet Jackson
"Taking A Chance On Love," Gabrielle Goodman
"For The First Time In My Life," Gabrielle Goodman
"Heaven Sent," Keyshia Cole
"How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," Al Green
"Charlene," Anthony Hamilton
"Forever, For Always, For Love," Lalah Hathaway
"The Point of It All," Anthony Hamilton

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Google Could Learn About Black History Month From Gov. Jerry Brown (Don't Be Culturally Ignorant)

February is Black History Month in the U.S. and we're taking the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our Googlers and the communities in which we work and live. Our blog post below highlights some of the ongoing work we're doing with underrepresented groups, and you can follow +Life at Google to stay up to date with our celebrations throughout the month, and to find out more about our diversity efforts.

~ From Google's blog, https://plus.google.com/+google/posts/JJh2Jgh2n4v

Really, Google?  Black History Month is the time for you to celebrate "diversity"?  I don't think so.

First off, I generally like Google.  I'm a Google shareholder, I use boatloads of Google products, and I'm even willing to forgive them for forking over private user information to the NSA without much of a fight until recently. 

That's why I'm surprised that Google could be so culturally tone deaf about the purpose and meaning of Black History Month.  Even if corporate leviathans like Google use it for a marketing opportunity, at least they're a bit more nuanced about it than Google.

Google, it's not "Diversity Month," it's "Black History Month."  The emphasis is on the history part.  It's not "Black Present Month" where you get to trot out the few black folks you have working for you, most of whom were probably born after the demise of vinyl records and probably can't be said to have made history just yet.  For most of us black folks, "Black History Month" is a time to remember the sacrifices and triumphs against adversity of our ancestors who came before us, not one of your black Googlers presently occupying a cubicle.  Would you post a blog entry during Passover saying, "We're taking the opportunity to celebrate our Jewish Googlers"?  I don't think so.

Context, Google.  It's all about context.  Let me show you how to celebrate Black History Month.  Exhibit A:  The Black History Month Proclamation from California Governor Jerry Brown, Jr.:

African-Americans have played a central role in our nation’s history, but for too long historians ignored or glossed over their contributions and the injustices they have suffered. The origins of Black History Month can be traced to the scholar Carter G. Woodson, who in 1926 conceived a yearly celebration to help rectify the omission of African-Americans from history books. Today, the observance of Black History Month throughout the United States stands as testament to the success of Woodson’s project and an example of how we can work together to make the teaching of history more honest.

The theme of Black History Month 2014 is “Civil Rights in America.” In the century between their formal emancipation and the successful campaign to have their civil rights protected by the law, African-Americans suffered oppression as brutal as the abuses of slavery and exclusion from the ever-growing prosperity that other Americans enjoyed. Facing terrible odds, they worked tirelessly to achieve full equality with other citizens, and this month we celebrate their bravery, toil and sacrifice on this long road to justice.

NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim February 2014, as “Black History Month.”

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 30th day of January 2014.

That's how it's done, Google.  Don't be culturally ignorant.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Daring Greatly on Valentine's Day: Speed Dating for Single Book Lovers, The Brickhouse Art Gallery, Sacramento

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly ... who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."  ~ Theodore Roosevelt

It is from this quote that author Brene Brown derived the title of her book, "Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead."  If all goes according to plan, approximately 32 single people who love books will dare greatly in search of a partner at my second "Speed Dating for Single Book Lovers" event on February 14, 2014 at The Brickhouse Art Gallery in Sacramento at 6:00 pm.  The event is free (details are below).

To be a single person who is willing to be vulnerable enough to admit that you want a partner and daring enough to go to a speed dating event to find one is amazing.  In all honesty, I would not want to be a single woman in these times.  We've become a critical, cynical society.  We Tweet, Facebook and blog other's shortcomings -- I'm even guilty of doing that.  To be willing to put yourself out there and go on the equivalent of 16 blind dates -- albeit, very short blind dates -- in two hours is indeed valiant.

Truthfully, though, you cannot find love without being vulnerable.  It just can't happen.  You have to be willing to meet people, share a little something of yourself, invest time, and face rejection at any point along the journey in the hopes that you will find and receive a love that's worthy, affirming, and joyful.  Nowadays, everybody's got their guards up.  No one wants to be that vulnerable person, or at least not first.  But, as Brene Brown would be the first to tell you, vulnerability is the sine qua non of finding love.  I salute these brave souls who are coming to the event.

And at the risk of tooting my own horn, I'm daring a little greatly myself.  Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I put on this same event five years ago and blogged about how I desperately needed Baracks for my Michelles -- the African-American women of substance and style I knew would be attending the event.  It was by the grace of God, some called-in favors (including a favor from The Outraged Citizen, in which I all but begged him to attend), and one guy who went outside and called all his boys to come, that I had even a reasonable amount of men for the ladies.  To be honest, I didn't want to chance it again.  I'm anxiety-ridden enough as it is; I didn't want the responsibility of having to round up all those African-American men of substance AGAIN and the possibility of failing, even if I would have been daring greatly.

But it's been five years, and one of the speed daters, The Outraged Citizen, found his partner at that speed dating event.  She's a fabulous lady, they've been together since, and that is cause enough for celebration.

So I'm sending out a prayer to God and the universe to once again send me enough single African-American men of substance, men who really do love books and African-American women (or men of any race who love books and African-American women), to come to this FREE event.  Although I expect a predominantly African-American crowd, this event is open to single people of all races who love books.  Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) will again help me chaperone, and I'm going to do my best to have those purple tulips, starched white tablecloths, candles and low lights with some background jazz going.  Just the right environment to talk about books . . . and dare greatly in the name of love.  Here are the deets:

Speed Dating for Single Book Lovers
Friday, February 14, 2014 6:00 pm
The Brickhouse Art Gallery
2837 36th Street at Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95817
Cost: It's Free!
Single = Not married, not separated, and not in a committed relationship.
Dress is casually elegant; no jeans, sneakers or club gear, please.
Bring a positive vibe.  Space is limited.  RSVP at speeddating4singlebooklovers@gmail.com
Co-sponsored by underground books, The Brickhouse Art Gallery, and Should Have Been There Events

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mothers, Your Children Are Learning From You, But You May Not Live To See The Results

Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday,.  I  refer to her in this blog as "She Who Is Exalted," or SWIE.  It's funny to me how so much of what she taught me I only started applying after she died.  So my message to all you moms out there is this:  Your children are learning from you, but you may not live to see the results.

One of the things I learned from my mother was to be observant of people and pay attention to what they say and do, then plan how to deal with them accordingly.  Like my mom, after I've seen and heard enough, I've pretty much sized someone up and I plan accordingly.  Unlike my mom, I didn't get good at this until later in life.  There's at least one person who is gone from my life who my mom warned me about from childhood.  Another person in my life is someone she met while I was in college and said, "Something ain't right about" that person.  It took me years to see what my mom saw after only one meeting.  And she was right.  Still is.  But she didn't live to see that I learned the lesson.

There are a lot of little things I learned from watching my mom that, when I don't do them, my life gets chaotic.  My mom was vigilant about always making sure we never ran out of toilet paper (no small feat with a family of eight); making sure there was always, always food in the fridge (for her, poverty wasn't a lack of money; it was an empty fridge); paying all her bills on the first of the month (which I now do); packing lunches and laying out the next day's clothes the night before (me, not so much); doing laundry daily (she washed towels every day -- again, we were a family of eight); keeping her house and us on a cleaning schedule; and making sure she never had less than a half a tank of gas in her car (she was afraid she'd need to get a sick child to the hospital in the  middle of the night).

My mom's standards about children are those I hope to live up with kids of my own because they are seared on my brain.   My mother would never let us leave the house in wrinkled or dirty clothes or without our hair being combed.  When I see a child out and about with wrinkled or dirty clothes or messed-up hair, I instinctively cringe and  hear my mother say, "Where do you think you're going?  Not like that you're not." My mother believed that children's appearances represent their parents' best efforts, and she refused to be misrepresented, especially when she worked so hard to keep us clean and fed.

My mother also insisted on manners.  We were taught not to ask for as much as a glass of water when we were visiting someone else's home.  We could have whatever was offered to us, and not too much, but we were not to ask.  And we were never, ever to open someone else's fridge.  My mom didn't want us acting like we hadn't been fed.

My mother also had higher expectations for her daughters because she felt the world was not fair when it came to women, and women had to be smart and fend for themselves because there were usually children depending on us.  She drilled into our heads to never, ever, EVAH depend on a man.  We girls heard this time and again:  "Do for self."  "Always have your own job, your own car, your own money, and your own home."  "Get your education so you don't have to depend on no man."  She didn't live to see all four of her daughter become homeowners, but she did live to see all of us girls get some kind of college degree, have our own money, and have our own cars. She knew before she died that we were capable of taking care of ourselves.

When it came to romance and men, my mom's advice was practical.  "You better try on them shoes before you buy 'em."  "Use birth control.  Ain't no excuse to get pregnant nowadays if you don't want to be."

The three character traits my mother could not stand were laziness, stinginess, and whining.  Whenever we were getting too lax with our chores, she'd go on a rant and rave that would have us all ducking for cover and running for the exits.  When we didn't want to share, she'd threaten to take whatever we were hoarding away from us and shame us into sharing by saying , "That's your sister (or brother)!  You're supposed to share with her (him)."  And when we whined about life not being fair, she'd suck her teeth and say, "Hmpf. Who promised you fair?  Well, they lied to you!."  Even now when I start to indulge in a personal pity party, I am reminded of what my mother said and become thankful for the times when the pendulum of good fortune swang in my direction.  And when the pendulum of good fortune swings away from me, I'm reminded of another lesson my mother taught me.  "Everybody falls down. Everybody.  You can lay down there for a while, but then you have to get up."  To this day, I have no patience for laziness, stinginess, or whining. I am my mother's daughter.  And as much as I doubt it sometimes, I am resilient.

So mothers, I write all this to say that even when you don't think your children are learning from you, they are.  They really are, but you may not live to see the results.  Just keep on planting those seeds of wisdom, even if they sprout in your children's heads and hearts after you're gone.  You will have done more for your children than many other parents who had no wisdom to impart.  And here's the kicker -- the wisdom gets handed down to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, some of whom you might not ever meet.  My husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), is constantly quoting his grandmother:  "Don't say once what you can't say twice." "Cain't nobody ride your back if you don't bend over." "I'ma give you what you need.  If you need a hug, I'ma give you a hug.  If you need an ass whuppin', I'ma give you that, too."

Another lesson my mother taught me that she didn't live to see play out in my life was this:  "You only get one mother.  Y'all gonna miss me when I'm gone."

Truer words were never spoken.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

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 fact that my neighborhood clubhouse has a well-equipped gym I already pay for with HOA fees), that I'm more likely to use those things.  Tell that to the 7-part Gaiam Yoga series tape (yes, I have a DVD player that also plays VHS tapes) and the more than 60 workout tapes and DVDs I have, not counting the elliptical machine, aerobic step, Windsor Pilates strap, dumb bells, two inflatable exercise balls, yoga blocks and countless yoga mats I already have.  If I merely used what I have (I have enough exercise DVDs and videos to do a different one every day for two months), I would have already reached my fitness and weight loss goals.

Just as the food was always in my pantry and the exercise equipment always in my house, what I need to accomplish whatever it is I set my mind to, I already have.  I simply have to use it.

Using what I have isn't just about accomplishing things; it's also about the joy that comes from using the gifts that God gave me.  If I had to describe myself, I would describe myself as a creator.  I like creating things, whether through writing, crocheting, cooking, decorating, starting a business, brainstorming with friends or leading.  I like figuring out what I need to do to make something out of nothing other than an idea and then doing it.  And I'm pretty good at these things and enjoy doing them.

When you think of it, why would God give you a gift if he didn't want you to use it?  And what a joy we get from using those gifts!  I recently saw a video on Facebook in which the narrator said that the richest place in the world was the cemetery because it was full of all the unused talents and dreams that people had taken with them to the grave.  The video exhorted us to, like a car driving a fumes, "end our lives on E," having used up all the gifts and dreams God gave us.  Word.

My wish for all of you dear readers and myself is that we use the gifts God has given us. . . as well as all those Billy Blank Tae-Bo VHS tapes and hidden cans of salsa in the pantry.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

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.