Day 30: Things That Give Me Life

Here’s a list of things that don’t just make me smile, but make me feel that this world is more than just a crunchy-coated ball filled with roiling fire water and covered with evil people, hurling through space.  

Ahem.

1) My great-niece, Jordyn. Last weekend, I held her and she looked up at me with those big, liquid-onyx eyes, and told me the entire meaning of life. Then swore me to secrecy. So, there’s that. Sucks to be you, and not-knowing.

2) Whenever my mother yells at her cats. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear she had a house full of foster kids with ADHD. One of them, I believe, may even have multiple personalities, and talks to a stuffed mouse when she thinks no one is looking. The shit is hilarious, and brings me to tears from laughing. Every time.

3) Watching my friend Atilewa dance. She’s a real dancer, in the truest sense of the word. There is a freedom there, an abandonment of self that somehow manages to evoke ancient memories of times when dancing was everything to us. Yeah. It’s that deep.

4) My weekly conversations with my father. The topics range from possible war in Syria, to dog breeding (true story). Once, we had a 30-minute colloquy on what zombies actually represent in modern society. Every week, I learn something from him. I like to think that sometimes, he learns from me too.

5) My crew. I have a group of friends that have been in my life for over 20 years. Over time, we have grown together and have become each others’ family. People who see us are often astonished that we’ve stayed friends for so long. As for me, it’s simple – it’s all love. And lots of alcohol.

6) Eighties music. Besides the awesome fact that it reminds me of happy times, it’s just really good music. And awesome hair.

7) Food porn. This includes watching it’s preparation as well as its consumption. There is nothing like an eye-rolling, heart-stopping, mind-blowing meal. Admit it – you’ve had at least one meal in your life that you’ve never forgotten. Right now, I’m remembering a bone-in ribeye I had in Chicago (Gibson’s Steak House), and a particular piece of coconut pie in Florida with my girl Karen… LAWD.

8) Since we’re on the subject, a great meal with my friend Karen. Lemme tell you about us – we know how to enjoy food. I mean, really enjoy food. We’ve been known to throw our hands in the air and give thanks and praise. Over a piece of coconut pie. Or some rib tips and a slice of white bread. Because it was absolutely necessary. Sometimes you just can’t wait to thank God for making awesome things happen. Amand.

9) Watching a dog play fetch. Honestly, I can sit and watch that for hours. I mean, dogs give me life anyway, but this thing in particular just… A few years ago, soon after my grandmother passed, I was sitting on a park bench by myself, watching the river roll past. I was feeling like, well, a bloated, gaseous, mold-covered orange, sitting in a dumpster behind a daycare center, on the hottest day of the year, with a storm coming. And just as my eyes were beginning to fill with tears, I felt something fall on my foot. I looked down and saw a large stick, and behind it, a pair of black paws. The owner of those paws was a black lab, about a year old, who apparently gave not one fuck about why I was crying, and this stick isn’t gonna throw itself, Lady. For some reason, I felt that if I didn’t throw that stick, my entire life would have no meaning. Everything centered around that stick, and the (apparently) ownerless dog who wasn’t planning on leaving me alone until I did what he asked me. So I threw the damn stick. Over and over. And felt better. And soon, his owner showed up, out of breath and apologetic ( he had broken loose from her somewhere on the trail and took off), but it was cool. That dog saved my life.

10) Watching Michael Jackson perform. He was/is the definition of artist. It’s apparent, from the time he walks on stage until the time he leaves, that this is everything to him. It’s breath, and food, and dream, and love, and blood and bone to him. Michael was one of those rare people who are born, live and die, wrapped up in their destiny. It’s beautiful to watch, like a comet or an eclipse. And when it’s over, you’re sad, but honored to have been there to witness it.

 

 

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Day 29: Old Lady Rant (The First of Many)

You know what really burns my britches?

Schools that give trophies/awards/medals to all the kids on the losing team after a sporting event.

Oh. Congratulations. You got your collective asses kicked out on that field today. And I believe one of you was sent to the emergency room. That was Kenny? Yeah. Kenny’s at the hospital right now. For excessive dirt inhalation. From getting stomped by the kids from the other team. So, here are some trophies. To serve as an eternal reminder of how much you guys sucked today.

But seriously, people. They’re called competitive sports for a reason. Because by the very nature of the thing, someone has to be better at that shit than someone else. That’s how they win, and are rewarded. Leaving the anti-winner (you like that? Is that better?) with something to think about. Like, Should I not do this anymore? Should I, perhaps, consider the Chess Club?

And what good does this do for the children, in the long run? What does it teach them? Strength of character? How to deal with disappointment? How to use failure as a way to improve performance?

Does it teach children that losing is something to fear and to avoid at all costs? That losing can be avoided?

Here are some truths about competitive sports. They teach children how to set goals and strategize. To work with others towards a common goal. They build coping skills, and the ability to persevere in spite of obstacles.

Through sports, children learn how to handle pressure, concentrate and take responsibility for their success or failures.

But, my child is too young to learn that, you say.

Listen, kids. Losing is inevitable. Live long enough, you will lose at something. Some losses will be inconsequential.

Some cafeteria lady in Nebraska just won the Powerball. Welp. There goes another five spot down the toilet.

And some will kick you square in your ass, making you fall on your face, slide three feet across the linoleum, spilling the contents of your Trapper Keeper and causing everyone to laugh at you.

I just trained for four years to run in this relay, just to trip over a hurdle and pull a tendon. I may never run again. Fuck my entire life.

But here’s the thing: sports are fun. So most of the time, your child doesn’t even realize that he/she’s learning all of this.

Then there’s the added benefit of preventing your child from being obese. You’ve seen those statistics, right? What is it now, one in three kids and teens, according to the American Heart Association?

Everybody wins.

Listen. This world is scary as shit. Watching the news alone may have you leaving society altogether, growing out your armpit hair and setting up shop in a cave. And if you’re a parent, the concept of letting your children loose in this world can keep you up at night.

But your children need ammunition for all the fuckery. Something to strengthen their little backbones and help them meet their challenges head on.

Just let go, a little bit at a time. Let them try. Cheer them when they win. Be there for them when they don’t.

And watch them grow strong in the process.

Day 28: Yes, Yes, Y’all (2) – A Personal Hip Hop Timeline

In 1982, I was in the 7th grade. My best friend was Jason. I had already read Alex Haley’s Roots, to the slack-jawed astonishment of my teacher, Ms. Novak. John Hinckley, Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity for shooting President Reagan. Lakers were the NBA champs, and 49ers were the NFL champs. Gas was $1.30 a gallon. And it was the first time I had heard this song, and I discovered a genre of music that I would love forever…

 

I had heard songs about the ghetto before, but this one was different. It was so raw, stripped of all of the violins and horn riffs. I was hooked.

The year was 1987. I was a Sophomore at Nicolet High School. Oliver North was testifying in front of Congress about Iran-Contra operations. The Giants won the Superbowl. The Lakers won the NBA Finals. August Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize for Fences. Fatal Attraction was scaring the shit out of every cheating ass man in the country. Gas was $0.96 a gallon.

And a young man named Bruce H. was throwing banging ass parties all over the city. It was at one of his parties, at the VFW Hall, that I heard this:

And immediately, I was struck by Rakim’s voice – his cool command, and how it seeped between the break beats. I was in LOVE, People. Real talk.

In 1988, I was a Junior at Nicolet High School. My best friend was Shirley, and I had just met Trina, who would turn out to be my best friend for life. For the first time, a woman was selected as Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Redskins won the Superbowl. The Lakers were NBA champs. Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer for Beloved. And gas was $1.08 a gallon.

And while listening to WMSE (the Afternoon Boogie Bang), I heard this:

And for the first time, I felt that Hip Hop actually included me. It was fucking AWESOME. Her voice was so powerful, her words so crisp – I felt like a superhero, every time I heard Lyte’s voice. Hell, I still do.

In 1990, I was a Freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Ollie North’s conviction in the Iran-Contra scandal was overturned. East and West Germany were re-united. Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa. The 49ers won the Superbowl, and Detroit was the NBA champs. And gas was $1.16 a gallon.

I was out in Los Angeles, visiting my best friend Trina, when I heard this:

Mind = BLOWN. Obscure jazz tracks, under Hip Hop beats? Wearing loose-fitting, mismatched clothes in riotous colors? Africa medallions? And Q-Tip’s FOINE ass? Why, yes. Yes, I would.

That same year, this was released:

Dude. Their album was entitled: Fear of a Black Planet.

Shit.

The year was 1992. I was still a student at UW-Milwaukee, and had changed my major three times (I was an English major at this point). George Bush Sr. and Yeltsin called off the Cold War. Four white police officers were acquitted for beating Rodney King, and all Hell broke loose in Los Angeles. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were nominated at the DNC. Redskins won the Superbowl, and Chicago was the NBA champ. Gas was $1.13 a gallon.

And this happened:

Lemme tell y’all something. You young whippersnappers have NO IDEA what it’s like to have THIS as your college soundtrack.

It was EVERY. DAMN. THING.

I could do this all day. So many songs. So many memories.

I’ll continue this later…

Day 27: Why I’m Still Not Married

This is a question that keeps popping up in random conversations.

It’s funny, really – some people seem to be really bothered by the fact that I haven’t walked down the aisle. Some even express frustration at my single lifestyle.

Now, I know that some people are asking, simply for the sake of curiosity.

I can dig it. I mean, cuz I’m like, hawt.

And besides that, I cook, I keep a (relatively) neat house, I don’t have any children (which is another blog altogether), and no crazy, stalker, killer-clown ex-husband stalking me from the bushes.

I am attractive, have a career, talented and intelligent as all Hell.

So, why still single, they ask?

Don’t get me wrong, I have asked myself this same question on several occasions – usually when I was fresh out of a long-term relationship, emotionally raw and exhausted from, well, having to “keep up appearances”.

Because here’s the dirty, rotten truth about me: I used to believe that I had to act like someone else to maintain a relationship.

That the real me, the goofy bookworm who loves animals, listens to Hip Hop and still laughs when people trip and fall, couldn’t attract a husband.

Oh, by the way, shout out to everyone who ever told me that I just wasn’t ladylike because I like to wear jeans and Adidas.

This misconception’s for you.

*cue catchy jingle*

So, whenever I liked a guy, and I mean not just “oh, he’s cute – I wonder if he snores” like – but “I wonder what our kids would look like”, I would make adjustments.

Things like, pretend that I gave a shit about sports.

Or, ignore him when he called women bitches.

Or, hide the fact that I do like those stupid movies on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Sure, I could keep this up for a little while. But then…

Okay, I wasn’t that bad. More like:

Yeah. that.

Because it is impossible to keep up that ridiculous charade forever. At some point, the real “me” is gonna break free from the sequester – and it won’t be pretty.

And whenever the real “me” showed up, like dude in the clip, folks got hurt.

No, I didn’t kill anybody. Come on.

It’s just that the real me, the weird, slick-talking skeptic of all things, can be a bit hard to handle.

The real me only watches football to watch men’s asses as the run up and down the field. I don’t care who wins. Seriously.

The real me is annoyed when you don’t understand her jokes, and is concerned that perhaps you’re not the one.

The real me doesn’t do face slurping and groping in public. She is a grown ass woman, who prefers that you hold her hand and whisper dirty things in her ear. For later. Be cool, man.

The real me is not here for you right now. The Walking Dead is on. Please stop touching me. Yes, I’m serious.

For some reason, my exes were shocked by this new/old person.

This was not what either of us signed up for, so eventually, the relationship ended.

And I would be content (still am, actually) with being single again.

Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t hate being with someone. I still love the concept of building a loving relationship with someone, aligning goals and working towards them as a couple.

That awesome, glittery period when we were first getting to know each other.

But, that glitter never lasted, because I was never completely honest with whomever I was dating, because of all that dumb shit I kept telling myself.

My fault, dawg.

So what now?

Well, now whoever-he-is meets the Star Wars t-shirt, hoop earring – wearing, Hip Hop quoting jokester. In the flesh.

Does this mean that I’ll be married soon?

Irrelevant.

I’m blissfully happy, and not worried one bit.

Are you?

Day 26: Doubt – An Internal Dialogue

Well, it was bound to happen.

This brilliant writing streak was bound to dry up at some point, and leave me standing out in the field, my overalls coated in dust, shielding my eyes with my hand, looking for clouds, and shit.

Watching the buzzards circling in the distance.

And worrying.

This is every writer’s biggest fear – to sit in front of that blank screen, for one hour, two, nine, and not have a single thought come to mind.

I’ve been sitting in front of this laptop for almost an hour now, and nothing is coming.

Nothing.

I’ve tried to think of something brilliant, or significant to say, and still, I got nothing.

And for the past five minutes, I’ve been walking around my apartment, talking to myself, trying to flesh out some ideas.

Still. Nothing.

This is horrible.

And I’m not sure why this is happening. I mean, it could possibly be the heat.

Or, the insomnia.

Or, the job stress.

Or, the upcoming doctor’s appointment.

Or, the fact that tomorrow is the first day of a well-earned vacation, and all I wanna do is lay around in my underwear and eat bowls of cereal and watch sci-fi movies all day.

Or, the fact that I’ve been writing every cottdamb day for 26 days and the shit is starting to get on my nerves.

Why the Hell did I even agree to do this?

I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have anything else to do. Hell, I’ve been busier than a cat covering up shit lately, and the last thing I needed was something else to do.

Oh, how I miss the old days, when I could come home, sit on the couch and watch television, and not have to think about anything else.

When I called myself a writer, but barely wrote anything.

Sure, I was working on a book (still working), but every day?

No.

This isn’t even a realistic challenge. Doesn’t Luvvie know people have jobs to do? And dinners to cook? 

And World Domination Plots to plan?

And apartments to clean?

I’ve neglected my apartment for so long, I’ve got a pile of dirty laundry that’s giving me the finger RIGHT NOW.

Saying that I’m some bullshit.

Running up my electric bill, talkin’ ’bout it’s hot in here.

Asshole.

Because I’ve been devoting my home alone time to this blog… only to come to Day 26 and hit a wall.

It’s mental constipation at its worst.

And what do I have to show for all my effort?

A directionless rant.

Well, I guess I can only do what anyone should do in a situation like this.

Relax.

Stop pushing.

Get some rest.

Try again tomorrow.

But don’t quit.

This is just the beginning.

Day 25: Be Yourself

Isaac Hayes had a song back in the seventies (from the “Shaft” soundtrack, as a matter of fact) called Do Your Thing. In the chorus, he encourages us:

Whatever you wanna do, OHHHH, you better do your thang!

Cameo also had a song called Be Yourself, in which they state:

Just be yourself, say what’s on your mind, just be yourself, put it on the line. 

Sounds so simple, yet you still struggle with this. And for good reason!

Because what Isaac and Cameo (bless their hearts) have neglected to mention is how friggin’ hard that is, initially.

I mean, it’s a real clean and jerk*, this whole “being yourself” thing. I mean, be honest. You have conned yourself into thinking that going with the herd is comfortable. And you’re even embarrassed by the attention that being yourself brings.

Because deep down, you understand that your individuality is like a light. You’re reminded about this light all the time – in every holy book, pulpit, temple and mosque. You are, essentially, made of light.

Now, dig that. Witcho shiny self.

Is it dug? I mean, realllly dug?

And I’m not gonna lie to you, Party People. That first time you realize who you are and what you’re really capable of, it’s mind blowing.

For some of you, it was the day you realized that you had a certain gift. Singing, writing, dancing, teaching, talking. I have one particular friend who has a special gift for getting to the heart of complicated matters in less than eight words.

The shit is amazing, B. A group of us would be in a room, all talking at once, hashing it out, and he would come in from, I dunno, cutting the grass or something, and be all, blahdee blahdee-blah.

And then leave the room, and the rest of us standing there with our mouths hanging open. Looking stupid.

That’s a ministry, yo. Do you know how priceless that talent is, in a world where people get trapped in the sticky webs of their own thoughtless words and actions?

I’m looking at y’all, politicians. Awlayawl.

And there are those of you who have other gifts and talents. They may not even be as concrete as singing or baking. Some are like my man, Twitter Prophet. You may be really good at listening to others. Or, you may be the person that people come to for advice.

And what’s even better, you already know what those talents are. But you’ve done nothing to develop those talents. Instead, you’ve ignored or hidden them.

Look at ’em. Down in the basement of your SHANDO*. Tied to the radiator. Wasting away. Cold and shivering. Peeing in the corner, and shit. Scratching scabs…

Okay, I’ve gone too far with the analogy. But you know what I mean.

Or even worse, you’ve twisted and distorted your own unique gift to try to make it look like someone else’s.

You’ve whitewashed, autotuned, and watered that shit down to the point that it’s unrecognizable.

Because not only have you told yourself that it’s not worth the effort, but the entire world is telling you that it’s too much of a risk.

The world has convinced you that you are not special enough, that people aren’t going to care about your truth. That the only thing that matters is money, and that uniqueness and individuality doesn’t pay well.

And here’s something else: some of you, I’m talking about the real you right now, the part of you that you keep hidden from the world, is so bright that it hurts your eyes.

It’s too much. And you’re not sure if you’re strong enough, or powerful enough to even sustain it.

Let me help you with this:

That light is yours. See’n?

Yours.

It’s wattage, or dimensions, or whatever-the-Hell, was designed just for you. Hell, you’re the only one who can handle that.

I remember, several years ago, when I had to defend my Masters’ thesis at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I was fine the whole time I was writing it. Frankly, I wasn’t even thinking about the day I would have to stand (or sit) in front of the committee and explain that shit.

(By the way, people with Masters’ Degrees do cuss. Some of us cuss quite frequently. Hell – we’ve earned the right. Fight us.)

So, when the day finally came, I was a nervous wreck. There I was, standing outside the committee room, waiting to be called in. Hands sweating, heart racing.

I felt like I was gonna to pass out.

So, I did what any grown ass, independent, brilliant woman would do at a time like that.

I called my mommy.

And as soon as I heard her hello, I lost it. I started weeping uncontrollably, telling her that I didn’t think I could do it, and that shit just got real, and real wasn’t as cool as I thought it was gonna be, and could I please just quit everything and move back home with her, and sit in her lap and suck my thumb and watch Reading Rainbow?

Like, forever?

And my mother, in typical fashion, let me have it. No mercy, B.

Stop it. Stop crying. Right now. And get your SHIT together, this minute. Look at you. You’ve gone all this way, just to get right outside the damn door and quit? You’re gonna just flush all that hard work down the toilet? I mean, look – you registered for the program right after you were diagnosed with Lupus. You went to school every day, through pain, through hospital stays, reactions to medications, hair loss, difficulty walking… and we’re not even gonna get into how you lost your grandmother this year.

Listen. What are those people in that room gonna do to you? They’re gonna ask you about your shit. Shit YOU wrote. Who knows YOUR shit better than YOU?

Sweetie, you’ve been to Hell and back. And you’re gonna let a few questions about YOUR shit rattle you? Wipe your tears, get yourself together, and go in there and talk. You’re an authority now. Get used to it. 

(all the “shits” are real, people. I got it honestly.)

And what about you? What have you been through? What kind of Hell have you traveled through? What disappointments and hurts have you carried all this way? What pain have you internalized? And none of these things have killed you?

This alone makes you a fucking superhero. Imagine what powers you could have if you cultivated your light?

I mean, on some demigod shit. Tearing up villages, and shit.

I… really need to do something about these analogies. Sorry about that.

But you feel me.

Just think about it.

That’s where all world-changing things begin.

Day 24: Phone Etiquette

Man…

Some of y’all need phone etiquette class. In real life. Which is why I prefer texting to actual phone calls, because it eliminates all the bullshit some of y’all do on a daily basis.

What on Earth do you mean, Yetunde?

I’m so glad you asked:

1) Calling while in the car. Not only is this dangerous as Hell, and in some states, illegal, it’s rude. And ain’t nobody trying to sit there and listen to you express your road rage, or order your 2-piece-and-a-biscuit in the drive thru.

2) So, you’re gonna call me right when your kids get home from school? Really? So that our conversation gets interrupted every two minutes?

Wait, hol’ on, Tunde…

Okay – so what where you saying?

So, I told the guy, don’t be cussin’ at the minions like that…

Wait, hold on, Tunde…

And over and over and over.

3) I love babies. I swear I do. But I don’t talk to babies on the phone. Why? Because they can’t talk. And that shit is humiliating. How do I look, sitting there, all, “Hey Boo-Boo… hey! Hello? Hey!”, and you in the background like “say hi to Tunde!”, knowing that Boo-Boo can’t say hi because, once again, she can’t talk yet!

4) I don’t talk to pets on the phone either. And trust me – no one understands the whole pets-are-family concept more than I do. But unless Pookie the Cat picked up the phone and dialed me on her own, I’m not interested in speaking with her.

5) Don’t call me from the club. Hollerin’ into the phone and shit. Talkin’ about “HUH?” every time I say something, cuz you can’t hear me over all that loud music. Ridiculous. Saddown. Pon’ di ground.

6) So, you’re just gonna call me, ask me what I’m doing, find out I’m in the middle of some shit (drilling an oil well in Sudan, for example – or maybe just cleaning the bathroom), and just sit there? On the phone? I mean, you ain’t got nothing to say, B? You just called to ask me what I was doing? You couldn’t text that shit to me, Buddy? 

7) Okay, so if I call you and you’re at the movies, don’t answer your phone. Whispering, and shit. Talkin’ about, “Lemme call you back.” Really, Dude? I mean, just don’t answer the phone. You’re the reason why they have those five-minute lectures at the beginning of every movie, telling everybody to shut off their phones. You. I hope you can sleep at night.

8) Dude. Your phone just cut off, like, four times. Let’s just forget it. I don’t even remember what the Hell I was talking about anyway, and I’m afraid to start talking again, because your phone clearly is screwing with me on purpose. I’ll holler at you on Facebook.

9) It’s been three days since you put me on hold. Three days. I’ve missed work, I’m dehydrated, hungry, and I’ve soiled myself, waiting for your disrespectful ass to return to our conversation. Who the Hell are you talking to? I really need to reassess our friendship.

10) Normally, this would be reserved for “taking the phone into the bathroom”. However, since I’ve done that with some of you, I cannot, in good conscience, complain about it. So, there’s that.

[fin]