Stage 1

Black men are so hard headed when it comes to their health. They are absolute rock stars and heroes in every other aspect of life. I see them going to work to provide for their families, taking special care of their mamas, checking up on “pops”, involved in their communities working with the youth and keeping a protective eye out for their neighbors. Black men are 70% more likely to suffer from heart disease than white men. We all know why. Between fearing for their lives all while paying bills and being hated, they as a whole, aren’t the most healthy eaters. Nor are the black women that typically feed them. They give so much of themselves yet are the most scrutinized group of our population. This scrutiny leads to great stress. And as we know, stress kills, slowly.

This morning I awoke to my husband standing over me, tapping my shoulder. I glared at him through squinted eyes that had intended to remain shut at least until the 6 month old said otherwise. I’d already been up with said 6 month old hours earlier, meeting his hygiene and feeding demands so this disturbance was quite unwelcome. My husband resembled one of our children, these people who lack the discernment to understand that my sleep is equally if not more important than their minor ailments and hypochondriac assertions. If it weren’t for the more than usual look of bewilderment on his face, I would’ve faked a deep sleep. He says, “I’m seeing double in my left eye.” Normally my first response would be to laugh, or roll my eyes but I’m trying to do better. I ask him what’s going on. He can’t really articulate it, but in a nutshell he feels “off” and of course his eye. I tell him to go rinse and apply a warm rag over it. I have to tell him to do this twice. He does and still feels weird. After pacing a while, getting a drink of water, then debating on whether to go to work, he finally leaves but calls me a few minutes later. I suggest that he goes to walgreens or rite aid and get his pressure checked. He does and we find out that it IS elevated, to Stage 1 early hypertension range. He ends up working from home with me serving him dandelion tea, salad, and cup after cup of water.

It occurred to me while I was chopping fruit for

his salad that my husband wasn’t guaranteed. “In sickness and in health”…”til death do us part”….we commit to those words in the spirit of happiness and under the guise that the way we are in that moment is how it will always be. Until today, my husband’s mortality never seriously crossed my mind. Even a few years ago when a good mommy friend of mine suddenly lost her husband, I felt grateful that mine was still alive, but never imagined that he wouldn’t be. He’s been there for over 16 years.

I’ve taken for granted his presence and forgotten how unpredictable life and death can be. Actually we know death is notorious for it’s lack of predicatability but life leading up tp that point, we never know. While some meet their end quickly, others’ demise is preceded by unexpected, extended illness and suffering.

At bedtime, I watched him snore loudly, a bit less annoyed by the disturbance than usual. I allowed him to take my place for a massage I was scheduled, something he’d never experienced. It had done him good. But the road moving forward, with hypertension, diabetes, and cancer looming on both sides of his gene pool, is sure to require some changes. I haven’t done the greatest job taking care of him. While I was running miles, hitting the gym, getting my Namaste on, and eating a plant based protein and vitamin rich diet, my husband has gained weight, remained sedentary, and developed the most god-awful eating habits. I have a membership to receive monthly massages and facials while he has NO self care regimen. Even though I gave up my appointment with Alicia for him to experience her magic hands, I still felt guilty. So much more I could do. Now I have taken charge of my man’s health. As if it were my own…because it kinda is. 💗

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“Ya’ll are all over the place.”

As parents, we are no strangers to chaos. We live it, we create it, we exit in it, we battle it, and sometimes we just embrace it and even thrive in it. We are able to recognize the chaos that exists in another household and we understand that struggle. I remember that judgey pre-parenthood look I used to give moms that wore spit up stained t-shirts, yoga pants, and their actual baby strapped to them in an overpriced carrier from Babies ‘R’ Us. I laughed while they struggled to fold their Lands End strollers or get the double wide through the doors at Macy’s. I thought, “damn, that’s what happens when you keep having babies. Better them than me.” My how the carousel turns.

So yesterday, I was getting two of my littles to camp. As a writer, my process involves tons of sticky notes and carrying my special pen and a notebook around. When I went to get out of my truck, tons of stuff fell out with me. I was kneeling to recollect my things including a few sticky notes that had blown under my truck. As I was straining to reach without laying my face on the disgusting asphalt, a mommy acquaintance that I only kinda know but kinda super don’t like walked over. She’s the type that comes over and immediately starts rambling about her life, despite what you are going through at that moment.

“What are you doing?” she asked. I told her that all my stuff jumped out the car the same time I did and I was trying to reach a super important sticky note. She giggles and says “Ya’ll are always all over the place.” I roll my eyes but before I can respond, the truck next to us makes a loud noise and wakes my 5 month old. He starts fussing so I toss my things into my bag and walk around to get him. She, like a dumbass, steps slightly over to that side as well, still talking as I get my baby out of his seat. “Oh you’ve got the baby with you?” Where the hell else would he be? I look down and notice the sticky note had blown to that side and so relieved, I got it. “Glad I got this. This one had the most notes!” I announced to myself really.

She shakes her head, and again says “ya’ll just be all over the place, all the time.” I frown at her. “Ya’ll who?” She gives me a look as if I’m slow. “Your family. Like, ya’ll always be all over the place. Every time I see ya’ll, you’re doing the most.  Late to school, chasing animals…” Now I was irritated. I shifted my baby to the other hip, as I felt the urge to release a few four letter words. “What does that even mean? All over the place?” She tried to explain that she has project management experience and how she applies that to her household, how she understands that juggling “a bunch of kids” can be stressful, oh and how she ordered a whole new organizing kit from Amazon, and again how she gets paid to project manage. I didn’t even let her finish. “Not that I want your help AT ALL, but if you were that concerned with helping, maybe instead of standing here breffin me to death about only god knows what, you could’ve maybe done the sisterly thing and offered to help get my things while I got my baby. That’s what I would have done, with my all over the place ass. And not that I give a damn what anyone thinks,  my family is very much together. As together as we’re gonna be. My husband is awesome, my kids are great, and we tend to us. Which is what the fudge you need to be doing.” With that I waltzed off, fake giggling, fro blowing in the wind.

I thought about it later as I sat in my family room, kids running around, baby drooling and tossing toys, mess lingering in what should be clear spaces. She may have been right. We are actually all over the place, much like a drunk flock of seagulls indeed. I wasn’t sure if it bothered me more that she tried to come for my family or if was because they made her look right. My seven year old has terrible 2’s level meltdowns over the simplest of things, my 9 year old spends a great deal of time pretending to be an animal and even licks things/people, the 14 year old watches naruto as if it’s a religion and lives in adidas pants. The baby crawls by dragging his face across the floor then rolls to where he needs to go once he realizes the carpet doesn’t feel great. The husband is a hoarder and falls asleep EVERY night, on the couch in his work clothes. I’d say we are far from together and it slightly pisses me off that they made her point. Like Kevin Hart says “we just didn’t look good as a unit”.

As two of my girls decided to stack like the We Bare Bears from cartoon network and scoot across the floor, laughing hysterically, I rethought my position on what being “all over the place” vs having it together really meant. Being all over the place for my family is being us. We do not have it together and we don’t spend much time stressing over that. Sure it presents an issue sometimes when we get up late and get stuck in traffic and show up late. Sure it’s an issue when my girls are rocking an afro puff for the 4th day in a row with a groovy headband slapped on top while other kids (and they’re mamas) are fresh out of the salon. It may even be a problem when we’re up til 1am Sunday to complete a science project that we just started on even though it was assigned three weeks ago but we forgot about it. But honestly, I think we are some of the happiest free-spirited black folk I know. We are not bound by expectations or opinions of those outside of our household and at the end of the day, when we all come together, we are happy. Regardless of the haphazard lacking of grace fashion we stumble through our day, we land on both feet, at home together.

Motherhood is kickin my azz…

I’m sitting here in my bathroom. The morning rays from our beloved sun shining in on me, charging my melanin, giving me life. I’ve been sitting here several minutes. Why are you hanging out in the bathroom recharging? Well thanks for asking. I am on the run. There is a little person and another VERY little person downstairs and apparently they don’t feel well. Neither of them have instruction manuals nor are they articulate enough to communicate what their true issues are. So I’m hiding. The Prince who is just shy of two months old had the nerve to have a fever last night that magically disappeared this morning, but not before causing me to go into a full panic. Pretty sure my eyelids stayed open all night, watching him as if I were equipped with temperature monitoring vision. Then there’s the 7 year old who’s tummy is hurting AGAIN. And while I’m sure its only constipation because she’s picky and weird and refuses to eat fruit, I made the mistake of googling pediatric stomach ache. So now I have to keep a look out for appencitis or just plain old bloating.

My bathroom, while it usually offers peace and solace, is actually adding fuel to my already five alarm fireball of stress. There’s a pile of my husband’s dirty laundry in front of my soaking tub. It’s annoying. His counter is littered with everything from beard hair to contact solution, toothpaste, and whatever else. It’s annoying. This is after he managed to get sleep last night….every night for that matter while I toil over how much I may have failed as a mother with two sick children in my bed. It’s quite annoying. I feel like shit, look like shit and so does my house. I wish I could teleport into an old school Calgon commercial and be taken away.

What’s in a Name???

Growing up, I found my name annoying. I was often either the only black kid, or one of the very few, in my class. I lived in a predominantly white neighborhood attended predominantly white schools from K-12th grade. My name was mispronounced, made fun of, and was the subject of unsolicited revisions. It’s spelled exactly as it sounds yet I’ve been addressed with all sorts of variations, completely disregarding the simplicity of it. The older I got, despite the seemingly oddness of my name and the ridicule it came with, I came to love it. I loved the way it sounded both when I said it in introduction as well as how others said it (correctly of course).

My three girls have simple names. Names that, unlike mine, can be found on keychains and coffee mugs. They don’t have to settle for just the initial nor order it customized. However, I now have a son on the way. Initially I wanted a cute name that I could shorten as a nickname. I was crushing hard on the name Chadwick, Chad for short. You know, like the actor. My husband kinda liked it too but he liked Carmelo better. I did not. We left it alone, figuring it would just come to us. And it did. Right out of a Marvel comic book and movie trailer. We were satisfied but kept the name to our household. Finally over thanksgiving then at a holiday party, we revealed the name to family and friends. We were met with mixed feelings ranging from absolutely loving it to complete disgust. Folks pulled me to the side and asked was I really gonna let my husband name my baby that. Um, yeah. Smdh

I brushed all that off because honestly, I don’t care. I haven’t had any offers to carry this child for not even one second of this pregnancy, none to push him out for me, nor any to pay his college tuition in full, sooo….😞 Anyway, it’s one thing when family and friends have something to say. It’s something else when someone outside your inner circle wants to weigh in. I asked no one’s opinion, not even family soooo again….😞. After maybe a third person, and one who didnt even matter made a negative comment, I was annoyed. Her response was, “well just so you know, he’s gonna be discriminated against on his resume.” My response, “fuck a resume. He’s gonna own his own shit. How bout dat?” No apologies. She had it coming. The nerve of her to speak negatively, and ignorantly I might add, against my son’s future. I don’t recall ever caring enough about what someone named their child to the point of inserting myself into that decision by lending unsolicited advice nor cousel. 

It is my belief that men should be allowed to name their sons. Perhaps if it were our second or third boy, but being that this is our ONLY boy and our LAST child, it is only right and fair. Especially considering he had little to do with the names of our girls. In addition, it’s a freakin dope azz name!!! While the origin is sketchy and fictional, and it has no meaning, that is what we have come to like most about it. The unattached attachment. Something make believe but inspiring nonetheless. It is defined by the exceptional qualities of a timeless fictional character. Qualities that we hope and desire for our son. Brilliant, bold, innovative, a leader, unique, proud, respected, and just plain badazz! We hope that he is his own person, unapologetic and a nonconformist with knowledge of self and an unshakable pride in who he is. With Respect for his ancestors and deep compassion for his people. We desire this for all of our children. Not sure how the name will look on a resume….but it looks damn good on the Wired magazine cover.. 😁

Eating to Live

I grew up in North Carolina where the smell of pine fills the air, tobacco crops line every back road, and pork is on every table. I loved barbecue, bacon, my mom’s pork chops, honey baked ham, and OMG pork rinds!!!! Meat was a staple and we didn’t shy away from grease. Even our collard greens were greasy. We could take the healthiest dish, deep fry it, or smother it in bacon grease and life was good.

They say when you know better you do better. When I became pregnant with my first son, my super over-protective fiancé at the time imposed a very strict diet. I mean he examined EVERY label, checked the origin of every piece of produce, and insisted I not drink anything other than bottled water or organic fresh squeezed juice. That was my first time being a vegan.

Now after years of teeter tottering on that tight rope of healthy eating, back and forth between veganism to vegetarianism to eating everything-ism and back again, I have become more anal than ever when it comes to food. Even moreso with my children. I cringe when my husband treats them to Popeyes chicken or McDonald’s fries. Even their lunches have become the topic of conversation with other moms and teachers at the school who are somewhere between impressed and bewildered by what I pack. I complain every morning that I am doing the absolute most and it should be appreciated. But I don’t stop.

This past Colonizer Day aka Thanksgiving, we ate at my aunt’s house. I nearly vomited into the pan of mac’n’cheese because I glanced over at the chitlins (I refuse to say chitterlings) in the pan beside it. They stink, they are gross, and they are ugly as shit (bc thats basically what they are). My children settled on a couple slices of turkey, greens, mac, and sweet potato casserole. Even they were leary.

It’s always funny to me because the people with the greatest health issues are always the ones encouraging the poor diet. Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol all run on both sides of my family. Yet, my sister and I are the only ones who have ever been vegetarian or selective about our diet.

It amazes me how people can watch a documentary like “What the Health?” yet still insist on putting poison into their bodies without at least an attempt at eating clean. I actually heard someone tell a child that they were a “good girl” for eating pork and not only eating veggies. Who says that? Well it definitely shouldn’t be a person who’s BP baseline is on the verge of cardiac arrest.

At the very least, I can control the majority of what my family eats. I buy all the groceries and prepare all meals according to the menu I’ve planned. I am unbothered by the negative comments due to lack of knowledge or discipline. The same way folks wanna clown my so called rabbit food, I can remind them that they are eating eggs aka chicken embryo aka lump of fowl menstrual cholesterol…or chitlins aka pig intestines aka swine dookie chute. Which in reality sounds more offensive and incredibly unappealing? Yeah, that’s what I thought. 😁

Clairvoyant Dreaming

Over the years, I’ve had many weird dreams. Some super silly that caused me to wake up laughing out loud, while others were quite disturbing, leaving me on edge with great angst. I’ve had to treat myself for night terrors so gruesome that they had me afraid to sleep. I remained awake night after night to avoid the horror that just may play out in my head. My dreams, while they vary from one night to another, are always in color, always vivid, and are usually remembered. Like movies they play in my head as I recall them. I even sometimes have reruns.

A couple of weeks ago, I had yet another strange dream. I was in Safeway, in the frozen section, buying Morning Star and Gardein products. A young sista came over and we started chatting about vegetarian meals. As we were talking, the store began to grow dark. Proceeding to the checkout, she had invited me to some event that was happening. Despite thinking, “I need to get going. Gotta get back home to the hubby and kiddos”, my second thought was “I could use some me time, sounds pretty cool, I’ll go for a bit.” As we exited the store through the sliding doors, the store itself and everything/one in it vanished. Once we were through the doors, we were inside what appeared to be a small dimly lit room, covered in all types of prints, exotic fabrics, smelling of the frankincense and myrrh incense you find at the beauty supply store. In the middle of the room, was a large circular cushion covered in mandala print with sparkly vibrant colors. We lounged on it, chatting about nothing in particular when she offered me a puff of something she was smoking. The weird looking joint that burned purple on the end had the most sweet herbal smelling smoke. Against my better judgement, I thought what the hell and went for it. I immediately felt high, literally. Not just high like buzzed, but high, as in elevated…aware. I realized there was a large screen with a movie playing but also someone else had been in the room with us. It was a caramel colored sista with a short honey blonde fro. I could see/hear them talking to each other….seemingly about me….seemingly up to no good….but as I considered that realization, everything began to fade and I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was lying comfortably on the cushion still, and alone. I got up and stepped outside of this room, realizing it was a tent, kinda like a single-roomed yurt. This tent was among many others and down a hill, there were fields of produce, orchards, and animals off to the far right side. I immediately noticed the scuppernongs hanging from vines, so ripe they were heavy and drooping. The young lady whom I’d followed there had been sitting just outside the door and informed that this land belonged to a black woman for many years. She was the first to own a scuppernong orchard. “In fact,” she said, “that’s her over there.” She pointed and I saw an old woman, sitting with an unfinished knitted blanket across her lap. She was very old, dark pecan brown, with dark eyes, dark hair pulled back in a bun covered by a worn straw hat. I walked over and began talking her head off like a fan girl, telling her how beautiful her land was, how I’d always dreamed of having orchards of my own, and how I used to pick scuppernongs with my mother and grandmother every year, right after school had started. She replied, “I know, she told me.” I was confused. “Who told you?”

“Your grandmother,” she nodded in front of her. There, sitting the whole time, had been my grandmother, also with an unfinished knitted blanket across her lap. I was happy and surprised to see her. She smiled but didn’t speak to me. She knew me, recognized me, and was seemingly even happy to see me, but she didn’t talk. Before I could become concerned and the thought “what’s wrong with her?” even popped into my head, the old woman said, “she’s fine. We’ve been sitting here talking. Go on and look around. I think it’s bout time for them to be putting the animals up for the evening.” Somehow, I knew her. In that instant, I realized she was some part of me, an ancestor, family. And I knew her. She knew me. And my grandmother. I pecked my grandmother on the cheek and walked towards the grape orchards. The smell was so intense, I could taste them in the air. I picked a few and ate them as I toured the apple and peach orchards which were both much smaller than the grape one. I heard my husband’s voice call my name, then my children. I turned and they were coming down the hill in my direction. We went to the animals, where indeed, the field hands were lovingly handling them. To my surprise, there was a huge pen with guinea pigs. My husband suggested that we ask to take a couple of them home. I quickly reminded him that we already had two at home, and a hamster, enough rodents. We started heading back up the hill when I remembered I’d left my belongings in the tent/yurt thing. I told him I’d catch up and went to get my stuff. As I bent down to pick up my purse, I saw my back reflecting in the mirror. It was covered in some sort of strange picture of a female that looked to be demonic towering over a smaller more human looking female amid a chaotic scene. The she-demon reminded me of the female titan from attack on titan except she was black and bald. Her body was feminine, but had no skin. She looked more like a page from my anatomy book, covering the muscular system. Even her breasts were muscle. Her hands here raised in attack with her claws sharp and pointy, hovering. How did that get there? I tried rubbing it off, thinking it was paint, or marker. It didn’t budge nor even smear. It was like an actual two year old tattoo! I started freaking out when I noticed an old woman in the corner. She was sepia skinned and appeared to be Native American with long salt and pepper hair, pulled back into a single braid. She told me that Safeway sista had put that there and she wasn’t supposed to have done that. After looking at my back she shook her head. “I’ll do it,” she said. Another similar looking woman appeared, slightly shorter and just as old as the first. She had a mortar and pestle cupped in one hand, and a bottle of some liquid in the other. They had me sit down on a stool and the first lady began speaking in another language while scribbling with the pestle on my back. It sounded like speaking in tongues, but much calmer, and more control, repetitive and with purpose. The other lady was sprinkling the liquid onto my back with her fingers and humming along. She took a dry cloth and wiped. The tattoo began wiping away, almost like it was chalk. That’s how easy it came off. She continued whispering her tongues until it was completely gone. Then she said, “she wasn’t supposed to do that. It’s gone now.”  She handed her cleaning materials to the other woman and stood up tall, looked right into my eyes through the mirror, and said, “wake up.” And I did.

I looked around and I was back in my bed, at home. My husband was standing there, confusion and concern etched on his face. He told me he was about to call an ambulance because he thought  something was wrong. He wasn’t sure if I was having a seizure, had blacked out from a migraine, or had a stroke. When I later told him about the dream, he said it seemed as though I’d left and went somewhere else. He and the girls called my name and I looked at him but it was as if I were looking right through him. He left me alone, trying get stuff together since we were leaving for vacation that morning, but when he checked on me, I was still “asleep” but my eyes were fluttering, rolling. Creepy, right?!

Guess what else….so my grandmother, who’s had multiple hallucinations, keeps talking about people from the past (as in dead), who’s been diagnosed with dementia is the one who was chatting with the orchard owner ancestor lady, sitting there not knitting blankets that were different, but both had blue and green in them, and were unfinished. Well they appeared to be finished, up to the strings that both women had on their needles. As if they were completing the blankets, only they weren’t. I thought deep about this detail and came up with nothing. After our vacation, we stopped by my other grandmother’s house on the way back home. She gave me two quarts for my father and a gallon sized bag of….scuppernongs. Now my pregnant azz has been craving them since. The more I thought about who Safeway sista and her friend could have been, I realized, they both resembled me. Different hair, different clothes, but both looked enough like me to be related. Odd right???? Where’s a dream interpreter???

Phuck “back to school”

Here we are, that time of year again. The end of long days spent at the water park, late movie nights, eating rice for breakfast and sweet frog frozen yogurt for dinner. The end of camping out every night in the family room and watching the sky from the second story windows, wearing polka dots with stripes and tie-dyed accesories and miss matched socks and shoes out of the house. The end of summer, the end of freedom. For some it is a relief. And for me it should be. Being the sole counselor/instructor/operator of Camp MoM is not easy. Responsible for all meals, snacks, activities, keeping the peace, keeping minds fresh, keeping them entertained all while keeping my sanity has not been a walk in the park. But it has been a time to do “Us”, without consequence, without remorse. Though I’ve had no me time and barely time to write, I’d have it no other way. Back to school for us means getting up at 5:45am, fighting traffic to get to and from a “special” school across county. I’m tired already. And it’s not that being tired is a problem. Exhaustion is our baseline as mothers. What bothers me is being tired when it ain’t even worth it. (Yeah I said ain’t). So once again, wanting something different and not knowing what that different something is. Is it homeschooling? Private school is expensive, but is that the solution? I’ve realized that as a nonconformist, the restrictive and confining structure that public school provides is a constant irritation to the harmony and peace of my whimsical lil world. I want more for my children than learning how to sit still, follow rules, take orders, and learn what they are being taught. I want them to bounce around, question the rules (bc let’s face it, they don’t always make sense), think outside the box and for themselves, and learn what interests them at their own pace. Perhaps that’s a lil indulgent on my part….but is it though? Perhaps public schooling or any schooling isn’t the answer. Maybe it’s un-schooling all together….?????