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 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 reality sounds more offensive and incredibly unappealing? Yeah, that’s what I thought. 😁

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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….?????

Are we not worth the trip???

My mother is truly a piece of work. She and my father live an hour and a half (or more depending on traffic) away from me. After not visiting them at their home for a lil over a month, I decided that I’d drive myself and the girls up yesterday and spend the day with them. They were pleasantly surprised of course. We had snacks on the deck, had some good laughs, then my mom’s famous pot pie for dinner. All was groovy until…the lecture. Why don’t I come to visit more often? What’s keeping me away? I’m depriving my children of time with their grandparents AND I missed the family reunion so I’m even creating distance between myself and our extended family. Are they not worth my time? Part of me wanted to tell them how I’ve managed feeding, entertaining, and cleaning up after three children every day while feeling like shit up until a few weeks ago, mind you with little to no help, and missing writing gigs and deadlines. I wanted to express the hardships of running camp mom and motivating my children to get up and stay active despite my desire to sleep until 12 bc this pregnancy is kicking my ass. But I didn’t. It would’ve only been received as an excuse and in those moments, people don’t wanna hear those. They want your time. Instead I told them the drive was a pain and if I can avoid it, I do. Momma said she wished her mom was only 1.5 hours away. To that, I had no suitable retort.

I planned to leave late, like say 9 or 10pm-ish. Of course my kids didn’t want to but I was ready to get home to my bed. Instead that plan turned into my mom delivering on the promise of fresh baked cookies that went into the oven at 9:30, extra time with my little sister and nephew, and an all night conversation with my mother. And no, that’s not an exaggeration. Never making it upstairs to bed, we literally talked from 11pm until 5:30am. We talked about everything!!!! From my youngest child being a total brat to homeschool, the summer my cousin and I terrorized my mom getting into constant mischief to life lessons in motherhood, gossip to finance, hair to gardening. Generational curses to mental health. She reminded me of odd childhood friends and times she went with her maternal protective gut, and said no. We laughed reminiscing about how we accidentally got locked out on a 100 degree summer day. I remembered being her little girl, what that felt like. OMG we blabbed nonstop….until finally the light began peeking through around 5. My mom opened her blinds then commanded me to lie down so we could get a few hours. She curled up on the other couch across from me and we chatted for another 30 min (about what, I don’t remember). Before dozing off completely, I glanced over at her. The blanket I attempted to drape over her but she snatched off refusing to be covered up, was being used as a pillow instead. She was snoring lightly and it made me smile. How cute she looked. She looked like her mother and I wondered if one day our roles in one another’s lives would reverse. I turned over and thought about what she’d said about time not standing still. Things change, people change. You never know how much time you have with people so you have to enjoy them while you can. That 1.5 hour drive it took to visit, wasn’t only worth it, it seemed so trivial in that moment. A moment that some day I may wish was only a mere driving distance away, and not impossible or no longer available. We get caught up in the hassle of the trip and totally miss the value of the journey. Lesson learned. 

An experience of a lifetime

So today I did something awesome! First let me say, I am a writer. Have been since I was a child. But rarely have I shared any piece with anyone. As a writer, I’m an artist…”and I’m sensitive about my shyt” (Miss Badu). This past February,  I auditioned for the “Listen To Your Mother” DC show and became a cast member alongside some of the most incredible women I’ve ever met. Women from all over, with great stories. We made each other cry, laugh, reflect, and hope. Today we all got up on a stage and shared those stories with an audience consisting of friends, family, and LTYM alumni. Now that it’s over, and the high from the adrenaline rush that perfoming provides has come down, I’ve had time to reflect. 

This wasn’t small. How often in today’s time, can you have 5 black women, 6 white women (+2), come together in love and just one commonality, motherhood? Color was recognized (we even had a joking moment about segregation) but was never a big deal. The ugliness of the world couldn’t reach us as we became sisters of storytelling, all there to support one another and share. (That’s a lot of S’s). It was amazing. Wouldn’t it be great if the whole world operated this way? No political correctness, no being overly sensitive, interaction without fear, and just truth.  Our director, probably the most authentic human manifestation of pure sunshine, said that storytelling “makes the world feel smaller”. And she’s sooo right. How close do you feel to someone who has bared their soul in the spirit of transparency, sharing their grief, happiness, fears, and desires with you? I feel pretty damn close when I am the sharer as well as the receiver. It helps us not only understand one another better, but also appreciate one another. With appreciation comes respect. If only the world were the LTYM stage. 

I wonder why do women…

I attended an event recently with several other women, which as a gal’s gal, is something I enjoy. I love when women get together! It was a great gathering and opportunity for not only networking, but just hanging out in an estrogenically charged atmosphere. But there was something else amidst…a negative vibe circling, waiting to spark a petty flame that would lead to catty behavior. 

In a conversation, a woman revealed that she’d been having an affair with a much younger man, whom she was also offering financial assistance for school. She became a joke, almost instantly. A discussion with a another group of women revealed that one of the ladies was a stay at home mom who had 5 children and rarely ever had time to herself. This event was her first time out in ages. She also stated that her husband was in charge of ALL the finances and she didnt ever have to worry about bills. She was pitied. One lady who spent most of her time at the bar was ostracized the minute she got there due to her tight fitting attire that barely covered or supported her voluptuous body. She joked that she was on the hunt for husband number 2 and needed to “dangle a lil meat to attract the lions”. 

Why do we women give each other such a hard time? Why are we so quick to judge one another? Lady #1, the cheating cougar…what if I told you her so-called husband has been living in their basement apartment for the last 3 years, refusing to move or give her a divorce even though he’s had multiple affairs and even impregnated one of his side chicks. As the true earner, divorcing him would cost her more making it not worth it, so she stays. For the last year, she’s been dating this young artist who has,completely brought her back to life and lifted her spirits, offering her the happiness she deserves. 

What if I told you the 21st century June Cleaver is actually a published author, has 3 degrees including an MBA and law degree, and does consulting from home? She’s not home because she doesn’t have options or a career path. But because her roles as wife and mother mean more to her than her corporate job and she chose to make herself more available to care for her family. Does her accolades make her more valuable as a woman? Apparently she wasn’t worth talking to until that info was shared. 

Our hoochie…what if I told you she’d just gotten out of a 12 year verbally and emotionally abusive marriage with a total jerk who constantly bullied her and taunted her about her weight. Her self esteem was at an all time low, when he left her “fat ass” for one “that could actually fit in a chair and not be an embarrassment”. His hurtful words drove her to make changes and she lost 70 pounds. Wearing fitted, revealing clothes for the first time ever, she felt sexy and confident. 

The reasons shouldn’t matter. We shouldnt judge but we do. We fat-shame, slut-shame, mommy-shame, career-shame, body-shame, success-shame, money-shame, bash, hate on, gossip about, compete with, antagonize, and fight against one another. We talk shyt about the woman with tight clothes just as we clown the one with the righteous turtleneck. We fat-shame our fluffy sisters and call the skinny ones anorexic even when they aren’t. We shame the woman who doesnt want children while criticizing the one who wanted 5. The career driven woman is shamed by the moms. We are never good enough in our eyes. Perhaps because we ourselves as individuals aren’t good enough in our own eyes. We find fault in each other as we find fault in ourselves and our lack of sisterly love is a reflection of our own self-doubt and self-hatred. The love we fail to show each other is only an extension of the cold shoulder we offer ourselves. Think about it…we fat, slut, and success shame ourselves. Why wouldn’t we do the same to another woman?

How awesome would it be if we as women just stopped the shaming and loved, supported, and empowered one another? My inner goddess is charged when I’m in the presence of femine energy. Something happens when we come together, something electric, magnetic, cosmic even. We should strive to operate in that goddess energy, and that only. When we learn to 

love ourselves unconditionally, collectively, the world will know. Bc we will start loving each other the same way. 

Why I Don’t F@#% with Disney princesses…

Apparently, the “normal” aspiration of little girls all over the world is to some day become a princess. However, me being the weirdo I am, never had any ounce of a desire to become a princess, especially thanks to Disney’s misogynistic portrayal of princesshood. The classic tale of a troubled but sweet girl clothed in innocence, dangling from the lowest hanging branch of the family tree, trying to find her place in a world in which, 9 times out of 10, she doesn’t fit. I can appreciate the story of the odd female out’s empowerment and a rise from gutter to gold, and even the occasional I finally found the man of my dreams love story. BUT, why I don’t eff with Disney princess stories is because they make it a point to reduce the story of new found self awareness and appreciation to a man fixed me (and usually it’s a man at the center of the problem). They have consistently, and in my opinion very intentionally, opted to eliminate the powerful influence of a strong woman or mother. Each conflict is paternal and the mother is either deceased or so quiet/passive she’s invisible to the plot.  Let’s take a look so you know I’m not crazy and just another Disney hater. 

1. One of our latest crazes: Frozen. Let me just say, I love the message of the power of sisterly love. BUT did you hear their mother say a word? Wasn’t it Elsa’s father who locked her away and convinced her that her powers were something to fear? Separating her from her sister and the world? Imagine if he (or better yet her mom) had empowered her to learn to control her power rather than try to hide from it? It was daddy’s fault things got jacked up. Yeah…next

2. Sleeping Beauty….did you hear her mother speak? Her father was dumb enough to beef with Maleficent which ultimately caused his daughter to be in her slumbersome situation. And even with the help of 3 fairy godmothers, only a kiss from some random dude on a horse in the forest who she met years ago could wake her up. I call BS. According to the actual folklore, the boy’s kiss wasn’t what woke her, it was one from Maleficent herself. Of course disney changed the story to suit their own need to prove that if a woman is powerful, she must be evil. 

3. Snow White…where was her mama? Her daddy married some crazy evil woman with a bad case of two deadly sins, vanity and jealousy which she poured all over this poor unsuspecting child. All she wanted to do was sing to the animals and skip through the forest freely. She shacked up with 7 strange lil men and immediately committed herself to servitude while she waited for a prince (some dude she’d barely just met at the well with a serious bravado) to come for her. In the end, he was the only one who could save her (again a kiss from a stranger) and he whisked her away to what appeared to be his castle just beyond the pearly gates of heaven. 

4. Cinderella….who names their daughter “cinder”-ella? Like she was born to remain among the cinders, cleaning. No mama, instead an evil step mother and 3 nasty sisters. The prince had to swoop in and give her a better life. See how that happened. Abused by women, saved by a man. Ok, granted, the fairy godmother stepped in. But did she empower her to fight back or stand up for herself? No, she made her pretty for the ball and provided tranportation to get her man. Thanks. 

5. Belle….of course as an avid reader, she was my fave for a while. But where was Mama Belle? She had a great relationship with her father, “crazy ‘ol Maurice” and that’s how she ended up with the beast. She sacrificed herself for her father. A friend of mine argued that had she not done so, she wouldn’t have found love. To that, I would like to point out how dysfunctional and stockholmish that sounds. She fell in love with her captor. The same one who had her father locked away. Aint nobody that thirsty. 

6. Except maybe Ariel. Aside from the fact she married prince Eric at 16 (not sure how old he was), there were several things wrong with this story. Where was her mama? Like Aurora, the strong female presence in the movie was vilified. Accoding to the tale, sleeping beauty’s dad took Maleficents wings but we dont know exactly why King Triton and Ursula were beefin so hard. And what about all her sisters??? Her closest friends were a seagull, a flounder, and a crab, all male. You got like 20 sisters and you don’t rock with any of them???

7. Mulan. Wasnt a princess but still, sacrificed herself for her father. A father who’d initially expressed disappointment for her inability to act normal and obtain a husband. Her mother and grandmother were both present but in the usual context, not empowerment, but educating her on how to make herself desireable wifey material. Granted, her actions did bring honor to her family and eventually a fine man to her, but look what she had to do. She had to be a man. Smh 

Two movies I will give Disney props on are Brave and Moana. Aside from the fact they both made me cry, they made sense and for me, were relatable. Merida, in all her Scottish badazz glory, donn-

ing a mess of untamed red curly hair, was a fighter and a gal who sought to control her own destiny. The scene where she decided to compete for her own hand in marriage was awesome. Not just the fact that she beat all of her would be suitors, but her arrow ripped through that of the finalist, the message of feminine independence resonating for generations to come. Same as Moana when she took off on that boat. Fueled by the wisdom and spirit of her grandmother, she fulfilled her destiny and restored her people to their true selves. These are the messages I desire for my girls. The damsel in distress narrative is so played. We live in a time where women are proving themselves as forces to be reckoned with yet are still having to fight for equality. Those among us who are too strong, are called manly (Serena). Too smart, cunning, or powerful are vilified (Hillary). Too sexy, talented, and proud are slut-shamed (Beyonce). Too vocal and right, are silenced (Elizabeth Warren). When we exhibit our independence, the world hones in on that which liberates us and uses it to strike us down. Our words, our bodies, our minds, our deeds. Disney should utilize its global platform to combat this and stop minimizing our contributions and the power of our presence. Our very loud, feminine, strong, presence.