Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pretty Girl Swag

I’m slowly but surely getting out of the funk that has plagued me for quite sometime. One of the things that has helped me get through it is just thinking about things that make me laugh or smile.

Whenever my mind turns to the dreaded subject of XXXX, I fight it with all might. I whip out my Happy Arsenal, which contains the lyrics to Willow Smith’s ‘Whip My Hair’, the screams of a relative who was prancing around her home naked when a maintenance man walked in, and images of my friend’s 2-year-old daughter placing a maxi pad in her diaper. ( True story, the child does everything her mama does. Thankfully there were no tampons around)

I’m always looking for new things to put in my Happy Arsenal. I think I found the perfect addition recently when I was flipping through the newspaper. This ran as a letter to the editor:

You’re pretty’
Recently I was assured that there are beautiful people in our world.
I was at Trader Joe’s, sitting near the exit door waiting for my daughter to complete her shopping. Many people passed by – some smiling, some deep in thought or talking to friends and family members.
A young woman with her three children approached the exit. One was a little girl about 8 or 9 years of age. I smiled at her and asked how she was. She smiled back and then commented, “You’re pretty.”
Those two words were so precious to this 90-year-old grandma. Not the fact that she gave me a lovely compliment, but that she had the love in her heart to make someone feel good. I will never forget that moment and that little girl. She has lovely parents. May God bless her and her family.

- H.S.

We all could use a Happy Arsenal from time to time. Feel free to take anything of mine, until you can create your own.

(Photo from )

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Productive, That's Me

I've been off the last two days and I actually got a lot accomplished. I mean, I did get some extra sleep in and did my fair share of TV watching, but I will say I was more productive than I have been on past days off.

It all started Monday. I woke up and made it to my 6 a.m. spin class. Yes, I did that, on my day off. Serious dedication over here! I came home, showered and slept a little. Then I did some revisions on the new novel in progress. (Draft 5 is really making me pull my hair out) I watched an episode of Friday Night Lights and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

And just when I was beginning to feel like a real couch potato, I got up and went to the mall. Can I just tell you there's no greater joy than going to the mall when it's empty?? And by empty, I mean no teenagers!!! No screaming kids!!! No disgruntled moms pushing in curlers pushing strollers! I tried on some new clothes and found that my spin class is really paying off. Thank goodness I was alone in the fitting room, because someone would've called mental services on me if they heard me back there jumping for joy. Because these clothes were fitting right, I just had to buy them. Then I went to a store with various collectibles and found the first part of my mother's Christmas gift. That's three people I've gotten Christmas gifts for so far. I'm on a roll!

Today, I was up early because maintenance needed to get inside to check my filter and change my smoke detector batteries. While I was awake, I did laundry, more revisions to the NIP (Novel In Progress) and a quick clean up of the kitchen. Then, of course, I fit in Friday Night Lights and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I did all of this before I had to go to campus to meet with my professor for our 2 p.m. appointment.

And it was there, at that university that I love to hate, that I learned some good news. Dr. L was pleased with my latest revisions to my thesis. In fact, she said I put too much research into the introductory section and some of that material can be used in the 'findings' sections. So all that's left for me to do is my findings and methodology portions of the paper, which, combined, shouldn't be more than 10 pages. After that, I'll put in the last chapter of my research, which is literally novel #1. Overall, I still have work to do, but not as much as I anticipated.

It was with great pride that I went to the bursar's office and applied for graduation. Sure, it cost me $75 (gulp) and a run around campus on a humid day. But inside, I keep thinking .... 'THE END IS NIGH!!!' Which will soon lead to thoughts of 'Hmmm....what's next?'

Photo of Zora Neale Hurston from

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sunday Spin (**A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is, until she gets in hot water.")

1. The weather was so beautiful this weekend that I couldn't possibly stay inside

2. I was so glad that I didn't have to spend it working at my part time job

3. I decided to get a jump on my Christmas shopping, so I went to an art gallery that is selling vintage posters through Nov. 1

4. There were a few posters I fell madly in love with, but they cost $450 *shakes fist*

5. Then I went to a museum that was doing it's last day of free admission, so you know I couldn't turn that down

6. And it's a good thing I didn't, because I wound up getting two Christmas gifts there

7. Well, I actually got three gifts, but I haven't decided if the third is a gift for me or someone else yet. Shrug.

Have a good week everybody!

(**Quote from a curator at the museum, 10/23/10)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Second Time Around

I’ve never been one of those people who reads the same book twice. I go through it, I either enjoy it -- which means I’ll inflict it on my friends before going on my bookshelf -- or I hate it – which means I’m going to donate it to the library/give it away/sell to my local used bookstore. I rarely reread books. The most I’ll do is revisit an interesting chapter or scene, and that’s that. Sure, I have my favorite books, but they are usually books I’ve read ONCE.

My thesis researched has forced me to pick up an old favorite, Nathan McCall’s “Makes Me Wanna Holla.” It’s an autobiography where McCall talks about growing up in Portsmouth, Va, a prison stint, and eventually turning his life around to become a reporter at The Washingotn Post. I cited a chapter, “Native Son”, where he talks about how he read that novel when he was doing time. He related so much to Bigger Thomas that he cried when Bigger was sentenced to death.

It was such a good chapter that I started flipping through the book again. I remember being a teenager when I read it. Back then, I was so na├»ve that I thought one chapter – “Trains” – was going to be about his fascination for locomotives. (It’s soooo not) I couldn’t understand his trouble adjusting to the corporate world, and I was especially pleased with his confrontation with a coworker that caused the offending man to break down and cry.

Now that I read it again, I notice stuff like the book cover -- with its graffiti on the wall and the beat up chair he’s sitting on. I can easily relate to his workplace adjustment problems. He didn’t have the best taste in women, but sheesh, his life would’ve been easier if he treated them better.

Anyway, I’m not re-reading the whole book, just from the middle on. I like to revisit how he decided to change his life while in prison and how the outside world worked out for him. I learned from an old interview that there had been plans to turn this book into a movie. Nothing ever became of that, fortunately. I wouldn’t want to see a scaled-back/squeaky clean/hero gets the girl/Hollywood version of this story anyway. If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chaka Khan & Cleaning Out My Closet

I mentioned before that when times geet tough, I get in my bed. Well, the Sleep Olympics have launched in my bedroom again and I’m well in the midst of getting a gold medal. Lately, when my mind is heavy, and I’m stressed out about something I can’t control, I just hop into bed and hope that things will be better in the morning. It had worked in the past. I was able to get up early, get some writing done and get to work early, or right on time, which is quite a feat for me.

But things aren’t that way anymore. Yeah, I’ve been stressed, yeah I’ve had some stuff on my mind, and yeah I’ve been escaping it with my bed. All this sleep I’m getting, is just making me want to sleep more, not less, and there is no refreshment in sight. It is always my goal twice a week to wake up just before 5 a.m., work on my novel for about an hour or so, then start getting ready for work. (I spend the rest of the week at my 6 am spin class) Last night, I went to bed at 10 and still struggled to wake up at 7:30. Mind you, I’m supposed to be at work at 8. Sigh.

So I’ve been finding other ways to channel my energy, or lack thereof. Cleaning is a good counterpart to sleep. For the first time in my life, I have a vacuum cleaner that is actually worth something. It gives me so much joy that I have given it a name – Chaka Khan. Whenever I’m stressed, or my mind goes into the dark place, I just chant “Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan!” and I start vacuuming my woes away. It’s not just vacuuming that’s been keeping me sane. I recently dusted and rearranged my bookshelves. (If you knew how many books I had, you’d understand that this was quite a feat) I’ve also made a list of other cleaning projects to take on. Look out bedroom closet! I’m coming your way, bathroom cabinet! Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, computer desk!

With all of these tasks, my place should be SPOTLESS by the end of the year. That should keep me out of the bed for awhile. That’s what I hope anyway. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know. And hey, I might even be willing to load up Chaka Khan and clean your house.

Photo from

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I mentioned here previously that I’m trying to sprinkle some love dust between my cousin and a girl in my spin class. This is an idea that came to me gradually. The girl – I’ll call her L, since I can’t pronounce her name – is someone I see every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings when we hop on bikes and pedal our woes away. We talk a bit -- we went to the same college as me, much later than I did -- and she’s genuinely cool people. She’s pretty too. She’s the type of girl that makes you say “Awwww, she’s sweet.” She told me previously that she’s 23, and I tried to think of other people that I know in her age range. My cousin V was the only person I could think of, even though he’s about three years older. Then it hit me. These two would look cute together!

I got to see Cousin V briefly a few weeks ago under sad circumstances. He is in the Peace Corps and has been in Africa for a couple of years. He’ll be done his time there this fall, but came home briefly because his father is seriously ill. Despite the sad circumstances, it was good to see him again. He picked up an accent and had started wearing the local garb. So me, being the adoring older cousin that I am, I called him Toby and asked him why he was wearing a dress. It was all in love though, and it was amazing to see that the little boy who once followed me EVERYWHERE (seriously, ya’ll … for many years, he thought I was his sister) is now a man. I kept my cool as he drank beer after beer. I didn’t say anything when he lit a cigarrette. I didn’t flip out when he cursed. After all, we’re both adults. I have to get used to seeing him as my contemporary. (insider)

It won’t be long before he comes home for good, and then I can set my plan into motion. In the meantime, I will continue to exercise with ol’ girl and learn all I can. I already know what I’ll say to him: “Cousin V, have I got the girl for you! She’s smart, beautiful, sweet and athletic – everything you’re looking for!” But what in the world would I say to her? “Umm, hey L. I was wondering if you had a thing for borderline alcoholics? How ‘bout crossdressers? ‘Cuz I have the man for you!” Sigh. I guess I’ll give him a while to get himself together before I start pulling my puppet strings.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Turquoise Chain

I'm the type of person who gets obsessed with the obscure**. Years ago, I read a novel that had a slight reference to Little Jimmie Scott, so I went on a googling frenzy. And I mentioned here before that I read another novel that led me to do the same with singer Phoebe Snow.

Well, my new obsession is Betty Davis. I didn't get her from reading, I actually got her from peaking around in the infamous Bianca Laureano's Amazon wishlist. I saw a cd from the 1970s featuring a beautiful sista with the largest fro I had ever seen. Then I started to listen, and I was blown away by this woman who sang -- sometimes growled -- about infidelity, sex, men, sex, love, sex ... and, well, sex.

I quickly added some of her songs to my iPod. I play her as I'm driving to work, and I've gotten many a strange stare when I belt out "He Was A Big Freak":

But 'Git In There' always makes me want to jump out of my seat and dance:

And there is also the love ballad, "The Anti Love Song"

But I do believe the first song I heard by her was the mansharing song, "Your Man, My Man."

The woman formerly known as Betty Mabry was also Miles Davis second wife, and he wrote a song about her, like to hear it? Here it go:

I've tried to get others, like my mother, to discover the joy of Betty Davis. But not everyone is ready. You should've seen the look on my mom's face when I played "He Was A Big Freak." She thinks I've truly lost my mind. Ah well, I'm just enjoying the 70s these days. Alot of good things came out of that decade, namely me. =)

**these artists aren't necessarily obscure, but they were obscure to me**

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Spin (**”Ben Harper is getting divorced. I'm applying lipstick, booking flights & singing Robin Thicke's "When I get U Alone")

I haven’t done a Sunday Spin in so long I forgot what it felt like. Let’s see, what’s my goal here? Ah yes, to summarize the last week in seven happy sappy bulletpoints right? Well, let’s see what I can accomplish:

1. I had a great weekend where some friends came over for my Chilli & ChitChat 2010, where we gorged ourselves
2. I was amazed that I was able to finish my grocery shopping at the Dollar Store! And I was in a shopping center that featured a comic book store with dangerous words – “Clearance” – taped to the window
3. Once I got inside, I found several indulgences, like American Jesus. And I just love to see black cartoons, so I bought Elephantmen and Vixen, just because they had black folks on the cover. Plus, they only cost me $1
4. My goal lately has been to get my mother to discover the joy that is Betty Davis. I forced her to listen to one of my favorites – “He Was a Big Freak” – but she wasn’t down for it. Sigh.
5. I’ve been patiently waiting for feedback from my professor about the latest revisions to my thesis. She told me I’d hear from her last week, and there’s been no word yet. Part of me doesn’t want to discuss this monster of a project ever again. And part of me wants to talk to her so I can finally wash my hands of this beast.
6. My Chuck Woolery instincts have been at play, and I’ve found a girl in my spin class who would be perfect for my younger cousin. He’ll be back from Ghana (he’s in the Peace Corps) in a month. He’ll need time to lose the accent and cut down on the drinking and smoking before he’s ready for her. Lucky for him, he has me to put him together.

7. Now that the Nobel Prizes have been announced, I’m interested in reading some stuff by the winners – as if I don’t have enough to read already! Here’s what’s been recommended: Mario Vargas Llosa's “Letters to a Young Novelist” (it’s supposed to be short) and “Decolonizing the Mind” by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Have a great week everybody!

(**Tweet by me, 10/11/10)

Photo from

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Word Warrior (Down with IKTRay)

Please excuse the absence. I’ve been too lazy to blog. Then I got to happy to blog. Then I got too sad to blog. Then I got overwhelmed with all the things that I needed to blog that I just let it fall by the wayside. But the other day, I looked in the mirror and I said, “Hey Good Lookin – It’s time to get the blog cookin’!” Corny, I know, but it got me out of the doldrums.

Today, I wanted to talk about my battle with words. There are certain phrases that people say that really make me want to cut my own skin off. I was going to call this post Bad Black Cliches, but it’s not just the BBCs that bug me (“You Go Girl” – please, let it die). There are a variety of phrases that work my nerves for reasons that I will mention here. The #1 annoying phrase is the aforementioned ‘IKTRay’ … that’s right, it’s so frustrating that I can not even bear the thought of spelling it out. But keep reading I’ll mention it soon enough.

Here’s my top five list of Phrases that Must Die, in order of least annoying to most.

5. “I’m going to the movies, do you want to come with?” Now, this one makes me cringe and smile (sminge, if you will?). My freshman year roomie introduced me to this phrase, which left my little grammarian heart searching for the direct object. We then had this discussion about how the sentence wasn’t finished and she laughed it off and said people in her town always used this phrase. We became good friends, but I still gave her the side eye whenever she used this sentence. So now, this phrase still makes me cringe, but it’ll also make me smile as I think of my old friend.

4. “I felt some kind of way.” Seriously? What way do you feel? This is a sentence that says absolutely nothing. During a phone conversation, a friend was trying to describe an argument with her boyfriend. It went something like this: “I guess he felt some kind of way, so he said this. And then I was feeling some kind of way, so I said that.” Really? That tells me nothing. God created adjectives and adverbs for a reason. Use ‘em.

3. “Look at you!” This goes back to a day when I was at my part time job, describing my full time job to my manager. She was impressed, and her way of expressing this was with a little head nob and a squeaky, “Well, look at you!” Really? I could understand if I was in kindergarten and got through lunch with crayons up my nose. That deserves an L.A.Y. But I’m an adult. Why are you looking at me? Step off.

2. “That’s what’s up.” There was an E. Lynn Harris book I read where this woman was dating a young guy who always used that phrase. It didn’t bother me until I talked to someone in real life who said it, and then my ears started to BLEED. I mean, that’s no kind of response. Me: “I got my Christmas shopping done.” Him: “That’s what’s up.” Me: “I got a new job.” Him: “That’s what’s up.” That’s just wrong, on so many levels.

And now, for the top phrase that makes me want to hurt somebody:

1. IKTRay – “I know that’s right.” If you’ve ever said this to me, you should know now that I’ve put extreme thought into your assassination. It will be big, it will be bloody, and best believe, you will not survive unless you can justify that sentence to me. You can’t, can you? The person who says this is an obvious show off. They can’t be satisified with simply saying “I know” or “That’s right.” Oh no, they have to throw the two together, in some kind of horrible word kama sutra. I despise this term so much, that I refer to it in my own form of pig Latin. Yes IKTRayers, this is what you’ve driven me to do.