Friday, January 30, 2009

The Wonder of The Disney Wonder

Nonsensical but true: My mother was too scared to hang out in big, bad New York City, less than an hour from her house, but she hadn’t a problem traveling all around the world with her church buddies—even to destinations that weren’t exactly the safest places for the holy rollers of St. John’s Baptist Church. Egypt, Alaska, Guyana, Greece, Mexico, Jerusalem—she went everywhere. I even have pictures of her posing with an armed guard at the Israeli border. Both of them are grinning like they’re at a Chris Rock concert.

And if she could cruise to her destination? All the better. Indeed, this was her preferred mode of travel; she loved being able to float to faraway lands, hit a few tourist spots during the day, then get back to the safety of her cruise ship before the sun set, only to float on to the next big adventure (read: tour/shopping excursion). She’d come back with all kinds of wonderful gifts—spices from Guyana, Egyptian gold, Grecian cloth—and fantastic stories of her travels. My Mari would hang on her every word. And my mother would always end each tale with the same promise to her grandbaby: “One of these days,” she’d whisper in Mari’s ear, “I’m going to take you on a Disney cruise.”

My mom never got to take Mari on that cruise—she passed away before Mari was old enough to go with her. For sure, when I went on The Disney Wonder as part of the Mommy Bloggers Cruise last week, Mommy, who would have been 68 today (happy b-day, my sweet), was on my mind. At every turn, I wondered whether the cruise and its activities would have satisfied her seemingly insatiable cruise addiction, and certainly, what kind of time she would have had with her granddaughter.

Here’s what I know she would have liked:

The Ship
Recently rated the No. 1 large cruise by Conde Nast, The Disney Wonder lives up to the hype. A gorgeous statue of The Little Mermaid’s Ariel welcomes guests into the glamorous three-story atrium, where sweeping spiral staircases usher guests up to and through the halls of the ship. The staterooms, comfortable and grand, can accommodate three people easily, but with a pull-out bed in the couch, a family of five can fit, too. I watched the sunset on my veranda as I noshed on chocolate covered strawberries, brie and crackers, and champagne, and giggled imagining my mom feeding my Mari eggs and toast for breakfast while they watched the ocean waves tickle Mickey Mouse’s floating house. Outside the room, Disney whimsy danced everywhere—from the hand-drawn cartoon art decorating the staircases to the larger-than-life themed restaurants to the Disney characters who charmed young charges in practically every hallway. My mother loved casual luxury—she would have found plenty of it on the Disney Wonder.

The Star Treatment
From the moment you enter the rich three-story atrium lobby, Disney treats its guests like stars. A handful of greeters announces everyone’s name as they enter the ship, and then applauds wildly while you take a star bow—a welcome I’m sure my mother and daughter would have gotten a kick out of. Everyone from the guy turning down the beds at night to Captain Henry, the commander of the ship, made us feel like they were our biggest fans and their sole mission was to make sure we had everything we wanted. Shoot, Captain Henry even let us sound the Mickey Mouse horn as we were pulling away from Disney’s private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay. Yup, Bettye, who reveled in the finer things in life—and deserved them, too—would have appreciated the hospitality.

The Entertainment
There was something for everybody on the ship: four different kids clubs for children from infants to teens; a pool for families and a grown-up one with a poolside bar for adults looking to get away; a game room; several clubs—family-themed and adults-only—each packed with games, karaoke, drinks, and light food to keep it interesting; a full movie theater with repeat showings of the latest Disney movies; and, three adorable plays that showcased some of Disney’s most memorable characters. The sets were simply incredible—layers upon layers of eye candy, from moving images splashed across the back wall to shooting stars, snow, and pixie dust falling from the theater “sky” made audience members feel like they, too, were a part of the production. My favorite was the incredibly colorful stage rendition of the modern Disney classic, “Toy Story,” but I think my mom and Mari would have been all into Disney Dreams, a retrospective of all of Mari's favorite Disney characters—the princesses, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan, and the like. For sure, if my mother needed a break with baby girl, she could have safely left her in one of the clubs to get in some quality grown-up time, like when the girls and I hit karaoke night. But I’m betting my mother would have been too busy having fun with Mari to want to leave her in someone else's care.

The Off-Ship Excursions
Our group had a blast touring an old water preserve on our own Segways; our Segway coach, Deena, was as beautiful as any model and as daring as any athlete—and encouraged us to let our machines rip. My mother wouldn’t have dared, but she would have certainly enjoyed strolling the beaches of Nassau and pointing out the lighthouse to Mari, and I’m sure she would have had a time snatching up all kinds of homemade goodies in The Straw Market. I know she wouldn’t have bother with the conch at the authentic Bahamian restaurant, Conch Fritters, but Mari would have really loved the spiciness of the curried chicken and the crunchiness of the restaurant's namesake. She also would have really dug Castaway Cay, the private Disney-owned island we visited on our second off-ship excursion day. There was sand, every kind of water sport imaginable, and plenty of barbeque to fill tanned tummies. We saw Mickey taking a jog as we made our way over to feed and swim with the stingrays. I wasn't a fan of all those fish swarming around my legs, and I'm pretty sure my mother wouldn't have played that, either. But Mari? She would have been front and center, letting those fish glide right up to her little fingers.

The Food
The food is delicious—no standard cruise ship fare here. Diners alternate between the three restaurants so that you get to experience a different setting and cuisine each night of your getaway. Chicken, steak, seafood, risotto, pasta, vegetarian fare—you name it, they had it. And if you didn’t see it on the menu, or wanted something different from what was offered, the chef was more than willing to hook you up. The cool part is that your servers remain the same each night, which means that not only do they know your name, they know your tastes. By the second evening, our server, Stacey-Ann, knew to keep the Kir Royals and red wine flowing, and even when I insisted my thighs couldn’t stand one more morsel, she insisted on bringing more food. When I told her I didn’t want anything for dessert, she brought me just that: a plate of nothing! On the last night of my trip, the Mommy Bloggers, along with our gracious Disney hosts, dined at Palo, an upscale, adults-only restaurant with an eclectic menu. The food and service there held up nicely to some of the finer landside restaurants I’ve frequented, for sure. It’s $15 extra per adult to dine there—definitely worth it, though, again, my mother probably wouldn't have wanted to part with Mari to attend by herself.

The Magic
This is, for sure, the reason why my mother was so intent on taking her grandbaby on the Disney cruise. She was no Disney fanatic, but she so enjoyed the look in Mari’s eyes as she stared at videos of her favorite Disney movies and sang all the songs and mimicked all the movements and recited all the words. That same look was in the eyes of countless little girl cruisers who, decked out in the costumes of their favorite princesses, rushed up to Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Ariel, and of course Mickey Mouse and his girl Minnie, looking for a hug/high-five/autograph from their heroines.Simply put: They were mesmerized. I can’t say that I had that same warm and fuzzy feeling; I, like many of my fellow African American moms, have always railed against allegiances to the Disney princesses—because they don’t look like us, because they seem to promote being “saved” by a guy, because they just don’t seem as strong as the independent women we’re raising our little girls to be. Still, I couldn’t help but imagine how wonderful it would be if my daughters, decked out in their favorite costume, could glide around The Disney Wonder, looking to give out hugs and kisses to a princess who looks like them. Frankly, I can’t wait for The Princess and The Frog, Disney’s newest princess, to join the team. She’s African American, and, if the trailer for the new movie, set for a Christmas release, is any indication, Princess Tiana (voiced by Dreamgirls’ Anika Noni Rose—love her!) will be quite the independent spirit. Take a look at the trailer; Tiana is kinda fly. (Not so much the firefly, whose grill leaves a lot to be desired.) Anyhoo, if Princess Tiana’s in the house on The Disney Wonder, I'll be sure to make good on Gamma Bettye's wish to take Mari on a Disney Cruise.

(Note: This post is the fourth in the MyBrownBaby series on the 2009 Mommy Bloggers Disney Cruise. For more information on a Disney Cruise vacation, click here.)

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Babies Having Babies: When Talking Abstinence Just Isn't Enough

If you’re not up on Chrisette Michele, you better ask somebody. Not only can this 20-something chanteuse blow, she’s a prolific writer who stretches and bends lyrics that actually mean something—a tall order these days when lines like “please excuse my hands” and “she wants to lick the lollipop” get feted like they’re Pulitzer Prize-winning librettos. While the other girls are telling boys they “shoulda put a ring on it” (with apologies to B), Chrisette is singing about female empowerment and a father’s love and getting over heartbreak with your dignity in tact and, in her song, "If I Have My Way," saving the good stuff for someone who’s earned it and is willing to wait until she's good and ready.

Ha’ mercy, what I would do if some of these little girls around here turned off Lil’ Wayne and T-Pain and them and listened to Chrisette for even just a little while. Frankly, they could stand to hear someone tell them straight and plain: Don’t have sex with boys until you’re really ready and he’s really worthy and both of you are willing to use protection. Because clearly, these conversations are not being had around these parts.

What’s my issue, you ask? Well, my 16-year-old stepson announced at the dinner table last night that he knows at least 10 girls in his school who are “expecting,” and I don’t mean SAT scores or prom dates. These girls are expecting babies—just strolling the school hallways with child like it's nothing. Please understand, I’m trying my best not to pass judgment here. But really—the hell? Can someone please explain to me how, not even six months after studies showed that African American teen pregnancy rates dropped a whopping 23%--more than the rates of any other racial group and the largest decline for black teens ever—my kid’s school has almost a dozen girls headed to the local maternity ward?

Clearly, somebody’s fallen down on the job. I don’t know if it’s the school, or our community’s extremely conservative political base, or inattentive, overworked, out-to-lunch parents, or a combo of all of the above, but somebody’s failing these girls if they’re too scared/stupid/gullible/idiotic to just say “no” to these little boys, or at least walk into the local CVS and get them a box of condoms so that they’re protected. Because ain't no way that many girls would be knocked up in a community that actually cared enough to be realistic about teen sex and make sure these little girls and boys aren't getting into some mess they can't handle.

I hope and pray that my stepson and daughters heed Chrisette’s message:

You're who I desire/You light my fire

With every kiss/you take me higher

Feeling like your lovin' I just cannot resist
There's something that's makin' me hold on

There's no one I'd rather share my good 
lovin' with 

But I promised I'd wait 'til I'm ready for this

But just in case they decide waiting just isn’t an option for them, trust me when I tell you this: I will be telling them over and over and over again that the two minutes of embarrassment they'll suffer from slapping a box of condoms on the counter at the local drug store will be much easier to handle than trying to figure out how to care for and raise another human being when you barely know how to wipe your own ass good.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Karaoke Dreaming: Getting Mouse Crazy on the Disney Wonder Mike

I’m the shy one.

Oh, stop it with the teeth sucking and the side-eyes—it’s true, doggonit.

Now, my family and friends will readily dime me out—tell you that I’ve given countless speeches/book readings, yucked it up on-camera with everyone from Sinbad (way back in the day when he had his own late night show) to anchors on The Today Show, The Early Show and CNN, and even sang with my sister-in-law/BFF Angelou and my nieces, Maia and Imani, in front of a packed albeit friendly church audience on Mother’s Day.

But talking into a camera is a cakewalk for me. Being forced into the spotlight is something wholly different. When we’re in African dance class and our instructor, Sauda, gets us into a circle and asks us to bust a move, I want to melt into the floor. When my father-in-law gets on the piano and asks for vocal accompaniment, my mother-in-law is the only one who can twist my arm enough—er, persuade me—to sing along. Don’t even get me started with what happens when our pole dance instructor is standing there waiting for me to show off my skills on the… long story.

Anywhoo, I get clammy—sweaty. My heart pounds in my chest. I get the shakes—uncontrollable shakes. You can’t see ‘em. But I got ‘em. And all the while, my eyes are darting here to there, wondering which one of the people watching is going to be the one who points a finger, clutches her stomach and leads the crowd in side-splitting guffaws while I’m scrambling for cover.

Yeah, no spotlight and wind machines for me—I’m much more content to play the rear, and leave the heavy duty lifting to, shall I say, more extroverted folks in my crew. Which explains these pictures right here, taken in Diversions, an adult sports bar on The Disney Wonder. My fellow Disney Mommy Blogger cruise mates tipped in there Saturday night looking for some music to dance to and a few adult beverages to cap off a fantastic dinner in the ship’s Parrot Cay restaurant when the host of the spacious sports bar clued us in: Turns out it was karaoke night—an introvert’s ultimate nightmare.

My bloggy buddies, Amy of Selfish Mom, Melanie of Don’t Try This At Home, Katja of Skimbaco Lifestyle, Kim of Traveling Mom, Arianne of To Think Is To Create, and Maria of My Teen, The Alien, along with our gracious Disney hosts Jonathan and Laura, didn’t waste any time pouring through the karaoke song menu, searching for the perfect tunes to take to the mike. The songs were standards karaoke fare—no surprises: lots of Elvis, Barry Manilow, Beatles, Jimmy Buffett and the like rounded out the list. Quite honestly, I was hoping there’d be more Stevie Wonder, a little more of the elements (Earth, Wind & Fire), some Chaka Khan or Angie Stone or India.Arie or Jill Scott up in that piece. Alas, the only song that even remotely made me consider making a fool of myself in front of a ship full of strangers was The Temptations’ “My Girl.” Alas, I quickly reminded myself that it is only in my dreams/shower/kitchen when I’m home alone that I can actually sing without morphing into a huge pile of sweaty, quivering jello, and nixed the idea of jotting down my name and song choice on one of those little white slips of paper the dee-jay had sent around to our table.

Of course, my bloggie buddies didn’t have any reservations about taking it to the stage. After we finished a full-blown side-splitting fall-out over two guys from Long Island embarrassing my hometown with an off-key/dead-wrong rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Dead Or Alive” (as a finale, one of those fools actually tore off his rip-away pants as he jumped off the stage, revealing black bedazzled drawers—no lie!), the girls ran onto the stage to play The Ikettes while a woman from Chitown belted out Tina Turner’s “Rolling On A River.”

Then, as if they just didn’t have enough, they rushed back up there to sing Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”—well, Laura, suffering from a terrible head cold (she's in the pink dress), mostly croaked her notes while Amy, in the jean jacket, did the heavy lifting; everyone else danced and looked really cute.

Before the group could get back into their seats good, Amy shocked us all when the dee-jay called her name and she headed back to the mic again, this time for a solo deal. Her poison? Olivia Newton John’s “Hopelessly Devoted.” And get this: The girl can sing!

After our wild applause for Amy and some suffering through a few more “performances,” we all headed back to our spacious staterooms; waiting for me was a platter of chocolate-covered strawberries and a warm robe, both promising the perfect nightcap to a perfect evening. I sang the first verse of “My Girl” like I was David Ruffin up in that piece—“I got sunshiiiiiiiine, on a clooooudy daaaaay!”

I popped another chocolate-covered strawberry into my mouth and giggled.

One of these days… One. Of. These. Days.

(Note: This post is the third in the MyBrownBaby series on the 2009 Mommy Bloggers Disney Cruise. For more information on a Disney Cruise vacation, click here.)

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Shameless MyBrownBaby Self-Promotion: "Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man"

I got the call out of the blue, which is usually how my blessings come: An editor who published “The Vow,” the novel I wrote with Essence editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray and funny girl/writer extraordinaire Mitzi Miller of Mitzi Moments, wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a relationship book with comedian Steve Harvey.


There was a catch, though: I had to write that bad boy by August 1 2008, which meant I’d have only two months to help Steve formulate his ideas, figure out the book’s flow, and write it in a way that stayed true to his intentions, but was palatable enough for us women to read, listen to, and learn from. It was a tough mission, but mama needed the basement reno—saying “no” to this one wasn’t an option. Thus, our collaboration on his new book, "Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man."

Steve and I made quick work of getting his thoughts down on paper; I’d show up to his office or his home, lap top and mini digital recorder in hand, and type any and everything he had to say about love and relationships—the good, the bad, the ugly, the utterly crazy. One day, he’d be telling me and any woman within the sound of his voice that men simply do not love like women do. The next, he’d be hipping us to the games men play, and how to tell if dude is looking for a serious relationship or a bed warmer. Or why men cheat. Or what it is that men really want from their mates. And, for the single women, how to get the ring.

There were plenty of funny moments; you’ll laugh out loud at his story about the time he and his father-in-law posted up the boyfriend of one of his daughters on the couch and asked him what his plans were for Steve’s daughter. When the boy said, “nothing, we’re just kickin’ it,” well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. "I'll tell you what," Steve said. "Let's call my daughter in here and see how she feels about being the kicked one," he told the boy. You’ll fall out, too, at his hilarious list of ways to tell if you’re nothing but a “plaything,” and smile at all the warm stories he tells about his parents’ marriage, his early days as a comedian, and how he fell in love with his wife, Marjorie.

But understand, as funny as Steve is—there were days when I’d walk out of that office feeling like my stomach was going to fall out of my body, I’d laughed so hard—this is not a humor book. Steve was quite adamant that “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” be serious business, because relationships are serious business; he really is passionate about helping women understand the very simple creature that is a man. His mantra, which he’d make me, his The Steve Harvey Morning Show co-host Shirley Strawberry, and his marketing director Elvira Guzman repeat practically every day was this: “Men are very simple creatures.” If you remember that, he reminded us over and over again, this relationship stuff won’t be so complicated.

It was, for sure, an eye-opening, empowering experience; on more than a few occasions, I’d leave his office shaking my head in wonder, like, “well damn, why didn’t I know that about my man?” I tell you, he had me looking all kinds of sideways at Nick—and thinking about all the things I needed to work on to help strengthen our relationship and myself as a loving partner.

I hope that “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” does the same for your relationship, whether you’re single and looking, dating and hoping for more, or in a marriage that could use a little pick-me-up. You can pick up the book at any local bookstore, order it online (yesterday, it climbed as high as #20 on Amazon!), go to one of his many book signing (for my ATL folk, he'll be in town in the Barnes and Noble in Buckhead on February 3, and at the Borders in Lithonia on February 9), or tune into Steve’s syndicated morning show to hear how you can win an autographed copy.


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Monday, January 26, 2009

Say What? Steamy Talk In Mickey Mouse's House

I’m in total agreement with Beyonce: A little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody. Especially when it comes from getting “bodied” on the dance floor. Or getting in a good… ahem… “couple’s” workout. I’m even game with getting a little moist from playing a fun round of hopscotch with the girls and hooking up a tasty dinner on a hot, summer evening.

Incidental sweat is what I call it. You know—a few beads trickle here and there while you’re making it do what it do, and when it gets too hot and the moisture moves to the edge of getting out of hand, you stop whatever you’re doing and grab/run for/stand in front of something cold to cool off. Such action averts the ultimate black girl crisis: The hair sweat-out.

You know how we do: Be we relaxed or natural, we avoid any and everything that might lead to us having to spend a grip of money/an even bigger grip of time redoing the ‘do—which means there are a whole host of activities we black women might be more prone to skipping. Exercise. Water sports. Super hot showers. Singing in the rain. If it involves moisture, we’re thinking long and hard whether we really need to be involved.

Which is what I was trying to explain to my fellow Disney Cruise Mom Blogger friends as I trotted reluctantly into the saunas in the Disney Wonder’s The Vista Spa. Oh, don’t get me wrong: Hands down, The Vista Spa was one of my favorite places to be on the Disney Wonder—there were warm tiled stone lounge chairs, tranquil fountains, the sweet smells of ginger and lime, and private open-air massage villas equipped with Jacuzzis, hammocks, warm foot baths, invigorating showers, and champagne and strawberries for nibbling. Best of all? It’s a kid-free zone. In my book? That made The Vista THE place to be in Mickey’s floating house.

Um, except for the three-room series of saunas Katja of Skimbaco Lifestyle, Melanie of Don’t Try This At Home, Arianne of To Think Is To Create, and Maria of My Teen, The Alien practically dragged me into. Now, I tried to explain to my new bloggy friends that black girls don’t do steam. “My hair,” I exclaimed, patting my natural up do. I mean, it was in an afro anyway, but a sweated out afro? Not. Cute. But nooooo. “It’ll be great!” they insisted. “You’ll detox!” they exclaimed. “The best thing ever!” they swore.

And my dumb butt followed them in.

The first steam room, an aromatherapy sauna, was, I admit, nice; I wished I could bottle the scent and take it home with me—that’s how delicious it was. We stayed there for only a few minutes, then moved on to the next—this one hotter than the 4th of July and steamy enough for you to have to squint to see who you were talking to. Oh, the hair was toast in there; within seconds, every last strand on my head coiled into tight little fists next to my scalp, making it clear that I would p-a-y at least 90 minutes of pulling/stretching/combing/praying/ to get my coif into some kind of manageable, presentable, hairstyle that would go with the fancy dress I was wearing to the upscale Palo restaurant later that evening.

So now, I’m a wreck, right, because I don’t have 90 minutes for The Hair Fix. And I’m all “I told you I shouldn’t have come in here” to my bloggy friends, and they’re all like, “We. Don’t. Get. It.” And in the course of my explaining “It,” my new bloggy friends start asking me all kinds of questions I don’t see coming: What’s relaxed hair? Why were black women mad that Malia and Sasha Obama had their hair straight at the inauguration? Hair politics? What’s a head wrap? Do you wear it during sex? Three hours to twist your daughter’s hair? Really?

That conversation eventually morphed into our thoughts on Michelle Obama as First Lady, Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate, conservatism vs. liberalism, Dems vs. Republicans, plastic surgery, body fat, hot guys… the list goes on.

And in the time we spent boiling, er, detoxifying, I realized that my hair mess was a teachable moment for my new friends, who not only learned A LOT about me, but black women in general—things that they’d always wondered but were too afraid to ask. For fear of offending. For fear of being scolded. Or thought dumb. Racist, even, for simply not knowing.

I know a few folks—sistahs—who would take offense to this. We are not, they might argue, black life tour guides, meant to be mined for info or to make white folk comfortable. I, however, am much more content to answer the questions—none are too dumb or silly in my book. Indeed, I believe those questions lead to answers, and those answers open doors, spark conversation, bring us closer together. Enlighten.

In my bad hair moment, I managed to find some fine new friends in the beautiful Vista Spa on the Disney Wonder—women I may have never come to know and who may have never come to know Denene if it were not for that steamy conversation in the sauna.

For sure, a little sweat ain’t nevah hurt nobody.

(Note: This post is the first in the MyBrownBaby series on the 2009 Mommy Bloggers Disney Cruise. For more information on a Disney Cruise vacation, click here.)

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Denene And Mickey Sitting In A Tree…

Actually, we’re probably chilling by the Quiet Cove Pool—me with a very grown-up drink, Mickey with something a little bit more appropriate for a family-loving/totally huggable/tuxedo-wearing mouse.

Oh yeah, you read that right: I’m on the Disney Mom Blogger Cruise. Disney, which has hosted several mom blogger getaways over the past 18 months, invited MyBrownBaby and five other mom bloggers to sail to the Bahamas on the oh-so-fabulous Disney Wonder, the cruise ship Conde Nast Traveler just ranked No. 1 among large ships. There’s great food, fantastic family-friendly activities, lots of on-board grown folk things to do, and, best of all, some really cool people to hang with. I’m traveling with a mom bundle of awesomness:

Amy of Selfish Mom
Melanie of Don't Try This At Home
Katja of Skimbaco Lifestyle
Kim of Traveling Mom
Arianne of To Think Is To Create
Maria of My Teen, The Alien

No doubt, we’re having a blast and probably somewhere cuttin’ up—just a little. Hey, it’s what moms are supposed to do when the hubs and kids are back at the house. I would give you the blow-by-blow, but I’ve sworn off my computer until I leave dreamland and arrive back to, well, chaos. It’s a sweet, special, beautiful chaos—but chaos nonetheless.

Mama. Needed. Mickey.

Don’t worry, though: When I reattach myself to my MacBook, I’ll update you all with the play-by-play next week.

In the meantime, how about a round of applause for Mommaof4Wife2r of A Thorn Among Roses! She’s the winner of the MyBrownBaby contest featuring the oh-so-sweet hand-beaded ribbon necklace and bracelet designed by Ruby Buah of Stringz Attached. Your little sweetie pie is going to look SO cutie in it! Send pictures, k?

Until next week…

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

PILLOW DIPLOMACY: A Mom Learns How To Take Back Her Bed From The Kids—One Night At A Time


One of the things I don’t miss about being married is sharing my bed every night with another person. I think Lucy and Desi had the right idea: double beds. You can come visit me in mine, but you’ve got to sleep in your own.

I prefer sleeping alone because I know I have annoying sleep habits. Unless you are a soft downy pillow, I do not want to cuddle with you. My bed is piled high with comforters all year round, and I spend most of every night kicking them off and pulling them back up. I actually enjoy doing this, but many people find it irritating, or sweat-inducing, or both. If I irritate you, I don’t want you in bed with me. I am also not a fan of sleeping in a pool of someone else’s sweat, even if the getting sweaty part was kind of fun. Finally, because I am a chronic insomniac, when I finally do get to sleep, I like to stay that way. I protect my side of the bed as if there are distinct, legally enforceable boundaries, and I do not grant permanent easements. I have never had enough room in my New York City apartments for separate beds, but if I ever decide to get married again, I would consider it. I may even go for separate rooms.

I haven’t had to share my bed with another adult for quite some time, but my kids keep trying to move into the space my ex-husband left. At one point, kicking two crying children out of my bed was part of my nightly bedtime routine. My daughter now claims to be too old to want to sleep in my bed, but she has her tricks, like coming down for a “girl talk” at 11 p.m. and then being “too tired” to go back to her own bed. My son considers it his privilege to sleep in my bed whenever he is not feeling well. I know he is sick when he leaves his room and crawls into my bed, and he simply will not leave until he feels better. My daughter gets quite vexed when she finds out her little brother has slept in my bed, though for me, it is not a privilege, but a supreme irritant.

This was no more true than last night. Randy and I have been passing a cold back and forth for the better part of two weeks; just as he started getting better, I picked it up, and then when I was finally feeling well enough to go to the gym, I came home and found Randy lying in my bed with a 101.1 fever. I gave him Motrin, hoping it would drive the fever down and him out of my bed, but deep inside, I knew better.

“Mommy, can I sleep in your bed tonight?”

“No. You have to sleep in your own bed.”

“Okay,” he said, drawing the word out in that long, plaintive, whiny voice he develops when he isn’t feeling well. He left, but not for long.

“Mommy, I can’t stop thinking about what it will be like when I die!” he said when he returned. For dramatic effect, he was clutching the prayer blanket his grandmother gave him during our Thanksgiving visit.

I felt his forehead. “Randy, you’re not dying. You have a little bit of fever and a sore throat, is all.” But his words struck a nerve with me. The boy was talking about death.

“Can I just lay in your bed for a little while?”

“Fine,” I said. “Fifteen minutes.” I was on Facebook and e-mail, and fifteen minutes turned into an hour or more. By the time I looked back at my bed, he had fallen into a deep sleep. I didn’t want to have another discussion with him about death, so I decided to leave him there.

When I was ready to go to bed, I knew I had a problem. His fever was breaking, and he was sweating all over my sheets. Thankfully, he hadn’t peed on them as well, but he was lying diagonally across my bed, a significant amount of his lanky body on my side. When I moved him, he mumbled and moaned a bit, but didn’t fully wake up. Still, just as I shut off the computer monitor, I heard a little voice ask, “Mommy, when are you going to turn off the lights and come to bed?”

I frowned. Had someone replaced my son with some man I didn’t know I had? I had to remind myself that he’s seven. I answered civilly, “Mommy’s coming to bed right now, sweetie.”

When I got in bed next to him, he flipped over to face me, one outstretched arm poised for a hug or a cuddle. I acted quickly. Whenever one of my kids sleep in my bed, I enforce what I refer to as pillow diplomacy. I put a pillow between us as an impermeable boundary, and the penalty for repeated attempts to cross the boundary is eviction. I gently moved the outstretched arm to the other side of the pillow. The arm reappeared, and a random leg soon followed, but after a couple more gentle reminders, he got the message, and flipped back over, facing away from me.

But sometime around 4 a.m., the cat, who has taken to sleeping under my bed, started flipping out, as she normally does, in order to wake me so I will let her out to use her litter box. I got up, and was surprised to hear my son’s voice asking, “Where are you going?”

Given that my son is only seven, I must conclude that males are genetically programmed to ask this question whenever a woman gets out of a bed they are sharing. It never fails. You get up to go to the bathroom, or to get a glass of water, or, in the worst cases, to go look in the mirror and ask yourself what the hell you were thinking and how you’re going to get this fool to leave, and there he is all of a sudden, asking you “where are you going?” I’ve never understood the purpose of the question. In the middle of the night, how many options could there be? It has to be a male thing, because if a man gets up in the middle of the night, I don’t care where he’s going. And he may not have a spot in the bed when he returns.

I decided not to blast my 7-year-old son with all of my marital and pre-marital baggage over that question. Instead, I let the cat out. He was insistent when I returned. “Where did you go?”

“To let the cat out, sweetie.”

“Oh.” And just like that, he went back to sleep.

That was it for me and him, however. At least for now. Pillow diplomacy had worked, but there had to be some penalty for his having asked one of my least-favorite questions. Randy spent much of the day Sunday lying in my bed, still spiking a slight fever. When night fell, however, I wasn’t playing around.

“Get out,” I said, and threw the covers back.

“Mommy,” he whined.

“Nope. Gotta sleep in your own bed tonight.” I felt his forehead and cheeks. The Motrin, coupled with plenty of rest and lots of liquids, had helped. I took his temperature and gave him one final dose of Motrin to be certain. “Okay, guy. See you in the morning.”

He didn’t protest. Cami lingered on in my room instead, typing a paper on the computer until past 11 p.m. I heard “I’m sooo tired!” a number of times, but I wasn’t having it two nights in a row. Finally, I had enough. “That’s it for you,” I said. “You can’t be up doing homework this late at night. Go to bed.”

She grumbled, head hanging down, but she left. I even booted the cat to nix the 4 a.m. litter box call. Monday’s a vacation day, and I hope to get a nap in after the kids go to school—provided Randy is well enough to go. If he’s still spiking a low-grade fever, I’ll have to keep him home, but as long as he’s going to ask me “where are you going?,” he’s not entitled to pillow diplomacy. He can be sick in his own bed.

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Carolyn Edgar is a corporate attorney based in New York City. As you can tell, the single mom of two really likes her bed.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now You Can: An Open Letter To Elaiwe Ikpi


Dear Elaiwe,

It is morning
the day after history was broken
and reborn
and your mother still carries the weight
of last evening
it is a slow dawning
precious few tears
to water stain these moments
the air is dry
less like November
more like the first of a rapid eternity
there is something that tastes like
possible languishing luxe on thick

the mist dormant behind
the weight of years sliding
slowly over bones
the results came
real like
stone and flesh
and then he spoke
and one renegade tear traced
river down cheek
but there was no massive
flooding over
no great river of emotion
there was only calm
only the cool of extended exhale
only something stunning my evening into beauty
something like your future sun kissed and waiting

I remember how DC wailed,
the surreal echo and thump of collective heartbeats
I pumped my fist
screamed belly broken as the radio sang the news
lost in the celebration spilling through the streets
appreciated the car horns and cheering
participated in the flashing of headlights
smiles exchanged with strangers

but this was more than party for me
this was more than victory for my left leaning
this was not about my views on love
and choice
and war
and poverty
and blood
and death

and life
and law
and justice
and right
and wrong
not about the price of gas
or arguing policy
not about non believers
or winners
or losers
not about talking points
or hearts bleeding with compassion
and pride
of country
or people

this was about you, Elaiwe
remember holding you newborn and squirming
under a cloud of uncertainty
worried about the cliche
and statistic you faced
facing eviction and empty bank accounts
but it was your auntie who lifted you from me,
whispered to you words of hope
for the world you were entering
told you
the story of this man they called Obama
what his existence meant for yours
she held you in strength
And I know you were listening
because at 2 his face beaming from
newspapers and news report
would shake you into a hurricane of
and dancing
yes we can

you entered the world
around the same time this brown man decided
he had the audacity to be President
To hold highest office in this country that
still holds the weight of an enslaved people
people who look like you
like me
like us
a country that had problems with his name
a country that will one day stumble over yours
one that still mistakes boys with your face
for something other than precious
something other than beautiful
something point blank shot in the back
or hail of bullets raining like blood shower
not content to crush your spirit
they hunt and hover
shoot to kill

this same country
celebrates a black man today

but there is still so much work to be done
still injustice
still poverty
still love being legislated away
still babies brown eyed and curious like you
being bombed out of homes
and schools
and land
still broken families
and broken dreams
and broken bodies on sidewalks like
broken bottles
but starting now, there is a tunnel not a vacuum
there is a light
there is a thing called hope that sings
and dances with you
you will always know a Black man as president
and that is as good a beginning as any
no limitations
nothing short of death will hold you back
no missing piece that can't be spun into gold
there will only be a room full of endless to choose from
only the perfect shade of limitless sky

your grandfather believed
before it was popular
before it was real
because that's what grandpas do
they believe
believed in you when I feared he'd just be disappointed
believed in a President Barack Obama when most feared he'd just be disappointed
but every day
every bit of money and time and conversation
he believed
came to this country 30 years ago
for better life
for children
he believed
in the dreams and promise of this country
even when his back was bent broken cleaning America's excess
from sticky movie theatre floors
he believed
worked his way through college
collecting degree after degree
he believed
told he wasn't smart enough
or American enough
so often for so long
they had to switch to telling him he was too old
but still he believed
through every set back for one step forward
he believed
and when you came alongside Barack
he believed even more
last night his hope met his faith in reality
it was the happiest I'd ever seen him since he met you

So Elaiwe,
this is what your mother asks of you:
create a life worth celebrating
what threatens to claim and destroy you
love through them
trust that
trust that you have the tools to do what is good
and not what is easy
to love like your life depends on it
because it does
use it to guide you
Change the world because it's the right thing
to do
be a smiling revolutionary
keep joy in your heart and not a chip on your shoulder

when the world threatens to eat & attack
what's good in you
the world celebrates a black man today
for his brilliance
for his resilience
for his possibility
for his diplomacy
and exceptional
handed him a river of trust and hope and faith and
said "We believe in you to help us through this. We believe
in us to hold you steady."
despite the broken
the wars that beat life from us
the babies who bleed
the men who bomb
this moment still looms large like
north star
like ancestors guide
like mama and grandpa's belief
in the life you will build
the parade in your honor
this life worth celebrating
this black man that became President
you brown boy who will follow his own footsteps
carve his own path in history
this is guiding light
this is you birthed in possibility

Your mother asks that you keep love in everything you do
keep you with everything you love
and continue chanting
Elaiwe Elaiwe
yes you can
yes you can

love always,
Your mama.

About our MBB Contributor:
Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic. She’s half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the left over bit is a caramel creme center. She’s also the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi. She kicks off her weekly talk show, Blacking It Up, featuring bloggers and political pundits discussing The Week in Blackness, tonight with co-host Elon James White. Tune in at 10 p.m. on Blog Talk Radio. And get more Bassey at

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009



How do I even begin to understand the unfathomable? It is as if I have been told that gravity is a hoax, that the solar system is an optical illusion. James Baldwin pondered the evidence of things not seen; I ask if we have witnessed the impossible.

Seventy-two days have passed since the earth moved. My television at this very moment is flashing the image of two earnest white co-hosts with bright Colgate smiles telling me to stay tuned to find out the favorite foods of the new president. No detail about him is too minuscule. I have heard the name often enough in the 72 days that I should have had enough time to start getting used to the sound of President Obama. But on the other hand, those 72 days are swamped by the last 43 years—the 15,859 days that I have lived as a black male in America. Across the breadth of those 15,859 days, my world had been constructed to contend with insignificance. That was the atom that propelled me, even when I wasn’t aware. My life, my strivings, my victories, had been a subconscious scream: I matter. I count. I am relevant. From the shadows, my posture had been defiant, determined, angry—always angry. A hundred years ago, in The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois asked: Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? But am I to believe that in the space of two months, 72 days, I have gone from irrelevance to center stage? From the shadows to the spotlight?

That is the indecipherable hugeness of Obama. We have no way of knowing what it means when the earth tilts on its axis. We can’t know what will result when the sun never sets. A black man, an unrepentant member of one of the world’s most infamously powerless minorities, today is to become the most powerful man on this planet. I can not imagine what that will mean for me, for my son, for my girls. I look at the beautiful Obamas, at the tall, elegant, sexy wife, at those precocious giggly little girls, and I see my own family. I watch my daughters, ages 6 and 9, dash hither and yon through the halls and off the walls of my home, and I have no difficulty conjuring images of Malia and Sasha flying down the corridors of that big white house, twists flying, smiles wide, worry free.

On this day, not just America but the entire world steps off a cliff into the unknown. Children—black, white, yellow and brown—gaze into the face of this man and perhaps a cell deep inside them transforms, mutates, begins to blossom into greatness, forever changing their path. Older folks—black, white, yellow and brown—stare at his visage, take in his unsinkable confidence, and for the first time believe that perhaps that promotion is within their reach, maybe they can start that new business after all.

I have heard reports from other black men that already they have seen a change in their place. In the boardroom, their opinions matter just a little bit more now. In staff meetings, their competence is a tad more credible. Their presence is welcomed rather than tolerated. They are significant.

Since the presidential runs of Jesse Jackson, black people amongst themselves have pondered the possibility of an unspoken unity among the brown people of the world, the probability that world leaders in Arab and Asian and Latin lands would receive an African-American president in a very different way than all those white presidents. We got a small confirmation of that when Jesse went to Syria in 1983 and convinced the Syrian president to release Navy Lt. Robert O. Goodman, Jr., who had been shot down over Lebanon while on a mission to bomb Syrian positions in that country. When Jesse announced that he was going over there, the American media was savagely critical and even mocking. President Reagan was upset and tried to stop him. But Jesse went anyway. And when he came back with Goodman at his side, white America appeared not to understand what had happened. How did Jesse do that? But we knew—for black folks, it was just a little taste, a tantalizing appetizer, of what the world might be like if there was, indeed, a black president. A global, non-white diaspora, buttressing and embracing its own.

Already, the rest of the world is acting differently towards Obama. Turning him into an adored global icon—even in white countries. Promising to take some of those Guantanamo prisoners—after repeatedly telling the Bush administration that there was no chance. Lt. Goodman all over again.

So yes, there is hope. There is pride. There is glee. And there is a big scary unknown, the proverbial uncharted waters. This is the most troubling moment for America in almost a century. Our needs are so great that there is no room for error. But these needs have also produced an unusual, unexpected result: unity. Obama has an approval rating of 80 percent. That includes Republicans and Independents alike. For the nation’s first black president.




About Our MBB Contributor:
Nick Chiles, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the author of six books, and the editor-in-chief of the travel magazine, Odyssey Couleur.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

From The Mouths of Babes: A Dream Becomes Reality

Every year, a local community-based organization here in our neck of the woods invites public school children to write essays based on a theme pulled from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historic "I Have A Dream" speech; each school sends one finalist to a county-wide MLK celebration, and there, the students read their essays in front of a packed audience, and a winner is chosen. This year's theme, "From Dream to Fruition," drew a plethora of entries. And guess who was a finalist?

Yup, my baby, Mari Chiles!

Turns out she's nice with the verbs. Mari, 9, bested a bunch of kids in grades 1 to 5 in her school-wide contest with a story about one of her best buddies back in New Jersey, and now she gets to rep her school at the MLK Day festivities. The crazy part is that the girl wrote her piece the night before it was due, while she was home recuperating from pneumonia. Just knocked it out, through all the coughing, all the wheezing, and all the medication. Nick and I are so proud of her, we just don't know what to do with ourselves.

I was going to tell you all about her essay, but I figured I wouldn't be able to do it the justice it deserves without posting, verbatim, what she wrote. So, to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the national holiday celebrating The Prince of Peace, I present to you the brilliant words of my daughter, Mari.


I have a friend named Ruby, who I've known for a long time now. We've been friends since I lived in New Jersey, four years ago. We used to play with each other and go to one another's house. We had sleepovers, and trick-or-treated, and did ballet together. Both of our little sisters even had the same first names! And guess what? I am black and Ruby is white.

That was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dreams. For white and black children to play with one another. And it has come true. Back then adults had the children separated. If they caught black and white children playing together, the kids would be in big trouble. But most people don't care about that today. People should be looking at one's personality and humor instead of their skin color. People now even have friends from other countries. A person that you're looking at right now could be a very good person but somebody who doesn't care about people's personality and humor would just walk away from them because of their skin color. Martin Luther King, Jr. was truly right when he said that black and white kids should be able to play together, and that is exactly what we do now.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Take the time today--if only for a moment--to reflect, believe, inspire, and serve someone who is less fortunate than you. It is our duty. It is what Dr. King would have wanted. And it is only right.

Peace, then love.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Black Boy Swagger, Black Mom Fear


He’s 6 ft., 250-plus lbs—quite imposing next to my 5’ 2” frame—and can bench just shy of 300, which means that if he felt like it, he could flick me like a flea. Lucky for me, I’m his stepmother, and at the very least, he withholds his laughter when I crane my neck, fold my arms, put on my mean mug, and tell him, “I can still take you.”

Out on the football field, though, my 16-year-old son takes no shorts; as a nose tackle, he’s charged with taking on two, sometimes three opposing players at a time. This requires an incredible amount of mental fortitude and swagger—both of which my 16-year-old son has in abundance, especially when he’s making his way to the line of scrimmage. Take a good hard look at him on the 50-yard line, and it’s easy to get it twisted: He looks like an angry, aggressive, big, black jock—a guy who crushes the opponent on the field, and off the field, probably doesn’t put much effort into much more than football, girls, and black boy shenanigans.

I don’t know if this is what one of his team’s assistant coaches had on his mind recently when he called the boy over to take a look at his class schedule. Mazi handed it to him and shifted nervously from foot to foot, his mind on who knows what. I can only guess what he expected to find, but when that coach looked at Mazi’s schedule and then back up at Mazi, I could see in his eyes that his perception of who my boy is was completely, forever changed.

See, what that coach wasn’t expecting to see is this.

That’s Honors Physics. Honors Algebra. Advanced Placement Psychology. Honors Language Arts. And Mechanical Drafting—the first in a series of courses that’ll put Mazi on firm footing toward becoming an architect. Peep the grades: All A’s, and one B. He’s number 44 in a class of 546—and still climbing.

The boy is bad—smart as hell, incredibly sweet, helpful when he wants to be, and pretty easy to get along with. We argue the musical merits of Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, and Rakim, reminisce over our favorite scenes in Biker Boyz, discuss on the regular whether he’s going to Yale, Harvard, or Princeton, and sometimes he even comes to me in confidence to discuss how to negotiate his tenuous relationships with the cute but fickle little girls he dates.

He is a normal boy.

A brilliant boy.

A college-bound boy.

A sweet boy.

A black boy.

And every time that child leaves this house, I fear that someone will look at him, his size, his skin color, his swagger, and see what they want to see, and not who Mazi is. Not a day goes by without us warning him to be respectful, to watch his tone, to be extra vigilant when approaching people in his path. And last week he got his license and bought himself a car with the cash he makes as a lifeguard, which of course means that now when he snatches his keys and heads for the door, I'm a nervous wreck thinking that he's going to get stopped by the cops.

I have good reason to be nervous for him, you know. In just the past week, three—THREE!—black men have been shot, two killed, by the police. Adolph Grimes, III, 23, was shot 12 times in his back, 14 times total, on New Year’s Day as he made his way to a family party in New Orleans; Oscar Grant, 22, was shot by a transit officer while he lay face down and handcuffed on a train platform; Robbie Tolan, 23, is recovering from gunshot wounds to his liver and lung after being shot in his own driveway by a Houston police officer who accused him of stealing his own car. Of course, stories about the shootings abound, and in Oakland, more than 100 protesters were arrested as they took to the streets to demand justice for Grant. Organizations like The Color of Change are speaking up on behalf of the victims, and demanding we do the same, while radio personalities like Warren Ballentine are using their syndicated radio shows to keep the stories fresh on the minds of black folks.

Still, after the roar dies down, after the police officers get off (they almost always do), after we commit the victims’ names to the long list of young black men who’ve died or been abused at the opposite end of a police officer’s gun/night stick/bathroom plunger (Sean Bell. Amadou Diallo. Abner Louima. Patrick Dorismond. Michael Carpenter. I could go on and on and on), who will stop the same from happening to my stepson?

How do I protect my normal, brilliant, college-bound, sweet, black boy?

The urge to protect him will never leave me, this is the unfortunate rite of passage of every parent of a black boy. Once they are big enough and old enough to move out into the world without us holding their hands or watching over them, they are going to be vulnerable to the biases and misperceptions and stereotypes and downright hatred of an overwhelming number of cops, transit officers, sheriff’s deputies, and other law enforcement officials who will cross our children's paths over the next 40/50 years of their lives. I suppose the best we can do is hope that one day Mazi will put in enough years so that he can have the same worry about his own child as we have for him.

And agitate.

And pray.

Note: To add your voice to the petition calling for a proper investigation into the Oscar Grant shooting, click here.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

MBB Mom Of The Week: Author Joyce E. Davis

You know how we do: MyBrownBaby is dead-set on giving credit where credit is due to parents who are raising and loving their beautiful brown babies. A round of applause for MBB Mom of the Week Joyce E. Davis—my girl, my ace, my mellow! Joyce and I go waaaay back to our days together at Honey. She hooked up the magazine’s entertainment stories with heavies like Mary J. Blige and Jill Scott; I sat across from her, editing features and gabbing with her about er’thang—music, writing, men, and, when I was pregnant with my Lila, motherhood. Joyce left me a few years after we met—broke my heart and moved back to Georgia to start her own public relations firm, become an editor at Upscale, and write books (she’s the author of an incredible young adult novel, "Can't Stop The Shine" (Kimani Tru); her second novel hits bookstores this year). She also blogs at her fly virtual space, Enjoyceing Life. Of all of her incredible accomplishments and titles, though, the most impressive one is “Mom.” Joyce gave birth to a daughter who is every bit as smart as she is beautiful--just like her mommy. Both of them are popular here in Atlanta--Joyce knows every-doggone-body. But I'm proud to call her my friend. JD is the fire, y'all. See why right here, and then show some love for MyBrownBaby’s incredible Mom of the Week!

My name is… Joyce E. Davis.

I live in… Atlanta, Georgia.

My brown baby is… Amber Mariama Loyd.

I make a living… writing.

The last time my daughter cracked me up she… serenaded me on my birthday with six choruses of “Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas,” followed by an encore of the “ABCs,” and a finale of “Old McDonald.” I was laughing so hard that I had to pull the car over on the side of the road.

The last book I read with my daughter was… Shapely Sleepy Sheep.

My favorite place to take her is… to school.

My proudest mom moment was when… my daughter said the grace at a family dinner.

My most embarrassing mommy moment was… the time when my daughter threw her father’s cell phone in the training potty and took a poo on it.

The thing I most want my daughter to know is… that she is loved.

The one family tradition I hope my daughter will continue when she grows up is… to value education.

If I could invent one thing to make being a mom easier, it would be… a free robotic personal assistant who can cook nutritious meals and clean the house.

The best invention for kids ever is… the portable potty top.

The kid snack I’m most likely to get busted eating is… string cheese.

The most important life lesson I want my daughter to learn is… to be true to herself.

The one thing no one knows about me is… that I wish I was more domestic.

The thing I lost as a mom that I wish I could get back is… time to read, to go to the movies, and to travel.

My “I’d Rather Be…” bumper sticker would say… “I’d Rather Be On Vacation.”

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009



I've watched my daughter go from precocious child to confident teenager. I've watched her take near perfect direction and instruction, and give the same to others. I've watched her listen keenly to my advice and adhere to it. And now, she gives me advice. Good advice. Our relationship has blossomed from mother-daughter, to best friends, back to mother-daughter, and along each step, we’ve always been each other’s protector. She’s listened carefully to my thoughts about the boys in her life, and I shake my head and laugh when she warns the men I date that I’m her mother and “you better bring her home at a reasonable time.” Last night’s date responded with an, "Oh, she’ll come to like me.” I laughed to myself. Wrong. None of them know my daughter Kenya. She has never liked any of my choices in men (friends or otherwise) and I've never agreed with hers either. For sure, at any time, our roles reverse. Completely.

And yet I often forget that she will turn 20 in July. My little baby has blossomed into a beautiful flower—come into her own. And now she makes her own choices regarding what to wear, what to eat, where to go and, most difficult for me, how to wear her hair.

Kenya has worn her hair natural from birth. Or should I say, I have kept her hair natural from birth. At first, I kept it covered with turbans and the like. At that time, I adhered to the more strict interpretation of Rastafari: modest dress, head covered, etc. Then later, I platted it, chiney bumped it, pony tailed it, and my favorite, let her wear it in two afro puffs. Though I have worn locks on and off for the last 20 years and would have loved for her to do the same, I didn’t force it on her. She decided on her own to grow her natty, and grow they did.

Even when I no longer had locks, Kenya Jordana's hair flourished. I was proud. She took care of her locks and had it conditioned regularly. So imagine my dismay when she hesitantly asked me one holiday she spent home from school if she could trim them. “Lord have mercy,” I screamed on the inside. But out loud, what could I say? She was 19 years old. They were her locks. Not mine. So I choked out, “If that's what u want to do…”

I thought it would end there. But no. From there she went on to perm it, and now she’s got extensions. Each time she changed it up, I acted as if she were changing up my hair. I showed great dismay and spoke with even more disappointment. I complained without end about the perm not agreeing with her. And I made disparaging remarks whenever I could squeeze them in under the false guise of advice.

So immature. Who’s the mother here anyway?

And yet, being the mother that she is to me, she would hide her disappointment and keep on plodding. She would try not to freeze-frame my negativity and hold strong to the decisions she’d made for herself. Just today she told me, "Mama, I've been natural all my life. Let me see what else is out there. I'm not you. Let me be me." She added: “You are more attached to my hair than I am.”

You know, she was right. She and I both know that a perm may not have been the best thing for her hair. But she accepts her decisions and stands firm. No hiding. Head erect. Damn. That’s my girl.

I love her independence. I love the way she meets her challenges head on. She doesn't run from adversity but embraces it and turns it into increased confidence and a greater sense of self. She has manifested everything I hoped for her to be.

So what the hell am I upset about? It’s not my hair. In fact, I’ve worn my hair just as nappy and unkept (though clean) as a sista could—the very antithesis of how Kenya likes her hair. And she’s never asked me to change it, cover it over, or even uttered, “I don’t like it”—all things I’ve said to her. She let me be me.

It is this I keep in mind as I learn to let up a little—you know, release from my spirit the things I can't control (like my daughter’s hair) and allow my baby’s spirit to grow, just as I’ve allowed mine to. After all, as India.Arie says, "I am not my hair."

Relax, Karen Mason. Breathe and give thanks for the flower that continues to bloom before your very eyes.

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Karen Marie Mason left her rapidly rising career as a music industry executive to become a stay-at-home/home-schooling mom when her daughter, Kenya, was a young child. Kenya is now a second-year honor student at Howard University; her mom now manages recording artists, hosts a radio show, promotes shows, is active in her community, and is finishing up her first book about motherhood. She blogs about motherhood and her life at Honor Music Group.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009



Now I was in my house Saturday evening minding my own business and watching my daughters make strawberry cupcakes for their little jewelry-making party when my BFF/sister-in-law Angelou sashayed her little fast behind into my kitchen talking about “It’s Saturday night! Let’s go out—it’ll be fun!” A friend of ours, you see, told Ang about this Old School Night party that blows into the ATL every month, and before her husband could object, girlfriend purchased tickets to the event, and told him, and later me and my husband/her brother, Nick, that we would be in the house for the jam.

Here’s what you should know about Angelou: She’s the young, hot thang in the family—couldn’t keep still if you super-glued her butt to a wooden stool. If there’s a party, she’s there. If a new restaurant is opening, she’s got a reservation. If there’s a class to take/festival in town/wind blowing, Angelou is in it.

Here’s what you should know about me: My idea of a hot Saturday night involves red wine, a roaring fire, and Netflix.

I’ve always been like this—the homebody who was quite content cooking dinner for friends and then turning in for the night. Even as a college student and a young journalist covering entertainment for the Daily News in New York, you’d more than likely find me sneaking a beer into an independent film or flipping through used CDs at Soundz over on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village before you’d see teetering in uncomfortable heels to a star-studded movie premier or a celebrity-filled set in a hot club. Oh, partying was always an option—just not one of my favs.

Maybe a part of this has to do with the ‘rents; to say they were homebodies would be the understatement of life. They went to work, came home, went to bed, woke up, went to work, came home, went back to bed. For kicks, they bowled on Saturdays, and went to church on Sundays, then we came home, ate dinner, and went to bed. And that was on the exciting weekends.

And the two of them, in their infinite wisdom, moved Heaven and high water to make sure their little girl’s social life was equally non-existent. The reason?

They didn’t want me bringing any babies to the house.

I their eyes, a teenage girl couldn't get knocked up if she spent Friday nights scrubbing the floors and dusting, and Saturday nights doing laundry and getting her clothes together for church the next day. Couple that with the fact that I spent the majority of the first half of my life ridiculously shy and socially awkward—being the popular guy’s little sister didn’t exactly help the situation—and it’s not hard to understand why, on a Saturday night, I still get a little stuck in homebody mode.

Anyhoo, fast forward to Saturday night, with Ang having to practically guilt me into going out for a grown-up date night. I agreed only after she took a pinky-swear oath to help me throw the girls’ party the next afternoon, and find me something to wear—stat. A few hours later, at 10 p.m.—10 PM!—we were in the car headed out to party.

Ha’ mercy, by the time we got there and found parking and wound our way though the ticket/coat check/security/drinks maze and got onto the dance floor, even Ang was rethinking the whole “let’s party” thing.

Until the deejay played my song. Or shall I say, songs.

We hit the floor to the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa.” Got to sweating to LL Cool J’s “Radio” and Rob Base’s “It Takes Two.” The spicy Cabernet I was drinking was tasting a lot like Red Kool-Aid when the dee-jay broke out “Before I Let Go,” “I Want Her,” and Teena Marie’s “Square Biz.” And by the time he started spinning the reggae and dancehall, my knee-high stiletto boots weren’t even squeezing my pinky toe anymore. Shoot, he could have put on the Star-Spangled Banner and I would have dropped it like it was hot.

It seemed like every last one of those “Old School” songs made the slightly more mature crowd dance a little harder, smile a little wider, reminisce a little more. I know every last one of those songs took Romy back—“Big Poppa” was bumping when my girls and I drove from New York to Martha’s Vineyard for a ridiculously fun 4th of July weekend; “Radio” was the big hit that had me and my high school homies parked outside LL Cool J’s house, giggling and hoping to get a glimpse of him when he was just starting to make it big; “I Want Her” is the song that was playing when I was lusting after ol’ what’s his name freshman year in college and hoping he would ask me to dance (I was too clueless to know the boy was gay); the reggae set reminded me on my days at Spectrum, where I worked as a waitress when I was a junior at Hofstra University, sloshing through the crowd with $4.50 drinks, fighting tooth and nail for my 50-cent tips (yes, broke asses had the nerve to ask for their change back!).

Each one of those songs at Old School night reminded me that A) I wasn’t as pathetic as I remembered when I was young—there were actual memories, a lot of them good, attached to those songs; B) I sure do miss good music—can someone give Plies and Pleasure-P some music history lessons? Please?! and C) I may not be a young hot thang anymore, but it sure did feel good to remember the good times and especially to make new memories with my husband, my BFF, my brother-in-law, and some new friends.

This is a GOOD thing.

Thanks, Ang, for dragging the old girl out. You were right: Old School Night was kinda the fire. Let’s do it again.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Isn’t She Lovely? PLUS: A New MBB Giveaway!

The first time I met my friend Ruby, I was mesmerized. I mean, look at her: Her skin is deliciously chocolate, her eyes are incredible—piercing. And when she smiles? A thousand angels weep for joy. She is, in a word, stunning.

I took this picture one recent Easter at my sister-in-law’s house, while the kids were out hunting for eggs. It was a sneak attack; Ruby didn’t know I had the camera aimed at her, and just when I clicked she turned and looked right into the camera with that amazing smile. And she’s every bit as sweet as she looks in this picture, which I'm posting to help celebrate the launch of the new I Heart Faces blog.

Ruby's sweetness extends to her passion/side-hustle as a designer for her own jewelry company, Stringz Attached. Her designs, unique and spicy, are sold in several Atlanta-area boutiques, and she’s fast becoming a rising star on the jewelry design circuit, selling out private shows and leaving all of us in her circles wondering how she does what she does, and how we can get more of her bling. Lucky us: She’s expanding her business to include jewelry-making parties, during which she teaches us crafty wannabes how to duplicate a few of her pieces. Just yesterday, she threw a jewelry-making party in my living room for 13 little giggly girls, ranging from age 2 to 10—spent hours teaching them how to make necklaces and earrings and bracelets adorned with butterflies and hearts and bows.

Be clear: It takes an incredible amount of patience, enthusiasm, and yes, sweetness, to keep 13 children engaged, happy, and satisfied. For sure, by the time Ruby finished with those girls, she was a bona fide rock star; I thought maybe we’d have to hire security to get her out of the house.

Ruby did eventually make a gracious getaway, but not before she let me talk her into donating this dazzling necklace and bracelet set for our new MyBrownBaby giveaway. The precious-in-pink translucent beads are hand-strung with miniature white beads, and finished with a gorgeous ribbon designed to hang on the side. A matching double bracelet with hot pink, light pink, and white beads sets off the set beautifully.

Want in on Ruby’s uber girly bling? Here’s how you can win it for the lucky little girl in your life: Visit Ruby Buah’s website at Stringz Attached, then come back to MyBrownBaby and leave a comment telling me which of Ruby’s designs is your favorite by 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, January 18, 2009.

Want to enter more than once? Boost your chances of winning by completing one or more tasks on this list:

If you haven’t already, sign up for MyBrownBaby’s email updates by 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, January 18, 2009. To be eligible, you must verify your email subscription when Feedburner sends you a verification email. Your entry will be invalid if you do not verify. If you would prefer to get MyBrownBaby updates via an MBB RSS feed, please leave a comment letting me know you’ve done so, and include an email address, as RSS subscribers are anonymous.

Rate MyBrownBaby on Top Sista Sites—be sure to leave a comment!—and then leave a comment here at MyBrownBaby telling me you did so by 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, January 18, 2009.

Blog about MyBrownBaby and post a link to your blog entry here.

Fave MyBrownBaby on Technorati. After you do this, come back to MyBrownBaby to leave a comment with your Technorati user name so that I can verify it.

See? That means each of you can receive up to 5 entries. A winner will be chosen via, and contacted via email. This contest is available to U.S. mailing addresses only.

In the meantime, if you live in the ATL area, you check out Ruby’s jewelry designs at Cherry Pie, Festivity, Hand In Pocket, Pashmere, and Fab-Rik Forum; if you’re interested in hosting a jewelry party with Ruby’s Stringz Attached, give her a shout at

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