Friday, February 26, 2010

SPIKED HOT CHOCOLATE RECIPES!



A few weeks ago I gave you all the ingredients you need for a "Good God Almighty" Spiked Hot Chocolate Party—and MyBrownBaby mommies from far and wide said they were plotting and planning chocolate get-togethers of their own. Getting Morris Chestnut and Omar Epps to the party apparently isn't an issue (we all own a small hunk of that chocolate on DVD), and assembling a bunch of girlfriends to get in on the action is easy enough. But I neglected to include recipes for the Godiva Chocolatinis and the Godiva liquer- and rum-infused fudge brownies.

My bad, y'all.

No worries—I got you.

The absolutely-to-die-for brownies we had a the Spiked Hot Chocolate Party I hosted at my place were handmade by Kris, the super sweetie pie husband of Akilah, a.k.a. Execumama. The exchange was simple: Kris agreed to make the brownies if I sent him a Godiva Chocolatini. What?! As Akilah says: SCORE!

Of course, getting the brownies was a lot easier than copping the recipe. But finally, earlier this week, he divulged the secret recipe for his Godiva liquer- and rum-infused fudge brownies over at the fabulous Execumama. CLICK HERE to find out how to make this chocolatey, brownilicious goodness.

As for the Chocolatinis, those were my thing. I copped the recipe from Drinks Mixer and made them by the glass; each one came out absolutely perfect. I rimmed our glasses with chocolate syrup and dropped Hershey's kisses at the bottom of the glass to make our drinks extra special. Heck, I might just make one for myself tonight—who needs a party?

GODIVA CHOCOLATINI

What You Need

1 1/2 shots Godiva® chocolate liqueur
1 1/2 shots creme de cacao
1/2 shot vodka
2 1/2 shots half-and-half

How You Make It

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.



Enjoy (responsibly) and happy weekend!


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Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Biggest Competition



By DENENE MILLNER
For Dove.com

She gets on my nerves really—this chick who’s spent a lifetime making me feel wholly inadequate. Even when we were little, she made a point of showing me up—donning her fancy dresses and holding my Mom’s hand while she marched down the church aisle, bragging to anyone who would listen about that girl’s straight A’s and her Honor Society kudos and her first chair flute status in the school band. She was cute. Never got into any trouble. Did exactly as she was told.

Perfect.

And that perfect girl grew up into the perfect teenager—went to college on scholarship and started her own magazine and focused on becoming a journalist instead of boys and partying and all the scary, ridiculous, fun experimenting college students do. And, of course, then she became the perfect woman—at least according to society’s standards: A dutiful wife, a loving, attentive, doting-but-firm mom, and a career woman who excelled at her craft, holding down gigs as a political and then entertainment reporter before becoming a senior magazine editor and then national columnist and then the best-selling author of 18 books.

In public, I’m proud of her for all she’s accomplished and make a point of saying such, especially when everyone else is piling on, singing her praises—telling her she’s fierce and fly and inspirational and sheer awesome.

But in private, she scares me. Her success is intimidating; no matter how hard I try, I find it hard to keep up with her frenetic pace. Her successes. And other peoples’ expectations of her.

TO SEE WHO I CONSIDER TO BE MY BIGGEST COMPETITION, CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE REST OF MY POST AT DOVE.COM.

To check out blog posts by my fellow Dove.com editors, including a special guest post by former boxer Laila Ali, CLICK HERE.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordful Wed: Halftime IS Game Time, Thanks To the Band



This is my confession: I'm a total band hag.

Like seriously? I can sit through an entire football game—one with the teams sloshing around in the mud, trading touch downs like kids do candy—and stay totally focused on the band. I love to watch them trade songs with the opposing team's band, and especially when the band leader has a little flavor and struts his stuff all around the field. And don't let the band play something I like; the band for Mazi's past football season bumped Earth Wind & Fire's "September," and the O'Jays' "Love Train" something lovely, and after halftime, they played a rambunctious, New Orleans-styed rendition of "Jesus Lifted Me" while they made their way back to the stands.

I loved every minute of it—so much so that at some games, I, a former flute player in my high school band, found myself taking way more pictures of the tuba players and the drummers and the band leaders than I did the football players and even Mazi. I thought it would be nice to show off my shots on Wordful Wednesday. Enjoy!






















For more Wordful Wednesday posts, visit Angie at...




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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Equal Pay For Moms NOW



She’d called me into her office, this lady boss of mine, newly charged with running what was then the 6th-largest newspaper in the country. Honestly, I thought I was in trouble—somebody always had a problem with the black girl who insisted on writing about rappers from Brooklyn and black actors in Hollywood. Let’s just say that the majority didn’t really appreciate the lone black girl in the features department proclaiming loudly and proudly her disdain for Jimmy Buffett and her undying, unyeilding preference for Donny Hathaway and Biggie Smalls.

Anyway, boss lady calls me in and I’m all, “What did I do now” and she’s all, “If you repeat any of what I’m about to tell you, I will deny I said it and fire your ass.” Wide-eyed and gape-jawed, I listened as she explained the pay disparity between me and my mostly male, mostly white counterparts with the same experience (and less drive) than me; seemed that every one of them was making, on average, about $20K more than me, and, get this, they were getting bonuses every year.

In womanly solidarity, boss lady upped my salary and hit me off with a bonus; it wasn’t what the men were making, but the extra in my paycheck sure was appreciated.

Um, yeah: As you can imagine, she didn’t last long in that gig. Within about 10 months of her appointment, boss lady was unceremoniously replaced by a man (whom I assure you didn’t call me in to rectify the salary disparities, and never gave me another bonus).

Right.

All of this came rushing back to me recently when I got an email from MomsRising.org imploring me to donate cash to help them get the U.S. Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a new equal pay law the organization says would make it tought for businesses to get away with discriminating against women. Passing the law, the MomsRising team said would help not only women, but the economic security of our families. Witness:

Women are still making only 77 cents for every dollar earned by equally qualified men. And the wage gap is even greater for women of color, mothers, and women with more years of work experience.

The wage gap costs the average woman $700,000 over her lifetime.

Even crazier? There’s also a HUGE disparity between the salaries and hiring of mothers vs. non-mothers. THIS FROM “THE MOTHERHOOD MANIFESTO,” a book featured on MomsRising.org.

Here it is front and center again: We face growing wage gaps between mothers and non-mothers (in 1991, non-mothers with an average age of thirty made 90 cents to a man’s dollar, while moms made only 73 cents to the dollar, and single moms made 56 to 66 cents to a man’s dollar). And this maternal pay gap has been growing. The pay gap between mothers and non-mothers actually expanded from 10 percent in 1980 to 17.5 percent in 1991.

Yes, it’s with motherhood—a time when families need more economic support for basic needs, childcare, and healthcare; not less support—that women take the biggest economic hits in the form of lower pay. And, it’s also with motherhood that some clues appear as to how the wage gap can be narrowed.

Dr. Shelley Correll’s groundbreaking research released in 2005 is a compelling addition to the long line of studies that explore the roots of this maternal wage gap… The basic findings: Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers for the same job given the exact same resume and experience for the two groups of women (mothers and non-mothers). Her study also found that mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay. Study participants offered nonmothers an average of $11,000 more than mothers for the same high salaried job as equally qualified non-mothers.


How does this even begin to compute for our families, particularly in light of a recession that’s taken jobs away from our men in record numbers, increasingly leaving us women—MOMS!—to be the sole breadwinners?

I’m calling on all my mothers to send a letter to your senators asking them to quickly pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. CLICK HERE to sign the MomsRising.org petition. If you’re so moved, donate money toward the organization’s Equal Pay campaign by clicking HERE.

None of us should have to wait for a boss lady to make our paychecks right. It should be a given. And it’s up to us women/moms to demand it.



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Monday, February 22, 2010

Readers, Readers, Everywhere!




By Nick Chiles

What a beautiful sight it was to behold. Children from 85 schools here in Georgia, all giddy from excitement and nerves, crammed into a basketball gymnasium. No, they weren’t there for some basketball playoff game. It wasn’t even a sporting event. They were all there because they shared one thing: they all loved to read. It was the annual Reading Rally academic competition in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where teams from elementary, middle and high schools in the area square off to see who can answer the most questions about a stack of books that all the competitors have been assigned to read.

For months, our daughter Mari would wake up early on Friday mornings so that we could drive her over to her elementary school where she would practice with the rest of her reading team. At Mari’s school, the squad is called The Pageturners. While Mari is a stud on the soccer field, she’s also a voracious reader who was looking forward to bringing her competitive instincts to the academic arena. She’s one of those kids who gets so absorbed by a book that she sometimes tries to keep reading while she’s walking down the stairs. We have to tell her to put the book down for just a second so she won’t break her neck. But Denene and I are both thrilled by her love of reading, because we were the same way when we were in fifth grade and we know how much it can propel you to a sterling academic career. We have no doubt that our love of reading was instrumental in us becoming writers.

Mari and I couldn’t believe how many kids and parents were descending on the local high school where the competition was held. The traffic to get into the school was backed up down the road for at least a half mile. And when we walked into the building, I was amazed at what I saw: Hundreds of kids of every size and color imaginable. There were black kids and Hispanic kids and white kids and Asian kids. All wearing their special competition t-shirts bearing their school’s name and all nervous and animated, ready to do some serious battle. I heard a teacher from one of the schools walking behind me eagerly tell his students that the scene was amazing because “it’s like the Super Bowl of reading!” Indeed, it was the kind of sight that brings hope for the future. If there are this many eager young reading beavers out there, perhaps the next generation might be able to save us from our fool selves.

Once the teams broke up and went into the classrooms to compete, with us parents trailing behind, just as nervous as the kids, it was fascinating to watch them delve into the details of these great books they had been reading. Out of nearly 60 elementary schools, Mari’s team finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. But even though they didn’t walk away with a trophy or a medal, I knew that each of the kids in that gym were winners—because there is nothing as valuable to a budding academic career as a love of reading. These kids will undoubtedly soar.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A MyBrownBaby Weekend: We'll Be Watching Lifetime's "Sins of the Mother"



Oh, I'm going to be straight GLUED to the Lifetime Movie Network on Sunday, when "Orange Mint and Honey," the breathtakingly beautiful novel written by fellow author Carleen Brice, comes to life as the original made-for-TV movie, Sins of the Mother. The movie chronicles the coming home of grad student Shay Hunter (American Violet's Nicole Beharie), who, broken, burned out, and unable to cope with the stress of school, journeys home to Tacoma, Washington to face her abusive, alcoholic, estranged mother, Nona (Jill Scott!). When she returns home, Shay finds her mother living life as a recovered alcoholic, living right and raising a new daughter—a sea change that forces Shay to move past her anger and toward acceptance.

Let the reviews tell it, Sins of the Mother is going to be a good one:

"As a reformed alcoholic mother trying to reconnect with her tightly wound, emotionally stunted daughter, Jill Scott (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) delivers a performance that makes you forget you knew her as a singer first." — ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“The magnificent Jill Scott shines as a former mess of a mother struggling to make amends to the daughter she abused…“—TV GUIDE, Hot List




But beyond how geeked I am to watch Jill Scott in this beautiful story, I'm excited for my friend Carleen, a writer as passionate about supporting black authors as she is her craft. It's a HUGE deal for authors—particularly African-American authors—to have someone purchase the movie rights to their work, but an even bigger, more rare accomplishment when it actually gets made and finds its way to the screen. No one is more deserving of such an honor than Carleen, who toiled four years writing "Orange Mint and Honey" while working a full-time job, all the time unsure whether anyone other than she would ever see her words. She recounts her unease with the writing process in a piece that recently appeared HERE on The Defenders Online:

Writing a novel isn’t digging ditches or picking cotton, but it’s hard. And it tests your spirit all day almost every day. Will I get an agent? Will I get a publisher? And if I do, will people like what I write? Hell, will anyone else ever read it or will it turn out that I’ve only been talking to myself?


For sure, Carleen doesn't just talk to herself. She's the host of two magnificent blogs, The Pajama Gardener and White Readers Meet Black Authors, a blog dedicated to getting white readers to read and celebrate books written by black folks. And when she's not blogging, she's on FaceBook, telling all of her friends about the accomplishments of other terrific writers who publish great works, sometimes with little recognition or fanfare.

Carleen, who's second book, "Children of the Waters," was published in June 2009, deserves to be celebrated—for her hard work, her dedication, and certainly her accomplishments. Fete her this Sunday by tuning into the Lifetime Movie Network to watch her characters come to life. Visit the official Sins of the Mother page on myLifetime.com for more information about the movie (it airs at 8 pm EST, 7 pm CST, 6 pm MST, and 5 pm PST) plus interviews and other goodies tied in to the flick.

Make your evening even more special by inviting a few girlfriends over for a Sins of the Mother "Watch Party," and you'll qualify for a basket of autographed books, Jill Scott CDs and other goodies as part of Carleen's Sins of the Mother Watch Party Contest, as described HERE. You can even up the Orange Mint and Honey factor by whipping up one of Carleen's delicious orange mint recipes. I know I'm going to really enjoy this one, as presented in Cocktails With Writers on author Tayari Jones's ridiculously delicious blog:



Carleen's Orange Mint Mojitos


What You'll Need
3 limes
½ cup orange blossom honey (or any honey or sugar)
12-18* mint sprigs
2 cups orange juice**
Seltzer (orange or plain)
White rum or orange rum

How To Make It
1. Grate the rind of ½ lime. Squeeze juice from that lime and 1 other. Slice 3rd lime into 6 pieces and set aside.
2. Combine honey, 6 mint sprigs, lime juice, and lime zest in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat until honey dissolves. Remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Strain.
3. Combine honey mixture and orange juice in a pitcher. Stir until honey dissolves.
4. Divide honey-orange juice mixture into 6 tall glasses. Place 1 mint sprig in each glass, and muddle (crush) the leaves with the back of a wooden spoon into honey-orange juice mixture. Add ice to glasses.
5. If desired, add 1.5 ounces of rum per glass. Top with seltzer, and stir. Garnish with lime slices.

*For an especially nice presentation, garnish with mint in flower.

**You can substitute orange liqueur for orange juice, but 2 cups is probably too much! You’ll probably only want a shot or so per glass.


Carleen: I'm SO proud of and happy for you. Do the doggone thing!

Enjoy the movie, everyone—and happy weekend!




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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Boy Is Going To College!



By NICK CHILES

Finally, it is here. Today is our son’s signing day, when he publicly signs his letter of intent to play football for Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. In one form or another, we have been working our way toward this day for the past decade or so, when that sweet little seven-year-old boy pulled on a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time and got injected with a serious case of football fever—and dragged the rest of us along with him. For every football parent, aside from perhaps making an NFL squad, college signing day is the mountaintop, the gold at the end of a very long rainbow across which we have been slogging our way for years, through bad coaches, hot summer two-a-days, last-second losses, last-minute victories, difficult (expensive) injuries, nagging pains, triumphant seasons, fabulous feats. And most difficult of all, the college football recruiting process. I have a close friend who went through it all the year before we did—his very large and accomplished son is now playing at William and Mary—and while he accurately conveyed the ins and outs, ups and downs, of the process, I still wasn’t prepared for it to be so…hard. Strange as it may sound, I told Denene that not until I went through this college recruiting process with Mazi did I fully appreciate what it was like to be a woman. Please let me explain.

While it has some exhilarating moments, the college football recruiting process puts the kid and his family in a remarkably passive and vulnerable position. You are like the shy girl waiting for somebody to ask her to the prom, the eager young lady who had a promising first date but can’t understand why the guy has stopped calling. Unless your kid has been widely hailed as the greatest gift to football since Peyton Manning or Reggie Bush, in which case he can assume a bit of control over which suitors come calling, he’s likely to suffer many days of anxiety and disappointment. What we found is that we got a lot of calls from schools that didn’t interest us, but not enough from the schools that we coveted. I started becoming expert at things which I had never in my life given a passing thought—like college graduation rates, red-shirt policies, academic indexes, academic bands, official visits, the college clearinghouse, the differences between Division 1 and 1AA, between Division 2 and Division 3. Unless you have your own budding high school star at home, you don’t need to give any of these terms another thought, but suffice to say that I can now teach a graduate-level seminar.



The most difficult part of the process for me was watching the effect it had on Mazi. It turned my normally laid-back, confident child into a nervous wreck. The moment he hit the house for the past two months, his first question was: “Anybody call?” If I shook my head, his would fall, just a little. You could see it eating him up.

During the season, every time he stepped on the field under the glare of those beaming Friday night lights, in the back of his mind—and sometimes in the front of his mind—he knew that not only his athletic but his academic future could be determined by one bad play. He knew that even if there weren’t college coaches in the stands during a game (and he never knew if there were), it didn’t really matter because the coaches, by the magic of videotape, eventually would be assessing his performance on every play of every game. They were watching to see if he “took off” any plays during the game—like when he saw from his defensive lineman position that the ball was being run to the opposite side of the field, did he still try to fight through the block and pursue the ballcarrier from behind, or did he just give it a half-hearted effort and wait for the next play to do damage. And he couldn’t rest in practice either because he knew his own coaches were watching his movements at all times, and eventually the college coaches would be having serious heart-to-hearts with the high school coaches, who would tell the players over and over that they would never damage their reputations by lying about a player.



And perhaps most importantly for these players, even though far too many of them acted like they didn’t realize this, the performance in the classroom turned out to be even more important than the performance on the field. Mazi knew that on any given day, an especially bad performance on a test could kill his GPA and render 10 years of football performance essentially moot. As I write this, I am saddened by the status of several of his friends, great football players who didn’t take care of business in the classroom and are watching their phones remain silent as their bad grades scare away college coaches. Mazi’s 3.62 GPA, class rank of 38 out of 540, and 1930 SAT scores made him a very attractive recruit and started luring inquiries from some great schools. Penn, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Furman, Samford, Western Carolina, Stanford, The Citadel, Rhodes, University of Richmond, Lafayette—Mazi fielded phone calls and school visits from coaches at all of these schools and at least a dozen more. We had coaches doing Powerpoint presentations in our living room. Our heads were all spinning. The attention was overwhelming, confusing, exciting. Mazi and I had many long, perplexed conversations, trying to make sense of it all.

We haven’t heard from Penn in two weeks—what does that mean?

Yale hasn’t invited us up for an official visit—is that bad?

Lafayette hasn’t returned our last two phone calls—does that mean they’re no longer interested?



Finally, when the season had ended—his high school team, the South Gwinnett Comets, finished the year at 10-2 and made it to the second round of the brutally competitive Georgia division 8AAAAA playoffs—and the dust had settled, we found ourselves on the campus of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. A small, prestigious liberal arts college, Lafayette seemed to have the ideal combination of academics and football. The football team won the Patriot League Championship three of the last six years; and the annual Lafayette-Lehigh game, which has been played since 1884, was picked by ESPN as the eighth best football rivalry in the country—Sports Illustrated wrote that seeing it “is something you have to do once in your life.” Mazi was thrilled by the school’s science and engineering programs, which every year send undergraduates all around the world doing fascinating research projects. I watched his face light up as we toured the campus, the science buildings, the football facilities, the dining halls and libraries, and I knew we had found a new home.

Finally, this bruising but satisfying ordeal is over. And I already ordered a full complement of Lafayette gear for the whole family. Come fall, it will be Pennsylvania or bust for the official Mazi Chiles Cheering Section.




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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Watch This! Diary of a Single Mom



It's a story that always seems to be told from the underbelly—the single mom as the long-suffering, community-ruining, government program-draining, man-eating, neck-swizzling baby mama whose kids just can't get right. Hardly ever, though, is her story given context—the kind of meaningful examination that sheds light on the challenges of being a woman charged with raising children alone, all-too-often with little support and in a thick shroud of stereotypes.

Enter Diary of a Single Mom, a web-based original series that examines the layers of single motherhood through the stories of three single mothers and their families as they try to get ahead despite their struggles with childcare, healthcare, education, and finances. The series, produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Robert Townsend and written by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Cheryl L. West, Diary of a Single Mom stars Monica Calhoun (The Best Man) as Ocean Jackson, a single mom of two who's struggling to keep her family afloat while she tries to get her GED, go to college and open her own business. Along her journey, she befriends and joins forces with two other single moms—one who falls ill as she juggles different fathers for each of her two children, and the other a 50-something widow raising her only grandchild. Together, the three women search for support and faith as they work to triumph over the challenges of every day life.



Diary of a Single Mom: Season 1 debuted on PIC.tv in 2009, and went on to win awards for Best Indie Soap and Best Guest Actor from the Indie Soap Awards 2009. Richard Roundtree, Leon, and Billy Dee Williams star also star, while Valery Ortiz and Janice Lynde round out the trifecta of single moms.

Below, find a sneak peek of the show, now in its second season. Original episodes air Thursday nights HERE on Pic.TV through the end of March. There, you'll also find the eight episodes in Diary of a Single Mom's Season 1. Enjoy the preview, and be sure to tune in Thursday nights for more episodes.





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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Generation XXL: Michelle Obama's Got a Good Point, and We're Listening



I didn’t appreciate my pediatrician’s words—at all—and I’m sure my face made that clear, seeing as I suck at hiding my emotions. Basically, she said my then-5-year-old Mari “is at the 95th percentile, which makes her just shy of clinically obese.” She’ll need more exercise and less macaroni and cheese, the doctor added—I thought a little too glibly. As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t anything wrong with our diet, the girl got plenty of exercise chasing her little sister, and while she was a little thicker than her bony friends, she was hardly fat. Clearly, our pediatrician was seeing something Nick and I did not.

But after we got back home and mumbled a few cuss words in her honor and tried to convince ourselves she didn’t know what she was talking about, we let her pronouncement marinate for a few days. And then we took a good, hard look at our daughter and how the entire family ate and the bottom-line numbers that told our story: We were all “phat”—cute and shapely and pleasantly thick, you know, like how we like it—but just a couple servings of pancakes, peach cobbler, and yes, my 11-cheese macaroni and cheese away from being “fat.” And the truth of it was that all of us—not just Mari—needed a health makeover.

This is all to say that I totally got what Michelle Obama was talking about last week when, while announcing her new crusade against childhood obesity, she used a very personal story to bring home the point that we parents need to pay closer attention to our children’s weight.

"We went to our pediatrician all the time," Michelle said. "I thought my kids were perfect—they are and always will be—but he [the doctor] warned that he was concerned that something was getting off balance."

"I didn't see the changes. And that's also part of the problem, or part of the challenge. It's often hard to see changes in your own kids when you're living with them day in and day out," she added. "But we often simply don't realize that those kids are our kids, and our kids could be in danger of becoming obese. We always think that only happens to someone else's kid—and I was in that position."


Of course, she caught some flak from critics who said her comments focus too much on weight and dieting, and not enough on healthy eating and lifestyle changes. But whatever—I heard you, Michelle, and I totally get what you were saying because we dealt with almost the identical thing in our home, too. And when we stopped complaining and making excuses and arguing with what our pediatrician said, we reminded ourselves that really, our daughters’ doctor wasn’t trying to hurt our feelings or call our child “fat”; she was simply concerned for the well-being of our baby, and was imploring us to open our eyes to the troubling stats, as mentioned in this video:



And so we made some changes around our way. With the help of our pediatrician, we tweaked our diet (less sugary snacks and salty carbs, more fruits, veggies, and vitamins), increased physical fitness for our entire family (the girls play soccer, Nick hits the treadmill every day, and I take belly dancing and African dance classes), and gave constant affirmations that being healthy leads to a long, beautiful life. Now, our daughter—and our family—is more fit than we’ve ever been. And we feel—and look—good.

We’re not perfect. But we’re trying. And we're going to keep at it, too.

So thanks, Michelle, for encouraging more families to do the same. We hear you loud and clear.


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Monday, February 15, 2010

All Kinds of Wrong: Padded Training Bras For 10-Year-Olds


When I was about 12, I probably single-handedly doubled my family’s toilet tissue budget with all the wads I stuffed down in my tank tops and t-shirts. That “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” exercise—“I must, I must, I must increase my bust… I will, I will, I will increase my skill”—wasn’t working for me and, well, I was tired of being the president and CEO of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, what with all the attention Amy and Heddie and a few of my other friends were getting with their womanly boobies. Like, seriously? I was so flat I was doggone near inverted. I worked that scratchy toilet tissue like a corner boy does the midnight shift.

But my, um, enhancements were solely that—mine. I couldn’t go to the teen section in the local department store and cop a grown-up bra; they just didn’t sell them there. Back then, little nuggets that barely poked through coordinating Garanimals shirts got flattened out by standard-issue training bras, especially when Bettye was footing the bill. Twelve-year-olds—especially those living under Bettye’s roof—were to look like little girls for as long as possible. Neither she nor Macy’s was trying to help me vamp it up for my 7th-grade male classmates. Made perfect sense.

So can someone puh-leeze explain to me why, when Nick and I went into tween Heaven—a.k.a. Justice—to pick up a couple of outfits for the girls, there was an entire section of training bras with… wait on it… padding. Like, seriously, Victoria’s Secret-worthy padding. Right next to the table full of low-cut bikini panties with hearts and stuff all over them.

The hell?

So,10-year-olds need padded bras now? For what, so they can look like they have bigger boobs under their Bobby Jack t-shirts? So, what, 10-year-old boys—or worse, 17-year-old boys and grown men—can get a better visual of little girls with Brick House bodies?

And we’re seriously wondering why teenage pregnancy rates are rising after decades of declining. And why most of the teenage girls who end up pregnant tend to get knocked up by grown butt men. And why 12-year-olds look and act way more grown than any 12-year-old ever should.

Look no further than the training bra rack at the local children’s department for at least some of the explanation for these things.

When, people? When are we going to stand up as moms and demand that these stores stop sexualizing our girls? For sure, Nick and I brought our concerns to the store clerks; a few of them shook their heads in agreement—totally understanding why the parents of a 10-year-old would be bothered by padded bras for little girls. One pointed out to us a few more traditional training bras; they were buried at the bottom of the rack, way in the back. But the manager, well, she thought we were making much ado about nothing. “Some girls need the extra support,” she said weakly.

I’m sure. But we moms don’t have to support stores that try to turn our girls into women way before their time. Keep that in mind the next time you happen into a store that tries to make your baby look like a Victoria’s Secret model before she even has a chance to see her little nuggets blossom into something to look at.

Just think about it.


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Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

John Mayer, the Biggest Loser



It's not that John Mayer has a preference for white girls.

Or even that the guitarist/singer said it out loud—in a Playboy interview, no less, after a journalist asked him if his "hood pass" entices black women to toss the panties his way.

It's HOW he said it that has me deleting all of his music off my iTunes playlist and tossing his CDs in the trash. Witness:

PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?

MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.


Yeah.

Mind you, this pearl came just after he'd finished pontificating on how much black people love him and what it means to be African American. For good measure, he tossed in the "N" word—you know, so the ignant mofos could hear him.

I'm guessing he thought a couple of collabos with Common and Kanye, or playing guitar in a couple of gigs with Jay-Z, The Roots, and Dave Chappelle like, gave him the right. Clearly, the brothers never explained to Johnny that it's just never, ever a good idea for white folk, no matter how cool you think you are with black folk, to go there. Ever.

Of course, the Twitterverse lit his butt up over the outrageous statements—enough to coax a self-loathing, kinda-sorta tweet apology from his dumb ass:

"Re: Using the 'N word' in an interview: I am sorry that I used the word. And it's a shame that I did because the point I was trying to make was the exact opposite spirit of the word itself. It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged."

Later, he tweeted:

"And while I'm using today for looking at myself under harsh light, I think it's time to stop trying to be so raw in interviews."

"I just wanted to play the guitar for people. Everything else just sort of popped up and I improvised, and kept doubling down on it..."

Cry me a river, boo.

I think it should be noted that he's yet to address the "My peen is a racist" comment, and even worse, people—seemingly of all colors, all sexes, all backgrounds—are damn near flipping over backward to defend his right to express his preference for white women.

Here's the thing, John (and the Mayerites who don't understand the outrage): If your tool only works with women whose skin matches yours, no problem with me, my dude. Do you. My vagina happens to be highly selective, too. *Kanye shrug* But you do not EVER tell anyone with a microphone in your face that your male member is as racist as a member of a terrorist organization that routinely LYNCHED, BRUTALLY MURDERED, AND SYSTEMATICALLY DESTROYED American citizens and their homes and their families simply because they were black. No matter how sarcastic or funny you thought you were being, that single quote made many of us feel like you absolutely HATE, with an unyielding passion, black girls. It was insulting to black women—all women, really—and reinforces the stereotype that African American women are unattractive and sexually undesirable (unless you're Kerry Washington, who, according to your Playboy quote, is "white girl crazy" enough to be an acceptable lay because she'll "suck a dick" and "be like, whatever"). These stereotypes—the ugly, undesirable, the hypersexualized freak—we black women battle day in and day out, around every corner, at every turn. We really didn't need you to pile on. Surely there had to be a better way for you to shout out your love of white girls without tearing down an entire race of black women for something they can not change.

But I guess no one has ever accused you of being an intellectual.

And nobody ever really gives a rat's ass about a black woman's feelings or our right to be offended.

Now, don't get it twisted: I don't feel bad about myself because you don't want to sleep with women who look like me. Neither you nor your music has that kind of power over me. But maybe while you're examining your "Benetton heart" under all the harsh light, you can marinate on how hurtful your words were. And maybe consider, too, the way you talk about and treat ALL women (your kiss-and-tell quotes about former flames Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Aniston and women in general were no less than bovine). Maybe you could consider, too, just how disturbing it is to your fans—WOMEN, black, white, and everything in between—that a man who would write such a stunningly poignant song like "Daughters"—a song reminding fathers to truly love their baby girls so that they can grow up to be women who can truly open themselves up to love—could be such a jackass to a bunch of mens' daughters.

Or maybe you can just shut the hell up and play your damn guitar.



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Busted



Editor's Note: In my latest column on Dove.com's Connections, I was asked to write about the "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" policies at the Millner/Chiles household, and what happens when I break my own rules. Yes, as you probably guessed, the 10-year-old, a.k.a. Lil' Mama, sets me straight. Here, a teaser; I invite you to read this post, and my others, in their entirety at Dove.com.

:: :: :: :: :: ::

Okay, so yeah, I admit it: Sometimes I eat red velvet cake and drink soda for breakfast.

And I can go all day without making up my bed.

I’ve gone until 5 p.m. without brushing my teeth, and sometimes an entire day without combing my hair.

I’ve got a wicked potty mouth (though never in front of my kids or my Dad or people I think might be offended).

I’ve gone grocery shopping hungry and slipped Snicker’s bars and gummy bears into the cart, and devoured them just 10 minutes before I pile the vegetables high on the dinner plates.

I rush.

I get impatient.

I bite off way more than any one person can chew.

I’m a rebel without a pause.

And most of these things are in direct violation of my “Mama’s Rules of How To Be” book—you know, the one I regularly quote whenever my girls, Mari, 10, and Lila, 7, get out of pocket. Like, ask mommy for a snack right before dinner, or try putting a spoonful of cereal in your mouth knowing you have an unmade bed upstairs, or try riding shotgun with me to the store in a stained t-shirt and unkempt hair, and seriously? It’s a situation. My girls know Mommy doesn’t play that...

To see what happen when the 10-year-old busts me breaking one of my cardinal rules, CLICK HERE to check out the rest of my post at DOVE.COM.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wordful Wednesday: The Cutest Dog, Like, Ever

It's been a pretty intense few days around here at MyBrownBaby, what with babies showing their biases toward black men and my lamentations on black writing. Today, I figured I'd keep it light. And what better way to keep it light than to feature my beautiful GoldenDoodle, Teddy. I've sang his praises before HERE. You should know that I think he's the bees knees, and I super heart him for being the calm in my storm.

Teddy the Great
Isn't he fly?





Dude totally loves the camera—and he stays ready for his close-up.









And, um, please don't tell him he's not one of the kids.








Dude is way more chill than his "sisters," though.





Maybe it's because he's funky fresh.
Teddy. Rocks.




Check out more Wordful Wednesday posts at SEVEN CLOWN CIRCUS



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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Am a Black Writer



EDITOR'S NOTE: I originally wrote this piece for my writer friend, Eisa Eulen, author of the novel, Crystelle Mourning, and the purveyor of EisaUlen.com, where she pens a thoughtful, poignant blog about books and writings by and about people of color. I wasn't in the best place when I wrote this piece, and though today my writing career is going well, there are still days when I feel like this...

By DENENE MILLNER

Three more hours to go, and I’ll hear the bus rush down the street, signaling that my time is… up. The giggly girls will tumble up the brick stairs, backpacks askew, twists flying, serving up juicy kisses and demanding sweet treats—Golden Oreos, strawberries, and peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches (folded, not cut, in half). That’s what they’ll want—that, and my undivided attention. There will be no more time for my other babies—the characters in my books.

The clock ticks.

I am struggling.

Full of doubt.

And wondering, yet again, why I don’t just give this writing thing up and get a real job somewhere—like Starbucks or the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority. I could make lattes or collect dollars, and stop thinking about words already.

And why not?

I’ve got 12 books with my name on them, including my latest, Hotlanta, the first in a three-book series I’ve written with my co-author, Mitzi Miller, and three more books on the way. I’ve also written for an eclectic mix of magazines—from Essence to Parenting to Money to Men’s Fitness—during a writing career that’s spanned more than two decades. Yet today, I’m feeling like my job as an African-American author is one of the most thankless, underappreciated, low-paying jobs on the planet.
What’s got me in a tizzy? A prominent book editor’s quote in a recent newspaper article, saying that black authors who’ve had a successful book or two don’t have the right to expect long careers as writers.

My first response? Anger.

My second: What gives her the right?

My third: Resignation. Maybe I should just go on down to Starbucks. Because clearly, there’s just no respect for what we African-American writers do. We’re being left behind, hung out to dry—devalued. By publishers with editors who feel comfortable saying publicly that black writers should find another way to pay the bills, no matter their passion or past successes…

And magazines and newspapers that pay attention to white writing only, if at all…

And black readers who’ve stopped supporting work that tries to say something meaningful…

And black bookstores that are forced to stay afloat by filling their shelves with black pathology…

And by black grown folks who have retreated from the book-buying scene, only to leave behind snot-nosed teenagers clutching their (mamas’) $10 bill, looking for the next quick porn… er, urban fiction fix for their exploding libidos.

It is in this vacuum that a first time white author can serve up fantastic tales about how she buried her tears in Big Ma’s bosom after her gun-toting/drug-dealing/preteen foster sibs got got, and collect a six-figure advance and multiple big-ups in our nation’s most prestigious newspapers and mags. And publishers can feel really comfortable giving the side-eye to authors who aren’t willing to Relentless Aaron their way to the top (re: sell their books on prison buses and street corners to up their sales numbers) or refuse to toss in another explicit sex scene, or question why the woman on the cover got to be half-naked even though the book has nothing to do with half-naked women..

It is, indeed, in this vacuum, that we black authors can be asked to become some low-expectation-having mofos. Because low-expectation-having author mofos don’t expect their book deals to cover the Yale tuition. And we can be happy for both that primo real estate on the “black interest” table in our local bookstore (during Black History month, of course) and the obligatory shout-out in the reviews section on Amazon (even if the one-liner likely was written by either you or your cousin, Tay-Tay, who didn’t actually read the book, but figured she was doing her part). If you remind him you got a book coming out, your Dad might even call and congratulate you.

If he’s anything like my Dad, his instincts might cause him to blurt out Robert Townsend’s popular Hollywood Shuffle refrain: “You know they got jobs down there at the post office.”

“Why don’t you apply?” my Dad says, reasoning, “you just sitting in the house doing nothing anyway...”

What my Dad and most people who do something other than write for a living don’t realize is that, like many of my fellow writers, I spend most moments thinking about and rationalizing and editing and contemplating and conjuring words. Coddling and nurturing and growing up my “babies” in the hope that what they have to say will mean something to somebody. I especially want my words to speak to my people. My Hotlanta character Lauren, for instance, is complicated and simple, beautiful, but prone to acting ugly, sharp-tongued and ambitious, but immature and incredibly naïve. She is true—her voice important because she reps a whole host of African American teens who live similarly, but are rendered invisible behind the saggy pants-wearing/underachieving/reckless/menacing/living-in-squalid-broken-homes/I’m so hood stereotypes we’re all-too-often fed when we’re talking about black teenagers.

I know they’re better than this. I’d argue that a lot more of us do, too. And this is why I tend to make my “babies” do what they do. Their voices—my words—are purposeful. Even if they don’t really cover the tuition.

It is this that I try to remember as the time slips by, and another of my books is released into the universe, and my Dad and cousin Tay-Tay remind me to send them their (free) copies, and I bristle at yet another white author getting yet another review/profile/sloppy, wet kiss in a well-read publication or popular TV show, while yet another black author sees her advance dwindle, or his book proposal rejected, or their hard, thoughtful work ignored.

Post office/Starbucks/Toll collector gigs aside, I’m trying hard to stay focused. No, I can’t meet you for coffee. Or return your phone calls. Or read your resume and “shine up” your cover letter.

I’m a black writer.

And I’ve got three hours before the giggly girls tumble up the stairs, looking for their snacks. And somewhere during that time, Lauren has got… to… say… something… meaningful. Because I’m no low-expectation having author mofo. And I’ve got the audacity to hope that somewhere, somehow, my words—my babies—will speak to someone, just like they talk back to me.


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Monday, February 8, 2010

Evil Black Men





It was supposed to be a simple assignment -- a little something to remind the kids about their lesson on adjectives. Magazine and newspaper clippings + lots of glue + fancy descriptives = an easy lesson and the perfect student work display for the parent/teacher conference.

We all drank in the oversized poster boards, us parents patiently waiting in the hallway for our turn with the teacher. Mari pointed lazily at the big navy blue sheet she worked on with her group; there were cars that were "slick" and "fast," desserts that were "tasty," and chairs that were "pretty" and "comfy."

And then there were the postage stamp-sized, newspaper cutouts of young black men, three of them spread out across the paper. Beneath each of them, written in simple, neat black bubble letters was one word: Evil.

The hell?

Mari got questioned first: Who wrote evil under those pictures? And why? Did the story the pictures came from show these boys were criminals? Did you see the story? Did you have anything to do with this? Did it occur to you to tell whoever wrote this that this wasn't nice?

I got little more than crickets from the kid. That and a bunch of "I don't knows." So I left her alone. Until, that is, I moved on to the next poster board, and the next one, too. On each poster, there were at least a dozen cutouts of black men glued down and summarily objectified.

Ugly.

Scary.

Bad.

Insolent.

Each adjective, it seemed, was uglier than the last. And each of those ugly words are the ones that first came to mind when the children in my daughter's class -- many of whom she calls friends -- saw pictures of black men.

This -- this was bigger than some random comments, some smart-ass kid who thought it would be funny to say mean things about random people. This was deep-seated stereotyping at its worst -- at first blush, the innocent ramblings of 10-year-olds, but, in our eyes, symbolic of a much larger issue: Even these children, young as they are, were falling prey to the negative hype that black man = bad.

To read the rest of my Parenting Post story about Evil Black Men and how Nick and I handled the stereotyping with our daughter's 5th grade class, CLICK HERE.



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Friday, February 5, 2010

Spiked Hot Chocolate



Godiva Chocolatinis.

Godiva liquer- and rum-infused fudge and caramel brownies.

The oh-so-chocolatey Morris Chestnut (The Best Man) and Omar Epps (Love & Basketball).

And my girls *waving at Angelou, Akilah, and Selassie*

Oh, lawd, yes.

These are the things that make for the perfect Spiked Hot Chocolate party.


You better go on ahead and get you some!



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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Terror on the Pole



By MALAKA GYEKYE

I’m really hoping to go to Ghana this summer with the girls. I’m in the midst of looking for a Twi teacher to help them assimilate a little bit better, and have been plying them with plantain and stew so that they can appreciate good Ghanaian cooking when it comes across their plates. Their immersion into Ghanaian culture is nearly done, with only one thing alluding me: the money for the plane ticket.

Conservatively, the price for the girls and I to travel to Ghana in the summer will be close to $3,000. I make $8 at my part time job where I work 8 hours a week, so it will take me about 4 years to save up the money for our vacation. This, my friends, in unacceptable. It has become increasingly apparent that I must take matters into the palms of my mommy hands and do the unthinkable: I must dance for money.

Adwoa and I discussed it this evening, and detailed the chain of events which are to take place. A svelte and leggy girl steps off the stage after gracefully enthralling the male viewers in the audience with a seductive dance. They enthusiastically throw $1 bills at her as she finishes her number. Suddenly, the room gets a little darker and the trembling voice of the club owner announces that there will be a special treat this evening: Post-partum Delight.

Taking my cue, I shuffle onto the stage in green granny panties and a nursing bra. As the speakers blare a catchy techno tune, I try in vain to heft my jiggly frame, riddled with stretch marks up the pole. Half way up, I give up and drop to the floor in defeat, sweat pouring from my brow. The next part of my routine is to expose my right nipple from its harness, also chapped from years or nursing, to please the crowd. The audience gasps—whether in horror or delight I cannot tell. I’m too busy thinking of how to end the routine and do not bother to reconnect the bra.

My bare breast hangs lifelessly as I maneuver around the stage. For my finale, I roll vigorously on the stage, as if I’m having a seizure. After failing to spin on my back like that chick in Flash Dance, the whole routine ends with a half split. The music stops and another dancer has to help me off the stage. I wait expectantly on the stage’s end for my tips. I get $3.00 from a sympathetic viewer who begs me never to return their again as he drops the singles into the strap of my nursing bra.

Undeterred and undaunted, I vow to return again and again, until I have made the $3,000 needed to ferry my children to the land of my birth. At $3.00 a dance, I would only have to disgrace myself 1000 times to earn the needed amount.

If you want to prevent this tragedy from happening, feel free to send me your loose change to add to the Back to Africa Fund…or you can pray for a miracle.


About our contributor:
Malaka Gyekye is a “hybrid Ghanaian” who lives in Roswell, GA, with her husband, Marshall, and their three kids—the very dramatic and inquisitive Nadjah; the rambunctious Aya; and the "too-sleepy-to-tell-what-disposition-he-may-have-yet" Stone. Having been laid off five times since graduating in 2000, Malaka has given up the pursuit of a stable corporate gig to be a devoted full-time mother. In lieu of drinking, she uses her spare time to write for www.maizebreak.com, Africa’s version of The Onion. Find more of her hilarious musings on her blog, Mind of Malaka: Motherhood. Marriage. Madness.



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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wordful Wednesday: A Beautiful Black Boy



This is my nephew, Miles.

Take a good, hard look at him.

What do you see?




He's athletic, sure.

And a handsome lil' devil, too.

And he likes to talk.

A lot.




What you should also know is that Miles is a smart one.

Brilliant, really.

And when he grows up and figures out how to use his powers for good, he's going to change the world, for sure.

I can feel it.

Anyone who spends a half second around him can.

And he's only 10.




More sooner than later, though, Miles, who is as tall enough to look his mama in the eye, is going to start looking less like a little boy, more like a little man.

He'll still be athletic.

He'll still be talkative.

He'll still be the smart one.

He'll still grow up to change the world.




But will everyone else see what I see in this beautiful black boy then?

Just wondering.



For more Wordful Wednesday posts, visit Angie at...




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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Moms Helping Moms



See, the thing is, she's a baby—been on this here Earth only four short years.

And over the last few weeks, this pretty little chocolate girl with bright eyes and a mile-wide smile -- the daughter of a dear friend of mine -- has been battling a disease much too big for any child to bear, much less a kid who's yet to see the inside of a kindergarten classroom.

Leukemia.

Her mother, Jennae Peterson, broke the news of her daughter's plight on her website, GreenYourDécor.com:

"It's still hard to write that word. It's even harder to say it out loud, because it feels like that will make it more real. But as much as I wish I could turn back time and change the diagnosis or deny it altogether, this is what we're facing. Every time we think about what her tiny body is doing to her, it breaks our heart a little bit more. This is pretty close to my worst nightmare come true."


This. This is what hurts me to the core. Because no baby should have to fight and claw and wrestle like this. And certainly, no mother or father should have to stand by and cuddle and rock and rub and put on the brave face when her or his child is suffering. I can not, for even one second, put myself in Jennae's shoes -- imagine the might she must muster to steel her back and square her shoulders and smile for her daughter's sake, even when tears have sapped every ounce of joy there is to be had.

What's worse is that Jennae's family doesn't have health insurance. Her husband? Looking for work. Jennae? Self-employed. The medical bills? Insurmountable. With all that's on their mind, they're also facing the very sad, very scary reality that the care baby girl needs may not be within their reach because they neither have nor can afford health insurance.

Um, hello Congress: Healthcare reform? Public option anyone? Do you want to, oh, I don't know, do your job so that the people you represent can count on tangible, sustainable, much-needed help? Because babies need not be in hospital wards with their mothers and fathers on their knees, praying for miracles and money.

Not when chocolate girlpies are sick and their mamas and daddies are barely holding on.

Though I'm tempted, I'm not going to launch into a missive on health care reform and the need for more meaningful legislation to help families (at least not in this post). Instead, I'm going to make an appeal to each of you—my fellow moms who can identify with Jennae on the most human of levels. Please make a donation today toward my friend's daughter's hospital bills and chemotherapy treatments (using the "Chip In" widget in the left hand sidebar). Though she recently found out her daughter will qualify for a state-run children's healthcare program, there are still a lot of expenses she and her hubs have to cover on their own to make sure their daughter gets the best care as she goes through this trying time. We've all witnessed the generosity of moms coming to the aid of favorite bloggers who've needed help; it is, for sure, a beautiful, humbling display of support. I'm making a personal appeal to you, my fellow moms, to wrap Jennae (a recently-featured MyBrownBaby Mom of the Month), her husband, and their daughter in our own warm—to show her that we love them, support them, and wish them God's speed.

No amount is too small or too big; anything—and I mean anything—is appreciated.

So, too, are your prayers for the pretty little chocolate girl with the bright eyes and the mile-wide smile.



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Monday, February 1, 2010

I’m Going To Sleep My Way To the Top


Oh, get your mind out of the gutter—I don’t mean that kind of sleeping! I’m talking, literally, taking my behind to bed and getting in some quality sleep time.

Let me explain: My friend and writer Meera Bowman-Johnson tagged me in a note on FaceBook last week, challenging me to get a minimum 7.5 hours a sleep every night for the next 30 days as part of the 2010 Sleep Challenge announced earlier this month by Ariana Huffington and Glamour’s Cindi Leive. Huffington and Leive insist that if we ladies squeeze in the roughly 7.5-hour minimum our bodies need to function happily and healthfully—instead of the paltry six hours most single working women and working moms with young kids tend to get—we’ll be more productive during our waking hours.

Now, being the productive chick I tend to be, I didn’t quite see at first how cutting into work time to—gasp!–sleep, would increase my productivity. “But then when,” I wrote on Meera’s wall, “do I get my writing done? And the dinner cooked? And the house cleaned? And the grocery shopping and laundry and errands finished? And the girls’ hair twisted? And their homework checked? And their extracurricular activities accomplished? And keep tabs on their teachers? And help in the classroom? And write the blog? And the helping everyone else with their books and blogs? And stay fit and sexy? And somewhere in there, I have to give my husband some… 7.5 hours is a LOT of time… LOL! (Only half LOL…)

Of course, seeing as Meera’s a busy, accomplished mom of three young kids, and Huffington and Leive clearly lead high-powered, hectic lives of their own, I’m thinking they understand my reservations. But, Ariana and Cindi insist in their Sleep Challenge 2010 post that the health of us sleepy heads is at stake.

You probably already know about the health consequences of sleep deprivation, how cheating your body out of the R&R it needs can make you more prone to illness, stress, traffic accidents and even weight gain…

But there's more to it than simple physical problems. Rob yourself of sleep, ladies, and you'll find you never function at your personal best. Work decisions, relationship challenges, any life situation that requires you to know your own mind—they all require the judgment, problem-solving and creativity that only a rested brain is capable of and are all handled best when you bring to them the creativity and judgment that are enhanced by sleep. "Everything you do, you'll do better with a good night's sleep," says Dr. Breus. Yet women who constantly push themselves to get by on less never know what that "peak performance" feels like.

Okay, but forreal forreal? More sleep = peak performance? Like, I’ll be able to knock out MORE work during the course of the day if I get more sleep at night?

Yeah, I gotta see this.

Starting tonight, it’s going to be lights out for me at 11:30 p.m.—a full two hours before I go to sleep most nights. I’m vowing to make sleep a priority for the whole of February—28 days straight. No more blogging at midnight—damn FaceBook and Twitter and book proposals and columns and feature writing at 1 a.m. Laundry, hair-washing, coupon clipping—all of that will be done, somehow, during the day. If it doesn't get done before 11:30 p.m., it's not going to get done. I'll update my progress on FaceBook (friend me at Denene Millner if you want to see my progress or you want to take the challenge and tell me how you're faring).

Shoot, if Meera, Ariana and Cindi are on the money, I might be able to knock out at least two more books by Feb. 28, what with all this extra productivity I’ll be gaining in the process.

Sleep on!


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