Friday, November 27, 2009

No Stomachs Were Hurt in the Making of this Meal

(In photo: Our well-fed family)

(In photo: The family after some hearty eating on Thanksgiving 2009)

Yeay! Thanksgiving dinner was a success! And to think you were worried!

Ok, I admit, I was pretty darn scared. I will be honest, too. The pumpkin pies were not that great, but, hey, who is counting when the turkey was divine!

(In photo: The little one was in charge of table decor.)

(In photo: The man of the house injects the bird with some taste goods)

(In photo: The beautiful bird. And, yes, it was slathered in olive-oil based mayo)

(In photo: Our spread-- green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, turkey, gravy cranberry sauce & mac & cheese with a twist)

So, hopefully you are up to speed on my cooking tribulations. I am not the world's greatest cook. I am not the greatest cook on my block, nor in my house. That award goes to my dear partner who has the cooking skills of any of those on the Food Network. I swear. His skills are that good. But, he only lets those of us with lower skills and palates partake of his skills when (a) he is in the mood to cook (b) when it is a holiday or special occasion or (c) when he feels like it, which is really the same as (a). For the meal yesterday, he bestowed upon us the most heavenly sweet potato casserole ever and mac & cheese to die for. He also was the muscle behind flipping the bird during the three hours it cooked and injecting it with the seasoning.

I, however, take full credit for everything else regarding the bird. I brined it, rubbed it down and talked to it tenderly, begging it profusely to not burn, go dry or taste unseasoned during my first Thanksgiving run at cooking. It didn't disappoint.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nation-Sanctioned & Societally Supported Shout-Day

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays... and one of the major reasons is the eating to be done on this day. Yes, the food. The yamming down. The munching and crunching. The eats, the sweets and the drinks. It is this society's only day when it is acceptable to gorge oneself on the best meat, vegetables, starches and desserts you can find. Who doesn't love that?

But, most of all, what other day do you get to gorge yourself and tell your family you love them and are grateful for them in a crowded room or on a blog and not be self-conscious or be perceived as just overly geeked and pressed? Valentine's day is mainly for sweethearts and Christmas is mainly about giving big-ups to Jesus Christ. No, Thanksgiving is the only nation-sanctioned, societally-supported day to give the entire family shout-outs (or at least the members you actually want to give shout-outs to. Let's be real, everyone doesn't get props).

So, here is my list of Thanksgiving shout-outs (in no particular order) to my family who I love beyond words:

  • I am thankful for my dear spouse of 5+ years of co-parenting rigor. Without his easy demeanor, calm and patience, there would be no example of balance for our daughter when she sees us two--her parents together
  • I am thankful for my child. Her beautiful face is only a glimpse of the beautiful spirit she is. Her feisty energy coupled with her artistic ways never cease to amaze. I am so blessed that her spirit chose me to mother her.
  • I thank my mother for always loving me. This has been a hard year for her, particularly with my brother being deployed, but she still maintains and supports all of her children in the best way she knows how. I love and appreciate her for that.
  • I am thankful for my daughter's paternal grandparents. Any parent knows how important grandparents are in a busy parent's life and boy, my daughter has some of the best grandparents. Through all of our traveling this year, they kept our daughter whenever asked and never fail to love her--their home is her home. They are also very loving to me as well and I couldn't ask for better in-laws.
  • My siblings-- all four of you, I am thankful for you all. You all being born have allowed me to be a big sister and allowed me to know that one child was quite enough for me when I started having kids of my own ;-)
  • My step-daughter, I am very thankful and blessed to know you. You are a stunning young woman both inside and out. Watching you grow into a teenager has been amazing.
  • I am thankful for you, my little nephew. You are funny and talented and I am looking forward to seeing an upcoming tennis match.
  • My Uncle Butch, you are always there when I need software and computer hardware. Though I have no idea where you get your hook-up, I am grateful always for the hook-up you give me.
  • Amenta-Maat, my cousin aka Valerie-- I am thankful for your support of all of my artistic endeavors. Seeing your face at two of my events this year and receiving your emails of support has made me so thankful for your love.
  • Bella, our family dog, I am so thankful for you. I am particularly thankful that this Thanksgiving you are trained enough to not use the bathroom when out of your crate. Please keep up the good work. I want this kind of thankfulness to extend into the new year.
If you are reading this, I want to thank you for reading! And, yes, I am thankful for you, too! Happy Thanksgiving!...and most importantly, Happy Eating! (fingers crossed the turkey comes out ok. Will post dinner story after Thanksgiving)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Not to Poison my Family & Other Notes to Self

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have never prepared a Thanksgiving meal by myself. I have never hosted people over for Thanksgiving. Technically, I won't be doing either tomorrow. But, alas, I will be preparing the Thanksgiving bird. Of course, my spouse will be supervising all activity I'm involved in in the kitchen, but, I will be in charge of the turkey ultimately.

For most women, this is expected. For me, this is a totally new experience because I have always been the family eater. When folks needed a test subject, that was me. I have honed the gift of eating other people's cooking. Hence, my own cooking skills have never fully been stretched to their potential. Of course there are the common food concoctions I've mastered-- spaghetti, grilled chicken, heating up of canned items, etc., but a big, whole, turkey? No. Never did it. Seasoning is a big thing for me (I admit I do make spicy foods well because I love seasoning) so the prospect of seasoning a big ole bird is a bit daunting. Seasoning injector? Brine marination? If you know what these things are, then you probably are a good cook already. If not, then you are in the same boat with me. I learned yesterday while perusing the Food Network's recipe list of turkey suggestions what brine is. I never knew it was a good thing, it has a sour, putrid ring to it.

I had posted on Facebook my decision to follow a co-worker of my spouse's suggestion to cook the turkey after rubbing it in mayonnaise. The co-worker said it will make the turkey come out juicy. My Facebook friends immediately wrote on my wall to drop the mayo immediately and DO NOT put mayonnaise on the turkey. See what happens when you share your next moves with folks. They save you...or confuse you even more, it's up to you to take it for what its worth. I'm a bit in the confused boat still and I have less than 24 hours left to make a decision on what I'm going to do with this damn bird.

In my other Worlds...

I've begun to lessen the number of involvements that I'm a part of. I am really in touch with my internal workings and lately I've been noticing an energy drop. I've disengaged myself from things that have been really important to me this past year, specifically the Saartjie Project and my writing stint for a paper that I've written for for almost four years. I have loved both opportunities immensely, but, I am now narrowing my focus to two projects I'm hoping to drop in the next year. I hope I am able to share them before the end of next year. Wish me luck...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Unexpected Spirituality

I've been to four states in the past month along the east coast and in the midwest-- Florida, North Carolina, New York and Kentucky. While New York was for business (presenting in a conference), Kentucky and North Carolina were travels that were more personal. Kentucky's visit was one to determine if Kentucky will be our new home while North Carolina's visit was a sad send-off of my little brother to war in Afghanistan. So, the Florida two-day visit was a very well-needed vacay that didn't require much thinking, emotion, or prep. The biggest concern was deciding between going to the pool or heading to an amusement park.

Everyone needs a break. Not sure if mine was long enough though.

When I returned from Florida yesterday, the feeling of stress quickly grabbed ahold. I had to get into producer mode for the 7pm Liberated Muse event--Capital Rhythm and Soul. This was especially challenging because my business partner actually had another event he was co-producing with co-workers at his day job and he was not able to really contribute to the promotion of the event nor be present during the logistics. The show was a benefit concert for the nonprofit Southeast Ministry that I've worked with this past summer, so, there were volunteers from Southeast Ministry that I needed to confer with as well prior to the event. When I got back from Florida, I was running very late and did not have the opportunity to drop my daughter off at her grandparents (her dad was still in Florida for business). Between getting myself ready and getting my daughter ready, we were already a half hour late. Did I mention that I was supposed to perform as well?

Well, I called my back vocalist Angie, a good friend of mine, and gave her a heads-up that I was running late. She was already there and had immediately stepped in as the contact for the volunteers and other artists who were performing. She did this without me even asking. When I arrived, all was fine, with several other performers having time issues as I had but everything working out overall. I took a grateful inhale and exhaled deeply.

Prior to the start of the show, we (performers and volunteers) met in the back and did a peace blessing acknowledging everyone who was present, praying for those who had to call out of the show last minute and allowing the volunteers , performers and members of Southeast Ministry to get to know each other. This moment really helped ground me.

When the show began, the hostess, a beautiful spirit named Dehejia Maat, began her MC duties by settling the crowd. She did this by reading passages from the book "The Secret" before engaging them with her poetry. The spiritual tone of the evening immediately began to take shape.

This wasn't a typical Friday evening of music. It was very warm, magical and almost spiritual. There was a very small turn-out, but that did not impact the performers, each one who gave their all to the audience. My own performance was very heartfelt as I sang out to MJ in my rendition of "Never Can Say Good-bye" and poured my heart out in my song "My Tragedy".

I felt refreshed, invigorated and deeply grateful for having the experience on Friday at the Capital Rhythm and Soul event at the Potter's House. I experienced the support of a friend, enjoyed reflective moments with friends and strangers alike and fellowshipped with others through music and song. What more can you hope for? I found unexpected spirituality in an everyday setting and it blossomed gratefulness in my heart.

(In the Video: Footage from last night's Capital Rhythm & Soul and other past events that I've produced through Liberated Muse)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Channeling MJ, Adoring Minnie & Passing the Hosting Duties

(In photo: Me performing earlier this year. I'm anticipating my set this Friday)

So, this Friday, I will be performing in a show I'm producing for Liberated Muse Productions. What most folks don't realize is that I am reactivating a performance career that was pretty much put on hold for about four years when I became a Mommy.

Now, I didn't disappear from the arts during those four years-- I still actively wrote and produced shows for the jobs I had since giving birth, but, I wasn't performing--singing, specifically-- like I had been doing before becoming Mommy to Khari. So, the task of putting together a set, getting yourself vocally ready and just being stage ready is something I am still growing into again. I've been performing this past year and a half with the Saartjie Project, singing and acting, but a set that has you singing for 20 minutes + straight is a bit different.

The performance at the Green Fest last month was my debut doing a full set. Gary and I had worked together in May for a benefit show, he playing guitar as I sang the Janelle Monae song "Sincerely Jane". He was naturally the person to turn to accompany me for last month's set at the Green Fest. Gary and I went to college together and came back in touch with each other about three years ago, mainly via Facebook and Myspace. It was only this year when we connected in person again and its been awesome.

Gary has really helped with putting together the set. He wrote a song I performed last month at the Green Fest about the earth and its children and he has a musical ear that is phenomenal. He has really done magic with the original piece I perform "My Tragedy" and the other cover tunes I hit. This coming Friday, I will be singing a song by the Jackson 5 and Gary picked up the melody in minutes. He is brilliant.

(In photo: My friend Gary is a phenomenal musician)

I must admit that I am nervous with the MJ tune. I miss MJ, as if he were a relative, and I am hoping I don't cry during the song. I will also be doing a Minnie Ripperton cover. Now the fear with that one is the hope that my voice doesn't crack. No, I'm not hitting those ceiling reaching notes like she did, but I will be singing pretty high. I hope that my voice doesn't decide to go "sike-a-boo-boo. we don't do that!"

My good friend Angie is doing backing vocals and I am thrilled to be on stage with her and Gary. Their presence lends some comfort to the performance for me. This will be our first event at the Potter's House that I haven't hosted. This will be new for me being there as a performer and handing over the hosting reins. The hostess is a phenomenal poet named Dehejia Maat. I hope you can come out. Check out the flyer below for details.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First Art Opening Helps Me Learn the Art of Chilling

(In photo: Me with artist Marshetta Davis who is in the book Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul and in the Celebration of Freedom exhibit.)

Yesterday afternoon was the first art opening hosted by my group Liberated Muse Productions. Our exhibit, Celebration of Freedom, was inspired by the book I edited Liberated Muse Volume I:How I Free My Soul. Artists featured in the book and artists part of our network who are part of the exhibit were on hand yesterday to talk about their art, mingle with guests and sell their art.

(In photo: Artists featured in the art exhibit-- Pru Bonds, Sherry Burton-Ways, James Terrell and Sharon Burton who is in the exhibit, created the cover art for the book Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul and curated the exhibit)

Almost all of the artists (8 of the 10) showed up last night, supported by friends and family members to take part in the artist talk and enjoy refreshments provided by the venue hosting the exhibit, the Potter's House.

(In photo: Artist Shan'ta Monroe and her piece "Pandora's Box". Shan'ta is a painter and photographer and is featured in Liberated Muse Volume I:How I Freed My Soul and was the photographer for the Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest this past year, an event I produce each year with Liberated Muse Productions.)

I had never produced an art opening before this one and I learned a grand lesson in the art of chilling out. I've produced dozens of performance art events-- including festivals, concerts, cabarets and panels--often serving as the MC-- and a high amount of energy necessary to multi-task, keep things moving along and always have a plan B is always required. With an art opening, especially one that was as casual and community-based as this one (as opposed to upscale and exclusive), the energy required is on a much smaller level. For a busy bee like me, it was a teachable moment.

(In photo: Stephan Cox and his pieces which are part of a series he started as a student in Morgan State University.)

At an art opening, when people come in to view art, converse and navigate a room, the atmosphere is so different from a programmed performance. I was able to chill and just allow folks to find their way in the gallery area, offering smiles when necessary and just having the opportunity to catch up with folks I hadn't really just talked to. I especially enjoyed conversing with one of the artists in the show, Stephan Cox.
Stephan is a young man who I worked with when I worked at Morgan State University. I have been so happy keeping in touch with him and seeing him grow more comfortable showing his art. He is not only a visual artist but a performing artist as well. I got to know him very well when he had a singing role in my play Shades of Black: A thought in progress. His sister, brother-in-law and nephew came to support him at the reception last night and I was surprised to recognize his brother-in-law who was in my photography class I took earlier this year with the Washington School of Photography in Bethesda, MD. Such a small world.

(In photo: Me and Sharon Burton who led curation of the exhibit.)
(In photo: The artist Choke and her pieces. Choke sold the first piece to be sold from the exhibit when it soft opened in September)

I didn't have to be "on" and got to socialize which I really don't get time to do at the events we have. (excluding our event two weeks ago which had a really low turn-out)

While socializing with the artist Choke, I learned that she just got a license to do hair "art" as I call it (hair design) and she just returned from California where she is now taking classes in glass art. I am really impressed with her exploratory nature and as a young artist (only 22), she is utilizing her youth wisely, exploring areas of interest and not being mired in thoughts of playing it "safe".

(In photo: The group the Ash Lovelies were at the Potter's House rehearsing prior to our reception and decided to stay during the reception, actually providing the event music. Synchronicity is amazing. I had purposefully not invited any performing artists, not sure how we could swing that when the area in front of the art is usually the stage area. The Ash Lovelies were practicing in a corner of the room that did not encompass the gallery area. It was wonderful to meet them. They actually performed the same day I did at the Green Fest and I had caught them on that day when my family stuck around to enjoy the fest).

I had a good time. Sharon and I made the decision to push back an art exhibit we had originally scheduled for December (the Potter's House exhibit ends on Dec. 1) at Meroe Gallery in Baltimore, MD. We are shooting for the spring to ensure that we get more submissions and get a breath of air to relax. Maybe.

The next event I'm producing is this Friday. If you are reading this, I hope you plan to attend. Click here to RSVP on Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Celebration of Freedom Art Exhibit Reception @ 4pm

Today is a reception for the artists in the art exhibit Liberated Muse is showcasing in the "Celebration of Freedom" currently up at the Potter's House. It's from 4-6pm at the Potter's House.

I've been really happy that my organization Liberated Muse has been able to create venues for visual artists as well as performing artists. Our social network has been a community full of all kind of artists-- from literary artists and performing artists to visual artists and fiber artists. Exhibitions were only a matter of time.

It's thrilling to see the community grow and the events increase. If you're reading this, hope you can make it today. If not, make sure you mark next Friday, Nov. 20 for your calendar. Click here for the details. I'm performing with Gary & Angie and there are other fabulous artists performing.

As I get ready today, I grabbed a snapshot of a piece my daughter was working on this morning. "Aliens from outerspace". She said that this is me and her. What a great way to start the day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Teaching the Kid about Giving folks Credit. No, the Other One.

My daughter Khari told me this morning, as I was still asleep, that she didn't have to wear a uniform today, she could wear her "own" clothes, as she calls them.

First, I was stunned because she was awake before me on a school day. Very rare.

Second, there was absolutely no way I would know the truth before showing up to the school because they never answer the phone at the school in the morning. I decided to take Khari's word for it.


So, I picked out an outfit for her to wear, even though her new 6 year-old habit has been to play "Sike" with me. Sike is when she tells me a lie and laughs when I believe her. She hasn't mastered the art of using the word yet, because she often doesn't say "sike" until at least an hour and up to a day after she told the lie. This inability to get the proper use of "sike" down is identical to her difficulty in understanding the idea of what a punchline is. She doesn't understand that "Knock, knock" is not the funny part. But, I digress.

So, I believed that she wasn't siking me. Turns out she wasn't. She could wear what she wanted because today was APPLE DAY. Of course you are asking, WTH is APPLE DAY as I did. Khari told me that they were sampling different types of apples and she had to bring an apple in. We had grapefruit, plums, watermelon, bananas and strawberries in the house. No apples.

Khari asks her father does he have an apple somewhere in the house and he suggests to her to bring in some apple juice. We had an unopened jug that could be shared with the class. I heard him tell her this in the other room. When she came into the kitchen where I was, she said that she had an idea. How about, she said, I take in a bottle of juice.

"That's a good idea," I said.

"Yeah, that's why I came up with it," she said.

I turned and looked at her.

"Oh really?"


And she begrudgingly admitted it was Daddy's idea. That's when I decided to teach the lesson of giving folks their credit. No, not credit as a money loan, but credit as recognition for their ideas and work.

Idea Snatchers

Did you ever have a convo with your mom or dad about giving people credit where credit is deserved? I didn't. And, the last thing I wanted was for Khari to endure the wake-up call when someone she worked with (in school or on a job) took credit for something she did. Or, worse, she became the person who took credit from another person. No matter how minute.

See, I've watched folks who do that, to the point that it has become second nature and they don't realize they are doing. They are the ones who you tell an idea to and two seconds later they repeat it with an "I" in front of it. Like this,

You: "Ms. Turner rocks. I think I'm going to throw a celebration for Ms. Turner because she is a great teacher and deserves a going-away party."

Them (two seconds later): "You know, I think Ms. Turner deserves a party. I'm gonna throw one. Wanna come?"

You may be thinking that the important thing is that Ms. Turner gets the party and it doesn't matter who throws it, but, I am adamant that the folks who steal ideas are usually the most trifling people on the team who are often the least likely to do ANYthing required to get the job done OR, they reap tons of the benefits (if there are any to be had) and share none of the benefits. We can look at the creator of Facebook as a main example of this.

There are many ways to address idea stealers, but my hope today with my talk with Khari is to prevent the development of one.

There is creativity and ideas everywhere, and, yes, while we are inspired by the work we see others do, if we are completely copying and repeating what it is that they are creating, saying, doing or building we are not revering them or paying homage, we are being lazy and disingenious with our dealings. Folks have a hard time trusting, too, those who they feel steal their ideas.

Giving folks credit for their work and ideas is an action of respect. It is a behavior that, when practiced everyday, becomes a habit. A good habit to have. And, I believe it ultimately comes full circle, where you are given credit for what you do when it matters most.

When I finished sharing these gems with Khari, I wasn't too sure if she understood my point. She looked at me, shrugged and went off to put the juice in her bookbag.

Maybe she did get it though, because, as we walked into the school, me wearing a hat and yesteray's outfit, she wearing her pink outfit of choice--she kissed me good-by and before parting, gave me my credit for wearing a hat. Thanks, I said, pleased that she admired the beret I had just tossed on. "You're Welcome," she replied. "I wante to give you credit for wearing a hat because your hair is looking pretty scary this morning Mommy." Of course today she decides to understand the use of a punchline.

Check out the video below I had fun adding blurbs to this past week. I get a kick out of watching it because (1) I love watching Binah dance and (2) it cracks me up how Khari just climbed onto stage with me and I just kept on performing. We are classic. It is from the 2009 Green Fest which was here in DC last month.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saw Lupe Yesterday & Stumbled Over My Words

(in photo: students forming a line outside of the auditorium to see Lupe Fiasco)
(in photo: Lupe Fiasco and Chris Moore)

Last week I had to call out on my Monday for the news at WPFW because I was way behind with everything. I had just gotten back from North Carolina, had an event and really needed an exhale moment. So, yesterday when I returned to do the news as I've done since August from 1pm to 3pm, I was returning after two weeks.

I was late getting in.

I had gotten cocky thinking that I didn't need that much time to gather news, but, yesterday proved otherwise. I got in so late that I had to scamble to get the news together and then when I got on the air, I was so halting and jumbly over my words, it was an effort just getting things out. It was a mess.

I got it a bit together at 3pm when I read it again, but I definitely wasn't rocking my radio voice in splendor like I strive to do each Monday.

Avoiding the Boot
After WPFW, I dashed to George Washington University to cover an event featuring hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco. I got lost and when I found a parking space, I got immediately nervous because I have unpaid parking tickets and even if you park legally, if the parking cops do a computer search of your license plate and find you have unpaid tickets, you can get booted. My car was booted after my interview on Fox 5 for the Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest. Nothing brings your high down any quicker than having a grand interview and finding out your car is booted and you are stranded miles from home. All of my unpaid tickets, ironically, have been garnered from past day jobs where I've been required to drive and park and get held up and can't move my car within that damnable two hour time frame. The wonderful places of employment (and I say that sarcastically) didn't even pay for the tickets when it was agreed that they were garnered during work time and because of work...but I digress.

So, I didn't want to get a ticket. I was feeding the meter and ran out of coins and this wonderfully nice lady stopped and gave me coins when she saw my expression of frustration when I ran out of coins. That made my heart feel good---> nice people still exist.

However, I still needed another dollars worth (had already plugged in about three dollars worth). As I was walking to this nearby bar to get change, I saw a parking cop. I saw him eye my plates and speak into a walkie talkie. And, then I did it. I began to follow him.

"Excuse me, um, excuse me," I called to him.

He turned around. And then he smiled. I think he thinks I'm hitting on him, I thought.

"Um, did you just call someone about my car?"
His smile disappears. "Which one is your car?"
I point. "Nah," he says. "We getting the one in front of you. You straight."

As I exhaled a sigh of relief, I wanted to write a note of warning to the car in front of me. See, they weren't about to get ticketed, they were about to get booted. As I looked in my purse for paper to write the note, thankfully, I saw the owner of the car jump in and pull out. If only they knew how close they were to getting booted.

Lupe Fiasco

So, I got to the GWU media center and signed in as press and later took part in my third press conference ever. It was fun. Check out the video below and photos from it. Read my article for about the event yesterday.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Mosaic Literary Conference

Mosaic Literary Conference
So, yesterday, I was in NY for the Mosaic Literary Conference hosted by the Literary Freedom Project and Mosaic Books. I presented last year when it was the Re:Verse Literary Conference & Festival and was honored to be selected to be a part of this important conference again. The Mosaic Literary Conference gathers educators-- mostly from the Bronx area in NY-- and shares ideas on how to connect youth to literature and inspire life-long readers. I presented a workshop about how Story Quilting has worked for me for the past few years as a tool to connect students-- from emerging readers to relunctant readers regardless of age-- to literature through art. Above are some photos from my workshop. The group of six women in my workshop were wonderful.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Getting My Little Musical Angels Ready for their Big Day

I didn't mention earlier that I work one day a week as a music coach for students in an after-school program based in southeast DC. As a music coach, I am helping them prepare for a show they are participating in next month. The after-school program focuses on poetry and sports and they chose to incorporate music into the curriculum to help retain students who were more likely to lose interest. The contractual agreement with them entails me working with the students for 8 days to prepare one of their poems into a song and then record it for distribution.

Sounds pretty straightforward? Of course. The one missing fact was that these children have absolutely no experience performing before and absolutely NO interest in performing. At least they didn't the first day with them. I'd like to think that has changed.

"Uh, hell no"

On my first day with them last month, I had two girls and about 8 boys who were very endearing from day one. I did an activity with them called "My Museum" that I developed which allows me to introduce myself to the kids in a way that is interactive and is actually a very helpful icebreaker tool. I showed them my "Museum" which was a table I had laid out my book on, small percussion instruments, and other small mementos that are important to me. I shared what each item signified. They then, in turn, talked about three items that they would put in their museum and why they were significant.

Next, we did an exercise with the instruments that I had brought in and they shared with me information that they already had about instruments (wind, percussion and string) and rhythm. We had a fine ole time that first day. Until I asked them did they know that they had an upcoming performance in Dec. They all looked at me blankly.

"Performance. You have one. In December. Uh, hello?"


"Ok, um, well, who here would like to perform in December in your upcoming show?"

No hands.


Garbled mumble from the cute little girl sitting next to me. I think she said "Uh, hell no."

Ok, so that was Day One.

Better it Gets

The second week was a bit more encouraging and we actually did a really fun hour-long activity where they played the instruments and followed commands as a band. This second day, only one girl showed up-- this time a different girl-- and three new boys showed up. Three boys from the first day were missing.

Yesterday was day three. I had called out on Tuesday due to a severe migraine and I just learned that I may have an allergy to peanut butter. But, I digress. So, I went in on Thursday and once again, I had two new kids and several missing. But, the boy from the first day who had called himself king of his team was there and I was so glad. This boy is 13, really loud, but a great leader and the kids follow him as if he was their preacher. Thankfully, he really enjoys my session with them and does what I ask him to do. I basically just give him directions and he leads his team.

They have split themselves into two teams, named themselves and are working on their song that I helped lead them to write using an excercise I developed called "Poetry Puzzle". I wrote a chorus for them and they went to work. Yesterday they performed what they had so far and it brought tears to my eyes. Here is an example of some of what they came up with:

"Call me nice, Call me mean, I’m something you’ve never seen" -Brandon

"I am strong Like lions, People call me tiger, Like the horizon" -John

"My life is free

My life is free

My life is free-ee

It’s all up to me

It’s all up to meI

t’s all up to me

I will shine like the sun

I will shine like the sun


The day is done

Cause I am number one, number one"

-Group 5 Stars

"We are fly like the sky

As we glide we wave good-bye"- Burrell

"My life is free like Sweet hot tea

And it makes me feel

Like a stingy bubble bee" -Alexander

My honey is a music producer and will be coming in with me on Tuesday to record them. Fingers crossed that they will shine like there those lyrics. I'm so proud!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Clean Underwear

I never imagined that I would leave the house in dirty underwear every morning once I started working from home, but, alas, that has become my fate.


Before you begin to judge me as being nasty or the queen of TMI, I have to preface the comment with the fact that I don't just work from home, but I parent, too. And I have a spouse, who, contrary to popular belief that two makes it easier, does not help the workload when it comes to getting ready for the morning rush.

In his mind, it's every man, woman and child for themselves when it comes to getting ready in the morning. And, so since our six year-old is unlikely to meet the challenge without me nudging her along, it's pretty much him getting only himself ready (including feeding himself) and lining our faces with quick pecks as he rolls out in the morning before our daughter has even finished her morning poop. Granted, he has to arrive at work by 7:30am while my daughter can get to school as late as 9am, my point is that he is of absolutely no help with mornings.

Which leads to my musings on dirty underwear. Who would have thought that I would have lost all inhibitions to leave the house wearing them? I surely didn't. If you knew me, you wouldn't either, particularly given my very overactive imagination. In my mind, every second is a potential for a worst case scenario:

Leave the house without locking the top lock just that one time and you come back to find your house empty. Decide to not wear a seatbelt that one time and that's when the snowplow hits you from behind causing you to tumble fifty times in your car. Walk in the street while rounding a corner and at that very moment, a wanton car will mow you down. You get it, I'm a bit morbid and paranoid at times. So, with all of that racing in my head, the possibility of having dirty underwear on when the stats are high that something can happen at any second which will require an ambulance to carry me away in unclean undergarments is disturbing.

But, it is very possible now given that I have no morning moments to call my own before I am required to leave the house to deliver my child to school. My daughter is very mom-needy in the morning and being a non-morning person, she requires me to be a coach, hugger, disciplinarian and alarm clock all -in- one that results in a two and- a -half hour non-stop morning of yells, tugs, hugs, jerks and scurries that hopefully end in us making it to the car.

None of this time includes me bathing or grooming myself, because after I am done with her, she has to be taken to school immediately or she will be sure to spill something on her clothes, lose something (like her homework) or cause a chain reaction (like accidentally feed the dog something she can't eat) that will totally get us off schedule and result in her being late to school. Believe me. I tried taking a shower once and it just wasn't happening. So, there it is.

Our morning routine seems like it should be simple enough, I mean, she's only six, a first-grader and a girl, sounds easy as pie, right? Wrong. It is rough when put to any standard.

To begin, she hates being awaken. No matter how it's done, she is going to whine and grumble and she is going to try to make as much noise as possible. The threat of a spanking doesn't stop her. The actual spanking just makes it louder. The choice to ignore it delays the getting-ready process, so it has to be responded to.

"Baby girl, I know you don't like waking up, but it's time for school. Today is going to be a great day."

"I don't waaaant to go to school. I want to sleep some more."

"Well you can nap when you come home but its time to get ready."


Yes, she is yelling. This takes place for about a good five minutes and then I start counting. I don't know what it is, but when I start counting, she will still continue yelling, but will get to doing whatever it is I am counting down for her to do. After waking up, its getting into the bathroom. Once she's in the bathroom, she uses the toilet and then gets to brushing teeth. By gargling time, she has stopped yelling because, based on past experience, yelling and gargling doesn't work quite well together. She hasn't mastered doing both without choking.

Please note that I am like a coach the whole time while she is doing all of this. If I were to leave for a moment to,say, let the dog out, or put a load of laundry in the washer, she would have gone back to sleep or forgotten what step three is.

So, after gargling, she then is put in the shower which allows me a few minutes to do the before mentioned of letting out our poor dog and putting a load in the washer. She is usually out of the shower by the time I'm done and then the tussle over clothes begins. She wears a uniform, so, its usually over whether she is going to wear tights and a skirt or her uniform pants. As petty as this is, it is necessary in her mind to have some influence over at least one item of clothing she is wearing. Not being a dummy, I forsee this and usually make the choice be two things I don't mind her wearing from the get-go. Her hair gripes, I wish were easier.

Nagging me from the beginning of me unbraiding her hair to the point where the last barrette is clipped on, she is making a demand of what she does NOT want her hair to look like. So far, buns, plaits that are thick and puffy, braided balls, and cornrows that go straight back are all out. The styles she prefers are thinner braids, side cornrows, side bangs and every style that requires extended use of the comb that she hates. So, a head tussle always ensues.

"Owwww, Mommy, that hurts!"

"I'm not trying to hurt you baby, you just have had these braids in for a week now and I'm combing out the tangles."

"You are trying to pull my head off. Why are you trying to pull my head off?"

"You're being dramatic."

"I'm not being dramatic. What does dramatic mean anyway?"

I can be faulted for even entertaining these conversations. I guess, since she is my only child, I don't have other kids in the house to use as distractions. Being the oldest of five kids, I've watched my mother do this with such finesse but the thought of an additional child for me to go through this morning routine with makes me shudder in fear. So, I pander a bit.

After hair, it's a quick dash downstairs and coats are pulled on and we're off to school. She-- beautiful coiffed, freshly groomed, sweet smelling, shoes polished and clothes neatly tucked. Me-- eye-browless, hair frizzed and sporting sweats or (often more attractive) the outfit from the day before.

Once she is delivered safely to her school, and I wave to her as she sits down and sweetly smiles as she is served school breakfast, I dash to the car and head back home. My mind then becomes a haven a peace as I envision how good a shower would feel at this very moment and the thought of clean underwear makes me smile.



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Saul Williams' and Afropunk

(In photo: a feather from Saul Williams' headdress worn during his Sun, Nov. 1 concert at the Black Cat in DC. Yup, I'm a groupie! My iPhone didn't have enough light to capture a pic of me and Saul, so, this'll do! I got a hug, too)

My spouse and I went to see Saul Williams this past Sunday and the show was amazing! Many know Saul as a spoken word artist and poet, but he is every bit of a rock star and gives a high energy show that is exhilirating.

Part of the Afropunk tour, his opening acts consisted of one band, Smyrk, that I really dug. The lead vocalist had a soulful voice that easily flowed over the strong band that played some of the best rock arrangements I've heard of late. I'm looking to get their CD soon.

Another opening band was non other than soul rock legend Living Color. I didn't know much of their music other than "Cult of Personality" from the late 80's, early 90's , but I am a bonafide fan now. Just downloaded their music.

The dud of the group was the group called Krak Attack. They were beyond wackness. One song they had "Fat girl, skinny girl" was the worst song I've ever heard. I started laughing, literally, because I thought they were joking. They got mad because we the audience weren't feeling them. One of them just walked off the stage at the end of their set and didn't even say goodbye. He just happened to be the DJ for Saul Williams' set. I could tell he had complained about us back stage because at one point Saul asked were we ok. My whole opinion about that is that all the folks there were there to see Saul Williams. Those of us there that love Saul Williams love him because of the lyrical genius that he is. All of those that performed him were expecting a punk rock crowd. That wasn't us. The whole crowd surfing, hanging from rafters thing, that wasn't this crowd. We were the working-30-somethings-who-are-staying-up-extra-late-because-we-want-to-see-Saul-but-we-would-normally-be-sleep-by-now-crowd.

Saul Williams moved me to tears almost when he performed Niggy Tardust and then stopped when members of the audience obviously didn't get the song (he says in the song "When I say Niggy, you say nothing" and you aren't supposed to say anything, but the whole audience yelled "NOTHING") and gave this mini speech on how all of the illusion around us is not meant for us to imbibe, but, instead, to mobilize us to move towards center. He said it in his own with such eloquence and it was like surreal how you could hear the silence of the audience. Few folks can do that in a crowded room.

This was a great way to start my November.

Monday, November 2, 2009

FreeSoul@ArtSpring this past weekend

(Photos from top: Quineice Clarkson, Lyle Link & Gary Young; Lil Kitty; Gary Young & Sadie Flick; Moon & Sharon Burton of Authentic Contemporary Art; Mommy & Bumble Bee there to make crafts; Arts & Crafts fun)
FreeSoul @ ArtSpring was an event this past Halloween at ArtSpring in Silver Spring, MD presented by my production group Liberated Muse Productions and Authentic Contemporary Art, an art organizaton led by Sharon Burton.
The event featured singers Quineice Clarkson, Ne'a Posey and Sadie Flick and fantastic musicians Gary Young and Lyle Link. Arts and crafts were available for youngsters to participate in and, of course, there was candy!
The event was not well-attended at all. A handful of people came through and the weather was pretty rainy. I was not in the best frame of mind given the things that have taken place this past week, but, I had a wonderfully enjoyable time hearing the great sounds from the playing musicians, most of them who are my friends. My mom led the arts and crafts table and I appreciate her help knowing that she is dealing with a lot as well with my brother being deployed less than five days ago.
I was really sad at first about the turn-out, hoping that it would boost my spirit. But, instead of focusing on the dismal turn-out of audience goers, I looked at the turn-out of folks who participated as performers and volunteers. My spouse worked sound, his oldest daughter helped with arts and crafts, my business partner hosted, my friends performed, folks I didn't know well performed as well-- WITHOUT PAY-- and those who came out bought our book and participated in what we had to offer. There is blessing every which way you look. Sometimes you have to make sure you are not choosing to be ungrateful, because there is always a reason for gratefulness. I wanted to make sure that those who participated know that I am sooo grateful they were a part of the event despite our small turn-out!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Been a While: Kentucky, School visit & Saying Good-bye

(In photo: Moon at the State Theatre in Elizabethtown, KY)

To say the past two weeks have been hectic would be an extreme understatement.

Week before last, I traveled with my spouse to Kentucky for a week-long trip sponsored by his job because we may potentially move there. His job is moving and we may go. Right now, we aren't sure, but we have to make a decision soon.

(In photo: The Brown is a Kentucky favorite dish. We had it at the renowned Brown Hotel)

(In photo: Outside in Kentucky. It was pure beauty.)

Kentucky is beautiful. Autumn is so lovely there because of the expanse of rural life and limited urban development. I don't think I'd feel too sad if I left DC. I have been having some feelings of discontent in the area for some while, but, it is where I have called home all my life. The decision will be hard for us both; he is a DC baby like me, too. Our daughter definitely says she does not want to move. We will see. I'm working on trying to convince my mother to come.

(In photo: Participating in a Bourbon tasting in Kentucky near Louisville. Elijah Cray was the top choice!)

Before Kentucky, I visited my daughter's class and did my story quilting exercise with them. I was really pleased to spend time with my little one and her class. I got a chance to check out her teacher who is so very impressive with her absolute chill nature. She doesn't yell and has a very mature relationship with the children. They react and respond to her in a very advanced way. It was an interesting contrast to the class next door where I could hear the teachers yelling for the students to "Be Quiet!"
(In photo: With my daughter's class and teacher)

Last week, my only brother was deployed to Afghanistan. This has been the saddest thing for me to handle as of late.

My brother, who is eleven years younger than me, is so very dear to all of us in my family. The last days we spent with him before his deployment were very hard on us, especially my mother. He was deployed on her birthday. I am anti-war and not the biggest fan of youth joining the military (they are still adolescents!) but my brother and all of us have been raised to practice our own ideals despite how contradictory they may be to what we were raised to believe. I pray for my brother's safety and for all of the children who are in our military.

I am emotionally drained and totally off-kilter. I haven't been following my Artist Way regiment nor exercising and eat properly like I had been doing. I have to get it together.


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