13
Oct

Taming the Beast

elephant-on-scaleI don’t think I’d ever acknowledged even to myself that I had weight woes. After all, I’d been blessed with good genes that, for most of my life, allowed me to eat whatever I wanted without fear of it hanging around too long. I was that girl who was actually trying to gain weight, regularly downing milkshakes, pasta and potatoes in an effort to round out my girlish figure. (Let me tell you, it’s hard being a black woman with no meat on your bones.)

Well, somewhere in the black hole of my 20s and 30s, my children entered into this world each bearing the gift of 10+ pounds that I toted around like trophies of post-childbirth. And, before I realized it, I was eyeballing someone else’s body whenever I passed by a reflection. Yet, I still wouldn’t give voice to what I knew was becoming an issue for me.

However, enlightenment came to me when I didn’t expect it – during a summer excursion with the kids to the National Zoo.

The zoo’s elephant house has an exhibit where zoo visitors can step on a floor scale to see how they compare in weight to other wildlife. Good-naturedly, I waited as the man ahead of me stepped on the scale, absently noting his weight in my mind as he moved forward off the scale. Then it was my turn. I instinctively shifted my weight from one foot to the other, as if trying to recalibrate the scale, as my mind subconsciously tried to rationalize why the numbers on the scale went up once I’d stepped on the scale. Then I looked up at the wildlife chart, and everything went still.

I was the equivalent of a wildebeest. A wildebeest!

(Of course, this is where the story becomes blurry. I think I may have blacked out.)

I was completely devastated. My children spent the remainder of the afternoon – unsuccessfully – trying to talk me down off of the mental ledge.

Mom, it’s not that bad.

You look fine to us.

You look good for your age.

It wasn’t a wildebeest…I think it said you were closer to a baby African elephant.

I’m sure they meant well – in a let-me-kick-you-while-you’re-down-kinda-way – but I was inconsolable. No longer could I rest on my laurels that I was just carrying around “baby fat,” despite the fact that my daughter was going into kindergarten. I was lugging around a wilderbeast, for crying out loud!

There in the elephant house I finally admitted to myself that my metabolism hadn’t slowed down. I had. That lean, mean fat-burning machine that I’d lived in most of my life was decades gone. Milkshakes, pasta, and potatoes (preferably fried) were no longer close friends of mine. They’d become squatters who’d long overstayed their welcome. And, it was time to clean house.

While I would have preferred to come to this realization in a less traumatic fashion, I am now grateful for my elephant house epiphany. It was just the sort of shock trauma that I needed to wake up and face myself in the mirror. I can now look back on that experience, 20 pounds lighter, and laugh because I’ve finally learned how to tame my inner wildebeest.

10
Dec

Sexy Amnesia

love questionI was watching a talk show earlier today and an interesting question on relationships came up. Would you prefer a relationship that was emotionally blah with amazing sex, or emotionally amazing with blah sex?

For me, this was a complicated question with no easy answer.

I mean, seriously, I can’t think of anything more stimulating than someone who listens and is actually interested in what I’m saying. Someone who recognizes that I, too, am out here making the bacon so willingly shares in all of the household responsibilities. Someone who understands that I may not come to bed looking like an airbrushed beauty but recognizes that this woman knows how to handle her business.  Someone who treats me like a true friend not just the girlfriend or wife.  Someone who knows how to carry himself like a man but isn’t afraid of the fact that I am a strong woman.

To me, that is emotionally erotic, and I would take that any day over many things. But since this is just my dream, a good dose of mind-blowing, freak nasty, push-your-wig-back-kinda-sex can be just what the doctor ordered to give me a good case of amnesia, have me sucking my thumb, and mumbling ““oooooooooh , I love me some him…what was the question again?”

04
Dec

Dear Santa:

mailbox

Dear Santa,

It’s been a long time since I wrote you a letter, but if you really exist I could use your help. I know you specialize in toys, so what I’m going to ask you for may really sound strange. It’s just that I’m a little desperate right now, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. However, before I tell you what I want under my Christmas tree, let me give you a little background so you’ll understand my request.

First, let me share that this is my favorite time of the year! I love all of the hustle and bustle, the good eats, and the time spent with family and friends. I just love it! The fun really starts at Thanksgiving but truly kicks into high gear the day after. No, not because of Black Friday sales….it has much more to do with the sounds of Christmas.

It’s the magic of Boys to Men harmonizing Let it Snow; little Michael, Jermaine, Tito and them sweetly singing Give Love on Christmas Day; and the soothing baritone of “Merry Christmas, from The Temptations” that officially sets it off for me.

Of course, we have to toss in the traditional Christmas songs and movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Even though I’ve watched these movies hundreds of times, they never get old and I never get tired of singing along with Frosty or the “misfit toys.” Seems like this time of year puts everyone in a good mood. Heck, even my husband is feeling the holiday cheer. Earlier today, I couldn’t hep but smile when I heard him humming the tune to The 12 Days of Christmas. I was singing and swaying along to his tune until I heard an unfamiliar – and unusually long – note that caused me to pause. It went a little something like this:

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad.

[This went on painfully for “7 days,” until he got to the 5th day of Christmas and sang out…]

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad, and licking of the baaaaaaaaaaalls.

I’m at a complete loss for words. My husband is a bonafide nutcase.

So, Santa, please, please, please… bring me a XL straight-jacket and a wooden club for Christmas. My husband needs a good dose of get right.

Thanking you in advance,

Valerie

01
Dec

Wrong Turn Down Memory Lane

wrong wayRecently I found myself strolling down memory lane with rose-colored lenses on. I was thinking back on the choices and decisions I’d made in the past and wondering what my life would have been like had I made different choices. It was in this mental space that I recreated what I thought my life would look like and began kicking myself over how young and stupid I was way back then. However, the funny thing about these strolls is that sooner or later you hit a pothole that slams you back into reality and brings clarity to why you got off of this ill-fated lane in the first place.

Our yesterdays make us who we are today. Every mistake, every hurt, every failure, and every success are threaded into the very fabric of our person. It’s okay to reflect back on these experiences – heck, do like I do – laugh about it or cry it out. Just don’t fool yourself into believing that the scenery along memory lane was other than what you remember; instead, promise yourself that these strolls are simply brief detours that don’t distract you from the road ahead…and keep it moving.

18
Jun

School Daze

school busRemember back in the day when the last day of school felt like a national holiday? As children, we couldn’t wait to walk through the school doors to laugh with our friends about all of the things we would (or wished we could) do over the summer.

Lazy mornings

Summer camp

Cannonballs into the local pool

Scratching out chalk outlines of hopscotch squares and baseball diamonds on the streets and sidewalks

Climbing trees

Catching lightning bugs in clear, glass jars

Hide and seek

Tag!…You’re it!

Simon says…

No bedtime curfew

Late night tv

Forbidden peeks at The Benny Hill Show

Dozing off as the national anthem played

Soothed by the static white noise as the broadcast went off

Those really were the good ol’ days.

This morning, as my 12-year old son headed out the door for his last day of school, he casually commented that he couldn’t take his backpack because the students had been told that they would be “patted down” if they bought in any kind of bag on the last day.

Something is so wrong with this. It’s such a shame that the innocence of our children’s childhood will be marred by thoughts of gun violence in schools. Just makes you wonder what they will remember years from now about their own last days.

12
Jun

Got an App for that?

App-for-that

I was crying the other day over how silly I felt for believing that if I treated someone with love and respect that I would receive the same in return. After listening intently to my woes, one of my closest girlfriends replied, “men are stupid. Do you think they have an App for that?” I cried laughing.

Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear and some straight talk from a true loved one to snap you out of a funk.

07
Jun

Robin DaHood

FoodDriveSometimes I can’t help but laugh at some of the crazy things that I encounter in life, but this one…I’m caught between laughing, crying, and just being speechless beyond both.

Recently some colleagues and I were brainstorming about ways to give back to the local community throughout the year. We already had seasonal events that we collectively supported like Lawyers Have Heart charitable marathon and Angel Tree, but we wanted to figure out how we could make more of an impact on our local community throughout the year. We knew that folks tended to be most charitable around the holidays spanning from Thanksgiving to Christmas when all of the ‘tis the season holiday cheer makes everyone more conscious of others less fortunate. But, the reality is that folks are in need of help all year long, and we needed to expand our efforts. So, we decided that we’d support our community by pairing with an organization to do a mid-year food drive.

A few of us gathered during our lunch hour to artfully decorate five donation bins with clever slogans like “Can up! Let’s End Hunger Together” and “Always Thanksgiving, because people are hungry all year.” It was a proud moment seeing folks come together for such a worthy common cause. Almost made me want to hold hands and start singing Kumbaya. So, filled with optimism about all of the good we’d accomplish, we placed the bins strategically throughout the firm in the kitchenette areas on each floor and waited for the cup to runneth over. Little did we know that somewhere lurking in the halls of the firm was some straight foolishness waiting to to feed off of our efforts.

A week later, I sat down with a colleague to lament over what appeared to be a lack of donations in our bins and learned something so unbelievable that all I could do was sit there with my mouth wide open. My colleague shared with me that there was one amongst us, another employee, that has taken to doing her grocery shopping from the collection bins.

First, I tried to rationalize what might make a person do such a thing. Remember the episode on Good Times when the Evans Family thought their poor neighbor had offered them a meatloaf made from dog food? Well, perhaps this was the same kind of situation. Maybe she herself was struggling and in need…maybe she was hungry…maybe she….no, no, no.

My colleague belabored my ears with tale after tale of this employee and her antics throughout the firm. Apparently, this woman has a reputation of continue reading…

06
Jun

Bedtime Wars

Never go to bed angry.Couple sitting up in bed, both looking away   Original Filename: couple.jpg

When I was younger, I would hold on to these words of advice as if they were the answer to my happily ever after. Too often, I would push aside my wounded emotions and crawl under the covers with a smile on my face and tears in my heart. While I was nurturing peace in my relationship, I was waging war in my spirit. By pushing aside my feelings for the sake of peace and a “good night’s sleep,” I was allowing my own feelings to be devalued.

As I’ve seasoned in life, I’ve learned that I also have to be true to me. The key to a happy marriage doesn’t start and stop at the bedroom door, so why pretend as if the answer lies somewhere between the tangled sheets? Besides I have yet to learn how to sleep peacefully after the one I vowed to love, honor, and cherish just threw a verbal barb that cut me down to the white meat.

Instead I build a fortress of pillows down the middle of the bed, put on my flannel armor, and lull myself to sleep with episodes of Snapped and pray that I don’t do just that. So, if this means that I go to bed angry…so be it.

20
May

A Hair Affair

dancing in the rain

Recently on my favorite radio morning show, a guest speaker joined the crew to discuss the dangerous effects of hair relaxers on black women. As the speaker was discussing all of the dangers associated with sodium hydroxide and chemical processing of the hair – balding, scalp lesions and burns, dangers to reproductive systems, links to cancer – you could hear one of the male radio personalities in the background bemoaning about how the industry needs to come up with “something” to straighten out hair because he didn’t know if he could work with that (“that” being a black woman’s natural kinks and curls).

Here was an industry expert talking about the dangerous effects of chemical relaxers, and this brotha was essentially grieving about his dislike of natural hair. Oooh, how I wish I could have slapped a handful of lye-based relaxer on his scalp at that very second. Didn’t Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair spell it out enough? Relaxers are dangerous, plain and simple. Yet women around the world subject themselves to the dangers of chemical hair treatments all to attract the attention of men like this.

As I sat there shaking my head at his thoughtless response, I was reminded of how easily influenced we can be by others’ perceptions of us and realized that it is this influence that lies at the root of the issue.

My own journey with natural hair has been a long overdue lesson in true self-love.

Twelve years ago, I decided to do a little experiment. I wanted to discover the real me once all of the fluff and frills were stripped away. So, I cut off all of my hair. Then I cried. For the first time in my life, I had nothing to hide behind. Staring back from the mirror was me. Unmasked and liberated. Gone were the worries about “sweating out my hair.” I could now scratch my scalp, jump in the pool, walk in the rain, and have that pull-my-hair kind of fun. Free at last!

Yet, this feeling was short-lived. Instead of celebrating with me, I endured unwelcome comments from friends, family, and random strangers about how they “preferred my hair long” or didn’t understand why I did what I did. People openly talked about the texture of my hair as if I were an science project. Some even dared to touch my hair. Male reactions were even more noticeable. The same eyes that once admired my presence now darted past me, labeling me as insignificant. No more cat calls or “hey, beautiful” comments caressed my ears as I walked down the street.

I’ve always been generally comfortable in my own skin, but the blatant disdain from those around me dinged my self-esteem. I missed the security of my hair and often considered hiding out under wigs, weaves, and wraps. However, over time, I grew to appreciate my hair’s versatility and fell in love with every kinky, curly, frizzy, tame-me-not strand on my head. I love who I see staring back at me and refuse to alter who I am to be loved, accepted, wanted or appreciated.

Now, I dance in the rain. 

13
May

Happy Every Day! (an ode to Ethel)

Mother's dayOne day could never be enough to thank my mother for everything she’s taught me in life. I still hear her saying:

“When they talk about you, it’s because they admire you.” She taught me self-esteem.

“If they jump off a cliff, are you jumping too?” She taught me to lead, not follow.

“You’re an African princess.” She taught me to love the skin I was in.

“Waste not, want not.” She taught me not to be wasteful.

“When bullies challenge you, don’t back down. If you do, they’ll come back for more. And, if they are bigger than you, ain’t nothing wrong with picking up something to bring them down to your size.” She taught me to stand up for myself.

“If one of you fights, you all fight.” She taught me teamwork. (Oh, do I have stories.)

“Make sure you have on a clean pair of panties…in case you get into an accident.” Ok…this is just hilarious, but in this she taught me cleanliness.

When I speak to my own children, I often open my mouth only to hear my mother’s words masqueraded by my voice. I forget sometimes how much labor she put into making me into the woman that I am today. She taught me how to be me.

Thank you, Mom. I know that sometimes I think that “I’m grown” and I’ve got it all figured out, but I need you just as much now as I did on the day that I was born. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for your enduring love and sacrifice. I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day (every day)!