Sunday, June 12, 2011

Itsy Bitsy Spider

I wrote this about this almost two months ago but it still holds true. I need this to be out there so that I can remember why I am making the changes that I am in my life.

This is a song about resilience and so it's fitting that it be a part of your life soundtrack.

You were born to people who probably should have never been parents. To give them credit, they did the best that they could. Problem is that they were too self-absorbed to really be anyone's parents. They faked their way through the best that they could.

You were going to discuss them both but then you realized that they are each flawed in their own special ways. They deserve -- and would probably demand -- separate discussion. Well, at least one of them would.

Your mother wasn't like other mothers. She had no desire to bake cupcakes for your class. And after she divorced your father, she had no desire to cook dinner unless company was coming over. Hard thing to face at age eight. And with no siblings with whom you could commiserate. Your friends understood the dynamic of your household but others said nothing for nearly twenty years.

Your mother was a child dictator. She would announce edicts at her whimsy and then ask your advice as to whether she should make some purchase. It was usually about purchases because she swabbed her internal wounds with Liz Claiborne, Ellen Tracy, Noritake and other such purchases from Macy's. One minute she would chide you for not having your homework done when she got home from work; the next she would enthrall you with her purchases of the day. Sometimes you asked why she needed it. {There's that word again -- why.} And you would tell her to return the purchase the next day. She always complied.

But she did have rules. And there was no crossing her rules. You could never ask her, "Why?" Instead you held your tongue.

Occasionally she asked you, "Why?" though. At first you used to answer. Only to be subjugated to yelling and fist waving and threats of, "I brought you into this world; I can take you out." And so you learned to not answer. But that wasn't enough. You then learned to show absolutely no emotion while silently fuming. You who wears your heart on your sleeve most of the time learned how to hide it away. Your mantra then was, "They can only truly hurt you if they know they can." And so you learned to guard your heart. Not that people couldn't reach there; you would just never let them know that they had.

History had taught you that if she knew the slightest secret, she would use it to her advantage. Just another thing to throw into your face about how you had failed. While others around you thought that you had succeeded. She begs to be a part of your life now. And she is -- in limited amounts. There's only so much that one can take of someone who constantly thinks the world is out to dupe her. But this is not why you guard yourself -- this idea of duping. Instead it's the idea that someone will catalog your life and then pull out salient details when it suits them best. Because you have no brain, no will of your own.

Over the years you realize that this has colored your perspective on relationships -- including dating. There was a time that if someone was nice to you, you found yourself wondering what they wanted. Now you simply find yourself thinking that you are not willing to give into the will of another just for the sake of it. (Employment may be the exception but even there, there are limits.) Why must you constantly stroke this other person's ego especially when they take every opportunity that they can to destroy yours? Many years you questioned yourself on this. "Am I just being too sensitive?" But then you heard from your friends about their observations of your interactions. And you were happy to learn that this indeed was not "normal."

It took you several years to break through the bricks you had erected around your heart. While this woman contributed quite a bit to the process, she did not act alone. There were other actors. The thing is that you still allow her to be a part of your life and as such, she continues to try to do damage.

But you are the spider. You cannot be drowned.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Something new

For a few days I have been toying with an idea. Today I made it real. Not ready to give up on this blog completely but I thought that I would try something new. And if it works out, you won't just be reading my stuff there but others as well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

She got a lot of pretty pretty boys that she calls friends

It all started with tonight's season finale of "Gossip Girl." Yes, I watch it. And? The episode was filled with the requisite drama and some actually insightful relationship advice. Oh, and this song.

And if you know me, then you know that music makes me all like Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. The neurons start firing and I'm all over the place in terms of memories. One song leads to a memory that leads to yet another song and yet another memory.

Through it all was one question -- who do I want to be in this chapter of my life? I know that I can no longer go out five nights a week like when I was 30. (And before you have a hissy fit and all, let me just tell you that my rule on a "school night," was that I had to be on my way home by midnight at the latest. For the most part.) What I love about that person was that she could find fun in the smallest of things; she knew that sometimes the best happens when you least expect it. Life is not built upon plans. Well maybe for some it is but sometimes letting go is what one needs. It's all about flying without a net.

My mother and I were talking about my aunt recently. She was one of the biggest, coldest bitches around. I still remember crying years ago when I found out that she was talking major shit about me around town. I didn't speak to her for a year. And then she got sick. And I forgave her everything and was her friend again. Going on three years and I still miss the hell out of her. Because for all her shit talking, the lady certainly knew how to have fun and to be the life of the party. That's what I want -- minus the cruel bitchiness.

As much as I love some of my friends, I feel like they are the wet towel on me. My Santa Cruz friend recently posted on Facebook about feeling pressured for years to not truly express herself and to give into the will of her peers. I like to think that by peers, she didn't mean me. I had a weird life in high school. I hung with the "outcasts" yet I was involved in student government. Back in those days I had a conversation with friends about not fitting in. They told me that I could be accepted if I wanted to. Probably. In some ways back then I was deeply wrapped up in making everyone happy so that I could get their approval at some level. But what I love most about my angst-filled teenage self was that once she got that approval, she was able to walk away. She firmly believed in unconditional love.

But I guess this is all the heart of the partygirl me -- having fun and caring yet not caring what people think. I think over the last couple of years there has been plenty of the second and not enough of the first. It's giving one's self to not be perfect at all times. Because really perfection is quite boring. And boring is something I never want to be. What's the quote? "Well behaved women never made history."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The bad, the good and the tasty

Last weekend I held what I had hoped to be the first Derby de Mayo -- a blend of Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day. And of course I had meant to take photos of the food -- a blend of Mexican and Southern natch -- to post here but I got caught up in conversations. And then at the end of the evening I was kind of emotionally sideswiped. My last two guests in attendance, Emerald and Marin, decided to hold an intervention of sorts. "We think you've been drinking too much lately." Um, did you miss the partygirl memo? Sheesh. "And we think you should go to therapy." Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Really. Add up all my time over the years and I've done at least four to five years of therapy. As my last therapist told me about three years ago, I already have all the tools; I just have to give myself permission to use them. And sometimes sitting in the despair just feels kind of good while you're trying to figure things out. I awoke on Sunday emotionally drained. As such I slept most of the day -- literally. By Monday I was recharged and kind of pissed off. Pissed off is a good thing for me; it's where I find the energy to make change.

So now is about more change -- positive change. I joke about my nomadic soul. It comes from packing it in as a means of change. Now I'm working on how to stay in one place yet still effect change. It kind of helps that on Monday I received an unexpected cash infusion. After doing the responsible thing of paying some bills, I decided that I had some money for me. I have missed being a member of the Film Society but frankly it's rather pricy. So now I'm going to take some of this unexpected membership to join a museum in the East Bay that has lots of events. I figure that this will give me opportunities to meet new people. And I'll get reciprocal benefits at museums in San Francisco. A good thing since I still need to go see the expanded Balenciaga exhibit. I also found local ballet and jazz dance classes for adults at a reasonable price. I'm holding off on those until after I finish my month of boot camp in June. And today I upheld a previous commitment with Emerald to judge the science fair at her son's school. I was paired with a young woman who is new to the area. As it turns out, she is working for my father's previous employer. (And Bucko Ken's as well.) As we were leaving the fair, I asked if she would like to exchange phone numbers as she's new to the area and all. See? I'm good with this change thing.

The other good thing is that I finally had my piano tuned today. Thank you, Groupon. It's been years since I've made any kind of serious attempt at playing since I couldn't stand the sound of the thing. While the tuner said the piano was indeed severely out of tune (a half step), he was able to return it to a playable state. Love him. When I've called other tuners over the years, they have told me that it's an inexpensive model and I'd be better off buying a new one than trying to tune it. But this tuner got it. Upon seeing the piano, he asked, "It has sentimental value, doesn't it?" He also marveled that while it had lacked tuning for years, it had been well cared for. After he left, I sat down to attempt to play. My hands in the past had been rather stiff so I decided to go with what my hands knew best -- Beethoven's Fur Elise. I can still play nearly half of it from memory. It wasn't great but it wasn't completely horrid either. Now I need to locate my Chopin and Bach books. Maybe by the end of this year I can once more take stabs at Rachmaninoff. In the past playing the piano was one of my ways to relieve stress when I was feeling overwhelmed.

But I know. All this time you've been wondering about the photo. After the tuner left and before I attempted to play, I popped out to check on my mom's house. On my return, I stopped at The Brick Pig's House. The husband came out to take my order. The wife upon hearing my voice, came out from the kitchen and exclaimed, "You came back." I reminded her that I had told her on my last trip there that I had said I would return if all was as good as she promised. As I decided how much to order, I was asked how many I was feeding this time. "Still just me." The husband pointed to a photo on the wall of a young woman who had eaten an entire slab of ribs minus one in a single meal. "Why yes, there was a time in which I could have eaten an entire slab on my own." Now it sits like a challenge in the back of my mind.

I decided this time I needed a mix of the ribs as well as their brisket. Oh.My.God. My next trip there I may very well ask kind folks to adopt me. I have never in my life had brisket like that. It really did melt in the mouth as the folks on Yelp claimed. And to switch things up, I went with the blackberry cobbler instead of the peach. Reminded me of summers on my grandparents' farm.

Bottom line? In probably the best headspace in quite some time. Or at least I like to think so. Well once I finish dealing with payment for water damage to my place from upstairs unit.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Same as it ever was

Some days you wake up and think to yourself, "How did I end up here?" Now for most folks it would be the days of your partygirl time that would make them think this. But for you it's the days of "normalcy." Not that you're looking for drama, just something more.

Today you realized that beyond Facebook and your inconsistent blogging, the only means of positive human contact upon which you can count are the delivery people -- the postal carrier, UPS, FedEx, GSO -- you see each day at work.

Once upon a time family members were sick and/or dying. You checked out on everything else for the most part. And then the day came that you were ready to re-enter the world at large only to discover your "life" was gone. This is the argument you have given to family members regarding your dad. "I simply can't go back there because it will be all about him and I will lose myself along the way all over again." But it's too late; you're already lost.

So now you try to figure out how to get out of the hole you've dug for yourself. If you were still renting, the answer would be simple. Pack up and move. Start again. But it's not so easy now. Then again, hasn't this always been your answer? Pack up and move on instead of sticking around and figuring out a way to make it all work?

And please don't suggest going to church. So not the scene around here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pound Cake

So I'm about to tell a story that some of y'all may have heard before. Some stories are worth retelling though.

About ten years or so ago I was going through the "Why am I still single?" thing. Being single in itself doesn't really suck. It's just that your formerly single friends seem to drop off the planet. And then they have kids. Suddenly they are doing stuff -- with people who also have kids. But you don't so you're so out of the loop. But then when you meet up with these friends on those rare occasions, they somehow think that your life is so great. And I suppose it is if you think that entertaining the thought of adopting every stray animal that crosses your path so that you can have consistent companionship is better. Hell. You want to go to shelters and adopt every cute stray. Well not maybe cute. Pitbulls can be cute. Think of Petey on The Little Rascals. Cute as hell if you ask me.

Enough rambling. I was at some function or another at my dad's and his sister-in-law and I had snuck out to have a smoke. (Another revelation. Part of the reason why I can't quit smoking is because it's one of my defenses against others.) So started the pound cake story.

She told me how her dad told her about how fabulous her mom's pound cake was -- so much so that they would swipe a taste while it was in the pantry. And then her dad reminded her how sometimes her mom would put a lemon glaze on the cake. The glaze just enhanced the flavor of the already really good cake. Her dad then told her that she was the cake and that any man in her life was the glaze. The cake (you) is perfectly good on its own; the glaze (that other person) just adds something that makes the cake seem better. The key point though was that even if there is no glaze, the cake is perfectly good on its own.

That's what I remind myself of in the middle of the onslaught of everything else in life. Because being never married and childless in one's 40s? Can you say pariah? Freak of nature? OK. Maybe not but that's how it sometimes feels when people ask. Or when I'm hanging out with old friends and they say,"I always thought that you would be married with kids before me." But nowadays I really like other people's kids. One's that can be returned.

And then I remind myself that I'm like the pound cake -- I'm perfectly fine on my own. Some days it's harder to remember this than others.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm sorry that I'm not white

I had originally planned on posting something completely different but then Monday night happened.

One of the joys of being footloose and fancy free is that when I see a post online that Dave Chappelle is appearing at a club in San Francisco on Monday night, I can head on over to the Live Nation site to secure my ticket. Now I could have been sensible and bought one for the early show but why do that? Every now and then you have to remind yourself that you can still hang. That's why I went for the late show. Yes, it started at 10:30. And yes, I knew from prior experience that a Dave Chappelle show can last three hours. But I'm all badass partygirl like that.

I came home from work on Monday, ate dinner and then caught a disco nap. Then it was time to get ready for the show. People asked, "You're driving into North Beach? Parking sucks." Yeah, it can but I know the area near Cobb's all to well since my former home away from home is on the same block. As I circled the block for a second time, I got a parking space within a half block of the club. I'm really tight with the Parking Goddess of SF.

The vibe in line was cool. It continued in the club -- for a bit. These folks seated on the floor (I was in the balcony.) kept yelling out all kinds of stuff. Next thing you know, their table was surrounded by security and they were asked to leave. The woman in the couple was really resistant. Took two security guys to get her out of the place. And the last words we heard from her as she passed in front of the stage were, "I'm sorry that I'm not white." Yeah, she went there. After she left, Chappelle asked the audience, "Do you think she'll be back? She was kind of cute."

It felt good to laugh. It also felt good to stick to my plan of no caffeine or alcohol. Had no problem getting up for work today and was completely functional. Makes me feel like going out more, being more badass. Of course last night I was also limping. Took myself to the doctor today. Seems as if I have an inflamed Achilles tendon. That means taking it easy for a bit. But just a bit. Because once you've had a taste of what life used to be, it's hard to go back.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One is the magic number

You sit and remember reading The Sound and the Fury all those years ago. You think of Benjy suddenly remembering Caddie from all those years prior because he smelled some flowers that reminded him of her. At the time you read something else that said that smell memories are the strongest. Perhaps. For you it's always been about music. Long before "Ally McBeal" you believed that life needed a soundtrack. You hear a song and instantly remember a person or place. The soundtrack is the one thing you never doubted, questioned.

As you planned your life, the most frequent question that arose was, "Why?" You asked this in high school as you sat around on a Saturday night playing solitaire while watching "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" and in the back of your head "At Seventeen" played. Later when your carefully made plans went astray, you asked, "Why?" Somewhere along the way you just stopped asking. Sometimes things just are.

This is what you tell yourself every time someone asks you why you've never married. Well, aren't you dating now? And what about kids? You can't go down that road because that just opens up that whole can of whys.

Part of the price of blocking these questions is putting up your guard. Living on the defensive. But you've had way too many years of practice at this and are quite adept. Frankly sometimes you occasionally allow yourself the thought that this is why you are single. Your guardedness. And you remember how it all started, a form of survival. But then you shove it back into that place where all things about which you do not want to think -- or at least not for that moment -- are kept. Besides that's a tale of its own.

And really? Most days you like your life. You like not having to answer to anyone else. You like being able to pack your bag on a whim and leave town on some new adventure. And you realize that this is what gets you past the whys and turn the Jill Scott up a smidge more.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Venturing out

Yes, it's been about a month since I last posted. Most of my dining has been pretty boring -- not even photo worthy. It was survival eating. I have completed the 30 days of Paleo and am no longer sticking to it 100%. While I haven't gained any weight back, I have noticed a slight shift in my sleeping patterns. Still not the full-blown insomnia but still. Not severe enough for me to eschew those foods I truly love though.

I awoke this morning with a taste for barbeque. Normally I head to either KC's in Berkeley or Everett & Jones in either Berkeley or Hayward. Today I wanted something different so I read a bunch of online reviews. Decided to give The Brick Pig's House a try. (And was kind of sad to realize that it is in a neighborhood in which I looked at homes. I so need to move.)

The Brick Pig's boasts that their BBQ is Southern style instead of the usual KC style. Besides reading about this in online reviews and their website, I also got to hear this from the owner/cook. While I waited for my order, she came out to chat. She stuck around once I replied, "Yes, this is my first time here." We discussed the other places I usually frequent. We talked about differences in BBQ. I mentioned that my mother is from Virginia and around those parts they tend to make the vinegar-heavy Carolina BBQ. The owner of Brick Pig's knows how to make Carolina style but has decided to stick with the Little Rock, Arkansas recipe of her people.

Order in hand, I sped home. It was different but still tasty. Less smoke flavor than other places. And the sauce -- which I ordered on the side per usual -- had more of a vinegar tang than most. As such, it wasn't cloying sweet as the sauce at KC's can sometimes be. Oh, and did I mention that I also got peach cobbler? And that it was still warm when I got home?

Next time I'm trying the brisket. And one of the other cobblers. Because I'm so going back.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tom Cruise

That's how I feel these days. Like Tom Cruise jumping on a couch while on Oprah. I know. Makes me sound kind of manic compared to my former self. Like I said, I now no longer wake up feeling a fog around my brain. So if that makes me manic, so be it. (Of course shortly after I started this change, my mom has asked on a daily basis, "Why do you sound sad?" Have I sounded sad to y'all?) Then again maybe I'm all like Charlie Sheen. But I'm not in denial; I know I need to make changes.

Monday night I finally tried one of the recipes in The Paleo Solution. Yep, that's spaghetti sauce over green beans. The beans were roasted in the oven. The sauce had no added salt. And there was no cheese on top. But it all tasted oh so good.

I am committed to the 30 days. Over the last few years I have learned that I can indeed make commitments. (Huge life changing event was passing my three year anniversary at work making this is the longest I've stayed at any one place.) I have a deep love of cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. I doubt I'm done with them. But now I'm afraid of them. I now feel that if I eat these things, I will be physically ill. And I'm going to ignore my coworkers -- most of whom are overweight -- when they say that I'm on my way to being anorexic. Sorry but I eat all day long and don't regurgitate yet I'm eating disordered because I'm smaller than you are? First of all beyotch you should have caught me ten years ago when I was completely disordered. Second of all, fuck all you beyotches who sit back and think that because a woman wears a single digit size, she must be anorexic. I don't go around saying that just because a woman wears a double digit, she must push away from the table. Well except for my aunt but then again my thing with her has always been making different food choices. Believe me. If I still lived in Virgina, I'd be shoving this down her throat. I'm tired of losing people to health reasons.

So that's right, beyotches. I plan to be here for some time. Suck it up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Going old school

If you read my Facebook page, then you know that a week ago I started the Paleo diet. I have spent the past week seeing the fat that I've been fighting to rid myself of just melting off. That's part of what keeps me motivated.

I had originally thought that giving up dairy would be hard but it really hasn't. Yes, I crave fruit juice -- and when I do I eat some fresh fruit. Giving up grains and legumes? Not a problem at all.

I called Zombie Mom on Thursday to ask her why she had stressed how wonderful this way of eating feels? She asked how I had been sleeping. And then I realized. I no longer have insomnia. I have had sleep problems since high school and had just accepted it as a normal for me. Now no more tossing and turning. No more waking up in the middle of the night. And when I wake up in the morning, I'm alert and clear headed. And I have energy all day. So I'm sticking with the 30 day plan. After the 30 days are up, I know I will have the occasional dairy. I just love cheese a little too much. And yogurt. But for the most part, this will be my life.

Best of all, it has forced me to go back to the kitchen. Pictured above is one of this week's meals -- a stew of pork and kabocha. Yep, this is even better than the last time I tried to shed those pesky pounds.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Throwing in the towel

First of all, I'd like to apologize. You should have been able to see this post Wednesday morning. Thing is that I was so sick of food that it's taken me this long to write this post. Not anything against this restaurant. I actually loved the place. The problem was that I had consumed way too much in the days before I arrived there. And now I really appreciate the starving model jokes. Kind of.

Jade asked me how much weight I had gained from all my dining. The truth is that I have probably lost weight since I arrived in New York. There was all that walking. And truth be told, I never ate the entire entree. My stomach just is not capable of it. But as I said before, I love tasting new things so I paced myself accordingly.

I continued my dining Monday night at Aquavit. This was one of the other places at which I was excited to dine.

The first shock was when they asked me about preferences and food allergies. Really? I should have mentioned my displeasure with pistachios. But I figured that they would look pretty in a photo and I could pick around them.

The next part of the experience was the selection of breads. I chose the sourdough and some sort of rye. Now I'm not a huge bread person but that rye was addictive. Heck. I might just return for that bread.

And then they had the audacity to offer an amuse bouche. If I remember correctly, it was salmon with creme fraiche.

I alao heeded Fluffycat's admonition. And so I went for the salad for my starter instead of the tartare. And what a wonderful salad it was. But I usually avoid salads as they are something I can do at home and so feel cheated in ordering them. But I don't think I'd make the smoked goat cheese croquettes.

Next up was the pork belly. If I remember correctly (Yes, I know I could look at the menu online but I'm lazy.), it came with a Yukon mash and a porter truffle sauce. Heavenly.

I ended it all with the Arctic Circle. This was a parfait of goat cheese and a lingenberry sorbet. Oh and pistachios. But I don't eat those. When I posted this photo on Facebook, Jade said that it looked too pretty to eat. I ate it all.

And then when I received my check, they gave me a $50 gift certificate that expires at the end of March. Since I doubt I'll be back in New York before then, I gave the certificate to Lisa B -- who suggested that I come for Restaurant Week in the first place.

Yes, I would gladly return to Aquavit but I'd really like to try out Samuelsson's new place, Red Rooster.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ladies who lunch

My next stop on my gut-busting outings was lunch yesterday at David Burke Townhouse. When I showed Maddie their website on Saturday, he made appreciative sounds over their decor. I made similar sounds about their food. After a brisk walk over, I knew that I could put away a little food at least.

I was eagerly awaiting this lunch and decided to splurge a bit by ordering items that cost a little extra.

First up? The Parfait of Sockeye Tuna and Salmon Tartares. So good I ate it all.

This was followed by the Braised Beef Short Rib. Heavenly! But I still had dessert coming so I had them pack half of it up. David apparently is not a fan of mushrooms but said that the rest of it was delish.

Finally the Warm & Crisp Apple Tart. The server placed it before me and then poured caramel sauce over it from a small pitcher.

I could have returned to California after this meal but there was more dining to be done. I know I would gladly return to this restaurant -- as long as I don't have to sit next to the second pair that showed up. If only they could have been as charming as the ladies who were wrapping up lunch when I arrived and kept insisting that I partake of the Cheesecake Lollipop Tree they had ordered. But I needed the space in my stomach. Should have at least taken a photo for y'all though. It was just so pretty. Next trip.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What have I gotten myself into?

As you may already know, I have made a trip to New York for restaurant week. For the beginning of my vacation, go check out Maddie's post. Now the dining has begun.

Last night I joined Lisa at Perilla. (For those of you who watch "Top Chef," Perilla is Harold Dieterle's restaurant.)

We started with the spicy duck meatballs. Lisa had heard that these were one of the specialties. I don't recommend them for David as they are indeed spicy.

Next up was the fish special of the day -- a Montauk fluke, if I remember correctly.

And to finish it all off, gingerbread cake.

The food was delicious. The company wonderful. And fortunately I have more hours before I must dine once more. I have realized this will be quite the challenge. While I love tasting new things, I just can't seem to eat as much as I used to. And hopefully my future photos will be of better quality.

Friday, January 7, 2011


This is probably going to be one of those posts that Nat used to love back on my old blog. All I know is that Fluffycat has been hearing my rants all week and has been saying I should just write a post about it all. Especially since there are already so many out there on the topic.

It all started on Facebook. One of my "friends" (I call the folks that I have added merely for gaming purposes "friends.") posted a link and stated how she was horrified that a publisher had an edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in which the n-word had been replaced. There were all these cries of censorship. I clicked through further and saw that this edition was a response to teachers who had complained that the book had been banned in their districts because of this word but they desperately wanted to teach it.

People have argued that the removal of the word waters down the message of the book. That it is all an effort to sanitize history. That the teaching of the book in its original form allows for the discussion of race in our society. Perhaps.

If you know me, then you know that I'm a former teacher. In my years of teaching, I chose to have my classes read The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. This book too contains that nefarious word. I had to figure out how to deal with a word appearing in a book that I had made clear should never be spoken in my classroom. I likened it to teaching about the caste system in ancient India. But it really wasn't the same. It was much more personal.

This is what probably made it easy for me to teach that particular book. I had 90 students -- 89 of whom were people of color. I had it easier than the white teachers in the school. My students and I shared a common unspoken history. They assumed that I would understand their feelings about race in society. Let's get real. In all my years of teaching parents of color would be overjoyed to see me in the classroom. They figured that their child was being taught by someone who could understand their history in a way that a white teacher just couldn't. Our common ground put me heads above these other teachers. I could have honest conversations with them about academic English and perceptions of others. And even more importantly, I could code switch if the situation warranted it. (Because like it or not, Ebonics is an actual dialect with linguistic rules. And if I code switch around you, it means that I am very comfortable with you and so can let my guard down.)

But back to Huckleberry Finn and the whole brouhaha. My first complaint is that everyone seems to be upset with the publisher. They are in business to make money. They identified a need and they have tried to fill it. That's the American way. They are not the people with whom you should be angry.

If you want to be angry, get angry with the people who created the need for this new edition -- the school districts that have banned the book. Now things get tricky. Because how public education is structured in this country, you can only really protest if you live in an affected district. So that then brings up the question of a nationally standardized education system. Without that, you can talk until you're blue in the face and still not make change.

I have also taken issue with the doubt in teachers' abilities. Yes, it is clear that those who want to ban books have no faith in the ability of teachers to handle the material well with students. Of course the same could be argued of those who are crying censorship. Really? A good teacher cannot convey the ideas of racism present in the book without this word being included? Seems like these people do not believe in public school teachers as well.

Have I mentioned that my first year teaching, I had to teach ancient Israel -- from a textbook in which the chapter was almost completely made of Biblical quotes? And that I had a student whose parents are atheists. But they had no doubt in my ability to handle the material appropriately in the classroom and instead had issue with the district's approval of the use of the book in the classroom. Oh, and the reason why I thought of this? Race and religion? Both protected classes. As well as gender. But really it gets down to the fact that I was fortunate enough to be in a community in which the parents trusted me to handle difficult topics well - whether it be highly controversial or watered down. Also how does one draw the line between acceptable and offensive? Who gets to draw the line? There have been many cases that the objection to the n-word in the work in question was raised by blacks. So their continued pain is OK for the common good? And what is this common good?

My other issue has been the feeling that some have had that the inclusion of this word opens up conversation. Sorry but I'd like to see some empirical data on this. In a population that is mostly made up of people of color, it really doesn't. Well maybe it would have if I hadn't taken advantage of other teachable moments earlier in the school year. People of color are aware on a daily basis of the role that race plays in this society. Frankly the whole argument over this past week has felt like white people trying to show how progressive and accepting they are. "We are incensed. These are things that we should be discussing." Nice lip service but are you really discussing it all? Are you trying to get to the heart of it all? If you are not, then as the saying goes, "If you are not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem." All I've seen is a bunch of posturing without sincere effort. Here's the thing. I dare you to ask a person of color if they are not aware of the impact of race in our society. Frankly there's only one group of people who need to be made aware of this. But they're too busy patting themselves on the back that we have a black man as President.

As the week has progressed, more thoughts have swarmed through my head. "A classic"? I challenge you to look at the list of books that are considered to be classics in this country. Now I want you to tell me the percentage of those books that were written by women or people of color. Yes, white men wrote the majority of the classics; they are the ones who had access to publishing. Knowing this last part, are we to treat all their books as some Holy Grail or the like? I mean would we feel the same way about their books if other authors had been given equal access at the time? I don't know about you but I'm tired of someone who is nothing like me defining who I am -- whether it's about how I should look, act or read.

I also dare you to look at a banned book list and see how many of the books deal with themes of race or gender. And instead of saying, "This is wrong," I want you to take it one step further. I want you to ask why this happens still today. And then I want you to think of ways to change this. This means doing more than complaining about how this is wrong; it may even mean you putting yourself on the line.

Frankly I'm getting tired of trying to reach out to people who don't really want change -- even if they proclaim that they are open to change. (Saying you want change but not doing something concrete about? Yep. You're in this category.) I am tired of giving my perspective to people who tell me that I'm wrong and can't really know. Since I'm that silly black woman girl. (Hmmm. Just got me thinking. The editors were wrong. They should have used "boy" instead of "slave." Because "boy" feels just like that other word, just a little more polite.) I dare you to have real conversations. To make real change. It's time to put your money where your mouth is.

Monday, January 3, 2011


You spend over 40 years raising them and you think to yourself that by the time they're in their 60s, it's OK to kick your parents out of the nest. Silly me.

It started an envelope found in my mother's mailbox on December 24. According to the information in it, my father's two rental properties were up for foreclosure. I wrote on Facebook that I was beyond livid. And then I let it go.

This was followed by a phone call from a cousin last night. A quick internet search verified the information. My father had lost the house he had had with my stepmother since 1986. Called my cousin back and then a few other relatives as well as close family friends. No one knew. One of my uncle's responded to the news with, "Nothing happens without God's permission." By the time I got to the fourth or so phone call I could no longer hold back the tears.

My father had sent me a text message this past week saying how he had missed my presence at Christmas dinner. I chose last night to respond. "Did you bother to remove anything from the house before the bank sold it in the foreclosure? Like photos? You continually lie and that's why I can't be around you. As I said before, I wish you well in life but you can't be a part of mine."

He replied this morning. Explained that he is a recovering alcoholic (because apparently wine is not alcohol) and that lying is part of his disease. I know. But it's still lie after lie. That he plans on making amends to all those he has hurt. That he's dealing with the foreclosure and is trying to buy the house back from the people who bought it. (Ummm. Apparently they are already living in the house. And they bought it for less than half of the market value.) And the closer? That he really needs me to be his daughter again. My mother says that my response to all of this should be, "Fuck you." I am thinking, "There is no need to make amends to me as there is nothing you can say or do that would ever make me trust you again."

Fortunately I had today off from work. So after a few more tears this morning, I realized that I was hungry. And I wanted beef. Comfort foods. Because sometimes that's how I take care of me.

The summer I was ten, my grandmother bought me the cookbook pictured above. (Silly me forgot to include the cookbook in the photo.) I read through it and prepared my first dinner ever. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas with pearl onions. This time I added gravy. And I decided to use a little more "grown-up" recipe. It was just what I needed.