Coffee In My Left hand, Rest in My Right…

Coffee in my Left Hand, Rest in my Right. 

There is something intriguing about the night. Teenagers long to stay up through it, the best parties seem to happen in it, international flights begin in it, songs are written about it; Gimme the Night, & You Know the Night Time, is the Right Time come to mind. New York and Las Vegas are branded in being two exciting cities that eschew sleep on principle! It seems the world is afraid it’s going to miss something incredible during the night.

I want to remind you, however, to rest. Unless you work shift differential, you should be getting some rest at night. This adulting thing is hard as hell.  Bills, jobs, spouses, kids, parents. Then add to it the ever looming possibility of 45 tweeting us into WWIII, ironicly in the middle of the night, and it’s hard to turn off our brains long enough to sleep.

I was sick not too long ago (I’m fine now), and one way I knew I wasn’t well yet is because I couldn’t sleep. My sleep returning to normal was how I knew I was feeling better. The human body is designed to heal and restore itself during periods of rest. 

Lack of sleep promotes weight gain, cell degeneration, memory and cognitive impairment, ADD, injury from accidents, stroke, and a general poor quality of life. Dang. 

I said all that to say sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.  At some point we need to stop glamorizing the night (at least until the weekend…heeey!) and make sleep a priority.  Do whatever you have to do to get sleepy (yep, even that), and then make time to rest as essential as drinking more water and eating more veggies because it is. Give your body what it needs to repair the damage we cause it all day, or if you’re super healthy from jump, to reward it with the rest it needs to sustain all that fit bit nonsense you put it through. Either way, get some rest. Please.

Coffee In My Left hand,  get these Zzzzs in my Right. 

Coffee In My Left hand,  Where is the love in My Right? 

Coffee in my Left Hand, Where is the love in my right?

Heeey! It’s me again. Yes, I know I’ve been missing in action lately, but don’t call it a comeback, I never left you.   Life came at your girl real fast and knocked me around a bit.  But if you know any Black women, it’s hard to keep us down.  We are the most bounce back creature God created!

I’ve been thinking about the state of love around me. The series Black Love, featured on the OWN network (check it out, it’s great), profiled several couples and their triumphs, struggles and endearing thoughts on love.  I looked around me, and didn’t see many couples in love.  I was relieved to know a few, but given my age and the ages around me, you’d just assume there’d be anniversaries popping off everywhere all the time. Nope.  I asked some single friends this question “when was the last time you were in love?” and received some surprising and not so surprising answers. Names and identifying details have been hidden, but many had given me permission to use their info.  

  • Male-1991, not since undergrad, I won’t let myself

  • Female -2011, last real boyfriend

  • Male-2007, it’s been 10 years, the time flies by real fast

  • Female-2000, just don’t trust these dudes with my heart, you know

  • Male-1993, I still compare women to her

  • Female-Never, I’ve said it but looking back I didn’t mean it

  • Male- 2015, I was in love with her, but the feeling wasn’t mutual

  • Female-1998, I barely remember what it feels like

  • Male—2016, made love to this one woman and was in love

  • Female-2003, haven’t met anyone worth falling for like ‘him’

  • Male- 2002, I thought I had found ‘the one’

I listed the gender because both sexes tend to feel that the other side has it so much easier.  I’m guilty of that all the time.  Also, we stereotype men as just looking for sex, or saying “I love you” to get sex. Again, this isn’t a scientific study but I promise you, none of the men I spoke to were cavalier in their answers. There was sincerity, and longing and fondness of the loves lost in their responses.  Maybe I just know dope men, but still.

Women also get a bad rap about falling in and out of love with every dude they give their number to. The world would have you think we doodle guys names on the back of the cell phone bill just because he made an actual phone call.  These women didn’t sound bitter, or angry; just still looking for someone to love (hopefully you sang a little Mint Condition while reading that. Yeah, we still do that here ☺ ). And weren’t we surprised that the one person to admit they’ve never even been in love was a woman?  She knows what she wants and is willing to wait on it. Now, she’s not sitting in the house with her 15 cats, but she’s not throwing her heart to the wind, either.

Both women and men are romantic, are open to love (well two were not willing to risk it) and yet still not finding it.  What the heezy is going on, people?!  We’re out here going without romantic love in our lives.  Now, no one said they were going without sex, just acknowledging they aren’t falling in or staying in love.  Why can’t we find love? Everyone is dating, and boning (are y’all old enough to remember that’s what we used to call it?) but relationships aren’t being formed, marriages aren’t lasting, and anniversary bottles are not being popped.  How we do get from DM’s to I do’s? From swipes to snuggles? Do we even believe in relationships anymore?  Have our hurts and disappointments kept us from surrendering to it? Not one single person said they didn’t believe in love, but it seems to be escaping us. Hit me in the comments on why you think it’s escaping us and we’ll make this a twofer. I know I owe you a lot of entries and since that in love thing has escaped me too for the moment, I have plenty of time.  

Coffee in my Left Hand, looking for love in my Right.

Coffee In My Left hand, Goodbyes in my Right

Coffee in my Left hand…

Hey!  Did you all forget me?  I felt like I had forgotten me too.  SO much going on in my personal life, I let the drama, rather the worry about the drama, consume me. Life comes at you fast sometimes! Yeah, I went to work, fed my kids, called my mother; but the essence of me, the me who enjoys writing and reading, that me was consumed.

You hopefully remember enough of me to see that blog about the drama coming a mile away.  But not today.

Last month I joined the ranks of hundreds of thousands who took their very first son/daughter to an expensive college somewhere in the USA.  For me, it was my first born, my only daughter Lex (first name withheld to protect the innocent. And she better stay innocent)!

First some background.  Every parent knows their child.  Maybe not all their secrets, and the things they have gotten away with, but…we know our child.  Lex is a very smart girl, but has always been quiet.  Not ‘afraid to talk’ quiet, but watchful, introspective, and stubbornly quiet.  She was my longest delivery, taking her sweet time to arrive, even though she had to know the playoffs were on and I was missing them!  She finally came at her leisure and what was her first act of defiance?  She refused to cry.  I mean flat out would not cry. In newborn terms, this is a warning sign of large enough proportions to get all the nurses scrambling, eyeing each other and finally taking her away from me. We made eye contact, but still no tears.  That story ends well (it’s a story we share every birthday), but suffice it to say, she was purposeful from jump in deciding when and where to emote. I remember one time I tried to give her a spanking (look, stop reading right now if the term spanking offends you; you missed your window on that one), and she refused to cry.  I mean, held it in until I gave up.  Immediately it took me back to her birth and I realized this is who she is, this is how she defines strength. She takes forever to answer a question, as she calculates exactly how much she is going to share with you. She is the queen of side eye:  you can see her whole thought process in those dark almond eyes. I know my child.

And now it was time to send her off into the world.

I’d read all the articles “how to let go”, “how to prepare for your empty nest”, “how not to act a fool when you drop them off”, and thought I was ready to do this. My friends and family kept asking me, “are you okay? Don’t worry, she’ll be fine” to the point that I fully expected to be a basket-case the entire ride there.   I did all the Mom things: tried to help her pack, pled with her to take at least one semi-formal, bought 4 months’ worth of everything I could think of, buying this and organizing that. I asked her every 30 minutes “did you remember _____”; only to be met with a forced smile and that reality TV worthy side eye saying, “Yes Ma”.  We were ready to go.

We got her to her dorm, and began the unpacking.  Before you start, I did not helicopter her.  I asked, “where would you like this? Can I hang up these up? Is it okay if I put a basket here?” and waited for the responses.  She seemed happy for the help (no side eyes), and we were making progress until…the roommate arrived.  Thank God she was a nice girl with a nice mom!  They shared interests and immediately hit it off; a prayer answered. We went to lunch and left her roommate alone to start her unpacking.  Something shifted at lunch. Long thoughtful answers to questions, side glances, sighs; my quiet girl was back.  I think the roommate made it real for her.  After all, this is her experience right?  Her change of address, change of lifestyle; beginning of adulthood. The roommate symbolized her autonomy. She now had this other mostly adult person to do things with, start this journey with, and Mom just didn’t fit into the scenario (insert sighs and hugs for Mom here ____). Not being one to stick around where I’m not wanted (read that with extra attitude cuz that’s how I’m writing it), I abruptly decided to go.  I got the car, put some boxes and suitcases she didn’t need in it, and prepared to go.  On the porch of her dorm, I hugged and kissed her goodbye. Reminded her that she would be fine, and not one single tear was shed.  

I didn’t get to take her grocery shopping, or help decorate her room, or all the other fun stuff Instagram reminds me daily that the other Moms got to do.  But I did look her in her eyes and see determination to make it on her own.  And for me, that’s decoration enough.

 

Coffee in my left hand, goodbyes in my right.

Get Out…Vonn’s View

Get Out

I saw Get Out a little later than everyone else, but I did manage to see it in the theatre.  And yes, that was purposeful.  A few friends mentioned they wanted to hear my opinions on it after my viewing. Well, when I left the show (in Chicago we call the movies ‘the show’) I was so angry I couldn’t formulate my words right.

I took my daughter, who’s a graduating high school senior this year, with me as a girl’s night out. She attends a diverse school where there’s a substantial population of Latinx, white and some Chinese students as well.  I’m happy for her that she gets to know and learn diverse backgrounds early in her maturation, before heading off to college to further explore this world.

I present that as a foreground to how we saw the movie so vastly different, and not just due to age.

Get Out pissed me off.  I mean, blood pressure raising, headache giving, sho nuff made me mad.  I believe that Jordan Peele’s purpose in the movie was to show the hardships of being African American, in a different venue that may be more readily received by multiple ethnicities. Horror is not genre I watch (at all) but it’s popular enough across ethnicities that you’d get a wide audience.

My whole summation of this movie is:  They want to be us, without the burden of being us.

Darker skin, stronger bodies, coolness, athleticism, creativity; these are straights mentioned by the characters at the “auction”. And make no mistake, you can wrap it up with bingo cards, but it was an auction nonetheless.  One woman had the audacity to touch Chris and I about leapt out of my chair!  And while we may chalk it up to “it was just a movie”, how many African Americans have felt ‘sized up’ when we walked into a room full of whites? Had conversation stop upon entering that same room? Had someone invade our personal space by trying to touch our hair without permission? We’ve had to deal with the micro aggressions of ‘well, they are just built differently’ when their team loses a game to our team. Then there are the macro aggressions of “he probably got in because of affirmative action”, and not his 4.0 G.P.A. and stellar references.

I think this is Peele’s look into the hypocrisy of wanting the attributes of the very people you marginalize and sometimes dehumanize.  As I’m putting it “they want to be us, without the burden of being us”. Taking the best, but remaining in privileged bodies.  I was furious.  My daughter, however, was not as enraged as I. She’s only had good racial experiences in her high school.  Friends sharing experiences going to quinceaneras and back yard bar b ques at each other’s respective neighborhoods.  Sharing coffee and homemade tamales. Bringing each other candy from Chinatown, and those little frosted cookies sold in the hood.  Hers is a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ experience and I’m mostly glad about it.  She felt Rose was crazy, and that some mental illness must run in her family (not altogether untrue). She was able to view it as a movie, not unlike the Matrix or Thor, where there are villains and good guys and you always root for the good guys.  She didn’t internalize it like I did.  She’s attending a PWI in the fall, and I imagine (and simultaneously dread) that her views will change over the next year or two. Maybe they won’t; I’d love to be wrong about that. But I’ve lived long enough to know the world of “they want to be us, without the burden of being us”, and I’ve known the ones of us who so desperately wanted to be them, they put away all semblance of what makes us beautiful in the first place. And I get pissed off about both. Still.

Let me not forget to praise the acting.  The actors were intense and subtle and impressive.  Being able to showcase fear, longing and desperation only using their eyes was Oscar level acting in my opinion.  Betty Gabriel, the woman who played Georgina, should get some special “Eyes Only” Golden Globe because I felt everything she didn’t say the entire move.  Personal love to Bradly Whitford, only because I’m a diehard West Wing fan and it was good to see him acting again.

Get Out is worth seeing. I will take my son to see it, and gage his reactions as a burgeoning young black man to see if it’s any different.  And I’ll buy a copy to watch over Christmas break after my daughter returns home from her first semester at college.  As I said, I’m half hoping she does feel the same, and half hoping she doesn’t.

What did you think?  Post in the comments and let’s discuss!

 

Coffee in my Left, Political Analysis to Paralysis in my Right.

Coffee in my left hand…Political Analysis to Emotional Paralysis in my Right
Hey Y’all. I’m about a week behind in saying hey to you. I hope you didn’t forget me: I know you did, and I’m side eyeing you this very moment. Buy me some coffee and all is forgiven. The reason I’ve been gone is that I haven’t been able to write. In my mind, this is a humor blog; life, love, coffee, and all things through laughter. But my mind has been heavy lately. Everything I started to say, I just couldn’t get it out; nothing flowed. And that is sooo not like me.

My friend Toni (one of the reasons that ATL forever rocks!) told me on FB “Vonn, you’re going to give yourself a heart attack”, referencing yet another article I’d posted on 45. He’s 45, and that’s all I can call him within the boundaries of remaining ‘decent and in order’. Toni was right. In my quest to stay woke (every time I say that now, I hear Childish Gambino’s voice singing ‘Redbone’; thanks Donald.), I’ve been reading every article, watching news programming nonstop, staying on top of all my political pundits on Twitter, and of course, sharing it all on FB. For the past five months, it’s almost been consuming, but these past two weeks have been exhausting. I know more about dead Russians than folks in Russia do, the key congressional leaders positions on the wire taps (spelled correctly of course), the latest budget outrages and what every guest on Meet the Press had to say on Twitter, after their taping of Meet the Press; which I watch as well. Conversations with my kids often morph into “did you hear that? That may affect your Pell grant next year”, or “see, this is why ancestors died so we can vote and stay vigilant and…” when they just want to listen to music on the way to school in the morning. But I can’t seem to help myself.
I’ve felt myself cursing more (which I gave up, mostly, in 2011), staying up later, and being generally easier to upset in the past five months or so. I’m afraid that if I miss any information, it’ll somehow be worse than knowing every hateful, deceitful, and perilous detail of this administration and our nation’s fate. But what ingesting all of this has done, is alter my disposition. A constant diet of nuclear footballs in tiny satanic hands has truly vexed my spirit. Did you just recite that line from Barbershop about not meaning to vex you Mr. Wallace? No? No worries, it’ll hit you later. The phrase ‘analysis to paralysis’ was coined by some wise person to describe that feeling when you’ve reviewed something so long, you just aren’t productive any longer. My emotional paralysis has stalled me in a negative, everybody take cover sort of place.

And so when Toni wrote that, I took her seriously. Sometimes people can see from afar what you just can’t name or label when you’re too close to it. So, for the rest of the month, (maybe into April) I’m not posting any armageddon articles and no prognostic posts about the state this nation, and therefore our world, is in. I will do my best to turn the channel from political programming (except for Meet the Press; MTP is always and forever each moment with you, TV bae). Scripture says to think on those things that are good, and lovely and of good report. And even though it feels hard to see those lovely things with all that is politically going on in our world today, I have to be more diligent in trying. Tonight I’ll start with some good candles and a lovely Merlot. I’ll give you a good report next time; promise. Toni; sticks and bourbon on the deck next time I’m in ATL, my friend.

Why I love Chance the Rapper like an Adopted Nephew

If you are anywhere on social media, you’ve by now heard about Chance the Rapper (from Chicago, hey Chicago!) and his most generous gift of $1,000,000 to the Chicago Public School system foundation to help preserve arts and music education.  I follow him on Twitter and watched the press conference live. 

Why does a single Mom of 2 follow Chance?  I’m glad you asked.

About 2 years ago, my son E. who’s always listening to some form of rap/hip hop, got put on to Chance.  That’s right in line with the life a teenager: eat everything in my kitchen, and listen to hip hop. But after the release of Chance’s Coloring Booking mixtape in 2016, E. started coming to me asking could he play this song or that one for me.  Now I’ve requested to hear what he’s listening to, and I’ve been grateful for the old school hip hop I already knew and could sing along to, but he had never been excited for me to hear “his” music. Until Chance.  Chance was hip hop he could blare with his Mom. It was music he could be proud of. It was music he knew, even if I didn’t like all the language, that the message was one I could get with; and he was right. It was music a good kid could relate to. Chance rapped with a message and integrity, and it was something my son wanted to share with me.  And that is when Chance got me; initially.

Flash forward to August of 2016, and I agreed to take my son and his friend to the Chance Coloring Book Tour at White Sox Stadium (yes, I know that’s not the official name, but I’m a south sider and you’re lucky I didn’t call it Comiskey). It was the longest concert of my life, even longer than that time I saw Parliament at the Cubby Bear December 1993; them old dudes have endurance!  I saw everyone from Kanye, Tyler the Creator, 2Chainz and Weezy, Common (sigh) and…Chance.  And he was more phenomenal in person than on his mixtape.  He put effort into telling his story, showing himself and exuding gratitude. His music had grit, street, hood and faith and I was there (screaming and singing) for it.  That was when Chance became “Nephew Chance”.  Shout out to my real nephew, who I think is a true soldier in his own right. 

So when this 24 year old young man, with no record deal and probably not yet baller money, uses his Grammy opportunity to speak with the governor of his state, I wasn’t surprised because he’s always talked about Chicago, and the kids and opportunity.  When he pledged $1,000,000 to a broken school system, entrenched in mismanaged funds and the most heinous political environment ever, in order to help Chicago’s most valuable resource, I beamed with pride.  At first. Then the adopted Auntie in me was a little angry that a young citizen, successful though he may be, felt he had to dig into his personal money and help where it seemed no one whose actual job it is (#doyourjob) was helping.  Chance has called upon other famous Chicagoans to “return my calls”, and pitch in some too.  Again, pride for my adopted nephew, and anger at the system that requires all of this altruism and philanthropy.  Chicago is the 3rd largest school district in the country, not some ballet troupe in need of a new practice space. My property taxes, your lottery tickets and millions in federal funding are supposed to cover the cost of public education, not Lil Chano from 79th.  But he’s trying, and Auntie is proud. And my 15 yr old son is proud: and to me, that’s everything.

Follow Chance @chancetherapper on Twitter, or visit his foundation, SocialWorks at socialworkschi.org

Follow me at that Starbucks on 35th , or @coffeeinmyleft

Communication

Coffee in my Left hand…Communication in my Right

One of my readers (wow, that sounds so good, like free Ethiopian roast coffee with cream) suggested I write about communication, since it goes hand in hand with Love.

If you are over 30, chances are you have sat in on, listened to, or read about the communication between men and women. If you are over 40, I can promise you that you have; at either a college rec room, or a bookstore community room, or some nightclub disguised as a forum for building up relationships instead of their profit margin. That last part may be a Chicago thing, but trust, it’s a thing. If you are under 30, well just let Auntie Vonn teach you something about the challenges you’re going to have up the road, once you stop DM’ing each other. You’re welcome. Today’s views surround the question “why is communication so difficult with our partners and how do we make it better?” I use the word partner intentionally, because no matter your sexual preference, communication in a romantic relationship can be harder than that problem on the blackboard in Hidden Figures!

Now if you think you haven’t engaged in discourse about communication, perhaps it was wrapped in “men vs women; why our relationships are failing”, or “women who nag and the men who tune them out”, or “what’s wrong with relationships in the ____” insert 80’s, 90’s, millennium, etc. here. Regardless the title, many problems with relationships  boil down to COMMUNICATION.

If the problem is money, it’s really the secrets we keep about money and how we speak and make the other feel about money. I can only hide those Louboutin shoes for so long before the credit card bill hits. Fellas, dropping $200 every weekend buying rounds is an $800 “what you mean you’re low on money, you STAY in the club all the time” conversation waiting to happen every month.

If it’s sex (ok, if you’re reading this and you’re my daughter, stop. Mommy doesn’t know anything about sex and neither do you.), either someone wants it a different way, more often, less often, or at all. Often times the “your hair is always on the sink!” argument is really a conversation that needs to be held about the bedroom.

Nagging, the silent treatment, passive aggressive or aggressive aggressive; these are all forms of mis-communication. So, what do we do to make things better?

First and foremost; trust the relationship. Often we don’t say what we feel out of fear of hurting the other person, or appearing vulnerable or just plain ole getting broken up with…lol. If you’re in it (for real, not like the one I have with Idris; hey Driis!), trust that you agreed to be in it because there’s genuine feelings there. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m concerned about the amount of money you spend. Let’s talk about it once we get the lights turned back on”, or “last night, you slept through all my new tantric, ‘A’ game, guaranteed to make ’em holler moves; what gives?” Seriously, we avoid small situations that turn into huge episodes of Snapped because we didn’t trust our love or our mate enough to bring it up early on.

Next, watch your tone. I know I drape a lot of things in humor, that when I’m angry can come off as snark, sarcasm and cutting. Jesus is working on me; don’t send me any “Amen” emails. BUT since I know this, I try to edit my speech in my head before it comes flying outta my Chris Rock-ish mouth. You too know what your tone violations can be: loud, speaking through clenched teeth, sassy, condescending, etc. If I didn’t name yours, you’ve already named it and just didn’t see it. Treat your relationship like it’s something that matters to you, speak like you want to be spoken to. Lots of those panel discussions boil down to feeling dissed and dismissed. If your sentence starts with “Imma keep it 100” or “Don’t take this the wrong way”, or their equally destructive cousins, just stop and start over. You have a right to be heard, but your vitriol is not guaranteed you by the constitution. Matter of fact, we’d all better check that consti…never mind, I’ll save that for another time.

Last: try not to sweat the small stuff. If everything in your day has to go your way, you are in a relationship with a very difficult person: you. Disconnected electricity and coma sex are big things that need to be worked out ASAP. Toothpaste caps and popping gum are probably things you thought were ‘charming’ in the beginning and have lost your eternal right to complain about. When new issues come up, ask yourself “If I were being filmed right now, what would the kinder version of myself say or do?” then say or do only that. Ask yourself “self, does that hideous tie or her talking during the movies really matter in the long run?” Pause. Okay, that talking in the movie thing drives me insane; you will not go to a movie with me twice if that’s your thing. But, that aside, you get where I’m going.

Crappy stuff happens in life, and it spills over into our relationships daily. Growing apart happens, falling in and out and back in love happens. Disagreements happen in every relationship. The quicker you learn to communicate with each other, decent and in order, the quicker you’ll learn how to be with each other peacefully. And when necessary, argue then come back together peacefully. Driis and I can’t stand to see you all fighting like that…

Vonn