Our Family Camping Trip

Our family at Yosemite National Park
Our family at Yosemite National Park.

A few days ago my husband, two daughters and myself just returned from our first family camping trip.  The trip had been a dream request of my five year old daughter’s for some time,  so with my experienced husband’s encouragement of  her dream,  I finally  gave in.

We flew into San Francisco, baby carrier in tow, planning to rent a car and drive to Yosemite National park, with it’s huge sequoias, El Capitan and Half Dome monoliths.

The three girls with Half Dome behind us.
The three girls with Half Dome behind us.
Hubby in girls in front of the huge roots of a fallen Sequoia.
Hubby in girls in front of the huge roots of a fallen Sequoia.

From the beginning, I was worried about bears, but immediately upon landing, we found that the San Francisco area had just experienced a substantial earthquake in the past few hours.  Earthquakes then joined my list of  things to worry about.

When we finally arrived at the camp site, which was already pitched and complete with cozy,  soft cots/beds.   I couldn’t help but notice all the burnt trees drove there.  Suddenly, forest fires in the middle of the night were also added to my list of things to worry about.

Our cozy tent.
Our cozy tent.

As my list grew, it never occurred to me how much fun I might have.   Pushing a couple of beds together in order to snuggle for warmth while we were serenaded by bats, crickets and other animals throughout the night,  was actually a nice way to fall asleep.

The sticky goodness of roasted marshmallows.
The sticky goodness of roasted marshmallows.
More roasted marshmallows.
More roasted marshmallows.

Using my flashlight and singing as we walked briskly at four in the morning, in the 100, or so feet of complete darkness and trees from our tent to the bathroom, helped to calm my daughter’s fears and mine, but it also made for some exciting memories that I won’t soon forget.

Hidden bathroom in the woods. Can you see the building?  Now, imagine that it's dark...
Hidden bathroom in the woods. Can you see the building? Now, imagine that it’s dark…

Locking food and toiletries away in a bear locker, using pampers on the girls heads because I didn’t think to pack comfortable hats to sleep in and still feeling like I was at a resort because of their great restaurant, pool, spa and kids playrooms, all made for a priceless and unforgettable vacation!

Pamper head.
Pamper head.

Thanks Evergreen lodge.  I look forward to doing it again.  Only next time, we will definitely reserve one your log cabins!

Liv's 1st photo bomb! on a tour, learning about the Sequoias
Liv’s 1st photo bomb! on a tour, learning about the Sequoias.

 

Ciao Everyone!

Diversity and Peace

 

Diversity and Peace
Diversity and Peace

There’s been so much said already about what’s happening with police brutality and the slayings of young black men, that I almost didn’t want to say another word.

What can I say?  Everything I think about the subject only serves to upset and sadden me more.

Then I read this article in Time magazine, written by David Von Drehle.  It’s full of interesting information about Ferguson, a place where old  hatred has now erupted into something bright, red and thorny, from a seed that was planted long ago and nurtured for years.  It’s roots date back centuries, even to 1857.   So today, those ugly roots are as deep as they are thick.

From reading the article, it  would appear that Ferguson had this coming.  If it were only Ferguson, however, our problems would be fewer.  But it’s not only Ferguson.  As David Von Drehle notes, this sort of scenario has occurred in many towns.

He  would like to know “how often this happens?”  Are “police resorting more quickly resorting to lethal means, and if so,  against whom?” Good question, but if your skin is anywhere near the shade of mine, you probably know the answer already.

So, after reading this article, my question was, why can’t police be chosen more carefully.  Lawyers use simple questioning to find witnesses who won’t be extremists.

Can’t we  ask them about their prejudices and then require them to come up with something positive to say about every group  represented in their community.

They are supposed to protect and serve the people in their communities, but I think that in some of these communities the police are just having a hard time seeing some people as “people.”

Praying for peace abroad and at home…

Amazing Grace

God's Amazing Grace
God’s Amazing Grace

This weekend I traveled for work to Michigan.  I am usually hypersensitive to hotels, i.e., the energy or the way I feel when I am there.  But lately I had become very relaxed and not always saying my prayers of protection, like I used to.

In this particular hotel I felt a little icky, but after working late and preparing for an early morning I went directly to sleep after packing up my things.  Overtired, I woke up with the worst sensation and begin to pray right then.  Of course, I felt relief immediately.  But it got me thinking, never again will I get too busy or too lax to remember what I KNOW inside is most important.

There will always be some unanswered questions when it comes to faith, but when you KNOW what brings you peace, you should never let it go.  After all, that’s what faith is all about.  There is no proof for faith, it simply is.

God’s grace is amazing.

Friends, how many of us have them?

A selfie after a show in Spain.  I thought my make-up was good that night and I happen to look sorta serious.
A selfie after a show in Spain. I thought my make-up was good that night and I happen to look sorta serious.  Also, I did have on clothes, btw.

We love our friends.  We love sharing with them and laughing the evenings away together.  Nothing compares to this for making the heart happy!  In fact, it has been said that laughter is the best medicine.  I believe this.  So, I always want to be extra lenient and forgiving with my friends and I hope they always will be this way with me also.

But once a discussion that wasn’t so pleasant has come between you, things can change.  And after you call and call, with no return of your call, you start to wonder if things can ever be the way they once were. This is a heartbreaking place to be.

For me, the door will always be open to the possibility of improvement.  Friends are that valuable.

But there is something that friend needs to know, as I patiently wait on their call- which will only be about a minute long and full of excuses, but will still brighten my whole freaking day, because I think you’re wonderful.   This, however, also makes ME very special too.  Because I can see what’s great about you and can deal with what stinks about you!  That’s not everybody.  Not everybody is banging your door down to do that.  That’s me.  You must recognize this, quickly.

And you must know that you will receive a tongue-lashing and an in-depth explanation of what you have done, from my perspective.  You will have to listen.

Now, can you handle that?  That is the true test of friendship.

Got something to say?  Drop me a line…

I Forgive Me

On the Hudson.
On the Hudson. It just looks like forgiveness to me.

Recently, I had to tell a musician friend over and over that their mistake on stage will not signal the end of their life nor the ruination of a fruitful career.  I laughed and made jokes to lighten their mood and hopefully convey this truth.  But, in the end, I wonder if it worked.  Was I successful in my efforts or are they still sitting somewhere pining over that one less than perfect moment in life that’s now long gone?

I checked out two performances this past week, Baby Do Brasil last week, Sunday and Alexander O’Neil this past saturday.  Check out the clips and note how two performances, imperfect in some ways, were still perfect in the ways that matter.

My husband and I, out to see Alexander O'Neil.
My husband and I, out to see Alexander O’Neil.

In fact, Alexander O’Neil said something that night that struck me as both simple and profound.  “I don’t take (all this) too seriously.”  He joked, as he pointed to the stage and talked about his performance and career.

Some people may always disagree with this way of thinking, but I have to say, I have come to agree completely!

I used to beat myself up if I did something that I didn’t like on stage.  One night, while singing, I lost my voice completely.  I was upset and embarrassed.  But it helped me to put some of the little, inconsequential faux pas in perspective.  I look at perfection differently now, there’s a time for it and there’s also a time when it can be boring!

Now anything short of losing my voice is redeemable.  These days if I hit a note that’s a bit off, or crack a little, I say to myself, “oh, alright… that happened.  Let’s make this work for me.” and then I go on to relax and deliver for the rest of the song.

My rationale is this,  while no one likes them,  mistakes happen to the best of us.  So, you can’t let one mistake keep you from having an amazing performance.  Especially, when your mistake is probably unrecognizable to most and only ‘wrong’ in your eyes, because you meant to do something else.

Forgive yourself, then move on.  Enjoy your show, so that others might!  After all, “it’s not brain surgery,” as Alexander O’Neil says.

***Disclaimer*** This advice is not be used by brain surgeons, or any other surgeons, for that matter!  Sorry.

Ciao, friends

Got something to say?  Drop me a line below.

A Mother’s Intuition

Ella's Big Hair
Ella’s Big Hair

In growing more brave, because it is a journey of growth, I am discovering that some of the authorities we’ve always respected without question need to be and deserve to be questioned.

I like our doctors and specifically my daughter’s doctor, but at the end of the day you MUST listen to your own intuition!

We have this other sense for a reason.  There are times when YOU know what YOU need and if the doctor disagrees, please know that you are your own best authority!

My daughter had dry, scabby patches that would flake up.  I tried head and shoulders and all the other shampoos my doctor recommended.  I confessed that I probably washed Ella’s hair once every other week,  it’s so much work (Check it out here)…this just became the time frame that worked for us.

She said I should wash at least twice a week.  Over the span of a year, I watched the condition of her scalp worsen and spread.  And with every visit I politely asked, shouldn’t we go to a dermatologist?  She always said no and that it was just a bad case of dandruff.

Ella with ringworm!
Ella with ringworm!

Well, last week, when my daughter could no longer bear me touching her head, I finally made an appointment with a dermatologist.   He diagnosed her with ringworm!  After all this time and with thinning hair in some areas,  l finally have a solution.

Now, less than two weeks later, her hair is 75% better.

After; Improvement in less than 2 weeks.
After; Improvement in less than 2 weeks.

I wish I had listened to myself, and not the doctor, sooner.

Happy Ella
Happy Ella

Get that 2nd opinion, get that specialist involved.  Ask friends who might know!! Get an answer that leaves you with some peace…

Have an opinion, or question?  Leave me a message.

Ciao

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

90′s Heartbreak!

There’s a finger snap, then I feel the beginning of heartbreak with the first few bars.  The chords remind me of high school, when everything was confusing, desperate and heartbreaking.

And when Luther Vandross begins to “oo-oo-ooh, yeah…”, At the beginning of ‘For You To Love,’ you know it’s about to be sad.

Then, even though I wasn’t trying to find a Luther Vandross song, as I sit in bed, in the darkness, with my headphones on listening to the music I didn’t know I had on my iphone,   I’m a prisoner to him now!  I can’t change once I hear his voice.  He was special that way.   And this song is just one of those songs that was sad years ago, but as I reminisce on it now, I’m happy.  I can’t help but smile as it evokes memories that helped me grow and become the me that I am today.

Bonnie Raitt sang I Can’t Make You Love Me (if you don’t), which I first heard on my prom night, in the limo, on my way home from the party.  I was there with the guy who invited me to the prom and with the girlfriend whom I invited-whether he wanted me to or not!!  A pitiful, great time.

I also had the  ShaniaTwain Album around that time, and The Woman in Me, lives right up there, on this alley of sadness, as well.  She beautifully lays her cards on the table, telling him she needs him.  Does he deliver?  I don’t know, but Shania delivers her song well.

 

Then there’s this beautiful woman.  Whitney Houston sang Living For the Love of You in that same era.  Now, you might rebut that this is not a sad song, but isn’t it?  To be living for the love of that one person.   There’s got to be more to a person than just waiting for and pining for some other person, no?  A goal, a need to help somebody else, moments alone for you own improvement, perhaps.  I’m just saying..

.

With the persistence of Luther’s pleas….I find myself asking that person he has come to see….won’t you open the door?!  just open the door.  There’s a hurricane, for heaven’s sake!  Let him in, with his satiny smooth voice. 

He might give you your favorite, unexpected, carried-away moment of the week.  I think he was mine!

Did you love Luther too?  Leave me a comment…

Ciao

A Road to All Things Beautiful

The path to the Beach.  In the Hamptons
The path to the Beach. In the Hamptons.

The road.  We all have access to it.  Because here’s the thing….its not an actual road.  Its a state of mind. To write fiction is to gladly get lost in another world.  You could be next door or in another universe, it all depends on your mood.  It is true freedom and this is why I love it. But to create those worlds you need  knowledge and experience.  So this past week I hadn’t written much and felt a bit guilty until I had this epiphany. You have to get out!  Between living and creating, there has to be balance. So this week, I have taken time to do some beautiful things that have made my heart smile!!! It started with my beautiful gig in the Hamptons.  It’s a nice feeling to sing with your toes in the sand!

My mic stand, looking out at the beach.
My mic stand, looking out at the beach.

Then, I was able to see our friend Arjuna Routte-Prieur’s Art Exhibit at a gallery at Snug Harbor. When I met this young man he was just a creative 10 year old with pictures on his mother’s fridge and now we selfishly share in some of the pride felt by his awesome accomplishments! Check out his beautifully thought provoking work!

Arjuna's work.
Arjuna’s work.
Arjuna Routte-Prieur
Arjuna Routte-Prieur

We took the girls out for a boat ride, along with some of Ella’s friends.

Ella and her friends on the boat.
Ella and her friends on the boat.

 

I finished my library mystery, set in 1885 in Denver.  Not my favorite time period for Black folks,  but still a beautifully written and  interesting story…

Sandra Dallas- Fallen Women.
Sandra Dallas- Fallen Women.

Last but not least, I decided to braid my hair for a portion of the Summer.  Braids and Summer go hand in hand to me, but I wanted to try it on my own.  I hate sitting for hours and hours in the salon and I cannot take the pain. So for the first time, I did these Senegalese twists…  Here I am make-up free and tired, but finished.  Cheap, painless and easy!

My Braids.
My Braids.

Life.  There’s beauty in it all!

Got something to say?  Leave me a comment.

Ciao.

Is Summer Frightening to Anyone Else?

Getting ready for school in the days of yore, last week.
Getting ready for school in the days of yore, last week.

My daughter, Ella just graduated from Pre-K yesterday and now she’s headed for Kindergarten.  She’s super excited and we’re very proud, but before that first day of school we all have to survive the summer.

Ella, with one of her dolls.
Ella, with one of her dolls.

Here’s what’s scary about this whole Summer ordeal for a parent; your child’s been learning so much, penmanship, geography, studying numbers and letters to create a base for reading and more sophisticated math skills to be learned in the future.  We have to make sure that none of those skills are forgotten, we also have to try to bridge the gap before Kindergarten begins by focusing on any areas that were challenging and needed more in-depth study time during the school year.

Now is that time!

The problem is that we’ve become comfortable with our routine, doing homework, incrementally focusing on those needed areas with what little time we had and then a story before bedtime!  I squeezed in my projects (writing, exercising, singing, etc.) when I could, but time was always a luxury!

Now with constant requests to go to the beach, the zoo, the Children’s museum, Chuck E. Cheese, I’m afraid there won’t be any time left.  If I say “No” to those requests, it means I’ll have to think up some other kind of fun activities (some of those photos are featured)- This is parenthood, I know!

 

Painting on the porch
Painting on the porch

 

Those things will be squeezed in with the very important, daily things I have to do, like working, cooking, cleaning, washing the girls’ hair (a tedious task), reading together and cuddling.

Sprinkler Time Fun!
Sprinkler Time Fun!

Enter the all-American summer camp!

We are, like many parents, contemplating sending our daughter to Summer camp, we have the option of one, two or three consecutive 2-week sessions offered by her school from 9- 4pm, M-F.  Tempting, right?

I can keep focusing on my projects for a portion of that time (when my 20 month old cooperates, that is.)  And I will theoretically have energy to help her focus on those necessary areas of study, in the afternoons when she gets home.

So the question is, why should I feel the least bit guilty?  It takes a village to raise children, right?  And we could all use some help from time to time, but I do still feel slightly guilty.

Am I the only one?

Flowers we picked from our yard
Flowers we picked from our yard.

Leave me a comment below…

Life Lessons Dad accidentally Taught Us!

Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad

In honor of Father’s Day, which recently passed, I am taking this opportunity to dedicate this blog to my Dad.  My preaching Dad was a pastor to many, a father to ten and the love of my Mom’s life!

In my novel, I write about a character who is a HORRIBLE dad!  So, it feels great to step away from that, momentarily and reflect on awesome Dads, like my own.

In thinking aboout him, these unintentional lessons come to mind:

1. Gender Roles, Shpender Boles!  They didn’t matter in my house. Dad did the cooking, while Mom ran her daycare business.  When it came to church/their ministry, they did it together.  They were a team.

Family in Virginia
Visiting my new nephew in Virginia.

2.  Never Give Up!  My Dad didn’t graduate from high school.  He dropped out as a kid.  As a result, he had to teach himself many things.  It always bothered him, so he went back to get his GED, which took a few tries to finally finish.  But he never gave up!  He learned the hard way how important education was and he wanted us to know it from the start.   When I graduated from NYU the smile on his face was priceless!!

3. Good Credit! Pay your bills.  There was nothing worse than needing something and not being able to get it, because you didn’t pay for what you received in the past.

Daddy, playing guitar
Daddy, playing guitar.

4. Trust Your Instincts!  My Dad was a great cook, but terrible at sharing recipes.  He just didn’t have any.  Everything had a flavor that you could only perfect by being fully invested in that dish.  Laboring over his pot, tasting and adjusting along the way, over the years had taught him how to season and how to perfect his dishes!  That stuff wasn’t easy to teach, you had to feel it!

5. Laugh it out!  Many people only knew the serious side of my Dad.  They didn’t get to see the silly face he would make over and over at my sister and I’s command, while standing in the kitchen.

There are many more, but my tired fingers are too slow to keep up with my smiling and teary-eyed laughter as it pours out!

I’ll stop here and say thanks for being my Dad and accepting the challenge to be great! Your joyfulness will be with me forever!

My Dad, walking me down the aisle.My Dad, walking me down the aisle.

Music, Motherhood and more…