Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Isn't it funny how the more politically correct racists try to be, the more their racism shines??

I have a huge problem with Food Network. Up until this year, Food Network had no problem with all it's personalities being White. This year, they added some color to the mix but I can't have been the only one to notice that these chefs are actually cooks. In other words, none of them seem to have any professional training as chefs. It's true that many of the other personalities on the network don't have any professional training either but I for one am tired of whenever it's a Black person doing the cooking, they are cooking some "down home" food. Never mind that there are about 50 million shows devoted to Italian and French food and hardly any for "ethnic" food, i.e. food from non-White parts of the world (I think I've seen one where the chef had a guest on from Nigeria). Except for "down home" soul food. There are no chefs of color on Food Network doing "fine cooking". The unspoken message is that there are no chefs of color; no Black culinary artists. But I sucked it up and said to myself, "Well, at least they finally have some folks of color on here. It's a step."

And don't get me wrong, some of the chefs on Food Network I actually really dig like the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. Sure, she's an elitist and all that but her food is real. I can respect her. She cooks food from scratch with real ingredients. Her food takes time though and I understand we don't all have time like that. But it doesn't have to go to the other extreme. Like this chick Sandra Lee who does the show Semi-Homemade. The concept, if you don't watch the Food Network, is that she takes "help" from the store to create foods that look and taste homemade. Yeah, whatever. So I was reading my blogs this morning and ran across this post on KellyBelle's blog Ephaphtha called "This is Kwanzaa" where I found this unfortunate clip.



Now, I can't stand Sandra Lee. She can't cook to save her life, seems to like to drink a whole hell of a lot and is obsessed with "tablescapes" (no time to bake cake from scratch but lots of time to make tablescapes). But I digress.

Aside from the obvious nastiness of this cake, the whole thing speaks to my issues with Food Network. If they wanted to celebrate Kwanzaa, couldn't they find somebody, anybody who actually celebrates Kwanzaa to come on and do a 30 minute or hour long special on some of the recipes that they have come up with to celebrate the holiday while sharing with us what the heck the whole thing is about? Honestly. It's as bad as during Black History Month when they had the Neely's (the hosts of the first Black cooking show) asking us the viewer to celebrate with Food Network. Food Network had never made any attempt to celebrate "the coloreds" during February before this. Again, whatever.

But alas, isn't it funny how the more politically correct racists try to be the more their racism shines through? There are so many substantial and actually meaningful things you could do if you truly wanted to celebrate diversity. But it's all lip-service, it's all political correctness. Smoke and mirrors. To give the illusion of progress and open-mindedness and inclusion. I guess they realized that us coloreds watch too.

Add to that the fact that Food Network likes to pretend that unless there is some meat involved in the cooking, it's not really cooking. That is why till this day they have completely ignored vegetarians and vegans, a growing demographic in this country. Not even a nod in their direction. And I'm not talking about throwing a Portobello mushroom on the grill (the same grill the meat was cooked on) for those "poor vegetarians" who can't enjoy real food. Whatever.

I guess you really shouldn't expect much from the Food Network. After all, it's where Rachel Ray got her start.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Huntress

This is my cat Sophia. We got her from the animal shelter about two weeks before I found out I was pregnant with Z1 because we had mice who come inside when the weather gets cold. Sophia is a fabulous cat. She doesn't tear up the furniture and she's great with the children. She doesn't claw Z1 when he harasses her (and yes, he is always harassing her) and she doesn't bite Z2 when he pulls her tail. She comes to you when she wants to be petted, is friendly, and doesn't have any annoying habits.

Over the last three days, she has killed four mice. Look here, mice, you guys don't stand a chance in this house!

Ms. Sophia, you are the bomb. Aside from the fact that you inspire me with your ability to always be a sophisticated lady, regal, prim and proper even when you are taking a dump in in your litter, you are a damn good hunter. And since I hate mice, you are on my "very special being" list. :)

Now if only you could dispose of aforementioned mice in a better fashion than leaving them laid out in various places all over the floor . . .

Blessed Earthlight Beloved!

My sweet Z2 turns one year old today. I simply cannot believe how fast this year flew by. It makes me a little sad but also motivates me. Time moves. Fast. I cannot afford to procrastinate on things. Now is the time to do better.

I'm not in the mood to make a cake or anything. Maybe because it's winter and so dreary. Actually, I know that's the reason why. Would it be too bootleg to have a combined party for the boys in August? LoL.

In any case, Blessed Earthlight Beloved. Mommy loves you! <3

Confessions of an Economic Hitman Falls Flat

I finally finished it just to get through and see what suggestions he has.

I do not like reading books where the protagonist is condescending and/or patronizing. And that, to me, is exactly what Mr. Perkins is.

"The real story of modern empire--of the corporatocracy and that exploits desperate people . . . has everything to do with us . . . we prefer to believe the myth that thousands of years of human social evolution has finally perfected the ideal economic system, rather than to face the fact htat we have merely bought into a false concept and accepted it as gospel. We have convinced ourselves that all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. Finally, we have persuaded one another that . . . people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation."
-p. 216

Mr. Perkins, you might want to replace all this "we" stuff with "some of us" or "I". Stop trying to make your own despicable story universal. Some of us who are reading your book were born at the fringes, were born to people who lived on the fringes or still live on the fringes. Even here in the "great" United States, people are hungry and needy. The U.S. government took billions of tax-payer dollars (or money that needs to be paid back by taxpayers) and used it to bail out some of these corporatocracy folks and none of that money filtered down to the common person. Oh, everything has looked rosy for a while in this country Mr. Perkins but it's becoming more obvious that the victim of your exploits were not just people in third world countries. Yes, Americans are guilty as sin for consumerism and being happily oblivious--I won't argue with you on that. It has been a trade-off yes. Americans have been bought off with fancy cars and flat panel televisions in exchange for not making too much of a fuss when those in power do their dirty business. But how much real power does a common person possess? You could reject all those creature comforts and find that "the powers that be" are still going to do their dirty business. And if you get in the way . . . You suggest to me the reader that I cut down on how much I buy and read your book as ways to rectify the problem. Really? I think not sir. The system must go down and, by George, I think it is. Revolution is just that.

"The fact that you read this far indicates that you can relate on some personal way to my confession."
-p. 224

Actually, no. I'm fascinated by the level of wickedness that has been perpetrated by those in power in this county. I'm fascinated by how deep it goes. That is why I kept reading.

"Now it is your turn. You need to make your own confession. When you come clean on who you are, why are here during this time in history, why you have have done the things you have, and where you intend to go next, you will experience an immediate sense of relief. "
-p. 224

Mr. Perkins, please.

Overall, a confusing "confession" replete with stories that I hardly believe. The book reads like some kind of spy novel with vague references and lots of Mr. Perkins' regrets. Unfortunately, he still sounds proud about his exploits and as far as I can tell is still sitting on a cowdung-load of paper. This book is good for the information. Good to get a sense of how the U.S. has gone about making a global empire. You could watch a documentary like "Life and Debt" and get a far better sense--and see how real people are exploited by this system. I'm sorry it took Mr. Perkins doing all the dirt he did before he finally was able to extricate himself. I don't even know if he extricated himself because he felt badly or because he saw an alternate way to get more money that didn't rely on a sinking ship.

Consciousness is the first step to change, truly. I hope that as the veneer of wealth and prosperity wears off for most Americans, we will become interested in learning the truth about things. Becoming conscious. This will mean turning off the t.v. and Wii entertainment systems, cracking open books (not just on economic exploitation but on self-sufficiency and spiritual growth). That we will boycott fake and illegitimate new sources completely. That we will consciously seek out news sources that tell the whole story, or a different story--that place America not at the top of things but right in line with everyone else. (Notice on the BBC's front page there is *nothing* about the U.S. but check any U.S. based news organization and they must have something about the U.S. even if it's trite.) Americans will have to become conscious of the fact that America is not the center of the world no matter what the news says.

I'm sometimes frustrated by how little I can actually do to change things. I often feel implicit in a system that systematically exploits people all over the world--many of whom look like me. I used to feel that leaving the U.S. would be my first step in freeing myself of my role in the system. But it's so much more complex than that. Going to Nigeria and Ghana has showed me how much more complex it is. There are no easy answers. So I am doing what I can where I am . . . and realizing that the only thing that stays the same is change. And so all this is going to have to change. I want to do my part to make it change for the better.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Baking Bread Using the Food Processor and Recent Book Buys

I realized that the bread I have been making was making me feel terrible intestinally. I think I may be allergic to wheat gluten. I'm not sure though because I can eat unbleached white flour (which is not gluten free) without issues. But it seems that if it's a product that I actually add gluten to like the wheat bread I was making or the vegetarian sausages, it makes me feel awful.

Generally speaking, I use my stand mixer to knead the dough for my bread. Today I thought I'd try the food processor. I have a 14 cup Cuisinart. I've done pizza dough in it before but never bread. I decided to us the recipe that came in the food processor's booklet called Classic White Bread. I substituted olive oil for butter. The results were excellent. I've had a couple of slices and it is sitting very well. It's flavorful but still bland enough to be great for eating with peanut butter or jelly or mock tuna spread or with soup. I may have to stick with this one.

There's a book I've been eying called The Bread Baker's Apprentice which is a totally comprehensive book about the art and science of bread baking. You will notice the glowing reviews on Amazon. But while making the bread today, I realized that I really need bread baking to be a simple activity. No starting a day in advance. Making special concoctions. Hunting all over for ingredients. I just need bread to be flour, oil, water, sugar, yeast. So while the idea of baking all kinds of fabulous breads appeals to me, right now I have enough on my plate. Bread baking isn't a hobby now. Maybe one day it will be but I bake bread because we eat bread. So, I'm putting the book on my wish list (and taking it out of my shopping cart). I have a few other books I could use the money on. I did recently purchase some books using my birthday money: Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, When Technology Fails (Revised & Expanded): A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables, and Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners. I'd like to purchase three more books: one on astrology and two on herbs and herbal healing. Did I mention I love books?

Do you really make the world with your thoughts?

Louise Hay in Meditations to Heal Your Life says that "What [you] see in your world is a mirror of what [you] have in your mind."

Sometimes I wonder though. If I found myself in a war torn area where I was the target of some genocidal mandate or if I found myself watching my children starve to death or suffer from entirely preventable and curable illness, how would changing my thoughts change the situation?

Would it actually change the situation? Or just how I perceive it and react to it?

In college, I regularly failed my chemistry tests and almost flunked the entire course. Would that reality have changed if I had just shifted my thoughts?

How many times have I changed my thoughts and it hasn't really made a difference? How many times have I been hopeful and it hasn't changed a thing. Are there just some things that I will have to experience no matter how much "right thinking" I do?

Read "Forever?", a very thought-provoking blog by Angie over at NuVision for a NuDay.

Can you even control your thinking? Or just your reaction to your thoughts? Isn't it really just training your mind to focus on good thoughts just to crowd out the negative ones? Because isn't there a balance to everything? Good has to be balanced by bad? So isn't the real challenge to make sure the negative doesn't take over?

Sometimes I get into a mode when I think about an impending economic collapse. I think about all the worst case scenarios and play out all kinds of survival/self-sufficiency scenes. Am I speeding up that eventuality with my thoughts or just preparing myself for anything? I mean, look at the situation the U.S. is in now . . . so many of us never thought we'd be here. But here we are. How does karma/reaping and sowing come into play?

I tend to think that no universal law works independently of another. In other words, yes, we make our world from our thoughts but other laws mediate that one. And, it seems, just plain old reality plays a large part too. Genetics. Where you're born and grow up. Your natural talents. Things you can't change by thinking about it.

I also tend to feel that on a collective level, changing the ways in which we think will ultimately change the world. But how do we that? You can't force people to change their thinking? You can appeal to their higher selves but . . . what else can you do?

I don't know . . . maybe I haven't read the philosophical piece that makes it all clear but these are the questions I ask myself.

So, do you make the world with your thoughts?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Do you celebrate Kwanzaa?

"The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa" by soulchristmas
Okay, Kwanzaa has always felt like a made up holiday to me. I mean, it is a made up holiday but it always felt like folks were trying too hard. It felt contrived. Maybe I just don't get it.

Nonetheless, I highly value the message behind Kwanzaa and think that as the boys get older, we may observe Kwanzaa.
NGUZO SABA
(The Seven Principles)

Kwanzaa Symbol - Umoja (unity)
Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kwanzaa symbol- Kujichagulia (self-determination
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Kwanzaa Symbol - Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Kwanzaa symbols - Nia (purpose)
Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kwanzaa symbol - Kuumba (Creativity)
Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Kwanzaa symbol - Imani (faith)
Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

­ Maulana Karenga
From The official Kwanzaa website

There's one Kwanzaa celebration going on at the library next Monday. I'm going to take the Zs. I'm on the lookout for more, though.

What are your thoughts?? Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? How and why?

While I don't celebrate Christmas,

I do enjoy the energy that's in the air around this time. This year, however, the energy was not so, ummm, energetic. I guess it's going to take a while for people to become accustomed to less stuff. I heard the disappointment in my niece's voice about her lack of Christmas gifts this year. I know many are feeling the same way.

Anyway, everyone knows I like to bake and so that's what I decided to do this year. I made banana bread and pumpkin bread. Unfortunately, the banana breads that I made got burnt on the bottoms pretty badly because I had them in the oven on too high a temperature trying to get them to bake all the way through in an hour instead of an hour and 15-20 minutes. The temperature was far too high: 400 when it was supposed to be 350. I think I will try 375 next time and check every five minutes after it has been in there for 40 minutes. Or just bake the darn things at 350 for an hour and 15-20 minutes. (LoL . . . I hate when my impatience gets the best of me.) Luckily, those ones were going to family so I sliced off the burnt bottom of one and packaged it then sliced off the burnt bottom of another one and cut it into slices and served it on a plate. I still want to bake for some other friends but I'm not sure when I will have time to bring it to them or when they'll have time to pick it up. Anyway, here's how I presented the bread:I'm thinking that next year I will start early to advertise doing holiday breads and cookies. This was the first one I did and as I did more, I think they got better. The cellophane wrap and the ribbon all came from the 99c Store. I wrapped the bread in clear plastic wrap first so that the bread wouldn't be directly against the cellophane. I'm thinking I could sell a loaf or a dozen cookies for maybe $15, wrapped and all and I'd make a good profit. We'll see.
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In other news,I went to Super Stop and Shop to pick up a few things the other day. I wanted to buy some more Noxzema. I noticed they had the store brand right next to it for half the price. The great thing, though, was that it was missing many of the questionable ingredients in Noxzema like methyparaben and propylparaben. And it seems to work just as well. I think what I'm going to do is stick with the knock-off Noxzema for daily cleansing and do an oil cleansing once a week. It's a bit of a time consuming process so that's why I think once weekly will have to suffice.

I borrowed Dance of the Inches: Fat Burning Belly Dance from the library and I like it. It's fun to do and Z1 does it too. Z2, on the other hand, seems to feel like he's being ignored and will not stay in his playpen. When I take him out, he tries to climb me. You cannot get your belly dance on with a baby trying to climb you. It makes for good comedic material. Anyway, I found the DVD on ebay for about $5. I also borrowed Wai Lana's beginner's yoga cd. It's due today and I haven't even popped it into the player. Hope I can renew it and get to it.

Well, here's to hoping that the year ends out peacefully.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

True Mothering Revolutionizes the World

"Black Madonna" by Katherine Skaggs

Let There Be Peace on Earth

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gingerbread Cookies, Pancakes and Reusable Bags

No, there's no clever connection between the three but I thought I'd talk about the three of them in one post anyway.

Firstly, gingerbread cookies. It's the holiday season and it's the one and only time I make these. I absolutely hate rolling out cookie dough and using cookie cutters. I think aside from being annoying, it's also wasteful. In any case, last Friday I was going to do a cookie swap. I made about 2 dozen gingerbread cookies only for it to snow. The swap was canceled. We couldn't finish the cookies on our own and by now, they're getting stale. But Z1 had a great time using the cookie cutter. I use Paula Deen's Ginger Cookie Recipe except that I make it vegan by using Earth Balance buttery spread (the EB's shortening or refined coconut oil, i.e. tasteless and odorless coconut oil work well too) and one egg replacer. I also add a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and a touch of vanilla extract too. Not everyone is a fan of gingerbread cookies and while I don't love them the best out of all the cookies I make, I enjoy them. Plus, they're very holiday-ish. :)

Secondly, pancakes. Now, I have had a heck of a time making vegan pancakes over the last couple of years. I have been using a recipe that is just so-so until today. I borrowed You Won't Believe It's Vegan, a cookbook by Lacey Sher and Gail Doherty from the library and tried their recipe. I did have to add some sugar, a little cinnamon and nutmeg, and a touch more liquid than the recipe called for but the texture was absolutely *perfect*. Fluffy and light and cooked all the way through. Delicious. I wish I had made the full recipe (I made half because I wasn't sure how they would turn out.)

And thirdly, I find that in my predominantly Black town (the town is basically split in half by the proverbial tracks--I live on the not-so-great side of the tracks but it's not quite so bad because I'm still relatively close to the tracks . . . I guess), I'm one of the very few folks who use reusable bags. I don't mind because I'm one of the few folks who do a lot of things up in this hood. Despite some of the funky looks cashiers give me when I hand them my bags (because using plastic bags is so methodical and habitual), I really have made using reusable bags a good habit. And I hope more folks start bringing their own bags. Now, I know it's chic to use reusable bags and they're all kinds of designer reusable bags. I'm not a designer girl. I've bought most of my reusable bags at the thrift store for 50 cents to a dollar a piece. Basically I buy nice, strong canvas bags and they work very well. I also have canvas bags that I've collected free from events and stuff. Of course, all my bags are all mismatched but I couldn't care less. They do the job. At one point, I went to www.reusablebags.com and purchased reusable produce bags, basically unbleached cotton bags. Now, the concept behind these are great: no more of those small, clear plastic bags to hold your produce. The only problem is that it makes checking out a royal pain in the behind because the cashier has to look into each bag to figure out what it is you're trying to buy. A minor inconvenience that has pretty much kept me from using them consistently. But they make great tea bags and nut bags (for making almond milk).

And lastly, Just Me over at her blog My Slice of Pie posted Monday's Meal: Buttermilk Biscuits which inspired me for tomorrow's breakfast. I've got some tempeh bacon marinating in the fridge right now and we'll have that with the biscuits. Yum. I can't wait!!!

Four totally unrelated topics, I know, but, it is what it is. :)

12/23/08, 10:49AM ETA:

Breakfast was the bomb today!! Thanks just me for the recipe (which I vegan-ized)!! Simple with fabulous results. Yum!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Earthlight


("Birthday Box" by clevercupcakes on Flickr.com)

Today is the light that I commemorate the day I came Earth-side. In other words, it's my birthday. I'm not giddy with excitement like when I was a child and it seemed to take forever for my birthday to arrive. But I'm profoundly joyful. I'm choked up with gratitude at having another year added to my life. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude because of all the blessings I have today. I'm so grateful that I have finally learned to tap into my inner wisdom and I'm proud to say that I no longer make the same mistakes I used to make. I have grown and changed so much this last year--in some ways that I haven't expected. I'm pleased but I know I have a lot more to work on.

I searched for a birthday affirmation/prayer that I could focus on today and couldn't find one so I'm going to focus today on gratitude and wisdom and what I am.

I am
An Affirmation of Power

I am good!
I am good at all the good things I am doing and dreaming!
I am good at doing good and being good which means I am open to receiving good!!
I am so good that good is looking for me to be good with!
Good is on its way to me, and that is good for me!

I am now openly receiving good things in every aspect of my life!
I am grateful for my good!
I am grateful for good opportunities!
I am grateful for good experiences!
I am good at everything I do!
I am renewed to do more good!
I am invigorated by the good I do!
I am rejuvenated by the good things I do and the good experiences I have!
I am excited about being so good!
I am good at being powerful!
I am good at demonstrating the brilliant power of my goodness!
I am surrounded by good!
I am engulfed by good!
I am completely good!
I am perfectly good!
I am totally good, inside and out!
I am richly rewarded for all the good I a!
I give off good and good returns to me!
Who I am is a good thing to be!

From Until Today by Iyanla Vanzant

------------------------------------

There's lots of snow and ice on the ground where I am. I would like to go to my favorite Ethiopian restaurant today. A break from cooking dinner would be a nice gift. But I am not sure the weather will permit. I'm not sure we should be spending money on eating out because I can think of about 10 other ways that money could be put to better use. In the spirit of learning to be content with what you have, learning to be happy without doing anything but being happy, I'm going to be happy today no matter what I end up doing. So many around me are down and sad because this Christmas is not going to be one filled with a lot of stuff. It's an interesting and difficult time to be alive. Now while I have a difficult time feeling light and airy when I know the gravity of our situation in this country, no, the world, I'm going to have a Happy Birthday!!

(Oh, by the way, if you use images on your blog, how do you correctly reference/give credit? A lot of the time, I just use google images but I don't take the time to find out the origin of the picture or it's just not clear. But I'd like to give credit where credit is due. Does it only matter if you're trying to use the images for profit? How do you handle pictures on your blog? What about recipes and patterns for that matter? I had a video on Youtube and the artist contacted me and asked me to take down her artwork which I did but then I started thinking about this blog and wondering what I should do about the art on here. I'm not very graphically inclined but . . . I guess I wouldn't mind having a more plain page. Anyway, any input is very much appreciated. I found this excellent article so from now on, I'll follow that advice! It's easy enough.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Snowy Day


"Snowy Day" by suntom on Flickr
Today was the first full-fledged snow storm of the season. Z1 went out to the backyard to play in the snow and he had such a fabulous time. His laughter was just so light and his energy so carefree and childlike.

I'm reminded of the book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, one of my favorite books as a child and one that is most definitely a part of the boys' library. I loved how I saw myself reflected in that book as a child. As an adult I'm fascinated by how Keats captured the pure joy, no elation, of child on a snowy day.

Do you remember when snowy days equalled a huge play opportunity and not a huge pain??

There is Enough for Everyone

Today is Friday and so I was thinking of what music I was going to share today. The song I want to share is from an album called Nemozian Rasta by my favorite reggae band Midnite. The title of the song is "Enough for Everyone". I scoured the web trying to find it but I couldn't.

I wanted to share the song because of what I meditated on this morning.

So many of us on this earth have a scarcity mentality. We don't believe that there is enough for everyone. This belief manifests in a number of ways. Some of us hoard things. Some of us are stingy. Some of us are greedy. Some will pillage, rape, kill to make sure that we have. Even that we have over and above what they need. Others of us grow accustomed to going without. To being the victim of someone else's greed. We get used to being the "have nots" and get comfortable accepting a handout, stuff that's free "with strings attached" because deep inside we feel the only way we can have is if someone who has feels compassion for us.

But it's a lie. It is a lie that there are limited resources for an unlimited amount of people. There is enough for everyone. If we would disabuse ourselves of a scarcity mentality we'd open ourselves up to divine inspiration, we'd reconnect to the Source, Jah. In Jah, everything is possible. There is no lack. For me, Jah is manifested in us (if we choose to acknowledge and live up to it) but also, and very importantly, in nature and in the Earth.

When we are trapped in scarcity (or poverty) mentality, our energy is too tied up in making that scarcity/poverty the reality. The Buddha once said, "With our thoughts we make the world." It's not an exaggeration or some philosophical mumbo jumbo. It's true. When our mind is consumed with scarcity, we forget to find our balance, to connect, to get in tune with Jah and therefore the Earth. Getting what we need to survive (even if we are not 100% clear about what we actually need to survive--because you will indeed survive without that new flat-panel HDTV) takes on such an urgency and such a desperation that we can't see clearly. But the Earth will always give us what we need if we would just work in balance with it.

Extracting thousands upon thousands of barrels of oil is not balance. Throwing away tons of garbage that won't bio-degrade is not balance. Sending all manner or pollution and waste into our atmosphere is not balance. Depositing techno junk into outer space is not balance. Forcing the earth to produce food using chemical fertilizers and pesticides is not balance. Pouring raw waste and sewage into our lakes, rivers, oceans is not balance. Hoarding grain and food in barns to manipulate the market price of food while people literally starve to death is not balance. Giving ourselves all kinds of chemical medications and other pharmaceuticals to mask and alleviate the symptoms of our illness is not balance. Spending trillions of dollars on warmongering while babies die of diseases whose cure is simple, basic, cheap water purification is not balance.

We, the race of humans, are in serious trouble. We are out of balance.

But not to worry. Everything seeks equilibrium. Pendulums swing back. And then forth. Balance will be restored. The Earth will heal herself.

We decide now whether we want to be a part of that healing (after all, we have done the damage) or if in the Earth's process of healing, we will be the illness that is purged.

Right now, it seems like there is not enough for everyone. People are losing their jobs and can't feed their families. All indicators say we are in another depression. Some say that our way of life is going to change so drastically that we will not even be able to believe that we used to live the way we did. I don't know. But what I do know is that everything seeks equilibrium. And we have a choice to make.

There is a chant that I&I often chant at Nyabinghi Ises
Two roads before you
Make your choice
Two roads before you
Make your choice
Two roads before you
Make your choice
For there is hell and there is zion
Make your choice

Both hell and zion (heaven) can be found here on Earth. This place can be either hell or zion!! I do believe with all my heart that there is enough for everyone. But we have to make a choice. Right now.

Changing one's way of thinking is not an easy task. But once we achieve it, everything else comes easily.

Let us remake our world while we still have some say in the matter.

Last Saturday, December 13, 2008

One family was able to boast of having a doctor amongst them.

That family was the family of my sistren Nya.

Nya is now a Doctor of Chiropractic.

I just wanted to shout you out on my blog. Sometimes it's surprising and uncanny how "on the same wavelength" we are. It seems that despite space and time and all, we stay connected somehow. Girl, I am so proud of you and I know that this is just the first step to many, many wonderful things.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Up at Five

So as usual, I woke up at 5. When I woke up, my head felt funny. You know, like I needed to go back to sleep. But today is Thursday. The boys have a program to go to and they have to be there by 10. It's about a twenty minute drive too so in order to get them in the car, there, out the car and into the building on time, I have to leave at about 9:15. Which means that I have to shower before they wake up.

They generally wake up at 7. So in these two hours I would like to:
1. journal and meditate and chant
2. blog and read blogs
3. check my e-mail/respond to e-mail
4. stretch and exercise
5. knit or crochet something
6. finish my book

Now, really, I could spend two on any one of these activities if I really wanted to. But instead I'm trying to make these 2 hours magically accommodate all of that. And yo, it is stressing me out. And that's stupid as all get out. No matter what, something has to give.

And yesterday, Z2 woke up at 6:30.

I keep saying to myself, "Chi-Chi, you don't want to lie to yourself by saying you're going to work out" and willing Blogger to hurry the hell up. But I have not been honest with myself. Look, I have 6 things on the damn list to do, all important to me. How do I choose what?

Anyway, I finished knitting a hat yesterday. The yarn is fabulous. Rowan Cocoon, a merino wool and kid mohair blend. Supposed to look like this. The hat looks absolutely ridiculous on my head. Instead of feeling just a bit disappointed, I'm actually angry that I wasted practically my whole 1 1/2 hours yesterday plugging away at it trying to finish it. Anyway, here it is. I ran out of the tan yarn and used a creme one that I had in my stash to complete the top. It actually didn't look so bad on my niece and it's very, very warm. Sorry for the crap pictures.




It's just not healthy. Maybe I should have just stayed in bed.

Oh, and then to top it all off, on the computer screen, the hubby tapes a note: "Hey Chi-Chi, I need some food to bring to the office party today."

No words.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What Can You Do About Your Genes?

It's not a secret. Even though I am well past adolescence, I still struggle with acne. Thankfully, though, as I get older the acne is much milder and breakouts are becoming rarer. But, like other acne sufferers, I've tried it all, of course. Everything and anything. Except that I draw the line a putting my morning urine on my face. But other than that, you name it, I've tried it. Natural (honey, apple cider vinegar, drinking gallons of water, fasting, enemas) and not-so-natural (Oxy 10, Clearasil, and prescription stuff). One of the best things about being pregnant was that for 10 months I had not one blessed pimple. My skin actually glowed.

But I've learned to live with acne and I just accept it as something that I'll just have to put up with. It's genetic. My mom, in her mid 50s, still has acne. I also consider myself lucky that the hubby has acne issues too and so he empathizes with what I go through completely. And where did he get it from? Yup. His mom who, in her mid 60s, still suffers. So, I'm not into trying anything else to keep the acne from coming. All I am into these days is how to keep it mild and how to make sure that the remnants of it are minimum.

But what I really worry about is my children. Both their parents carry the genes for acne. It's feasible that both of them could possibly struggle with acne in the future. And that worries me. I mean, acne kind of pretty much ran my life as a teen. It embarrassed me to no end and some days, I didn't want to go out. I would never, ever leave my house without foundation on my face. Not even to the corner store.

Sometimes when I am watching my beautiful children sleeping with their flawless skin, I wonder what the teenage years will bring for them? I would give a lot to make sure they didn't have to go through what I went through. My hope is that somehow, the genes skipped a generation or maybe that since both the hubby and I deal with it, that somehow they canceled out.

But really, what can you do about your genes?

I used to think that prayer could turn things around. I'd go to sleep and full of faith believing I'd wake up and be able to see. Without my glasses. Hasn't happened. I recently thought that maybe applying The Secret could reverse my chronic allergies. Hasn't happened. I just feel there are certain things in this lifetime you just have to learn how to deal with. Nothing is going to change it. Dyslexia. Shortness. Any physical disability. And you may pass these on to your kids. What you should be working on more than anything is getting real good with you so that when your children look at you, they know how to approach [insert whatever challenge here] if that ends up being their lot in life.

I know for myself that if my children do end up with acne that I have a whole lot of lessons that I have learned the hard way.
  1. Gentle gentle gentle. Don't overscrub. Find something that works, doesn't over-dry and stick with it. Don't pick. Don't touch. Gentle.

  2. Don't be shy about giving folks the finger when they ask why you don't wash your face or drink any water or make stupid suggestions like drinking your cat's urine mixed with tomato juice while standing on your tiptoes with a mask of egg yolks and bird droppings slathered all over your face or just generally give unsolicited advice about your face.

  3. You are always loved and always beautiful no matter what. Someone in this world (besides your mama, of course) looks at you and thinks you are gorgeous. That someone should be you, first and foremost. If you are convincing, the world will be convinced.

I really hope acne is not in the cards for them (or that feeding them consciously keeps it at bay). But if it is, they have a mama (and papa) who will help them get through it as she has gotten through it too. Smashingly, at that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I don't participate in the "mommy wars"

Up until a couple of months ago, I did not know any committed stay-at-home moms who are also women of color. When I say committed, I mean women who have decided to stay home with their children , providing 95-100% of childcare for an extended amount of time.

Just a heads up: I don't participate in the "mommy wars". I've been on both sides of the fence and both scenarios present challenges and problems. At the end of the day, in my mind, it seems that most women have to decide which challenges and problems they are more willing or capable of dealing with.

Anyway, in my personal experience I have met mamas who stayed home for more than the usual 6 weeks. Mostly they planned their pregnancies to coincide with when they would be off for summer vacation or they decided to stay home for the first year of the baby's life and then return to the work force. The latter was my plan initially. Actually, when Z1 was born, I really did want to be a stay-at-home mother but the hubby rightfully pointed out that we needed my income to move the house repairs along and basically just to gain ground financially, i.e. not stagnate. The compromise was that I would stay home for one year and then I would start working full-time. I was comfortable with that plan because the hubby worked a shift that was opposite to the time I worked so he would be providing childcare during the day. The biggest reason why I am a SAHM right now is the childcare issue. Anyway, a few months before Z1 turned one, I dutifully started looking for a job. I was fresh out of graduate school and green as a meadow. I must have sent out 30-40 resumes and, I kid you not, even with a master's degree, I got about 3 interviews and 2 job offers, neither or which was ideal.

Let's just say that the job I chose was pure hell. Generally I'd come home in tears, frazzled and stressed and then I developed a serious case of hives. But your girl is tenacious and I would have at least finished out the year had it not been for the hubby saying that the price the family was paying was too high--and it was. I didn't anticipate how much work I'd have to bring home, that my entire weekend would be devoted to lesson planning. With the hubby working weekends and basically leaving for work as soon as I got home I was often at home with the baby by myself. And I was one mean mother. Snapping and annoyed most of the time. The principal at the school suggested I get a babysitter to watch him while I did work away from work (work that I was not being paid for--go figure). Anyway, I did look for other employment only to find out that once you've made a commitment to a school, you cannot be released from it unless the principal allows you to and the principal at this school was not about to do such a thing. Nobody wanted my position and she knew it. She basically lied to me to get me to accept it. Anyway, I resigned instead of taking a leave-of-absence, which I perhaps should not have done, but I was ready to be done with the job. I started substitute teaching in my town soon after and that was another special kind of hell. One day in March as the students I was babysitting substituting for were jumping from desk to desk and flicking the lights on and off and throwing pencils across the room, I decided that if I had to deal with that foolishness, at least as a full-time teacher I had a good salary and benefits. I purposed to look for full-time employment for that coming September.

And then I found out I was pregnant and due in December.

Now that summer I had the chance to do the SAHM thing again hard-core and what I realized was that I really enjoyed it and wouldn't mind doing it long term. So the hubby and I had that talk and we both came to the conclusion that as long as it was possible, me being a SAHM was good for the family. It certainly was good for me because I really needed to think about whether teaching was actually the profession I wanted to be in.

This is getting long. Sometimes I think I write more for me than for anyone else because had this been someone else's blog, I may have stopped reading by now.

Anyway, it seems folks always question the legitimacy of being a SAHM. Now, I know that often the issues of class and race are intertwined but as I said until recently, I didn't know any Black SAHMs. Every Black mother I know, including my own, works. Maybe it's because every Black mother I know is essentially in the same class as me, i.e. middle class--no nanny or housekeeper, no yearly Caribbean vacation, no personal chef or stylist. Basically, we all have to work to eat and we're grateful there's a very little left over to spend on things we want. Or maybe it's cultural. Maybe Black women are socialized to work outside of the house. We've always been expected to and, in my experience, it is much more respected to do some kind of outside work even if it's part time. Generally, it's just not cool to depend on a guy for your paper. As such, being a full-time SAHM, to me, is not honored or respected. I even hear SAHMs making disclaimers like, "Oh, I do a little on the side" because it is just not cool to be just a SAHM.

"So what do you do?
"I'm a SAHM."
"Oh, I could never depend on a man to take care of me." Because my man doesn't depend on me to take care of him? It's a relationship based in reciprocity. And at the end of the day, someone has to take care of the kids. It might as well be me.
or
"Oh, I would never let a man give me money because then he thinks he controls you." Because I'm so weak and easily-manipulated that I would sit around letting him run me for the "opportunity" to SAH.
or
"Oh, I'm far too ambitious to stay at home" Because, of course, I don't have any ambition. How do you know that my SAHM is not conscious and well-thought out?
or
"Oh, it must be nice to be able to afford to stay home" Because I'm rolling in a shit-load of dough. Did you just pull in up in an Acura 4X4 to come out of your face and say that to me, the one who walked here to save gas money? Look, I know some people really do struggle on the two incomes but *most* Americans live far, far above their means and if you really focused on it, and really wanted to, you could probably make a good go of being a SAHM. But the fact is, you like the extras. It is important to you to be able to purchase that Coach wristlet just because you want to.
or
"Oh, I wish I didn't have to work . . . it would be so nice to stay at home all day." Because I don't do shit all day but sit around watching t.v., checking e-mail and eating bon-bons. Maybe that's what you would do but I take my JOB seriously.
or
"Don't you think you're wasting your degree?" which is related to "When are you going back?" which is basically saying that I'm lazy. If I thought I was wasting my degrees, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I'd be using them. Don't you think I have weighed the costs? Do you take me for a complete idiot? I'll go back to work when it's time to go back to work. But right now I am working. Hard. Albeit not in my field. I'm trying to achieve something here.

So I often find it fascinating. If I were to say, "Oh, I work in childcare" and I leave my two babies with someone else so I can go do my job, I would be commended as "pulling my weight" and being a valuable part of society and hardworking. But if I say, "Oh, I work in childcare" but that childcare is the childcare of my own two babies, then it's open season to say all kinds of nonsense, belittling what I do. I mean, seriously, whenever I go to the playground, I often see Black (I mean Black in the broadest sense, i.e. all women of color) as nannies to White children. If you are a nanny, you get paid so now it's a worthwhile job. Or is it something more insidious? It is that those White babies are worth more to you (maybe because they represent a paycheck or maybe for other reasons) than your own children? Is that unfair and mean of me? Well, if we want to get all historical about it . . .

I know, I know, making money is a necessity and it is a serious blessing (I won't say luxury) to be able to stay home even if it requires as much frugality and cost-cutting as humanly possible. If the hubby couldn't do as much overtime as he does, my behind would be looking for employment if not already working. Probably at a job I'd hate because any teaching position to be had in the middle of the semester will suck as much as (if not more than) substitute teaching.

There are many issues that being a SAHM brings up for me. They are valid issues. The hubby is the breadwinner and does an excellent job, no doubt. It has taken a long time for me to be comfortable and really believe that "his money is my money". I still don't all the way believe it and while I do have my savings, there's that nagging concern, small it is, but still there. One of my favorite bloggers, BlackGirlinMaine, asked just the other day "Can You Take Care of Yourself?" and while I think I can, it's really makes me nervous. Oh, I know I have what it takes to survive. I know I would survive if anything happened to the hubby but how hard would it be? How much would I and my children have to go through while I got on my own two feet? Furthermore and in any case, I know my children won't be small forever so they won't need me like they do no forever. Will I be able to get my foot back in the door when I'm ready? Will I be able to gain ground or have I permanently set myself back by not being in the work force? I saw how hard it was to get a job when I was fresh out of grad school. Who will hire me now that the economy is in the toilet and my resume has huge gaps in it? I didn't fully anticipate what an all-consuming job being a SAHM is. I have to rise at the crack of dawn, literally, to squeeze out a moment that is all to myself. Seriously, that is the only time I can use the bathroom in peace and quiet. I wish for more adult conversation and contact--it gets lonely at times since most of my friends work or are in school. I still struggle with the feeling that unpaid work is not as valuable as paid work. In other words, am I valuable since I'm not paid for what I do?

Really, I should be. I found out through my friend that the state subsidizes child care for low-income mothers. These low-income mothers, it seems, don't go to work. My friend, who daily battles traffic and races like a bat out of hell to pick up her son by 5 o'clock doesn't see the same frenzy on the faces of the other mothers who stroll in leisurely to pick up their kids dressed in whatever house shoes and clothes they seem to have rolled up out of bed in. So the state will subsidize someone else taking care of my kids but won't subsidize me taking care of my own. . . interesting.

Honestly and truly, if it comes down to it, I don't think women should be SAHMs. Look, my Igbo ancestors carried their babies on their backs while they worked tending to their land or buying and selling at market. There was a whole community supporting their motherhood. No mother was ever isolated at home solely responsible for her children. There was a network. But the way our society is set up means that often, being a SAHM or a WOHM are the only choices, and are at extreme opposites on the spectrum. No mother makes the decision lightly. There are few opportunities to bring your children with you to work. Even in a female-dominated industry like elementary education, there is little in the way of on-site child care. There are few opportunities to work part-time doing something that actually makes it worth your while to work. Most times, it seems, it is all or nothing.

As I said, being a SAHM boils down to providing the best childcare for my children. I believe I am the best childcare for them. Being a SAHM allows me to do other things in my household that enhance my family's well-being and experience as I've said before but really, it's about the childcare. But, truth be told, if I could find flexible part-time employment that I enjoyed, that didn't take too much out of me AND an ideal childcare situation, I probably would be working somehow. I am seriously considering going back to school to see if I could make that theoretical situation a real one. It wouldn't be until the boys are school age (that would mean no homeschooling), however. I still want to be a major part of my children's lives, always available physically and mentally.

I don't know that I had any specific point to this post. Everything I've said has been said before I'm sure. One thing I do know is that for me, to be a SAHM requires confidence and sometimes defensiveness. And I guess it is the defensiveness that is coming out in this post. But it's my position and if there's one thing I always try to do is to have a well-thought out reason for my position.

There it is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I got through it!

I did it.

I got through Denise Austin's Blast Away 10 lbs.!!

I bought this tape when I was in college to supplement going to my school's gym. I remember thinking that it had gotten too easy and that I would need to find a more challenging video. Fast forward to today and it is a challenge not to stop in the middle, wheezing.

But I did it today. I got through it and I'm so happy.

I purchased my Enell bra on Saturday and it is a wonderful, wonderful bra. I did jumping jacks with no pain at all. Everything stayed in place and the whole workout experience was so positive.

I recommend this tape to anyone who's just starting or trying to get back into shape. It's very good for beginner's. Ms. Austin can be a bit annoying though (perky and patronizing) so I follow the tape with the volume all the way down. Anyway, I can't wait to be back at the point where I'm searching for more advanced stuff. I also put some videos on hold at the library. One by Tamilee Webb and two others by Wai Lana (beginning yoga workout for me and one for Z1).

So here's my plan to start. Aerobics four times a week: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Yoga/Pilates (I'm not sure which one--I have two different DVDs) on Tuesday and Sunday. I don't turn on the television or the computer on Saturdays (Sabbath). I think as Z2 gets more independent, though, I might see about joining a low cost gym to have access to a treadmill or just jogging in the neighborhood. I have never been able to run. DeStouet, if you're reading, it's you that inspired me to reach this goal.

I'm sweaty and tired. I know I'm going to feel this later on today. But that was good. I feel good. Woohoo.

Why are Rice and Beans considered "depression food"?

We eat it (and love it) all the time--not just during hard times.

Well, we eat beans a lot. I serve beans with a variety of grains like couscous, quinoa, cornbread/corn torillas or just whole wheat bread or buns. And we eat practically every bean variety (except I have not found a love for fava or lima beans).

One of my absolute favorite bean dishes is Lentil Dahl. I found the recipe initially in Cathe Olson's book called The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook: Whole Foods to Nourish Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women-and Their Families. It is an excellent cookbook, by the way, and the very one which introduced me to millet as a breakfast porridge, applesauce cake, and yogurt-making. Anyway, Lentil Dahl is a very simple dish that everyone in my family (including Z2) can't get enough of. So I'm sharing it with you today with a few simple variations (if you'd like to see the original recipe, buy or borrow the book or go here). I always use olive oil and I upthe spices and add a good amount of red pepper flakes to it. Unless tomatoes are in season, I use canned tomatoes and for a very special twist on the flavor, I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes.

Lentil Dahl

2 cup lentils (I use brown lentils)
1 strip kombu (optional--adds essential nutrients and reduces cooking time)
6 cups water
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
frozen green peas
frozen corn

Prepare the lentils
In a stock pot, place lentils and kombu, add water and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer about 45 minutes until lentils are soft. (I sometimes cook lots of lentils ahead of time and freeze them. I defrost them and they're ready to use in the recipe.)
Make the dahl
In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and saute just till they start to soften. Add the spices and cook until they are fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, juice and all and cook until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Add the frozen green peas and frozen corn and cook until they are warmed through/defrosted. Then add the lentils. Stir everything to incorporate.

Take half of this mixture and pulse in the food processor leaving some texture (i.e. don't completely puree it). Add that half back to the portion that was left in the pan and stir well. Add salt if necessary.

Serve with millet, quinoa, brown rice, couscous or flatbread. Yum!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crazy and Insane

I don't know.

Sometimes I think it's not natural to be a stay-at-home mom, cut off, for the most part, from a large variety and array of adults. Personally, I tend to make up for that by talking to the hubby about conversations he had with his co-workers at work and, most significantly, by reading blogs and message boards. I wonder at times if by doing this, I've created for myself an alternate reality, a little bubble that's not quite in touch with what's really going on in the world.

I mean, I really feel like we're in another great depression, larger in magnitude than the first and with more far-reaching consequence. I really feel like when the depression is "over," life as we know it will be completely and utterly different. Unrecognizable.

Maybe if I spoke to more people in real life, I wouldn't feel like I could very well be a nutcase because I'd come to realize that they feel that way too. That it's not just bloggers who are sounding the warning alarm and preparing themselves for the worst. That real-life people are really conscious of what's going on.

Or is it that the world at large and the few people I speak to are really blissfully unaware? They really don't know. Do they really think these are just "tough economic times?"

Is it insanity not to notice the signs?

Even astrology confirms that the time we are in is going to be a seriously difficult time. Is it silly to look to astrology for confirmation?

I might be crazy. I might be insane. But I am preparing myself spiritually and mentally for whatever may come. Good. Bad. Or ugly.

I meditate and affirm every morning. My spirit has to be in the right place to deal with a crisis. I work my mind every day. I have to be mentally fit to fix things and overcome challenges--even stuff I never thought I'd have to do. Like learn how to use a firearm.

The age of driving everywhere is coming to a close. I really believe that. So yes, I want to get in shape so I can fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes but I also want to be in shape because that gives me a better chance of survival. If I can run a mile, walk even more miles especially with a baby on my back, that gives me an advantage. I leave the double stroller at home more often now so that Z1 gets accustomed to walking. Long distances. Whenever I drive 20 or 30 minutes someplace, I think to myself that once the days of motoring are over, these kinds of trips are over. It would literally take me days to make a trip that would take 30 minutes driving. I wonder when fuel is no more, will I ever get to see my people back in Naija? Will I be stuck here in the U.S. . . . should I be making plans to move now while there's still some oil left?

Am I excited over lowered gas prices? Yes. It allows me to use the savings to stock up my pantry, buy books on gardening and other supplies that we may need. I know these low gas prices are a fake-out. I don't have any complicated studies to back up my feeling. I just know it. I don't drive unless I have to. It annoys me that where we live is so cold right now that unless we stay home, driving is often justified. As soon as Z2 walks well though, we will drive a whole lot less. I'm keeping it in focus. Driving is and always has been a luxury.

When I use water in my home I practice conservation not because I'm trying to be "green" but because there may be a day when conservation is *not* a choice, when water is rationed and scarce. Cloth diapering is great but it may one day be impractical. So I learn about elimination communication (natural infant hygiene) now. I hope to have Z2 out of diapers come late spring/early summer. I hope to know enough about it to show others around me who may need to learn. Having clean, running water is a luxury, unfortunately. Not a right.

I speak to my children about being resourceful and not wasting things because they can. Z1 in a store will ask for up to 25 things. I will counter each request with, "We don't need that."

Remember when I scored that cast-iron pot at the thrift store. I was so happy not just because I love the way food cooks in cast-iron but because . . . you can cook over an open flame with cast-iron. I have seriously thought about what kind of rig-up we could rig-up so I could cook in the fireplace.

Look, there are things I want like a new set of knitting needles. One part of me says "Save everything you can" while another part says "You might never have the opportunity to buy this stuff again with inflation." Are these the thoughts of a crazy person or a person who really knows what the hell is going on?

Have I jumped too enthusiastically on the conspiracy theory wagon? Again? Maybe.

Whatever, man. I'd rather err on the side of caution with this one. I'm focusing on emergency preparedness. Short term and long term.

The garden is in full swing this spring.

Small Confession

I love that new Akon song "So Paid".

I know. Akon? Really?

But it's so catchy. And he even harmonizes. LoL.

Eh, the hubby says keeping up with current music allows you to keep up and not get out of touch with the younger generation. I guess the fact that I actually (can you believe it?) like some of the music that my 17 year old niece listens to is a good thing.

I won't go as far as to embed the video. :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

For the Love of Music--Onyeka Onwenu and King Sunny Ade

These two phenomenal Nigerian artists did this song together to promote family planning/discourage premarital sex . . . "If you love life, you go plan am well." They sing in pidgin English which is a form of English similar to patois or African-American vernacular English in structure that is used in Nigeria to bridge the language divide of over 400 different language spoken.

Ms. Onwenu's voice is simply gorgeous and King Sunny Ade was a musical master. I love the song. It's got a decidedly 80s sound, starts off a little corny, but still manages to be distinctly Nigerian. Enjoy.

Tweaking the Beauty Regimen

For me, simple is best. I know the best beauty regimen is eating well, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep. I try to do these things as best I can but, of course, there is always room for improvement.

Anyway . . . I decided a few weeks ago that the facial care routine I'd been using before having kids (and that was working well) just was not cutting it anymore. So I tried honey as a cleanser and that seemed to not work well enough to cleanse my skin, i.e. breakout central. Now I'm trying Noxzema--the old school white stuff. Far from natural, I know but it seems to be doing the trick. I wash with the Noxzema morning and night, tone with diluted apple cider vinegar, wet my hands a little and mix in about 4 drops of jojoba oil for a moisturizer. I wake up with glowing skin. Most of the time blemish free. I'm going to keep it up for a few more weeks to see how it goes. The next thing to try is cleansing with oil. I'm a little nervous to try anything else since what I'm doing now seems to work but I will try it after the jar of Noxzema is done. If it works equally as well, I'll stick with it. I really prefer the natural stuff.

I'm employing another far-from-natural product on my hair: Murray's Pomade. Since my hair is quite short right now there's not that many styling options. So what I've been doing is to wash my hair twice a week and apply Murray's Pomade daily. The stuff is t.h.i.c.k. and it generates serious heat in your hands while you rub them together to make it soft enough to put on your hair. I then brush with a boar bristle brush and put on a silk scarf. This gives my hair a sheen and a soft wave without it being oily and gunky (like with gel). It looks polished and refined, I think. Cute. If I could find a way to achieve the look naturally, that would be fabulous but most folks I know agree that Murray's Pomade is the way to go.

As for my dry winter skin, I have found that Eucerin does not do a darn thing. It kind of just rests on the skin and then gets rubbed off by my clothes. What has been working is mixing body butter (I just mix pure shea butter with a little olive oil to soften it) and Trader Joe's Moisturizing Cream. TJ's stuff is not tested on animals and contains no mineral oil although it does boast a long list of ingredients some of which I don't recognize. What I need to look for now is a really good hand salve because since I use my hands so much and wash them so often, they are cracking and peeling like nobody's business. I think Burt's Bees makes one.

Anyway, as you get to be a grown woman you find that your body (mind and soul, for that matter) need different things. Every part. It's not always fun trying to figure out what it needs but it's very nice and very satisfying once you do.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Setting Up an Altar

I've never really been motivated to set up an altar until now. Every time I meditate or chant recently, it just keeps popping up in my mind, "You need an altar, you need an altar."

So I need an altar. A sacred, consecrated space in my home.

Initially, I was hoping to set up an altar whose focal point was a gohonzon. But I have been trying to get in contact with my local Soka-Gakkai International and it has not been successful. I'm taking this as a sign. Honestly, I don't think I ever want to join any other organizations so even though it would be nice to have the gohonzon, it might be better if I just focus on building the altar with other elements.

I remember in Sacred Woman by Queen Afua there were some suggestions about how to set up the altar. I gave the book to my sister in law but hopefully if she's not using it, she can send it back to me.

I'm learning about the chakras, the color and stones associated with them. I definitely want to have the chakras represented on the altar. Maybe a cloth with all the colors? Maybe purchase a few stones that would sit in a bowl. I'd like to write out the affirmations for each chakra on one side of an index card and the function/qualities of each chakra on the other side, put them in a box of some sort, and have that on the altar.

The altar should definitely have something that represents life. A plant and water. Queen Afua suggests a feather to represent air. Candles, of course. Incense/sage/other herbs for burning, of course. Pictures of ancestors.

I'd like to have books that are important to me and have been influential in my spiritual growth and maturation.

My vision boards (which I have not even started yet) would be somewhere around the altar.

I also want to make a shawl that I would wear while meditating. The pattern I think I'll go with is the Serafina Shawl. I want to use a natural fiber such as wool or cotton. Maybe organic. Beautiful to look at and touch.

The challenge now is finding time to complete this project--getting the stuff, a little table, etc. The second challenge is finding a good place for the altar. I generally meditate and chant in the office but the office is small and I'm not sure what I could move around to accommodate the altar. Our master bedroom is not quite set up yet (and is actually being used as a storage space) and since the hubby sleeps later than I do, I don't want it in there because it may bother him. So I have to think.

In the meanwhile, I'm looking on the net, reading stuff. I've already found some great suggestions. I don't expect to find many pictures as I personally wouldn't feel all that comfortable photographing my own altar. But maybe I'll find some.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Home is where the Heart Is

Just the other day, I was reading on Holistic Parenting from an Afrikan Perspective a blog entitled "Changing the environment in your home can change your child's attitude and temperament". Of course, I wholeheartedly agree.

I think one of the most significant benefits being a stay-at-home mother affords me is that I can create a home for my children that is inviting, warm and filled with love. It makes me happy to note that for my family, it is not a special event when the house is filled with the scent of freshly baked bread or muffins.

But aside from that, I realized a while ago that a neat, tidy, uncluttered house is actually a house where the house's youngest residents spirits and minds are generally neat, tidy and uncluttered. You see, children are very receptive. In fact, I think they have one foot in the concrete world that adults inhabit and one foot in the spirit world. They are open to everything and this is why it so important to guard their senses. [ Before I had children, I was staunchly anti-tv for kids and had it been up to me alone, I still would be. But for DH, t.v. was a cherished part of his childhood and so the compromise has been DVDs (i.e. no live t.v.). Even so, it's interesting at times to note how quickly kids pick things up. Z1 got a Diego DVD from the library and has been talking about humpback whales, jaguars and macaws and saying things in Spanish. All in all, I guess this is not a bad thing.] In Meditations to Heal Your Life, Louise Hay says that children's negative behavior is often in mimicry of adults' own negative beliefs--so we to have to extremely scrupulous about what we let in to our heavens. I avoid listening to or watching the news. I go to BBC.com to read about world events once a day and that is it. Read negative stories? Through reading blogs I get exposed to stories that make me sad. I immediately offer up a chant and prayer for those suffering. I really make an effort to avoid stories that offer no hope or redemption (although I slipped up with one of my recent Octavia Butler reads). Gossip? I try hard to keep my speaking honorable, differentiating when it is talking about someone to bring them down and when it is talking about someone only as it relates to me. Harbor negative thoughts? Well, it is a daily work. Stabilizing and organizing my own life and mind as a parent stabilizes and organizes my children's lives and minds.

My house is a simple and humble house. It is a work in slow progress. But I try very hard to keep it uncluttered and neat. I posted my housekeeping schedule a while back. I keep that schedule because, yes, it's nice to have a clean house but I just notice how much more relaxed and orderly everything and everyone feels when the house is put together. Even teaching Z1 goes more smoothly if he's put his puzzles back on the shelf and returned all toys to the toy bin. I encourage him to pick up his clothes and put them in the hamper. To put his winter clothes in the bins and on the hooks where they belong. Everything has a place and so I just really try to keep everything in it's place.

I notice how airing the house out and lighting incense and candles changes the atmosphere. How smudging the house with sage really does purify. How making the beds every morning and making sure to never leave a room without putting something in order just leads to an overall positive and warm energy. I chuckle because every time my sister visits, she immediately feels comfortable enough to fall asleep. I enjoy making my house a home.

I grew up in a house that was very cluttered and not the cleanest. My mother, a clean and meticulous person by nature, just couldn't keep up with the house, a job and her severe asthma. My father, messy and organized only in his own mind by nature, usually had papers strewn around everywhere in the house, stacks of books everywhere. To use the dining room table involved almost an hour of moving stuff from the table and stacking them on the floor. I can attest to how crazy living in the house made me feel. I definitely made up my mind that my household would be the opposite.

So there are things here in my house that I'm working on getting in order and every time I accomplish something, I feel the energy of the house lift. It is encouraging, yes, but also drives me to want to make the house better and better.

Because, after all it really is true, Home is Where the Heart Is. Doesn't the Heart deserve to be housed well?

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

I am having a heck of a time enjoying or even getting into this book. It sounds like it's written by someone who deeply regrets everything he's ever done in his life. It sounds contrived, basically like he's making stuff up as he goes along. It reads like a fictional spy novel instead of the truth. And honestly, for me, it doesn't present any information that I didn't already know either by reading or just by observing.

He is also trying to say the common American citizen is basically responsible for this country's greed and avarice. Uh, no sir. That is the lie that most folks in foreign countries think as well. The common American citizen is as much at the mercy of the "corporatocracy" and the government as third world countries are. This country, however, is "wealthy" and so everyone who is here benefits. Poverty here in the U.S. looks very different than poverty in Nigeria. But in this economic crisis, we are coming to see that the wealth of the common man and woman was never real in the first place. Furthermore, what would be the first step that the average citizen would take to dismantle the corporatocracy? Maybe as I get to the end of the book he'll have some suggestions.

But maybe I'm jumping the gun with my assessment. I just read the part about a "beautiful [Indonesian] English major" who predicted to the author that the next object of U.S. conquest would be the Muslim world. Oooo-kay.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do you care what others think?

Not only do I love and adore my husband completely, I also admire him tremendously. I'm not going to wax poetic about all his wonderful attributes but something he did impacted me in a way that I can't altogether describe.

Yesterday to go to work, the hubby put on a wool sweater (that we had purchased at the thrift store where we purchase most of our clothes) over a button-up dress shirt. The only problem was that he had cut off the sleeves of the sweater! It was felted so it didn't unravel. Here's how the dialog went.

Me: Why are you wearing a sweater with cut off sleeves?
Him: Because the sleeves were chewed up so I took them off.
Me: Don't you think it's time to get rid of the sweater then?
Him: No, I like the sweater.
Me: Well, it looks bummy.
Him: To who?
Me: Well, to whoever is looking at a sweater with cut off sleeves!
Him: Do you still love me? Are you still proud of me and happy to be with me?
Me: Yes.
Him: Well, then I'm wearing my sweater. You already know I don't care what people think.
I was dressed pretty wack myself so I asked him
Me: You don't mind what I have on right now?
Him: No.
Me: It doesn't embarrass you?
Him: (Throws his arm around my shoulder) Should it?


I have never met anyone so true to himself. He does things and *never* gives a single thought to what others aside from those closest to him (me and the children) think. He specifically chose a job where he could wear his locks past waist length (and a crown to cover them), grow his beard out, wear jeans and occasionally rock a sweater with cut off sleeves. In every aspect of his life, he is all about doing things in a manner that sits correctly in his mind and in his spirit. He does his job well not because of his supervisor but because he believes in excellence. Whenever he crochets or sews something, he *knows* it's the bomb and doesn't give one iota of thought to what someone has to say about his creation.

This is seriously admirable to me. I grew up with parents who compared me to everyone and wanted me, in all my doings, to make sure I knew that I was being watched and represented the family. To a certain extent, it is cultural, I know but I always wanted to measure up, to be seen a certain way by folks--even if it meant repressing myself or changing myself. I see my mother still operating under this yoke of trying to be what others want her to be. And I know I don't want that to be me.

Right now is a tough time in my life. I mean, I have lots of blessings and I'm generally living a comfortable life in terms of having food, clothes and shelter and even luxuries like high speed internet and a stand mixer. We are working hard though with DH pulling lots of overtime so we can stay ahead of the game. The reality is that my clothes are not really what I'd like to see myself in but I don't have the extra money floating around to purchase what I want. Aside from that, I don't have the time right now with such young children to spend a day shopping for the perfect outfit or perfect accessory like I used to pre-kids. Shopping with them is a special kind of hell reserved for the worst of sinners. And now I have a different body so it certainly would take time to find what works for me. I have weight to lose. As an adult, I still struggle with acne and the dark marks that are their remnant. Add to that the fact that I try to do things naturally and well, doing things naturally takes time and effort that right now, and well, I can't seem to find it. (I look forward to when Z2 can sleep through the night and I can get a full night's sleep . . . at that point I know that I'll be able to do a whole lot more!) Interestingly enough, though, at this particular time in my life is when I am becoming more and more comfortable and pleased with who I am. Nothing to hide behind. Not even hair.

In this marriage, I have learned a lot about myself but I think the most important lesson I've learned is to first and foremost be happy with myself. Having flyy outfits and perfectly arched eyebrows is nice but when it comes down to the knitty-gritty, it is more important to be okay with being blessed with clothes and having eyebrows. Not everyone has eyebrows. The hubby is not concerned about what others outside of this marriage think about me. He says to me, "if we had more money, we'd have more." So we stay humble. Happy in our love and with our family.

But even though I know this is the reality, I still find myself worrying from time to time about what people will think when they see me.
Why is her skin so jacked up? What happened to her hair? Why is she so fat? What the hell is up with that "outfit"? What assumptions will they make? It actually makes me nervous to go see my mother because she is my toughest critic. I'm not always thrilled to see folks I grew up with and went to school with.

I've never been too interested in putting on but I have spent way too much time in this life thinking about what others think about me--even when I was actively "rebelling" against society. I've needed folks to have a high opinion of me, to accept me, validate me. But I'm working hard on really (I mean to my core) not caring what others think. [People will always make assumptions about me whether I'm dressed to the nines or rocking my chullo hat and one of my two jean skirts (the fact is I love my chullo).] This is important to me on many levels especially as it relates to the kind of example I want to set for my kids. In my study and meditation on the root chakra, this point has been driven home and I am finally ready to accept the challenge of liberating myself. I needed to write this blog to hold myself accountable. Now this is not to say that you stop having integrity, stop being a person of character because you don't care what others think. But you do these things because of what you think and the acceptance, honor and appreciation is sure to come but not just from anyone. No, it comes from those who truly matter.

Do you care what others think? I do. But I'm working diligently on not giving one good damn. :) I want to reach a place where, like my husband, what matters most to me is what I think about me. Period.

Off to go play Cleva again. ;)
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