October 20, 2013

Nutella, Puh-leez.

Advertisements would have us believe a lot of things.

That potty training will be a fun experience for parents and kids alike if we use technology to do it. If you've potty trained a child -- or even a puppy -- there's no app, tablet, laptop or gadget that can make it fun.
Yeah. An iPad on a potty chair. Fun for everyone!
That we'll have wrinkle-free radiant faces after a few applications of the right lotions and potions. Listen, you can butter up your face in every kind of oil, spackle and even acid, but wrinkles will forever be there. Don't ask how I know that.
Yeah. Not.
Of course, there's more. Achieving a lean, hard-bodied physique after just sprinkling magic fairy dust on food without exercise or change in diet. Irresistible magnetism to the opposite sex because of wearing the right scent, driving the right car or even drinking the right top shelf vodka.

I've decided that Nutella should be added to the list too. No, not because of claims that the product was advertised as a healthy breakfast spread. And seriously, did anyone think it was even remotely healthy after that first spoonful? (Because I've -- um...known people who've eaten it by the spoonful. Yeah. Known people.)

No, Nutella, we knew those were lies. What we can't get over is the TV spot. You know, the one set in the kitchen of some middle class family during the middle of a busy morning. And the mom's in the middle of it all.

She's got at least a hundred children hovering around the kitchen counter. They're hungry, and the mom calmly gives everyone their fix of Nutella slathered on toast, crackers -- maybe even an old shoe. 

That would've been fine, but these thousands of children aren't satisfied with their fix. No, they want more and they're all asking for things. At the same time. One wants to know the capitol of West Virginia. Unflapped, the mom answers.

Another can't find something and asks the mom. She pulls whatever the lost item is out of thin air or it could've been out of her bra. All I know is by then I'm so nervous for her, I just want to scream at the millions of kids in her kitchen to just SHUT UP AND PROBLEM-SOLVE, PEOPLE. But yet this woman continues to dole out the Nutella spread on cardboard with a Stepford Wives grin on her face.

Then finally, she's sending off the trillions of children on their ways with kisses for all.

The last to leave is her husband. Where the bleep has he been all this time, anyway? She kisses him as he exits, of course hands him some Nutella-covered food product. 

But then, just like their bajillions of children, the husband remembers that he too has forgotten something. Enter Nutella Super Mom to the rescue: she reaches into some invisible orifice and poof! She dangles the keys he's forgotten!

They exchange Ward and June Cleaver laughs and he goes off to work wherever Nutella-Eating-Conveniently-Absent-Until-They-Need-Something-Husbands work as the mom
good-naturedly,
contentedly,
happily,
waves goodbye.

And we're to believe that? All of that? Seriously?

Nutella, puh-leez.


October 14, 2013

You're Black, He's White. Stop Caring and Move Forward.

"I'm Black, He's White - Who Cares" so goes the title of an excellent piece featured on Literally, Darling. But the point the writer makes is that the Who in the title is acutally Her. She cares.

More specifically, she's scared. Primarily for her future children - whether they be bi-racial or black. In a way, her fear is justified based on her past experiences -- not being "black enough" for black folk, or confusing to white folk, or having her coupledom visually and verbally demeaned -- none of which is out of the ordinary for any black or brown person or mismatched couple in our pre and even post racial society.

Listen, Jazmine (that's her name): I feel your pain, Girly. But allow this black wife who's married to a white guy and who's also a mom to a biracial kid, and most importantly who's twenty-plus-years your senior, to pass on some unsolicited words of wisdom.

It's in the rear-view mirror, and you're not backing up. Look ahead and keep moving. Sweetie, I remember being ostracized by the black kids in the elementary grades through high school because I was an "Oreo" (black on the outside, white on the inside). I've received my share of "compliments" from white people who have said (in genuine kindness) that I didn't act/sound/talk "white." Surprising? At times. Exasperating? Always. But you move on. You move beyond it and flourish in the places where you allow your talent to take you.

God knows people can be idiots, that's why He makes kids resilient.
A six year old girl was riding her bicycle, looping around her block again and again, when a car slowed. Not stopped, just slowed down enough for the teenaged boys inside to yell Nigger at the little girl. It was her first introduction to that word and how some of God's children can act like real idiots.

That six year old was me, Jazmine. As a mom, I think of how it must have ripped my mom apart when I burst through the front door, winded and frightened from what should have been just another loop around our block.

She didn't want that for me because she had probably been through it too.

But here's the key: my mom had been through it...and came out on the other side. So did I.
Now, do I want my daughter to experience anything remotely like that?

Of course not. But until all of God's children start acting like all of God's children, there's a likelihood that my daughter may face some sort of ugliness too. But she'll get through it. Maybe a little wounded. But smarter, stronger and wiser. Through it.

The 99% Rule is in effect when you're married. Meaning that 99% of the time, race won't be an issue when you've pledged that grave and somber oath in front of God and everybody to stay with someone until one of you keels over. Let's see, you're twenty-one now, so the "until one of you keels over" part takes the two of you through menopause, possibly erectile dysfunction, most likely shingles (if you believe those scary commercials), dentures, gray hair, sagginess and bagginess...Not thinking about race now, are you?

In the thirteen years we've been together, and eleven of them married, race has only been the source of an argument intense conversation once. And even then, race -- or in this case, ethnicity was only the by-product and not the crux of the argument intense conversation. It was about hair. Hair. My husband just could not wrap his head around why a trip to the salon would take three hours. I'd be under the dryer and/or in any stage of conditioning and/or having the naps smoothed out to combable when he'd annoy call/text me with "HOW MUCH LONGER? THIS IS RIDICULOUS." So I had to educate him. Very loudly.

Okay wait:

Actually race came up again, this time more directly. And it wasn't an argument or intense conversation. We were watching that movie about the guy who lived with grizzly bears in Alaska. The guy was like fifty feet away from this killing-machine-of-a-bear, cooing at it and calling it pet names. I looked at my betrothed and said:

"Um...I don't wanna get all racial or anything, but that's Your People right there. My People aren't trying to get eaten by bears."

He agreed.

The bigger point here, Jazmine, is that throughout your married life, race is completely and totally dead last on the challenges you'll experience as a couple. Have I been angry enough to shake my beloved until his teeth rattled? Definitely. Were any of those instances related to race?
Not.
Even.
They were all related to him being....well, him. And I'm quite certain the times he's wanted to reciprocate said teeth rattling with me had everything to do with me being...well, me.
Not a race.
Not an ethnicity.
Just me.

Just us.
Just stupid people outside and inside of our neighborhoods who we can't control.

Jazmine-honey, the world can be scary, but don't let that stop you from moving forward, and realizing that you and any of your future kids are more resilient than you think

...and before you know it, you can look forward to keeling over side-by-side with the right guy for you.
Okay, well maybe not the keeling over part, but you get the picture.

October 13, 2013

The Intersection of Grace and Sympathy

Iron sharpens iron. Or rather, good writers make the rest of us better. In that vein, the following is written in response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge for a 33-word piece inspired by the Rolling Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil."
Related: thanks, Red's Wrap for being the iron that sharpens iron.



October 8, 2013

Six in the Morning


It’s 6:00am and I’m awake. The sun and moon are in a battle to see whose light will win the morning. Through slats in the bedroom blinds, I peer out to see the cold, navy hue the battle has cast over our tiny yard.

It’s the same every morning when I should be up, not just awake. The sun and moon battling. The sun always winning out in the end. Me being awake, but not up; knowing the extra thirty minutes means the difference between leaving with or without makeup, stress versus ease in wrangling my daughter out the door and on the road to school.

Still, I stay awake, but not up.

A half hour later, I’m up…and like someone fired a starter pistol near my ear, I’m washing myself, double-checking with her about lunch, knee pads, gym clothes, does the dog have fresh water – and where is the dog anyway?

Then we’re leaving and I remember my rings – the one of promise, the one that sealed the deal and the one that reminds me that I’m a mom. Where are they? The starter pistol rings in my ear again and I decide my ring fingers will have to broadcast Un-Promised-To, Unmarried, Unmothering for today.

And so we leave. Make-up-less, hair in rebellion, naked fingers and all; when upon unlocking the garage door after a five minute fight, I discover that the car's gone. Just a big empty space in its place...and I remember my husband took my car and I'm supposed to take his. Big truck. Big awkward truck.

We pile in and drive a few clips over the speed limit because the tardy bell's ringing louder than the starter pistol could ever fire. But now a school bus hems me in. Jackass, I mutter. My daughter turns a cold-unchirpy version of herself for the rest of the ride because I said The A Word. I apologize, we arrive at school and I push her out of the car well in advance of the tardy bell.

I leave her school, down the narrow one-way neighborhood street that's lined with trees. Their auburn leaves allow trickles of the sunlight -- the winner of this morning's battle -- to seep through. Driver-side doors open unexpectedly to the left and right, then hastily exchanged glares, then more Jackass muttering minus my daughter's disapproval. Finally three loops around the cold cement structure that leads to a resting stop for the big awkward truck, and I'm in the office.

In work mode. Piecing together a laptop and projector for a meeting. Hoping, praying that there's time for make-up...when my boss tells me I've set up equipment
in
the
wrong
room.

Lucky fingers.
Today they'll live back in time when it was okay to just be awake and not up.

October 3, 2013

Late. Again.

There’s a reason this blog is called The Late Arrival.

A few weeks back, my daughter and I went to church. We were a few minutes, well…late. I felt weird stares; and indignantly, hurriedly, I plopped down anyway. Five minutes later, the pastor asked the congregation to rise for the prayer and dismissal.

See what I mean?

One late night, the call for writing submissions for the Type-A Parenting Conference’s We Still Blog Awards appeared on my Facebook feed. I clicked the link, read the prestigious bios of the people judging the pieces and figured Yeah right, like this’ll happen. Meh…what have I got to lose. At least I can say I tried. I pressed “Submit” and forgot about it.

Until nearly a month later on another late night. An email congratulated me on being one of ten finalists selected.

Oh no. Really? This is all kinds of wrong. This can’t be right. Could it? It was.

Then later I perused the blogs of the other finalists…and FREAKED. Their websites were beautiful, clean and professional. They were professionals – writers and published authors -- for crying out loud! They are who I want to be when and if I grow up someday.

They are: 
Kristin Shaw of Two Cannoli
Nichole E. of Butterscotch Sundae
Cindy Reed of The Reedster Speaks
Christina McMenemy of A Mommy Story
Trey Burley of Daddy Mojo
Miranda Wicker of Finding Walden
Julia Roberts of Kidneys and Eyes
Tara Pohlkotte of The Pohlkotte Press
Lisa Allen of Back to Allen

Rather than chance Jamie and Georgia not handling things on their own (because of course everything will fall apart without me), I went to the conference for the day.
Just one day.
The last day.
As in the very last day of the conference.
As in my flight landed within hours of the final keynote.

Late.

When you’re perpetually late – especially in group settings -- you miss a lot of things. In this case it was the rich menu of presentations, seminars, speakers and even parties. I missed those things and wish I could turn the clock back so I could have arrived for the entire conference and applied new-found knowledge to this seedling of a blog.

Time-challenged people also miss things at gatherings like developing friendships, camaraderie, exchanged glances that cause spontaneous giggles, secret-telling and brain-sharing.

Listen, I’m a natural introvert, so I never miss missing this people/bonding stuff; I mean I’m not looking to make new friends.

But something about this conference and the whole vibe was different; and from my tardy perspective, the difference was the people -- including the finalists who had once intimidated me so.

We Still Blog Award Finalists

There was a feeling of openness, acceptance and support -- not just of me -- but also of my words. It was familiar...like I had been there, known these people before.

So much so that this introvert even caught the conference close-out party...and even danced.
Post-Party Dancing Toes







I ended up walking away with the very things I was missing but never knew I was missing. At Type-A, they call it “finding your tribe” and I think I found my tribe...

...at least some of them. There are more out there and I know it, and I’m going to find them at next year’s conference which I’ll be attending all three days, instead of as

The Late Arrival.