Monday, December 22, 2008

Random Ramblings

Resolutions: 2009

Making new year resolutions isn't all that original. However, we humans have a need to mark the passage of time (even though there's some evidence that it's a construct and doesn't actually exist) and to steer our lives toward specific outcomes.

Hence the annual lists of Do's and Don'ts written each December. (January is a new year. Isn't it?)

In honor of this tradition, here is my ONE resolution: To cultivate the traits of Gratefulness and Generosity. That's it. I can assure you that this won't be as easy to accomplish as it sounds.

When one has spent a lifetime worrying or complaining about what she doesn't have, it is a major shift to emphasize my numerous blessings (children and grands; a funny, adorable mom; three sweet sisters; varied talents and abilities; a job I like; a loving extended family; good health; a sense of humor; a love for adventure; long-term friendships; new friends; a new start in Las Vegas; publishing my first article locally; and just being alive)

No, mindless repetition of "Thank You's." I intend to express heartfelt appreciation for whatever good comes my way, as often as possible, and to give GENEROUSLY without expectation of return or reward.

Obama Watching

  • It's just about a month to the Inauguration (January 20) with all its pomp and circumstance. The First Couple is so fashionable that I can't wait to see what they will be wearing. Michelle is so not like the stereotype of black women that America has fostered. She's stylish and sexy. Barack has the ideal frame to look sleek in a finely tailored suit. Watch out Washington, here they come!

  • I still have to pinch myself when I see photos of Barack Obama, president-elect! America has never seen a president like this before. For example, his interviews with Michelle show a couple who appear just like the husbands and wives I know. A bit of teasing here. A friendly verbal jab. In a recent interview with Barbara Walters, Michelle and Barack were almost flirtatious, holding hands and leaning into each other. I've never seen Bush or Clinton or any other prez so intimate with their wife. Lets' hope the Obamas' marriage holds up under the hard scrutiny of the American public.

  • The sniping of the new President has begun. He's got a false birth certificate; His staff might have had some part in selling his Congressional seat; He's filling key posts with former Clinton appointees; He needs to get a plan for Universal Health Care; He's got to get on top of environmental issues now; He must stop the bleeding of jobs; He should effectively fight terrororism while ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is his hair getting grayer by the week? Or is it my imagination. Hummm?

  • I've heard some comments that Obama might be the role model for some black men who are guilty of less than responsible behavior towards their families. I suspect that the type of guy who needs encouragement to Do the Right Thing isn't likely to change because the face in the White House looks more like his. Nuff said.

  • What's this about the President Bush not being able to allow the Obamas into the White House in time for their kids to go to school? It seems like a presidential slap in the face. I know, the Bushes had not expected them to want to move in earlier. But sending them to a hotel? Come on. Can you imagine if the shoe was on the other foot? There'd be calls for the Obamas to do something to accommodate the new President. Am I being too sensitive? Perhaps. But it just seems wrong.

Celebrity Sniping

Have you noticed that sooner or later, even the biggest celebrities get the KISS OFF from fans and media?

Here's my list of biggies in show biz who, according to critics, can do no right:

Tom Cruise--a buffoon (after his couch-jumping on "The Oprah Winfrey Show") and Scientology zealot.

Madonna--a middle-age has-been making headlines by adopting an African child.

Will Smith--a fan favorite, but seldom gets kudos from film critics who consider him merely an "action" star

Beyonce--over exposed and repeating the same dance moves in her videos

Jim Carrey--former multi-million dollar man who seems to play the same character over and over.

Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro--living off their reputations as actors' actors.

Oprah--fat again! My goodness.

Christian Bale--overlooked as a serious actor and ridiculed for the voice he used as Batman in "The Dark Knight."

Lest there be some confusion. These are not my views. Just want to alert "wanna-be celebrities" that the media and the public can turn on you like a pissed off pit bull.

See ya next time. Keep Focused!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Great Expectations: An Obama Presidency

Election Day is upon us. (For those of us in Nevada, early voting began last weekend.) Like many Americans, I am thoroughly fed up with the presidential campaign. The tactics, mostly from the McCain camp in my view, have been ugly and unbecoming.

I've watched as Senator John McCain and Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, have made derogatory remarks about Obama's capabilities and readiness to govern America. They've wrapped themselves in the American flag, thereby, making it appear that Republicans have the market on patriotism. (At one venue, the crowd, following Palin's lead, chanted, "America, America, America.") What's that all about? Is the implication that Obama is anti-American?

There've been accusations that an Obama presidency would threaten American "values," capitalism, the economic status quo, and, in general, the accepted order of things. Well, let's hope so! What foreign policy credentials did Dubya have when he took office? What political experience did Arnold Schwarzenegger bring to the position of governor of California? Jesse "The Body" Ventura, former pro-wrestler and governor of Minnesota, had just four-years experience as mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

What training is there for the American presidency? With much of the world enduring economic recessions (while experts disagree on the causes) and volatile political conditions existing in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, who can predict where the winds of crisis will blow next? Not McCain. Not Obama. The Presidency is not a one-man show. Decisions are arrived at after input from the Cabinet, Congress, special interests, and the public. Presidents rely on the expertise of close advisors as well as myriad federal agencies--from the CIA to the NSA.

So, Obama-haters, give us a break. It's ridiculous to suggest that his presidency will bring about radical or fundamental changes in the way government is run. At best, he will use his influence as The Chief to promote legislation or initiatives--from healthcare reform to tax revisions--that foster the Democratic platform.

If anything, Obama will be closely scrutinized by all sides as The First in any position generally is. He must prove that he has the qualifications, judgment, and leadership ability to guide America though its financial crisis. Black Americans, white Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Congress, Wall Street, and various private and public entities all have different expectations of him. I'm sure he will disappoint some or all of them. That's the nature of politics.

As president, his life might even be in danger. But that's a possibility too awful to consider. Let's hope that if Obama is elected, our country will rally behind him and make America truly the land of free and the home of the brave.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Would-Be President's Lady

I can't keep quiet about Michele Obama any longer. First, I want to make one thing clear. She doesn't have my admiration because she's black . I respect her because she's an accomplished lawyer, an equal partner to her husband, and a caring, protective mother; she projects a well-developed sense of self.

When she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show prior to the primary, she pointed out that she has her own fulfilling career, and she's not merely a prop for her politician-husband, Barack Obama. She explained that she and Barack made the decision to step onto the national stage after prolonged discussion. A major drawback was the idea of exposing their family to intensive media scrutiny. They had reason for concern.

One highly-publicized comment prompted an immediate outcry. Speaking to a crowd in Milwaukee, Michele said, “…hope is making a comeback…for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.”

The media and Republicans lashed out at her, decrying her words as unpatriotic. Later, a Nevada radio talk show host said of her keynote address at the Democratic convention that America was shown a “new Michele Obama,” and that her image had been “photo-shopped.” Who, I wonder, do they imagine the “real” Michele is? Do they honestly believe that this daughter of America hates her country? It would have been refreshing for some journalist to engage her in a frank exchange about her comments. Instead, she’s been lambasted as un-American for exercising her Constitutional right to free expression.

Countless African-Americans, from all economic strata, share her “frustration and disappointment” in the face complex, long-standing social and economic problems that beset our communities. Among these, but not limited to, are disparities in access to and quality of health care. For example, the black infant mortality rate is twice that of white infants; the HIV/AIDS death rate is more than seven times that for whites; and black women have higher cancer death rates.

Any politician--or presidential candidate’s wife--who, however mildly, expresses dismay or dissatisfaction over issues affecting black constituents is deemed a polarizer; hence, meaningful discourse is quashed or dismissed with a big "Ho-Hum."

Michele Obama projects an image--well-groomed, upbeat, and articulate--that should be non-threatening to voters. With so much at stake, she can‘t afford not to. But I predict that if she becomes First Lady, she will surprise us all by her outspokenness and advocacy on behalf of all Americans.

(This blog was started when the Obama campaign was in full swing, shortly after the Democratic National Convention and pre-Sarah Palin. Hopefully, Senator Obama can reinvigorate his bid for the Presidency and bring a fresh perspective to the White House.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pet Peeves #1

My family frequently teases me about my pet peeves; they number in the hundreds! They joke that one day I'll have enough to fill a book. So, in an effort, to "go green," I will blog them instead. Please feel free to add your own.

Muscle-thick guys or waist-thin gals who strut around the gym, sipping from water bottles, trying to look nonchalant, but hoping everyone is noticing their glorious abs or pecs.

TV commercials for health clubs or fitness products that feature models who bear no resemblance to the people--of all sizes--that they are targeting.

Folks--Wal-Mart greeters, supermarket clerks, receptionists, waitresses--who drop their cheery smiles when dealing with a black person.

Websites that require tones of personal info or want you to sign up for promos from advertisers before you can get that "free" gift card, laptop, or dinner for two.

Doctors who are never around to discuss the status of or answer questions about a hospitalized relative or spouse AND nurses who resent you for asking questions that they cannot answer.

Men who ask, "Why doesn't a pretty woman like you have a man?" Implicaton: I have an answer to that question OR that something must be wrong with me. Boring.

Public schools with metal detectors.

Reality shows with people/celebrities who I could care less about. My definition of reality: What actually happens when you had expected something else (good or better) to happen. Get quite enough of that in my own life, thank you.

Adults who are outraged when a kid's pants are sagging down over his butt; but, they are speechless on issues such as high dropout rates, drastic cuts in financial aid for college-bound youth, a much-reduced, federally-funded summer jobs programs for unemployed youth, or countless other Really Important matters affecting young Americans.

Network or cable TV shows that never feature an African American, Asian, Hispanic, or "others" in lead roles. (Supporting roles don't count.)

Well, that's enough for now.

Wow. It's really liberating to get these peeves off my chest, er breasts. Until next time... 

Monday, August 18, 2008

This Writer's Life

First, let me point out that no matter what jobs I've held--from HIV educator to adult education instructor--my primary identity, at least to my mind, is Writer. Having read several books on the art and business of writing, I've learned that "serious" writers take their writing seriously!

Contrasting my writing habits with those of other well-known writers, I sometimes feel less than authentic. My writing "schedule" shifts with the demands on my time or my fatigue level. I've felt most like a real writer when working for a newspaper or magazine. Since I haven't worked full time for either since 2001, the pressure to produce is less urgent. It's not that I lack projects; indeed, there are several that have awaited completion for several years. Nor, am I lazy and uncommitted. The best part of my life is when I'm selecting from among thousands of words in my head to create language that persuades or explains. I love writing.

So, why is it so difficult to consistently produce? Why do I value what others might assign me over my original ideas? Is it necessary to emulate writers who (can afford to) spend five to eight hours daily perfecting their craft? I am still searching for answers to these questions.

Several years ago, I read, How I Wrote Jubilee , an essay by writer Margaret Walker in which she explains why her book took 30 years to complete. Between teaching and other obligations, she confesses that she often couldn't find time to write. She's describes herself as a "slow" writer.

I am reading, Stephen King's book, On Writing, which has helped me to understand that my writing is a priority. I haven't earned a dime from writing in seven years. Nonetheless, what's important is to write, write, write. And so, I will, ignoring the voice in my head that taunts me at every turn. "You"ve been out of the writing world for too long." "You'll never find a publisher for your book." "

Since joining Las Vegas Quill Keepers, a writing group for women, I've learned that writers, especially women, often hear that critical voice--after several rejection letters or when someone critiques your work, or when friends and family fail to take your work seriously.

Black women have many untold stories to tell. We need to be about doing that no matter what. I give myself permission to tell my story in my own way, at my own pace, and on my own terms.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Random Ramblings

Bye Bye Bernie

I seldom watched the Peabody Award-winning "Bernie Mac" show on Fox Television. But, when I did, I considered the format brilliant. Bernie Mac, producer and star, depicts his efforts to be a responsible parent.

The basis for the show is Bernie's reluctant decision to raise his sister's three children after she checks into rehab. He was always real. For example, he would lean into the camera and express his desire to smack some sense into his sulky teenage niece or his adolescent nephew. I can relate!

Bernie's dilemma is how to (or whether to) modify his "grass roots" child rearing to suit his middle class status. He often finds himself at odds with or defending his parenting style to (usually, white) school officials and teachers, parents, and others.

I Ain't Scared of You (Pocket Books/MTV Network 2001), a memoir of Bernie's early upbringing and career, is caustic, irreverent, and filled with profanity. But, it is so funny that while reading it, I'd find myself laughing out loud in public.

In his film career, I don't think that Bernie ever found the best venue for his talent. After all, Hollywood isn't about breaking new ground. Still, he is among those rare actors whose name can draw me to a movie despite any qualms about its merits.

Most recently, Bernie was heckled at a Barack Obama fundraiser for what some considered off-color remarks. No doubt, they were; but does anybody remember Stephen Colbert's scathing roast of George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Association's Dinner in 2006? Critics charged that the Comedy Central star had "crossed the line."

Well, duh, that's what comedians do. Throughout their careers, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and Dick Gregory pushed the limit of what's appropriate, "politically correct," or socially acceptable.

Bernie's premature death at 50 robs us of a comedy giant whose delivery was loud and abrasive, but so reminiscent of the humor in my own family--down to earth, truth-telling, and brilliant.

Edwardian Error

Like millions of Americans, I was surprised, yet not shocked, when John Edwards, former senator and Democratic presidential candidate with dark good looks and squeaky-clean image, admitted that he'd cheated on his wife. His extramarital affair is the latest among politicos whose private lives have become public: New York State's former governor, Eliot Spitzer, and his predecessor Basil Patterson. Some pundits argue that public servants should not be judged harshly because, after all, they are "just human."

Others believe that voters have a right to expect officeholders to, at the very least, be honest about lapses in judgement when asked. Edwards denied and denied. I am divided about my reactions. I do understand stone throwing. However, I empathize with Elizabeth, his wife of 31 years, battling cancer and facing humiliation in the national spotlight.

Recently someone in my own family found out about an infidelity. So, I know firsthand, how it can rip the heart out of a marriage. No amount of verbal remorse can easily repair the ripped fabric of trust. Marital dreams suffocate under questions of "why?" The idea of an "us" crumbles. Of course, many marriages can survive such betrayal, and I hope the Edwards' union can be healed.

On his website, Edwards says: "...we have a moral responsibility to each other and what we do together matters. We must do better if we want to live up to the great promise of this country." The same could be said of his marriage.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Entering the Blogsphere

Well, here I am a wayfarer in the Blogsphere, a place I hesitated to enter for fear of not being able to handle the technospeak and technicalities of blogging.

But, thanks to encouragement and support from Cathe Jones, founder and enforcer of Quill Keepers, Las Vegas, a writing group/resource for women writers in Vegas, my granddaughers--Amour, former blogger and aspiring actress and Evie, a medic serving in Iraq--and fellow writers Erika Washington and JoAnna Haugen, here I am--excited and hopeful that my words and experiences will reach those--writers or otherwise, striving to find a place and a voice in America.

I make no claims to profundity or wittiness, just hope to add to thoughtful discourse about many issues that affect all of us--young or old, immigrant or citizen, male or female, rich or poor, celebrity or commonfolk, homeless or helpless...I invite you to check back and add your comments. Until next time...hold fast to your dreams!