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!