SPRING HAS SPRUNG

20140506_132217.jpgSpring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers is.” This little ditty from my patent leather shoe wearing, crinoline slip showing, pigtails bouncing, hopscotch/jump rope playing days always comes to mind this time of the year. And like most nature loving folks, the balmy weather beckons me outdoors. Those of you who followed my original Blog in 2012 are familiar with my “Tales from the Garden”. So in honor of Daylight Savings Time and the official First Day of Spring (just a week away), I would like to provide you with some New Tales.

Unlike most folks who dig in the dirt, I started gardening for health reasons. Frankly, I was concerned about the food supply and all those unknown dangers lurking in the vegetable aisles of our friendly grocery store. News reports of packaged lettuce laced with bacteria, pesticides coating the gala apples, tomatoes processed in lye…it was enough to make me run screaming into the night. Instead, I decided to revisit a practice I had abandoned years ago…home gardening.

Even though we were city dwellers, my family always had a little home garden plot. My mother, a Southern girl, knew the importance of healthy eating and always made sure there was something good growing in that little plot next to the back door. I remember days spent digging in the rock laden soil, planting precious seeds and counting the days until seedlings pushed through eventually yielding their bounty of heirloom tomatoes, long pole beans, crunchy leafed romaine lettuce, bulbous cucumbers, and savory squash.

Gardening, I later learned, can be more than just producing food and flowers. It can be a cure to many of life’s ails such as depression and anxiety. Digging in the dirt is therapeutic and a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist. The increasing number of men and women city dwellers who are discovering gardening supports this theory. No longer is it necessary to own “the back forty” to grow a garden. Patios, porches, rooftops, window sills, and even ‘rent a plot” gardens make it possible for everyone to engage in this life giving practice.

After a particularly stressful period in my my life for which no amount of Xanax could help, I again turned to gardening. The pleasure I derived that first Spring from digging in the dirt, watching each day as tiny buds appeared and new growth unfurled followed by daily visits from the most glorious butterflies and birds in the area was indescribable.

Suddenly, my life became filled with hope and anticipation as I looked forward to the wonder Nature had bestowed just outside my back door. I started trolling thrift shops looking for gardening how-to-books, visiting Garden shops at 6 a.m., hauling dirt became my daily workout, seed catalogs filled my mailbox, and rainy days that filled my rain barrels (old olive barrels from a warehouse) became the source of quiet joy.

Gardening became the antidote for depression and the colorful bounty of flowers and luscious pesticide free vegetables it yielded… the cure.

 

Beauty Fades, But Healthy is Forever

blksoapBlack soap

Reader, It is March…officially Women’s History Month. The onewhowillremainunnamed remarked over dinner the other night… Women’s History Month is Every month…and there are some men who will readily agree with him. And why not. WE DO GIVE LIFE. Only the Creator can claim that feat.

In light of all the responses I received to the BRAGGing Rights posts, I thought I would follow with a list of a few natural products that most people will want to make sure they have in their toolbox. Like Bragg vinegar, many of these products were ones I used back in the 70/80s and because of their effectiveness they continue to reserve a place in my cabinet.

Black Soap – the best kind comes wrapped in plastic from your local African bookstore or Head shop. It looks like a block of dark brown clay sprinkled with herbs. Those bars sold in the fancy packaging from various companies often contain chemicals. I met someone recently who said that using Black Soap to cleanse her face was not only cost effective but cleared up her skin and literally took years off her face.

Shea Butter – Another product best purchased from said African bookstore/boutique type shop. Or find someone who has recently visited the motherland. I know an airline employee who has stock in this stuff and regularly brings it back as gifts for friends. Stay away from the fancy packaged kind though, as it contains unpronounceable chemicals. When you do find some (usually in a plastic baggie) remember a little goes a long way. The proof as they say is in the pudding. Look at all the commercial products from shampoo to body wash to lotion that now contain Shea Butter.

Henna – Many years ago when gray strands starting sprouting in my mane, I remembered how my former hippie commune friends had utilized henna for not only decorating their bodies, but washing away the gray. This product can be tricky to find, but worth searching for especially in the natural unadulterated powdery state. So far, no study showing any link between this keeper away of the gray and cancer (miz clairol or dark and luvly can’t make that claim).

Coconut Oil – this product has seen a resurgence lately. Not only is it good for your hair and body but can also be eaten! What will Mother Nature think of next?

Pumice stone – Yes, I have tried all those products that promise to make your feet baby butt soft including the one with the little razors that literally shave the skin from your heels. But nothing works as good as a little pumice stone which literally can be brought for under a dollar at where else…the $ store.

Oils – I could write an entire blog about the virtues of essential oils. Not only can they be used to improve your mood, rid you of headaches, help you sleep, ward off evil spirits in a room, kill mosquitos, soften your skin, massage aching muscles, thicken ones hair, perfume your body…ask an Egyptian. Those of you who are Aromatherapy subscribers already know the healing properties of oils. Just make sure you are getting the purest forms, a little costlier, but a lot goes a long way.
Hope these products become a part of your life. You will be richer and wiser.
As always, your comments are appreciated!  Next Post will be a tribute to the one and only Songstress …Ruth Brown. Thanks for reading/sharing!

BRAGGing RIGHTS

Okay, I hope this doesn’t sound like a commercial, but I’ve been spreading the word about the benefits of the Bragg Vinegar drink to my friends near and far, so I’ve decided to share this with you my dear Readers.

If you find yourself tired to the bone, sluggish, out of sorts, dread getting out of the bed, can’t put one foot in front of the other, wish it was Friday when its only Monday, then you need to learn about Bragg Vinegar. This product has been on the market well over 100 years-since 1912-and is the forerunner of the healthy products movement.

I won’t belabor the point here and bore you with the history, but Reader this is a product you need to add to your grocery list Today. Once you have it at home, the simple recipe to make it into a palatable, energizing drink can be found on the back label.

In a glass, stir together One to two teaspoons of Bragg +8 oz filtered water+ honey+ lemon juice, and chug. Take this upon rising, at lunchtime and for those of you who need an afternoon pick up (instead of heading to the office vending machine), down a glass of this drink.

The results are immediate. You will feel lighter, energized, clear headed. I suppose its that action of the unfiltered apple cider vinegar scrubbing your organs and releasing the antioxidants in your blood stream. Since the time of the Egyptians, ACV has been used for its amazing natural cleansing, healing and energizing health qualities.

I started drinking Bragg vinegar back in the 70s during my heady, almost a Black hippie, what sign are you, free your mind days of L.A. I was in my 20s and working three part time jobs And attending Paralegal School. Bragging as we fondly called it back then was at the forefront of the back to nature movement. And any bonafide card carrying member of the natural food/vegetarian/potsmoking movement was slurping this concoction at least 3 times a day.

As a Baby Boomer, the need to eat healthy, exercise, take supplements ( to avoid purchasing one of those lil pink pill box) has become a constant refrain from the media, AARP and Dr. Oz. I have always subscribed to a healthy lifestyle because it was ingrained in me from childhood. Having a grandmother who lived to be 100 plus and who drank vinegar daily and fasted on Fridays was something I took note of early. And while I would occasionally fall off the wagon (I am a Foodie and luv a good Restaurant), that small still voice would always bring me back to reality.

The ravishes of high cholesterol almost brought me to a crashing halt some  years ago when despite my regime of working out daily at 5 a.m in a fight gym (to fight the menopause 10 (pounds that is), before going off to teach a raucous group of middle schoolers, followed by feasting on copious amounts of bbq at the Extra Billy , I had chart topping numbers. No amounts of niacin, garlic, coq10, red yeast rice, policosanol, would bring those LDL number down below 200. I dreaded the thought of taking statins…the commericals listing all the side effects…that followed the glowing pictures of the healthy couple rowing a canoe… were frightening to say the least.

After much prodding by my trusted physician, I did, however, venture into Lipitorland, then Zetialand, then Pravastatinland only to have my body reject each of these manmade concoctions.

Finally, I had an epiphany…hmph wonder if she saw stars.. returned to my senses and embarked on a regime of healthy eating: more vegetables, less meat (Restaurants only once or twice a month), growing my own seasonal vegetables (fat tomatoes ,hot habaneros/jalapenos, crispy kale/collard/spinach, juicy romaine and spicy arugula, topped off with  fresh herbs- oregano, thyme, sage, lemongrass, mint and MORE),  together with exercising 3 times a week at the local Y or daily walking of the dog …you remember Lucky…and a  glass or two of Bragg every day, I was able to reduce those LDL numbers and keep them down.

Now that’s what I call BRAGGing rights. Feel free to comment with your thoughts/experience on BRAGGing and thanks for reading!

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HAVING THEIR SAY: Our Grandmothers

Lately, I’ve been thinking about being a Nana ( to 4 grandsons). The announcement by two close Boomer friends ( FH, SS) that they were about to enter Nanaland was the trigger for this contemplation. Like many other Boomers who are now being called Granny, Grandmama, Mima, Abuela, Baba, Nai Nai, Grandmere, Ya Ya, Oma and the super cool hip hop Gmom, my knowledge of this role comes from my interaction with my own Grandmother Rachel.

Grandma Rachel lived to be 100 plus years. No, she didn’t get her picture on the Today show smucker jelly commercial, but she did receive many accolades/awards during her lifetime. Much of it was for service in her NY community and church where she remained active until her later years.

My fondest memories of her were the summers she traveled from the big Apple to Norfolk to make her yearly sojourn down South. A native North Carolinian, Grandma Rachel had made her home in New York, but her roots ran deep in southern soil.

News of her impending visit, would always cause a bustle of activity in our household as my mother supervised our cleaning/polishing/scrubbing activity….girl you better use that comet to clean under that toilet..what you afraid of?

But I knew Grandma Rachel didn’t care about whether the house was spic and span, she just wanted to visit her children and enjoy afternoons on the porch sipping ice cold coke while she braided my long Indian rope hair and reminisced about summertime in Scotland Neck. The memory of those visits can literally turn my frown into a smile and brighten my hectic days.

A few years ago, I reconnected with my 93 year old cousin Mamie who also has fond memories of Grandma Rachel…she called her Mama. The 30 year difference in our age makes the idea of her being my cousin somewhat eyebrow raising to many, but she was in fact my 90 something year old father’s niece…talk about a family tree. Out of respect for her and the significant age difference between us, I always referred to her as Aunt Mamie which seemed more fitting.

Aunt Mamie was a phenomenon. A survivor. A Bible Scholar. A pillar of the community. Loved by many grands, nieces, nephews, blood and non-blood. She was a praying/God fearing/believing Grandma whose hands had seen many days hard work. She raised her own 5 children and those of many others including my brother and I (for one year).

Her melodious voice which often reminded me of someone singing was never without a word of encouragement/praise/forgiveness for those who had the good fortune to be in her presence. She loved a good laugh and often delivered some one liners that were comedian worthy. As the ravages of old age began to invade her body, she remained stalwart believing that her God was always right there delivering her from the pain, the sickness, the dark days. He is worthy to be praised she would sing, smiling that almost ethereal smile. She was a blessing. She was Mima . (Thank you Minnie).

The book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 years by sisters Bessie and Sadie Delany comes to mind when I reflect on these strong women. Their story is a testament to the strength/survival of African Americans. It is also an example of the oral tradition so important in documenting the lives of African American in this country.

For the Delany sisters, their story begins with freedom and ends with an understanding of the importance, not only of their lives, but of all who struggle to comprehend our raison d’etre.

Although the Delany sisters did not experience slavery firsthand, their account in Having Our Say replicates the structure of the slave narrative juxtaposing the slave’s experience with that of eventual freedom. The color issue, ever present in this personal history, impacts the lives of the two sisters with a deafening insistence often found in African American culture, even today.

The opening chapters of the book provide an introduction to the members of the Delany family complete with a description of their physical attributes including color.

People would look at us Delany children and wonder where in the world this bunch came from. We were very different shades from nearly white to brown sugar. I (Sadie) was one of the lighter children and Bessie was browner.

Sadie’s forthright, philosophical approach to the color issues does not, however, reflect the general sentiment of other members of the race. In fact, the acceptance of racial identity is an integral part of the rite of passage of the black female in this society. Her acceptance of racial identity is crucial to survival in a world which is often hostile to people of color.

As we learn more about the personalities of the sisters, we find that Sadie is the calmer, more passive sibling while Bessie struggles with the anger and frustration brought on by dealing with a hostile, color conscious world. Adversity has made Bessie the stronger of the two. She attributes her longevity to meanness and sheer determination. This same attitude/fortitude has made survivors of many of our mothers and grandmothers.

The sisters eventually (like my Grandmother Rachel) left the South and migrated North to Harlem. Bessie continued to battle racism and sexism by gaining admission as the sole black female in Columbia University Dental School. Sadie became her mother’s companion and spent much of her time traveling through the South. The sisters finally made their home in Mt. Vernon, NY where they enjoyed the privileges of the Negro Intelligentsia.

The sisters’ journey ended following the publication of their book…Sadie at 106 and Dr. Bessie at 104. Their memoir remains an important document in American history. It refutes the portrayal so common in history/literature of the black woman as mammy/matriarch/sex object/ or THOT.

The Delany sisters experienced the multifarious damage and distance of class and race in the segregated South and went on to battle the racism and sexism of a Renaissance North. This oral history is a testament to the determination and strength which makes GrandMamas a force to be reckoned with.

In a Reminiscing Mood

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The World yawns, stretches and braces for a New Day

Birds chirp their morning Anthem.

Leaves unfurl

Grass shakes off its dew

And I lie here sleepless, thinking of you.

Missing the voice that cradles my heart.

Soothes and calms my fears.

Whispers gently, trust me

I will Not let you go

I get you.

Missing the Smile that twinkles

those gray/brown eyes

Deepening the dimples

bringing out the impish boy hiding inside.

Missing the Hands that heal the wounded

Pray to the Creator

And catch hold of mine

Carefully guiding me beside not behind.

Missing the Mind, lightning quick

complex, collecting, processing, storing

Zoom zoom on multiple tracks

Yet carving out some

cerebral space for me.

Missing the pet names

A language shared only by us.

Missing the passion

The volcano erupting, bubbling over

Spreading its fiery furnace over My land.

Missing my smile, my lightness, my glow

That touches all who knowingly Know.

Missing the love songs dedicated By you

Shuffling through my collection

Finding the perfect response to send to you.

Missing the kitchen. The back forty. The Farmers’ Market.

The half watched DVDs. The Lake. The Woods.

Damn, I am Missing You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOKEN WORD

1406038038668  I like the way that sounds…the feeling that it arouses in me when I hear that phrase–Spoken Word. It’s different from poetry with its meters and rhymes, iambic pentameter, structure, form. Roses are red/violets are blue.  It reminds me of blues/jazz/ playing late at night in some darkened room, shades drawn, voices hushed. Spoken Word.

The biggest problem I see with you/me is Time

Or should I say the lack thereof

I know it’s only been 2 months

And there are things you must do

But understand

I am not

Content to be alone

To face minuteless days/clock-watching nights

Of solitude/boredom/loneliness

In fact, I have had about

All the loneliness With a man

These past 5 years

That I can stand.

I deserve more

Need more

Want more.

You said it yourself

The last time

We entered Paradise.

When I was 20 I used to

Play this game

With my friend Pam

Called Isyoutheone?

Hanging out in bars, malls, jazz spots, bowling alleys

Searching each strange new face

For some sign

Of compatibility.

20 years later

The game ceases to

amuse me

I am a love song

Searching for lyrics.

Needing someone who

Unselfishly understands my needs

Whose first thought

Upon awakening

And giving thanks to the Creator

Is of ME.

And when life

Requires separation

I understand.

We are given

So little time

Why waste it.

When there are so

Many things/Places/Feelings/Thoughts

To Share…Together.

I really don’t relish

Doing this alone

In my

40th year

It is really no fun

And sooooo unnatural

And if having you

Wanting you

Means that I will

Still be alone

Then

Perhaps I am better off

Without You.

 

Negro History/Black History/African American History?

 

Okay, it’s finally here, February…the month I love to hate. And no, it’s not the 25,000 calorie consuming Super Sunday event that makes folks fanatical and grown men cry. Nor is it that cutesy bow and arrow kid all dressed in red taunting us to Buy, Buy, Buy even when there is No Significant Other for some of us to buy for. And it’s not even the days spent watching the weather forecast, checking the Farmer’s Almanac praying that the cold front from Canada doesn’t descend on Virginia and kill all my early budding perennials.

It’s the celebration of history and culture in February that has me wondering just who the *** am I ?

Lawd, this gurl done only wrote 10 posts this year and she already threatening a breakdown…

Reader, The 28 or 29 days of remembrance/activities associated with the history and culture of My people, frankly causes me to ponder. And now that I have left teaching and begun this journey as a writer, it has given me even more pause.

You see, in the early years, Black History Month was a time when I could legitimately get away with talking about the contributions of Black authors, poets, playwrights, rappers, etc. in my classroom without getting those raised eyebrows from an administrator who happened to stroll by my door.

Okay, I admit, I was a radicaluncoventionalgetitdonebyanymeansnecessary kinda teacher and culture abounded in my English class…year round. My walls were covered with the requisite grammar/writing/poetry/nod to Shakespeare, Keats posters. But they were also decorated with pictures of Zora, Langston, Alice,  Baldwin, Tupac and Alicia Keyes. I practiced equal opportunity teaching every chance I got. And Every good teacher knows in order to Really teach and reach your students, said students must be able to identify with the subject matter. And I knew/learned how to accomplish that.

In fact, the walls not only reflected African American artists, but artists from all ethnic/racial demographics…and not just in the month in which this Society has allocated for their recognition.

The result: My students were the liveliest, most well informed, high scoring, inquisitive make the school look good bunch (I and Principal W. knew). And They actually looked forward to coming to Rm 10, 3rd period English.

We got to talk to her about this horn tooting…do you think we should have an Intervention…call Dr. Oz? Oprah?

These same students in the person of an intensely serious 7th grader named Janeen (who announced during her introduction the first day of class that she was going to be a Medical doctor) inquired politely during our yearly study of Greek Mythology why we weren’t learning about the Egyptians whom her dad said really had the first myths. And nearly took over my laser pointer that day and challenged me to find the stories of mythological figures whose faces looked like theirs. This challenge by Janeen and the entire class..you always tell us to search for information, Ms. Goss ..led to the writing of my/their first book. (The book Dedication, accordingly was ascribed to that class and the cover drawing credited to a student who didn’t care much for writing… but enjoyed hearing about those Egyptian myth guys.

So, with 25 days left to go, Reader, and a calendar that’s overflowing with all kinds of delightful cultural offerings (only someone on speed could conceivably attend them all), I have to question why this Celebration has to be squeezed into OnE month and can’t be spread out all over the entire year. I mean we are Black every day, aren’t we?

Mercy…This chile need help…Can’t be her upbringing..des Presbyterians..umph, umph, umph.

 

Bye y’all!