Challenging Your Heart

March 3rd, 2015

The other day a friend told me that I’m a teacher of love and I need to understand it as my purpose. So I sent her a snapshot of the sign I had made by Dr. Bob and hung over my threshold:

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Another friend had come to see me recently, his wife, my dear friend, had passed last May and he was struggling to find his footing even while his children were adjusting better than he. I counseled him to open his heart and that in loving and letting love in and out freely, he’d find his way clear. It’s what his wife would want for him and for her children.

He called me last night and told me the very next day after he was here, he’d met someone and he owed it to me and my encouragement to open his heart wide. I was overjoyed – for him. He’s a catch – a rocket scientist, a woodworker extraordinaire, a smart and funny man who more than deserves love.

Cupid sought him out immediately as a catch.

I don’t know how these things work. I don’t know what is determined in the timing of love. I don’t know the mechanics of love. Why do you love one in lieu of another. I don’t understand the fickleness or determination of the heart. I don’t understand how your heart works itself into a marriage with every other part of your body – eyes, lips, touch, smell, taste.

I don’t know love at all.

But I do know this as a teacher of love, you must keep your heart open and it is a daily challenge. There are many people who will make you want to harden your heart. There is a monkey circling your head who tells you: you don’t deserve it, you’ve been hurt before and might be hurt again, there is a nag that says it will all end in bourbon and regret. You need to cage the monkey. You need to scrape the callouses off your organ. You need to pump love in and out and exercise your heart so that it is ready when Cupid appears.

Cupid is looking for an open heart. Is your heart ready today?

The Marlowe

March 1st, 2015

My friend came by Friday night and I invented a drink for him. It was so delicious, let me tell you about it.

It’s called – of course – The Marlowe:

I rock glass filled with ice
1 shot of vodka (preferably Ketel One)
1 half shot of St. Elder (or St. Germaine)
1 half shot of Bissap (http://bissapbreeze.com)
Fill glass with La Croix (orange flavor)
Squeeze a bit of lemon

WALA!

My cup is more than full

March 1st, 2015

Yesterday into this morning was a lesson in how to cram five lives into one. Tin and I began the day at a playground design workshop at the new school where parents and children got to brainstorm about what they wanted in our new playground. Afterwards everyone had to select committees and I picked to be the DJ spinning records for six hours on the build day. #stopmebeforeIvolunteeragain

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Then I dashed over to the Healing Center to Cafe Istanbul to participate in Womanifest (pronounced WHOA MANIFEST), a gathering of Black women and the men who support them where I attended a workshop in vision planning and how to raise Black boys in this city as a single mother. People of all ages crowded into the space trading clothes, drinking our own local Bissap, attending workshops and watching performances. I ran into tons of friends, learned about visioning my own life, manifesting my own love, and helping to enhance my son’s qualities. A couple of friends arrived and I was able to take a minute and sit with them while they ate lunch at my friend, Fatma’s restaurant. While they ate I sipped a cay (Turkish tea – which fueled me for the rest of the day).

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My friends had come bearing micro greens for me and I was over the top because these greens are like crack. When I got home later that afternoon, I made a quick salad and when I looked at the finished bowl I found a green heart smiling up at me. My friends said, “Your time is coming soon!”

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Before I left Womanifest, another friend dragged me over to her house nearby and made me a perfect Dark and Stormy as we caught up – our lives have been so incredibly busy lately that a face to face has been impossible. Then it was another dash to get home and do a James Brown turnaround having to dress for Ashé’s Power House debut party. I was one of five gals trying to have dinner before hand, and we went to five restaurants with no luck of getting in before a two hour wait before landing at The Butcher, which conveniently buys my friend’s micro greens so the Chef made space for us. He sent out beautiful plates of charcuterie and such and there I was at this haven for bread and mostly pork, wondering what I would eat and I ended up having a fabulous meal – pickled brussel sprouts and a bread-less pastrami sandwich over the most delectable house made cole slaw. Oh my, YUM.

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Then we scurried out into the chilly night to hit the Power House, Ashé’s new building that was celebrating its grand opening with Tank and the Bangers playing and lots of chocolate to go around. My friend and I posed with Tank after the concert because the talk of the town is she is going places and so these intimate moments with her are soon to be history.

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And then it was home to bed, curled up with my heating pad and then up way too early to costume Tin and take him to the Purim festival at the synagogue this morning where my friends band, The Panorama Jazz Band, was helping us celebrate Purim.

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My cup is not half full, it’s full to the brim and runneth over.

Teacher of Love

February 26th, 2015

She said to me, “I’ve met many students of love but never a teacher of love and that is what you are.”

Last night, I finished reading Tiny Little Things by Cheryl Strand and picked up again Stalking Elijah by Rodger Kamenetz. I’m almost finished with the book but it took a different turn in that the expert on Judaism was poo pooing the notion of a benevolent God who is looking out for us. Instead, he believes in the eastern version of the god within us. My head was swimming having just come from Little Gem where I went to hear Niyi Osundare, the Nigerian poet who came to the U.S. so that his deaf daughter could attend school and got to experience firsthand the 2005 Federal Flood. He and his wife escaped through the attic of their house. My head was full of this and that as I was contemplating sleep and suddenly my bedroom was crowded with Strand’s not so easy advice, Kamenetz’s frustrating search for Jewish sense, and now Osundare’s lyrical beat drumming in my head.

Am I that teacher of love? I’m starting with self-love again – oft forgotten or kicked to the curb – and now having to rekindle this love affair with my own self. The best part is knowing that you can always begin again.

Okay, I’ll take this title and I will wear it like a coat of arms. After all, I’ve been writing about love for a long time now.

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Love is the Weapon of the Future

February 23rd, 2015

Peaks and valleys.

That’s how I would classify life, only as I enter this phase of my life, the peaks last longer and the valleys are not insurmountable and are quickly dispensed with when they no longer serve me. At the end of last week, four work projects rolled in, the pipeline opened. Yesterday, I cracked the code on my fatigue and today started a grain-free diet. Today, I went to yoga for the first time in months, after my hip displacement incident that required six weeks of recovery.

Right now, I’m thinking of this quote by Yehuda Berg, a Kabbalist, who said, “Love is the weapon of the future.”

And today we are starting with self-love.

All of my dietary restrictions have backed me into a corner where I no longer enjoyed food. Food – the very pleasure that I could think about morning noon and night and suddenly, pop, it became a chore, tedious and undesirable. So I changed the equation – instead of finding substitutes for gluten – I have just eliminated grains. We’ll do a week of this and see how my body reacts. In my refrigerator I now have pots holding black eyed pea curry, jama jama, lentil soup, and a basket of fresh greens picked from my garden. No grains – no problem.

At yoga this morning, we talked about the four goals for a civilized life: dharma (your purpose), artha (resources), kama (sensual pleasure), and moksha (liberation). Dharma – I was accepted into a writer’s workshop at Loyola’s Walker Percy Center where I will work out my manuscript and I’m headed to a retreat on racial reconciliation in March. Artha – four work projects, better nutrition, and more movement. Kama – well now, tricky, now that Sty is out of the picture, I need to work on this one but right now I’m filling the pleasure principle with hot baths, gardening, and reading. Moksha – yoga, meditation, writing. I began meditating again this morning – it’s the panacea pill that I’ve been seeking.

See everything I was searching for was searching for me.

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How to speak to your child about death

February 22nd, 2015

If you have stumbled upon this site asking yourself that question, then go somewhere else. Today, with my almost six year old in the backseat, a discussion began innocently enough. How old are you Mommy?

I’ll be 56 this year, and you will be six. You can always remember how old I am by adding 50 to how old you are.

So when I’m 7

I’ll be 57

And when I’m 8

I’ll be 58

And when I’m 9

on and on we went till he was 20 and I was 70, but then he said, and when I’m 100

I’ll be dead

What?

[count, 1, 2, 3 then]

TEARS * SOBBING * HEAVY BREATHING

I don’t want you to be dead! Why do you have to be dead!

Honey, every thing that lives dies, but that is not going to happen for a long time.

Will Stella die? Will Heidi die? Will I die?

Every being is born, lives and grows old and dies. That’s the cycle of life. We are all going to live a long life hopefully and we won’t have to think about anything but living for now.

I don’t want to die! I want to play! I want to be a kid! Will I get to be born again?

Maybe. I don’t know.

[I pull over, he gets out of his seat, and comes over and gets in my lap, sobbing as I try to comfort him in my arms.]

* * * *

Yes, keep moving, don’t pause here to find out how to speak to your child about death.

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Universal Unrest

February 22nd, 2015

I’ve been wondering lately why I can’t shake negative thoughts that infiltrate my otherwise sunny disposition. Last night, I dreamed that a friend had gone to protest the vandalizing of a Jewish cemetery. Several Jews had laid down beside the graves to keep haters from destroying the headstones. Instead, the haters opened fire and killed all of the Jews lying there in sleeping bags. I was watching in horror with the same question that has played through my mind my entire life – would I identify as Jewish when they came for me?

This is a question I had in 1985 when Leon Klinghoffer was thrown overboard on the MS Achille Lauro and was a question that ran through my mind during the 70s and 80s when planes were being hijacked left and right. It’s a question that becomes relevant every time the world’s turmoil spins closer to home.

When that happens, universal anti-Semitism waxes too close to home.

I thought of this as I was watching Downton Abbey the other night while Lady Rose fell for the Russian immigrant, who turns out to be a Jew (much to the horror of the family), and we learn that Lady Cora’s father is Jewish. “It’s always something,” Lady Grantham says when she learns Rose’s new beau is a Jew.

With ISIS and the Middle East a pressure cooker and the U.S. trying to “fix” it, I feel this impending sense of crisis escalating for both Israel and the United States.

I think about this with all seriousness as I bring my son to Sunday school today. The world is not safe for Black boys. Its safety for Jews waxes and wanes. And here I am, raising my Black son Jewish and praying that at some point in his life, he’ll embody both AND survive both.

Universal Truths

February 20th, 2015

I was speaking to a friend who is a cultural anthropologist and she was talking about universal truths across cultures. For instance, the fear of snakes seems to be universal. The desire to love and be loved is also universal. I left visiting her to see another friend who recently made a move with her family to better their situation but right now that means living without water and gas until it can all get straight. She runs a nonprofit and right now nonprofits are not getting funding because their funding pipeline – people like me – are not in a position to give.

Instead of dwelling on how this area of our life (read: $) seems to be trapped in some sort of redlined groundhog’s day, we talked about what we are thankful for – they will own their house when this is all over. The American Dream. There is something to be said about being able to tap into this ubiquitous dream even if the reality is very different from what its founders had in mind.

The first friend I visited had a dozen long stem roses laying on her kitchen table, which seemed incongruent with the kids’ plates and crayons that were on the table too. What’s this? I said. A muddle, she said. It seems a universal truth that yearning for a lover and the appearance of one can seem to have the same deficient reality as the American Dream. The Big Love. Put it up there on your vision board and try to figure that one out.

A friend in Boston who always seems to be on the same vibe sent me an interesting article today on love and on Fortuna’s Wheel – written by Lauren Slater, a novelist and psychologist. Trying to understand love is like trying to predict your next up cycle. (read: impossible)

Last night, two of my friends discussed love, monogamy, marriage, desire and delusion. I sat between them at my kitchen counter nursing a cup of hot tea since I was feeling peaked. They, on the other hand, were well into their vodka tonics and I found the cold, sober, listening to be like almost tuning into some continuous loop of tape that I seem to have heard my whole life. I told her this, but she turned away. I bared my soul to her and she was not listening. I’m just so sad. All I want is for her to talk to me.

When I shoo’ed them out the door and curled up in my bed with my heating pad and extra quilt, I thought about what we want, what we expect, and what we get. I know it’s gratitude that makes everything tolerable, but I also wonder about these huge cycles of abundance and lack and how when there is abundance there is lack of awareness and when there is lack there is an abundance of awareness. So are we half asleep when all the good stuff is pouring down? Dream like state of bliss? And then when Fortuna’s Wheel spins round to the bottom, we see reality in harsh, glaring, truths.

You can keep it – if that is truth. Humbling as it has been to walk through fire – even ones I’ve set – I have to say the best part about curling up in my bed with my heating pad was embracing the boredom that has become so familiar in my going to bed routine, and it makes the craziness and survival mode my friends are in right now seem like some past life I don’t want to revisit.

Has it come to this? I know I’m coming out of the bad luck cycle that Slater describes, and I know that falling in love is not an if, it is a when, but right now, maybe because it is grey outside, and it’s warm inside, I’m convinced that another universal truth is to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them.

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Cheaters – 4, Monogamist – 0

February 18th, 2015

In just this past week, I’ve had three couples I know announce they are splitting up and the culprit – infidelity. One couple was together 18 years, one 10 years, and one four years. This makes my three months with Sty seem superficial and trite before I found out he was stepping out.

I have a very good friend who is polyamorous and who believes that human beings cannot be monogamous. But I beg to differ. I think monogamy may not be a natural or biological impulse, but it is a societal one.

The issue here that I can’t wrap my mind around is in a couple, there is a call for monogamy, a demand for it, an understanding of it, and in the case with me and Sty, these were the marching orders – coming from him. Two of my friends who have always been cheaters are upset because their significant others were caught cheating. What? I say if you want an open marriage – have one, if you want polyamory – go for it, but if you want and demand monogamy, then uphold your end of the bargain or declare that the bargain is off.

With all the breaking up, lying and cheating that has happened this week alone, I’m here to say my head won’t stop spinning. #who’sonfirst

If Ever I Cease To Love

February 17th, 2015

Today is Fat Tuesday and today is cold and today we are not going to parade or costume or be out in the streets wearing blankets wrapped around us like we are watching on the Mardi Gras cam on WDSU.

That’s all the news from Cleveland Street. But know this: we passed a good time Mardi Gras 2015.

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