Eulogy for Little Harry

November 17th, 2017

Eulogy for Little Harry
A Super Nova Kitty Cat

Our love bug, big blue-eyed Little Harry, left us tonight.

He was four months old when he came to us. We named him Little Harry after my brother’s Siamese cat “Little” and also since he was Tin’s Hanukkah Harry gift.

We hoped he was a Hanukkah miracle.

And he was.

He used up three of his nine lives but didn’t make it through the 4th.

He brought the miracle of love into our family. He was a gift.

We are grieving.

He had the habit of putting his paw on my cheek to beg for my touch. He liked to lie in the middle of any game that Tin was playing. During the day he would hop on my desk and insist I pay attention even by coming between me and my work, tossing all of my paperwork and calendar to the floor and chewing the headset chord of my phone in half to make sure I noticed him.

At night he would hop on my bed and tuck his nose into my neck, slip his paw on top of my chest, and purr me to sleep.

He loved to be carried around like a baby.

But he was no angel.

He was a straw stealing, glass breaking, Ziploc bag hiding, paper shade ripping, slipper thieving, houseplant eating, kitchen-counter lounging, toe attacking, consummate shedding, Lego munching, sink occupying, night crawling, head pouncing at all hours of the night gato malo.

He loved dogs.

He loved the front window where he would watch the world go by.

He loved the back window where he would lie in the sunlight.

He wanted outside badly, but his Leukemia prevented him from that luxury.

When he got sick we wrapped him like a burrito and carried him around.

When he got sick we let him sit on the back steps with his cat leash on.

When he got sick he broke our hearts.

When he got sick he was no longer a kitty cat. He was a sick cat.

Little Harry was a Super Nova – burned so bright – and left a big Black Hole.

Non-Attachment

November 10th, 2017

I started this blog in 2004 and then I started writing another blog about raising my son. Then I spent three years writing a book called The Elephant in the Playground. Then fellow published writers suggested I write instead a different book, a book that was more my story, so I began writing essays towards a memoir. And in the meantime, I wrote another book, Meditations on Race and Parenting.

This year one of my essays, completely off the topics I have been writing about over the past few years, was chosen to be included in an anthology called Letters to My Ex.

As I dragged my feet through the well worn path around Bayou St. John yesterday listening to Ram Dass, courtesy of my friend, Susie, who always throws Dass at my problems. Dass spoke about non-attachment. Ahhh, the thing that we seekers of a higher plane of living so desire but so rarely achieve. Dass says just work hard, work at what you do, but do not be attached to the outcome.

Non-attachment.

That’s nirvana.

This is what I am writing for.

That is what I’m living for.

Do not be afraid to create your own heaven

June 12th, 2017

for those big eyed dreamers
trapped in a city of small minded snares,
do not be afraid to create
your own heaven

~ Kataalyst Alcindor

Imagine there is no there, there

May 22nd, 2017

I inherited wander lust from my father, a wandering Jew.

I grew up in New Orleans, Managua, San Salvador, Puerto Rico, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Manhattan, San Rafael, San Francisco, Miami and was two months from being born in my father’s birthplace, Havana except fate had other designs.

And yet New Orleans is where I have always called home.

As this country spins away from its axis of love with an administration plagued by hatred, whose followers trail in indifference (bless their hearts), New Orleans turns towards the light. Four confederate monuments came down in the past months despite the blindness of white people who cling to a narrative that the American myth has no malice in it. To them I say THINK THAT YOU MAY BE WRONG. This was the first of many intended mortal wounds to White Supremacy. Let the dancing on its grave begin with us.

Flannery O’Connor wrote:

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.


~Domenico Zindato

#takeemdownnola #burywhitesupremacy

My ancestors taught me

February 26th, 2017

My ancestors taught me how to rub two nickels to make a dollar.
My ancestors taught me how to move my hips unselfconsciously to music.
My ancestors taught me to listen to birdsong.
My ancestors taught me to love profoundly.
My ancestors taught me to appreciate babies.
My ancestors taught me to eat with gusto.
My ancestors taught me to read for joy.
My ancestors taught me to adorn myself.
My ancestors taught me to groove with sensuous pleasures.
My ancestors taught me to stand barefoot on the ground.
My ancestors taught me to feel sunshine.
My ancestors taught me to forgive.
My ancestors taught me to be fierce.
My ancestors taught me resilience.
My ancestors taught me to evolve.
My ancestors taught me movement.
My ancestors taught me tenacity.
My ancestors taught me levity.
My ancestors taught me to look through eyes to see souls.
My ancestors taught me to speak.
My ancestors taught me our history.
My ancestors taught me water is powerful.
My ancestors taught me to see beauty.
My ancestors taught me to worship.
My ancestors taught me faith.
My ancestors taught me to discern.
My ancestors taught me to question.
My ancestors taught me to love the land.
My ancestors taught me to be an explorer.
My ancestors taught me how to create memories.
My ancestors taught me through stories.
My ancestors taught me to write my own stories.

The last frontier is the human heart

August 25th, 2016

I went to a conference on Racial Equity sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation and Isabel Wilkerson was the guest speaker. I wrote this down in my notebook:

The last frontier is the human heart.

And this is what I’ve learned in 57 years around the sun. The road always leads to a place where the heart opens or hardens. We have to be intentional and proceed with love to keep our heart open. While pain and hurt could enter an open heart, joy and love never enter a closed heart.

If you have to choose?

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Everywhere

July 15th, 2016

The news is horrid. The world is on fire. How can anyone heal when there are new wounds daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, lifetimes?

Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
Ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered
where does it hurt?
It answered
everywhere.
everywhere.
Everywhere.

-Warsan Shire

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Failure of Imagination

June 16th, 2016

Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.

~ Rumi

This month marks five years since I started my own company, Greenlight Global Research. When I started GGR, I had little idea of what I wanted to do because I had fallen into what I loved doing 18 years earlier. Much like falling in love with a partner, you go about your life then slam out of nowhere this lover is in front of you and consuming you. That’s how my career(s) had unfolded.

I remember early on, after leaving my job, I had an idea for an advertisement. I had been covering Global Media trends for almost two decades, and thought I knew a little about commercials and so here was my idea: I’d be the star of a mini video about my Ford F150. It would be an autobiographical short film about one woman post-2005 Federal Flood in New Orleans, focusing on self-empowerment (I bought by truck because the contractor on my house was ripping me off and I wanted to haul my own debris back and forth to the dump). I also got the truck because it reminded me of the scene in Cast Away where Tom Hanks arrives at the crossroads that is his life and the artist drives up in the pick-up truck. I romantically wanted to be her, and realistically I was her, became her, am her.

I seem to have a knack for envisioning or dreaming up how my life will be from a starting place – a romantic dream and this was one of those times where my truck became the linchpin for that romantic vision turned reality.

I was reminded of my idea for a Ford commercial while in Boston when a friend took me to the Sarah Silverman show. One of Silverman’s jokes was about her mother insisting she had a great jingle for Progresso soups. I was also reminded that a media source had told me in 2011 that he could help me contact the right people who might be able to help me with the commercial. Years later, when he visited New Orleans and I met him in person for the first time, he told me I had sounded so desperate back then, he had cringed.

Wow – I cringed.

I want to be kind to who I’ve been in the past as well as who I am now. I take some pride in being a round peg in a square hole. I also want to surround myself with people who are kind to me as well as to themselves. Understanding who I am is the rewarding part of aging. I know that I have a stubbornness that either acts as a ballast or a noose. I don’t think I was desperate, I think I had an idea and he had the connections and he offered them and I wanted them. What he read as desperate was his knowing my situation and placing my actions in a context he understood. Yes, I had lost my livelihood, but the company I had worked for was no longer the same, it was corporate and stagnate and dreary. Was he projecting? Maybe. He had been my source through many of his job changes, and throughout them all he had a partner supporting him and had now separated. Hmmmm.

Under GGR, I started another company called Transracial Parenting, because after meeting my son, I wanted to take on the work of helping parents raise culturally competent children. Although TP absorbs more of my mindshare than my original company, I invest my creative energy there intentionally.

This week, I have returned from New York where I had the good fortune to participate in a roundtable discussion about policing and communities with people interested in the work I do with racial justice. Yes, legacy work still puts my food on our table, but I’m working slowly to turn the spokes of my wheelhouse round and round so that my purse aligns with my spirit. My motto has become I’m gonna follow my spirit not my plans.

Is it mad? Indeed, it is, but I’m the creator of my life and where I’ve stumbled or wallowed in languishing regret, it has only been through the failure of my imagination.

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[Thank you Florentina for this concept you shared about your own experience working alone for racial justice.]

A Soul Light As A Feather

June 9th, 2016

All of these things sort of collided into one another and actually started making sense. At Jazz Fest, I stopped at a friend’s party and another friend was there explaining to a handful of people what feathers mean. Feathers are messages from the spirit world. She’s a Candomblé priestess. I listened to her story intently because I’d been out at the Fairgrounds and was soaking wet, which gave me this otherworldly feeling as I sat in the living room wearing my friend’s dry clothes.

Coincidentally, other friends from New York surprised me with a gift of feather earrings that were made believe it or not from recycled plastic water bottles. They had come in for the Fest as usual and were staying at an Air BnB run by an artist.

Now, it’s not as if feathers haven’t enchanted me before now. At the late stages of grief over much loss in my life, I stumbled across three white feathers from an egret (I had guessed) that were on the bayou where I was walking and meditating. I brought them home where they have remained despite every child’s who comes through here attempt to snatch them.

So it all started around Jazz Fest as far as I can remember, and maybe that is because the Fest is around my birthday each year, and perhaps it was because this birthday seemed to come and go with little fanfare. I received one birthday card from my friend in San Francisco. I had no cake and candles even though for 56 other years I have insisted on them. Truthfully, I’m not complaining because it was all fine and good the way my birthday was uneventful.

See there is a storm brewing again. The 2005 Federal Flood, the ten year anniversary that sent me into a depression, the thinking I had rounded the corner, moved up a wrung or two, all of it wasn’t the end – in the background, the teleprompter was saying, but wait, there’s more.

These clouds that are gathering portend darkness. A brief concrete example, I had taken up managing my friend’s property in Mexico as a way to earn extra income, then my friend took ill and is now selling the property.

Tatjana’s status is stable, but it is cancer, the almighty fuckshit of diagnosis, and it is all so uncertain and disconcerting.

Although, I’m working on a different version of my book (my fourth rewrite), I have lost interest in its publication. It’s almost as if I’d rather just run away to a cabin and write, without the result being the gilded lily of a book that I expected it would be.

I went away to Bay St. Louis and was able to jump right on writing as if days haven’t gone by with me anywhere near my work. Long walks on the beach calmed my nerves. Being alone made me joyful.

I drove to Atlanta with Tin and I felt my family’s love rise up like a feather bed.

I flew to Nantucket and saw my gal pals for one of the more restorative of my trips there. And there, a friend gave me the gift of a reading. JoAnn, the reader from the big boat, told me the next two years are going to suck. There was no mention of career, love interest, fun adventures – no, she said, dark clouds are gathering and you need to take long walks on the beach, meditate, and provide yourself with self-care. Radical self-care. She also told me that this life – if you believe in past lives – for me is all about relationships. Where do I begin and where do I end?

Two years, maybe even two and a half, she said, are not looking too good. Brace yourself. Go deep into your faith. There will be an ending. A definitive one, not a is it over? ending, but an it’s over ending. I will struggle with a male presence – Tin (who else?).

And so I’ve taken to listening to the messages that the spirit world is sending me with this deluge of feathers I’m getting – today there were four small and one large geese feathers on my walk around the bayou. Later in Metairie, taking Tin to the Russians for his gymnastics, there were again four connected feathers – more of the pigeon variety – the lesser spirits.

And so I am listening.

I got out of the truck today to buy dog food and almost had an out of body experience, where here I was plodding through my mundane tasks, and my mind’s eye could see that stratus clouds were forming, which portend nimbostratus clouds to follow, and I was present in the moment.

Isn’t that what it truly means to live?

Five Feathers

I Believe in Me

May 24th, 2016

If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.
-Marcus Garvey

In all those years of walking through the double wide school doors, released from the tedium of institutional learning, to my mother’s car where loud radio music awaited me – I’ll never forget what she always said, “Chile, I don’t know where you get that confident swagger from.”

Last year, when I thought I had truly had enough of what I could handle as a human being, I grappled with my faith. Ellen has asked me to define faith and I had to tell her I meant truly faith in myself, my own divine ability to get up and do it again.

The more the hurdles come, the more my faith soars, and so though I’m but a small part of this vast universe, I feel enormous. Yesterday, a mysterious young man found dead on the road was revealed to be the son of a friend. Another friend with cancer married her partner. Still another friend’s cousin was found dead in the shower. And yet one more time, we were able to fall asleep in the comfort of our own beds with the dogs calm around us and stars up in the sky.

Mom, I whispered to the spirit world, I don’t know where I got this confidence either, because (insert laugh) every day I’m tested and every day I pass.

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