Archive for May, 2015

Can I Eat Now?

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

I do not know if any of you could imagine being six years old again, but it’s been an interesting trip to watch Tin move into being a young boy while he retains a strong grip on level two. From questions such as “Do dead people live again?” “Why did my mother have to give me up?” “Why is my skin black?” in all their profundity, comes also complete and utterly juvenile questions such as “Why do I have to have rules?” “Why don’t I get to make my own choices for dinner (after given two)? “Why do I have to go to school?”

Someone recently said it is impossible to have a full time job and be the parent of a young child and I was musing on that thought, as I ran to a 1:30 appointment and brought a hot meal to Tin’s school so when he got into aftercare he wouldn’t be hungry, knowing that typically when I pick him up I usually am making the equivalent of “dinner” instead of a “snack.” When I brought the meal to school, the man at the front desk said very cheekily, “Lunch, now?”

Fast forward to us at home later that afternoon, the playmate leaving around 6ish, and my trying to get dinner on the table after learning that Tin did not eat the meal I left and you will see a mother in the throes of chaos. Flailing on the floor, screaming and hitting the chair, opening and closing the refrigerator, crying out like a wild animal [not me, but him], all this as I am putting pasta, chicken and a salad together for dinner. I calmly light the candle and ask him to set the table, he throws the placemat and stomps through the house. Threats are issued on both sides.

Dinner is on the table, and Tin is given a count of three to come sit down and eat or forfeit his evening and head straight to bed. I am mustering all the grace that can come via zen practice to be able to sit and enjoy my own damn salad. Tin plops in the chair, with many harumphs and declarations of his never going to eat anything that is in front of him, and I reach for his hand to say grace.

“Thank you for food on our table.”

I begin to eat, chewing slowly to lessen my about to go ballistic on this imp seated next to me, and I chew and chew and chew through the angry thoughts that are exploding – my own pathetic rant about why is it impossible to have a nice meal anymore around here. About the time I think it will be necessary to hurl the next threat or consequence in his general direction, all of a sudden, Tin looks at me through his oily tears and says, “Can I eat now?”

He then eats a full plate of pasta pesto, a piece of chicken, a salad, and asks for one waffle after another. All of this is consumed as if he has been denied food his whole life. After he smacks the last waffle down, he says to me, “You’re a good cook. Thanks.”

Right in front of me is the marvel of the human cycle. Recently, someone apologized to a group for going into six-year-old meltdown mode. Not so much as a day ago, I spoke with a relative who seemed to be evading me for many missives, but who responded gushingly with love and admiration. Just yesterday, I picked up the phone when an old lover called and we laughed as if there had never been a disruption.

in the world of second chances, most of us have the ability to shake off the past and be fully present. What we need is for those we have transgressed to be present with the new us.


On the threshold of summer

Monday, May 25th, 2015

In and around New Orleans there has been a frenzy that begins with the first of the year countdown to the overlapping, overwhelming festivals and events in this city. If you have a young child, then the season coincides with end of school activities as well as the end of extracurricular this and that. You get to this day – Memorial Day – and you are just shagged out.

Recently, summer stomped in leaving wet bare footprints on the floor and a heat that you can already feel baking through the walls. I’m no more ready for bathing suit weather than I am for seeing my garden slip into the inferno stage of its growth – except for the tomatoes that worship the heat. Summer offers one respite that I crave – the ability to slow down, to invent new routines, to slip out of obligations and to embrace laziness with a renewed vigor.

This is the beginning of long, hot summer, and I feel in my bones a new consciousness is also burning its way in. What a lovely time to pare down to priorities, and revisit what is meaningful.


Born to be Bold

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

My mother said when she pulled up to the school to pick me up, she was always astounded by my confidence – the way I carried myself, the way I spoke to others, the way I was in my being. She said she did not know where it came from.

I spent most of my years as a woman on a leash – I mean this with respect, not disparagement. I was married. Three times as a matter of fact. And in those marriages, I was in love with my husband – make no mistake. But I was a flirt. A shameless flirt. I likened myself to one of those dogs on a leash, that bark bark bark, but if you let them off the leash they would tuck tail and run. In other words, my confidence in flirting came from the fact that after I spoke with you with twinkly eyes, I was gonna go home with my husband. And be happy.

This never got in the way of anything as far as I could tell until it did. I first noticed there was a problem when one time in California, my then husband and I went to a garden party. I met this man, who honestly I thought was gay, and we laughed and cajoled and joked and had us a good old time – talking about everything from shoes to grey hairs. And when it was time to leave, my then husband came over to get me and I said goodbye. The host told me the next day that this man was crestfallen. He thought he had met someone new. And I was taken aback because a) I thought he was gay [he was fit, well dressed, and interested in my shoes], 2) I arrived with my husband, and 3) I did not think that our carrying on had those undertones.

The next time was worse. A long time friend of my husband and mine said something inappropriate to me. He said he wanted to father my child because he knew that I longed to be a mother. It was inappropriate on many levels and yet I didn’t check him when he said it because I was stunned. Later, that ended up developing into a situation that I don’t regret, but I do regret that it turned me into a liar and I deceived people I love. I believed for a long time in therapy that what made that comment welcome was the years of flirting that had said hey, look at me, I’m so happy and free spirited.

Then came the zinger. I was at a family reunion, an evening of lighting the menorah candles, when my nephew-in-law mistook my firtatiousness as exceptional. He thought it was aimed at him particularly instead of Rachel just being Rachel. This caused a rift in my family that continues to this day. A hurt that has generated scars upon scars that cannot now be removed unless there was major surgery.

A while back, a friend of mine said you need to learn how to flirt and I laughed out loud. Me, I was the consummate flirt. But I shut it down. That weekend I went to a dinner party with this command from her – turn on the FLIRT. So Operation Flirt was on and I noticed that as soon as it turned on, things happened, not with the one I intended to receive it but with every other person at the party! This past weekend, I was at a party and my massage therapist/friend said, “Girl, you got all that sexy, but I see how you hold it all back.” And I said, I quit flirting years ago because I got hurt, hurt others and I blame myself. She said, “Girl, you’re stuck, you need to let all that go. Forgive yourself.”

And forgive myself I have, but a friend recently told me she thinks I have forgiven myself for my marriage ending even though the love still lingers, painfully. But it’s the family incident that shut me down. And for that I need to work on opening myself back up. “Be bold,” she said to me. “You will know now when it is appropriate or not.”

Lesson learned.

So now, there will be no misunderstandings – if I am flirting with you, it’s because I mean it. You WILL know that I’m flirting, there will be no equivocation.


Wordless Garden Musing

Friday, May 22nd, 2015








We speak of the people

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

We speak of the people
who live in this land,
people who love nature’s freedom
and beauty,
who are alive with song
and poetry.

But many of these people are also poor
and suffer oppression.
The poor of our land
have been wounded,
but they are not crushed.
The Spirit still lives.

Their struggles and their poetry
together keep alive
a dream
a tradition
a longing
a promise
which is not just their dream,
but the voiceless vision
buried beneath life’s bitterness
wherever it is found.

They sing of a life
free and simple,
with time for one another,
and for people’s needs,
based on the dignity of the human person,
at one with nature’s beauty,
crowned by poetry.
If that dream dies,
all our struggles
die with it.
This struggle of resistance
is a struggle against violence—
against institutional violence
which sometimes subtly,
sometimes brutally,
attacks human dignity and life.
At stake is the spirit
of all our humanity.
—Pastoral Letter, Catholic Bishops of Appalachia

A passing vision

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

I was just coming back on my bike from dropping Tin at the American Can when I saw this big blue Buick convertible go by with a man and woman; they were smoking. I watched the woman light her cigarette with a Zippo. The air was breezy and the sky was clear. It was the gloaming – that perfect pitch of light when magic happens.

For just one minute, I wanted to be the girl – the one lighting her cigarette and sprinkling the air with laughter. Leaning over to get a kiss from the hot driver whose breath hopefully smelled of whiskey.

Some moments are made for such visions.


The Termite Trap

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Here in New Orleans we are all familiar with the swarms. The time of year when you need to turn off all your lights inside and out because a deluge of hungry ass termites are descending on your rotting wood house for dinner.

When I got out of a meeting last night, I had to run from my car to my house because of the swarm and when I got inside they were everywhere – in my bed, in my calendar, on me, in my clothes, I was running around with a cigar lit hoping they would just all die.

Well, guess who moved in? That’s right, a gigantic colony of termites ate through the front facade of my house into the living room. They ate through the concrete stairs. They ate through the threshold. They ate through the mailbox.

Yes, folks I have termites and now $1146 lighter, I’m having them ERADICATED this week – hopefully sooner than later. Glory hallelujah – home ownership in the Gulf South is not as easy breezy as we’d like to believe.

Photo taken by Andre Perry May 19, 2015

I’ll see you next lifetime

Monday, May 18th, 2015

I got in a heated discussion with a filmmaker friend on Saturday about truth, relationships, growth, and Spirit. I gave him my standard refrain – I want someone who can handle my truth without fear and who is willing to bring theirs without fear. He said: There are many truths.

At the end of an intense back and forth, he said, “You’re ready.” And then he started filming.

Ready for love
Ready to f l y
Ready for now

The state of grace in a relationship involves absolute truthfulness between two people, between two things, or between a person and a thing, without fear or deception and with a certainty of acceptance. It means not only honesty with the other person, but also honesty with yourself. Otherwise, what is at work is not Spirit, but something else.

— Sobonfu Somé, “Falling Out of Grace”, p. 103.

There must be a certainty of acceptance. There are times when loved ones cannot accept or forgive trespasses. It’s happened to me both ways.

[Non sequiter]: My friend who is unavailable, I say to you, I’m ready, I feel the heat between you and me, indeed, but I’m ready for someone available. You, I guess I’ll see you next lifetime.

Starting All Over

Monday, May 18th, 2015

I’ve just emerged from a four week intensive that has abated (somewhat) and I’m reflecting on the choices that got me into an overscheduled, impossible stretch of weeks. There’s always the balance with me of doing what is necessary, doing what is interesting, doing something new, doing something meaningful, doing something timely, and not doing.

Not doing gets short shrift in my life and it is the one thing I keep trying to prioritize. By the time I got to doing nothing on Sunday, I was done. I couldn’t have done anything else because I had done so much.

So I sprawled across my king sized bed, my book in hand (I’m reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce), and I read one word and fell into a deep slumber. What seemed like moments later, Tin came running in the room shouting that I needed to see the Lego wall he had just built and I thought the earth had tilted.

I realized self care has gone unanswered. I’ve been following the exercise routine that my friend, now a personal trainer, had mapped out for me. I’ve been going to sleep early most nights. I’ve been being mindful, eating well, opening my heart, and praying.

What I have not been doing is meditating, take hot baths with Epsom salt, being still, saying NO, and most of all, being kind to myself.

So today is Monday or better known to single mothers as TGIM! and it’s time to reboot. Today is another day to get it right. I will practice self care. I will say no. I will meditate. I will not leap, lurch, lament, but instead will have faith, acceptance and gratitude.

Breathe in, breathe out.


Mothers Always Rally

Monday, May 11th, 2015

My Mother’s Day tradition since my mom passed and my son came into my life has been to drive across the lake and join my Aunt’s family for food and fun with a stop at my mother’s grave to change her flowers.


Last year, and this year, Mother’s Day has been about rallying in Congo Square for a cause dear to every mother’s heart. In 2014, I was there for #bringbackourgirls sending an open prayer to bring back the kidnapped Nigerian girls. This year, I was there for #blacklivesmatter with #motherswithavision, a group we formed at the kitchen table of a friend just about a week before.

Surrounded by mothers of Black children who share a vision for how we want our children’s world to be was a powerful way to spend the day.

photo by Peter Forest

When we were driving home from the rally, Tin asked me about his birthmother who I said must be feeling him on this day. He said he was trying to understand but he still did not understand why she could not take care of him.


Then he asked, “Can people come back alive after they are in the grave?” And I told him yes, that in reality I don’t believe people really die. I also told him that some faiths believe that people are reincarnated as other beings after they leave their body. I told him I’m not sure what happens, but I know my mother is with me every day, whether it is her spirit or soul or being, her presence is palpable.

Thich Nhat Hanh pretty much summed up how I came to these feelings in his own musings:

…The day my mother died, I wrote in my journal, “A serious misfortune of my life has arrived.” I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died. When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.

l opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants. and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet… wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine alone but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. These feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time…

– Thich Nhat Hanh, in “No Death, No Fear”.