History Lesson: Juneteenth aka Rodeo Strong

Oh my goodness, if my girl J.G. hadn’t of reached out to me reminding me today was Juneteenth, this oh so important holiday would have passed by without any fanfare from me. For the uninitiated Juneteenth is the celebration of the true end to slavery. Meaning, back in 1863 Abraham Lincoln wasn’t hunting vampires (as far as we know) he actually enacted the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in America, however there was one little problem, as usual Texas thought it was above the law. I say as usual because I’ve visited Texas and had a funky good time but it was clear that the state of Texas operates differently from everyone else…I mean seriously drive-thru daiquiri spots? I experienced that, the irony, it was situated under a huge ‘don’t drink and drive’ billboard, but I digress. So good ol’ Texans felt like, ‘That cat Abraham Lincoln has it all wrong, let’s go ahead and pretend like the post-man  never rode through here and told us we had to free our slaves.’ Fast forward to June 19th 1865, the date Texans finally decided to enlighten their slaves that they were free to pack their goods and head for the woods. I’m guessing some of them thought, ‘Sooooo the president announced I was free, but I’m just finding out two years later!?!’ I’m wondering which one of the crew decided to ‘take one for the team’ and got killed trying to kill massa for the late message; you know there was somebody who couldn’t mask their anger.  There were probably some folks who shrugged their shoulders and signed on for a life of share cropping aka nouveau slavery, either way Juneteenth has become an ‘unofficial’, meaning not on any government calendars, holiday for black folks to celebrate the day the Emancipation Proclamation was finally enacted across the entire US.

I might sound like a minor authority, but let’s be real, I only just heard about Juneteenth about nine years ago at a public library function; I had no idea this holiday even existed. I never celebrate it officially, but I have a little crew (J.G. and CMay) that help me remember my heritage and take time out of their day to send a shout-out in commemoration of those folks who worked some overtime hours like salaried employees meaning more hours no pay. We celebrate the date by talking about how we wish somebody would have told us that we had been free for two years, acting like we would pull a Nat Turner and start a revolution. We regale each other with stories about what we would have done, crack jokes and reflect on the real disrespect of it all. Somewhere through the years we stumbled across the above picture around Juneteenth about 3 or 4 years ago and felt it symbolized the true character and spirit of our ancestors. Don’t ask me why, the picture was so gangsta to us, it came to mean something important to us and every year it reappears as a reminder that our ancestors were ‘rodeo-strong’ so we will carry that torch forth and purposefully ride that bitch called life until the wheels fall off!

My Week in Literary References: Lucille Clifton & F. Scott Fitzgerald

This week I enjoyed two events: one a tribute to the late poet Lucille Clifton and the other, an evening wedding reception in an arboretum (botanical garden for trees) evoking a Gatsby-esque vibe. I attended the Lucille Clifton tribute on Thursday evening at the Central Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library (Baltimore’s public library system). The tribute consisted of 13 poets, one of which was the always vibrant Nikki Giovanni, reading Lucille Clifton’s works and/or their original pieces that fit the occasion; all provided personal memories of their interactions with her. While I admittedly am not really an avid reader of poetry and therefore am not more familiar with her work, I am well aware of the impact Lucille Clifton has had on the lives of those who enjoy reading and/or writing poetry. I’m ashamed to say I can’t even tell you the name of any of her books or pull a line from a poem. In fact, I learned the most about Lucille Clifton from this tribute and from my mother who has always enjoyed her work. Initially I was ashamed to share this information because I didn’t want to look like an idiot but then I thought ‘so what’, it doesn’t matter whatsoever if I’m not more familiar with Lucille Clifton’s poetry, rather, I’m so glad I was invited to this event because now I get to broaden my horizon and introduce another author into the fold of those I hold dear like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Dorothy West, Amy Tan, and Toure just to name a few. All I know is I left that event on Thursday night and felt emotionally full, all my cares from earlier in the work day fell away and I sucked up every single tribute inhaling what has become for me the rarified air that is being in an environment of artistic expression and observance and a warmth also known as a feeling of support.

 

So now Saturday I’m in a whole other physical environment, an elegant evening wedding reception in a clearing surrounded by gardens; like the Lucille Clifton event this garden party was full of interesting people who clearly were artistically inspired and who had a genuine interest in all of the people around them. The simplicity of the decorations combined with the gorgeous attention to details like the flower arrangements, hand fans for the ladies, and the candy bar made for a fantasy-like evening. Looking out across the lawn as the sun set the ‘Gatsby-esque’ vibe I described earlier came to fruition…I don’t know if anyone else felt like this and I’m not sure that the bride and groom were going for the ‘Great Gatsby’ look but it’s what I felt as I looked across the wide open space at the old mansion (now visitor center) guarded by two stone lions, one was violated by plastic lips stuffed into its stone mouth. I haven’t read ‘The Great Gatsby’ in awhile but this wedding event made me want to revisit this book that I first picked up in high school and loved so much. In fact it’s time to re-read to clarify the story again as I focused so much on the descriptions of the party scenes that I almost forget there was a darker story there.

 

This week has been absolutely wonderful which is something I surely needed to revisit just now as I head into the work week; I had to recap so I can come back to this post and conjure how I felt at the time and remain grateful (remember my blog post about avoiding negativity?) for the life I have and the people in it who make it that much better. Due to my sparkling wine and candy binge last night combined with the need for a nap I’m signing off. Enjoy your Sunday.

My Trainer Tried to Kill Me Today! aka Getting my Beyonce Back!

You know how you look at old pictures and see an unrecognizable sexy person and realize oh snap-that’s me?! Well that’s what’s been happening to me lately. I was never cut and unfortunately the cheerleaders at my highschool were not athelets…there I said it (forget you Rev)! We were more pom-pom girls rather then these crazy squads who did straight gymnastics, in fact I used to call myself a Nirvana cheerleader since I was so NOT the happy-go-lucky type in highschool. By the way I have revisted that epic Nevermind cd recently and it is timeless, still love it! But yeah, so although I was ever super-cut I was quite the slim jim and was quite blessed to still have some T&A, which leads me to my trainer tried to kill me today while I was working on ‘getting my Beyonce back’. I coined that term some years back when I could still rock a backless shirt with my jeans and you could see where my lower back led to the beginning curve of my ass (not my crack people) in my jeans and it  looked good, yep! I want that shit back stat which leads me back to my trianer aka ‘fitness coach’  Brandon. He’s on loan to me for another 4 weeks.  Let’s put this in perspective, Brandon is trying to help me because I said I wanted to be helped but every Monday and Wednesday he provides the most grueling sweaty 30 minutes of my day. I mean he had me and another woman doing mad push-ups, shoulder presses, sprints, lunges and all manner of craziness then said ‘let’s go’ and took us over to the dreaded rowing machines where I was horrified to learn he wanted me to go 1500 meters (I think) in 7 minutes…well ladies and gents I did the 1500 but in under 10 minutes; my calves and whatever the back thigh muscle is were both burning!

For those of you who know me personally you are aware that I’ve been a sedentary couch potato blithely eating badly without a care in the world for years until I went to the lady doctor last month and weighed in at an awkward 210. Let that number simmer for a minute, might not be a big deal if you are tall and big-boned but I’ma tell you this most people who say they’re big-boned are on some kryptonite better known as denial. I’m a mere 5’4’’ and I’m not big-boned so there you have it, I seriously need to dump a few pounds. When talking to my doctor about my need to lose weight she asked me how often I drink, we then proceeded to have a non-verbal stand-off, imagine a Clint Eastwood movie of the 80s, close-up to the eyes staring some hapless imbecile down, that was my doctor to me when I tried to salvage my love for a glass of wine a night. I actually really like my doctor but in that moment I felt a little betrayed. In all seriousness my doctor says I have high cholesterol which is partially genetic and personal choices; due to the rampant heart disease in my family my doc is not cool with me living with total abandon…not to mention I’m creeping up on 40…which oddly enough I’m kind of excited about.  Flash forward circa the past couple of weeks.

Three weeks ago I had the tiniest little thought,  ‘I wonder when the next fitness challenge is’; the very next day a ‘last call’ email was sent to all the employees in my office asking if anyone else wanted to join the corporate fitness challenge scheduled to begin the day after the Labor Day holiday. I signed up before my typical litany of reasons why I can’t do something flooded my brain. To be perfectly honest I had anxiety leading up to day one about the dumbest stuff: what to wear (should I invest in new workout clothes), would other people be more fit, would my newfound (circa my mid-30s) excessive sweat make people look at me funny? I mean really, I didn’t buy new workout clothes and noooo, nobody has batted a dayum eyelash because I’m the only one thinking about that foolishness. Of course there are people participating in this challenge who look fit but they see ways they can improve themselves even if they’re aiming for more endurance. As for the excessive sweating, when I’m working out I don’t care about that…now when I’m trying to get dressed on a humid day after a shower and I start sweating while lotioning up, that is massively irritating! But I digress. So I joined the challenge and as of today am in week 3. I’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks: proper nutrition-no diets, no processed foods, a funnily enough no Crystal Lite or fake sugar things, and if you’re doing protein shakes and you’re not a body-builder it should be for an occasional meal supplement; proper squats-act like you’re sitting down in a chair except there’s no chair; consistency-do some kind of cardio activity 5 days a week and fold in that weight training every other day and the most import one-don’t be a freak about counting calories and worship Fitness Pal like it’s the 2nd coming of Christ. Look Fitness Pal, was recommended by MK and the motion was seconded by Shawna (what up ladies!) and since utilizing it (this is pre-fitness challenge) I lost 4 lbs because that app made it easy for me to see the value or lack thereof of some of the mindless stuff I was putting in my body: chips, soda, and candy. So I’m not gonna diss  the app but I’m just sayin, the nutritionist definitely gave some folks the side-eye who kept asking about their caloric intake at the workshop.  So anyhow here I am,  a month before the fitness challenge I weighed in at 210, when I started the fitness challenge 3 weeks ago I was 206, Brandon is trying to weigh us in this week and I’m shook (would almost rather wait until the end). I don’t know how many lbs I’ll lose but in a perfect world I would shed about 40 lbs. I’m not crazy therefore I don’t expect to lose that much weight in 7 weeks (the length of the challenge) but I’m excited to see where I’ll be as far as my flexibility, strength, and endurance. I can tell you how this challenge has changed me right now, I feel better, I don’t visually see a difference but I feel a difference and that is a huge accomplishment for me. Remember the week before last when I wrote about being accused of ‘being negative’ by the boyfriend, well it’s true,  one way I’m helping myself is to participate in this challenge and let me tell you rigorous physical activity is a fantastic way to clear the mind of clutter and focus my energy on something that doesn’t require me to think, so thanks Brandon for trying to kill me today; because of your abuse I’m feeling vigorous, my mind is like the Claritin commercials when the filter is lifted and all is clear, and I can trust I’ll have a gorgeous sleep tonight just like that two-headed monster on Sesame Street.   

Ode to Foil

Top: Clean    Bottom: Textured

I have something to admit…I love foil! This might seem of no consequence to you but let me tell you I use this stuff to the point of obsession. I was thinking this just now as I snatched the foil box off the top of my fridge, popped it open and proceeded to lavish what is supposed to be a cookie sheet, but for today’s purposes is a baking sheet for a few thin cuts of pork loin, with a generous swath of foil. What is generous you may ask? No worries, I’m happy to share, generous is the amount of foil you actually need plus several inches on each side so, in the case of the cookie sheet one can overlap the edges insuring porkchops remain intact…well maybe that would just be my own brand of ‘special’…let’s be honest those extra few inches do not promise pork chop security rather it ensures no juice leakage. Like that? Juice leakage, that sounds friggin nasty but you feel me, all those savory liquids that emerge from the meat upon cooking do not slide under the edges of the foil thus creating the mess I’m trying to avoid by using said foil. Avoiding mess and insulating/moisturizing oven cooked meats are my prime reasons for using foil allll the time. I thought I liked putting foil on the grill until I realized once used you have to painstakingly peel off every little scrap of foil; that same hardiness I can appreciate to avoid a mess in my indoors kitchen doesn’t quite translate to outdoors cooking. I guess foil is great for covering things too, like leftovers, but for whatever reason this fact doesn’t excite me as much as clean pans. Shoot in college I’m sure we found more interesting and recreational ways to utilize foil, which if you have to ask means you were better than I or participating in far more sinister activities that foil would be incapable of handling. I wonder, how much foil do I use in any given year? It would be nice to know but I am of the MTV generation as they used to call us Gen Xers so that was a fleeting thought whose thread I don’t wish to follow. In summary, I love everything about foil: the color, the heft of a regular roll (sidenote: I don’t particulary care for heavy duty foil), the packaging (I’m stuck on Reynolds, who knows why, perhaps Don Draper could riddle me that), the grunt work it does, the dishwashing it helps me avoid, the way it can be used for crafting and the most satisfying sound it makes as it rips through those jagged metal-like teeth reminding me of the crazy machine that ate people in one of those Steven King novels. I guess the Steven King reference wasn’t needed but I love my stream-of-consciousness so it wouldn’t be fair to leave that out.