Chew on This

Thanksgiving TableThanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. It calls for decorating your house in warm harvest-inspired earth tones, volunteering or being recruited to make a side dish for the family dinner and finally and cashing in your Christmas Club account (do people have those anymore?) so you can tear up the mall on Black Friday. Don’t forget the most important part of Thanksgiving: starting incendiary conversations at the table. 

For mainstream (i.e. ‘white’) culture, that could mean dropping a load of shocking news at the dinner table (I’m using my Christmas Club money to help fund a gender reassignment surgery, Mom) or starting an argument with your family about your differing political and religious beliefs. (Why shouldn’t I convert to the Jedi faith?) For black families, major holiday dinners are often madcap gatherings, punctuated with liberal helpings of ‘libation’ and raucous rounds of ‘Yo Mama …’ jokes. Not to mention confronting cousin Rolanda about the $200 she owes you after you paid her way in Atlantic city for your other cousin Sheila’s bachelorette party. 

Well, it’s high time that we modernize things. Take a gander at this hilarious clip from the old Ricky Lake Show. On this episode, Ricky discusses interracial dating, from the standpoint of people who are rebelling against family taboos, so that they can date interracially for the first time. Her guest Kai, dares the disapproval of her cousin Kobi, who represents a family that forbids it! Imagine if instead of publicizing her plans on a daytime talk show, Kai dropped the news at Thanksgiving dinner. 

Now readers, if you’ve decided to take the plunge and date interracially and you announce your plans at Thanksgiving dinner — or for bigger fireworks bring the guy home — at least show up with a little something to make the news go down easier.

I found this recipe, tweaked to my liking, in a book titled “Real Taste of Jamaica” by Enid Donaldson.  

CORN PUDDING

3 eggs lightly beaten

2 cups drained and cooked (or caned) whole kernel corn

2 cups milk, scalded

1 tbsp. butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. nutmeg or cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 F. Combine the eggs, milk, butter and sugar and mix well. Stir in the flour a little at a time, then add the corn. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle on the nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Test for readiness by inserting a clean knife in the center of the pudding. If it comes out clean, you’re done. Let it bake for another 5 to 10 minutes if it needs more cooking. Let stand for 10 minutes, while the center firms up.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Let the onslaught begin!

Garcelle’s New Jewelry Line

‘Tis the season to be givin’!  Just in time for the main gift-giving season of the year, model mom Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon has launched a new jewelry line for children, appropriately called Petit Bijou. For us English speakers, that’s French for “little jewel”. You can check out the baby baubles at the Web site http://www.petitbijouonline.com/.

Just as each child has their own unique personality, so do the necklaces of Petit Bijou. The debut line features charms on organic cotton cords in colors such as pink, purple, blue, red, green and black or on silver or 14 karat gold-fill chains. Among the twenty plus charms available are teddy bears, ballerinas, butterfly’s, horses, dinosaurs, guitars, cars, stars, peace signs, hearts, crowns, and the Eiffel Tower.

Petit Bijou’s fine jewelry collection, Petit Bijou Couture, includes paved diamond Ladybug’s, Teddy Bears and Hearts on 14k white, yellow or rose gold chain.

 

garcelle_petit-bijou

 

Stop by to shop for your little ones, your nieces, nephews and friends of children — or just to take another gander at her adorable twin sons, Jax Joseph and Jaid Thomas. I think Jax, on the left, is my favorite. Of course that could be because when I first saw pictures of them, he was wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt.  Cute and cool — how can you resist!

Abandonment Issues

My last post about Michele Obama and the long-overdue respect which black women are now enjoying, sparked a stream of memories about unpleasant run ins I’ve had with certain black men. I’ll put my disclaimer at the end of this post about the good black men who win a lot of admiration from me, but upfront, I’d like to make something clear. Too many black men, unfortunately, have fallen into the habit of abandoning and profoundly disappointing black women, in one way or another.

I’ve got one long-running situation and an anecdote that bear this out. 

I didn’t grow up with my father. Truth be told, we had contact once when I was seven years old, and then 29 years later after I had already gotten married, settled with Hubby in the Garden State, and shortly before I realized I was pregnant. I never even memorized his name until I was required to get it to apply for a marriage certificate in Jamaica, where Hubby and I tied the knot. There is plenty of responsibility to go around for this estrangement. My parents were only together for a very short time, and I have reason to believe that my mother decided to carry on with her life without him because of an untenable circumstance in his life. Also, apparently, he and my eldest half brother (there are 6 of them, plus one half sister) knew all about me, and my brother’s family tried to establish contact with mine, but the offers were rebuffed. Who really knows what happened. My philosophy is that the responsibility for this rests on my parents’ shoulders, it’s their history and I shouldn’t complicate my life by trying to get to the bottom of their mistake. My whole life, mother refused to talk about my father, except to frame it in the context of being angry with me about something or another and suggesting that we would both be better off if I lived with him. At the end of the day, the man who by all rights is the primary male figure in my life … just wasn’t. He hasn’t influenced me one way or another at all, and knowing my mother’s aversion to talking about him, I never thought about him for fear of aggravating her. So it’s like he never existed. That made me, as far as my paternal lineage goes, and in the words of a Southern saying about people disconnected from their past, a cut flower. 

And the anecdote: 

When I was a freshman in college, I lived at home and had a part-time job in a neighboring town. One evening, a co-worker, a black man, offered me a ride home. Now folks, fear not. He didn’t try to take advantage of me and I didn’t feel apprehensive about riding in his car. Maybe that’s because I noticed that he stuck precisely to the route I gave him. Anyway, he lost my respect after the police pulled him over, ran his plates, realized that he was driving with a suspended license, and arrested him. I looked straight into his face through the rearview mirror as the police pushed his chest down on the trunk of his car and handcuffed him, and I’ll never forget the look.  More so, I’ll never forget the fact that the police never helped me to get home. That’s right, gentle readers. I was stranded on a commercial road that connected several towns and two counties in north Jersey. At that time of night, all of the businesses were closed, except for a pizza shop. I stopped in there, called my cousin and asked her to give me a ride home, which she did. 

The only major consideration that those situations had in common is that both men had handled their lives a bit carelessly at one point, setting them up to essentially drop the ball at a critical moment. I don’t know why black men often find themselves in situations wherein they desert black women. Maybe a lot of guys create too many children than they can reasonably tend to, start over with a new woman, find themselves overwhelmed and ashamed of their actions, and end up estranged from their children. Maybe they are heartless, and simply don’t care about the lives that they change, often for the worse, when they leave.

I don’t resent my father for the past. It would be a waste of valuable time and energy, and at that stage in my pregnancy, it would have put too much stress on me. I visited him this past summer. When he picked me up at the train station, he recognized me right away, without me having sent him any pictures of myself beforehand. He practically walked on other people to get to me at the train platform, grab my bags and give me a huge hug. Over those few days, he struck me as a guy who really regretted what happened all those years ago, even if he was completely lost as to how to make amends. He did his best to explain the past, answering all of my questions with more completeness and openness than I ever got from my mother. He gave me a gold necklace and bracelet one afternoon, and while I adjusted the bracelet around my wrist, I glimpsed him walking away and looking back, sort of smiling. Maybe he was relieved that I didn’t hate him (and still don’t) and that I was willing to visit him and keep an open mind after all those years. 

In the case of that co-worker, maybe he represents men who are are struggling to overcome mistakes in their past. Yet at any moment, a minor mistake can lead to a major headache, as past mistakes come to the fore. Whatever the reasons, abandonment is not acceptable, and black women shouldn’t tolerate it. 

How, you might ask, should black women avoid being disappointed, even if the guy’s present-day intentions are good? Well, I don’t think it’s that hard to recognize a decent, dependable man when he comes along. He dresses neatly. He holds gainful employment. He is connected to a community of people who depend on him, like a church, community organization, a sports team, an extended family — heck, even an investment club would do! As long as he is surrounded by solid people who can speak well of him, you know you’ve got a potential keeper. Notice I didn’t tick off the usual list of trappings in an Ideal Black Man: Plum job, nice car, huge net worth, real estate holdings, college degree, etc. All those things are icing on the cake, and if you find a guy with all of those things going for him, then bravo! At the end of the day, he has to be a reliable and considerate man with a steady moral compass. A guy like that won’t let you down, but if his character is lacking in those things, then you should agree to remain casual friends (without benefits!) and wish him well in life. 

Obviously, if a solid guy comes into your life who does not happen to be black, don’t overlook him. Even if you don’t have the right rapport, or enough buzz to sustain a long-term relationship, at least get to know him and come away from the experience with a good friend, a better idea as to what you want in a guy and some good memories. At the very least, it wouldn’t be the wisest thing you ever did to bypass a guy like that, especially if you want to place a high value on marriage, kids and a guy who can be the rock of the family.

You Say ‘Doula’, I Say Kinfolk

She’s here! She’s here!  

My raison d’etre, the apple of my eye, love of my life and the very best thing that has ever happened to me is finally in my arms. I’m a mommy! My daughter was born on Oct. 17, after two grueling hours of induced labor. I don’t care what Hubby says: when I saw them lift that baby girl out of me, the room went totally silent. Perhaps it took just minutes for the the swarm of medical professionals to clean her up and check her out, but time must have stopped until I heard her first few cries. She didn’t belt out one scream after another, but she cried just enough to let me know that she had arrived. It was an incredible feeling to hear the baby’s voice and know that she had finally, finally arrived.  

As to what Hubby and I did when we brought our precious cargo home — we fell into the arms of my aunt, who volunteered to be in the delivery room, which she was. She stayed a week after the baby’s birth to cook, babysit, advise and encourage us during our first week as parents. It was great! She is an amazing cook and possesses all sorts of practical knowledge that one accumulates giving birth to and raising six children. 

Hubby’s mother also signed up for one week of time with the new baby. If you add her experience as a mom, you get women who have raised 10 kids. So I spent a lot of time listening to their stories and picking up little hints from them on burping, fussiness and dressing the baby for colder weather.

This assistance put me at ease. And it got me to thinking: how do modern people manage with new babies when they are far away from experienced relatives? At some point during my pregnancy, I looked into doula services. Doulas, in theory, are great. They are there to help you out in whatever way you need, whether it means coaching and comforting you in the delivery room or adjust to the new home life with baby. They can coach you on breast feeding or help you manage the baby’s fussy times. They can be an extra help as you recover from either a C-section or natural delivery, as was the case with me. 

By ‘natural’ I mean a regular birth, not labor without pain killers. C’mon now, there was no need to be a hero!

I think doulas are one of the trappings of modern yuppie life, which ironically, involves doing a lot of things the old fashioned way, before everyday life involved eating foods and wearing clothes shipped in from mass-produced facilities around the world. Employing a doula seems to go right along with shopping at an organic foods market, driving hybrid cars and trying very hard to live a life of which a conservationist or environmentalist would approve. It’s ironic that we’ve adopted old fashioned and traditional practices in order to live a more enlightened, progressive life. 

Thank goodness for older, experienced aunts and mothers in law. If Hubby and I were typical yuppies, we might have to consider a doula. As it stands now, however, we’ve done just fine with the elder women folk in our families. 

It’s interesting that in mid-September, when I left the office for my extended maternity leave, the financial markets collapsed. After having seen one high fallutin’ CEO after another disgraced in all of this, I think some of these people ought to be forced into doula training schools and assigned to working mothers who are on leave from their full-time jobs and demanding careers. And they should be required to advocate for a minimum of six months paid maternity leave for their charges. I’ve got dibs on Henry Paulson. He looks like he could pick up on managing a baby without too many problems. Plus, he looks like a brawler, so if anyone tried to get too close to us without washing their hands he could double as my bodyguard!