Tennessee

Tennessee was not a state on my list of places to vacation. However, when my brother-in-law invited family members to go to the cabins in Pigeon Forge, TN, in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, I nonchalantly said yes.  I thought, why not?  I had never been to Tennessee, and I wanted to go somewhere with my son before he went off to college.  My brother-in-law and my sister, who recently passed loved Tennessee and frequently boasted about the many attractions for kids and adults.

Our travelling group consisted of 11 people – three kids under 12, two teenagers and six adults. I had forgotten what it was like to vacation with family – the camaraderie of bonding with people who genuinely love and look out for each other.  It was soothing.

The drive was approximately eight hours. After only a couple of stops, we had finally arrived.  Driving down Parkway, one of the main roads to get to our cabin was invigorating.  Exhilaration was slithering throughout my body as I ogled at the bright lights and billboards highlighting places pledging gratification.  I couldn’t wait to get to the cabin to get settled!

The log cabin looked like a picture from a postcard. It was beautiful!  It slept 13 and had everything that you needed – washer/dryer, dishwasher, dishes, pool table, hot tub, and all the amenities in a home.

Tennessee did not disappoint. There were plenty of activities for entertainment.  Our objective was to coordinate activities to appease everyone in our group, which ranged in age from 8 to 63.  We did, and some of our undertakings included the following:

  • Wonderworks, an upside-down house with plenty of rides and adventures.
  • Watching a 4D movie which, of course, compelled me to close my eyes due to fear, but it was fun.
  • Going to the magic show of the amazing Terry Evanswood.
  • Going on the Jurassic Boat ride where dinosaurs jump out and spray you
  • Going to the Hollywood Wax Museum
  • Visiting the Zombie house, which scared the crap out of two of the kids because there were a couple of people dressed as zombies to make the experience more frightening.
  • Going into a mirror maze.
  • Going to the Extreme go kart tracks – crazy fun!
  • Visiting the Ripley’s Aquarium where a beautiful young lady was dressed as a mermaid and swam with fish; and
  • Going to nice restaurants for dinner.

The only con for me was the mountain driving. The cabins were located deep into the mountains and in some areas, if you drove just a little too far to the left or right, the drop was over 50 to 100 feet.   The grass that lined roads were misleading because shortly behind them were steep plunges without warning.  Those harrowing images eliminated Tennessee nightlife for me.  However, the cabin offered many amenities for you to enjoy staying in along with significant privacy.  The mountains are beautiful, and I’m so glad I had a chance to visit Tennessee!  Check out my pictures from our adventure.

A view of the drive to the cabin:

At the Aquarium in the Gatlinburg area:

Beautiful mermaid swimming with the fish:

 

Tennessee

 

 

DC Improv

I saw Aries Spears at the DC Improv on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC. Aries is a stand-up comedian and actor who was on the Fox comedy series MADtv.  Since I watched that show irregularly, I couldn’t recall any of his performances.  So, to refresh my memory, I watched a couple of his YouTube videos and concluded that he was very funny.  I also thought that being immersed in an atmosphere overflowing with laughter would be an uplifting experience.

Some relief theorists view laughter as relieving an accumulation of nervous energy. “Sigmund Freud stated that all laugh-producing situations are pleasurable because they save psychic energy.”  Freud also concluded that jokes are more than they seem because they have hidden benefits which allow us to enjoy hidden pleasure unconsciously.”  This is true in that you cannot make yourself laugh on demand.  There is something that causes a feeling inside of you to burst into “unanticipated words or sounds that are hard to decipher.”

On a normal day, driving into the city can be an exhausting experience with the continuous influx of traffic and limited on-street parking. On that day, traffic was worse than normal – The 2017 DC Capital Pride Parade was in full swing.  Street closures along with the parade’s residual revelers caused traffic to move at a snail’s pace.  I glanced at the flashes of purple, blue, yellow and red scattered throughout the crowd.  Red and yellow haired men and women in cropped tops, short shorts and a variety of offbeat clothing beaming with pride strolling along the streets of DC.  An abundance of blue metallic sunglasses and t-shirts emblazoned with various gay pride messages sashayed in front of my immobile car, stalled by traffic.

The DC Improv is a comedy club and restaurant. They offer a discount on parking at the garage next to the venue.  This provided me with a level of safety and convenience.  Once inside, you are seated at a table with other guests.  The tables are not very large, and the spacing between the tables is snug at best.  There were six of us at my table.  Yet, it was not an uncomfortable experience.

Aries Spears had the crowd fully immersed in his comedy. He told stories about his life, his likes and dislikes and interacted with the audience.  Everyone in the crowd laughed throughout his routine because his jokes continuously flowed like waves. I eagerly anticipated the next punchline.  Without warning, a feeling emerged reminiscent to me observing my own reflection.  In that moment, I was happy.

My Sister Debbie

Hey Guys,

Last year, I wrote a post called “Reality Check” and disclosed that my sister was sick. Sadly, I am writing to say that my sister passed.  The thought of never seeing her, hearing her voice or touching her again is heart-breaking.  That thought crushes my own sense of stability, leaving me extremely vulnerable and afraid.  For that reason, I choose to grieve in pieces and muster the strength with every fiber of my being to focus on the lovely woman that I had the pleasure of having as my older sister, Debbie.

Debbie was a minister with a strong faith in God. She was the fifth of 10 children, the oldest of four girls.  She and her husband had been together since she was 17 years old for a total of approximately 42 years.  Her siblings respected and admired her, and her nieces and nephews adored her.  She had this quiet demeanor and was always even-keel.  She was creative whether it was with her cooking, braiding hair or coming up with ideas for home decorating.  She was my primary go to person to babysit my kids when my then husband and I would take solo trips.   When my kids were older, she remained a constant presence in their lives because she always made herself available to her family.

My sister had cancer. Although, the initial prognosis was not great, we were optimistic – the statistics indicated that she could live for up to 10 years.  We held on to that statistic as if it was air for life.  It was a glimmer of hope under dark circumstances.

Last year, when she left the hospital, she started on chemotherapy treatments. We would anxiously listen as she disclosed the results from her doctor visits, yearning for good news and good news is what she communicated.  I admired how her husband accompanied her to the doctor visits and was just there for her; visibly carrying out their wedding vow “in sickness and in health.” Debbie never complained about anything during her illness.  She never wanted sympathy or worry.  Her faith provided her with a sense of calmness.

Debbie was keenly aware of her family’s concerned optimism regarding her recovery. She had been doing so well over the past 14 months.  Based on her doctor’s prognosis, her life should resemble almost normalcy by the end of the summer.  They made changes to her treatment to facilitate this transition.  As a family, we were relieved and somewhat ecstatic.  This probably contributed to Debbie’s reluctance to disclose the results from the scan that was completed to confirm this good news.

We watched as Debbie lost her appetite for food, lost weight and struggled with other situations that were uncomfortable. I told myself that this was just a setback; she will get her appetite soon and everything would be fine.  I called her about her poor eating and scolded her on how this was not good for her recovery.  She assured me that she was fine.  We were oblivious to the fact that she was dying. How could we think that?  We were busy planning her 60th birthday party.  We couldn’t and didn’t want to see what was in plain sight because it was just too painful and our hope for her recovery – too great.

It didn’t help that Debbie stayed active and continued to maintain an attitude of positivity around her family.  She continued to go to church, maybe missing a Sunday here or there because of a “sinus infection” or the side effects from a new medication.

On Sunday, May 7th, Debbie hosted a pre-Mother’s Day and Father’s Day program at her church.  She cooked several food dishes and desserts.  She was an excellent cook!  I called her earlier as she was cooking and told her to “slow down” drilling her about how I need her to focus on her recovery.  She again assured me that she would be fine and scolded me “Who told you I wasn’t eating?” as we went back and forth.  We always ended our conversations with “I love you sissy” and then she would say “I love you too” and this time was no different.  During Debbie’s church program, she wanted to do a presentation to our parents.  Four days later, my parents would realize that her presentation to them was her goodbye.  Debbie died on Thursday, May 11th.

I have many fond memories of Debbie that I will cherish for the rest of my life. However, my memory of how my sister handled her impending death is one that obviously is in the forefront.  She handled it with grace and dignity.  Her courage and strength was incredible.  She was always positive in spirit and she wanted positivity around her.  Her husband said during this period, he had never seen her cry, complain or be sad.  On the day that she transitioned, she looked up at her husband and asked him if he was okay.  She then closed her eyes and rested.  She was remarkable and will be sorely missed.

With Love,

Lee

Debbie

 

 

National Women’s History Month

Hello my friends,

It’s been a while, and I am happy to be back to post about Women’s History Month.

For so long, women were understood to be hidden figures in a patriarchal society, but some were quietly blazing trails. And so, the acknowledgement for a Women’s History Month comes on the shoulders of some historically, brave trailblazers.  The fight for equality continues today with the politicizing of our Reproductive Rights and the inequity in pay.  The Equal Pay Act was passed by Congress in 1963, and in 2017, a 21 cent pay gap still exists.

Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge every piece of progress. The “National Women’s History Month” was passed by Congress in 1987 and is celebrated annually during the month of March. The purpose is to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and society.

I had the opportunity to attend the “7th Annual Stateswomen for Justice Luncheon and Issues Forum” at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, DC.  The keynote speaker was the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Bernice A. King, Chief Executive Officer, The King Center in Atlanta, GA.

Her message was profound and inclusive. A couple of takeaways from her presentation for me were how she stressed that justice does not come at the price or at a disadvantage to another.  She also talked about how important it is to be open to people who are not liked minded for growth and development.  She ended her presentation with a story about this little boy and his dad on a boat.  She said that the little boy would break out in laughter, and his dad would ask him why was he laughing.  The little boy would laugh and say I’ll tell you later.  Soon after, the boy would break out again with this boisterous laughter and again the dad inquired.  Finally, the father told him that he would be punished if he did not tell him what all the laughter was about.  They boy laughingly pointed towards his dad to show him what tickled his fancy.  There was a hole in the boat.  The boy did not realize that the hole on his father’s side of the boat would sink the whole boat.  Therefore, if his father went down, so would he.  Most important was to understand that we are one United States of America.  We must think strategically of the impact of our decisions and actions for generations to come.

There were other amazing trailblazers that sat on the panel and deserve to be acknowledged. They are:

  • Yanick Rice Lamb – Journalist, Author, Chair Media Journalism, Film Department, Cathy Hughes School of Communications, Howard University
  • Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Economist, Author, Former President, Bennett College for Women
  • Kristen Clarke – President/Executive Director, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Dr. Lezli Baskerville, President/CEO, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
  • Denise Rolark Barnes, Chair, National Newspaper Publishers Association; and
  • Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Journalist, Author and Minister

This was an inspiring event that gave me a renewed sense of hope.  Check out my pictures from the event.

Peace and Love,

Lee

7th Annual Stateswomen for Justice Luncheon

 

 

Clarity

I was so enthusiastic to share my blog on another platform of social media. I created my Facebook page and Instagram in attempts to reach other people, discovering their new single.  It’s barely been a month with my new all-encompassing social platform, and I’m happy that I took the leap because it has increased my blog exposure.  While there are many benefits with social media, you also have to expect risks and eccentricities that come along with opening yourself up at that level.

I’ve been on Facebook for many years and to me, its purpose has somewhat changed. I was used to accepting Facebook friendships by confirmation.  That was the extent of acknowledgement until you commented on a post that provoked you.   I was not familiar with this new expected two-way communication on Facebook messenger.  My “new friends” actually want to communicate or video chat.  I did not know that was even possible considering my telephone number is not public.  Then there are those people who are persistent with trying to meet you.  They don’t understand that this is just your platform in which you express your creativity.

There was an individual who would leave several messages for me daily.  He included his email and telephone number insisting that I contact him.  He had apparently read my blog and noticed some of the places that I had visited from my Instagram and Facebook accounts.  Therefore, he expressed commonalities that he assumed we shared.  He continuously complimented me until he did not.  Perhaps because I would not respond to his advances.  He then left a very mean message on my Facebook page basically calling me fat and comments about me having self-esteem issues.  I, of course, deleted him as a “friend” and his comments were also deleted.

The next day, I noticed that he had posted a comment on my Instagram account. I had posted this lovely picture of the sky, before dark, illuminating warmth with zig zags of orange, red and yellow running through it.  I noted that the sky was simply beautiful.  He wrote something to the effect of how he would “rather be looking into my beautiful eyes.”  This is after he tried to humiliate me on my new Facebook page.  I did what was necessary to prevent him from viewing any future Instagram posts.

The day after, I realized that he had written a very long comment on my blog.  I did not approve the comment, and blocked him from future comments.  It was comforting to know that social media had measures in place to prevent harassments from becoming permanently public.

I disclosed this because this is someone who thought he could “help” me and was very persistent with getting to know me.  Although I did not know this person, he believed he really knew me.  Therefore, he attacked me on social media because, I presume, he felt that I was vulnerable and had ignored him.  As a result, I thought I would use my artistic platform to clear up any confusions.

My blog is a great outlet for me to express my creativity and my uniqueness in hopes of benefitting myself and others.  According to the American Psychological Association, “In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”  Therefore, I am not alone in re-experiencing what it is like to be single again.

In doing so, does not mean that I have self-esteem issues. Quite the opposite because I am not afraid to face and expose my vulnerabilities to the world.  It does not mean that I am a weak person.  It means that I am strong.  I’m apprehensive, but in a good way because I’m doing new and exciting things. I am discovering what makes me happy and fulfilled at this new stage in my life.  I’m not the insecure person I used to be who would have felt obligated to respond to persistence.  I am a secure woman who knows the difference between a man and boy because a real man does not insult women.  I am not someone who is threatened by someone who calls me fat, ugly or whatever adjectives that gives you a release.  When I look in the mirror, the soul of that reflection stirs emotions, chills because of the beauty within.  I am not someone who can be bullied.

As I continue to embrace my singlehood and arousing life experiences, please don’t ever confuse it or me with being fragile.  I am empowered!

Happy Birthday

I just celebrated my birthday on December 1st, my second since I started my blog.  This past year provided me with some insights to discover who I am at this point in my life.   So often and so normal for us to live our lives being defined by our association to others – somebody’s daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, mother, boss and friend.  Those depictions are often starting points and only a glimpse into the mystery of our identities.

Birthdays are an interesting phenomenon; an exciting expectancy of looking forward to milestones when you’re young, and a reluctant anticipation as you get older, but you certainly don’t want them to stop. When I was young, I looked forward to celebrating my birthdays and was eager to age.  I so envied my older siblings who were going out to parties and enjoying life.  I would watch my mom pack food for my brothers and their friends as they went to Coney Island and on other overnight trips.  I would listen to my dad yell and scream when they would return home late as they hardly ever made curfew.  We already had a large family, and my brothers’ friends practically lived with us.  I thought the life of a teenager was full of parties, fun and laughter.  I idolized my brothers and adored being their younger sister.

When I turned 16, I thought I would be able to hang out like my brothers and have fun. It didn’t happen mostly because I was a girl, and we did not have the same privileges as the boys.  Instead of going to the school discos, I was in church.  Tuesday night was Bible study, Friday night church services, and on Sundays, Sunday school first and then regular church services.  I couldn’t wait to get out of school, and I certainly did not miss the “L7” tag that came along with being a “square” for NOT partying.  But, I was being a good daughter.

At 18, I had all of these dreams about what I would do as an adult like vote, and it did not include having a baby, but hey – it happened and no regrets. At 21, I could officially drink.  At 25, I finally felt like a real adult.  I had my own apartment and did what I wanted to do.  At 28, I bought my first home and was travelling all over the U.S. for work.  In my early thirties, I got married and had children.  I prided myself on being a good wife and mother.

My children are the joy of my life. I used to be referred to as somebody’s daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, and now I am referred to as somebody’s mom.  Honestly, my heart warms with that designation because it’s an exertion that I continuously try to perfect on a daily basis.  However, my children are my center. They keep me grounded. Some people, unknowingly, get trapped in those representations without ever finding their own identities.  They look in the mirror and a branded reflection stares back.  Your individuality is defined only by your association to somebody else and you have to hold on at any cost or else, you’re lost.

Last year, I wanted to do something to uncover my own uniqueness which is why I started this blog. I knew I was different from the person I was over 20 years ago, when I was last single.  I had my foundation and I had my center which concealed the ambiguity of my new identity.  The underlying obligation of doing something to write about forced me to be engaged in my life.  In doing so, I figured out my likes and dislikes.  In retrospect, I would take this any day over being a couch potato and continuing to define myself only through my work and by my children, who have their own lives.

In the words of one of my favorite poets, E. E. Cummings – “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” To re-enter into the world alone after floating around as an incidental shadow in another’s creation is a challenging fete. There is an acclimation period for everything, including being single.  This year, my birthday gift to myself was finding myself.  For the first time in many years, I felt comfortable in my skin.  I recognized that it takes courage to find and live in your own identity.

Peace and Blessings,

Lee

Thanksgiving Weekend

I was enthusiastic about Thanksgiving.  I looked forward to my daughters coming home from college, enjoying quality family time with everybody, and cooking some of my kids’ favorite dishes.  Even though I am not the best cook, they make me feel like I am and show appreciation for my efforts.

Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner was somewhat stressful because I deliberately waited to the last minute to go food shopping. I observed the long lines at the store days before the holiday and loathed the idea of standing in line with the disgruntled people already there.  It was as if I, magically, thought the lines would diminish as we approached Thanksgiving.  Delaying my shopping resulted in me spending over 4 ½ hours at three different stores.

The creation of Thanksgiving is traced back to a harvest festival celebrated by the pilgrims in 1621 at the Plymouth Plantation after a successful growing season.

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” [1] Thus, an abundance of food, company, and the acknowledgement of blessings are historical traditions for Thanksgiving.

While I enjoyed the celebration with my family, I thought about all of the families who had lost love ones over the last year. How hurtful it must be to celebrate the first Thanksgiving without them.  I also remembered some of the residents at the senior living center where my ex mother-in-law resided.  Some had no visitors and some had only infrequent visitors.  I often wondered why they were alone and could not think of any scenarios in my head that would lead to elderly abandonment, particularly for someone with children.  I gave thanks for the unconditional love I have for my children and their love for me.

During this Thanksgiving weekend, I took a moment to remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving; giving thanks and praise to the Almighty for his many blessings. When the Proclamation for Thanksgiving was issued by President Lincoln on October 3,1863, it was during the American Civil War one of the bloodiest wars in U.S. history.  The northern and southern states were in disagreement with slavery being one of the root causes.  The country was divided.

Our country is divided on a number of issues again and American families are caught in the middle with their livelihoods at risk.  As we give thanks for our blessings, remember the less fortunate.

Sadly the words from President Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863 are as poignant today as they were during the American Civil War.  An excerpt follows:

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

 

[1] http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

 

Female Forum

On Friday evening, I attended a Women’s Networking Wine and Cheese; a bring your favorite bottle of wine and enjoy cheese and chocolates while networking.  This event provided an opportunity to meet a group of culturally diverse, successful women. It was invigorating to be amongst this crowd. Since women connect on emotional levels, the evening would not have been complete without its “Kumbaya moments.” In light of recent events, this was a great forum to express your thoughts and feelings.

So often, we are in competition or critiquing each other. This occasion highlighted the advantages of sharing and recognizing that we have more in common than not.  Besides meeting some “kick ass” people, it proved to be an evening full of learning and laughs.

Peace and Blessings,

Lee

Wine, Cheese & Conversation

 

 

 

 

My Vote Matters

On Election Day, I was excited to accompany my parents to the voting booth in hopes of celebrating a victory and shattering that unbreachable barrier known as the glass ceiling. In spite of health issues, their enthusiasm to exercise their right to vote was infectious.  I gleamed with pride as I watched my elderly parents walk into the voting hall to cast their vote.

My parents survived the era in which casting your vote for an election could and did in many cases result in death. It was only in December, 2015 that women were allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia.  Therefore, they would never take this freedom for granted.  (You can catch them walking optimistically into the voting hall below.)  Casting your vote is a civic duty.  It is your chance to provide input because in the U.S. we the people produce the outcome.  No one should take that lightly.

Although considered to be one of the scruffiest presidential elections in history, I felt disheartened with the course of actions that led up to the election. Politics are messy, but I believe in our democratic system.  I believed that the candidate with over 30 years of dedicated public service along with her knowledge, expertise, and familiarity with the government would be a shoe in to win.  Some say she had so much baggage that it was an impossible feat.  So instead the candidate chosen as the better was someone who has publicly disgraced minorities and women, and whose campaign bolstered racial division and fear to non-white, law-abiding American citizens.

Although the outcome of this election seemed shocking to many, it was decided based on our democratic system. We have to accept the outcome and support the new President-Elect.  This is the person who is going to lead our country and as President Obama said, “he is doing what he can in hopes of the success for the President-Elect.”

I trust our democracy and pray that as our “Pledge of Allegiance” states that we really are “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Peace and Blessings,

Lee

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The Good Ole Days

Last weekend, I went on a road trip to Richmond, VA, with five of my friends to attend a 70’s themed party. Most of us have known each other for over 30 years.  The party was organized by one of my friend’s relatives and the age of the attendees ranged from the mid-20s to over 65.

Hit songs from the 1970s blasted from the speakers stimulating reminiscences from a happy, carefree period; producing an electrifying atmosphere. Watching the men and women dance their way through the “Soul Train” like parallel lines as onlookers clapped and cheered; watching the two participants try to unscramble the name on the board; and seeing all of the cool vintage outfits felt like déjà vu.

We all laughed at how much we danced and missed the “good ole” dance music. Check out some of my pictures below.

70’s Party in Richmond