Day 11: your current relationship; if single, discuss that

I am definitely NOT single. In fact, truth be told, I haven’t been single for almost exactly 28 years. It was right around this time in 1988 that John and I rekindled our previous flame which had ended back in 1986. In the two years we were apart, there was so much crazy relationship nonsense for me that I can’t even begin to tell it all. Aside from all the frogs I kissed and strange places I woke up during my so-called “lost semester”, there was a physically abuse relationship, a summer romance that ended with a marriage proposal, a nine week whirlwind fling that ended on a rooftop during midterms, and the game of cat and mouse with the man who wore me down and then decided he wasn’t interested.

And then there was John.

I don’t know why we work, but we do. We are such radically different people, but we fit. We are great people on our own who are exponentially better together. On the surface, we don’t look like we should work on paper. When I’m with John, all is as it should be. The good times are greater and the bad times are bearable. Life wouldn’t be the same without him.

We’ve learned to meet in the middle on the issues that would separate most folks. He smoothes my rough edges, but doesn’t file them away. My directness has rubbed off on him and he is more open and expressive than when we first met.

He makes gorgeous babies. I truly believe that our kids are stunningly beautiful in their own right, not just because I’m their mom and that’s a requirement. Even with all of the difficulties we’ve faced with the kids, I can’t imagine doing any of it with anyone else.

We strengthen each other’s strengths and help with each other’s weaknesses. We fight for our love, our family, and our marriage. We’ve faced some very serious adversity, and we are still together and stronger for it.

We love each other’s company and miss each other when we’re apart.

I can’t imagine life without him: going to bed and waking up next to each other, growing old together. There are no guarantees in life, but I’m happy to live it to its fullest one day at a time

I love him. He loves me. No flourish, no pretense, no bullshit. Of our own free will, we belong to each other. It is my life’s greatest blessing.

In May, we’ll mark 24 years of marriage, which will be half of our lives. We’ve grown up together. Hopefully, we’ll grow old together.

Our love is no fairytale, but it is magical in so many ways.

My John, my love, you are every beat of my heart. I love you, Boo Boo.


Yucky Fruit

Day 10: a fruit you dislike and why

I can’t believe I made it to day 10 and haven’t missed a day. This is such amazing discipline for me! I have always wanted to be a writer, so I’m finally following the advice I heard a long time ago: writers write. So I’m writing everyday in hopes of realizing my dream of becoming a published author someday.

But I digress…

I like fruit in general, but I rarely eat enough of it. For my own good health I should probably work on that. There’s only one I can think of that I just can’t stand, which is convenient since I’m allergic to it: watermelon.

Yes, I’m allergic to watermelon. It doesn’t take much to imagine the jokes folks make about that. Irritation and hives all over my face and a queasy feeling in the stomach to boot. Every summer I’m surrounded by the smell of watermelon. That smell makes most people’s mouths water in anticipation of the juicy fruit and thoughts of spitting seeds. For me, that smell just makes my stomach do flip flops. It’s no fun for me like it is for so many.

I know I sound like a curmudgeon. Oh well.

Give me pretty much any kind of berry. Let me peel an orange or a banana. I’ll slice up an apple any day. Just keep watermelon away. I won’t miss it. Trust me.


Day 9: your feelings on ageism 

I grew up in a home with four generations living under one roof. My grandfather’s aunt lived with us until she died when I was about eight. I remember sitting in her room and listening to stories about what it was like when she was a child. She was over 90 years old at that time, which means she was born sometime in the 1860-70s timeframe. Aunt Mary was a living, breathing history lesson and I cherished the time we spent together. The fact that she was old simply meant she had more life to talk about. It never frightened me or made me think less of her. On the contrary, it made me respect her even more.

I guess that’s part of why I’ve never understood how anyone could discriminate based on age. Older people bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the mix. Younger and newer is not always better, and (to paraphrase a line from Skyfall) sometimes the old ways are the best. Perhaps youth does have the advantage of being quicker both mentally and physically, but that doesn’t mean that older folks are necessarily slow.

Perhaps we as a society have lost touch with the notion of learning from our elders. When we lived in close nuclear families, the elders held the history of the family in their hands and chose to whom they would pass it along. That’s how it was in my family.

As a woman, I look at ageism in a different way. As I get older, I notice that I’m becoming part of the scenery rather than standing out as the attractive female in the room. Older women are often passed over professionally and are rarely seen as desirable and interesting. We are judged by our appearance often: lined faces, gray hair, and wrinkles make us look old, but they make our male counterparts look “distinguished “. It is sad to me that young women have the issue of being sexualized and objectified, while women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s struggle to be seen as attractive, competent, and worthy — let alone in any way sexual.

There have been times when I’ve overheard people talking about my older musical colleagues and how they were “too old to play anymore”. I was appalled to hear such blatant disrespect for these men who had achieved brilliant performing careers. Just because they’re old they should stop playing? Just because they have lost some of the facility and technique from their youth their musical voices should be silenced? It was painful to listen to these ignorant people talk about their displeasure at having to listen to these “has beens” who were my heroes. Didn’t they ever stop to think that these artists needed to continue to play as long as they could because it was their whole life?

Why are the young so valuable and the old so expendable? Why can’t we make room for everyone to have a place? We could learn so much from each other if we did.

I look forward to the day when I am the old woman sharing the stories of my youth with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’m excited to be a piece of history for them like Aunt Mary was to me. Her stories are still alive to the extent that I can remember them. I am a link to a time nearly 100 years before I was born and to a woman born into the US in the decade after slavery was abolished. That’s an amazing legacy to carry and pass along.

I’m reminded of an old phrase I’ve heard many times since my childhood: age ain’t nothing but a number. The oldest among us will always have something to offer as long as they are alive. Let’s not sweep them aside before we have the opportunity to learn from them.


Day 8: A book you love and one you didn’t

I think the first part of this is easier than the second part.

First, before I go any further, I need to say that I have a reading disability.  It went undiagnosed all through my years in school, and it wasn’t until I was in college that I even heard about dyslexia or other similar disorders.  When I first read about dyslexia and its hallmark symptoms, I cried tears of joy and relief.  There was a word for what I had suffered in silence for years!  I wasn’t “lazy” or “slow”.  For years I hid this problem from all my teachers and my parents because I was ashamed.  I was afraid people would think I was stupid because I couldn’t read as fast or as well as the other students.

As I’ve gotten older, reading has gotten easier and I’ve learned to enjoy it more.  I can go at my own pace now and not be worried about deadlines, papers, and exams.  Today, I read for me.  I can finally enjoy reading in ways that I never did before.

There are also exercises to help train the eyes and to help with reading speed, fluency, and comprehension.  I have a great app for that on my iPad and it has already helped me tremendously.

I’m really happy that our daughter takes after John in her reading skills and interests.  Our son is more like me, and he struggles some.  Luckily, he has a mom who understands how hard it can be.  I try to help him as much as I can.  He’s already a better reader than I was at his age.  That’s encouraging.

Back to the prompt.

Once again, I’m an all or nothing person.  Either I love a lot of things or I’m not familiar with them at all.  In this particular case, I have a LOT of favorite books, but I can’t readily recall one I read that I don’t like.  I’m probably going to have to dig pretty deep to find a dud.  Finding a favorite won’t be terribly hard.  Even though I have enjoyed a great many books over the years, one stands out.

The Plague, by Albert Camus.

I was first introduced to Camus in high school when I read The Stranger.  Honestly, I was drawn to it because it was the shortest book on a long list of required reading during my junior year.  I knew that even this short book would take me as long to read as a book twice its size would take anyone else.  I went to the bookstore to get it and was immediately intrigued by its cover.  The cover art drew me in.  Once I opened the book, I could not stop reading it.  Camus drew me into a completely new world.  I was hooked.  The best part was how easily I could read this book.  The words seemed to fly off the page.  No other book had ever felt that way to me.

The memory of this experience stayed with me.  Once I was in college a couple years later, I had a chance to take a course called Existentialism and Politics.  The course description stated that we would be reading the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre, Paul Tillich, and Albert Camus.  That was all I saw — ALBERT CAMUS.  I wanted that course to have another opportunity to read, study, and discuss Camus.  I was overjoyed to get into the class.

Of course, we got to Camus last…

For the first few weeks we slogged through the petulance of Beauvoir, the arrogance of Sartre, and the incomprehensibility of Tillich.  I was doing okay in the class, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I was waiting for Camus.  I was waiting for The Plague.

When it finally came, I was not disappointed.  I enjoyed the reading so much, and the discussions were lively and interesting.  I was in the process of exploring my own spirituality and the book was asking so many of the questions I had in my own mind about the nature of goodness in people regardless of their faith, or lack thereof.  At one point, the professor listened to my argument about a point in the book and announced to the class that my assessment clearly indicated that I was an atheist.  I was shocked!  I wasn’t sure where my path to faith lay, but I knew I was on one.  To this day I’m not sure what to think about that.

I was incredibly proud of the paper I did on The Plague, and it was well received.  When I have the chance, I hope to re-read The Plague again someday.  I’m sure I’ll see it differently almost 30 years later, but I’ll never forget how deeply it effected me then.

Now that I recount the story of that class, I would have to say that the book by Paul Tillich we read is probably the driest and most difficult thing I’ve ever read.  It is in the lead for my least favorite bit of reading ever, hands down.  I hated it so much that I don’t even remember the name!

Reading has been a difficult task for me, but I’ve never stopped trying to improve my skills and keep learning.  Had I given up in high school, I never would’ve gotten to read Camus and dive head first into his style of questioning the ways of the universe.  I would’ve missed out on so much.


Day 7

I don’t have any tattoos. Some days I feel like one of the only people I know without one. Even my daughter wants one.

But there’s more to say than just that. I want one and have for many years. I already know where I want it to be (the outside of my right thigh, about 6 inches down from my hip), and what I want it to say.

One simple word: guerrera.

Guerrera is the feminine form of the Spanish word for “warrior”. To me, this word tattooed on my body will tell the world how I see myself. I’m a fighter. I don’t give up, no matter how difficult life becomes.

The placement of the tattoo is very specifically chosen. I want it high enough on my leg so that it is covered by skirts and regular shorts, but low enough that it can be seen when I wear running shorts. When I’m running, that’s when I am most in need of the reminder that I am a warrior. It’s where I fight back the demons of doubt and insecurity and fly like the wind. When I run, I am free, but that freedom is something I’ve fought for. I am a warrior.

So, why not just a tattoo that says “warrior “?

Spanish is my second language. I was mostly fluent by the time I was 16 when I travelled to Spain. Over the years, I’ve lost some of my fluency, but I’ve never stopped speaking entirely. I have loved the language most of my life; I find it to be extremely musical and expressive in ways that English simply isn’t. For me, the word guerrera says more about me than the word warrior.

I don’t have a plan for getting this tattoo anytime soon, but I would like to have it finished by the time I’m back in good enough shape to run a marathon. I’ve always hoped to do that before I turned 50. I have a couple more years.

Getting a tattoo scares me because of the pain I anticipate it causing. I hate needles! This is the one thing that keeps me from doing it, I suppose.

One day I will overcome this fear as I have so many others. On that day I will cry out for all to hear:

¡Viva la guerrera!


Day 6: someone who fascinates me and why

Another stumper of a prompt.

I don’t know if I’m fascinated by anyone. Seriously. This isn’t a cop out as much as it is an admission of guilt. Should I be? Are there people from history or of celebrity that should grab my attention? Probably. I really just can’t think of anyone.

There were all sorts of things that used to fascinate me when I was younger: the Kennedy family, the history of the New York Yankees, the Beatles, Spike Lee films, the music of Beethoven, and Dorothy Dandridge. Those things changed over the years to reflect my changing interests, but lately I find myself not fascinated by all that much.

Life is busy. My family keeps me on my toes and I do have interests and projects of my own. What’s going on for me is enough to keep me from intense interest in anyone other than my nearest and dearest.

I’m beginning to wonder if my difficulties focusing outward in this post and the one before it signify something simple yet profound. Maybe I’m happy with things as they are. Maybe, for the first time in my life, I’m able to accept where I am without wishing I were someone or somewhere else.

How about them apples?

A Place You Would Live, But Never Visited

Day 5, a little late:

I’ve traveled a fair amount in my time — less than some but more than most. I’ve actually pinpointed two places I would love to live, but I’ve been to both of them (Virginia Beach and the southern coast of Spain, outside of Málaga). The criteria used to pick these two spots was simple: near or on the beach and within driving distance of mountains. It’s harder to come up with another place I would live, let alone one I’ve never seen in person.

What are my deal breakers?

  • Living near the ocean is exceptionally important to me. I derive an enormous sense of peace and serenity from the sounds and smells of the sea. There is a tranquility about the beach that I can’t find anywhere else.
  • I need clean, fresh, breathable air, and loads of sunshine.
  • The local food choices must be simple, clean, and unprocessed. I want to eat well and not travel miles away or go broke doing it.
  • I want friendly neighbors. I find I have a lot of surface level friendships where I am now, but not many deep and abiding friendships like those I had in NYC or at college. I come from a family where hospitality was deeply ingrained and extremely important. I miss that element in my life now, and I’m looking for a place to recapture it.
  • I need cultural, racial, spiritual, and gender related diversity. It’s not just a concept to me. I don’t do well with homogeneity in anything other than milk. I need to see people who look like me living in harmony with folks who don’t, and I need my kids to see it too.

So, where exactly is this mythical land? I’m not sure if it exists. The most cosmopolitan places I can think of are not always on the sea coast, and many coastal communities are not particularly diverse. Maybe I need an island…?

This may seem like a total cop out, but I really can’t say for sure. I love big cities like NYC, Paris, London, and Madrid, but they aren’t on the ocean and I’ve been to them all. I have always been fascinated by West Africa, the Middle East, East Africa, and India, but I’m not sure I could get used to the differences of culture and language — food would NOT be a problem, however!

Australia has a lot of coastline, but far too many sharks. Eastern Asia looks interesting, but language would be a significant barrier.

Where would I go that I haven’t already gone?

I don’t have a clue.

Thankfully the point of the prompt, as I’m choosing to read it, was to discuss the idea and not necessarily to come up with the answer. This one’s just going to remain a cliffhanger, at least for now.

I’ll keep thinking

Day 4: 10 (Interesting) Things About Me


I’m going to cheat a bit on this one…

Nearly seven years ago, back when publishing notes on Facebook was a thing, I responded to the request from a friend to post 25 Random Things About Me.  I was surprised that I had 26 things to post, even though I probably could’ve condensed a few of them into a single item.  So, in the interest of conservation (reduce, reuse, recycle), I’m going to use some of that list here.

I put interesting in parentheses in the title because I’m not sure everyone will find these 10 things interesting.  Here’s hoping!

  1. I found out that I was adopted when I was nearly 30 years old and my firstborn was about 4 weeks old.  My “Aunt Cheryl” is really my mom.  Needless to say, this was some pretty earth-shaking news, especially in my hormonally challenged state.  Two years later, John helped me find my birth father.  So now I have four parents (though one is deceased), and my kids have six grandparents.  I’m also now no longer the only child I thought I was.  I have 5 brothers and sisters (again, one is deceased).  In the end, finding all this out was a tremendous blessing.
  2. I met my husband in 8th grade.  We sat across from each other in home room.  He thought I was cute.  I thought he was weird.  In 9th grade, I dated his best friend (who turned out to be gay — just my luck…).  We did eventually begin to date, right before he moved to Vermont.  I broke up with him on Valentine’s Day.  It took nearly two years and the kissing of MANY frogs to get me to see the mistake I’d made in dumping him.  We’ve been together since 1988 and married since 1992.
  3. Our daughter was born in the back seat of a 1997 Lincoln Town Car at the corner of 104th Street and Riverside Drive in NYC.  John delivered her.  This was the first of several diva moments she’s had in her nearly 18 years of life.  Giving birth to her was a life-changing experience for me.  I’ve never been the same since.
  4. Singing was my first musical expression.  I first remember “being caught” singing by my mother when I was 3.  We had just recently gone to a wedding, and the two musicians sang the song “September” from The Fantastiks.  That’s what I was singing to myself in my room as I played with my blocks.  Mom thought it was the radio.  When she figured out it was me, she carried me to her bedroom and made me sing it again for my dad.  I still remember the look on their faces; they looked at me as if I were some kind of freak.  That has, unfortunately, followed me since.
  5. I am a violist today, and have been since I was 16, but I started off playing violin.  Violin wasn’t even my first choice of instrument.  I wanted to play French Horn like my Aunt Mary Ann, but my parents didn’t want me to do ANYTHING  Mary Ann did.  So I talked them into letting me play violin.  They never really supported my love of music, often telling me that Black folks didn’t play stringed instruments or play Classical music.  Again, they made me feel like a freak for loving music and wanting to do it professionally.  They never have understood what I do.  This had been one of the saddest things in my life for many years.
  6. I wore braces on my teeth from the age of 22 to 25.  I still had on my bottom braces on my wedding day.  While it really sucked at the time, the investment in my smile was worth the pain.
  7. I love to practice and perform solo Bach more than any other music in the entire world.  It is the purest expression of who I am as a musician.
  8. Beethoven is my favorite composer.  When I was in Germany, I took the train from Cologne to Bonn to visit the Beethovenhaus Museum.  On the top floor, there is the room where he was born.  I remember standing in the doorway and crying like a baby at the thought of such greatness coming into the world in such a tiny space.  I also cry every time I hear or play the third movement of his Ninth Symphony.  I’ve been a musician for decades and I’ve heard and played a lot of music, but I’ve never heard anything more lovely and moving than that.
  9. I had an out of body experience the only time I ever performed the Shostakovich Viola Sonata.  I dedicated that particular performance to a friend of mine who had just died of AIDS.  While playing, I burst into tears during the climax of the last movement.  For many years, I remembered every note.  It was a really powerful experience.
  10. My son’s autism has been the biggest challenge for me.  Every view I ever had on raising children, education, and the way the world views the differently abled has been challenged, tested, and reevaluated.  There have been times when I literally thought I couldn’t raise him and that God had given him the wrong mother.  However, I have come to see that his triumphs outnumber his defeats and that he does benefit from my presence in his life.  Sometimes I think he’s raising me because he’s taught me so much.  He’s a beautiful boy and I love him so much.  It’s hard to watch the world misunderstand him, or to see his peers going on to do things he’s not ready to tackle.  All I can do is pray and do everything I can to make him as strong and capable as possible.  No one will limit this child as long as I’m alive.  Only the sky is his limit, no matter what anyone else may think.  I will never give up on him.  He is my sweet young man.

So, there are the 10 things I chose to share/disclose.  Interesting?  Perhaps.  Good for me?  As an exercise, this was absolutely perfect for me, especially on New Year’s Eve.  Tomorrow is a new day and a new year.  Maybe I’ll have a whole new list to share next December 31.

First Love, First Kiss

2015-09-25 17.39.21

Day three

This prompt got me thinking and I must admit I’m at a loss.

My first kiss was extremely inappropriate because it came from a 19 year old when I was only about 5. This young man molested me and left an invisible scar that took years to heal. His name was Jessie.

I’d rather not think about that.

The first kiss I chose to give was to a boy in my first grade class named Steven. He had dark auburn hair and a few missing teeth (we were that age). His face was full of freckles and his brown eyes sparkled. I had only ever had one other major crush in my brief years: the late Bruce Lee (come on, he was GORGEOUS!). Steven and I sat together and sometimes ate lunch together before playing together at recess. I can actually remember the feeling of my heart fluttering when he smiled at me.

One afternoon on the slide, which was shaped like a big pyramid without the point on top, Steven and I were sitting and talking. I timidly confessed that I liked him and he said he liked me too. I seized the moment and kissed him gently on the cheek. Steven smiled at me right before he turned to go down the slide. He smiled at me!

He missed the next week of school. Chicken pox. Luckily, I didn’t get it then.

That kiss may not have been the stuff of romantic legend or passionate lore, but it has stuck with me for over 40 years. We probably wouldn’t recognize each other after all this time, and Steven may not even remember that day at all. That memory is mine to keep.

What of my first love? I have been in love many times, and each of those loves were dear to me in unique ways. There was the one to first open my heart and then break it to pieces when he left me for someone else. There was the first man I loved just as I was becoming a woman. There have been those who first spoke to my mind on the way to winning my heart, and those with whom the chemistry was so strong it was like being consumed by fire.

The only one of these loves that truly merits discussion here is the one I share with my husband — the love of my life.

He was not my first love. Our love was not the passionate conflagration that burned out before it had a chance to take root. We began as friends. Over time, we came to love each other more and more. It became clear that our bond was strong enough to withstand the stresses of the world around us, and that nothing could ever break it. That love has been challenged many times over the years. We are still together.

It doesn’t matter which love was my first. My marriage to John is my last love, and my greatest. The others before got me ready to receive this gift. I am thankful for all of them and the lessons they taught me. Most of all, I am glad to have found a kind of love that not everyone finds in life. First isn’t always best. True love is worth waiting for.

My Earliest Memory

Day two’s prompt: my earliest memory.

For years, my earliest memory was of being a baby at a drive-in movie. My parents were watching something on the big screen while my mom was trying to change my diaper. This was the late 60s when disposable diapers were new, but they were still fastened with pins.

My first memory is of my mother sticking me with one of those pins. My very first memory of my life in this world is pain, and the sound of my own screams.

This was not the last time I felt pain. I have felt the pain of childhood’s scratches, scrapes, and skinned knees. I have felt the pain of pulled teeth and pierced ears. I’ve withstood the pain of labor and childbirth twice, and recently the painful recovery from the surgery that took my womb from my body. The pain of a broken heart has left my body wracked with sobs. The pain of grief has touched me many times, especially at the loss of my grandmother and father. Pain has punctuated my life many, many times. Sometimes it has been unbearable.

However, without that pain I would not be able to understand or appreciate joy. I’m thankful for that.

Whatever my first memory may be, I am made of all of my memories, pains, and joys. It was all necessary to make me who I am.