Pill Making

Once I finally tired of putting turmeric in every smoothie to help remedy joint inflammation, I ordered a 1000 empty gel capsules to fill with the spice. I’m not quite sure why this size was considered “0,” but I was happy they weren’t “horse pill” sized.  I’m not used to referring to nonelectrical devices as “machines,” yet I was ever so happy for this convenient contraption to make 50 pills at once. I had a few precious trial and error moments as I made my maiden batch of pills. Once I spread the turmeric and cleaned off the excess, I tamped the powder and spread more spice across the capsules. Then, I rotated the end pieces 90 degrees, pushed the top piece down to expose the filled capsules. I’d placed the tops into a measuring cup, so they wouldn’t roll away and I still lost one! Then I placed the completed pills into a plastic container, swallowing the pill that had the lost top, which I never found even after cleaning everything up.

As I broke down the box to recycle, I rediscovered the easy-to-follow instructions on the back of the box.  In my excitement, I’d forgotten all about them and had the front side of the box facing up, during the entire pill-making process. Total Teresa moment.

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Comes in Threes

Superstition dictates that bad things come in threes, but that count is just arbitrary–until living through three bad or at least very inconvenient things. My latest three: car accident, laptop incident and recent job performance.

So, the seemingly never-ending drama started one fine Saturday, nearly three weeks ago when some jackass rear ended me.  I’m absolutely amazed how many drivers watch traffic rather than the car in front of them. The ironic thing was, I was pulling out onto the service road when he hit me.

Apparently, I was too discombobulated from that fender bender because I didn’t take a picture of his license’s plate nor the car, but I took pictures of his insurance card, driver’s license and the damage to my car. To make matters worse, it was his girlfriend’s car, yet her name didn’t appear on the insurance card.

Her insurance acknowledged that a claim was owed, but have dragged their feet about the estimate. In the meantime, I’ve already dropped off my car, picked up a rental and now playing the waiting game for everything to resolve itself.

I’m somewhat annoyed with the rental car situation. Since her insurance agency closed at 4:30 PM (Who does that? Only a business that doesn’t want to help!), I had to put down my credit card for $200 instead of $50.  I plan to get that $150 reimbursed. Then the rental car agent lead me to a bright, shiny red car, which used no keys but remote signals for everything–even to start the car if I wanted! I chose to hit the “start” button instead. The whole time he pointed out features, I just fussed, “Brode, I didn’t want all this fancy shit! I just wanted a basic, small rental car.”

He assured me that everything was going to be all right and that things change.  In that precise moment, I’d fully entered middle adulthood.  I’ve been saying for a few years that I was middle aged, but in that slick, shiny, curvaceous car, I truly felt ever bit of the middle aged woman I’d purported to be.

A few days after my accident, I had training for work.  Training always involved a 2-hour round trip commute to the office, which added to my 8-hour work shift. Thankfully, my car was operable, so I didn’t have to hassle with the car rental place and collision shop sooner.  As a matter of fact, the commute allowed me to hear a rattle that had not existed prior to the accident,  which prompted me to get it checked out despite the minimum visible damage.

Then, two days prior to dropping off my car to be repaired and rolling back with the high-tech rental, I accidentally splashed water onto my laptop when I knocked my glass off the end table. I’d been gambling with that dangerous habit for years.  I’d never heard a laptop sizzle before.  I pretty much did everything they tell you not to do: tried to shake the water out; turned it off and on; plugged it in. I instinctively knew not to put it in rice nor use a blow dryer, which were two other bad ideas that people try. I dropped off the laptop the day before I dropped off the car.

So, they retrieved the data off the hard drive, but a refurbish would cost $850! I bought a new laptop, using my tax refund. I’d had the lofty idea to use all of that refund for getting out of debt quicker, but I was getting behind in nearly every other endeavor without my almighty laptop.  Unfortunately, my work computer has limited capabilities or else, I’d not replace my personal one for months.

In the meantime, I’ve recently learned how to sell a new insurance product. It’s rather humbling to go from being a little badass with one insurance product and essentially starting from ground zero with a new one. Additionally, there are other aspects beyond my control, such as the dramatically lower call volume.

I got one of my wishes to have a tighter script, but it’s so much longer than the old one. Even when I get a call, the conversations take much longer. Seems as if the keys to selling this insurance are sticking to the script as much as possible while infusing my personality into it. Only today, I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Just in time for them to raise our target from 2 sales to 3, despite the fact that half of us have been getting either 0 or 1 sale a day. In the spirit of staying on the right side of natural selection, I must step up my game and show improvement.

With the triumvirate of challenges, only the laptop situation has been remedied. I still have a couple of hours worth of work to do to organize things since, although my data was saved, all the folders were saved empt and their contents were saved in a huge file, labelled “All My Files.” Now, I just take a deep breath and sort that content into the appropriate file and remain grateful that all had not been lost.

(Oh, and I now keep my beverage on a saucer on the floor versus on the end table beside the couch!)

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Bang Maids


I’ve known since my early 20s that I didn’t want to have kids. Yet I wasn’t turned off by marriage. As a matter of fact, there’s a part of me who visualizes myself married—as long as I don’t have to live with my husband. When I told my married sister that last part, her response was, “What’s the point of getting married?”

Considering the fact that Christian marriage began as a way to guarantee a man that his children were his, I actually don’t see much need for it. I know there are men who also don’t want to father children, or at this point in life, don’t want to father any more children; so that’s really a nonissue for me.

My biggest stopper is I don’t want to be a bang maid. I don’t want to be that woman who fills a significant part of her time with the domestic duties of attending to a man every day, having very little time to read, do art or just otherwise relax after the work day.

At any given time, I’m working on at least two different writing projects, putting together at least one on-going creative project, and reading at least four different books in rotation. In the meantime, I work a full-time job and occasionally two different freelance jobs. And did I mention that I exercise every day?

I’m not as selfish as I come across. I really do care about people, but from a distance, where it easily fits into my already busy schedule. For example, for the past seven years, I’ve made Christmas cards–very stylishly decorated, complete with a unique message, written in longhand. This takes me a lot of time to do. One might walk away with the impression that I’m some warm individual who always does such thoughtful things. Yes and no. As long as warm and fuzzy fits neatly into the master schedule, I’ll do it. Besides, since I’m not on social media, again another thing that would drain my creative schedule, my Christmas cards are a way to give a yearly update to out-of-town friends.

Now, some people think, if I just had a man, I could quit working and have all that extra time to pursue my creative projects. Yet I’m not going to base my financial stability on whether or not some man still loves me. Let’s face it: I have a strong personality, which sometimes gets on my own nerves. I can imagine how it affects other people.

However, I need my financial obligations to be met every day, not just those sunny times when I’m loved by someone else. Plus, being an adult means attending to one’s own financial responsibilities. Am I to believe that some man for whom I perform domestic duties and sex should meet my financial responsibilities? I know—you gotta give some to get some, but it just seems less complicated and time-consuming to separate money from romance.

I have a sinking suspicion that some men mistake cooking and cleaning with love since their mothers did that for them, without realizing she only did those things because he was a child. No one in the world loves you like your mama. No one. You can be loved by others, but you’ll only have one mama.

When the romantic curtain is pulled back, a woman being financially dependent on a man puts her in a precarious position. Women, who have their own, independent source of money, tend to have more control of their own life. Moreover, women have far more to contribute to society than a myriad of menial tasks.

I like setting that tone from the very beginning. When I go out on a date, I genuinely don’t expect a guy to pay. I know that all money comes with strings attached—apron strings and G-strings. Not to say that I don’t don those strings occasionally, but they’re not tied to a man’s money, but rather my own necessity.

The first Black actress to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel for her role as the maid, “Mammy,” in Gone with the Wind in 1940. Throughout her acting career, McDaniel played a maid in 74 movies. She once said, “I’d rather play a maid than to be one!”

Amen, Big Mama Hattie!

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Three-Pouched Tote Bag

It was that time of the year to make my youngest niece’s birthday gift.  Since she’s into fashion, I hand sewed her a three-pouch tote bag. I made a trip to a craft store to get three different, complementary, cotton fabrics. Most importantly, I wanted them cut to the proper sizes.

I used the cream-colored fabric to make the handles. The trickiest part was sewing everything inside out with the handles tucked inside. I left an unsewn part at the bottom so I could reach in, grab the handle and turn the material right-side out. All worked like a charm except I’d sewn the handles to the fabric with the seam facing the wrong way.
Since I wanted the decorative flowers on the outside and the subtle pink fabric on the inside, I had to take an extra step and cover the seams with the same pink material as the lining.  In the end, the tote bag just had some extra flair, which looked intentional. Once I folded and stacked the two halves, I sewed them together and created a tote bag with three compartments. As much stuff as my little niece has, I’m sure she’ll find plenty of things to put in it.

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Moving Forward

What a weird time of my life, not just because of the recent presidential elections, but almost in spite of it. I’m working for long stretches of time, speed reading in between calls with prospective clients, exercising every day and in the “free” snatches of time, creating art. Always in motion, even when I’m sleeping.

Yet, I question if this is truly what I want out of life. Certainly, I’m living a financially sustainable life for the first time in a couple of years. And I love that I continue to hone my new-found skill of sales, especially from home. But…

Where’s that other part of my life where I work on writing projects every day? I miss that daily routine, which apparently served more than a mere routine. It was the daily expression of tapping into that level of creative thinking that is missing in my life.

Some people need their morning coffee and others need a daily vitamin. Apparently, I need a daily dose of writing. This new work schedule has displaced my writing and yet, I feel myself propelled forward, almost leaving writing behind.

I cannot be into my own head to write in between calls like I can when reading. I value getting a full night’s sleep; so waking up earlier to write doesn’t seem quite right. At the end of the day, crafting where I must sew, cut out things or glue them fit the bill perfectly at that time of day. Which only leaves the long stretches of time on the weekends as the “perfect” times to write. Even that time gets chopped into pieces with other things that need to be done, especially socializing.

I pick and choose events where I can either hang out with other creative people for inspiration or get together with the few friends I manage to have, given the fact that I’m still allergic to most forms of social media.

At this point, I know I need to return to the basics: writing in the morning. My only expectation will be to do how many minutes the morning routine allows me to do. Just like the good ol’ days when I was writing my first novel and I’d hurriedly add, edit or delete something within a minute. From there, my impossible schedule adjusted.

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When Racism Becomes Unsustainable

Last Saturday, a good friend, another cerebral Black woman, and I saw “Hidden Figures.” Among the many things that uplifting film depicted, it showed how the separation of Blacks and Whites continued until it died in a final gasp of breath.

The segregation of libraries sections, water fountains, bathrooms, and even coffee pots reinforced second-class citizenship, which some people, both Black and White, internalized as proof positive of the inferiority of Blacks, rather than as an oppressive regime under which a group of intelligent people had to endure.

Yet, when the most capable mathematician at NASA had inconvenienced her White boss during her mile-long roundtrip to the colored bathroom, her situation motivated him to immediately integrate the bathrooms. Very practical. Once that parallel practice disappeared, more parallel systems vanished, but not without a trace and, of course, not without a fight.

We may take sharing public facilities for granted today, but for some Whites who lived through that transitionary time, they experienced a loss of status. They perceived a cheapening of their quality of life, for their separate services reaffirmed their social superiority. But not their intellectual superiority. At least not to strong Black people.

There’s the valuable difference. The difference that Black parents, my parents’ generation and older, knew and had inspired their number one advice to their children: you have to be twice as good as Whites to get half as much. Strong Black parents never internalized the social superiority of Whites as the true value of their position. They envisioned achieving the American dream, where being twice as good as Whites would create undeniable evidence of worth.

The bathrooms at NASA were integrated because the parallel system could no longer be sustained.  Socially constructed separation deteriorated because a black female mathematician, who, by any standards, was a genius. Having ready access to her math skills outgrew the importance of prohibiting her access to the closest bathroom.

Those bathroom scenes made me reflect upon the success of the bus boycotts and sit-ins. At the end of the day, the White owners of those businesses were losing money every day protests and boycotts took place rather than transactions. Every business plan must include making money. When racist practices disrupt cash flow, money wins in the end.

Granted, some use money to maintain their separation, but for those who cannot literally afford it, they must live an integrated life. If such people could see the bigger picture, they’d realize that they have more in common with someone of their own socioeconomic status than someone of their same socially constructed “race.”

Nonetheless, as we enter the next exciting chapter of our great American social experiment, I wonder which other divisive practices will go extinct.


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Dreaming of My Wedding

This past Monday, one of my friends texted me about her dream where she had attended my wedding.  I texted her back, “Good thing I’m not superstitious. My grandmother used think a wedding dream meant a funeral.”

Once I had a moment to look it up, I “discovered” that a single woman dreaming of another woman getting married meant that the dreamer will find true love. Well, good for her! In the meantime, I think my theme for 2017 continues to be “Three Black Men.”

Walking in the parking garage with a coworker and my plus one, en route to the venue where my office holiday party was being held, three fine black men crossed our path. They weren’t with the company, but at least pointed us in the correct direction to where the party was.

Thanks to New Year’s Eve, where I danced with three different black men, I’m going to remark every time I interact with a trio of black men. I’ve not noticed before that they come in three’s here in Austin. What has been noted is the disappearing black population within this growing city. I may be onto something.

Decades ago, all the rage was about black men becoming an endangered species. I believed that was a bunch of hype then, but I know they are scarcer in this town. I’ve only half noticed since, when it comes to dating, I appreciate a wide variety of handsome, but even more so, I enjoy intellectual stimulation, which can be found among all races.

The fun part is that I can continue playing I-Spy for a trio of black men. Of course, the rule will be I will have to talk, or otherwise engage, with them in order for it to “count.” One thing I don’t think will happen is finding my future husband. I’m not against marriage. I just don’t want to live with a husband.


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Cheating and Cursing: An Alternative Approach to Bikram Yoga

Hot yoga. The longer you practice, the more the superficial complaints melt away: the sweat, the smell, the heat, the humidity. Even your slowly cooking reptilian brain calms down after several classes, where it’s no longer preoccupied with craving thoughts of food, fighting and sex. Initially, the practice dredges up arguments and emotions long past. Causes one to hunger for meat and carbs. And as far as sexual musings go, that’s just a given in a hot room where people glisten with sweat, in such a state of undress, they’re barely recognizable in their regular clothes.

So, even when you comprehend the intermediate bikram yoga instructions like, “rotate your femurs forward while maintaining both sit bones evenly on the floor,” yet your body cannot follow, just breathe deeply, curse under your breath and cheat your way through the posture.

Oh, yes—curse and cheat. This is an upgrade from the “fake it ‘til you make it” advice. Release those curse words like steam through a valve in a pressure cooker, but much quieter. After all, you must celebrate or suffer throughout your yoga practice without distracting your neighboring yogis from their own misery or joy. It’s a shared practice, but the journey is individual and you never really know where the other yogis are.

Just be true to yourself: curse and cheat. You know you’re going to do it. It’s much worse to lie to yourself than to admit your humanness. Every time you willfully ignore the sage advice of “never sacrificing form for depth,” you’re essentially saying, “To hell with form, I know I can go deeper if I disregard the basic set up of the posture.” Then you modify, however you please, for the gratifying illusion that you’re doing the posture rather than cheating your way through the posture.

Sometimes, you enter the room very ego-heavy. Check yourself out in the mirror just a little too often or a little too long. You’re either thinking, “Damn, I look good!” or “Damn, I suck at this!” Or you got this hot and heavy inner dialogue going on with yourself. Whether your ego distraction is external or internal, you’re not the least bit burdened by what the yoga teacher is saying. Some don’t even consider being ahead or behind the script as cheating.

And who hasn’t mentally cursed the instructor for going off script and making them hold those excruciating postures precious seconds longer than regulation, especially when the instructor chooses to make corrections? Is there not a special place in hell for that? There is if the silent f-bomb dropping yoga students had their way. As they fake the intensity the instructor wants or truly live up to the spirit of “fuck this,” and defiantly come out of the posture, perhaps groaning audibly so the yoga student ensures that the yoga teacher knows his/her dissatisfaction.

So why bother?

During final savasana, or the last corpse pose at the end of class, after every muscle, ligament and fascia have been stretched, and you’re lying drenched in the hard work of your own sweat, you finally get to close your eyes and in the vacuum created by the exodus of the curse words, cheating strategies and other excreted toxins, a sense of serenity flows inward, filling the void. The torture chamber transforms into the rejuvenation space. In that moment, you are renewed from the inside out. Then you go home and put that wind-removing pose to good use.


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Christmas 2016

This was the first year witnessing my nephew’s vegetarianism. Unlike one of his sisters, who is a vegan, he still ate food with eggs in it, such as his father’s famous sweet potato pie. Here’s one of the meals he put together: cup of fruit, protein bar, apple bar, tofu scramble, granola bar and a slice of sweet potato pie! Since watching him do parkour last year, I’ve added the discipline to my bucket list. I’d planned to start taking classes last summer when he visited me, but his mother postponed that trip because he visited Germany instead.One night, he requested I show him some yoga hip openers. Another night he showed me some parkour exercises, but I chose to take pictures of those, figuring I’d do them during my  fitness room workouts.
He referred to this move as “declining handstand” or something like that. The point was to gradually lower oneself then roll out of it. He followed that up with a move that looked similar to a yoga position known as “peacock.” The hand placement was different, but I was impressed at the arm strength. Once I can do about 6 minutes of planks, I may try adding this move as well. Yet my absolute favorite exercise he showed me was the “pistol squats.” The name alone was badass and since it targets glutes, I’m sure to add that to my routine! For another year in a row, I woke up before my nieces and nephews. The Christmas tree appeared more bountiful than it had just a few hours earlier when I had gone to bed. Even the stockings had gained weight over night. And making his Christmas debut: Q-dog Chef! Between my mother and the older sister who thinks she’s my mother, they had us take this group selfie four times before opening gifts.  I found these lemon-oil laced vegan products for my vegan niece: lip balm, soap and moisturizer. I figured my sister would appreciate this retro Lionel Richie album cover on the front of a blank book. Now she has somewhere to sketch out all her latest creative ideas for 2017. Mom’s always touting new home remedies for ailments; so I gifted her some beeswax beauty products that came with a small jar of honey. I leapt with joy when I saw my nephew already making good use of several little notebooks, strategizing his business pursuits. I had that in mind when I got him a moleskin little notebook. What to get the woman who seemingly has it all? Why something to make her laugh! Whoever came up with the idea of marrying mistaken lyrics with coasters must have had loved ones who habitually screwed up songs as well like my sister does. What to get the guy who seemingly has it all? Some consumable he can use.  In general, my brother-in-law and father are hard to shop for; so they tend to get the same gift. This year, the gift was a vegan and rainwater-based shaving soap. Again, I got lucky with my other niece’s gift since her care products were peppermint oil-laced.  I discovered after the fact that’s one of her favorite scents. My other nephew’s gift was a no-brainer: reading material. Not necessarily the type of reading material he’d prefer to read, but The Journal of Best Practices is about a married guy with autism and the other reading material are highbrow magazines. During one of our conversations, I pointed out that he needed to read more and build his vocabulary since he didn’t know the meaning of a couple of words I’d said, such as “prolonged” and “ambiguous.”  After the gift exchange, I finally tasted Christmas breakfast: grits with butter and sugar and a biscuit-based casserole with sausage, eggs and veggies. Now here was something to melt my former science teacher’s heart. My little niece set up her IB Biology project. She’s testing how various levels of carbon dioxide affect the growth of marine plants.
I just loved how she did a little at a time and had her handy laptop to document the arrangement.

Hours later, we enjoyed a Christmas dinner buffet: roast beef, honey baked ham, fried turkey, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, vegan baked beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, vegan croissants, collard greens and dinner rolls. I refuse to put chitlings in that line up of delicious food, but Mom brought those foul-smelling innards from NC.

As par for the course since my visit, I partook of two desserts. For Christmas, the new dessert selections were pineapple cake and red velvet with white chocolate lace. Those two added to the sweet buffet of chocolate cake, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, various candy and vegan desserts.

It’s no wonder why most people make dieting a part of their New Year’s resolutions. Not me. I just return to Austin and avoid eating two desserts a day. I exercised every day in 2016 except for on Jan. 16th! A very good track record I plan to keep for 2017.

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African American Museum

As we approached the African American museum, I thought of an inverted step pyramid. My sister informed me that the design was inspired by an African headdress. Whichever the case, I loved the stylish modernity of this ancient shape. The first time I’d ever visited the Washington monument as a child, we only celebrated Black History Week. Now, we had Black History month and the Washington monument served as good landmark for the African American museum. We were very optimistic about our wait time since there was no line at the door.  In fact, the woman at the information desk had told us that we would have to spend 22 hours to see everything. The four upper levels were dedicated to some aspect of community and  culture. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see everything. I especially wanted to see the more historical parts, which were housed three floors below the main level. We only waited 35 minutes, versus 60, to “go back in time” as we descended into the 1400s by  elevator.

I snapped a picture of this photo collage that decorated the stairs. I definitely remember when, then presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, played his sax on the Arsenio Hall show back when I was a senior in college; I hadn’t seen the Oprah episode when she interviewed writer Toni Morrison; nor was I alive when actress Marsha Hunt made the iconic Afro statement in the stage production of “Hair.”  The first of many ironies I discovered involved sugar. Slave labor produced 90% of the world’s sugar in 1787. That “ingredient” still plagues many black and working poor communities today, from the contribution to a bad diet to diabetes.

I spent far more time reading the captions and blurbs aloud, which were scattered among the artifacts and photos, than taking photos of my own. This was mainly to help my vision-impaired sister, but also, I wanted to be more engaged in the exhibit than to document it. So, we passed through several areas dealing with the transportation of slaves and I was surprised that Portugal, at an estimated 5.8 million slaves, had transported the most.

My sister thought that made perfect sense because DNA testing showed part of our ancestry was Portuguese. As if it was not horrifying enough to be subjected to the harsh conditions of the Middle Passage, but to then be raped and impregnated as well.

Cotton, one of the slave labor cash crops that my family, black  friends, and I often use as the motivation to succeed in life so we won’t have to pick it to survive, had its shrine as well.
The next level up in the gallery dealt with post slavery. Just as I was telling my family that the first rise of the klan occurred during this time period, we saw a section dedicated to that group. The exhibit didn’t go into depth about how the newly freed slaves caused poor whites to lose status. One of my favorite pictures was of a mother and daughter who sat on the court steps with a newspaper, which had screaming headlines about desegregating schools. Inevitably, everyone desires the American dream of freedom to thrive in this land of opportunity; so we black women have also fought to be heard.  One of many powerful black women, Angela Davis has spent her entire life as an activist educator and writer. I use the word “activist” rather than “radical” because I don’t think there’s anything radical about wanting to be free. That’s just common sense, for which some people are feared and given negative labels. Just to prove how I was more invested in experiencing my visit than making a photographic record of it, I inadvertently chopped off some of Obama’s quote, but I’ve typed it in its entirety here: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or…some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.” 

That statement resonated with me because it dovetails beautifully with both my independent nature and my newfound desire to remain on the right side of natural selection.The only thing I’d add to Ms. Giovanni’s statement is, “The worse person to lie to is yourself.” Even though I’m an analytical person, I’m just as prone to “confirmation bias” as anyone else. That’s when it’s very useful to keep my eyes on the prize and strive for as much greatness as I can, given the situation.

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