For the love of sisterhood…


Let me first say, “Lawd, I have sinned”.

I, like millions of viewers, have chuckled at the ignorant antics of popular black reality stars as they popped off sassy one-liners. I took voyeuristic pleasure in seeing the fabulous wardrobes, hairstyles, and houses unfurled before me and the dysfunctional beings who flopped around those marvelously appointed abodes like wounded birds flinging themselves against glass windows.

But then, two things happened…

My first epiphany occurred when I was stuck on bedrest during a high risk pregnancy. I was bored to tears and watched more of these shows than I care to admit. And, truth be told, like so many viewers, I was subconsciously seeking something that allowed me to feel a bit superior and better about my crappy situation. Sure, my hair and nails might look a hot mess and I hadn’t seen the outside world in days since my last hospital visit, but at least I wasn’t those women.

Those women fight and call each other names.

Those women are loud and lewd.

Those women have questionable morals.

Me and my “kind of people”, college educated, professional women, would never behave that way, I thought smugly.


But I began to notice that the more of the poisonous narratives, the fighting, the pure and ugly drama I drank in, the worse I felt psychologically and, at times, physically. I also began to feel deeply unsettled. Like the joke wasn’t just on those women, but also on me in some way. I pushed away the remote and those feelings, and vowed to stop watching.

Then came Sorority Sisters, a reality show that purports to depict what life is like for women in black Greek lettered organizations.

Wait, I thought. Are these supposed to be “my kind of people” ?

Are they trying to depict me?



Efforts to ban the show and its less than flattering representations of organizations that are a source of pride for many in the African American community because of their commitment to service and advocacy fell flat. So, the organizers wisely took to social media and targeted the advertisers.  And those companies, chastened by the power of black social media, began abandoning the project.

I applauded, but also felt a bit unsettled.

Why was it okay for me to chuckle at the ignorance in RHWOA, but cry foul when someone insulted my collegiate sisterhood? There is no difference between any of these reality shows seeking to profit from disrespecting representations of black womanhood.

Those kinds of women are my “kind of people”.

They are me.

I’m far from the first person to make this connection.

However, I also don’t think we should get distracted by the whole she-said-she-said arguments for and/or against efforts to end this particular show. There’s a degree of signifying and othering going on right now in each side calling the other out on why there wasn’t more of an outcry sooner.

And while women are bickering over who should have done what when, the masterminds behind pimping these depictions are laughing all the way to the bank.

Regardless as to how and when folks came to their epiphanies, a lot of eyes have now been opened…mine included.


It’s okay to recognize the validity of points coming from a variety of voices…even if that means humbling ourselves and rethinking some of our positions.

Love and Hip Hop, RHWOA, Sorority Sisters, etc… are all part of the same poisonous narrative. These reality shows play on age old stereotypes of Jezebel, Sapphire, and the Angry Black Woman long used to denigrate black womanhood. And those caricatures are aided and further entrenched into our collective cultural psyche as a nation by watching any and all of these shows.

There’s a direct through line from the sad and thirsty minstrelsy in Flavor of Love to the sad misguided hot mess that is Sorority Sisters. And all of this began when we signaled it was okay to promote such ignorance by making those shows popular by watching and laughing along. We are all further disenfranchised by profit-seeking ventures that manipulatively play to black stereotypes and pathologies

We might hold some institutions “sacred”, but financial greed only builds altars to itself.

And yes, such greed and lust for profit will leave your house, my house, all of our houses ravaged in its wake.

Ideologically, sorority efforts to can this god-awful show and grassroots efforts to end other similarly toxic and culturally damaging reality show depictions are linked.

It would be great if the same power leveraged to get advertisers to back away from Sorority Sisters could be used on behalf of these other shows.

But, in any case, here’s something we can all do: Stop watching any of these shows.

And then maybe, just maybe, these shows will go away.

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Kids behaving badly


I’ve seen kids who, on numerous occasions, smack, kick, hit and pinch other kids and the parents excuse the behavior as the result of a bad day, too much sugar, too much gluten, too much T.V., society, or the influence of another even worse behaved child.
I’ve seen parents coddle, cuddle, and–I swear to God–actually give a sweet treat after their kid was rude to adults, bullied a younger child, and refused to obey requests to behave properly.
I was once at a party where the child smacked nearly every kid present with a plastic bat and, rather than remove the child from the setting, the parent rushed over to each parent to explain that the child was having a “tough time” .
In this age of helicopter parenting and neurosis over the latest trends in child rearing, good old fashioned discipline has become an anachronism.
Time outs? Oh no, that’s far too harsh, say some.
There’s “1,2,3 Magic” , which is frankly a revision of the countdown to getting your little butt in order that your parents probably gave you as a kid. But, some see that as too punitive.
A systemrewarding good behavior with stickers or stars (to be traded in when enough are collected) and losing them when a kid is naughty?
That’s bribing, one mom told me moments after her kid’s umpteenth, banshee-like meltdown over a very minor frustration.
So we pour hundreds of dollars into parenting classes to learn how to navigate behavior which, frankly, a good dose of common sense and a reality check could have told us how to deal with.
Yes, our kids are all special little snowflakes.
But no, neither their behavior nor our issues with discipline are unique.
So it’s up to us to take a hard look in the mirror and figure out what we’ve been doing to enable bad behavior.
Then, after taking that personal responsibility…fix the problem.
That might mean owning that your bat-wielding tike is overly-aggressive and needs some quiet time away from other kids. And, oh yeah, he needs to apologize to the kids he hurt cause, y’know, personal responsibility and all.
No, your whining, rudeness, and/or bullying does not get you a treat. You get in trouble and will lose some sort of privilege. Yep, you too need to apologize for your behavior to the people affected.
And, while we all want to be sensitive to the needs of “that kid”, you know, the one whose physical assaults are motivated by perhaps some other deep seated and complex reason, it is unfair to expect other kids to become patient punching bags while the grownups figure it out.
Because it really is up to the grownups to get their stuff together and figure it out.
In some cases that might mean accepting that routinely reaching first regardless of the danger, not hearing adults’ instructions, and running into traffic means the kid has impulse control issues that need to be addressed.
It might mean investigating the root causes of compulsive hitting, kicking, etc…and being prepared to accept the possibility that a behavioral health professional might need to be brought in. It might mean, for the safety of other kids, your kid might need to be in another setting.
Parenting is hard work. We love our kids and want the best for them. We agonize over their health, happiness, and well being.
And sometimes, in order to achieve those things, we need to face some hard truths…for the good of all kids.

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Stretched, stressed, and seeking solace


You ever have one of those moments when someone holds a mirror in front of your face and you see, really see for the first time a reflection of your life.

Well, I had one of those moments last night.

I finally, after years of gentle nudging (read: subtle nagging) from several girlfriends  joined an organization for black mothers called Mocha Moms. Oh, I’d had my reasons for dragging my feet on joining up…not the least of which is an already overcrowded schedule and my worry that I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the group.

Which brings me to last night.

I finally joined and, after working a 50+ hour week, arrived at the suburban home of a fellow mom with my little brood in tow. The gathering was chocolate utopia! I rejoiced at the site of so many black moms and the thought that my little ones would finally have more little brown playmates. Considering my preschooler asked to turn our African American nanny pink this week (that’s a whole other upcoming post), I would say the gathering was not a moment too soon.

The guest speaker was not only a wise mom who’d raised a brood of three, but a life coach and organizer. She opened the floor for questions, and I leapt right on in with a breathless plea for help in trying to carve out personal time.

“Give me a sense of your schedule,” she asked, adding that my busiest days would be the best example.

Up by 5am. Get ready for work, play with and read to the kids until I leave the house at 7:15am. Blog and or work on other personal writing during my commute. At work by 8am. Work my first job as an editor. Leave between 4:30-5pm (I stay a little longer every day to justify taking time off to volunteer once a month in my daughter’s school). Grade papers on the way to my second job as an adjunct writing instructor. Teach until 7pm. Home by 8pm. Bedtime and stories for the kiddos. Clean the house, cook meals for next day, and prepare next day’s clothes, backpacks, lunches, diaper bags, etc…until 10pm. Crash into an exhausted heap shortly after. Awake at 1am to spend time with hubby (who works nights and gets home around 12:30am). Up again by 5am. Do it all over again.

The fellow moms were aghast. They looked at me in shock.

Was it really that bad, I wondered.

“Oh Lima,” whispered a friend.

Uh oh, I thought.

The organizer advised that, given that there are only 24 hours in a day, something had to go or I would not recognize myself in the midst of all of this chaos in a few years.

Another mom helpfully offered that I looked really good though (which I appreciated :) )

They’re both right. ;)

But looking good and making it work are not the same thing as everything being “all good.”.

And this, right here, ain’t okay.

It’s not as if I was unaware that this schedule was grueling.

I’ve been wrestling with how to fit in exercise (it’s going to take more than a few sun salutations and the quick walk from the train to my office to get rid of my post-preggo pounds).

I’ve agonized over how to finally find time to make more progress on my creative writing projects.

I routinely turn down invitations to happy hours from colleagues and sources (not great for career advancement) because I’m trying to balance long work hours with spending quality time with my kids.

I’ve turned down some prestigious job offers because the positions required me to be on-call during hours I’ve reserved as family time or had an unpredictable schedule.

And, when my three year old sobbed, as she did this week, that she misses me at night and wishes I didn’t have to go away for so long, I’ve also turned down additional teaching and writing assignments.

Even with these boundaries in place, I feel as if I’m circling in on balance but haven’t quite hit the right note.

Since last night’s forced epiphany, I realized that advice I’ve received from everyone at the gathering (and frankly some other mom mentors) to let some of the housework go is dead on. This is hard for me because our household functions best when our home is tidy. However, as part of her pay raise, I did ask the nanny to pick up some light housekeeping duties, so this should help.

And, I can try again to reserve the 5-6am block for my creative work…though when I tried that before the kids sensed I was up and awoke with big smiles and playful little spirits wanting me to join in the fun.

And I guess attending a once monthly happy hour or work-related networking event couldn’t hurt. I could check my coat and mommy guilt about time away for a few hours.

And I could go back to eating lunch at my desk and using that 30-min block to exercise at the office gym. This used to work quite well for me at a former job.

And, finally, but certainly not least, my husband and I have started a nice tradition of sneaking off to our newly repaired hot tub on weekend nights when the kids are in bed. We could and should certainly add a once monthly date night to those rendezvous.

Sounds simple enough, right (don’t all agree with me at once).

Wish me luck as I endeavor to strike better balance.

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The baby undie bandit…


Our infant son likes panties. A lot.

He revels in pulling mine or his sister’s from the clean laundry and wiping the floor, the furniture, and, yes, sometimes his belly with them.

He puts them on his head.

He even tries to put them on.

We thought at first that we could substitute similarly sized items to help wean him of his fixation.

So we gave him socks.

No dice.


Uh uh.

Cloth diapers.


Panties. That’s what the baby likes. That’s what the baby wants.

It’s probably because undies are stretchy. Still, we’re on the hunt for an acceptable substitution.

‘Cause, it’s cute now, but it would be damned weird in a couple of years.

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Nanny poachers


I see you, chick.
With your Petunia Pickle Bottom bag, your extra latte for our nanny, and your eyes brimming with, what you hope, is genuine friendship.
You stalk the nanny, following her with greedy gaze as she pushes my kids on swings and jumps into piles of leaves with them.
Then, like some suburban svengali, you swoop in…sly and superficially sweet. You try to lure her away with promises of better pay, or hours, or a yearly cruise, or weekly lotto tickets…anything you think will work.
And maybe it will, it is a free market.
The women (and sometimes men) who we entrust with our precious little ones often leave behind their own young ones in order to do their jobs. These caregivers are well within their rights to try and seek the best match in terms of pay, benefits, work hours, and family fit.
But, oh, how I wish a special pox on those who try shady, underhanded methods in an attempt to poach nannies.
And, in the D.C. market where monthly child care costs are often equal to a mortgage payment, the competition for a good nanny can be vicious.
I’ve seen moms slide over to nannies on playgrounds and pass on contact info. I’ve seen moms spot a great nanny at circle time and scoot over next to her…just to chat, mind you.
And, to be fair, I’ve also had nannies approach me at these places with boasts of their homemade smoothies guaranteed to cure infant constipation or their skills at getting babies to walk.
And, if I’m truthful, I’d kept our current nanny’s name mentally filed away over the years as time and again raves about her popped up on listservs.
When she had an opening I raced to interview her and tried my damnedest to make a good impression.
She, of course, did likewise.
Her try-out was the day I had to rush to the doc with a shoulder sprain. I paid her an inflated rate as a mother’s helper to pitch in the rest of the week while I recovered.
She, in turn, did the dishes without being asked.
And she declared it her mission to help our one-year-old learn to walk.
So far, this woman is a dream.
She’s highly experienced, nurturing, and fun-loving. She’s also legal, speaks three languages, and is licensed to drive–which makes her a highly sought after caregiver.
So, when I posted on local listservs at her request her availability for a morning position (she works for us in the afternoons), I expected quick responses.
But the poaching attempts were surprising in their brazenness.
One woman didn’t even try to finesse her poaching. She just launched right into her pitch to have the nanny leave us and come work for her in the afternoons.
The nanny politely turned her down.
But the poaching continues.
And, in an effort to keep our nanny, who has only been with us a month, we decided to give her a raise.
Mind you, she never asked for this.
But, she also does other household tasks without being asked. We felt the raise, which we’d planned on offering at the three month mark, was well deserved.
But now we’re maxed out and can’t afford to pay a higher salary until our own salaries increase early next year.
Still, I am quite aware that I am bitching and moaning about a completely First World Problem. There are lots of people here and abroad who must leave their little ones unattended and go off to work low paid jobs.
The issue underscores the dearth of and need for quality and affordable child care for everyone.
In the meantime, we will be brown bagging it and delaying plans to buy me a much-needed new laptop.
‘Cause both the kiddos and the nanny are well worth the sacrifice.

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Party rules


So my following note to a very helpful grandma of one of my daughter’s friends sums up the insane whirlwind of this season’s birthday parties:

“I just wanted to thank you for all of your help with the kids today. Seriously. You were a godsend. This week I started a new job requiring very long hours, am still nursing a sprained shoulder, and hosted the baby’s 1st party this morning.
By this afternoon’s party, I was exhausted.
Then you helped out with the baby and even retrieved my daughter for me as we headed home. (Did I mention my belt broke at that party and I was nervous my loose pants would fall down as I chased her?)
Anyway, just wanted to thank you a thousand times over for helping out.
It was greatly appreciated.”

In this part of the country birthday parties are a B.F.D.

And kiddie fetes have unwritten rules of engagement:

For kids five and under, the whole class must be invited.

It’s tacky to open gifts at the party.

Provide goodie bags or takeaways for the kiddie guests.

At “no present” parties, guests will always bring presents anyway…just in case you didn’t mean it, or they didn’t read the Evite, or Candyland was on sale, or whatever.

Send a thank you note of some sort (there are raging debates on local listservs about whether an emailed or paper note is most proper. My rule: if you sent an electronic invitation, send the same as a thank you. Likewise, paper invites warrant a paper thank you).

Two weeks ago, we attended three birthday parties back-to-back–all in one day. One party was a double-feature party with specially-ordered princess costumes for the birthday girls, themed activity tents on the lawn (professional face painting, dress up, crafts, sand play, and, of course, cake and food.) The goodie bags included large teddy bears, each in a unique outfit.

Last week, we got turned around on the way to a party for a toddler and wandered by accident into another party at a park replete with two bounce houses, a petting zoo, pony rides, a balloon animal artist, and an art auction. The child was turning one.

Yep, welcome to D.C. Home of neurotic overachievers who put in long hours at work and guiltily try to make up the missed time with tons of extracurricular activities and big blowout birthday parties. And, now that Pinterest is a factor, it’s like giving type-A crack to a bunch of addicts.

And for the record, yes, that includes me.

Just take a look at the  “The good mother hen” section on my Pinterest page (self-plug alert ;) ) and you’ll see a bevy of party ideas.

The baby’s teddy bear picnic themed 1st birthday party was Pinterest-inspired. I roped my visiting sis and goodnatured husband into helping me decorate teddy bear goodie bags and festooning the house and yard with red and white picnic-themed decorations. The menu included grapes and strawberries decorated to look like caterpillars and lady bugs, sandwiches decorated as butterflies, and homemade cupcakes decorated to look like teddy bears. The kids hunted for fake food in the yard to feed the teddy bears. We painted the kids’ faces, played with bubbles, and invited teddy bears to the fest. Each kid went home with mini teddy bears and gummy bears in their goodie bags.

The baby, who we lovingly call “Papa Bear” and who turned one yesterday, of course was oblivious to all of this.

He was amused when we sang happy birthday, but wailed in protest when I tried to offer him one of those carefully decorated cupcakes.

The huge teddy bear we bought him as a gift went largely ignored.

He was happiest just crawling around with one of his baby buddies and plinking on an old toy piano.

And that’s as it should be.

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With cupped palms receive blessings


My work world went and got itself in a big ole hurry while I was sick and on bedrest and then maternity leave.
Sure, I returned to the same political squabbles that seem to define Congressional dealings these days.
There were scandals aplenty.
But the faces of those covering those stories seemed younger, the lingo of social media reporting trendier and not quite aligned with what I got in this to do.
Absent from the hip speak about “socializing content” was the concept of writing pieces aimed at comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
And that’s what I got in this to do: tell the stories of people impacted by policy and politics.
I felt, at not yet 40, old and washed up and, as the mother of two young kids, at times quite tired.
Oh, I still excelled and reported stories that fared well online in terms of audience and impact.
But, increasingly, my heart wasn’t in it the way it used to be. And I desperately missed teaching writing and the freedom to write about topics with impact.
Still, despite this niggling feeling of displacement, I clung on.
Maybe things will change, I reasoned. Maybe I’ll change, I thought.
Both happened.
By the time I was laid off with a group of similarly aged veteran colleagues, I felt (beneath my overriding terror about making ends meet) a profound sense of relief.
Finally, my inner voice sang, you can return to your core as a writer.
So, I breathed deeply and just let go.
I trusted that, at almost 40, I’ve learned a lot about who I am and what I need to feel creatively fulfilled.
I trusted that the hard work of finding a new position would now be tempered by the guiding principle of maintaining balance creatively and for my family.
And, I am happy to report, that a week after I was laid off, I was offered a promotion and pay raise under contract as an editor with another publication. They are open to me continuing to teach and the position offers a sense of work-life balance and creative autonomy in my non working hours.
It is exactly the type of situation I’d prayed for.
And all of this underscores a truth that has guided many of my “grown woman” life choices: only when your hands are open can you receive your blessings.

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