Wacky Wednesday: What Would You Do With a Room of Your Own?

In 1929, Virginia Woolf  published an essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” arguing that if women had a room of their own, quiet from the duties of being wife and mother, we would see more women writers. Woolf, in this essay, examined the impediments to women being able to write.

So, 2 Dope Sistahs explored what we could accomplish with a room of our own . . .

Da Hype 1

So, as I started to think about the answer to today’s question, it didn’t take me long to realize that a room of my own would not mean s*** unless I have a chauffeur of my own to take my child to and from school, to gymnastics class, acting class, after school math help, and every other place she spends her time.

Without a cook of my own or a maid of my own, that room wouldn’t mean anything to me either. Without 5 other “me,” when would I have the time to spend in this room?

The more I thought about this question, the more I thought about Alice Walker’s, “In search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” and the ways in which she took Woolf to task for her analysis of why women didn’t have time to write. Walker forced many women–middle-class, white feminists, to be specific–to recognize that race and class overlap to create additional impediments to women writing.

So, with a room of my own, I’d like to think I would catch up on the reading and writing I so desperately want to engage. Right now, a room of my own sounds like just another damn room to clean.

Da Realist 1

Image Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

What would I do with a room of my own? That’s easy, peasy. I can picture it now. I’d have an awesome library! Right now my books are here, there, and everywhere. I don’t have enough space for them, but I would love to have them all in one room. Some are in the garage in boxes; some are in my home office/guest room; and others are in my bedroom. Finding a particular book requires quite a bit of detective work.

I have the layout for my room already planned. My library would have built-in bookshelves from floor to ceiling, a writing desk, and a chaise longue. No television, just a peaceful room, maybe with a little classical music playing in the background.

Oh, but what would I do in this room? The same things I normally do–read, research, study, write, and relax. I’d just have a room that is all mine to do them in.

When I Think of Home. . .

When I think of home, I think of a place

where there’s love overflowing~”Home,”~performed by Stephanie Mills

What do you think of when you think of “home”? Not the place where you currently live. I mean the place where you grew up. For me, the best way to explain it is: It’s complicated.

I have some lovely memories of home. Most often they involve my grandparents who watched over me–making sure that I always had everything that I needed, even when times were lean; making sure that I attended church; and making sure that I was a “good girl” and “got my lesson” (finished my schoolwork).

But all of my memories are not warm and fuzzy. For many years, I lived with my mother and a stepfather who was an abusive alcoholic. This, of course, was not conducive to a normal mother-daughter relationship. He was volatile; we never knew what would set him off. His appearance always made my stomach churn, and I avoided him like the plague. Unfortunately, there were also others in my extended family whose lives were often out of control because they abused alcohol. In spite of–or maybe because of–the love and support for my grandparents, I knew that I had to leave home to create a different life for myself. I could not be what I wanted to be–even though I didn’t quite know what that would be–if I stayed home. I infamously told my mother when I was a junior in high school that I could not wait until I finished high school, so I could go to college and never come back.

I was unable to keep that promise/threat, nor did I really want to. But I returned for only one summer while I was in college. I was usually working–trying to get my hustle on. Afterwards, I visited once or twice a year. Following the death of my grandparents, it became easier just to pay for my mother to visit me. So, now it has been four years since I was “home.”

It has been many years since I boarded a Greyhound bus, with my money hidden in a handkerchief (can’t tell you where) and a box a chicken to eat on the 18-hour ride to the University. And now I have a job opportunity that is taking me back home, not to the same city but the same state. Ironic, isn’t it? I’m going back to the place I’ve been running from all these years. Will be difficult? Can I make peace with the ghosts of the past and the realities of the present?

I don’t know, but I wonder where this road will lead.

 

 

Thinking About Audre Lorde And Ferguson

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.

–Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”

Last night, sick to my stomach, I watched the “Prosecutor” of Police Officer, Darren Wilson, explain to the town of Ferguson and the world why the life of the unarmed teen, Michael Brown was not worth a trial (See yesterday’s post, “Ferguson on My Mind”.) He explained why Wilson was justified in shooting him five or more times, two of those shots were to the head. I was disgusted by how much the Prosecutor sounded like the Defense Attorney for Wilson and not the one responsible for making sure he went to trial.

Immediately following the announcement that Wilson would not stand trial for killing Brown, I watched Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, in pain as she heard the verdict. I cried for her and I cried for the families of other black victims whose lives were not worthy of consideration from the American judicial system. Michael Brown never had a chance in that court room.

I hugged my daughter closer to me because unarmed black girls and women get shot by police officers and racist citizens, too. They, too, can be victims of a judicial system that does not recognize their humanity (See the story of Marissa Alexander in The Root.) I cried because for way too many people in this country, black lives have no value.

I watched President Barack Obama talk to Americans about our country being built on justice, and all I could think was “no, it wasn’t, it was built on thievery and slavery.” He continued by telling Protesters that he is standing by the statement given by Michael Brown’s family to protest peacefully.

His sentiments felt shallow because not only has he failed to admonish the behavior of police who racially profile and carefully carelessly snuff out the lives of black youth, but he also failed to connect with the Brown family in a meaningful way. He couldn’t even offer as simple of a statement as he gave Trayvon Martin’s family when he said, “If I had a black son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.”

I asked, “How do I write about this? How can I write about this when I am in so much pain for the future of our children?”

Twitter IThis morning, I awakened to the heaviness of the night before, still feeling ill. I picked up my phone and immediately got on Twitter. I read the Tweets from the activists in Ferguson and noticed a significant number of white people spewing anger and hate at the activism in the area. They wanted to silence the voices in Ferguson. They called them hateful names and wished bodily harm on them, but Ferguson activists ignored their comments and continued to address their ultimate goal: to make #blacklivesmatter.

As I continued with my morning routine of dragging Nina out of bed to get her dressed for school, I still pondered TwitterIIhow I would write about Ferguson. Between the news media using language like “rioting” instead of “protests” or “social unrest” and others on Twitter attacking the activists for the work that they were doing, I was utterly disturbed by the way in which the narrative was being told. The story of black people protesting the systemic victimization TwitterIIIof black bodies was being constructed by the mass media as deviant. It was sick and twisted to watch people stand up for the protection of property in ways that they would not stand up to protect a teenager’s life.

Meanwhile, Nina came down stairs and picked up her pen and finished working on whatever she was writing the night before. She was upset when I told her that it was time to go to school. She told me that she needed to write.

I thought to myself, “What would Nina do if she were confronted with some type of struggle in her 7 year old life?”

She would definitely write.

So, as I walked her to school this morning, I became determined to write/right a story of Ferguson.

During this walk, Nina and I talked about writing. I told her that she may not understand what I mean right now, but she must “right” the world with her writing. I reminded her of her magical powers and that everyone doesn’t possess the ability or desire to write as she does. I told her that she needed to use her writing powers for good: She must tell the narratives of people who don’t possess her magic to write. She must tell their stories because other people needed to hear her truth. Because her truth is important. Her voice is important. Never stop writing.

I needed her to hear these things, on this day in particular.

We have a responsibility to write/right the stories that are being told about Ferguson. Audre Lorde said in the “Transformation of Silence,” “We share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that Transformation.”

I know that when I am no longer around to be the voice for people through my writing, I know someone else who will continue in my place.

#BlackLivesMatter

Ferguson on My Mind

In the news today:

One Brown body.

One Brown body lying in the street.

One Brown body lying in the street for four hours.

One Brown body lying in the street for four hours, cold, on a scorching hot August day.

One Brown body lying in the street for four hours, cold, on a scorching hot August day. Refusing to see the humanity in black bodies, this Brown body lay uncovered without a sheet.

One Brown body lying in the street for four hours, cold, on a scorching hot August day. Refusing to see the humanity in black bodies, this Brown body lay uncovered without a sheet. At least two bullets to the head and four to the arm, maybe even more.

One Brown body lying in the street for four hours, cold, on a scorching hot August day. Refusing to see the humanity in black bodies, this Brown body lay uncovered without a sheet. At least two bullets to the head and four to the arm, maybe even more. The gut wrenching sound of crying rings like a tortured freedom bell.

That one Brown body lying in the street was somebody’s child.

Next week’s news story . . .

Another black body lying in the street.

Wacky Wednesday: Worst Hair Mistake

Hype and I are always talking about what works and what doesn’t with our hair. It takes trial and error to find out what works best. But this week we’re asking, “What is the worst mistake you’ve made with your hair?”

Da Realist 1

Image Courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image Courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I still consider myself newly “natural,” even though it’s been close to two years (22 months actually) since I stopped relaxing my hair. Maybe that’s because being “natural” has taken a while to get used to. In the time that I’ve been natural, I’ve tried lots of different products–some good, some bad. Most of my mistakes have been minor. . . except for the one rather unfortunate decision to cut my own hair.

I know that trying to cut my own hair was an extremely bad idea. If you’ve read our blog, you know that I’ve had quite an ordeal trying to find someone to do my hair in Iowa. And I just wasn’t feeling my barber at that time. In fact, I had resolved never to go back to her. I decided to try cutting my own hair (something I would not ordinarily do). After all, I cut my husband’s hair all the time, I thought. How bad could my home haircut be? As it turns out, pretty bad. I cut a huge chunk out of my hair–down to the scalp–with the clippers. I was trying to get my fade right in the back. It was a hot mess! There was absolutely nothing I could do to make it better. For the next three weeks of bad hair days, I hid my haircut under a hat whenever I was in public; fortunately, I have a large collection. I eventually went to the barber shop and got my hair cut by a professional again, but I had to wait until my hair grew back. I was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone asking who jacked up my ‘fro.

Da Hype 1

Bunch of BananasSo, about a month ago, I had my hair straightened for the first time in 6 months and the first time professionally in over a year. I only straightened it to get my ends clipped. It was bone straight and quite frankly, my hair still has not recovered from the hot comb–there a pieces that will no longer curl properly.

Anyway, that isn’t exactly the mistake I’m referring to, though. The mistake I made wasn’t detrimental or harmful to my hair, it was actually a little humorous. Only a little humorous because I had some place to be that day.

So, we planned to visit some friends who live an hour away. I live in the DC-MD-VA area and everything is at least 45 minutes to an hour away. That morning, I decided to wash and deeply condition my hair. I decided that I needed to make sure I used a conditioner that strengthened and moisturized my hair because it had just been straightened TO DEATH. I decided to mix mashed bananas, honey, and mayonnaise with my favorite conditioner.

I started rinsing out the conditioner and it felt good. I mean really good.

But, then I noticed something: I had banana pieces all over my hair. My tightly coiled hair was not interested in giving up the banana pieces. I washed and rewashed and it just would not come out. Finally, three hours later, my husband (who was tired of waiting for me) comes to me and says, “people online said that this is a regular occurrence with bananas and avocados, and that you should just let your hair dry and it will eventually come out.”

Now, you know I could not go to someone’s house with “banana hair,” so I spent another hour or so more picking out bananas. I got about 80% of the bananas out of my hair before I left, but it wan’t until the next wash that I thought it was completely gone.

Will I do it again? Yes, because my hair never felt better. It was soft, moisturized, and super shiny. Next time, I may consider baby food or make sure I smash the bananas better. I don’t want my kid teasing me again, “Mommy, your hair is straight bananas today!”

Foto Friday: Veteran’s Day

For this week’s Foto Friday, in honor of Veteran’s Day, I decided use old photographs to pay tribute to veterans in my family. 

My “doughboy” great-grandfather, Jim Tanksley, served in the Army during World War I, if only briefly. He registered for the draft in June 1917 and was called into military service in August 1918, three months prior to the Armistice. He served overseas, most likely in France, and a year later he was discharged from the Army. This image of him is from a postcard.

Jim in his Army uniform, circa 1918.

Jim in his Army uniform, circa 1918

Like father, like son. Jim’s son and my great uncle, James Earl Tanksley, was a World War II veteran. Uncle James is pictured here with his mother, my great grandmother, Della. The clarity is not great, but I really love this picture because of the way she is looking at her son with such love and pride.

UncleJamesGrandma

Uncle James and Grandma Della, circa 1942

 

How Do You NaNoWriMo?

So, as many of you know, Realist and I are participating in National November Writers’ Month, which challenges writers to write 50,000 new words by the end of November. We decided that maybe if we share what works for us, you WriMos could offer some advice to us. So, here goes…

Da Hype 1

No word shaming

No Word Shaming!

1. I prepare for NaNoWriMo by creating a working outline. I try to start a couple of months in advance so that I can add ideas here and there as they emerge. I use vague terms and ideas, with hopes of exploring them throughout the writing process. Most ideas make it in the actual draft, while others don’t. Sometimes, I explore the ideas in ways that I never imagined. So, be flexible.

2. I write on Google Drive, that way I have access to my documents on my laptop, tablet, and smartphone. This helps me mostly when it comes to my outline. This way, I am able to add an idea or two to my outline whenever/wherever I am.

3. I don’t “word shame.” Sometimes I reach my word count goal, other times I do not. I really try to make 1,666 words each day, but sometimes I just can’t. Fitting 50,000 words into your month is not an easy fete. If it were easy, everyone would have written a novel. I don’t make myself feel ashamed about not being able to accomplish my goal, I just work extra hard to find time another day to make up for the time I lost writing.

 

Da Realist 1

Image Courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image Courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

As you can see, Hype is really organized when she writes. She gets her outline in order before she begins. She also made a spreadsheet (that she shared with me) to log the number of words that she has written each day. Although I marvel at her process, I #NaNoWriMo quite differently.

Having tried my hand at novel writing in previous years, I am convinced that I am no novelist, but I did want to participate. I decided I would modify the process by making it nonfiction. When I tell stories about my family, I always crack people up. (Well, maybe just Hype, and she may be a bit biased.) I decided to write about my grandparents. I was fortunate to have known my grandparents and most of my great-grandparents and to have had special relationships with all of them. I’ve wanted to do this for a while. If you think about it, it’s still NaNoWriMo–National Nonfiction Writing Month. But guess what, someone has has already thought of this. (Click the links for more info.)

I wish I could say there is a specific method to my madness, but there isn’t. I’m not even sure what I will do with stories/histories/thoughts/feelings I am recording; I just feel compelled to write them. I just get out my little notebook and smooth writing pen, think about my loved ones, and I write. I write longhand rather than at my computer. I enjoy writing like this. For me it feels more thoughtful and creative and less like work.

So, 2 Dope followers, that’s how we do it. How do you NaNoWriMo?

 

NaNoWriMo My Way

NaNoWriMo setupI like a challenge, especially one as gigantic as writing 50,000 words within a month. This is my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo and I intend to win this year by reaching my writing goal. The first year I participated, I wrote about 25,000 words (24,409 words to be exact). For me, I was bothered by the fact that I did not complete the task of writing 50,000 words, but it was pretty amazing to have accomplished what I did on the first go around.

That year, I utilized all of the tools that were provided to help writers become successful. I attended the write-ins at my local Panera and participated in the virtual write-ins as well. They were both an integral part of my success. The Panera write-ins had leaders encouraging us to write, and they gave away small gifts like pencils and erasers. The atmosphere was wonderful: everyone was in the spirit of writing and it diminished the loneliness and isolation that the writing experience often creates. The virtual write-ins also worked because of the writing sprints that were used to push writers to accomplish their daily writing goals.

I remember falling off the writing wagon once Thanksgiving came around. Not only is this time of year hectic because of the impending holiday and all of the preparations that come along with making a family happy and full of turkey, but this time of year is particularly busy for college professors, like myself, who are busy grading papers and getting themselves ready to submit final grades for the semester. So, for those 2014 WriMo newbies, prepare yourself for the business of Thanksgiving.

I am not exactly sure what happened the second and third years, but the writing barely got off of the ground before I quit. This year, however, I’m in the game. I’m barely in the game, but I am definitely playing.

Da Realist 1 wrote a little bit about NaNoWrimo in her post, “Partners in Crime.” In the post, she says that writers are encouraged to write approximately 1,666 words a day. So, when I started writing on day 5, I was already behind by approximately 8,330 words!!

I had already prepared for the month by outlining, but life continued to get in the way and it prevented me from starting on time. I had a job interview for which I had to prepare, too many papers to grade, and my daily responsibilities of chauffeuring my daughter around from one activity to the next. I just could not fit in NaNoWriMo for 4 days.

On the 5th day, I contemplated giving up as I did the previous two years, but then I changed my mind and got in the game.

Somehow, this weekend, I closed the deficit by about 5,000 words. I decided that I may not make 50,000 words by the last day of November, but I will have started a project and a routine of writing that I will not want to give up.

The truth: fitting 50,000 words into your daily routine for a month is challenging, but there is something about having a goal in sight that promotes the act of writing for many of us. By the end of this past weekend, I realized that my ability to write is a super power, and that many people are not capable of doing what I did in one weekend.

Press on WriMos, and keep writing.

***

For more information about National November Writers’ Month, click on this hyperlink for their website. They do a great job of preparing writers before November and encouraging writers all year round.

Foto Friday: Fall Colors

If you’ve followed 2 Dope Sistahs for a while, you know that I take a lot of pictures while I am out walking. This photo is from a couple of weeks ago. I was struck by the colors and just had to stop and admire them for a moment.

It looks a little crooked, but that is because it’s on a hill.

Fall colors are so beautiful, but they only last such a short time. If you haven’t had a chance, go out and enjoy the leaves changing colors before it’s too late!

Partners in Crime

IMG_1005 (2)Have you ever had a friend who is always getting you into. . . (ahem) “things”? Well, I do.  I’m looking at you, Hype 1. I wouldn’t say she gets me into trouble, but we do have adventures. She has a unique ability to get me to try new things, sometimes dragging me along kicking and screaming because I am essentially a “stick-in-the-mud” kinda girl. Hype has gotten me hooked on various podcasts and persuaded me to get a Kindle years ago. She also introduced me to Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest. Part of me thinks that she gets me to try new things just so she’ll have a “partner in crime.”

A few years ago Hype asked me casually, “Are you going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year?” I asked, “NaNoWri Who?” Seriously though, I’m pretty sure I asked, “What is that?” National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) happens every November. It is a national challenge to write a novel in a month, spending time each day in November writing, in an effort to reach the goal of a draft of a 50,000 (an average of 1,666 words per day) word novel by month’s end.

Hype is a literary scholar; she also writes fiction– short stories and novels. So, it’s not surprising that that NaNoWriMo appeals to her. Even though I am a historian, she seems to think I can write a novel because of the funny/crazy true stories about my life and my family.

Although it wasn’t quite kicking and screaming, I have agreed to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo with Hype. I thought it would be good opportunity to write down some of my stories and get back into blogging. We’re a little tardy to the party, so I’m suggesting that we write from November 3 to December 3.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, let us know. If you think you’d like to try but need more information, check out the National Novel Writing Month website. Happy writing! :-)