The Songs That Made Me

Have you been near me when the music comes on? Have I left you midsentence at the door, the table, the restroom when we’re out and the music comes on? If not, we’ve never been out together, because I can guarantee you that’s a common occurrence.

Nancy, having enjoyed Rolling Stone’s recent story where artists listed the songs that had overarching influence on their lives, asked a few bloggers to do the same. This was hard. I’m a music lover; my enjoyment crosses genres and there’s usually a story behind WHY I like each song. But, this was supposed to be more. This was supposed to be about the songs that made me who I am, not just the ones (and there are so many) that make me recall a memory or make me happy — the ones that are responsible for who I am today. Prince’s power is undeniable.

So, to make a list of (just) 10 songs that made me or are my life’s soundtrack? Man. I’m still looking at the ones that made the final cut like do you belong here? Is the story of how you make me feel better than the ones that didn’t make it? I had to make myself stop because otherwise the list would be infinite. Cutting Diana Ross made my head hurt and I doubt she’ll ever forgive me.

Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove

Dance your way out of your constrictions. I remember it so clearly: the Halloween party in the basement when I was 12. I liked Reginald and he was ignoring me, talking instead to Chelle. He tried to kiss her and she pushed him and left. Just as this song came on he tried to ask me something, finally, and I walked away, fast. I literally hear “feet don’t fail me now” in my head when I need to get out of situations.

Chuck Brown – Moody’s Mood

If you don’t know about Chuck Brown or go-go, I can’t help you (not right now. Google is your friend when I am not). There is genuinely no way to count the number of times I saw Chuck Brown perform live, in clubs, at outdoor festivals in parks, on the street, ON A BOAT.  The influence on my life is unparalleled by any other artist, truly. Chuck is who I listen to on bad days and good. There are two clips. The first is the specific song I’ve listed. The other is part of a live show, because you need to experience, albeit visually, what the crowd was like. It would be tight. It would be hot. And no one would care. At 9:43 in the second one, that call and response from the crowd? Nothing like it. Listen to the congos. The horns. You’re welcome.

Gladys Knight and the Pips – I’ve Got to Use My Imagination

She’s talking about love loss, but this is my life’s theme song when there’s anything bad going on. I’ve got to use my imagination. Keep on keepin’ on. (It was hard not to choose a song from the Claudine soundtrack. Listen, if you haven’t seen that movie or don’t know Curtis Mayfield’s score for it, just, ugh. Google and YouTube, y’all.)

Prince – Let’s Go Crazy

I need to say what? Here, have this.

Michael Jackson – PYT

Because I am. Always and forever.

Whitney Houston – Didn’t We Almost Have It All

1987. Sitting in my bedroom, in the dark, knees to my chest, swaying. I was captivated by her voice and her lyrics fed my teenage love angst. Plus, this version she did live? It is still everything.

Nat King Cole – Pretend

Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue. My husband (then boyfriend) first played this for me after I’d had a bad day at work. Then, when we were house hunting and got outbid repeatedly, it would find its way into my ears. It flits through my mind still, immediately, when things are rough. I flash back to that first time he played it, and it makes me smile.

DeeeLite – Groove Is In The Heart

Fake IDs in clubs and happiness and thoughts of moving out, far far away. This is high school, the cusp of graduating and starting a life.

Dawn Penn – No, No, No

When my husband and I were first dating, there was a club that had three levels, with different types of music on each floor. We’d always find our way to the reggae room and this would come on nearly every time. While the lyrics are not compatible with a lasting relationship, the rhythm is enough to make you not pay attention to that. My  husband has this dance he does, see, when he thinks I’m not looking (or maybe he knows I am), and, well, I can’t even finish my sentence. He will do that dance and I’m transported.

Commodores – Easy

My relationship with the Commodores is laid out right here. But here’s the gist: I thought my father was Lionel Richie. This was my childhood, all day. The records are mine when he’s gone.

BONUSES (Read: I can’t do just 10, really):

Sugar Hill Gang – Rapper’s Delight

Probably the first rap song I knew all the words to (and still do). Because really, have you been to a friend’s house and the chicken tastes like wood?

Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up

Quintessential GET THIS PARTY STARTED song. (Maze’s Before I Let Go is a CLOSE second.) To this day, after the first few bars, I’m smiling. This is my clean the house song, on repeat, because I never tire of it.

Madonna – Borderline

Yeah, this one gets mentioned because it taught me I had to rely on myself, no one else. I was in a talent show in sixth grade and I intended to sing this. My mother refused to buy the instrumental record although I’d found it in Kemp Mill. I got on that stage in a dress she’d made me wear a slip under but the slip was too big and kept falling. I was singing Madonna a capella with my slip showing. I looked around the audience for support and saw my mother. Yes! No. She was laughing, along with the rest of the audience.

For more “The Music That Made Me” be sure to hop over to:

The Flying Chalupa

Elizabeth McGuire

Elleroy Was Here

Midlife Mixtape

Up Popped a Fox

When Did I Get Like This?

I Miss You When I Blink

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Butterfly Confessions

Good Day, Regular People

Smacksy

Because This Friendship is Real #HappyMamas

keelsIt wasn’t hard, choosing. She’d been on my mind the past few days, so the decision to do something nice for her was a no-brainer. You know the premise to #HappyMamas is happiness. Here was a chance to share the happiness with someone else and promote a deserving company at the same time.

Presented with the opportunity to send someone a surprise, I chose Keely because I’d just read this post. I was touched by her rawness, the love, the emotions; she flitted through my thoughts the next few days.

berries

Who couldn’t use some chocolate covered strawberries from Shari’s Berries in her life, whether she’s had a rough go of it lately or not? This was about more, though. This is about finding people online who get you and never call you weird, who lean into you, who help you, who lift you up when you need it but never call you needy. Keely is that personified. We’ve never met in person. We’ve never had to.

I’ve been blogging since 2008. I’ve met many bloggers; we’ve talked and laughed and commiserated about writing, online life, babies, husbands, jobs, Prince. And while yes, I’d squeal with delight upon meeting most, it is Keely that I would knowingly walk slowly to, smiling, fully aware that that hug was going to be everything we both needed, wordless.

I read her blog and I laugh. We talk in private and I KNOW her. I know her heart. I know she is a person I want on my side when there is battle to be done, even if it only involves tug of war. (I don’t know where that came from. I usually shy away from tug of war because rope burns on my hands don’t seem pleasant. But I got a visual of Keely helping me pull and just went with it. What’re you gonna do?)

I loved imagining her wonder what the box was. I loved imagining her realizing what the box was. I loved imagining her being happy.

When people tell you that online friendships aren’t real, don’t believe them. They are. You’ll know it most when you get surprise strawberries. Or, when the friend you’ve never met sends your baby monkey butt pants, because.

Because the friendship is real.

 

 

Shari’s Berries helped us spread joy to some of the Happy Mama’s in our lives and we know they can help you too. Check out their wonderful assortment of delicious goodies and choose something for the special women in your life who help you find joy on your mothering journey. You can also check out the Shari’s Berries blog (it’s really good!) for fun and inspiring gifting ideas for every occasion and follow them on Instagram (@SharisBerries) and Pinterest (@SharisBerries) to enjoy lots and lots of mouth watering photos!

 

The Baltimore Protests Are About Freddie Gray and So Much More

Photo: BostonGlobe.com
Photo: BostonGlobe.com

I won’t condone violence against police or peaceful protesters. I can’t.

I won’t condone looting. I can’t.

I won’t condone police violence against peaceful protesters. I can’t.

I won’t condone a man being stopped, then arrested because he seemed suspicious.

I won’t condone a man’s spine being severed while in police custody, with no logical explanation given. I won’t condone the seeming lack of the police department’s willingness to provide a timely answer of how. I won’t condone ANOTHER Black person’s senseless death.

There is a pervasive level of tired in the Black community. The response to each situation gets markedly worse. Why do you think that is? It’s because of the tired. It’s because of the fedupness, the decades of frustration, of lies, corruption, poverty, dismissal, brutality. It’s because we are shown repeatedly that we do not matter. We are expendable. We are wrongdoers. We are deserving of jail and death.

It’s ok to kill us and let us lie for hours in the street. It’s ok to arrest us and not get us medical attention immediately. It’s ok to shoot us in the back and let us lie face down in the mud with no attempt to keep us alive. It’s ok to submit false reports; it’s not like we didn’t deserve to be shot. It’s ok to forcibly prevent us from protesting peacefully since of course every peaceful protest turns violent, because we are animals.

It’s ok to close the mass transit system just as school lets out so that our children can’t get home and we can’t get to them. It’s ok to suggest that the city is overrun by gangs, then show the now idle children falling victim to mob mentality, eerily like gangs.

What’s happening in Baltimore is not just about Freddie Gray. It’s about years of hatred and pain. It’s about pretending things have changed, wanting things to change, and knowing they haven’t. It’s about anguish at wrongful (and mass) incarceration. It’s about being unable to exist without fearing for our lives and the lives of every Black and brown person we know.

Why do you call Black rage reactions to the taking of a person’s life thug behavior, but consider destruction of property by white people when their sports team loses, unrest?

I don’t condone evading arrest. I don’t condone resisting arrest. I don’t condone selling loose cigarettes or playing with toy guns or standing in a crowd or being in a dark stairwell at night.

I don’t condone violence or looting.

But if you want me to pretend like I don’t understand these things? I won’t.

I can’t.

The Cost of Expecting Justice After Walter Scott’s Murder

If you’ve seen the video of the killing of Walter Scott and you identify with humanity at all, you’ve probably thought, “Yes! Proof!” You’re so excited about video evidence of what really happened.

And yet, remember Eric Garner? There was indisputable truth that Eric Garner was choked to death on a New York street corner. However, there were no charges brought against the officer who squeezed the life out of him, who continued to apply pressure as Garner gasped and wheezed out, “I. Can’t. Breathe.”

Having video that proves an officer murdered a man in cold blood, a man who was fleeing, or who otherwise doesn’t appear to pose an immediate threat, doesn’t mean anyone will be held accountable. Having video that proves more than one officer may have lied about performing CPR on the victim doesn’t mean anyone will be held accountable, charged and convicted.

Oh, but I’m being pessimistic, right?

Video means nothing.

Video doesn’t mean conviction. In Eric Garner’s case, video didn’t even warrant a charge.

Woke White people want us to be glad there’s video, because Black people deserve  to not be shot down in the road like goddamn rabid animals, but gladness leads to complacency. There is NO room for complacency among Black people. Comfort is a luxury.

Comfort is something elusive. It evades you when your husband is out late, just a quick run to the store.

Comfort is something intangible. You grasp at it subconsciously when your son goes out to play, to the park just down the road.

Comfort is something abstract. It’s meaning is definable only in theory.

Comfort is something mysterious. It sneaks into shadows and sits down low, threatening to grab your ankles as you walk by, drag you into the ever-present abyss of belief that you’ll never see your loved one again.

Comfort is something obscure as your body tenses when you ride past a group of Black boys sitting on the curb, handcuffed, their car being rifled through. When you hear the siren before you see the flashing lights and you pray that it is not you they want, because although you’ve done nothing wrong, comfort in it going well seems incomprehensible.

The city of Cleveland suggested Tamir Rice was responsible for his own death for failing “to exercise due care to avoid injury.” He was 12. But, wait; there’s video.

Ramsey Orta, who videotaped Eric Garner’s murder, is in jail on unrelated charges, and refraining from eating since rat poison was found in other inmates’ food.

Feidin Santana fears for his life, and rightfully so. He videotaped Walter Scott’s murder. Mr. Santana was afraid to release the video initially because of the potential backlash.

We can’t expect anything, certainly not justice, not even when there’s video. Video doesn’t mean conviction. Too often Black people are shown that justice for us is  undeserved, so why expect this time to be any different? This time. Do you have any idea how it feels to refer to a man’s death as this time? This time, that time, NEXT TIME.

Next time.

Comfort costs.