Not Black Enough for Magic

There are days when I look in the mirror and I am troubled by what I see, or, rather, by what I feel at what I see. My skin is the color of Cadbury’s milk chocolate where the sun hits it regularly; the skin hidden under my clothing is more caramel, though it looks like cafe au lait next to my arm. My daughter, when she was little, would pretend that I was chocolate and she was going to gobble me up. It has hit home for me, though–harder in recent years–that I have never felt “black enough”.

When I was little, I was teased by kids at school for my celebrity crushes: boys like Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“Home Improvement”) and Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys). I was told that I wished I were white, the idea voiced for me as though it were a pronouncement handed down from the mount. I was thin as a rail growing up; I didn’t have a body built for curves until almost 30 years later. I have been relaxing my hair since I was twelve and have worn it this way for now twice as long as I had it natural. I like it, but, sometimes, I can keenly feel the lack of my “blackness” because I don’t proudly wear my hair natural and free or intricately, traditionally, or boldly styled. In my first classroom as a full-time teacher, I had several black students who were, as I overheard, quite excited to have a black teacher. The disappointment and even confusion on their face when I opened my mouth and started speaking, was starkly visible to me even though they may not have realized it. I can only hope it didn’t stick.

When “Black Panther” first came out, I scrolled through the joyous pictures of people attending screenings and premiers in all their traditional African finery. It was amazing and beautiful and triumphant. But, somewhere in the midst of it all, I beheld their glory and felt the worm in my heart that whispered, “This is not for me. I have no place here.”

I am a brown-skinned, American-born, full-blooded Caribbean woman from a melting-pot island where I never felt black enough for many of the people around me. Now I live in a place that demands the necessary acknowledgement that black lives matter. (Spoiler alert: we do!) But, again, that worm in the apple in there:

“None of this is for me, or maybe I am not for it. I’m not black enough for this to be for me.”

My curves don’t shine like midnight or my skin glow like dawn. My hair doesn’t surround me in a crown of ombre curls or fall like watered black silk over my shoulders. I haven’t had to power through discrimination and prejudice in my higher education or workplace world (at least not consciously or overtly) in order to be successful. I have lived the most privileged of lives of color, for which I am immensely grateful. In other words, however, I haven’t had to fight for every inch like so many have been forced to do.

There are days when I half-wish that I had no color to feel less than, days that I just don’t feel black enough for any of this black girl magic to belong to me.

But then my daughter says, upon hearing the book Brown Boy Joy read on Netflix’s Bookmarks series, “I wish there was a brown girl joy.”

And so I put my queen-mom heels on and trot out Black Girl Magic Sprinkles (Chaunetta Anderson and Trinity L. Anderson), Honeysmoke (Monique Fields), and Sulwe (Lupita Nyong’o) for my little mixed beauty. My little girl who calls her summery skin “tan”. My little girl who needs to know that all the magic is hers, all the dreams are hers for the taking. She wants to build robots and go to Mars. I want her to build the robots and rockets that will go and then accompany them to Mars.

I want my girl to work and strive and do her best and achieve all the amazing dreams she has. I am doing my best to teach her openness and love, that hard work is nothing to be feared, and that there is always something to be learned, ways in which we can be better. As Princess Shuri (the officially most brilliant mind in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) admonished her kingly brother T’Challa, “How many times do I have to teach you? Just because something works, that does not mean it cannot be improved.”

I want my daughter to tap into her magic every day, to feel it in every way! I will nurture and defend her black girl magic and her right to it until my dying breath.

I may not feel black enough for my own magic, but I damn sure have enough for my daughter and any other black, brown, or mixed kiddo who may walk through my door. I will fight tooth and nail for their magic even though and while I may be iffy about my own. It’s complicated and called being human, I guess.


When All You Want to Do is Run Away to Narnia…

12 July 2020

I have a Spare Oom in my new house. For those of you unfamiliar, Spare Oom is Mr. Tumnus’s mispronunciation of “spare room”, where Lucy Pevensie found the wardrobe that would take her and her siblings to the wondrous Narnia.

“Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?” – Mr. Tumnus, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

In our new home, Spare Oom is “my” room. It is supposed to be my office/guest room, though I have had a hard time verbally claiming it as my own. I have done so metaphorically with the bookshelves and their arrangement, but I have found myself, in other ways, tailoring it more to my mother’s tastes and aesthetic, as she will likely be the most consistent overnight guest we will have (should this pandemic ever abate and borders reopen). So I often catch myself referring to it as “Grandma’s/Marmee’s room” rather than my own. I am trying to train myself into the more middle-of-the-road name of Spare Oom, to which I have become attached because I have decorated it with the Narnia-themed art that one of my best friends, Courtney Pritchard, has created for me over the years.

Spare Oom is supposed to be somewhere I can get away to hide when I need to, supposed to be something that I have not had over the past few years: a space of my own. This particular day is the first time I am using it as such, seated in a corner with my faithful stuffed pupper friend Deborah by my side, and wishing that I escape through my own closet, just for a little while. Today, I am hiding from my little girl and what feels like her constant state of being upset with me. What made her angry today? The suggestion that I might need to go to the store and therefore take her with me because Ben is helping a friend move some plants.

I am the Breaker of Hearts. The Dampener of Dreams. The Ruiner of Lives. The Forcefeeding Warden. The Tower-Banishing Queen. The Woman Who Doesn’t Know ANYTHING.

“Mom” is an unenviable position to be in right now. At least it is for me. I am the person saying”no”. I am the one reminding her of washing hands, turning off lights, and putting things away. I am the person refusing to let her have chocolate right before bed. I am the person dragging her along on errands and chores while Ben is at work and thus ruining her day…or her life, whichever is worse. Nope. “Mom” is not the most fun position to be in right now. 

2020 has been a year of massive change, both obviously and surprisingly. From school closures to quarantine and isolation to distance learning to, finally, our then finding a new home, packing up, and moving an hour and a half away all in the space of a month. There has been change after change not only for us but also for our girl, I know. And change is hard. I am doing my best to help her process through it, which proves challenging at times when I have barely had time to process myself (as I am learning even right now). Still, it’s hard to feel constantly at odds with her. I am trying to pay attention to and temper my words, actions, and body language with her (as I know my big feelings bleed through at times, too). I want, above all things, to remind and reassure my little girl that she is safe with me. Often, though, the moment where I do constantly feel the bond between us is at bedtime, when, after prayers, a story, and a mug of warm milk, she wants me to sing to her and stay close until she falls asleep. It’s a sweet moment that I so very often wish I weren’t so tired during but am still thankful for.

While mothering is difficult (so very difficult!) right now, I know that giving up is not an option. Things are still very hard, the world is still unsteady, and the idea of normal activities (such as going back to school) is still scary. And if I am scared, then she might be as well. If my girl will have no other stability, no other rock in this environment, I am determined that she will have me. Even if I do need to disappear into Spare Oom for my own sanity from time to time.

Hold fast, dear friends. There are days when the hard will be insurmountable, and all we can do is hole up, hold fast, and try again tomorrow. That is okay. That is allowed. And you are still loved, rooted for, and believed in. Rest when you need to. Spare Oom is waiting.

Deborah the Faithful

The Work of Christmas is for Me, Too.

As this new year begins, this is me. Full disclosure: total bathroom selfie. No glasses, no makeup, hair undone, no filters. Just me.

As 2019 begins, I am considering the work of Christmas, that work that began on Christmas Day and continues on from there. The work of love. One of the things that I am going to be working on is loving myself. I know very well what I have been struggling with, one of the chief things being building more rest into my everyday life. Not just waiting for spring, summer, or Christmas breaks to actually try to rest in that admittedly limited space but acknowledging my need for it as I go along throughout my normal days and weeks.

The work of Christmas needs to begin with me, as much as it needs to involve others. As a dear friend reminded me, I need to love myself and give myself as much grace and permission as I give others.

So here I am, just me, and I am going to work on loving myself better.

Gently Returning to the World (Gen Con 2017 sum-up)

“Let me explain! No, is too much. Let me sum up!” — Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

It’s Monday evening and I just finished one of my favorite weekends of the year: Gen Con! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend all four days of the convention because school and teaching have already begun, but the hubby and I made the most we could out of Saturday and Sunday.

Friday evening and night, I ate, indulged, enjoyed, and laughed. We had dinner with a friend at one of my favorite restaurants, shared delicious dishes, desserts, and wine. It was lovely. And then we Netflixed and chilled. No, seriously. Pjs, snacks, a laptop plugged into the hotel room’s television, and “Criminal Minds”. The next morning came with a long, hot, uninterrupted shower. (Sidenote: Why is hotel water so gorgeously silky?)

Saturday was a gloriously active day. I cosplayed. I belly danced. I walked. I reunited. I laughed. I hugged. I honestly had a really good day. I got to meet a favorite author, Mercedes Lackey, and she made my story-loving heart very full. A little child recognized my cosplay as his favorite superhero (“Mommy! Mommy! She’s Iron Man!”). I got to enjoy being raucously joyous at the dance with all the other geeks and new friends. I got to be bold, fierce, daring, loving, and unabashedly me.

By Sunday, my body ached but I was determined to show up in all my geeky glory. I got up early and ate a little breakfast at the hotel while I contemplated all that I had done so far over the weekend. Once we reached the convention, we found some very fun stuff (yay for TeeTurtle grab bags and The Baby Bestiary) and saw a few more people. By the end of the day, my feet, back, and ribs ached horribly and I was glad to sit down at Steak and Shake with Ben for a late lunch.

Next year, there are some things I will do differently. There are some more intricate cosplays that I want to do (Hogwarts, Trill science officer) and I will take more time in the preparation of them. I will also get myself some super comfy shoes for every occasion. There were some people with whom I had dearly and deeply hoped to spend time but it just didn’t work out. Not their fault. Next year, I will plan better to spend time with dear ones. On the whole, however, it was a good weekend. A really good weekend. Perhaps that is what makes the next part so difficult.

I don’t know if it is solely the weariness or not but the let-down feels heavier this year, more brutal. I know part of it is energy expulsion and the weariness that comes from it. I have to admit that another part of it is likely disappointment over what I didn’t do and people that I didn’t see. Perhaps I built up hopes/expectations that didn’t pan out; it happens, no one is at fault. I’ll plan more carefully and earlier next year so I can be sure to see those dear ones. Nevertheless, the out-whoosh of joy and enjoying-energy and freedom is proving very hard. I love this time with my hubby and with my delightfully geeky friends. Why can’t the joy last longer?

I miss my people. It always boils down to this. I deeply miss my people. Today, I have left dear ones to rest rather than poking them about their weekend experiences and all else, because I know they are tired and in need to rest and recovery of their own. They need a gentle return, too. I love them. I can wait.

All that said, Gen Con is in the books and I’m always glad for the experience. 

Foxy Nerd out!

GenCon 2017


Reflections on Thirty-Three

Author’s Note: Today, I turn 33 years old. It has definitely been an interesting three and a half years since my daughter was born and life changed in a big way. I think that I have learned more about myself in these few short years than in many others combined throughout my lifetime. I see myself differently, am taking better care of myself, am learning to love others better, and live my faith and purpose more honestly and, I hope, effectively. I do more than like myself at 33. I truly believe that I have finally learned to love myself.

= = = =

My form is a thing of beauty.

Take all your definitions of allure

And weigh them in your hands,

As I make mine my own.

Breasts, waist, hips, legs,

Arms, stomach, shoulders, back.

All I work to make strong.

This I do for myself,

For the good of my body as well as my soul.

To be strong enough in body to hold the skies on my shoulders

But soft enough in soul to hold joy in the sway of my hips

And grace in the reach of my hands.

My mind is a work of art.

Growing and challenged still,

Deeply considering and intense.

My intelligence has not been silenced by time,

But continues to grow and refine with new challenges.

My art is a meeting of thought and feeling,

Pulled together, chiseled, and shaped.

I share my art with a desire for hope,

Encouragement, uplifting, and joy.

I write to challenge to love, to kindness, to compassion.

I write to create refuge, worlds in which to escape,

To send out words that my own voice might find difficult to speak.

I sing to birth joy. I dance to proclaim free. I dress to cry beauty.

I write and post and mail to connect and pull threads together.

In life. In community. In love. In friendship. In chosen family.

I am a being made unqiue and becoming uniquer still.

The older I get, the finer I am becoming.

You should rejoice. I’d love for you to rejoice.

If you don’t, though, that’s your choice.

But, most of all, I just want you to smile with me.

A Season of Getting Out of the Way

Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of this year’s Lenten season, the 47 days (yes, I am including Sundays) between what is commonly called Shrove Tuesday, “Fat Tuesday”, and/or Mardi Gras and Easter Sunday.

I am a Christian and yet I have never really celebrated Ash Wednesday or Lent for that matter, not since I left Cayman and the required chapel Wednesday services behind with grade school. Honestly, Ash Wednesday and Lent were never really explained to me, not in a way that I recall or, if they were, remember understanding. This year, however, I have felt a heart leading to concentrate on the Lenten season and, more so, to participate in it. I am giving something up for Lent this year but I am keeping it to myself for the most part. The only person who  knows is my husband and I am at peace with keeping it that way.

I am also following along and reading through She Reads Truth’s Lent study through their website, starting, naturally, with Day 1: Ash Wednesday.

Several points jumped out at me as I read through today’s lesson:

  • Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance.
  • The ashen cross on the forehead is an outward sign of both repentance and hope.
  • On Ash Wednesday, we admit our limits and acknowledge the brevity of this life.

Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance. It is a day when our mortality is to be foremost in our minds. That is a hard thing to consider: mortality. The fact that, some day, our lives will be over and the world will spin without us. “Remember, mortal, one day you will die.” Those would be hard words to hear, even whispered from a soul I love, respect, and trust. As a Christian, they are a reminder to me that, even though my bones will be dust someday, I have hope in a life beyond death. “Still, even for those in Christ, these words are a sober reminder that only Jesus’ death and resurrection could pay the wage of our sin and reconcile us to our Maker (She Reads Truth).”  To remember ourselves as mortal is not an easy thing but it remembering that we are only on this earth for a short time makes what we do with that time all the more important.

The ashen cross on the forehead is an outward sign of both repentance and hope. I have never had the ashen cross drawn on my forehead, and I definitely didn’t know that, traditionally, the ashes are made from burning the palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday. I vividly remember Palm Sunday as a child. I remember walking into church with my friends, waving the palm fronds and leaves as we marked the celebration of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem just before Passover and His trial and crucifixion. To see the ashen cross on the forehead as a sign of both repentance, a desire to draw closer to God, and hope, the hope we have in the love and sacrifice Jesus made for us, is remarkably poignant and heart-striking to me. It’s like candlelight in a dark room, enough light to see to take the next step. And then the next after that.

On Ash Wednesday, we admit our limits and acknowledge the brevity of this life. Acknowledging my limitations can be very hard for me. Admitting that there are things that I cannot do, outcomes I cannot affect can often leave me feeling helpless and useless. But that is not the truth. The truth is that I need to lean on and let God be God in those moments and situations. My job is simply to obey and do all that I am called or led to do; God handles the rest, that is His job. Human life may be brief but I have seen God bring about amazing things through people who dare to admit their limits, give their work and what they have into His hands, and see what wonders He will work with it.

“Bring Jesus what you have and get out of the way. Getting out of the way provides an opportunity to discover the awe and wonder of God’s amazing hand and experience God’s abundance.” (Albert Tate)

So, as I go through this Lenten season, my goal is to strengthen my connection with God. To be more intentional about spending time in the quiet, listening to and for Him. To see what I am giving up as a step to a better path, to look for grace in the situations that arise (the giving and receiving of it). To acknowledge my limits, give the Lord what I have, and get out of the way.


Giving of Your Grace

Everyone has a grace. Everyone has a talent, a means of making an impact. Everyone is blessed with a grace.

I sat for almost a full minute, looking at my hand as it land upon the clean lined pages of my notebook, grasping a pen. I sort of marveled at the sight. here is my grace, my talent. I have a few, yes, but this is what I have considered and cultivated specifically as a talent: my writing. (I really should have someone sketch my hand holding a pen someday.)

Everyone has a grace. A grace that allows us to fill a specific place in our community of life. Whether that grace is teaching, cooking, speaking the truth, listening, organizing, or driving others around, it is something that helps others, something that someone may need. You don’t know who or where or when but your grace is important. It is needed; it is vital. Some may not see your grace, or they may not understand it even if they do see it, but that will only affect your grace if you allow it to, if you let it. I’m not saying that it will be easy all the time, that it won’t be frustrating or saddening. But it will only stifle your grace if you allow it to stifle your heart.

Grace is not only a fluidity of motion, it is not only composure and aplomb under pressure. Grace is the giving of love and kindness and honesty and help to others no matter how they may react, how they may treat you or others.  Grace is how you react and respond to others, not how they react or respond to you. I’m not writing this to preach at anyone. It’s on my mind and spilling out my fingers. Writing is my grace. I am endeavoring to write honestly and lovingly and, moreover, boldly about my life. Not everyone will agree or be happy with what I write but, at the same time, I may be fortunate enough to encourage someone else or give their soul some refreshing. I don’t flatter myself in that I might change lives, but I hope that I can be at least the smallest bit of help to someone somewhere.

Your grace can be the simplest of things, such as offering an upset friend a hot beverage to calm them. It may not mean much to you, but it could just mean everything to them. Your grace is important to life; it is vital.

Daily Writing – September 23, 2011 – I Love My Legs

I love my legs. I really do. My thighs, not so much. But my legs. Oh, honey! Who would have thought that a woman who is only 5’1 without heels on could have such long legs? I distinctly remember the first time I ever wore a knee-length skirt. I just sort of marveled at the way my own legs looked stretching beneath the skirt to my high-heeled sandals. I said, surprised, “I have nice legs.”

To which, my mother replied, “Of course you do. Just no one ever sees them.”

Well, I’ve changed that trend over the past 14 years. I’ve learned the value of a shorter skirt, the freedom of shorts, and the seduction of a knee-length pencil skirt. I have come to love my legs, to know the power of a well-shod foot and, as they would say, well-turned calf. I’ve learned just the right shoes to give even more length and shape to my legs. I will forever have the thighs of Ebanks women but a long enough skirt or dress can hide that and still show off a great pair of gams.

When I was lying down on the floor on my side once, a friend pointed to me, running their finger through the air over the line of my legs and just sort of sighed, “Look at that.” I think I blushed at that moment but it felt good. Just like it does when Ben runs his hands over my legs, or scratches gently at my thigh, or kisses my ankle.

Yeah. I think I love my legs.

Daily Writing – June 15, 2011

This morning is dark and rumbly and rainy. The perfect morning to sleep in late. I’ve had nine hours of sleep. I’m good. I like listening to the rain outside; it reminds of the days we would pray for in Cayman. Cool mornings full of clouds and fat raindrops that, if they poured heavily and quickly enough, could cancel school. Then, if I was lucky, I could sit at home and watch tv, listen to music, or read my books all day long. Yes, days you lived for in the Cayman Islands.

Now I’m here in Farmland, Indiana, listening to the thunder rumble over the house I share with my husband of almost five years. Those facts alone serve to amaze me. I’m living in Indiana. I have my own house. I’ve been married to Ben for almost five years. It’s all still somewhat surreal, all the dreams that have come true for me in the past 11 years since I left home for college.

I’m 28 years old. I have a Bachelors of Science in English Education and a Masters of Art in Literature. I have been teaching full-time for five years and now I’m trying to think of what I could possibly enjoy doing other than teaching. I have said it before: I am an English major who teaches. The subject matter is my first love. Don’t get me wrong, I truly do enjoy teaching the nuances and allegories and everything of higher level literature. Perhaps I shall try to teach college classes someday, or private tutoring.

November 27, 2010 – “The Wonders of Imaginary Places”

Narnia isn’t the sort of place that you find when you are looking for it. It’s always there, on the edge of your sight, in the corner of your eyes, ready to surprise you when you aren’t expecting it. When I was a child, I used to dream and wish and hope that, some day, I would open a door and find myself in a world where Animals talked, trees walked, and a giant lion would love and guide me. I fantasized about running my fingers through a mane that would be surprisingly soft and smell of sunshine and clear air and warmth. I watched the old BBC version of The Chronicles of Narnia and marveled at the walking, talking lion they used. Ah, the magic of animatronics.

The Chronicles of Narnia is still one of my favorite series. The deep magic of the world, the lessons taught and learned, and especially the sheer expanse of Narnia. Absolutely wonderful. Whenever I read the stories, the characters greet me like old friends and, when I see them brought to life on the movie screen, I have found myself crying out of sheer love for those characters, those friends, and that world that I loved so as a child.

I am one of those people who buys wholly into some of these worlds of imagination, even if for a little while. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Elemental Masters, Harry Potter’s Wizarding World…all of these worlds draw me in, draw me close, and fascinate me. The imagination and knowledge (even if it is indeed borrowed) that it took to create them delights me. I love to fall into those worlds, to get to know the characters, imagine their deeper personalities, conflicts, brightness, darkness. As my father says, I get myself into a situation that I have to write myself out of.

People think I’m odd, weird, crazy perhaps, but this is my love, my joy: to build castles in the sky, worlds out of thin air, to fall happily tumbling into worlds that others have created. It’s why I love larping. I adore creating characters, building my “liar’s house”, and slipping into and occupying it for a while. What can I say? It’s fun, and it feeds my drama addiction.