Friday, November 4, 2011

My Name Is...

When starting this blog four years ago I wanted to remain as anonymous as I could. Then came Facebook and Twitter and since I use my real first name for both of those accounts, I figured I might as well change it here too.

I've been wanting to change from Ms.KnowitAll (I also used Ms.KiA) for a while now. That was a nickname my ex used to call me and well me and my ex broke up long ago. I enjoyed my time using the pseudonym and now it's time to use Kel or for the sake of this blog Just Kel...

My full first name is Kelley.

I struggled with "Kelley" when I was younger. I grew up with Tamikas, Shaniquas, Keishas, Tashas, and Tanyas... and I wanted one of those names too. I had to be about seven years old when I told my mother I wanted a name change... Ok so what really happened was my brother was eighteen and he asked my mother if he could change his name and she said yes. I figured I could ask and she'd say yes to me. She didn't. If I could have changed my name it would have been Barbara, Diana, Tina because to me, those are sexy names.

My mom didn't choose Kelley because she researched the meaning or because it flowed so nicely with my last name. She chose my name because my aunt knew a woman who knew another woman and she had a niece named Kelly and my mom wanted to name me something "different". Plus my brother's name began with a K and my mother wanted to keep to her trend.

My first name tends to fool people. I know that both, my first and last names are Irish and English respectively. I just recently I met a colleague I had been communicating with via email. As we shook hands, he said Oh you're Kelley. it's nice to put a name with a face, I've seen you before but I never you were a Kelley. I really wanted to ask Did you think I was an Aisha? But I didn't of course because I'm not a nut and my perception could have been off.

A few years back when I looked up the meaning of my name. It was then that I embraced it fully.

"From the Irish Gaelic name Kelly, Warrior Woman, is bold and daring in all she does; someone who makes every minute count; has a classic strength and beauty; compassionate and patient with others; someone who is held in high esteem; a smile like a beam of light at night; a woman who is proud of her old-fashioned ideas; an individual who is very adventurous."

"Kelly — from the Gaelic word for "warrior woman"; "farm by the spring". At an ancient shrine of the goddess Brigit at Kildare, there were sacred priestesses and warrior women called kelles, and its possible the name and surname came from them."

So I've come to learn and accept my warriorism... my courage and even my aggressiveness. I am a warrior while defending and protecting the people and the things I love. I was a warrior when I endured abuse, rejection, all types of hurt and life's side swipes. I'm sure that given the choice, a lot of us would not have chosen our names - a side of me would still choose Barbara, Diana, Tina and even Sheila - but just as a middle name or even a nickname. While I still find them to be sexy names, Kelley is the name my mama chose and it fits me just fine.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Remember...

Sometimes something so small can bring evoke a memory. For me, it's the smell of Nag Champa or Egyptian Musk or Sandalwood or whatever scent it was that Armstrong wore.

And whenever I smell that pungent body oil I remember how I met Armstrong, a friend of a friend I met one day while cutting school. I remember how deep his voice was. Too deep for him to call my house since I was thirteen and he was seventeen. I remember my mother forbidding me to see him since he was older and most likely sexually experienced.

I remember how I ignored my mother's warning and saw Armstrong anyway.  We lived in the same neighborhood, he went to my neighborhood high school and I was bound to see him again anyhow. I remember how cute he was... light skin, curly hair, big brown eyes, full pink lips, and dimples.

I remember how he invited me to his house one Sunday. I ate my first vegetarian meal since his family were strict vegans. I remember how I met every one in his home since they all sat down and ate together (My family only did this on holidays.) I remember this was the first time I heard Black people speaking German because his grandfather was German. I remember after the meal when we sat in front of his house and kissed. I remember sitting in between his legs. He lived on the same block where they shot the opening scene of the movie Maid in Manhattan. I remember how he removed the earrings from my left ear, all three earrings. I remember how he whispered in my left ear with that deep voice of his. I remember how he licked my left ear from the lobe to the helix, the scapha, concha, external meatus, tragus and everywhere in between. I remember how he bent my ear and licked right in the back... you know... right there. I remember how he blew on my ear to dry it. I remember how other parts of me could not be blown dry. I remember how he put back all three of my earrings. I remember thinking that my mother's concerns of me being thirteen and dating someone seventeen were on point.

I remember asking one guy who wore that same fragrance what the name was but for some reason I cannot remember that - just its sweet, lingering scent. Every time I smell it, which is every once in a while, I remember that Sunday afternoon. That was over twenty years ago and I remember that like it was yesterday...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I began to doubt...


Just recently. I truly went through a period of days and months doubting, thinking and wondering if God is really real. I never stopped going to church. After all going to church, for me, is just like getting up daily and going to my Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 - it's a ritual, a routine. So not going to church would be like quitting my full-time gig. In addition to that not going to fellowship would be like cutting out a big piece of what I do.

BUT going to church and believing that God is real are two different things.

I don't know what happened, what words were spoken to me, what I had watched on TV... Perhaps while I was in bible study someone asked a question and the answer offered didn't have any weight to it. Maybe it was while reading the paper or witnessing evil shadowing this world. The "God Seed" was planted in me by my mother long ago... I do not remember a time in my life when I did not believe yet somehow my faith was breached.

I am known to overthink. I mean I pensively rip things a-part. You can't just tell me to believe and I do. I cannot just have faith. Not me. I need some proof, intangible proof, in order to believe.
And believe in what exactly... Cosmology? Religion?

I did not stop praying. I did not stop studying. I didn't give up or throw up my hands but those actions can be considered habits and not true acts of faith. So I asked God if He was real, prove it to me. Give me a sign that You are out there, You hear me, and You've got all sides of me.

This past week two events happened to me. I asked God for proof of His existence and he gave me two. One sign nearly made me piss my pants, literally. I won't go into detail about it but I will say it was one of those "that could have been me" incidents. I suppose I needed that. That jolt, that shock, that fear that stunning experience where the words "God! Help! Me!" naturally fell out of my mouth. The other event was something mild and sweet, something where if I blinked I would not have noticed. If God didn't already astound me, He would not have been able to wow me - which is what He did. I would have taken this second experience for granted.

Is God really real? I am sure we've all asked that question. And truthfully, unless we simply believe and have faith - unless we see a sign or have a Daniel, Jonah, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego experience - perhaps we'll just have to live out this life until we close our eyes and wake up some other side to shall receive our answers.

As for me I do not believe in coincidence and I don't think that those two experiences were unrelated events. I believe God is real. He proved His God Self to me and I realized that I had taken God for granted.

I know that rainbows after heavy rainstorms are God's sign that he's keeping His promise to us. I saw two of them last month but still I doubted God's reality. I've seen prayers answered and breakthroughs happen and still I wondered if God was just a label for all unexplained happenings. God saw that my faith needed to be shocked and stirred to the point where when I think about what could have happened to me my heartbeat increases and when I think about what He did for me a fullness fills my heart.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Post Cemetery Visit

I went to the cemetery last weekend -- not in observance of Memorial Day -- for a different reason.  When my mother told me that she was heading out to Jersey to visit her parents, my first thought was “Have a good time!” but I ignored my inner voice and said “I’ll go with you”.  After all it’s been about 15 years since we’ve been out to the cemetery and my brother was meeting us – Oh happy family day!

Saturday was hot and what made it even hotter was the fact that we caught the wrong bus. Any other time this would be my fault because I’m always late but this was my mother’s fault for: 1. Not reading the ticket and the number of the bus; 2. Not asking the driver if she was getting on the right bus and; 3. For getting on the bus that arrived at 9:50 and not the one we were supposed to get on at 10:10.  See my mother is a ball of nervous energy and I knew better than to trust her judgment, that day, but I had been ignoring my inner voice for a few days already…  We discovered our error almost at the end of our trip.  The bus driver, instead of letting us ride out with him and double back for a transfer, put us out in the middle of nowhere and we waited for him to return for us.  Long story not so long, a trip that would have taken 60 minutes took 3 and a half hours.

We finally get the right bus, meet up with my brother and head to the cemetery but we have no clue where we are going.  There are about 5 cemeteries in that part of town and when we asked for directions no one seemed to know where our destination was - except this one young lady who probed us a little before giving directions.  She said “No offense, I hope y’all don’t take this no kinda way, but ummm are you referring to the Black Cemetery?”.  I wasn’t fazed by this.  Reason being, the first time we went out there me and my brother went into this pizzeria for a slice and not only did we not get served, the folks inside the restaurant stopped eating the minute we entered.  This was not 1955 but more like 1985.  I answered “yes” and got the directions while my mother and brother were paralyzed by the question.  As I repeated that directions to my brother, he in turn asked my mother why did they choose that cemetery out of all of the cemeteries in the tri-state area?  My mother explained that in the 70s when they buried her mom and sister they weren’t given choices and it was economical.  We buried my grandfather there in the late 90s because his wife and daughter are there. We had no idea it was filled with Black folks.

We get to the “Black Cemetery” and my mother is complaining about the grass not being cut but water is constantly running from the cemetery’s office which I’m sure is the reason why the grass is overgrown.  While in search for my grandmother’s grave which has a marker, we are stepping all over people’s graves and in mud.  I’m talking ankle deep mud.  My feet, my pants, my sandals are wet!  I hate wet feet.  That is uncomfortable and unnerving to me. ILL wet feet!

We find my grandmother and my grandfather who are buried separately. Grandfather does not have a marker because right about now we can’t afford it but we locate where he is because he’s on the edge of the grounds and his is the only grave, in that area, with flowers on it.  Which leads me back to the reason for this venture… to see if they placed the flowers that my mother paid for and to see if the grass was cut. 10 minutes into our visit and my mother is ready to go back to the Bronx.  My hair, once beautifully coiled is now a jagged fro.  My feet are muddy ashy.  My clothes fit like I sweated in them because I had.  We’re all a shade browner from the sun and my mother doesn’t even want to sit and chat with her parents and sister for a spell.  I vowed to never ignore my inner voice again!

Closing Thoughts…
I’m grateful for the trip because I simply love cemeteries.  Ever since my first visit to that particular cemetery I have enjoyed the serenity and the nature so it was a joy to visit my grandparents and my auntie, even for a couple of minutes.  Plus it was a segue for me to tell my family what my plans were in the event of my death.  I realize this may be morbid for some but it’s truly a part of life.  I tell them that should I pass before they do, feel free to burn me a day later and place me in whatever container they wish!  My mother hems and haws and tells me she’s not doing it.  My brother is all silent and I know he’s thinking the same and so I tell them both – "Look, my insurance just lapsed!  I don’t know how y’all are coming up with money for a funeral, a burial and a marker!"  So then my mother says… “Well how much would I save on cremation? And you said “any container”?”  Money changes things!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Do You Know What Today Is? It's My Anniversary!

Today while sitting at my desk, doing a face check in my hand held mirror... I spotted 2 knots in my hair and a split end. I said to myself, "It's time for a cut" and that's when I remembered what excited me so about May 2nd...

May 2nd 2009, in the wee hours of the morning, I took my last set of cornrows out, grabbed my hair shears and commenced to clipping my relaxed hair off.  I was nervous.  I had not cut my own hair since the age of 15 when I chopped off 5 inches of hair for a short bob.  My natural hair was not as easy to maneuver as relaxed hair and I was sure that even though I successfully cut off all of my relaxed hair, my hair was most likely uneven.  Sure enough when I blew my hair, I knew my next move would be the barber to even my afro.

Relaxed hair, for me, was easy. I went to the hair salon every 2 weeks for a shampoo, condition and doobie wrap. Every 6 to 8 weeks I got relaxer applied to the roots of my hair and my ends trimmed. I wore my hair out most of the time and in a pony tail other times. Simple. The longer it grew, the lazier I became and I did very little to maintain it.

I cut my hair because I really liked the natural look.  I noticed that my relaxed hair which was always full was beginning to thin - more than I was comfortable with.  I was also experiencing some damage in the crown of my head. But truth be told I did it under the urging of a man. I admit it.  I did.  But the desire was within me long before he showed up.  What I worried about most and what delayed my hair transition was my career - how I would be accepted and possibly promoted - and of course how I would manage daily.  I knew my natural hair was no where near as straight and silky as relaxed hair.  I never wanted to look crazy and unkempt... never.

Well I have looked crazy and unkempt a time or twenty.  My 2 year journey has not been as easy as I would have liked but I have loved my decision from the very beginning.  The man who urged me is no longer in my life.  Some folks have chosen to share their opinion of my hair and tell me they like me better before.  Fortunately I work for an institution that is diverse and within my 2 years I have been promoted.

I have always loved hair, doing hair and especially braiding and styling natural hair.  I have experimented with my hair, keeping it mostly in his naturally coarse state but I recently blew it out for a banquet I attended.  I tried something new with my hair new just this weekend.  After taking out my 2-strand twists, I rolled it with satin covered sponge rollers and released after about 7 hours... I like it!

This is my 2-day hair, Monday hair, slept on...

Today is my natural anniversary!  Something as small as embracing the natural me was such a great feat.  I love my freely, natural, sometimes curly, always unruly, very coarse but totally me hair! And yes it really is time for a cut!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An Afternoon with Walter Mosley

A couple of years ago I wrote a "Dear Walter" post to Walter Mosley.  In it I said that if I were to ever see him on the streets of New York I'd probably run up on him and slap his ass or wrap my legs around his waist.  It was right after I read his book Killing Johnny Fry and I just realized that Walter Mosley was a cross-genre writer par excel lance who has written an excellent piece of erotica...

Well on this past Sunday as I was leaving the Brooklyn Public Library auditorium after listening to Walter Mosley in conversation I walk directly to Walter.  And what did I do...

I smiled.

I looked up at him with the biggest 2 row, possibly some upper gum, smile.  I refused to speak because I knew my voice would betray me.  I'd speak with unnecessary vibrato and I would probably babble...

In my head, during the question and answer period, I was imagining this post with a pic of me and Mr. Mosley smiling it up.  But as I walked past him, I knew this post would not look anything like my imagination.  I figure not only should I anticipate my pics and posts but my conversations too!  Nevertheless I had a wonderful time listening to him speak of how he created his characters, how he writes daily (even while on tour) and his many inspirations.  I listened as he read from his latest Leonid McGill series "When The Thrill is Gone" and how he read his work with the rhythm of a poet.  If he was not wearing his uniformed black fedora, I would have envisioned us in a dark smoky theater, him wearing a black beret and after his reading all of us would give our reactionary hand claps and finger snaps.

He's nothing how I imagined he would be... he's witty and funny and he's what my mother calls "quick with it"... that means he has the right answer for every question and it comes right on time.

I don't regret walking past Mr. Mosley without asking for a photo... I guess because when I looked up and smiled at him, in passing, he gave me a big ole, wide ole gap-toothed smile right back...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fine Man Friday...

I've been writing and re-writing this post for months... I started it about 6 months ago, the moment that he called to tell me that my fears were soon coming to pass.

"Aunty... I'm being deployed to Iraq."

Today he is leaving to go to Fort Hood.  He just called to tell me that he loved me.  I'm typing while crying y'all... In about a month he's flying to the Middle East. 

He joined the military against the wishes of everyone and he did it so innocently.  He's not a scholar, he's not good with his hands, he was working at some chicken joint and really wanted to do something with his life.  I remember when he called to tell me he was enlisting. 

I asked him not to, begged him not to, reminded him that we're in the middle of a war - it's like straight Revelations right now! - he said, so sweetly, made me think he was 5 years-old again... "but Obama is about to be elected and he's going to end the war".

I realized that I was not going to stop him.  My brother, his father, who was in the military tried to stop him but couldn't deter him.  I remembered how my mother told me that she begged my brother not to enlist.  "Go to college", she said - that was back when the City University was free - but he was following behind a friend and decided to go anyway.  With tears in her eyes she signed him up because at 17 he was too young to do it himself.  I remembered how my mother broke down every time we drove him back to LaGuardia or JFK to go back to his stationed state.  I knew the minute that my nephew enlisted, he wouldn't be traveling the world as my brother did, he would be trained and traveling to one destination...

He spent the holidays with me and we brought in this new year together, purposefully, before his deployment.  I love when my nephew visits because I put him to work.  He's been cooking for me since he was 8 and during this visit, I also made him clean.  While sweeping the floor, he looks at me innocently and asks when was I going to have children.  I told him that 22 years ago I had one son and he's enough.  Thank you Aunty, he said, "But I'm not your son and besides you were only a teenager when I was born".  With bass in my voice I told him that I said he was my son.  I reminded him that I was there when he was born, one of the first faces he saw was mine, how he used to call me "Mommy", how I was his first babysitter, how we'd play and how I used to pick him up from school and do his homework with him.  He recanted and said, "Well now that you say all that, I suppose you are my second mother...

Here's my Fine Man Friday... my 22 year-old baby... my nephew
and  now

May he be completely covered during his deployment... May he be strong and wise and connected... I am believing for and claiming his safe and speedy return.  Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fine Man Friday... Order of Merit

My love of music came early.  My parents listened to everything under the sun.  Disco, R&B, Salsa, World Music (ala Fela Kuti), Calypso and Reggae...

Not only did we relax, kick back and listen but more often than not, we'd dance.  We would push the coffee table aside in our livingroom, turn the lights down low, kick up our legs, jump-up jump-up, dance and prance to the sounds of great calypsonians such as Mighty Sparrow and Short Shirt.  Other times we'd groove, prance around and rock to lazy reggae beats.

Robert Nesta Marley... I thought the man was family.  
We had pictures of him in our photo albums.  A large portrait of him hung in our hallway (right next to Jesus).  Even now I have a Bob Marley picture on my desk at work and a small collection at home.  On any given Friday or Saturday night we'd play, listen to and dance to Bob Marley and the Wailers for hours.  It wasn't just for enjoyment, it was like religion, a form of release.  

Later me and my friends would throw one of Bob Marley's vinyl's on the record player, march around the living room all the yelling "Woy Yoy Yoy Yoy Yoy Yoy Yoy, Woy Yoy Yoy Yoy Yoy Yoy Yoy Yoy!" singing right along with the record "Buffalo Soldier"I remember listening to "Positive Vibration" and thought "this reminds me of church"!  Or when I heard the soulful organ shuffle on "Who The Cap Fit" and learned a life lesson... the ones closest to you can be the ones to betray you.

His words are brilliant, prolific and timeless.  The message that resonated through my parents then, resonates through me now.  Not all music lyrics are cross-generational.  Surely I forget half of what I heard just yesterday but some words stand the test of time...

"The road of life is rocky and you may stumble too / So while you point your fingers someone else is judging you" ~ Could You Be Loved

“If you get down and quarrel everyday, you’re saying prayers to the devil, I say / Why not help one another on the way / Make it much easier"  ~ Positive Vibration

 "Life is one big road with lots of signs / So when you riding through the ruts, don't you complicate your mind / Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy! / Don't bury your thoughts; put your vision to reality, yeah!" ~ Wake Up and Live

There are the words delivered at his eulogy by Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga :
"His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation." 

And this quote from Bob Marley, OM himself. OM stands for Order of Merit and the order of merit's motto is:
"He that does the truth comes into the light".  However controversial his life was or is documented to be, he has left a musical legacy continues to stir up and unite.
“My music will go on forever. Maybe it's a fool say that, but when mi know facts mi can say facts. My music will go on forever.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fine Man Friday...

I'm drained.  Mentally, physically... I have just been so fatigued.  Besides weathering the elements, climbing over heaps of what was snow but is now ice... looking like something straight out of  a sci-fi movie... I have helped my pastor to finish his doctoral thesis.  I have toiled through many nights of writing and then worried about him completing his part.  We crammed what should have taken 8 months to complete into 3 weeks.  I. am. burnt. out.

That explains part of my absence...

I am in need of therapy, physical that is... I'm thinking massage (deep tissue) or perhaps vacation therapy (Bahamas) to escape the cold and the busyness...

I have heavily relied on my trusty companion, the MP3 player, which never leaves my side, nor does it fail me.  I've been soothed, consoled and even wooed by the soulful sounds of my Fine Man Friday who has been on heavy rotation.

He's a Detroit singer, songwriter, producer and his vocals gets me through my days and comforts my nights... I smile when I listen to him sing Possible:

Question, can your smile, lead to my hello?
And my hello, lead to a first date?
And a first date lead to a "Can't wait to do it again!"
Ain't no pressure, we can't just let love develop
Get to know one another, from a sister to a brother
I'm just wonderin'

At work I bob my head and dance my "cubbie dance" to I'm Cheating or I Think I Love You or Find A Way and during my evenings I listen to Old Lovas or The Simpleness of Passion.

My Fine Man Friday for this week is:
Andwele Gardner
Also known as Dwele

Here's a song I found on YouTube... and it's simply adorable... "Trust that trust is the only thing that will keep your love from seeing rain" L.O.V.E

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fine Man Friday... A Drum Major

I wanted to title this post The G.O.A.T... because my Fine Man Friday is one of the G.reatest O.rators of A.ll T.ime.  I have read all and have listened to most of his speeches and his sermons... I love them, absolutely love them all.  Sitting in church 52 Sundays a year (well almost 52) and some mid-week services too, I hear plenty of sermons.  Some of them are soul stirring, soul reviving and some of them ...

But what I love and admire is that this man dedicated his life to ministry... the ministry of service, of encouragement, of unity, of equality, of hope.

I heard "The Drum Major Instinct" sermon years ago.  Not sure exactly when or who the blogger was who posted it yet it rings true today.  The Drum Major Instinct can lead to tragedy, particularly when it comes to relations... political, racial, economical... And recently we've seen The Drum Major Instinct at work... "I must be first." "I must be supreme." All the while spewing hatred and violence.

That's one facet... but should anyone choose to exercise their Drum Major Instinct, they should listen or read the words of a King...

Martin Luther King Jr.

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., 
tried to give his life serving others.
I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr.,
tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. 
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did
try in my life to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say on that day that I did 
try in my life to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I 
tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, 
say that I was a drum major for justice. 
Say that I was a drum major for peace.  
I was a drum major for righteousness. 
And all of the other shallow things will not matter. 
I won't have any money to leave behind. 
I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. 
But I just want to leave a committed life behind.
And so he did.