Monday, August 29, 2011

Part 5 THE END "If There is No Struggle, There is No Progress!"

You know how rappers, such as Too Short and Jay Z, will release a CD and say that it is their last CD and then release many more CDs after they promise that the newly released one is the last one? Well, that's not what I'm going to do with this series on health. This is the LAST one, I hope! Just joking! It really is the last one. Eventually, a person has to take all of the lessons learned and live by them: plain and simple.

Too Short!
Jay Z

So, I have been on this journey to live healthy for quite awhile. I have always been an exercise girl. I hurt my knee in college in an aerobic class many moons ago. So, the journey started a long time ago for me. The eating healthy part took quite awhile, because years ago, we did not have all of the knowledge that we have now, and I am not sure if I was ready, years ago, to receive the knowledge anyway. There was no way I was going to give up fast food, and now, I won't touch it. I had to renew my mind.

But, with knowledge comes power. I really started to read everything that came my way about diet and exercise, and it finally dawned on me that the two things go hand in hand. They are really like ice cream and cake, Ashford and Simpson, Ben and Jerry and peanut butter and jelly: they are good alone, but really work better together.

Visiting some of my sho' nuff health conscious friends in Chicago three years ago, they showed me so many films and gave me books to read about beef, chicken, and pork. They made me a believer, and I have not really able to eat beef, chicken or pork since. 

Trying to stop eating meat and my doctor telling that my cholesterol was TWO points high, was enough for me to go a nutritionist and get this eating thing right.

I really know that the nutritionist was wondering, "What is going on with this lady?" I took the packaging from everything that I eat into her office along with my blood work from my doctor, and I said "Help me PLEASE," and she did. We read all of the labels, and she told me what to keep in my diet and what to throw out. She even gave me recipes ideas, and helped me to understand how to get enough protein in my diet without eating beef, chicken and pork. She is so caring that she responds to all of my frantic emails about my diet. The frantic emails have almost stopped: I'm learning to make the right decisions on my own. Cheryl Harris is on my team forever.

Next, one of my friends told me about the best trainer in the whole wide world, Berhane. And I am not exaggerating, he is the best trainer in the world. He is the jelly on my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he is the glue that sealed my health deal. He helped me to take my workouts to a whole 'nother level, and I mean a whole 'nother level.

Berhane really wants me to be healthy until I die. He is not just my trainer, but I consider him my life coach, good friend, laughing buddy, confidant etc. He is a complete package.

The results that I have experienced with Berhane are unbelievable. The number one result is the renewing of my mind and the regular reminder from Berhane, "Take care of the inside of your body and the outside will take care of itself." He has made a believer out of me, and he is also on my team forever.

Biking with friends in Montreal!

Biking in Vermont!

So, I am on a roll with this health thing and will not be stopped anytime soon. In the world that we live in with processed foods everywhere, eating consciously will always be a struggle, but remember, I don't view struggle as a bad thing. I am determined to eat things that are good for my body and do some sho' nuff challenging exercises regularly.

There are no easy lasting fixes. A person must be willing to make changes for A LIFETIME, yes A LIFETIME, in order to see LASTING results.

Eventually, I had to stop talking about this health thing and just be healthy.

This is where I am, and I hope that you will join me.

Fit for Life!!!!

I had to add a little TOO SHORT, who is my favorite rapper, and this is also my THEME song. By the way, this song was on what was suppose to be his last CD......Go figure!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Reading about the people of the Harlem Renaissance, I really use to wish that I had been in my twenties in the 20s and living in Harlem. I would have loved to have hung out at some of those parties that were thrown by A'Lelia Walker, daughter of Madame CJ Walker. Langston Hughes referred to A'Lelia as the "joy goddess" of the Harlem Renaissance for her parties and patronage. She partied with Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer and many other Harlem Renaissance Artists. I try to image the creative ideas that must have been circulating at these parties along with plenty of alcohol and food. I know that those were some sho' nuff good parties.

I would have loved to have been a college student during the 60s so that I could strut an afro and sneak away or boldly walk away from my classes to march with the people of the Civil Rights Movement. I can imagine having meetings with the ladies in my dorm to strategically plan actions for the next Civil Rights events. We may have been scared and terrified, but hopefully determined to move forward for "Our People."

Gloria Steinem: The Women's Right Movement
By the late 1960s Steinem had gained national attention as an outspoken leader of the women's liberation movement. In 1971, she joined Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan to form the National Women's Political Caucus, encouraging women's participation in the 1972 election. Also, in 1972, Gloria gained funding to publish the first feminist magazine MS. I would have loved to have been along side Gloria, writing very racy articles about women's issues, especially Black women issues.

The Black Panther Party
I really hate that I missed those Black Panther Rallies of the 60s and 70s. I would have loved to have held up my Free Angela Davis sign, wear all Black, and rock the Afro.

First Black President and First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice: What a Day!

However, TODAY is, also, a great DAY to be alive!

We have witnessed the Million Man March in DC that inspired many men to go back to their homes and start groups that have been doing positive things every since. We have witnessed a Presidential campaign that fired people up in a way that I have not seen before in my lifetime. We have witnessed the election of our first African American President. We have witnessed the seating of the first Hispanic Justice in Supreme Court History and the justice just happened to be a woman.

However, the erection of a Monument for an African American non-President is the moment that I am most happy about. This was suppose to be the weekend that the Dr. King memorial was dedicated, but due to an act of God, the BIG CELEBRATION wasn't.

The Dr. King memorial in DC!

The Dr. King Memorial was opened to the public on Tuesday, and that's where I was when DC experienced the earthquake. I couldn't think of a better place to be. I sat at the memorial and marveled at the significance of this magnificent monument. On Thursday, I volunteered at the convention center and met so many people who were very serious about this Dr. King thing. It warmed my heart to hear countless Dr. King stories. Thursday and Friday, on my way home, I couldn't stop myself from driving by the memorial to pay homage to a man who truly deserves a monument on the National Mall.

Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,   
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare   
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.   
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune   
To catechism by a mind too strewn   
With petty cares to slightly understand   
What awful brain compels His awful hand.   
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:   
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

The Harlem Renaissance, The Civil Rights Movement, The Women's Right Movement, The Movement of the Black Panther Party are what I consider to be great times to have been alive, even with their ups and downs. But, TODAY, is also a great day to be alive, and I am happy that I am here.

I only regret that my daddy is not here experiencing these things, but.........

The BIG CELEBRATION wasn't, but the feeling of pride felt by the people in DC and other cities IS!

Long live THE KING on the National Mall.

You got to experience it for yourself!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Edward P. Jones and "All Aunt Hagar's Children"

I'm a true list girl. I just love list. I won't go to the grocery store without a list. On my desk at work, there is always a list of what needs to be done that day. I even make lists of the chores that need to be done around my house. Before I leave for a trip, I write down everything that I need to take from underwear to shoes, and I almost never forget anything, except for when I went to Orlando and realized I had left my sports bra, but I went and bought one at Walmart; that was a big mistake, but at least I got to run.

For long road trips, I make lists of what I will need for the car. This list normally includes snacks, water, and of course, books on CD. Yes, I still have a CD player in my car.

For my road trip to Vermont, I went to the library to select a novel, and I stumbled upon All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones.

For those of you who do not know Edward P. Jones, he is best known for The Known World which is set in a fictional Virginia county and has a protagonist who is a mixed-race black planter and slaveholder, in other words, Blacks who owned Blacks. I'm sure it took a lot of courage to write about this topic, but he did it, and it won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

I found The Known World to be quite boring. I could not get into the storyline at all, but one day I will give this book another try especially since it won two awards.

So, why would I try All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones when I did not like The Known World? And the reason is the title. Okay, this is real shallow of me, but I must be honest.

In Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, she has a character named Hagar. Toni's Hagar is quite wonderful; she is a women who lived the way she wanted to, even if living the way she wanted to made her despised by others, even her brother. I believe that Toni named her after Hagar from the bible who may represent women who are excluded or despised by the people around them much like Toni Morrison's Hagar. So, you know I had to try a book with the name Hagar in it. I love to read about the underdog.

To my surprise, this book was a collection of short stories about African Americans in DC in the 20s who may have been shunned much like Hagar in the Bible and Hagar from Song of Solomon. I know that this is a stretch, but stretching is what you do when you analyze literature.

All Aunt Hagar's Children is very captivating and the characters are memorable. If you know DC, he refers to many streets and places that really helps the listener to connect to the stories. He mentions the historic U, H, and M streets, and he also mentions Walter Reed Hospital, Saint Elizabeth Hospital and many other known places in DC.

For a long road trip and even for reading in the comfort of your home, this book is excellent and captivating. It kept me awake for ten straight hours with very few breaks.

Edward P. Jones, you make your people proud with this one.

Edward P. Jones

Friday, August 19, 2011

"I Get It"

My Hybrid Bike that's holding me back!
In a previous post, I talked about waiting. I wrote that post late at night, and I'm not really sure why.

I really pondered if there was anything that I was waiting to do, and I could not think of anything. However, on a recent bike tour in Vermont, I learned a lot about waiting and fear. I think I was shown a possible reason why people wait: Fear.

I have this wonderful hybrid bike that I really love. It's light, fast, and cute. I really get a kick out of riding it. But, sometimes when I ride it, I get extremely tired. I thought that I needed to do more squats and run more in order to strengthen my legs so that I could have better rides.

However, In Vermont, I was riding with an older couple from San Francisco, and I just could not keep up. I observed them as they gracefully rode hills and flat surface; they were really doing some good, solid, hard riding. I was holding my own but could not keep up with them. The difference between the older couple and me was our bikes. They had those super, powerful bikes that I feared.

Finally, it dawned on me, my bike was the problem, and I had to ask myself, "What was I waiting on to buy a bike that would help me to ride to my full potential?"

The reasons why I was waiting was fear: fear of the speed and power of the bike, those foot clips etc. Me, who will drive across the country by myself, afraid to take my bike riding to a new level. Imagine that? I had to ask myself, "Waiting for What?"

I talked to the ladies who were leading our tour, and I let them know that I really wanted to have more graceful rides.

The tour leaders assessed my bike and my body, (They actually said that I have a strong body, and I almost couldn't receive that, but I did, because I know the difficulty of my workouts.) and they told me that my bike was definitely holding me back. They even suggested that I try one of their powerful bikes. WAIT popped in my mine, but I instantly got that thought out of my mind and told the leaders "let's try it."

After riding for 36 miles on my hybrid bike, I was beat. However, the tour leader knocked on my door, and we rode for another hour so that she could give me pointers on how to ride a faster, more powerful bike.

The next two days, I actually rode that powerful bike. Riding it was so liberating; hills and valleys were ridden with an ease and comfort that I had never felt before.

As soon as I get back home, my old hybrid will be happily sold to the highest bidder.

I've faced my fears and is no longer waiting; I'm pleading with you to do the same with whatever it is that you are waiting to do.

Bike that I want!

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Long Should We Wait?

Today, I have been thinking a lot about waiting. Many of us have been waiting a long time for things that we want. Eventually, we have to stop waiting and really put our energy and time in the things that we desire: a new job, more free time, peace, a new boyfriend/girlfriend, a healthier life style etc. However, I'm not saying to go walk up to that woman or man that you desire and claim them. We got to use some common sense with this thing.

But today just might be the day for you and me to act.

The following poem by Langston Hughes is a great example of what I am talking about.

Democracy by Langston Hughes

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
   Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
  To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.

I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

      Is a strong seed
      In a great need.

      I live here, too.
      I want freedom
      Just as you.

WOW!  Today just might be the day.........

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Part-Time Indian and a Kid with Cerebral Palsy

Around August, I normally start to think about school. I think about school in excited anticipation of helping students to love literature and then for them to turn around and use the literature as a vehicle to do some self-reflection. There is lots to learn about yourself from a good book.

This year, with my 9th graders, I really want to shake up their curriculum a little. I always do the classic with them: Lord of the Flies, Night, Romeo and Juliet. But this year, we are going to unexplored territories. Hopefully, we will add to our readings The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Stuck in Neutral.

The main character in Part-Time Indian is a cartoonist,
and here is one of his sketches. Hilarious!!!

On the plane headed to Georgia, I was reading The Absolutely True Story of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Let me just say that this book had me laughing out loud. People sitting near me wanted to know "What are you reading?"

The author, Sherman Alexie, writes this novel from the perspective of a twelve year old Indian boy who lives on an Indian Reservation in Spokane.  He deals with very complex themes in a comical fashion: being different, leaving what you know to pursue a better life, Indians as mascots, Indians getting money from Casinos, and also many other issues that a Native American kid may face.

Now, this is definitely a book written for early adults, but I really believe that anyone who reads this book, will walk away with much to think about. I know that I did.

So, now I have to think about how I am going to present this novel so that all students feel welcomed and not targeted............

I also finished Stuck In Neutral while on my small vacation in Georgia.

Stuck in Neutral is also written from the perspective of a fourteen year old boy who has cerebral palsy. To the world and his doctors, it appears that this kid is a vegetable. However, from the kid's perspective, the reader sees that he understands everything that is going on around him and is quite smart. However, his father is contemplating killing him..........

This is also a book that deals with very serious issues in a comical way. I get goose bumps thinking about the lively discussions that I know this book will generate.

So, both of these novel are for young adults, but I recommend them for everyone, you know I can be dramatic, but I really do mean everyone.

Learning and self-reflection should not stop until we die, and I hope that it does not stop then.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Part 4 "If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress!"

Music is very important in my life, especially gospel music. I can think of a song that can fit almost any situation.

Today, on my mental music box, I am listening to a spiritual that says I Just Can't Give Up Now." Many of you know this song, but for those who don't, here it is:

On this journey to be healthy until I die, I remind myself every time that I want to eat something really awful like, well I was going to give an example, but I don't want to offend anybody, but on my mental radio, I hear "I just can't give up now."

This summer I have managed to workout just about everyday, even on vacation, and I must admit, as stated by James Brown, "I feel good."  So good until I can't imagine ever feeling any different. I really love feeling good.

I went to Georgia, and I mean this in a really good way, and I did not workout, because they have heat on loan from hell. Well, that's the excuse that I used, but really, Tamika tried to get me to run with her, and being a sister, I had just gotten my hair done, and there was no way I was going to sweat my freshly done hair out.

Also, I had to eat out a lot, because my momma doesn't cook any more, and I was not going to cook while out of town. But thanks to discipline and friends who understand my journey, I was able to eat right, go to a cool bar and not have a cocktail and leave Georgia feeling real proud, because "I just can't give up now."

Soon, my body will be a "lean, mean, burning machine" and at its optimum health, and I am never going back to mindlessly taking care of my body. Look Out Now!!!

I know that there are other readers who are going through the struggle with me and having much success. So, don't be afraid to share your stories so that we can inspire and encourage each other.

Off to make a kale, my favorite vegetable, pesto!


Workout Buddies for Life!! He is stuck with me.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thankful Thursday

This summer and particularly this week, I have been really thinking about all of the things that I am Thankful for. As I was taking a shower, the words to an old spiritual popped in my mind:

"Nobody told me that the road would be easy,
I don't believe he's brought me this far to leave me"

Here are some things that I am thankful for today:

1. Good Health. I am never really sick. I can count the number of times that I have missed anything, because I did not feel well. Last summer, wearing high heel sandals, I hurt my ankle. Every movement that I made, was done with a lot of effort. If you ever see me at school, I am the teacher who runs a whole lot more than I walk: run to the copy machine, run to talk to another teacher, run to the bathroom etc. And when I could not run and had to walk, I knew that when God healed my ankle, I would never complain about walking or running again. Don't get me wrong, I don't need for something bad to happen for me to be Thankful, but this minor setback reminded me to be Thankful that I can run, jump and even tumble, and I do these things often.

2. Friends who want to travel with me. I have taken several trips, so far, this summer, and I am extremely Thankful that I have friends who were willing and able to travel with me. The moments that I shared with them, from biking in San Francisco to dancing to A Tribe Call Quest poolside, are moments that I really do appreciate. Just for a little while, we were able to just be girls having fun.

3. People who got my back, and I have theirs. My sisters, Tracy and Dot, answers my call just about every time that I call, and I know that I can and do call often. Tracy will talk about one of my passions, fitness and health, all day everyday with me.  Berhane, the trainer, takes the time to text me and ask me if I have been to the gym today. Turkeisha read my blog, and emailed me every correction that needed to be made. These are just a few of the people who have my back, and I have theirs. I don't have enough tongues or time to tell about all of the people in my life whom I am Thankful for. When I hear people say that they only have a few good friends; I feel kinda sad, because people make the world go round.

4. My Tuskegee People. My Tuskegee people will be with me to the end. No matter when I show up in one of their towns, or they show up in mine, IT'S ON! Tuskegee people really love each other. Shoutouts to Candi, Deitrea, Tammy, Lavonia, Jeff Powell, Gary 2X, Anthony etc.  I could go on and on and on about that Skegee Love. You had to have walked on The Avenue, slept in a dorm with no air conditioning, and ate in Thompkins Hall in order to know what I am talking about. "Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall"......... the words to one of our favorite songs.

5. My Career Choice. Plain and simple: I LOVE MY JOB!!!!!!!! I get to work with children, read lots of books, and get a looooong summer break!  It's just plain good.

6. This Blog. I am Thankful that I was able to start a blog and write about literature, and some other stuff, and actually have people like and read it. Thanks for reading people. Don't be afraid to leave comments, I need them.

7. My advisor. Oh my, I almost forgot my advisor, Dr. Zee Willis. I am really close to finishing a degree, and I must say that school is for the young. I have struggled to get this degree. I could do the work, but I didn't want to. So, why would a student enroll in school when she doesn't want to do the work? That's a whole 'nother blog, but I am extremely happy that I can almost touch the finish line.  Dr. Willis has been so patient while I have complained, talked about how I hate the program, became impatient etc. If not for Dr. Willis, I would have never finished this degree. She has the patience of Job; I was one difficult student.

So, today, I am Thankful, Thankful, Thankful.

I know I'm not the only person thankful, so don't be afraid to share what you are Thankful for. I really want to know.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What happened Jonathan Franzen?

Jonathan Franzen

Most authors stay true to their craft; a good writer normally writes good books. Take, for instance, J. California Book; a modern day master storyteller. I read In Search of Satisfaction by J. California Cooper, and it was awesome. Because In Search of Satisfaction was so good, I decided to read other books by J. California Cooper. To date, I have read everything that she has ever written: Life is Short But Wide, A Piece of Mine, Family, The Matter is Life, Future Has a Past, The Wake of Wind etc. I am anxiously waiting for her to write something new.

J. California Cooper: Please check her out!

Jonathan Franzen sent an early copy of his novel Freedom to President Obama, and Jonathan was spotted leaving the White House. I thought, let me read the book that may have inspired the President to invite Jonathan Franzen to the White House.

I downloaded Freedom, and I must say that it was captivating from the first to the last page. You know that feeling you may get when that last piece of peach cobbler is gone: satisfied but wish you had more. Well, that's how I felt when I finished  Freedom: I was satisfied, but I wanted more.

Being that good writers typically write good books, I download The Corrections and decided that I would save it for when I desired a sho' nuff good read.

Recently, while on one of those extremely long flights, I decided to start The Corrections. (A good book definitely is a distraction from the hunger that is experienced on long flights since we are no longer given real food).

Just like Freedom, The Corrections caught my attention right away. The characters were all interesting, and I absolutely loved all of the details that he included that added insight to why the characters did what they did. But, in The Corrections, something went wrong.

Jonathan absolutely over did it on the details. Some of the details were difficult to follow and did not add much and actually distracted from the main story line. Needless to say, I was disappointed by The Corrections.

Being a reader and loving his novel Freedom, I have not given up on Jonathan Franzen, but it will be upon recommendation only that I read another one of his books.

What happened Jonathan Franzen??

As said by Jay Z, "On to the next one".......

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