Michelle Obama 

Jan. 17: Michelle Obama. This is one of my favorite photos of Mrs. Obama. She has been a constant source of inspiration to me over the past eight years. I am thankful for her impact on me, as well as on all the little brown girls across the country and around the world. Happy birthday, FLOTUS! (White House photo taken by Amanda Lucidon) 

Clean Drinking Water

Jan. 13: Clean drinking water. I’ve been fighting some serious congestion for weeks now.  Everyone says, “Drink lots and lots of water!”. As I sit here staring at this glass of water that I know I need to drink, but don’t feel like drinking, I’m thinking about the millions of people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water. I am truly thankful to be able to go to the refrigerator and get a glass of water.

Power

We got about two and a half feet of snow this weekend.  The news told everyone to expect power outages.  I have never lost power at my home during a storm, but this storm sounded like a monster, so I got worried.  I was prepared.  Batteries, candles, matches, food that could be prepared without electricity, but I was still nervous.

The storm came through with a vengeance.

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But through it all, I never lost power.

Happy Feet

This morning, after very little sleep, I woke up with the closing scene from the movie “Happy Feet” in my head.  I’ll never be able to dance like Savion Glover.  For that matter, I won’t ever be a dancing penguin.  Lol.  But in the solitude of my home, Matilda is the only one that will ever see me groove so hard that you can’t tell me that I’m not matching Savion/Mumble step for step.

Enjoy this clip, do your happy dance today, and don’t forget to be thankful!

Escape part I: Gee’s Bend

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The ferry was closed. I had been wanting to take this trip to this quilt Mecca for a very long time, and as I sped toward the last leg of my journey, with only minutes to spare, I learned that the ferry had experienced mechanical trouble and had been shut down for the past two weeks. My life has been filled with these messages of “No, ma’am, you must take the long way around” for years. This was just another reminder that there are no short cuts in life, at least not for me.

This trip had already been changed a few times. I was supposed to take the trip with my mother last year (or was it two years ago) during the first week in July. It was extremely hot that week and I had to cancel the trip because I wasn’t feeling well. Earlier this year, I announced to my best friend, Sophia, that I was going to take a solo road trip. I was so excited. She, in her infinite wisdom, found a way to dissuade me from taking a trip that would surely send me in to a flare, and rerouted the journey via the air. We were all set to make the trip on Saturday when we got a call on Wednesday telling us that the building wouldn’t be open on Saturday because there was a funeral that the community would be attending. We moved the trip up to Friday, only to find that the ferry was shut down.

Had it not been for Sophia, I probably would have turned around in frustration and travelled back to the hotel, 90 plus miles away. She said very calmly and confidently, “Let’s just ask that man how we can drive there.” Drive there? It never occurred to me that I could drive there. I had been planning this trip for months and everything I read described the best way to get there was by ferry. The best way is never the only way.

After taking a few pictures, we drove in a 45 minute loop to reach our destination for the day, an area known in Alabama as Gee’s Bend. The women of this community are world renowned for their quilts. Their style is quite distinct and was born out of necessity. For more on their story, check out this great Smithsonian Magazine article here.

I had daydreamed about what it would be like to meet these women and hear their stories. In my mind, it was going to be a life changing experience that would inspire me to reach new artistic heights in my own quilting, a soul-stirring time that would make me see my life through a different lens, and it would all have the soundtrack of old Negro spirituals. The only thing I had remotely correct was the music.

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When we arrived at the quilt collective, I was a bit worried that this was not going to be the experience I had in mind. I expected to walk into a building that was full of activity and energy; women sitting around a huge quilting loop, working on a quilt together. Instead, when we walked in, there were only two women there, one was sitting at a sewing machine working on a quilt, the other sitting by a window, using the natural light to hand quilt. There was gospel music playing in the background, but neither woman was singing.

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China Pettway, Mary Ann’s cousin.

The woman at the machine turned out to be Mary Ann Pettway. We had spoken on the phone a couple of times in the past couple of weeks. She welcomed us in and invited us to look around and ask any questions we might have. I was instantly struck by a wonderful brown quilt hanging on the front wall. It was exactly the kind of quilt I had hoped to find here. Had it been a different color, I would’ve snatched it from the wall, paid for it, and would’ve been perfectly happy to get in the car and go back to Montgomery.

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I pulled myself away from the quilt and I perused the framed black and white photographs that the lined the long wall of this shotgun styled building. Someone had done a magnificent job capturing the characters of this small, tight-knit community. As I moved from picture to picture, Ms. Pettway informed me, “Most all those people on the wall is dead.” There were a lot of pictures on the wall.

Suddenly, I heard Sophia calmly exclaim, “Uhhh, Kisha…!” I left the pictures and followed her voice into the next room. There were quilts everywhere. Several sets of utility shelving units lined the walls and were overstuffed with quilts. Tables in the middle of the floor were covered with quilts. I was completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure where to start, but I was determined to find a quilt that spoke to my soul and wouldn’t offend my budget.

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After about 20 minutes of searching, I felt hugely disappointed. There was nothing in those stacks and stacks of quilts that looked like the quilts I have admired over the years. Nothing was making me break into my happy dance. Nothing was making my soul sing.IMG_0464.JPG

I decided to widen my search and looked at quilts I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford because of their size. There were a couple of beauties in that group, but nothing that I absolutely had to have. I was starting to give up hope when I unfolded a two toned blue beauty.

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It was made from old post office work shirts and it had the kind of style and workmanship that I had hoped to find. My heart fluttered and my soul started to search for the proper key to sing its song in when I looked for the price tag. There was no price tag, but I found Ms. Pettway’s signature on the back. When she came in to check on us, Sophia asked her how much the quilt was. Even though I knew it would be out of my price range, I was willing to figure out a way to make it work. “Me-me-me-me-me-me-me”, sang my soul as it warmed up to sing its song of joy. “That quilt is $15,000, but it’s marked down to $10,000. That red and white quilt on top of it is $20,000 because I’m not ready to sell that one yet.” “Waha-waha-waha-waha” went the soundtrack in my mind as I was completely disqualified from taking that quilt home. “But I’m willing to negotiate, she said. As I folded up the quilt, Sophia sprang into action. Within seconds, she had negotiated the price down to something much more reasonable, but still so outside of my budget that I couldn’t figure out how I was going to be able to make it work and still have food to eat when I returned home.

I was starting to make myself sick with stress, so I had to just let it go, but I couldn’t leave empty-handed. I had come with the distinct purpose of buying my very own Gee’s Bend quilt, but there were only two quilts in the building that spoke to me. One I couldn’t afford and another that I liked the style of, but not the color.

I sat in silence and disappointment as Sophia continued going through the stacks of quilts. She had been through them all at least once already, but was going back through to be sure she hadn’t missed anything. I thought to myself that it had been a long and interesting trip so far, and I began to recall the events of the day. That’s when it dawned on me.

I would have to take the long way around.

“Ms. Pettway, I’m gonna have to leave this one here, but I wanna know if you will make me a quilt similar to the brown one hanging on the wall in the other room? I can put a deposit down on it today.”

“Naw, naw, naw, don’t give me no money today, ’cause I don’t know when I’ll be able to finish the quilt. But yes, I can make one for you, but I’ll tell you right now, it won’t be the same as the one on the wall.”

“That’s fine!”, I said, and just like that, by listening to the lesson of the journey, I had secured my very own, Mary Ann Pettway, custom-made, Gee’s Bend quilt.

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Me, Mary Ann Pettway, and the Post Office Work Shirt Quilt

Feeding America

This weekend, I had the inexplicable desire to cook lots of food.  I made two ham, green pepper, mushroom, and onion quiches,

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a turkey breast,

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and a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.20151003_133601I think my desire to cook had something to do with the weather.  It was raining and windy all weekend and the temperature has dropped into autumn.

I gave one of the quiches to a friend, but even with that, it’s going to take me awhile to finish all of this food.  I have more than I need this week.

This was good practice for Thanksgiving.  I’m having family over this year, and I’ve only prepared Thanksgiving dinner once.  I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to pull it off without embarrassing myself now.

All of this made me think about all of the people who won’t be sitting around a table with family and friends this Thanksgiving; about all of the people who can’t think that far into the future because they don’t know where they will find their next meal.  I was reminded of the blog post I wrote last year about my desire to feed people and decided that now is as good a time as any to do something about it.  It’s time to put my feelings of gratitude into action.

Over on my Facebook page, there are almost 19,000 people who know how important it is to be thankful.  I’m asking them and anyone else that is reading this to help me in my quest to feed 100,000 people in need.  I learned from Feeding America that $1 can provide 11 meals.  With that information in mind, I’m asking y’all to support my virtual food drive by making a contribution of $1 or more.  I’m hoping that by Thanksgiving, I’m able to raise $10,000 for Feeding America.  Won’t you help me by clicking here and making a donation?

 

New Beginnings

I love the beginning of the year. It’s filled which such hope and possibility. For me, it’s like the first day of school – brand new clothes and a bookbag filled with new pencils and notebooks. Remember that excited feeling? I feel that way every January 1st, but somewhere about noonish, the excitement wanes.

I always make big plans to clean the house from top to bottom and I usually end up just washing dishes and doing laundry. Years ago, I stopped making resolutions when I found that I never really resolved in my spirit to make the changes. I learned that making the list isn’t enough. Making plans is not enough. Going through the motions just isn’t good enough if you haven’t resolved in your heart and mind to make the change.

This year, I am being much more realistic. Instead of resolving to do things differently, I’ve decided to do things I’ve never done before. I’m going on a few journeys this year, both literally and figuratively. I’m pulling out my favorite bookbag and I’m buying a new pack of pens. This is going to be an eventful year and I don’t want to miss a moment of it.

My one resolution – scratch that – My one promise to myself is to be present in every moment. This new year is a gift.  I am thankful for the fresh start and I will be thankful for all that it brings.

Reminders and Self Fulfilling Prophecies

Today, I am particularly thankful for reminders and self fulfilling prophecies.

I love yellow Post-It notes.  I probably use them way more than I should.  When I tripped across my life’s purpose back in 1999, I wrote it on a yellow Post-It and have carried it around with me ever since.

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As I was looking forward to the new year, I remembered another yellow square that I’ve had for some time.  About six years ago,  I jotted down a list of things that I really want to do in my life.  It’s different from a bucket list because it’s a short list of fundamental must-dos.

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I’m planning to accomplish three things on the list this year.  I’ve come to realize that if I don’t accomplish the other three things, I’ll be just fine.

I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for me.  It promises to be an exciting time.

What are planning to accomplish this year?

Grandma Update

Grandma went to the hospital on Monday of this week. On Wednesday, we were told that she would be going home.  A few hours later, we were told they were going to keep her one more night.  Still later, we were told they were releasing her.

The uncertainty made me nervous.

She went home on Wednesday night only to be rushed back to the ER today.  She’s been (re)admitted to the hospital and has been waiting for a few hours to be placed in a room.

Since this blog is all about being thankful, let me first say that I am thankful that she is in a place that has the capacity to take care of her if something really bad happens.  The alternative would have her at home suffering with no help in sight.

Now that I’ve said that, I also need to say how upset and angry I am that things are happening in this way.  If they had to vacillate between keeping her and sending her home, why not just keep her to be safe?  Was the decision to send her home based on some other factor than what was in her best interest?  Why is she now having to wait for a bed?  Considering her symptoms and her age, why is she not more of a priority? They do realize that she is somebody’s grandma, right?

I am angry.  I am hurt.  I am scared.  I am far away.  I am powerless.  I am praying.

I’m going to have a slice of The Sweet Potato Pie and go to bed.

Me and Grandma at our local version of The Taste in 2013.

Me and Grandma at our local version of The Taste in 2013.

Grandma and The Sweet Potato Pie

Yesterday morning, my Grandma was taken to the hospital by ambulance. My sister called to give me the news. It was hard to make out what she was saying between her heaving and teary breaths.

Let me make an aside here. It’s actually kind of crazy how the news was disseminated. My Grandma in Virginia called my aunt in North Carolina to say she wasn’t feeling well and was going to the hospital. At least that’s what I think happened. My aunt then called my mother, who was in northern Virginia, to tell her what was going on. Mom didn’t answer because she was busy with my nephew and missed the called. My aunt then called me, but I too missed the call. I was pumping gas and had left my phone in the car. My aunt then called my sister in D.C. who should never be the first person in the family to get bad news about grandma. She and Grandma are super tight and my sister doesn’t handle even the idea of Grandma being sick very well. My sister then called me in Maryland and I in turn called Mom. Mom was using her irritated fussy voice with me when explaining to me that Grandma had yet to call 911. Grandma decided it best to get dressed first. That irritated Mom to no end. I don’t know if she fussed at Grandma, but she certainly used her fussy voice with me about the whole thing.

The symptoms that Grandma described were very serious and so we were all a little nervous and a lot scared once we heard what was going on.

Grandma’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks and the first thing I thought was, “Please don’t let her leave during this time of year. That would just be awful.” Then I started thinking about this time of year, which conjured up thoughts of Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie. My Grandma makes the best sweet potato pie in this universe and the next. I know you think your grandma’s pie is the best, but you’re wrong. My Grandma’s pie can beat your grandma’s pie on any given day. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas I can be sure that Grandma will send me home with a pie.

A couple of years ago, I got her to teach me how to make the pie. I know I wrote down what she told me, but when I went to try to make the pie a few months ago, I couldn’t find the instructions anywhere. The result was horrible. I forgot some important ingredient and the thing didn’t bake up right at all. So right before Thanksgiving this year, I called Grandma with pen and paper in hand, so that I could once and for all have this recipe.

“Grandma, I can’t remember how to make The Sweet Potato Pie. I have three or four large sweet potatoes. How much butter do I need?”

“Three or four large potatoes? How big are they?”

“I don’t know. They’re big, but they all fit in my big pot without a problem.”

“Hmmm…. well, you’ll probably need three or four sticks of butter.”

“Three or four?”

“Yes. I bake by seeing, so if they’re big potatoes, I think three or four sticks should do it.”

“Ooookkkaaay…”

She went on to give me other general guesstimates of amounts of the other ingredients, but when it came to sugar, her tune changed.

“How much sugar should I use, Grandma?”

“You’ll need one cup of sugar.”

“Just one cup?”

“Yep. You’ll need one cup of sugar.”

Her sudden exactness made me laugh to myself. I made mention of it in the notes I was taking so that I would always remember it.

I made the pie filling the night before Thanksgiving. I baked one pie and froze the remaining filling. The night before I got the call that Grandma was going to the hospital, I unthawed that filling and baked the pie. Right before I got the call, I was thinking about how good that pie was going to taste for dessert that night.

I love Grandma for many, many reasons. She is loving and loyal, steadfast and resilient, funny, strong, and kind. Whenever I taste her Sweet Potato Pie I think of her; I think of who she is and all that she means to me. Now that I know how to make it, I can be sure that those thoughts and memories will never fade, for if they do, all I have to do is pull out my recipe to conjure them up again.

I talked to Grandma last night and she seemed her regular spunky self. She should be discharged tonight or tomorrow.

Tonight, when I eat a slice of pie, not only will I bless the food, I’ll also be asking a special blessing for my Grandma, the originator of the best sweet potato pie known to mankind.

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Me and Grandma at my law school graduation in 2006.