Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Take a Look. It's in a Book!

I don't know.  Maybe it's sort of cliché now to say or allude to the importance of books and reading and taking them on as a partner of sorts in learning.  Now, in this post I'll be referring primarily to books that teach, show, demonstrate.  Yet, what I want to say applies to texts of other genres as well.  

"YouTube University" is a thing. I get it.  Just about anything you want to know how to do is there.  It's served as a teaching tool for so many people globally for so long, and the effective ways in which many of its users interact with the platform to impart knowledge and understanding to others is undeniable.  Just last night I watched a man in India demonstrate to anyone interested how to revive a seemingly dying plant.  I needed this info. in order to rejuvenate our beloved Nanu, a native Hawaiian gardenia.




The plant after being uprooted, checked for signs of life. and cleaned. It has definitely seen better days.  Too much water in a rainy valley has been her downfall, but I did everything the man said to do.  We'll see how this goes.

As a person who's attempting to start a plant business that entails growing plants from seed, from cuttings, from leaves, etc., YouTube has been and continues to be an excellent resource.  No doubt.

But y'all.  Ain't nothing like a book.  And all that it takes in America (and on remote islands that once existed as independent kingdoms but were taken over by America.  But I digress!)  where public libraries are in abundance is to go to the library's website or use the app to inquire about a topic of interest.  The titles just pop up like...


Here!


Here!

Here!

Here!

That's just a sample.  It's really incredible.  I've pulled so much useful, even old-school information from these books that helps to shape my overall vision of what it is I need to be doing and how I need to be doing it if I'm going to do this.  

Books just "hit different", as the folk like to say.

***

When I was pregnant with my first child, we knew she would be a girl without ultrasound or anything else signifying to us that she'd be a girl other than our own knowing.  We just knew.  We also knew what we planned to name her and the deep importance of the legacy left behind by the woman after who she'd be named.  Yet, I was unable to find anywhere online what the name means--the literal translation of the word parts.  Of course, we needed to know the meaning.  However, not being from Kenya or having much knowledge of the Kikuyu language, it was a challenge to figure it out.

My husband--who chose the name and taught me about the woman he admired greatly whose name it was--had a general translation, but we both wanted to get more to the core of it

Google was cute in its efforts to fill me in, yet that resource failed.   To know the meaning of the name Wangari just seemed impossible for me.  It got to the point where I was trying to find people who spoke the language so that she/he could help me better understand.  No luck there.

As I got closer to delivery, the thought of the name meaning was always in my mind, but with all that was going on, it wasn't as pressing an issue.  We were just going to go with the name.  It was a nice name. Strong. We knew it had something to do with a leopard.  

Well, it was around that same time that I came across Unbowed, a memoir by Wangari Maathai.  



It was such a great read.  Going in, my expectation was to learn more about this amazing, tree-growing woman who had given so much of herself for her country only to be mistreated and abused. By the time I was done with the book I knew all that I had hoped to learn and so much more.  One of the most notable points was that in her language, wa is how a word is made possessive, and ngari is how you say leopard.  Prior to the book, I didn't have knowledge of the language to know how the word was to be separated to decipher its meaning! 

It was in that book that I got the story of how her mother told her to tell the leopards she might encounter on her way to school that she is Wangari--she is of them.  They are the same.  She poses no threat.  All of that stunned me so much, and I remember sitting there reading those sentences like 😲.   Yes, at the fact that she encountered leopards as a child on her way to school, but mostly at how that name meaning was out of my grasp until I read her book. So simple right there in a few lines of text just waiting for me to read it and solve the riddle. 

I also learned in the book that the original spelling of her last name was Mathai.  When she divorced her husband (...or he abandoned her.  All sorts of drama there), she wanted to keep the name but wanted a slightly different spelling.  That's where the additional a came from.  She added it cause she wanted to! As we were filling out the paperwork to establish what our first daughter's name would be, we threw Maathai in at the very last minute.  So she has that one, too, as one of her middles.

All that to say, books are important!  Books bring clarity! Books reveal otherwise unknown information!  Books inspire! Books are powerful!

Ok, that's all.  I'll let Chaka sing it! 


Monday, June 14, 2021

Bittersweet

I cried.  The tears came unexpectedly as I put the van in park.  They came stronger as I unbuckled car seats.  I tried to suck it up as we walked--before we made it to the classroom.  Yet, I cried as I signed my child in and talked to the teacher.  She consoled me and offered words of encouragement, saying how much I rock.  She told me to go home and take a nap.

Speaking of the teacher's use of the word rock as a verb, my child made this for me a couple weeks ago under the guidance of her teachers. 

I mean, it wasn't boo-hoo crying, but the tears wouldn't stop coming. Where's the crying while wearing a mask emoji? We need that combination now.  😢😷

*****

Prior to May 2021, my oldest two children had not participated in educational programs that take place out of our home since March 2020. The viral situation happening globally was as serious for us it has been for so many others, and we had an added layer of precaution to take considering that my husband had dealt with a compromised immune system since 2016. He had been severely immunocompromised since June 2020.  As such, our children did not go back out into school programs even when such programs re-opened in some capacity in mid to late 2020 and early 2021.  We could not afford for them to bring even a cold home, let alone COVID19.  (Let me add here that they have not had a cold since before they left school last year. That has been wonderful.)

We did not do virtual school. That definitely wouldn't work for my elementary-aged wild child.  She was not going to willingly sit at a computer for school.  Given that I was my husband's full-time caretaker after his 2-month stay in the hospital between June and August 2020, plus caretaker of 3 young children and a household (and also a graduate student), I didn't have time for that.

Her, all day, every day.  

What I could do, though, was expand on what we already naturally do in our home where learning is constant.  The girls have been enriched far beyond what could be achieved at their schools.

My girls have two older brothers.  One visited in October.  He's studying to be an engineer. He taught them engineering things.  

At times learning was formal.  More often, however, we were unschooling, a process that fit our home-life situation better.  While I was cognizant of the materials the state says first graders should be learning, my oldest child and I went at it in our way.  Sometimes we didn't bother with it.  Always we were reading books.  (So very much can be learned and gleaned from the reading of books! So much and far beyond the constraints of a grade level.   If all else fails READ to/with your children and discuss what you read!)

That time we went to pick up our requested library books from the lobby, and the library was open for people to actually go inside again!

Early in 2021, by husband and I determined that the girls may be able to attend summer programs coming up for them in May and June of 2021.  Honestly, we were looking forward to it.  Given all that he was going through medically and how intense everything in the household was, we were looking forward to it just being me, him, and the baby at home for a few hours a day.  We were thinking his health situation would be improved, and sending them out wouldn't be as risky.  We were hopeful about all the protocols regarding heightened sanitization and physical distancing that had become the norm in public spaces.   A break was in order, for sure.  Those girls are non.stop.  My motto became, "Put your mask on, and GO! And don't be touching everything!" 


That one time in Waikiki. 

Well, here we are.  June 14, marks the day that both of my oldest two are simultaneously out of the house for the first time in more than a year.  It's just me and the baby.  My husband did not make it to this point to revel in the sweetness that he and I knew was coming.  He isn't here with me and baby to experience the semi-solitude that we both knew would give us some much-needed space to breathe and tend to his health without three little busybodies constantly needing attention.   Although he can not physically experience this with me,  this past year + of us all spending so much time at home turned out to be very crucial, and we cherish it.

I cried as I made the second drop-off this morning because this was supposed to be my and his moment. It's funny to think that I was crying for the sheer joy of the moment.  I mean, it is something worthy of crying joyously about in general.  Yet, my tears had even more sentimental meaning.  

As I type this blog post, my baby is asleep.  Y'all, believe it or not, this is the first time in a LONG time, that it has just been me to myself in my home.  I'm talking about even before COVID.  I have been on my feet doing so much for so long. It does feel good, but honestly, I'd love to be in here cracking up with my husband about anything.  I miss him so much, but I know he'd be so happy for me right now.

*****

This seems like a good place to insert some Lianne La Havas, an artist he introduced me to years ago. Bittersweet.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

On the Death of My Husband

I guess I thought he was invincible.  He had been through so much for so long and always survived it.  In the four and a half years since the diagnosis, death had shown itself more times than I can recall.  Yet, it was always defeated, until it wasn't.  The finality of it all is surreal.  We will never see him in the flesh again.  Bit by bit, I'm internalizing that thought.  Then, some days I can't.  

In truth, I still expect him to walk through the back door returning from one of the numerous appointments that filled his calendar.  I realize he won't. To expect him to and know that he won't--what a conundrum for the heart and mind. 

So my husband--the father of the three daughters we conceived from deep love--is an ancestor now.  I'm thankful for his life and all that he gave and showed.  I'm grateful for him that he had a chance to experience, see, know, and understand so much in his lifetime. The man was incredible, and he lived a FULL life, and I do mean full.  Hawai'i was his settling down place.  He always said this is where he wanted to die and his remains to rest.  "Don't send me back to Alabama," he said.  I laugh as I type that.  Alabama to Berkeley/Oakland to Hawai'i and numerous places around the world in between.  Country, progressive, earthy/tropical all at once. We vibed.  He is me, I am him.  His experiences made for a rich existence.  I loved hearing his stories.  I love him beyond and beyond.

Although he wouldn't want me to be, I'm sorrowful.  He would hardly let me cry as I sat at his bedside at the hospital in the days before he passed.   I guess I felt this time might be different, despite my mind not letting me think it.  We talked and laughed the way we always had right on up to the end.  It's crazy.  He still had his deep, intelligent, clear mind until the very end despite the physical ailments.   What a blessing for us both.  


***

We've got three banana flowers bringing forth fruit in our banana patch, a construct in our yard that is a product of his experience, knowledge, and ambition.  Plus, I needed a shady area in a yard that lacked trees or other structures to keep the intense sun in check.  He said we'd create some.  Started with one small banana plant from the home store.

We've never had two flowers at once, let alone three.  In the weeks prior to his passing, he had asked repeatedly if we had a new flower yet.  "We should.  It's been a few months now since the last ones," he'd say.   He had been too weak and fatigued to even set foot in the yard for some time.  A flower never came.  Then, the day after he died, it did.  And another then another.  We'll have at least 150 bananas in the months to come.  And thanks to the confidence he instilled in me to wield a machete, I'll be right out there chopping them down.  



He harvested bananas last November.  He was determined to do this despite my efforts to get him to rest.   Such a dignified human.  

*Note: Since I wrote this post--two more banana flowers have come.  All five of our mature banana plants have a rack growing.   What a joy!  

*****

For more than a decade my husband used Facebook as a means to share his love of culture, geography, plants, and more.  It's actually where I first "met" him years ago. :)  He had many people who enjoyed his teachings.  Given that he always put so much work, effort, and research into his posts, I'll be leaving the page up as part of his legacy.  You can visit it at https://www.facebook.com/kwaku.nyamedua. I believe it's set to public, so if you're on Facebook and log in, it should work out.

Peace.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

They Say...

"This is AMERICA!" 


Well, indeed, 

This is America.            This is America.        This is America.       

This is America.            This is America.        This is America.        

This is America.            This is America.        This is America.          

This is America.            This is America.        This is America. 

This is America.            This is America.        This is America. 

This is America.            This is America.        This is America. 

This is America.            This is America.        This is America.        

THIS is America.          THIS is America.     THIS is America.

THIS is America.          THIS is America.     THIS is America.    

THIS is America.          THIS is America.     THIS is America.

THIS is America.          THIS is America.     THIS is America. 

THIS is America           THIS is America.     THIS is America. 

THIS is America.          THIS is America.     THIS is America. 

THIS is America.          THIS is America.     THIS is America. 

This IS America!           This IS America!      This IS America!

This IS America!           This IS America!      This IS America!

This IS America!           This IS America!      This IS America!

This IS America!           This IS America!      This IS America!

This IS America!           This IS America!      This IS America!

This IS America!           This IS America!      This IS America!

This IS America!           This IS America!      This IS America!


The people were never healed as a collective.

The collective trauma was never addressed.

The people were not repaired.

It's in the fabric. 

Yes, some progress has been made.

Yet, a simultaneous approach to healing the trauma has not been a part of the progress.

People are ill.  Mentally ill. In a deep and complex way that's steeped in vile hatred. 

These people are free to roam with no national intervention. 

Yes, America can be many other things while concurrently being THIS.

Still, this IS America, Y'all!



Monday, January 4, 2021

Do You Remember Me?

March 2017, Two months old


For as much as I'm able to see aspects of myself in my children, one thing I recognize is that my second oldest daughter is me when I was a child.  I'm not referring to looks or physical qualities, although we reflect similar features coming from both sides of my family more so than my other two.  What I'm talking about here, though, is that her intangible, cognitive/emotional/social qualities are not very different from mine when I was very young and in some ways even still today.    She embodies so much of what I remember about myself--those things that made me somewhat of a funny, awkward child.  

For one, the girl can talk.  She makes my head spin at times with the volume of conversations that she's ready to have all day long into the night.  This was me. I recall my mama saying on numerous occasions that I was a talker and, quite frankly, that I talked too much! I still catch myself doing it at times (even in my writing) and also having conversations within conversations when I'm talking to a person, usually my mom or husband.  My little one does the same.  I also think, like her mama, she will be the one who enjoys writing.  She's definitely got a way with words and grammar.  







I can also be pretty goofy and have been so as far back as I can recall.   My girl has it honest.  She is ready to crack up laughing--and fall out with it, too--at whatever she finds to be the least bit humorous. And I'm talking about crying laughing.  I often get a good laugh just seeing her laugh.   

She can also be sort of clumsy, yet clumsy may not even be the right descriptor.  It's something like going at things in a roundabout, disorganized, almost nonsensical fashion that can lead to whatever it is she was attempting to do being done ...clumsily.  Ha!  That was and still is me at times!  All I can do is shake me head.

I can think of a few other ways in which this child is me, but the one characteristic, that really stood out to me over the past year as she's grown more into her personality is how literal-minded she is.  She listens intently, and there are times when what she hears isn't meant to be a literal representation of what is being said, yet she takes it that way.  This cognitive trait translates in many ways for her and sometimes causes her worry or sincere concern.  Then, when she brings up what she might have heard me or her dad say, we'll have to explain that whatever it is we were saying isn't literally gonna happen.  This was me as a child, to a T.  

My baby recently turned four-years-old, and every day it's like--through her very existence and in those moments when I'm on her case about being too silly or talking more than I feel is necessary--she's asking me, "Don't you remember me?"  And I do.  I really do.  




****
Oh! Although I stated earlier that physical attributes aren't the subject of the post, she's the only one of my three who's got the inward-pointing "pigeon toes" that I had for a long time as a child.

I'm hoping that 4 means fewer instances of putting shoes on the wrong feet and being adamant about keeping them that way!

Monday, December 28, 2020

That Old Thang Back

"I'm just gon' ignore you, cause you ignant." --My favorite line from Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, spoken by Glynn Turman's character Toledo  

*********

At one point in life I was an English major in college.  During that time I took all of the available African American  literature classes, all of which were taught by Dr. Reginald Young.  I still  solute Dr. Young for has passion for black literature in particular, and how he engaged his students in dialogue regarding various texts. I always thoroughly enjoyed and really miss those moments.

Now, a few years before I was an English major, I was an apparel design major at the same university, and one of my minors during that time was art.  As an art major,  I chose to take a few music classes.  One was a piano class and the other was a jazz class.  During that jazz class, my professor (whose name I don't recall, yet I can picture him clear as day sitting at the front of the auditorium-style class holding an instrument) taught us about Ma Rainey.  He played her music in class and ensured that we'd take away from the class the great contributions that she's made to music.   He did the same for every other musical talent taught in that course, as we was passionate about music in the same way Dr. Young had been about the subject matter he taught.   Because he taught us Ma Rainey in the manner that he did and highlighted her work as "mother or the blues" in relation to some of the jazz greats, she's etched in my mind.  

Recently my husband and I watched the film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.  The word of Chadwick Boseman's passing really caught us off guard, as it did a lot of people who knew and appreciated his work.  We were looking forward to getting to witness him in his final role as Levee in this film.

In all honestly, we threatened to turn it off at least two times in the first fifteen minutes.   We both went into it forgetting that this film was adapted from an August Wilson play.  I appreciate August Wilson's work and enjoy plays. But considering that we didn't start watching the movie until after 10:30 pm and were both pretty tired, something about Black Bottom wasn't working for us. My husband was somewhere between asleep and awake, and I think I was expecting more music/performance than what was being presented.  We both were.    In a word, it was us and not Chadwick 'nem.   However, as the film progressed, we started to perk up. The dynamic between the band members--though loquacious in nature--started to grow on me.   I'm also certainly not mad at Viola Davis as Ma Rainey.  I see Viola as a very powerful actress.  Just a few weeks ago I was recalling her performance in Fences and saying how I need to see that (also an August Wilson play adapted into) film again.  I was really moved by her portrayal as Rose.  I know Denzel was shook standing opposite of her.  

With all the different story lines intertwining, this film turned out to be one that's definitely worth watching.  When it was done, I literally found myself wanting to teleport back to the early 2000s to a classroom in Griffin Hall in Lafayette, LA with Dr. Young  leading us in a discussion about Levee's historical trauma caused by a racist, degenerate mentality which ruled in that day and how, despite what he had told himself about said trauma, the white men who literally acted it out, and "the white man" in general (which the audience learns of via his captivating dialogue), his frustration with that system lead him--in the end--to commit a heinous act against someone who was not his enemy.  His elder. A brother.  Someone who looked like him and who had likely been subjected to the same racist, degenerate system.  

It would be interesting to be in a setting  discussing these plays/films and literature in general, however my life isn't making space for that these days. That's ok.  I've been fortunate to do plenty of that in the past, and I'm happy for others in various community and academic settings who are having these moments at present.  

Here's a 60 Minutes interview with Viola Davis.  I really like her as an actress, and when I see her in film I find myself wanting to know more about her as a person.  She's quite admirable from when I've gathered. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Proceed With Haste

I see that this video premiered on my birthday.  I'm three weeks late coming across it but grateful for the gift nonetheless. 

Music is always playing in our household.  I have a deep, deep appreciation for it and connection to it, and the girls are coming to appreciate that, especially since we're all home all the time these days. A big part of our homeschool/unschool is music. I've talked to them about tempo with Tina Turner and Proud Mary and have had philosophical discussions about TLC's song No Scrubs with my 6-year-old (she insisted and came to a pretty mature analytical conclusion of the lyrics).  Comprehension of music is common with us.  She wants to know why so many songs are about love.  I've attempted to give her some sort of explanation, as I know it to be true that some of the greatest music/poetry/art grows out of love--people in love and out of love, the good/great and heartbreak.  

This song by Jazmine Sullivan has been on repeat in my ear and in my head.  I'on know who broke her heart, but I'm here for this musical blessing that grew out of that situation.  She's so amazingly gifted.  Her singing (technique, transitions, etc.), that of the background singers, the work of the guitarist, the aesthetic of it all--this really is giving me everything I needed in a song but didn't know it.  Powerful. 

**********

"Boy, please, 
Boy, please
I don't need it
Memories, all that sh*t
You can keep it.

and puh-LEASE, hurry up and come pick up your damn feelings.

*raises hand*  

Been there.
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