i tried it. speed dating.

I don’t even have the words to tell you how life changing my move from Los Angeles to Atlanta to take on five children has been.  There are few words outside of: therapist, alcohol, sleep, arguments and crying that I can think of.  Every molecule in my body is different from five years ago.  My art will eventually reap the benefit (at least that is what everyone keeps telling me!)  But what about my social life?

See, even though I now have children I technically don’t qualify to hang out with my married friends.  And because I now have children I can’t quantify hanging out with my single friends.  Well, how do I meet people outside of my artsy world?  After epic fails with friends of friends and long distance friends, I tried speed dating.

Personally, it was one of the most exhausting experiences in my life.  First of all, my friend who agreed to come with me bailed out so I flew solo!  And how was I to know it was some popular basketball weekend and the ones that showed up would be nerds!  Mercy… chile…

I am one for good conversation with anyone.  Warm and connecting conversation will begin to change the appearance of almost anyone. (almost I said)  I met one of each nationality!  Indian, Asian, Caucasian, Latin, African American… they all at one point in the evening sat next to me and began conversation.  Well most of them, one guy had NO game or conversation and showed me pictures from his cellphone and had me guess the places.  What?! The LONGEST FIVE MINUTES OF MY LIFE YA’ HEARD ME?!

I did have two great conversations and the time went by too fast with the Indian man and a Caucasian man.  I am who I am, I like what I like and that order would be “black with NO cream.”  I chose no one.

But hey, I tried it. speed dating.

Tennessee a coming…

Usually around this time of year I have already sped my nieces and nephew up to Kansas City to spend the summer with their mother, my sister.  But there is something different about this year… don’t know what but my gut has not allowed me to arrange air fare or time off from work to send them away.  Call it what you want.

Now before you get into all that, “you probably miss them too much” CRAP, allow me to politely shut you down! Of course I miss them but I immensely enjoy my silent time.

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I LOVE not worrying about cooking 18-21 meals a week for 4 people.  Only worry about my hair to comb, only my clothes to wash.  Hmmm, something about the summer of 2013…

So until I am moved to send them away I have appointed my middle niece to arrange a weekend getaway for us.  She chose Chattanooga!  She read about an amusement park we can go to, she read about Ruby Falls caves and some good eating places.  I am letting her fully arrange this getaway so she can pass on to everyone else just how much I have to do when I plan something for the family.  I can tell them until I am blue in the face but when they hear from one of their own it’s a different story.

Adventures of Chattanooga coming soon!

those trees are/ours

We have to take back the trees.

Arouse the hyenas to distract the thunder so we can scratch our backs on the blades of grass.

Rub baby powder on the chest of slumber so they can dream pure.  Denounce titles and all this other foolery you have adopted to be our family structure. 

That silence is not mine!  I am the threatening crashes of waves you belittled to sand. Because… because I believed them too.  I bought the lemonade recipes and choreographed a dance to sour times.  Framed my “S” shirt for company to count the stripes I’ve endured and marvel at brown brave.  Outside of ourselves we have once again been led to puppetry.  And I hate you too.

This is not us.  There is no book.  Only 81 of those songs are ours.  Come unprepared with bread so we can dip away the excess.  It is me.  Re-member…

Listen to him no more.  Let her voice be of distant space.  We have to take back the trees, we have to take back the trees.

i hear He laughs at plans

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Plan B has been perfected.  There will be no visible errors or gray areas for mishaps to occur.  This plan was created for me by my parents and even though it has never matched the pace of my breath, I have taken on its’ presence and made it my own.

Plan A dies daily.  Between blinks of dreams. Washed down with sweet red wine.  Sweated out on the elliptical machine at the gym.  Plan A presents an uncertain genius.  Plan A is park grass filled with summer jazz lovers.  Plan A are hugs from strangers simply because…

Plan B will be the death of me.

SOS

The Efforts of My Breath

I have been inside of my head for almost a month now. (translation: my nieces and one of my nephews are visiting with my sister, their mom, and their dad.)  When I came to the realization I would move down south to get custody of them, I made conscious decisions to listen to the silence of my Inglewood apartment.  I would lay in the bed and watch the sunrise chase the stucco across the ceiling.  I would pull my bedding to the couch and then lounge upon rising from my slumber with a cup of coffee and a movie from my dvd collection.  Time would be timeless and my day would plan itself.

Fast forward to five children: my calendar is full of their appointments and activities.  Waking up to their breakfast requests, me needing to be judge for who can watch their tv programs first.  In many ways I am more involved with my breath (purpose) versus chasing my daily goals.  There is nothing wrong with ambition at all but I suppose when it’s  yours,  you don’t see the immediate results.  Now, with the children, I can see daily the effort of my breath. 

I can see smiles of accomplishment on their faces.  I can see their sweat overcome defeat.  I can hear their laughter break through their fears.  It is immediate gratification everyday.  The current silence of my home is nostalgic to my creative life and purposeful meditation.  But I must admit, I look forward to seeing “the efforts of my breath” soon.

Breath and Sacrifice

Sunday – Wash clothes, wash hair, braid hair

Monday – Math Tutor

Tuesday  – West African Dance Class and Soccer Practice

Wednesday

Thursday – West African Dance Class and Soccer Practice

Friday

Saturday – Soccer Games

         pray.dream.hope.want.pray.laugh.dream.cry.yearn…  all fall in between the other days. 

 It has been four years since I took custody of my sisters children and moved my life from LA to ATL.  Right now I’m too exhausted to detail the differences between the two lifestyles, but they exist.  Dramatically. 

Where do I begin?  I am new everyday with challenges, fears and faith.  The boys are 19 and 14 and the girls 10, 7 and 6.  When I speak of becoming new, I am writing the dances of what to wear, how to speak, what’s the tone all in the note of love.  Love and care for them and where do I find the unselfish part of this parenting position.  They all made honor roll, made the traveling squad for dance and the traveling team for soccer… not too shabby for a chic who is an independent artist.  A chic who went from 0 kids to 5 kids in 32 hours of driving.

 Sacrifice has always been my breath as an artist.  For the love of receiving the stories and words, silence and solitude was the recipe.  I always dated and loved but a perfectionist at remaining detached was my sacrifice.  Not just mine, not a new decision and not even conscious… something that just was.  Now my sacrifice is the children and they are my breath.

             I miss my art.  I miss my muse.  Send her to me.  Tell her,  I am available June 16th…  

SUMMER TIME and the kids are gone for four weeks!  I made a SUMMER BUCKET LIST and plan to become selfish and hear myself talk again!

 I look forward to writing and growing as My person.  As an artist.  And becoming a better Aunt for my nieces and nephews when they return. 

 I haven’t been this excited about school being out since my junior year in high school!

Sunday – me

Monday – me

Tuesday – me

Wednesday – me again

Thursday – guess who? me

Friday – yep, me!

Saturday – If  I’m happy, everyone in my house will be, so… ME

A Lifestyle

Nikki Skies, Howard University Days

even back then I knew I would have a lifestyle in the arts in some form or fashion.  capture the stares of strangers and live in the heat of the light.  a bit more relaxed now.  not as serious.  still believe that voice in my head and that message in my heart. – Photo by Lydia Douglass-Cordova

Birth Marks

April 29, 2008

Thankfully the thick highway traffic swallowed our need to communicate.  She chased the downtown buildings with her eyes as I obeyed the break lights from the car ahead of me to the local Greyhound station. 

After my grandmother’s death, my mother announced to the family that she wanted to move south to Atlanta and be rid of the tortuous midwest winters.  I had flown the coup some 18 years earlier but the majority of my family remained in Kansas City, Mo. including my younger sister and brother.  At this time, my mother already had custody of 4 of my sister’s children and my sister visited them over my mom’s as often as possible with their youngest sister whom she still had with her.  My mother’s announcement also hesitantly brought about my sister’s decision to move to Atlanta too. 

They made their move June 2007 and my sister hated every second of the three months she stayed.  One day, my mother went to the store and my sister packed up a few things of hers and the youngest girl and caught a cab to the bus station to  return to Kansas City.  My sister told the other kids she would be back soon.  They loyally watched and waited for her until my mother told them she was not coming back.  My conversation with my sister wasn’t cordial but just as direct.  When I would have conversation with the kids, they wanted to know why she didn’t take them.  The oldest girls wanted to know how their younger sister was doing. 

Countless conversations and seven months later, my sister agreed to let the youngest girl come back to Atlanta to live with her siblings instead of pretending to be an only child.  My sister stayed with us a little over a week to allow the baby to get re-acquainted with everyone.  Now we allowed interstate 85 south to commence her trip.  I’m sure she was thinking, ‘the trip where I lost another baby’.

In my heart I knew this was the right thing because the children needed to be together and my sister did not have the stability she needed to care for a baby nor did she have the near by help from my mother in Kansas City.  My sister described her bus ride down as smelly and long.  She vowed she would never take the bus to Atlanta again, she would have to get over her fear of planes.  I wonder if this is what she was thinking as she gazed out at the downtown architecture.  I wondered, where did she feel it?  Did it feel like a slow paced pendulum that swung vertical in the pit of her stomach like mine?  Did she want me to drive faster so she could get it over with? 

The coneflowers had just bloomed in the city and incised my allergies to set off a chain of sneezes as we reached the bus terminal.  She pulled her bus ticket out and read to me her first stop would be in Tennessee.  I searched for the right words to find, that last conversation to have with her and drew an absolute blank on a topic that would be pleasant.  My sister, reached towards the back seat and grabbed her black duffel bag as I found a spot to park right outside of the lot.  I wanted to tell her this was a no win situation for both of us.  No one won, no one lost.  I wanted to reassure her that being selfless was what we both needed to do and time would allow everyone to reap the benefits.  I wanted to reach over and hug her, kiss her on the cheek, tell her how brave she was.  Instead, I fought back tears and searched her eyes for a possible good-bye.  She looked my way but not at me, opened the door and said, “her birthmark is on the back of her right ankle.”

Her comment soothed my urge to cry.  I knew that simply meant, ‘take care of my daughter.’  I drove my heavy heart home thinking the entire ride, ‘I will, I will.’

zero to five in 32 hours

I always knew the day would come.  From his entrance in 1993.  His in 1998.  Then she came in 2001.  2004.  And 2006.

2008, I packed up my single life in Los Angeles and made my trek to Atlanta to get custody of my sister’s children.  Her five children. 

I made this privy decision after the second girl was born in 2004.  When “it” was now apparent in my mother.  I could hear “it” in her voice.  But “it” was loudest in her silence.  The flat breath that would catch happiness and linger trapped between her sighs.  My mother not being able to enjoy the fruits of being a grandmother because she was in a position of subordination to being a mother all over again.   Her angered disappointment, which is different from both anger and disappointment.  Her thanksgiving needing to be a holiday of receiving.  Our conversations gave guilt to the quiet jazz filled afternoons in my LA apartment.  Our conversations consistently robbed Roy Hargrove and I of the enjoyment of our new bottle of chilled riesling.  I needed to resolve.  The options: the kids become wards of the state or raised by my mother, who had become quite lenient with her home rules and expectations.  Foster care had already been in the picture.  The kids had already been split up before.  The boys stayed together but the oldest girl, only five months old, was sent to be cared for by another family.  Stories formed with the youngest boy being mistreated by another child in a foster home.  Stories of the kids crying at the end of visitations upon not being satisfied with the answers they received to their inquisitons, “can I come home yet?” 

I wanted to create another story.  Help write another ending for them.  After all, intergenerational family rearing is nothing new to most cultures.  Even my grandparents’ modest three bedroom home had ever revolving doors to their nine children and 17+ grandchildren so this decision seemed natural for me too.  But like most, I presume, who choose this, we do not see the stories that await us.  The stories of the hard adjustment to living in a new city, the demands of your time (or what used to be), the depression, the anxiety, creating a personal/social life with five kids, dating, finding the “mommy button” and the arduous task of re-membering who I am and re-inventing my self as a woman, artist and active aunt of five.  Some stories are funny and some are serious.  From journal entries to day to day tales, this blog is about me going from zero to five in 32 hours.

I am a lover of perseverance. I am folklore. I am consistency and contradiction.

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