The Sad Goodbye Edition

I love this picture. I took this picture of my grandfather exactly 9 years ago on 28 December 2012. As what became a ritual, I would visit my grandfather on quiet mornings during the holidays. We would sit, watch game shows and drink coffee. For some reason that week home for the holidays, we kept missing each other. It was crazy. He never was one for sitting still until age and health issues finally caught up to him. My visits to home were filled with running to and fro trying to see this person and that. I was always overwhelmed and unsuccessful. However, since I drove I decided to stop by on my way out of town since I knew I could catch him before his day truly began. I thought it would be a quick visit. It was not. We talked about everything. He told me about his grandfathers – who he did not particularly like – and a bunch of other stuff. He teased me about my phone because it was never far from my side. He asked what the big deal was. I told him people really like the access to everything and the ability to take pictures. People take a lot of pictures. Then I told him I would take his picture. He asked why and I joked that when someone asked me about my amazing grandfather, I could show them what he looked like. Always loving attention, he obliged. So folks, here is my grandfather.

He got to live 91 years, which considering how many contemporaries I have watched pass away in the last few years is tremendous. When people write about the loss of a loved one it seems to be remembrances of their interactions with the person and not a true accounting of the person. I see how that happens now. Goodness, do I have such fun stories of being with my grandfather. We lived on the same street for most of my childhood, so I saw him everyday. And no lie: he was my biggest champion. This is not something I take lightly. I kind of sort of did not fit in many spaces. I had iffy parents. I watched PBS for fun. I looked nerdy with ugly cheap glasses and hair that never really permed well. But he thought I was wonderful. You don’t realize how much you need that in the world. Every conversation he dropped a little gem about how glad he was to have me. Me! Too smart, too weird me.

We could be so different. He was an extreme extrovert who never met a person he couldn’t regale with a story. I am an introvert who finds people scary. He was a hustling entrepreneur. There’s nothing I love more than doing my 40 hours and sitting my tail down somewhere (preferably a pretty bar or concert hall). I love me a shortcut or a scheme and he could be so by the book. He ratted me out to the airlines for sneaking on bags (pre-9/11)! He liked gambling a bit too much. Now I will keep every dime in my pocket and some of yours in there too.

However, I inherited his love of music. It plays all day around me just like it did for him. I love an activity. Hey…he is where I got the title streetrunner. And he was so consistent. I can be too. Yet, he always showed the hell up. Even when you thought you did not want him there. I was so frightened to admit how much I needed him at my wedding. But my husband had a man-to-man chat with him (he loved him some hubby) and convinced him to fly even though he hated it and hadn’t done it in decades. So he showed up. Walked me down the aisle. Hugged me on his way back home to tell how wonderful the entire weekend was. It was. I got to be with my guy.

Losing him is something I anticipated but could not imagine and I live in my imagination. Amazingly we got closer in the distance than we did down the street. Though he often teased that he saw homes perfect for me when I choose to move back to Michigan. I once spent the entire weekend just with him & my granny. Hilariously it was the weekend they captured bin Ladin. (This is a great story I need more space to tell.) I hated that his hearing started to fail and we could no longer successfully chat on the phone. I learned so much about him in the last ten years. Not just what he did for me, which was a lot, but how he thought, felt and what worried him. This man served as my chauffeur, receptionist (those terrible no phone days), my advocate, my cheerleader, my contract negotiator, my shady partner at gatherings, my rock. My consistent force who made me realize someone woke up every day caring about me. Yep. Somehow this remembrance turned into a discussion of who he was to me. I know that is not who he was fully but I fell into an easy trap. I don’t know how to describe how great he without first telling you how much he stood up for me. So when I tell you how amazing my grandfather was know I was smart enough to get this picture.


The Beautiful Surprise Edition

Happy 8th anniversary blog. This blog’s purpose was to review and summarize all the fun outings I experience over the years. Honestly, 2020 does not lend itself to this kind of blog.

Quote 1: “How you spend your New Year is how you will spend your year.” –Old Wives Tale

I rang in 2020 sick as can be. I travelled to Michigan for Christmas and a little boy behind me on the plane open mouth coughed on my neck continuously. So I knew the ick was coming. My husband thought I was being a hypochondriac but sure enough, I was feeling awful by New Year’s Eve. Oddly, all I felt was exhausted, achy and with a cough. It didn’t feel like a real cold. A week later, I was scheduled to have outpatient surgery which required a physical. At my appointment, my doctor (who looks like she belongs in the cast of a Married to Medicine Maryland spinoff) declared that I looked terrible. I actually felt much better so I was thoroughly confused. She insisted on having chest x-rays which showed some kind of pneumonia / bronchitis issue in my lungs. Surgery was cancelled and turns out I got completely worse. I spent the next few weeks exhausted, breathless and nauseous. Just climbing the stairs in my house required 10 – 15 minutes of recovery.

Quote 2: “I think sex is designed to get you pregnant.” –Khadijah James

I was so consumed with being ill that I barely noticed that my period did not come in January. But I started having cramps and my breasts hurt. It dawned on me that I could be pregnant, which freaked me out! First, I was so sick and suffered through countless tests and medications in an attempt to get me well. Second, I attended two bottomless brunches and had terrible eating habits. Third, pregnancies at my big age are precarious and I really could not emotionally endure an unsuccessful pregnancy.

I went to the doctor to get an official test and something weird happened. They never called me with the results. They are usually so responsive. I didn’t want to tell my husband until I had definitive results. After about 2 days at Friday date night, I was extremely stressed and my husband knew something was off. I finally confessed my concern and there I was being asked to pee on a stick. And stick said: pregnant.

Meanwhile, my job quickly became a cluster as leadership was consumed with COVID preparations. My hours stretched and my stress grew all while being extremely sleepy and nauseous. I never mentioned my pregnancy to anyone. For months. I just needed to get through the first few months. I suffered through nausea greatly and was required to be in countless meetings. The only way to stave it off was through constantly drinking water. I had gastrointestinal sensitivities before the pregnancy and now it just went into hyper drive. There were times in work meetings where I had to steady myself to keep my food down. Then something else happened: COVID came to America (though I am not entirely convinced that it wasn’t here before). The country entered lockdown. My birthday vacation to Vegas was cancelled. My job studied social distancing options. My work became even more chaotic but I really never thought of COVID as a threat. This is actually very odd of me because I have a compromised immune system and catch everything. I had the swine flu as a key example. The first trimester caused added tension. You really only visit the doctor every 4-6 weeks but you really obsess over the question of if you are still pregnant all the time. I got the baby flutters earlier than expected which really gave me some relief.

I eventually made it out of the first trimester without issue but still couldn’t relax into the pregnancy. As a mother of advanced maternal age, the doctor tested me for any genetic disorders at 14 weeks. I decided once I got the results, I would let people know. Confirmed no issues but I still did not. Then I developed a terrible cough. Another freak out. Pregnancy prevented more in-depth testing and I was stuck in Urgent Care with Maryland closures fretting that I had the COVID. I did not. Once I could see a specialist months later, I discovered one of the medications I took due to pregnancy exacerbated my pneumonial bronchitis and hence another flare up. Not knowing that at the time as a result, my doctor determined I need to be away from all people. Worldwide studies showed COVID was particularly harsh for pregnant women and I had the unfortunate issue of unhealthy lungs. COVID could be debilitating. I applied to work from home and home I was.

Quote 3: “I’m just ready to have this baby because this has been a lot.” –fellow expectant mother in the doctor’s waiting room

I barely left the house or saw anyone. My singular focus became getting through this pregnancy with both me and the baby healthy. I finally announced I was pregnant even though I think hubby was telling people because he likes talking. That task overwhelmed a natural introvert who hates talking about herself. Over the next few months, I read blogs on pregnancy and manifested every single side effect. In addition to my terrible nausea, I got ligament pain and had to employ hip stretching exercises. As my womb grew, my fibroids were squeezed which caused such horrible pain that I was confined to my bed for an entire weekend while I awaited my doctor’s appointment. A short term prescription helped but could not be a permanent solution. My ob/gyn was amazed that I got restless leg syndrome, a new one for her but I saw it as a symptom on What to Expect. Thankfully, Facebook spies on me and ads stalked me for a topical cream that actually worked. Especially since, we have a tiny tub and most remedies recommended Epson salt baths. After finally being able to eat and gain some real weight in my 18th week, the third trimester gave me acid reflux. I was back to vomiting and an inability to lay down for long stretches. I learned to sleep sitting up and consumed so much Maalox. So much.

Amazingly despite manifesting all of these nitnoid body ailments, my pregnancy was going well despite my age and health history. No terrible complications even though I obsessed over my inability to eat almost everything for much of my pregnancy. There was some fun as baby was extremely active. She never settled down and kicked constantly. I was in line at the store and a stranger actually came over to me to remark on my moving belly. Ironically, all of this worrying about the pregnancy made me forget one important thing: getting the baby out. I needed to develop a birth plan. I decided to get a doula after reading all the negative stories about Black maternal delivery complications.

Quote 4: “There comes a point with mature pregnancies, where the pregnancy breaks the body down.” –my ob/gyn

That all changed my 37th week. I felt completely sluggish on Thursday. I had a doctor’s appointment the next day as I got to the point of weekly doctor visits. Apparently I looked so tired my husband insisted on driving me. I was already headed out the door and he had to do so in pajamas. I get to the appointment and my blood pressure had soared. I was told to go to the hospital to see my ob/gyn who was there delivering a baby. Once there, I was informed I needed to deliver that day as the only cure for my possible preeclampsia was no more pregnancy. The planner in me spiraled. I had a scheduled cesarean as my daughter was breech due to my issue with fibroids. But that wasn’t for 10 days. We weren’t fully packed and my husband was in pajamas. He had to dash home to get all our stuff before my surgery time 4 hours later during rush hour traffic in Maryland going ~40 miles one way. And he hates to speed. All of my intense planning with my doula was for nothing! Surgery time came and boy is it weird. It is extremely bright and clinical. I imagined some warm soothing room welcoming baby to the world. Dead silent. My doula made me create a playlist. I hate creating playlists but I had maybe between 15 -20 songs. Luckily the music lasted just enough to get me through delivery. I have problems with anesthesia (always have), so the procedure wasn’t always pleasant. However, my lovely anesthesiologist let me squeeze her hand (“let” be me a strong word) in conjunction with my husband’s. My smooth pregnancy actually transitioned into an uncomfortable recovery as some health issues finally materialized post-delivery. Happily, I had amazing doctors watching over me. We did it. Baby and I made it out okay!

To summarize, my 2020 included the biggest surprise of my life and my most beautiful experience yet.

The 20th Anniversary Edition

20th-anniversary20 years. I moved to the DC area 20 years ago. How amazing and crazy that life has passed by so fast. Today is the anniversary of my first day at my good government job. I moved to the area a few days prior. I never remember the exact day but I always remember the circumstances. I waited 7 months for the background check to be completed for my job. By the time it was completed and I picked a start date, I accomplished nothing I wanted to prepare for my big move. It was an interesting time. Any time I say interesting, it means I am protecting some party from a potentially incriminating story. I hoped to do an apartment hunting trip, buy furniture and schedule movers in anticipation of my start date. I did none of this. All I did was look up potential spots online and realize I know nothing about D.C.. My girlfriend offered to look for places for me as she was near the area but I nixed that because she has expensive taste and I was worried she would select a spot I couldn’t afford. I came up with the brilliant idea in my 22 year-old mind to just drive to D.C. the weekend before my start date with a few suitcases, book a hotel and look for apartments that weekend. As a full-blown adult now looking back this idea sounds terrible but God looks after babies and fools. So it actually worked out.

I found a simple, clean, and cheap hotel to serve as my base. And looked around. Overwhelmed, I discovered I could rent a room in a group house. I decided to do that until I could better understand the area and pick the best apartment. This seems like the weirdest idea ever to anyone who doesn’t live in an expensive area, but this arrangement was very popular in the D.C. area. I had a room furnished with a bed, chair and dressers, shared bathroom, a parking spot (more on that later) and two random other people living there. The landlord ran a “Christian” house, meaning no members of the opposite sex there without the door open and no overnight guests. I really didn’t care as I didn’t know anyone anyway. I was so excited to start my new adult life that I couldn’t even process all of my mother’s constant complaining, which is miraculous in hindsight. I conducted a test run to my new office which turned out to be in a terrible neighborhood, a neighborhood that even looked terrible on a Sunday afternoon. I kept getting lost. This was pre-GPS and I relied mainly on actual maps and printing out instructions from Mapquest. I completely confused 295 and 395 but knew my job was off of one of them. I didn’t understand quadrants and first went to the same address in the wrong quadrant only to find a restaurant. Upon finally finding it, my mother remarked that this cannot possibly be where they let government workers come and she actually asked the guard if there was a nicer building I could work. This was my first instance of DC customer service when all questions from the public are just ignored.

But surprisingly, in three days, I secured a place to stay already with furniture, practiced driving routes to my job and found a Wal-Mart to buy sheets and towels after being told there was no Target nearby. Lies! There was a Target! For some reason, my landlord wanted me to have sheets that fell apart after two washes. I drove my first day but could not find out employee parking lot, which was not adjacent to the building. A nice guard let me park in the parking lot for another government building. This never happens but I must have looked young and clueless. Started my adult life and was well on my way to success.

Oddly that first week, it snowed. Not real snow to a Michigander but enough snow where everything was closed: my job, the stores. I had no food. I relied on my housemate’s okay spaghetti and boring conversation. Thankfully, the next day conditions improved (well for them). But my car wouldn’t start (I left my lights on all night). My kind neighbor actually recommended that I take the Metro to work and gave me detailed instructions. I hopped on the bus, got on the Metro and walked across the street from my job to work. Easy peasy. Unfortunately on my way home, I quickly realized Maryland was full of communities that all looked alike and I got off in the wrong neighborhood. I walked around aimlessly, slipped in the snow and lost my mitten. Which was hilarious (again in hindsignt). My solution: go back to the bus stop, get back on the bus, and figure out where the hell I lived.

After a few months, I found an apartment, not my first choice as it had no vacancies. Bought a bunch of economical furniture in Michigan. Had the government ship it back (turns out I had a 90-day window for moves, thank goodness). Had a huge fight with my landlord at my rooming house. She wanted to charge me for parking but our townhouse community only designated 2 spots per unit and I frequently had nowhere to park nearby. Funny enough, she still hates me to this day. I found this out the hard way a few years ago. But my apartment. My own little apartment. I felt so grown-up at 22. The mover (yep, just one) arrived and had me help him move my furniture to my apartment. That’s when I learned that the lowest bidder wins these contracts. So much education! But I didn’t care as it was all so new and exciting.

Thankfully, my job had a 4-month internal training program for my work role which was full of people like me – young, new to the area, and excited for no reason. The Agency, to stem the mass exodus of retiring govies, embarked on the largest hiring program in their history. Because of this, I developed a little social network via classmates and Agency employees including meeting my best friend on the shuttle bus. We discovered the power of D.C. happy hour. That was my Friday routine: happy hour after work. I attempted to explain this phenomenon to friends back in Michigan and so many thought it was so weird to drink in afternoons. Ha!

My social life consisted of Friday happy hours with coworkers and biweekly Sunday matinees and chain restaurant lunches with my college friend and her adorable toddler. I was so happy. And I wasn’t even busy. I would go on little solo outings around the city on Saturdays. D.C. is full of activities I would see in the newspaper. I met a woman at some free DC summer festival and she invited me to join her book club (this was quite hot back then). However, the book club was terrible with spotty attendance. I ended up great friends with a woman after the two of us attended a meeting alone. Yep, just the two of us. She introduced me to other friends, Howard Homecoming, Republic Gardens and U Street, CBC weekend, road trips. Man, D.C. was the place to be in the early 2000’s. City life almost kicked my butt. I even interviewed for another government position in another region which I got and turned down. After meeting potential colleagues, I didn’t like any of them. Decided to keep my talents right here.

Eventually some of those friendships petered out due to marriage and babies. But I survived. These 20 years have been nothing I could have imagined as that eager, silly 22 year old. Right now, I smile thinking of my great circle of friends – including that amazing woman I met on the shuttle bus – and the love of my life. Despite my career restlessness, I still got a good government job. I wonder where I will be in 30…

The Hot Dame Summer Edition

So we are one month into fall and the leaves are steadily changing, I forgot that I planned to recap my Hot Girl* Summer (*more like grown woman with a 401K. So what is that? A Dame?). So I entered the summer, not in the best of moods. In fact, I truly wasn’t feeling anything. But I thought the best way to shake the blues was to actually overschedule myself. Did it work? Maybe.

First, I kicked off the summer – since most consider Memorial Day as the unofficial start – at Linganore for the Reggae Wine Festival. My husband had never been and I thought it would be an easy outing. It truly was and he had fun. We then attended Capital Jazz Festival, which had perfect weather. I repeat. Perfect weather. What did we do to earn such amazing weather – warm, breezy, adequately sunny? Well, the acts were ho hum. No one was really excited for any of the acts, even the headliners for the stages: Brian McKnight and Gregory Porter didn’t elicit any great fanfare. BTW, I adore Gregory Porter, so I don’t count.

Capital Jazz Festival logo

For some reason I couldn’t find my Cap Jazz photos


Another decision I made was to return to golf. I joined another league. They didn’t meet as much as I would have liked but they were way more pleasant than my previous group. I didn’t achieve my goal to improve my handicap, but I realized how much I liked playing, despite the fact I am nowhere near good. This is a revelation for me that I can have a hobby where I don’t excel and it’s okay.

I returned to my paint and sip classes, which soothe me so. I came up with the brilliant idea to create a gallery wall and strategically planned my color schemes to coordinate. I am really proud of the result.

Wall of paintings

My gallery wall. Isn’t it great?


I booked a bunch of concerts at City Winery. I can say I see steady improvement. Initially the service was slow and easily confused. I once received three glasses of the same wine from three different servers who didn’t notice they all gave me the same thing but were cognizant enough to charge me for all three. Who did I see? Yahzarah (fun). Christian Scott (late and too chatty). Tortured Soul (so cool). Van Hunt. Omar. In addition, we made it to see Lizzo for only $25. That was the bargain of the year. We traveled up to Baltimore to attend the Nas| MJB concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of their classic albums. We were so overdressed for the evening that we looked like we should be on stage too. Such a true culture clash.

My hubby turned 40 and I was kind enough to throw him a party. Hold your applause. Plus he wanted a birthday trip (see in a bit). He tapped me out. Luckily the DC / Baltimore area is great for something free to do. We wore these out in August and September. First we journeyed to Afram with the main headliner as Rick Rozay or Rick Ross (did he pay for this name yet?). Plus all of Puffy’s kids performed a bunch of mediocre songs. The Fort Dupont Summer Concert season was great this year. We went to see Deborah Bond and Raheem DeVaughan. We also saw Stokely and someone else I am not googling. Both shows were amazing and free.99. I hope they keep the same booking agent next year. We saw the really cool REACH festival at the new venue at the Kennedy Center. While I didn’t make it in to see Robert Glasper, I did spend a great day at the Hip Hop day which ended with a free performance by DeLaSoul. I also was treated to a Don’t Mute DC concert with Backyard Band at my favorite place in DC: National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Picture of Lizzo

Lizzo for $25


I also did some typical and out of the box activities. We visited the highly popular but oh so nice new Top Golf. My hubby is terrible at golf. He would not like me to point this out. I went to an HBCU kickball tournament. Sure. It’s a thing. A really silly, fun thing.  I made a pilgrimage to a winery out in VA. You have to do at least one winery day a summer. I  went to northern Virginia more this summer than I have since I stopped working there in 2014. We attended so many of these planned activities that have become the norm over the years: A rose festival. An all you can eat Oyster festival (umm…turns out I do have a limit). The Beer, Wine and Crab festival. There is an entire industry now cultivating events for people who want to leave the house with predefined fun. This doesn’t feel like it was a thing 10 years ago. I attend a game of the WNBA champion Mystics. I always forget how much fun their games are and think: I should go more, then do not. I will fix this next year. Finally, we went to a 70’s themed birthday party. Without irony, I found my costume with ease at a major retailer selling the jumpsuit as an actual outfit they thought people should wear.

Shalina and Omar in 70's gear

70’s costumes


As I mentioned earlier, my hubby wanted to visit Chicago for his birthday. I have been in more than 10 years and he hadn’t been since high school. What a great city to visit. We ate so much. Visited the largest rooftop bar in the world. Took a river cruise. Threw axes. Went to a beach party.

Picture of a Chicago skyscraper.

Chicago Architecture River Tour


And by 23 September, summer concludes and it’s all over. It wasn’t bad. Thanks Megan.  To quote my hubby, “it is time to sit your butt down.”


The 2018 Recap Edition

It dawned on me that my 2018 recap which had been roaming around in my head for a month was never put to paper. So how would I sum up 2018, in the immortal words of Dave Chappelle – I’m broke, [word I don’t say]. I’m broke! Wow the hits kept coming.

  1. I got a new car. I worked so hard to keep my beloved Smokey alive at great expense. In the end, my car had this annoying oil leak that three dealerships and several mechanics couldn’t identify. The accelerator pump died which meant I went from 0 to 8 after any complete and total stop for about 30 seconds until it decided to sorta go 50. But I couldn’t let go. But once it got the shimmy shakes when idling I had to let it go at 200,8XX miles. Love live Pearlie Sue.
  2. Black Panther. As an apathetic Hampton grad, the highlight of my first quarter was meeting Ruth Carter – a fellow alum whose career I have been following for 20 years. Being from Hampton really feels like a cult sometimes though. I will see folks I went to school with and the first question I get asked is when is the last time I was on campus. Ummm..what about important issues like is this woman and children next to you your family or what? However, Black Panther had the entire community hype. I still have a Lesotho blanket in my Amazon cart but broke. Wakanda Forever. Peep my General Okoye painting.
  3. Despite my lack of funds, I did a lot of long weekend and day trips.
    1. Went to Dover Downs for my birthday. I really only like to do one thing for my birthday – watch March Madness and eat chicken wings. We discovered that though Dover allows sports betting on football, which is not true for basketball. So watching and no gambling for us.
    2. We traveled to Ocean City for the first time since the first year I moved here. We stayed in a brand new hotel at a discount but truly why does it cost $300 a night to visit there?
    3. We went to New York for Pinknic. Wow was it hot. So really, really hot. I already own cute pink clothes, so I was good to go. It was ridiculously expensive. $70 for a bottle of rose or $12 for a frose. And it was all house music (Yay for me. Boo for other people who wrongly don’t love house music).
    4. I went to Detroit for Labor Day for the Jazz Festival. I made it to tv apparently since we were sitting right by the camera. Thank goodness I love Esperanza and could easily look entertained.
    5. Finally we went Austin for Austin City Limits. I had a bit of an incident the first day of the vacay with an evil scooter. Austin is such a drink and walk around town. We completely wasted money on that city tour as we saw nothing we didn’t see just walking around normally. ACL was great though they swapped Childish Gambino for Travis Scott and I am old and he makes songs I don’t know. Camilla C. (I ain’t googling the spelling) was so cute but her catalog is short. We really were there for Janelle.
  4. I recall counselling my baby cousin (waves if she is reading) that you can go out regularly with ever even thinking of a club or bar. That was certainly true for me. Summer of 2018 was marked by continuous rain, so many of my typical summer activities didn’t happen.
    1. Attended a movie screening. You have to see the movie to understand the earrings.
    2. Painted and sipped. Thank goodness I found a spot that outlines the work because you don’t want to see my previous experience attempting to draw a pumpkin.
    3. I went to fun cooking classes, learning how to make pasta and fry chicken. Honest to heaven, the very first time I made fried chicken, it was absolutely perfect – well seasoned, crispy and juicy. I peaked. I never made chicken that amazing again. But hoping I can try again with confidence.
    4. I took a graffiti and DJ class. Don’t worry all my DJ friends are safe.
    5. I took a poker class and won nothing. Someone gave me a trinket though as she won twice, and I happily took it.
  5. Without trying, I visited three Black-owned hotels. First, I went to Salamander Resort. Smaller than I thought it would be. So ages ago I stayed at the Biltmore in Coral Gables, same problem. It appears to be this sprawling resort and it is amazing, but not truly as huge as I thought. We spent the weekend at Akwaaba Inn in D.C. It’s been there for 14 years and yet never made it there. Plus I have never been to a bed and breakfast in my life. This was so cool. I definitely plan to go to more. Finally, I have been obsessed with the Ivy Hotel in Baltimore since I saw it in a magazine. Happily I found a spa deal and had a lovely spa day and tour of this highly exclusive hotel. I may never afford to stay there, but I can get a massage.
  6. I went to Spain.
  7. I became a boss. It’s much harder than it appears on television. I am no Michael Scott, but I definitely had some odd, exhausting days that felt like weeks that would make it a very funny episode on my version of The Government Office. And good bosses get no glory. It’s all about developing people to be their best or some such nonsense. I did sit down with a really useful executive coach who provided practical advice to ease some interactions.
  8. I started and didn’t finish a lot of television. I started so much and yet finished so little. I don’t even know what I was doing with my nights. Maybe I was overwhelmed. There is so much television. I literally finished a bunch of started television over the Christmas holidays. And am still nowhere near finished. And my book reading suffered. I only read 7 books this year and the only thing that got me that far was some long plane rides.
  9. Did I have a favorite movie this year (Black Panther withstanding)? I cannot say. I didn’t see a lot of the popular and critical darlings. I loved Widows but some people did not (I guess).
  10. Music was good, yet social media makes it so difficult to like certain artists. There were lots of soft, crooning female singers to like this year – Ari Lennox, H.E.R., Ella Mai. I’m old and current hip hop mostly annoys me. I continued my consistent concert tradition independent of those I mentioned earlier with, reverse order:
    1. Anita Baker
    2. Bilal
    3. Zo!
    4. Big Freedia / Tank and the Bangas (saw them twice)
    5. Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)
    6. Raphael Saadiq
    7. Hamilton (second time is the charm!)
    8. Capital Jazz Festival (In the rain as always. But a tent this time)
    9. Shabazz Palaces (this was obviously free)
    10. Black Alley
  11. Went to some out there parties.
    1. Attended the Fresh Ball courtesy of a friend and got dress up and listen to good hip hop There is a difference.
    2. NMAAHC held the most fun Derby Day party. We learned about the history of Black jockeys, wore amazing hats and nibbled traditional treats from each of the races. Which meant crabcakes for Preakness; hot browns for Kentucky Derby; pretzels for Belmont.
    3. Went to the worst mud ball of Preakness ever. Some attendees slipped, fell and were covered head to toe in mud. I’m taking a year off.
    4. Diner en Blanc was at Nats stadium, which was extremely unpopular due to the length of time to process in through security, sitting in the rafters and not being able to step onto the field. Dah well. Great parties can’t last forever.
    5. The National Portrait Gallery threw an anniversary party. Sadly the full space wasn’t open to partygoers. So the Michelle Obama portrait continues to elude me. But Amy Sherald was there.
    6. I threw axes at a Christmas Party.
  12. My tribe and I recreated my amazing bridal shower by hiring a driver to visit wineries along the Frederick Wine Trail. These elevated excursions we plan for ourselves are the best.
  13. Let me tell you. This diet from the wedding completely fell off. First of all, weddings are exhausting enterprises so you naturally lose weight with nervous energy and not eating. But that drinking green smoothies and popping mints as snack replacements couldn’t last long. I tried my best with exercise but I went to lamb festivals, and high end steakhouses and cooking classes. It was all so delicious. But at this age, I really need to concentrate all my efforts on dry salad.
  14. I continued my fitness outings. I danced to Afrobeat, Soca, Bellydance and Zumba. So many classes are devoted to dancing. Dancing isn’t the best workout for me because I spend too much time concentrating on if I got the moves right and forget the exercise part. I pounded. This was my favorite. Such a release of aggression. I took a kettlebell class. I didn’t do badly due to my semi-commitment to boot camp. However, this boot camp is ruining me for my preferred exercise – yoga. I truly love yoga, everything else I do is make sure my cute clothes fit. There I was in aerial yoga doing a backflip when my right shoulder gave out and I tumbled right onto my head. My muscles are so tired and achy that my practice is regressing.
  15. I barely golfed this year. I think I let those bitter bitties convince me into not coming back. But the end of the season once the rained cleared, I truly regretted my decision. I am not the best golfer by any stretch of the imagination, but I really liked the challenge it gave me. It took consistent effort and concentration, which isn’t my strong suit and a growth area for me.
  16. I realized that my hobbies weren’t strong. It’s important to have hobbies as I realized after having a pre-adolescent pen pal who constantly asked me what I liked to do. “I am a grown-up, kid! I don’t do anything but start television I don’t finish!” Anyhoo, I attempted to write and stuck to it an entire two months. Someday soon I need to start reciting these story ideas to myself (before my husband thinks I am crazy) and write them down. What is my blockage?
  17. So I mentioned that I was broke. Well, being a landlord sucks on ice. I went two months without a tenant after finally ridding myself of the tenant from hell in late 2017. Plus we had an unfortunate incident with a pipe bursting and damaging the basement. So we got all new pipes and walls. I didn’t want all new pipes and walls. But here we are.
  18. For 2018, I didn’t set resolutions. I didn’t even make a vision board. So there was nothing to judge against by the end of the year. I truly was in a grumpy funk at the beginning of the year, because I felt under water with finances. I made strong ones this year. (Hope I don’t fail).

That was my 2018. Here’s to 2019 (two months in)! Check the gallery.


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The Spanish Edition

Happy 6 year and one month anniversary blog! I started this blog mainly because I was in a process-oriented gig and my creative spirit started to atrophy. But now I am so tired from all the thinking that I need to to I can only spend a few minutes a day writing. I bought myself the cute writing prompt book which has helped inspire some creativity from somewhere. I realized that my blog anniversary (October 19) is one day away from my wedding anniversary (October 20). So I really should attempt to write something, anything. This was made easier by the fact that my house is a total cluster and I am currently monitoring (as much as you can) contractors repairing things as a result of a leaky pipe. And the fact that my hubby and I had a great vacation to celebrate our first anniversary. Something to recap! Truthfully I have plenty to recap as there were some really fun events this year, but lazy.

So we went to Spain! This was an inside joke between my husband and I for years and we finally traveled there. We booked this trip through Costco of all places. It was an amazing deal save for the fact that you don’t get a seating assignment on your flights. For one leg we weren’t seated together and had to withstand this annoying Veruca Salt’s little meltdown to sit together for another leg. On a bonus item of note, I plan to always travel on Saturday nights as the plane to Spain was truly empty. Notsomuch on the way back.

Spain is lovely. After going to South Africa last year, we definitely needed to remember the fact that the Euro is stronger than the dollar. We spent money left and right and had to slow down. We arrived at Barcelona first and stayed in an area that was originally run down but became Olympic village in 1992. It is now mixed use with hotels, apartments and nightclubs on the beach. It’s truly a city beach so don’t expect clear blue water and alabaster sand. We (okay I was) were very tired yet our room wasn’t ready yet. We ate on the beach and walked around our neighborhood which was very close to the cruise shipyard. I am usually an extreme planner but truly conducted minimal research for this trip (brain dead). Therefore most of the week in Barcelona and Madrid was spent strolling around the city while on the hop on and hop off tourist bus. Hubby is not a fan of museums, botanical gardens and historic sites and those excursions were quickly nixed. I should have pushed for one though in hindsight.

Life Lessons

I learned a few things. Never take Uber. Taxi drivers take their jobs very seriously there.

Experts project soon that Spain will have the longest life expectancy in the world and the lifestyle is really nowhere near ours in America. They usually pop up around 9 and head out around 10 a.m. They have late lunches, possibly a siesta, eat dinner at 9 p.m. and often stay out to 2a.m., even on weekdays. We weren’t ready! I think our failures was the lack of siestas as we would be exhausted by midnight and that is when nightlife starts. Our taxi driver joked as we ventured out midday that most people were napping and people in Spain don’t stress themselves out much. He continued: people work from 10 – 6 and then don’t work really all that hard during those hours.

Almost everyone in Barcelona speaks multiple languages and we got lazy with our Spanish. Hubby said that he remembered a little bit of Spanish, which actually meant none and we really struggled in Madrid where English wasn’t as popular. I had an unproductive argument with a server as she kept giving me the wrong menu item for lunch with my google translate Spanish and then charged me for every incorrect item that even sat on the table. That day for lunch I ended up with a bowl of garlic shrimp. Nothing else. Just garlic shrimp. Television has nothing in English except for late night American movies, so chilling in your hotel room is not an option.


Being honest, Jose Andres sets too high of an expectation. I thought that food would be in goo goo gobs abundance. Nope. Many of the bodegas (their word for quaint little restaurants) have small, similar menus so it can get repetitive. On the first night, we went to one restaurant in the center of Barcelona with gorgeous rooftop views and TGI Friday’s level food quality. As a result, Hubby swore off of paella forever. Like ever. Do you know how hard it is to eat in Spain if you don’t eat paella? I’ll admit after the debacle in Madrid with the lost in translation server, I ate Five Guys that night. I am ashamed.

We discover two cool things. First food tours. While pricey, they gave us an opportunity to discover food off the beaten path. You walk with a guide. Hear some history. Sample wine and native cuisine at a few stops (though two of them gave us the same dish). It’s all very relaxed and charming. Our other favorite thing became food halls. Spain loves a food hall and theirs are so elevated. Plus, you just sit and they bring the food from different stalls to you. Yay! Also, they provide entertainment. At La Platea in Madrid, we heard a jazz combo AND saw an aerialist. I highly recommend.

Oh and our hotel gave us this amazing anniversary gift of Cava and chocolate covered strawberries. Yum.


We did the traditional thing and saw a flamenco show. There are so many so we just went to the one recommended by the hotel. We tried clubbing, which is very popular in Barcelona, but we are old and tapped out by midnight just as everyone was arriving. I did get to ride in one of those pedicabs along the beach, nice. Madrid likes live music so we headed to two dive bars on different nights. Black American music is so extremely popular in Spain that you would think you’d see more Black people. In Barcelona a taxi driver spent our entire ride crooning to Al Green and Sam Cooke yet couldn’t speak a lick of English. In Madrid, we saw an R&B cover band who relied heavily on New Orleans-style jazz and Motown. I did spot a Colombian-American from Houston there who told me I was a bad bitch for obvious reasons. The other night we saw weird avant garde band that really reminded me of the band from Yes Man (if you have seen that movie).


To answer the question everyone poses- which city to you prefer? It depends. Barcelona is much prettier, hipper and easier to navigate with better shopping, Spanish food and wine. Madrid is more metropolitan, has better social activities (especially for more seasoned people), trendier bars, good international food, and happier, chatty people.

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The 2017 Recap Edition

I made it 2017. It was super busy, extremely expensive and quite the challenge. Here are my top 15 experiences. I wanted to be more clever and have 17 but couldn’t do it. I could go in chronological order but this year was a huge blur and I had to consult my planner to remember so much of it.

  1. Biggest accomplishment: I turned 40. 40 seems so old and sometimes my body reminds me that it is. My husband’s former mattress was awful on my back and that made me feel old. But otherwise, I still think of myself as 32 and nothing really shakes me of that until I meet other 32 year olds.
  2. I got engaged. When I was turning 30, my coworker sat me down for an honest discussion of how I was quickly becoming an old maid. Another lady in the office confessed that she married her husband at forty. I thought: “Oh no. Does that mean that I will get married at forty?” Yes, that is exactly what that reassurance meant. I would be getting married at forty. Being engaged is a huge time suck and so much of my life was devoted to site visits and vendor interviews.
  3. I had an adult birthday party! My now-husband insisted on throwing me a real birthday party when he realized that I had never had one, except when I was 1. Of course, I tried to control things and was successful with some (I picked the location and food) and not on others (budget). It was great and I am forever grateful.IMG_1327
  4. I went to a yoga retreat. People rave about retreats and I went solo to prepare for crazy year I had ahead. It was different. I think my reluctance to drive was too my detriment because it really is in the middle of nowhere. So I took the train and still had a 75 min ride to the retreat. I also realized that I like bohemian things but not bohemian people. I have this same issue with my love of geeky things but not geeks.IMG_1296 (1)
  5. I made a vow to see a show a month.
    • January – Liv Warfield, but it was really a concert of the three Prince backup singers. It was good but forgettable. Thanks planner!
    • February – Ledisi. It was yet another Nina Simone tribute concert, plus at the Kennedy Center. So she steered away from some of her sexier songs. It was lovely seeing how moved she was to be in that legendary space and with Patrice Rushen. However, I wouldn’t call it a traditional Ledisi show.
    • March – Hamilton! We got tickets by determination to see Hamilton on Broadway and it was simply amazing. It definitely lived up to the hype.
    • April – It was a twofer. The Revolution. Prince’s original band reunited to pay homage to the late singer. I now wish they would have reunited when he was alive. Leela James and Daley. I really loved Daley and that’s all I got.
    • May – Meshell N. I am too lazy to google the correct spelling of her last time. I am still mad at our Uber driver who got lost en route to the Kennedy Center and thus we had to stand. Takeaway: I was in love with her backup singer.
    • June – Gladys Knight. I am an alto and hated being an alto because everyone loves sopranos in choir. So basically I had the Alicia Keys disease, but usefully as a child. So to cure me of that, my mom made me listen to Gladys Knight. It worked. I also saw Big Daddy Kane, who was great but cannot headline a show simply because he doesn’t think he has enough material. He relies heavily on radio hits and hey, throw some album cuts in there. No one will die.
    • July- Isley Brothers. This was postponed to November. This is my husband’s favorite group, so he thinks this is the best thing that ever happened to him.
    • August – I didn’t plan anything because this is when the money started getting funny.
    • September – Dave Chappelle. I scrounged up some money to take my husband for our dating anniversary. Thankfully, it wasn’t wasted.
    • October – Solange. She was definitely on “getting my spirit right” time. I buried how much A Seat at the Table resonated with me during a particularly difficult time of being a Black woman in a dismissive White space. However, it all came rushing back in the best way.
    • November – Janet! She’s back and I still know the choreography
    • December – Chris Rock at the Barclays. It snowed and the Barclays is a bit of a cluster. So I was thrown off a lot by how dysfunctional everything was. But we did sit by Zoe Kravitz.
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  6. I went to South Africa.
  7. I wore great hats. My style for my regular traditions is getting better and better. I still wish that they would at least paint Pimlico in anticipation of Preakness. And we really had Diner en Blanc in the middle of Pennsylvania Ave which was a bit chaotic this year (shh!). Apparently, the organizing team isn’t into constructive criticism. Well, I had a great hat.
  8. I got my fitness back. I did successfully lose 15 pounds for the wedding. Yes, I’ll never be thin again. Yet, I can do jump squats and full scorpions. Plus tried trapeze, trap yoga, and pole fit classes.
  9. I made it into my birthday mate, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit. I wanted to surprise a friend with tickets via my DoD status. But I discovered that you had to go the day that you purchased the membership. Eh, I stay ready and made it in. kusama
  10. I had the perfect bridal shower. We went on a lovely, chauffeured winery tour with lunch and two tastings. It was all I wanted.IMG_7817
  11. My Treat Yo Self day was epic this year. We went to the new spa at the Watergate. It still has some hiccups but has amazing potential.
  12. I became a pseudo-supervisor. This is harder than it looks on paper.
  13. NMAAHC. I became an Ambassador in fall of 2016 and who knew it would be the hottest place in town. Getting tickets to visit and attend events became the most competitive thing I have done in years. It was worth it though. We have a museum – for us, by us.
  14. My brain continued to rot but man, was tv awesome this year – Underground (RIP), Queen Sugar, Insecure, Master of None.
  15. I got married. It was a lot and I still have to write reviews of my vendors. Planning this wedding was one of the hardest things I have ever done for a myriad of reasons. I had some awesome vendors and great help. Some of my vision wasn’t realized but there were some eye-watering moments that I will cherish for a lifetime. And my family came to visit and some of them (ahem: granddaddy) never go anywhere. Plus, my cousins surprised me by driving 14 hours to come.Married

Now, this year wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I was in the world’s grumpiest golf league and despite the fact that the course in seven minutes from my house, I have my handicap goals to consider and cannot go back.

The season for some of my relationships are surely over. There is mourning period when you figure out that certain people won’t continue our journeys together. But it happens and you have to transition.

The Honeymoon Edition

Happy 5th Birthday blog!

So I wanted our honeymoon to be long. Since my husband (so weird to say) has a job that doesn’t like him gone and is stingy with leave, we only have 4 – 5 day vacations. I got my new passport in 2014 and it has one lonely stamp. I researched multi-day tours online and he was leaning toward a multi-day cruise of the Mediterranean (I am oddly averse to cruises, which is a story for another day). However my bucket list item is to go on safari. I won! But booking this tour turned out harder than I expected. First we were gifted a flight which meant to have to guess dates while we secured a tour. Unfortunately, no one was leaving within three days of our wedding. After two months of false starts, dropped travel agents and crazy quotes, we finally found a tour package. That was harder than finding a wedding venue, lol.


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Day 1

I am plum exhausted but we are pumped for our long journey to Africa. So I didn’t book the flight and do like long layovers in Atlanta, since Delta is always late and I have missed connections before. But boy did I not expect an eight hour layover. But we are platinum baby. We now have access to the premium lounges. After some research we started at the B Concourse lounge and where has then been all my life? I really needed this when I was a professional traveler. I’ve only been to one okay airport lounge but this one had heavy hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beer and wine, and a spacious layout. Everyone in the lounge was so chatty (could be the complimentary beer and wine) and the bartender kept giving me premium wine pours. We then ventured to the international terminal lounges which was debated as better than B. Umm, it was not. But it does have an outdoor patio and showers. But it lacked the fancy bar and comradery of B. Then we finally boarded our 16-hour flight in common class. Sadly our seatmate was stinky and no one likes stinky. I spent the entire flight watching snatches of terrible movies provided by the airlines as I dozed off frequently. Weddings are exhausting! I somehow managed to watch all of Baywatch though which was an awful life decision. Instead of starting a new movie when a movie ended. I should have just kept watching the same one until I finally saw the entire thing. Poor Moana.

Day 2

We made it to Johannesburg. We were on our own as the tour didn’t officially start until the morning. We stayed in Sandton, which honestly was the only neighborhood the various travel agents would recommend. I just took this as gospel since Johannesburg has notorious crime statistics. Arriving at the airport, there was a huge Tambo statue (namesake of the airport) and people kept posing for pictures with it. People joked that it would fall over. Turns out it was only a week old. My first lesson and this proved true throughout the honeymoon is that South African concierges are crap. When we asked for dinner recommendations, we were told to go to KFC. Yes because we spent 24 hours traveling to eat middle of the road fast food chicken. BTW, South Africans love KFC. I don’t know what they would do if they experienced Popeye’s. We just went across the street to the massive Mandela Square mall. It’s three levels and each level reflects the price of the items of the store, i.e. level one is at Forever21 prices and level 3 is Louis Vuitton. We ended up in the Da Vinci hotel and ordered a seemingly simple seafood platter and appetizers. This year we discovered the majesty of seafood towers and this was just a flat version with twice as much food for a lower cost. We didn’t need appetizers. We worked so hard to finish our platter without success. And we stupidly ordered side dishes and the platter came with side dishes. SMH. Finally we discovered that we could order bottles of wine for less than $20 which quickly became problematic. Then off to bed.

Day 3

My husband hates hotel breakfast buffets but this one looked more like Golden Corral then Days Inn. Our tour guide was 40 minutes late and we (well me) were in full panic mode after 30 minutes. We had no contact information and our hotel staff wasn’t much help. Note to self: always call the tour company 2-3 days out to obtain contact info. He finally arrived and to his surprise, we are Black! Honestly, the tour company thought we were White Americans and it became obvious as the tour progressed. Our tour guide is an Afrikaner and couldn’t properly hide his shock. As a result of this confusion, we were given a neutered tour filled with colonist viewpoints of how great it was that the  Europeans “found” this place. Our first stop was the Lilliesleaf Memorial, which is the farm where Nelson Mandela was hiding when he was arrested. It gave a nice, tidy history of the ANC but not enough information on the oppression that they were fighting against. We were off to Soweto with comments about “these people” for lunch in the township which was fine mostly because of the most delicious creamed spinach. Then a PC, non-threatening history of the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a child who was shot by the police when students were protesting the requirement to speak Afrikaan in school. Finally, a trip to the Mandela House, where I realized that the state of Michigan requested a formal apology from the CIA for ratting out Mandela to the South African government. After more terrible restaurant recommendations (I should have done more research prior to the trip), we headed back to Mandela Square to an entire section of restaurants that we overlooked the day before. We ate at Trumps, no relation, and ate full blown steakhouse dinner for two for the cost of one entrée in the U.S. Plus free dessert which my husband turned down and ended up being a luscious milkshake with caramel drizzle. He then tried to sip mine. Nope. Sadly at dinner the klutz came out and I spilled a glass of red wine. Then this entitled Afrikaner at the table next to us screamed at the poor waitstaff forever. I was then reminded that we were in a place where total repression “ended” just 25 years ago. On the bright side, we discovered Amarula.

Day 4

Unfortunately the belief that we were white caused us to be a lengthy tour of an Afrikaan history where I quickly lost interest after about 10 minutes. I feigned interest while excitedly realizing that there were zebras and some kind of antelope (I really started to confuse all the antelope by the honeymoon’s end) on the grounds. The tour guide remarked that after apartheid ended most people don’t care about Afrikaan history. Yep. We then visited Pretoria, which is one of the three capitals and where the President lives. It kinda resembles Baltimore (random). Trivia: America has the largest embassy. We also saw the capitol grounds which has giant statue of Mandela. The tour hits Mandela hard, not that he doesn’t deserve it, but also I think for the underlying reason that he is more forgiving and kind than others. I think his generous spirit gives some absolution without the work. Our guide mentioned that growing up in the countryside, he never knew that Apartheid was so bad. Umm, okay. We then visited a diamond mine and on the way stopped for lunch for another random food that South Africans love: pancakes. Honestly, they are more like crepes than American style pancakes as they are filled and rolled. I was not impressed. Mainly because I hate crepes. The area surrounding the diamond mine seems unstable and I can’t see it being there in the next 30 years. We saw replicas of famous diamonds. The world’s largest diamond ever was found there, though most of their current diamonds are industrial. For dinner, we ventured to a new neighborhood: Melrose Arch, which resembles Reston Town Center. We ate at Moyo, a chain, but an African chain, so new to us. There were performers, face painting and fun dishes. Plus the guy painted my husband’s face whether he liked it or not.

Day 5

Off to the Pilanesburg Game Reserve, no Kruger for us as that was just too far. And yes, we received an unsolicited comment that Kruger is better. I was literally shaking with excitement as I wanted to go on Safari since I was a child. Safaris are at dusk and dawn. So our first one was at dusk. Our first spotting was a rhino. I have to learn the difference between a white and black rhino, which isn’t easy to do at dusk. Then plenty of Springbok and some other antelope that I would need to google (as Springbok is technically an antelope too). In the far distance, we saw a family of giraffes. If only we could drive closer. I couldn’t stop smiling. We next saw the largest elephant in the park, which didn’t look that big from the vehicle, but again we were already sitting high up. Then we started chasing cats. Our driver was obsessing with seeing all the cats and we zoomed various places when someone in another vehicle reported a spotting. It all got very breakneck. Someone reported a cheetah crossed the road quite far from where we were. We zoomed over to the area to see the cheetahs were gone. But I spotted one lounging under a tree and I said something but we already zoomed off because there was a lion spotting. My poor hubby didn’t get to see the pretty cheetah. Lions are the best because they like laying around in groups and don’t run as much as the other cats. We then saw the perfect picture of a hippo (which I was told were hard to spot) as it popped out of the water to give a yawn. Then someone spotted a leopard. And we zoomed over there only to be out of luck. So no leopards for us. At the equivalent of a rest stop, I saw another Black person! She was a German flight attendant of Ghanian descent and dating a U.S. Airman from Chicago. We actually discussed Homegoing, which I read on the ride over and I had so many questions about Asante. We get snacks and beers at the rest stop (samosas). And after seeing more rhinos, some gazelles and hyenas in the distance, we headed back to the lodge for a late dinner.

Day 6

Up at dawn for our next game drive. I have never made it successfully to anything before 6a if I slept the night before so I did not. 2nd game drive. En route, we saw two kinds of antelopes. Item of note: I really should have purchased the guide book with the names of all the animals. Today’s driver knew actual animal facts. This is a plus for those who care for more information (there were a lot of kids in our vehicle) but a minus you are ready to move on. For example, we spotted and watched a pair of mating lions for 20 minutes and we would stop to look at birds (sure). We saw a singular giraffe up close! Rare because giraffes are rarely alone and I hoped its buddies would mosey by but no. Zebras (pronounced like Debra by locals). Warthogs. When I was a young warthog… A jackal, so cute. It was following the lion pair hoping to get scraps of food. Baby hippos fighting. Luckily no crocodiles, though we sat waiting at their hangout. Those things scare me. Unfortunately, no cheetahs or leopards. So the leopards was a no for me totally and both no for my hubby. After a long nap, we headed to Sun City to try our luck at the casino. There my hubby had mutant oysters (his favorite food) and some great sushi, though the restaurant was empty. I promptly lost and my hubby broke even. As we waited for the shuttle which somehow left us, out walks a huge baboon. He just strolls by like it wasn’t a big deal. It was the makings of a great picture but I was too frightened as he was so close. I took a nice bath. And I got sick. So sick. I made it a long time with my sensitive stomach. I was taken under by something from dinner. So bad. But my hubby held my hair.

Day 7

As we headed to the airport we were greeted by an army of baboons. Man was the flight smooth. Without all the American rules, you can get to your gate in 20 minutes. I forgot life without taking off shoes and confusing lines. Though it was weird that everyone boards at the same time regardless of seat assignment. We successfully made it to Cape Town and I felt better. All the angry food was gone. Our driver is Malay (categorized as Colored by South Africa) and a descendant of Muslim slaves. He told us that all anyone cares about now is money and not race but that was quickly disproved. As we entered our hotel, we encountered glares and rudeness from other White guests. Cape Town is so lovely. Not a first impression of Johannesburg which is a regular work a day city. And everyone kept stressing how safe it is. Of course this is attributed to not being run by the ANC. I realized that a lot of Whites are stressed by the death of the kind Mandela and are really worried about their minority status as being only 10% of the population. For the afternoon, we walked along the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Then for dinner headed to the way too hip Long Street at the recommendation of our terrible concierge. We were about twice as old as everyone there (the legal drinking age is 18) and the drinks were cheap and awful. I felt every ounce of my age and asked a cab driver for a good dinner recommendation. We went to the truly authentic Marco’s African with drumming, xylophones and even some splits. It was awesome.

Day 8

We are up early to hit Table Mountain and I didn’t want my hubby to see the cable car first as he is terrified of heights. I thought I could trick him. I could not. Ever since a disastrous trek up the mountains of Kyrgyzstan where I honestly thought I would die, I am petrified of driving up mountains. My sheer terror of the drive in combination with the long line and my hubby’s refusal, I decided that the Table Mountain cable car was an experience I wouldn’t have. We drove over to Signal Hill to overlook the city. We completed a not super exciting city orientation tour. This is how I discovered that South Africans are way too enamored with basic squirrels because only one park in the city has them. You can buy nuts to feed them and people were constantly photographing them. And these people have baboons. So odd. That afternoon, we took a boat ride to Robben Island to see the former leper colony turned prison. There are multiple boats to the island. We were on a fast boat over and the world’s slowest boat on the way back (I think floating kelp beat us to shore). The island is a true journey and one where White South Africans cannot gloss over their dismal treatment of the native people. Political prisoners of African descent received less food, sterilization, a simple t-shirt and shorts to wear in all weather conditions, floor mats for sleeping and only three days of hot water a week. Nelson Mandela spent 18 years there and finally got an actual cot after 15 years. They had to do hard labor and no one was allowed to talk even though you live and work so closely. Our island tour guide was a former political prisoner who entered the prison at age 17. He said that giving tours was cathartic for him and allowed him to release the anger from his imprisonment. It was beyond moving. After that we attended the Oyster and Wine Festival on the Waterfront. I was really happy to see bands playing African music after seeing so many rock cover bands along the waterfront earlier.

Day 9

Up and at it to tour an island to see a seal colony, which stank to high heaven. We then drove down the coast, which resembles Cali but prettier to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. It is the southwestern tip of Africa, not the tip–which is highly stressed—where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. We were at the end of the world, at least one tip. We saw wild ostriches, it never dawned on me that there could be wild ostriches, and more antelope. Yea, I suck at the antelope. Then excitedly we darted over to see the African penguins which arrived in 1982. I love penguins and they are so cute. No baby penguins though. We ate a basic lunch in Simon Town. And the truly hectic pace of wedding planning and this non-stop tour weighed on me heavily. I hit a true wall. We forged ahead to the Botanical Gardens. Everything in my soul wanted to get on the tram, but elderly people trudged up the hills and slopes like it was nothing and I powered through. I just wanted to lay in the bed after our full day but Rider forced me out to dinner at this swanky African sushi fusion restaurant on the Waterfront. It was my first encounter with bland food and I barely touched it. I was so tired and we had the most inattentive waiter, which left me unenthusiastic. I should have sought a better food option but was too tired for research. Back to the room for terrible tv.

Day 10

Okay, my barely eating of dinner turned out to be a bonus. My hubby was so sick. Even sicker than I was at the lodge. Today was to be our whale watching and Stellenbosch wine country visit but that wasn’t happening. I took the opportunity to sleep while hubby ran back and forth to the bathroom. I ordered room service and finished my book. Though I was so enthused about the visit to wine country as I love wine, it wasn’t meant to be. Neither was my plans for a big departure dinner celebration.

Day 11

So hubby is still not 100%. So the final day was to be devoted to a relaxed day of shopping and sightseeing. We did none of this and just headed to the airport that afternoon to begin our long journey back to the States. All the rest I got was a curse because I was up and alert for the entire 16 hour flight back. It was so painful. So I actually watched the movies all the way through and so many are just not good. I see why the movies are struggling. I only liked Spider-man: Homecoming.  I know one thing, I am never doing this again. I can only fly this long in better seating. I thought my cattle car experience from Hawaii was bad but this was torture.

Day 12

To be ever so humble, home! And we crashed. We slept for 14 hours. True story.


  1. The public bathrooms are so miraculously clean. Even the messiest one I saw at the National Park was on par with neat ones in America. Me likey.
  2. Whew, South Africa is high up and I had trouble breathing. It’s higher up than Denver.
  3. White affluent folks all nationalities didn’t know what to make of us, staying in the same restaurants and eating in the same restaurants. I almost had to push a woman because she wouldn’t leave the check-in counter and she naturally assumed I would wait for her to move when she was ready.
  4. They love ice cream, milkshakes and American sweets. So much red velvet cake.

The 40 Edition


So I saw this ridiculous article ( about a month before my big milestone. I love first person stories in Vogue because they consist 80% of privileged Western White women telling tales about surviving deceased parents, ennui or professional struggles while summering on the Cape, riding in private jets or languishing in prep school. And the other 20% are personal testimonials of a now-famous person with melanin who overcame hardships in a war-torn country. There is no middle. This list is the former and pure nothingness. I mean it praises Lena Dunham for forcing her nakedness on us and talks about hanging out at Johnny Depp’s pool. I haven’t even been to a real pool party. Should I relate to any of this fluff despite the fact we are both 77 babies? However, can I make my own list? I am 40. I am a writer. I have been through some real stuff (not a war though). I can do it! Here goes:

40 Things I Learned Before Age 40

  1. Sum up your surroundings quickly. I was in first grade when I realized that my mom wasn’t like other moms. It was important to notice this quickly or I could have made myself crazy.
  2. Watch PBS. It made a childhood without cable a grandlearning experience.
  3. Set the goals and create steps to get it. In 9th grade, my English teacher gave my class a scholarship application with all the requirements. I kept it and pretty much fulfilled all of them. As a result, I received three scholarship offers by graduation.
  4. Got to speak to get your blessings. As a communicator, I meet every part of an organization. I cannot tell you how many times I have hooked up people with complementary needs and talents. But you have to tell me what you need first.
  5. Don’t complain. Nothing ever comes from it but pity. Do you want pity?
  6. Packing compactly is critical. My grandfather once told me that it was the important life lesson he would teach me. Team one carry-on!
  7. There are two ways to do things: Cheap and difficult or Easy and expensive. Choose wisely.
  8. Spring for a check once in a while. You won’t be homeless. Raised broke, made me Queen Divide Everything Evenly. It wasn’t always pretty.
  9. Sometimes you have to decide between time and money. I gave up a lot in my 20’s because I chose free time over earning extra money. But no money meant not doing everything I want.
  10. Learn to change a tire, change oil, replace a tail light, and jump a battery.
  11. Mean Girls is a movie not a life style. You really don’t need frenemies, no matter how many tv shows tell you otherwise.
  12. Follow the Five Vogue Rules of Attractiveness – Get a cool hairdo, Keep your eyebrows arched, Dress Well, Take good care of your teeth and skin, Smile often. It convinces people you are attractive.
  13. Stay away from unsolicited commentary. This one is controversial because people think it impends on their right to free speech. However, people already know if their car is dirty and announcing it won’t make it miraculously clean. And telling someone that you hate mushrooms while she is actively consuming mushrooms isn’t a conversation starter.
  14. Kiss the frogs. I could write a book on all my really, really horrible dates but past 30, you have to keep trying no matter what. Unfortunately the perfect mate isn’t going to knock on your door watching you are watching Netflix.
  15. Leave the house. I never fondly remember the time I watched a Lifetime movie on a Saturday night but I do remember the time I missed Stevie’s surprise appearance at Wonder-Full.
  16. Go out alone. One of the best New Year’s Eves I ever had was when my buddies abandoned me on a snowy New Year’s Eve and I went out by myself. I ended up at this amazing private party with free food, drinks and entertainment.
  17. Always choose the concert. Our legends are leaving us and there are so many I never saw live. See your faves at least once.
  18. Cherish those who answer the phone at 3a. I value those who go above and beyond and not everyone does. People tend to favor those with compliments and kind words over those who will drive you to the airport at 3a. That’s bad.
  19. Buy presents to match personalities. I once got family members different styles of purses based on individual likes and everyone talked about it for months.
  20. Have core values and know when they are violated.
  21. Be very careful of Darth Susans.
  22. There’s a moment when someone smiles at you because you compromised yourself too much and they won. Know that smile.
  23. Anticipate behavior. My family always popped by the house unannounced. I learned to be dressed and ready just in case and my mom scrambled EVERY SINGLE TIME.
  24. Move on. I move on quickly. Do I think people are irredeemably toxic? No. Do I think relationships can be? Yes.
  25. Reach out. My best and most uplifting relationship came from reaching out to a family member at the urging of my therapist.
  26. Climb the mountain. I never say I hate something unless I experienced it first. I climbed a mountain overseas and I discovered that I hate mountain climbing. But I know that for sure.
  27. Let others do something for you. My parents are quite self-centered and I constantly reject when person try to do something nice for me. This took years to get over.
  28. Things are better when I do them but okay is good too. Not everything has to be done to my specifications. Except folding towels and sweaters, there is only one way.
  29. Don’t make extra work for yourself. If your boss never reads proposals, why write them? If your chain of command constantly rewrites copy, then don’t agonize over your first draft.
  30. Conduct effective meetings. People don’t have to attend but if you need them to attend, be a good steward of their time.
  31. Wear solid underpinnings. A perfectly fitted bra works wonders. It makes you look great every time.
  32. Teeth are the key to attractiveness.
  33. Be kinder than you have to be.
  34. Always listen to the music before going to a concert. I might have been caught off guard once but never twice.
  35. Read often and always read the book before going to a book club meeting. Even 30 pages can save you from embarrassment like the author being a specially invited guest and asking pointed questions about her book.
  36. Pick a theme song a la Ally McBeal. Mine is Cleva.
  37. Know yourself, stars and warts. It informs your interactions. It’s amazing how critical people are without any self-introspection.
  38. Supervisor doesn’t always mean superior.
  39. I am the universe. I am a super organized J (on Myers Briggs). Often disorganized people say the universe will provide. The universe is me. I have band-aids at my desk. I carry toilet paper in my purse. I register online way in advance.
  40. Dance on the bar. Life can be short or long (per Chris Rock). Being a lifetime member of Ms. Pragmatic’s Sensible Guide to Practical Living may give you tangible items (money, a nice house, feet that don’t ache) but devoting yourself to a little silliness will make life short and fun.

The 2015 Recap Edition


This is my 2015 recap. I wouldn’t say that 2015 was a banner year. But I don’t have those. I think not having many major life milestones is a contributing factor. No wedding, engagement, babies or new businesses. So it was just like any other year. Two items of note:

  1. I barely blogged this year. I ended up in a very toxic, soul sucking work environment and all I want to do when I get home is collapse on the couch and work on lump status. Ironically, my last project at my previous job was conducting employee focus groups. I was so amazed at how miserable employees were. People would be near tears when we asked the simple question of “how do you get along with your boss?” Now I get it. Bad workplaces sap every ounce of energy you have.
  2. Being miserable at work caused me to reevaluate my life. I became very Shalina-focused. I decided to not spend much energy chasing behind other people. I realized that I put forth much of the effort in many of my relationships and that ceased. I didn’t call first, extend many invites or deal with much selfishness. I just didn’t have the energy. This also affected my Top Ten Life. Not as many outings to discuss.

So without much further ado, here are my Top 15 moments of 2015. This is no particular order as I am trying to be more freewheeling and doesn’t include events already discussed on the site.

  1. I was so artsy. – Crafts are a good release. I made Kente cloth, painted pottery, created jewelry, adult colored.
  2. I binge watched. – I am not a tv person despite being raised by an absolute tvaholic. I like leaving the house (hence this blog). However, as mentioned by the two items of note, I didn’t cajole people to hang out and didn’t want to be bothered, so thank you to: Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, Broad City, Master of None, etc. for keeping me occupied. I saw some good ones and bad ones – I won’t mention Younger. So much shame.
  3. I did lots of road trips (on my Vision Board).- New York, three times! I went to Harlem (visited many places that I later saw reality shows either good or bad) and Brooklyn. I went to Hampton’s Homecoming for the first time in 10 plus years. I am now a big fan of all the suite parties! I went to Michigan twice. To quote Murtaugh, “I am getting too old for this.” That trip is getting harder and harder to do. I went to a Delmarva beach for the first time for an extended time (4 days, not a day trip) in the 20 years I have been here. While Dewey is nice, turns out honey doesn’t like sitting in the hot sun because he works outside all day.
  4. Afro Punk.- Grace Jones topless hula hooping. Lenny Kravitz jumping into the crowd. Enough said.
  5. D’Angelo returned to form. – However, he had the ridiculous idea that his 35+ year old fan base should attend a four plus hour standing show on a work day. Unfortunately, we needed to leave early as my honey’s feet were killing him one hour into his performance (four hours into the night). Apparently he performed for two hours. Standing shows need rules! Thou shall not have opening acts. Thou shall start promptly after doors open. Thou shall only book acts whose audience is 25 years old.
  6. Prince bestowed us with his presence. – Prince came to Baltimore and all was right. Actually not really because of the reason he was there after “riots” resulting from Freddie Gray’s death. I could talk about that issue for hours but will move on. So many funny things happened at the show just in the audience! One thing, Royal Farms Arena needs screens. I never knew who any of the “special guests” were and had to rely on sneak looks at my phone (phones were banned which caused some of the audience hilarity).
  7. I was considerate. – I did stuff that I really didn’t want to because I am a good person. I gave up Trevor Noah tickets (taping his Comedy Central special!) to go to my honey’s club event. I wanted to go to a wine festival but instead went to the movies with friends. There should be prizes given out for this behavior.
  8. Carefree outings. – I joined meetups. They are such an easy way to hang out. You don’t have to call people. You don’t have to endure being stood up. If you don’t have plans, you pick a pre-arranged event and show up! Honey thinks things are weird, but I came to love them. I golfed regularly. I zip lined. I sang karaoke. I grooved at Motown the Musical. Easy peasy.
  9. Childhood dream. – I hate to admit this but I’ve never seen a full New Edition show. As equally as Jill was moody, New Edition was fun. Damn they can still dance except Johnny who is turning into Eddie LeVert. Yay guys! I saw BBD on Valentine’s Day and they can work their 6 songs hard! Then I saw the full shebang at the Holiday Jam. So happy for me.
  10. Food and libations. You know what is fun? The Bourbon and Brew Classic! Bourbon tastings combined with horse racing. What a great idea. I ate the most divine Lobster Rolls (I wrote it down) at the Baltimore Seafood Festival. I drank so much wine at the Vintage Virginia Festival while dancing to Trouble Funk. I went to a violently okay wine festival at the Navy Yard though so they aren’t all silver and gold. I like these things a little too much.
  11. So fancy. – I was invited to not one but two tea parties. I am very elegant and this is the reason why.
  12. I got some cool deals this year. – Enjoyed the Black and Brown Comedy Get Down based on a random discount code. Took honey to a cool brunch. Found an okay hotel in Brooklyn. I still want my playlist, dammit! Vegas was a great hotel special.
  13. Celebrated Detroit. – Went to D.C. Loves Dilla for the first time with special appearance by Common who did one song though Dilla produced entire albums. But I digress. Though it’s weird seeing only two people in Slum Village. I was reminded of my dark dusty days at St. Andrews in the late 90’s. Remember this, rap battles are terrible. No, they weren’t good. They are terrible.
  14. One down, two to go. – So I finally went to Preakness. I just have Belmont and the Kentucky Derby to go. Plus, I need to start on the rest of my sports bucket list: U.S. Open, the Masters, and the World Series. The sky’s the limit. Hopefully, they will have less drunk people. Preakness has so many drunk people. But I had a great hat. That’s what is most important.
  15. Diner en Blanc. Last and my favorite. I worked hard on this. After seeing that the waiting list was in the five digits I decided to be creative. While I may not be the most social being (which is the key to getting invited) but I’m Cleva (shout out to Erykah). I created a fabulous infographic as to why I should be invited and voila, I was in. On paper it seems ludicrous but in practice, awesome.Honey was dubious. My friend bailed. But what a fun time for a tremendous amount of work. Plus as a treat, honey booked a room at the Marriott Marquis which isn’t as luxurious as it could be though it has the spa water with fruit in the lobby.