Uncategorized

Priorities, priorities – #OACFuel4Fire

51249527-884D-46D5-A503-FFDC3BECAA80If you’ve read the blog over the last few weeks, you’ll see that I’ve decided to put out my writing. To get your thoughts about it, but also to challenge myself a lot.

Why? My life has changed completely since I first started writing years ago. I got married and had two girls. Those are the biggest changes that happened in my life.

When I got married, I had the time and energy to continue writing. Once I had my children, my focus changed.

Of course, there will be people who say I should have focused on my writing for me(!), but children–especially when they are young–take up a lot of your time and your energy. It’s not that you don’t want to move forward with your dreams and goals, you sometimes just don’t have it in you.

My oldest is now five years old and the baby is a year and a half. And I finally feel like I can carve out a little time for myself. Not every day, mind you, but sometimes.

Today, I was able to carve out time for some professional development and attend the Ontario Arts Council‘s Fuel For Fire: Professional Development for Writers of Colour event at the Toronto Reference Library. And you know what? I am so happy that I found the time and the energy to roll my carcass out of my bed at 6:30 am and head downtown to this conference.

There were sessions on writing and editing, publishing, grants, and networking. There were people who are published authors, emerging writers, poets, screenwriters in attendance–a cornucopia of thoughts, ideas, and information. Lots of information.

I am tired, overwhelmed, and excited that there is a community of creative writers of colour, racialized people who have experienced some of the same experiences I have. Some who have broken through barriers and glass ceilings, and some who continue struggle to have their writing accepted for what it is.

It was pretty damned cool.

A couple of things stayed with me, but one thing truly resonated with me. Jael Richardson who is a published author and the artistic director of the Festival of Literary Diversity spoke of finding balance as a parent, a writer, someone with a full-time job and how that balance will look different depending on what season of life you’re in.

Last year was a really tough one for me. My dad was sick and he passed away in June 2016, I had a young baby and a preschooler on my hands, we moved into a new house, I was going back to work at a corporate job that I still wonder is the right fit, but above all, my focus was on my family. I had absolutely no inclination to write a word or to think about publishing something. And I’ve beat myself up about that.

Why didn’t I keep up with my writing? Why didn’t I keep going? Why didn’t I continue to follow my dreams?

When did I become that woman? Who is running to soccer practice, doing crafts, and planning kids’ parties–although I enjoy the party and event planning…and crafts. I love crafts!

Seriously, I felt guilty. But the guilt I felt was unnecessary, but I had to re-focus during a really stressful, busy period of my life and there can’t be any shame in that. The shame would have been to ignore my father in the last months of his life because I had to write or to not spend time with my children because I had to write.

I’m re-balancing my life and writing can now take up a larger part of my life. And I can get back to it.

Tonight, I was going to break open my new set of essential oils to deal with the scalp issues that I’ve been fighting since birth, and regale you with a tale about my latest scalp concoction, but children need to be put to bed.

So, that will just have to wait until tomorrow.

Priorities, priorities.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Happy Shopkins birthday!

Happy Monday and happy first day of spring, y’all!

So, chapter 2 was supposed to be posted last week, but, yeah. There was something a bit more important that I was doing: preparing for the firstborn’s 5th birthday party! Yes, this is mom life. LOL! This kid has had a birthday party every year of her life and I am tired. I decided that this will be her last big party until she turns 10.

Well, if it’s going to be the last party for a couple of years, we might as well go all out. Right?

The Kid is all about Shopkins. Now, I have no idea what these Shopkins do or what their purpose is, but the child adores them. When she said she wanted a Shopkins party, I said, “why not?”

I don’t have a money tree in the backyard, so I had to be aware of my budget. That being said, I am never having another major birthday party in my own house (because that is MADNESS), so I had to find a space that could hold all of our friends and family and still be reasonable. Our town rents out pavilions and heritage buildings for use. There is one just a couple of blocks away from our house and I was able to snag it—a couple of weeks after The Kid’s birthday—but whatever, that gave me extra time to plan and prepare.

Partying like a rockstar…on a budget

Like I said before, there is no money tree in my backyard. I am convinced, however, big children’s birthday parties are costly. Yes, yes, there are parents who manage to do everything for $50, but for the last five years, I’ve done parties on a budget and the least I’ve spent is $300. Whether it’s at home or at a play place, it’s expensive. Why? The Kid is born in the winter. Late winter, but she’s born in the winter, so there are no fun outdoor parties at the park or just a backyard barbecue with kids running amok.

Anyhow, there are ways to cut costs and still have fun.

How, do you ask? Pinterest! Pinterest is my best friend for ideas. I logged in and typed ‘Shopkins party’ into the search bar. Goodness! The number of ideas that popped up. What I loved was the Poppy Corn popcorn boxes.

20170319_142911
Yeah, The Kid and I made them. Aren’t they cute?

This was easy-peasy. I had the faces printed and bought the popcorn boxes from Dollarama – $1.25 for eight boxes. Cut them and glued them and we were good to go. I was going to just buy microwave popcorn from the grocery store, but, c’mon. In a room full of hungry, crazy kids, who was going to have time to pop and monitor the microwave so we didn’t end up with burnt popcorn? I just sent Hubby to Kernels to buy a large bag of butter salt popcorn and a large bag of caramel popcorn. And guess what? Buy two, get one free!

I’ve seen a lot of people with these huge Polaroid photo frames and I thought it would be a great idea. I checked out the prices and, honestly, for a customized photo frame, it was too expensive. I mean, we were only going to use it for the party and because it was customized, I couldn’t use it for The Baby’s birthday party in a few months. So, why spend the money? Why not make it? I headed back to Dollarama to get two foam core boards ($1 per piece) and taped them together. I used a box cutter and cut out a rectangle. I reinforced the joints on either side and it was ready to be decorated.

Before I get to that…I also wanted a backdrop for my Polaroid photo booth. Again, too expensive for one-time use. I decided to make one—back to the dollar store. I bought six bristol boards ($3 total) in green, pink, and yellow, as well as glue, hole puncher and string and got to work to create…TA DA!

20170319_144652
Like my tutu? Amazon Prime, y’all! I’ve worn it to a wedding, a ball, and now my five year old’s birthday party! I’m all about being able to wear my clothes everywhere. LOL!!

Fun, huh?

Word to the wise, don’t buy your hole puncher from Dollarama. They are cheap and bust up your hands. The Kid decided she wanted to help punch holes in our dots and the dang hole puncher lasted about five minutes. Spend the extra $1.75 and get a proper hole puncher—especially if you plan to do more crafts. Between cutting out dots, punching holes, and stringing everything together, it took about two hours to make. We glued nine strings of dots to the leftover foam core from our Polaroid photo frame and made our photo booth backdrop.

I got Shopkins props ($2.79), general ones like glasses, ties, moustaches ($10.99), and a wack of other decorations from Amazon using Amazon Prime and next day delivery. The great things about the photo booth props, they are great for playtime with friends after the party.

I LOVE Amazon Prime. With all my heart.

20170319_144818edited
Isn’t the poster adorable? The Kid is too 🙂 Thanks Artful Monkeys on Etsy! You guys were great. 

Lastly, I wanted to something special for The Kid. So, I was perusing Etsy. Now, I peruse Etsy A LOT, but I don’t necessarily buy anything. Not because the stuff isn’t lovely, but because I just never have. My sister and I were looking through it and I saw a personalized Shopkins-themed birthday poster by Artful Monkeys. How adorable is that? I ordered the PDF and received it in about three hours. The Hubby printed it at The Printing House and The Kid loved it.

Next time, I will show you how I actually made some of these things, instead of just showing how FABULOUS the finished product looks!

All in all, a great day was had by all and now The Accidental Natural Mama is tired and my back is aching, but it was all worth it. This party was our gift to our crazy, hyperactive, lovable wannabe teenager who is only five. And guess what? I have to do her head full of kinky, curly, thick hair tonight.

Lord help me.

So, that is the long story of why chapter two is still waiting to be posted.

Sometimes, a kid’s birthday party comes first 🙂

Uncategorized

Chapter 1

I hope that you enjoyed the Prologue — if you haven’t read it, you can find it here. Anyhow, we continue with Chapter 1! Grab a beverage, put on some music, and have a read.

So, my best friend Erica and her man?…boyfriend?…manfriend? decided to visit me. They were thinking of moving here to find great jobs, make loads of money and take advantage of all of what Toronto had to offer.

This was the first time I was meeting him, Raphael. And I didn’t like his black ass from the moment I laid eyes on him. Maybe it was the way he looked me from the top of my head to the sole of my feet or how he looked around my place and said, “why do you need such a big place? Is only you, right?” Or maybe it was all the stories that I had heard from the girls back home.

Oh, yes, it was when he grabbed Erica’s wrist when she went to reapply her lipstick and hissed, “I thought I told you not to wear makeup?”

What? Oh no, he just didn’t grab her! I put my hands on my hips waiting for my girl to give him a good tongue lashing. Erica didn’t take any crap from anyone – especially dudes who thought that it was ok to put his hands on people.

But there was a strange silence. A pregnant pause.

She looked at me and said, “What do you think, Nia? Should I wear it or not?”

Huh? This girl must have lost her so-and-so mind. I leaned against the wall, watching Raphael shooting Erica looks of pure evil.

“It’s your face, do with it what you want,” I answered. Raphael turned his gaze on me.

“Baby—” his voice hard like stone “—you know that I don’t like when you wear makeup.”

She looked at him. She looked at me. Then she giggled, “I don’t feel like wearing it anyway,” and put the tube back in her little black purse.

I was in shock.

What just happened — was it some kind of mind control? Erica is the type of woman who’d cast herself from a building if MAC ever went out of business. I hadn’t seen her in about a year, but dang, this was definitely a change.

After about 15 more minutes of me holding my tongue, Raphael got up to leave. He was spending the weekend with his cousin in the city’s north end because if he thought he was bunking down at my place–although I had the room, he had another thing coming. As soon as he left, Erica slumped down on my couch with a look of relief written across her face. Barkleigh jumped up on her and snuggled in her lap.

“What was that about?” I said sitting beside her. “He doesn’t like you wearing makeup?”

“Oh girl, you know how men get sometime.”

“Umm no, I don’t. How does he get?” All the men that I’ve ever dated — although they were never saints — didn’t treat me like a small child.

“It was a long drive from Montreal. He’s tired. It’s nothing major.” She grabbed the TV remote control and turned it on. “Want to watch something on Netflix?” she asked.

“Really? Erica, he grabbed you–”

She cut me off with a look. “Nia, you are taking this well out of proportion.” Her voice turned corporate – like the HR-professional she was. “He’s a good man. He is a software engineer. He mentioned maybe getting married next year.”

“So? That gives him the right to control you?” I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know their backstory. Erica had told me enough stories of him acting up in malls or clubs when she did something he didn’t like. Like smiling at the male cashier at the grocery store or saying hi to one of the guys we went to high school when they were downtown. Honestly, I’m sure he did worse in private, but I know she’d never tell me that. She always sounded like she put him in his place.

This time she didn’t.

“Girl, you don’t understand, you don’t have a man. Relationships take work.” And with that slap in the face, she turned her attention back to flipping through movies.

Well damn.

She said that like she hadn’t included me in all of her relationship drama. “No worries, girl. I’ve got some work to do.”

“Umm-hmm,” she said, already engrossed in the opening credits of a Nigerian drama.

I am a freelance writer. I’m doing pretty well for myself by picking up some corporate work when things get dry. A couple of nights ago, I went to the Toronto release party an up-and-coming singer named Kamara. No lie, the girl has a beautiful voice. She did some work with some hot producers in the city and sang a hook on one of Drake’s songs. I’m cool with a couple of the producers, so they invited me to the party and I was able to pitch it to the entertainment section of a major newspaper. Score for me! The deadline was Monday at nine am and I haven’t missed a deadline yet and I wasn’t going to let Erica and her relationship make this the first one.

I was hunched over my computer for a good three hours trying to put on paper the atmosphere and vibe at the party for this singer, who thought she was the second coming of Beyoncé. The night of the party, she arrived two and a half hours late and then was upset when the newspaper’s photographer left because she had another assignment.

Guess who got an earful about that?

After being cussed out like a dog by Kamara and Kamara’s people, I had to interview her while she shot daggers at me, belittled the staff and was an all-around wretch.

“Some people only wish they could have this life. Even you wish you had this life,” she said as we finished the interview.

“And why would you say that?” I asked. I was genuinely intrigued by her pronouncement.

“I live the life. You write about it.”

I rolled my eyes. “Girl, I guess.”

As I typed the last line, there was a knock on my bedroom door.

“Come in,” I said. Erica poked her head in. “What’s up?” I asked.

“First, I wanna say I’m sorry. But you have to stay out of my relationship with Raphael. I love him and he loves me. You’ll find someone, but you can’t try to break up my relationship.”

I gave her a blank stare.

Seriously, what’s with the ‘you’ll find someone, but you can’t try to break up my relationship’ business? Whatever. I’ve had quite enough from men and I’m not interested in getting involved with any right now. Mr. Right Now has wasted enough of my MAC and my time.

And if Raphael – and Derek Robinson, who called me four times since our date – are any indication of the men who are out there, Barkleigh is the only man I need… unless he keeps chewing on my shoes.

“I’m not jealous, Erica. You are like my sister. If you want me to stay out of your relationship, I will.”

She looked shocked. I know, me, Nia Michaels — the one everyone wants to share their relationship problems with — was pledging to stay out of someone’s business. This was new, but I was serious.

It’s my new leaf — the one that I just turned over.

I’m tired of people asking for advice or doing stupidity in my presence, and then when I say something, getting offended. I’m also tired of seeing people put themselves in bad situations and then end up wanting me to analyze it ‘til all hours of the morning.

I need my beauty sleep.

Besides, I have my own issues. I can’t always be someone’s psychologist. I don’t mind talking about relationships, but dammit, sometimes it just too much.

“You’re serious?” she asked. I nodded. The girl didn’t seem to understand that I was no longer interested in having her cry on my shoulder about this simple man. But I’m a bit jaded. Maybe a touch bitter.

And I admit it.

I embrace it.

“Alright,” she said. “Well, I was wondering, Raphael, his cousin and I are going to our tonight, some party or something. I wanted to know if wanted to come with us?”

An evening with Raphael? My hard-earned makeup shan’t be wasted tonight. “I don’t think so. I still have to finish this and I’m trying to reach church tomorrow morning.” And my bed and Netflix was calling me.

“C’mon,” she whined, “how often am I in town? It’ll be like old times; we go out and have fun. C’mon Nia.” I looked at my phone; it was already quarter after eight. I was pretty much done the story. And, although Erica was acting the ass today, I still loved hanging out with her. And we haven’t seen each other in a year.

“OK, fine. What time are they coming?”

“Yay!” she said jumping up and down. “They said they’re coming around ten,” she said grinning. “Raphael’s cousin follows you on Twitter. He can’t wait to meet you.”

“Great.” Imagine that tinged with lots of sarcasm. If Raphael’s cousin is anything like him, I’m so not interested.

One bad date a week is more than enough for me.

 

When I go out to party, I go all out. I was wearing a purple romper and gold sandals. Two strand twists, properly untwisted and fluffed, big gold hoops and a chunky gold necklace. I was good to go.

Raphael and his cousin, Tony, rang up at a little after ten. I was not letting that fool up in my home again, so Erica and I headed down. Raphael had a nice little black Acura with shining rims — so what if he had a nice car, he’s still a punk. Erica got in the front and I got in the back with his cousin.

“Nia, this is Tony,” said Raphael pulling out of my complex.

“Nice to meet you.” I extended my hand.

“The pleasure is mine.” He caressed my hand. I knew I shouldn’t scorn the man because he was related to Raphael. But, ugh, did I pack my hand sanitizer? “I was so excited when Raph said he could get me a date with you. Girl, I saw your pictures on Instagram.”

“Umm, thanks.” Date? Who said anything about a date? I removed my hand from his.

“You know, I have two business degrees.”

“Oh, that’s cool.”

“Yeah. But I still prefer working for UPS.”

“Really.” I raised my eyebrow.

“Yeah,” said Tony excited because he now had my full attention. “Yo, driving my truck is great.” So, he likes driving his truck, no sin in that. “Besides I’m really a rapper. A couple of my boys and I are in a rap group — we have a single coming out soon. Maybe you wanna write something about us.”

“Uh huh,” I said disinterestedly. A grown man in his 30s with two, hear me, two business degrees, is a really a rapper who drives a UPS truck. Interesting.

“Yeah. You should hang out with me. I know people. I was supposed to go to Kamara’s party, but we couldn’t get in. My boy — do you know him, Mark James? The party promoter – he was going to get us in. But, you know, the place was packed.”

“I know, I was there. I’ve known Mark for years. We went to university together.”

“For real? Too bad I didn’t know you then, you could’ve gotten me in.”

Really? We met 15 minutes ago and he’s already trying to get the hook-up?

“Hmm,” I said indifferently. We reached the club at minutes to eleven. I had already started counting down the minutes until I could get rid of this man.

Am I a wretch? Maybe a little.

You see, I’ve met guys like Tony many times. But the joke is that it doesn’t matter how much money they have or what kind of job they hold — these are the guys who aren’t confident with themselves, so they talk your ear off about what they do, who they know and what they can do for you. And you know what? They are as boring as hell.

When we got in, I headed to the bar before it got too crowded.

“I’ll have a Sprite,” I shouted to the bartender. She prepared the drink and handed it to me.

“That’ll be five dollars.” Lawd. I could buy a 24-pack for that. I opened my purse.

“I’ll pay for that,” said Tony sizing up to me. “You know you’re hot, right?”

I also know the sky is blue. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m not feeling you, homie. I know, I know. I’m mean. I’m just bitter. I can’t take the lines anymore.  

“No. I can afford the five bucks, but thank you,” I said as I placed a five-dollar bill — and a toonie as a tip — on the counter and picked up my drink.

Was I being mean?

Yes. I was being a bitch. This I know. But, I agreed to go out to hang out with my girl, not her idiot or any of his idiot friends or family.

Let me explain something, I’m so disgusted with men – don’t get me started. You think Derek was bad? He was a king compared the last one. Hmmph, him? The ex? He’s turned me off from the opposite sex. Hell, people always joke about switching sides. He made me contemplate it, for real.

I stood beside Erica, who was wearing makeup tonight and an orange bodycon dress.

“Girl, that colour is gorgeous on you,” I said sipping my drink. We were going through a heat wave and I was sweltering already in the poorly ventilated venue.

“You think?” She pushed her long caramel weave behind one of her ears. “Raphael said it wasn’t appropriate.”

“Really?” I’m sticking to my promise of not telling her what an ass that man is. I slurped up the rest of my soda. “Well, I think it looks great. Let’s dance.” We got on the dance floor and were dancing to some old school Next song that took us back to university days. I felt something on my back. Tony slipping his arms around my waist. I felt his hot breath by my ear when he said, “Yuh look nice, yuh know.”

I turned around to face him. “Tony, let go of me.”

“C’mon girl,” he said moving closer to me.

“No. Back off.” I pushed him back.

“Don‘t be so uptight Nia, damn,” yelled Raphael into my ear. He was standing beside me holding Erica around the waist.

“Yeah, Nia,” she said smiling. “Tony’s only having some fun with you.”

This is fun? For them, maybe. For me? Not so much. I looked at all of them as if they had lost their minds and walked away. This was a bad idea and it was going to be a bad night. I sat down at one of the tables and prayed that this was a bad dream and that I was at home in my bed.

“Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?” I looked up into the dark brown eyes.

“Nope,” I said and turned my head back to the dance floor. I expected him to drag the chair away to one of the other tables.

“Do you mind if I sit with you?” I stared at him as if he were crazy.

“Umm, no. Go ahead.” He folded himself into the chair and extended his hand.

“I’m Trevor Carver.” I shook it.

“Nia Michaels. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you,” he said smiling and exposing the whitest, straightest teeth I had ever seen. His full lips covered them when he asked, “Are you here alone?”

“I wish I was.”

“Is that why you’re looking so down?”

“Yeah.” He looked so familiar, like I had seen him before. He was good-looking, with a goatee and a low fade.

“What’s the the problem?”

I looked him up and down. I mean, really, who are you and why are you asking me questions? “I’m here with my girl and she’s here with her man and his idiot cousin. I am now party to all of their foolishness and I’m not impressed,” I said and sighed. He laughed. “It’s just been a long week and it’s turning into an even longer weekend.”

“And it’s only Saturday night,” he said. I smiled. We continued talking, every now and then I’d see Tony slink by watching us.

Trevor was actually cool in an ‘-just-met-you-at-the-club-and-I-don’t-know-anything-about-you’ kind of way. “Do you wanna dance?” I asked after about an hour of talking about blind dates, friendships and drama in general. He was an American from Cleveland here on business. He was different from the guys here: chatty, in a friendly way – but still, I was never a fan of American guys… just too shady for my liking. They always have lyrics and smooth talk and six girls waiting for them in different cities.

“Nah. I’m good.”

He smiled. “Well, maybe we can continue talking.”

“Really?” I said with a hint of doubt. Men’ll say anything if they think you want to hear it.

“Really. I don’t meet people I take to very often. When I do, I like to stay in touch.”

“This isn’t exactly the best spot to have a conversation.”

“Well, on our next date –” Did he just say ‘date’? “– we’ll have to go somewhere quieter.”

I looked into his smiling eyes. “Definitely.”

The next two hours flew by. Trevor and I talked basketball, relationships and everything in between. It had been years since I met a man who was funny, interesting and good-looking — all at the same time. But I wasn’t getting too excited – he can’t be perfect. No one is.

“Excuse me, Nia?” Erica appeared. I didn’t see her, I was listening to Trevor tell me about his trip to Jamaica last month.

“Uhn? Oh, hey Erica,” I said looking up and cussing her in my mind. Man! Why did she have to come by now? I checked my watch — it was only 2:20 am, I still had a good 40 minutes of talk time left.

“Raphael and Tony are ready to go.”

“Oh, OK,” I looked at Trevor. He smiled.

“I’ll take you home,” he offered. He was fine. Sweet. Smart. But I wasn’t trying to get into his car. Listen, when white girls are kidnapped, they have search parties, stories on CNN and Amber Alerts. When Black people get stolen, life goes on.

“No, it’s OK, um, Erica, I’ll meet you outside in five minutes.”

“Alright.” She looked at Trevor, ran her hand through her hair and sashayed away.

“I’m sorry you have to go,” he said. He got up as I stood. “But I want to see you again Nia. I like you. You’re cool.”

I smiled. “You’re cool too.”

“So, can I have your number?”

“Yeah, you can have my number.” He pulled out his iPhone and tapped in my 10-digits. “Great. I’ll message you..”

You know, usually, I doubt when a man tells me he’ll get in touch, but not this time. I knew this one was going to. He bent over and kissed my cheek and held my hand. He smelled like so fresh and so clean. “Can I walk you out?”

“I’m alright. Erica’s waiting for me.”

“Alright.” He was still holding my hand and smiling.

“Trevor, can I have my hand back, please?”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” He laughed and let go. “Here’s your hand.”

“Thank you. I’ll talk to you.”

“Take care.” I picked up my purse and wound my way through the crowd to the exit. Actually, I floated through the crowd to the exit and into the night air. I always said, you can’t meet a good man at a club – it’s all about rubbing up against women, getting guys to buy you drinks, ray ray ray. But tonight – tonight was different.

“Hey,” I said walking up to Erica. There was a group of people hanging outside  just chilling. The weather was hot and there were vendors selling food and drinks at half the price they were going for inside.

“You had us waiting,” said Raphael coldly. I ignored him.

“Erica, you had fun?” I said as we started walking to the car. The crowd had thinned out near the lot we were parked in.

“It was alright,” she answered. “I had a good time, but you disappeared for most of the night.”

“Yeah,” said Tony. But wait, why is he chiming in with his commentary? Did someone ask him a question?

“I met someone really nice. You were busy dancing, so I just chatted with my new friend.”

“New friend, my ass,” Tony grumbled. “Women would kill to spend time with me and you talking to a next man?”

“Excuse me?” I mean, really. What’s wrong with me talking to someone? I thought I was going to have a terrible evening and it turned out amazing? Why should I be apologizing?

“We were on a date–”

“Date? Tony, we weren’t on a date. I was out with Erica, not you.”

“Whatever. Women like you are always looking for the dude with money. You don’t want to be with the good guy.”

“I don’t know you. What I saw tonight did not encourage me to get to know you.”

“Forget her. She’s stush,” said Raphael, putting his arm around his cousin to pull him away from me. ‘Stush’ meaning snobby and stuck up. That’s fine by me – I prefer be a snob than get involved with another fool.

“She who has low standards has no standards,” I said. That is my mother’s favourite line.

“So you’re saying I have no standards?” said Erica.

“Like I told you earlier, your life, your choices.”

“You know what, Nia? You’re jealous,” declared Raphael. “You can’t be happy for Erica because you want a man like me.”

Like him? This was too much. Things were getting outta control. “I’m supposed to be jealous of this nonsense?”

Raphael got in my face and said: “I will put you in your place.”

Put who in whose place? A who dis bwoy think him is? Duppy know who fi frighten and I was not the one. I turned to Erica. “Is this the kind of person you want to be with?

I’m saying, I may not have had the best luck with dudes, but this is plain ridiculous.

Raphael grabbed my upper arm. “Shut your mouth. I’m tired of you.” I was in shock, why are his hands on me? I twisted out of his grip and pushed him away.

“Nia! You promised!” Erica said, pleading with me.

“I promised? He just put his hands on me.”

“Raphael was right: you are jealous of my relationship. You always have been jealous of my relationships–”

This situation was getting entirely too messy for me. I was so over it.

“Are you kidding me? You honestly think I’m jealous of this”—I stretched my arms out—“mess?”

“Test me, Nia. I’ve heard enough from you!” Raphael bellowed. This guy thought that he could scare me into being quiet? Did he think I was some mealy-mouthed woman he could screamed down in the middle of the street? This negro was showing his ass in the street, like we had no sense or no upbringing. I think a crowd gathered to find out if blows were actually going to be dealt.

“Try it.” I said. I wished he would.

“What? Are you a lesbian or something that you’re so interested in Erica? Are you planning to turn her out or something?” Wait, so just because I care about my friend I must be a lesbian? I can’t just want the best for her?

“Is that all you can think of? That’s an insult?” I asked angrily, “I’ve known her for 20 years! She’s my best friend—“

“She’s my woman!” Raphael screamed in my face.

And Erica just stood there.

Wow. I finally knew my place in this dysfunctional relationship. And, you know what? This was so not worth my time.

I turned to Erica. I was so mad, I wanted to drive my stiletto nail into her throat. “I’m done with all of you. You can do better, but if you like it, I love it. It’s on you.”

“Erica. I’m leaving. You can come with me or stay with her,” said Raphael waving his car keys. She looked at me, with tears in her eyes, and hurried behind him.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” I said. The crowd dispersed – no fight for World Star Hip Hop – and walked myself back to the club.

And Erica, I hope she had vex money for a hotel or she was planning to stay with her man and his cousin, because she made it very clear that my friendship meant nothing to her.

I was grumbling under my breath as I walked back to the club, saying things I knew I was going to have to repent for. Erica better not think she’s coming up into my house after letting her so-called man try to abuse me. Me, her friend of 20 years! Are things that bad that we’re hanging on to worthless men just to have a man?

“Nia?” There was Trevor sitting on the driver’s side of a silver Lincoln Navigator. I walked across the street to the car.

“Hey.”

“I thought you left.”

“Change in plans. I got left.” I smiled and pulled out my phone. “Gonna Uber it home tonight.”

“You’re not taking an Uber this time of the night. Why would you want to get into a car with a stranger? Get in the truck.”

“You’re not a stranger?” I smiled. “I mean, really, I met you three hours ago.”

“True, true.” He smiled. “But I’m less strange than a random Uber driver, right?”

“I guess.”

“Get into the truck. I promise you: I will get you home in one piece.”

“Are you sure?”

“Very.” He stepped out of the truck, took my hand, walked me to the passenger side, and opened the door.

What else could I do? I got in. My mother would have a heart attack if she knew that I was getting into a car with a strange man, but somehow, I felt safer with Trevor, who I’ve only known for a couple hours than with Erica and company.

He started the ignition and he had jazz fusion playing on his satellite radio.

“I thought you said were a hip hop lover,” I said buckling my seat belt.

“Ha, don’t get it wrong, girl, but I like all types of music,” he said. “I’m saying, we just came out of a party, I need something quiet.”

“I hear you. I love me some old school hip hop. I like today’s stuff, but my heart is in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”

“You like hip hop?” he asked as he pulled into traffic.

“What? I don’t look like someone who’s into hip hop?”

“Maybe… a little bit. You look like you prefer Erykah.”

I laughed. “So, a woman can’t enjoy different types of music? I like Jill Scott, but Nas ain’t so bad either.”

“You hungry?”

“A little. What were you thinking?”

“A friend told me about a late night spot that’s not too far from here. You wanna check it out?”

At that precise moment, my tummy growled. Trevor looked at me and started laughing. “That’s all I needed to hear. Let’s go.”

We talked non-stop the entire two hours we were together. It was like we knew each other for years. I mean, I didn’t share my deepest secrets with him, but I didn’t feel embarrassed or shy around Trevor, I just was. By the time we pulled up to my place, the sun was coming up and I was yawning.

“You’re home safe and sound,” Trevor said, putting the car into park.

“Thank you.” I said, digging around my handbag for my keys.

“My pleasure. I will consider this our first date.”

I laughed.

He rubbed his hands together. “So, when are we going do this again?”

“When are you free?” I was thinking next Friday is good.

“Later today.”

“Huh?”

“I’m serious. I want to see you. I don’t want you to leave now. But, you gotta to go church in” — he checked his watch — “six hours.” Nice, he remembered.

“No, later is good.” I couldn’t believe I said that. My rule was always that last minute dates are for damn fools — but, then again, I only met him tonight. “Anything in particular you want to do?”

“Just hang out. Get some more food. Nothing major… Is that OK with you?” Now, normally, I would side-eye him. Why? Well, from my experience with the opposite sex, thing never work out how we expect them to – meaning, talking and food end up meaning trying to get me into his bed and then getting angry when that doesn’t work out. But, even though I was bitter and mean – you know that I’ve already accepted that about myself – I had a good time with this man… so maybe a quick date is what I needed to stop me from being sick and tired of being sick and tired of men.

“That sounds great.”

He grinned and nodded. “Sounds very good.”

I unlocked the door. “Three o’clock work?”

“Three is good. I’ll meet you here,” he said. I opened the door.

“Good night. Uh… good morning.” He laughed. “Bye, Nia.”

I got out of the truck and walked the few feet to my front door. When I looked back he was still waiting. He waved, I waved back and I went inside.

Nice.

Uncategorized

Prologue

Tonight was my first date in almost a year.

Yes, a year.

My girlfriend, Debbie, had set me up with one of her co-workers, Derek. We were going to some new  restaurant in downtown Toronto, Lavender, supposedly a rapper owns it. hopefully, the food is better than his rhymes. Seeing I hadn’t been out in a damned year, I decided to make myself look like something. I put on my favourite little black dress and some sexy heels.

Let’s hope this isn’t a waste of makeup.

“OK, earrings in. Purse packed. Makeup done. I look good, don’t I, Barkleigh?”

Barkleigh’s my dog.

Don’t judge.

“OK, boy, I’ll see you in a bit.”

I was meeting Derek for seven at the restaurant. I put turned on Heart & Soul on my satellite radio and headed downtown. I walked through the restaurant doors at six-fifty-eight.

You will learn that I’m always on time.

“Hi, has Derek Robinson arrived?” I asked the hostess.

“No, he hasn’t arrived as yet, but I can seat you – or you can wait at the bar?”

“I’ll wait at the table.”

“Right this way.”

She led me through the swanky restaurant to a table by a waterfall. I was impressed. I got settled and sipped my water. I caught the eye of a couple of men waiting by the bar. They smiled. I smiled back warily. I checked my watch, seven minutes after seven. OK, he’s a little late – nothing big. I sipped my water and waited.

Seven-fifteen and no Derek. I was starting to get annoyed. I don’t buy into CPT – coloured people’s time. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at seven, be there at seven. I nibbled on a piece of potato bread and hoped the men at the bar weren’t trying to gather up courage to walk over here. I checked my watch again.  I could be finishing that Kamara Jones article, watching Netflix, painting my toenails–“Nia? I’m Derek. Sorry I’m late.”

Before me stood five feet 10 inches of chocolate. Picture Idris Elba – no accent.

“Hi Derek.” I shook his hand. He sat across from me. “So, what kept you?”

“You know, umm… stuff. But I’m here now.” He smiled, showing off a row of perfect teeth. I’m here now? Like I should be pleased that he found the time to arrive at our pre-scheduled date.

OK, Nia, don’t write him off before you get to know him.

“Nia, you are working that dress.”

“Thank you,” I said. “So, Debbie told me that you’re a graphic designer.”

“Yep, I am. And you’re a writer?”

“Yes, I am.” The waiter came by and took our drink orders.

“So, what do you write about?” A man who’s interested in what I do? Score. “Anything erotic?”

Huhn? Where did that come from? “Excuse me?” I know this man isn’t getting silly with me. Debbie told me this guy was churchgoing, decent, hardworking and childless: a reason for me to leave my house on a Friday night.

“My bad. I’m just trying to break the ice. What kind of writing?” He smiled. I smiled back.

Just give him a chance.

“I’m a freelance writer. I write about a lot – music, pop culture, relationships, whatever I find interestimg and that I can sell.e.”

“That’s cool. My sister is studying journalism at Ryerson.”

“For real? That’s great. I went to Concordia—“

“That’s in Montreal, right?”

“Yeah, I grew up in Montreal.”

“I’ve been a few times – lots of cool places to hang out.”

“I didn’t really enjoy it when I was living there – struggling student and all – but I like visiting.”

“I love to travel,” he said. “Montreal was one of the first places I visited when I could finally afford to go on vacation.”

“Well, that’s something that we have in common; I love to travel. I’m trying to plan a trip to Barbados this winter – I have some family there.”

“You’re joking, right? I have family there!”

Well, it seems like things were going really well. We had so much in common – traveling, family connections, even a journalism connection. We continued talking until the waiter came back to take our orders. We ordered some appetizers and continued talking.

“I’m really enjoying your company,” Derek said, smiling. Sigh. Could it be so easy? I was hearing horror stories about getting back into the dating game, but this has been pretty easy. I’ll have to treat Debbie to a coffee on me.

“I’m enjoying your company too.” I bit into a shrinp. Yum.

He smiled and I felt a slight change in his demeanor. I mean, of course after analyzing the situation, I could feel a change in his attitude. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. He sat back in his chair and said, “I’m glad Debbie hooked us up. So, I live two blocks away. Let’s get dinner to go–“

Wait, he only lives two blocks away and he was late? But that’s beside the point – why exactly does he want to leave?

“Derek, why would you want to leave? We’re having a good time right here.”

“We could have a better time at my place. Come on, I’m feeling you and I know you’re feeling me.”

Whoa! Did I miss something? Did I accidentally do something that he could interpret as me wanting to go home with him? The dress is hot, but not that hot.

“Let’s stay here. The restaurant’s gorgeous—“

“You’re gorgeous.” He grabbed my hand and licked his lips. “Baby, let’s not play games, OK? I’m too old for that.”

OK, how did it go from ‘I’m having a great time’ to ‘this man must be out of his mind’?

“Derek, I’m not interested in going to your place.”

“See, y’ou’re playing games. Don’t act like you don’t want me,” he said.

Bish, what? Sir, I can’t.

I started to giggle, and then I realized he was serious. This man seriously thought that this…sad, sad attempt to guilt me into sleeping with him would work.

Why, I groaned to myself. Why couldn’t we just have a nice night out?

I shook my head. Maybe it worked before on some poor vulnerable woman, but it sure as hell ain’t working on me. I’d gone through enough with men; I didn’t need to subject myself to Derek Robinson, as fine as he may be.

I rested my head on my hands and looked at this wasteman. “Derek, what would make you think that I would want more than dinner?”

“Look, we’re both adults. Why are you acting like a little girl? I think you’re hot. You think I’m hot. Let’s get outta here,” he said. He folded his arms and licked his lips. Ewww.  “I’m not into playing games – unless it’s in the bedroom.”

And he’s corny.

I checked my watch, eight o’clock. I could swing by my favourite Greek restaurant and get home by nine.

“Goodnight Derek.” I picked up my purse and walked out.

“Hey! Who do you think is paying for your half?” he yelled behind me.

Ugh. Tonight’s an ice cream night. Let’s hope the grocery store’s still open.

By nine-fifteen, was home and the only man I wanted to spend any time with was waiting at the front door.

“I’m back already, B.,” Barkleigh looked at me and barked. I changed my clothes, took him for a quick walk, came back home and called Debbie.

“Hello?”

“Debbie, I thought you said he was decent.”

“Girl, what are you doing at home? I thought I wouldn’t hear from you until tomorrow.”

“Your boy is a jackass.”

“Jackass? Isn’t that harsh?”

“No! First, he showed up late. Then, he wanted us to take dinner to go and go back to his place—“

“To do what?”

“What do you think?” Good grief. I love Debbie, but she can be slow.

“You’re lying!”

“Unfortunately, I’m not lying. Why would you take me to one of the most popular restaurants in Toronto to take dinner to go? Do you think this is Wendy’s?”

“He is a jackass!” she said.

“Then, when I left his lecherous backside in the restaurant, he wanted to know,” I inhaled, “who was going to pay for my half of the bill.”

I heard the sharp intake of breath.

“He didn’t!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, he did.” I ate another mouthful of ice cream. “Debbie, I’m done. I’m just going to be single. I’m going to stop looking and just chill.”

“And he seemed so nice,” Debbie said sadly.

Uncategorized

I’m back…:)

Yo fam! It’s been a while! One marriage, two kids,  Pops’ death, new house,locs and plenty of things have happened over the last five years. I’ve started and sputtered to a stop with writing and blogging. It’s been hard, I can’t lie. Some days sliding into bed is the most creative thing I can conjure up.

But I do need my outlet, so I’ve decided to start writing again. Maybe not just about hair, but about any and everything, whenever I need to or whenever I want to. I need a creative outlet and this is it.

Years ago, I wrote a book. I tried to publish it and that didn’t work and I did the worst thing. I gave up.

I gave up my dream and settled for a ‘regular’ corporate life. 

That is so not me. Not being able to express myself was slowly killing me. So I said, lemme do me. Lemme put this out here and see if my friends and family enjoy my writing. Here goes. I’m going to deliver a chapter regularly…as I can. I got a family and a job, so I can’t promise, but I will.

Let me know what you think. Here goes nothing!

 

Doing the 'do, hair

Sigh

Ok. I owe pictures of my hair.

I owe product reviews of products I bought donkey years ago.

But, folks, my mind is clouded. Should I go ahead with my locs or just should I cut it all off?

My reasoning: my hair just isn’t feeling right. Not “oh, I need a protein treatment” wrong, but “damn! What the heck is up with my hair?!?!” wrong. I have a sneaking suspicion that my last trip to the salon did some real damage.

I don’t have the time to nurse it back to health, so I need to do something that I can manage. That means either stick with my plan to loc – although I’m concerned that my hair won’t look as good loc’d because I’m missing the thickness (hair’s dropping out) – or cut it off and start again with all the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years.

Decisions, decisions.

One good thing is that I’m not necessarily attached to my hair – thanks to experience, I know it will grow back.

So I’m at a crossroads: a red TWA or a head full of starter locs.

What’s a girl to do?