Blogtober #12: Flashback Friday to Summer.

No, this post isn’t necessarily about fall, although the last day of my trip occurred in September. But we’re flashbacking today, so it’s all good. Anywho, this past Labor Day weekend, I left on a jet plane to visit a good friend of mine who lives in Orange County, CA. Despite the fact that it was a short trip/brief vacation, it was also the respite I needed and thoroughly welcomed. We haven’t had an in depth discussion of my enduring love of California, have we? Well, if I had all the dollar dollar bills in the world, your Square Peg would hightail it to San Diego faster than you could say high cost of living. (Which is why I chose Texas instead of my beloved blue sky San Diego.) See below for a slide show of my fun trip.

Happy Fall Friday, y’all. See ya on the weekend.

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10 Things I Learned About You.

architecture building campus college
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This Square Peg in college: ’twas an interesting time. When I look back, though, I can honestly say that I loved my college days. It was the 90s. The soundtrack of my life was lit, as the kids say, and the life lessons abounded. Here are 10 things I learned in college:

  1. My education really did belong to me. Other than that pesky Math credit, I basically curated my path of learning. If a class and its content didn’t interest me, I found one that did. I explored avenues of thought and learning that were entirely my choice. I was paying for it, after all. (Still am. Le sigh.) In other words, it was an interesting lesson in reaping the results of my academic decisions. When K-12 isn’t really about you, this was all about me.
  2. Never, ever, ever declare your undying love and devotion for your English professor when he’s likely within earshot.
  3. Don’t do #2 for professors you don’t much care for, either. I was in the cafeteria complaining about one of my not-that-nice professors and she was right behind me. Not pretty. Thank goodness I passed.
  4. College boys will be college boys. There were some doozies, y’all. One kid, a fellow English major, asked me if I used mushrooms to find inspiration when writing. I asked him if he meant the gross things in the ground. He said no. I then got it. I then walked away, laughing. *insert eye roll here*
  5. There’s an amazing literary world out there, people. I discovered some of my favorite authors, primarily female, during those four years. Flannery O’Connor. Edith Wharton. Alice Walker. I delved into their works and never looked back.
  6.  Sarah McLachlan has a song for every situation. Case in point: I lived the entire Surfacing album during my sophomore year.
  7. There are educators out there who passionately care for their students. I met a number of them.
  8. Overconfidence + higher education + assumptions = a D on your first paper for an English class. I learned to be humble and ask for help and advice.
  9. One will freak out about classes (four essay-heavy ones, to be exact) and working two jobs and believing you will flunk and one’s Mom will assure you that you’ll be fine and will command you to stop writhing around on the floor. College breakdowns are a dime a dozen. *shrug*
  10. After four long years, a seminal moment will occur when you finally begin the path to discovering just who you are and were meant to be.

Good times, indeed. I learned more than ten things, but we’ll pause for now. More lessons–and declarations of love–will come in another post.

Onwards and upwards…and college loan-wards…

be our guest.

welcome

There we all are, sitting in our living room in our old house in Ghana, surrounded by endless laughter and fascinating conversations. My parents are there; also uncles, aunts, various relatives, and longtime family friends that might as well be kin to us, being that I’ve known them and have been around them for as long as I could remember. Some of my earliest memories involve evenings like this, where my parents hosted friends, family, our neighbors. The joyous faces and smiles. The gentle teasing and ribbing between my father and his pals. The beautiful women I observed reverentially. And the food. Ah, the food. Without really understanding it, my parents were establishing, for their children, a blueprint of hospitality. Things didn’t change when we settled in the United States. From our little apartment to the townhouse we later lived in, there were always people. Family, friends, relatives, all part of our immediate family of six. My parents never hesitated to help friends in need; if someone needed a place to stay, he or she was staying at our home. As I got older, it was incredible to see the generosity and love my parents showed to others.

This posed a bit of a problem growing up, however. Sure, my parents could invite loads of people over because they were adults and could do whatever they, the payers of rent, pleased. But their kid inviting other kids over without telling them?

nah

It happened more than once. I’m convinced my mother had moments of stopping herself from doing permanent damage to my hind parts. No worries, though: I learned my lesson at the age of 14. We won’t get into the details, but it was the last time I didn’t check with my parents first before making invitation. Believe me.

Here’s the thing (if you’ve experienced it or are experiencing it, you’ll agree with me): living alone is glorious. There’s really nothing like being the queen/king of your castle of one; laying about, doing whatever strikes your fancy. I moved out of my parent’s house and lived on my own in my first apartment when I was 24 years old. It was amazing. It was eye-opening. It was frustrating. It was the best. After that, there was an interesting journey of roommates and housemates and then moving back home when Dad got sick and then, a year and six months ago, leaving VA and moving to the Lone Star state and living solo once again. All that said, I’m happiest in the company of my own solitude. But I’m also the daughter of two people who kept that open-door policy we discussed above, and so it’s necessary to tell you I love a house filled with people.

I’ve hosted gatherings, game nights, movie nights, come-over-and-chill evenings (my personal favorite), girls-just-talking-into-the-wee-hours-of-the-early-morning events, etc. It’s thrilling to look around my living room and see people, to hear the laughter, to go deep into conversation. Last night, I hosted an impromptu dinner with friends. I actually cooked dinner–chili a la Square Peg–and we ate and watched movies and had a smashing good time. You can’t beat that on a Sunday evening. (But it was also nice when everyone went home and I resumed my relaxing spot on the couch and watching cheesy Hallmark movies.)

Can’t thank my parents enough for showing me how to love people, how to be generous, and how to say welcome.

What say you? Loner or lover of guests or both?

 

because it’s Wednesday.

This is certainly unprecedented.

newedition

We greet Wednesday with not just one person, but five of them. (Well, still one, but we’ll talk about that in a second.)

Let me tell you how I discovered New Edition. Back in the 80s, the kids in school would sing, over and over again, “sunny days…” But they would stop there. And I would wonder what they were singing. Eventually I found out. They were singing the lyrics to “Can You Stand the Rain?” Days later, one evening, I finally heard the song on the old stereo in the room I shared with my sister. I stood there, happily frozen, listening, my ears swooning. As Ralph sang, “And I need somebody who will stand by me, through the good times and bad times, she will always, always be right there…” I declared that I was that girl. I could be that girl. It didn’t matter that I was 10 years old. It just didn’t matter. An NE 4 Lifer was born.

A Ralph Tresvant 4 Lifer was also born that day. (Second from the left in the photo above.) Every girl had their favorite. He was mine. He was and still is my 10 year-old girl crush. Still swooning in 2018. I told my mother that I would marry him, by the way, and I think she’s still rooting for that to happen.

The guys, to this day, make me smile. They just do. Their music, the fact that through everything, they’re still singing and dancing…ahhhhhhhhhh

Let’s end here, shall we?

 

Starring This Square Peg as Herself.

owlcreek1I was 11 years old, a quiet sixth-grader. That day, we embarked on a field trip to a place called Hemlock Overlook. The bus ride was animated, filled with the excited conversations of my fellow classmates. I silently observed the scenes passing us by and wondered just where we were headed. Field trips had always been fun for me: museums, the zoo. This place was unfamiliar to me and I was curious and anxious about what we would find.

The school bus pulled into a dense, wooded area. It seemed to be a giant park. It was a giant park. A giant park, as I came to learn, that was filled with a variety of physical fitness-inspired activities. Games. A zip line that I eyed warily and ultimately refused to climb. The whole thing was weird and stressful. On one hand, it was nice to hang out with some of the few friends I had in my classroom. I was a shy girl, but there were some kids I was actually comfortable with; I remember some of us sitting around a table and talking/laughing. On the other hand: I wasn’t a fitness girl by any means. Sure, I “played” soccer during recess, which essentially meant just standing around while the real dynamos kicked the ball. This was intense. Needless to say, I was always last in each of these activities and I was always slow.

Then came the rope.

In the middle of the area was a large mud hole. The point was to grab a rope and swing across the hole to get over to the other side. Simple, right? I wanted to throw up. I had already failed at every single activity. Why would this end up in anything other than total disaster? Of course, I was last to go. I gulped. I grabbed the rope. Gravity took over, if only for a few seconds. I was moving. Moments later, all of me was drowning in mud.

Raucous laughter ensued. I think my teacher was even laughing. I was a mess. Clothes, face, everything covered in mud. I wanted to cry, scream, even chuckle a little so they would think I had been on it the whole time, purposely falling into a mud hole for some attempt at comedy.

On the bus ride back to the school, I listened as some of the kids talked about me. The mud on my clothes. How I looked. Describing how I fell in the hole. I remember gazing out of the window and wishing–and it wouldn’t be the first time in my adolescent life–that I could just disappear.

The website for Hemlock Overlook states that these adventures teach the adventurers about team collaboration. If the goal was to teach my classmates, even my teacher, how to collaborate by laughing at me in unison, then, yes, it worked. I learned a few different things from the experience, however. How to be humiliated. How to hold in my tears for more opportune moments when they could be released comfortably. How to sit in the filth of mud and hold my head up while people around me were sending darts by way of words in my direction. No one comforted me. No one patted me on the back and said, “Sorry, This Square Peg, at least you tried.” Nothing like that occurred.

In the past, when I’ve randomly thought about this memory, the clarity of hindsight never comes. My adult brain is rarely able break it down in a palatable way. (For years, I think I even repressed it, not really sharing the story with friends.) But looking back now, I’ve realized a few things about what the experience taught me. For one thing, I have a deep, deep spot in my heart for the kind of kid I was back then. The slower ones, the ones picked last, the ones who aren’t adept at team sports or athletics. Those are the children I want to hug and assure. Secondly, my mother has always reminded me to keep my dignity in any situation. To keep my cool. That moment on the school bus was certainly the beginning of learning how to do just that. Even if my insides were turning into mush. Le sigh.

education

Sometimes it takes place while sitting quietly on a school bus, trying not to cry, trying to hold on. Nevertheless: you learn.

What are your seminal moments from childhood? What did you learn? Share? Pretty please? 

Adjoa on a Monday.

Ever since my early twenties, coffee shops have been my true love. Many a coffee shop had me inside of it; ordering a cup, listening to the beans whir in the grinder; hearing the quiet hum of conversation as patrons did everything from chat with each other to type away at their laptops for whatever projects they were working on. (I almost always think the laptop-bearers are burgeoning novelists.) When I worked at my dearly departed Borders Books (see memories here and here), one of the areas I was assigned to, other than at the register or the info desk or shelving books, was the cafe. There, I learned to make a variety of espresso-based drinks, recipes that I still remember all these years later. It was, in a way, my first foray in working in a coffee shop. And I loved it something awful.

Naturally, I’ve always wanted my own shop. So in my mind, my shop would be called Adjoa on a Monday. Adjoa is my Ghanaian day name for ladies born on a Monday. The decor would unsurprisingly be rustic-y with a French touch; the French part is me, as you know, but I’ve also grown to love the rustic idea for a while now. Funny, huh? This Square Peg, who favored not-busy, not-busy, super modern spaces now longing for burnished wood finishes and Mason jar centerpieces? Girl, people be changing…

*All images derived from my boo Pinterest.

Anyway, further details about AOAM:

  • Free WiFi. I love the idea of people inhabiting that space and working on whatever their working on.
  • Open mic nights. At Borders, I freely took advantage of sharing my poetry with audiences. That college student had plenty of spurned-love poems to share, thank you very much.
  • Themed evenings every now and again. Paris jazz spot Tuesday. Speakeasy Fridays. Etc.
  • An assortment of staffers of different ages and backgrounds. This one is important to me. When I worked at Borders, a true pleasure was working with everyone from fellow college kids to part-time History professors and everyone in between. It was amazing.
  • A mini-bookshelf/donate-a-book area. Because you know books have to be involved.

More ideas abound. Will it happen one day? Will I venture out and start my own business and finally see this coffee shop of mine with my own two eyes? *Kanye shrug* I’ve never been ashamed or shy to dream out loud. Perhaps that’s the first step?

What thing/idea/venture/adventure have you nursed for ages? I’d love to peek…share it in the comments below.

And now…

friday

ain’t nothing changed.

As much as I’m thankful and grateful for the journey of changes in this life of mine (it took a long time to fall in love with myself, for example; self-worth/self-respect/self-esteem came late for me, but those things came right when they needed to 👐🏾), some things remain exactly the same for your Square Peg. And I don’t have a problem with that.

  1. sideeyeI still side eye strangers. It’s nice to meet new people. It is. But that nine year-old who barely trusted folks who weren’t mother or father hasn’t completely disappeared. Look: stranger danger is a thing. If we’ve never, ever met, there’s a chance that I’m checking all the exits in case you decide to flip out and/or request something I’d rather not give you, like limbs or kidneys. It is what it is.
  2. I still watch YouTube videos on how to style/wash/manage my natural hair. I returned to natural six years ago. *shrug* One never stops learning. And one forgets. And one finds a bizarre comfort in watching other people wash hair3their hair. And once needs reminders that detangling is a necessity. I mean just because you graduated from school doesn’t mean you don’t still (mind the double negative there) text your old Math teacher to ask her how to calculate percentages, right? Right? Hello? Anyone?
  3. I still use my library card. I haven’t in a while, need a new one for a new state, but I’m a library card believer. Here’s a story for why I consider it a privilege and not a right: my mother had me banned from checking out books from my local librarylibrary when I was about 13 years old. You see, I was a chronic later book returner. Like chronic. I also had this terrible habit of not remembering where I left my books. (Honestly, my mother’s wish that I have a daughter just like me when I was a teenager was appropriate.) As a result, my Mom was usually left with paying my fines. So, one fine day, Mom went to my favorite library and informed the librarians that I was disallowed from using my card until I turned 18. Yes. 18. So. Gangsta. I was heartbroken, wanted to scream and rage at her (but didn’t because I wanted to also live), etc. But it happened. And on my 18th day of birth, I went right to that library and re-applied for a new card. And promptly incurred more fines. But I was a working woman by then, so who was ‘gon check me, boo? (She was. I became much more careful. *nervous laughter*)
  4. dogsI still have my checkbook. Nope, you’re not in Jurassic Park. There aren’t dinosaurs drifting around you. I haven’t written an actual check in many moons, but there are still some companies that ask for your full checking account number with the twenty-five zeroes. Since that number remains unknown to me by memory, I make sure that my check book is somewhere nearby.
  5. I still wear slips. I am the daughter of an African woman. If I stopped wearing them, even despite the distance and states between us, she would know. Of course, honestly, I don’t wear them as much as I did back in the day. If a skirt or dress has lining in it, I opt to not add more fabric to it. But if I wear something thin or could potentially have a moment a la marilynMarilyn Monroe, I will so throw on a half slip. Sure, I’ve had moments recently where I realized, with cold dread, that the thing was slowly descending towards my ankles…but you know what? Panic is good for the soul. Keeps you alive. Not really. I digress. On the off chance that what I’m wearing may expose, uh, exposure, slips are still my go-to.
  6. I’m still salty about the ending of Lost. There’s nothing more to say.
  7. I still believe in the power of good penmanship. Not only do I believe in it, but I openly admire it when I see it. I know no one writes anything down anymore, so yeah, but on the off-chance that I see someone put paper to pen…and do it so well…and use flowy cursive or straight lines…happy sigh. Look, my sixth-grade teacher nearly hit me for not being able to get that cursive ‘r’ just right. Apropos of nothing. But back then, it was important to write well. It just was. Time and technology happen, so this isn’t a diatribe against that (I am typing all of this), but it’s a lost art that I enjoy seeing and doing.
  8. I still can’t end a list with an odd number. If loving even numerals is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Some things never change.

Are you lover of change? Or no? Or both? Or…just tell me.

Bon weekend…

 

when they met.

eclipse
Photo courtesy of NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

If you haven’t heard, a total solar eclipse took place yesterday, August 21. Pretty historical stuff. I was excited beyond words, not necessarily because of the historicity of it or the celestial phenomenon, per se. I, This Square Peg, a writer of words and a purveyor of poetry, have used the moon as an allegorical foil/subject since I started writing eons ago. There was something about that big, gray, somber ball in the sky, not peppy and cheerful like the sun, ruler of tides, that struck me in a purely deep and artistic way. To me, there wasn’t a man in the moon. Symbolically, she was a woman in every way. My kind of girl. Powerful and moody and boss. Naturally, I frequently turned to her in my poetry. In my fiction, she’s always a character; whether providing silvery light for my character before his/her eventual epiphany or the third person in a two-person scene, viewing the action with a cool, disaffected gaze. In my poetry, though? In my poetry? The moon runs things.

When I was moving to Texas and engaged in my bout of horrifying packing, I found a poem that I wrote in college. The subject? Frustrated love. (Nothing new there.) The allegorical character? The moon. The denouement? An eclipse.

poem

So college-y. So eclipse-y. So moon-y.

I was able to see the eclipse yesterday, courtesy of a co-worker who shared his special sky glasses with me and some of my other colleagues. Because our city here in Dallas wasn’t on the path of totality–those cities would see the full, total eclipse; we would see a partial eclipse–I didn’t get to experience the moment my moon met the earth and the sun. But halfway is still pretty cool, no?

Here’s to my fabulous moon and her big moment yesterday.

moon2

Oprah.

What an introduction. Let’s get right to it: when Her Excellency was was still on the air with her daily talk show, I won tickets to be part of her audience.

oprah1

Back in 2011, I remember going on the official website for the show and noticing one of the upcoming episodes. The theme of the impending show was going to be all about best friends. (Title: An Oprah & Gayle Kind of Friendship) Made sense, given the longtime friendship between Madame O and her bestie, Gayle King. The requirement to be part of the audience was to write and send in an essay about your best friend and why he/she was wonderful. That was a no-brainer. I’ve discussed my bestie on TSP more than once. She.Is.Everything. And so I got to writing. Looking back, I submitted the essay with only a small twinge of excitement, being that 1) I was probably 1 of a million people doing the same thing, and 2) I didn’t want that level of disappointment if I didn’t get chosen.

Then I received an email on March 23, 2011. Yes, I searched my inbox for that date. And yes, I’m giddy that the email still exists. Bottom line, the main idea of the email: my bestie and I were invited to join the audience during a taping of the themed episode.

I reacted a bit like this:

oprah2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So at this point, dear reader, my bestie didn’t know I had done any of this. I kept it all to myself in case we didn’t get chosen. Welp, that didn’t happen. After receiving that email, I called her and engaged in the following conversation:

Me: Hey, are you free on April 11?
Her: Let me check…yes, I’m free. What’s up?
Me: We’re flying to Chicago that day to be part of the audience of the Oprah show.
Her: *crickets*
Me: Are you there?
Her (whispers): This better not be a prank.
Me: It’s not! I wrote an essay and they picked it and it was about you and me and our friendship and we’re going to see Oprahhhhhhhhhh!

Her reactions, from 1-3:

oprah3
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oprah4
2
oprah5
3

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, by the time we got to three, we were both primal screaming on the phone. Flight plans to Chicago were made; outfits were discussed (we had been asked by Queen O’s team to wear colorful clothes that would show well on TV); mild disappointment was expressed because a giant rule was that no pictures were allowed inside the Harpo studios; and finally, more primal screams were shared. You guys, it was one of the best experiences of this life. And you know how Empress Oprah’s audience would go mad? I admired her, yes, but I just couldn’t understand the mania oprah6these women showed on national TV. Well, I can easily say that on that morning in April, as Oprah was introduced and walked out and waved at us and smiled: I. Get. It. I truly do.

Her presence: dynamic. Her personality: open and charming. Her overall nature: amazing. In the minutes between her walking out and sitting down before the cameras turned on, there was no change. She was the same onscreen and off-screen. She was also just fun. During commercial breaks, she joked and laughed and told us about her painful high heels…it was surreal. My bestie and I spent the entire time just like holding each other in disbelief and Oprah-generated joy. And yeah, we got some gifts, too. And food. It was incredible. I’ll say it again, and in French: incroyable.

But the best part of that whole thrilling experience, dear reader? It involved a years-long, amazing friendship with one amazing lady, that being my bestie, and it involved another love of my life: my writing. My bestie kept saying the following throughout the day. “You are a writer. It was your words that got us here. You are a writer.” It was definitely a boost in confidence with the mighty pen. Nevertheless, the topic at hand, why this woman was such an indescribable presence in my life, made it easy. I didn’t hesitate. The benefits of a worthy subject.

Got any thrilling moments with your bestie that you’d like to share with me? Don’t fret because Oprah isn’t involved in any of them. The comments await you below…

big bag, small bag.

Once upon a time, our fair chocolate princess was at work and in the middle of typing when a sharp pain shot though her wrist. Of course, she gazed at her wrist as if the body part could communicate why it did this to her. Thankfully, there was no answer (talking body parts may be cute in animated films, but in real life? Nah), and she assumed that it would go away. No such thing. The sharp pain became unrelenting. She could barely type, hold things with her left hand, etc. At first, she diagnosed herself, because she’s done this all her life, often running to her parents’ basement to consult various medical journals whenever she experienced pain and/or discomfort, which resulted in giving herself an assortment of ailments. (“Stop doing that,” her mother has demanded many, many times in the past and last week in the not too distant past.) Her final analysis was carpal tunnel syndrome. And yet there was something intense about this pain, perhaps bigger than carpal tunnel. Reluctantly, she realized that it was time to consult a real physician. The medical journals and all those years of watching ER, St. Elsewhere, and other medical shows just wouldn’t suffice this time.

Since there was a clinic right across the street that accepted those employed at her former company, our chocolate princess trudged over one afternoon, her wrist in agony. When the doctor finally came in to see her, he checked everything, asked a variety of questions, etc. He then gazed at her handbag sitting nearby in a chair. “Do you mind if I pick this up?” he asked. Curious but ultimately knowing what he was about to tell her, she nodded. He picked it up. “What do you have in here?” he then asked. An umbrella, an iPad, my wallet, normal things, she responded. The doctor nodded again. “Do you need all those things?” Affronted, our princess explained that as a commuter who lived in Somewheres, VA and worked in the DC area, it was important to bring things to be prepared since her vehicle was miles and miles away. An umbrella for rain. The iPad for metro reading. Other things. And only a large bag would fit. “All true, but your handbag weighs about the size of a small toddler. That’s why your wrist is in distress. Your handbag is too heavy.”

A small toddler?

But, our princess thought to herself, she’d always had big bags. High school, college: what minuscule bag would fit her life??

The doctor went on to say: “If you need to bring all those things, perhaps consider a backpack. You can use both straps for both your shoulders and take the pressure off your left arm.”

A backpack? Was she 11? Was she in elementary school? Was she still walking to the bus in the mornings?

Obviously the doctor saw the horrified (mixed with a bit of snobbery) expression on our princess’s face. “Or you can decrease the items in the bag. But you’re doing damage to your tendons if keep holding a bag that weighs this much.” She muttered her thanks and assured him that she would figure it out. He told her to pop some pain medication if the pain continued. Eventually, the pain dissipated and disappeared and our princess resumed her life.

But she didn’t change her bag.

The End

So I had an epiphany the other day, dear reader. After years of rubbing my shoulder after wearing my bag, or picking up my bag and wincing in pain, or warning the lady at the nail shop to be careful when she picks up my bag in order to protect my wet nails, and so, so on, I realized that it’s finally time to quit playing games with my limbs. Stubbornly refusing to listen to the doctor’s recommendations was one thing (and not a great thing). But now living in an area where I drive to work and no longer need to be loaded down with an entire aisle of a CVS because I can leave things in my car is entirely another. It’s time, y’all. This Square Peg needs to buy a smaller purse.

I used to wonder how women ran their lives with smaller purses. Like, how did they exist? Where did they put their wallets in said smaller bag? What about a certain time of the month and hiding certain items? (Speaking of that, I think the trauma of a boy in my 9th grade History class who snatched my bag one day and peeked in to see a row of pink lady time-of-the-month articles did more damage than I care to psychoanalyze.) Anyway, again: how did these ladies survive without a giant bag on their shoulders?

I’ll provide the answers when I buy my small bag. It’ll be a shock to the system, for sure. A bag on my shoulder is like warm tea on a chilly day. It’s like cool lemonade for a dry, summer-inflicted throat. It’s comforting. But my car is a few feet away in the parking lot. If I need anything, I can go grab it. Enough, I say. We must do right by my shoulders, wrists, that poor doctor who tried to save me from the small toddler…

Here are some super cute smaller bags that stylistically call out to me:

Lovely. Now we need to head to the store. I wonder how many years that will take?

So tell me: what kind of purse/handbag do you use? Small? Large? Massive? Little? Share your adjectives in the comments with me, please.