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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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Mom

Blogvember #29: The Baby Steps Gourmet.

Cooking is an art form. And in a world of cuisine Van Goghs, I’m best described as the lady with tracing paper who would love to just copy the art without doing all the work. When I was 15, my mother devised a plan: she, my sister and I would take turns cooking. She showed us how to do the basics, some recipes along the way, that sort of thing. I grumbled about it, of course, because what teenager doesn’t grumble? It’s in the teen DNA. But it was actually pretty awesome. I gained skills and became quite confident using them. Eventually, I could whip up a stew or Jollof rice in no time. When I moved out at 24, feeding myself was doable. I could cook my own food.

And then I moved back home.

There’s something about your mother’s cooking that makes your attempts laughable and inedible. And undesirable to yourself. Back home, I would whine to my mother that, rather than me cooking dinner for the family at the stove, she could do it much better. Her eye rolling in my direction was massive. But not doing it regularly like I had in the past wore away at my cooking confidence. When it was time to get to the stove (because all that mid-30s whining wasn’t cutting it with Mother), I found that I forgot simple steps or didn’t move with the confidence I had in the past. So I ultimately decided that I would move to TX and live once again on my own, what shocked me the most was that I actually looked forward to getting back to cooking for myself.

Don’t tell anyone.

Anyway, these days, I cook here and there. Working full-time and engaging in life and worship and new friends and new areas leaves little time to actually devote to homemade cuisine. But I’m working at it. Cooking at home is a money saver, can help me experiment, and at the end of the day, it just feels good to create my own meals.

Don’t tell anyone.

Last night, I decided to recreate my favorite (it deserves italics: favorite) Ghanaian meal: fried plantains and bean stew. Or red-red. Previously, when I tried to fry plantains years

redred
This isn’t my red-red. I ate it too fast to take a picture.

and years ago, I almost burned my mother’s house down. This time, I plowed ahead with my plans to make this pretty easy meal, fears of burning down my apartment building pushed aside and ignored. I pulled out the deep fryer and got to work. I also cooked a stew comprised of black-eyed peas and other yummy things. Back to the italics: it was delicious. I mean: I wanted to lick my fork. Maybe I did. But the very best part, the most awesome, was the phone call to my mom later that evening to announce that I successfully pulled off a meal that, to date, only she has been able to prepare to my liking. (And a Ghanaian restaurant that I was obsessed with frequented back in our area.) I could hear the happiness in her voice. “I guess you’re really growing up,” she also said. We laughed. Because I’ll always be 9 years old where she’s concerned, and I don’t mind one bit. Nevertheless, it was nice to see that all my silly fears (well, only one fear: it’ll taste like dirt) about cooking are just that: silly fears.

Just call me the Baby Steps Gourmet. But I’m still bringing utensils and paper goods to every event I’m invited to, so don’t get too crazy.

Blogvember #2: Deliverance.

Back in the day, I was a proud purveyor of the poker face. Betraying nothing on the surface while all kinds of madness/side eye/frustrations went on underneath. Perhaps it was a by-product of growing up painfully shy: I didn’t want anyone to notice me anyway, so it wasn’t necessary to communicate, even via my face, what I was feeling. 

Dear reader: that poker face is gone. 

Its absence was brought to my attention some years ago by my bestie, who commented that my face hid nothing. “Oh, really? It used to,” I replied, shocked and slightly hurt that my poker face powers had diminished. “Not anymore, cool cat,” she said, highlighting one of her many nicknames for me. (Another one is Muffin Breath. We’ll talk about that later.)

Alas, it was true. The fact was that I was no longer that withdrawing little girl who was content to observe without reacting. I reacted. And anyone could tell exactly how I felt. Something about this change made me proud. Sure: I’m a big believer in keeping calm. I mean, unless Idris is in the room, I’ve never been a proponent of losing your cool. Being the daughter of a mother who has repeated time and time again to always keep my dignity (advice that has brought me through a lot of interesting times) means that yes, I certainly try to maintain my composure. But maintaining my composure also means that my narrowed eyes in your direction is clear communication that whatever you’re doing/saying ain’t fooling me. And I think that’s the point, dear reader. If life is a poker game, at this point, I’d rather you look right at me and know how I feel about a matter. Plus, I don’t know how to play poker so I’m basically there to eat your snacks. 

Are you a poker face purveyor? Or, like me, has your ability to mask everything flown the coop?

Throwback Thursday: The Scowler.

SquarePeg1

Meet your Square Peg, a.k.a., me.

I found this photo in my mom’s “secret” stash of photos one evening last week. I should tell you that my mother’s things–her clothes, perfume, shoes, etc.,–have long fascinated me, which means that since I was little girl, sneaking into her room to see what I could find and gaze at lovingly remains a pastime. Don’t worry: I leave most things undisturbed. Except the clothes. Anyway, I love that she keeps hidden photos and mementos that we don’t have access to. When I found this, I snapped a quick photo and placed it back into its hiding place.

This was taken in August 1983 in Accra, Ghana. I was 4 years old. I’m 100% sure my Dad was the photog, being that he loved taking photos of his children and family, even when we were sullen teens and refused to smile.

My birthplace and my home.

That Mustang, which was my mother’s. (Yep, Mama Square Peg rocked a Mustang!)

Those fat braids. (This was obviously was my go-to style.)

That dress.

Those shoes.

That face.

Oh, that face. Most photos from back, back, back in the day rarely found me smiling. I was a serious kid. I discovered those teeth a bit later, as you can also see from that ruffled, picture day photo. Other ones are of me coolly staring into the camera, as if we’re moments from battle. Ah, memories.

Happy Throwback Thursday.

The Seamstress.

I’m spoiled rotten. I am. You see, whenever I see photos of lovely dresses and skirts and outfits, particularly with African fashion, I just head over to my mom’s room, bat my medium-sized eyelashes (why do boys get long eyelashes? Can someone explain this to me?), and sweetly ask if she can recreate the look. After a few days filled with fittings that Mom does after I’ve eaten (“Ma, can’t we do these before I’ve eaten an entire piece of bread?”) and her threatening to hit me over the head if I don’t stand still, straighten my posture, and stick out my derriere, I find a lovely outfit waiting for me. It’s pretty amazing, no? Of course, after several years of this (even volunteering, at one point, to make me three dresses back-to-back for a special event), my mother basically put on a moratorium on all things me and declared that she was taking a break from making my clothes. I really was ok with this. Spoiled rotten doesn’t mean blindness: making clothes is hard work! Especially if you’re dealing with a bread-eating brat like me. I put a moratorium on my requests, as well. Fast forward, though, to a month ago when she bought some lovely African fabric pieces and offered to make me something. I casually agreed, stopping myself from jumping with joy. Eventually, I saw an outfit on Pinterest that struck my fancy and showed it to her. She nodded sagely and said it could be done. Even with a life and a full-time job, it only took her a few days to finish it. Again, because she’s amazing.

Here’s the outfit I saw on Pinterest:

PinterestDress

If you know me, you know about my love affair with peplum-inspired outfits. (See here and here.) So it’s no surprise that I wanted something akin to this lovely ensemble. We chose the fabric and Mom did her thing, completing it this past Saturday. Needless to say, it was beautiful. It also fit me like a dream, despite my post-bread fittings. I wore it proudly to my house of worship yesterday on Sunday and took all the photos I could, some at Mom’s request so she could show me off to her other seamstress friends. (Ha!) See a few below.

AfricanDress4

AfricanDress2
If you look to the left of me, you’ll see The Seamstress in the background.

AfricanDress1

Right?? Don’t you love it? I wanted to wear it all day and to bed. One of my absolute favorites that she’s ever made me. (I’ll post a gallery of all the ensembles she’s made me one of these days.) Here’s a full-length shot of the outfit.

AfricanDress3

A dear friend decided to photobomb my impromptu photo shoot with her adorable twin boys, which was awesome. Anywho, since yesterday was chilly, I paired the outfit with some fishnet tights and my dependable booties.

Overall and as usual, Mom did a fantastic job. Also per usual, the outfit ignited a storm of friends asking me if she could lend them her services. When I related their comments and requests to her, she merely laughed.That’s the thing with my Mom. She’s so modest about her skills that she thinks people are just being nice when they compliment her abilities. My sister and I are currently working our gifts of persuasion to try and convince her to monetize this gift. I’ll let you know if we’re successful.

So, yeah, it’s nice living with a seamstress. More than nice, actually. But The Seamstress wants to teach me how to sew. Somehow I need to persuade that thought right out of her mind…

relax…relate…release…

This past weekend, I had a much-needed, long-overdue massage. Incidentally, one of my former masseuses mentioned that I should be doing these once a month. relaxrelatereleaseAs lovely as that sounds, since Idris hasn’t yet proposed, my income just doesn’t allow for that yet. But with the increase in my exercise regimen (I’ve joined the back-to-back daily workouts life; more on that in another post) and more importantly, the quiet cries I hear from my joints every time a workout is completed, it’s time to use that Groupon app and find some massage deals, isn’t it? Anyway, during the session, my masseuse promised to give me a list of areas on my body where she noticed muscle tension–from there, I could go online and research stretching tips for those areas. Well, I got that list. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a few places here and there. There were five areas she noted, all places that I tend to feel muscle tension throughout the minutes, days, months, years, that pass me by.

And that leads to my confession, dear reader: I don’t think I’ve ever been fully relaxed. Ever. Sure, I’ve had moments where I lay there and feel at peace, serene, undisturbed. But not 100 percent, you know? Not just like languid and droopy with relaxation. Case in point: just last week, prior to this massage, I was laying on the couch in our living room. Ostensibly relaxed, right? My eagle-eyed mom looks at me and asks if there’s anything wrong with my foot. I respond that my foot is fine. She then asks why it seems to be at attention, straight and rigid. I shrug and respond that I don’t know and that it feels fine. When I told her about the masseuse and her list of five areas, she reminded me about our conversation about my foot and how it looked tense. I thought it over and over and realized what I mentioned above.

rrrHonestly, I believe that This Square Peg came into this world not only quietly, but enshrouded with a ball of tension and pre-adult anxiety. So not African, right? Most of my countrymen and women are relaxed, easygoing, go-with-the-flow kind of people. (Yet another thing I didn’t inherit.) Not this one. I think I was born ready to run, ready to spring. I’m never even fully asleep when I sleep. Always aware, always listening, always ready to club someone over the head with a can of potpourri or whatever usable weapon I can find. My beloved dad, who worked at night, used to say that when he came home in the mornings from work, he knew one person would always hear the key going into the front door and would be ready to greet him: me. It was true. I basically sleep/rest/relax with an asterisk next to my brain: *asleep/resting/relaxing, but not really.

Le sigh. So what do I do? Google “how to relax”? Psychologically identify why tension coils around my bones and muscles? More massages? We shall do them all, especially starting with making use of that Groupon app I mentioned above. I have a feeling that if I incorporate massages into my regular schedule, perhaps I’ll finally begin to unwind. After that, I’ll need a leather couch, someone with a pen, and long conversations about just why I believe someone needs to be struck with a can of potpourri in the middle of the night.

How do you relax?

calling all big heads.

Let’s get right to it, shall we? For most of my days on this planet, I’ve been reminded by my mother about how this thing that sits on my neck nearly cost her her life. If you have a large coconut, I’m sure you’ve heard similar stories from your mom. And lest you think Mom is exaggerating or teasing me unnecessarily, kindly note that for my high school graduation, my cap had to be special ordered from another state because the ones they had at school didn’t fit my head.

Now you understand.

Obviously, I rarely wore hats throughout the years. Moreover, once this lovely fro of mine was nurtured and came into bloom, there was no way I was going to attempt to fit a hat on it. Alas, however, I soon discovered that sometimes the old college try works out: a big head and an afro aren’t obstacles to anything (other than sitting in front of the television). See Exhibit A below.

hatgirl

The caption says it all, no? So now that we’ve obviously mastered hats and fros, the next thing I’d like to try are head wraps. I’ve always been fascinated by the head wrap look, primarily because I grew up with Ghanaian women who could tie a wrap around their heads like nobody’s business. These days, I also love seeing my fellow chocolate ladies rocking them, too, especially other naturalistas. And just like a larger-than-the-average-bear sized head/fro isn’t going to keep me from adorning it with a hat, the next stop is head wraps. Naturally, I sailed on over to Pinterest for some styling ideas, and also to get some, uh, tips on actually tying one. (Mom has shown me more than once. Just like binomials, I don’t get it.) Here are a few beauts I saw.

Don’t you adore the looks? Chic, practical, fun, gorg.

Summertime, and the wrapping is easy…

Tell me: are you a head wrap lady?

shopgirl?

I don’t know what it is about entering a store and looking through racks of clothes and trying them on that fills me with pre-root canal-esque queasiness, fear, and disdain. Most of my friends hear my “I detest shopping” complaint and are shocked that my recent weight loss didn’t translate into a complete change in mindset, as if my ability to wear smaller sizes somehow means that now I want to run through store aisles with gleeful abandon. No. And perish that thought, immediately. The fact is, friends: I’ve never

shutitdown
The typical reaction in front of every single store.

liked shopping.

My relationship with the acquiring of clothes, specifically, has been the following: my mother purchased my clothes until I was in my mid-twenties. First of all, this is what the mothers of sheltered girls do. Second, since there were tumbleweeds running through my wallet (former minimum wage girls unite!) most of the time, I heartily left it to my primary caregiver to clothe me. When I finally started working my first “real” job and making a bit more money and taking care of myself, all of that changed. I was now responsible for heading to the stores and finding my own clothes. A task that became my white whale. I had no idea what my personal style was back then. I wore the clothes my mom bought me and let’s be real: as chic as my mom was and still is, I was her daughter. (And always a little girl in her eyes.) My clothes were floral and functional. So to have to figure out what looked good on me, what I liked: hello, Moby Dick. Also, I was (am?) a lazy drone who didn’t like looking for anything. Add to that a preference to hide in clothes rather than be accentuated by them and you had someone that side eyed the department store 100 percent of the time. Needless to say, I kept to the floral and functional options and seriously kept it moving.

But then comes the passage of time, journeys, figuring out what I like, learning that I’d rather look at flowers than wear them emblazoned on a dress, that sort of thing. Yet I still can’t come to terms with it: peering through tags and fabric, searching, de-clothing in a white room that may or may not be on a camera pointed right at me. I just don’t like the process. And forget shopping with friends. Goodness. Yes, it’s my lot in life to be surrounded by lovely women who spend gobs of time strolling through stores and pronouncing that something is cute every ten seconds. (I do love them, though. I promise. At times. Kidding.)

So what does This Square Peg do? After all, you’ve seen some of my finds on here for Fabu Fashion days, so you know that I shop. Here it is, dear reader, my shopping modus operandi: I run in and out. My time inside stores doesn’t go beyond a certain amount of time, lest someone finds me in a melted heap somewhere by the shoe section. I even try things on, but it has to be for a serious reason, like I need the outfit for a special event and hardly feel like returning it. And I do it quickly. Everything must be done quickly before The Queasiness comes. You thought I was exaggerating, weren’t you? I wish. I really do get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. But let’s end here, shall we? We’ll save all the gory stuff for my future therapist. May he or she be blessed with patience and plenty of ink in their pen.

Anyway, folks, yet another strange adventure in the life of your Square Peg. Tell me: are you a shopper? Are you not? How do you feel about the whole thing?

just beautiful.

My grandmother was hearing-impaired. I have memories of standing in the corner, breathless and amazed, as I watched she and my mother sign to one another. This brief video touched me because it took me to that memory. It also spoke to the simple beauty and emotion of  a hearing-impaired individual going through his day, doing ordinary things, and having the people around him communicating with him. What if that happened every single day, all the time?

Really, really beautiful.

The Boss.

DianaRoss

Last night, a friend invited me to join her for Motown: The Musical. So well-done, first and foremost, and such a great opportunity to reminisce about how those incredible songs have been with me since I was a child. What a wonderful journey.

But above all, above all, the musical reminded me of my enduring love for the woman you see above. The Boss. The BOOSSSSSS.

Diana Ross has been with me since birth, y’all. I sang Touch Me in the Morning and Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) to various family members until they begged me to chill out. (Didn’t work.) I told old classmates that she was my real mom. (Long story, but it had to do with my big hair and her big hair and feeling that we were bound.) I would gaze at her in silent awe during films, interviews, while looking through photos. Last year, when Mom and I went to see Lionel Richie in concert, he teased us and told us that he had invited a “special guest” for the concert, one of his closest friends, a woman and singer we all knew. Naturally, I bolted up from my seat, my heart thumping and racing, my bladder about to let loose, my lips repeatedly forming the syllables of her name, because I just knew it was her. My mother looked up at me, agape, aware that this would be the highlight of my life. Well, I said Lionel teased us, right? He was kidding. She wasn’t there.

The jury is still out on whether I forgive him for that.

Anyway, just recently, I was in the car at a red light and I was blasting Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. I was singing along with abandon, with drama, with wild gestures. Then I noticed that the woman in the lane next to me was watching my performance, wild-eyed and stunned. Amused by her reaction, I continued with my joyful, slightly crazed rendering of one of my favorite songs and kept it moving. To me, that’s life as a fan of Ms. Ross The Boss: joyful adoration.

So to that lady in the next lane: you’re welcome.

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