Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wave Nouveau and All That Jazz

Bernadette Adora

Jazz -- straight up and straight ahead, crisp – does a moment get any sweeter as fingers fly, hesitate, and continue to fly across the keyboard? Letters form into words that string into sentences to bring understanding, if only to my own mind while the melodic sounds of Charles Lloyd 1966 Monterey surrounds and lifts me away: Forest Flower – Sunset.

It was around 1960 when I fell in love with a genre of music known as jazz; a music that was cool, smooth yet undulating, my first triple entendre. As a child, my home was not unlike every other on the west side of Detroit -- filled with good smells, good flavors, and good sounds. Our music was most often heard coming from a large, wooden hi-fi that my parents bought and paid for “on-time” at Sears, Roebuck and Company. Whether gettin’ down or bemoanin’ life struggles with a broken heart thrown in for good measure, the music rippled through body and soul touching every nerve ending. But this “new” music awakened and touched my mind and imagination as well as my itty bitty soul; I was thirteen – a very young thirteen in today’s world. The family’s vinyl 78s and 45s said it all. And when the records were carefully placed back inside their paper wrapper, it was the AM radio that continued the Call along with the station’s griot, better known as the local deejay. Neat stacks of music by a variety of greats were kept close by: Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Duke Ellington, The Platters, Roy Hamilton, Earl Bostic, The Drifters, Clyde MacPhatter, Bill Doggett, Brook Benton, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and on and on.

A short walk onto 1962: it was a coffeehouse that Helen had heard about, we had to go! It was soon to be her sixteenth birthday, and she talked about it endlessly. I had read about such places being far away in the likes of New York City but yet there it was, in our town and full of promise in the guise of jazz! We were kids to the likes of those who hung out at such places, but we made up our minds and Helen gathered together a couple more of the girls – they agreed to join us if we could pull it off. Back when, there was the mom-factor, not quite like today. Permission had to be garnered and rides arranged. Miraculously, after phone calls galore, the moms agreed, and we were driven, collectively the night of the group’s gig, yeah, gig! And so we teenage girls spilled out of a huge family car with a mom behind the wheel that had pulled up to a building in a part of town unfamiliar to us all. Timidly, we walked together in a tight little group into a rather plain, unadorned building and stood quietly in a darkened room full of smoke and music. We four out-of-our-league young ladies were greeted and shown to a table by a smiling, if not patronizing waitress – patronizing worked for us that night; we were glad for it, believe me. And though the music was playing, I was lost; the place, so strange, so large, so dark, so full of grown folks unknown, I was completely overwhelmed. Focus Girl, focus – that much I knew to do. So, I focused on the drummer. I knew drums, drums were a good place to start and that’s where I started, and then as though on cue, the drummer looked up and gazed back, and then he smiled the smile of a big brother, a kind big brother, nodded and went back to the business at hand. It was then that a man holding a flute, bobbing his head up and down stepped up to the mike and began to blow a sound so completely familiar yet so absolutely new that my heart raced. He meant nothing to me; I didn’t know who he was at the time. For me right then, it was all about the flute and what came out and what the other musicians brought forth together and separately. We were listening to Herbie Mann and never since has a flute sounded so fine as it did at those precise minutes at the Minor Key in Detroit, Michigan that night.

The months that followed brought me back there again to witness musically what would enrich and influence me the whole of my life. And on uneventful schooldays, I went to the magical turntables at the public library on Woodward Avenue, a place where I would retreat by skipping classes just so I could listen to more of the same. There, I discovered the Modern Jazz Quartet, Bill Evans, Miles Davis and all varieties of cats and young lions that were on the scene. Summer came and went; college was only one year away, so I promised myself that I would have the personal freedoms that waited in the likes of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. There were enormous freedoms being marched and struggled for during that time, not only down south but up north; civil and human rights were continuously denied me and mine, this fact was not at all lost on me. Yet jazz, be it cool; Latin; Brazilian; or free – was for me like catching a wave through an escape hatch not unlike the one taken by Miss Alice where all things were possible – and the impossible were made real.

BA 04/09

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Splendid Journey

I wouldn’t trade one minute of my life’s twists and turns, shifts and sags, highs and lows – well, I wouldn’t trade one hour (I might trade a moment or two – or maybe tweak a few minutes here and there --- but not much more than that, mind you.) Sometimes early in the morning, just after the sun has come up, I’ll sit by my front window and stare out at the lake or simply settle back in my oversized chair with my feet propped up on my faded ottoman and look about the room in a place I call, “home” and think, “this is what I wanted as a little girl, she whose head was full of dreams forever spinning.” The little girl, who was told that rooms like mine, in a building like this, in a neighborhood like the one just outside my front door, was not meant for “us” – whoever “us” was, but of course, I always knew. Yet, there I'd sit, holding perfectly still, allowing my mind and eyes to work a light filled room that is my very own -- one little girl’s dream come true.

There are more times that I can count when I have joined with women, who I enjoy calling friends and sisters, to chat and laugh or maybe even cry over tea, over coffee, over glasses of red wine. Yet, I remember the bullying and running home from school from a group of wild headed girls so not to get my butt beat on some particular days after school when I inadvertently showed off. Of course, I didn’t know it was showing off at the time, but was reminded later in the day on my way home. I was a good runner, and it turns out, a pretty good fighter when I was in the thick of it, which always surprised me when pressed; I was a scrappy little thing.

Through the years, I’ve donned my share of evening gowns and designer jeans; today I gently pat the grey hairs into place with a knowing smile and sometimes a wink to “Her” looking back at me in the mirror. Fading photos have shown a less than secure, lovely young woman, who didn’t have a clue much of the time how much gold was in them there hills.

I balance a couple of accounts and pay bills every month while grumbling that there is not yet the amount I want for doing something daring and foolish (yet again), but there it is -- a tidy sum magically deposited and available each and every month for what I truly need, and yes, often, what I truly want. It was in the olden days, when as a young mother, I would sometime lay in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks, praying for just one -small- tidy sum while the tick of the clock beside me reminded me that is was late and morning was only an hour or two away, without knowing how in heaven’s name I was going to keep a roof over my baby’s head, which, of course, I did, just barely sometimes.

And now there are the overstuffed closets, shelves, drawers, and boxes that overflow so that "things" must be shared or discarded. As a small girl, I would leaf through old Vogue magazines at my grandmother’s while sitting cross-legged on her living room floor pouring through old issues thrown out by Mrs. Rosenthal; magazines and books that my grandmother brought home for us both to enjoy. Those old, worn pages were my first inkling that there was more out there to be gotten, riches even. I had thought so; the Saturday afternoon movies hinted as much, but those publications made it all so real and so possible, even for the imagination of my little me.

So now, I say, “thank you”, once again – but this time to the collective minds and talents of three marvelous and gifted women – writers all. We have a book, yes, a book to add to our journeys’ not yet worn-out-bustin-at-the-seams knapsack. You know! The one we were each given when first arrived through that narrow passageway into the here and now. It just keeps getting stronger and stronger for some of us. Heck! I’m living proof and testify as I step in between the spaces of the good, the best, and the better of my life’s journey. I am confident that there is only love left behind for much more of the same that is not too far up ahead, if only because I carry it in my heart and mind as I step in between and around the spaces of this splendid journey.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Space In Between

Bernadette Adora

It was always a difficult love relationship, the one between me and mother; we were just too much alike I suppose. Family, friends, and neighbors were patient with us, with me mostly. But my leaving town young to go to away to school; coming back only briefly; marrying the most unlikely of men; divorcing him soon afterwards when there seemed to be no cause; leaving again -- but for good, just broke everything into pieces. In time, I was seen by most as spoiled, an ingrate, and not worth discussing. PĂ©riode!

At age 79, mother had a massive stroke. She was in Detroit; I was in Chicago. Once I suspected something had gone terribly wrong, confirmed by neighbors, who had rushed in after my frantic calls, I arrived quickly and stayed with her in the hospital until the diagnosis made it painfully clear a couple weeks later. Doctors explained that neither time nor medicine was on mother’s side, could not be on her side. It was then that I turned with an aching heart, climbed into an ancient boat, and lovingly, yet fearfully, took hold of a rough, heavy oar and began to paddle mother safely to a destination I knew not. When I could, which was often enough, I permitted our little vessel to drift along on waves sometimes high and choppy, sometimes flat and calm, but always vast and troublesome. No one has written, at least not to my knowledge, that driftin’ on a sea of doubt and uncertainty becomes a most certain thing if only in the imagination where time stands still when hope is absent, particularly when it comes to the one you love; the one who gave you life; the one whose own life ebbs slowly away. Limbo, I grew to think, was a mean and unkind bitch!

Without a formal reference to that word, limbo, which I used often back then, I turned recently to Wikipedia, that eOmniscient place available to all seekers of the informational quick-fix. Far down in the text that defined, limbo, I located the following: “…any status where a person or project is held up, and nothing can be done until another action happens.” So with mother by my side, I drifted and paddled, paddled and drifted many a day, and when conditions forced me to take my hands off the oar, I reluctantly let go and tried to let God. I’m not good at giving up control -- not even to God, but I learned and God only knows, I have been the whole of my life, one slow learner.

Twenty-two months later, there we were, or there I was, on the floor in the emergency room where I had flung myself after screaming, “NO!” immediately following the abrupt silence of mother’s monitors as doctors frantically worked nearby – once again. I vaguely remember that a kindhearted nurse picked me up off that floor while gently dispensing words of support as the sharp tick of those same monitors started up again; I looked up and saw that mother was back. I like to think that I had called her back, and she had answered; she had returned. Our journey was not yet complete – nearly, but not quite. A mythical island was on the horizon, I could almost see it outlined through the mists that clouded my eyes as I was helped back to my feet and steadied - or were those tears that clouded my eyes as I regained my composure? One thing was plain at that precise moment; we were not yet to shore.

I acquired two friends at the university hospital that afternoon; each took turns looking after me. How they came to grace my life is not important at this telling. That they showed up on time and helped keep me safe as I tended to mother during her final weeks is what matters. One led me gently yet firmly out of the emergency room – if just to get me out of the doctors’ way, “You and your mother will be here for sometime, so you should get to know us” I was told with a kindness that never ceased to flow. Goodness flowed everyday, every night in our direction. It is amazing the angels that show themselves, when and where.

At the end of our tour, we stood at a place between buildings where the hospital and a medical center were joined by a huge overhang of decorative glass – an atrium type structure. It was explained at that moment: “This is what we here at the hospital refer to as, limbo.” “It is quiet and often empty. You should come here when you can to collect your thoughts.” And so it was that I was introduced to the place where I had dwelled emotionally for many, many months: Limbo. I looked around the elongated space, beautifully set with comfortable, plush furniture and nary a person in sight. This small space was positioned between two gigantic communities of health and welfare, added to which, was my growing faith. I had been escorted to a physical place that would allow respite during the last moments of my journey with mother. We had docked safely where, in hindsight, I was to disembark, slowly – day by day, so that mother could continue her journey alone; I was not to follow. So I sat in limbo, I sat at mother’s bedside, and I sat in limbo many times more – and I grew to understand, to accept, to finally let go, and incredibly, to let God.

Peace of mind during the most difficult stages of my grownup-being came forth during the quiet, in between moments of non-being. In the final day, I watched with grief as our ancient boat, its oar completely still, broke away from its mooring place and drifted slowly out of sight. I, who had become a mighty oarsman, was without a vessel and my dearest companion. Yet in its place, I had been given the gifts of love, wisdom, “angel” sighting, innate vision, and the ability to begin journeys of my own making - anew.
BA 02/09

Photo: Courtesy of Gretchen Gharrett

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Open Window

Bernadette Adora

Letting go is to allow for more. I honestly believe that resisting change, holding on can thwart our personal as well as our collective development. Letting go allows for peace of mind and a strengthened spirit when love is lost, abandoned, or even awakened. Letting go assists with shaping and refining our dreams whether they are sweet, bitter, or just phony-baloney; dreams are the stuff that helps deliver our daily bread be it a salty, bland, or fine loaf. There should be a letting go of the old and the worn-out, whether or not we ourselves brought it in from out of the cold.

The night of November fourth, two thousand and eight, I began letting go in earnest. The window swung open wider than I knew possible – not in my lifetime I had thought. But, it swung open nonetheless, and I began to let go and acknowledge dreams deferred; fears untold; and a deep, abiding despair inherited from those, who had loved me dear; mine, who would wish me safe, if only I could stay small enough, hidden somewhere out of harm’s way. I am the great-granddaughter of a man, who survived the Klan when being sought through the back country in Georgia for being thought uppity and above his station in life. I am the granddaughter of a man, who was born a slave in the hills of Kentucky. I am the granddaughter of a woman, who stepped through the doors of a prestigious college only to clean homes of the rich until arthritis and old age took its toll, and she could no longer bend or kneel. I am the granddaughter of another, a midwife and nurse to folk denied the care afforded those with the proper birthright by color or caste. I am the great-granddaughter, granddaughter, daughter, mother, sister, niece, auntie, and cousin of teachers, a judge, bus drivers, politicians, nurses, lawyers, artists, government workers, machinists, salesmen, doctors, housekeepers, students, athletes, union members, housewives, soldiers, chief cooks and bottle washers!

Sit up straight and carry yourself thus, I would tell my daughter when she was little; you are descended from kings and queens. I taught her by word to be large, visible, and always in the right way, while I stayed smallish, somewhat hidden, and well, mostly out of harm’s way – but not too much it now seems. Do as I say, not as I do – what a mixed message my daughter received. But as she moved forward with more courage in her young life than I ever dared, I continued to carry bags packed with deferred dreams, stuffed with fears yet to be told, and heavy with despair, which unbeknownst to me was going out of the first open window. The night of November fourth, two thousand eight, I began letting go.

And, yes, there still exists too much of the hatred and ignorance that chased after my great-grandfather nearly a century ago. And there remains the naysayer and the disheartened along with the madness and sadness of the human condition. My ancestors would caution me if they could in lowered voices with knowing shrugs and furrowed brows, all the while taking firm hold of my shirt sleeve to help spirit me away to a safer place. Yet, through a window opened wide, an odd assortment of old baggage floated up, out, and away on a November night. A new smaller bag replaces the old, where I have begun to add an immeasurable amount of trust in all things good. This is my bag that I open that I pack that I close that I pick up that I carry that I set down and that I empty at will; I respectfully discard those limiting ancestral patterns.

I am letting go of what no longer serves me or mine by embracing the present as one tiny conduit for tomorrow’s today. I wish to welcome the descendents of all the kings and all the queens everywhere as a granddaughter, daughter, mother, sister, auntie, cousin, friend, neighbor – as one good woman amongst so very many!

BA 11/08

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Most Telling . . .

Bernadette Adora

I gave up asking a long time ago. To explain: my daddy liked to recall a particular incident, one of many that happened when I was about eight or so. We were visiting family in Appalachia and there abouts -- he was born and raised in Barboursville, Kentucky. My cousin, Patty, was with us on that trip. We had driven from Detroit to and through the Smokey Mountains and back again one summer; I loved every moment.

At some time during our vacation, daddy took us to a beach where we could enjoy the water and have a picnic afterwards. I believe, we were in North Carolina by that time or maybe it was West Virginia – the family was up the mountains and down into the valleys and all around those parts for a few weeks. With pride, daddy showed off that vast land, which he loved more than life itself. It was an afternoon of splashing around in the water when Daddy instructed Patty to show me how to swim. Patty was a pretty, chubby little girl with long, thick, wavy hair – Indian hair my mother called it. I, on the other hand, was short, skinny, and seriously afraid to get my hair wet --- you’d be too if you had to sit upright and perfectly still in your mother’s kitchen with a hot iron sizzling and crackling overhead as your hair was pressed smooth, strand by strand. Nappy hair was a dreaded consequence back then of rain showers, water balloon fights, humid summer nights, settling back in the bathtub, and swimming. So I don’t know it was the water or the fact that she was doing it all wrong – of course she was doing it all wrong, I’d had a lesson or two earlier that summer, and I just knew, Besides, I hadn’t asked her, not that I couldn’t or didn’t know how; it never dawned on me to ask. I was fine; this was my daddy’s big idea – and my hair was already wet around the edges and moisture was seeping up under my water-proof swimming cap with every splash and dunk. It was then that I stopped playing around and explained to Patty, in no uncertain terms, how to teach me to swim.

Daddy stood nearby in the water only up to his ankles laughing as my mother prepared lunch far away from the water’s edge. Mother told me later he had said that he knew I’d be all right in life and stated something like, “that girl is gonna be all right, we don’t have to worry about her.” “She can’t swim a lick, but she sure can tell somebody how to and how not to!” He got that right – and I’ve also come to realize why I became a woman, who tells – and yes, asks only when necessary. It was not a matter of being “bossy” or an issue of control; it was about having received permission to be myself, early on. I was often congratulated, expected to step forward when it came to matters of self, of self interest. I was given this gift from both my parents.

Then there is the matter of the community that helped nurture me. Back when, there were two kinds of girls out there: weak and strong -or- big and little. I was tiny in stature but I was a “big” girl, who wanted to grow up like the women all around me, strong women. The girls and women, who acted first and asked (maybe) later, were common place for me and mine. The women, who I knew, were strong willed, determined know-it-alls, who could and would tell you everything you needed to know whether or not you needed that information. It was later, much later that I learned: we “tellers” can be a big pain in the butt! I have also discovered that telling can be a disguise for a fear of being thought less rather than more. It can be a cover-up lest our insecurities and our “little girl” within be known by all. Better wrong, dead wrong than weak is the motto here. Better a big girl pain-in-the-you-know-what than a little girl wimp.

Asking is an art form -- is humbling, where I come from. It’s something one did in stillness with the Lord, mainly …”give us this day our daily bread….” But now, as a New Thought Christian, even the Lord gets instructions – daily bread is no longer a request, it is a statement, it is a sure thing. Mercy, me!

So while I think of myself as a big girl, a strong woman, if not a strong-willed woman, I have come with time to better understand the measure of this woman. Not unlike those beautiful hills of Kentucky, I have gone up my mountain and back down again to dwelled in the valley below. I care about those who grace my life, and I have come to learn that I know no more and no less than anyone else – and still unafraid to tell you so; I may understand it differently is all. It is only now that I ask more and tell less. I ask out of caring; I ask out of respect; I ask out of knowing that I don’t know – and that maybe one day I will get to that place of Knowing. Yet, I believe that should I arrive at that place, I won’t need to tell and I won’t need to ask because, I won’t need. Now won’t that be lovely?

But until then, I will continue to ask for directions, about the price of things, about your day, for the time, for an occasional day of peace and quiet, and for help when it is clear I can’t get it all done alone. And most importantly, I will try and remember to ask those nearest and dearest, if it is okay for me to be a pain in the butt – once in awhile.

BA 10/08

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

Bernadette Adora

When I was young, sugar was the medicine that helped soothe the soul, sugar along with savory flavors that tickled the senses and brought about a huge smile on the faces of young and old alike. Savory flavors, sugary goodness plus Rhythm and Blues -- and to be perfectly honest, put all together, it remains a soul soother. But unlike today, sugar was a weekend or holiday treat that took the form of homemade cake: double chocolate, yellow coconut, or maybe a light-as-air pound cake with a big scoop of fresh sugared strawberries on the side. Sometimes, it was a pie not long from the oven: savory sweet potato; lemon meringue; or even warm, spicy apples surrounded and protected by a perfected flaky crust. A double crust fruit cobbler was wonderful too, especially peach, but I couldn't get with cobblers made with berries -- a personal thing I suppose. But I have fond memories too of a dented metal pan brimming over with banana pudding, a large glass bowl of creamy rice pudding with more raisins than one would considered reasonable, and a modest size tub of a favorite summertime treat: vanilla ice cream cranked by hand – mercy! A small but important note here: Unlike a little sweet treat or two in a chipped dish from time to time, R&B was everyday, if not all day.

My daddy loved my mother’s cooking! I honestly think that if my mother had not been gifted in the kitchen, she would have died a spinster – or maybe married some sour face man with no need or appreciation for the smells and flavors that wafted from a kitchen on Sunday afternoons after church – sometimes on Saturdays too depending on family plans. Baked ham covered in cloves with huge round, sweet pineapple slices; pork chops smothered in gravy; lamb roast lined from top to bottom with slivers of fresh garlic and homemade mint jelly atop the stove waiting to finish; fried chicken, crispy from an egg batter dip, rolled in flour, and then seasoned just right; rabbit stew simmering in sweet-red wine sauce with spices that defied the imagination; catfish, whitefish, perch, or trout fried up in an old black, well worn, cast iron pan – daddy fished throughout the summer on the Michigan lakes and rivers; he caught our fish and brought them home, enough oft times to share with the neighbors. He lugged a pail sometimes two of ice filled with fish into the back door late night around bedtime, him smelling a little of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and pleased to be home to take hold of his wife, who didn’t have time; she busying herself for our Sunday feast and shooing him away - most times. Then there were the jellies, jams, peaches, pickles, corn, to name a few, that were canned -- fruit and vegetables prepared by the bushel full from late summer to early autumn. Collard greens and mustard greens seasoned to perfection served with Louisiana Hot Sauce, never Tabasco, go figure; fried and cream corn fresh from the cob before finding a way to the pan; green beans with baby white potatoes along with bits of sugared ham; warm, light biscuits; corn bread piping hot; and not to forget the sauces and gravies for barbecues and roasts and nearly anything hot from the oven. Yup! My daddy loved my mother’s cooking – those few Saturday nights and those regular, can-depend-on Sunday afternoons right after church!!!

The problem for me, the only child in a household with a way-older brother off and living his life with a beautiful, young wife, is that I was often times in the way. I was a reader and a dreamer; the kitchen was the place that I spent evenings washing up and sweeping the floor; Saturday mornings on my hands and knees with a rag, a hot bucket of water, and Mr. Clean. My mother, bless her heart, was a nervous woman much of the time, and it was easier to delegate cleaning to me and do the cooking herself. Besides, there would be plenty of time to pass along the recipes and family secrets and sleight of hand famous for making her dishes a delight. But that time never came, my daughter did reap the benefit of some lessons and a bit of craft, but by then, daddy had passed, mother retired, and I was grown -- time was too precious. Thank goodness for an early marriage to a man whose mother never cooked, if she didn’t have to – that man was so grateful for everything I attempted in those early months that eventually I learned from the school of trial and error. I should go looking for that man, long moved on and out, just to thank him for his patience and optimism. I learned to cook thanks in part to his encouragement and appreciation – ahh, too bad that’s all I can recommend there. But then, that, as they say, is another story.

Today, I have tucked away a few of my mother’s precious recipes and special touches. It is with loving pleasure I share: Sweet Potato Pie. Since my daddy had a serious sweet-tooth, my mother kicked up the sweetness of that pie quite a bit. Most people keep the sugar reduced, especially in this new day and age, so I leave it to you. Here is a recipe, lighten up on the sugar if you wish and cheat on the crust if you must, but remember, my mother made all her pie crusts from scratch and that is what I’m including. Her pie crusts were her pride and joy. To my mother, a perfect flaky pie crust separated the woman from the girl.

Enjoy! Now don’t forget to switch on a little Rhythm and Blues to go along with this simple but sweet delight, both in the preparation and in the eatin’. Feel free to move about and swing a bit to the beat should the spirit move you; it is without question, the right accompaniment.

BA 09/08

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Bernadette Adora

My relationship to money is fairly simple: hopeful. Hopeful for me, for the world’s poor, for every doggone body – I suppose, I’m something like the Miss America, who wishes for world peace! Growing up in the fifties in a family that was working class with decidedly middle class expectations, expectations eventually realized, may be the reason I copied my mother’s more materialistic ways of living. My dad, on the other hand, had more basic needs; he appreciated the simple life.

Many expired credit cards later, as a mother of an adult daughter, I decided a few years ago that my work was done. It was time to look at the “next step”, the one that would lead me toward my dreams postponed, one of which included early retirement. I chose a book to start me rolling; I was behind in planning for the future – I had a lot of catching up to do. “Finances” was a dirty eight letter word, and I needed a little self-help, which I found in one book that for a discounted, $14.95 not including tax could boost my attitude toward the subject. The exercise I chose sent me in the following direction: every morning, I wrote myself a “pretend” check beginning with $1,000 on Day One, which increased each day by an additional thousand dollars – the only caveat: I was required to spend the entire amount within 24 hours. Further, I was required to keep a record of each daily credit and all debits. It was suggested that if the exercise was followed faithfully for one year, 66 million pretend dollars would be mine for whatever my heart desired. I made it to nearly four months.

I devised an elaborate routine for receiving and managing this miracle windfall with the aid of online shopping sites and catalogues to acquire STUFF, a whole lotta STUFF, I set out on new my prosperity mission. I became a frequent visitor of Tiffany’s – for me, family, and friends; I even placed a deposit one day and picked up a not-so modest, full equipped BMW the next. In one month, I was able to make a sizeable down payment on a houseboat on a bay clear across the country, by month two, I begain maintaining a small but comfortable apartment in New York (I live in Chicago), I set-off building a pretend closet full of designer clothes, and as I noted earlier, went about acquiring lots of other STUFF!

After about six weeks, I was stuffed - stuffed up and bored. Eventually, it became a chore to spend this imaginary money each and every night, which I did at bedtime. I began staying up later and later trying to be true to the task at hand and the fun ran out – it was all gone! But being task oriented, I stayed the course. It was nearing the eighth week while in a hurry one night, I created a scholarship foundation in my mother’s name for children growing up in a Detroit neighborhood she had loved dearly. It was quick and easy to do and so, I did it. A few days later, I created a second foundation, one for my daughter, who is an attorney and an advocate for juvenile justice. A week later, a third and final foundation was created, one for housing and educating the street children in Cape Town, South Africa. Now the fun was back in the game and what fun I had building three separate and wonderful foundations. And once again, I became a stranger to Tiffany’s and exclusive online shopping. I created business plans (simplified, but plans nonetheless), hired staff, purchased equipment, leased property, quit my job to manage these full time endeavors (but remember, we are still in imaginary mode.) By beginning of the fourth fun packed but exhausting month, I stopped. It dawned on me that I understood the exercise, which had helped change my mind-set. So what happened with my plan for tomorrow? I readjusted my thinking. I learned that when it came down to it, it was not about STUFF after all and growing old with a lifestyle that I never found comfortable, if truth be told. It was about building a life, my life more sincerely, which did not mean driving large or living large or appearing large, it was about moving the largess to my true heart’s desire. I acquired a prosperity consciousness that did not resemble the one I started out imaging on Day One. After getting out of my own way, I fed my spirit easily, joyfully, and productively. Each evening, I turned to new endeavors with a hopeful and creative attitude, and it all came together for me. I began to understand my relationship to money.

It has been only a couple of years since playing at that game, yet a sense of hopefulness continues to seep into more and more of what I think and what I do. Somehow in getting out of my ancient groove and out from under purchasing …stuff… “my cup overflows” took on new meaning. It has become more about what I feel and what I create and the possibilities for new creation rather than obtaining objects. And while, I might hear a collective, Dahhh, following this statement, don’t we usually pay attention to the objects, the stuff? Now, I’m still a beauty junkie; however, acquisition is no longer a main sporting event, it is an occasional pleasure. And if my memory is correct, it is not written, “my credit card overflows and so does my closet.” I think I finally got it. So for now, I remain an optimist, a woman, who sees her finances in a hopeful, positive way, one that is empowering through the use of creativity, feelings, imagination, and yes, some good old fashion sweat equity. There is more than light at the end of this tunnel, there is a bright beam leading my steps straight ahead ‘cause I’ve learned to remain hopeful.

BA 8/14/08