Thursday, January 28, 2016

Flint Water Crisis (Why I've been away and how you can help)

The Rundown-
A view of the Flint River in downtown Flint, Mich.,
Jan. 24, 2016. Photo by Danny Wilcox Frazier/VII for MSNBC
Click on the picture to get the latest timeline of events in Flint as told by MSNBC. 

This past week I've been working diligently with the zealous ladies of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.. Both my home chapter Pi Sigma Zeta (PSZ) in Forest Park, OH and the Flint, MI Chapter Zeta Beta Zeta (ZBZ) have been working hard to:
1.Bring fresh water to the people of Flint
2. Maximize the donated dollar through bulk purchases. 





The Plan-
PSZ is collecting money on behalf of ZBZ to facilitate a bulk purchase here in Ohio. The price that we were able to secure with coupons, club memberships and sweat equity is cheaper than the bulk pricing including delivery that was quoted to ZBZ. Also our chapter has just a few more lightly seasoned new grads able to sling and haul water up the highway. That's for everybody that's been wondering "Why not just send the money directly to the Flint Chapter?" It's because as everyone knows in times of disaster and resources are at a premium, prices go up on products and delivery. I could write about how I feel about that, but the bottom line is, we don't have crisis prices here in Cincinnati so that means... more water. 

Saturday January 30th PSZ will link up with ZBZ at the National Pan-Hellenic Council Water Collection Drive with the water that we've been able to purchase at the lower price and also a check to aid in the upcoming ZBZ drive. If you just got mad as hell with the rest of us and have loaded your car with water to give, we can help you unload it there. 













The Latest on Collecting-
PSZ is making our bulk purchase tomorrow evening and loading at our local Costco at 5:30pm. We are STRETCHING every donated dollar. Our overhead was locked at $200 for the truck and we have more than covered that as a Chapter through our individual donations.

Not one dime of the money donated from the public is allocated for anything other than fresh, clean, tasty WATER...Gas? we got that.

How You Can Still Help!-

We just need you to show out in the home stretch so that once we fill our truck we have extra money to give to the Flint Chapter for another bulk purchase. Even better Tia Coles and the Sorors of the Zeta Beta Zeta Chapter are going to focus on the elderly and other people that can't get to the drives. So your donations are assuring that those left behind are remembered.

Don't think there's such thing as a small donation. Don't you know that $5 will provide 2.5 cases.. that's 5 people that can drink the recommended amount of clean water a day. $1=1 person $10=10 people... Every drop counts! 

Also when you add your name to the role of donors via PayPal sending to PiSigmaZeta@yahoo.com you will receive a full report of the work you've done, written BlackMaggie style ;) "Girl Whet?" Moments included if they occur. I just want you to smile at your good works!
Thank you for allowing me to use this space to talk about some work we're doing for our neighbors. 





Flint Population: 74,000, 57% are Black... that's 42,180 people that look like me. 
Oh I care, and thank you for caring too! -Black Maggie

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Silver Lining Finding (another reflective travel piece)

The metaphor of life being a journey is one that everyone uses when they hit the rough spots and need to remind themselves that there's more road ahead. This past weekend contained every emotion humanly possible. The physical manifestation of the journey of life via the American tradition of the road trip.

 I'm not huge on boring time-lines, as you know so here are the highlights.

The Feels-

For the first time in 7 years Mr and all his siblings were under one roof. I had the honor of riding down with him and all his brothers to meet up at their sister's house to surprise his mother for her (over 40)th birthday.

  This makes for two weekends in a row for me in celebration of the life of our respective mothers. This time the backdrop was Charlotte, NC. which I have calculated as: ( Charlotte= Atlanta + Nashville + Ohioans) or Chat-la-nati.

We all shared food, drinks, stories, laughs and even tears. The look on Mr's mom's face and her impromptu speeches throughout the weekend made everything else that I'm about to share below so worth it.










Girl Whet? Moments-

Moment 1. Winding the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in an old school Chevy packed with four grown men and a fabulously not skinny yours truly, a cloud appears on the road in the distance. The light of the sun extinguishing for the day, it's absence made more prevalent with the canopy of trees overhead. I find myself at the wheel of the vehicle being charged with the duty of the safe arrival of the precious cargo (all these great big men) to the given destination. When from the back seat I hear "Just follow the lines and go." Rage welling up like a storm I assert my apprehension. "Can I just be really honest, this is terrifying right now and everybody out here is <F'in> up." Pseudo-brother-in-law (PBIL) was on my ACTUAL nerves. I kept it cute, but he was about to meet "Marri" right there on the side of that mountain.

 We finally make it through the fog just in time for the next turn. Still in a fiery rage and coming down from the anxiety of feeling as though a death of being smacked in the face by the unseen back of a broken down semi- was eminent... I miss the turn.

Don't you know Mr had the nerve to suck his teeth?
I was so damn mad that he said. "Now it's going to take an extra 5 minutes." I contemplated the cost of a last minute one way ticket back home both financially and socially. I went into perpetual eye roll mode until I could find a hot rag to wipe the road off and get into the festive mood of the party.


Moment 2. It's been a while since I booked on Priceline for several reasons but since we had to work until nearly the last days prior to driving down to sort out the details of the trip we refrained from buying the good non-refundable deals ahead of time. FWD to me riding down the highway after the gas stop (guys always have to pee) knowing that we'll be much later than normal checking in, we call the hotel in an effort to secure a King sized bed... not a suite upgrade, just a bed change.

Don't you know the individual on the phone tried to get us for $10? I just said ok on the phone so that they wouldn't release the room (I'm nearly 6ft tall, I ain't sleeping on a double & paying money to do it). Luckily when we finally checked in I was able to appeal to the common sense of the manager on duty and got that $10 fee waived. Never in my life have I heard of such a thing, and if that's something new that the hotel industry is trying to roll out, go ahead and stop that nonsense now. I promise to goodness I was just about to buy a sleeping bag from Target and catch some floor at Mr's sister's house.

Moment 3.
http://car.mitula.us
Shake, rattle and roll.- In the beginning I thought I was being a car snob. As the proud driver of a VW Jetta with a Turbo engine, I'm used to a certain type of ride (Didn't that sound horrible? I laughed at myself.). In an effort to sort out the logistics of transporting 5 adults and luggage we took Greased Lightening the 2000 Chevy that has never let us down... until this trip when it decided to do the stanky leg all the way to Charlotte with varying severity. There was a time while we drove that I just knew that the tire was going to fly off and we'd end up dead in the Smokies, to be eaten by the local wildlife prior to our retrieval. Fortunately Mr and I believe in the power of a warranty and we cashed that ticket several times with Firestone to be sure that we could make it home. That story is next.

The Twirl-
1. Firestone Liars- I used to think that you only got tried at the mechanic if you were a woman walking in alone. I was so wrong. We stopped at one location only to be told there would be an insanely long wait and to try another location after they did a safety check on the lug nuts.

We get to the second location and they give us a list of free services that we can have that come with our warranty. In the interest of safety we agree to them all. One trip to the coolest little nerd heaven ever, two naps and a discussion about politics later we've invested 2 hours to determine that there's an oil leak and a bent rim.

Through the center aisle we walk over to the car and see a puddle of oil and the bottom of the car looks like a fresh piece of chicken. Nevermind the fact that this has NOTHING to do with a shaking front end, these fools then proceed to tell us that the bent rim is the cause for the shaking and they have rotated it to the back. "Is everything OK now?" we ask. "Yes everything is fine, just check that oil" they lie.

Two more trips to alternate locations and we find out from a strong looking woman named T (I trusted her with my car immediately)  that the issue has nothing to do with the tires and the problem won't kill us on the way home.

Don't you know T didn't say a damn thing about oil?


Children Reading-
Mr and I live an alternative lifestyle apparently. We are over 25 living together, unmarried and without children *GASP OUT LOUD & CLUTCH YOUR PEARLS*

Although we are not the only ones out here freestlying, this past weekend ended up featuring one of my favorite little kids to hear talk, Mr's nephew, accidentally reading us both for filth in 2 seconds.

Kids are generally honest and common sense driven, and when you hit them with something that simply does not compute, some hold it silently and ask their parents later... others hit you right in the mouth with it. Simple exchange:
"Say hey to Margaret, Auntie Margaret."-Mr
"Are y'all married?"- Mr's Nephew
"Ask him again baby!"- Black Maggie
Later on for those battlefield promotions, I need some pinned on brass to charge that hill Cap'n. Needless to say that kid didn't have to beg for a high five out of me the whole weekend, I was showing up for every single one.

6am-
We finally made it back to the hotel to sleep for the night after kicking it hard with the family. Snuggled up and cozy after finally getting my Afro twisted down between exhausted spurts of work I start dreaming about being asleep, so you know it's good. Then out of the silence the fire alarm goes off at 5:58am.

I'm a firefighter's kid, for my newer readers, and anything fire safety related has been drilled in my head repeatedly throughout my entire life...not just my childhood. We move like the wind and are able to put on enough clothes to be legal and not freeze, grab the keys to the room and get out.
   Problem 1- The map on the door is supposed to tell you your path and meeting spot. It did not so I had to devise the plan that put us in the least danger. I determine walking through the outdoor courtyard gives us the most options without putting us on an unmanned side of the building.

On the way out we walk through the workout room into the courtyard and there's a lady on the treadmill tearing it up at about a 6.5 nonstop. I notice the deafening silence in the room and the absence of the alarm. She has no clue what's going on. So being the good citizen that my parents raised, I wave my arms and alert her to the alarm.

Don't you know that heffa said yeah and shrugged without breaking stride.
"Die then, hell.." I walk off.

According to the lady that supplied the hot cookies and breakfast coupons for my inconvenience, there was an incident in the boiler room. To the credit of the Charlotte FD, they got there in a hurry and in an orderly fashion. I was beyond tired, but that free breakfast was everything I needed for the day that lay in wait.




Nerd-gasm-
The only thing better than the smile on Mr's mom's face and the laughs that everyone shared in fellowship was finding this little store during our TWIRL at the second Firestone. Sound, lights, retro memorabilia, funky pieces of custom furniture. If only they had a shipping solution to get the items to Cincinnati; I would've bust a dent in my credit card buying trying to buy all the things that I loved. Enjoy the photos because there's no amount of words that will do the store justice. They aren't on any social media right now, but I told the guy I'd make sure that changed after this weekend.

Final Thoughts-
This journey was a trip indeed. I can't remember a time that more things went both so wrong and so right all in a 72 hour window. We didn't win the Powerball, and the Bengals let me down again like they have my whole life, but we won several "Effective Adulting" points for refraining from acting up the whole weekend. Life will send you through the ringer on some days, and as we've seen, maybe an entire weekend.

Yet, the key to making it to the other side of the fog is keeping your eyes on the silver lining, and just go. Turns out PBIL was right.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Black and Slightly Bourgoisie in Nashville (A journal entry)

The Setup-

My first trip of 2016 was in celebration of my mother's landmark birthday. To give you a little background, my mother and I have always had a very... unique relationship. This relationship has resulted in decades of us trying to figure out how to get along. She's a Capricorn and I'm a Cancer which in short means that we are one another's opposite on most things yet we are both fascinated by strange/abnormal things. This is why a semi-short notice trip to both the symbolic and literal half-way point was both appropriate for our personalities and necessary. 

I thought that I wanted to share the details of this trip in chronological order but that's the blogging equivalent of asking you to watch slides. I'd rather give you the stories and my observations grouped together by relevant categories. Enjoy!

Ok Google- 
So we both had a four hour trip ahead of us and we coordinated leaving our homes at the same time; her from Atlanta, me from Cincinnati. At first I thought that my NASCAR like driving skills were beating the satellites and causing my Google Maps to lose entire pieces of highway yet keep perfect time on my estimated arrival. Being a self-proclaimed expert navigator from numerous trips around the country in the era of the AAA TripTik, I decided to ignore the woman's voice completely and follow the silent map thumbing my way through the transitions and marking my position on the highway. My mother and her trusting heart however listened intently to the words coming from her Garmin and it led her all the way... to someone's house. 

When she told me that I laughed so hard, both on the phone and in her face every time she brought it up. It was the funniest thing in the world and I just couldn't figure out how in the world she could trust turning into a sub-division to get to the Omni Hotel. I laughed even harder when on our way from Opryland the little lady in my phone lead me to Terminal A of the Nashville Airport. Apparently Omni Hotel is a part-time CIA safe house and any attempts to navigate directly will be thwarted at all costs. My mom gets nervous when I laugh and drive, but there was no way that I was going to let myself off the hook for the same thing she did. It was funny as hell, and I had to go for it. Full on cackle.

Nashville= (Atlanta + Country Music) - Bourgeois Black People  
 When I walked my brown and kinky nearly 6ft tall self into a lobby full of not even "other" brown people I braced myself for the interactions that are to be expected. I felt like a Wesen in a room full of Grimms. My negroidian danger meter was at High Alert Orange. Yet I tucked away my apprehension in my best toothy smile and got the key to wait on Mom. 

Once she finally made it from visiting those people that the GPS sent her to we hit the town in search of sustenance. We got snubbed at the Mellow Mushroom but by the lack of parking and the line that formed at the door, they were probably just horribly managed, because they weren't busy.

When in doubt, eat at home... Panera Bread. My first employer never lets me down, and wouldn't you know it we found some black people. The homecoming was topped with the Green Tea and the Lemonade being included at the beverage bar instead of tucked behind the counter.
Free Refills on a Green Arnold? Can we eat here again tomorrow? 

 By the end of the first evening we had only seen one other black person that was not in a uniform but my frantic Google search of "What do black people do in Nashville?" assured me that there was a happy hour that night with plenty of "us"...(read this part slowly) with a free soul food buffet, and 3 for 1 drinks, and no cover. Once again I found myself checking the negroidian danger meter as darkness fell and that sweet deal went from sounding like a great idea to an elaborate trap. That much liquor with zero discretion at the door? No thanks this time. I was able to get confirmation from my cheer sister from the way back that 5-8pm is the window of safety, so if we go to Nashville again, we're prepared. 

Saturday was jam packed with all of the sight-seeing that a person can stand. We shopped at Greenhills and The Gulch, drove down Broadway (way too many people to actually try and hang), drank from the I Love Juice Bar, walked through the Parthenon and ate in the Opryland area. 

As the day progressed and we got out of the immediate downtown area the diversity increased. However, we noticed that all of the tourist places (excluding The Parthenon and Opryland) felt like Atlanta. The Gulch= Atlantic Station, Broadway= Peters Street, Vanderbilt University Area= Emory University Area.  It's as if this is what happened to everyone that used to live in Gwinnett County, GA... White-lanta. Feel free to use that one!

Girl WHET? Moments-
Moment 1. Hungry and tired we stand in the lobby of the hotel waiting for valet to bring my car up after I had called from upstairs. Along comes the third black person that we saw, not in uniform, carrying a pizza. We're both clocking her hoping we can get a chance to ask her where that pizza is from or catch a name on the box. To our luck she's a delivery driver and she's got to come past us again. The minute she crosses the door in the breezeway I blurt out "Hey, where's that pizza from?" since we see that she's at work. A long pause filled with a teeth click, an umm and circular hand gestures finally ends with her saying "It's this place called Dolce Vita or something." I meter my facial expression, I'm still looking normal and I reply "Oh ok, thanks." She steps out the door and me and Mom look at eachother and simultaneously say "Whaaat?" then start laughing. How the hell don't you know where you work? The lady came back with a menu and we decided to fill in her back story by saying she was running a delivery service contracted out. We have no clue, but we had to fix her up, she was our #3 and that was crazy. (Side note: That pizza is life giving)

Moment 2.Waiting in the complimentary valet line at the mall, we notice that the line seems to be at a halt. We thought that we saw our #4 but turns out he was parking cars and didn't have his whole uniform on yet. The line suddenly starts going around one particular car. By the time it's my turn to go around the car in my approach to the valet stand a woman comes walking out of the Starbucks, coffee in hand, completely unbothered. Yes that heffa went and got her coffee and said to hell with this line, I'm getting my Oprah Chai. Mom and I started cracking up once we gathered that whole scenario. Everybody in that line was so mad at her, and she didn't give a single care. 

Moment 3."Ooh let's order Room Service." -Me
   "Yeah, hand me that menu... oh yeah, they've got Shrimp & Gri- $25!" -Mom

Moment 4. We never did figure out why there was a microwave in the hallway of the hotel. First it was holding some dishes, and then it was all by itself. 

Moment 5. Dog tag chain= $0.15 Old file cabinet key=$0.45 ... engraved key on a dog tag chain= $40.00. Clearly we need to get on board with trying to sell cheap stuff at high prices to Talyor Swift and all her celebrity friends. I had to talk to my mother's inner Vine Street in a calm and soothing voice to keep her from hollering "hail-naw"out loud in those people's fine establishment... I was also preaching to myself. 
                                    
Live Like Old People-
We talked a lot on this trip in the car rides and one of the stand-out points of the trip is to "live like old people". This means to make decisions like you're living in your last 10-15. The Capricorn/Cancer conversation pattern can go pretty dark but we were so in tuned that nobody ended up crying or angry. We just agreed that life is too short to not do things that you really feel like doing. This manifested itself when the trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame, connected to our hotel, turned into the day of riding all around the city.

 My mom has a habit of abrupt awakenings between 3-4am. She only did that once this trip and when she woke up she had some words of wisdom after her solo half-sleep rendition of "Happy Birthday to Me".
   "If God keeps waking you up every day then you've got something else to do. If you don't wake up, then you've done everything that was in your plan" to that I added "hopefully". 

This trip had zero agenda. One of the Directors at my job travels to Nashville all the time and she gave me a document with all of the potential things to do and see while there. That helped us tremendously in making impromptu decisions, and let us have some "Retirement Practice" (a phrase stolen from one of my co-workers). Old people only do exactly what they want, and nothing else. #Lifegoals

Final Thoughts
This trip had lots of firsts, in that we've never done anything like this before in my life. Every trip that we've ever taken has been tied to some mandatory activity. Yes even that time we went to Disney World when I was a kid, I was in a karate tournament. We have spent lots of time traveling together, but no time actually vacationing and I am super grateful to have had the opportunity to see another side of my mom,  as well as let her get to know more about me. 

My mom and I used to get into it so bad when I was a teenager that my Granny would say, "Y'all better stop, one day the Lord is going to make it to where you can't see eachother again, and this is all you'll have to remember." Well now we can look back and  think "Remember that trip to Nashville?"