Mocha Angels 365. Day 29.

Lyric from “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung. Written by Nick Feldman. Produced by Peter Wolf, Jack Hues, and Wang Chung. Released September 13, 1986. From the album “Mosaic.”

Can you tell I’m an 80’s kid? I loved that song when I was a kid. I was like, “What’s a Wang Chung?” Nobody cared because it was a Top 40 jam and it had a nice beat. (Which is what the kids always said on American Bandstand.)

Today’s post is inspired by music, specifically Soul Train. I was having a moment, not feeling too great. The YouTube algorithm magically sensed my need to feel better and up popped “The Best of Soul Train 1971-1979, Volume 6.” I didn’t even know Soul Train had a “best of” series.

Lenny Williams, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Ohio Players, The O’Jays, Donna Summer, The Pointers Sisters, the Soul Train dancers, and commercials for Ultra Sheen?! Are you kidding? The music of my childhood? The clothes, the hair, the attitude! I was IN HEAVEN!! Life is GREAT! Mama was singing and dancing her butt off.

What’s today’s message? SING, DANCE, and HAVE FUN. Put on your favorite music and shake your booty!

If you have access to YouTube on your television, watch Soul Train on the telly. And watch volume 5 to see Ike and Tina Turner singing live. It was great to be an Ikette for a few minutes!

Q-Bitz, Korner’d, and Qwirkle

Looking for great holiday presents for kids? I’ve got three great board games for you. Me and my teenagers love these games.

Q-bitz. 2-4 players. Ages 8+

This is a game of visual dexterity. It’s a simple concept: Match your 16-colored cubes to the pattern on the black and white game cards. This is how you play the game.

Round 1

With 2 to 4 players, each person gets 16 colored dice. Look at one black and white game card. Race to recreate the pattern on the card. Be the first player to complete the pattern and you win the card. This is the easiest way to play. You can always stop here because it’s challenging enough.

Round 2

Roll all the cubes on the table like dice and use as many cubes as possible to recreate the pattern the pattern shown on the card. Be the first player to complete the pattern, and you win the card.

Round 3

Players have 10 seconds to study the card. Race to see who can recreate the pattern from memory. If you have all, or most, cubes in the right place, you win the card. The object is to collect the most cards, and you win.

Korner’d 2-3 players. Ages 8+

Another visual dexterity game. Simple yet difficult. Each player gets 3 to 4 multi-colored pieces. Be the first person to match all your pieces on the puzzle board. It’s so much harder than it looks. My 14-year old can match all his pieces in about 60 seconds. Me and the 17-year-old, not so much. Every adult I’ve seen play this game has a hard time. It never gets boring. I love this game!

Qwirkle 2-4 players. Ages 6+

The object of the game is to make lines of tiles that are either all one color or all one shape. There are 108 tiles of 6 different colors and 6 different shapes. Score points for every tile played. Whenever you complete a line of all six colors or shapes, you have made a Qwirkle. The player with the most points wins the game. This game takes 30-60 minutes to play.

These three are wonderful games. Let me know if you buy them for the holiday season.

A Year of Living Without (or Breaking the Chains of Resistance) November Update

Imagine my shock yesterday when I open an email from zen habits and the title is “Working with the Ebbs and Flows of Your Resistance.” I got the email on November 22. I didn’t read it until yesterday, November 29. Talk about right on time.

My challenge for November was to not eat nor surf the internet while eating. Sometimes I succeeded. More often than not, I did not succeed. I had no idea these were such difficult habits to break. I realized the noise from the TV or internet surfing distracted me from the present moment. Whether I was alone in a silent house, or in the house with my kids, or eating lunch at work, when I was eating, I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t enjoying the silence. I wasn’t enjoying the noise my kids make. I wasn’t enjoying my co-workers at lunchtime.

As zen habits Leo Babauta puts it: The resistance is simply our mind not wanting to do something that feels uncomfortable: anything uncertain, difficult, overwhelming, different than our normal way of doing things, awkward, painful, sad, lonely, stressful. It makes sense that we would avoid these kinds of discomfort.

Resistance is natural, just a sensation in the body that is a response to change, discomfort, uncertainty. Our minds have a hard time dealing with these things, because we like routine, comfort, certainty.

Here’s the thing: the resistance isn’t always at a constant, full-on intensity. Resistance ebbs and flows.

During the time resistance is at its peak, my task is to be aware of the resistance. Instead of running from it, I am to see how it feels. Is it pleasant or unpleasant? (Usually unpleasant.) I notice the intensity changes. The goal is to breathe through it. Smile. Dance. Laugh. Play music. Bring lightheartedness to the table.

So I will continue to focus on my food rather than television or the internet. This month, I am not watching TV except to check the weather. Originally, I wasn’t going to watch the news. I can’t avoid it at work as there are televisions everywhere. At home though, no TV for me. My kids will continue to watch it but I won’t watch any of my shows. I’ll update this challenge the first week of January.

Original post: A Year of Living Without

Leo Babauta’s Working with the Ebbs and Flows of Your Resistance.

Up next on Media Wednesdays: Three boards games that make great Christmas gifts. Wednesday, December 4.

A Short Buddha Story To Calm Your Mind.

I saw this short two-minute video a few weeks ago. It basically says when you are emotionally agitated, straining your brain to figure out a problem, let it go for a while. Chill. Relax. Meditate. Sleep. Practice yoga.

Trust that the answer will come to you, if you allow it do so. I did exactly that at least three times in the past few weeks. I’m sharing the video because the technique really does work.

Trust in love for all your days.

Up next on Media Wednesdays: A review of the Netflix original movie Dolemite is My Name. Wednesday, November 27.

A Year of Living Without (or Breaking the Chains of Resistance)

The adult version of the universal toddler’s mantra “I DON’T WANNA!!!” is “We all gonna die sometime. Therefore, I’m going to enjoy my cigarette/Big Mac-Large Fries-Coke/Big Gulp/ribs/brownies/heroin/KFC Double Down/cocaine/insert-your-vice-here.”

Cravings and addictions, legal and illegal, is avoidance of emotional pain. I’ve said it before, humans run toward pleasure and run away from pain. Since we do such a good job of hurting each other, we all have our wounds. I’ve got mine, and I’ve worked very hard this past year to heal them. I recognize my own resistance to fully giving up habits that no longer serve me. In the spirit of two of my favorite blogs, zen habits and bemorewithless, I will do my own, “year of living without” starting today, November 1, 2019.

I will live without each of these things one per month:

November: Watching TV while eating. I’m reading a lot about mindful eating. I want to slow down and pay attention and appreciate my food. Replacement habit: mindfulness. Update: No internet surfing on my phone while I eat either. This is really tough! November update here: November 30, 2019

December: Watching the news. Death, destruction, and impeachment. I’m so over it. And yet, I keep coming back to it!! is like my best friend! AAAAHHH! The exception is that I will watch the morning weather. That’s it. Replacement habit: Good News Network and Good Black News. December update here: January 11, 2020

January 2020: Coffee. I get up at 4:30am every morning. I’ve been using coffee to beat the mid-day slump. I hate it. I love it. Replacement habit: tea. January update here: February 2, 2020

February: Sugar. The sweet love of my life. She has got to go. Replacement habit: acknowledge my feelings. :::WTF? EYEBALLS POP:::

March: Chicken and Fish. I’d like to stay vegetarian. Some days are better than others. Replacement habit: Vegan/vegetarian meals I like.

April: Processed Foods. Can I really eat only whole foods? Nothing out of bag, jar, or can? As I get closer, I’ll tweak this one a bit. Replacement habit: whole foods.

May: Credit Cards. I’ve been waaaaay better on this one. A sista has come a long way, baby. So good, in fact, two days ago, one of my creditors raised the limit because of my “credit discipline.” I hate debt. I’m a Dave Ramsey fan. My goal is to be debt-free completely. Replacement habit: cash.

June: Buying new things. This is going to be different. Replacement habit: none.

July: Television. Easier to do in the dead of summer. That includes no America’s Got Talent! Crap! Replacement habit: Spend time with my loved ones.

August: Social Media. That means I have to write and schedule all my August posts much earlier. Hmmmm. Replacement habit: Work on my novel.

September: Sitting longer than 30 minutes. At work, that’s not a problem because management took away our chairs. At home, I sit a lot because I’m writing/pay bills/on the internet, etc. Replacement habit: walking and yoga.

October: All of those things, except social media. I gotta post my blog. Why all of those things? In October 2018, I got a concussion. In October 2019, I got super sick. In October 2020, I’m going to slow way down, pay attention, and get through the month healthy and fully intact!

The first update will come on November 30th. Let’s see if I choose to incorporate these changes into my life.

Up Next:#metoo on a million little things, part 2 (ABC). Wednesday, November 6. Part 1 is here:

Finding My Voice

Advice from 2001 helped me find my way back to me.

I met Tananarive Due at a writers conference in Dallas in 2001. The note reads: “To Althea — Keep on writing what’s in your heart. It was a pleasure to meet you!” She is one of my favorite authors. I was over the moon!!

I inhaled comic books as a kid until my mother put Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in my hands around age eight. My parents were afraid a reading diet of only comics was eating away at my brain. It didn’t help that after I read the book, my mom asked me, “Why did Pecola want blue eyes?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

“Because she wanted to be white!” she said to me, obviously frustrated. Now I understand her frustration was really fear because I didn’t comprehend the novel. Toni Morrison was WAY above my pay grade as an eight-year-old. My mom didn’t have to worry because the very next “adult” novel I read (voluntarily) was Langston Hughes’ Not Without Laughter. (Unfortunately, he is not related to me.) Hughes hooked me. Comic books were out, and middle school, young adult, and adult literature was in.

Judy Blume, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Virginia Hamilton, Mildred D. Taylor, J. California Cooper, even Donald Goines (my dad’s books)….I read all of their books and more growing up. The library was my second home. By nine years old, I knew I wanted to write for a living.

 I wrote my first books in fourth and fifth grade as school assignments.

In 11th and 12th grade, I wrote for a local Atlanta newspaper called The Purple Cow. It was distributed to all the high schools in metro Atlanta.

My first cover. I was even writing poetry in high school.

Then I went to the University of Georgia. I let myself get distracted by boys. I lost my voice on Day 1.

College was such a twisted experience that I had to write about it, as fiction, of course. It took seven years, but I got it done. Walking The Line was released in September 2000. I won an award and life was good.

I found out on my birthday that I had won. One of the highlights of my life.

Then I lost my voice again. I wrote a book called Mocha Angels: 365 Days of Angel Messages which is unpublished. I also have an unfinished magical realism novel. I struggled to find my voice through my food blog The Vegan Mocha Angel. Even there, I stopped writing for two years.

Speaking up and speaking clearly in order to be be understood emotionally has been a struggle for me as an adult. I stopped trusting my own ability to make good decisions. I have struggled mightily with depression. I have either learned/studied/received Healing Touch, Reiki, Hatha Yoga, massage, Emotional Freedom Technique, Tantra, Kundalini Yoga, meditation, relationship coaching, and psychotherapy. I have analyzed my entire life from the circumstances around my conception through today. I have learned to forgive others and myself, and to not walk through life fearful. Love is all there really is.

Once I broke through the emotional clutter, I realized all I have ever wanted to do with my life is write.

Minimalism is also one of my interests. Living with less is what I’m striving for. Emotional clutter reflects as physical clutter. So as I was cleaning out my desk drawer a few weeks ago, I found Tananarive’s note, dated June 3, 2001. Keep writing what is in your heart.

I pondered the question, “what exactly is in my heart?” for weeks. The art of story is what’s in my heart. I enjoy studying and analyzing character, motivation, dialog, setting, pace, plot, theme, costume, direction, cinematography. I love doing that because the study of story makes me a better writer.

Life is also a story of our own creation. What we think, how we think, how we treat ourselves, nurture, and nature all shape who we become. The person who analyzes life and story the best is award-wining author Steven Barnes, who is also Tananarive Due’s husband. His analytic Lifewriting approach is not only fascinating, it’s groundbreaking.

I thank Steve and Tananarive for helping me break through. I thank my guides, angels, and ancestors for raising me up and helping me even when I was totally closed off to their guidance. I thank Love and I’m thankful for Love, always, for guiding me back to my little girl self who only wanted to write.