Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"No Longer The Girl Next Door"

When I was growing up the only thing I wanted to do was write and sing. But for some reason "Momma Joyce" had other plans. She always made sure that every, waking, moment of my life be filled with things to do. Whether it was forcing me to do domestic duty or grudgingly going to private duty for every single organization known to mankind, my life was always full. To me, I was participating in some sort of social boot camp, only I was the one doing all of the work. First, it was piano lessons...but I sucked at that and had to quit. Next, it was dancing school: jazz, tap and ballet back to back. Then, it was gymnastics, didn't suck, but I could never figure out how to do that "back-flip" thing. And finally it was bowling, now that was something that I was proud to say I did well. As a child, I really didn't get the option of deciding what I could and could not do but one thing I knew that I wouldn't do, was be apart of any groups. I preferred to bathe in my own identity. No way, no how, was I going to join anything that made me wear a uniform. Who on earth would ever want to walk around with a beanie on her head or a tan and green skirt and shirt with gold medals? It just wasn't cool to me. In fact, nothing about joining the Girl Scouts was. Yet, when I was asked to participate in a Silver Career event for girls last weekend, I just couldn't refuse. I guess I was still feeling guilty about my lack of interest in them back then or maybe I finally felt that I had reached the level of achievement that they so often preached. Whatever the case, I was going and there was nothing else to it. When I finally arrived I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. There were a sea of girls in every size, hue, and shape and they were swarming around me like bees to honey. What on earth was I going to share with them? I didn't even know what a "Girl Scout" meant! I certainly understood the "girl" part but what were they scouting for? And then it dawned on me, they were searching for answers just like me when I was growing up, trying to discover who I was through activities and new paths. They were navigating their way through life and this was just one small stop on their journey. As I sat at my table, patiently waiting for the girls to stop by I tried to think of as many pearls of wisdom that I could share. Would I sugar coat their vision of life with stories of grandeur? Or would I share the harsh realities that life can so often bring? But before I had the chance to even make that decision, Alex was already in front of me. She had a caramel complexion, and was radiant and full of glee. I listened carefully as she vividly described what she wanted to achieve. She loved riding horses and wanted to be a marine biologist. She was fascinated with the fact that I published my first book and humored me with stories. And when she finished, I sighed with relief, proud of who she was about to become, proud of the promise of her future, proud to see that young girls still dream big, and learn to become great women, capable of dewing many great things!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Back Door to Greatness

Last Sunday I watched in awe as the late, great Ella Fitzgerald took the stage on PBS's Jazz Icon series. She was live in Stockholm, Sweden and the performance captured her best moments during 1957 and 1963. I wasn't even born, yet I could appreciate her masterful talent and skill. She belted out not 1 but 10 songs back to back with no gulps of water in between, no clothes changes, no perspiration breaks, just a small band that played ever so gracefully behind her. She was effortless and in her glory as her lips scatted and bopped weaving melodies so fast that I started getting dizzy. And then she paused and belted out her final number, a dedication to another great, the late Louis Armstrong. She not only sang but mimicked the sound of his voice as well as the notes he played on his instrument. Like I said a true talent...a real talent. Ms. Fitzgerald didn't need any back-up dancers jumping or gyrating across the stage with little or no clothes on. No, she used her natural talent to captivate her audiences. She didn't have the everyday conveniences that celebrities have today to garner any form of support, no videos,no concerts that demanded $75-$100 a ticket, no nothing. Yet, here was this voluptuous woman, with an even bigger voice who had the tone of 12 angels. A woman, who by beauty critics today would be called average and therefore unable to walk through the front doors of most of the places she performed. I imagine that there may have been times when some doors just wouldn't open at all. I thank God for the Ella's, the Etta's, the Billie's of our past for opening doors and breaking barriers so that I could do many of the things I do with ease. I may not sing like these women but I move like these women. I fight hard every day to break down walls, to push myself to new heights of understanding and knowledge and I use back doors with steps that help elevate me to places in my life that I want to go. In these dew seasons of my life I am grateful and humbled by the low points, the bruises, and the cuts. For without them how would I ever be able to grow?