Monday, November 27, 2006


“Welcome, baby!” Phillis Wheatley exclaims as Dorothy West wraps her in a warm embrace.

“There is a seat for you here,” Lorraine Hansberry calls out from the table where they have all gathered, each holding court when it is her turn.

As Zora guides her to a cushioned throne between Audre and Octavia, she smiles her brilliant smile.

“Young, gifted, and black,” Lorraine chimes as she leans to pat the back of her hand gently.

“Joining us much too soon,” Ann Petry intones.

“Not for us to say,” Alice Dunbar-Nelson muses, sipping from a heavenly cup of tea.

“But it’s being said none the less,” says Audre.

“Where am I?” she asks, in awe of the mothers and daughters who had come before her.

They all smile. Zora chuckles softly. “In a room full of free women,” she answers.

“Where the beauty of your words will continue to light the stars of heaven,” Octavia adds.

“Heaven,” they all chime in unison.

“Won’t you share something you’ve written?” Ann asks. “I do believe it’s your turn.”

“And introduce yourself properly,” Phillis says sternly. “Let all the angels know who you are and what you do.”

She smiles again, as they each pull a book into their hands. “Thank you,” she says, as all eyes are upon her. “My name is Bebe Moore Campbell and I am a daughter, a mother, a wife, a friend and an author.”

“Young, gifted, and black,” choruses through the room.

“Joining us much too soon,” echoes off the walls.

“But here, in heaven, in a room full of free women,” she answers, “still sharing the beauty of my words.”

Bebe Moore Campbell
1950 - 2006


Years ago a close family member was shot at point blank range by her ex-husband. The divorce, which had happened two years earlier, had been amicable. Or so we all thought until that fateful afternoon while preparing her two young sons for their weekly court-ordered visit with daddy that she opened her front door to him holding a small caliber weapon and unloading six shots into her chest.

By the good grace of God, she survived, stronger, wiser, and more cautious for the experience. But, so did he. If I remember correctly, the charge of aggravated assault (because he said he really wasn’t trying to kill her) only netted him two years in the state penitentiary. A few months of good behavior saw him released early. Imagine our surprise a year or so later when he showed up for my maternal grandmother’s funeral extending his teary-eyed condolences and a pound cake from the local Piggly Wiggly supermarket. I know I didn’t eat any cake!

I can’t tell you why this man snapped but snapped is clearly what he did. I remember thinking at the time that women shouldn’t play with a man’s emotions ‘cause that’s a game that could very well lose them their lives, and not to say that it was her fault, because it wasn’t. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, he just seemed to think so.

I have a male acquaintance whose behavior scares me to death. Unfortunately, the woman he’s obsessed with isn’t as concerned as I believe she should be. This man is highly educated, reasonably intelligent, active in the church, a charismatic pillar of the community, and a walking poster child for good love gone bad. He’s a ticking time bomb and I honestly believe it won’t take much for him to snap.

The couple have dated on and off for a few years. Although she has been exceptionally straightforward with him about just wanting the relationship to be casual, he hasn’t even begun to accept that. When his behavior became possessive, she dumped him, hard. His feelings were visibly hurt but they remained on friendly terms. Her definition of friendly meant they occasionally talked on the telephone and might have even enjoyed an evening of dinner or a lunch date every few months. His definition of friendly was to send her multiple emails professing his undying love every half-hour.

He has erected a shrine in his home, a sanctuary filled with her photos. His days are fueled by fantasies of a future they will eventually share together because he’s convinced she is the love of his life. He has not, in the ten years I’ve known him, even ventured to date anyone else. For a very good-looking, successful, accomplished man with a reasonable degree of intellect, there is just something not right about this.

Two years ago she met a man who captured her heart and soul. They have since made a home in a house that they purchased together and she is sporting a very nice diamond engagement ring that leaves little doubt about the nature of their relationship. Her friends are thrilled for her. We understand that she is living out her dreams.

Her stalker on the other hand has decided to stake a claim and mark his territory. When his last communication came out of the blue, professing yet again his undying love and detailing the specifics of how he wanted to propose, when and where they would marry, and why she should commit to him and not the other, I advised her to get a restraining order, dye her hair, change her name, and get as far from the lunatic as possible. The man is delusional and quite a few cards short of a full deck. She doesn’t think he’s problematic but she sent a short and sweet reply that said she wasn’t interested and either he accept that or they could never again be friends. Your average Joe would take the hint because she left nothing to the imagination about how she did and didn't feel.

Dr. Jekyll, however, switched personalities real quick and has been overly apologetic ever since. He doesn’t want to lose the friendship. I think it’s the calm before a potentially dangerous storm. I hope I’m wrong, and for all the well wishes I want for her happiness, I am also praying that this man doesn’t one day, just snap.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


It’s the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day and I am thankful to be up and standing, in reasonably good health, and definitely high spirits. I am at this moment doing the second thing in this world that I love most doing. I am lost in the warmth of my kitchen, the delectable aroma of candied yams, cheesecake, macaroni and cheese, and other assorted foods wafting through the air. My son thinks I’m crazy to be cooking a full meal when we will be celebrating the holiday elsewhere. He reminds me that we will be able to pile plates full, wrap them in tin foil, and cart it all home if we want. He does not understand that this has very little to do with the food.

I find great comfort in my kitchen when I am whipping egg whites into stiff peaks and folding them gently into a creamed batter. It is especially calming to drizzle melted chocolate atop an iced and layered seven-tier cake. My mind and spirit soar as I knead bread and mix batter or prep the meats and vegetables for a family meal. And even though the bulk of my family is not here to share it, I am thankful. The simple act of cooking brings me sheer joy.

As I pulled cheesecakes from my very old oven it was apparent that we will soon need to invest in a new one. And even as I ponder where that may or may not fit in the budget, I am thankful. Knock on wood, my twenty-six year old food processor still performs as if it were brand new. I am thankful. The hubby is snoring softly, finally able to rest after a long and arduous day of work. I am thankful. My body is tired but I am still energized, still able to maneuver preparing the breakfast casserole around the cleaning of the collard greens and the baking of the pies. And, I am thankful.

I am blessed beyond measure. And each and every day that I am able to get up and out of my bed, put my feet on the ground, and get through a full day, I know that I have so very much to be thankful for.

Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


In the name of research I spent a few hours in an ADULTS ONLY store. This establishment has only recently opened and is owned by an outrageous, gregariously funny mother of four. When I first walked in I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights because I was just amazed at all the stuff that lined the walls and shelves. I thought I was playing it off as I maneuvered my way over to the lingerie section to get myself acclimated but I obviously wasn’t doing that good a job.

The owner greeted me warmly, then politely said, “The plus sizes are on those three racks over there.” I guess I didn’t look amused because she laughed and then said, “Honey, you’ll never get your girls in any of those things there. I promise you that rack will be way too small for all your stuff.” Now had I been in a different mood I might have walked out but the moment was suddenly too funny and all I could do was laugh with her ‘cause I knew she was right. The 34B lace demi-cupped bra and thong set in my hand would barely have covered one of my girls let alone both of them. And, the thong looked like an extra small band-aid with dental floss. The set was not made for a woman with serious curves.

The laughter led into some great conversation as I began to ask questions and she told story after story about opening the business. And when I told her what I did and why I was there she gave me a guided tour of the place, describing in fairly graphic detail some of her product line.

Now, I have to tell you, many of these new sex toys on the market scare me. And not to say I’m prudish or opposed to shaking things up in the boudoir, but some of these gadgets look more like torture tools than pleasure paraphernalia. I remember when vibrators looked like penises, which I thought was the point of a vibrator. The new breed comes with attachments that make them look like fairly deformed penises. One of her more popular sellers is the Wascally Wabbit Vibrator and it has ears and things that can be tucked in more than one crevice at the same time. And then there was the Clitoral Hummer that boasted a label that said it was waterproof. Seems you can use it in the bed and the bath with no problems. I didn’t dare ask what would happen if it wasn’t waterproof. Let’s not forget where you play with it. Does it short out mid-orgasm or something?

This was a full-service store, from videos to instructional classes for the more daring individuals. There was a lot more than a little something for everyone. Candles aren’t just candles anymore. She had some that melt into massage oils that can be consumed orally. There were gizmos that weren’t for the faint of heart and some very interesting fetish gear. I was half tempted to buy this cute little pick penis ring thingy that claimed to satisfy you and your partner but I knew the hubby would have sent me packing to the nearest psych ward if I had asked him to tuck his equipment into something that resembled a cherry lifesaver.

Her eldest daughter, aged eighteen, came in from school as I was peeking through a basket of thongs and undies. Seems she inherited her mother’s humor, commenting when I picked up a pair of crotch-less panties, that “those are made especially for lazy people or the front seat of a pickup truck in a McDonald’s parking lot”. Her mother laughed and I started to ask how would she know but then I figured I would just let that alone since she probably would have told me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Writing doesn’t pay my bills. Most folks think just because you actually have a book, or two, or seven, published by a major publisher, then you just have to be rolling in dough. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily so, most especially if the only thing you’re published in is romance and your career is kind of middle-of-the-road. I'm not a newbie, but I haven’t attained superstar status yet. Attaining national, best-selling author status has many a perk, but financial reward has yet to be one of them. Truth be told, my writing doesn’t even come close to supporting me. If I had to depend on my writing to eat, I’d be hungry more times than I’d probably care to count. Depending on how you look at it that might not be a bad thing since I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to diet.

Thanks to the husband I eat fairly well. I told him he’d eventually come in handy for something and since I embarked on writing and getting published he’s come in very handy ‘cause the bills still have to be paid whether I’m being paid, or not.

With my corporate experience I periodically do freelance work and some consulting. I’m a pro when it comes to procedural evaluations. Most especially in small businesses. Defining what works and what doesn’t in order to make a business run more effectively has been one of my specialties. One reason I’ve been successful with it has been my hands on approach. I can’t tell you what’s not working if I’m not down in the trenches experiencing what’s going on first hand. It has made for some very interesting moments and afforded me much experience in numerous professions.

I’m working for one such company right now. I’ve actually run the cash register, stocked the shelves, interacted with the customers and have learned the subtle nuances that one only gains by doing the actual work. And what I’ve learned in this particular business is that consumers aren’t only finicky but they can be less than loyal for very unselfish reasons. I’ve made suggestions and many of the recommended changes have been effected. Just as many haven’t been. Sure, I can tell a business owner what I think needs to happen for his business to be more efficient because that’s what he’s paying me for, but I can’t tell him how to run his business. He’s going to do that his way no matter if it works or not.

And the whole point of this post is to give myself one good swift kick in my very wide behind. Sometimes I forget that I’m a writer and I’m running my own business. I have a responsibility to myself to stay published, promote my work, gain name recognition, and write. Lately I’ve done a piss poor job of doing my job. I’ve been telling myself what I think I need to do, but I haven’t been doing it. And that changes right now. The old way hasn’t been working well for me. I've been less than efficient. I think I’ll try the right way and see if that doesn’t make some kind of difference.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


One year ago today we lost our son, Allan Jr. He died from cancer complications. His young life ended abruptly after an unexpected diagnosis of a rare T-cell lymphoma that had spread too quickly through his body. A few short months of chemotherapy treatment served to aggravate his condition rather than help it.

My son knew he was dying. Even while he and his wife were researching treatments and we were all proclaiming that he would beat the cancer and survive, he knew. He knew it before the rest of us could even begin to think about wrapping our minds around the possibility. I didn’t see it back then but I truly believe it today. And I believe that he tried to prepare me so that I could prepare everyone else.

He’d kept a journal right after his diagnosis. A private space for him to share his thoughts and reflect on all he was going through. The last day he was admitted to the hospital he gave me that journal and told me to hold onto it. He said that I would know what to do with it when it was time. I’d attributed his somber mood to his just not feeling well and I dismissed it. I’d even joked about him wanting the book back before I got a chance to get out of the door, afraid that I might peek inside, and I remember the faint smile he gave me back, no hint of humor in his eyes.

His last words to me came out of the blue and they threw me off guard. As I’d leaned to kiss his forehead goodnight, he’d stared straight into my eyes and he asked me point blank, who would raise his children when he was gone. I dismissed that too, my head waving frantically as I told him not to think like that, to be positive. I went home with that book, tucking it away in my desk drawer, determined that I would give it back to him the day we would be taking him home, determined that he would be there to raise his babies when all that bad mess was done.

We never spoke again after that. The next morning they called to say he had to be incubated to help him breathe. Before we made it to the hospital his kidneys had shut down and they were rolling in the dialysis machine. We sat by his bedside for two more days as every major organ in his body suddenly failed him and machine after machine was attached to keep him going. As a family we held out hope for a full recovery even after the doctors had told us for the second time that there was no hope.

Reflecting back on our final days together and all that was spinning around us during that time, I am suddenly struck by events that I can now remember with vivid clarity. They were just vague moments in time while we were going through them. I remember the women who stood in my kitchen and washed my dishes day after day. I remember the friend who swooped in with bags of groceries and trays of food insuring that my full house could easily be fed. I am in awe of my sister-friends who wiped my tears and held my hand and told me that I could do what seemed impossible to even imagine doing.

I remember the soldiers who came one by one to see him, sometimes ten or more at a time. I can suddenly see their faces, the looks of helplessness and despair, love and concern spilling out of their eyes. I remember the army chaplain wiping a tear from my son’s eyes, his faith and spirit lifting up my own. I remember the arms of a stranger who hugged me as I sat alone in the waiting room, needing just a moment to catch my breath and regroup. I remember my granddaughter pronouncing to a neighbor that her daddy was going home to heaven and a room full of grown men falling quiet, not quite sure how to respond. I can see her hand tucked tightly beneath one uncle’s, her arms wrapped tightly around another’s neck. I remember my grandson holding his daddy’s hand as he read to him from a Harry Potter book, the rich tone of his small voice filling the quiet in the room. I remember seeing my husband cry for the very first time.

I can still see the ICU nurse who cried quietly as our family stood over him, each of us wishing a silent prayer skyward just minutes before his life came to an end. And I remember the loving tone of the woman who extolled just minutes after his passing, that we could only imagine what a wondrous moment our son had just experienced, seeing the face of God for the very first time.

I understand now that Allan Jr. had been ready for that moment. His words seemed to say so in that precious journal that I had been entrusted with. He’d written letters to his wife and children inside, loving expressions saying goodbye. And, he’d made peace with God, believing that the Lord had a mission for his life that he was not meant to question.

I miss my child. I miss my friend. And when I miss him most, I have only to look in his father’s eyes, hear his brothers laugh, see his children’s faces, to know that his spirit is still with me, still keeping me in check, still inspiring me to be well and do right and stand strong.

I miss you, Allan. I miss you, my favorite son. I will love you always.

In Loving Memory of Allan Miquel Mello, Jr.
November 11, 1969 - November 3, 2005