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My Mom, Paul Shaffer and the Big Apple

purpleMy mother and I are the best of friends, but I guess our friendship was inevitable. After all, she’s 16 years older than me so we basically grew up together, figuring out life through a series of misadventures, experiences, laughter and tears. She would be the first to tell you that she was imperfect as a single mother, making a number of mistakes when it came to me and my two younger brothers. But when I became an adult and, eventually, a mother, I saw her through different eyes. I realized what an amazing woman she was to raise my brothers and me on her own. She faced trials but persevered while maintaining a resilient faith and a beautiful, strong spirit. She is truly my hero and I love her dearly!

We may not resemble each other physically (I take after my father’s side of the family), but we definitely share the same goofy, sweet nature. She’s my biggest supporter and cheerleader but won’t hesitate to call me out when I’m wrong. And whenever we’re together, we never run out of things to talk and laugh about.

So when we planned our recent trip to New York City, I knew we’d have an absolute blast! The trip had been years in the making — actually 10 years after we first saw The Color Purple Broadway premiere. When she told me last year that the musical would be revived starring Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks and Jennifer Hudson, we started putting plans in motion and finally scheduled our trip for March 23-26 (1  1/2 weeks after my mother’s 64th birthday)!

First Day

Upon our arrival at JFK Airport on Wednesday, March 23, we caught a cab and made our way to the Jacobs Theatre for the 2 pm matinée of The Color Purple. Our excitement was palpable as we entered the theater, which was the perfect venue for the production. We had excellent seats in the Mezzanine but the theater was so intimate that, actually, there weren’t any “bad” seats in the house. And the performances…oh, my goodness, I could go on and on about the performances! The entire cast was amazing but Cynthia Erivo as Celie was truly a revelation! She sang as if each note were her last, pulling so much heart and emotion from the depths of her petite, powerhouse frame! Tears, goose bumps and laughter rippled throughout the theater! It wasn’t just a musical but a spiritual revival for the entire audience. What a fantastic way to begin our trip!

Following the play we had an early dinner at Junior’s (which was de-lish), then we shopped at Macy’s (who would ever think that Macy’s could take over a whole city block?!). We walked around Times Square (but not too long; some of those folks looked cray-cray!) and then footed the 10 blocks to our hotel.

Second Day

On Thursday, March 24, we awoke bright and early to catch a cab to attend the taping of The Chew. After we waited in the crisp morning air for about an hour, we were escorted inside. On our way to the audience lounge, my mother and I were approached by an associate producer. He complimented us on our bubbly personalities and began asking general questions (“Where are you from? What do you have planned during your visit?”). Before we knew it, he asked if we would be interested in being featured in a segment. We, of course, said yes. After meeting with the producer, I was selected to appear in the segment and was extremely nervous (almost nauseous, actually). I started freaking out a bit and then my mom looked at me and said, “This is a chance of a lifetime. You’re

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Having breakfast with my new pal, Paul Shaffer

gonna do it!”

I was asked to be in a segment with one of the show’s co-hosts, Daphne Oz. We would be racing remote control cars to determine which ingredient would be added to complete Carla’s dish. My car was labeled “chili sauce” and Daphne’s car was labeled “yogurt.” Well, it was a close race, but “yogurt” won out! It went by so quickly but it was a fun experience, and the whole crew was extremely nice.

We were famished after we left the studio so we walked a few blocks for breakfast at a diner. As I shoveled a forkful of scrambled eggs into my mouth, who walked in but Paul Shaffer! I squealed, called his name, and waved like we were long-lost friends. He came right over, sat down and spoke with my mother and me, and even took a photo. He couldn’t have been nicer!

Following breakfast we headed to NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza for an informative and

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Representin’ Kentucky on The Today Show

cool tour. It was amazing to see the sets for Saturday Night Live, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, and Late Night with Seth Meyer up close and personal. I was secretly hoping we could have seen and/or gotten tickets to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon but that’s one of the hottest shows in town (well, after Hamilton, I guess) and wasn’t meant to be.

 

Following our tour, we walked to the Rockefeller Center, Tiffany’s, Central Park and the Fashion Institute Museum. We then took the subway to Canal Street/China Town for some souvenir shopping. We were surprised by the kindness and patience extended by the New Yorkers who assisted with our questions about subway stops. The subway booth attendants weren’t quite as nice, though. 🙂 While riding the subway, we even saw some break dancers perform on the train, which was pretty cool!

Third Day

Rain was in the forecast for Friday, March 25, but that didn’t stop us from reporting to The Today Show at 6 am. Although we were in line early, we didn’t arrive quite early enough to find a “prime” spot in front of the cameras, but we were directly across from the door where the hosts exited to come out to the plaza. After about an hour or so, Matt Lauer and Tamron Hall walked through the door and approached the crowd. It was if they were moving in slow motion as they walked towards my mother and me, shook our hands and said hello. Tamron was absolutely exquisite and Matt had kind eyes.

After we left The Today Show, we headed back to the hotel and awaited a phone call from our cousins, Johnny and Netta, from New Jersey who were going to show us around the city.

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“Lupita…wait for m-e-e-e!” 😦

When our cousins arrived, we went to the Empire State Building for spectacular and stunning views of the city. We then grabbed a quick bite at a hot dog stand and proceeded down the sidewalk. My gaze turned to the right when I saw (drumroll, please) Lupita Nyong’o exit a black sedan! I was literally shaking as I reached for my phone to snap a picture. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough and my photo only captured the backs of her entourage, but I will forever hold the vision of Lupita in my memory! 🙂

We also visited the 9/11 Memorial, which was heart-wrenchingly moving;  The New York Public Library (I just had to see the staircase Carrie ascended in her fabulous wedding gown in the Sex in the City movie); Grand Central Terminal (we also checked out the speakeasy bar, Campbell Apartment); and then headed to the BB King Blues Club & Grill for an early dinner. We were thrilled to be joined by our other cousin,  Jeremy, and his lovely partner, Alex (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Carolyn Bessett-Kennedy). Jeremy is a producer and host/correspondent for OMGossip. And, as a pop culture junkie, I barraged him with questions and inside information about various celebrities. I was in heaven! It was a perfect ending to a glorious day.

Last Day

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Fantastic visit with our fantastic cousins

Saturday, March 26, was our last day in New York, but we couldn’t say farewell without visiting Harlem. We took pictures at the historic Apollo Theater and walked down Lenox Avenue. We tried to grab a quick lunch at Sylvia’s but the wait was too long, so we did some vendor shopping then took the subway back to midtown. After a quick slice of pizza, our cousins took us across the beautiful GW Bridge, and then we spent some time (albeit brief) with our other relatives, John, his wife Miriam, and their beautiful family. After that, we jetted to the LaGuardia Airport.

What a whirlwind! Everyone was so impressed that my mother and I accomplished so much during our short visit. But there was still so much we wanted to do and see so that means … we’ll just have to return to New York! And on the next girls’ trip, I’ll definitely  bring my daughter Shelby.

So much has changed since my mother and I went to New York 10 years ago — I’m now in my 40s, my mother is in her 60s, and my daughter, who was an infant at the time, is almost 12 years old. God-willing we won’t wait another 10 years before we venture back to the Big Apple, and there will be many more fun adventures in store for us. I’m just so thankful that the Lord granted us with this wonderful opportunity.

As Cynthia Erivo so beautifully and profoundly sang in the final scene of The Color Purple: “I don’t think us feel old at all. I think this is the youngest us ever felt. Amen.”

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Fallen Prince

I am in shock. I am nuheartbroken_poemsmb. I am heartbroken.

When I first heard that Prince died, I immediately thought it was a hoax, a cruel joke. But as the news circulated via social media and the internet, I realized that it was true. My sadness was palpable. 

Prince’s music was the soundtrack of my life. I could easily run off a number of his hits and how each song, every lyric had a special meaning, memory or significance. As one fan so eloquently and perfectly stated on a recent post:
“This is not like a great movie I saw, or 1 or 2 great songs…. this is DECADES of LIFE influences and ways of becoming who u are and how u perceive life and time. This is losing someone you have known ALL your life. [. . .] This is the loss of what u saved months of allowances to physically walk to the record store feeling the vinyl in your hands… having to wait till u got home to drop the needle and listen over and over and over again. No iTunes, no internet, just radio, and what a friend said they heard about it… This was just u and the music. This is the loss of that voice that made it ok, to be whatever u wanted to be…. even when u didn’t believe it. This is hollowed ground that your favorite artists favorite artist taught them how it should be. This is the reason some of us were even made….. “Dearly beloved”… u think of him, before u think of a wedding or funeral… u see a red corvette, u already know… and u can’t look at purple and not think of 1 song…. this is a loss of generational sound. Icons like this are given, shared, embraced, taken away, revered, remembered …. and hopefully cherished. He would say for years “May u live to see the dawn”… then it grew to, “Welcome to the dawn” because he realized that life is short, and the journey, and what u do with it, is what matters. Be that journey . ‪#‎ripPrince‬

Unfortunately, I never saw him in concert. When Prince performed in Louisville last year, I tried my hardest to get tickets but the show was sold out within minutes. I told myself, “Surely I’ll get tickets the next time.” Sadly, there will never be a next time. I’m just so thankful that his gift, his artistry and immense talent will continue to live on through his music.

Prince was 57. Such a short time on this earth. Such a significant loss. But did he ever rock it out while he was here!

Godspeed, Prince, oh, Beautiful One. I know there will be a serious jam session in heaven tonight.prince1

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Big Ballin’ on a budget

My husband and I are very blessed to live on a cul-de-sac with some amazing neighbors. One set of neighbors in particular are very dear to us.

John and Sarah Smith* have been our friends and neighbors for about 8 years now. They are thoughtful, funny, down-to-earth people whom we trust wholeheartedly. Ironically, we have so much in common:

  • We’re the same age.
  • We’ve been married for the same number of years.
  • We both have two children, a son and a daughter, who are around the same age.

In addition, their kids and our kids have been friends since they were toddlers and they’re still best buddies to this day.

John and Sarah are good people and wonderful parents for a lot of different reasons but one thing, however, has been a source of contention for me, and that is their “big baller” status.

Since we’ve known them, the Smiths have gone on a number of spectacular vacations. Compared to ours, their lives (and their family trips, in particular) are the equivalent of, say, Jay Z and Beyoncé to our Homer and Marge Simpson.

For example, when we go to the county fair, they go to Disney Land. We may go to Virginia Beach, but they’ll go to Cozumel. We may buy our kids Nintendo 3DS for Christmas and they’ll purchase a PlayStation 4. We have a perfectly good used minivan and they have a spanking brand new minivan. Well, you get the picture. As a result, I have secretly and quietly started hatin’ on the Smiths.

For instance, as Spring Break approached, I decided that we should go on a family trip. I convinced my husband to book a reservation to this fabulous (and pricy) indoor water park. While most families in this area have already been to this water park several times, we had never been. I mean, we’re probably the only family that hasn’t been to Disney World, but that’s another story.

Anyway, after I booked the trip, I mentioned this to Sarah. She said it was a great facility and that we were sure to have a good time. I then asked, “So…what do you all have planned for Spring Break? I guess you’re going to Australia, huh?!” We both chuckled. She said, “No, we’re actually going to Northern Virginia to visit family.” Then without missing a beat she said, matter-of-factly, “Oh, but did I tell you that two weeks after Spring Break we’re going on a Disney Cruise?” I immediately cursed my friend in my best Florida Evans’ impersonation… “Damn, Damn, DAMN, you Smiths! We can’t keep up with you big ballers!” And she and I laughed out loud.Damnb

Obviously I love them dearly and wish them no ill well. They’re a wonderful family and I’m happy that they’re blessed enough to plan exciting family trips and have the financial means to do so. More than that, even when they’re in town, they do fun things with their kids as well as my kids. They’ll go on walks, bike rides, and take advantage of the excursions in our area. So it’s clearly not all about the money to them; they genuinely enjoy spending time together as a family.

I guess I secretly wish we were able to do more fanciful excursions with our kids and to create more of those “Kodak moments” I always dreamt of when I was a kid. Our children are growing up so quickly and I want them to have wonderful memories of vacations and family trips.

My husband works extremely hard in the restaurant industry which keeps him busy most days (including weekends), so we’re not always able to spend time together. But he makes every effort and we do so if and when we can.

However, what I’ve come to realize is that the most important thing is that every moment our family spends together is precious. Helping our children with their homework, going on walks together, watching a movie, engaging in a pillow fight or tickle battle — these moments are the lasting memories that we’ll savor once our children are grown. So whether we’re going to the public library, the park, Myrtle Beach, McDonald’s, a family reunion, or sitting on our front porch slurping popsicles, the most important thing is that we love, laugh and appreciate each other, and savor every quality moment together.

So the next time our neighbors tell us about their upcoming trip to the Caribbean, I’ll be like Jay Z, flick the imaginary dirt off my shoulder and proudly say, “We happen to be on our way to Walmart. Deal with it!” 🙂

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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The struggle is real

Last night after putting the kids to bed, cleaning the kitchen and folding a few loads of laundry, I decided to watch “Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014”.

About half-way through the program, Barbara Walters interviewed Oprah, who is definitely one of my biggest heroes. Of course the interview was enlightening, interesting and inspirational. Oprah discussed how she’s been doing even more important work since her daily television show ended, and that she’s seeking to help empower others to find their true inner voice and strength. She also mentioned that she is very happy, truly enjoying her full life, and has no regrets whatsoever.

Then Barbara asked, and I’m paraphrasing, “What is the one thing that you feel you must accomplish before you to die to make your life seem worthwhile?” I’m thinking Oprah’s going to say something like, end world poverty, run for president, adopt a child, etc. But do you know what she said? Oprah said that she won’t be satisfied with her life until she makes peace with her weight. WHAT?!!! That truly rocked me!

This is OPRAH, people … O-freaking-PRAH! She’s got power, prestige, wealth, influence, respect and success beyond measure, as well as a league of followers all over the world. She can go anywhere and do anything. But the fact that she said she is still battling her weight after all these years with all that she has at her disposal really shook me to the core.

I, of course, have been battling my weight my whole entire life. And, yes, it’s had its hold on me and I don’t know why I can’t shake it. Every year I claim it will be “the” year that I finally get it together and slay this weight dragon once and for all. And 2015 will be no different, as I recommit myself to eating healthy and working out regularly.

But the fact that Oprah made that statement last night just confirmed it: The weight loss struggle is real. I mean, it’s FOR REAL, for each and every one of us. I take a small bit of comfort in knowing that I’m not alone and that Oprah and I (as well as millions of others) have that in common.

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Love is the answer (what a concept!)

This is so beautifully and eloquently stated, I just had to share!

“Why I think this world should end”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itvnQ2QB4yc

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Summer strut

My whole adult life, it seems I’ve had a never-ending battle with my weight. And with every season I exert a new vigor and commitment to getting healthier. So when our family made our summer vacation plans several months ago, I immediately planned to totally commit myself to eating healthy in the hopes of looking fierce and fabulous this summer!

I’ve been watching my diet (most of the time) and have been working out regularly (most of the time). As a result, on my last physical two weeks ago, I was pleased to hear that my numbers are excellent and that I’ve dropped 10 pounds (Yay!) I’ve also lost several inches, am toning up and have a lot more energy. But, true to form, a “miracle” physical transformation hasn’t occurred. I still haven’t lost the significant amount of weight that I had hoped.

Just as I was about to beat myself up (again) and begrudgingly dread packing for our upcoming trip, I came across this fantastic posting, “Moms, put on that swimsuit”. It reminded me that what truly matters is spending quality time with my family and not worry so much about how I look. It also reminded me to appreciate and respect my body for what it is and the amazing things it can do.

So while we’re on our vacation, I’m going to focus on enjoying myself with my children and family, creating wonderful memories, and not being so obsessed and critical regarding my appearance. I’m also going to proudly stroll on the beach, head held high, soft tummy out, rockin’ my bathing suit … underneath a stylish and lovely cover-up. (Baby steps, people. Baby steps.) 🙂

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Get happier!

I first heard a snippet of Pharrell’s song “Happy” when my kids and I saw “Despicable Me 2” last year, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. The song makes me smile, lifts my spirits and makes me do the “Carlton” dance every single time!

When I thought I couldn’t possibly love “Happy” any more, I watched the video of the Detroit Academy of Arts and Science Choir sing the song, and it makes me even … happier!

Smile, enjoy, and dance along with me!

“Happy” performance by the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences

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March 19, 2014 · 10:51 AM