So it’s a new year

3 Jan

I hate cliches and even more being one. It’s a new year, new you. All over Facebook and every place folks gather people are talking about joining gyms, starting diets, making vision boards. I have nothing against doing any of these things, it’s just the timing I find annoying (perhaps that’s just me–and my best friends). I digress, but as I sit on my butt, dog squeezed into an armchair next to me, reading the New York Times–me not the dog, I’ve drifted off, figuring out how to jump start my exercise regimen, which had once been serious; then, because of my bad hip, my routine was reduced to only walking (and not fast) and a once a week yoga class. Not enough for my doctor to be happy with my blood pressure but it’s been good enough for me because I live in my head and can easily let go of thinking about my body.

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But I need more than the lovely walk I do everyday to pump my heart. As I’m seriously enscounced in my upper 50s, I have to build up my muscles (again).

When I was 49, I got a trainer, joined a gym and worked out religiously–the gym four days, running the other 2. I wanted to be (ahem, cliche) fab at 50.  I was and even rocked a bikini on my birthday trip to Anguilla. In those early days at the gym I still vividly remember how grueling it felt to push my body and later how satisfiying it was when it didn’t hurt so much and I could easily do a brisk 5 miles on the treadmill. By 53, I’d stopped because of my worn out hip cartilage. Four years have gone by and now the thought of climbing that mountain again is honestly daunting. So much so that there are days when I say, F it and lay on the couch, remote in hand and watch Homeland. But now I have a new, perfect hip,  (yay) thanks to Dr. Jerebek at HSS).

So now that I’m working on acceptence in all aspects of my life–and being a New Year’s resolution cliche–I have to find a new exercise routine
and gym situation that I like.

 

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Nohemi Gonzales is “somebody’s Baldwin”

14 Nov

Thank you for all your prayers and Baldwin is fine. Last night, before the attacks, she had just gotten together with a friend, Jessie, who lives in Paris and is our Montclair neighbor. THey’d met for drinks near where Jessie lives–literally short blocks from where one of the restaurant shootings happened. Fortunately they’d met early in the evening. Baldwin had wanted to meet at 9 and Jessie suggested meeting at 6, after she got off work. They had a great time and by 10 were heading home. Baldwin was on the metro when they the first attack happened. I can’t even process all of this. I’m grateful beyond words that my child is safe and I’m also so sad for the innocent people whose lives were taken away. People ask me all the time how I feel about having her so far away. I’ve raised my children to fly the nest, to be citizens of the world. I want them to see and explore, but with the world the way it is now, the reality that random deadly acts happen anywhere anytime has put a real dent in this philosophy. As a mother, you also want to hold your children close and protect them.
One of my best friends moved from New York to Sydney a few months ago. She just checked in with me to see how I was doing, having checked directly in with Baldwin. I love that she and my Joni have their own relationship with Baldwin. Anyway, Eleanore asked how I was feeling.
I feel weird, I told her. First I was just relieved and grafeful and I’m still those things, but I’m restless and can’t relax. I’m pushing away fear, which has probably been inside of me since she left home on August 18th. I don’t let myself worry about her too much. I don’t let my mind go wild with the what ifs that I’m oh so good at and then and then something so henious happens, something that even in my wildest, I wouldn’t have imagined.
I hadn’t cried at all until an hour or so ago when CNN flashed a picture of a student, Nohemi Gonzales, an American from California, also doing her junior year abroad. She was killed. As we watched the report, Cliff said, “She’s somebody’s Baldwin” and I lost it. The reality that that girl could’ve been ours and so heart-broken for the reality that is for the Gonzales family.

What day works for you? Spontaneous works for me

8 Oct

This is not an awe-inspiring idea, but it is a lightbulb for me.
One of the nice things about getting older is knowing who you are and accepting it–good, bad, indifferent. I am spontaneous. I am not a planner. There’s the good and the not so good but I’m choosing to focus on the positive.
Early this morning an old pal, Paris, hit me up on FB and emailed me. I hadn’t seen or talked to her in about six years. She was in town on business from Charlotte, where she’d moved 10 years ago. She asked if I still walked the dog everyday in the park. I emailed her back: same number, same hood (sorry, channeling Biggie). Same routine for a decade–how can that be? The time worked for her, so she met me there. It was great to catch up and I immediately remembered how much I’d liked her energy. Everyday, before Paris moved away, she and her basset hound, Chloe, would walk with my Charlie and me, Jen and Sirus and others who have since fallen off or moved away.
Those of you who know me, follow my blog or have read my latest book, Welcome to My Breakdown, know how important my dog is to me and that I walk him everyday with my peeps–Will, Claire & the aforementioned Jennifer.
I know lots of people in my town and fortunately for me, I like many of them. I ran into the mother of one of Ford’s pre-school friends, with whom Cliff and I used to spend some time. I liked her and her partner a lot. Those kid based relationships, however, often fade when the kids get older and go off in different directions, but your feelings don’t. I’d like to have coffee with Susan, catch up with her and with many of those people, but I simply can’t (and have anything resembling a writing life). So, I’ve come up with an idea. For all of you, and you know who you are–some are the ones I spend 30 minutes talking to in the CVS parking lot, or in an aisle at ShopRite or on the bus into the city. We promise to reach out and get together and don’t. Instead of thinking about making a date, let’s just meet in the park. You know which park and I’m there in the morning. I am with my peeps, but one day or two out of a week I can break away from my pack to visit with you. For me, it’s enriching moments. I probably won’t see Paris for another few years and we’re both good with it.
Here’s to making a plan without planning…

Welcome to scenes from the book publicity road

29 Jul

My ride or die, Eleanore Wells and art insider Harris Schrank happy with me at Barnes and Noble, Manhattan

My ride or die, Eleanore Wells and art insider Harris Schrank happy with me at Barnes and Noble, Manhattan

With my friend Christina Baker Kline

With my friend Christina Baker Kline

I haven’t posted since my book was published on April 21st. It’s been a wonderful, whirlwind of a ride and I’ve kept many of you included via my Facebook posts, but I realize some of you actually aren’t on Facebook or haven’t seen some of the stuff. Here are some highlights:

Signing books with Pam Newkirk at the Harlem Book Fair

Signing books with Pam Newkirk at the Harlem Book Fair


Going back to the beginning–publication day–which is like every big milestone wrapped in one. I was so high that morning when I woke up and to top it off, I felt my mother’s presence with me more profoundly than I have since she died six years ago. The book is a lot about her, her impact on me and her community and about the unrelenting pain I felt at the loss of her.
April 21st: My kickoff in my hometown at the gorgeous Montclair Art Museum; it took a lot to get the space but I had a vision for what I wanted and it came to pass. As time got closer, I began to second guess pushing so hard and not just having it our great local bookstores (we actually, luckily, have two). I wanted a large space to accommodate the picture I had in my head of lots of people there–my community consisting of all the facets of my life: my girlfriends, writer friends, neighbors, friends made through my kids, yoga friends, dog walking friends, family, childhood friends, my kids’ special teachers, and just the random people who I like and run into in CVS or the park or in front of Starbucks and talk to for an hour. There were 200 people there!
I can’t find the picture someone took of the crowd, so you’ll just have to take my
Such a fun night at Akwaaba party with my dearest college friend, Monique and the fab raconteur Patrik Henry Bass

Such a fun night at Akwaaba party with my dearest college friend, Monique and the fab raconteur Patrik Henry Bass

word for it.
My most important work of art

My most important work of art


Here’s all the press and book events done so far:
Feb. 27 New York Daily News, book blog, says Welcome to My Breakdown is “the best title ever.”
March BET.com Mentions Welcome as one of 9 must read books for spring. “Be prepared for plenty of intimacy, insight and inspiration in this powerful and ultimately redemptive title.”
March 10 Infinity House Magazine, blog post mention,says Welcome is one of “5 must read books for spring.”
March 10 taped video for marketing and featured on Transcending Type a quarterly digest from Simon & Schuster
March 15 New Jersey Monthly review
March 17 Fabulous Southern Belle, blog post book roundup
April 2 Barristanet.com
April 13 The Root.com interviewed by Danielle Belton
April 15 radio with Ella Curry, Black Pearls show
April 20 interview with Bev Smith, satellite radio, knew Bev when she had her own show on BET.
April 21 Network Journal
April 22 Maggie Linton show on Sirus radio
April 22 interviewed on The Root TV, Harriette Cole show, Bring It To The Table
Facebook author chat with Tyora Moody
April 23 book party at Akwaaba Mansion, Brooklyn (Bed Sty) hosted by great friends Monique Greenwood and husband Glenn Pogue
April 25 radio interview on radio station KAZI in Austin, Tx.
April 27 Barnes and Noble, NYC, surprised when friend and New York Times mega best-seller author and friend Christina Baker Kline agreed to fill in for another scheduled writer & interview me
April 29 Barnes and Noble, Springfield, NJ
April 30 People Magazine piece–picked as top 3 books to read!
May 4 radio interview with Desire Watson on Voice America
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May 7 Book signing, Community Books in Brooklyn (Park Slope) followed by book party given by my friend Linda Villarosa & her partner Jana Welch
May 11 radio interview on Mindset blog radio with James Curtis
May piece on Maria Shriver blog
May 13 NJ.com story/review
May 15 radio interview WNYC/NPR with Gabrielle Glaser on Morning Edition
May 16 book party at the Wellness Lounge, South Orange, NJ hosted by Desire Watson
Essence piece in June issue–wonderful job by editorial projects manager Patrik Henry Bass
May 17 book party hosted by Claire Ciliotta
May 18 interview for The Nation magazine with Nick Charles (ran in July 15 issue)
May 20 New Jersey Performing Arts Center–NJPAC book party/talk/interview by Marcia Brown, vice-chancellor at Rutgers Newark
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May 21-26 Anguilla Book Festival
May 27 BEA signing/book celebration hosted by best-selling novelist Jennifer Weiner

June 2-June 9 recorded book for audio release
June 20 Friend of a Friend book club, Harlem, hosted by Angie Hancock founder, Experience
July 17 I was celebrated at Harlem Book Fair reception
July 18 Harlem Book Fair panel discussion with Pulitzer Prize winning writer Margo Jefferson, moderated by author Hettie Jones
July/August issue of Juicy magazine
Still to come
Aug. 6-9 Atlanta–Black Book Club Convention, Buckhead Marriott

Sept. 26 Sippin Sisters book club, suburban D.C.
Sept. 27 Book Party hosted by Linda Chastang, author A’Lelia Bundles and novelist Connie Briscoe; books sold by Politics and Prose

Nov. 7 Book Party hosted by Lynn McNair, Washington, D.C.

I Can’t Hide Mine, Please Don’t Hide Yours: An Open Letter to Ben Affleck

24 Apr

I’ve been wanting to weigh in on the Ben Affleck/Henry Louis Gates stuff but didn’t have the energy to devote to it. This writer/chef sums up much of what I’d say about it. Affleck asked Gates not to reveal what Gayes had uncovered in Affleck’s past: slave owners. Clutch the pearls. This news is hardly shocking to Black folks & while I get he’s “embarrassed” we all have to face & own our past if we’re ever going to become “one country.” I used to have a friend, a very close friend, my first white friend. After about a decade of friendship we discovered that our mothers had the same unusual last name & came from the same tiny South Carolina town. This news initially elated her. It immediately made feel sick. She said, “this is amazing. We’re so connected, now it makes sense that we’re related.” I said: yes, perhaps we are but I can promise you that it’s not because of some kind of consensual relations. Details for another post and/or story but in the end our friendship didn’t survive her refusal to acknowledge that chances were that her family had owned mine. (This was typed on my phone so pls forgive typos, etc. I just needed to get this out right now). #welcometomybreakdown#edwardball #slavesinthefamily

Afroculinaria

Dear Ben,

Its unfortunate because of a massive internet hack we are in this particular place discussing your ancestral past. It’s horrible that your private matters were exposed because of something beyond your control. That’s untenable in any situation, but we need to address something right quick…this slavery thing.  You were embarassed, and that’s reasonable given the situation and the circumstances that produced it. But Ben Affleck, take it from a Black guy; with a platform like yours, don’t you dare be embarrassed to come from an ancestor who held enslaved people. Because….We need to know.

I don’t think many Black people really understand the profound guilt, shame or embarassment some white descendants of slave holding families feel. It’s not just that many assume personal responsibility for the past or that they grasp that their privilege or power is not just based on perceptions based on skin color.  Clearly these…

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Welcome to My Breakdown

21 Apr

Today’s the day — my memoir Welcome to My Breakdown is available today.

Amazon Barnes and NobleBAMMIndieBoundGooglePlayiBooks

Humblebrag

20 Apr

https://www.smore.com/mnxr-benilde-little-blog-tour

As many of you probably know by now I have a new book coming out. I’ve been talking about it for some time now, even started this blog back when in hopes of talking up the book and introducing myself to you. I’ve had to learn how to be a publicist, a public relations person for myself. Not something I’ve easily embraced. I’m a writer. There are PR people. It’s rare that one person possess both traits. Writers tend to be introspective and need solitude. You’ve got to have that to create. PR people are often extroverts, you kind of have to be to be heard over all the noise that now makes up modern life. Now, I’m both.
My last book, Who Does She Think She Is? Was published in 2006. A lot has changed since then and the biggest one is the advent of social media. Facebook became available to all in 2006, but was not used by too many people older than 15 back then. (Now young people refer to FB as something for old people–at least that’s what my kids say.)
Many writers who published back then were mostly published by houses and had a PR person designated to get the word out. There’s still some of that, but much of it is left up to the author.

I’m amazed at people on FB, bloggers and such who no problem promoting themselves–my new book is fantastic; my blog is the ish, and so on. I cringe at the thought of doing this, but I understand I gotta get over it and if you’ve been following me on FB you probably see I’ve climbing the curve. My friend Linda Villarosa, also a writer, and I have talked about this phenomenon and decided that it’s an age thing. Some of these writers, some of whom we know, are a little younger than us and came of age when that kind of bragging is de rigeur, not seen as anything else. We see it as poor taste. But in this new world, I’m having to accept it, just like reality TV and selfies. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever be caught saying: “My book is the ish,” but as I’m push, push, pushing during this publication phase, I’m getting comfortable with the humble-brag.

For those of you who get slightly queasy at the notion of the push and all the notices you’re getting begging you to buy it and to tell your friends, please bear with me. Know that I’m gettin’ a little sick of it too, but as with motion sickness, if you wanna ride, you take a Dramamine and keep moving.

Thanks for bearing with me and your support. Tomorrow is publication day!!!

xo