Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reflection on a Sunday: This Woman's Liberation

"Who gon' check me, boo?" (insert finger snap here)

"I can pay my own light bill baby
Pump my own gas in my own car
I can buy my own shoe collection
I've been blessed thus far. . . ."

from Jill Scott's "The Fact is (I need you)"

I was watching television the other day and saw one of these Atlanta "real" housewives rolling her neck and her eyes and tightly folding her arms. She was explaining to her pseudo-friend all the things she could do "for her damn self."  This was in the context of how she didn't want any man or partner "bringing her down" -- and she subsequently listed all the things that any partner would need to bring (or not bring) to the table.

"Girl, he got to come cor-rect not at all!"  (insert finger snap here.)

Then there was a litany of more things that men have done that were disappointing and even more that she could do for her (damn) self. (Don't forget the finger snap.)


That got me to thinking about independence and vulnerability, and whether the two are mutually exclusive. It also reminded me of something that happened recently at our house with Harry, the boys and me. . . . .

The background and the story

I live in a rather wooded area in Atlanta.  Mature trees are all throughout the neighborhood. . . and that means chipmunks and squirrels--like all over the place.

Okay, listen. I'm originally from the L.A. area (and not that "inland empire" or whatever they started calling those far-out areas once I moved away.) Anyways. . . .specifically, I'm from a part of Los Angeles County called Inglewood. Now, if you know anything about Inglewood, you know that it ain't wooded. In fact, there is this interesting set up where for every house you get exactly one square of lawn in front, interrupted by a concrete sidewalk then followed by a narrow landing strip of grass separating it from the street. On that strip of lawn is one tree, strategically placed in front of each house. I'm convinced that some obsessive-compulsive architect painstakingly made sure that every tree was perfectly centered and that no greedy arborist planted two trees anywhere instead of the one that they allocated back in 1940-whatever-year-they-built-that-neighborhood.

And so. I say all that to say this: I didn't grow up with too many chipmunks. (Stay with me, I'm going somewhere with this. . .)

Fast forward to now. The chipmunks in my intown Atlanta neighborhood, and specifically around my yard, have gone bananas. They are e-ver-y-where.  Every. Where.  Scurrying across the driveway. Scooting across the kids playground. Playing in the bushes out front. Dipping and dodging along the sides of the house.  And for the most part, it's really cute. In that Chip and Dale slash Alvin and the Chipmunks kind of way.

At least it was for the first few years.  Now, it seems we have entered "The Squeak-uel."

My local "Alvin" and two of his little brothers have decided that they don't like hanging out in the elements when the weather changes.  No, no no. . . . don't worry. . . they haven't come into my house. But they have figured out a way to clear a tiny corner of my (waaay too old) garage door. So that's what they do. And there's three of them. Just like Alvin and his pesky little brothers.

So what's the big deal, you say?

Now, let's just think about this for a second. A chipmunk scurries across your garage as you go down to handle some laundry. Chipmunks are curiously close in size to. . . .um yeah. . . .other rodents. You know--the big, bucktoothed kind that live on subway tracks? Umm yeah.

Getting a little less cute, right? 

I'd say. So the very first time I caught one of those jokers in my peripheral vision, I almost had a heart attack.  Literally. Early one morning, I was carrying a big basket of laundry up the stairs (yes, our laundry room is in our garage) when I saw something dart by. . . what the. . . .and then something else right behind it.  OM (expletive) G.  I dropped that basket, sprinted up the stairs, and nearly mowed the door down trying to get into the house to wake Harry up. A rat? Awww hell nawww!!!

"Harry!! Harry!! It's a rat! No! Two rats! Like rat-rats!! In the garage!! I'm never going down there again!! Ever! In my whole entire life!!!"

"Are you sure?" he asked while yawning. This lack of urgency was not what I was looking for.

Am I sure?  What?  Dude. Didn't he hear me? I just saw Templeton and his brother in our garage. What kind of monkeyshine is this?

"Sure??" I exclaimed, "Sure?? What do you mean,  'am I sure??' Dude! You need to go down there right now!"

Isaiah chimes in nonchalantly while walking in from his bedroom. "Dad, I think she's talking about the Alvin and the Simon that always run under the garage door. They're chipmunks, Mom, not rats like Templeton in Charlotte's Web." He climbed up on the bed with his dad and nestled himself under the covers.

Harry cosigned. "Yeah, there's like these three chipmunks that sometimes hang out in the garage when it's raining and since the weather started changing. I doubt you saw a rat, babe. Did it have a long tail?"

Did it have a what?  I thought I would faint. Oh lawd. I just stared at Harry like he was crazy.

He repeated himself. "A tail, babe. Did the things you saw have tails?"

I thought for a moment and was very thankful that I did not know the answer to that question.

"A tail?? I DON'T KNOW!!! They were running too fast!! But trust me, it was definitely a freakin' rodent that was too big to be a mouse, though. That I know."

"Relax, baby. It's definitely not a rat. The garbage bag down there would have holes in it if it was."

O.M. (%#!) G!!! 

"HOLES? In the GARBAGE? Oh my LAWD have mercy, Harry!! You are really, really killing me!!!"

Harry erupted in laughter, burying his face into the pillow. Isaiah mimicked him in that way kids laugh when adults laugh. It was kind of amusing, I suppose, but I was serious.

"Babe! Don't laugh! I'm for real!" I pressed, doing my best not to let them make me break.

Suddenly Isaiah jumped up with an all-business expression and said, "Mommy, don't worry, okay? We'll go check it out. Right, Daddy?"  He hopped off of the bed and waved his hand toward Harry. "Come on, Dad."

"Me, too! Okay, Mommy?" a pajama clad Zachary announced as he sped into the room. Harry shrugged and slid his feet into his Crocs, succumbing to his overly dramatic better half.

So down they went.  One fearless husband and two fearless-in-training little boys all behind one giant flashlight.  Oh yeah, with one terrified-slash-grossed out mommy peeking through a little crack in the door.

"There he is!" I heard Isaiah exclaim to Harry. I immediately jumped back from the door and screamed. Isaiah looked back up at me and added, "Yep, it's just Alvin, Mom!"

I cracked open the door a bit further and kept watching as they completed an obligatory search of the garage. I could see them flashing the light in crevices, behind the washer and dryer, and in any other possible hiding place. I loved how brave the boys were, lifting boxes and pointing in places for Harry to flash the light. Five minutes later, they all came back up the stairs with the final verdict:

Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Harry pushed my ajar door open, wrapped his arms around me and smirked. He furrowed his brow and gave me a very serious expression. "Definitely chipmunks, babe. They aren't scavengers like rats, so nothing to worry about. I see a small opening at the bottom of the garage that I'll block so they'll stop running in there scaring you, okay?"  He kissed me hard on the cheek and laughed. "Unless you want me to trap them and drown them instead." He chuckled again and got away just before I could punch him.

Deputy Isaiah, who now had the giant flashlight, shined it in my direction and declared in a most authoritative voice, "All clear, Mom."

Zachary echoed, "Yeah, all clear, okay Mommy?"

"Thanks, gents. I appreciate it."  I knelt down and pulled them both close to me. They both treated me to hard cheek kisses, just like the one their dad had just planted on me a few moments before.


All clear, indeed.

 Harry and Zachary walking out of church this morning

Today I'm reflecting on the blessing of being okay with needing other people. Sometimes it's for life or death things, but other times it's for something as mundane as killing a spider or opening a jar without banging it on the counter. Either way, acknowledging that you can't go at it all alone is huge.

 I'm not talking about "not going at it alone"in the sense of needing a divine presence into your life (which I do think is quite important, for the record.) I guess I'm talking more about being open to the possibility that just maybe some of those things that you can do "for your damn self" (insert finger snap here) just might come out better with someone else helping. Or at least rooting for you.
Honestly? I consider myself pretty independent. Still--there are some things that I'd prefer to never, ever do . . . . such as investigating the identity of a rodent in the garage or flashing a light into a crawl space in a nearly 100 year old house. . . .umm yeah.

I'd even say that I believe that I'm a great mom, a rather proficient doctor and an overall decent human being. I think I'm good at several things and am pretty sure that I could live comfortably on my own salary, thank you very much. But the other thing I know for sure is this: I am better in this life with Harry as my partner. Period.

I know. Some folks don't have the option of a partner right now, and I realize that. But some folks with partners find it really hard to relinquish some of their bad-ass-ness long enough to admit they need help. Watching that "housewife" talking on television that day made me sad. It also made me see how easy it is to place up walls that make us emotionally unavailable to the potential ones waiting in the wings. . .or the ones living right under the same roof. Take it from a formerly single girl who once took great pride in all that she could do "for her damn self." (Insert finger snap here.)


Harry takes the boys for haircuts every two weeks, pulls the garbage to the curb, pressure-washes the deck with some scary contraption every spring and scouts out alleged varmints in our garage. Sure, he can't make a cup of coffee, seems to have an aversion to helping me sort the recycling, has been to the supermarket all of 5 times in the last 5 years, becomes paralyzed during NFL Sundays, and always throws my bath towel on the floor when the kids splash in the tub.


He wrestles on the floor with the kids six out of seven days per week until they're exhausted, cleans a kitchen like no other, is always down for taking the kids to the latest animated movie, and (along with his two little helpers) always carries in the groceries.  Real talk? We need each other. Bad.

Take home point: Vulnerability allows for authentic independence. And realizing that was this woman's liberation.

 Isaiah and Harry playing Laser-Tag 
(with the same expressions they had when checking out the garage)

"I can even stain and polyurethane
But some things don't change. . .

. . I need you, yeah."

- from Jill Scott 
(the same artist who sings my internal iPod anthem)

Jill Scott sings the song currently playing on my internal iPod. .  .all about needing. . .what a beautiful message!
Needing someone. . . . I highly recommend it. :)


  1. Sweet story and I am glad you have a cadre of strong men to take care of you. Please let the chipmunks have some warmth this winter and leave that little hole in the garage....

  2. Okay, Toni. . .we'll leave the hole for now. . .but the minute I see signs that the garbage has been tampered with, those guys are outta here!

    Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

  3. Have only recently discovered your blog (via 6thyearmed) and wanted to tell you how much this post resonates with me. Thanks for a great read; I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun catching up on your archives. :)


  4. I completely agree with the spirit of and sentiments within your post. It is particularly sad to see (or be one of the) women who are unable to bring down their walls because they have been hurt and scarred in the past. Quite often what we believe is strength, is in fact merely a manifestation of our pain. Recognizing that and moving beyond it is a great gift many women could give to themselves. Unfortunately, too many will never admit to themselves that they need someone.

  5. great post...I started following your blog several weeks ago & its brought me joy & often given me something to think about....being in healthcare myself I have struggled with peers who I've felt seperated themsevles too much from their practice....thanks for painting a honest, beautiful yet humble portrait of being a physican in todays culture.

  6. Still trying to figure this one out myself. Trusting people does not come easy for someone like me. Thanks for being so authentic in your writing. Really great post... maybe one of my favorites yet.

  7. Great piece. I can see your face as you peeped around Harry's shoulder looking to see Templeton scurry across the floor. LOL Now as you describe the "City of Inglewood" things are a changing. Seeing opossum and raccoon roadkill on 94th street in LA is commonplace. Leaving my house on 94th St. around 4:45 am for my morning walk, I see a full grown racoon walking down the street. There's a fox that hangs around the community college where I walk and has wiped out the feral cats that lived off the gophers.
    Now try this on for size. Headline reads "Street gang of a different specie". A woman in Alameda county out walking her dog. She sees these two eyes glowing in a distance coming towards her and her dog. As the eyes got closer, she recognized them to be on a full grown raccoon. She turned to run away and four more raccoons jumped out of a tree and joined the chase. She tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and as her dog held off the four members of the raccoon gang, one got by and bite the woman on the leg. The woman had to take a series of rabies shots. Go figure. We are moving into their habitat and they are fighting back!!! The raccoons have gone into homes thru doggy doors and munched on pet food.
    So Chip and Dale may decide that they want to check out the upstairs when it gets to cold in the garage. (smile)

    True story so Chip and Dale may decide


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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