Thursday, August 30, 2007

NBCC-Chi-Town

As we mentioned in Monday’s blog, we spent last weekend in Chicago at the National Book Club Conference Click here: National Book Club Conference , presented by Black Issues Book Review Click here: Black Issues Book Review . The conference is usually in Atlanta in August, but this year, NBCC founder Curtis Bunn arranged for the event to take place in Ghana. We understand it was a life changing journey and that Curtis had the ultimate hook-up—a college classmate of his is a Ghanaian king, so the group was treated royally! (There will be tons of photos and info about the trip on their site in a couple of weeks).

Chicago presented an opportunity for those who were unable to make the trip to Ghana to get their book club/author fix. Probably because it was the first year, attendance wasn’t as robust as it is in ATL, but that also meant the weekend was a lot more intimate.

We arrived on Friday—after an uneventful plane ride—an amazing feat these days, but Chicago was still reeling from some UGLY weather—storms the day before had caused downed trees, flooding, and power outages. Now Chicago traffic is usually no joke, but it took us 2 ½ hours to make the usually 35 minute drive from O’Hare to downtown in a HOT taxi—there was an oscillating fan clipped to the safety partition, blowing HOT air. Then there was the heat coming from under the seats—nobody wants a hot seat in August. But we got to the hotel in plenty of time to freshen up for the welcoming reception—a casual gathering for the early arrivers on Friday evening.

The good stuff began on Saturday morning with our breakfast speaker, the incomparable, funny and bold Tina McElroy Ansa. After that we settled in for a day of book news and readings from sister authors ReShonda Tate Billingsley who has movie news, Kimberla Lawson Roby, whose Rev. Curtis Black is back, Mary “Sweeter Than Honey” B. Morrison, Terrie Williams, whose book “Black Pain” about depression in African Americans (she scratched the surface of this subject in her Essence article last year) is coming in January, and Eisa Nefetari Ulen whose reading from “Crystelle Mourning” her debut novel was so impressive we can’t wait to finish it. And oh yeah, we read from Gotta Keep on Tryin’. We’re getting used to having those words on our tongues—we’re off to Michigan in October to record the audio book, a first for us. We’re pretty jazzed about that. We capped the conference with a pretty raucous dinner on Saturday night with Tina and Eisa—(no we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant but we were the liveliest table in the joint—for sure!)

All in all it was a great weekend. Not only did we get to hang out with readers and writers from around the country, but we also got to meet Eddie Levert and co-author Layah Beth LeFlore—who talked about I Got Your Back, the moving father-son collaboration that was finished right before Gerald Levert’s untimely death.

For those of you who belong to book clubs and haven’t attended one of the Atlanta events, we highly recommend you check it (and the author line up for 2008) out. And for those of you who are regulars—see you in Aug 1-3, 2008 in ATL!! We just made arrangements to be there too!




Curtis Bunn, National Book Club Conference Founder
telling us about the trip to Ghana.




Our NBCC-Chicago Class Picture!

Seated l to r:
Eisa Nefetari Ulen, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Terrie Williams, Tina McElroy Ansa, Virginia, Donna, Mary Morrison
Standing l to r: Ken Smikle, Publisher Black Issues Book Review, Susan McHenry, Editorial Director BIBR, Curtis Bunn, NBCC founder




Sugar and Spice Book Club Members with Tina McElroy Ansa: ah the magical
mysteries of the digital camera!

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 12:30 PM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mother Monday Part 6: MU-DEAREST

We spent this past weekend in Chicago at the National Book Club Conference, presented by Black Issues Book Review. Not only did we get to hang out with readers from around the country, we also got to spend time with fellow authors—Kimberla Lawson Roby, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Mary Morrison, Terrie Williams, Eisa Nefertari Ulen and Tina McElroy Ansa. You all think we author types hang together all the time, but most of us live in different cities and see each other only at book events—and that’s usually in passing because our schedules are always different. This weekend we had some quality socializing time which was definitely a bonus! (We’ll post new pictures and more about the weekend on Thursday’s blog.)

All of the authors talked about their new books—either just out or coming in the next few months. Tina McElroy Ansa, (Baby of the Family, Ugly Ways, The Hand I Fan With, You Know Better) our morning keynote speaker, had special news—she has founded her own publishing company, DownSouth Press. And her first featured book drops in October—Taking After Mudear—a sequel to the bestselling Ugly Ways. If you are familiar with the Lovejoy sisters and their mother, the late Ester Lovejoy, the self titled Mudear (say it right—MUH-dear—not to be confused with Tyler Perry’s Madea—ma-DEA) you are aware that taking after her is the one thing in this life the sisters swore they would never do. (Whether you’re new to the saga or waiting to hear more, check out the first two chapters online at http://www.tinamcelroyansa.com/.)

Thinking about Mudear reminds us that in the few weeks we have been doing Mother Mondays, we have had comments and emails from many of you (we appreciate your feedback) about your relationships with your mothers. Happily, the majority of our respondees have had healthy, positive relationships with mom and have let us know that you don’t mind becoming more like your mothers.

That, however, is not always the case. For instance, last week Virginia was in a drugstore and listened to a mother loudly nag, berate, criticize and embarrass her daughter, who looked to be 14 or so. Her crimes—indecision about a blow dryer and some toothpaste—hardly major offenses. The longer it continued, the further the girl retreated into her own blank-faced fortress of solitude, slinking down the aisles like she just wanted to disappear. Mom’s tirade and general sourness, although aimed squarely at the teenager, also spilled over to the younger brother and sister, and the cashier. Yes, we all have bad days, and kids can try your top, middle and bottom nerves, but from the children’s reactions, or more accurately, lack of reaction, it seemed this display was more the rule than an exception. When Virginia left the store, hoping and praying these children would indeed fall far from the tree, Mom was still screeching at her brood.

We’ve all been in this position, wanting to plead with somebody to lighten up on their kid. More than likely we shake our heads, exchange disturbed looks with those nearby and walk away. But what is the long-term effect of a mother’s routine, casual meanness? How many of us have been crippled from the crib because we have been subject to regular verbal backhands? The mom effect may be the most powerful force in the universe! We must use it carefully.

So for good or otherwise here are 10 more ways you just might be Taking After Mudear!

59) Other people in your family expect you to know where their stuff is--and you do.

60) Other people in your family expect you to know where their stuff is--and you tell them to keep up with their own stuff.

61) You hear a little voice call "Mommy" and you immediately turn around.

62) You hear a little voice call "Grandma" and you immediately turn around.

63) You hear a little voice scream "Ma-aa!" for the seventeenth time and you say, "She changed her name and moved to another city!"

64) A night in makes you as happy as a night out used to.

65) A night out no longer concludes with breakfast.

66) You're happy when your bedtime comes and you can really go to bed.

67) New recipes are fine, but you know that nothing cooks like an old pot.

68) Your bust is keeping company with your waist. Your waist measures what your bust used to, and your butt resembles a relief map of the moon. You can hear your mother say, "sure, you can eat like that now, but it's gonna catch up with you," and you know you've been caught.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 7:31 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 23, 2007

FEED A COLD?

Medical “experts” are trying to make us all crazy—again. It feels like we’re hit with some scientific revelation on a daily basis—like one day coffee is bad for you. Next week—au contraire, it’s the elixir of well-being. A month later—well, sometimes it’s good, but sometimes it’s bad, depending on the phases of the moon and whether you drink from the left or right side of your cup. Huh?! OK—so just as we reluctantly settled into the notion that continuing to drink the nectar of Juan Valdez (if you’re under 35 you probably have no idea who he is—but http://www.juanvalez.com/ will explain) shows depraved disregard for our health, a new study has found coffee may not be as harmful as earlier reported in the Journal of the Scientific Institute of Instilling Fear in the American Populous, or some such esteemed publication. Which means exactly what? And does decaf count, or was that not part of the study—Donna needs to know since that’s how she takes her java. You can, of course, substitute your substance of choice: sugar, air, water, estrogen, fish, fowl, meat, lettuce, rain, microwaves, cell phones—the list goes on ad nauseum.

And now they have the nerve to tell us that the same virus that causes colds (adenovirus-36), could cause us to get fat?!! (http://www.forbes.com/forbeslife/health/feeds/hscout/2007/08/21/hscout607462.html) Does this mean that obesity is as incurable as the sniffles? Boy are we pissed at whoever sneezed on us, so cover your mouth! Is it only other chubettes who pass on the virus that’s capable of mutating stem cells into fat cells—because if you can get it from skinny people that’s just plain wrong.

We’re guessing that humans have been passing cold germs around at least as long as there’s been snot. We’re also guessing that from the time there was fire, and the hunters were off chasing wooly mammoths to toss on the barbie, that the gatherers, in addition to fruits and nuts, searched for the right leaves to brew into tea to make that snotty, sneezing, yucky feeling go away. And since the time when we decided some stones were worth more than others, we’ve been selling these remedies to make a quick stone, bead, shell, or buck, whatever the local currency. Rudimentary at first, these cures have developed into the pills, gels, syrups, time release capsules, sprays, ointments, drops, shots and herbs that make us feel better in 7-10 days. Except doctors also tell us that if you don’t take anything, your cold (if that’s what it is) will go away in 7-14 days. But try as you might to jog, crunch and Tae-Bo them into submission, fat cells are forever.

Is this some kind of get out of jail free card? I’m fat because I have an incurable virus? Leave me alone and pass the pie, and cake, and chips and pizza and…aaachooo! God Bless.

Or is this a new avenue for our ever booming pharmaceutical industry? How many gazillion dollars (Forget the shells. This is serious money we’re talking about) will ultimately be made as we ready ourselves for a whole new class of fat fighters (already a $100 billion industry in the US) to cure SOS (Sniffle Obesity Syndrome)? Or is it OCS (Obesity Cold Syndrome)? Adenovirus Sinusitis Syndrome also know as. . . well, you know what that spells?

And after the fat mice lose weight, and their little runny pink noses dry up, anybody care to sign up for the drug trial? Ahhhhh! Thin is just a dose a way!

Of course, after the drug has been approved, and the commercials with their saucy jingles are interrupting our favorite programs (care to hum “Viva, Viagra?”), be sure to read the disclaimer. We like the one by Steve Martin:

Side Effects: By Steve Martin

DOSAGE: take two tablets every six hours for joint pain (SUBSTITUTE FAT)
SIDE EFFECTS: This drug may cause joint pain, nausea, head-ache, or shortness of breath. You may also experience muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, and ringing in the ears. If you feel faint, call your doctor. Do not consume alcohol while taking this pill; likewise, avoid red meat, shellfish, and vegetables. O.K. foods: flounder. Under no circumstances eat yak. Men can expect painful urination while sitting, especially if the penis is caught between the toilet seat and the bowl. Projectile vomiting is common in thirty per cent of users-sorry, fifty per cent. If you undergo disorienting nausea accompanied by migraine and raspy breathing, double the dosage. Leg cramps are to be expected; one knee-buckler per day is normal. Bowel movements may become frequent-in fact, every ten minutes. If bowel movements become greater than twelve per hour, consult your doctor, or any doctor, or just anyone who will speak to you. You may find yourself becoming lost or vague; this would be a good time to write a screenplay. Do not pilot a plane, unless you are among the ten per cent of users who experience "spontaneous test-pilot knowledge." If your hair begins to smell like burning tires, move away from any buildings or populated areas, and apply tincture of iodine to the head until you no longer hear what could be taken for a "countdown." May cause stigmata in Mexicans. If a fungus starts to grow between your eyebrows, call the Guinness Book of World Records. May induce a tendency to compulsively repeat the phrase "no can do." This drug may cause visions of the Virgin Mary to appear in treetops. If this happens, open a souvenir shop. There may be an overwhelming impulse to shout out during a Catholic Mass, "I'm gonna w*p you wid da ugly stick!" You may feel a powerful sense of impending doom; this is because you are about to die. Men may experience impotence, but only during intercourse. Otherwise, a powerful erection will accompany your daily "walking-around time." Do not take this product if you are uneasy with lockjaw. Do not be near a ringing telephone that works at 900 MHz or you will be very dead, very fast. We are assuming you have had chicken pox. You also may experience a growing dissatisfaction with life along with a deep sense of melancholy-join the club! Do not be concerned if you arouse a few ticks from a Geiger counter. You might want to get a one-month trial subscription to Extreme Fighting. The hook shape of the pill will often cause it to become caught in the larynx. To remove, jam a finger down your throat while a friend holds your nose to prevent the pill from lodging in a nasal passage. Then throw yourself stomach first on the back portion of a chair. The expulsion of air should eject the pill out of the mouth, unless it goes into a sinus cavity, or the brain. WARNING: This drug may shorten your intestines by twenty-one feet. Has been known to cause birth defects in the user retroactively. Passing in front of TV may cause the screen to moiré. Women often feel a loss of libido, including a whole octave lowering of the voice, an increase in ankle hair, and perhaps the lowering of a testicle. If this happens, women should write a detailed description of their last three sexual encounters and mail it to me, Bob, Trailer Six, Fancyland Trailer Park, Encino, CA. Or E-mail me at hot-guy.com. Discontinue use immediately if you feel that your teeth are receiving radio broadcasts. You may experience "lumpy back" syndrome, but we are actively seeking a cure. Bloated fingertips on the heart-side hand are common. When finished with the dosage, be sure to allow plenty of "quiet time" in order to retrain the eye to move off stationary objects. Flotation devices at sea will become pointless, as the user of this drug will develop a stone-like body density; therefore, if thrown overboard, contact your doctor. (This product may contain one or more of the following: bungee cord, plankton, rubber, crack cocaine, pork bladders, aromatic oils, gunpowder, corn husk, glue, bee pollen, dung, English muffin, poached eggs, ham, Hollandaise sauce, crushed saxophone reeds.) Sensations of levitation are illusory, as is the sensation of having a "phantom" third arm. Users may experience certain inversions of language. Acceptable: "Hi, are how you?" Unacceptable: "The rain in Sprain slays blainly on the phsssst." Twenty minutes after taking the pills, you will feel an insatiable craving to take another dose. AVOID THIS WITH ALL YOUR POWER. It is advisable to have a friend handcuff you to a large kitchen appliance, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT WILL NOT FIT THROUGH THE DOORWAY TO WHERE THE PILLS ARE. You should also be out of reach of any weapon-like utensil with which you could threaten friends or family, who should also be briefed to not give you the pills, no matter how much you sweet-talk them.
* From The New Yorker, April 13, 1998.
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:06 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 20, 2007

MOTHER MONDAYS PART 5: REALITY CHECK

And it’s Mother Monday—again. Seems like we just made it through last Monday, but Mondays are like that, and we’ve had a wild week—including dinner a table away from a certain comedian who looks as much like a bullfrog in person as he does on TV—no, he didn’t insult us, his trademark. Then there was a birthday dinner with a hugely popular radio personality, a big time bestselling literary luminary and a hotshot television exec (No we’re not gonna tell you who!). So Monday is a reality check—back to the real world—at least our real world.

And isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do? Make sure you keep it real? They don’t care who you had dinner or rode in the limo with—they still expect you to clear the table, take out the garbage, dress like you've got some class, carry tissues in your purse, make your bed and eat your vegetables. However high and mighty we get, we all need the people around us who will tell us when we're going into orbit. Years ago, as friends, we gave each other permission to snatch the other one back to earth if need be. Our Moms didn't need permission and we thank them.

Donna's mom is recovering nicely--getting better every day.

Virginia’s mom’s birthday is Tuesday. So Happy Birthday Mom! I love you and although I know its too late—as you remind me often, I am John DeBerry’s daughter (sometimes I’m so much like my dad it’s scary—good scary, but scary nonetheless)---it would be great if I were more like you!!!

So ANYWAY--Here's the next 10 signs you're becoming more and more like dear old MOM:


50) You find yourself having conversations that begin with "When I was a girl..."

51) You know exactly how long the baking soda has been on the back shelf of the refrigerator, and you can smell it's time for a change.

52) You clean behind furniture, on top of the refrigerator and other places-- even if the dirt doesn't show.

53) You hear yourself say, "It would be better (smarter, easier, cheaper, faster) if you did it this way, and you're right. But you also know they'll have to find out the same way you did--the hard way.

54) You celebrate the New Year with a toast--whole wheat, the next morning, along with orange juice and a cup of decaf.

55) You get a phone call from your child and from just the word hello you know to ask, "What's wrong?"

56) You complain because you can't find any clothes in fashion magazines that you could possibly wear.

57) You keep birthday cards around way past the day--just because.

58) You don't have enough time to do all the things you need to, much less any left over to waste.

59) You go to the movies, but can't imagine being romanced by the leading man because he's young enough to be your son—or maybe you can (which makes you feel a little weird because maybe your Mom did too!)
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 8:05 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, August 17, 2007

CAN YOU JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER?

Can you judge a book by its cover? How much does it influence what you buy in the bookstore? Are you drawn to, or turned off by the image on the front of a book? Will a cover you like make you pick up a book you might have passed up otherwise? Or will you pass a title without a peek inside if the cover turns you off?

The publishing world has wrestled these questions with for as long as there have been books to sell. Yes, what’s on the pages is most important (or at least we like to think so). And after a while we develop favorites whose names and newest titles we seek out. But what makes you pick up a book from a writer you don’t know the first time?

As some of you know, Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made has been our biggest selling, and best-remembered book. It was published in hardcover in 1997 and had a bright indigo and pink cover with illustrations of Pat and Gayle, the two main characters. From the beginning many readers told us that the cover made them pick it up—that it called to you. By 1998, Tryin’ was released as a mass market paper back (the small one) and that edition had two covers. One pink with indigo writing, the other was the opposite-- indigo with the title in pink script, with the same illustration. In 2002, Tryin’ came out as a trade paperback and that cover was yet another incarnation of the original—except this time it was a vibrant orange. In between those versions, our British publisher came up
with a totally different cover interpretation for their audience.



And now—with Gotta Keep on Tryin’, the sequel to Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, due out in January, our former publisher is preparing to re-release Tryin’ —with ta da!!!! A brand new cover!!!!! (And that extra chapter that doesn’t exist in the hardcover or the mass market paperback—one about Marcus.)


Very different--Whaddaya think?

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 11:04 AM 6 comments links to this post

Monday, August 13, 2007

MOTHER MONDAYS PART 4: HOPE YOU GET ONE JUST LIKE YOU

We’re visiting a friend in Atlanta. We were headed downstairs to make coffee and fire up the laptop to do Mother Mondays before heading home, when Virginia decided to take the express route down--sliding on her butt. Donna was at the bottom and able to help stop the slide midway. Now we’re in the kitchen, with our mugs. Virginia has had ibuprofen and an icepack--she’s a little shaky, but OK. So here goes.

Last week we were talking about 90 year old Aunt Eleanor, surrounded by her children, grands, and more. This week, our friend’s daughter is a new Mom (We blogged about her wedding about 18 months ago)--baby Kayla is four months old and already turning herself over, teething, stretching her legs like she wants to stand up and trying to talk. Our friend laughs and says Kayla got every bit of it honestly--her mother was just as precocious and one talking child. So, do we start becoming our mothers long before we’re mothers ourselves, or middle-aged and fighting off hormonal havoc? Or does it start while we’re in utero-- doing the back stroke in the womb and absorbing Mom vibes?

While Kayla chattered and drooled there was a gleeful look in our friend’s eye. Some of it was Granna pride, and warm, baby lotion scented memories of her own daughter in onesies. But in that look there was also more than a little dash of turn about is fair play, what goes around comes around and payback is a. . .

Moms say it all the time-- “I hope you get one just like you some day.” It’s usually said at some moment when they’re supremely peeved because you’ve drawn a giant duck on the living room wall or insist on wearing a skirt that’s too short, “ ‘cause everybody wears it like this.” What doesn’t become apparent until much later, is that there’s really a blessing in it too. Because as the years go by and the minor infractions fade, what remains are bits and pieces of the endearing things you used to do--the homemade Mother’s Day cards, or the first time you cooked dinner without her help--the happy memories collected on your way to becoming just like dear ol’ mom.

So here are ten more signs you’re becoming your mother--and we’re off to catch a plane!

40) You collect articles with titles like “Your Retirement and You.”

41) You actually read your AARP membership offer instead of throwing it away like you used to.

42) You finally join AARP because of all those good discounts.

43) Everyone in your family calls a week before Thanksgiving and asks what time you’re serving dinner.

44) You’re finally entrusted with great-great Grandma’s recipe for prune pies--whether you liked them or not.

45) You know from personal experience the weight doesn’t come off like it used to.

46) A hat just feels better in winter and you wear the warm one, not the cute one.

47) The music you like to listen to is played in supermarkets and on “hold.”

48) Your kids roll their eyes when you call CD’s “albums.”

49) You actually want to see movies with PG ratings.

50) You find gray hairs and they’re not on your head.
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 1:48 PM 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 09, 2007

HOW'D THEY DO THAT?

"How in the world do two people write a book together?"

That's one of the questions readers ask us most often. At first we were really surprised by the question—we hadn’t thought about the “how.” Writing in tandem evolved in a completely organic, but equally inexplicable way from our friendship—so it seemed perfectly natural to us.

Although we met in a profession where we should have been rivals (we were both plus-size models) we realized quickly that we had a lot in common, and we cracked each other up. Before we got around to writing Tryin' to sleep in the Bed You made, we cooked up a number of projects together (a fashion newsletter and a short-lived magazine) and discovered that we work seamlessly, almost like we share halves of the same brain! When the magazine folded we knew that we had to keep working together and we went back to something we each fell in love with as children--fiction.


We had both been English majors in college, but more than that, after years of gobbling books like popcorn, we had strong feelings about how to tell a story. We try to put those feelings to work when we write.


Before we begin a book, we get together and talk--something we do endlessly anyway. Our conversations lead to a plot, and characters we know as well as we know each other. And no--our stories are not autobiographical although we use our own emotions and experience to give the characters reactions that feel real.


In order to make the process work we have to be in the same place. That's how the vibe happens! Sometimes we're side by side at the desktop PC, sharing the keyboard depending on who has the hot hand. Other times one is at the laptop and the other at the desk and we're both writing the same section. We come together, read each other's material and weave them together, a sentence or two at a time. We can also write within the same chapter, one going from the beginning to the middle the other from the middle to the end. Then, we exchange sections, add at least two cents to what the other has done, and finally join them! The crazy part is we never know how it will progress each day—we sometimes use all of these methods in a single session. Our aim is one, coherent voice. People are often sure they will be able to detect a change in style, but so far, nobody has, not even our editor.

Both our personal friendship and our professional relationship hinge on caring, trust and respect. When we write, our egos are checked at the door. It's not about us, it's about the story. And based on the many thousand letters and emails we receive from readers, we know how strongly they relate to the struggles, life lessons and thick-and-thin relationships we give our characters. We know that each of us could write on her own, but it's a special gift to be able to do it together. Besides, it's a lot of fun. We look forward to tag team storytelling for a long time.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 10:26 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mother Mondays Part 3--WE ARE FAMILY




From Virginia—

I grew up in a very close knit family—immediate and extended—siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grands. We were all within walking distance, or a, “don’t break a sweat” bike ride from each other, and doors were always open and welcoming. As kids, we cousins knew the intricacies and secret places in each other’s houses as well as we knew those in our own. And although we were aware of the technical degrees of separation—who was a first or second cousin (or how many times removed), great uncle, or in-law, none of that mattered. We were family.

These days, we are scattered—some still in Buffalo, New York, others as far away as Amsterdam (not New York—the one of tulip and wooden shoe fame), but even though miles separate us, I’m happy I can say that all these years later, we still have the same ease and familiarity. We are still family.

Last weekend about 50 of us gathered to mark my Aunt Eleanor’s 90th birthday—a milestone by anyone’s accounting. We enjoyed three days of celebrating this momentous occasion—first her son and daughter hosted a surprise party on Saturday afternoon (and she was REALLY surprised) in my sister’s backyard. Then on Sunday we attended the church my family has belonged to for nearly a hundred years, and after went to a champagne brunch at a lovely harbor-side restaurant. Then on Monday, because we certainly hadn’t partied enough, my brother held another family gathering at his house. And I have to tell you, Aunt Eleanor was front and center, giggling like a schoolgirl—“This is all for me?!”—at each and every event. I had to leave on Tuesday, before someone else decided to throw another party, but also before the birthday girl took delivery of her biggest, bestest birthday present—a new car. Yep. Aunt Ele still drives. Widowed about 15 years, she still lives on her own, still wears heels and lipstick. Still sings every day—because she says, “It makes me feel good.”

This getting older thing is quite a journey, and as I looked at my relatives and took note of the bridges that connect the generations—children and grandchildren of those of us who used to be the children—I could see the map of my life. It was all right there—where I’d been, and where I was going (If I’m lucky!). I mean, when I was a kid all of my adult relatives were OLD—at least as far as I was concerned. At 8 or 10 or 12, you dream of being 18 or 21—maybe even 25. Past that? Way too many years to comprehend. But time marches on. My cousins and I are now older than our folks were back when we were eating Thanksgiving dinner at the children’s tables (3 card tables awkwardly arranged in Nana’s living room), running through the backyard sprinkler on a hot August Saturday, or shivering through a Memorial Day picnic—Buffalo in May wasn’t adrift in snow (as is widely rumored), but the fact that it wasn’t exactly warm enough rarely stopped us from welcoming the summer with the inaugural cookout at Aunt Helen and Uncle Gene’s. Funny enough, we cousins don’t think we’re old now. Guess our folks didn’t think they were either.

As a little girl, I can remember sitting in Aunt Ele and Uncle Cam’s living room with the drapes drawn, watching family movies from a previous gathering. Not dvds or videos,‘cause they didn’t exist. This was a clicking, whirring Super 8 projector that took forever to set up and get the film threaded on the sprocket the right way. But we all waited patiently because for us, this was entertainment! Anyway, during these bargain matinees I would glance over at Aunt Eleanor sitting in the window seat as she narrated, and marvel at the fact that she was a grown up, but her feet didn’t touch the floor. I have to tell you, I watched her last Saturday night, perched in a chair opening her gifts, and I found myself amazed that her feet—neatly shod in high-heeled, strappy sandals and crossed demurely at the ankles—still didn’t touch the floor. But that night I don’t think any of ours did. We were all floating on her cloud.

I am one of the “scattered,” so I dosed up on family, and my fix will have to last me a few months, but like Donna’s mom’s accident, this occasion was yet another reminder to celebrate all of our todays. Find the good, look for the joy, sing your song just like Aunt Eleanor. I know I will.

My cousin, Aunt Eleanor’s daughter, reads our blog regularly and told me she has been enjoying our Mother Mondays, so these next 10 signs you’re becoming your mother are for you Lib--you can only hope!

By the way Aunt Ele says we can start now to plan her 100th.

And there’s a new album with a few pictures from the party.


31) You diligently write reminder notes—then forget where the hell you put them.

32) You hear yourself say, "My goodness!" instead of #$%&*! the way you used to.

33) You keep extra birthday cards on hand and actually mail them so they arrive on time.

34) You smile smugly when kids say, "What do you know?"

35) There's always something to eat in your refrigerator and you cooked it.

36) You can only eat cereal or toast after 10 PM if you plan to get any sleep.

37) The thought of cold pizza for breakfast is revolting.

38) You finally admit the photo isn’t blurry—your eyesight is, then give up and get the glasses (but they’ve got to be cute).

39) Your glasses hang from a chain around your neck because it’s the only way you can find them.

40) You remove the clothes from the dryer at the end of the cycle instead of using it like an extra dresser drawer.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 11:48 AM 0 comments links to this post

Aunt Eleanor's Party Pics

posted by DeBerry and Grant at 11:39 AM 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 02, 2007

YOU CAN BANK ON IT

All of a sudden there are banks opening on every corner, mall, even in the supermarket—Bank of America, NorthFork, PNC, Wachovia, Chase, WAMU, Citi, HSBC. . . (We assume this is happening in your town too.) They’re as bad as Starbucks. First the big banks ate the little banks. We were both at different banks and each of them changed names three times in five years and voila! we’re now at the same bank. Do you know how many checks that is to shred?

So what’s the deal? Is there all of a sudden more money floating around so we need more places to put it? Who actually uses money anyway. There are electronic transfers, ATM transactions, debit cards, direct deposits—bank 24 hours a day, in your PJ’s. So what do we need the buildings for? Are they handing out samples, ‘cause if they are, nobody told us. We’d be happy to take a few crispy tens and twenties on a test run, even the new sepia-toned funny money (can you tell the bills apart without careful examination? We can’t.)

Or is the opposite true—there’s no more money, but we’re supposed to think there is? Does it make us feel comfy-cozy about the economic state of the country when we see banks blooming like dandelions? No recession here! Unemployment is down—no mention of the disappearing middle class or the fact that millions of those with jobs are “working poor” who can’t live or support their families on what they earn. To quote Business Week, as of 2004 twenty eight million people earned less than $18,800 a year, below the federal poverty line for a family of four—but who’s counting (Click here: BW Online May 31, 2004 Working...And Poor And for those who need their cash immediately, there’s always your handy dandy 24 hour check cashing and payday loan emporium—convenience with 300% interest rates.)So it’s all OK! More than OK—it’s swell! Just look at all the banks! Brick and mortar testament to the stability of our economy. AND you can get free checking. Oh, and do you want to take some equity out of your house? You got it—the larger the bill, the harder it is to pay, the easier it is to foreclose, my dear.

And let’s not forget that while we’re breaking out in a rash of banks, we’re also breaking out in a rash of bank robberies. According to a report on NBC Nightly News, (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19996325/) the increase has now reached the equivalent of a bank heist every hour and fifteen minutes. That’s a lot of sticking up. Now way, way back in the 1940’s bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks. His reply, ’Cause that’s where the money is.”

Are more people more desperate—amateurs with names like the Grandma Bandit, the BandAid Bandit, The Wig Bandit, The Cell Phone Bandit, The Hat Bandit—trying to get through tough times? Are they just your run of the mill crooks? Or are they crazed junkies trying to support a habit—which is what some officials are telling us?

What’s the bottom line then?

Asked why they think there are so many bank robberies, police say one factor may be the increased number of branch banks around the country. According to Maj. Harold Winsett, head of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Hillsborough County, Florida Sheriff’s Office, "Banks are on every corner to be a convenience for the people that deposit their money there. Well, it makes it just as convenient for the bank robber."

Duh.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 3:15 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Commentary on Comments

First, thank you for visiting our blog and an extra thank you for sending your comments—we want you to know that we get them, we read them, we appreciate them—but when we try to post them, blogger eats them. They’re working on the problem (they say) so in the meantime, if you want to send us a comment about one of our posts–please send via email to deberryandgrant@gmail.com or virginiaanddonna@aol.com

Thanks and keep reading!!!
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 10:29 AM 0 comments links to this post

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