A fun-filled birthday celebration at Grille 29 honoring my bonus sister Theresa was already on level 10 before the exceptionally friendly server came out to announce the night’s features. Before even arriving at the restaurant I’d decided I was ordering the small grilled chicken Caesar salad, their addictive sweet tea with water on the side, and a warm sour cream cake to share so I wasn’t listening to what he was saying until he said gumbo. I’d experienced their gumbo before and quickly blurted out, “Oh, is this the chef’s special four meat gumbo?” To which he replied, “Nawwww, girl. This is his SPECIAL duck and bacon gumbo!” What the duck?!?!? Duck and bacon in gumbo? Duck and bacon in gumbo that I can actually eat because I didn’t run the shellfish “make my face swell” risk? Oh my goodness. I was immediately transported to a Donald and Porky wonderland in my mind and salivating mouth.
I ordered the gumbo. As the teens of today say, “It gave me life”! Well, not literally, but the meat, sweet, and tender pieces of fowl mixed perfectly as the clear starring feature along with the pork was everything I could have imagined if I had the culinary courage to imagine duck and bacon together in a bowl with plump rice, strongly-flavored stock and all the Cajun accompaniments required to call a stew in a bowl an actual gumbo.
That dish, worth every bite, caused me to completely change my order from salad to braised short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes and sweetly sautéed green beans. (Don’t ask me why because I have no answer.) Others ate ginormous barbecue shrimp, perfectly prepared calamari with hidden treats of fried red peppers nestled among the squid, a delightfully fancy cured meat and cheese board, and lobster quesadillas as appetizers which we all sampled.
The entrees ranged from more quesadillas, their famous Salad 29, Scottish salmon brulee’ with a caramelized onion almost as good as the seafood, more short ribs and other tasty treats.
Regardless of what we eventually ate the clear star of the show was the duck and bacon gumbo, of which I had to reluctantly share with my sister who ate it off of a saucer with a fork and of which made us all break out into random acts of celebration include hands swinging in the air, hips wiggling in the seat, lip smacking and across-the-table high fiving. It was THAT good!
The catchy tune to one of my girl Whitney Houston’s song has been setting up shop in my mind this morning. I’m an early riser, so waking up to the lyrics “It’s not right, but it’s okay. I’m gonna make it anyway” at 4am in the morning signals to me more than just a song.
Ms. Houston sang (and strutted in her video) about an unfaithful lover that supposedly went out to eat with his boys on Friday night, came home around three with a receipt for two. (I just love it!) Her declaration to him, “It’s not right, but it’s okay. I’m gonna make it anyway.” Now, some other sneaky scenarios and wise words by Whitney followed, but this isn’t a “he or she did me wrong” post so I’ll proceed. This post is about any area of life, where we know it’s not right and what we have the power to do about…
Another Father’s Day weekend is approaching and, as usual, my family and I are scurrying to try to tie up plans to celebrate the special dads in our lives. Not that the scurrying is in a last minute kind of manner, but year-after-year it becomes increasingly more difficult to buy things for the men who have everything or don’t require much, or come up with plans for the people are who simply and truly content with their family being around somewhere within a 500 yard radius as they lounge in a chair with a cold beverage and remote in hand. We ask repeatedly and early what gifts might bring my Daddy joy. The answer is always the same, “Don’t get me anything. I just want my family happy.” He means that as proof of all of the tags in his closet from gifts given long ago. I must also be following the expectation that most women end up with men like their fathers because even my beau gives the standard “drive me crazy” answer of, “You don’t have to get me anything special. I’m happy with whatever.” So this year the Father’s Day theme is an new-fangled fish fry. And by new fangled I mean someone is going to pick it up a whole bunch of all-ready prepared seafood from a restaurant and grocery store and we’re going to celebrate the amazing men in our lives young and older, from near and far with hopes of staying awake long enough to watch the NBA finals, of course, with cold beverages and a remote in one of the fathers hands.
Fathers matter so much. I think they’ve gotten a tremendously bad rap in society because of a few bruised apples. Some may not be present by choice or circumstance. Some might have made mistakes. Some might have had difficulty giving what they’ve never received. Some might have sorely disappointed. Some, may be ideal for the families with which they’ve been blessed, but no father…just like no mother… is perfect. And still, they matter so much. Their voices matter. Their presence matters. Their ability to show us how to overcome and keep going matters. Their hugs and embrace matter. Their prayers and public display of spiritual covering matters. Their life’s stories matter. Their hard work and display of integrity matters. The bass in their voice matters. The sternness in their foreheads matters. Their role of authority matters. Their insight matters. Their experiences matter. Their ability to lead, guide, direct and protect matters. Even their mistakes matter as a clear signal of what not to do or what to do better.
With the Father’s Day “faux” Fish Fry menu in tack I realized this year, probably more than most, I’m just grateful for my Daddy and fathers in general. I truly, truly am. My dad, like most of the men in my life including my brother, my uncles, and my beau have had quite a tough year. My once strong, tall, towering, business-minded, bill-writing, chauffeuring Daddy has been battling unexpected health challenges which literally knocked him off of his feet in February. He still has a road ahead of him for total recovery and healing, but has come so far. Within the blink of an eye, a lot of his primary roles in our lives have shifted or ceased as we all collectively focus on him…for once. Isn’t that the baffling beauty of life? The man who asks for nothing now requires much. It’s an honor to be able to give it to him…with a cold beverage and remote in his hand.
WE Community Café located within Urban Ministry at 1229 Cotton Avenue SW has been opened since March 9th. The place, in my totally biased opinion, is a little piece of Heaven right in Birmingham’s West End where on any given Wednesday between 11am and 2pm you can see people from every walk of life coming together to break bread in peace, unity and love.
The chatter-ridden space is inviting as it welcomes those from varying socio-economic status, zip codes, backgrounds, educational opportunities and lifestyles. The former soup kitchen of more than 30 years now turned into a social enterprise “pay-as-you-can” café with the recommended donation of $5 ushers diners further in to the bustling food line just beside beautiful dark brown wood tables and shiny new chairs, while sweet R&B and inspirational tunes bellow out of the speakers. (Note, if you can’t pay, no worries. It’s already handled on your behalf. That’s the beauty of WE Community Café.) The amazingly friendly and knowledgeable staff of seasoned chefs and western-area young adults participating in Urban Ministry’s paid, intensive internship program continue to set the atmosphere for what is sure to be a dining experience to remember and want to repeat. But it’s the food that ties it all together as an unspoken unifier of the masses weekly offering perfection on the plate for just about every palate preference. Want southern cuisine and food which speaks to the soul? On any given Wednesday they will have it. Want a great hangout for your friends and you to gush, pose and take pictures of food which is picture worthy? On any given Wednesday they will have it. Want fresh produce? On any given Wednesday they will have it right from their very own mind-blowing garden. Want vegan and vegetarian options? On any given Wednesday they will have it. Want flavor-filled international-themed and regional dishes? On any given Wednesday they will have it. Want clean, organic foods? On any given Wednesday they will have it. Want aromatic teas that will make you stand in line more times that you’d be proud to admit? On any given Wednesday they will have it…and so much more. You should pay them a visit! And look for me. I’ll be one of the ones with a HUGE satisfied smile on my face:)
I had an opportunity to fill in for someone taking photographs at a major event. It was fun, and a great way for me to further explore my passion for pictures. Not one to shy away from the camera myself, I noticed that during my time of taking as many as 160 usable shots only one person offered to shoot a picture of me. As someone who likes taking pictures I also like to be taken. Not being shot honestly didn’t fare too well and left me feeling “some type of way” as the urban teens of America say. Later that day while editing my pictures I realized how much I missed being able to see myself in the midst of the hundreds who had gathered to support the important cause that brought us all together.
That made me think. How often do we extend the luxury, care, concern or simple favor…
I say this with all sincerity and no sarcasm. Thank you for leaving.
Thank you for doing for me what I obviously couldn’t or wouldn’t do for myself. Thank you for being used as a mighty instrument of God to escort me to my new/now/next. Thank you for helping grow me in areas I didn’t know I was malnourished. Thank you for recognizing that either your role in my life had ended or my role in yours was expired. Thank you for playing a part in making me strong in areas which were weak. Thank you for causing me to upgrade my prayer life and my faith walk. Thank you for showing me places I needed help and in a hurry. Thank you for being a reflection of patterns, poor choices, ignored signs and mistakes which all belonged to no one but me, regardless of what all happened. Thank you for leaving your space at the table for those who belonged and were bringing something with them. Thank you for causing me to elevate my forgiveness, grace and mercy. Thank you for teaching me how to love and let go. Thank you for showing me I could shut my mouth. Thank you for being the catalyst for the amazing associations and for real friendships which soared after ours sufficated. Thank you for clearing the path for others to step up when you decided to step away.
While your leaving didn’t make a hill of beans of sense, I’m glad it didn’t because if I could have figured it out I would have tried to fix it. While your leaving may have scared the hebedegebees out of me I’m glad it did because I was comforted, strengthed and encouraged in ways which rival the best of Biblical stories. While your leaving might have caused the wind to be knocked slap out of me I’m glad because I was able to experience Jesus’ sweet wind beneath my flailing wings carrying me to heights not before seen. And while tears might have been my initial response to your departure my lingering after affect was/is laughter…that gut-wrenching, eye-squenching, head-hurting, side-splitting, cheek-aching kind of laughter void of a single ounce of tea or any smidgen of shade, and filled with THANK YOU JESUS…thank you leavers.
So in all the languages known to man, or to me…Thank you for leaving. I sincerely wish you all well and appreciate your roles in my journey whether we again cross paths or not.