Tuesday, December 31, 2013

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” - Anaïs Nin

Happy New Year!

Love and light,

Friday, December 27, 2013

Yesterday, I learned a dear friend passed away.  I sat on my tan carpet with my legs crossed and my laptop cradled in my lap.  In the kitchen, my sons chatted with their mouths full over graham crackers and raisins.  I glanced out the window beside where I sat and the late afternoon sun was descending in the sky.  The yellow-orange rays shined brightly through the spaces in the bare tree branches and cast wild shadows on our muddy grass.  A man was walking his dog in the path behind my house.  His dog stopped to do his business and the man waited, turning so his face met the warm sunlight and squinting from its intensity.  When his dog was done, he kept walking.
I wept. 

(c) Faye McCray

Love and Light,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

So, I wrote this little article over on Black Girl Nerds that seems to be causing quite the firestorm.  I wrote the article after seeing SNL's skit, White Christmas, an attempted parody of black film. Venture on over to BGN and let me know what you think, then if you feel like witnessing the firestorm, follow me on Twitter @fayewrites and see the mayhem that hath ensued.  It all started with one woman who decided to vocalize her dissent and tag Michael Che, SNL writer of said skit, in her comment.  He wasn't happy, to put it mildly, but it's okay, more people read the article, more discussion was sparked, and for that, I win.

Oh, and for the record, I wasn't defending Tyler Perry in the article.  If you read my blog, you know better than that, but I thought I'd add that for the newcomers. 

Love and Light,

Monday, December 16, 2013

Junot Diaz interviewed Toni Morrison last Thursday and it was broadcast live on YouTube, sponsored by New York Public Library. I hadn't heard about the event before last Thursday and when a good friend of mine sent me the link, I damn near crashed my car.  Toni Morrison is my favorite author of all time and Junot Diaz is fastly moving up my list.  
It was like I died and went to literary nerd heaven.  I pretty much scream announced it on Twitter every five minutes as I was watching (sorry about that).  In case you missed it... or if I'm honest, in case I want to watch it again (okay, okay, when I want to watch it again), here is the link.  The talk was amazing.  As usual, I appreciated Junot Diaz's raw, unapologetic voice (which actually translates well from paper to person) and Toni Morrison's... well... Toni 'Freakin' Morrison.
Love and Light,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

As a mother of a first grader, my heart breaks every time I see these beautiful faces and remember the senseless and violent way their precious lives ended.  My thoughts and heart are with these little souls today and everyday.  Mommies and Daddies, we will never forget your beautiful angels.  We will also never forget those heroic teachers that lost their lives protecting their students. 

Love and Light,

Thursday, December 12, 2013

While waiting for my eldest to get out of school, I saw a girl, no older than nine, walking with her nose in a Beverly Clearly book.  She was so focused on her book she tripped twice, and was hit square in the face by a stray snowball from the group of boys having a snowball fight beside her.  She adjusted her glasses, wiped the wet remnants from her cheek, and kept reading.  But for her wispy blond hair and petite frame, I would have sworn I had gone back in time and was spying on my former self. 
It's going to turn out fine, sweetheart.
Just fine.

Maya Angelou

Love and Light,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I always get overly introspective at the end of the year.  Though time is relative and New Years Eve is really just another day, the end of the year always fills me with nostalgia.  I miss the good memories, am anxious to get beyond the bad ones and hopeful about what lies ahead. 

This time last year, I was hitting 'publish' on my first blog post as Faye McCray.  Those close to me know I have been toying with my identity as a writer my whole life.  I started working on my first novel in 2008.  I vaguely remember sitting on the beach with my then-newborn son, thinking about my idea for the novel.  I would write a few paragraphs and read it to my husband, write a few, read a few and then tuck it away.  I wrote on lunch breaks at work, stop lights during my commute and after middle of the night feedings when I just couldn't get back to sleep.  It really was enough at the time.  It was a story I felt I needed to tell so I did, without any expectation or approval. My husband suggested joining writing groups and sharing my writing with other writers.  I shrugged but agreed thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice if... nah..." I was comfortable in my identity.  I was a new mom, wife, lawyer and sometimes, I wrote.
Then in 2009, my brother, Tommy died.
And I was angry.
Grief is, in fact, very angry.  Angry at everything.  Angry at the pain.  Angry at the birds chirping outside your window.  The sun for rising and warming your wayward tears.  The director of the funeral home's feet for being too large to stuff into her inappropriately high heels.  On a bigger level, I was angry death happens at all.  Whether you articulate it or not, there is a layer of emotion in grief solely devoted to the unfairness in death.  You wonder, how could the universe have given you someone you grow to love and cherish only to rip them away?  How could life be so tragically short?  Just when you get the hang of it, you get the news that it will be over soon.  Or maybe you never get a chance to get the hang of it at all..
Less than a month after my brother died, I found out I was pregnant again and suddenly the whole circle of life dwelled within the walls of my body.  My soul bled with loss and simultaneously rejoiced in life.  I fluctuated between joy and pain, life and death, and in an instant, time seemed finite.  Like an explosion or fiery dagger barreling down at where you sit from the sky, it could all be over in an instant.  One second you are there, laughing at a silly joke, filling your lungs with the shared air and the next.... well, in the next, you're gone.

It wasn't so much that the sun shone down and I had an out of body epiphany to pursue my life as a writer... it was that I realized I wanted to spend the remainder of my days being true to who I was.  There was a way I wanted to love.  There was a way I wanted to look.  There was a way I wanted to parent.  There was a way I wanted to spend my days that I hadn't been true to.  Don't get me wrong.  I had a good life.  I had a stable job.  I was still madly in love with my husband and in complete adoration of our happy, healthy and cute babies.  However, so many of my days were spent in obligation.  I did so much of what had to be done and I didn't dare to dream of what could be done because I was afraid wanting more would make me selfish.
But when Tommy died...
When Tommy died and ten months later, my youngest son was born, life felt like no more than a brief slumber in the liminal.  Life was that moment between opening your eyes and closing them.  That moment between seeing something that brings you joy and allowing the smile to take hold of your face.  That moment between wanting to be touched, and feeling a warm hand against your skin.

The last time I saw my brother, we were both shuffling mindlessly around my mother's house in Queens.  I was getting ready to snuggle in my mother's recliner under a blanket and Tommy and my husband were about to pop in the "early release" DVD of Zombieland.  My oldest, who was two then, toddled into my mother's office, undoubtedly to get into something.  I dropped the blanket down on the recliner and reluctantly followed.
"Pickle..." I'm sure I mumbled.  Tired and eager for him to settle down.
As I entered the hall, I spied my brother lift him up and place his forehead to my son's.  My son giggled and my brother smiled.  I did too.  My brother and I didn't always get along.  To see him so tender with my son... it was everything.  Call it a gift from the universe, but I remember that moment vividly.   As clear as a picture in my palm.  Sometimes when its quiet I relive it.  I rewrite it.  Instead of shuffling back into my mother's living room and falling asleep and muttering a sleepy goodbye as Tommy leaves my mother's house and I never see him again, I say...
"I love seeing you with him like that, Tommy." 
He smiles and says, "I know, me too."
I say, "I'm sorry we fought so much when we were growing up but I am so happy we are closer now.  I love that I can call you and you always pick up.  I love that you are always there for me.  I love that you are such an awesome Uncle to my son."
He'd smile again and look at me over the shades he always wore.  He'd smirk because he'd be embarrassed but he'd let me hug him, a little longer than usual, and then I'd let go and he'd leave because he had too. 
I can't rewrite that. 

As I move into 2014 and reflect on all I did, and all I want to do, I am pausing to look back.  To remember placing a flower against my brother's silver casket and months later, spreading my fingers over my expanding stomach and feeling my son kick against my open palm.  My spirit weary with death and yet joyous in life.  I am reminded to take hold of those liminal moments with both hands.  Breathing in each space I am allowed to fill and not in a rush to end my journey.  I am reminded to become who I am intended to become.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.   I am reminded that a stranger's expectations of me matter not compared to my expectations of myself.  I'd say I'm eager to get started but let's face it, it's already begun.

Love and Light,

Sunday, December 1, 2013

CONGRATS, Lisa K. and Melanie P.!
Now repeat after me, I promise... not to... download Drake or Ke$ha. 
Okay, we're good here.
Thank you ALL again for your support!
I reached 200 Likes on Facebook!

I can't tell you how much it means to me that 200 folks have clicked 'like' on my Facebook page.  It was almost a year ago that I decided to take this journey and it has means so much to me that so many of you have decided to take the ride with me.  It's scary to put yourself out there and admit you have a dream.  Every word of encouragement, every download, every comment and every 'like' has meant the world to me!


In honor of reaching 200 likes on Facebook, I am giving away 2 FREE iTunes Gift Cards!  Music and writing has always gone hand-in-hand for me.  Music sets the mood and the tone to send me spiraling into my paper-universes.  I thought there was nothing more fitting than to give away some music to celebrate!

Enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners announced Wednesday, December 4, 2013!

Love and Light,

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hey err'buddy! An article I wrote on marriage is up on Black and Married With Kids

Check it out here. 

For those of you that followed my work at We of Hue, it is spin off of a piece I wrote titled, Raising a Single Mom a few years ago. If you enjoy it, please comment and share it with your friends!  If you don't, tell no one and keep it to yourself :-).  Thus far, the feedback has been amazing! I have read every comment and feel empowered knowing so many of you share my struggle!

Love and Light,

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Eatin' the day away with the husband, tiny humans and extended family.  So grateful that I am warm, fed and surrounded by love.  I hope you and yours have a wonderful, wonderful day!

Love and Light,

Friday, November 22, 2013

(c) Matt Small

 You know, it's not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.
James A. Baldwin

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a day I decided to do what I love.  It was more of a collection of days.  A collection of events.  It was a collection of circumstances that removed the price tag from my life.  Love, loss, my penchant for natural hair… whatever it was, I changed. As I basked beneath the ambient light of my dull, gray cubicle and watched as the heavy arms of the clock made its painstaking journey from nine to five o’clock… somewhere between wishing the day away and forcing my heart to care about what my mind did, I realized what I was doing wasn’t working.  I couldn’t survive off the promise of happiness at the end of my journey.  I needed to be happy now.
For me, this commitment meant a torch lit path to the journey of a writer.   A writer since I was six, words have always been my shit.  I love the way they look, sound, and feel.  Words have the power to lift you up and just as easily snap you apart.  Crafting words, creating universes, weaving together stories and creating paper-life is an orgasm for my soul.  Simply put, I love writing.  My chemistry would have it no other way.
I am an artist. 
I am also black. 
I’ve always been black.  Always will be.  When I was born, the doctor put black on my birth certificate and it kind of stuck.  My curls are tight, my skin actually does resemble chocolate and when I stare at it long enough under the light, it has subtle highlights of red and gold.  This has been a reality for me for as long as I remember, and it has always been okay.  In fact, more than okay.  I am proud of my heritage, the advancements of my people, and I escaped any life-threatening color issues by being raised in a family that always made me feel beautiful. 

However, in this society, when I enter a room, being black speaks louder than anything else about me.  My humanity, my individuality, my personal past and present aren’t even close seconds.  The label brings with it a litany of expectations and beliefs about me that often stifle the freedom inherit in being an artist.  As a black artist, I am expected to be sitting on an urban hood story, burdened by the enslavement of my ancestors, and sure enough fighting to survive poverty and incarceration due to the vestiges of colonialism and white privilege.  My heart must constantly ache to tell, see and experience this story again and again.  I am a consummate victim. I am fighting for equality. I am using my art for strength. The labels carry some truth. One must never underestimate the black experience in this county.  I don’t buy into post-racialism, and I likely never will.  However, a constant focus on societal labels that define us can cheapen the experience of our soul and thus detract truth from that which is so beautiful about being an artist.  We have complex, diverse experiences, likes, dislikes, loves and heartaches that have nothing to do with our identity as black folks, but no matter how hard we try to prove it, that pesky blackness seems to get on everything.

Here’s an example: 

As I am sure most of you heard, USAToday published an article this weekend citing the shocking success of The Best Man Holiday as a “race-themed” movie. Black Twitter was ablaze with rage, including myself.  There were no slaves in the movie.  No maids.  No butlers.  No sad colored people considering suicide and flinging babies out of windows.  How could a movie about eight friends dealing with love, success, and loss be “race-themed?” I found myself replaying the movie in my head.  Had they discussed being black?  Was “the man” hovering over all of their achievements, holding the friends down and sending them to jail? Had Morris Chestnut accidentally spilled blackness when he took off his shirt and suddenly it was all over everyone in the movie?  Why couldn’t these phenomenal actors be recognized for their multilayered performances outside of their identity as black?  Why did mere blackness make race a theme?  “It’s just a movie,” black twitter cried.  “Call it a movie.  Listen to the story.  See the tears.  Hear the laughter.  Recognize the humanity.  We are people too.  We are just like you.  We are just like you.” And so goes the plight of the black artist.

If we are honest, we’d realize a white run society isn’t the sole defendant in this indictment.  We have perpetuated the line in the sand just as readily as good old Scott Bowles at USA Today.  For example, I was having a “race-themed” evening with my husband recently.  We were watching Kevin Hart’s Real Husbands of Hollywood, and Chris Rock made a guest appearance.  True to the self-deprecating nature of the show, Rock was belittling Kevin Hart’s fame in a series of jokes:  Rock can leave a restaurant without paying, Hart couldn’t.  A perfect stranger would give Rock their car if he needed, Hart couldn’t.  It culminated in Rock saying to Hart, “I’m famous.  You’re more “black” famous.”  My husband and I laughed.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  But suddenly, in the middle of my laughter, I looked over at my black husband and down at my clapping black hands (because we all know black people do the “clap laugh”) and wondered, why is my affection, my dollars and my support less than?  I've been riding with Rock since he was Pookie in New Jack City and the mailroom guy in Boomerang.  Well before he "arrived" as Marty, the zebra in MadagascarYou would never hear Seinfeld say to Seth Rogen, “I’m famous.  You’re more white famous?”  What would that even mean, right? White famous is famous.  I thought a lot about Chris Rock’s words during the whole Twitter/USA Today debacle and my own struggles with identity as a black artist.  In the past two years that I have pursued writing professionally, I have grown to resent the label.  I found myself shouting to whomever would listen, “I am more. I have mainstream appeal. My white friends like my work, too.  If you just give me a read, you’ll realize, I can crossover.  I am just like you.”

Except I’m not.

And that’s okay.

It’s not to say that I fully embrace the stereotypes and expectations of being a black artist.  My art is informed by my humanity first, and that may not always fit into a box of what society expects black to be.  My husband and I have nights were we rock out to Radiohead, drink red wine and eat hummus and pita chips which, by definition, may not be expected of a black married couple.  However, maybe I’m not the only black person that doesn’t fit into a box.  Maybe I am not alone in my belief that we are multilayered, multifaceted individuals living a human experience that is sometimes, but not always informed by our blackness.  It seems as though a part of this collective cry for the recognition of our humanity from the white community stems from the belief that our uniqueness is an exception to the black rule.  I’m special, right?  I have advanced degrees.  I shop at Whole Foods.  I read words.   I’ve never knocked a bitch out (which, according to television, most black women can’t help but do).  I am different from those other black people.  You know the ones.  Sweet Brown.  The stars of most black reality television.  Kayne West.  That fried chicken-selling lady from the Popeye’s commercial.  If you are a black person who has ever articulated an intelligent thought, it has likely been ingrained in you that you are some kind of exception.  You are black and attractive? Rare.  Black and well-spoken? Even rarer.  Black with money in the bank? Holy shit! Are you even real?  Remember that Chris Rock comedy special back in the day where he drew a line in the sand between black people and ni$$as?  Remember the joke?  “I love black people, but I hate ni$$as… Ni$$as will break in your house… Ni$$as don’t read… Ni$$as sing welfare carols.”  I remember watching that special years ago and laughing, thinking, thank God no ni$$as went to see this Chris Rock show because surely they would find this joke offensive...

It’s this distinction that leads perfectly decent black people to work tirelessly to convince couldn’t-care-less white people that we are “just like them.” Remember the whole, “Stuff Educated Black People Like” phenomenon?  From the way we wear our hair, to the way we walk, to the way we dress, to whom we love, we are becoming a walking, talking, neon-blazing billboard chanting, “I am just like you! I am just like you! I am just like you!” Play the token long enough, and you actually start to believe you are an exception. 

The USA Today article cited Think Like a Man12 Years a Slave, The Butler and Best Man Holiday as part of a growing trend of race-themed diverse films that were breaking box-office barriers.  Proof that maybe, just maybe, black people enjoy seeing themselves on screen.  That maybe, just maybe, there was buying power in black and brown communities that didn’t need the white stamp of approval.  That maybe… MAYBE… being “black famous” actually meant something.  That maybe, just maybe, black people see themselves as multilayered and mutli-faceted and are interested in seeing and telling human stories, outside of everything we were taught black meant. 

That maybe there are no ni$$as.

As an artist joining in the collective cry for The Best Man Holiday to just be considered a movie about humanity first that just happens to have black actors, the question becomes will mainstream white appreciation always be necessary to validate my art? Does my ability to have non-black and brown people rock with me make me matter more?  Considering the twitter-rage, the box office performance of The Best Man Holiday and even the performance of Scandal, I am learning that the answer is no.  Being black famous matters.  Our money matters.  We matter.  Our humanity has never been the exception. 

It's the rule.   

Love and Light,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It’s such a strange life we writers lead. 

For the past few weeks, I have been working hard refining Yellow Belt.  Yellow Belt is the next story in the Dani’s Belts series which follows my protagonist, Dani, as she struggles to survive the zombie apocalypse. It is unlike anything I have ever written.  My writing is usually very literary and heavily grounded in reality (for better or worse). Oddly, however, out of all the many, many characters I have created (written and those that dwell in my head), Dani is probably the most like me.  She appreciates a good shoe, loves hard but not always wisely, perpetually underestimates herself, and when it’s all said and done, is happiest hiding under a blanket next to someone she loves.  The creativity lies in placing someone like that in the extraordinary situation of the zombie apocalypse.  Something I have, thankfully, never lived through.

Recently, someone on Twitter asked me why I titled the first story, White Belt.  This fall, I enrolled my six-year old in Karate.  My husband is a black belt so it has always been important to him that our sons follow in his footsteps.  We knew it would be a challenge because although our son is intelligent, funny, creative, and compassionate, he inherited my penchant for daydreaming and my unshakeable, highly-embarrassing and often times tragic, clumsiness.  The first few classes he giggled more than he focused, did impromptu Michael Jackson moves more than kicks and all and all, was pretty bad at it.  However, as time progressed there was a change him.  Albeit subtle, the spins lessened, he didn’t fall after attempting kicks, and he listened when his Sensei spoke. I can’t really recall an impetus.  Some pivotal moment were it all came together (“There is no spoon”).  But it did.  He started to try.  He started to focus.  He started to want it.  I think it was just his own growing desire to keep up and not get left behind.  The day he earned his white belt, he stood straight and accepted it proudly.  He didn’t earn it because he was the best kicker or the most skilled blocker, he earned it because he wants to be.

“Tough times go away.  Tough people don’t,” his Sensei said.

“Yes, sir!” he shouted.

I was already writing White Belt while I was witnessing this.  I originally called it Chesapeake House after a rest area in Maryland, which is the setting for the first story.  As I was writing, however, I noticed Dani’s journey was mirroring my son’s journey.  In fact, it was kind of mirroring my own.  She started out not believing she could make it, not believing she could do it and in the end, she was trying.  She was silencing that voice inside her saying, “You are in wayyyy over your head, girl” and fighting anyway.

Like any imperfect human being, she may regress.  She is currently making some questionable choices that I’m not too proud of.  I’ve tried to talk her out of it but I tell ya, you give these pesky characters life and those ingrates stop listening to you. However, it’s her journey (I told you it’s a strange life writer’s lead).  I’m just grateful for all of you that are taking the ride.

Love and Light,


Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm giving I've given away 3 FREE Copies of my short story, White Belt!!

 A college student ditched by her boyfriend braves ground zero of the zombie apocalypse in BCBG platform wedges and a sundress.
Enter here to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be announced Friday, November 15th!
 Congrats also to Angelica J.!

You can still purchase a copy of White Belt for only $0.99 on Amazon now!

Remember, you don't need a kindle to read White Belt! Download the FREE reading app for your PC or Smartphone here!

Love and Light,

Friday, November 8, 2013

1. The sun is far too bright.

2. I randomly pump myself up to stay awake. 

3. I find myself waking up when I didn't know I was asleep.
4.  I overreact to any sign of conflict.

5. Everything is funny. 

6. And yet, everything is sad.
7. I almost never make it to the bed.

Raise your hand if you're taking a nap this weekend!!! Oh yea. I'm doing it big, folks. 

Love and Light,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A week ago today, I took my first big step into the world of a published author by self-publishing my short story, White Belt.  I sought to prove three things to myself:

  1. I could meet a deadline.
  2. I could write horror without peeing in my panties or writing "just kidding" at the end of every sentence.
  3. I could find an audience.

BOOM on that first one!

#2 also gets a big fat check of success.  I LOVED writing White Belt. So much so, I am turning it into a series.  My protagonist, Dani tripped into my fraidy-cat heart with her clunky shoes and horrible taste in men and I fell in love.  I am rooting for her and I can't wait to see where her journey takes her.

#3 is still in progress.  Over the past week, I have found a ton of people on GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and the good old fashioned world wide web.  Crazy Zombie lovers like me.  A whole seedy world of the Black and Nerdy.  New Adult authors who write to escape.  Local bloggers looking to find and support other local bloggers.  A bestselling author who gave me a how to guide on how to market (it's a marathon... not a race). And an awesome Chick Lit blogger who shared my affinity for fall boots.  It has been AWESOME.  People have been so willing to support While Belt and me.... and share their tips and tricks to success.  The sense of community and solidarity has been absolutely amazing. 

The only problem is, it is really, really time consuming!

Between my day job, my spouse, my munchkins, my writing and marketing, I barely have time to take a deep breath. 

There... I took one.

But you want to know a secret?
I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Thanks for follows, the tweets, the emails, the downloads and the love!  There is only one thing on that list that I would want to stop doing...and its not this!

*Stepping firmly into my shoes and smiling, I am a writer :-).

Download White Belt here for only $0.99! Don't 4get to leave a review!

Love and Light,

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I made contact with an awesome editor a few months ago who reminded me to keep writing.  So I did.  Boyfriend is still in traditional publishing limbo but in the mean time, I have decided to self publish a new series of short stories called, Dani's Belts.  The stories follow Dani Thomas, an unlikely protagonist of the zombie apocalypse. 

White Belt kicks off the series introducing Dani, a young college student on a road trip with her boyfriend, Rob, to see his favorite artist in concert.  When a short stop at a rest area turns into ground zero of the zombie apocalypse, Rob flees, leaving Dani, a self-proclaimed girly girl with no survival skills, to fend for herself among the growing population of flesh eating zombies. 

Download WHITE BELT here.  It's FREE today only for Halloween!

Look out for the next story in the series, Yellow Belt in January 2014.

Love and Light,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A college student ditched by her boyfriend braves ground zero of the zombie apocalypse in BCBG platform wedges and a sundress.
Order my new short story, White Belt on Kindle for FREE on Halloween!

After that, it's not free (but it's $0.99 which is practically free!).

Don't have a Kindle? Click here to get the FREE Reading App for your PC or Smartphone!
Love and Light,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Four years ago today, I woke up with my face smushed inside my elbow on my mother’s light oak kitchen table in Queens wondering if the previous ten hours had been a dream.  My head hurt and old tears stained my face.  There was a knock at the door.  I wiped the residues of my hour of sleep from the corners of my mouth and answered.  My aunt had bagels and my older brother was still gone. 
My brother, Tommy and I on a family vacation in Mystic, CT in 1987.

My brother, Tommy died on October 22, 2009. He lived 38 years, 4 months, 22 days and 3 ½ hours.  I was born when he was 10 years old.  Here is what I learned from the 28 years I witnessed his life. 
1.       Remain amused.  No matter what you may go through… no matter how hard life tries to break you down or what someone else might say or do to make you stumble, put it in perspective and find the humor. Tommy could have patented his signature smirk.  He was always in on the joke so he always won.
2.       Never let a freshman take yo’ spot.  This lesson was also taught by Sidra from Love and Basketball.  My brother was the baby for ten years before I was born.  If I was going to out-cute him, out-smart him, or out-sweet him, I had to work for it.  Always make them work for it.
3.       Gloat when necessary.  Even when beating your seven-year-old kid sister in Street Fighter, gloat.  Enjoy every win.  You earned it.  Just be prepared for the blow back. 
4.       Never trust a big butt and a smile.  Literally. This one is tucked away to use with my sons one day. Know the difference between the brain between your legs and the one in your head.  Act accordingly.
5.       Never beg someone to love you.  Loving you and being loved by you is a privilege.  I’ll never forget crying my eyes out after finding out an ex-boyfriend was cheating on me.  I wondered if I should forgive him and take him back.  Tommy looked me square in the eyes and said, “You’re my sister, don’t be desperate.”  Ha. He was right. 
6.       Get it. Even when no one else does.  Especially when no one else does.  Understanding the subtext is often more important than understanding what is actually being said.
7.       Love is an action.  Tommy never told me he loved me but he sat with me when I was afraid of the dark, brought me milk when I cried, and made all my battles his battles.
8.       It’s always sunglass weather. Tommy’s shades were almost as signature as his smirk.
9.       Listen more than you speak.  I remember Tommy’s quiet observance more than I remember his words. When he spoke, (most times) it mattered.
10.   PRINCE is EVERYTHING.  If you don’t know, ask someone.
11.   Always check on kids who are alone in a basement.  I’ll just let you use your imagination on that one. 
12.   Dowhatyoulike.  If you’d rather sing to Frank Sinatra than dance to the latest hip hop single, do it.  Put your own smile on your face. Ultimately, you hold the key to your happiness.  No one else does.
13.   Flirt shamelessly.  There are far too many good-looking people in this world not to.  Just remain mindful of boundaries.
14.   Drive fast with the windows down and music playing.  Ride a note and feel weightless… but don’t hit pedestrians.
15.   Pose in the mirror. Because you are fucking sexy at every angle.
16.   Don’t always pick up your phone.  Most times, it can wait. Sometimes it is better to let your own voice be the only voice in your head.
17.   Believe in the impossible. Because nothing is.
18.   Show up.  Always be there when it matters.  Every time I needed my brother there, he was.  From moving me into my first apartment, to wheeling me up to NICU after an emergency C-section to see my son after he was born,  to driving to Virginia to pick me up when I just needed to get home.  He always showed up, even when I didn’t ask. 
19.   Protect your space.  Not everyone is worthy of coming into your space.  Your home is your sanctuary. Discriminate. 
20.   Be a hero… within limits. Tommy was a Detective with the NYPD.  He was a 9/11 first responder and saved countless lives during his 19 years as a police officer.  He acted on instinct not impulse. 
21.   Ask questions; doubt the answers.  You’ve been lied to.  Never stop wondering why.
22.   Never stop believing in love. It’s what we are here for. 
23.   Love your parents without condition.  Their humanity is no less stainless than your own.  Don’t be naïve but forgive their sins.  They gave you life.
24.   Childhood is precious. Protect yours, protect others.
25.   Get lost in the sky.  Be quiet and look up.  You will feel large, small, significant, and insignificant all at the same time.  It’s magic.
26.   Guard your health.  If you have reason to question your health, go see a doctor. 
27.   There is never enough time. Don’t hold grudges.  Don’t put it off. Remain present and regret nothing. Make the journey count more than the destination.
28.   Everyone dies.  So get to living.

My eldest brother, Marc (on the right) and Tommy and I hugging after their big brother speech at my wedding in 2006.

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