Thankful in Houston – After the storm


I am THANKFUL! My family and I are okay, having gone through the most devastating storm to hit the city of Houston, and our neighborhood was not adversely affected.

For three days the news of the situation in south Houston kept getting worse. Each time I watched the heart wrenching pictures on TV, all I could do was offer prayers for the city and its people and be grateful we were still safe. Initially all we had in our area north of the city was heavy rain. However,  driving around yesterday, I saw neighborhoods a few miles from us that were completely under water with a throng of rescue boats lining up for the search. Between the news on TV, the frequent emergency alerts blaring on my cell, rescue helicopters hovering over the neighborhood, talking to friends in nearby areas who were flooded but thankfully evacuated, the continuous rain, etc, I felt shaken and apprehensive. I prayed some more.

As the news worsened, reporters who tried to remain politically correct in their religious views began to soften.  An evacuee, Jeremiah, who made it through miles of water by rescue boat with his young son and just a backpack was being interviewed and stated, how grateful he was. “Thank God we are safe,” he repeated three times. When he walked away, however, the reporter said, “This young man just thanked his lucky stars that he and his son are okay.” I thought, “All you had to do was quote the man correctly.”  Later though another reporter who was welcoming a whole neighborhood coming by boat repeated several times, “Thank God you are okay.”  By the evening news, on the report that a load of people had been safely evacuated from an area, a reporter shouted “Hallelujah!”

Does it have to get that bad before we call on the name of The Lord?

The reports of strangers and volunteers putting their lives at risk to help others were the uplifting stories that showed the human spirit still prevailed in hopeless times. People, including myself, began to think, “How can I help?” Facebook and NextDoor overflowed with neighborhood helpful information: what supermarkets, stores or gas stations are open, what roads are clear or flooded, what place is offering shelter, where one can volunteer, where to donate supplies, etc.

When the severity of the storm was announced, we realized that it might be several days before the stores were re-stocked.  My sister, a former military, and I went on a “recon” (recognizance) tour and posted open facilities that we passed. We stood in line in the rain for an hour a and half to get more provisions from a Walmart that happened to be opened among closed or flooded stores. I was able to pick up air mattresses and food supply for my church (Light of the World Christian Fellowship) that is sheltering evacuees.

This morning when I opened my eyes to a ray of sunshine filtering through the blinds, I jumped out of bed glorifying God and stared at the beautiful sunrise.  My friend Kristen who lives in the bay area in Galveston posted a view of the beach this morning: blue sky and calm splashing waves. Harvey moved on and the news flash is: the waters are receding! We made it through.

We may be broken, but we can build again! We are alive! We’ve been granted another opportunity to experience God’s glory on this earth. Political correctness is out the window. Let us all  feel free to praise Him and shout Hallelujah! For sunshine, for blue skies, for calm splashing waves, for people helping and loving each other, for hope.

Here is my offering to uplift the spirits of all of those connected to the city of Houston, all affected directly or indirectly by hurricane Harvey. Stay strong.

Be encouraged in The Lord. Keep on pressing on.


An Obama Kind of Love – The Couple’s Impact on Relationships


As the last days of the Obama administration drew to a close, the media and the general public engaged in the customary examination of the legacy left by the former president and first lady.

As I read or watched specials on this generation’s most celebrated couple, I began to formulate my own assessment of the Obamas’ legacy that won’t make the history books.

Barack and Michelle, the couple, epitomize love. Love of self, love of family, love of others, love of country, love of God.  But to me and many others they symbolize ideal romantic love, Black love in particular.

From the moment we were introduced to them as Potus and Flotus, we admired their grace, charm and charisma.  Soon we fell in love with the living representation of what we all aspire to have: a loving, caring relationship based on trust, mutual admiration and respect.  You can tell the interaction between Barack and Michelle is genuine and they deeply care about and admire each other.  I could easily picture the President coming home after a hard day and dropping his head in his wife’s lap, eliciting a gentle caress.  I could also see Michelle with lifted eyebrows and hands on hips voicing discontent with a “Now.  Barack!”  And my God, the pictures with the girls curled up in No. 1 Dad’s lap or him planting an affectionate kiss on Michelle’s cheek or the girls’ forehead!

The Obamas as symbol of love showed us that contrary to popular belief, Black love is neither non-existent nor unattainable. It does exist! We’ve seen it live and in living color – pun intended.  A successful relationship requires both luck or an act of God (finding the right person) and a solid personal foundation of what marriage is.  Those of us, believers, know that a good marriage begins with a focus on God and biblical principles. The Obamas demonstrated an effective recipe that contains these values:

Shared attraction + reciprocal admiration + mutual respect +trust + commitment = Successful marriage

Barack’s eyes broadcasted his appreciation for his wife and he unabashedly lauded her qualities every chance he got. Likewise Michelle boasted about her husband. She gushed about him like a teenager on the Ellen Degeneres show.  Theirs is an expressive, playful, trusting and yes, sexy relationship. I’m sure there are hiccups that are amiably worked out, but their admiration and respect toward each other were always obvious, even in the small gestures.


The nation witnessed yet again evidence of the unequivocal bond between the Obamas during one of their final public appearances on inauguration day.  When a soldier escorted Michelle to join the outgoing and the incoming president on stage, Barack lifted his wife’s hands to his lips and planted a quick kiss there. I fully understood that fleeting yet powerful gesture.  It said, “Thank you for being my best friend and being there for me from the first day down to the very last.”

In my humble opinion, the Obamas did for black love what the Huxtables did for the black family in a prior generation.  They demonstrated that regardless of culture or race, two people who are on the same page emotionally, intellectually, socially, morally and personally can maintain and enjoy that happy union called marriage.

That kind of love while not common is not however the exclusive domain of the Obamas. You’ve probably seen examples of it in your circle. I happen to know couples who exhibit that kind of passionate, loving and enriching relationship we’ve witnessed in the Obamas.  My pastors, Jerry & Jacqueline Martin of Houston, fellow Haitian artist Michèle Voltaire Marcelin and her social activist husband Jocelyn McCalla in New York and personal friends jazz duo Karen and Rick Pasek  of New Jersey are a few that come to my mind.

As we say goodbye to our beloved icons, and with Valentines’ Day around the corner, I wish you all “an Obama kind of love.”


Personal Note:  A week after Valentine’s Day this year, my husband and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage.  We began with the requisite ingredients for a good marriage, but over the years we had to use all the tools of success mentioned earlier to keep the story of us going.

Not all 5475 days were blissful, but with prayer and a committed mindset, our relationship stood the test of time and other challenges and continued to flourish. We’ve certainly aged in fifteen years; however, the essence of what attracted us to each other still provides reasons to like each other.  Every once in a while I get little reminders of why our marriage is good.  Recently I experienced a stressful incident at work.  I immediately picked up my phone and called him. When he greeted me with his customary “Hi, baby,” I said, “You know what, you are my best friend. You’re the first person I call whenever something important happens to me.”

In my memoir, “Cads, Princes & Best Friends,” that recounts a tumultuous decade in my life leading to meeting my husband, I expressed gratitude for being blessed with a best friend who is my prince. I will now add that through the years I’ve had a best friend who treats me like a princess.

Danielle Coulanges and Hamilton Lamarre are immensely blessed to have “that Obama kind of love.”  Our prayer is that you have/find the same thing too.

We wish you all ” an Obama kind of love!” and a Happy Valentine’s Day!



Photo credits

Featured image at the top:


I Choose to Be Thankful


Two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday I was feeling particularly upset.  Overworked. Fatigued.  Frustrated.  My body felt like a wreck and I was emotionally and mentally drained. Everything got on my nerves and I was heading toward a private pity party.

Wait! Danielle. Stop complaining. You have so much to be thankful for.

For the next ten days every time I felt like complaining, I reminded myself to be thankful instead.

Wednesday – a full day on a blocked schedule with no breaks in between. I am completely worn out when I leave work.  Then I think about Thursday when I only see two classes and have an extended conference time. Woo Hoo!  Breathe. I get to catch up on my back log. I choose to be thankful!

Right upper arm – hurts like a new wound at the site of the scar where a growth was removed eight years ago when I reach to grab something on a shelve. Happens often. Doctor said there is no new growth. A Google search informed me that this is common. The nerve endings in the area of the scar are disconnected or something.  This will be a lifelong occurrence.  Okay then, let’s see.  I can still hold my beloveds in a bear hug. I can still lift my hand to praise The Lord. I choose to be thankful!

Need more sleep – hit the snooze all three times that morning. How I wish I could stay in bed, asleep!  One of my students, a bright and engaging young woman, appears to drag every morning that week. What’s wrong? I ask. “I’ve been going through some anxiety issues and am unable to sleep at night,” she replied.  My recommendation: chamomile or verbena tea, milk and honey, music…  Whoa! Here I am complaining and I’m getting at least six solid hours a night.  I choose to be thankful!

Right ankle – broken in a car accident when I was ten years old, buckles under as I walk.  I stumble.  This happens occasionally.  No heels this week Ms. Thing.  Podiatrist’s X-ray done a couple of months ago diagnosed arthritis and soft tissue damage in the area.  But, Ah!  I’ll be able to wear heels on Sunday, right? I am able to stand and walk? Dance at Zumba class?  I choose to be thankful!

30 minutes for lunch – I hate to eat in a rush. Bad for my genetic digestive issues. An older man, a teacher aide, comes into the teacher lounge. In a conversation about food he mentions being tired of eating soft foods, the only thing he’s able to process.  He initiated dental replacement back when he had a full time job and before turning 65. He got as far as partial implants. Medicare won’t pay the $10,000 cost of the remaining dentures and he can’t afford it on his own. I was chewing on a piece of chicken. I choose to be thankful!

Getting older is sometimes disconcerted. Why did I have to check the mirror when I was wearing my glasses and noticed all the grey eyebrow hairs? Wait! Once I “do” my brows, in pencil or gel, all you see are well arched brows.  Make up, what a blessing! I choose to be thankful!

Follow up doctor visit – apprehensive before I go. I am under medical observation because of a genetic illness in my blood that has the potential to become serious. My latest tests look great. Doctor gives me a clean bill of health, a six-month reprieve until my next visit.  I choose to be thankful!

Missing my husband – I burst into tears at the thought of how long we’ve been apart (I working in Texas and he in New Jersey). Lord! This is hard, but you have a plan. I know. Also, absence does make the heart grow fonder. I have a loving and fulfilling (albeit long-distance) relationship with a wonderful man. I look forward to every visit with great anticipation.  Our time together is so much richer particularly because we miss each other.

On this Thanksgiving morning, when I felt his presence asleep next to me, later when we busied ourselves in the kitchen preparing our version of the holiday meal that included Haitian style turkey legs and of course rice and beans, when we shared the festive meal in an intimate setting with my sister and two of her children and I prayed over the blessings of family, love, health, a beautiful home, a good job, great relationships, and so much more, I had very good reasons to be thankful!


Losing a Matriarch


Immediately upon learning of a loved one’s passing, your mind flashes back to your last conversation or encounter. Was it loving? Was it kind? Then along with the sadness arrives a moment of retrospection when you examine who that person was to you, what your relationship with them was like, and what lessons, if any, are to be learned from his or her life.

I recently lost an elderly cousin I loved like an aunt.  Ma Tante Céline was 84 years old. I was fortunate to see her one last time exactly a year ago when I visited her in Haiti. That afternoon reignited the timeless easy feeling of special moments spent with a close friend. We talked, caught up on each other and family and shared a delicious meal of Creole chicken and rice and beans. A loving encounter filled with laughter.

Over the course of the ensuing days my memory began to piece back together a portrait of the woman named Céline. Ma Tante Céline was what in our family we call a real “nègesse Coulanges,” a strong, smart, no nonsense woman who always worked hard. She was savvy, enterprising and reigned as the CEO of her domain. She had grit before the word became fashionable. Even as a child it was apparent to me that she was a mover and shaker. Céline was the family member who seemed to have it going on. People gravitated to her and deferred to her counsel. Her house constantly buzzed with people.

Members of several generations and close friends gathered to be with her one last time and reminisce at her home going ceremony. People talked about the woman whose home was always a welcome stop for recently arrived Haitians and a gathering place for family and friends. Middle-aged men and women, with now young adult children of their own, remembered with great fondness time spent in her basement, a safe refuge and hang out for them as teenagers. Céline made everyone feel welcome and loved. You were comfortable around her. She had her quirks, God yes, especially in old age, but she was above all a people person. Anybody – men, women, young and old – could find in her a trusted confidante, a sponsor to help with finances, a wise adviser or simply an amiable company.

Everyone present had a story.  Mine was that she’d been the sponsor who lent me money for my mother’s funeral until a small life insurance kicked in.  Of course Céline’s tale was always that she borrowed the money from someone else to give to you.  This clever strategy ensured that you paid her back. After all, who, if one were wise, would want to put their benefactor on the spot?

She was also the elder I trusted for vetting my now husband, Hamilton when our dating became serious.  As I recount in my memoir, Cads, Princes and Best Friends, the two of them, originally from neighboring towns in Haiti, chatted like old acquaintances that evening. I still chuckle at the memory of her signature inquiry when we had a moment to ourselves. “So, Dane, when is the wedding?” – One who strongly believed in marriage, Céline  was always anxious to marry off the young women around her. I believe she might have even done a bit of matchmaking along the way. –  “Céline,” I replied then, “we’re just dating. He hasn’t even proposed yet!”

I look back on her life now and see lessons she imparted to me by just being who she was.

Lesson #1: Work hard to achieve what you want. She created a comfortable lifestyle for her and her children, thanks to a secure union job in the services industry. But she also engaged in side businesses and amassed investments. By the time she retired, she was able to enjoy the good life in her gorgeous home in the hill section of Thomasin in Haiti where she spent most of her time.

 Lesson #2: It’s okay to aspire to greater. She pushed her children and all young people around her to achieve. A Haitian immigrant with no college degree, she made sure her three children received their education, including two master’s degrees, one from Columbia.

Lesson #3: Keep your house nice and open it to people. That single family house in Brooklyn, New York underwent frequent renovations as she continually upgraded to newer and better. In the midst of that, visitors and the occasional house mates were a constant presence.

Lesson #4:  Live your life to its fullest. She married twice and in between had one torrid love affair we all remember for its continuous drama. She traveled, enjoyed a busy social life and was known for doing things in a lavish but classy way. A grand dame for sure!

Lesson #5: Love God and love people.  Céline’s heart was open and you felt genuine love in the way she interacted with people. Her purse strings loosened generously to support family and friends in need. In her later years, she made it her business to help the needy in Haiti;  a one-woman non-profit organization. In fact, as her casket was lowered into the ground, the only outburst of the day came when a woman wailed and cried out, “Our sponsor is gone! Who is gonna help the people in Haiti now?”

My sister Nerlande summarized her life best when she said, “Céline lived a great life. She worked hard, established herself and raised her children well. She had two marriages and a passionate love affair.  She traveled and partied. Then she spent her later years helping others, doing God’s work.”

Céline’s viewing and funeral were closed casket events that spared mourners the sorrowful last memory of seeing her in eternal sleep.  Instead, there were streaming videos and pictures with family members and friends.  While greatly aggrieved by her passing, people unconsciously displayed faint smiles that contradicted the tears in their eyes as each relived memories of moments spent with her.

I remember an article in the Oprah magazine in which the writer suggested that one write their own eulogy as an exercise to how you want to be remembered when you are gone. Céline’s home going services was a celebration of a life well lived, one that touched many and honored God. It is fitting then that she is buried alongside “God’s chosen people,” in a Jewish cemetery in Weston, Florida. When our car entered the Menorah Gardens, my fellow passengers and I couldn’t help a chuckle as we drove past rows upon rows of Abraham, Cohen, Goldsmith, Levine, Meyer, Rosenberg, Silverstein, etc… Classic Céline! Ms. Thing is probably the only Haitian resting among the Jewish elite of Weston. Even dead, the lady’s got chutzpah!

I have two older sisters who are thankfully still on this earth, but with each passing of an old-timer, the generational layers peel off to reveal the next elders. I realize I have now joined their ranks and must be mindful that my life conveys lessons to the next generation, at times overtly and others even when I’m not aware of it. During a conversation with my niece Karen while I was there, I mentioned how pleased I was that her son Nicolas and she were so close and I’d observed how he respected her opinion on life decisions. She reminded me that a remark I made to her years ago about her interaction with her then teenage son had altered the nature of their relationship. The commentary was intentional at the time and made out of love; I could not have predicted the magnitude of its impact twelve years later .

None of us knows how long we have on this planet, but all of us should think about what imprints of ourselves we want to remain when we leave.  If I am blessed to live to Céline’s ripe old age, I want the kind of legacy she left behind and to be remembered with the fondness I witnessed at her home going.

One thing I do know for sure is that, just like her, I look forward to standing at the pearly gates and hearing the Father’s voice say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

My Imelda Marcos Moment


The collection (not all items pictured)

I love shoes! I’ve loved clothes, shoes and everything fashion since my early teens and spent close to two decades of my life nurturing that passion through a fashion design business in New York.

One day, several years ago, I had an epiphany when I noticed  several pairs of shoes of the same color in my closet, amidst  a collection that reflected every hue in style at the time. “You are a shoe  junkie, Danielle!”   How many pairs of black shoes does a woman need any way?  I vowed to be more sensible, scaled back my impulse purchases and thought I was cured until an incident this summer.

One morning this past July, I was looking through the original boxes and clear plastic ones that contained my shoes and eyed an unfamiliar red box at the bottom of the closet and wondered which shoe that was.  I opened it, and there was a brand new Adrienne Vittadini, picked up at Burlington in early February! White sandals, perfect for Houston’s scorching summer that began early in April this year.

Oh, mine! To have brand new shoes in your closet -for five months- and not even know they’re there. “How many shoes do you own anyway, missy? Aiming for Imelda Marcos’ record, huh?”

My curiosity piqued, I lined up every piece of footwear for a count. 56 pairs of shoes and sandals, 5 winter boots, 1 hiking boot, 4 sneakers, and for the house, 4 winter slippers and 3 summertime  flip flops.

Whoa! I only have two feet. There are 31 days in a month. Yet I own over 70 articles of footwear.  Granted I shop very judiciously (discount stores and seasonal sales) and never pay more than $65 for shoes or over $150 for boots. But still… When I shared that information with my sister, she was unfazed by the revelation. “Well, that’s about average for an American woman,” she said.

Average! Over 50 shoes? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you exhibit A for conspicuous consumption on a national scale!

I began to think about the many in third world countries or even here on our blessed shores, who can barely afford footwear. I’m a consistent giver at church and donate to charities, yet I couldn’t help the pang of guilt in my gut.  Like most women I treat myself often.  I work hard for my money. I deserve it, right? Yes, but, something didn’t feel right. Then it came to me! Every time I find myself engaged in too much self-indulgence, I would deflect the focus on self with a random act of kindness or donate to a charity.

A week after that decision, I stopped by Fiesta, a supermarket located in a low income neighborhood where I usually pick up tropical fruits and vegetables. A neatly dressed elderly man holding a pack of Ramen noodles approached me at the register. He asked if I could help him buy some food so he could take his medicine. He’d recently been released from a hospital stay.  “Sure,” I replied without hesitation. “ As a matter of fact, why don’t you go ahead and get a week’s worth of food. I’ll wait right here for you.”  His eyes lit up like a 5-year old who was just handed a strawberry lollipop. “Thank you, Ma’am. God bless you,” he said and rushed off with a shopping cart.

When he returned, the cart was loaded with goods: packages of chicken legs, beef chuck, eggs, a loaf of bread,  a gallon of milk and various canned goods in addition to his noodles. “I got the cheap cuts of meat,” he said by way of apology for the large cartons. “It’s alright,” I reassured him. “God has blessed me so I can be a blessing.” I noticed he had no fruits in the cart, I grabbed some apples, oranges and a bag of potatoes from the nearby stalls and added them to the belt as the cashier rang his items. The grand total for this man’s week worth of groceries: $37.25.  Far less than a pair of shoes, on sale, at Macy’s.

My footwear collection has since been smartly re-organized, out of the boxes, and more visible. But for the next several months, I will be on a self-imposed hiatus from shoe shopping. Til next July.  I know that some oh, so cute and temptingly gorgeous pedary work of art will wink at me from internet pages or their pedestals at various stores.  I will feast my eyes on the beautiful display, inhale deeply and keep moving. “You are ‘magnifique’! But no thanks.” One of them fifty or so bad boys in my closet will do just fine for a fashion statement.

When I visited Haiti later in July, I took one suitcase full of nothing but footwear (men, women and children), bought specifically for donations. The smiles on the recipients’ faces replaced my earlier feeling of guilt with the most exquisite sense of gratitude for being in a position to give.

At the end of my shoe fasting season, I’ll try not to binge. I will be clipping coupons in June in preparation for the sales. I will treat myself to the most delectable, exquisite little treasure of a shoe I can find for under $65. My toes twitched a happy dance just thinking about it!

Do you have a fashion fetish? Has a fashion experience inspire you to do something outside the box?

Do share, girl!

Adrienne V sandals The culprit

Closet 1 The re-arranged closet

The Value of Lost Things


Do You Ever Think of the Emotional Value of Things?

I’ve often heard that you don’t know the value of something until you lose it. I think a more accurate statement might be that we take the value of things, even people, for granted while they are around and available.

One afternoon, in between class periods I used the nearest girl’s restroom at the suburban junior high school where I teach. I freshened up then left my cosmetic pouch on the sink before I used the stall, as I always do. I heard one or two girls come in and leave. When I came out, the bag was gone.

Gone was my soft, perforated black leather over red satin pouch. What an inconvenience to replace these necessities – my compact, lipstick, lip gloss, purse-size hand sanitizer, small comb, brush, mini nail file, hair pins, safety pins, and my small Swiss army pocket knife with seven tool heads.

Then I felt the pang of a deeper loss! That little bag was associated with very emotional memories of my experience of 9/11.

I worked then at a brokerage firm whose offices are on the waterfront in Weehawken, New Jersey, directly across from midtown New York City. That fateful morning, I watched the second plane crash into Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. During an emergency meeting called to coordinate evacuation of our building, we watched in horror as the towers collapsed in a huge plume of smoke and dust that spread over downtown Manhattan.

I had offered to drop a colleague at the New Jersey Transit train station on my way home. When we got there it felt like Armageddon. People who had managed to catch trains out of New York City were circling around in panic. All trains had stopped running! When my colleague heard the news she ran back to my car and asked me to take her home to Newark, a town only six miles away. In a scene reminiscent of a zombie movie, several young women started banging on my window. “Please, please, take us home!” They were disheveled and haggard. The fear in their eyes reflected what was in my and everyone else’s heart. Is this the end? I couldn’t leave them there. These perfect strangers piled up in my car.

As I drove toward Newark, I noticed a lot of police activity on all the roadways and bridges and credited it to the fact that the country was possibly under attack. When I dropped the girls off, we exchanged business cards. They worked for Estee Lauder Cosmetics.

Imagine my panic when I tried to get home and found a closed bridge! I circled around for what felt like an eternity. All the bridges and roadways had been shut down. I was frantic, scared and felt like a citizen left outside the gates and the enemy was coming. I finally reached my husband on the phone and he reminded me that I had a friend who lived near Newark. I spent the night there, mostly glued to the continuous recap of the events on television and found out the terrorists had driven from Newark and the police investigation was centered there. In addition, some of the World Trade Center victims were being transported to nearby New Jersey hospitals.

A couple of weeks later, I opened my mail to find a thank you note and a kit of Estee Lauder products from the young women I gave a ride to on 9/11. In it was that perfect size, elegant leather cosmetic bag. I didn’t use it for a long time, wanting to keep it as a memento. I decided to start using it when my regular $4.99 pouch gave way.

I never thought about how I got the bag until it was gone – coincidentally two weeks after the 9/11 anniversary.

The same happens with other things, even people. They are part of the fabric of our everyday life, so we take them for granted. They serve their purpose or function and we never think of their emotional value until they are no longer around. Like that job you can’t stand but that provides for you or the gadget you paid so much for and mishandle. We are aware of how important this spouse, parent, child or friend is in our life, but we’ll leave them vulnerable, expose them to risk, just as I did when I left this bag in the open.

What if we valued what and who we love by protecting them a little better?

How about if we remind ourselves how much they mean to us not only in a tangible way, but also by adding that emotional quotient that is so much more?

Then maybe there would be less lost things to fuss about, less precious moments  that are wasted away and less lost relationships  to mourn.

***Previously published on

New Neighborhood


Today I become a citizen of the vast writing world of Word Press as I move my blog from another server.

I am excited about connecting with a new community and look forward to reading what my neighbors have to say.  I also hope that as I share with you, my presence on this platform will contribute a ray of light into the world by touching somebody’s heart and spirit.

Be blessed.