I’ve decided to post the things I’m grateful for this Fall…
The colors of crimson, cocoa, evergreen, sand, and rust surround me in open fields. They close me in like a child shutting their lunchbox lid before the bossy kid comes to trade. I’m safe in here. I’m hidden. I’m protected.
The temperature is always just right. The rain is never too heavy. The sun is never too hot. The wind is never too fierce. I can meet with nature at any time of day and be greeted with an all welcoming environment.
They remind me of my childhood. Red light green light…1 2 3. “Helicopter helicopter” they shout and they Jump as high as they can. Jump rope, manhunt, tag, Simon says, all they need is each other. They make musical notes with their mouths and bend their bodies backwards under a broomstick and play limbo. They need no cords. They need no buttons. One blows bubbles and the other one pops them. One belts a song out like a 90’s R&B one hit wonder. The other dances. They draw dreams in driveways and ask me not to wash it away. I let God and the rain decide when the ground will be black again.
Pumpkin spice latte’s and apple cinnamon candles bring a little luxury to my day to day. Jack-o’-lanterns dress my doorstep. Autumn leaves wind down my railing. Chrysanthemums await on the patio.
This moment that I share with a ceiling fan, a flickering light, lavender scented pillows, and the moonlight coming through my open blinds. I am thankful for this moment. I can hear my youngest daughter snoring in her toddler bed. I feel accomplished with the execution of today’s activities. I’ve managed in the best way I could and I know my best is enough. My lower back may be sore, my feet are sick and tired of me but my HEART is full. I can express to decompress when so many people wish they knew how to expel the feelings that overwhelm them. I bleed voluntarily and breathe intentionally and for that I am grateful.
In my youth this was the place to pull my god brother’s afro and kick him in the testicles. We would end up in a full out brawl on the living room floor. The TV blaring. In my house it was called “rough housing” but here my uncle would cheer me on. “Get him Shawwwneee!”
Then there was college. I’d come here with my canary yellow drawstring laundry bag. I could go home but here I was treated as a guest and a resident simultaneously. I’d walk into my godmother’s home and breathe in the smell of Chinese food. Everything was clean but also lived in. Here it was warm. I could go down to the basement and get a drink out the spare freezer. You’d smell tobacco and my uncle Will would be stationary watching some show that seemed ancient to me on his 13″ television. His man cave was humble. It was a laundry room and storage but it was his. I’d always announce my presence first. “Heyyyy I’m coming down. Aunt Jo said I could do a little laundry.” He’d scoff and then in a raspy laugh say, “If you don’t bring your ass on!” In the summer months everyone was here. My friends, my godbrothers and their friends. Their cousin moved in and he was the perfect addition to the family. My aunts would come over and make stuffed turkey burgers. The cheese would ooze out of them when you bit into them. The oil would drip down your chin. I don’t know how they could afford this revolving door of hospitality.
Now, I’m 36. I’m married with 4 children. I work full time as a claims examiner. We’re still “in the middle of a pandemic” but it’s like an eternal middle. I barely remember when it began and I don’t know when it’s going to end. I keep spare masks in the car and my pocket book. Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer in every room. I spray Lysol when the kids get out of the car. I vacuum the car once a week. There’s Clorox wipes for their bookbags and lunch boxes. We always take our shoes off at the door. I’m still working from home and caring for my toddler full time. Everything is always this mosaic. My life is like her artwork. It’s colorful but many of the lines connect and overlap. There aren’t many clear definitive lines. All I know for sure is there are no days off.
Yet, when I go to Aunt Jo’s the reception is still the same. My youngest god brother is still there and he’s a gifted cook. I walk in and listen to the vegetable oil crackle in the frying pan. He’s slicing cucumbers and seasoning them with salt and pepper. My godmother is on the floor with a flashlight and a Swiffer mop trying to find my son’s matchbox car. The girls are in my niece’s bedroom choreographing some new dance that they want to perform for us, quite the unworthy and exhausted audience. Nonetheless, they are sweating and we can hear the music and feel the ground rumble. My godmother just smiles. She doesn’t tell them to shut the hell up or stop before they break something. Their voices seem to bring her joy.
The kitchen is different. There’s some renovations being made. My bare feet do a little shuffle across the brand new ebony floor. I like new things. I call out to my brother in the bathroom, “are these floors marble?” He tells me they’re porcelain. I look down and examine the sparkle of the light. My feet seem to get lost beneath me. I’m sinking but I don’t mind.
The pork chops are done. There’s no rice. Rice is overrated. My godmother takes my plate and as I’m rounding up my kids and hugging everyone she tells me she’s looking forward to seeing us again. We were here two weeks ago.
I feel wanted. I can’t even find the words to say. A speechless writer. A mute poet. All I can do is wave and say “thank you.” I haven’t been in the basement since my uncle transitioned. Still feels sacred. Even more so now. I think I’d still announce myself. A sanctuary is a safe space and I’ll forever be grateful for mine.
I can go out for drinks. Great distraction. I can get a workout in. Keeps me busy. I can play with my kids. Necessary escape.
Writing is my way of unpacking. It’s my way of healing and dealing with things. If I wrote about my father’s death, it would be real. I wasn’t ready for that. This thing that came quick and took away someone with such a huge presence…it would be real.
A friend said he was looking forward to seeing what I could creatively birth from this pain. I’ve played with novel ideas and posted some poems on Instagram. I just truly feel like I’m in someone else’s body most times. My Daddy was diagnosed with lung cancer and he was gone two months later. Some days I still almost text him, then I realize he’s gone. It was surreal for everyone. We don’t even talk about it amongst ourselves. My paternal side faithfully does zoom calls and I can’t even sign in because I know his face won’t be one of the boxes on the screen. My skin hurts. I’ve learned to just walk around with a part of me hurting. To say I miss him would be a gross understatement. I even miss our arguments.
Today I rose before the sun. Prayed FIRST. I kissed all my kids and got going! I did two loads of laundry including blankets.
I took my two year old for a walk. I’ve been productive at work. I made it to my meeting on Teams on time. I ate my turkey egg and cheese on whole wheat. My bed is made. I cleared voicemails and paid some bills. I filled in my brows and put lip gloss on just to take my kids to school. I’m tackling potty training with my toddler again. I listened to a podcast on minimalism. I’m trying.
If I’m not giving up…then whether this was great writing or not, it still had to be posted. I have to write just to live. Just to get through this. I have to start somewhere. I’m going to miss my dad’s comments on my posts. He even printed a few and kept them in a folder near his desk. I’m going to miss that feeling of making him proud. Sleep. Xoxo
When I started putting my vision board together this year with a group of friends, I didn’t know why I cut those words out. Something about them screamed at me. Each letter grew two arms and reached for me to rescue them from the dated magazine they originated from. So I obliged. How could I leave them there?
Clean your life. I attempted my version of clean eating multiple times. I have our house cleaning on a schedule with apps, planners and reminders so everyone can chip in. The kids are rewarded for their chores. They practice goal setting. It’s quite beautiful to see. Does that mean the house is spotless? Nah. It is definitely warm, sanitary and inviting and that makes us happy. However, laundry has always been a thorn in my side.
In this house the laundry room was an explosion. I was too embarrassed to take a before picture. Recently, I purchased a sorter. I bought special detergents for the darks, oxy clean for the whites and all the stain removers and cleaners to make Martha Stewart and Snoop proud. I swept and mopped the entrance and put down a new mat. I’m still working on getting it just right but I’m happy with the results. What else in my life am I missing?
I spoke to my sister once and shared an experience that was unpleasant (to say the least.) She said, “I wish you wrote more about stuff like that on your blog. People can relate to that.” Isn’t it great when people give you those transparent moments? I always wanted this platform to be positive. I stopped over sharing years ago because I felt like my vulnerability was taken advantage of (we’ll save that for another post.)
I saw a college friend on my way to pick up my kids one day from school. We had a quick conversation in the middle of the street. A memorable conversation. He was open and kind and it seemed like we were back at the student activities center chatting in the cafeteria. Time passed hadn’t ruined familiarity. He talked about a tough relationship and the challenges of parenting and his career goals. When it was time to conclude, he mentioned this blog. He told me he was thankful I was still writing. He admired the fact that I could do it while juggling my other hats. I was astounded because I didn’t even know he was a follower. He doesn’t comment but he sees. I admitted I wished I was more disciplined. He assured me, what I have time to do is still impactful.
What if “clean your life” means, stop hiding the dirt? What if you can only help yourself and others by being completely transpicuous? I love all of my friends but there is something absolutely amazing about the person who tells you how they actually are when you ask. It’s cool if you legitimately are “fine.” I just really treasure my translucent friends and I treat them like the magical fairies they are.
Clean your life…
I have difficult days. I often sacrifice effort in one area in order to be exceptional in another. Parenting full time at any time is hard. Parenting during a pandemic is anxiety ridden and complex but I’m doing my absolute best. I cry all the time and I don’t think anything is wrong with that. I am also wary of people who cannot openly express all of their emotions because I believe when they do finally come out, it can be cataclysmic. I am an advocate for life coaches, motivational speakers, counselors and therapists. I believe we should normalize ALL health including our mental health and well being. I have an ill family member and I am actively forcing myself to be “normal” each day without thinking about the fact that I cannot support them in the way that I want to. I have wonderful parents and a consistently loving step father. My godparents are astronomical. They don’t ask questions and they are unwavering. I know whose team they are on…mine. I diligently work to be as good of a god parent as they have been to me. I am often creativity constipated. So having great people around me to motivate me and keep me accountable are a godsend. My husband is the first person I remember ever telling me, “Your best is enough.” I think most of our arguments are because he’s satisfied with the effort I’m putting in and I’m frustrated by not reaching my own ridiculous expectations.
What if cleansing was more like a mud bath? Can you be bare and cover yourself in what others may consider to be a mess just long enough to accept, maybe forgive and hopefully move on?
Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.-Proverbs 28:18
I think you’re doing great…but what do I know? Seriously, these are tough times.
Do you remember when Covid-19 got real for us? March 2020. I had my 35th birthday. It was beautiful, humble, and my husband planned it perfectly. Fresh haircut and some blond highlights. I saw friends and family. I ate my favorite foods and had wonderful conversations. My mother bought me a gorgeous dress. Everything that sometimes validates us in our human form, was accounted for.
Except, that wasn’t everything that mattered. A week later God said, “Sit down, be still, be with your family, and focus.” Collectively we all did. We soon realized (I think), our plans were derailed and maybe that was a good thing. I believe we became more intentional with our friends. We have a higher regard for life (and death.) Some have been desensitized to mortality and some of us have been more severely impacted. No matter what side of the fence you stand on, we are still divided while all standing on the same ground.
This is not a post about Covid-19. This is about confidence and identity. This past year may have changed you and taken some things away from you. However, I think you’re doing great. Only you know what eco friendly, non-plastic bags you’re carrying. Only you know the contents and why those things still burden you or strip away at you. You can conquer that. You are not the summation of those faults. You’re great!
I tell my kids: Integrity is what you do when no one is watching you. It is a core value. That is a simple definition. It it not an easy practice to execute.
Whatever is challenging you right now, isn’t over. You have more work to do. You haven’t given up. You’re doing great. Let that be what ignites your next move and makes you grateful for your next breath. You are loved.
I remember watching Claire Huxtable come home from work. She was an attorney. She would go into the kitchen and put on her apron. An apron! This Brooklyn woman with 5 children and a husband wore an apron after a full day of real work. I was flabbergasted.
I made my first apple pie today. I wanted to be like one of those apron wearing moms. A Pinterest mom. I wanted to be Claire Huxtable. I have an apron on my Amazon wish list. I wanted to bake a pie. I bought the ready made crust and the pie filling. So I cheated a little bit. I’m going to come correct next time. The recipe was from YouTube but I made a pie, damnit. I worked all my 8 hours and then some. Raised 4 kids who despise their remote learning days. I made a pie.
See, because they told us that good women cook dinner. Good women are humble and Faith filled always. Good women fold laundry. Good women don’t dance lewd. Good women wear aprons. Good women make pie. I don’t know who they are but I could swear that’s what they told us.
I think I made that sh$t up. I think “good women” are fabricated fantasy characters morphed in my mind. I’m blessed to know a lot of good women. They’re abstract. They’re powerful. They’re colorful. They’re freaking tired. Exhausted, not by your expectations but by their own. Baking pies and posting pictures of perfection. If you take the time to ask them how their day was, they’ll give you an honest answer. If you’re open minded and your guard is down, you’ll feel their heartbeat through your fingertips. They’re people battling myths. Most battles cause bloodshed, remorse, and sometimes defeat.
I made a damn pie. At first, because I really wanted to satisfy an ideal I created. I needed to prove something to myself. My kids LOVED it and that was gratifying. I just finished writing a screenplay and I’m happy I completed it. It’s registered. It’s a whole thing. I didn’t brainstorm on a page and then abandon it. It’s alive. Through a pandemic. Through social distancing. Through distance learning. Zoom birthdays. Masks. Stress. Fear. I wrote a screenplay and it gives honor to someone I respect. I am proud of myself.
One of the things on my dream board is a line that says “flowers always.” My husband has always bought me flowers. When I was young, my dad would give a rose to his mom, myself and his sisters. My mother would get a bouquet. In the past I wasn’t big on flowers but as I grow, I enjoy all beautiful things. I celebrated myself this evening in two ways: I made my first pie and I asked hubby to go pick up some flowers. He laughed and said ,”How do you know I wasn’t going to do that?” I didn’t know, honestly. I just know that maybe good women ask for what they want. Maybe good women don’t get out of the car until the song they like is over. Maybe good women leave the laundry in the basket for someone else to fold. Maybe they go to sleep when they’re tired. Maybe they throw pies in your face and laugh with you. Celebrate your wins better than anyone else because you know what it took to accomplish that thing. Ask for what you need and even what you want. I smell the pies you’re baking.
I remember reading these lines on the J train coming home from Pace University. I read it over and over again. I felt a shift. I instantly felt like I could freely be myself. Cut the perm out of my hair, write what I want, dress how I want, speak my mind and sail. Admittedly, I waited another year to grow out my perm (black hair is a whole other post.) However, this revolutionary woman eloquently summed up my overall view of the world. I felt like the author was my buddy and we walked the Brooklyn Bridge together instead of going to anthropology class. I soon realized she was just fantastic at sharing a surprisingly relatable story. She was strong, educated, powerful, courageous, a partner, a mother and an individual. She survived unbearable conditions and she embodied “the strong black woman.” This book, borrowed from my friend Stephanie, changed my perspective. “Affirmation” is a great piece but these lines are capable of standing alone. I’ll always want to be a part of a collective that alters its environment for the better. I also want to be accomplished and competent enough to stand alone. I believe nineteen year old Shaun would be proud to see me today. She would hang up her flight jacket, take her Yankee fitted off, comb her perfectly straight hair and stick her fine toothed comb in her back pocket. She would brazenly look me up and down and then we would discuss the power of words. She would agree with me…I lived every line of that beautiful poem. It looks different than we imagined but we’re doing well.
I believe in living but I’d jump in front of a train encompassed in orange and yellow flames for someone I love.
I believe in birth. Carrying a child and bringing one into the world is extremely challenging. Yet, seeing that little person for the first time and feeling their breath on your skin is euphoric. We give birth to different things. You’re giving birth right now…to thought, to light…
I believe in the sweat of love. Love is work. Hard, intentional, active and assertive work.
And in the fire of truth.
I have been in situations that were seemingly catastrophic. Then, in almost a cinematic turn, all is well. No magic tricks. No special circumstances. Just the personification of truth, rising in defiance and leveling anything and anyone that opposes it. Even when I had experienced so much I was starting to doubt myself. Truth was ever faithful.
Some quotes are pretty. Some are just timely. Some are your own memoir. You’re living every line and you find comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
I’ve never been big on New Years resolutions. They always seemed counterproductive. People would make them and then break them so quickly. However, I’ve noticed that some of the most successful people (or at least more positive people) are individuals who set goals for themselves. We live in an age of motivational speakers and affirmation creators. Social media, bookshelves, and infomercials are flooded with people who claim they can “fix” you.
I’ve had a difficult 2013 and I’m sure I’m not alone. What happens if what doesn’t “make you stronger” kills your spirit?
I had dinner at my favorite restaurant with my mentor on Sunday. We laughed and she was excited to see my 6 month old (yes I’m one of those parents who bring kids to restaurants!) We talked about ministry, evangelism, and motivation. She was glad I was skating by at work, still singing in choir, and squeezing in time to write. The compliments and praise were pouring in so I was a little stunned when she said :
“So what’s stopping you from really taking it to the next level? Make your book a reality. Establish yourself as a writer. You were published when you were 10! Don’t you want to be more recognized by now? You qualify for the recognition but do you deserve it? You want more money at work but do you get there ontime? Do you dress professionally DAILY? What sets you apart?”
As I picked my ego off the floor, she continued to talk to me about commitment. She talked about being busy with the Creators work and less self involved. She said to think about the people who need a word or a push and not to take my blessings for granted.
Then she challenged me. It was time to make a pact with the Father and with myself. She said she practices fasting from time to time, meditation, no devices for a few hours to remove the voices of others so she can hear the answers to her questions. She tithes regularly to put her money in His “storehouse” and let him decide how to allocate her treasures.
I’ve been thinking all week about the disciplined commitment that’s right for me…
I LOVE sleep. I work hard and I look forward to a soft pillow and a warm comforter at the end of the day. I got lucky because our infant loves sleep just as much as I do. In fact, right now my typing is interrupting her beauty rest and pissing her off.
I’ve decided that no matter how late I go to bed due to work schedule, family obligations, etc…
I’m still going to rise at 8am everyday. No excuses. No rushing. No dodging speeding tickets. More time for writing. More quality time. More time for prayer and reflection.