Monday Notes: Update #1

headphones2May was a whirlwind for me, just…like…I…like…it!

So slowly, I’ll be updating you on what amazing things occurred during that month.

The first thing that happened is I was minding my own blogging business, and Nadine Tomlinson emailed to see if I was interested in being interviewed for her Storyteller Series! I rarely say no to new opportunities, so the next thing I know, we were talking like old friends on a Friday evening.

It’s more like a podcast-style situation. If you have about 45 minutes and enjoy that medium, then please be sure to follow this link and listen to my thoughts on relationships, The Unhappy Wife book, and creative nonfiction, in general.

 

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Daddy: Motivation for Creating a Book

Summer of 1993 is when I became fully aware of my father’s abandonment. I remember the exact year because that’s when I started dating Dwight. That summer, he, my then best friend, Bobby, and I drove to Chicago for the weekend. I’d told my father that I would be home and that I was bringing these two important people with me. I wanted him to meet them.

That Saturday, I called and called, but he was nowhere to be found. I curled up in a ball in my great aunt’s back room and cried. I was twenty years old. Not only was I disappointed, but I was also embarrassed. I’d met Bobby’s parents a few months prior. Her father, though quiet, was in her life and supportive financially and emotionally. Likewise, I’d met Dwight’s parents, his father also seemed like a “normal” dad, making corny jokes and talking about his daily work.

All I wanted was for my father to show up when I came home and meet some friends. But it didn’t happen.

From that point forward, I was never sure how to interact with him, especially around made up societal holidays, like Father’s Day. Do I buy a card? None of the store-bought cards said what I wanted: thanks for being great the first sixteen years of my life. Wish we were closer. Hallmark doesn’t sell that one.

Maybe no gift and no card would send a stronger message. I mean it’s not like we’d spoken recently; he usually forgot my birthday, which was always about a month prior.

Most years, I’d opted for a generic card that said something like Happy Father’s Day. I’d sign it with no additional words.

This is one reason I felt motivated to create an edited collection of dysfunctional father-daughter stories. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who endured this angst. I really thought I was the only daughter sitting around a week or so before the holiday, wondering the best course of action for someone who’s supposed to care for you but doesn’t.

1521808695783I felt alone in these feelings, until I wrote and published The Transition. Afterwards, women confided similar discord with their own fathers, and somehow that was comforting. Knowing I wasn’t the only one was like being embraced by a big collective online hug.

And I wanted other women and girls to feel the same. I wanted them to know they’re not alone during a holiday that makes us face our dysfunction even more.

That’s why I put this anthology together, and that’s why the eBook will release the day before Father’s Day.

If you’ve ordered your paperback, then it should be at your doorstep soon. If not, you can order it here.

Monday Notes: What is Love?

From the time I turned eighteen until I was forty-one years old, my father visited me twice. He rarely called. However, he used to always say, I love you. And when we were at his funeral, more than one family member made sure to reiterate the sentiment by pulling me to the side and whispering, you know your dad loved you. Two decades of inaction proved otherwise. If someone loves you, then, in my mind, they do things to show it. Although the dictionary shows that love can be a noun, more than likely when you love someone it’s the verb part, a series of actions over time, that lead you to a firm conclusion.

An ironic set of events have made me pause to think about love as a concept again.

My father’s wife, MJ was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’d undergone a double mastectomy in April, but complications arose. Consequently, we spoke on the phone more as she recounted her life’s circumstances. Whether money or transportation, her daughter and granddaughter, who live in the same city, were not capable of helping her this time. I tried to support from the comfort of my home by providing Uber rides and American Cancer Society phone calls. Soon, I could tell this wasn’t enough. She needed someone present during an additional surgery.

After mulling for three days, I decided that my youngest daughter, Desi and I would go help. I didn’t want to, but I thought about how I would feel if I was undergoing major surgery with no one to support me financially, emotionally, or physically.

Desi and I drove five and half hours to Atlanta. The following morning, I sat and asked her home healthcare nurse pertinent questions that she was too distraught to consider. Later, we went to breakfast, and then I bought her groceries out of my and Dwight’s household money. Afterwards, I made her six meals and packed them in the refrigerator, so she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. The following day, Desi and I drove her to the hospital and stayed for twelve hours of pre-op, operation, and post-op. Again, I spoke with the nurses when she was too incoherent to do so. We remained by her side until her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandchildren arrived, around six o’clock in the evening.

LOVE_juneI was able to do these things because I saw each act as service to an individual who needed support. I saw her like anyone else who might need help in the situation.

But she perceived my actions differently.

“I appreciate all you did for me,” MJ said right before we left. “You know I didn’t even know if you liked me.”

“Awww MJ,” I replied, partly in disbelief that she’d continued to repeat a twenty-year narrative.

“Now, I know you must love me to drive all this way and do the things you did,” she said with certainty.

How could I tell her that I didn’t? How could I explain that I provided a service to her out of empathy for her circumstances? How could I tell her that I can perform a loving act without loving her? In fact, how could I tell her that I neither liked, disliked, nor loved her? She’s always simply been my father’s wife.

Well, I didn’t tell her any of that. I remained silent, wished her well, and left.

But here is what I’ve concluded (as of today). We tend to use the word love when really we mean something else. For example, had MJ said, “I didn’t know you cared about me, but now I know you do,” I probably would’ve reassured her, because I do care. Love, on the other hand, is a little weighty and requires more than two-days worth of kind acts to develop.

What do you think? What is love to you? Do you use love when you mean something else?

Giving Back to the Community through Book Sales

1521808695783I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but 100% of the proceeds from the book, Daddy (from June 16, 2018-June 16, 2019) will go to a nonprofit organization near and dear to ten of the authors’ hearts. When you buy a book, you’re also giving back! A list an explanation follows:

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Toliver, Black Girls Code. The owner hopes to “provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Price, the Marjaree Mason Center. The organization “provides emergency and longer-term safe housing, along with a wide variety of support services for victims of domestic violence in Fresno County.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Scott, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The Foundation’s mission is to “provide optimal care and services to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses and to their families and caregivers.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Wright, North Florida Freedom Schools. Operated under the Children’s Defense Fund, “the goal of CDF’s integrated curriculum is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Hagan, The Rhode Island Center for Justice. This organization partners with community groups to protect legal rights and to ensure justice for vulnerable individuals, families, and communities. The Center provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Rhode Islanders, engages in key impact litigation affecting the rights and wellbeing of thousands across the State, and conducts legislative and policy advocacy on behalf of the communities. 

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Thomas, the March of Dimes. According to their mission statement, “Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Jefferson, Vista Maria. The organization’s mission is to “deliver innovative care, support, treatment and education to vulnerable youth so that they heal, believe in their worth, and build the skills needed to succeed.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Kollar, The Oasis Center for Women & Girls. Their mission is to “improve the lives of women and girls through celebration and support.”

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A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Carlyle, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund provides critically-needed medical facilities for treating United States military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Roxanne, Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project supports veterans who’ve served on or after September 11, 2001. They help veterans transition to civilian life.

Be sure to order a copy for you or a woman you know who might benefit from understanding that she isn’t the only one with “daddy issues.”

Or, order a copy for a father who might need a nudge towards healing by reading about  other men’s imperfect father-daughter relationships.

 

*Mothering Violence

My friend’s middle son was shot in the head in a McDonald’s parking lot here in Jacksonville, Florida six weeks ago.

His mother and I became friends years ago because she was my hairstylist. When we met, she had two sons. He was the youngest at the time.

I remember picking him up and taking him with the girls and me to wherever we were hanging out that summer’s day, his lanky body shifting in the backseat, his dull eyes peering out of the window. I wonder if he saw his future. Because his mother worked twelve-hour shifts, standing on her feet, making other people beautiful, I thought I’d help by keeping him with me.

I remember how quiet he was. Sometimes he’d speak up and say, “Ms. Kathy, can I have some more” whatever it was we ate. But most times, he was silent.

Years do more than age us; they change us. And he was no different. His mother lamented about the crowd he’d been hanging with. She’d told me recent stories about him being in and out of jail for this or that. He was twenty-one. His life had become less than either of them expected. When the plain-clothes policemen came to her home, at four in the morning, showing a picture, and asking if this was her son, she never expected them to say we found him…dead.

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We found him drunk in the back of a building.

We found him sleep outside of a convenience store.

We found him belligerent behind a restaurant.

That’s what she thought they were going to report.

She didn’t expect for someone to post a picture of her son’s freshly murdered body in the middle of the McDonald’s parking lot, blood spilling out of his head on social media. But since they did, she thought it would be evidence of an apparent crime, from a crime scene, from someone who knew what happened.

She thought they’d be able to find something from the restaurant’s surveillance camera. But the car was too dark, with Florida tinted windows beyond traditional codes. This too is evidence but not enough to convict anyone for the murder of her child.

Instead, she’s waiting. Waiting by her blinds because she’s paranoid. Waiting for sleep because his recent memory haunts her. Waiting with stapled flyers posted to lamppost where he used to loiter. Waiting for her youngest son, who is barely six to grow up and become a different version of his older brother, proving that she wasn’t bad at single parenting.

This, my friends, is how we mother violence in America.

*Written for my friend, but shared for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: Lennon Carlyle

Today, meet Lennon Carlyle, author of “The Uprising.”

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? It’s a fantastic way to encourage women to understand that all men do not have the same qualities or negatives. If my reality can benefit someone, I would be elated.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? It’s distant in miles, yet improving within time.

If there is one thing you could tell your father what would it be?

I love you. I forgive you and I want our relationship to grow.

If there is one thing you could tell women who struggle with ‘daddy issues” what would it be? Not everything revolves around your father. Just because he doesn’t see your value or beauty doesn’t mean you don’t have worth. Let the negatives of the relationship strengthen your mind and spirit. Remember, not every man is your father.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be? I believe more than anything, you need father and daughter time. Be diligent in showing her how much you care, love, and treasure her. Build her up and stress to her that she can accomplish anything. Help her to evolve.

What do you hope your story accomplishes? No matter how badly someone treats you in life, whether it’s physical or mental, never let him or her break you. Try hard to find something positive out of the situation. The worst of times times can make you resilient and unstoppable. Hold yourself up and know that your mind is extremely powerful.

What are you working on currently? I’m writing short fiction erotica. It’s outside of my comfort zone, but if I don’t explore new opportunities how will I ever grow? I love a challenge and this is a thrilling one.

Lennon CarlyleLennon Carlyle is a freelance writer, raised in Georgia, where she currently manages an industrial equipment business. She loves meeting new people and hearing their life stories. Lennon and her husband just celebrated their ten-year anniversary.

You can follow Lennon’s blog or contact her at lennoncarlyle@gmail.com.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Carlyle, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund provides critically-needed medical facilities for treating United States military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.

Paperbacks are available TODAY! Get yours now in time for Father’s Day.

eBook versions of Daddy are available now!

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: Charise Kollar

Today, meet Charise Kollar, author of “Marshmallow,” whose story skillfully connects the dots of her relationship with her dad’s relationship with his own father.

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? My ears perked when I heard that this anthology was in the making. I have long used personal journaling to process and heal from the tumultuous memories of my childhood. Granted, most of my personal writing has been positioned from the perspective of a fictional character. I suppose the distant relationship that I formed with my characters helped to reframe the situations in which I was writing about. This anthology contains my first memoir that features my voice as the narrator. I was inspired by this project because I knew that it would be a challenge I needed to take on in order to grow as a writer and as a daughter.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? Embracing adulthood and physical distance have been the greatest gifts ever bestowed upon my relationship with my father. The physical distance has pushed both of us to spend genuine and meaningful time with one another when we have the ability to do so, mostly because we understand how fleeting these moments are. Time and age have softened my father, while adulthood has provided me with a rational layer to my overbearing empathy. We are learning to “meet in the middle,” I suppose.

If there is one thing you could tell your father what would it be? Years ago, during a rare vulnerable moment between us, I asked my dad, “Are you happy?” He scoffed, stared down at his coffee, and responded, “Yes” without hesitation. I have known this to be a lie, or rather, I have felt that there was more to the conversation than that brief yes. If I could go back, I would tell him that it’s not too late. It’s not too late to live fully and search for his true purpose. Perhaps this will motivate me to reopen the conversation before it does become too late.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be?

Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, please listen. Listen to your daughter, your partner, your siblings, yourself. Listen to the world’s messages. Listen to what is being said and what is not being said. Action limits us if we are neglecting to listen.

What are you working on currently? At the moment, I am immersed with researching and writing about “the ego” and social media involvement, specifically through the lens of body image advocacy. I find that many activists with an online presence utilize their own persona to inspire conversations within their communities, but I am curious as to how beneficial the social media involvement truly is for the individual activist. While I am definitely a supporter of social media as a means of communication, I am finding interest in how much of our involvement is ego-driven verses authentically intentional for the movement.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetCharise Kollar is an English teacher by trade with a passion for mentoring and igniting a sense of self-awareness in teens. She is the co-founder of the spiritual blog for millennials, Real Talk Universe (realtalkuniverse.com). While she was born in New Jersey, Charise is a self-identified Floridian who has been residing in Tallahassee since 2008.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Kollar, The Oasis Center for Women & Girls. Their mission is to “improve the lives of women and girls through celebration and support.”

The eBook version is available for pre-order now! 

Paperback is available to order TODAY!

CLEARING III

The past two days I’ve written about two ways I’ve gained clarity. One is by protecting my energy and another is by getting to know myself and what my body and soul needs. On today, my actual birthday, I’m sharing my final clearing: relationships.

For decades, I struggled with being in healthy relationships with people. Only a therapist can tell you if these issues were linked to being adopted or being abandoned. What I can tell you for sure is that today, I don’t have those challenges.

Here’s how I gained clarity.

Friendship Matters. You know that Jim Rohn quote, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Well, prior to 2014, I was the average of a bunch of very unhappy people. Whether it was their marriage, job, or general dissatisfaction, I’d spent a lot of time in close friendship and kinship with folks who were saddened or angry. While some saw me as grounded, deep inside I knew I was not. Since then, I’ve noticed there was a reason we were great friends. We were actually all in the same boat, just rowing with a different oar.

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Once I began to work on myself by looking in the mirror and choosing to repair childhood issues, some of those relationships began to slough off. I can’t be certain, but sometimes I think your internal growth can make others uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do with it, or you. But you know what else? The relationships that weren’t built on those negative qualities have risen to the top and flourished. I’ve never felt more secure with the people I’ve surrounded myself with in all my adult life. Talking to and meeting with these folks feels like a peaceful ebb and flow, instead of a rant session.

Family Matters. I belong to several sets of families: my mother’s side, my father’s side, my step-family, my husband’s family, and all his subsets. For a very long time, I thought we were obligated to attend functions and visit no matter how we felt or what was going on in our lives. Dwight tried to convince me otherwise, but I didn’t listen. Instead, we had to visit my cousin in North Carolina. We had to take the girls to his aunt’s house in Tampa. We had to drive to Chicago every other year for Christmas. I thought these road trips were required.

But over the decades, I’ve learned family doesn’t always follow the same rules they set for you. I’ve learned they’ll keep driving towards Disney World without stopping to say hello. I’ve also learned that’s okay. Realizing I can only control myself, I’ve created my own rules for familial interaction. If money, time, and energy allow me to show up for events, then I do. If not, then that’s fine. In this way, I’ve released myself (and my family) from the obligation, sans guilt.

wilcoxMarriage Matters. The last relationship, secondary to loving myself, is the one I have with my husband. Once I got super clear about who I was and how I wanted to show up in the world, I also applied this to being married, and subsequently, gained clarity about the type of wife I wanted to be.

For 21 years, people have called Dwight and I “the perfect couple,” or better yet proclaimed, “I want what you all have.” These phrases used to piss me off, primarily because we were far from perfection, and also because of something Dwight frequently says, they don’t know what we have, so how can they want it?

Exactly.

What we had was a struggle some years. But when I decided I wanted my insides to match whatever people thought they saw on the outside, our relationship improved. I won’t take all the credit. I mean it takes two people to relate to one another. Dwight shifted how he interacts as well; however, it still required a bit of self-reflection and determining what’s best for us as individuals, and then deciding how we wanted to be together as a union.

So that’s it good people.

This is how I’ve gained clarity towards a path of a more whole me. Through clearing my energy, getting to know myself, and pruning a few relationships, I can say with confidence that I’m a happier, healthier version of myself.

Have you ever journeyed inward? What was the process? What was the result?

CLEARING I

CLEARING II