Monday Notes: Men

img_2774I have a lot of thoughts. Conversations occur. People ask for advice. People share things about their lives. I overthink the conversation, advice, or experience, and voila! A thought occurs. So, I jot it down in my notes section in hopes of writing about it on a future date. I have 221 notes on my phone. I figured the future is now lol. Here’s my first one:

I’ve listened to how my male friends talk about women and how they interact with them. I also listen to and observe how women interact with men. Sometimes it’s different.

Men don’t treat every woman like she’s their future wife. They don’t treat every relationship like there’s an impending wedding. Men seem to know which women are so-called “wife material” and which ones are not ready to commit. Consequently, they seem to treat each “type” of woman accordingly. Now, I’m not saying this is right or wrong. Please don’t confuse this with a feminist post. I’m just saying some men seem to know.

Women, on the other hand, seem to meet a man, and immediately begin checking off their “Are you my husband list?” Having standards is an integral part of being in a relationship, but every man, date, and even relationship is not a potential husband or lifelong situation. However, even if a woman notices the man doesn’t fit something on the proverbial list, I’ve noticed that she will then make provisions. Maybe he’ll change and go to church. Maybe I can change him and he’ll stop wearing jeans. Maybe this relationship will change once we’ve dated for a while.

What does this mean? Men seem much quicker to say, “I don’t think I can deal with this woman.” Whereas, women are much quicker to say, “I can work with this man.”

What do you all think? Am I overgeneralizing here? Remember, these aren’t fleshed out thoughts, so I’m not committed to one perspective. Plus, you know I really want to hear what your experiences and opinions are out there.

*Monday Notes: Law of Allowing

journey_zero_explanationAbout two years ago, I created this kwote. If you’ve been following my blog, even for a little while, then you know this is one of my personal mantras: Live your life, unapologetically. People generally agree with this sentiment. I mean really, not many disagree that following your heart and doing what you want with your life is a positive way to function.

The challenge comes when it’s other people’s lives. Sometimes, we want the freedom to be and live how we want, but we want to confine and judge the choices that other people make about their own lives.

Allow people to live their lives unapologetically.

I’m not exempt from this. Sometimes I get the urge to share some sage wisdom I learned when I was in a similar situation. I can see the “missteps” people make with jobs, relationships, or children because I’ve been there before. Or have I? I have children, but I’ve never been a single parent. I’ve been married for 20 years, but my marriage is set up quite differently than other married couples’.

How can I advise someone of next steps when they are a different person, with his or her own experiences, living in a different time period? I cannot. And I usually do not. Any friend or family member gets the same answer if they ask me what they should do about fill-in-the-blank: You already know what to do.

Let that sink in for a moment. You already know what to do.

For me, this is true for everyone. I know it may feel better to ask three or four people if you should take the job offer, but deep down, if you’re quiet enough, you will know if you should shift positions. Here’s the question: If you already know what to do with your life, don’t you think the same might be true for your child or brother?

zero_explanation_journey_17Listen. I hate to sound like Polyanna. Trusting yourself and your intuition is hard if you’re used to relying on other people’s opinions. But there’s a beauty in it. Once you’re able to trust your own guidance system, then something magical happens. You’re able to allow other people to live their own lives, without explanation too.

*This Monday Note is brought to you courtesy of someone providing me with unsolicited advice about how I choose to live. Instead of participating in an argument, I simply wrote responses in my Notes section 😉 Let me know what you think.

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12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (5)

Over the holiday season, a few bloggers and I discussed how easily people slip into the “giving” spirit when mid-November rolls around. And then *poof* Just like that, people tend to slip right out of it when January appears. It got me thinking. How can we maintain this energy year-round?

Initially, I’d planned to “experiment” with different ways and then write this at the end of the year. But I figured some people might want to try with me, so instead, I’ll update and re-blog the post every four weeks.

By June, I’d forgotten to formally give in some systematic way. However, I’m happy to report that I was still service-minded…it was just more natural.

dreams_nashvilleMy goddaughter and I traveled to Nashville the second week in June. There, we hung out on Broad Street with a friend of mine who we’d visited. I’d noticed the homeless population almost immediately and the busyness of the area allowed me to take some candid shots. Well, one man wouldn’t let me take a photo, unless I gave him some money. How much was up to me. I paid $2.00 for a shot of his sign. This, however, isn’t it lol I must’ve deleted it. But this is representative of the types of signs we saw that day.

transient_8A couple days later, we rented a car and drove to Memphis to visit my cousin. Here, people party on the infamous Beale Street. The evening wore into morning and clubs began to close. People began to filter back into the street. This is when I met a guy in a wheelchair. He explained to me that it cost $7.00 to enter one of the Memphis shelters. He had one dollar, so I gave him six more. And just as I’ve written before, I didn’t worry about if he actually used the money for housing; that’s none of my business.

Later that morning, my cousin had a breakdown where she revealed her disappointment in our relationship. She’d been suppressing these feelings for a few years. From what I could tell, she wanted more of my money, time, and affection, seemingly in that order. A former part of me would have dug deep and matched her hurt feelings with my own. But I’ve lived long enough to know that doesn’t help. Instead, I hugged her and listened. Later that day, I maintained my own silence and thoughts. Don’t get me wrong. I was mad; however, I chose not to allow my anger to drown out her opinion. Furthermore, when we went to lunch, I also chose to pay for her meal as an act of kindness.

The lesson I learned for Christmas in June is that sometimes it’s good to just go with the flow and give when necessary or as you can. Additionally, I’ve learned to give without worry. Many times I’ve not wanted to give to the homeless because I might need that $2 or I don’t want to pay for someone’s food because I’ve already paid for the last five meals when we were together. But in a way, that’s the opposite of an abundant mindset. Giving this year has shown me that I always have enough. I have so much that I can give time, money and resources freely without stress. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

To read about how I’ve maintained the Christmas spirit January through May, read here.

Monday Notes: I’m Over It ✌🏾

They say a lesson will repeat itself until learned. Well, there are a few experiences that continue to resurface even though I’m sure I’ve been a great student and gleaned all that I can. I just can’t take it no more y’all! Maybe the universe feels otherwise. Either way, here are four things I’m over.

People feeling shitty but blaming it on me. Have you ever walked in a room and immediately felt sadness, then later learned the person who lives there is sad about something? This happens to me quite a bit, except the person who’s wrapped in sadness, anger, or hurt doesn’t realize it and attempts to blame it on something I’ve said or done. I believe the technical term is called, projection. Over the years, I’ve found it’s more convenient for people to point the finger at me, as if I’ve done something to make them feel bad, rather than be still and take account of their own energy field. It recently happened with one of my cousins, and let me tell you…I’m over it. I truly wished we all learned how to take responsibility for our own space and thoughts and then functioned from that place.

This ongoing feud between my brother-in-law, his wife, and me. For over twenty years, I’ve teetered back and forth in a tit-for-tat relationship with my BIL and his wife. He’s done or said hurtful things, and I’ve done the same. The most recent event happened when my dad died a couple of years ago. He nor his wife reached out to me with condolences. I was hurt (again). But took it as a clear message. I told them so in a letter. I thought the situation was over, but recently an in-law re-opened the conversation. I’m over it. I wished we could all clear the air and move forward in the most positive way possible. And if not, then I’m happy to let it go, without further mention.

My family expecting me to continue to visit them. My mother’s side of the family lives in Michigan and Illinois. Every year, they meet at a central house in Chicago for Christmas. Every other year, for seventeen years, my husband and I have packed up the girls and Rascal and driven 1,000 miles there and 1,000 miles back to spend that holiday with that side of the family. It’s exhausting. It’s expensive. And it’s something Dwight and I decided we no longer wanted to do. We’re over it. I can tell extended family is unsettled about the decision. But spending time at my home, with my husband and daughters, around our tree was the most stress-free Christmas I’ve had in my adult life. I wished they could be okay with that and know they’re welcomed at my home any holiday.

Apologizing for past behavior because someone else chooses to live in the past. This one is a combination of the first two grievances. One of my cousin’s complaints was that I never visit her. She was right. So, I planned a visit. But during the entire time, she continued to complain about how I never visit or do anything for her. Huh? I’m here now. I’m visiting now. I’m literally in your space…right…now. You don’t get to say that anymore. Likewise, I’ve had criticisms about my brother-in-law and his wife and they’ve had some about me. However, in an effort to move forward, I’ve apologized, profusely and to no avail. They’ve never accepted an apology from me, and I’m not going to assume why. I don’t know. But what I refuse to do is live in the hurt of past situations with them or anyone else. I’m over it.

Do you have any reoccurring experiences with family or friends? How do you handle family situations or expectations? Is there anything you’re over but keep having to deal with?

Monday’s Notes: Rethinking Marital Commitment: *Millennials’ Perspectives 

I have a secret. If I’m working on an article, chapter, etc., then I think about it constantly, until I’m finished writing. This is why I try not to over-commit to projects. I know I have this obsessive quality and the best way to keep it under control is time management, which I’m pretty good at.

img_4290The other way I manage is with my Notes section. Whenever I have a thought about my current project, then I use voice-to-text or actually write down what I was thinking.

That’s what happened recently when I was invited to write an article about relationships. I chose to delve into why millennials seem to be marrying later or not at all.

I conducted an informal survey and thoughts kept emerging about the topic. One reason this happened is I was prone to judge this generation’s marital practices, until I actually read their responses and thought about it more.

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Every generation has its marriage pendulum based on non-conformity of the previous generation. Generation Y is no different. Some of us are just in a tizzy about it because it seems kind of anti. But is it really harming anyone? Who knows?

That’s how I ended up concluding this social commentary. I’m not sure what the impact will be, but I know that there will be one.

You can read Rethinking Marital Commitment in full here.

As usual, let me know what you think either on the KPB site or right here. Do you know any millennials? Do you care if they marry later, sooner, or at all? Do you think this will negatively effect society in some way?

*Special thanks to all my millennial friends who participated in the survey. Without you, this would’ve just been an opinion piece.

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Monday Notes: Haiku #3 (Love)

Haiku #3

img_4159Sometimes a Haiku comes to me as a result of a specific thought. I work through it in my Notes section until it’s as clear as possible. This one came from the phrase, “I can love that person…but from a distance.” This phrase always seemed not loving to me at all. Tell me what you think about the Haiku or the phrase.

 

12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (4)

Over the holiday season, a few bloggers and I discussed how easily people slip into the “giving” spirit when mid-November rolls around. And then *poof* Just like that, people tend to slip right out of it when January appears. It got me thinking. How can we maintain this energy year-round?

Initially, I’d planned to “experiment” with different ways and then write this at the end of the year. But I figured some people might want to try with me, so instead, I’ll update and re-blog the post every four weeks.

four-1426634_1280For the fourth service project, I decided to do something near and dear to my heart, tutor elementary school children. Can you believe it took me two months to find a place to actually volunteer? YReads, associated with the YMCA is the name of the program I chose. After I found a program, it took a full three months (or so) for me to be approved. I’d forgotten that working with children requires a million and one items: application, resume, three references, a webinar about not molesting children, and a background check. Sheesh! This is why I didn’t begin until April.

During April and May, I’ve tutored children in reading. But, these aren’t just any children. Have you heard the term ESL? If not, it stands for English as a Second Language. These children attend one of Jacksonville’s designated ESL schools. I typically have the same two students at the beginning of the hour. One is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the second half hour, I tutor students who are Hispanic, mostly from Mexico.

My time with these children has been hopeful. Little kids are resilient and motivated in a multitude of ways. For example, the Congolese girl moved to the States two years ago. English is one of four languages she speaks.

“Where you from?” she asked on day one.

“I live here in Jacksonville, like you,” I responded.

“Noooo. Where you from???”

She’s so perceptive. Guess she’d wondered, as others have asked before, you not from ‘round here, huh? I ended up telling her that I was born and raised in Chicago and her eyes brightened. From that day forward, I knew Maya and I had bonded.

Week three she thought I wasn’t coming, and when I walked in the door, her face lit up.

“You’re heeeere!” she exclaimed.

“Of course Maya! I’ve been looking all over for you. I thought you weren’t here,” I put on.

I love children of all ages. It’s one of three things with which I have a natural ability. Therefore, tutoring for one hour a week wasn’t strenuous. And although I don’t know for sure what the impact will be, I suspect I’ve positively influenced Maya’s life in some way just by being there.

YReads is a state of Florida initiative; however, I’m sure your city and state has a similar tutoring program designed to support children’s literacy. Tutoring is a way to give back to your own community that is sure to yield high returns.

Have you tutored before? Do you teach or have you taught? Let me know what you think about this service project.

*Maya is a pseudonym.

Read about the first three ways here.

Monday Notes: Practice What You Preach

It’s easy to write opinions of life: no judgment, more compassion, allowing people to be themselves. However, it’s quite another to put those words into practice. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had ample opportunity to do just that. Kesi’s graduation brought family and friends into our space. The celebration offered me the chance to fine tune myself within specific relationships.

My Mother-In-Law

I’ve written before about how my mother-in-law rarely visits. Well, we invited her to come down for Kesi’s graduation, and to each of our surprise, she accepted the invitation.

I began to worry.

Will she judge any and everything as she has in the past? Will the house be pristine enough for her? I thought about all of the encounters we’d had where my sense of inadequacy overshadowed her presence. After a couple of weeks of fretting, something finally dawned on me. I have to allow her to be herself. If she judges the girls, our home, or me, then so what? I’m confident with who I am and it matters not what she or anyone else thinks.

The other shift I had to make was to recognize the year. It’s 2017. I needed to function with her the way we both are in this year, not 2008 when she called Kesi fat every day, and I held back from saying much. Not 2012 when she had to shorten her visit with us because she’d double-booked herself elsewhere. It’s 2017.

Once I made those two changes, I was a much calmer person ready to receive company.

We had a wonderful time. My in-laws and I picked Desi up from school early. We shopped for groceries. We laughed and talked about all sorts of things. It really was a pleasant time. My MIL helped me by cutting all the fruits and vegetables for the party. Ultimately, it was a pleasant visit. But I realized I still have a little growing to do.

“Don’t go in the house and clean everything up,” I ordered at eleven o’clock at night.

“Why not?” she asked.

I shook my head, “Cause that’s what you’re about to go do.”

“You trying to stop people from being themselves again?” Dwight asked.

He was right. In that moment, I was doing it again, not allowing her to be her. After it was brought to my attention, I let it go. She cleaned all of the dishes and the kitchen. I went to sleep. And both of those actions were perfectly fine.

img_4078Buddy

While I was functioning with my MIL in the present, my cousin’s husband, let’s call him Buddy, was interacting with me in the past.

Buddy has a history with crack-cocaine, drinking, and physical abuse. Because of this, Buddy hasn’t been welcomed in my home or around my family for over 20 years. He recently began rehab, so Dwight and I agreed that it was okay for him to re-enter our family’s functions.

Everything was going well. My cousins, Buddy, and I played Spades. He drank the Paul Masson Brandy that he’d brought. He devoured the case of Corona he’d lugged in. We laughed. We talked. They won the game.

The night wore on. A corner of brandy sat in the bottle. Three Coronas remained.

“You know I think God sent her to me,” he said pointing to his wife, “Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to make it.”

“I agree, Buddy. She’s the only one who could be with you.”

What did I say that for? Buddy went into a tirade.

“Kathy, you know you never did like me,” he started.

“That was the past. I thought we were cool now?”

“Naw. Naw. You never did like me,” he continued.

I don’t want to bore you with the rest of the story. Basically, I tried to convince him that it is 2017. He’s in rehab. We are getting along today, and that’s all that matters.

But that wasn’t all that mattered. He hobbled off to complain about my family and me to anyone else who would listen. About an hour later, he got into a verbal altercation with my aunt, his daughter, and his wife. His thirteen-year-old daughter’s eyes were beet red. Everyone’s lips were tight. Pursed.

His inebriation cut the thick silence, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’VE HAD TO DEAL WITH FROM THIS FAMILY!” he yelled.

And so there it was.

It didn’t matter how nice I was to him or how great of a time I thought we’d had that day. Buddy lived in a past of hurt and functioned from that past that weekend. I don’t want to ignore the fact that alcohol also exacerbated the situation. I’m not sure why he felt the need to get uncontrollably drunk. And I don’t want to guess.

The next day, he stayed at the hotel and didn’t emerge until it was time for them to return home. Even when he did come by the house to say good-bye, Dwight had to coax him out of the Expedition. Even when he did come in the house, he averted eye contact. He was embarrassed. We all hugged him and thanked him for coming.

There it is, one happy ending and one work in progress. But that’s how life is, right? Everything isn’t always tied up nicely with a bow. Flawed and traumatic relationships take time to heal. That’s just the nature of the human condition.

Monday Notes: Cover Letter/Life as a Black Woman

If you ever plan to submit your work for publication or a contest, then you should also plan to submit a cover letter. My journalists friends initially suggested a cover letter only include two quick sentences with the title of the work, word count, and brief summary. I’ve found a letter like that was fine, until I began submitting for longer projects, like book chapters. Sometimes, those editors and publishers want in-depth descriptions, and they usually provide guidelines if that’s the case.

That’s what happened when I recently submitted to win a grant for Black women writers. Although I didn’t win, I was one of the Top 10 Finalists. Consequently, two of my manuscripts will be published with their journal as soon as this Friday.

I’ll share that publication once it’s published. In the meantime, here’s the cover letter I wrote.

img_3807The question was something like, What are the challenges of being a Black woman in America? After mulling over a few notes, here’s what I came up with:

Life as a Black Woman

I learned the importance of my blackness when I moved from Detroit, Michigan to Jacksonville, Florida. It seemed the Duval County school board hadn’t fully integrated. Consequently, the job fair I’d attended in 1997 held a surprise. On one table, there sat a white paper with the words: Vacancy Black English Teacher. After an awkward conversation about my recent graduation from a teacher education program, the white, male principal offered me a position.

That was the first time my blackness preceded my qualifications.

I learned the intricate nature of being a woman during my six-year, doctoral program. Single, childless professors rarely took me seriously once they found out I was married with two young daughters. Similar to microagressions based on race, I could never put my finger on one discreet moment. It was more intuitive. More subtle. But somehow proving I could mother, wife, teach, and learn seemed to become an integral part of attaining the prestigious degree.

That was the first time my intellect was challenged based on the social construction of gender.

I learned what it meant to be a Black woman in academia when I applied for a permanent, tenure-track position at a research university. I submitted my application two separate times. I didn’t receive an interview. The third application was for a one-year, clinical position, teaching only. The institution hired me with a simple Skype conversation.

My new colleague was the person they’d hired in the English Education position I’d sought. He was a white man. His terminal degree was not in English Education; mine is. At the time of hire, he had one scholarly publication; I had three. He had five years of K-12 experience; I had ten. He had no years in higher education; I had two.

That was the first time race and gender intersected to create a sense of dual oppression.

To say that being a Black woman is a double-edged sword is cliché. But it must be said. It’s getting a job because I’m Black and not getting a job because I’m not white and male. It’s reading and teaching about white privilege and male privilege, nodding in agreement with textbook theories, but then having both thrown in your face by the very institutions that preach those concepts.

It’s ironic, really.

I’ve learned what it means to be a Black woman by attempting to participate in one of America’s most hopeful institutions. By attaining the highest degree possible and asking for a seat at the education table, I’ve learned that racism and sexism still exist, both as independent forms of discrimination and as collaborative acts of subjugation.

However, I have chosen to be a Black woman who uses her voice as an act of change. Neither my pen, nor my opinion can be taken from me, no matter my race or gender.

Have you ever had to contemplate your race or gender and their impact on your place in society? What’s your experience writing a cover letter? 

 

My Role as a Mother

img_3358For the past 18 years, I’ve straddled the hard and fine line of motherhood. I’ve guessed and second-guessed each and every decision because, unlike other relationships, you never really know if you did the “right” thing until years later.

Swim team is a perfect example. In 2008, my oldest daughter, Kesi almost drowned. She was nine. Consequently, we decided she should learn to swim. A few lessons later, she joined the swim team. I thought they’d be swimming once a day and training for light competition. Turns out they had two-a-days all summer, with weekly competitions, and a culminating all-state competition at the end of August.

“This is going to be a lot of work,” I announced after day one. “Do you think you can do it?”

Her raspy voice whispered from the backseat “Yeah. Do you think I can do it?”

That’s one of those think on your feet parenting kind of moments. And being myself, there was only one answer.

“Of course Kase! You can do anything you set your mind to.”

And she did. She worked her ass off training twice a day. She went from being the slowest, only African-American little girl swimmer in that pool, to having an amazing backstroke at the end of the summer competition.

So I did what we do here in the States. I signed her up to “train” during the fall and winter. Surely, if she worked through the winter months, she’d be even more awesome for the following summer.

By May of the following year, she quit. She was tired. She didn’t want to do it anymore.

Because Dwight and I firmly believe in not making children do what they don’t want to do, we allowed her to.

And I’ve always wondered if I should’ve made her do it. Have I lived up to my role as her mother? Was I supposed to teach her work ethic by making her swim? Was I supposed to give her some speech about not giving up just because you don’t feel like it?

Years later, will she tell her therapist that she wished her mother would’ve pushed her harder? Will her whole life hinge on if I made her pursue swim team a second year?

Eventually, I always come to the same conclusion. I…don’t…know. Parenting is a careful dance of allowing your child to be his or herself, while still being yourself. To do that, you have to know who that is. My role is to guide her. I’m here to show her how to stand confident in making decisions that are aligned with how she feels. I’m here to tell her that it’s okay to change her mind about something, even if she’s knee-deep in it and doesn’t see a way out. Like my Grannie says, “If you made your bed hard, then get out the bed.”

Today, my daughter is an 18 year-old senior on the cusp of high school graduation. Three years ago, she intended to complete a Cosmetology license at a trade school so that she could fulfill her then dream of doing hair. At that time, I felt just like I did when I watched her competing in that backstroke.

“That your daughter?” a passerby asked.

“Yep,” my husband and I proudly replied.

Just like swimming, somewhere along her path, she decided doing hair wasn’t for her. She changed her mind, and consequently changed the direction of her life. Now, she wants to go to college to be a Cosmetic Chemist.

Although she hasn’t asked, the question still floats in the air, “Do you think I can do it?”

My answer is the same, “Of course Kase! You can do anything you set your mind to.”

img_1006And I hope she believes it. Because for me, that’s what mothering is all about. It’s parenting the person I see before me. It’s parenting an individual, not an identity. My daughter isn’t me. She’s her own person with her own experiences. In my mind, being a mother is helping her cultivate her self and her dreams, no matter how many times that changes.

On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to remind everyone that mothering looks as different as we do. Subsequently, I’m sure we’re all doing the best that we can in each moment. What do you think? How do you see motherhood? How do you think your mother saw her role?