RE-Defined: Cancer Awareness

Two years ago, I wrote Rethinking Cancer Awareness and the South Florida Times published it.

I’m pleased to say my attempt at raising consciousness about this debilitating disease has been re-published with The Coil. Please be sure to check it out and comment there or here.

Rethinking Cancer Awareness

Advertisements

RE-Defined: FRIENDSHIP

I have quite a few people whom I call friend. There are friends who I never speak to, but still hold the title. A woman named Mika fits into this category. We’ve known each other since we were six. We went to the same schools, up until senior year. She attended my wedding and I attended hers. Her husband even edited my dissertation for free because I didn’t have money at the time. However, I haven’t verbally spoken with her in about two years. We haven’t seen each other in even more time. Still, I know she’s my friend.

I have other friends who begin text messages as if we spoke yesterday.

“KG, what did I say in this last post that could’ve been negative or offensive?” my friend Calvin asked the other day. Excluding the are you okay because a hurricane is covering your state convo, we haven’t had a real conversation in about eight months. We lol’d and emoji’d for the next few hours. He described how his oldest daughter was doing at her private university and I shared how my oldest is doing living on her own going to community college. In between, we talked about how ridiculous Facebook has gotten, and then hours later we said ttyl and good night.

New ImageMy other friend, Wanda’s birthday is six days before mine. That’s how our friendship began. For years, she and I would road trip to Atlanta or Orlando with a couple of other women to celebrate. After a while, that ended. But our friendship remained. Currently, we talk on the phone every now and then. We go out to eat occasionally. She was one of my number one supporters when I released The Unhappy Wife book, wearing the t-shirt all around Jacksonville, and holding conversations with anyone who would listen and purchase a copy. I know if anything ever happened, this chick would not only hide the body, but also regulate her breathing so she could pass the lie detector test.

I also have friends that are former high school students. I haven’t taught at that level for eleven years, and it took me a minute to be comfortable with calling these women friends, because of society’s rules. But I’ve had to admit that’s who they’ve come to be. Each is nearing 30, and as individual relationships grow, I’ve noticed that every woman mirrors a part of me. One is eccentric, wishes for no one’s opinion, and lives life unabashedly on her own terms. Another is a goal-setter, with her life paved out. The last one’s challenging home life used to dictate who she was and how she lived, but not anymore; she lives consciously and takes responsibility for her energy and space. Reflection is an understatement. They are me; and I am them.

I have another friend who I’ve never met! I’ve talked about her before. She’s a WordPress blogger named Mek. We haven’t met because she lives on a different continent. For a while, we talked at least once a day through an app. Then, our relationship stabilized and now we reach out when there is time. Our conversations include a lot of riiights and high-fives because, for the most part, we get each other. She knows all about my family’s successes and challenges, and I know about hers. We cheer each other on when there’s something that requires pom-poms and listen when there’s something that requires an ear. Without hesitation, she is my friend.

A few years ago, I would’ve argued that everyone is not your friend. I used to apply a static set of rules to all friendships. How could we be friends if you don’t follow my blog? How could we be friends if I haven’t talked to you in three years? Over time, I’ve learned that’s not fair to the person or the relationship, and it’s a bit unrealistic. People are different, and consequently, so are the ways in which they relate to others.

What I’ve realized is friendships are fluid. While each friendship has been created out of mutuality, no two friends are alike and that should be respected. Because of this, I’ve learned to appreciate each friend’s individual personality as a constant gift of love that ebbs and flows throughout my life. In that way, I’m grateful for each person, no matter how and when they show up.

This is how I now define friendship. How do you define a friend? What makes someone your friend? Have your “requirements” changed over time?

Got Boundaries?

Well do you? Do the people with whom you interact know exactly how far they can go with you? Physically? Emotionally? Psychologically? Do you know how far you want to go with others?

I recently listened to an Iyanla Vanzant episode centered on relationships. You can find it here. In it, she suggests that we not only establish boundaries in our relationships, but that we also make those boundaries known to individuals. Another useful step is to ensure those people know what the consequence will be if they should violate your stated boundary.

I can see how this will work with children because, well, adult-child relationships definitely require boundaries. For example, my 15-year-old, Desi and I were texting one day. In it, she replied, LMAO. To which I responded, you don’t get to laugh your ass off with me ma’am. She hasn’t done it again. She tested a boundary. It failed. She learned how far she could go.

But what happens when there are two adults and something more serious? Remember Buddy? According to Iyanla’s lesson, I should have stated something like this ahead of time: Buddy, I will not tolerate drunken, violent behavior. If you become drunk and violent, then you will have to leave our home.

While I have no problem having a boundary conversation with most adults, I do wonder if I can establish boundaries and allow the person to be him or herself, simultaneously.

Stay with me here. You know I value allowing people to be whoever they are; however, if I establish a boundary, then aren’t I asking the person to not be themselves while they’re in my company? So, is it better to ask Buddy to be mindful of his drinking limit, or just not invite Buddy to the next family function? For most of my life, I’ve just done the latter. That way Buddy can be himself…at…his…home.

I suppose my question is, can you establish boundaries and allow the person to be him or herself at the same time, or are these two different philosophical ways of living life? Can the two work together?

I know this post is more questions than answers, but that’s how (my) life is most times. Let me know what you think. Which do you prefer? Are you a boundary-setter? Tell us all how you do it.

12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (7)

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.

You guys, can you believe it’s already September? We only have three more months left in 2017. I hope you’ve been making an impact wherever you are in the world.

7For August, I paid it forward. In case you’re unfamiliar with this concept, the idea is instead of paying someone back for a good deed, you pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. For example, during one of this summer’s vacations, our friends paid for all of our meals and museum exhibits. Instead of paying them back, we would just pay it forward by doing something for someone else. Typically, people associate this with literally paying for something for someone. So, that’s where I began.

I learned a few years ago that strangers tend not to accept face-to-face help. When I tried to pay for a guy’s groceries, he vehemently declined. This time around, I simply paid for the person behind me in the Starbucks line. It was done and I could zoom off before the driver knew what happened.

But paying it forward in that way seemed cliche. So the following week, I was more in tune with my surroundings and looked for ways to pay it forward without money. I suppose it’s just called helping someone. This worked out perfectly. Instead of ignoring the bewildered lady who’d never signed into the library’s computer, I stood beside her and patiently explained how to log in and find her name. Someone once had to do this for me too.

I continued paying it forward in this way by holding the door for a lady at yoga. I’d noticed some time ago that people are all Namaste while they’re in yoga, but will let that door slam in your face when it’s over. Instead of silently complaining, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. Another opportunity presented itself the following week. A lady in my Bodyworks class was running late, so I helped her set up her space by getting her dumbbells for her.

“Thank you so much! I was finishing my quinoa and fruit in the car,” she said.

Then, you know what happened? I was running late the next week, and she didn’t hesitate to help me set up so I could begin on time.

img_4623This month, I also participated in our citywide “Stuff the Bus” back-to-school campaign. I normally don’t do this because we have our own children’s school supply needs to fulfill, but again, there was that one year D and I needed a little extra help for our own daughters. Instead of paying that person back, I gave freely to support the children in my community.

So far, this month is my favorite way to maintain the Christmas spirit after Christmas because paying it forward really is just about being present and giving of oneself in ways that someone once gave to you.

Let me know what you think about this one. Also, tell me if you’ve ever paid it forward to return a good deed, or just to be nice in the moment.

Click here to read about ways 1-6.

*Spoiler Alert: For October I’ll be running a diaper drive for a foster care here in Jacksonville. Click on the CONTACT form if you’re interested in sending me a pack of diapers to pass on to them.

Monday Notes: Revolution (a Haiku) ✊🏾🕉✊🏾

Sometimes my brain thinks in Haiku. I cannot explain it, nor would I ever try. It just is. Here’s an example:

I’m walking around
with an OM tat on my arm,
promoting oneness.

But people challenge
this concept with constancy,
detaching themselves.

You’re white and I’m black.
He’s Jewish and she’s Muslim.
They’re poor and we’re rich.

Who cares? What matters?
I wonder as we bicker.
Who gains from such rifts?

img_4793

I know the answer.
It’s a rhetorical thought.
Hegemony rules,

if we allow it.
Otherwise, can’t we create
a new world order?

Revolution. © 2017 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.

Feel free to add a verse. How do you think we can come to understand we’re all one? Do we need to try or will it just happen naturally?

August 12th

August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.

WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.

“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.

I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.

We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.

“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.

I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.

img_4677We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.

Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:

Tarra by herself.

Tarra and me.

Tarra and John.

John and me.

Tarra, John, and me.

I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.

A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.

“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”

Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.

As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.

We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.

I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.

“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”

“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”

A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”

She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.

st_johns_river_artworkBy now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.

“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”

“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.

Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.

img_4725We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.

My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.

I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.

Monday Notes: Thoughts During My Facebook Break

Every year I take a 30-day Facebook break. Just like other things, I tend to use Facebook intently and intensely, so I need to deactivate every now and then.

My social media vacay is typically around the holidays, but this time August seemed to be the best time of year. I figured I wouldn’t miss the back-to-school pics, latest Donald Trump outrage, or eclipse images. I was right. The only thing I missed is my go-to for random thoughts. Instead, I used my Notes section.

img_4769Here are August’s thoughts, with a few explanations.

Boundaries help define who you are and who you are not ~ Thomas J. Leonard I forgot where I read this quote, but it was helpful. With the help of Dwight, I’d recently realized that I still have some unresolved issues with my grandmother. Part of it is a boundary issue. While I’m firm about who I am and what I’ll take from other people, with her, my boundaries look a little like jumbled up squiggly lines (sometimes). I’m going to work on that.

It is possible to only do things you WANT to do. People argue with me about this, but for me, it’s all about choices. If you’re (an adult) participating in situations that you don’t want to, then I’d suggest it’s because you made a choice to do so. Stop choosing negative and displeasing experiences, and watch how much your life will fall into a place where you’re always where you want to be.

When do you put your spirituality into practice? Well, when do you?

Life is just an exchange of energy with others and we can choose how much, what frequency, or how often we make that exchange. I wrote this comment on Reena’s blog. I forget which topic, but something she shared made me re-think how we function as people. We tend to forget that connection is important, but we don’t have to be beholden to others’ whims.

People will not combust if you say, “No.”

If you ask me to do something, and I say, “No,” and you try to convince me to do it anyway, then that’s called manipulation. Have you ever thought of it that way? I first heard a rendition of this from Oprah years ago. And once I considered it more, I agreed. This month people have asked me to do all sorts of things that I just wasn’t feeling. I’ve gotten a lot better at simply saying no. Once they go into convincing mode, it’s much easier for me to stick to my decision because I now view it as manipulation, and I definitely don’t want to be controlled. Conversely, I respect others’ decisions more readily because I also don’t want to manipulate them into doing what I’d prefer.

Relationships aren’t meant to be stressful. Period. I’ve had a few pleasant experiences with friends this month. My friend Tarra and I hung out for approximately twelve hours one day. We laughed. We ate. We drank. I fell asleep. There was no drama and no doubt that we were both in good company. Likewise, my friend Rhonda reached out to me during her annual Florida trip. We went to the beach. I got to know her sons a little more. We ate. There was also little doubt about our friendship. In my mind, this is how relationships are supposed to be…stress-free.

Let me know what you think about social media, social media breaks, blogging breaks, or any of my August thoughts.

Monday Notes: 5 Ways to Become a Writer

img_3443Sometimes I jot down a note and it’s very negative. When that happens, I re-focus and make it a positive post, like this one.

***

I’ve written since I was in elementary school, fifth grade to be exact. However, I didn’t consider myself a writer until six years ago. Once I accepted this part of my identity, I started observing and listening to writers and “aspiring” writers. I’ve determined if you want to be a writer, then this is what you’ll have to do:

Start Writing Now that my writing is public knowledge, people confide in me. Cousins, the man at the Florida Writers Association conference, and the woman who asked me to ghostwrite her novel each want to write. But when I ask them what they’ve written so far, the answer is nothing. I advise each of them the same. Start writing. Whether it’s a public blog or a private diary, the first step is to begin.

Make Time to Write I often thought my job was getting in the way of writing. That wasn’t the truth. And because no one was going to offer me more time in the day, I had to shift my priorities. Instead of watching the Today Show every morning, I wrote for two hours. Then, I began my regular day. Where could you shift your priorities so that you can make time to write?

Take Time to Edit After you’ve written something, consider that your first draft. All writers have first drafts, and second, and thirds, and…you get the picture. As a former English teacher, rarely have I seen a masterpiece written in one fell swoop. When you take time to write, that means you might find yourself pondering over the use of the word stroll, saunter, or walk because you know each one of those words will change the connotation and flow of your sentence. So take the time to think about the words you’ve written in a meaningful way.

You Think Your Stories Have Already Been Heard Probably. I mean an infinite number of books have been written and read. But not yours and not the way you can write it. Comments about The Unhappy Wife have validated this concept. Recently, Story Teller Alley approved me to sell my book on their site. One of the reasons it was accepted is because of originality. A reviewer said,

Although stories of unhappy marriages have been told before, because these are all true stories and each person is different, the stories are all different.”

I’m glad the innovation shone through. Sometimes people read the title and assume they know what’s inside. But it’s a false assumption. Likewise, if I would’ve thought these were trite narratives, then I might not have written the book. So my advice? Don’t worry about it. Somebody wants to read it the way you’ve written it.

You’re Worried about What Other People Think If you follow my blog, then you know I write about many things that have happened in my life. Stories include family, friends, and people I barely know. I couldn’t write half of what you read here if I stopped to worry about someone’s hurt feelings and reinvention of history. Initially, an Anne Lamott quote helped me forge ahead with authentic writing, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” That quote changed my entire creative nonfiction writing life. The other part that has helped me write the truth is to separate fact from emotion. For example, it’s a fact that my dad packed up my belongings in the middle of the night while I slept. Consequently, I felt abandoned and pushed aside because of what occurred. Stick to the facts and make clear when you’re describing an emotion.

I hope one of these sparks the writer in you. Trust me. Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear your voice, even if the someone is you.

12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (6)

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.

no_6Soooo…one day I looked up at it was July 25th aaannnd I hadn’t maintained the Christmas Spirit for that month! Turns out the summer is the time when I’m most forgetful about these things cause I’m out frolicking and stuff.

Anywho, check back in September for an update on my August activities. Have you been maintaining the Christmas spirit AFTER Christmas? If so, let me know how. I might be able to participate in an idea for one of the remaining months.

Check out ways 1-5 here.

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.