Michelle, the Therapist

In this interview, I asked Michelle to give her expert opinion on a book I’d recently read. See what she has to say about wives being constant in their love…

Monday Notes: New Mantra

I was raised by a celebratory family. My mother’s side was known to praise any and everything that I did. No matter what I accomplished – piano recitals, school functions, dance programs – my grandmother, grandfather, and great aunts and uncle would proclaim, “you were the best one!” On top of that, my mother was known for creating parties. Some planned and some instant.

“Punch in a glass is just punch,” she’d say, “but when you pour it in a punch bowl, with sliced oranges, well that’s a party!”

We partied often. And it was something I grew used to.

Similarly, my father’s side of the family is known for arriving from out of town to celebrate accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen or talked to the person in months or years, if they’re invited to a graduation party, birthday event, or funeral repast, they will find a way to join in and turn up.

My childhood was wonderful in this way. But then my mother died, and so did her parties.

Eight months later, I threw my own seventeenth birthday party. It was the first time since the funeral that family members were all in one space. It was the first time since we’d buried my mother that things felt normal.

When I graduated high school, I asked Grannie if she was going to have a party afterwards. Some call it an open house.

“You want a party?” she asked.

“Yes,” I beamed.

“Well, you’re gonna have to pay for it yourself.”

biggest_fan_2So, I did. I bought royal blue streamers, royal blue tablecloths and napkins, and ordered myself a white sheet cake, with royal blue icing that read, Congratulations Kathy! After graduation, family and friends celebrated the occasion with me in Grannie’s basement.

Throughout the years, this pattern continued. If I wanted to celebrate me, then I created an event to do so. Sometimes these were joint, out-of-town birthday parties with friends. Other times, like my doctoral graduation or 40th birthday party, I planned a celebration independently to physically say congrats.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown weary of planning festivities for myself, yet I’ve continued to achieve. To maintain a commemorative spirit, I’ve begun taking myself out. If I do something that I believe is extraordinary, then I splurge on a meal.

I also share great news on social media, because even though sites like Facebook can be annoying, the reality is that Internet communities love to uplift you when you’ve done something positive. To be honest, it’s like dipping a glass ladle into that fancy bowl and scooping out the bright red punch my mother used to make. It tastes sweet. It feels special.

But as I approach 46, I realize those things are all outside of myself. And because I seek growth in everything I do, I’ve developed a new mantra. What I’m doing is important, even if no one else acknowledges it.

Don’t get me wrong. I still celebrate myself in explicit ways, but this phrase reminds me to also turn inward. It reminds me that my self-worth is not tied to my success or anyone’s validation of it. And it liberates me from expecting external gratification in the form of celebratory acts. This is a new practice. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, tell me if you’ve ever had to re-frame how you function in the world because of your upbringing? Are you a celebratory person?

Monday Notes: “That Could Never Be Me!”

“That could never be me!” Have you ever used this phrase? I have. I used to say it a lot whenever I’d hear about sexual abuse victims. I used to say it because I was molested by my own father. I’ll spare the details, but I will share this. As soon as my mother returned home from Wisconsin, I waited for my father to doze off in front of the television, and then sat on their bed. I told my mother what happened.

“I’ll talk to him,” she promised.

The next day, my twelve-year-old self needed answers. “What did he say?”
“He said he was testing you to see if you’d say something. It won’t happen again.”

And it didn’t. If it would’ve, I already had a plan. I was telling her mother. And if that didn’t work, then I was telling a school official, because even in the seventh-grade, I knew something was unusual and inappropriate about what he did. From that point on and in my arrogance, I declared, that could never be me whenever I’d hear about other victims who suffered such acts for years.

But recent allegations from MJ and Robert Kelly victims have me singing a new tune. Now, in conversation, I suggest to others to have compassion for victims and parents because that could be your child. You know what they say? You guessed it. That could never be me!

In fact, one friend stopped scrolling through his phone, looked me directly in the eyes, and said, “That could never be my kids. Kathy, that could never be one of your kids!”

teddy_bear
 Photo by serenestarts at Pixabay

I said this to him, and I’ll say this to everyone. Depending on how old your child is, you don’t know who your child is talking to right now. You don’t know what they’re doing. I stand by this because, unless you’re with your child twenty-four hours per day, then you really don’t know. And, from what I understand, children are typically sexually abused by someone close to them, not some stranger lurking in the dark, offering them candy.

 

Also, I’m sure none of us wants to think about this, but your child could literally be the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted teacher or coach. You…don’t…know, unless they tell you, which also may not happen.

A friend of mine recently found out that her child was molested at school when he was five-years-old. He’s nineteen now. She just found out. It’s not because she’s a bad mother. It’s not because she’s not had his interest at heart. It’s because things can occur that we, as parents, don’t know about.

My intent here is not to scare anyone or to have you hover more into helicopter mode. My point is the next time you hear about an alleged sexual abuse victim, maybe you could shift your perspective and think about it as if it were your child, or your sibling’s child, or your best friend’s child. Because even if you think it couldn’t happen to you, it could happen to someone you know, and that person might need a bit of compassion.

Interview with Dr. K. E. Garland (Part 3)

Part III

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Oh boy! The conversation is getting juicy!

The louder I get the more thick my southern accent becomes! LOL!

As you know, Dr. Garland’s subject matter centers around male/female relationships.  In this session, we continue our conversation from part 2 on the differences between men and women.

Please be sure to follow Dr. Garland and Michelle!  You can link to them via the first or second post of this interview.

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Monday Notes: 5 Suggestions Before Asking Someone to Follow Your Business on Social Media

A few months ago, a friend asked me to follow her on social media because she’s re-branding and doing new things. Of course, I obliged because she’s my friend, and you know that’s what some friends do in the 21st century…support to increase the person’s social media platform in the beginning stages.

Following her, however, has prompted a few pieces of advice about maintaining a social media presence as a business or nonprofit:

Know your social media handle. As soon as she asked, I clicked on my Twitter icon and proceeded to look for her.

Me: Is it this one? @friend19_74?

Her: Oh, let me see…nope, nope, not that one. Try @friend1974.

Me: Is this you?

Her: Oh, naw, naw. Try @1974friend.

Me: So, this looks like you because your picture is here.

Her: Yes. Yes. That’s the one.

twitter_marchKeep your social media current. Once we found the correct account, I scrolled through, as is customary for me to do with strangers. I want to see what the person has posted recently. I want to get a feel for what they typically share. You know. Do they troll people? Do they engage in Twitter arguments just for the sake of being seen? Do they say mean and inaccurate stuff about celebrities or news? When I scrolled through my friend’s page, her last retweet was from seven months prior. Even at the time of my writing this, her last tweet was two months ago. Why would I follow a business that tweets infrequently?

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my baker cousin’s cupcakes

Make your social media relevant. My friend’s business is very niche. Let’s say for the sake of example that she sells cupcakes. When her IG photos pop up in my feed, there is information about cupcakes in the Bay area. If I don’t live there, or even on the West coast, then seeing cupcake info doesn’t interest me. But maybe if you post about those yummy cupcakes you just made, or link to a vegan cupcake recipe that I just have to try, or post a video of yourself making the cupcakes, then at the least, I’ll want to double-tap, and at the most, I’ll look for the website, friend or not.

Choose one site you really enjoy. Nowadays, people will have you to believe that business owners should be actively engaged on every social media site available. If you’re Nike or something, maybe. But, if you’re a small startup, I don’t think this is true, and I believe it’s caused people to burn both ends of the candle, so to speak. For example, a friend suggested I use Periscope when it first launched. I never did because I knew I didn’t have time to learn the inner workings of yet another site. But also, I was comfortable participating in what I was already doing.

Consider this, if you’re not really a photo/video person, then maybe you shouldn’t have an IG account. If you have more to say than will fit into 280 characters, then forgo Twitter. And if you despise FB so much, then let it go. Your social media presence will thrive when you engage in ways that you value, not because someone told you it’s a business requirement.

Do you all have any other advice for business owners who use social media?

Interview with Dr. K E Garland (Part 1)

…and then I was interviewed by my siSTARS 💫

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Please enjoy this video of me and Michelle at Me, Intimatelyworded interviewing author and writer Dr. K. E. Garland at Kwoted

In this video, Dr. Garland talks about her writing process and the affect that some of her subject matter has had on her personally.

And YES, my Southern accent is SUPER THICK in this one!

Stay tuned for subsequent videos!

Please comment below!

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Monday Notes: 3 Lessons from a BFF Breakup

I usually can’t write about something, unless I’m completely over it. That’s why I have about 6,000 notes related to breaking up with my bff and no posts about it. Ever since June, I’d try to begin my thoughts. Each time, I produced nothing.

But this time, I’m doing it.

We were friends for a decade and a half. Fifteen years is a long time. We’d friended our way through childbirth, divorce and international relocations. If you’ve been friends with someone for this long, then you know the laughs, tears, secrets, and experiences that can accumulate. There are too many to count.

That’s why breaking up was difficult. I felt its dissipation at least three years ago, but I thought it would pass. I figured if I gently expressed my new journey to her then, she would understand and join me. That’s not reality. Everyone cannot walk beside you on your path. Everyone is not supposed to.

And you know what? I’ve learned that it’s okay if they don’t. Equally important, I’ve become a little more conscious about who I am in friendships and what I want in those relationships:

I want to be the person’s friend, not her therapist. Friends listen to one another during their times of need. I get it. However, if all our phone calls include me listening to you and your problems, then that’s not a friendship. That’s a therapy session. Asking me to be your part-time counselor is not fair to me or you. Also, I’ve discovered that my tolerance level is low when it comes to this. Some people find this cold and unfeeling, but it’s quite the opposite. I empathize deeply. I take whatever you’ve revealed to me and literally feel your emotion. When it’s traumatic, it weighs heavy. Until I learn to let go of others’ issues, I need my friends to seek therapy, instead.

I want my friends to grow. Is this fair to say? You all know I’m always seeking growth, physically, spiritually, academically, whatever. If you’ve known me for any length of time, then I’m probably not the same person you first met. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m saying I want a friend who is a mirror image of me. I don’t. But if we’re friends, then I want to know that you care about your own well-being and that maybe, you and I will help one another get there. Here’s the tricky part. Growth begins with self-reflection. And self-reflection requires looking in the mirror and being honest with oneself. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t make someone self-reflect.

I want my friends to be non-judgmental. For real. I’ve been singing the non-judgment song for about four years. Now, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I still screenshot the occasional text to a mutual friend and wonder “what in the world is wrong with her?” But not always good people. Other people’s business is not often the topic of my own conversations. That’s because I’m too busy doing #2 ^^^ self-reflecting and growing. If the purpose of you reaching out to me is to discuss when someone else is going to get her life together, then you and I probably don’t need to connect that often.

Over the years, I’ve gained and lost quite a few girlfriends. The main reason is because I’d never thought twice about who the person was when we met. It was more like, you like eating out and partying? Me too. Let’s get together and do that, and then we became friends. The end of those friendships forced me to process how or why we became close. I’ve determined the answer is usually rooted in the energy surrounding me at the time. But I’ll save that discussion for another day.

For now, I’m wondering, have you ever broken up with a friend? Did it bother you? Have you thought about what you want in a friendship? Do you have long-lasting friendships? If so, how’d that happen?

 

 

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.