12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (#3)

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.

three-2032511_1280This next idea was a combination of a failed attempt to volunteer at a food pantry and something I’d seen other people do on social media. In February, I thought I was going to hand out food with United Community Outreach Ministry (UCOM). Instead, the director asked me to clean the toiletry section for an hour and a half. Although I saw the indirect benefit of helping her because she probably didn’t have time, I couldn’t see myself continuing to do this for three more weeks.

“I could do this myself, in my own way, I thought.”

That’s just what I did. The third thing I did was pass out goodie bags to transient people (March). I packed four 1-gallon Ziplock bags with deodorant, wipes, Vaseline, fresh fruit, granola bars, water, and five $1 bills. The first week, I started with the guy I see sleeping under I95. He mumbled something to me that I didn’t quite understand. The second week, I traveled downtown to where I know a group of the same population hangs out. Before I could make it there, a guy stopped me.

img_3054“Can I have that orange?” he asked

I gave him the entire bag. He seemed genuinely pleased, and even more excited when I told him there was money in there.

The third week, I was battling allergies and busy with book stuff, so Dwight gave a bag to an elderly gentleman with a cane.

I had planned to hand out the final bag on my way to Gainesville. For the past two years, I’ve noticed a small population of men who alternate holding a sign right at the Baldwin exit off I10. This time I tracked a guy as he crossed the street to nearby trees. I parked my car, walked over to the men who were seated around a makeshift living area, and handed the bag to the bearded man nearest the fence that separated us.

“God Bless you hun.” He said it twice.

“You too luv,” I replied.

With this one, I’ve learned that the homeless population is invisible, until you open your eyes and look for them. Then, they’re right in front of your face, begging to be seen.

Let me know what you think about this one. Do you think you could pack a goodie bag for the transient population in your city? Is that demographic high where you live?

Read about the first two ways here.

 

 

Monday Notes: Starbucks Observations

coffee-1281842_1280There’s nothing better than ordering a tall Youthberry, with a shot of classic. Hot tea is one of the few drinks the barista will make immediately. I always get it before I leave the counter.

If I’m inside, I find a seat near the back of the café where there’s an outlet. If I’m outside, then I’m right by the door. Either way, I follow the same ritual: 1) take the top off my tea so that it can cool to a consumable temperature; 2) unpack my MacBook, log onto the WiFi, and answer the question of the day; and depending on how loud the patrons are 3) plug in my ear buds and select Film Scores on Pandora. Something about listening to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack helps me focus.

But on this day, I decided to ditch the headphones. I’d observe my surroundings instead.

Directly in front of me, a Spanish-speaking couple met with a bilingual man. The cellphone conversation he’d had five minutes before they arrived was in English and full of laughter. As soon as the couple sat down, his tone changed. Eleven years of the romance language didn’t help me interpret their discussion, but the seriousness in the air led me to believe it was an important topic. Was he a professional translator? Had someone recommended him? Were they in trouble?

I’d never know.

On the left side of me a couple met with a realtor. The middle-aged white man and his Asian-looking wife had moved from Seattle to Jacksonville. Years ago, they’d lived overseas. I wondered if they were former military. Where “overseas” had they lived? Why did they choose Jacksonville over Seattle?

“So are y’all ready?” the bright-eyed realtor asked.

“Yep,” the husband replied, “It’s time for a house.”

I’ve come to accept my nosey-ness as a positive trait that allows me to observe and then write detailed descriptions of people. But it was time to be productive.

Just when I’d settled in to read and respond to blogs, I saw them.

“You’re not old enough to be line leader,” he said.

She snatched her tiny, pale, white hand away and attempted to sprint to the edge of the sidewalk. Her legs failed her. He reached for her small arm with his free hand, while the other held firmly to his more well-behaved, five year-old daughter’s right hand.

First he praised the two year old, “I admire your tenacity,” and then, he reprimanded her, “but no.”

The two little girls remained on either side of their dad, hand-in-hand, dawdling their way down the sidewalk and out of my view.

img_3053I admire your tenacity reverberated and stuck with me.

I was sure they were middle class simply because he used the word “tenacity.” Did they live in the new development that peeked through the space between Nordstrom’s and Bento? Did the girls have traditional names, like Emma and Gracie? Or had they gone more trendy, Bailey and Zoe?

It was probably a mix. Zoe was the runner and Emma was the oldest. Zoe wanted her bedroom to be painted deep purple, but they’d convinced her that fuchsia was just as amazing. Emma never posed a problem, going along with whatever her parents wished. Her room was light pink, with a matching flowered duvet and pillow covers.

Their mom was at home taking a well-deserved break from her orchestrated life.

“Why don’t you take Emma and Zoe to the mall?” she suggested.

He was happy to help out. But, next time he’d ask his wife to come along. She’d have to seek rest elsewhere.

Real people inspire me to write. I’ve looked over at the person next to me on the highway and made up an entire short story with characters, backstory, and plot. Am I the only one who does this? Do you look at people and wonder what’s going on with their lives? Where does your writing inspiration come from?

Monday Notes: Don’t Ask. 🤐

img_2910I’ve been holding this in for a while. I almost named this, “Things I Wish Black People Would Stop Asking Me,” but people of all races and ethnicities ask these questions. Here goes.

Q1: Is Dwight Desi’s father?

No one has ever asked me this question. I suspect because it’s rude. However, people have asked Desi. She’s a few shades darker than Dwight, Kesi, or me. And I guess this causes confusion. They’ve asked this her entire life. She’s 15. If it was just her peers, then I probably wouldn’t be upset. But it’s not. The people who typically inquire are…adults. Yes. Adults ask her all the time.

“You two must have different fathers?” a hairstylist once asked.

You must be Dr. Garland’s daughter?” a colleague once asked Kesi.

To which Desi replied, “We’re both her daughter.”

Her friend’s mom asked, “He’s not your dad, right?”

Desi said that it doesn’t bother her. I halfway believe her. She is her father’s child; they both let things roll off their backs. But I do not. Sometimes my ego still drives the bus, and this is one topic that gets me going. If anyone ever asks, I have ready answers.

Have you ever heard of recessive genes?

You do know African Americans come in all shades, right? Sometimes those colors are reflected in the same family.

Your question doesn’t even make sense. You do realize this is my youngest daughter, right?

Q2: How do you get your hair like that?

This happens all the time. The most recent being a month or so ago. It’s usually a black woman, who follows up with, “I can’t get my hair to do that.” But this time a black, male cashier asked.

“How do you get your hair like that?”

“It grows like this.”

(snickers) “That’s what they all say!”

“Yes, but this time, it’s true.”

I went on to explain that I use products to hold my curl pattern, but when I wash my hair, it looks like this. Curly. When I wake up in the morning, it looks like this. Spiraled.

I’m not sure why people don’t always believe me. Is it because so many women wear weaves? Did you know they sell natural looking weaves and wigs? I had no idea. I digress. Here’s my point. If you have the wherewithal to ask someone how they get their hair to look like it does, then be accepting of the answer you’re given. Implying that a woman is lying is just offensive.

Q3: Are you mixed?

Listen.

I identify as black. I was adopted and raised by a black family. Culturally, I’m black. It is common knowledge that in America one drop of blood means you’re black, still.

So, I usually answer, “Yes. But I’m black.”

That’s my reply because it’s too long to offer the following transparency.

My biological grandparents are both half Cherokee. I know what you’re thinking. We all are. But, according to my grandfather, his and his wife’s mother were full-blood Native American. That part is evident in my cheekbones.

As far as my parents, I suppose it hurts too much to say, “I don’t know,” because I don’t.

When I met my biological aunt, she told me that my mother pointed out my father. He was indeed a “lanky, white man.” However, I haven’t gotten around to finding him and proving it. Until I do, I’d prefer that people just don’t ask.

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?

 

 

Even an A**hole Needs Compassion

This thought came to me about a month ago after my favorite artist, Kanye West had a rant. If you know Ye, then you know this is nothing new. What was different is that on November 21st, he was hospitalized. Those who cared speculated. Mental illness? Exhaustion? Depression? Scam? No one really knew.

But there was a lot of commentary, including my FB post.

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For the most part, people responded in kind and added some food for thought on if they really felt compassion for the other entertainers I’d listed. But there were a couple of people who disagreed with offering Kanye empathy at all. Instead, they said this:

I don’t know that I agree that arrogant pricks need compassion. I think they need what they lack the most- a reality check and self-reflection.

Wait. I thought he was just an asshole. Did I miss some news?

To which I replied: Even an asshole needs compassion. But do they? That’s my question. How do you determine to whom you provide or deny compassion?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting high and judging. I get it. For a long time, my father didn’t receive words wrapped in understanding from me because I didn’t think he deserved it. The level of care and concern I offered was in direct proportion to what he’d given me the past 25 years. That doesn’t mean he didn’t need it though. It also doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve it.

Maybe you dole out sympathy based on how much you can relate to the person. For example, when I see myself in others, then I have a ready urge to support. There’s common ground with my younger female friends who harbor daddy issues, like I did. I listen more. I advise when needed. I rarely judge them. Compassion flows because they reflect a former me. But if I’m not vibing with someone? I have to dig a little deeper to understand who they are and what they’re feeling. Still, that doesn’t mean they don’t need compassion.

These are my last questions for the year. Do jerks need compassion? Or is the compassion we show to others based on our perception of their behavior and who we think they are? Is it possible to offer compassion to people simply because they are human beings? Cause we all know what a human being feels like. Right?

~kg

Thanksgiving? 🦃🍁🍂

dinner-1060352_1280Did everyone have a great Thanksgiving? I did, but something’s been bothering me over the past few days. It began when I read Tareau’s commentary. You can find it here. His description of Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering elicited some ill feelings. I was just about to sit down and enjoy half a Cornish hen, mashed potatoes and green beans that I’d prepared.

I consider myself pretty conscious. So I thought I was doing pretty good not overindulging in turkey, dressing and other common staples. Certainly, Tareau wasn’t talking to me. Was he? I know the trials and tribulations of Native Americans. Surely, I can enjoy my food and be #woke. Right?

I finished my dinner and stumbled across Darryl’s post, explicitly titled, Thanksgiving and Black Friday: The Epitome of American Culture. Was the universe trying to tell me something? Darryl very succinctly explained the irony of the American football game for the day. Well, there’s nothing I could do about NFL scheduling, so I didn’t feel as bad, but I did begin to think that maybe baking hens isn’t enough of a rebellious stance.

My next stop was Facebook. Unfortunately, I didn’t screenshot my friend’s post, but here’s a loose paraphrase:

We all know where Thanksgiving came from so stop telling everybody about the Indians. Today is a day when most of us just get together to be with family and eat food, so enjoy it the best way you know how.

On the one hand, I used to be one of those didactic people sharing all kinds of information about Native Americans and how this wasn’t a holiday for them. On the other hand, I understood what he was saying. The holiday has changed. We’re not pilgrims celebrating the deaths of indigenous people. We’re people eating food with family.

Just when I’d begun feeling okay about how I’d celebrated this year, Dwight posted four things; two were about the Dakota Pipeline and the other two? Thanksgiving origins.

We talked about it during our Sunday walk.

“You got me thinking about planning a family trip to Plymouth Rock!”
“I was thinking the same thing,” he said.

By the end of our walk, I’d decided this. Whatever I do for any holiday is fine, as long as I’m doing it consciously. This year I was mindful about the amount of food the girls and I cooked, and I’m good with that. There’s no leftover anything and I don’t have to force someone to eat turkey for seven days. Conversely, Dwight and I could have a more in-depth conversation with the girls about why there’s a so-called Thanksgiving. If we add a road trip to Massachusetts, then I’ll let you all know. But for now, that’s as far as our activism will reach.

What about you? I know the holiday is over, but I’m wondering why, how and if you celebrate? Do you consider indigenous people on this day? How active do you have to be to be an activist?

Four Considerations as you Publish Beyond your Blog

 

Image. ©2016 All Rights Reserved K E Garland

Do you want to publish outside of your blog? If so, then here are four things that might help as you journey down that path.

Check Publication Requirements Research the publication’s rules about previously published stories. For example, an editor loved my Gratitude article but his strict no prior publication rule meant the original, which was featured on my blog, was a no-go. He, like most editors, wanted first rights. And even after he published a revised version, I had to wait 30 days before I could share it publicly. Other places won’t consider your stories, even if they’ve only been on your personal blog. So, if you plan to write for someone else, be discerning. You might want to start saving those really great pieces for other opportunities.

Prepare for Editing This might seem like common sense. Publications have editors and editors have processes. I guess what I wasn’t 100% ready for is someone else rearranging the beloved words to which I was inextricably tied. Also, unexpected was how one publication chose to run my entire moniker, instead of my pen name. I was like what the what? But I inhaled and exhaled. The message was bigger than the byline. Another publication asked for edits that took a few hours on top of the weeks that it had already taken me to research the unfamiliar topic. But again, I revised because the point of it all was greater than the extra time it took to double-check information.

Roll with Rejection Rejection is a huge part of writing. Although I’ve secured a few popular publications in the past, I’ve also counted twice as many rejections. And depending on where you submit, that’s what they’re called, rejections. But I don’t get caught up in them. Blogging helps with this part. Take that Breast Cancer Awareness article, for example. I was prepared with images and a publication date to post here. If the newspaper declined, then it would have been shared with each of you anyway. That’s how I roll with it. The comfort of having a blog allows me to go with the flow. No matter the outcome, I have a medium and trusted community.

Remember your Purpose What’s your purpose for writing in a public forum? My purpose is explicit. I want to use written words to promote discussion and nudge readers to think outside of societal boxes. One way to do that is to publish with bigger venues. They provide a wider audience. However, it’s super easy to get caught up in accumulating bylines. That’s not my overall goal. Reminding yourself of your specific purpose can keep you grounded and also connected to the larger objective.

Hope these help as you navigate the public writing terrain. Have you published beyond your blog? What else would you add?

Yoga Thoughts 🙏🏾

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I could tell she was new as soon as she arrived. Late. It’s not that you can’t come to yoga late but we were fifteen minutes in. She had missed all the focus-your-mind, set-an-intention stuff.

Second tip was that she came fully dressed. I watched her through my downward facing dog. She unbuttoned her trench coat. She slipped her salmon colored infinity scarf carefully over her newly relaxed hair. Are those riding boots new girl? Sheesh. It’s 50 degrees today. Now those had to be removed, along with her socks. Finally, she could roll out her mat, which perfectly matched the scarf. She must’ve gotten it from Target cause it had the same lotus flower as mine.

Focus.

Bend your knees. Jump or move to the front of your matHalfway lift. Forward fold.

New girl wasn’t done. She had to lotion her hands and feet. She’s gonna regret that. I thought. I learned the hard way one time how slippery that makes your practice. The lotion was a small brown bottle with ENERGY across the front. Bath and Body Works.

Focus. Focus.

yin_yangI wonder how that guy keeps his glasses on? He was about 6’2”. Dreadlocks graced his back. Think he comes to the Tuesday morning class too. I sweat so much I’m pretty sure my glasses would fall right on the ground. And then I wouldn’t be able to see a thing. What do I need to see anyway, though?

All the way up. Little back bend. Chair pose. A little lower. Palms together. Now turn to the right.

Noooo dreadlock guy! Your other right. This is awkward. We’re facing each other. Yeah, he does come on Tuesdays, too. Guess I’ll look up at the ceiling until this part is over.

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Back to center. Now turn left. You can open your arms or leave them where they are. Remember, it’s your practice.

Least new girl is facing the right way. That guy next to her looks familiar. Think I recognize that brown spot on his toe. Sean? Stan? Sam? What is his name? He plays tennis and needs to stretch his back. Oh maybe that’s not him. S-name guy is a little older than he is.

Hands plant. Jump or step back. Lower chaturanga. Breathe in. Upward. Breathe out. Downward facing dog. Lift your right leg up. Bring your knee to your chest. Right knee in front of your right hand. Right foot in front of your left thigh. Lower if it’s comfortable.

Finally. A pose that will allow me to focus, free from all these people distracting me.

 

How to Talk to a Doc Student During the Holidays

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Do you have a doc student or candidate that’s visiting for the holidays? If so, then trust me on this one. They probably won’t tell you, but I will. Don’t ask them these three questions.

 When are you graduating?

This seems super harmless, right? It’s not. Refrain from asking any doc student, no matter where they are in the program, when she is graduating. She doesn’t know. Traditional full-time undergraduate students could probably answer this question. May, 2017, they might proudly announce. A full-time student pursuing a master’s degree might also be able to tell you. But a doc student? Unless she has successfully defended her dissertation and submitted it for university publishing and approval, then the likelihood of her knowing an actual graduation date is pretty slim.

What is your research about again?

What’s wrong with this question, you might be wondering. Well, the problem is the doc student has already spent countless hours revising and refining two or three questions that explain this very thing. She has probably been asked by nice and not-so nice committee members to consider the time of year, re-word the sentence after the comma, change the participants, or re-think the study altogether. She might even have a handy three-minute explanation of her work. But she probably doesn’t want to talk about it while scarfing down her mac-n-cheese.

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What’s taking you so long?

This question is not easy to answer. The response could be any number of reasons. She could’ve lost a committee member, or maybe her proposal wasn’t accepted. Just those two reasons alone could average a one or two semester delay. Most institutions, colleges and programs are totally different. Some doc students finish in three years because of the prof’s personal mantra; whereas, others finish well beyond five years because of the same reason. Does the doc student have a spouse? Kids? Other responsibilities? Reasons why it is “taking so long” are plentiful.

Maybe this holiday season you can ask the person a simple question, like how’s it going? Or how are you? If she wants to discuss her graduate studies, then she’ll probably slip in a success story or gripe, but if not, then just let her enjoy her eggnog and your company. The reduced stress will be a welcomed change.