Monday Notes: What’s in a Name(sake)?

A few weeks ago, I received an email confirmation from our new housing association. It was addressed to Katherine. What’s wrong with this you might ask? Well, my name is misspelled. There’s no “e” at the end. Who cares you might be thinking? ME! I know it seems quite the trivial thing, except it’s not. It’s something that has plagued me year after year after year for as long as I could write my own name and then correct people when they spell it however they want.

img_5779I’ve had cashiers and bank tellers ask me if I’ve spelled my name incorrectly, “because you know there’s no “e” at the end of it.” Can you imagine someone asking you if you’d misspelled your own name? People are nutz.

My stepmother misspelled it on the handmade wedding favors she’d created. All 200 mini-scrolls said, Congratulations Katherine and Dwight!

After a couple of decades of this, I’ve come up with some strategies. I spell it real slow and then say nice and clear, “There’s no “e” at the end of it.” And you know what happens? Fill-in-the-blank person still puts an “e” at the end of it.

This happened recently. I sent my email address to someone and made sure to note the no “e” part. You know what she did? She argued me down that she’d sent the email and didn’t know what happened, until I asked her to please go back and make sure she didn’t misspell my name. Guess what? Oh never mind. You already know what happened.

So, how did I get this name? Well, it’s kind of a funny story.

For the longest, my dad’s side of the family would insist that Aunt Cat was my namesake. They’d refer to her this way, saying things like, have you talked to your namesake? In my mind, I would just shake my head and disagree because I knew she couldn’t have been for one simple reason: my mother disliked the lady.

About fifteen years ago, Aunt Cat had a milestone birthday. Her daughter thought it’d be a great idea to create something handmade, so she called me up.

“Kathy, can you please contribute to Mom’s scrapbook? I mean she is your namesake and all?”

“She is not my namesake,” I clarified. “But I’ll send something.”

“Uh. Yes she is. You were named after her.”

I didn’t continue the conversation. Instead, I called my dad. This had to be squashed once and for all.

“Oh yes. You were named after her,” he confirmed. “Your Aunt Cat was my favorite cousin at the time, but your mom didn’t like her.”

Right. Right, I thought.

“I wanted your name to be Catherine, like hers, but your mom said ‘no.’”

I nodded in agreement to the phone.

“So she compromised.”

“Huh?”

“Yes. She said your name could be Catherine, but it had to be spelled completely different, with a “k” and no “e” at the end.

Hmmmph. I was wrong. And that was a clever move, sort of. I suppose my mom couldn’t have predicted that decades later I’d still be correcting store clerks and housing associations. The same way I didn’t realize that my oldest daughter would spend a lifetime correcting people’s pronunciations (it’s Kesi, like Kasie, not like Keeesie). Or the way my youngest has to repeatedly say Desi isn’t short for anything; it’s just Desi.

img_5520Names are interesting. They are the result of your parents’ creative expression. Maybe that’s why I continue to be so bothered when I see it misspelled. My mother’s innovation is woven into those eight letters. I want people to recognize that: it’s Katherin with no “e.” I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Do you?

I know my name is not the weirdest thing out there. Do you have a “strange” name that’s caused a lifetime of confusion and misspellings? Do you have an interesting story about your name?

Advertisements

Monday Notes: New Paradigm…Old Mindset?

For the twenty-seven years that I had a relaxer, I’d been taught to only wash my hair once a week. Also, while using chemical treatments, I’d learned to be careful during workouts, in the shower, in the pool, and in the rain because if my hair were to get wet, then the style would most certainly be ruined, creating hours of beauty restoration.

However, in 2011, when I decided to wear my hair in its natural state, I found that wetting my hair wasn’t nearly as horrible an experience as it was with a perm. In fact, I learned that for my hair type, I had to wash it more often than once a week to maintain a “fresher” looking style. Water is good.

hairFor the first five years, I managed to wash my hair twice a week to maintain twist-outs. Since cutting it and wearing a wash-n-go style, my routine has increased to as much as every other day some weeks.

I’ve tried applying the old mindset with this new paradigm, sometimes waiting up to five days to shampoo and condition. You know what happened? It took me twice as long to detangle it. When I was done, there were clumps of hair everywhere, in the comb, on the shower curtain, and on the bathroom floor. And my head hurt. It was a mess.

That’s when it dawned on me: you can’t use yesterday’s mindset with a new framework.

img_5766We’re still in the season where people are considering a change and I think this message is critical. Many times we want to adopt a new practice, but we want to maintain the old way of doing things. We develop new relationships, but hang on to the ex in our DMs. We exercise, but still eat fast food three times a day. Or vice versa. We learn to eat healthier, but don’t make time to exercise. That doesn’t always work. New ways of living require new ways of thinking for comprehensive change to occur.

With that said, I know it’s not always easy to make behavioral shifts. Returning to an old mindset is simple because it’s been ingrained in our brain for so long. Maintaining a new discipline seems counterintuitive to what we’ve learned. But it can be done with a few small changes. For example, I think about where I have to be each week and then plan hair washing accordingly. If I have to leave by seven in the morning, then I plan to wash my hair the day before. This eliminates a stressful morning of hair maintenance, yet continues my natural hair practice.

The same can be said for other lifestyle changes. Maybe it’s too much for you to plan out every single meal or to wake at 5 AM every day to workout. But I bet you can plan one meal a day or find an enjoyable exercise at least once a week. Either way, a new mindset is possible.

What helpful tips can you share for maintaining lifestyle changes? How have you successfully shifted into a different paradigm? Have you ever found yourself sliding back into an old mindset while trying to change? If so, what did you do to get back on track?

Let’s help one another create a new mindset that matches our new paradigms.

Monday Notes: Being Yourself

I was raised in a family with a lot of rules about how to function in socially acceptable ways. I grew up in the ghetto where I had to learn a whole different set of rules for safety. And I attended schools with routines that didn’t fit either of the first two situations. A lot of times, I sat quietly until I determined which set of rules I was supposed to apply. For decades, I learned not to be myself and for just as long I had to unlearn it by simply trusting that who I am in each moment is okay.

I know this to be true because being myself has served others well, even when I wasn’t aware. For example, my goddaughter visited me over ten years ago because she was going through personal problems that left her feeling less than worthy. She was suicidal. Instead of embracing her in a big bear hug, I asked her one simple question, are you fucking crazy?

img_5554There is more, but my point is I didn’t stop to wonder if I should use a cuss word, or try to figure out what type of language would comfort her best. I didn’t offer a hug because that’s not my thing. I was myself in that moment, and years later, she’s grateful for that conversation and more because she viewed them as helpful.

Likewise, a former student reached out to me a couple years ago.

“You saved my life,” he said.

His statement was bold. I was humbled. How could little old me have “saved someone’s life?” He recounted a time when he was traveling down a path of self-destruction. His mother had begged me to encourage him to apply to a university. Because I take everything I do seriously, especially educating people’s children, I did as she asked. I bugged the heck out of him about applying, and to get me off his back, he applied to one, Florida International. He was accepted and the rest is how he redirected his life.

In both of those situations, I didn’t think twice. Actually, I didn’t even think once. I just acted according to my personality and beliefs at the time. I’ve since grown to believe that’s what being yourself is all about.

img_5553If you have to stop and ponder on how to perfect your words and actions for the person or the moment, then perhaps those people and experiences are not aligned with who you are in the first place. Because I’ll tell you what, being yourself will never require you to change parts about you to accommodate others.

Let me know what you think. Have you struggled to be yourself? Do you think it’s possible to be yourself 100% of the time? Do you change who you are to fit the setting?

Monday Notes: *When You Know Better

img_5728When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you have some semblance of clarity. You know yourself, and you no longer walk the fine line of being one type of person in public and an entirely different one in private. You learn that it’s either okay that you speak from your heart, or it’s not. You learn that people will be comfortable with who you are, or they will not. Either scenario is fine.

When you know better, you do better, and when you open your eyes and begin to see other people for who they are, instead of who you want them to be, then you can truly choose. You can choose to highlight the excellent parts. You can continue to allow the bad parts into your space and energy. Or you can determine if the good outweighs the bad. You can decide with whom you want to engage and how.

Do-the-best-you-can-until-you-know-better.-Then-when-you-know-better-do-better.When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you accept better. What is better for you? Is it a better job that is aligned with your passion and skillset? Is it a better relationship that mirrors your values? Is it a better home that reflects who you are? Whatever “it” is, when you know better, you’ll feel what’s best and draw it into your life. There will be no choice; like attracts like.

And when you do these things altogether: be your true self, see others for who they are, and accept better circumstances, then you can live a more peaceful life.

But first you have to know better.

Happy New Year good people! Are you making any changes this year? Will you continue walking a similar path because it’s working for you? Feel free to share; you never know who you might meet right here in these comments. As for me, I’ll be publishing another book and focusing positive feelings towards the type of educational setting that’s right for me. 

*inspired by Maya Angelou

Monday Notes: Being Christ-like

When I was 16 years old, I asked my Grannie if she’d heard what the preacher said. Whatever it was had confused me because it was illogical. It made zero sense.

“Oh, Kathy,” she said matter-of-factly. “You’re not supposed to actually listen to what he says. You’re supposed to make your grocery list or think about the week, or something like that.”

And so, I learned that going to church is ritualistic. It’s a centuries old past down tradition for some, where going through the motions is sufficient. This is not a blanket statement, but I’ve noticed that this is how many operate.

Being Christ-like is least of some people’s concern.

That’s my earliest thought of how baffling religion seemed. My next memory is when my father became Deacon Gregory at Starlight Baptist Church, off 113th Street in Chicago. I was in my mid-20s. He was proud. His wife was proud. His stepdaughters were proud.

When my family and I visited, parishioners beamed with more pride.

“Your dad is such a great man! He’s such a good deacon! You must be proud!”

img_3080I smiled and shielded my thoughts. I haven’t seen this man in two years, and if I wasn’t here now, then no telling how many more years would pass. I let them hold on to their beloved deacon. He seemed to be doing more good for the church than with me.

Were his actions Christ-like? Perhaps with them, but not with me.

My wonderment with religion continued into my 30s where I found my own sense of purpose and meaning for life. It shifted into spirituality once I recognized the universality of all religions. There are certain principles inherent in each one.

But I couldn’t let go of how people just seemed to go through church motions.

For example, when I suggested to a friend that she stop judging another person, she responded as if I was crazy. She replied as if not judging was some nutso idea that I’d developed from the crevices of my brain.

“Do you mean stop judging in your head or do you mean stop judging out loud, like don’t say the words?” she asked.

I wondered if she’d ever asked her preacher to clarify what he meant when he said don’t judge.

Instead I replied, “I mean at all. What right do you have to judge someone else’s choices or decisions?”

She went on to describe her understanding of my suggestion. She’d stopped giving her opinion about her sister’s life because she realized it was her sister’s life and there was nothing she could do about it.

Exactly.

compassion+godly+woman+dailySimilarly, this thought crept back into my head when people began to judge Kanye West so harshly after his alleged breakdown. I wrote about this already, so I won’t re-hash. However, that post wasn’t about a so-called crazy rapper. It was about how once again self-proclaimed Christians are sometimes the first to be least compassionate. They are the first to call someone an asshole. They are the first to condemn someone to dark places.

They are the first to become defensive when I bring it to their attention.

Like the time when I asked this FB question: What’s the point of going to church if you treat someone like crap?

My question, as always was intended to promote thought and conversation. But I could tell that some people seemed offended. Wounded.

Answers ranged from “To grow stronger in Christ” to “We all fall short.”

It confused me. I thought if you were growing stronger in Christ then you might be doing things that are Christ-like. Christ cared for the poor. Christ hung out with prostitutes. Christ washed people’s feet and spread love.

Well, according to the Bible anyway.

Over 25 years later, I realize some people must have gotten the same advice my Grannie gave me. Maybe they’re all making their grocery lists.

 

 

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: 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.

Monday’s Notes: UPDATE

When I first began Monday Notes, I had 221 thoughts written down. In fact, I began Monday Notes for that very reason. I thought it would be a way for me to purge and delete. Well, months later, as of the day that I’m writing this post, I have 358 notes. That’s 137 more than what I began with!

Here is what’s in these notes:

img_5198#1: Remembering things that we want to buy. Dwight and I recently purchased a home and realized that certain furniture must go, like sofas and such. Of course, that means that new furniture must be purchased. Eventually, it gets to be too much, and I whip out my phone and start taking notes. Maybe I should’ve just added them to a Pinterest board.

img_5199#2: Future Facebook posts. There are a lot of passive-aggressive, petty people on social media. They range from the chick who broke up with her boyfriend and kinda wants you to know, but doesn’t want to tell all her business, to the guy who wants you to know that he makes a lot of money, so he shares an image of his check (real story). I don’t want to be like that, so instead of posting my first thought about my life, I just write a note.

#3: Current projects. I always have something that I’m working on. Currently, it’s an anthology that includes all women writers, who share similar challenges. My notes section helps me keep things straight, such as who needs a revision, who hasn’t responded, where the copy editor is, and when I’ll begin marketing. I’ve seen apps for these types of things, but I just can’t stand to download one…more…app.

#4: Students who do not participate. Three of my classes are online. As I evaluate work, I also keep notes on who hasn’t participated so that I can see if there’s a pattern of behavior that I need to mention to them. For example, if Suzie hasn’t completed Quiz #1 and Discussion #5, then I reach out to her and remind her of these things. I could just filter the online gradebook, but I find keeping notes way easier. I just have to remember to delete them when the semester is over.

img_5201#5: Blog ideas. Oftentimes, I read other blogs and become inspired by what they’ve written. This happens frequently. In order to actually ponder and write about it, I keep notes on what was said and by whom. My intention really is to write as an extension of their thoughts, but it rarely happens.

img_5202#6: Numbers. To be honest, sometimes it’s a password. I know. That’s bad because someone who wants to steal my identity might hack into my phone, and then they’ll know my passwords, and then my life will be in shambles. But probably not. Because most of the time, it’s just a number. Like this. I have no idea what 8097 means now lol

africans#7: Stuff people have asked me to read, watch, or listen to, like this YouTube channel/show my oldest daughter asked me to watch…in August. It’s called Africans, African Americans, and West Indians. I wrote it down, with the best intentions, but here’s the thing. People are always suggesting I read, watch, or listen to something. Many times, I just don’t make time to do it. I’ll either get better about actually doing it, or better about telling the person, I’m not interested. Either way, I need to delete the note.

Do you use your Notes section or something similar? I’m starting to feel like a digital hoarder. Is that a thing? As you comment, I’ll be cleaning out the 2,000+ photos I have stored on my phone.

Monday Notes: 3 Ways I Function that Counter Society’s Rules

Everybody isn’t like you Kathy I’ve heard this sentence a million times. It usually follows my telling them how I live and interact with people. Over the years, I’ve learned what they say is true: everybody isn’t like me. I think a little different. Here are three of those differences:

I don’t function out of obligation. I mean I used to. I used to feel as if I had to do something or go somewhere just because of who the person was. If my “boss” was having a shindig, then I felt obligated to attend. When my grandmother purchased my first car (and I had to make car payments to her), I in turn felt required to do pretty much whatever she said. But I turned a new page around 2011. Around 93% of my life is spent doing what I desire. Period. If I’m at your soiree, then please believe I want to be there. I don’ feel obligated to show because you’re my cousin or co-worker; I’m there because I want to be and have made myself available in that way. Making this decision has created a sense of liberation, not only on my part, but also on others’ as well. I don’t expect for people to do things for me just because of who they perceive me to be.

img_5195I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. Around mid-2015, I posted something like this to FB: I’m no longer proving I’m a good friend, family member, or co-worker. I meant that with my whole heart. Perhaps this can be part two of the obligation section. For a long time, I wanted people to know they could count on me. There’s nothing wrong with that, except I’d begun doing things that were not aligned with my character. Consequently, I didn’t say no to a lot. For example, my then best friend used to visit the States every other year. Because I wanted her to know I was her friend, I agreed for her to stay with my family and me for 2-4 weeks at a time. Through this process, I discovered that three days is really my maximum for visitation. Therefore, 14-28 days was overload to my soul. But I agreed because of some unwritten social contract: this is what best friends do. The proving myself days are over, both professionally and personally. You’re either cool with me and how I engage, or you’re not.

img_5196I recognize patterns and then step out of them. I’ve become reflective as a way to take ownership for who I am and the choices I make. Because of this, I’ve gotten adept at discovering my own patterns of behavior, looking for root causes, and then choosing different paths. For example, I recently realized that finding a job I like is challenging. There’s always something I absolutely hate. Consequently, I’ve had to think deeply about why that is because quitting and getting jobs every 2-3 years is exhausting. I’ll likely follow this up with a longer post, but my point is, enough is enough of this cycle. I have to figure out what’s going on inside so I can step out of this behavior pattern.

Are there ways that you think or act differently than what society tells you to do? Do either of these resonate? Let me know what you’re thinking.

Monday Notes: Faking It ’til you Make it!

Growing up I’d always been told that I had to be twice as good as white people to be seen as just as good at what they do. This was the rule, simply because I was a black girl. Being raised in Chicago and attending a diverse elementary and high school for gifted students, this never proved true. We seemed to each be held by our own merits. We were all smart, and if we applied ourselves accordingly, then we achieved greatness, accordingly.

As I ventured through undergrad at Western Michigan University, I still didn’t see it. I mean I worked hard, but my own productivity and those around me seemed to equal the work we put into it. Working hard equaled success like As and Bs. Doing less proved attaining less, such as probation for poor grades. Seemed simple.

This trend continued with graduate work and ultimately with my doctorate. I really had begun to believe that the rule I’d been given about working twice as hard was false. Everyone around me seemed to be working just as hard and we were on equal footing.

But the truth was unveiled in one of the most unlikely places, academia.

I remember these events like they happened yesterday. I’d applied for a tenure-track position at the same institution…three times. Even though I was more qualified because I’d been in an academic position for two years, and even though he didn’t have the specific type of degree they’d asked for, they hired him instead. The following year, they hired me as visiting prof. This not only meant that he ranked higher, but that he also made about $12,000 more than I did.

He was a charismatic, white male, whose six-foot stature commanded attention every time he entered the room. He was a talker. You know the kind who has a story for every situation? The guy who’s like, “Yeah that reminds me of the time that…”

He was perfect in every way, except he didn’t know what he was doing. And as it turns out, he had a story for that as well.

He fondly remembered a time during his graduate career when he had no idea what the professor was talking about. He recounted this story to the program coordinator and me. She sat in her comfortable chair, glancing every so often at her Mac, then up at him, and back to me, where she offered an eye roll.

“So, the professor kept talking about some theory that he thought I should know. And, you know. I had no idea what he was talking about. I just nodded along and you know…I was just faking it ‘til I made it. You know? That’s how I got through.”

I didn’t know.

Remember, I’d spent twelve years working hard to attain everything thus far. I had no idea what he meant when he said he faked it ‘til he made it. Did he mean he faked it to here, where we stood…side-by-side? Surely that couldn’t be true.

img_5125It wasn’t until the following year when he had to teach a methodology course that the curtain of my naiveté was removed.

He knocked on my door.

“Got a minute?” he asked.

“Sure.”

He pulled up a chair. The difference in our stature was obvious, even while sitting. We faced one another, feigning a position of equality.

“How do you teach this?” he asked.

Jesus Christ, I thought. He really had no idea, and he wanted me to teach him how to do his job. He had a PhD, just like me. But he needed me to demonstrate how to teach the class because he lacked background knowledge and experience.

So, I explained it to him.

I seethed with resentment for several months. But once I calmed down, I learned something valuable. Systemic racism exists and structural inequality is real. White privilege is not just a theory or hashtag and the patriarchy is alive.

But what can any of us do?

I believe a first step is to be transparent about our experiences and situations. Maybe speaking candidly will open a space for change to occur among those of us who care about such issues. Because one thing’s for sure…raising another generation who’s taught to work harder than them to make it where they are seems like a disservice to everyone.

Thoughts are always welcomed.