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: Random Thoughts 💭 

Sometimes I keep notes of random thoughts I intend to develop into more in-depth blog posts. They never quite make it. Here are a few varied ideas that I’ll probably never write about in detail.

img_3191Here in the States, especially in the south, state prisoners don their orange jumpsuits and work on the highway or street. I can never tell what they’re doing because the imagery is too strong. Because of the disproportionate number of Black male prisoners and the high number of white correctional officers, these scenes oftentimes look like a white overseer of Black slaves. It bothers me.

img_3192Last year was the hottest summer on record. Every beach day, my skin felt as if it might peel off. It’s never felt like that before. My thoughts were confirmed by Rosaliene Bacchus. It really was the hottest summer on record. But it wasn’t just summer that was hot. This winter was unusually hot. Even though I live in North Florida where we typically have cooler weather, the past two years, I’ve worn shorts and short sleeve shirts a lot of the time. It was 90 degrees one “winter day.” There was no discussion on the local or national news. The only words I kept hearing were “record high,” and I wondered if this was purposeful to keep people from thinking about the impact of global warming.

img_3193Do you do this? Do you call people selfish because they don’t do what you want them to do? I’ve done it before. My cousin came to Florida to “visit me” but spent all his time with his girlfriend. I crowned him the King of Selfish. But as I write this I’m wondering, who am I to judge his selfishness? It happens. Sometimes we do what we want to do, with little regard for anyone else. If I was going to flesh this out, then I’d revise it to suggest this: Don’t make people feel bad because they don’t do what you want them to. People can do whatever they want.

img_3194Since The Unhappy Wife released, I’ve found myself having several conversations about relationships. I don’t mind it at all because I’m learning a lot about how and why people choose romantic partners. One common reason for women is financial security. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be secure, but I always have a bunch of rhetorical questions. Why don’t you make your own financial security? Wouldn’t that leave more space for love and stuff? What will happen if the husband loses his job? What if he doesn’t work for years because the economy is bad? Will you leave? I never ask people these questions. I just jot down my notes and keep my mouth shut.

I rarely write such randomness. Let me know if you have any comments about this hodgepodge of notes .

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.

 

 

12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (#2)

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.

People say that Christmas isn’t about giving and receiving gifts, but I can’t tell. It seems to be the part that everyone enjoys. And if you suggest removing it, then entire social media arguments ensue. I once read someone justify Christmas gifts with the story of the Three Wise Men.

I digress.

no_2The second thing I did was send people gifts (February). I began with my little sister friend’s birthday. I ordered Wandas from Two Dough Girls and had them delivered to her home. I also sent my little cousin a care package. She’s completing her first year at my alma mater, Western Michigan University. I asked her what she wanted/needed and she sent me a list. Dwight and I added her requests to our groceries and shipped them off. If you’ve ever been away from home, then you understand how exciting it is to receive free snacks and toiletries. Her older sister didn’t need anything, so I sent her a handwritten card with well-wishes and a copy of my book.

This seems to be a simple way to show people that you’re thinking of them. Let me know if you try it.

1<<<Read about the first idea here.

 

 

Monday Notes: 4 Ways to Support Someone

Do you know someone who’s baked pastries, created jewelry, or written a book (wink-wink)? Well, I’m willing to bet that person would love some support. Here are a few ways you can offer assistance.

Money

img_3018Money can help in a few ways. If the person is in the beginning stages of creation, then perhaps you can donate money to his or her cause. Many people have GoFund Me pages or other crowdsourcing Apps just for that reason. It might not seem like a lot, but you never know how much your $5.00 is boosting his or her dreams.

If the person has a product, then they’d probably appreciate it if you’d bought it. That is the ultimate goal, right? Over the past few months, I’ve bought six Indie authors’ books for no other reason than I know what it feels like to self-publish a book and want someone to buy it.

This leads me to the second type of support: Interest

I didn’t just purchase six books, I’ve read four of them and provided Amazon reviews and feedback to each author.

1488253328612

As bloggers, you can probably relate to this idea the most. Remember how you felt when someone not only clicked on your link, but also read, liked, and commented on your early posts? It’s a small bit of validation that you actually did write words that interested someone.

Writers want readers. Podcasters want listeners. Artists want viewers. You get my point.

Another way to show interest is to literally be interested. Ask the person about what they’re doing. Most people love talking about their latest project if it’s common knowledge. For example, I appreciated it when the few people who knew I was writing, actually asked, “How’s the book coming along?” Conversations centered on the production showed they cared about what I was doing.

img_3033Next is Advertise. Most small business owners do not have a large budget for marketing. That means they have to rely on word of mouth. Contemporary marketing can help because it includes social media. Love it or hate it, it’s an important part of spreading the word about products.

Think about how much you can support others’ business endeavors simply by providing a short shout out on FB, Twitter, or IG? The way I see it, if you can post and share about some celebrity you don’t know, then certainly you can post and share about your cousin who’s trying to make it as an actor!

Okay. What if you don’t have a lot of extra money or you loathe social media? Well, the next thing you can do is Provide a Service. People are surprised to hear that my husband hasn’t read the book. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me though because he’s done other things. He helped me conceptualize the cover; he’s created an Excel sheet and kept up with sales; and he’s created fliers for a few events. In essence, he’s supported me in ways that are aligned with his business major skillset.

My little sister-friend is the one who nominated me for an award, which ultimately provided exposure. Another friend is a media journalist. She used her equipment to create the promotional video. Those of you who’ve read the book know that an online relationship coach, Anita Charlot wrote the afterword. She didn’t have to do that; it was a service she provided to me, which of course simultaneously supported her own business.

And I can’t forget about you guys! I was surprised at how much my own WordPress community read and blogged about The Unhappy Wife. It was five-months of blogging love. You provided a writing service that doubled as unexpected advertising. I’m positive this was one of the reasons I had consistent sales. I can’t thank everyone enough for that.

Those are my four ways: give money; show interest; advertise; and provide a service. What would you add to this list? How do you support your friends and family’s goals?

 

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: 10 Songs that Depict Black American Culture

I wanted to write this two years ago when I first started blogging.

Initially, the idea was to post in honor of Black History Month. February came and went. Twice. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about how “black” I wanted to be on my blog. Two years ago, I was tired of being the “black hire,” the “black prof,” or the “black colleague,” and my blog felt like a place where I could just be, no matter my racial identity.

Somewhere between Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, I decided that if I was going to have a platform, then my black experience would be an integral topic every now and then. February 2017 would be the time when I would finally post specific songs that I listen to because they represent voices of understanding.

There were only two challenges. The first is I wanted to share a few lines from each song, but then that made everything too long. The second is I couldn’t think of a good title. The songs don’t really inspire me as much as they illustrate through great lyrics what some of us have observed or experienced being so-called Black Americans.

So without further ado, here are the ten songs I’ve chosen, with the artist, the title and a few lines. Of course, if you want the full effect, you’ll have to click the links.

Janelle Monáe Tightrope
“When you get elevated,
 They love it or they hate it
 You dance up on them haters
 Keep getting funky on the scene”

Kanye West Spaceship
“I’ve been workin’ this graveshift and I ain’t made shit
I wish I could buy me a spaceship and fly past the sky”

Solange’s F.U.B.U.
“When you know you gotta pay the cost
Play the game just to play the boss
So you thinking, what you gained you lost
But you know your shit is taking off, oh
When you’re driving in your tinted car
And you’re criminal just who you are
But you know you’re gonna make it far, oh"
Talib Kweli Get By
“We sell crack to our own out the back of our homes
We smell the musk of the dusk in the crack of the dawn
We go through episodes too, like Attack of the Clones
Work ‘til we break our back and you hear the crack of the bone”
Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) Umi Says
“My Umi said shine your light on the world
Shine your light for the world to see
My Abi said shine your light on the world
Shine your light for the world to see”
Angie Stone Brotha
“You got your wall street brotha
 Your blue collar brotha
 Your down-for-whatever-chillin'-on-the-corner brotha
 Your talented brotha, and to everyone of ya'll behind bars”
Erykah Badu Other Side of the Game
“See me and baby got this situation
 See brother got this comlex ocupation
 And it ain't that he don't have education
 Cause I was right there at his graduation
 Now I ain't sayin that this life don't work
 But it's me and baby that he hurts
 Because I tell him right he thinks I'm wrong
 But I love him strong”
Janelle Monáe (featuring Erykah Badu) Q.U.E.E.N.
“Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven?
Say will your God accept me in my black and white?
Will he approve the way I’m made?
Or should I reprogram, deprogram and get down?”
Common Misunderstood
“She thought back to when she was at Howard and
Dreams of doing scenes with Terrence Howard and
Broadway plays and dancin with Alv and them
The ones that make it ain’t always the talented”
Kendrick Lamar Mortal Man
“Do you believe in me? Are you deceiving me?
Could I let you down easily, is your heart where it need to be?
Is your smile on permanent? Is your vow on lifetime?
Would you know what the sermon is if I died in this next line?”

That’s my list. What or who would you add?

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?

 

 

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.