Monday Notes: Be My Guest (Blogger)

February 2018, I relinquished my blog to friends and family who answered one question: What is self-love? Each day revealed a different answer and these inspired others to evaluate, or re-evaluate how they defined the term. Thanks to those who participated!

This year, I’m asking for fourteen guest bloggers to answer another question: How did you learn the importance of self-love?

What is expected? Please send to me a nonfiction essay or piece of narrative nonfiction that describes/explains how you began to love yourself? What happened? Was it a mate who showed you what it should (or shouldn’t) look like? Did your parents instill the importance of self-love in you? Did a specific situation lead you to self-love? Was it something you were just born with? Poetry or fiction is not appropriate.

How long should this be? I follow the blogging rules of no more than 750 words. I also believe anything less than 500 words is too short, so let’s keep it between 500-800 words so people want to actually read what you wrote.

When is the deadline? Please send this to me no later than 11:59 P.M. (EST), Thursday, January 31, 2019. I do not take deadlines lightly. Submissions received on February 1, 2019 will not be considered.

Where should you submit your writing? Please email me at kayg523@yahoo.com or use the contact form at the top of this blog.

Other formalities: Please include your social media contacts as well.

More questions? Simply ask below.

Advertisements

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 Notes: A New Way to Create Resolutions for the New Year

Every year since I was about ten-years-old, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions. Goals have ranged from losing a specific amount of weight to attaining jobs in my field. But last year, I resolved differently.

For 2018, I resolved to remember five concepts. I typed them out and hung them on my mirror to recite daily.

img_8878

#1: Anything is possible. Instead of being tied to a pre-determined outcome (e.g., I will appear on Jacksonville’s morning show to discuss The Unhappy Wife), I focused on believing that anything is possible. This turned out to be helpful. I had no idea that the editor of an anthology I’m apart of would ask me to represent the book via Tampa’s morning talk show. Nor did I conceive that I would be asked to participate in a book reading in Boston. With this reminder, I was open to any possibility, not just one that I thought was best for me. And it seemed to work.

#2: What you see is a manifestation of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. I’d learned long ago that however you feel on the inside will show up in your daily life. If you feel sh*tty, then your home, job, and other activities will reflect sh*tty circumstances. However, two things you absolutely can control are your emotions and your thoughts. With this resolution, I vowed to pay more attention to when I was excited and fulfilled. For example, though presenting my work isn’t new to me, when I attended a national conference in April, I admitted to myself that no matter where I’m employed, I’m a scholar and I enjoy this part of working in the field. Several months later, I was asked to chair a special interest group for a different national conference.

#3: Take nothing personally (AKA Agreement #2). This was the hardest but most useful for me. Many times things will occur and I tend to personalize it as if someone was trying purposefully to hurt my feelings. This surfaced when Dwight and I visited his parents. On their wall, is a six-foot blanketed image of his brother and his family hanging on the living room wall. How could I have personalized this? Well, immediately I was a bit jealous. And with that feeling, I became mad as if his brother intentionally made and sent his own father this gift to not only poo-poo on us, but also to one up our family. I’m not proud of this feeling, but it happened. I talked myself out of these made-up emotions and realized that his brother did what he wanted to do for his father. This had nothing to do with me.

#4: Be positive. This is self-explanatory, I think. But I will add this: Don’t be a Negative Norman. Think positive thoughts prior to entering a situation. I promise this will affect the way you see the actual event. In essence, don’t just hope for the best; actually see the best outcome.

new_year_2019#5: Follow your instinct. My intuition about people and circumstances is very strong. But sometimes I still second-guess those feelings and engage with others whom I should’ve left alone long ago. This resolution reminded me to follow my gut when people showed me who they were, whether it was the umpteenth or the second time. I stopped asking friends and family if they thought the person’s actions were disrespectful or uncalled for. I stopped needing second opinions about how I felt when interacting with others. Instead, I made decisions healthy for me. This resulted in de-friending a former high-school boyfriend from social media, pulling back from a one-sided friendship, and creating clear boundaries with my newfound biological family.

These 2018 resolutions worked best for me and I’ll continue with them in 2019. Nowadays, people tend to denigrate resolutions, but not me. Tell me if you still create resolutions/goals at the beginning or any part of the year. Are they more concrete than what I’ve described? Is this process history for you?

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

Here is the third way I maintained the Christmas spirit after Christmas.

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?

 

 

 

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

Here is another reflection on how I maintained the Christmas spirit after Christmas.

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 was 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.

 

Update: The Visit

“Why did you come?” That’s what Dwight asked me as we drove down I-10E, away from his brother’s home.

I came because I should be able to visit family without there being a problem.

I came because it’s what I do. If I’m in your city or state for business, then I let you know so that we can see one another, even if the other person wouldn’t do the same.

I came because I finally realized that it’s not anyone’s job to like, love, or validate me, so how they feel about me (positive or negative) doesn’t matter.

I came because, despite what people may think, I actually do like family.

Those are the answers I gave. But there is one more. I came because I believe part of my purpose is to work out relationships and their challenges. That’s why I write about them so much. Visiting my brother and sister-in-law was one more opportunity to work through how to be in relationship with them.

To be clear, the visit was pleasant. In fact, I had great conversations with my nieces and nephews; we even laughed and played on their trampoline.

Even though it was great, a few concepts were reinforced about interacting with family.

compromiseCompromise is required sometimes. My brother and sister-in-law are Christians. We visited on the weekend; therefore, SIL announced that the six of them would be attending church Sunday morning and we were welcomed to attend. The alternative? “You’ll just be here in an empty house if you don’t come,” she said.

Neither Dwight, nor I believe or participate in organized religion. I haven’t attended a church service in countless years. But from 11a until 1p, we listened to praise and worship songs and a lengthy sermon on the Samaritan woman (John 4).

We could’ve stayed at their home. But we didn’t for one reason. We hadn’t seen them in seven years. We came to spend time with them, and if they’d planned on being at church while we were there, then that’s where we would be too.

yin_yangDifferences make connecting difficult. The more I conversed with my SIL, the clearer our differences became. She likes rural communities; I like major cities. She’s introverted; I’m extroverted. She likes the cold and snow; I live for the warmth of the sun. She has a very quiet voice; I speak from my chest (a colleague once told me). She prefers tea; I love a full-bodied coffee. She’s conservative; I’m liberal. I could probably continue but I’m sure you get the point.

There’s nothing wrong with being different; however, it does make establishing a relationship a bit harder because there rarely seem to be common liftoff points. For example, although it was nice of her to buy coffee for me to have prior to church, it was instant. She didn’t realize this might be an egregious act to a coffee drinker. But because I was in a space of compromise, I drank it with gratitude. This brings me to the last lesson.

It’s okay not to be close with family members. It really is. Sometimes family is just family. Sometimes they are just the people to whom you are related. Sometimes family are just the people who married into your space, or you into theirs. For a long time, I thought otherwise. I believed family should be the people with whom you connect with the most. This isn’t always true, and I was reminded once again last week.

Close relationships require shared activities that allow for bonding. There are families who bond over vacations. Some families bond over holiday drinks. Other families bond over sports. I’m not sure our differences will allow for many bonding experiences. And without those, I’m not sure how the relationship can be closer.

While my visit was enjoyable, it was clear that we will more than likely remain as simply family. And that’s okay.

So, that’s the update. Let me know what you think about either of these points. Also, it’s the holiday season! Will you be spending time with family you aren’t particularly close to? If so, how will you manage?

Monday Notes: 3 Ways I Prepared for a Family Visit

A week or so ago, I revealed that there was some anxiety surrounding my upcoming visit with my brother and sister-in-law. For months, and all the way up to the moment we drove to their home, there were three specific things I did to prepare.

Royalty Free Image

#1: Let go of all grievances! Like many people who have had challenging relationships, I had a list. The list was mainly comprised of interactions with my brother-in-law. They spanned from 1993, when Dwight and I first met through 2015. Everyday leading to the visit, I thought of each act where I felt mistreated. I actually saw the sentence in my mind on a piece of paper, until there was a list. Next, I crumpled up the list and threw it in a fire (in my mind). Because I believe that we’re all energy, I knew that I couldn’t possibly go into their space with a twenty-five-year-old list of everything I was angry about. I couldn’t bring that negative energy with me because it would be disruptive and it would cloud how I engaged. I’d be speaking and functioning from a space of hurt, pain, and suffering, instead of love, which was my ultimate intention.

LOVE_june#2: Love them the way I would anyone else! Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that if I like, love, or care about someone, then I interact differently. For example, if I care about you, then I look you in your eyes, ask you about your well-being, and fully participate in conversation. If I don’t, then one of those actions is missing. For this trip, I knew it was my sister-in-law’s birthday, so I decided to act as I would if I was visiting a friend and it was his or her birthday. Dwight had already planned to buy a bottle of wine, but I also suggested bringing enough gourmet cupcakes for her and her family of six. We’d also chosen a beautiful card to accompany her gifts.

 #3: Visualize positive interactions! Law of attraction and creative visualization have undergirded the last two decades of my life. If you’re not familiar, at the base of these teachings is the idea that emotion and images create the life you want or the life you have. As I mentioned before, I intended to bring love to the situation; accessing that emotion was no problem; however, visualizing it in their space was challenging sometimes. I imagined myself ringing their doorbell and both of them opening the door. I created an image and a dialogue where I was very excited to see them.

I’d planned to say, “Heeey Happy Birthday!”

She would then say, “Thank you so much.”

Then, I would hand her the box of cupcakes and she would be very appreciative.

I’m sure there’s some scientific name for this, but visualizing positive interactions was hard to do because my brain kept reminding me of the old story. It goes like this: even if they knew it was my birthday, they would probably never bring me a gift. Then, my brain reminded me of something on the list: one year my brother-in-law convinced his father that my birthday was two days later, which was hurtful. When that happened, I reverted back to strategy number one, removed the act from the list again, and continued visualizing. I imagined holding an in-depth conversation with my oldest nephew, and even though I didn’t really know my younger nieces and nephew, I saw us laughing and playing games.

These three things worked for me, and as promised, I will update you on the actual visit tomorrow.

Written for Debbie’s blog and #ForgivingFridays.

Monday Notes: It Is What It Is

I was going to tell you the greatest thing about my brother and sister-in-law, until I realized…I don’t know. The truth is I cannot.

That’s what happens when you don’t take the time to get to know someone. That’s also what occurs when you’ve allowed what you perceive to be a person’s flaws to dominate your interactions.

I have to admit that’s happened here.

Between 1993-1996, I was so busy trying to get my brother-in-law to see that I was a ‘good’ person and worthy to be his brother’s wife, that I didn’t just stop and communicate in an authentic way, a way where I’m listening to and understanding him and his point of view. I was in a space of proving.

Once I realized attempts at demonstrating my worth were futile, I entered another mode. Today, you’d call it IDGAF. Twenty years ago, I suppose I just distanced and detached myself from the entire situation. By 1999, he had a wife. But I didn’t give a f*ck. And I certainly wasn’t going to treat her better than I’d been treated.

Over the years, I fluctuated between proving myself and not caring at all. I’d show interest by purchasing Christmas gifts for their one, two, and eventually four children. After all, Dwight and I are their aunt and uncle. The strain in my brother-in-law’s voice when he’d say, thank you, sounded like a child’s forced greeting. So, I returned to a lack of care. Who cares? This isn’t going to change anyway, I convinced myself.

I was right. Partially.

In 2015, my sister-in-law and I agreed to read books together. We both enjoy reading, so it seemed a great way to bond. It wasn’t. We don’t even like the same genre. Her answers to our first book, A Terry McMillan one I chose, were terse. My answers to her selection, The Book of Negroes, were filled with insecurity and arrogance. I didn’t want to sound like a university professor analyzing a book, and I also loathe historical fiction. Turns out we didn’t need to read together.

Later that year when my father died, I took score. Who called? Who didn’t call? Who sent something? Who didn’t? In essence, who seemed as if they cared? Aside from a sorry to hear that via Facebook, neither reached out. That was the proverbial straw. I mailed a letter telling them as such. I also let them know it was okay. It was clear they didn’t like me. And it was okay.

As of today, there are three years of unspoken words between us. However, I’ll be in their hometown in less than a week and plan to visit with my husband. Similar to times past, I’m in a different space. I understand we’re all human beings, with histories that shape how we interact or don’t interact with others. I care about what this visit will yield, but not because I’m trying to prove myself to anyone. I stopped that behavior a couple years ago. There’s little reason and like this relationship showed, it doesn’t work anyway.

In my new space, I’ll be fully present. I’ll engage in conversation without wanting to show my worth or to denigrate theirs. I’ll attempt to get to know both of them. Maybe this time next year I can feature them for the Greatest Thing About category, or maybe I will have finally learned what people mean when they say, “it is what it is.”

Monday Notes: Ask Nothing; Just Be

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves” – kelley from Black Burgundy.

I read this quote on kelley’s blog a month or so ago. It resonated so deeply with me that I typed it into my notes and vowed to write about it one day.

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves. But we do it often. My father did this when he discovered he had Stage 4 throat cancer. He wanted me to demonstrate a self-less, compassionate, and giving love towards him, when many times he had not shown the same towards others, especially me. How could he expect me to do something that he had never done, and because he was dying, would never do? It baffled me for the first two years, until I made a choice and decided who he chose to be didn’t matter. All that mattered is who I chose to be because I had to sit with my own character.

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves reminds me of a Jill Scott interlude. It’s called Willing. In it, Scott describes a relationship that all too many women may be used to. It’s a relationship where the man wants his mate to exhibit certain characteristics: “flawless,” “patient,” “willing,” “honest,” and “loyal,” just to name a few. Have you seen this type of romantic relationship? One person expects these qualities, but doesn’t offer it themselves. In fact, consciously or unconsciously, they may be the opposite: flawed, impatient, stubborn, dishonest, and disloyal, yet they desire something else.

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves seems like commonsensical advice for all relationships, but I suppose it’s not. I have a great aunt, who is 96 years old. All of my life she’s never called me. In fact, she relies on her sister, my Grannie, to call, keep up with, and pass on information about my life’s happenings and me. However, in her later years, she’s become a widow, lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, and lost her mobility to old age. As she sits in her tiny apartment, this way of keeping up with me has stopped working for her. Her solution?

“Call me once a month,” she says.

Notice, she didn’t say, “I’ll call you once a month.” Instead, she wants me to do something that even she doesn’t plan to begin doing.

People are funny. And because of that, relationships and how we relate to one another and tend to one another’s needs (or not) are also laughable.

I’d advise that we stop this behavior and begin anew. Give to others what you desire. If you want love, then give love. If you want compassion, then be compassionate. If you want honesty, then tell the truth as much as possible. In this way, you’ll always have what you want because it will begin with you. And if you don’t have it to give, then it might be time to dig deep to figure out why.

Let me know what you think, and if you want to check out the Jill Scott interlude, here it is. It’s a little over a minute.