*Mothering Violence

My friend’s middle son was shot in the head in a McDonald’s parking lot here in Jacksonville, Florida six weeks ago.

His mother and I became friends years ago because she was my hairstylist. When we met, she had two sons. He was the youngest at the time.

I remember picking him up and taking him with the girls and me to wherever we were hanging out that summer’s day, his lanky body shifting in the backseat, his dull eyes peering out of the window. I wonder if he saw his future. Because his mother worked twelve-hour shifts, standing on her feet, making other people beautiful, I thought I’d help by keeping him with me.

I remember how quiet he was. Sometimes he’d speak up and say, “Ms. Kathy, can I have some more” whatever it was we ate. But most times, he was silent.

Years do more than age us; they change us. And he was no different. His mother lamented about the crowd he’d been hanging with. She’d told me recent stories about him being in and out of jail for this or that. He was twenty-one. His life had become less than either of them expected. When the plain-clothes policemen came to her home, at four in the morning, showing a picture, and asking if this was her son, she never expected them to say we found him…dead.

bullet_cartridges

We found him drunk in the back of a building.

We found him sleep outside of a convenience store.

We found him belligerent behind a restaurant.

That’s what she thought they were going to report.

She didn’t expect for someone to post a picture of her son’s freshly murdered body in the middle of the McDonald’s parking lot, blood spilling out of his head on social media. But since they did, she thought it would be evidence of an apparent crime, from a crime scene, from someone who knew what happened.

She thought they’d be able to find something from the restaurant’s surveillance camera. But the car was too dark, with Florida tinted windows beyond traditional codes. This too is evidence but not enough to convict anyone for the murder of her child.

Instead, she’s waiting. Waiting by her blinds because she’s paranoid. Waiting for sleep because his recent memory haunts her. Waiting with stapled flyers posted to lamppost where he used to loiter. Waiting for her youngest son, who is barely six to grow up and become a different version of his older brother, proving that she wasn’t bad at single parenting.

This, my friends, is how we mother violence in America.

*Written for my friend, but shared for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Advertisements

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: Lennon Carlyle

Today, meet Lennon Carlyle, author of “The Uprising.”

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? It’s a fantastic way to encourage women to understand that all men do not have the same qualities or negatives. If my reality can benefit someone, I would be elated.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? It’s distant in miles, yet improving within time.

If there is one thing you could tell your father what would it be?

I love you. I forgive you and I want our relationship to grow.

If there is one thing you could tell women who struggle with ‘daddy issues” what would it be? Not everything revolves around your father. Just because he doesn’t see your value or beauty doesn’t mean you don’t have worth. Let the negatives of the relationship strengthen your mind and spirit. Remember, not every man is your father.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be? I believe more than anything, you need father and daughter time. Be diligent in showing her how much you care, love, and treasure her. Build her up and stress to her that she can accomplish anything. Help her to evolve.

What do you hope your story accomplishes? No matter how badly someone treats you in life, whether it’s physical or mental, never let him or her break you. Try hard to find something positive out of the situation. The worst of times times can make you resilient and unstoppable. Hold yourself up and know that your mind is extremely powerful.

What are you working on currently? I’m writing short fiction erotica. It’s outside of my comfort zone, but if I don’t explore new opportunities how will I ever grow? I love a challenge and this is a thrilling one.

Lennon CarlyleLennon Carlyle is a freelance writer, raised in Georgia, where she currently manages an industrial equipment business. She loves meeting new people and hearing their life stories. Lennon and her husband just celebrated their ten-year anniversary.

You can follow Lennon’s blog or contact her at lennoncarlyle@gmail.com.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Carlyle, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund provides critically-needed medical facilities for treating United States military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.

Paperbacks are available TODAY! Get yours now in time for Father’s Day.

eBook versions of Daddy are available now!

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: Charise Kollar

Today, meet Charise Kollar, author of “Marshmallow,” whose story skillfully connects the dots of her relationship with her dad’s relationship with his own father.

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? My ears perked when I heard that this anthology was in the making. I have long used personal journaling to process and heal from the tumultuous memories of my childhood. Granted, most of my personal writing has been positioned from the perspective of a fictional character. I suppose the distant relationship that I formed with my characters helped to reframe the situations in which I was writing about. This anthology contains my first memoir that features my voice as the narrator. I was inspired by this project because I knew that it would be a challenge I needed to take on in order to grow as a writer and as a daughter.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? Embracing adulthood and physical distance have been the greatest gifts ever bestowed upon my relationship with my father. The physical distance has pushed both of us to spend genuine and meaningful time with one another when we have the ability to do so, mostly because we understand how fleeting these moments are. Time and age have softened my father, while adulthood has provided me with a rational layer to my overbearing empathy. We are learning to “meet in the middle,” I suppose.

If there is one thing you could tell your father what would it be? Years ago, during a rare vulnerable moment between us, I asked my dad, “Are you happy?” He scoffed, stared down at his coffee, and responded, “Yes” without hesitation. I have known this to be a lie, or rather, I have felt that there was more to the conversation than that brief yes. If I could go back, I would tell him that it’s not too late. It’s not too late to live fully and search for his true purpose. Perhaps this will motivate me to reopen the conversation before it does become too late.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be?

Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, please listen. Listen to your daughter, your partner, your siblings, yourself. Listen to the world’s messages. Listen to what is being said and what is not being said. Action limits us if we are neglecting to listen.

What are you working on currently? At the moment, I am immersed with researching and writing about “the ego” and social media involvement, specifically through the lens of body image advocacy. I find that many activists with an online presence utilize their own persona to inspire conversations within their communities, but I am curious as to how beneficial the social media involvement truly is for the individual activist. While I am definitely a supporter of social media as a means of communication, I am finding interest in how much of our involvement is ego-driven verses authentically intentional for the movement.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetCharise Kollar is an English teacher by trade with a passion for mentoring and igniting a sense of self-awareness in teens. She is the co-founder of the spiritual blog for millennials, Real Talk Universe (realtalkuniverse.com). While she was born in New Jersey, Charise is a self-identified Floridian who has been residing in Tallahassee since 2008.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Kollar, The Oasis Center for Women & Girls. Their mission is to “improve the lives of women and girls through celebration and support.”

The eBook version is available for pre-order now! 

Paperback is available to order TODAY!

CLEARING III

The past two days I’ve written about two ways I’ve gained clarity. One is by protecting my energy and another is by getting to know myself and what my body and soul needs. On today, my actual birthday, I’m sharing my final clearing: relationships.

For decades, I struggled with being in healthy relationships with people. Only a therapist can tell you if these issues were linked to being adopted or being abandoned. What I can tell you for sure is that today, I don’t have those challenges.

Here’s how I gained clarity.

Friendship Matters. You know that Jim Rohn quote, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Well, prior to 2014, I was the average of a bunch of very unhappy people. Whether it was their marriage, job, or general dissatisfaction, I’d spent a lot of time in close friendship and kinship with folks who were saddened or angry. While some saw me as grounded, deep inside I knew I was not. Since then, I’ve noticed there was a reason we were great friends. We were actually all in the same boat, just rowing with a different oar.

New Image

Once I began to work on myself by looking in the mirror and choosing to repair childhood issues, some of those relationships began to slough off. I can’t be certain, but sometimes I think your internal growth can make others uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do with it, or you. But you know what else? The relationships that weren’t built on those negative qualities have risen to the top and flourished. I’ve never felt more secure with the people I’ve surrounded myself with in all my adult life. Talking to and meeting with these folks feels like a peaceful ebb and flow, instead of a rant session.

Family Matters. I belong to several sets of families: my mother’s side, my father’s side, my step-family, my husband’s family, and all his subsets. For a very long time, I thought we were obligated to attend functions and visit no matter how we felt or what was going on in our lives. Dwight tried to convince me otherwise, but I didn’t listen. Instead, we had to visit my cousin in North Carolina. We had to take the girls to his aunt’s house in Tampa. We had to drive to Chicago every other year for Christmas. I thought these road trips were required.

But over the decades, I’ve learned family doesn’t always follow the same rules they set for you. I’ve learned they’ll keep driving towards Disney World without stopping to say hello. I’ve also learned that’s okay. Realizing I can only control myself, I’ve created my own rules for familial interaction. If money, time, and energy allow me to show up for events, then I do. If not, then that’s fine. In this way, I’ve released myself (and my family) from the obligation, sans guilt.

wilcoxMarriage Matters. The last relationship, secondary to loving myself, is the one I have with my husband. Once I got super clear about who I was and how I wanted to show up in the world, I also applied this to being married, and subsequently, gained clarity about the type of wife I wanted to be.

For 21 years, people have called Dwight and I “the perfect couple,” or better yet proclaimed, “I want what you all have.” These phrases used to piss me off, primarily because we were far from perfection, and also because of something Dwight frequently says, they don’t know what we have, so how can they want it?

Exactly.

What we had was a struggle some years. But when I decided I wanted my insides to match whatever people thought they saw on the outside, our relationship improved. I won’t take all the credit. I mean it takes two people to relate to one another. Dwight shifted how he interacts as well; however, it still required a bit of self-reflection and determining what’s best for us as individuals, and then deciding how we wanted to be together as a union.

So that’s it good people.

This is how I’ve gained clarity towards a path of a more whole me. Through clearing my energy, getting to know myself, and pruning a few relationships, I can say with confidence that I’m a happier, healthier version of myself.

Have you ever journeyed inward? What was the process? What was the result?

CLEARING I

CLEARING II

CLEARING II

Yesterday I talked about paying attention to where I spend my energy as a way to gain clarity and make room for more pleasurable thoughts and actions. One day before my birthday, I’m sharing another way I’ve gotten clear.

Knowing Myself. I’ve spent the last three years cultivating the relationship that matters the most…the one I have with myself. I’ve gotten to know myself more and more, and I have to say, I love her.

3Gemini-InfoGraphic
©Astrograph

I’ve realized just how much I have to communicate. It’s a part of my being. I could blame it on being a Gemini, ruled by planet Mercury, the messenger. But I won’t do that today. Let’s just say I’ve noticed that if I’m in a situation where I’m silenced, then I have a physical reaction. It begins with a pulsating jumble in my belly that swirls around, and moves up towards my throat.

These times don’t happen often. But when they do, I begin to shake my foot out of nervousness and blink my eyes real fast because I know if the interaction doesn’t end soon, whatever is in my mouth is coming up and out, good or bad. Because I’ve recognized this, I now find healthy ways to use my voice no matter what, like keeping virtual notes or blogging.

Another thing I’ve learned is that I have to exercise. You might be thinking, duh, don’t we all? The answer is I don’t know. For me, if I don’t practice yoga, ride my bike, or go to the gym too many days in a row, then I become irritable. In fact, exercising prior to writing or editing seems to clear my brain and boost my creativity. Consequently, I now prioritize movement; I think it’s also a way to clear stagnant energy.

Along the same lines, lighting incense and meditating at least four times a week has become a necessity. The smell of incense, specifically earthy scents, calms me. Likewise, meditation allows me to clear my mind and provides a pathway for listening to my intuition and heart. Because I know how I feel in a regular, calm state, it’s easier to recognize when my body sends a signal in a misaligned situation.

The last thing I’ve done consistently to clear my mind and get to know myself is to keep a gratitude journal. Four years ago, I realized I had issues with feeling important and loved. So, the first thing I do is write “I am” statements: I am important. I am love. Notice, I didn’t say, I am loved, but rather, I am love, itself… wrapped up in a person. With this statement, I’m not seeking love from outside of myself, but rather acknowledging that I’m love personified and fully capable of bringing love to a situation. After these statements, I find five things for which I’m grateful.

Again, I’m not perfect. There are times when I forget I’m supposed to bring the love and want to cuss someone the eff out. But more days than not, when I participate in the above activities, I become clear about who I am before I vibe out in the world with other people.

Tomorrow I’ll share the third and final area of my life I’ve cleared up.

Until then, tell me…do you know yourself? What do you love about yourself? Do you have daily rituals before you go out and greet the world?

CLEARING I

CLEARING III

Monday Notes: CLEARING

In every culture, people have a clearing process. Whether it’s spring cleaning, which according to handy-dandy Wikipedia began with Iranians, who call it khooneh tekouni, or sage cleansing, which is known as a Native American ritual, the human race seems to have recognized the importance of de-cluttering as a road toward clarity.

And I am no different. Over the past three years, I’ve consciously taken time to decide who I want to be and how I want to function in this world. Two days before my birthday, I’m sharing them with you.

The first thing I did was to pay more attention to where I put my energy as a way to create more pleasurable spaces in my life.

Energy Matters.

 We’re all energy. I don’t think that’s a new idea. However, I also believe that our thoughts and actions are comprised of energy. And for the last few years, I’ve become much more mindful about how and what I spend my energy on.

Sometimes I think of energy like money. You know how some people are frugal with their dollars? Well, that’s how I feel about my energy. Would you allow someone to take $1000 out of your bank account? Me neither. But I also don’t allow others to withdraw from my energy account.

There are a few ways I’ve learned to do this. I try not to expend too much energy on conversations I deem frivolous. A great example is when Hurricane Irma was headed towards Jacksonville. A day or so before, I was scheduled to teach in Gainesville.

“I thought you’d be home,” one of my co-workers said.

“Nope. The hurricane isn’t coming til…”

“Well, I hope you have gas. I hope you don’t run out of gas. I hope the gas stations still have gas on your way home. The gas station on 39th is already out …”

I briefly stared at her, and then gathered my personal belongings and inched towards the door. In my mind, I didn’t have the energy to expend on such a negative conversation about the state of gas. And I didn’t need to prove her wrong by saying, I have gas in my tank and I drive a Honda. It’ll be full for a while. It would be wasted energy.

energyLikewise, I try not to spend a lot of time in places I’d rather not be. A great example is work. I go to work and focus on teaching my students. When that’s done, sometimes I attend meetings and grade papers. I don’t stand around holding lengthy conversations about other people’s business because, in the long run, it doesn’t solve anything. And sometimes, in the end you feel just as crappy as the person you’re discussing.

This is not to say I’m perfect. Occasionally, I catch myself in a rant about some event that pissed me off. But once I realize I’m expending energy, then I make a mental note and change the subject to something that feels better, like my business. The results seem to prove the phrase that which you focus on grows. Writing Endeavors® is going well. This blog is going well. Books are selling. Much of this I attribute to clearing and re-focusing my energy.

Tomorrow, I’ll share the second aspect of my life I’ve cleared up. Until then, tell me…do you pay attention to how and where you spend your energy?

CLEARING II

CLEARING III

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: LaCharmine (L.A.) Jefferson

Today, meet LaCharmine (L.A.) Jefferson. Her story, “Wrong Number” kicks off the second half of Daddy, where each story moves towards women who want to relate to, forgive, and understand their fathers.  In her narrative, she describes the challenges with maintaining an adult relationship with her dad.

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? I was inspired to contribute to this book because I wanted to share a little-known fact about the complexity of daddy-daughter issues. Growing up with your father in the home does not negate you from having daddy-daughter issues. These issues can occur in the midst of a seemingly normal relationship. A few years ago I purchased a book on the art of personal essay writing. After several brainstorming sessions for topics, I noticed that my dad was coming up a lot. I had “daddy issues.” What’s even stranger than this late revelation is that I adore my dad. I have many fond memories of our time together when I was growing up. But when he and my mother separated after I graduated high school, I encountered a different man, a man far less perfect than he claimed to be. Our relationship became strained.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? My husband passed away suddenly in a house fire in December 2017. I saw my dad, by chance, the day after at my aunt’s house, who lives two houses down from my sister where I was staying at the time. Over the following weeks and months that followed, my father never extended himself to me to see how I was doing, inquire about where I was living temporarily until my house is repaired. Nothing. “What kind of father does that?” I asked myself multiple times. That only added to the pain I was experiencing from the loss of my husband. After a few weeks of acknowledging my hurt and anger over his inability to put anyone’s feelings above his own, I finally called him to let him know how I was doing. He was glad that I called. I heard it in his voice. At the end of our conversation, he said, “I love you.” I said the same. I was proud of myself that the God in me overcame the temptation of my flesh to sever the relationship with my father. Like I said in my story, he is the only dad that I have.

If there is one thing you could tell women who struggle with “daddy issue” what would it be? Free yourself from the pain by forgiving your father. In Luke 23:34, Jesus set the example when he said to His Father, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do,” when His chosen people hung Him from a cross. Recognize that your father did the best with what he had based on his upbringing. I don’t think it’s possible for a parent not to love their child. However, they can certainly be clueless as to how to show it. Rest in the knowledge that you are loved by the most High God, our Heavenly Father.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be? You are your daughter’s first experience with the love of a man. Whether she wants to or not, she will engage in relationships with men based on her relationship with you, good or bad. Love her unconditionally. Tell her she is beautiful no matter what. Tell her she is the best gift for any man that she shares her time with.

What do you hope your story accomplishes? I hope my story projects the importance of forgiveness. I know it’s cliché, but the act of forgiving really is more for you than it is for the person who hurt you. Harboring un-forgiveness in your heart prevents your from living your best life.

What are you working on currently? I’m in the beginning stages on writing my third fiction novel. So far I’ve written about a woman’s addiction to the wrong man for all the wrong reasons (Unfinished Business) and a married couple doing all the wrong things as they’re attempting to overcome the pain of infidelity in their marriage (Reconciliation to Hell). Now I’m writing about a once loving marriage, seemingly, being divided by one spouse’s budding relationship with God.

lajeffersonLaCharmine (L.A.) Jefferson’s writing can also be found on her blog, Naturally L.A. She is a wife and mother of two. Visit her website for more information.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Jefferson, Vista Maria. The organization’s mission is to “deliver innovative care, support, treatment and education to vulnerable youth so that they heal, believe in their worth, and build the skills needed to succeed.”

The eBook version of Daddy is available now for pre-order!

The paperback version is available for order here.

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: Tikeetha Thomas

Unlike The Unhappy Wife book, Daddy is not written by me. This anthology includes stories written by women, who felt it important to publicly re-tell narratives centered on their relationship with their father. Each woman’s purpose is similar, yet different. Every Friday, I invite you to read about their reason why.

Today, meet Tikeetha Thomas, author of “A Daughter’s Grace,” which not only illustrates the difference between grace and forgiveness, but also shows the challenge that comes with offering it to an absent father.

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? The relationship between a father and daughter can be complicated. He’s supposed to be her first love. However, in many cases of divorce or abandonment that doesn’t always happen and it can have a lasting effect on how we conduct our own relationships. In my case, my parents divorced and my dad never looked back. There were glimpses where he would show up and promise things that never came to fruition, but he wasn’t there. This affected me greatly. I struggled in my relationships; I struggled with finding my own identity and believing it and I struggled in trying to get to know my father as an adult. I wanted to share the awkwardness, pain and anger that can come with trying to rebuild a relationship.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? It’s non-existent. He called me and left me a voicemail on my birthday months ago and I’ve yet to call him back. Partly because I have a lot going on and I can’t focus on more than one battle at a time and mainly because I don’t know what to say beyond hello. I didn’t call for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I am just going through the motions of viewing him as a man that I dated and I may or may not call back. There’s no rush because I’m not really interested in him, so I’ve slid him to the side.

If there is one thing you could tell your father what would it be? I survived in spite of you not being present. Through all the traumas, trials and tribulations that I endured – I’m still standing.

If there is one thing you could tell women who struggle with “daddy issues” what would it be?

Don’t let not having a dad define you. Find out who you are and what you want out of life without looking to get it from men that may not ever understand. Work on you. You don’t need a man to tell you that you’re pretty. Look in the mirror every day and say those words to yourself. No man is worth your self-esteem. By lying up under the wrong man you could cause yourself a lifetime worth of issues.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be? Don’t leave. Even if you have a hateful relationship with your daughter’s mother, stay a part of her life. Write in a journal daily letters to let her know about life, you, your family and just to encourage her. Stay in her life and help her understand the facts of life. Be her first love. Encourage her dreams and do what you promise. Your words matter.

What do you hope your story accomplishes? I hope that it sheds some light to the complicated relationships women can have with their fathers. That people see the importance of being there and that women know that they are not alone in missing their daddy. But, I think I want women to know that if he’s not there that you are still valuable and worthy of love from a wonderful man.

What are you working on currently? Wow! I’m busy! Personally, I’m working on going into a couple of business ventures and writing a book of fiction loosely based on my life. I’m also in a relationship-a healthy relationship, so I’m working on developing that and getting to the next level. I’m raising my son to be an amazing young man, which is the most important thing in my life right now. I’m active in my sorority. I’m writing grants for my son’s school, active in the PTA, active in a number of social groups and blogging while working. With all that I have going on, I’m also working full-time managing a staff of five. But, I love my job. I actually wake up each day excited to go into work.

tikeethaTikeetha Thomas is a full-time working mom with a beautiful nine-year-old son who is the apple of her eye. She resides in Maryland and spends time volunteering, blogging, and maintaining a healthy relationship with a wonderful man. You can read more about her life at her blog, A Thomas Point of View.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Thomas, the March of Dimes. According to their mission statement, “Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.”

The eBook version of Daddy is available now for pre-order!

The paperback version of Daddy is available for order here.