Monday Notes: Where Does Your Power Lie?

all_the_womenI forgot to tell you all, I’m published in a special anthology. The purpose of this book is to raise women of color’s voices about issues important to us. It’s published by a woman of color because who else is more qualified to raise our voice than someone who looks and feels like us?

I’m excited to be mentioned in a book with greats like, Natalie Baszile and Marian Wright Edelman. Aaand, I’m thrilled to be a part of a project that is receiving high praise from USA Today and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

But, that’s not why I’m proud.

I’m proud because this exemplifies where my power lies. Writing gives voice to my experiences that merely talking about them does not. My personal essay demonstrates this. It is about affirmative action. In my writing, I don’t politicize the policy. Nope. I humanize it. I describe how it feels to be an affirmative action hire, not once, but twice within two decades.

What’s funny is I’d tried discussing these feelings with friends and family members to no avail. The common sentiment was so what? What does it matter how you received your job? Several weeks ago, I shared the book with my Grannie and she said this after reading my chapter.

“Oh. This is about self worth. This is about more than a job.”

She finally got it after she’d read an emotional account.

img_6121Some people effect change through social justice activities, such as marching and rallying, others through their written words. Neither is more right, but I’m comfortable saying that I’m in the latter group.

Happy Women’s History Month! If you’re interested in reading All The Women in My Family Sing, then click here.

The Unhappy Wife: Book Review

First review of the new year is by Lovey over at Maquillage! Check out what she thought. Check out her feminist perspectives about this and other topics. And of course, if you haven’t yet, check out The Unhappy Wife 🙂

Femonomic

I had to read this book the moment I was told the theme by its very own Author. She is one inspirational, motivating and rousingly beautiful woman. Yes, an academician and a blogger too. Well, she is one bomb.com.

The Unhappy Wifea book of short stories based on the real lives of 12 women in marital discontent. Twelve women share one thing in common – the quest for being happily married to the men they chose; however, each one finds herself in an unexpected marital predicament. Inspired by real events and told from each woman’s perspective, these short stories are firsthand accounts detailing the realities of marriage well after each woman said “I do.”

 It has all the perfect ingredients for my taste. No, I am not married but we are all aware of the dynamics of a Relationship between a Man and a Woman. And, I…

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Veda from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeVeda’s story came recommended by a mutual friend. When I first began speaking with her, she was hesitant. Veda didn’t believe that she was an unhappy wife.

“My husband doesn’t beat me or anything,” she said.

To which I replied, “Good. That’s my point with telling these stories. You don’t have to be in an abusive relationship to be unhappy. You just have to have questioned how you ended up in a situation, married to this man.”

Veda agreed to open up to me. I was grateful.

At the time of our conversation, her husband had suffered a stroke about a year prior. The effects of his illness were numerous. Basically, Veda had gone from having a helpful partner to being somewhat of a caregiver, while continuing to mother three daughters and working a fulltime job.

Concept: I knew I wanted to present Veda as a committed wife for several reasons. Whereas Darlene was committed due to religious principles and Crystal was committed because of her mother’s advice, Veda was committed because she loved her husband and took her wedding vows seriously. You know, “in sickness and in health”? As I listened to her story, I wondered how many women had actually thought about what that phrase might look like. How many of us could really imagine what may happen?

Veda’s story is unique because it gives a brief depiction. “In sickness and in health” looks like telling your husband to seek medical attention because another stroke might kill him, and accepting the idea that he doesn’t want to listen. “In sickness and in health” looks like enduring your husband’s stroke that left him debilitated in many ways, while maintaining some semblance of a household you both once knew.

I asked Veda if she felt as if she’d had a fourth child.

“No,” she said, “I love him. That’s my husband.”

This is what I wanted the final narrative to show. A woman can love her husband, but unforeseen circumstances can develop and cause the entire relationship to shift, thus creating aspects of unhappiness.

Additionally, I hoped this story would help women think to themselves, could I have remained with my husband if he didn’t listen to me and ended up having a stroke that totally changed our relationship and way of life? This is why I chose the past, present and future format. None of us knows what the future of a relationship will bring. The most we can do is know ourselves so that we can make conscious choices that are aligned with our values, and follow our intuition with each situation.

unhappy-wifeI hope you’ve enjoyed discussing each story with one another. I also hope that you’ve found the stories as useful reflections of your own relationships. Next month, I’ll re-blog part of Anita Charlot’s afterword from the book. Her expertise as an online relationship coach provided valuable insights. The Unhappy Wife will continue to be for sale.

Small Business Saturday

It just dawned on me that I’m kind of a small business. I mean I do have a product that I’m trying to sell, aaand the holidays are coming up. What could be better than the gift of self-reflection through story. We all have that one person we want to send a hint to, so I’m sure you know someone who should read The Unhappy Wife. Even if they don’t like paperbacks, you can gift through Amazon. Did you know that? Anywho, if you haven’t already, order it here!

 

Drumroll Please…✍🏾️📖🏆

img_2274Remember that contest I told you all about? Well, I won! Initially, I was nervous sitting there listening to all the rules and stipulations about rubrics. When Chris Coward, the president of the Florida Writers Association read my name, I couldn’t believe I’d actually won first place for creative nonfiction.

“The Transition” is the story of how I shifted from bitterness to compassion for my father, while he shifted from life to death due to his cancer diagnosis.

I want to share it here, but cannot because I’ve submitted it for The Binge-Watching Cure, a paid book publication.

Instead of posting it, I want to tell you something I find odd.

In 1983, my mother had a kidney transplant. Consequently, at ten years old, I wrote a book called On the Farm. It was the story of a little boy whose dad had died. The boy had to learn how to take care of the farm and his family. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Patterson submitted it for a citywide competition, sponsored by Gwendolyn Brooks. Remember, I grew up in Chicago so this was a huge deal. My grandmother and I dressed up in church attire and attended. My mother was still in Madison, Wisconsin recovering from her transplant. I didn’t win. But 33 years later, I find it quite strange that I won a competition for a story I wrote about losing my own father.

Today, everything is still surreal. However, if I can say anything to all of you who read my words, it is this: Carpe Diem! That was the 2016 Florida Writers Association’s theme. Seize the Day! Do what you want! Live life and experience it however you see fit. And have faith that everything is working out for your highest good.

Cover Reveal: The Unhappy Wife

cover_reveal2

eBook pre-orders available August 4, 2016.

Paperback available October 20, 2016.

 unhappy_wife_ipad

Synopsis

Twelve women share one thing in common – the quest for being happily married to the men they chose; however, each one finds herself in an unexpected marital predicament. Inspired by real events and told from each woman’s perspective, these short stories are firsthand accounts detailing the realities of marriage well after each woman uttered, “I do.”

Four women represent The Voiceless Wife. Although circumstances vary, these women give their power away to friends and family. At some point, only they can determine next steps for their lives. The Detached Wife symbolizes five different ways wives can be disconnected from their husbands and themselves. Sex, intimacy and self-discovery are central to understanding these women’s narratives. The Committed Wife includes three women who demonstrate the depths of devotion. These final stories show that wives sometimes need more than loyalty to be happy.

Also included is an afterword by Relationship Coach, Anita Charlot. She gives valuable insights as to how and why some women become “unhappy” wives and what we as women can do to maintain healthier relationships.

About the Author

headshot_3_scaleddownKatherin Garland is a published writer, whose work has appeared in the South Florida Times, Talking Soup, and For Harriet, a popular women’s blog. Her writing focuses on creative nonfiction intended to inspire. Though born and raised on the west side of Chicago, Illinois, Katherin now lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband of twenty years and her teenage daughters.

Author Links

WordPress   Twitter     Facebook  Instagram   Amazon

eBook pre-orders available August 4, 2016

Paperback available October 20, 2016

My Father’s Funeral

father_funeral
Royalty Free

My father’s funeral was hard. It wasn’t because he’d died. It was because I had to endure sixty minutes’ worth of stories that didn’t resemble my own sporadic, dysfunctional experience with him.

I sat there. My youngest daughter draped in a black kimono to my right. My husband dressed in a black suit to my left. My oldest daughter donning a black dress to his left several inches away at the other end of the pew. My stepmother and her daughters sat across the aisle, on the first right pew, catacorner from us. My dad lie in state in front of everyone, his body shriveled from his final days of self-starvation. He wore blue. Later, he would be cremated.

His best friend, Michael had driven one hundred miles from Columbus to Atlanta. We’d talked earlier in the week and he’d already agreed to speak at the ceremony because as he put it, “They don’t know.” I didn’t know who “they” were and what “they” didn’t know, but it seemed that any best friend ought to have insight if his buddy died. I eagerly awaited his stories.

Michael began with his adoration of Daddy. Dudes looked up to him, Michael included. They all grew up in Cabrini Green, one of Chicago’s most famous projects. You know, from Good Times? Friends imitated Daddy’s walk, his talk and his motivation. Daddy had tried out for the Chicago Bears because he showed impeccable athletic skills. As the story is told, not many African Americans made it during that decade.

Michael was right. I didn’t know. I was a part of “they.”

“Tony didn’t curse. We didn’t curse,” Michael continued. And here’s where a lone tear stopped on top of my right cheek and rested there.

Perhaps Daddy didn’t curse in 1962. But by 1989? He did.

He cussed when he told me to “stop acting like such a bitch” to the girlfriend he’d started dating one short week after my mother’s burial. And as much time and space had passed between my sixteen year-old and 42 year-old self, I will never forget how confused and alone it felt to hear him utter those words.

Next up was my stepsister. She praised Daddy’s commitment to her and her two sisters.

“Dad was always giving us advice and,” she could barely get the words out without swallowing and choking on yesterday’s memories, “he was just such a good dad to me and my sisters, and we’re just gonna miss him.”

By this time, my tear ducts were dry.

Daddy was a great father figure and dad to her and her sisters. This was a fact. While he was being super-dad to them, he’d dropped his obligation towards me. That also was a fact. We were all adults when he and my stepmother married. I in my 20s and they in their 30s. But nothing was ever healed between us before he re-married and desired us to be one big happy, blended family. Pain lingered from the time he’d given up his parental rights. Its thick cloud followed me for two decades. And even though I’d semi-healed the situation, a knot of remembrance tightened as I sat and listened to how wonderfully he loved them. It hurt.

I want to tell you about everyone else’s words. But I can’t. I shifted to survival mode. Dwight’s fingers made small circles at the top of my back. My cousins spoke. I wanted to say something, but appropriate words wouldn’t surface. Folks didn’t have time for me to outline our relationship. It seemed useless to say that we’d re-connected the past three years, but only due to his throat cancer. Silence was best.

Someone sang “Goin’ up Yonder” strong enough to elicit a wail from my stepmother and cue gentle hugs from her daughters. My own emotions were wrapped up in that knot and buried at the pit of my stomach. The preacher didn’t know Daddy. They’d just moved to Atlanta a month prior. His demonstrative stance held little meaning. I’d bet money he’d given a similar eulogy at the previous homegoing from where he’d rushed in.

Eventually, it all ended. Everything. The knot began to loosen. My father’s funeral was the grand finale concluding our rollercoaster relationship. All of the memories, good or bad, sealed in the navy blue casket, later to be incinerated. Purged. The energy surrounding our relationship would no longer control me. It really was over this time.

Choices and Consequences

“Just because it wasn’t conscious doesn’t mean it wasn’t a choice” ~ Kwote #80

I remember the day quite vividly. I sat on my bed and turned the TV on, not because I wanted to watch whatever was on, but because it provided background noise, in my otherwise quiet Georgia apartment. I flipped open my laptop, and logged onto Facebook.

Scroll.

Scroll.

Scroll.

Like.

Let me see what my oldest goddaughter is up to these days, I thought. I knew she was taking Driver’s Ed and I wanted to see if there were any updates. Last post she was falling asleep and I had begged her to wake up and pay attention.

Hmmm. This is strange.

I typed her full name into the search bar.

“Do you know —? To see what she shares with friends, send her a friend request.”

Huh? Of course I know her Facebook. She’s my goddaughter. Of course I know her, she’s my aunt’s oldest daughter, thus my cousin. Send her a friend request? But we were already friends…on Facebook.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been defriended from social media before, but there are a couple of stages you go through:

Stage 1: Disbelief This couldn’t possibly be.

Stage 2: Anger I know this little heifer didn’t defriend me.

Stage 3: More disbelief Let me check other people’s pages. She’s still friends with my daughters, her dad, her mom, and other cousins.

Stage 4: Acceptance So, she’s just defriended me.

I was still fluctuating somewhere in between disbelief and acceptance. This Facebook friend wasn’t some high-school sweetheart from yesteryear. And she wasn’t some person I’d met at a conference one time. Nope. This was my aunt’s daughter, my cousin and my pronounced goddaughter. Next on my agenda was a phone call to my aunt, immediately.

“Hi, Aunt –! May I speak to –?”

“Why?” she asked.

Why, I thought. What was this about? I didn’t think I needed permission to talk to her.

“Well,” I began, “It seems as if she’s defriended me on Facebook and I wanted to know why.”

Now, before I continue with this story, I understand how very petty this must seem. But what I kept thinking is how in the world will I ever know what’s going on with her or her sister if I’m not even sharing a social media space with them? She doesn’t call me. When I call her, she gives one-word answers (typical adolescent phone convo). Instead of passing the phone, my aunt and I had a conversation about this defriending business.

“Yes. Yes, she did,” my aunt replied matter-of-factly. And then she added, “She came to me and said, ‘I’m going to delete Kathy, okay?’ and I said, ‘okay.’”

Huh?

What was I listening to? So my aunt approved her daughter’s deletion of me on social media? My feelings were a bit bruised. What could I do? Through further conversation, I found out that it was because I recounted a situation where she had cussed at her dad on said social media. My cousin had written, “Pay the f-ing bill Daddy,” upon finding out her cell phone wasn’t working. Consequently, our grandmother gave everyone a lecture. Including me, ironically for not reprimanding her more harshly for the disrespect.

So we continued talking.

“I feel as if she hates me,” I confessed to my aunt.

“She does,” she admitted.

Then I found out why. It was because something had been going on without my knowledge. You see my teenaged cousins live about an hour and a half away from our grandmother, and at one point in their lives, they actually lived with our grandmother. What our grandmother had been doing is praising all of my accomplishments: Kathy has a Ph.D. Kathy got a tenure-track position. One time, my grannie actually described throwing one of my publications across the bed and telling her, “Read this. It’s scholarly writing.”

This adolescent girl was filled with resentment. So much resentment that she often begged her mother not to pass the phone when I called. She seemingly couldn’t discern our age difference was a major factor in comparing our achievements. At the time, she had yet to graduate high school, but was implicitly being compared to my achieving a third degree.

This wasn’t fair to her or to me.

But here comes the lesson.

I complained and complained to my therapist. I whined about failed attempts at being a great godmother. I complained about not being honored as an inspirational person who could relate to her (we’re both adopted and I could see my cousin’s evolving mirrored issues). I droned on and on about how her dad, nor her mom would even make them do anything related to me. Oh, I was full of ego about the situation.

The therapist listened, as licensed professionals are paid to do. She nodded and scribbled on her legal pad.

And then she said this, “You chose to be the type of godmother you wanted to be to them.”

“Wha?” I asked in between sniffles.

“If you wanted to be the super-cool godmother who they flocked to when they couldn’t talk to their mother, then you would have chosen different actions,” she explained. She read my choices from her pad:

  • Telling your grandmother about her Facebook actions
  • Asking her why she’s wearing a bathing suit on social media
  • Commenting on her driver’s education status

Those are not things that would make her feel as if she could come to you.”

I would be lying if I said I had an on the spot breakthrough. The therapist had to explain that well-intended, unconscious choices are still choices that lead to specific outcomes. My actions, coupled with her teenage choices meant there would be no relationship.

Eventually, I got it.

The therapist was somewhat right.

What eventually helped me understand the concept are the words unconscious and conscious. It’s true. The choices that I made with my goddaughter were very unconscious. Involuntary even. They were based on how I was raised and the types of expectations to which I was held. Ultimately, this experience taught me to be more mindful about  choices that I made with other people because I understood there would always be a specific consequence.

I don’t regret the choices that I’ve made with her. But now this is crystal clear. Whether the choice is intentional, unintentional, conscious, or unconscious, consequences will always be tied to our choices. So the best we can do is to always be as intentional and conscious as possible.