Atlanta Book Reading

Do you live in Atlanta? Will you be home on June 15th? Are you interested in discussing the importance of father-daughter relationships? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then please come out to hear four of my co-authors read their stories and converse about familial ties.

There will also be free food and wine!

Details below:

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siSTARS with Tikeetha Thomas (Part 2)

In this interview, Tikeetha discusses her understanding of forgiveness with regards to her relationship with her father. Also, Michelle asks her about her process for healing. With Father’s Day just around the corner in the States, I feel this is a timely discussion. Please feel free to add your thoughts about forgiveness and healing and how it manifests in your life.

siSTARS with Tikeetha Thomas (Part I)

Do you follow Tikeetha Thomas? If not, then here are a few reasons why:

  1. She’s one of the co-authors of Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships.
  2. She’s an amazing lifestyle blogger who discusses everything from parenting to dating.
  3. She’s an all-around inspirational person who uses her own life to motivate each one of her followers.

In this first video, I ask Tikeetha to make connections between the relationship she has with her father and those she has in the dating realm. Check it out below:

Monday Notes: Listening to, Supporting, and Understanding Women’s Issues

In the States, Women’s History Month is a time “commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history” (Women’s History Month). Isn’t that great?

While I believe people like Harriet Tubman and Helen Keller were influential to society as a whole, I use this month as a time to not only reflect on the important role that friends and family have played in my life, but also to pay it forward by encouraging and uplifting women with whom I’m associated.

img_9354Therefore, I decided to begin this year’s Women’s History Month by having a book reading. On Saturday, March 2, 2019, four of the authors from my most recent edited collection, Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships and I gathered together to share our stories.

img_9382It was a perfect writer’s scenario. It was a dark and stormy afternoon. Seriously, it rained the entire day. The independent bookstore was cozy. Stacks of used and new books served as a backdrop. Right next to us, sat a group of five doing black out poetry. They circled and highlighted words, while also half-listening to our talk. Afterwards, the group’s leader expressed her adoration for the women and the event, highlighting the importance of healing through story.

The support was palpable. This is no exaggeration. The space held supportive energy and the reason was because each author had invited guests who had their genuine interests at heart. Mothers, cousins, brothers, best friends, longtime high-school friends, and book club members were a part of the audience.

book_reading_2019Most importantly, they listened in an attempt to understand each woman’s point of view about her former dysfunctional relationship with her father. During the question and answer portion, a woman from a book club I frequent began by saying she was trying to relate because “she’s a daddy’s girl.” I’d heard her sentiments from other women with similar experiences. They had no idea that some men had little regard for their daughters. It was a foreign concept. But I was happy to know that she and others were attempting empathy.

To me, that’s what creative nonfiction is all about. We should attempt to understand life through another’s eyes. Reading another person’s story is one way to develop the type of empathy I’m suggesting. Think about it. It’s easy to remain in a bubble of understanding that privileges your perspective. But it takes a different level of relating to listen to someone’s story and try to place yourself in that position to feel what they may have felt.

And so I’m pleased.

I recently read someone’s thoughts on “empowering women.” I don’t remember whom, but she suggested that she does not empower women, but rather she creates the conditions for women to be empowered, and from that, they are able to liberate themselves.

That’s how I view this book and this weekend’s past reading. I’ve merely served as a vehicle and set up the conditions. These (and the other nine authors) have done the work to free themselves. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

Monday Notes: Who is Family?

Being adopted has shaped the way I view who is family and who is not. When I found out I was adopted over thirty years ago, I saw the people around me in a different light. I saw them as strangers, yet I still accepted them as family because they had taught me to do so. I instantly realized that any combination of people could make a family.

img_8185In this way, I accepted my mother and father as my family unit. These were the people who’d decided to raise me from infancy as their own. They loved me, and I them. But when my mother died and my father gave up his parental rights, I began to question the definition. Was my adopted father not my father anymore simply because the Court said he wasn’t? I mean the Court deemed him my father in 1974, and so he was. Was he not in 1990 because they said he wasn’t? He was the only father I’d known. Could the Court demolish sixteen years of relationship?

At the age of seventeen, I was briefly orphaned, until my adopted grandmother assumed responsibility. She became my legal guardian. I never called her mother or mom because I’d already had two of those. Plus, she was simply my Grannie as she’d been before. She was family, not only because she was my mother’s mother, but also because she’d provided love and comfort throughout my entire life, and at a time when I’d most needed it. She’s been the most consistent relationship I’ve had.

img_8191As I grew older and had children of my own, curiosity about my own background grew. By the age of thirty-two, with a lot of hassle from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, I found my birth mother’s family. My biological mother had committed suicide five years after I was born. Few family members were easily contacted. One of her older sisters, Aunt Catherine, was found and I immediately felt connected.

Our shared name was odd. But what was stranger was the point of her nose and the idea that her face looked like mine. It’s a luxury adopted children don’t have. In fact, people who didn’t know me asked her daughter who I was, making sure she knew that I looked exactly like her mother. Aunt Catherine and I held long phone conversations and that lady, although I didn’t know her fully, felt like family.

My sister, the woman whom my mother had birthed five years prior to me, did not. She was cold and distant and didn’t seem interested in establishing or maintaining a sisterhood. Today, we’re friends on social media, but similar to former grammar school classmates, that’s the extent of our relationship. Our genes are stronger than our connection, yet we are family.

Fast forward thirteen years later, and I’ve found my biological father by accident via DNA website. When I looked at this man’s face, I knew he was my father. The parts of my face that Aunt Catherine and I didn’t share, were seen in him. Our eyes. Our smile. Our demeanor. He is my biological father and we are family.

After our first conversation, I learned that I have another sister. We are the same age. We look like twins. Pictures reveal the same wide puppy dog eyes as youth and the same curvature of our backs in our twenty-something wedding pictures. We are family because genetics says so; however, we’ve found that we are also family because we relate similarly. Conversing with her is like talking to myself. And once again, I’m left wondering, what is family? This newfound sister certainly is. It’s like I’ve found part of me I didn’t know I needed. Our immediate love for one another is evident.

I share all of this to say that family is whomever you make it. Being adopted has taught me that family is but another societal construct, but relationship is something altogether different. Like other relationships, familial ones can be maintained simply because two people want them to be. I’ve also come to believe that being born or adopted into a family is but one component of actually being family. For me, relationship, caring, and commitment are true connectors, and consequently what makes a family.

That’s my final answer. What’s yours?

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.

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! 

eBook versions of Daddy are available now!

Daddy: Motivation for Creating a Book

Summer of 1993 is when I became fully aware of my father’s abandonment. I remember the exact year because that’s when I started dating Dwight. That summer, he, my then best friend, Bobby, and I drove to Chicago for the weekend. I’d told my father that I would be home and that I was bringing these two important people with me. I wanted him to meet them.

That Saturday, I called and called, but he was nowhere to be found. I curled up in a ball in my great aunt’s back room and cried. I was twenty years old. Not only was I disappointed, but I was also embarrassed. I’d met Bobby’s parents a few months prior. Her father, though quiet, was in her life and supportive financially and emotionally. Likewise, I’d met Dwight’s parents, his father also seemed like a “normal” dad, making corny jokes and talking about his daily work.

All I wanted was for my father to show up when I came home and meet some friends. But it didn’t happen.

From that point forward, I was never sure how to interact with him, especially around made up societal holidays, like Father’s Day. Do I buy a card? None of the store-bought cards said what I wanted: thanks for being great the first sixteen years of my life. Wish we were closer. Hallmark doesn’t sell that one.

Maybe no gift and no card would send a stronger message. I mean it’s not like we’d spoken recently; he usually forgot my birthday, which was always about a month prior.

Most years, I’d opted for a generic card that said something like Happy Father’s Day. I’d sign it with no additional words.

This is one reason I felt motivated to create an edited collection of dysfunctional father-daughter stories. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who endured this angst. I really thought I was the only daughter sitting around a week or so before the holiday, wondering the best course of action for someone who’s supposed to care for you but doesn’t.

1521808695783I felt alone in these feelings, until I wrote and published The Transition. Afterwards, women confided similar discord with their own fathers, and somehow that was comforting. Knowing I wasn’t the only one was like being embraced by a big collective online hug.

And I wanted other women and girls to feel the same. I wanted them to know they’re not alone during a holiday that makes us face our dysfunction even more.

That’s why I put this anthology together, and that’s why the eBook released the day before Father’s Day.

Paperbacks can be ordered here.

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.”

Paperback and eBook are available to order TODAY!

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.