Monday Notes: Atlanta Book Reading (Setting Intentions)

Some of you will recall that I had a book reading in Jacksonville, Florida. It was Women’s History Month and my intention was to introduce the book, Daddy in a public way with at least four authors. I did that and it was successful.

breeWith the Atlanta book reading, the intention shifted. One of my co-authors, Bree had a different purpose. She aimed to provide a space for healing.

It began with her creating another title. Instead of the book’s title, Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships, she decided the theme would be, Dear Daddy: Intimate Conversations about Father-Daughter Relationships. And let me tell you, her intention set the tone.

for_keepsAdditionally, Rosa Duffy, the owner of For Keeps Bookstore also had a goal. If you haven’t read about her, then please do so in this Atlanta magazine feature. Her intention was to have an open place for rare, African-American books. Her establishment is in an historical district, and she wanted a place for people to saunter by and say, “hmmm…let me see what’s going on in there.”

As you know, my intention when I write is to raise people’s consciousness, specifically women. I want us to see ourselves in writing and to connect with words and ideas, and then do, act, and speak differently.

Much like other happenings in the universe, these three intentions converged. We each accomplished our desired outcomes.

img_0805We had intimate conversations. A man in the front row pulled out his journal, started writing feverishly, and then held his partner’s hand for the remainder of the event. He didn’t share. He didn’t make eye contact. But I can tell he was moved.

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A woman happened to be walking past For Keeps Bookstore, opened the door, sat down, and connected with the stories being told. She even had an endearing conversation with one of the authors and will probably collaborate with her to continue healing hearts in some way.

Women spoke out about their experiences with their fathers. They shared their pain, and then the conversation took another direction.

Similar to the last reading, a few women expressed the fact that they didn’t realize not everyone had great fathers. But this time they communicated a growing awareness. They felt the need to thank their dads more; to appreciate the time they had left with their fathers; and to simply be more grateful. It became a time to honor everyone’s feelings, even if they were dissimilar. My husband even shared his sentiments. On that day, we were each mindful of one another; we created a dialogue and communicated in an empathetic space.

Once again I’m thankful for this reading. It was different. The energy was intense, in a progressive, Atlanta kind of way.

If you missed the first two readings, then no worries. We’ll be convening in Washington, DC in the fall.

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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:

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.

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: Finding My Biological Family (Part II)

I’ve been trying to figure out how to begin this post.

Humorous? Those ancestry.com commercials are cute, right? White people finding out their brown, African roots; black people finding out their white, European roots. It’s all fun and games, until you click on that other link and find out who your biological father is.

Somber and Poetic? Aunt Catherine said she asked my pregnant mother one question, who’s the father? Joyce looked at her, lifted a finger, and pointed at the janitor, a lanky, white man. DCFS had reported a janitor found me as a baby. Not thinking there could be more than one, the storyteller in me put two and two together and made myself biracial. Turns out, I’m not. My father is an African American male. I know because of an ancestry DNA kit.

Straightforward, yet Cheeky? Like 4 million other people, I thought I’d spit into a tube, mail it off through UPS and find out from what part of Africa I hailed. Cameroon/Congo, Benin/Togo, and England/Wales are the top three. But ethnicity isn’t all you can learn there. When I clicked on the little green icon called, View DNA Matches, the full name of my biological father appeared. This is how I found him.

My feelings about finding my biological father, who we’ll call CB, are just as varied as these introductions. I’ve been trying to pin them down, but they range anywhere from a #KanyeShrug to elation. Those of you who’ve followed my blog for the past four years might understand clearly.

img_9137Much of my time has been spent healing and talking about my adopted father, who passed in 2015. His death brought pure peace to my being. An integral connection ended for good. Although a different person, CB is still my father, and finding him had the potential to open another relation called, father. Was I ready for this? Did I need this? These questions swarmed in my brain.

It is my belief that no matter what your head says, your heart and soul always know better. I’d released the idea of knowing my biological father, not because I didn’t want to know, but rather because I thought it an impossible feat. I’d forgotten my own 2018 mantra: Anything is possible, especially finding your father via 21st century methods.

So, I am ready for this. Relating to my deceased father and processing hurtful emotions has prepared me to connect with whoever CB is. I’ve learned not to judge as harshly as I used to. This has been useful. When CB described the circumstances surrounding my conception, a one-night stand, I felt liberated, not judgmental. Who am I to judge a one-night stand, or a baby born out of wedlock to two unprepared people?

img_8993I also needed this. It might seem shallow, but I finally have a complete picture of who I am. This is something I’ve noticed biological families take for granted. Growing up, I always felt physically out of place. No one’s skin color was like mine. No one shared my body type. No one walked like me. No one held their head like mine. In fact, the size of my butt was often the topic of conversation; I now know that comes from my mother’s shapely frame. I was also often told to stop walking slew-footed and to stop walking like a turtle. It might not be healthy, but now I see why these things were challenging for me to “correct.” CB and one of my sisters have similar characteristics.

I’m prepared for this. Learning to love myself has had one major impact. I no longer seek relationships to fill a void. This means I now enter situations as a whole person, with clear boundaries. Therefore, I am good no matter what may come from this new connection. And if I’m not, I’ll add it to the memoir 😉

Part I

Monday Notes: 3 Points of Clarity about Adoption from an Adoptee

Ever since I found my biological father, brother, and sisters by completing one of those Ancestry.com DNA tests, I’ve answered a barrage of questions. They seem to come from people who cannot seem to wrap their minds around what adoption is or from those who cannot conceive the relationship that adoption offers. So, here’s some clarity.

img_8185#1 “Your dad wasn’t your dad?” To put it simply, yes and no. I was adopted as a ten-month-old baby by two parents who did not birth me. Growing up, I called these parents mommy and daddy, the same way you called your parents something affectionate. I hope no one’s reading this with sarcasm. I find this is the first part that people just don’t get. When you’re adopted as a baby, you don’t call your parents, adopted mom and adopted dad. And when you find out you’re adopted, you don’t start calling them, Mr. and Mrs. Gregory. They’re just mom and dad, like your parents are. But for the sake of this post, I’ll add the adopted in front.

img_7197#2 “Aha! That’s why your grandmother took care of you!” No. My grandmother did not adopt me when I was a baby. My grandmother is the mother of my adopted mom. I know for some my history is a bit confusing, so here’s a brief explanation in less than 100 words. My adopted mom died when I was 16 years old. I never knew my biological mother, because she gave me up for adoption when I was a baby. The drama I write about concerning my dad is from my adopted dad. After he kicked me out of his house and gave up his parental rights, my adopted grandmother took care of me when I was 17 years old and provided whatever I needed from that moment forward.

Usually by this point, I get a blank stare or silence during a text message. But some people have returned with this one:

#3 “So, your cousins, aunts, all the people you visit and talk about…they aren’t your family?” <sigh>Like #1, the answer to this is twofold. No. These are not my biological family members. Yes. Of course, they’re my family. I’m 45 years old. These are the people with whom I was raised. Similar to your family, they watched me take my first steps, learn to eat solid foods, babysat me, played with me, shared secrets, bought me necessities for school, took me on family vacations, hung out with me at family reunions, paid for my undergraduate education, attended graduations, visited when I birthed my own children, attended my wedding, etc., etc., etc. They did family things, just like your family may have done for you.

Whew! Now that I’ve cleared that up, I’ll write what it means to find and know my biological family.

Until then, let me know what your family situation is. Are you adopted? Have you adopted children? Was it an open/closed adoption? Do you wish you were adopted? lol (I have someone who told me that) Do you have adopted children in your family?

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!

Giving Back to the Community through Book Sales

1521808695783I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but 100% of the proceeds from the book, Daddy (from June 16, 2018-June 16, 2019) will go to a nonprofit organization near and dear to ten of the authors’ hearts. When you buy a book, you’re also giving back! A list and explanation follows:

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Toliver, Black Girls Code. The owner hopes to “provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Price, the Marjaree Mason Center. The organization “provides emergency and longer-term safe housing, along with a wide variety of support services for victims of domestic violence in Fresno County.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Scott, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The Foundation’s mission is to “provide optimal care and services to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses and to their families and caregivers.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Wright, North Florida Freedom Schools. Operated under the Children’s Defense Fund, “the goal of CDF’s integrated curriculum is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Hagan, The Rhode Island Center for Justice. This organization partners with community groups to protect legal rights and to ensure justice for vulnerable individuals, families, and communities. The Center provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Rhode Islanders, engages in key impact litigation affecting the rights and wellbeing of thousands across the State, and conducts legislative and policy advocacy on behalf of the communities. 

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.”

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.”

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.”

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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.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Roxanne, Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project supports veterans who’ve served on or after September 11, 2001. They help veterans transition to civilian life.

Be sure to order a copy for you or a woman you know who might benefit from understanding that she isn’t the only one with “daddy issues.”

Or, order a copy for a father who might need a nudge towards healing by reading about  other men’s imperfect father-daughter relationships.