Monday Notes: Award-Winning Blog

A lot of times, I do things based on how I feel in the moment. I attribute this to a strong sense of intuition.

This year, my gut led me to judge the Florida Writers Association’s (FWA’s) Royal Palms Literary Awards (RPLA). I had done it before, but it was a long time ago. I felt it was time for some writerly service.

When I read the guidelines, I saw there was a new category: blogging. “What?” I thought. “I have a blog. Will this be a conflict of interest?” I decided it wouldn’t be. FWA is hella professional; they use rubrics and very careful directions, so I made a firm decision to go for it.

When I read that entries could be singular or a series, again, I was a bit excited. “I’ve done many series,” I thought. But which would be appropriate?

It was between Corona Chronicles and Mental Health Matters. I based my decision on stats. Both series were released during 2020, but Mental Health Matters was pretty successful in terms of readership.

Entries were limited by word count, so I had to decide which part of the series I’d submit. Again, I based it on stats, not on which ones I personally liked. According to WordPress, the following were hits:

So, I got all of my materials together and emailed them.

Months later, I was quite surprised to learn I was a semi-finalist.

Then, over the weekend, during the virtual ceremony, I was again surprised to learn I’d actually won. FWA awarded me first place in the blogging category!

But guess what? I wasn’t as excited as I was the first time I won a writing award, and here’s why:

  • I’m a different person. I’ve learned not to rely on awards to make me feel good about myself. Sure, I’m happy, but I’m not ecstatic. The first time I won was 2016, and I was still developing my identity outside of external rewards, so it was still exciting because I was associating it with my self-worth. Today, I know awards and compliments are not connected to how great of a person I am.
  • Awards mean something in the writer community. This second award gives me credence in the writer world. I can add this to my CV when publishers ask for it. I can include it in my bio. It means something because other people believe it means something. I get that and use it accordingly.
  • Comments on my blog are the real reward. And they are no match for any award. The other day, I legit teared up at a blogger’s words because it was so authentic. This has happened before. Anytime someone tells me they understand what I’ve said, or a story resonates with their experience, or I’ve helped them feel heard and less alone, I feel a sense of purpose and deep satisfaction. That’s something a state award can’t give me.

So, yes. I’m appreciative and proud of myself for having won another award for writing, specifically for something I literally do for free just for authenticity and connection. However, I do know that it is not the end-all be-all for my talent. What truly matters is how I’m impacting the world with my words. And for that I’m truly grateful.



Monday Notes: I Let Go

I let go of relationships of convenience, where people put you on hold, until you fit into their lives.

I let go of relationships which lack symbiosis, where I visit, and they make excuses for passing my home en route to see someone else.

I let go of relationships where I am not a priority, where careers and other people constantly come first.

I let go of relationships bound to outdated traditions, ones where innovative ways to interact are dismissed.  

And when I let go, I allow for experiences aligned with who I am today.

I open space for new relationships to develop. Relationships where I have authentic discussions with friends about overall wellness—mental and physical.

I recognize friends who have been consistently present, those who communicate in multiple ways during varied times and those who’ve settled in for a lifetime of connection.

I embrace my sister, someone I’ve known for three years, but someone with whom interacting is as natural as breathing. A recent international trip solidified what I’ve always suspected; relationships are not hard.

I notice old friends reentering, reengaging, and recalibrating at just the right moment. Either I need them, or they need me right now.

I accept my cousin’s invitation to commune with her and her family post-Christmas in a different city and state. Her suggestion is timely.

When I let go, I allow myself to expand in newness.

And when I expand in newness, I’m no longer stagnant, resentful, or bitter. Instead, I am growing and evolving in self-awareness and self-love. In this state, I can begin accepting current circumstances, accepting that all relationships don’t last forever, not even if you wish upon a star and meditate on them during the new moon. Some connections are seasonal, and that’s okay.

Peace to everyone letting go of something this fall.



Monday Notes: 3 Ways Unresolved Trauma Showed Up In My 25-Year Marriage

Dwight and I met in 1993, four years after my mother died and three years after my father agreed to give up his parental rights. We married three years later. I’ve spent the last seven years deconstructing how these events (and others) impacted how I’ve functioned in relationship. Now, I’m ready to share some of it with you.

#1: I married out of fear. When I married Dwight, I legitimately believed no one else in the world was going to love me. NO ONE! Given my history of abandonment by all primary caregivers (i.e., biological and adoptive parents), this is not strange. I had a sense that if my parents couldn’t even stick around, then why would anyone else? I (unconsciously) thought that if this man, who I perceived as perfect, wanted to marry me, then I’d better say yes and speed to my “happily ever after.” This isn’t to say I didn’t love him. It’s just that I had a feeling that this was my last chance ever at being loved. I entered our marriage as a scared little girl, and I maintained that fear for at least eighteen years.

#2: I thought being married could replace the love I should’ve had for myself. My husband once said, “I love you more than you love yourself.” That’s deep. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It sounded ridiculous. But he was right. My self-worth was so low that I (unconsciously) thought marrying him would solve my abandonment issues. I thought marriage could save me from that bottom-of-the-barrel feeling. Life doesn’t work that way, though. If you feel sad and dejected, once you get married, then you’ll just feel sad and dejected with a partner alongside you. And even though misery loves company, the company doesn’t love misery, especially when he didn’t ask for it. The only way to improve self-worth is to acknowledge your importance sans external validation. Worth doesn’t have to be earned. Self-worth is a birthright.

#3: I thought being married meant melding identities. I wrote about this here, but it’s worth reiterating. When Dwight and I were first in relationship, I was already dealing with the common identity issues associated with being an adoptee. I’d dissolved this already shaky sense of self and replaced it with his likes and desires. I thought I had to be someone else to maintain my husband’s love. This is unhealthy. It’s important for two people to have a clear sense of who they are and what they like prior to becoming a union. And afterwards, it’s just as important to maintain separate identities. At this point, I remind people that my husband and I are not Bobbsey twins; we do not do everything together. If you see me out and about by myself, it’s because that’s what I preferred at the time. Our separate actions have nothing to do with the love we share or the years we have.

There is a difference between how my personal issues affected our marriage and how much I love Dwight. One has nothing to do with the other. When we first met, there was an undeniable sense that we were supposed to be together. We both felt and still feel it; it’s kind of like a magnetic pull. It’s just that when you don’t resolve trauma prior to marrying, then you end up resolving it while you’re married. It’s not an impossible feat, but there will be negative consequences for one or both people.

Seek therapy. Get to know yourself. Then, commit. In an ideal world, that’s how healthy relationships would be created and maintained. But I also know we’re far from living in an idyllic society. And if we each waited for perfect wholeness in ourselves or another being, we’d probably remain by ourselves forever. Sounds contradictory, right? It is. Ultimately, I’d advise new couples to do their best to be healthy versions of themselves, while holding space for the one another to grow. That’s what we ended up doing, and we’ve been married for twenty-five years.



Post-script: I’ve got 3 more ways, but I gotta leave material for the memoir 💁🏽‍♀️

Monday Notes: Self-Expression and Personal Power

I was raised as an only child in a family of older relatives. In addition to my parents, there were two grandmothers, one grandfather, three great-grandparents, and three great aunts. Most of my cousins were actually my mothers’ cousins; meaning, they were each around my parents’ age. That’s a lot of older people who believed that “children should be seen and not heard.”

In case you cannot tell, I always have something to say about almost everything. This is not a new development.

So, what happens when a child, who has a lot to say, is raised in a family where she cannot express herself? What happens when a child is raised in a family where she is slapped in the mouth for saying something “out of line?” What happens when a child is raised in a family where she is told to “shut up?”

Well, I don’t know about others, but as soon as I was of age, I said what I wanted in the unhealthiest of ways. I was extremely sarcastic because I didn’t know how to safely communicate my emotions. I used to run around telling people to “shut the f*ck” up” when I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I’d berate people’s ideas by asking them if they were “stupid,” something my grandmother frequently used to ask me.

But when I began this blog, I did it with the purpose of being able to express myself differently—in healthy ways that I value.

I promised myself that what someone else had to say about how I’m communicating my thoughts would not matter. There’s no way I can write about the topics I do (i.e., abortion rights, imposter syndrome, etc.) while thinking about how others who may have been involved are going to interpret a narrative from thirty years ago.

Initially, this worked because I wrote about issues centered on people who are deceased (e.g., my mother) or jobs where I’m no longer employed.

However, I quickly learned it is impossible (for me) to maintain a blog and only talk about dead or distant relatives and jobs from years ago. Life happens, and because I’m living it with others, I may have something to say about a conversation from yesterday or an experience I had last week.

But recently, it seems my blog has made people uncomfortable. One person said, “Don’t put this on the blog,” before engaging in conversation, and another re-quoted words from something I’d written to “prove” I was exhibiting hypocrisy.

And you know what happened? With the former request, it felt like the person was trying to control what I write…on my blog. With the latter, it seemed as if my words were being used against me. Neither of these felt good, especially because I’ve struggled to have a healthy voice in the world for so long.

I had to reflect for a minute. What you’re reading is the result. I had to remind myself of a few things:

  1. I’m not a child or teenager. This reminder is not in an immature, I’m grown; I do what I want South Park kind of way. It’s literally a way to ground myself in the here and now to say, “KG, you’re an adult and you’ve learned how to communicate in healthy ways, so do that girl!” I had to give myself a pep talk.
  2. My power is in communicating. Subsequently, no one can take it away. I can give my power away. I can acquiesce to the needs and wants of others, consequently yielding power, but no one can take it from me.
  3. My “why” on this blog is always to inspire. As long as I sense I am affirming readers’ experiences or inspiring you to do or think about something in a new way, then I will continue…in my own way.

Sending love, light, and the ability to garner your personal power to anyone reading this.



Monday Notes: Semi-Finalist

Guess what? Remember My Mental Health Matters series from last year? Well, I entered it into the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palms Literary Awards blogging category, and it’s made it to semi-finalist status!

Crossed fingers that I’ll make it past this point.

Here are the articles that are up for review:

No matter the outcome, I want to take this moment to personally thank all of you for continuing to rock with me on this blog. It brings me joy.

Monday Notes: Seeking Perfection

I was hit by a car when I was fourteen years old. It was a Saturday. Because my father was the youth pastor, we were going to church to pick up teens for an activity. When we arrived, my then best friend stood across the street in front of the building. She yelled out my name, and without a second thought, I darted into traffic.

As the story goes, the car hit me, my body flew up in the air, and I landed on the man’s windshield.

I awoke in a Northwestern Memorial Hospital bed the next day. Aside from being unconscious and sore, I had also chipped my front tooth. Out of all the details my mother, the nurse, and best friend relayed, missing about twenty-five percent of my front tooth is what filled my eyes with tears.

Consequently, every five years, since I was fourteen, I’ve gotten a filling for just that part of my front tooth. It’s been a lifelong hassle. Some years, shading was either too off-white or not white enough, leaving that one tooth in a mismatched contrast. Other years, I didn’t have enough money to get it re-done and had to suffer the coffee stains that remained. Some years, the tooth was too short or too long.

2019

The last time I had it re-filled was 2017. Not only was the shading off, but the dentist had shaped the tooth to be facing to the right.

That’s when I decided to find a new dentist.

“If you want it to look perfect,” new dentist said, “you’ll have to get a crown. That way, it’ll be computer generated and you can get custom shading, so it’ll match your other teeth.” “Plus,” he continued, “you can’t keep getting this filled. It’s deteriorating.”

I saved my money and made my appointment for November 30th. I carefully chose this date because classes would be ending, and I would have the semester break to get used to a crown.

As I lie in the chair, I knew I’d made a bit of a mistake.

I didn’t realize the dentist had to file down most of my tooth. This is standard, so the crown will fit over it. I should’ve googled the process ahead of time.

I knew I’d have a temporary crown for three weeks, but I didn’t know it could fall off, which is exactly what happened.

Not having a front tooth was stressful. Dwight and I have been together since 1993. Last month is the first time he’d seen me without a front tooth. Hell, it was the first time I’d seen myself toothless. And let me tell you, having a little baby tooth right in the front of your mouth creates a black hole only fit for hockey players and such.

The second time it fell off, I was with a friend. Though I was embarrassed, I was grateful we were at her house and not at a public restaurant.

The third time it fell off, I was tired. I’d been so stressed about not having a tooth that I couldn’t sleep, and when I did, I awoke with a pain on the right side of my mouth from where I’d been grinding all night. So, I just left it off until my appointment arrived.

December 15th, I received the permanent crown. Let me tell you something. It’s beautiful. It’s the best tooth I’ve ever had since I was fourteen.

But it’s different. It feels like a foreign object in my mouth.

I’m a tad bit traumatized from the temporary and don’t really want to bite into anything, so it takes me twice as long to finish a meal these days. Jamie, the dental assistant, who’s become my bestie at the office has assured me it’s fine and the tooth will not fall off.

2020

I can feel a slight space between the crown and the back of my actual tooth, but again, Jamie took a picture, showed it to me, and explained that it’s fine. According to her, the dentist will not attach it to my gum line because it may cause irritation and gum disease.

This. Feels. Weird.

So, yeah. This is one of those rare times where I feel as if I’ve made a huge mistake. Instead of seeking to have the perfect tooth, I should’ve sought some level of acceptance of my imperfect smile that only I seemed to have noticed all these years.

Yep. I think that’s the lesson here.

Do you have a crown? Implants? Dentures? An area of your body you wish looked a little different? Let me know about your experience in the comments, while I adjust to this, um, new situation.

Monday Notes: 4 Things I Liked About Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

A few weeks ago, three friends reached out to me to ask if I’d watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey yet. I love Christmas movies and didn’t even know it was a thing, so I was super excited to run home and watch it as soon as I could. Here are four things I liked about the movie.

The cast is Black. Representation in media is important. I came of age in the ‘80s. At the time, the only Christmas film I had that included people who looked me was The Wiz with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, and even that was an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. As I grew older, I enjoyed watching Christmas movies…a lot, but there still weren’t many that included an all-Black cast. As of today, there are about eleven, including some fan favs, like The Preacher’s Wife, The Best Man Holiday, and Almost Christmas. So, I’m quite pleased to add another all-Black Christmas movie to the list.

There is a dysfunctional father-daughter theme. Most of you know I’ve edited and contributed to a book called Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships, so I was super happy to see this movie normalizes that theme, while not blaming the father or the daughter for the dysfunction. There was one part, in particular, with which I could relate. The narrator says, “Jessica didn’t just lose one parent, she lost two.” That’s exactly how I felt when my mother died and I think this film did a great job of demonstrating how dysfunction occurs, without centralizing the issue or overexaggerating events.

Jeronicus Jangle is a Black male professor. I’m a professor who has worked fulltime at three different institutions. I have encountered two Black male professors in each department. I’ve also graduated from three different universities in three different cities and have studied under three Black male professors in the English and education field. There aren’t a lot of professors who fit the demographic. I’m not sure what the statistic is for math and science, which is what Jangle’s character was, but I’m willing to bet it’s low. Kind of like having an all-Black cast, this type of representation matters, too.

The songs are inspiring and uplifting. I’m glad no one told me Jingle Jangle was a musical, because I probably wouldn’t have watched it. I absolutely loathe musicals. There’s something about people breaking out into song and dance in the middle of a script that’s uber annoying. But, as I prepared to write this blog post, I re-watched the movie and really listened to the songs. Each one is very motivational. My favorite is sung by Journey (Madalen Mills), Jangle’s granddaughter; it’s called, “Square Root of Possible.” And the chorus is,

It’s so possible
Watch me rise high above my obstacles
Watch me become who I’m supposed to be
Oh, the possibilities
‘Cause the squarе root of impossible
Is possible
In me
In mе

I mean, really. How much more inspiring can you get than this song???

Have you watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey? If so, let me know what you liked about it in the comments. If not, I suggest checking it out on Netflix. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s nice to have a new sunshiny movie to watch.

Monday Notes: 5 Ways to Become a Writer

img_3443Sometimes I jot down a note and it’s very negative. When that happens, I re-focus and make it a positive post, like this one.

***

I’ve written since I was in elementary school, fifth grade to be exact. However, I didn’t consider myself a writer until six years ago. Once I accepted this part of my identity, I started observing and listening to writers and “aspiring” writers. I’ve determined if you want to be a writer, then this is what you’ll have to do:

Start Writing Now that my writing is public knowledge, people confide in me. Cousins, the man at the Florida Writers Association conference, and the woman who asked me to ghostwrite her novel each want to write. But when I ask them what they’ve written so far, the answer is nothing. I advise each of them the same. Start writing. Whether it’s a public blog or a private diary, the first step is to begin.

Make Time to Write I often thought my job was getting in the way of writing. That wasn’t the truth. And because no one was going to offer me more time in the day, I had to shift my priorities. Instead of watching the Today Show every morning, I wrote for two hours. Then, I began my regular day. Where could you shift your priorities so that you can make time to write?

Take Time to Edit After you’ve written something, consider that your first draft. All writers have first drafts, and second, and thirds, and…you get the picture. As a former English teacher, rarely have I seen a masterpiece written in one fell swoop. When you take time to write, that means you might find yourself pondering over the use of the word stroll, saunter, or walk because you know each one of those words will change the connotation and flow of your sentence. So take the time to think about the words you’ve written in a meaningful way.

You Think Your Stories Have Already Been Heard Probably. I mean an infinite number of books have been written and read. But not yours and not the way you can write it. Comments about The Unhappy Wife have validated this concept. Recently, Story Teller Alley approved me to sell my book on their site. One of the reasons it was accepted is because of originality. A reviewer said,

Although stories of unhappy marriages have been told before, because these are all true stories and each person is different, the stories are all different.”

I’m glad the innovation shone through. Sometimes people read the title and assume they know what’s inside. But it’s a false assumption. Likewise, if I would’ve thought these were trite narratives, then I might not have written the book. So my advice? Don’t worry about it. Somebody wants to read it the way you’ve written it.

You’re Worried about What Other People Think If you follow my blog, then you know I write about many things that have happened in my life. Stories include family, friends, and people I barely know. I couldn’t write half of what you read here if I stopped to worry about someone’s hurt feelings and reinvention of history. Initially, an Anne Lamott quote helped me forge ahead with authentic writing, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” That quote changed my entire creative nonfiction writing life. The other part that has helped me write the truth is to separate fact from emotion. For example, it’s a fact that my dad packed up my belongings in the middle of the night while I slept. Consequently, I felt abandoned and pushed aside because of what occurred. Stick to the facts and make clear when you’re describing an emotion.

I hope one of these sparks the writer in you. Trust me. Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear your voice, even if the someone is you.

Monday Notes: 3 Lessons from a BFF Breakup

We were friends for a decade and a half. Fifteen years is a long time. We’d friended our way through childbirth, divorce and international relocations. If you’ve been friends with someone for this long, then you know the laughs, tears, secrets, and experiences that can accumulate. There are too many to count.

That’s why breaking up was difficult. I felt its dissipation at least three years ago, but I thought it would pass. I figured if I gently expressed my new journey to her then, she would understand and join me. That’s not reality. Everyone cannot walk beside you on your path. Everyone is not supposed to.

And you know what? I’ve learned that it’s okay if they don’t. Equally important, I’ve become a little more conscious about who I am in friendships and what I want in those relationships:

I want to be the person’s friend, not her therapist. Friends listen to one another during their times of need. I get it. However, if all our phone calls include me listening to you and your problems, then that’s not a friendship. That’s a therapy session. Asking me to be your part-time counselor is not fair to me or you. Also, I’ve discovered that my tolerance level is low when it comes to this. Some people find this cold and unfeeling, but it’s quite the opposite. I empathize deeply. I take whatever you’ve revealed to me and literally feel your emotion. When it’s traumatic, it weighs heavy. Until I learn to let go of others’ issues, I need my friends to seek therapy, instead.

I want my friends to grow. Is this fair to say? You all know I’m always seeking growth, physically, spiritually, academically, whatever. If you’ve known me for any length of time, then I’m probably not the same person you first met. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m saying I want a friend who is a mirror image of me. I don’t. But if we’re friends, then I want to know that you care about your own well-being and that maybe, you and I will help one another get there. Here’s the tricky part. Growth begins with self-reflection. And self-reflection requires looking in the mirror and being honest with oneself. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t make someone self-reflect.

I want my friends to be non-judgmental. For real. I’ve been singing the non-judgment song for about four years. Now, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I still screenshot the occasional text to a mutual friend and wonder “what in the world is wrong with her?” But not always good people. Other people’s business is not often the topic of my own conversations. That’s because I’m too busy doing #2 ^^^ self-reflecting and growing. If the purpose of you reaching out to me is to discuss when someone else is going to get her life together, then you and I probably don’t need to connect that often.

Over the years, I’ve gained and lost quite a few girlfriends. The main reason is because I’d never thought twice about who the person was when we met. It was more like, you like eating out and partying? Me too. Let’s get together and do that, and then we became friends. The end of those friendships forced me to process how or why we became close. I’ve determined the answer is usually rooted in the energy surrounding me at the time. But I’ll save that discussion for another day.

For now, I’m wondering, have you ever broken up with a friend? Did it bother you? Have you thought about what you want in a friendship? Do you have long-lasting friendships? If so, how’d that happen?