Monday Notes: New Mantra

I was raised by a celebratory family. My mother’s side was known to praise any and everything that I did. No matter what I accomplished – piano recitals, school functions, dance programs – my grandmother, grandfather, and great aunts and uncle would proclaim, “you were the best one!” On top of that, my mother was known for creating parties. Some planned and some instant.

“Punch in a glass is just punch,” she’d say, “but when you pour it in a punch bowl, with sliced oranges, well that’s a party!”

We partied often. And it was something I grew used to.

Similarly, my father’s side of the family is known for arriving from out of town to celebrate accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen or talked to the person in months or years, if they’re invited to a graduation party, birthday event, or funeral repast, they will find a way to join in and turn up.

My childhood was wonderful in this way. But then my mother died, and so did her parties.

Eight months later, I threw my own seventeenth birthday party. It was the first time since the funeral that family members were all in one space. It was the first time since we’d buried my mother that things felt normal.

When I graduated high school, I asked Grannie if she was going to have a party afterwards. Some call it an open house.

“You want a party?” she asked.

“Yes,” I beamed.

“Well, you’re gonna have to pay for it yourself.”

biggest_fan_2So, I did. I bought royal blue streamers, royal blue tablecloths and napkins, and ordered myself a white sheet cake, with royal blue icing that read, Congratulations Kathy! After graduation, family and friends celebrated the occasion with me in Grannie’s basement.

Throughout the years, this pattern continued. If I wanted to celebrate me, then I created an event to do so. Sometimes these were joint, out-of-town birthday parties with friends. Other times, like my doctoral graduation or 40th birthday party, I planned a celebration independently to physically say congrats.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown weary of planning festivities for myself, yet I’ve continued to achieve. To maintain a commemorative spirit, I’ve begun taking myself out. If I do something that I believe is extraordinary, then I splurge on a meal.

I also share great news on social media, because even though sites like Facebook can be annoying, the reality is that Internet communities love to uplift you when you’ve done something positive. To be honest, it’s like dipping a glass ladle into that fancy bowl and scooping out the bright red punch my mother used to make. It tastes sweet. It feels special.

But as I approach 46, I realize those things are all outside of myself. And because I seek growth in everything I do, I’ve developed a new mantra. What I’m doing is important, even if no one else acknowledges it.

Don’t get me wrong. I still celebrate myself in explicit ways, but this phrase reminds me to also turn inward. It reminds me that my self-worth is not tied to my success or anyone’s validation of it. And it liberates me from expecting external gratification in the form of celebratory acts. This is a new practice. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, tell me if you’ve ever had to re-frame how you function in the world because of your upbringing? Are you a celebratory person?

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The Greatest Thing About My Grannie…

img_7197Everyone who personally knows me knows that when I’m referring to my Grannie, it’s my mother’s mother. When my other grandmother was alive, Grandma Emma, I either referred to her by name, or as “my other grandmother.” Grannie has always been Grannie.

One of the best things about our relationship is that I had her all to myself for twenty-three years. This was for two reasons. One, my aunt and mother were at least a decade apart. Secondly, my aunt delayed having children until she was in her 30s, thus giving me a Grannie advantage, so to speak, and also making me the only person to call her Grannie. Even though my cousins and I share a grandmother, because they’re in the same generation as my children, for whom she is their great-grandmother, they all call her Gi-Gi.

But I digress.

The best thing about my Grannie is that she always has some wonderful piece of advice, in the form of a saying that just seems to roll off her tongue.

Her most recent one is “The only reason you’re not president is because Obama is.” See how poignant that is? I always took that to mean that you can do whatever you want to do. It shows a positive characteristic that she possesses. For the most part, anything you tell her you want to do, she’ll encourage you and even monetarily support you in achieving that dream.

Another piece of advice that I was raised hearing is “If you make your bed hard, then get out the bed.” I always thought this was clever because it’s a twist on an older adage if you make your bed hard, then lie in it. “Oh no,” my Grannie will tell you to this day. “If your bed is hard, then go find a new bed; change the bed.” I absolutely love this saying because it’s so true. A lot of times we think we have to remain in a situation because we created the situation. But even the law of attraction and all types of new age thinking will advise you to create a new thought and manifest a new reality.

The last piece of advice she gave me was as an adult. I remember explaining to her an email I’d sent to my doctoral chair. Having little knowledge about email, she stopped me mid-story and said, “You’re giving this lady too much information. She doesn’t need to know that you have to drop the kids off and pick them up at five. All she needs to know is you can’t make the meeting.” From that day on, I rarely give excuses for why I can’t do something at work. She was right. All people need to know is the crux of the information. A lot of times we want people to know that we’re hard workers, who would never be derelict in our duties. We think we need “good excuses” to not meet job expectations. Nope. We don’t. So pare down those emails and know that everything will be okay.

Tomorrow will be Grannie’s 92nd birthday. I’m sure when I speak with her, she’ll have more quotables for me.

Do you have any favorite sayings that get you through situations? Feel free to share. My blog is called Kwoted after all 😉

Happily shared for #ForgivingFridays and Debbie’s blog.

Monday Notes: Rambling/Stream of Consciousness

Stream of Consciousness is the name applied specifically to a mode of narration that undertakes to reproduce, without a narrator’s intervention, the full spectrum and continuous flow of a character’s mental process” (Abrams 299).

I’m leery to call what follows as stream of consciousness. But this is what my internal dialogue looks like. It’s innate for me to add periods and press the return key, even if it is in my Notes section. Does that mean it’s not stream of consciousness? Here it is. You be the judge.

***

I write about the little things because it’s the little things that keep us up at night. We wonder why we didn’t get the party invite, some of us even at 40+ still wonder. We worry about how our voices sound and how we look in video. You know who you are.

I write about the little things because they turn into big things. Little indiscretions turn into major experiences that we wonder how tf we got into. Small slides of behavior turn into whole acts of disrespect.

I write about the little hints because that’s what’s relatable. I save the big things for books: abuse, drugs, flaws of Christianity. Yes. The little things are daily. It’s where annoying coworker meets zen philosophy. It’s where wrong job choice meets law of attraction. I want to have discussions in the middle of those spaces. I want to know why you haven’t talked to your dad in 12 years and I’ll tell you what happened with mine. Hmmm…is that little or big? I guess it depends on the size of the hole in our heart.

***

img_7481After re-writing this as-is, I’ve decided it is stream of consciousness for me. You see if I were writing a final, public version, I wouldn’t use wonder twice. I would revise hints to things and probably not use things so much. I would capitalize Zen and Law of Attraction. I would have used the phrase “Christianity’s flaws,” not “flaw of Christianity” because one rolls off the tongue and the other doesn’t.

I would’ve titled this “The Little Things” or “Why I Write.” And I would’ve given more examples. For instance, I write about why people have a fifth drink when they should’ve stopped at two; three more drinks can turn a small decision into a fiasco or a lifetime regret. I would keep the rhetorical question in the end and add this: what I’ve learned is they’re all little things. What we choose to hold on to and how we decide to respond makes them seem larger than life.

Also, if I were being all formulaic and precise,  I would end with an MLA citation for that beginning quote 😉

Looking forward to hearing what you think about stream of consciousness or the topic.

Monday Notes: Men

img_2774I have a lot of thoughts. Conversations occur. People ask for advice. People share things about their lives. I overthink the conversation, advice, or experience, and voila! A thought occurs. So, I jot it down in my notes section in hopes of writing about it on a future date. I have 221 notes on my phone. I figured the future is now lol. Here’s my first one:

I’ve listened to how my male friends talk about women and how they interact with them. I also listen to and observe how women interact with men. Sometimes it’s different.

Men don’t treat every woman like she’s their future wife. They don’t treat every relationship like there’s an impending wedding. Men seem to know which women are so-called “wife material” and which ones are not ready to commit. Consequently, they seem to treat each “type” of woman accordingly. Now, I’m not saying this is right or wrong. Please don’t confuse this with a feminist post. I’m just saying some men seem to know.

Women, on the other hand, seem to meet a man, and immediately begin checking off their “Are you my husband list?” Having standards is an integral part of being in a relationship, but every man, date, and even relationship is not a potential husband or lifelong situation. However, even if a woman notices the man doesn’t fit something on the proverbial list, I’ve noticed that she will then make provisions. Maybe he’ll change and go to church. Maybe I can change him and he’ll stop wearing jeans. Maybe this relationship will change once we’ve dated for a while.

What does this mean? Men seem much quicker to say, “I don’t think I can deal with this woman.” Whereas, women are much quicker to say, “I can work with this man.”

What do you all think? Am I overgeneralizing here? Remember, these aren’t fleshed out thoughts, so I’m not committed to one perspective. Plus, you know I really want to hear what your experiences and opinions are out there.

RE-Defined: SORRY

What would you do if you knocked over a glass picture frame at a business establishment?

I watched as a woman did this very thing at a restaurant. She was standing too close to the desk, applying her makeup. Her elbow moved ever so lightly, causing the frame to fall. Glass shattered everywhere. She continued dabbing her lips, and then said, “I’m sorry.”

Her friend, who was standing about ten feet away near the door shouted, “I can’t take you nowhere,” and then the two middle-aged women skittered off laughing and joking, like teenage besties.

I pretended to scroll my phone, while watching the short, black-haired woman behind the desk. She hadn’t said a word…until they left.

Then, she called a coworker over in her native language. That person swept up the shards, while the other woman continued speaking. The only thing I understood was “I’m sooorrry,” said mockingly, interspersed over and over, coupled with shoulder shrugs and eye rolls.

I assumed we were thinking the same thing. The perpetrator could’ve done more. But what? Had I knocked over a glass frame, I would’ve offered to pay for it, or at least sounded more remorseful. Perhaps that’s what matters: how you apologize and what you do afterwards.

This reminded me of the time my 89-year-old great aunt found out my cousin had stored her antique furniture outside on the balcony. My great aunt had transitioned to a nursing community, which was a quarter of the space she’d ever lived in her entire life. She was upset that the Chicago wind, cold, and snow would ruin the wood. She was confused that someone would even disregard her belongings in the first place. Anger overcame her, and she began crying. I hate to be cliché, but you really could hear a pin drop on the carpet. No one had ever, in their lives, seen her cry actual tears.

sorryI nudged my cousin and whispered, “Why don’t you say, I’m sorry?”

“Well, I’m sorry then,” she said.

This is no exaggeration. I really believe it was the most lackluster apology I’d ever witnessed. My aunt demanded to be driven back to her new home, and the rest is Christmas fairy tale history. Everyone has their own rendition of what happened and why.

It seems we’ve gotten so used to repeating certain phrases that we forget actions should accompany them. If I apologize, then how do you know that I’m really sorry? In the case of the broken frame, I do believe the lady should’ve offered the business owner something, even if it was to help clean up. As far as my great aunt goes, I think she wanted what most of us want when our feelings are hurt, empathy. So, I’d like to suggest this. I’m sorry is just the beginning of an apology. What you do afterwards is the actual reconciliation of regret.

Let me know what you think. Have you ever had to apologize for your behavior? Have you ever accepted someone’s apology? Does it matter how the person says it?

RE-Defined: FRIENDSHIP

I have quite a few people whom I call friend. There are friends who I never speak to, but still hold the title. A woman named Mika fits into this category. We’ve known each other since we were six. We went to the same schools, up until senior year. She attended my wedding and I attended hers. Her husband even edited my dissertation for free because I didn’t have money at the time. However, I haven’t verbally spoken with her in about two years. We haven’t seen each other in even more time. Still, I know she’s my friend.

I have other friends who begin text messages as if we spoke yesterday.

“KG, what did I say in this last post that could’ve been negative or offensive?” my friend Calvin asked the other day. Excluding the are you okay because a hurricane is covering your state convo, we haven’t had a real conversation in about eight months. We lol’d and emoji’d for the next few hours. He described how his oldest daughter was doing at her private university and I shared how my oldest is doing living on her own going to community college. In between, we talked about how ridiculous Facebook has gotten, and then hours later we said ttyl and good night.

New ImageMy other friend, Wanda’s birthday is six days before mine. That’s how our friendship began. For years, she and I would road trip to Atlanta or Orlando with a couple of other women to celebrate. After a while, that ended. But our friendship remained. Currently, we talk on the phone every now and then. We go out to eat occasionally. She was one of my number one supporters when I released The Unhappy Wife book, wearing the t-shirt all around Jacksonville, and holding conversations with anyone who would listen and purchase a copy. I know if anything ever happened, this chick would not only hide the body, but also regulate her breathing so she could pass the lie detector test.

I also have friends that are former high school students. I haven’t taught at that level for eleven years, and it took me a minute to be comfortable with calling these women friends, because of society’s rules. But I’ve had to admit that’s who they’ve come to be. Each is nearing 30, and as individual relationships grow, I’ve noticed that every woman mirrors a part of me. One is eccentric, wishes for no one’s opinion, and lives life unabashedly on her own terms. Another is a goal-setter, with her life paved out. The last one’s challenging home life used to dictate who she was and how she lived, but not anymore; she lives consciously and takes responsibility for her energy and space. Reflection is an understatement. They are me; and I am them.

I have another friend who I’ve never met! I’ve talked about her before. She’s a WordPress blogger named Mek. We haven’t met because she lives on a different continent. For a while, we talked at least once a day through an app. Then, our relationship stabilized and now we reach out when there is time. Our conversations include a lot of riiights and high-fives because, for the most part, we get each other. She knows all about my family’s successes and challenges, and I know about hers. We cheer each other on when there’s something that requires pom-poms and listen when there’s something that requires an ear. Without hesitation, she is my friend.

A few years ago, I would’ve argued that everyone is not your friend. I used to apply a static set of rules to all friendships. How could we be friends if you don’t follow my blog? How could we be friends if I haven’t talked to you in three years? Over time, I’ve learned that’s not fair to the person or the relationship, and it’s a bit unrealistic. People are different, and consequently, so are the ways in which they relate to others.

What I’ve realized is friendships are fluid. While each friendship has been created out of mutuality, no two friends are alike and that should be respected. Because of this, I’ve learned to appreciate each friend’s individual personality as a constant gift of love that ebbs and flows throughout my life. In that way, I’m grateful for each person, no matter how and when they show up.

This is how I now define friendship. How do you define a friend? What makes someone your friend? Have your “requirements” changed over time?

Astigmatism and a stigma

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the fifth grade. We all lined up as usual to take our public school vision test. I giggled my way to the front of the line. This would probably go like previous years.

Finally, it was my turn. Was that an “F” or an “E”? Was that an “O” or a “C”?

“Kathy,” the visiting optometrist started, “it looks as if you’re going to need glasses.”

I was already different than the children on my block. They attended the neighborhood school and I was bused to a magnet one. My hair hung down my back, while other girls had cornrows or braids with colorful beads. I spoke “standard” English when everyone else used “ain’t” and double negatives with ease.

And now I had to add wearing glasses to this list?

My first reaction was a single tear from my near-sighted eye. Another soon formed and trickled down my cheek. Before I knew it, I was full-on crying, in front of the whole fifth-grade.

The visiting optometrist whispered, “Now dear, you don’t want to make the people who wear glasses feel bad, do you?”

She was talking about Alexander Adams, a kid named after a president. She referred to Eli Korner. A nice boy, but not someone I wanted to be in the glasses gang with.

So my mom took me to a place called For Eyes. My first pair were lilac. If I had to wear them, then I was going to look as cool as possible doing it.

***

Fast forward to 1991. I had just graduated high school and had a job. All this time, I’d been wearing the glasses that someone else could afford for me. This time, I’d wear the glasses that I wanted.

My first pair, with my own paycheck were Laura Biagotti’s. I’m pretty sure I paid over $200 for them. But it didn’t matter. I was fly. Ironically, I’d also decided to ditch wearing them in public. It was time for me to enjoy the convenience of contacts.

That was back when you could get a pair of annuals and they would last, well, all year, as the title suggests.

I wore those contacts so much that Dwight didn’t even realize I needed to wear glasses. I slept in those contacts so much that the optometrist had to threaten not to give me a prescription because you know, you’re not supposed to sleep in contacts.

Every year, I’d renew my contact lens prescription. And every other year, I’d renew my eyeglass prescription, wearing them at night only. I held on to this routine for 25 years.

***

Much like many prescription holders, my eyesight worsened over time. Much worse. But it didn’t matter. I could hide the truth behind my contacts. Decades later, companies discontinued annuals and only offered monthlies.

Everything was good, until this year.

My eyesight had worsened still. Because according to Dr. Suddath, no matter what, when you’re over 40, your vision will continue to decline, regardless of the starting point.

My current prescription is: -7.50 with a -1.75 astigmatism and -8.25 with a -1.00 astigmatism.

All this technical mumbo jumbo means I can no longer wear monthlies. My contacts only come in dailies, which cost $106 per month. Say what?

This means, as my good friend Mek suggested, “Maybe you should embrace the glasses now?”

And suddenly, I felt like I was ten again. I cried and cried, like a week ago y’all.

It might sound silly. But there was a slight fear.

Most people don’t even know I wear glasses, for real. Most people don’t know that if I didn’t have these contacts in, I wouldn’t know who was standing in front of my face. Most people don’t know that wearing glasses is what makes me feel 10% less confident in public spaces.

Most people don’t know that I’d been holding on to a feeling of inadequacy for 33 years, all because I couldn’t see clearly.

Sheesh! 

I had subscribed to a stereotype about wearing glasses and safely hid behind contact lenses. Well, it has to end here. I’ll have to shed this made up stigma and find the right frame for my (public) comfort level. 

The journey to loving me for me in this and every moment continues, glasses and all.

Do you have any hidden insecurities you’ve held on to since childhood? Share them below so we can support one another. 

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.