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?

August 12th

August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.

WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.

“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.

I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.

We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.

“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.

I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.

img_4677We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.

Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:

Tarra by herself.

Tarra and me.

Tarra and John.

John and me.

Tarra, John, and me.

I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.

A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.

“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”

Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.

As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.

We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.

I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.

“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”

“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”

A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”

She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.

st_johns_river_artworkBy now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.

“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”

“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.

Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.

img_4725We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.

My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.

I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.

Update: The Visit

“Why did you come?” That’s what Dwight asked me as we drove down I-10E, away from his brother’s home.

I came because I should be able to visit family without there being a problem.

I came because it’s what I do. If I’m in your city or state for business, then I let you know so that we can see one another, even if the other person wouldn’t do the same.

I came because I finally realized that it’s not anyone’s job to like, love, or validate me, so how they feel about me (positive or negative) doesn’t matter.

I came because, despite what people may think, I actually do like family.

Those are the answers I gave. But there is one more. I came because I believe part of my purpose is to work out relationships and their challenges. That’s why I write about them so much. Visiting my brother and sister-in-law was one more opportunity to work through how to be in relationship with them.

To be clear, the visit was pleasant. In fact, I had great conversations with my nieces and nephews; we even laughed and played on their trampoline.

Even though it was great, a few concepts were reinforced about interacting with family.

compromiseCompromise is required sometimes. My brother and sister-in-law are Christians. We visited on the weekend; therefore, SIL announced that the six of them would be attending church Sunday morning and we were welcomed to attend. The alternative? “You’ll just be here in an empty house if you don’t come,” she said.

Neither Dwight, nor I believe or participate in organized religion. I haven’t attended a church service in countless years. But from 11a until 1p, we listened to praise and worship songs and a lengthy sermon on the Samaritan woman (John 4).

We could’ve stayed at their home. But we didn’t for one reason. We hadn’t seen them in seven years. We came to spend time with them, and if they’d planned on being at church while we were there, then that’s where we would be too.

yin_yangDifferences make connecting difficult. The more I conversed with my SIL, the clearer our differences became. She likes rural communities; I like major cities. She’s introverted; I’m extroverted. She likes the cold and snow; I live for the warmth of the sun. She has a very quiet voice; I speak from my chest (a colleague once told me). She prefers tea; I love a full-bodied coffee. She’s conservative; I’m liberal. I could probably continue but I’m sure you get the point.

There’s nothing wrong with being different; however, it does make establishing a relationship a bit harder because there rarely seem to be common liftoff points. For example, although it was nice of her to buy coffee for me to have prior to church, it was instant. She didn’t realize this might be an egregious act to a coffee drinker. But because I was in a space of compromise, I drank it with gratitude. This brings me to the last lesson.

It’s okay not to be close with family members. It really is. Sometimes family is just family. Sometimes they are just the people to whom you are related. Sometimes family are just the people who married into your space, or you into theirs. For a long time, I thought otherwise. I believed family should be the people with whom you connect with the most. This isn’t always true, and I was reminded once again last week.

Close relationships require shared activities that allow for bonding. There are families who bond over vacations. Some families bond over holiday drinks. Other families bond over sports. I’m not sure our differences will allow for many bonding experiences. And without those, I’m not sure how the relationship can be closer.

While my visit was enjoyable, it was clear that we will more than likely remain as simply family. And that’s okay.

So, that’s the update. Let me know what you think about either of these points. Also, it’s the holiday season! Will you be spending time with family you aren’t particularly close to? If so, how will you manage?

Monday Notes: 3 Ways I Prepared for a Family Visit

A week or so ago, I revealed that there was some anxiety surrounding my upcoming visit with my brother and sister-in-law. For months, and all the way up to the moment we drove to their home, there were three specific things I did to prepare.

Royalty Free Image

#1: Let go of all grievances! Like many people who have had challenging relationships, I had a list. The list was mainly comprised of interactions with my brother-in-law. They spanned from 1993, when Dwight and I first met through 2015. Everyday leading to the visit, I thought of each act where I felt mistreated. I actually saw the sentence in my mind on a piece of paper, until there was a list. Next, I crumpled up the list and threw it in a fire (in my mind). Because I believe that we’re all energy, I knew that I couldn’t possibly go into their space with a twenty-five-year-old list of everything I was angry about. I couldn’t bring that negative energy with me because it would be disruptive and it would cloud how I engaged. I’d be speaking and functioning from a space of hurt, pain, and suffering, instead of love, which was my ultimate intention.

LOVE_june#2: Love them the way I would anyone else! Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that if I like, love, or care about someone, then I interact differently. For example, if I care about you, then I look you in your eyes, ask you about your well-being, and fully participate in conversation. If I don’t, then one of those actions is missing. For this trip, I knew it was my sister-in-law’s birthday, so I decided to act as I would if I was visiting a friend and it was his or her birthday. Dwight had already planned to buy a bottle of wine, but I also suggested bringing enough gourmet cupcakes for her and her family of six. We’d also chosen a beautiful card to accompany her gifts.

 #3: Visualize positive interactions! Law of attraction and creative visualization have undergirded the last two decades of my life. If you’re not familiar, at the base of these teachings is the idea that emotion and images create the life you want or the life you have. As I mentioned before, I intended to bring love to the situation; accessing that emotion was no problem; however, visualizing it in their space was challenging sometimes. I imagined myself ringing their doorbell and both of them opening the door. I created an image and a dialogue where I was very excited to see them.

I’d planned to say, “Heeey Happy Birthday!”

She would then say, “Thank you so much.”

Then, I would hand her the box of cupcakes and she would be very appreciative.

I’m sure there’s some scientific name for this, but visualizing positive interactions was hard to do because my brain kept reminding me of the old story. It goes like this: even if they knew it was my birthday, they would probably never bring me a gift. Then, my brain reminded me of something on the list: one year my brother-in-law convinced his father that my birthday was two days later, which was hurtful. When that happened, I reverted back to strategy number one, removed the act from the list again, and continued visualizing. I imagined holding an in-depth conversation with my oldest nephew, and even though I didn’t really know my younger nieces and nephew, I saw us laughing and playing games.

These three things worked for me, and as promised, I will update you on the actual visit tomorrow.

Written for Debbie’s blog and #ForgivingFridays.

Monday Notes: Ask Nothing; Just Be

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves” – kelley from Black Burgundy.

I read this quote on kelley’s blog a month or so ago. It resonated so deeply with me that I typed it into my notes and vowed to write about it one day.

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves. But we do it often. My father did this when he discovered he had Stage 4 throat cancer. He wanted me to demonstrate a self-less, compassionate, and giving love towards him, when many times he had not shown the same towards others, especially me. How could he expect me to do something that he had never done, and because he was dying, would never do? It baffled me for the first two years, until I made a choice and decided who he chose to be didn’t matter. All that mattered is who I chose to be because I had to sit with my own character.

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves reminds me of a Jill Scott interlude. It’s called Willing. In it, Scott describes a relationship that all too many women may be used to. It’s a relationship where the man wants his mate to exhibit certain characteristics: “flawless,” “patient,” “willing,” “honest,” and “loyal,” just to name a few. Have you seen this type of romantic relationship? One person expects these qualities, but doesn’t offer it themselves. In fact, consciously or unconsciously, they may be the opposite: flawed, impatient, stubborn, dishonest, and disloyal, yet they desire something else.

We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves seems like commonsensical advice for all relationships, but I suppose it’s not. I have a great aunt, who is 96 years old. All of my life she’s never called me. In fact, she relies on her sister, my Grannie, to call, keep up with, and pass on information about my life’s happenings and me. However, in her later years, she’s become a widow, lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, and lost her mobility to old age. As she sits in her tiny apartment, this way of keeping up with me has stopped working for her. Her solution?

“Call me once a month,” she says.

Notice, she didn’t say, “I’ll call you once a month.” Instead, she wants me to do something that even she doesn’t plan to begin doing.

People are funny. And because of that, relationships and how we relate to one another and tend to one another’s needs (or not) are also laughable.

I’d advise that we stop this behavior and begin anew. Give to others what you desire. If you want love, then give love. If you want compassion, then be compassionate. If you want honesty, then tell the truth as much as possible. In this way, you’ll always have what you want because it will begin with you. And if you don’t have it to give, then it might be time to dig deep to figure out why.

Let me know what you think, and if you want to check out the Jill Scott interlude, here it is. It’s a little over a minute.

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.

The Greatest Thing about Being Married…

…is being with your best friend for the rest of your life, assuming that you’ve married your best friend, which I highly recommend.

If your spouse is not your best friend, then I’d suggest you and s/he at least be friends.

Here’s why:

You probably wanna be married to a person with whom you’d like to actually be around for long periods of time, and with whom you’d like to do activities. For Dwight and me it’s important because we enjoy traveling.

img_7647Our adventures together began twenty-two years ago when his parents paid for our honeymoon to Puerto Vallarta. We saw an ocean for the first time ever! We snorkeled. We partied. We rode motor scooters through the tiny streets where I thought I was going to face plant onto the cobble-stoned roads and die. To this day that memory makes him chuckle. Those were good times and there’s no one else I’d rather have done it with than my husband.

Since then, he’s chaperoned a study abroad trip with a group of high school students and me. Aside from keeping track of everyone, we ate really bad fish and chips, saw the Globe Theater, and visited the British Museum.

vegas2We’ve flown to Vegas four times and each time I’ve wondered how this trip could be any different than the last. Well, each one has been. Every trip has been at a different stage in our relationship, with different people, and for a variety of reasons. Sin City never disappoints, but quite honestly, neither does our affection for staying up all night, gambling, strolling up and down the Strip, and eating fine cuisine.

japan2

For some couples, travelling stops once they begin a family. But not for us. In fact, the girls have joined us on a few trips. Years ago, when they were little, they went on their first real flight across the country to Seattle. We saw the first Starbucks, visited the aquarium, and watched fish fly through the air at Pike Place. By the time they were rolling their pre-teen eyes at everyone, they’d eaten authentic Philly Cheesesteaks in Philly and visited the Liberty Bell. And although it was a bit expensive, I insisted they come with us on our sixteen-hour flight to Japan. I wanted them to know the rest of the world existed before they left our little bubble.

I could continue recounting years of vacays, but the point is, there’s no one else I’d rather see another part of the planet with than my hubby.

Happy Anniversary Dwight! Here’s to twenty-two more years of sightseeing.

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.

The Greatest Thing About My Father-in-Law…

…is the way he communicates.

A few months before I married Dwight, my father-in-law, Dwight Garland Sr. and I were sitting at his kitchen table. He was about to cut a bell pepper.

“Do you know how to cut one of these?” he asked.

Still new to this family and environment, I shook my head no.

“Well, let me show you.”

He carefully held the green pepper in his hand and showed me the top.

“See what you do is cut right around the top here. All the way around.”

He took the knife and cut a circle away from but around the stem. I looked on as if it were a major operation.

img_7542“Now, you pull this,” he said as he removed the stem from the bulbous part of the pepper. “See,” he turned the insides so I could see them. “All the seeds are right here.”

You would’ve thought he was David Blaine and I’d just seen him put a knife through his hand. I was amazed. To this day, that’s how I cut all peppers, and every time I do, I think about my father-in-law and this lesson.

It’s true that you’ll never forget how people made you feel. I’ll always remember that moment because he didn’t say, let me show you the right way to cut a pepper. He didn’t make me feel like some wayward child whose parents had neglected to teach her how to cut vegetables.

He simply asked me if I’d ever cut one, and then lovingly showed me how.

*The Greatest Thing About…

On this blog, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my observations about people and society in general. No matter how hard I try, some of these posts might come off a bit negative.

And that’s not fair, really.

People are multidimensional and I certainly wouldn’t like it if I read a blog about all the horrible things someone perceived about me, with little balance.

Because of this, I’m beginning a new category called: The Greatest Thing About… Each month, I’ll blog about someone or something positively…on purpose.

Hope you enjoy!

*Also shared for Debbie’s Forgiving Fridays