Monday Notes: 2021 Year in Review

Sometimes, I feel as if I haven’t done anything. It might sound irrational, but it’s true. I stood in the middle of my room a few weeks ago and wondered what I’d really accomplished this year. It sounds like this: What have you done? Can’t you do more? So what you published a book? This happens frequently. I know where these “not good enough” thoughts come from, but I won’t be sharing root causes today. I mean…if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, then more than likely you can fill in the blanks.

Instead, I compiled a list. Initially, the point of the list was for me to see how ridiculous my “not good enough” thoughts were. It was supposed to be like a tangible pep talk for myself. But then I figured you may want to read one of these essays, too. So, here goes:

Stories of Sport: Critical Literacy in Media Production, Consumption, and Dissemination

The year began with a publication with my colleagues. Aside from being proud of myself for leading this project, it shows the both/and space in which I’ve begun to live. I can be both a scholar and a personal blogger. I don’t have to choose.

There’s Strength in Softness

Life continued with one of my proudest essays. I’d been thinking about generational patterns, how we oftentimes unknowingly pass on ways of living that don’t suit our children. What are the effects of passing down generational patterns? How does it affect the child as an adult, who then becomes a parent? This was the purpose of There’s Strength in Softness.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage and Hope

Shortly after, my essay Good Enough (that’s ironic, huh?) was published in the well-known Chicken Soup for the Soul (CSS) series. To be honest, I didn’t think anything about it at first, mainly because publishing my feelings about being an Affirmative Action hire in a special edition of Black women writers actually showed what I was saying (another irony). But then, a blogger friend, Shira D. tweeted “Thank you for speaking for us all.” And boy, did that shift my thinking. I really hadn’t even thought about it that way. The CSS franchise has only had a special edition of Black women writers once before, twenty-five years or so ago. Being selected as one of 101 writers is a big deal.

Pro-Choice: What Being It Actually Means

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you probably remember reading a piece I wrote a couple years ago called What it Actually Means to be Pro-Choice. It was first published by PULPMag, which not only advocates for reproductive rights, but also freedom of sexuality, in general. I was excited when my blogger friend, da-AL wanted to re-publish it this year, especially given the current conversation and actions on abortion rights.

5 Reasons Critical Media Literacy is Important in the 21st Century

I mentioned Shira D. earlier. I promised her some time ago to guest blog on Educating for Future Democracy Collaborative. Because the site is focused on democracy, and because democracy in the United States seems to be quickly waning, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the role critical media literacy can play in the twenty-first century.

2021 (the year of the ox) is my Chinese New Year!

What is Happiness?

Do you follow the hot goddess? If not, why? How can you not follow someone who is a self-proclaimed HOT goddess? Anywho, she asked me to answer one question: What is happiness? My and others’ answers can be found on her blog.

Oh, and I started another blog focused on all things menopause (and midlife). Aside from myself, several contributing authors have shared their own journeys with this global community. If I haven’t said it before, thank you to those of you who’ve written for the site in its inaugural year, and thanks to those of you who have liked, subscribed, followed, or shared something from it.

Spotlight on Menopause Advocate: K. E. Garland

Keisha over at The Real Perimeno deemed me a menopause advocate! That was surprising. But I’m here for the new title. My interview with her about Navigating the Change can be found on her site. Also, she and I will be bringing an essay contest to fruition very soon.

Lori L. Tharps invited me to be a guest on her new podcast, My Bloody Hell. After listening to a few episodes and googling who Lori is, I was more than excited. My episode aired on November 3, 2021. I can promise you a whole lot of laughing and girlfriend-type conversation about perimenopause.

Top 10 Ways Perimenopause Helped Me Get My Sh*t Together

Quite honestly, I think this was the best way to end my writing year. I went from not knowing wtf was going on with my perimenopausal body, to being able to tell you what hormone is currently affecting me and how to alleviate the shift. Tera’s invite to write a top 10 list about midlife couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

Julia Cameron said, “the antidote for shame is self-love and self-praise,” and I agree. I used to be really good at praising myself whenever I accomplished a task. Somewhere along life’s journey, I stopped. But I’m reclaiming that practice. When you do good work, you should be proud of yourself. I should be proud of myself. In 2022, I plan to be more intentional about celebrating myself when the process is complete. I know there’s a fine line between hubris, confidence, dismissiveness, and humility. But this year, I’ll be pushing those boundaries to find my own sweet spot. Strengthening my self worth has become a priority for living a full life.

What are you working on for 2022? What are you proud of from 2021?


Monday Notes: The Relationship I Have with My Body

“When is the last time you felt good about your body?” the naturopath asked me.

I thought about it for a few seconds, then I said, “I think I’m going to cry.”

“That’s okay,” she and my husband affirmed.

I knew it was okay to cry. But I was taken off guard by own emotions. When I really stopped to think about it, I didn’t know.

It wasn’t in the past year, when out of the blue, I developed a rash that took up my entire forearm. It’s healed now, but it looks like a faint trail of bacteria.

Last year is also when perimenopause seemed to have ramped up and took a hold of my physical being. It’s also when I decided to get a crown on my front tooth, instead of a cap. Since December, I’ve worried everyday about my crown falling off when I eat or when I sleep and grind my teeth, leaving a gaping hole in my mouth.

So, no. I didn’t feel good about my body last year.

What about ten years ago? Nope. That’s when I started gaining a pound a year, even though I worked out four times a week and ate mostly healthy foods. My primary care physician didn’t seem too worried about it, so I figured I didn’t need to be either. Still, I didn’t feel good about my body. I felt fat.

What about twenty years ago? Definitely not. That’s when I had to deliver my second child as a C-section. I wrote about this experience recently, but I want to reiterate that there’s no way anyone can prepare you for your body being sliced open and sewed back together in what seems to be a lackadaisical way.

What about twenty-six years ago? Almost. I almost thought I was okay. It was a year before my wedding. I was talking to my grandmother, and she mentioned that I was fat.

“You’re supposed to wait until you’re married and have kids before you get fat,” were her exact words.

I was 125 pounds.

The next week, I began eating 1200 calorie meals and doing aerobics five times a week. By the time I stood at the altar, I was 100 pounds and a size one, something I’ve never been in my life before or after that date.

What about thirty years ago? YES! The last time I felt good about my body was thirty flipping years ago when I was an eighteen-year-old high school senior. I was petite. I was cute. Curves were curving in all the right spaces. Skin was tight and bright. All of the things were where they were supposed to be.


It’s amazing what can be revealed by just one question.

I’ve never thought of myself as having issues with body image, not really. But as I sit here and reflect on how long it took me to come up with a real answer (30 minutes) and what it took for me to figure out an answer (blog), I admit I have. If I didn’t, I would’ve been able to answer that question much quicker or at least three weeks ago, while I was actually at the doctor’s office.

So, today, I have questions, instead of answers:

  • When is the last time you felt good about your body?
  • If you already feel good about your body, how do you maintain that feeling?

Until then, I’ll be offline, staring in the mirror, saying some affirmations or something.

Monday Notes: BOTH/AND

I’ve been living in a space of both/and since 2020. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been living in this space for a while, but I decided to be more blatant about the message December 2020.

I started with a photoshoot.

When I planned to take photos, I knew I wanted to wear something a little edgy to represent my personality. A friend and I saw these faux leather leggings at a Jacksonville boutique.

“These are perfect!” she screamed.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What about my belly?”

You see, ever since I gave birth via C-section in 2001, I’ve been leery about showing my midsection. For some reason, the obstetrician didn’t have the good sense to sew my lower abdomen back how he found it. No amount of Crossfit or crunches can mend it.

“If I had your belly, I’d buy five of these,” friend said.

Perspective. It didn’t matter. I can be both sexy and show my fupa…in public.

The next thing I wanted to convey was professionalism on my terms. The last time I took photos, I was entering my writing persona. I wanted to convey confidence and a personal identity. You see, my mother’s side of the family retells a story about how decades ago, one could tell women who were ladies of the evening by the color shoes they wore—red. The problem in my mind was that I’ve always been fond of red. But who wants to be associated with prostitution? In 2016, I decided a white suit, red blouse, and red heels were symbolic. I could be both educated and stylish…in red shoes.

This time around, I was truly exhausted by all of the rules we put on ourselves and others. I mean, you don’t have to wear a business suit to mean business. Do you? A black, denim jacket with puffy sleeves seemed ideal. I could be both business minded and unconventional.

Finally, I wanted to convey my love for reading and writing. I also wanted to show that you don’t have to look a certain way to be a reader or a writer. I know this is common sense, but for some reason, it seems society views readers and writers in a stereotyped way. Maybe it’s because in reality only 5% of traditional publishing includes Black people, or maybe it’s because of media portrayals. I mean can you name three characters in a series or movie who are depicted as loving reading or writing who are not white?

Apologies for that major digression. My point is I wanted to be photographed among the stacks (of a bookstore) on purpose. I know librarians and people who work at bookstores have been stereotyped as having top buns and looking over readers, but again, I wanted to shatter that myth—for myself. I don’t have to fit a mold to be an avid reader or a successful writer. I just have to love books and write.

So, yeah. Both/And.

I can be both sexy and a certain age with childbirth scars.

I can be both professional and wear a puffy, black denim jacket.

I can be both an avid reader and writer and be my regular Black self, two-and-a-half-inch patent leather heels and all.

What are your both/ands? And if you have a few movies or television shows that depict Black characters who love to read or write, drop them in the comments, so we can all be more aware 😉



Monday Notes: Relationships, Love, and Such

More often than not, I have a little bit to say about a lot of things. I thought I’d share a few with you.

If we treated our girlfriends half as well as we do men, then women relationships might improve. Three years ago, I visited a friend in Sarasota. After the four-hour drive, I did as I sometimes do, stopped by her home first to pick her up for lunch. When I got there, she’d just finished her workout.

“Are you about to take a shower?” I asked, giving her athletic gear a once over.

“No! All I did was walk,” she said.

“If I was a man, you’d take a shower,” I replied.

She agreed but didn’t shower, and the above thought was born.

Why do we (sometimes) get all dolled up for the opposite sex but show up any type of way with our girlfriends? Is it comfort? Value? Societal teachings? For me, how I arrive depends on the event, not necessarily the company I keep, but in general, I show up freshly washed, with a nice outfit no matter if it’s the love of my life or a good friend.


If you love someone, then you’re implicitly saying you accept who they are. You can have acceptance without love, but you cannot have love without acceptance. For example, Dwight fully loves and accepts who I am. He encourages me to be myself, even if that means as he says it, “cussin’ a —- out” because he knows I’m fully capable of that behavior. But that doesn’t stop him from loving me.

People mistake how love and acceptance can show up, though. I have a cousin who lives with a mental illness. I love her like a sister, and I accept this part of her, but because I know her mental health can be overwhelming, I carefully choose when and how I will interact and be with her. Sometimes we forget we can choose how to be in people’s lives, and these choices have nothing to do with how much we love or accept someone.


Why is it we want our partners to have character traits we don’t? Why is that? I know people who desire vulnerability but have trust issues. I have friends who want a specific level of intimacy but don’t seem to know how to cuddle, show affection, or open up. I wonder if, when we seek a romantic partner, we’re seeking to fill a void of something we think we don’t have.

When Dwight and I first met, I wasn’t as self-aware, and consequently, I didn’t know how to be myself. He, on the other hand, seemed very confident in who he was and clear about what he would and wouldn’t do. Did I unconsciously seek someone who possessed the very things I needed to develop? I also wonder if helping one another to grow is more of the point of relationships, as opposed to racking up and celebrating years of companionship…like a prize. Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.

Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.

Let me know what you think.

Mental Health Matters: No More People Pleasing!

My mother used to tell a story of when I was in pre-k. When she picked me up, the children played on the lawn, pretending to cross a bridge. I was the bridge. I lay flat on the grass, while my friends walked on me.

Even at four years old, I demonstrated the lengths I’d go through to be liked. My desire only increased as I aged.

By the time Dwight and I met, it was easy to switch out a short, honey-blonde hairstyle for longer, brown tresses he’d once commented he preferred. I traded my red lipstick for a natural brown color and stopped wearing bright green shorts for plain, denim ones. I faded into the background of life to ensure he’d always like me, ignoring the fact that he liked me when we met.

I’d mastered people pleasing beyond marriage.

In 2016, my director invited me to a party seventy-two miles away in the city where I work. I didn’t want to go for a few reasons:

  1. The party was Saturday and I received an invitation Wednesday.
  2. It was seventy-two miles away.
  3. I only knew the host.

I discussed it with a friend of mine, who insisted I should attend because of work politics, and…well, because I was invited.

To be clear, I had a good time. In fact, I wrote about it here. But why did I go? Although attending had nothing to do with work, I wanted to be seen as a good employee and a well-liked person. I also didn’t want to disappoint the host.

People pleasing ruled again.

That year, I also published The Unhappy Wife. The number of friends, family, and bloggers who read and wrote unsolicited reviews surprised me. Everyone engaged, except…my husband*.

By self-admission, Dwight reads one book a year. Additionally, he’s not fond of creative nonfiction. But I didn’t care. I obsessed over the idea of him reading and reviewing my book. I needed his opinion. I wouldn’t let it go until I knew what he thought.

I’d argue most of us would want our significant other to read our work. However, something more was happening here. I sought external validation in the form of praise, which is another form of people pleasing.

That was four years ago.

Developing self-worth and establishing boundaries have compelled me to stop living to please others. These three ideas work together.

Because I value myself, I no longer seek external validation. Though I’d like for my husband to read my words, I don’t ask anymore. If he reads this blog or latest publication, I’m excited when he mentions it, but I don’t need him to perform an act to make me feel good about myself.

Because I’d created time and personal boundaries, I knew when my director invited me to another party, I didn’t have to go. I didn’t need to spend three hours on the road and another few hours socializing with strangers to prove I was a good co-worker, associate, or friend. Another strategy I’ve mastered is not explaining my decision. As Oprah once emphasized, “No is a complete sentence.”

Because I’d worked on knowing myself and developing a sense of identity, I’ve returned to wearing red lipstick for no other reason than I like it. Bright colors have crept back into my wardrobe because I like them. And I wear my natural hair in a unique short precision cut because I like it. Each decision is a manifestation of my personality, which is now clear to me.

Here are other actions that have been helpful:

  • I take my time to answer when someone asks me to do something. Let me sleep on it is a useful phrase.
  • I prioritize my own needs over others’ feelings. If staying at a hotel is more relaxing than someone’s house, then I do that.
  • I make more decisions based on emotional, professional, or personal effects and fewer on how I will be perceived.

Finally, I now know the most important person who needs to like me is…me. Others’ affection is a bonus. Releasing people-pleasing behaviors is a third practice that’s helped me to be less codependent.

Finally, I now know the most important person who needs to like me is…me.

kegarland

Let me know if you’d add anything else that’s been helpful for you.

*Dwight read The Unhappy Wife about five months after publication and it taught me an invaluable lesson about external validation.

3 Ways to Develop Self-Worth

How to Establish 4 Types of Boundaries

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?