Current Events, Every Day Living, Grief And Loss, Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Irma Don’t Own Me

Disclaimer: I have legit hurricane-related PTSD stemming back to Hurricane David while living in St Maarten. I was four. But I distinctly remember my dad taking me to school and him picking me up in knee deep water. We walked home. Due to roof leakage, we lost half of our family photos at that time. I lost trust in aluminum roofs. Irma came and decimated St. Maarten and there went my plans to return for our 20th anniversary trip. It would have been my first time back. Pray for the people of St. Martin/St. Maarten. 

Andrew. Enough said. The people of those communities still recall the smells and sounds. I know colleagues who just couldn’t deal with it this time around. They just left. To preserve life and peace of mind. 

Wilma swung by and found me as a fairly new homeowner trying to keep grips on my one earthly major investment. We lost a patio, replaced a roof, and watched our pockets bleed dry from an insurance company’s piracy for many years to come. 

So when Irma came around, I was as ready as could be (or so I thought). The hurricane that never was (Matthew in 2016) had me in stores buying up all the canned goods I could get. What threw me for a loop was the water thing this time around. Water was gone by Monday, Labor Day. Like even the one you were supposed to get via Walmart Grocery Pick Up or Instacart. I got nervous. But God knew best and sent an angel our way to bless us as we had just days before blessed Houston. 

Hurricanes are a part of life in these parts. And as much as we would like to prefer it not be, it just is. But there are things to mitigate the level of impact physically and emotionally. Here’s a glimpse into some things I learned along the way. 

Don’t be cheap. Invest in the canned foods, rice and beans. They last two to three years and annual review of your supplies can mean blessing a shelter or homeless program with items that may expire soon. 

Invest in some big ticket items. Invest in a generator. Homeowners, you can’t go wrong with this investment. Your perishable items will last in the fridge and you can power up your electronics with ease. Invest in a deep freezer and keep it stocked with ice and frozen water year round.  This kept our stuff cold through five days of no power. Invest in a grill and/or table top hot plates. Hot food. Every. Day. Enough said. 

Invest in a portable TV. We kept updated with relevant news during that time. The not knowing can sometimes be at a detriment to self and loved ones. We were able to pass along info to others because of this. Invest in a stand alone or window AC. Our handy man gave us this idea one day before our electricity came back on. Twenty twenty being hindsight, I still would have gotten it. Thirty minutes of set up, a line to the generator and we had a guest room where my husband and I and his mom slept in comfort. Too bad we got the idea one day before power returned. We placed the AC back in the box. No we are not returning it. Hurricanes aren’t an IF but a WHEN type of occurrence. 

I used the word INVEST several times. Something that some may find to be a foreign idea. Simply put. One pair of shoes bought at Ross is a portable TV. One Dooney and Burke purse on sale at TJ Maxx is a portable AC. A Louis Vuitton purse from Nordstrom (2016 Damier) can get you a generator, grill, deep freezer, solar powered lamps, and fully stocked food and supplies. 

So when I told people I didn’t have power, it meant I took cold showers and didn’t have AC (until my most recent investment). It meant I read a book in one day. It meant my clothes were washed from the week before. It meant I ate hot meals and planned the day’s menu with my husband and his mom. It meant my brother and dad coming over for a hot meal. It meant catching the breeze with extended family and eating more avocados than the law allows. 

Don’t let your trying times overwhelm you into inertia. Not having power does not mean you don’t have POWER. I am no expert. Just a student of life who takes copious notes and learn from my experiences and that of others. 

Manage what’s within your realm and see what God does with the rest. 

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Life Coach

What’s Your Therapy?

I spent four hours the other evening revamping my church’s bulletin board. It was on the shabby side and my discerning eye was truly aggravated by it each time I saw it. Just the thought of redesigning it got me excited. I would get to do something I love and make me feel good in the bargain. 

The casual observer would have gone nuts with the number of times I had to get on a chair, get off a chair, walk away and return only to move something on the board for the hundredth time. “You look happy doing that,” someone said. Mind you I wasn’t humming or grinning from ear to ear but the person realized I was in my personal zen just cutting away and stapling away on this board. “It’s my therapy,” I responded. 

Baking is my therapy. Reading is my therapy. Turning chaos into order is my therapy. What’s yours?

There’s something in us that finds peace when we do it. Something that others find perplexing and frustrating to do, but you find it as your outlet and it brings a sense of calm to your soul. 

Some people run. Frankly pounding my knees on the pavement one in front of the other is more of an obligation, but I know folks who lace up and run to escape. 

Some people bake and have a kitchen dusted over with flour. They find the measuring and watching this mélange of ingredients turn into something others drool over is rewarding. 

Some people enjoy a good swim or anything dealing with the water. For them, subconscious reminders of their first nine months in the womb brings a sense of escape. 

Some people clean their house from top to bottom and erase the old and bring in the new. Their idea of peace is trashing huge bags of stuff they no longer need, decluttering their lives one piece of junk at a time. 

Some people enjoy all things music. Some play around with makeup. Some love quiet moments in reading. Some journal. Some blog. Some climb mountains in search of new adventures. Some like long rides. Some binge watch old episodes. Some do triathalons. Some travel. Whatever brings you a sense of relaxation or reward should be considered your therapy. 

March is social workers month and half of my work in therapy is guiding others in the discovery of their inner peace. We go stretches and stretches in our lifetime running towards illusions without settling down and finding contentment. We go miles and miles being unhappy in our skin without finding that “thing” that makes us smile on the inside and look forward to doing it. 

On this night, working on a bulletin board is what I needed. I also needed an Ibuprofen when I was done! Getting on and off a chair, stapling, unstapling, moving, removing. When it was all done, my sense of accomplishment of this task eased the long day I had endured. 

Find your therapy. Commit to taking care of yourself. 

Current Events

Christmas Got Cancelled 

I cancelled yet another Christmas this year. Yes my tree is up and my holiday tablescapes will be laid out. My lit mini trees are right on my porch twinkling through the night. My Pandora station stays on all things holiday and I’m a corny mess with the holiday movies. Yes I will have the holiday towels up in my bathroom and my kitchen with the peppermint soap to boot. Don’t come for me! *insert dare face and laughter*. But yeah…Christmas got cancelled. 

I turned my love of shopping for family members into shopping for children of incarcerated family members. I am making my famous banana pudding and randomly calling people up for a taste. I gifted a pregnant mom with some books I realized I will never use. Yeah, yeah I know Sarah had a baby when she was dirt old but I won’t be able to see to read them anyway. Smirk. 

I road tripped with some of my squad members to create more memories to belly laugh about. I joined the choir so I can hang with people I hardly know and mesh some beautiful voices while we sing our lungs out for Jesus and the church. I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift” because somewhere, somehow I think I lost my way to Christmas. 

Cancelling Christmas is really more about figuring out what should be important for you and less about what QVC says it should be. I swear that station can convince me to buy three crockpots if I let it! Who says that you need a tree? Who says you have to bake cookies? Who says you have to watch Charlie Brown Christmas while listening to Nat King Cole? Who says you have to learn karate to run these streets and jockey through the malls? All traditions rightly so, but they don’t have to be your traditions. 

If your anxiety level skyrockets while your finances plummet that my dear is a sign that you need to cancel Christmas. If your time and patience is stretched thinner than Stevie Wonder’s hairline, that’s your cue to fall back. You are doing THE UNNECESSARY most. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons and chances are you will resent your loved ones and yourself come December 26th. By the time the new year comes around you will be making resolutions not to kill anyone. 

So you got the decorating itch but your loved ones could care less. Go decorate a daycare or nursing home in your community. Have you ever seen a child walk into a daycare lobby and see the tree lit up for the first time? Kleenex please! You want to bake but those ungrateful family members just want to eat and run. Bake up a storm and take it to the neighborhood business you frequent throughout the year. My UPS guys think they love me now! Drop a gift card in your garbage man’s hand. He will be dragging your trash out on the days you were late in coming out. Speaking from experience, that’s a gift that keeps on giving! Call up some random people and use up those gazillion Olivia Pope wine glasses you got tucked everywhere and the tiny dishes you been dying to bring out. POTUS isn’t coming for dinner and you won’t be sending out another invite for the next four years anyway! *side eye*

Cancel the Christmas that Target wants you to have. You know the one where the jingle bell sounds are enticing and the loud red color is baiting you to do what you really shouldn’t be doing. 

Breathe. Relax. Enjoy. 

Life Coach, Random Thoughts

Sistah Take A Seat: When You’re Not Being  “Present”

Gabby Douglas has been on my heart something serious this Olympic season. I know she’s all the way in Rio and I’m nothing but a mere observer–but her spirit speaks to me like it would if she was my girlfriend two miles away, a church member in my congregation–like she was even me. I watched her four years ago shine and sparkle and give us all that #blackgirlmagic we so craved. Sprinkle. Sprinkle.  I watched the media and Black women at large try to dissect every strand of her course hair. White folks could care less about our hair as much as we care about our own hair. Gabby fought back and brought home the golds. 

This time around, Gabby stepped onto the stage and her shine and sparkle, well, her #blackgirlmajic, hmmm…something ain’t right. Minimal eye contact. Detached. Performance for the cameras and back to “normal”. Apathetic. Flat affect. Smiles that don’t reach the eyes. Mood incongruent with the setting. That fake smile. Simply put, this girl is not happy. Why? I don’t know. I can’t begin to know why this beautiful young trailblazer has missed a step. That she simply is not present.  By present I mean not being in the moment. Not connecting with others. Not being your true self and relating to the experiences about you. 

But I feel Gabby. How many times have I checked out when I couldn’t deal with the emotional threats made against me (real or perceived)? How many times have I withdrawn to that quiet space in my head and just mentally floated away? How many times have I taken off my glasses and allowed the blurry world to just be that–blurry? 

Gabby is one among millions of women who may find it hard to cope with life’s challenges in one form or another.  It’s not the challenges I’m concerned about yet rather how we cope that separates the wheat from the chaff. I spent half my lifetime trying to pretend that I liked everyone I met. I pretended that people excited me when in reality they drained me. I pretended that I was happy with my body when I really was not. I pretended I wanted to be “cool” and relatable when in reality I wanted to be in my nerd space with the do not disturb sign on the door. To me there was something wrong with being smart, organized, opinionated and introverted. After all, “everyone else” was wearing the long weaves, the high heels, and the big purses. That being in roles of wife/pastor wife, daughter, sibling, friend meant I had to kill my true self to become someone else. The pressure. Oh the pressure of living a lie. 

Today, I still carry all those roles and then some. But it’s how I cope that has made me more spiritually and emotionally centered. My faith in Christ keeps me grounded. No, I’m not in seminary school reading the Bible cover to cover for the 100th time, but I’m connected to Him. 

Do people still drain me? Yep. I just know how to better manage my responses and time spent with others and make time to be alone. Balance. Do I still find it hard to manage my hips and thighs? Yep. Fitbit helps. Wearing clothes that flatter me helps too. Acceptance. Am I still a nerd? Yep. Til the day I die! Truth
Gabby is young. I pray it doesn’t take half her life time to strengthen her village, acknowledge who she is at the core, forgive herself and others and use this test to be her testimony. I want her to hurry up and feel better, do better, be better! But as with everything, I know it’s going to be more hard hills to climb before the road smooths itself out. Being present is no small feat. Come through Gabby. Come through. 

Grief And Loss

The Necessary Part

I dreamt about my mom last night. Not much that I can remember other than the last bit of it where I’m sitting and watching her sleep. That was usually how it was towards the end. Her strength was waning and sleep was her friend.

I often wonder if she knew that the end was near. With all the signs present, I certainly didn’t. I knew she wouldn’t last the year but I didn’t know it would have been this soon. God spared me the details and for that I am thankful.

In the dream she’s dozing off slowly. Her eyes are fighting to stay awake but eventually she succumbs to this peaceful sleep. In the dream I’m just staring at her, noting her features and her labored breathing.

I’m in the “stage” of grieving where life and living has snatched me back into its clutches. There is no getting around work and life. There’s no getting around paying bills, running errands, doing chores.

I wish I was like Mellie (the President’s wife) in Scandal. A robe and a pair of Uggs would be my fashion faux pas every day. Visiting the grave site of my mother would be my weekly field trip and laying in the warm sun next to her marker would be my nap. Television has such a way of romanticizing loss.

There’s no luxury in real life of sitting around in one’s robe and allowing the passage of time to soothe one’s longing for their departed loved ones. There is no checking out of day to day living to just be. And that’s just going to have to be okay.

Stealing away to be one’s self through grief and loss is a random act of self care. It looks like an early morning pedicure, like reading a Bible study on grief, like car drives to places you have never been, like singing worship songs at church, like reading a book, it looks like blogging. It’s a finite time you set aside to just be. To envelope one’s self in that cloak of sadness that’s never too far away from reach. To recall the memories that forever link you to this loved one.

I look forward to these times where I can be my true self. When a box of tissues is the only thing I need. It is what helps the healing process continue. It is the necessary part of living with loss.

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Random Thoughts

Eating Alone

“I know what I bring to the table so trust me when I say I’m not afraid to eat alone.”

Digging through Pinterest and this quote screamed at me! It said this is what six months shy of 40 means! This is what being married and still in love with the same man for 16 years is all about! This is what losing your mom at the prime of your life boils down to!

I remember dreading the trips to the cafeteria in middle school. I didn’t have a table full of friends. Lunch time meant me running there and getting a seat just so I wouldn’t have to try and figure out which table would accept me today. Breathing a sigh of relief when a group would casually sit nearby and talk to me was enough.

These days the tables literally turned (pun intended) and it’s less about walking in and having the pick of my table and more about me still finding my own table and choosing to sit alone for all the right reasons.

No more seeking out friends to increase the tally sheet. No more tolerating foolishness in the name of salvaging relationships. No more one-sided efforts on my part. And no more carrying burdens no one even asked me to bear.

This sitting at the table by myself is perfectly fine with me. When those issues and hang ups pass me by to another “table” I’m the one breathing the sigh of relief.

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Faith, Uncategorized

Bar Talk

What would happen if your Past, Present, and Future all walked into the SAME bar one night?

Would Past recognize Present and would those two know recognize Future?

Would Past take the time to sit with Present and have a heart to heart?Would he sit back in his chair, shake his head and marvel at Present?

Or would he keep it moving?

Past doesn’t want to have any regrets about Present. He expects the passage of time to be kind, to be fruitful, to have purpose. He expects to look in Present’s eyes and see a being who is at peace with where he is; with heart and mind set on greater things in Future.

If Past steps up to Present and sees a “white washed grave” staring back, oh boy, that’s not good.

I would like to think the tete-a-tete would go like this:

Past: Present! Man, you have really CHANGED!! And I mean a good change!! Who would have thought? Not in a million years! I can’t believe you did what! Went where?! Oh these pictures are beautiful. I’m sorry to hear that…
Glad you pulled through. Heard all good things about you. I’m so happy for you, Present. You done my heart good. I had my doubts there for a minute. You know people talk. Word on the street was you were left for dead. Your mind and soul was up for grabs by the highest bidder. Folks said… (Present sits there humbled, near tears, at a loss for words).

Meanwhile Future sits at the bar with his back turned to Past and Present. Bartender keeps the ginger ale on the rocks coming. Future is sober. No drinking here. He’s heard the whole convo. He shakes his head and chuckles to himself–cause if PRESENT ONLY KNEW WHAT HE KNEW.

Past wouldn’t be able to identify Future in a line up. Cause if he could, then life would have been a colossal waste of time. It’s best that Past can’t. Future likes it that way. Present would come close, but not close enough. “Keep ’em guessing” is his motto. Music loud, people talking, he knows he is being watched by those two who are eager to walk over and say hello. There will be time enough for that. Not today. Not now.

You see Past doesn’t have a place at the bar with Future. Those two have nothing in common. Truth be told Present really doesn’t either. Not unless Present makes amends with Past. Then and only then can Present move on to Future.

It was nice to sit and exchange some words with Past. Past is a reminder of what you have gained, lost, or left behind. A reminder of lessons learned, of triumphs, of losses. Past is not a place to dwell and make your bed. Past is not where you set up camp and never leave. Rather, Past is a mile marker on your way to the Future.

Present: Hey Past, it was really good talking to you. I got some things off my chest. That was good.
Past: Alright man, (sad, yearning face). Check ya later?
Present: Nah, more like goodbye.

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