Personal essays

Good TV

Can’t believe June is here!!!

Aside from my niece turning the big F-O-U-R, it is summertime! I have big plans of being poolside or oceanside, which ever finds me first! However, TvOne has decided to dedicate a portion of their programming to two of my all-time favorite shows – The Cosby Show and A Different World! These shows shaped my childhood, and I love them! I often times get frustrated with my Hulu and Netflix subscriptions because there is a lack of available shows that have the appeal that these two had and continue to have.

The Cosby Show would air on Thursday nights. I always looked forward to the musical openings, especially at the start of a new season. I wanted to change my name to Vanessa, raid Denise’s closet, date Theo, style my hair after Rudy and have twins like Sandra.  It made sense to me watch a two-parent, dual income household because it was similar to the makeup of my family. It was inspiring to see people with my skin color, hair color, and family situations that seemed so far-fetched at the time yet were quite entertaining.

A Different World gave me something to look forward to upon high school graduation. I definitely wanted to be a student of Hillman University. I wanted to live in the dorm, eat at the Pit, and take math from Dr. War (Colonel Taylor). This show made me feel that I would find love in college and possibly even reside in that same college town upon graduation. It provided hope.

What has been most beneficial about this marathon is that there are tv shows that I can watch with my niece! I do not have to compromise and watch Disney or Nick Jr. These two shows are appropriate for my also four-year-old niece. It has been refreshing to enjoy this together!

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Parenting

The Village

Although I am not a parent, I have parented several children throughout my years as an either an educator, nanny, aunt, or sister. Each of those roles as afforded me the opportunity to be a part of a village. From my 3-year-old niece to my just-turned-1-year-old nephew to my friend’s children to all the children I have had the pleasure of calling me, “Ms. Valerie” or more recently, “Ms. Jones,” I have the honor of being a part of several villages.

Raising a child is not easy, and I do think anyone has have made that claim. This is why it is important for parents to know how to create their village. Regardless of how convenient family is or if the grandparents are deceased, your community should consist of those friends and family or “framily” (friends who become family) that you can not only trust with your child but also those who can vent to, cry to, and expect support. Those people become responsible to your family. The 1st year of the child’s life is so unexpected yet very foundational. Books, parents, friends family, other parents, and the childless offer all levels of advice. It is your job to trust your gut and then surround yourself with those who either go with your gut or even challenge it. Then keep away those who are set on destroying what you know to be true.

Your village should protect your child. The world can be scary. The angels assigned to your child and your family are always on guard. But those you have chosen and allowed into your community will be your eyes and ears when you can’t.

Your village will love your child. Perfect love, the love that Jesus personifies, the love that God is, cast out every kind of fear. Love creates a cocoon that your child can help them face the world head on. Knowing you are loved gives you confidence, security, and a sense of bravery needed to conquer any challenge.

Your village should be available for a good laugh. Laughter provides healing to your soul. When your soul is healthy, your body is healthy. Soul prosperity is beneficial to you and your child. Do not be afraid to call on your village just to chuckle.

Your village will provide a strong shoulder. A good cry is just as important as a good laugh. Lyfe Jennings said, “Crying is like taking your soul to the Laundromat.” What we see, hear, and say is how our souls are fed. Sometimes we have been feeding too much of the wrong thing and need a crying detox. There may be times when your child is inconsolable, give them room to cry. When you need to cry, call on your village so you can have the room to just cry. Cleanse your soul.

You do not know what your village will look like. It will just come organically. Embrace those who are willing to embrace your child. Use discernment to only include those you mean you help and not harm. You are not alone. You will have moments you feel lonely, and that is okay but know when to pull on your village, your circle of love.

Give love. Get love.

Parenting

Toddler Tidbits: Part 1

Wouldn’t it be magical if vegetables were as sweet as fruit?!? Feeding toddlers is not an easy task. They are still trying to distinguish different taste and get accustomed to textures. Imagine the transition – liquids –>mush—>regular foods. But all tiny tots are not the same. Some are excited about the textures – the crunchy, the crispy, the lumpy. Some gag on the softest foods for months. Regardless of your child, just go with the flow.

But parents, do not be afraid to introduce any and all foods to your children. It is so easy to feed your little ones solely the food you have grown accustomed to eating. For example, I LOVE blueberries, but this did not become fact until about 2 years ago. I asked my mom about it, and she said it was not a fruit she grew up eating so she never thought to offer to me. Blueberries are always on sale; they are small and as convenient as grapes! I am not suggesting waste money on expanding your child’s palate but do try to introduce a new food every few weeks. There maybe a vegetable, grain or fruit that the whole family will be able to enjoy.

What is the solution if your kids are stuck on pop tarts? There is hope! Sneak those healthy, bone-building foods into dishes that are enjoyed by all.

  • Smoothies: using greens allow the mixture to have a green color, but berries always win. Search the net for a fruity recipe and just add a few greens or carrots. (I love www.simplegreensmoothies.com)
  • Pizza: a cauliflower crust is an easy substitution; make your pizzas with only healthy toppings (i.e. shredded carrots, olives, lean meats, pineapples, spinach, broccoli)
  • Soup: use a vegetable broth, double the vegetables to beef stew, add carrots and peas to chicken noodle soup
  • Batter up: using panko or bread crumbs, oven fry zucchini, asparagus, string beans, or even broccoli; include a fun dipping sauce
  • Pasta: get that spiralizer and make your own version of spaghetti or fettuccine alfredo using spaghetti squash or zucchini as an alternative
  • Salad: load up on the veggies and fruits such as apples, grapes, and mandarin oranges and allow your kitchen helper to add his dressing

The best advice I can offer is: be your child’s best example. If your shadow sees you making healthy choices, then they will follow. We all want to grow up before time so if their plate mirrors yours, then their habits will also. Do not get frustrated. Pay attention to what foods they consume without being told and keep it handy. Do not stress; they will eat when they are hungry. If your child is “always hungry” then feed in moderation; however, make sure she is full at meal times.

With various food allergies and fears of creating obese children, it can be difficult to navigate the “best” way to feed your offspring.Do what is best for your and your baby but make sure real food is always on hand. (www.100daysofrealfood.com)

Give love. Get love.

 

 

 

Self Love

Ode to Blueberry Pancakes

I could probably eat blueberry pancakes every single day. I usually reserve them as a Saturday morning breakfast/brunch treat or any day of the week that I have time treat. Yesterday was rough. I was dejected and spiralled into a bout of depression. My life feels like everything is up in the air and definitely not how I would have planned it. This morning I woke up purposed to not stay down. I went to the kitchen for just a cup of coffee and decided that I had time for my blueberry pancakes! I have been full all day!!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I have a friend who is a mental health professional. I reached out to him a few months ago when I felt that I was at the end of my rope. He recommended a few psychologists. Once I finally found the nerve to call, the one I selected was no longer in practice. I moved to the next name on the list and still have not called. I have communicated with her and she is very understanding and realizes it is a big step to ask for this type of help. The one thing that she said that helps me inch towards finally talking to her was, “Just look at it as helping you  to put skills in a toolbox to help deal with whatever is making you consider therapy in the 1st place…definitely no pressure.” Yet I still have not called. Seeking therapy does carry an unfair stigma. Definitely does not mean that I am crazy, just that help is needed. In the Black community, speaking with a psychologist or a psychiatrist is not an acceptable form of help. In the Christian community, this type of help seems to oppose the power of prayer. I think my hesitation lies in the thought that I can work it out. Things will get better. After yesterday or even during my “crisis” I should I have ran to this stranger. Yet I chose to sleep and wake up this morning to eat blueberry pancakes.

I definitely cannot eat my way to peace. I am already struggling with my weight! Talking is cheap, healthy, and safe. Prayer still works but I do need time to discuss me.

Thanks for reading. I hope to update this post with revelations after my talk with the therapist.

Give Love. Get Love.

Parenting

Keep the Faith…Hold On…Be Strong


You’ve prayed. You’ve cried. You’ve done all you can do. For a year you’ve taken it all to God first and trusted Him to make a way. You’ve prayed EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You’ve attended church every week sometimes multiple times a week. You serve in ministry. You give your tithes faithfully without question. You stopped pre-marital sex. You stopped clubbing and drinking.

Does this sound like you?

Are you STILL not seeing the fruits of your prayers, sacrifice and tears? You’re still living check to check. Your spouse and/or kids are still driving you crazy? You’re still being overlooked for that promotion you know you deserve at your job?

faith

WHAT DO YOU DO?

You keep praying. You keep fighting for YOU! You keep pushing until you see every single prayer manifested in your life. There’s a saying that goes a little something like, “anything worth having is worth fighting for.”…

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Self Love

May is Marvelous

It is May!!! 5 months in 2017! That is just a crazy realization. Five is the number of grace. I will gladly walk in that all month long! Today I woke full of hope. I feel the freshness of this day. It is tangible. It is a great day to get stimulated and inspired!!

This weekend I was able to receive so much motivation! I watched this video on YouTube by one of my favorite comedians right now, Kevonstage, entitled, “Doboy’s testimony is my testimony.” 

This video was not a laughing matter at all but a push to just believe in yourself and the talent God gave you and keep working. Despite setbacks and rejection, keep striving. It made my heart so full. I think Kevonstage is so humble so to take the time to share an experience that was not about him just made me so incredibly full. Then I went to church! Saturday was women’s prayer. I almost missed it! Even though I was late, I was on time for what I needed to hear – God is concerned about me! We gathered to pray for loved ones and those souls who would give their hearts to Christ. At the end, we were instructed to them pray for ourselves and “ask lavishly” of God. As much as I have prayed and cried and written in my journal and whined to my friends over the past several months, during that moment in prayer in a sanctuary full of hopeful women, I felt my release. Then yesterday at church I was able to witness so many get baptized including my godson! I needed all of that the final weekend in April to set me up for the magnificence of May.

May means:

  • Lupus Awareness month. Put your purple in support! This disease does not play fair but the wolf won’t win! I’m a survivor.
  • It is Teacher Appreciation week! Being an educator is tiring and selfless but I love being in the classroom. Teachers need all the support and encouragement possible! Thank your child’s teacher.
  • Graduation season! I love graduations!!!!! That euphoric feeling of completion, realizing that you can finish something, feeling empowered to begin again and conquer new territory. . . .
  • Mother’s day! Mom’s are the best and just never get enough credit.

Now after writing that list, I understand why these events take place in May – it’s because each requires its own level or measure of grace (simple elegance, courteous goodwill, the free and unmerited favor of God).

 

Give Love. Get Love.

 

Ephesians 4:7Amplified Bible (AMP)
Yet grace [God’s undeserved favor] was given to each one of us [not indiscriminately, but in different ways] in proportion to the measure of Christ’s [rich and abundant] gift.

 

Self Love

The Little Things and the Joy they bring

Self care is simply the opportunity to be selfish. For me that is not always an easy task. I am selfish with some of my things that others but I do not truly take the time to take care of myself as I should. Having lupus has reminded me of the importance of listening to my body, taking care of my heart and allowing my mind to rest. Having my body to shut down, one more than one occasion, has been a hard lesson to learn but as the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It is impossible to keep loving others without 1st loving yourself.

For me, I do occupy my time doing simple things:

  • eating a nice helping of my favorite ice cream or dessert (I have a big sweet tooth)
  • watching my favorite movies (I have a pretty extensive collection)
  • perusing the aisle of a bookstore (SWOONS!)
  • taking a nap or just lying in my bed listening to music (hopefully not scrolling through my phone, unless it’s Pinterest or reading a blog)
  • depending on how I feel, exercise (I hope to start yoga soon)
  • partaking in a craft (I hope to learn how to knit one day)
  • watching cartoons with my niece while we play a game
  • depending on how stressed I am, I clean
  • enjoying a simple cup of tea (just add lemon)
  • being silly with my sister or a friend (laughter is the BEST medicine)

All of the above, are free or of low cost to me. One day I will be able to just jump on a plane and spend a day walking on the beach or engage in a shopping spree. Until then, I consciously take time to do things I love. It is so easy to get caught up in work, school, family obligations, church volunteer work, or just life. Those stressors can and will sneak up and that overwhelming feeling can swallow you whole but it can be defeated. Loving yourself is a way of showing God how much you love Him. He created you in His image and gave of Himself because of the magnitude of His love. Therefore, when you love yourself, you become more equipped to love others. This all equates to the love of God because God is Love.

Breathe deeply. Take a break. Find peace.

Give Love. Get Love.

Romans 13:8-10 The Message (MSG)
8-10 Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

Self Love

Why I Write

I was in the 2nd grade when I met the reality of my life as a writer. My memory is a little cloudy concerning the particulars of this day, so please forgive my attempt to recall. I believe we were presented with the opportunity to write a story. I remember illustrating a picture and writing maybe, a one-page story. Out teacher either gave us the option to enter this state-wide competition or I chose to, however, myself and one classmate, who I was also very good friends with at the time, were allowed to go to the state capital, Montgomery, with other writers from our school for a young author’s competition.

I remember sitting nervously on the bus because my mother was not able to chaperone; yet so excited because of the magnitude of such an opportunity. My friend and her mom were in the seats behind me and I turned around to her to discuss our stories and what we might experience that day. I had never visited the state capitol so this was a big deal in my 8-year-old world. I felt so important! Before the bus departed, I pulled out a small military/army green notebook my mom gave me. The word “journal” was written diagonally across the cover in cursive, gold letters. She instructed me to write down all I could from that day. She said I need to start writing down my experiences so I can recall them when I got older. She stood on the sidewalk waving goodbye as the bus pulled off. Other details I remember from that trip were seeing the capitol building, going to a the site of the competition and seeing so many other young writers. I think we got to listen to an author speak and received a signed copy of a his/her Caldecott book. I remember writing a few sentences on the 1st page of my journal because I really did not know what I needed to capture. I have no idea where that book could be and I think that journal is long gone; however, I never stopped writing.

It was not about the competition; although, this post reminds me of the dream I gained that day of writing my own Caldecott-winning book. My writing has always been about me. My mom and that journal is what I draw from today because it sparked something in me that I have not be able to shake in almost 30 years. I have kept a journal off and on since then. I have a few distinct memories of writing while in undergrad. My sophomore year of college: my roommate journalled almost every day. We shared the inconsistency of our writing habits. Yet, seeing her write each night inspired me to fill the pages of my journal. My senior year: I had excitedly had to complete a 20-page research paper. I lost sleep and almost lost my paper but I loved the research and the stress of writing the most I had ever written.

I did not gain confidence I needed until last year when I earned my 2nd bachelor’s degree in English. I actually graduated Cum Laude – unbelievable! One of my professors praised my writing on a paper that I felt like I just could not bring together. I think I may have cried but I know I took a picture of that comment and sent it to my mentor. At that point, I was starting to break and question this decision but it was then I felt validated. Completing this degree pushed me aggressively pursue a childhood dream, even though I went from desiring to be a model, teacher, doctor and lawyer. I remember writing each of these professions in a journal around 4th or 5th grade. I thought I could be all 4 at some point in my life. But writing is something that I have never been able to stop doing. My mom told me that I read and write more than anything so it did not surprise her (I need to beef up on my reading, recommendations are welcome) that I made this choice. That was a surreal yet substantial moment because I did not think my mom knew or paid attention to how much I wrote but I guess a mother truly does always know!

Since becoming an adult, I write to pray; to release frustrations; to express joys; to plan for the future; to share my love; to seek interpretation for my dreams; or to seal in words heard while in church. I read this quote today by George Orwell, “[You write out of the] desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, etc., etc., etc., It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive and a strong one.” I can admit that I want to be remembered for the words I pen and not so much for the ones I speak. My friends know that when I care enough to send the very best, it will always be in a card, email or letter. One of my most beloved and oldest friends became spoiled by my words. Imagine that! From our 24th or 25th birthday until our 34th birthday, I think, I would pen a letter to her. My birthday in July and hers in November so whatever pearls of wisdom I gained in those 4 months, I would share with her. What was cathartic for me, motivated her.

Anything that I cannot verbally or physically express comes through the words I write. Words have power and create permanence. I write because I can.

 

Give Love. Get Love.

 

Psalm 45:1 NIV  Beautiful words stir my heart.
    I will recite a lovely poem about the king,
    for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.