Sharing My Journey

Sharing My Journey

In my journey so far as a single mother, I have experienced an emotional roller coaster like none I’ve ever ridden. And not just romantically–that’s actually probably the easiest part of the ride. The scariest and most difficult parts of the ride have been dealing with my self-image, managing and changing the dynamics of my friendships, and reconciling societal perspectives with my reality.

Some days, I get to a place where I want to share this experience, and other days, I don’t–mostly because I don’t want to deal with any more opinions. I also don’t like that some think I sound bitter (and in some instances, I am)–when my bitterness has waned significantly over the last two years. What’s funny is that the more I talk, the more some think I’m bitter, when in actuality, the less bitter I am, the more willing I am to talk. There was a time that the last thing I wanted to do was talk about what I was going through. And I avoided people like the plague for fear of being seen by people whose opinions I valued as a negative Nancy and bitter Betty. And then I think to myself that the bitterness that’s left should be understood–why is it even such a negative label? Emotions are what they are, so who can judge me and say and too bitter–from my perspective, it’s just as relevant to wonder if I’m bitter enough because I haven’t allowed my bitterness to permeate my decision-making as a mother. So then I began to really appreciate the people who ASKED me how I was doing and stayed around no matter what I was talking about, whether it highlighted my bitterness or not. Because they still saw me, Ranada, and still cared about me as a full person, and didn’t confine me to the box I limited my own self-image to.

There are times that I also wonder why I care what people think. And I’ve realized it’s because I’m human. Humans need to be liked, accepted, affirmed, and understood. So when I’m feeling my loneliest, it’s because I feel like the group of people who have tried to understand what my life has been like in the last two years is much smaller than the group of people I considered my friends before this ordeal began. It’s all an exercise in evaluation.

Self-evaluation, which I’ve gone above and beyond in doing for the last two years and had to realize that even though so many of the self-help articles begin and end with self-evaluation, that I was being WAY too hard on myself, and there definitely is a such thing as judging yourself too harshly.

The evaluation of the people I can truly call my village, understanding that I could not have made it to this place in my life without their support and understanding that you can’t predict who will be standing there when the dust settles. And you can only trust that God sends his encouragement through the people He chooses–over the last two years, I’ve received a good word from the most unlikeliest of places, and they were salve for my soul.

The evaluation of my previous perspectives, societal ideals, and my current reality in the context of those.

The evaluation of what happiness is to me and what role hardships have in my journey.

Evaluation.

Zora Neale Hurston’s birthday was yesterday, and one of her most well known quotes is

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Sometimes I think 2012 and 2013 were question-asking years and I’m hoping 2014 is an answer-giving year. But time will tell, huh?

So as my bitterness continues to subside, or at least I continue becoming one with it and learning to not care if people use it as a label when I’m only speaking my truth, I am kinda looking forward to sharing the lessons and emotions and outlooks from this joyful yet painful, rewarding yet taxing, fun yet hard, loving yet lonely journey as a single mother. Happy new year!

Finding My Way Again

Finding My Way Again

Man, I’ve neglected my blog. But I guess that’s a reasonable trade off since I’ve been focusing on not neglecting myself. This year, I’ve really had to do a lot of figuring out how to trust my instincts, how to be confident again, how not to care so much about the street committee, how to see myself as more than a single mother, how to be more patient with myself, and how to accept help. I still struggle with a lot: speaking up for myself or not dwelling on things after I’ve decided to not say anything, asking for help, figuring out what relationships I want to invest in and/or repair, moving back to a place where I dream big and take steps towards those dreams, understanding what friendship means, and lots more. Then, of course, I’m still doing what I can to prove my worth at work and I’m still always trying to be current in what’s going on in the world and doing what I can in my community. Hopefully, in 2014, I can start back blogging and really sharing my thoughts on a regular basis. Maybe in the few weeks left, I’ll get back to the place where I’m comfortable sharing and not so worried about what people think about me. Until then, here’s a little poem I came across this morning.

After a While

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t always mean security.

And you begin to learn
That kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman
Not the grief of a child

And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight

After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers

And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good bye you learn.

-Veronica A. Shoffstall

31 Reasons I Love My Mom

31 Reasons I Love My Mom

Last month, I shared a status on Facebook that mentioned that I had received a couple of negative comments about how much I talk about my mom. I received tons and tons of support for showing my mom love, and then one friend even suggested that I share something I love about my mom daily. Well, I’ve never been one to turn down a “dare” so I took the challenge. And now that it’s September (the challenge is over!), here’s a run down of just a few of the endless reasons I love my mom.

mommyme

Day 1: I love my mom because she gave me her heavy duty umbrella this morning and took my flimsy little umbrella. And it came in handy when I drove up to daycare and the sky was falling. My little umbrella is for sprinkle storms, lol. Thanks again ma!

Day 2: I love my mom because she helps me start my day on a positive note every morning. During my commute, I always talk to her about how we’re feeling, any new family updates, and current events. It kinda reminds me of when I was a kid and she would call me at home after I got off the bus. Back then, I thought she was magic because she could tell if something was wrong just by the way I said hello. I enjoy having someone to check in with.

Day 3: I love my mom because she has believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She reminds me of who I am when I’ve forgotten.

Day 4: I love my mom because she knew I needed a break even though I’d never ask. She came here, got Frederick, and then brought him back because she doesn’t want me on the road. Thanks again.

Day 5: I love my because she exposed me to culture and education outside of the classroom. I love to travel, and I know it’s partly because it’s second nature.
Day 6: J’adore ma maman because she always includes me in her If-I-win-the-big-lottery-wishlist.

Day 7: I love my mom because she has become the caretaker for my aunt, even though she had a million reasons not to. She’s my example of duty, love, and family responsibility. And yes, I know I skipped yesterday–I wanted to be consistent with the calendar so that I don’t have to keep looking to see what day I’m on, lol.

Day 8: I love my mom because when I was a kid, she never gave me a hard time for my preference to write her a letter when something was bothering me over talking to her. I still remember vividly putting letters on her pillow and running to my room and pretending to be sleep when I heard her walking to the back. It means a lot to me to have had someone who respects my ways of communicating.

Day 9: I love my mom because she’s a stunna. You would never guess how old she is. And she is one of those people that looks great when she’s not trying. So to you people who think I look like an undergraduate, I get it from my mama. LOL

Day 10: I love my mom because she instilled the importance of community service in me. She took us to feed the homeless on holidays, she encouraged me to tutor my peers and students in lower grades, and she never let me forget to give back to the community that supported me.

Day 11: I love my mom because I have a thousand sippy cups as a result of her quest for the “perfect” sippy cup. lol

Day 12: I love my mom because I get my niceness under pressure from her. I’ll credit my fiestiness when I’m fed up to my daddy or maybe my aunt Vernita, but I know I get my (albeit reluctant) need to try to keep my temper at bay and smooth it out if at all possible from her. She hates conflict and avoids it like the plague.

Day 13: I love my mom because she and Frederick have a secret language. When we skyped her yesterday, he started grinning and “talking” to her. I have no idea what their convo was about, but they enjoyed it.

Day 14: I love my mom because when she wanted me to divert my focus to positive things, she didn’t just say “be positive,” she gave me plenty to focus on. She’s been in my corner, she helps me physically, emotionally, and financially, and when I’m feeling like I’m missing out, I can redirect to how much help I have from her.

Day 15: I love my mom because her food is yummy. She says when she cooks for me, she cooks with love for me and my baby, and that’s why I haven’t been able to replicate a couple of her (seemingly very simple) recipes.

Day 16: I love my mom because she’s always been a real person, not a fantasy. When I go through various life experiences, she doesn’t judge me, but she shares with me similar experiences she’s been through. She’s never pretended to be perfect, and I appreciate that because she’s a true example of “how I got over”.

Day 17: I love my mom because she tells me stories about my relatives who have gone on. She lets me know that they were my guardian angels on earth too. And I wouldn’t really know that I am anything like my Aunt Vernita if my mom didn’t tell me. Happy birthday, Vernita.

Day 18: I love my mom because she raised me in church, and I still have a family at Zion Travelers to whom she gives regular updates (and they actually care!). I love my mom because she has Frederick in church when he’s in MS.

Day 19: I love my mom because she plays Wordfeud with me and gives me commentary on her other games and background life info about the randoms she plays lol!

Day 20: I love my mom because she loves ratchet TV. As intellectual as she is, you’d never guess that she enjoys watching Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos, and the who’s the daddy show (can’t think of the name). And then, because she’s so intellectual, she analyzes the personalities she sees and connects them to real life to explain why folks act so crazy. Gotta love it! (Sorry if that was a secret, Mary Robinson!!)
Day #21: I love my mom because she really took care of my hair and skin when I was growing up. She never let me sleep with stress on my hair, which meant she combed and brushed my hair every single morning. And she lathered me up with cocoa butter, aloe vera, and whatever else to make sure I didn’t have scars and such. I finally appreciate this now that Frederick is starting to come home with various scars. I also love her because she STILL takes care of my hair when she can. She will sit down and twist all this hair I have if I ask.

Day #22: I love my mom because she encouraged me to start taking advantage of kids eating free at Piccadilly so on nights like tonight when I don’t feel like cooking, I can still make sure Frederick gets his veggies. Yum. Reminds me of going to Morrison’s after church some Sundays!

Day #23: I love my mom because she has always given me space to choose my path. When faced with a fork in the road, sometimes she won’t even give me her opinion if she thinks I will just go with that instead of figuring out what I want. Case in point: when Tougaloo sent me a letter before I went back to school for 11th grade saying if I maintained my GPA I could bypass my senior year and go there on a full ride, she let me choose without pushing me in any direction. She said she didn’t want me to ever look back on life and regret a decision because I didn’t make it. I’m the master of my fate.

Day #24: I love my mom because she sticks up for me. Sometimes I get bogged down in wishing someone would speak up for me/defend me/have my back in tough situations, not knowing that my mom already has. She just may not tell me for months or years, lol.

Day #25: I love my mom because I can’t for the life of me figure out how she did laundry and ironed clothes for our family when I was growing up. It’s only two of us now, and I never feel like I’m caught up on laundry, and I definitely don’t have time to be ironing LOADS of clothes at a time. Seems like her days were made up of >24 hours, but of course they weren’t. Guess she hides the superwoman get up under her clothes, lol!

Day 26: I love my mom because she loves animals. For as long as I can remember, she’s always had love for the 4-legged companions. Even though they creep me out, her fave is long-haired cats, but she loves her grandpups tons. From Delilah (cat) to Jeremiah (dog) to Diamond (cat) to Rex (dog) to Jade (dog), there’s always been an animal around her house to soak up the extra love and compassion. Hope I didn’t miss any pets. LOL (And yes, she loves her some Smokie, and he loves her too.)

Day #27: I love my mom because even though math is my forte, I have effective writing skills because of her. She is a retired English instructor, which means when I was growing up I couldn’t finish a sentence using incorrect grammar without her interrupting me and making me correct myself. I was constantly looking in the dictionary for the correct spelling of words because she wouldn’t just tell me. I never received the kind of help i wanted when writing papers because she believed the only way to learn was to completely write the paper before she marked it up with red ink. All of that has resulted in writing skills that people seem to enjoy reading (www.nadajo.com) and that I am able to use in proofreading. Thanks, smarty pants lady.

Day #28: I love my mom because she is one of the main reasons I wanted to attend an HBCU. She took me to probably every JSU home game and several of the away games if there was bus headed there, and she made sure I was on somebody’s campus every summer.

Day #29: I love my mom because she prepared me for my future. I wasn’t afraid to stay on campus (even at 16!) and I wasn’t afraid to move to another city after college because neither was new frontier. She let me try different things and figure out things while I was growing up so that she could catch me if I fell. I still remember her telling my dad that they needed to let me go out on dates while I was still at home so that I wouldn’t get to college and lose my mind. I can still see the frown etched in his face when my first date got to the house to introduce himself a couple of days before the actual date (for which my dad didn’t even answer the door–he went and sat on the porch. LOL!).

Day #30: I love my mom because she was always the “cool mama”–every one of my friends who has been around her any time loves her. I remember being jealous of Jamie B. when she got my mom as her big sister in Christ. Lordy, I was like she’s all mine!!! LOL

Day #31: I love my mom simply because she’s my mom and she’s stuck with me for life. LOL! Thanks for bearing with me all month! Bye August!

100 Day Reset

100 Day Reset

It’s been about 60 days since I started the 31 Day Reset. Even though I haven’t finished it, it really has helped me re-position my thinking. So as an update, I’ll share with you what I haven’t finished, and some highlights of what I did finish.

Still Left to Do

  • Take Myself Out on a Date – I find it interesting that I haven’t done this. Pre-baby, I did this often. I guess it just shows that I don’t carve out enough time for myself.
  • Get Rid of Stuff I Don’t Need – I have started, but I have a long way to go. I did pack up all of the baby stuff we don’t need anymore. I set an appointment with Salvation Army to come pick it up, and they didn’t come! So I guess I’ll be asking someone with an SUV to come help me. Earlier this year, I almost got my house completely organized, then I had a relapse of depression, and let it all go. So I guess it’s time to start over.
  • Remove Negative People from My Life – I have done a little of this, but it wasn’t on purpose. I have isolated myself from tons of people, so I guess now, I need to decide who I want to reach out to and who I want to leave on the peripheral.
  • Make a New Friend – I would say “no new friends,” but I’m open. I guess my first priority in terms of relationships, though, is to figure out which old friends I want to re-engage.
  • Let Go of the Past – I’m working on it, really.
  • Make a Bucket List – I have one stashed in my head–I just haven’t written it down yet.
  • Write My Own Eulogy – I imagine it will be very similar to my Ideal Life Narrative, so I’m not pressed to do this yet.
  • Create a Vision Board – I think my old vision board has become a barrier. I keep saying I will just update the old one, but maybe, just maybe, I should start from scratch. Hmm.

Of the other tasks, I really liked the day redesign that I did, and although it hasn’t become the norm yet, I am enjoying trying to make it happen. I do wake up a teensy weensy bit earlier, and I do make sure I eat SOMETHING in the morning, even if not as much as I’d like. I also have started getting a little exercise in, although not as much I really want.

Also, I’ve started back going to see my counselor, and she’s helping me on my quest to trust and believe in myself again. When I’m down on myself, we talk through why, and so far, I have had no valid reasons. I just take on guilt and blame, even when it doesn’t really belong to me. So I’ve been thankful to be able to spend my splurge money on seeing her.

Although I don’t write in it everyday, my gratitude journal has helped me alot with focusing on the good rather than the bad. I’ve even been able to let go of something that would have added to my bottom line each month but was stressing me out. I’ll pursue that when and if the spirit hits me. I’ve realized that the Lord will provide without me worrying about what I could be getting.

What’s really funny is: the day i was supposed to stop complaining for 24 hours, I ended up writing a complaint to Firestone about my mom’s experience, and it ended up being a huge misunderstanding for which I had to apologize to the person I inadvertently reported (I even sent her a card!) and to her managers for writing the note. And that caused me to stop complaining for more than 24 hours because I felt so bad. So talk about a lesson there!

And my personal mission statement has really helped me when I need a distraction or motivation to throw some negative thought out of my head. It’s kind of amazing that I can give myself a little pep. I’m glad that when I do feel powerful, I have had reasons (like this reset) to write it down so that I can look at my true-to-life words when I’m feeling down and weak.

Finally, I had to write myself a love letter, so I’ll share it with you, even though part of me doesn’t want to. But I keep realizing that I never know who I’m helping when I allow myself to be vulnerable and transparent. So here goes. Happy Sunday!

Subject: I love you.

Dear FutureMe,

Congrats on all the progress you’ve made so far! Now you have even more to be grateful for. It’s time to forge ahead. It’s time to reclaim your confidence and your passion and your “I can do it” attitude. Yes, you’ve gone through the worst part of your life, but just like the other rough patches you’ve been through, you will be better for it when it is all said and done. I know sometimes you think you are less of a woman because of your romantic failures, but please believe and know and OWN the fact that you are MORE than a woman. You are a WARRIOR and an extremely loyal, dedicated, and gifted person. Do you realize that in the worst of times, you conquered your depression, your hurt, and your bad outlook on your own life to do whatever was necessary to give Frederick everything he needed and more?? That’s powerful, young lady. Even when you didn’t want to take care of yourself, you did it anyway so that Frederick could have a strong foundation and a solid connection to his mother. Even when you despised his father, you swallowed all your hurt, anger, and sadness to try to have a cordial relationship with him for the sake of Frederick. That’s not WEAK, honey, that is STRONG.

Now, what you HAVE to do is stop owning what is NOT yours. Yes, you chose to love someone who didn’t give you that love back. But you, my darling, can’t force anyone to do anything. The horrible words that were slung at you while you were pregnant, the unwillingness to cooperate financially and physically as a co-parent, the lies, all of that—it’s not yours, and as you know after a year of trying, there’s no amount of niceness that can make a man be what he’s not. You are not responsible for his character. Got that? You’re not. And unfortunately, it took this situation for you to see his character in its fullness. And that’s ok. Because you do not regret having a beautiful, gifted, friendly, super happy child. And he’s happy! Why? Because he has you as a mother. You, who has been able to give him your all, even when you didn’t feel like the person you thought you were. You, who are still able to pour into him love and concern for his development. You, who will do any and everything it takes to see him grow into a self-sufficient, responsible young (charming–you know it!) man. YOU are the bomb.com, ma chere, even when you feel like crumbs. And that’s amazing.

So guess what. Because I love you (did you realize by now that this is a love letter??), I want to tell you this. LET IT GO. Let go of all the self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-ridicule. It’s time to move forward and follow the yellow brick road. The last road you were on was school bus yellow–you had to travel that road to get to your destiny. None of it was a mistake, dear heart. All of it happened for you to morph into an even better version of yourself. You thought you were something before?? Well guess what, now you’ve added to your testimony. You thought you were helping people before? Look how many more people you will be able to help when you show them how you bounce back and excel even after adversity. All the love and care you give to Frederick, give it to you too. I swear you deserve it. You are not less than–you are more than. You can still have everything you have always dreamed of. You can still make magic. You probably have even more magic now. You are not the sum of the bad times. You are the sum of the accomplishments you have already achieved and will continue to achieve, the family that has had your back throughout your journey, the friends who have hung in there with you, the triumphs you have experienced on the other side of every hump.

You move mountains. Keep fighting through whatever mountains will come your way. With God, anything is possible. And you know that because you have seen it over and over again in your life. Never believe that anything you have done trumps what God put in your heart. You have always been a dreamer of big dreams who wakes up and puts feet to every one of them. You can do this. You deserve this. You were made for this.

Never let anyone make you feel like you’re not worthy of honoring yourself. You have a right to your feelings. You have a right to put yourself first. You do not have to play nice with everyone no matter what. Capisce? Do what makes YOU feel good about yourself and your future and your child’s future. If it stresses you out, let it go. If it keeps you up at night, let it go. If you’re crying and it’s not worth one tear, let it go. And give all that crap to God, and don’t wonder if He’s gonna do you justice. You already know He is, so stop worrying about things you can’t control!

I hope this letter finds you in a brand new, loving, positive, promising place in your life, where you wake up with happy thoughts and new ideas and a fresh outlook on the day ahead of you. Leave the past in the past, and know in your heart that your future is #winning. And live today like the star you are.

I love you for all you are today, all you have been throughout your life, and the wonderfulness you will be in your future.

Love,
Your Past Self on July 3, 2013

Day 2 – Life Assessment

Day 2 – Life Assessment

Today’s task was to do a life assessment. I’ll admit that I was a little bit overwhelmed by the thought of it, but I sat down and made it happen. In this life assessment I had to answer two questions for each of 7 areas of my life: “What do I like?” and “What do I dislike?” Since part of the purpose of this reset is to shift my focus to what’s good in my life, I’ll only share the answers to the former question. Suffice it to say that it was pretty easy for me to answer the latter, BUT identifying what I do like wasn’t as hard as I expected. Progress! 🙂

Lifestyle: I like that I have a pretty impressive network. I like that I live in Atlanta and have access to many opportunities. I like that I am still connected to my hometown of Jackson since it holds a special place in my heart. I love that I get to travel and explore.

Work: I love the level of support I get from my management. They genuinely care about me as a whole person, not just as an employee. I also love that I’ve found a place where I can apply my math skills to being a do-gooder in communities across the country. I also like that I am diversifying my portfolio by not just doing research for projects but also helping with marketing and the operations side.

Education: I like that my educational background is relatively diverse. I’m also happy that I had the experience of finding out that I actually didn’t like a field I had dreamed of entering and was able to find my niche later. That was a hard time in my life because it was one of the first times I ever had to decide not to finish something I started, but I saw after the fact that it was just what I needed to steer me in a better direction. (Message!)

Finances: I appreciate the fact that even though I don’t receive help from the person I expected it from, I’ve never missed a meal and Frederick has everything he needs and more. I like that I truly have my mom’s support and that she’s been my security net.

Health: I like my weight. I like my newfound upper body strength. I like that I eat mostly fresh and organic foods now. Thanks x3, Frederick.

Family: I love being Frederick’s mother. I like seeing my son develop and flourish everyday. I love hearing him laugh and seeing him discover new things. I love his hugs and kisses. I love watching (and hearing) him sleep. I love the way he looks like he is going to tip over when he is walking full speed ahead. I love to hear him say new words. I love reading and singing to him. Also, I love my mom and my daddy and my brothers. I love my aunts and uncles and my cousins. I love that I still have a living grandmother. I love that all these people love me. I love that even though I live 6 hours away, I still have a church family that loves me and my son. I like that Frederick and I have a village.

Relationships: I like that I have friends who speak life into me when they notice I’m low on fuel. I like that I have friends who believe in me. I like that most people who have made even a brief connection with me like to keep in touch with me, which I think means they see value in knowing me.

So 2 days down, 29 to go!

FYI – if you read my pregnancy posts, I used the same password on yesterday’s post. I’ll make it public sooner or later, but until then, hope you remember the old password!

My Soundtrack of Life

My Soundtrack of Life

I came across a song on Spotify yesterday that made me travel back in time and up to today’s reality within the 3 minutes and change that the song lasted. It reminded me of a song by Musiq that I loved from the moment I first heard the opening melody and provided me with a timely follow-up/update to it. Here’s Greatestlove by Musiq–the song that represents the past.

Baby, you and me, we’re so good together
Look at how we harmonize
Girl, we’re like the perfect melody that keeps getting better
We can stand the test of time
All we had were letters till we formed the words
Started from the lyrics till we found the verses that can bridge us through
Baby, we could be the greatest love song…

And here is the song I found yesterday. I’ve listened to Karina Pasian on YouTube and added her to a couple of playlists, but I had never heard this song until I searched her name in Spotify. I looked for the song on YouTube so that I could share it and only found the live version, which is still good but you can’t hear the lyrics as well as you can, of course, in the official recording. You would think I would have had this epiphany after hearing Melanie Fiona’s Wrong Side of a Love Song, but that song didn’t speak to me the way this one did. Although, I could probably have gone with Toni Braxton’s Another Sad Love Song, but it doesn’t use the metaphor of music like these two (Musiq and Karina) do. Anyway, here’s the song that represents the present.

Now all that’s left of us is just another melody
Just another song I sing
Can’t believe you’re just music on my radio
Not in love with you no more
I’m over you
We used to be a symphony
You used to be my everything

Now you’re just just another melody…

If you know me, you know how much of a music fiend I am, so using music as a metaphor for love is just perfect to me–touches my soul in a special place. I love how songs can capture how I feel at a given moment or over a span of time, so I thought I’d share a little glimpse of my experience (which makes me a wee bit uneasy, but I’m going for the gusto, lol). Happy Friday!

Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past

Two nights ago I got a message on Google+ from a familiar but distant name:

Ranada. . .would your middle name happen to be Dejoi?

I replied “Yes my middle name is Dejoi. Is this <enter his name> from Vicksburg that went to summer camp with me in middle school???”

And he replied, “Yes. It’s me. WOW…”

Wow is right! It’s been 17 years since our last correspondence. He was the cutest boy in the academic camp we attended at Hinds Community College Utica Campus, and it turned out that we both had mutual crushes on each other. We spent most of the camp shyly flirting, and finally, after a maybe a week of “going together” lol, he gave me a smooch (at that time, I still thought french kissing was mucho yucky, and it would be another couple of years before I tried that out, lol!) by the swings (but not after dark) as a sweet gesture because of my love for the Subway song. After camp, we wrote letters for a brief time.

A couple of years ago, I found an envelope of stuff from him that I had saved. I did a FB search and didn’t find anything. Of course I wondered where he was, how he was doing, and if he even remembered me, but after the fruitless FB search I gave up. So imagine my surprise when I saw his name in my email inbox!

He is doing well now–he has a wife and a baby girl due any moment. But guess how small the world is–he lives in Atlanta too and moved here the year after I did since we both moved for graduate school. It warms my heart to know that I had good taste in junior high, lol. He seems to be doing well for himself as an adult, and he is still handsome! I just thought I’d share that blast from the past. It’s awesome to see how people are doing now. I keep up with a few of my summer camp friends (I went to an academic camp every year from 6th grade (really, before!! I just remember my first overnight camp was at Pineywoods Country Life School the summer after 6th grade and I was technically too young but I was in the right grade!) to 10th grade (I spent the summer after my 11th grade year taking a senior English literature class that was the exact same as an AP English class I had already taken just so I could have my diploma since I was skipping my senior year to attend Tougaloo)). I’m so happy my mom thought it was necessary to make sure that I spent my summers with other smart black kids on college campuses so that I’d know I wasn’t an exception to any rule about black folks (I came home from a trip with the gifted program asking were the other two black students and I different since we were all there were in the entire program). Now I am blessed to know and be surrounded by so many sharp, amazing people.

Here’s an ode to my junior high school summer camp boo.