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

100 Days Left!

100 Days Left!

I cannot believe that in 100 days (give or take) I’ll be a full-fledged mommy. I have so much to do. I’m hoping that I can get the bulk of what I need done by the end of March–(finding a new bedroom suite that will add storage options for all of the clothes I decide to keep (I’m giving away ALOT of clothes to make room for this little guy), getting his nursery area emptied out and painted and baby furniture set up, getting my guest bedroom up to par for the uber awesome people who decide to come help me :-D, getting my downstairs better organized so things will be easier when I’m rushing, etc., and getting Smokie acclimated to not going in the nursery and familiar with new smells so he’ll be as ready as spoiled-dogly possible). Whew, I’m already tired! And I start all my classes in a couple weeks!

This morning, I came across this on Pinterest.

At first, I thought easier read than practiced. But then I kept reading it and considering it (and trying not to be a pessimist), and really, this is in line with my Lent goals. Thinking about all the good things that come with having my baby has been very helpful to coping with all the things that are/seem overwhelming. And when I feel I’m in trouble, I can either lash out, acting on my fear and anger, or I can be patient and believe that it’ll work out even if I don’t see how. And added to that, God keeps sending me people who help me by saying a kind word, sharing their own experiences with me, lending their talents to my plight (thanks Shannon (talent: throwing stuff away) for helping me sort through my massive amount of clothes and thanks Vonetta (talent: shopping for baby stuff and being persistent about it) for making me go to stores I would otherwise avoid, e.g. Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us), sending unexpected cards that make me smile (and of course get misty because I’m a big cry baby), crossing stuff off the things I need before I even ask (thanks Rashida and mama!), and just making me laugh when I didn’t think it was possible.

Here are a couple of songs I’ve been trying to keep on my mind.

and

¬†Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand <– I can’t find a YouTube video where they’re singing like my Zion Travelers does! But basically, the song says that life isn’t always easy but to build your hope on things eternal.

So far so good with Lent. And I will admit that when I’m not worrying or wading in anger and negativity (it happens but either immediately or after a couple of tears, I remind myself to shift my thoughts to something else) feels much better. And I know it’s better for the baby. Saturday, one of God’s messengers (thank you Niki!) suggested I go get a pregnancy massage so I’m gonna look into that and I gotta get my schedule synced with my photographer friend so we can finally do my maternity pics. ūüôā And I’ve finally started doing better with my scrapbook pages. I have to get pictures printed but I’ve gotten four pages done to the point where all I need is to paste the pic.

Ok, gotta go. Hope everyone has a productive week!

 Pregnancy Ticker

Lessons Learned by Farmer Jo, Part 2

Lessons Learned by Farmer Jo, Part 2

Back to those doggone squash and cucumbers. Much of what I learned about trying to grow them applies to my life in general. It all started when I went to Chicago in June to celebrate the 30th birthdays of three compadres. I purchased an automatic sprinkler so that my plants wouldn’t be thirsty for a full weekend. Well… I called myself testing it the night before and setting the timer for every 6 hours. Didn’t work out like I thought it would.

My cucumbers were overwatered, while my squash was underwatered. Isn’t that what happens sometimes in our relationships? You put in way more effort than is necessary for some people and neglect others. Yeah… So after that it was making up time. I had to figure out what could be salvaged. Which isn’t always that easy. Last night, I realized that I really need to sit down and do what I do on a somewhat regular basis–a friendship evaluation. But later on that–let me finish talking about my poor plants. ūüôā

So my squash was growing, but they were almost orange, instead the great yellow my first crop was. In addition, the actual vines/roots were turning a dark green and looking pretty ashy and almost dead (and some were dead) and starting to look mangled. I probably ¬†should have abandoned ship then, but Determined Dejoi couldn’t just admit defeat. I started back to my original regime after cutting off all the dead parts. It was looking pretty sparse after I cut all the dead weight off. After that only one more squash grew.

Lesson: When there’s more death than life or more negativity than positivity, it’s time to let go. Some things aren’t worth saving.

On the other hand, my cucumbers were growing, but they were discolored in a different way and disfigured. (Have you noticed here that colors tell the story if you only pay attention?) These babies were yellowish (not green) and round, instead of long. So I added soil to the pot to try to soak up some of that excess water, and I moved the pot so that the plants would get more sun. But more than that, when I looked at the vines, there were some serious issues. There were black vines all over the place. So I cut all of those off, but the cucumbers never grew normally, and I was scared to eat the warped cucumbers (although they smelled like cucumbers and Smokie enjoyed the one that fell off the vine, lol).

Lesson: You can flood anything or anyone or any situation, which warps the fruit of whatever seed you planted. If you’re putting more into something or someone than you’re getting back, ¬†you need to evaluate the situation.¬†

My first summer of gardening was great. I had some wins and some losses, but I learned from it all. My carrots and broccoli are still looking great so far. I’m even considering growing onions later in the winter. Here are some questions that I’m asking myself during my friendship evaluation:

  • Whose lives are you enhancing and who is enhancing yours?
  • In whom are you investing and who is investing in you?
  • Who do you prioritize and who prioritizes you?
  • Whose opinions do you value? Whose do you dismiss?
  • Who actively listens to you? Who do you think you waste your breath on?
  • Who keeps indirect tabs on you but doesn’t directly deal with you? Do they use that information to help or hurt you?
  • Who do you feel comfortable confiding in?

In all of this, it’s important to honor your instincts. Some friendships are for a season, some for a reason, and some for a lifetime. No, I don’t talk to all my friends every day–I have people I truly consider friends who I have confidence in even though they’re not on my normal rotation. So you have to consider all that. And you need to ask yourself if you spend more time and energy on the people who don’t add to you than who do. If so, you have some adjusting to do. I know I do.

Almost 30! Many lessons down, many more to go!

10 Ways to Love

10 Ways to Love

Today, I need this. I needed it yesterday, and I know I’ll need it tomorrow. I posted it on my Tumblr, but I need to devote more than just one thought on it today.

As we get older, relationships get more complicated (family, friend, romantic, etc.) and you really have to decide who you want to dedicate time and energy to–who reciprocates and who adds positive energy to your life, recharging you for this life that’s full of ups and downs. But once you do, it still ain’t an easy journey because we’re all human. And no matter what, you need to be able to discern how to be loving in all steps of your walk. It’s the greatest commandment, remember? From the stranger you pass on the street that may need a smile to the long lost friend you haven’t spoken to in a year that may need a listening ear out of the blue. From the family member that gets on that one nerve to the boyfriend/partner/boothang (whatever you wanna call him or her) that doesn’t always speak or hear your primary love language. Love is still the goal.

So here’s the post, with the verses that go along. Happy Tuesday.

1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18)

To answer before listening‚ÄĒ¬†that is folly and shame.¬†The human spirit can endure in sickness,¬†but a crushed spirit who can bear?¬†The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,¬†for the ears of the wise seek it out. – Proverbs 18:13-15

2. Speak without accusing. (James 1:19)

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26)

All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.

4. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.

5. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing.

8. Trust without wavering. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

The Love Chapter

Last Feature Friday of 2010: Pen Pals

Last Feature Friday of 2010: Pen Pals

I’ve been away, if you hadn’t noticed. ūüôā ¬†But never fear, I’m back and a little rested. ¬†You wouldn’t believe how busy busy busy I’ve been. ¬†Well, maybe you would.

Anywho, I type to you today from Wilmington, Delaware. ¬†I’m here for my pen pal’s wedding. ¬†ūüôā

I’ve had a few pen pals in my life–one from elementary when we did that pen pal exchange program and one I gained from keeping in touch with a classmate who moved away. ¬†Then, I had one (Lakeitha) with whom I became very close with at a summer program at Alcorn, and we wrote to keep in touch through college. (We still keep in touch, but not quite as much as we had.) ¬†Since 2005, I’ve been writing my soror Erika. ¬†We’ve never met in person, although we almost did in 2008. ¬†We met on the national AKA listserv during a discussion about pen pals, were alike in many ways, and decided to cease all other forms of communications and become pen pals.

It might sound weird to some, but we’ve chronicled our lives over the last 5 years and have really become connected. ¬†Hey, I even have the letter when she wrote about meeting her groom. ūüôā ¬†(If I had have been thinking and not packing at the last minute, I would have brought it with me. ¬†But alas…) I’m so happy to be a part of her special day, after having traded dating war stories with her over the years. ¬†Erika is soooooooo sweet–just as sweet in person as she is on paper.

I’ve never been to Delaware (or to Philly), so this is really a trip of adventure. ¬†Yesterday, we did the wedding rehearsal (I’m doing a biblical reading), and then had some yummo grub at a Jamaican restaurant in downtown Wilmington for the rehearsal dinner. ¬†It’s been great meeting everyone she’s written about in her letters. ūüôā ¬†Today, we’re running some last minute wedding errands, and I get to see more of Wilmington (and eat at Erika’s fave restaurant Borders Cafe).

If you’ve never had a pen pal, consider getting one. ¬†There’s just something special about getting regular old-fashioned letters and being able to really say how you feel without worry of being interrupted and knowing that you’ll get a well-thought out response–along with sharing. ¬†Sometimes, in friendships, one person becomes the unloader and the other becomes the listener, creating an imbalance that’s hard to reverse. ¬†But with the pen pal, it’s so easy to just pick up a piece of stationary paper (or regular ole lined paper) and write away about whatever is going on with you (positive, negative, no consequence–just whatever is on your mind). ¬†And you can pretty much count on your pal to do the same.

Tomorrow, my pen pal gets married. ūüôā ¬†I feel blessed to bring in the new year in a new place with a new yet not new dear friend. ¬†I’ll be on when I can to do some other 2010 and Kwanzaa reflections, but until then, happy new year! ¬†Many blessings!

Brain Dump

Brain Dump

Whoa nah! ¬†I have tons of stuff on my mind, and I don’t even really know where to start or what I want to get off of it.

So this post may end up being total stream of consciousness. ¬†And I’m random like that, so that’s a-ok with me.

I’ve said on multiple occasions that I tend to have a grudge-holding problem, but I’ve been actively trying to combat that because as we know acknowledgement is the first step, but there are still other steps. ¬†So after prayer and meditation, I made some steps toward reconciling with an old friend. ¬†The convo started off kinda tough because expressing pinned up emotion and listening to other people tell you want they think is wrong with you usually are, but I was able to put the right amount of compassion into my responses to her, and I think we’re on our way to being friends again one day. ¬†BUT the good news is that I have let go of my lingering frustrations and bad vibes over that situation. ¬†I was able to release it, and all it took was allowing myself to express my feelings in a constructive way–despite what she said to me. ¬†No yelling, no blowing up. ¬†Stay cooool. ūüôā *Progress!*

Speaking of old friends, one of my childhood friends emailed me yesterday morning and let me know that her nephew is having brain surgery. ¬†You know, the stuff you kinda just think happens on TV. ¬†So she, her nephew, and their family have been at the top of my prayer list. ¬†She sent me an update this morning and he made it through the surgery fine, and now we’re waiting to hear what the new test results are. ¬†I really hope he makes it through, ready to enjoy a full, happy, inspired life.

Inspiration… What inspires you? ¬†What inspires me? ¬†Feeling like I’m making a difference inspires me. ¬†I had a hectic week at work last week, but it was all to the good because I really feel like my job is setting me up to make some real impacts. ¬† Even seeing a reference in a newspaper article to a research document I created set my spirits on fire. ¬†I’m not just working everyday to earn a paycheck (although that is oh so necessary lol)–my work is being prodded and probed and considered and acted on. ¬†It’s because of my long hours that somebody somewhere made a decision that will have far-stretching impacts in a city, a county, or even a region or state. ¬†That matters to me. ¬†I’ve come to learn that I put in my hardest work when I feel like I or it matters. ¬†If I don’t see the significance, it’s hard for me to buckle down and get er done. ¬†Knowing that is helping me to prioritize and better use my time (and say a much needed no more often).

And a certain something has me daydreaming and grinning. ¬†Buuuuuuut I’ll let that stay in my head for awhile. Just for superstition’s sake. ¬†No jinxes please. ¬†Just fun times ahead. ¬†Hmmmmm…

Speaking of fun, softball has been kicking my lazy, out-of-shape butt, but being around black folks in a ball park has done something to me. ¬†It makes me feel more at home. ¬†I can remember going to the ballpark with my mom to watch my dad play. ¬†It’s a really vague memory, lol, but I remember, nonetheless. ¬†My aunt would be keeping score or somewhere near us. ¬†And it was just fun times with laughter and sometimes the smell of food on the grill filling the air. ¬†It took me 8 years to find that in Atlanta!! ¬†And right in time for the summer. ¬†Yippie ya!

I don’t even know what else is swirling around in this complicated mind o’ mine. ¬†Besides that something I don’t want to deliberate on. ūüôā ¬†lol you want to know, don’t you? Too bad, so sad! ¬†haha ¬†Anyway, there have been lots in the news I could talk about, but most of it is negative and I’m in too good of a mood to get on my soap box today. ¬†So maybe tomorrow. ¬†In the meantime, get your groove on with one of my newest jams. ¬†I know you want to…

P.S. If you don’t have one–get a mantra or two. ¬†Mine are “Positivity prevails” and “Focus on the miracle.” ¬†They come in handy!! ¬†You gotta align your perspective up with your circumstance to make it through tough times. ¬†Remember that your attitude is often your testimony. ¬†Ok, I’m done for real this time. ¬†Tootleloo!