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!

Lessons from Smokie

Lessons from Smokie

Last Tuesday, my pooch and I experienced something so crazy that he’s still recovering physically and I’m still recovering emotionally. Smokie, although he is a lot more clingy, seems to be remembering life before “The Incident” more and more every day, as evidenced by his new willingness to cross the street to relieve himself (as I keep him right in front of my house because I’m still wary of even being outside especially if the sun is not at its peak).

Ok, so by now, I’m sure you’re like will she tell the story already? Lol, okay, here goes.

So Tuesday night, after a night of creating my first painting just for my baby and signed mommy, I came home and took Smokie out for his routine last walk of the night in the nonexistent safety of my own partially gated subdivision. I always let him off the leash to poop because he doesn’t like pooping on the street (and neither do I). After he turned the corner, a coyote, yes, a coyote, jumped out the bushes across the street to where Smokie was. I ran in the house to find a weapon all the while fighting the urge to hyperventilate because pregnant girls who don’t tote guns don’t have many options and although I wanted Smokie to be okay, I didn’t want to put myself or my baby in danger. Running back outside armed with a boot (smh), I saw the coyote had dragged Smokie to the other side of the street and was trying to carry him back into the brush, but Smokie was giving him trouble. Although he was way bigger than my little brave honey pie, Smokie wouldn’t just lie there and let him kill him. So what did I do? While crying because Smokie’s screams were breaking my heart, I stood in the street in front of my house screaming over and over for Smokie to just get to me. Smokie squirmed enough to get out of its mouth one more time–this time his neck was in its mouth–and outran the coyote to get to me and we went inside where I started the process of figuring out what the hell to do with this dog who was scared and shaking, with holes all over his back bleeding.

We eventually (quickly but it didn’t seem like it then because since Animal Control was NO help I had to go upstairs, get on the Internet, find my own after hours pet hospital while shaking and trying to keep my eye on Smokie to make sure he was alert even though he was hiding and call to make sure they would take him and could help him) got to The Ark Animal Hospital, where after I completed a load of paperwork, Smokie was put under and rushed to surgery. A little over a week later, Smokie is doing better, finally off pain meds (read: doggie morphine), not limping anymore, and I can see some of the wounds healing, although the deepest ones are still presenting problems. Yesterday, I had to take him back in because one was wide open and needed to be restapled. Since I was told by Animal Control that they don’t handle wild animals regardless of the clear danger to public safety, I’m extra uncomfortable to be outside for over the couple of minutes it takes me to check my mailbox and let Smokie use it right by my driveway. Any time I have an errand to run, I prefer to just take him with me so he can pee and poop without fear of a coyote going at his neck.

But since I’ve had a week to stop seeing the coyote jump across the street and hearing Smokie’s screams every single night when I close my eyes, there are a couple of lessons I’ve gotten from Smokie.

1. No matter how big the problem, don’t just lie there and take it. When we got to the hospital, the nurse said Smokie lived because of his will to get away. She said she’s seen many pets who play possum when in the same situation, which of course doesn’t really work–it just guarantees death. Smokie took that coyote head on with all odds against him, and although he definitely suffered from the battle (and so did my wallet), he’s alive to tell about it to keep me inspired. I can’t believe how brave he was, but I’m so grateful he’s a fighter because Butterbean and I need him around. 🙂 Don’t give in just because your problem seems monumental. You have to fight and pray to make it to the other side of it.

2. Run to the one you know you can count on. Sometimes, and I know this currently, we focus on the problem and shut down and close everything and everyone out. But when we’re weak, we have to run to the people we know have our backs. I will admit I’ve been kinda distant in my spiritual relationship but that’s a whole other post, but my pastor and my mom have been right there to remind me who to turn to and to remind me that I’m going to be a-ok because I have them and I have God. It seems hard, but it definitely was only instinct for Smokie to know what direction safety was in. I wonder what I can do to make my instinct clearer/stronger.

3. You have to leave the wound alone a little to let it heal. Part (not all because the doc left it partially open for it to drain–but definitely part) of the reason Smokie has this one particular wound that just won’t start looking any better is because it irritates him so and he licks it when it’s at its worse. It’s hard, but I’ve had to be more intentional in steering my thoughts from my issues to other things when I can make myself do that because giving my issues so much of my energy just makes it worse. And the point here is not to say ignore the issue–one of my main gripes with people who think they’re being good friends is that they like to say oh you’re making it a big deal, just get over it, buck up, or just pretend they don’t know anything is wrong with me, etc. when it’s not something I can switch on and off and it’s not as easy as welp, whatever, let me move on now as if my life is hunky dory. The point really is that you have to acknowledge the issue–find help, get it stapled up like Smokie’s wound if possible, and then try to steer your thoughts to better things that give you hope when your mind wants to linger at the source of your hurt. Don’t at all pretend you don’t have a gaping wound–but don’t spend the day licking it. If you can ignore the sting even a little bit a day, it’ll help bring you out of the fog.

Here’s a song I keep humming so I decided to go ahead and listen to it when I started writing this. So of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t share. (And I particularly like this version because he’s got Corinne on the background vocals!)

So, just pray for my sweet thang Smokie and for me. Trouble don’t last always, right? And one day, he will look normal again and maybe I’ll figure out a solution to this coyote problem in my neighborhood. Who knew that when I moved I would be moving to a hood AND forest? *raised eyebrow*

And since my mom just texted it to me, I’ll share:

Only God can turn a “Mess” into a “Message”, a “Test” into a “Testimony”, a “Trial” into a “Triumph”, a “Victim” into a “Victory”!!!

Just another experience to share in my memoir one day. 🙂 Happy almost weekend!

Last Post before 30

Last Post before 30

I’m closing out my 30th year of living on this here earth, and I’ve learned a lot. Or maybe I should say relearned alot.

I’ve relearned that:

I can’t control anyone or anything except my own actions.

Perspective is the key to a sound mind. There’s a positive way to look at nearly anything. You have to allow yourself to see it from that vantage point.

No matter what life brings, God sends the help you need.

I will always be a busy body. It’s in my DNA.

You have to listen to your body. Even if you have to pull an all-nighter, you need to cancel whatever you had planned the next day. If your body is tired, let it rest.

The reason for the Sabbath is because God doesn’t want us running ourselves ragged. Productivity depends on balance.

Sour patch kids are still some of the best candy ever put on the shelf.

You can plan all that you wanna, but you have to be flexible because back to my first point, you can’t control anyone or anything but your own actions.

But planning is still important. You need to dream then wake up and starting putting feet those ideas. Nothing is impossible unless you don’t believe you can do it. And once you believe, then you need to put one foot in front of the other.

It’s a great thing to give to others, but you have to remember to refuel on a regular basis. Taking care of self is not selfish–you can’t give someone a ride if your car  has no gas.

I learned a lot more, but those are the ones that were on the tips of my fingers to share. Thanks for visiting my lil space on the net and always coming back for me. The road to 30 was bumpy yet exciting, and I’m so looking forward to forging my way through my 30s. Happy birthday to me!!

And Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Lessons Learned by Farmer Jo

Lessons Learned by Farmer Jo

So I was (am) Farmer Jo this summer, and I loved it. Back in May, I was inspired by my green thumb friends and family and planted my own deck garden. Recap: I bought railing planters, soil, seedlings, a few seeds, and went for it despite my failure at keeping a couple of houseplants alive. Here’s how I did.

First of all, the summer made me scared of seeds. I planted seeds in two pots: a lily and a sunflower. The lily never sprouted from the soil at all. Not sure what happened there. The sunflower came up and it was beautiful until I found out that sunflowers like sun but not too much. It was purty while it lasted but I allowed it to bake to death. So if I ever plant more sunflowers, I’ll put it in a place that gets a little shade during the day.

But you know, I don’t back down to any challenge. Seeds can’t punk me! Besides, it is something about checking every day and one day stepping outside to see a new wisp of green peaking out of the dirt. A sense of accomplishment peaks out of the soil with it. For the fall, I’ve planted broccoli and carrots and both have started sprouting. #winning! They look great, and I can’t wait to see how well they do.

All of my veggies this summer started as seedlings. I just didn’t want to take any chances with them. My peppers are banging. Nothing I’ve done have deterred their beautiful growth. Which makes me grin, especially since my fajita bell peppers looked to be on their last leg the day I planted her. They looked awesome the entire season and gave me plenty of peppers to cook. You can taste the heat in the cajun bell peppers. And you can smell the yumminess of the fajita bell peppers. As the cold weather enters, it has made me frown a bit to see them die, but that’s a part of the cycle of life. I’m very proud of my peppers. I’ll definitely make this my staple every year.

My okra was comme ci comme ca. Partially due to space, I only got one okra plant, so there was never any harvest that was big enough for me to fry up more than a couple of slices of okra. It was usually two at a time. It has gotten so tall though. It’s unbelievable. I’m not sure if I’ll plant another of these next year. I just don’t have the space to grow them in bulk that I can see. But my one lil solo plant has hung in there.

The serious lessons were with my squash and cucumbers, my pseudo disappointments. But that’s for my next post. 🙂

Lemony Snicket… with a Happy Ending

Lemony Snicket… with a Happy Ending

When some random object flies off a truck on a busy I-285 and you can’t do anything to avoid running over it and then your tire as predicted begins to get low and you have to make your way across three or four lanes to get to the shoulder where cars and trucks are zooming past, you come to a juncture in the road where you must decide:

Do I panic and let this tear form? Or do I stay calm?

Yep, that happened to me Sunday. I chose to stay calm even though my eye was tingling with the thought of a possible tear forming. But as soon as I made that decision, I stayed in good spirits for the rest of what would become your run of the mill Lemony Snicket and a Series of Unfortunate Events kinda day. Now, this is the second time I’m writing this blog post–I lost it the first time, and I’ve decided to stay calm and just retype it–but this time, I’m leaving out some details, lol.

Alright, so after calling Roadside Assistance, I called the office where I was headed for an appointment, then texted the two people I had plans with later. One asked had I called the hero truck, to which I responded “what is a hero truck?” After getting over the initial disbelief that I have lived in Georgia for 9 years and didn’t know what a hero truck was, she told me to call 511 and they would come help me for free. By then I had the dispatcher State Farm referred me to on the phone asking me questions about getting a tow, so I asked her how much it would be, took down the number, and said I would call her back. I called 511, and sure enough, they asked where I was, what kind of car, and all that. (Read: God’s plan, step #1) Then the fateful question: “Do you have a spare?” It really is a long story, but suffice it to say that my daddy took my spare out and I had no idea if he had ever replaced it, so I answered “I don’t think so.” Why? Because I just didn’t want anyone coming to help me if I didn’t know AND as I was on 285, I wasn’t getting out of my car to clear out my trunk and lift up the mat and see.

So I called the dispatcher back, and she put me on hold to locate a tow truck to take me to where my tires are under warranty. Then she came back on the line and told me that it was taking longer than usual to find someone open on Sunday, and she would call me back in 5 minutes because she wanted to make sure she didn’t drain my cell phone battery. During this time, I asked my friend to come get me because I hadn’t eaten all day, and I would just make sure I was back in time to ensure that my car got to its destination. So about twenty to thirty minutes later, I see a yellow truck pulling up behind me… Hmmm, I think to myself… Tow trucks aren’t usually yellow… Then I see State Farm on the truck. Hmmm, State Farm sent me to the dispatcher service, so I’m confused… So a lady gets out of the truck, comes to my window and tells me she’s with HERO and she’s here to help me. (Read: God’s plan, step #2) I told her that I was told they wouldn’t be able to assist because I didn’t know if I had a spare. After telling me they sent her anyway, she said, “Well let’s see.” After together putting the contents of my trunk in my back seat, sure enough, I had a spare. (Read: God’s plan, step #3) As she changed my tire, I called the dispatcher back, who is sounding really stressed and worried. As soon as I told her that I was canceling, she replied, “Oh my God, I’m so happy because you wouldn’t believe I called this entire list and either they’re not open or they don’t have a truck they can send to where you are today.” (Read: God’s solutions ain’t got nothing on ours.)

When I tell you at that very moment, all I could do is think about how blessed I am, I’m understating how I felt. I immediately called my mom to share, and of course, I love sharing with her AFTER something has happened because she worries herself into oblivion. (Love you, mom!)

That’s not the end of my Lemony Snicket day though. Here’s the rest:

1- Went to tire place to get a new one

2- They didn’t have the tire I needed, so they called the next closest, they were putting their last 4 on a car at that moment. They then called the next closest. They had it and put it on hold for me.

3- There was construction on I-75 so I drove all the way up Marietta, which was fine because I needed gas. I pull in, swipe my card, it reads “SEE CASHIER.” I go inside, they say my card went through. Manager had to go outside and reset everything. I got gas.

4- Finally got to tire place, get it changed. End of debacle. Finally.

The other component of the day that made it a happy ending was the people I encountered. There are really good people in the world, even in Atlanta. (Kidding, y’all! (kinda, lol))

  • The dispatcher I talked kept telling lame jokes as she was processing my request. She knew that there was a good possibility I could be stressed out, so she was trying to lighten me up.
  • Before anyone got to me, a guy stopped and asked me if he could change my tire. Of course, this was before I knew if I had one. Thanks, Mister, for letting me know people care!
  • The HERO lady was soo nice and way diligent. That was my first experience with them, and I’m very pleased that we have that service here. Thank you, Georgia Department of Transportation!
  • The people at the gas station were very patient, and it rubbed off on me. Well, at this point, I figured the day was just what it was and if I hadn’t been upset yet, no need to start over a gas pump, but still. I appreciated them. The manager even pumped my gas.
  • As I was walking out of the gas station, a guy stopped me just to tell me I was beautiful. No pick up lines, no asking me for my number. Just wanted to give a compliment.
  • The mechanic on duty at the first tire place I went to recognized me from when I was there to get my oil changed, so he came over to speak and to look at my tire, and he assured me everything would be taken care of.
  • The manager at the place that put the tire on hold ended up being an AKA from Cheyney in PA (’82), and we had a great convo about politics while I was waiting on my car to get its new shoe. She was so nice and a great person to meet as I ended my journey.

So all that to say, you can’t see the rainbow unless there’s a little rain. And one of my favorite quotes is

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.

Sunday could have been a monsoon if I had treated it as one. But it turned out to be a little blip in the road. I mean, yeah, I missed my social plans of the day, but I still got to my (rescheduled) appointment and ate dinner with my friend (who got to me at almost exactly the same time the HERO truck did and then followed me all over the place to make sure I got to the tire place–another person who was in that list of people who made my day). But the perspective is that things could have gone in a number of different ways, but they didn’t. And I still enjoyed the day because I allowed myself to, and because I trusted that everything would work out as they should. Now, I guess I’ll finally let my friend teach me how to change a tire, just in case that happens to me in another state. 🙂

Life Lessons on MARTA

Life Lessons on MARTA

So, at lunch, I decided to take a trek on MARTA to support a friend (Black Tie BBQ – check them out for delish food!!), and as fate would have it, I’d have a lightbulb moment randomly.  Which makes sense.  I live by randomness, it seems.

Anywho, on to the lesson.  Currently, I’m reading Blackgammon, which is the story of two black American women who are searching for love (or maybe running from it) and freedom in Europe. The book has been right on time, so naturally, I was really into it when it was time for me to change trains at Five Points.  As I stood on the platform waiting for a westbound train, enthralled by my book, I heard the whir of a train pass me.  I looked up and saw the lights of the train leaving me.  Oh no! I thought…  I have to wait 6 whole minutes for the next train.  Sheesh!  Me and this dangblasted book.  How in the world did I completely not hear the train when it arrived?  (Another reason is because it was a short train–the Bankhead train, which is about half the size of a normal MARTA train and I was too far down on the platform.)

So I moved closer to the center of the platform and took a seat and began reading again, careful to glance up every minute or so at the sign announcing the wait time for the next train.  The next train came. Something felt very wrong about it as I stood there missing another train.  Then it dawned on me!  I wasn’t supposed to catch that train–it’s going in the wrong direction!  I was supposed to be waiting on the eastbound train!!  Too hot (and lazy) to run, I took my time and went around the station to get to the eastbound platform.  And sure enough, when I got to the platform, a train came.  Right on time.

<MESSAGE!>

In life, sometimes things seem to be going right and then suddenly, something happens to derail all of it and you’re left wondering “How in the world did that happen?”  Or sometimes although things are great, you come to a unexpected juncture, and you think you’re going the right way, but then you realize that way has a barbed wire fence blocking it.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s there for a reason. Maybe that missed out opportunity wasn’t what you were supposed to be doing anyway.  Maybe it would have taken you in the wrong direction, on to the wrong path.  Maybe once you realize that and go to where you need to be, what you need will be there, waiting on you–always right on time.

Disappointments come.  They’re a part of life.  But the perspective surrounding those disappointments can be positive if you remember that everything happens for a reason and the way they’re supposed to.  You just need to be aware and open for some clarity and enlightenment.

There’s a reason for everything that comes and goes…