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!

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Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. – Les Brown

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

I dunno if you noticed but if you scroll down and look on the right side of this page, you will see a list of black-owned businesses that I support. I add to this list from time to time based on my own experiences and from recommendations of others who have patronized these businesses and want to spread the word. So feel free to click, click, click.

And if you are in Atlanta and interested in starting or growing your business, please check out this event. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Roundtable features a panel of successful business owners who will tell us about their journey and answer questions from the audience. It’s always a very worthwhile event, so come on out!

Women's Entrepreneur Roundtable

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!

Postpartum Musings

Postpartum Musings

Coming home to Mississippi is the best thing I could have done while recovering from having my baby. I really don’t know how I would have made it the past several weeks without my mom’s love and support. And being home just reconnects me to who I am at a critical time when some days it’s hard for me to see goodness in my life and makes me appreciate and savor the days when all I see is goodness.

Since a week or two before having my baby, I have experienced what it feels like to sit down, lol. First, because I was forced to healthwise, and now because of the old school notion that a mom needs to stay inside as much as possible during the first six weeks. At first it was super easy because I was still in lots of pain, but as the pain wears off and I only have short time periods of ailments, it’s still not so hard because being able to sit down and think through things is sometimes welcomed (and other times, I think myself into negativity, so not so good!). And of course, there’s just nothing like being around people who have known and loved you for as long as you can remember and who remind you what’s important in life and how we;ve already overcome so much and will continue to. Here, I can lay some of my burdens down and get myself together before I face the real world again.

And when I do enter the real world again, I have some things I need to change. I’m no longer a single gal doing whatever she wants when she wants. There are several things I need to get done to reorganize my life now that I’m a mom. Here are some highlights.

1. Getting my finances in order. Before I dropped out of my Ph.D. program in 2005, my financial health was pretty much pristine. Then I dropped out, forfeiting the grants I was receiving, leaving me with one part time job to choose which ends to meet. Although I haven’t been doing shabby nowadays, I’m definitely not where I should be to make sure this lil guy is comfortable and well taken care of. So, I’ve logged on to Mint, which I’ve used before but kinda ignored for the last couple of years to retrack my accounts, started on a new budget, and set some goals. I also renewed my LearnVest subscriptions. Now I just need to finish my budget (which includes the new massive childcare expense–I never knew how much it cost!), make sure my different forms of insurance are sufficient and in order, start an actual tax file folder so that I won’t be scrambling next year, and finally look into modifying my mortgage since I took such a hit in value like so many others in this nation (and especially in GA).

2.  Getting my eating habits back on track. There was a time that I was pretty healthy and cooked many meals from scratch (I was a size 4 then). Now that I have this guy, I not only need to eat much better than the routine I had for a while–skipping breakfast many days, eating not so healthy snacks for lunch, eating maybe one real meal a day, which would prolly be from a restaurant on the go–but I also need to make sure it fits within the budget I’m creating in #1. I definitely will have to cut out the eating out so much, just by virtue of budgeting and prolly time management, but I’m much more in tune with what I put in my body since it then goes into his. And I want to go ahead and get reacquainted with cooking regularly again since I will need to be in the habit once he’s eating solid foods. I’ve been collecting recipes (from countless books, websites, and blogs), and I’ve gotten an account on Food on the Table to help me take advantage of deals when I’m creating weekly meal plans (that I pray I stick to).

3. Making my schedule less hectic. I have to let go of some things so that I can have time to myself. Before I had Frederick, I may have gotten up 30 minutes before I needed to leave for work and I may have stayed awake until midnight or 1 am. Now I need to get up much earlier, and I hopefully will, in turn, go to bed much earlier. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to streamline things that aren’t work or taking care of Frederick, but we’ll see. I mean at the end of the day, my home life has now become #1 so anything I can’t get done will just have to wait or disappear. Right now, there’s no new resource for that besides me taking an inner oath to put everything (i.e. appointments, meetings, deadlines) on my Google docs and set a reminder!

4. Making my house a home. Now that I have a baby, I will actually be spending quality time at home. So I have to include in this new schedule of mine time to do a little bit of cleaning each day, including washing dishes and *gasp* doing at least one load of laundry daily. Getting my house to where it is (although I still have a ways to go before I’m proud of it) was overwhelming so I definitely have to keep that up as well as inch toward making it a place where I find peace of mind each day. Watching my mom since the week before I gave birth has been a lesson because it’s amazing how much she gets done each day.

5. Working on my pretty. My mom told me the week after I had Frederick that I have to work on getting my pretty back asap, and she’s right. Weight wise, I didn’t have any to lose (I gained a net of 10 pounds, and he weighed over 8.5), but I definitely need to tone up and work on my skin quality (in the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy I got stretch marks! and since I delivered, my tummy is discolored!) and I wouldn’t mind losing a couple more that was on my to do list before I even got pregnant. I also need to make myself get on a schedule with my hair (instead of waiting until I can’t stand to look at it anymore to do something to it) and go through my full regimen each day instead of going all day if I’m not going anywhere or just running errands looking busted (or my version of busted–I think I can still find a little solace in knowing my busted looks a little better than some people’s best but that’s neither here nor there–we’re talking about self-improvement here) or not fully put together. As my mom says, “There’s nothing like a pretty mama with a pretty baby.” 🙂 And with this also comes inner pretty. I’ve had some good and bad days mentally and emotionally, and I have to try my best to make an effort each day to do what I have to for good days. Learning to forgive, ignore, and focus on the positive isn’t as easy as it can sound, but I have to do what I can to make sure my full person is pretty.

So those are my new goals for the next few weeks. I may even throw in writing a few pages of the book my mom and I started years ago and set aside. But we’ll see. That’s the busy body, gotta pack my day Ranada trying to push through. Being home has taught me to enjoy time, so I need to make sure I incorporate that going forward even when I get back to the A.

The Newness in 2012

The Newness in 2012

Many of you have been wondering what in the world is this password stuff Nada Jo has been on lately??? Well, I just wasn’t ready to share with everyone yet. Here is my news:

I’m expecting a little boy in June! I have definitely gone (and am going) through a myriad of emotions. This journey has definitely been completely new, but I’m looking forward to seeing my baby’s face in about 4 months. And sometimes when I’m not feeling my best, the amazement from seeing this little Jackie Chan who weighs only one pound make my stomach move makes it a little better. I can’t express enough how great my family is and has been from the beginning. I’ve needed a support system more than ever, and although it’s really really tough living away from my parents, my family has done everything it can to fill my space with love and encouragement. And they have been instrumental in helping me with my focus and perspective, which can be tough but it’s necessary.

So now I’m back. Of course, you will probably get more posts about my pregnancy than current events, but I’ll try to be versatile in my writing. I haven’t gotten my RRR plans for the year together yet, so just stay tuned. I’d like to do a couple conference calls of some sort since I end up talking about the books and films online with folks who don’t live in Atlanta and thus, can’t come to the discussions. I think that would be fun, but of course, I have to explore technology possibilities. I have a couple in mind already, but I have to get the motivation to make it all happen. And I have to get a webcam (yes, in 2012, I do not have a webcam). In case you’re interested, I’m currently reading Catfish Alley by Lynne Bryant. More on that later.

I do hope that you are following me on Twitter or liking me on Facebook! I post lots of articles on there and would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. And although I don’t always blog about various topics, I do comment on many of them, particularly on FB.

So I hope all of you are well and that your life is balanced and pleasant. Until  next time!

 Pregnancy Ticker

Unexpected Blessings

Unexpected Blessings

Yesterday, I had an appointment for an herbal body wrap at Hadiya Wellness. I’ve never been there, and although I was excited about trying the wrap for the first time, I woke up not feeling my best. I didn’t feel well physically or emotionally. But I’m a fighter, so I pushed on and made my way to East Atlanta with a large sprite in hand to try to settle my stomach.

He Ain't Heavy by Gilbert Young

You know how sometimes all it takes is for a friend to say “Are you ok?” for you to completely lose your cool? Well, I hadn’t talked to a friend that morning, so I felt like I had myself pretty together. I could fake the funk in the few minutes of chatting you do with a service provider before they get to doing whatever it is they’re about to do, right? Wrong. I signed in and stepped into my designated room. A lady, who turned out to be Asha, the director of Hadiya, greeted me then said “Are you ok?” and I said “Oh I’m ok besides that I don’t feel all that well.” So she asked what was going on and I told her, and she said well, we can do the appointment if you want, but you don’t have to–we can reschedule to when you feel better. Then she led me over to the seating area in the room and sat with me and said “what else is going on? you can talk to me. you seem like you’re overwhelmed and just need to let it out. go ahead.” And I immediately started crying. It’s amazing how God will put you exactly where you need to be. I didn’t know this woman from Eve, and she sat with me for however long when she didn’t have to, allowing me to express myself and find some relief. When I couldn’t talk because of my tears, she basically told me how I felt and all I had to do was nod. It was kinda crazy, but it felt good to hear that someone understood how I felt. She gave me some words of affirmation and assured me that I’d be ok. Then she pulled out the lavender oil, brought in a foot massager, dimmed the lights, and let me sit in the room alone and just meditate and think about how good God has been and will continue to be.

That just reinforced for me that God uses whoever allows Him to bless people. Asha could have said either you get this service or you pay me a cancellation fee. Or she could have just done the service not knowing if it’d make me sicker. She could have ignored whatever little voice was telling her that I wasn’t just sick physically and let me walk out the door still feeling like crap. I really appreciate her, and I hope that I don’t ignore the subtle nudges we sometimes get to do more than nod and smile at some stranger as they walk by or to ask deeper questions of people we’re talking to because they need a sounding board. I’m not one that regularly accepts help from others, but I’m glad that there’s a higher power that knows me better than I know myself. And I look forward to patronizing Hadiya in the future, when I’m in better health. 🙂

Be blessed, lovelies!

Mothers and their Daughters

Mothers and their Daughters

Find this picture and more at http://www.orkinphoto.com/children.php.
Mother and Daughter at Penn Station, New York City, 1947 - For this and more pictures, visit http://www.orkinphoto.com/children.php.

Today seems like one of those days that I’m supposed to pick up on a common theme.  Well, a few seconds ago, I figured it out when my bestie emailed me the inspirational start  of a story that’s destined for a happy ending.  She and her mother are on a journey together to build up her mom’s spirit.  And their closeness and today’s triumph reminded me immediately of an interchange my mom and I had this morning.

Somewhat randomly during a convo this morning, my mom said this:

You are such a joy to me.  I just want you to know you live up to the renewal of hope your name invokes. Love you.

That made me tear up this morning, and it’s making me tear up now. (And on top of the teariness LYH’s email just invoked, I need to chill out before I’m on the extreme side of things I just mentioned!) The relationship between mother and daughter is an amazing one.  I’ve spent my life loving my mom and trying to make her proud, and she spent hers trying to make my life exponentially better than hers.  At some point, we transitioned from just a parent-child relationship to a parent-child-friends relationship.  And now that I’m an adult, I understand the sacrifices she has made, and I worry about her probably just as much as she worries about me.  Now, add to the loving and the making proud other things such as checking up on, praying for, trying to prevent worry and stress, defending and threatening on behalf of–all the stuff I owe her for being there for me since even before I was born.

Here’s to all the mothers and daughters out there who are ride or die with each other!  We could not be where we are without the exceptional love of them, and we’re trying our best to return the favor now.  Love you, mama!