A Holiday Tradition

I’m not sure why; during my adulthood, I’d jump out of my Halloween costume and begin preparing for Christmas. It wasn’t until one year at ages 10 and 17 my children asked why we never celebrate Thanksgiving. I didn’t have an answer for them at that precise moment. My only thought was a memory of frustration years before in an attempt at cooking my first turkey. After thawing it for obviously not long enough, it was still frozen after retrieving it from the oven. I did learn how to prepare a delightful turkey along with all the fixings and what it really boiled down to being too much work for a single mom to celebrate both holidays. Besides, I’d always remained thankful throughout the year in recognizing our many blessings and simply hadn’t given the actual holiday much thought. It was no different than my birthday, simply another day. As it turned out, my children informed me that Thanksgiving was their favorite holiday and that year they proposed an idea to celebrate their favorite time of the year along with mine which is Christmas, by starting a new family tradition.

My children have always been much more outgoing than I was. They have always been thankful for not having to go without basic neccessities as well as a mother to look out for them unlike many of their classmates. They became motivated and wanted to do something for those who didn’t have anyone or perhaps were lonely during the season by offering them a reminder that there is always something to be thankful for. Many of their friends didn’t have a turkey on the table or gifts under the Christmas tree, while others took having a nice meal every day and a pair of new Jordans under the tree for granted. As a family we decided to give gifts to those who visited our home during the holiday seasons or those who were just a friendly face in the neighborhood. All they’re asked to do is write in a tiny book we hankg on the wall without Christmas stockings called “silent night”, what they are thankful for. In turn they choose a gift from Santa’s bag of goodies to take with them. Now these are by no means expensive or elaborate gifts, but more like tokens we’ve collected throughout the year. “Our daily Bread” is constantly sending me journals, calendars and various useful items in the mail. You’d be surprised how much “stuff” one can accumulate in eleven months. Candles, slippers that were a gift from someone else, but don’t fit, various books and giftcards to places we may not frequent and the list goes on. We wrap them all in a solid-colored paper to distinguish the difference between our family gifts, because often times a few are left over from the previous year.

Many people don’t get gifts for their birthdays or other holidays for a variety of reasons, but my children don’t like the idea of knowing someone may be left out and shouldn’t be, at least not during the magical time of Thanksgiving and Christmas so we in our own way, combined the two. The best part is not only seeing the smiles of surprise on people’s faces in awe that they were thought of, but also revisiting the tiny silent night book every year and reading what people (including our family) are thankful for. It is extremely heartwarming to witness the growth. Some have expressed to us that it wasn’t about the actual gift for them, but the gesture itself providing hope and motivating them to pay it forward in one way or another. I am thankful for such caring children because with this family tradition that has now been fourteen years for us, I too was reminded that there is in fact ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Happy Holiday Season to Everyone!!!!

My Time With You (Pt. 3)

Those of you who read my previous post Revelations of My Ancestors, were briefly introduced to my grandfather John W. Johnson, also known as “Eighty-Six” to those close to him. That post only revealed a specific chapter of his life. I’d like to now share the experience of my time spent with him as well as lessons I learned from him. As a child there were many aspects of my grandfather’s behavior or actions I didn’t understand. Until a certain age, most were only stories, rather complaints I’d overhear from my mother and her siblings. Once I was older I was able to witness some of those behavior’s first hand. I never felt my grandfather wasn’t a friendly person, but I noticed he didn’t care to be in the company of others unless he was attending church. He seemed extremely stingy when it came to food or money and always talked to me about how important it is to get an education.

Between my grandfather and his second wife after the passing of my maternal grandmother, there were roughly eleven kids living in the house with them or at least that’s how many I can account for by name at the moment. Therefore; growing up I’d hear the stories among the siblings about how my grandfather kept locks on the kitchen cabinets and the old rotary phone to stop them from running up the phone bill. He also didn’t believe in spending money on fast food. Even after fleeing the south and settling in the city, he continued to utilize the land to offset cost. He kept chickens for their eggs, planted a garden along with various fruit baring trees in his back yard. I never knew exactly where he’d get them, perhaps they roamed the neighborhood at night, but I hated when he’d ask me to take the baking pan with a cooked opossum across the street to the reverand. There were also stories of his distrust of banks and how he kept his money in an old church suit tucked away in the back of the closet. Going through his belongings after him passing, to my surprise, it was true!

By the time I reached adulthood and had learned more about not only my family history, but history as a whole, it led me to realize much of my grandfather’s behavoir was a direct result of not only his environment but also his experiences along with the struggles of his parents during the “Great Depression”. As many of you are already aware, the “Great Depression” took place between 1929-1933, which means my grandfather was eleven years old by the time it ended. Between the stock market crashing along with the overall economic downturn, I came to the conclusion that it was safe to assume his mindet and actions were a result of the challenges they faced during that time. An extremely harsh reality for poor blacks in the south with little to know education. During my time with grandaddy I learned many lessons mainly by merely observing. One was to never sit behind him with the window down while he’s driving and spittin’ tobacco out da window. The main lesson however, which he constantly expressed, was how vital it is for survival to achieve an education or in his words “stay in schoo’ so you can learn ya self sumthin’ girl”! Fishing was his absolute favorite hobby. I never cared for it much because I didn’t have the patience to sit quietly waiting for the fish to bite. What I did enjoy and still treasure today was the long talke we had during those trips and learning that he wanted me to learn from his trials and recognize the roads that were paved for my generations so that I would prosper in the future. Thanks you grandaddy for all your blood, sweat and tears. I love you!!!

My Time With You (Pt.2)

My Uncle James was a simple man. He worked hard through the week as a machinist and entertained the ladies on the weekends. Many of those weekends during my childhood, he always made sure to make time for his favorite girl, me. Even on gloomy days the sun managed to shine for me when ever we spent time together. My Uncle loved to take me to Alameda Beach (featured above). We had lots of fun together and I enjoyed every moment I spent with him growing up. By the time I was eight and moved to Sacramento, he’d visit nearly every weekend. Sometimes it was movie nights when my mom and younger brother would join in watching the newest release of the Star Wars saga. Uncle James would try to buy all my girl scout cookies thinking he was helping me out, but he and momma would bicker when she’d tell him I’m not going to learn anything if he doesn’t let me sell the cookies. I’d sit in the cornner giggling as I watched them and snacked on the cookies he purchased without her knowing. He loved taking me shopping and had a way of always making me feel like a princess. The best times were when he’d visit unexpected and greet me with not only a big hug as he lifted me up in the air, but he’d also present me with a bouquet of roses and a crisp new fifty dollar bill tucked in between the petals. Still the best part of these visits aound the time I turned 10 years old was when he’d hop out his BMW with his roller skates tied together hanging off his shoulders along with his boom box. Instantly I knew what was about to go down. Uncle James and I would spend the day roller skating through K street mall downtown with the music blaring and us doing tricks and dancing down the strip of the outside mall. Back then there was no cars or public transit access just open space for us to roam free.

By the time I turned 14, I was fed up with momma’s abuse and ran away, straight to my uncle. I’d hustled up on a greyhound ticket and as expected, he welcomed me with open arms. My uncle, still hard at work full time didn’t want to leave me alone so he appointed the neighbor who lived across the street from him and my grandfather who had become like a son to my uncle to keep an eye on me. This was the very first time I’d ever seen my uncle so serious and express any form of anger. He warned (who I have only ever referred to as my bodyguard) that he better not touch me or try anything with me. He was loyal to my uncle and never did. On my uncle’s death bed three years ago, his last words to me were him asking for the umpteenth hundred time if I ever had sex with said bodyguard. I promised him, that even as adults aside from a hug, the only time he ever touched me was to push me out the way of gun fire or shield me from any other danger. To this very day even after my uncle’s death, out of the love and respect we both have for him, sex was never an option only a lifelong friendship. During that period of time living with my uncle, there were times he’d throw me on the back of his motorcycle for a long drive, eventually teaching me how to drive it. Other evenings he prepared a nice dinner for us. Uncle James set the table with flowers and pulled my chair out for me and we’d talk, about most everything. He would warn me about how some men take advantage of girls. He made sure that I always new my worth and would always tell me how beautiful I am and to not let anyone tell me I can’t do something. He was firm in telling me that if a man wasn’t treating me like a queen, he didn’t deserve my time which was interesting because I had noticed, although he never seem to be with the same girl for long, he still treated them very well and was respectful to women in general. There were so many instances over the years when I desperately wanted to tell him about what my stepfather had been doing to me, but I was afraid for many reasons. Mostly due to fear of my mom’s threats that if I told him he was sure to kill my stepfather without hesitation. I also knew for sure that he would and I couldn’t bare my little brothers loosing their dad.

By the time I gave birth to my first child, I’d once again made my way back to my uncles and it was the bodyguard who drove me to the hospital while I was in labor. Unfortunately our bond was no longer the same. Perhaps he was disappointed with me becoming pregnant or because he was now struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction. Not long after having my daughter Uncle James moved to another state where we had other family residing and I learned he actually had a daughter of his own who was a few years younger than me. I began to wonder if that’s why he spoiled me, due to missing out with his own daughter. I never questioned my uncle’s love for me, it was always obvious. I could see it in his eyes when ever he looked at me or we talked. He was the one who always supported me in ever venture and cheered me on. It was his face I’d see in the stands when I was in the outfield catching fly balls, never my moms. I recently found his daughter and connected with her. God is good, because I found her name in an old obituary of another family member and through Facebook we were suddenly united. She had no photos of her dad, so thankfully I was able to share what I have with her. She enjoys the stories I tell about her dad, my favorite uncle. I love and miss him so much and now when I look in her eyes, they resemble so much it’s as if I’m looking into his again. With all those who have come in and out my life trying to tear me down, it is because of my time with my Uncle James that I know my worth. His love and support helped me to stand tall and walk with confidence in everything I do.

Love Never Fails

After witnessing such a beautiful moment of love and kindness this weekend; instead of my originally planned post, I decided to share a poem I came across once not realizing at the time that it was inspired by 1CORITHIANS 13:4-8.

Love is patient and kind;

love is not jealous or boastful;

it is not arrogant or rude.

Love does not insist

on it’s own way

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrong;

but rejoices in the right.

Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things,

Love never fails…

My Time With You (Pt.1)

Born In the year 1900, my Great grandmother Effie Johnson will always be “Big Momma” to our family! In the images above she’s sitting out in the pasture reflecting after church and preparing dinner in the other with three of her sons. Although she stood just under 5ft and barely 120lbs most of her life, her name represented her character and the respect held for her as a role model in every aspect of her 100 years on earth. I miss her dearly. Lately, there hasn’t been a moment throughout my days when something occurs that makes me long for the ability to go back in time to have a conversations with a family member who have transitioned. The next few weeks I will be honoring my ancestors by sharing the lessons and beautiful memories of my precious time with them.

I was told stories of how when I first began to crawl, I had a habbit of scooting around Big Momma’s kitchen floor pulling all her pots and pans from the cabinets and she would discipline me by lightly tapping my thick ‘lil thighs with her huge wooden spoon. Probably the reason I’ve never used one of those wooden spoons myself. There were also stories of how she helped bring me into the world by aiding my mother during delivery. Big Momma was the mid-wife to many folks of color during her time. When we visited her for family reunions during my childhood, she and I would sit out in the pasture among the animals to snap peas or work in the garden. She’d share stories while I listened with anticipation. She never spoke much about the challenges she faced in her life, but mainly about the importance of family and how she enjoyed raising her children, being a wife and taking care of people whether they were kin or not. Once she reached the ’90’s (her golden years), she talked to me about how happy and thankful she was to have lead a fulfilling life recalling her numerous blessings over the years. I didn’t quite understand the part about a “fulfilling” life because she never ventured from the small town of Wilmar other than a few visits to the closest hospital which was 7 miles in the next county. There was no need for her to go into town to buy much as she utilized the land and nature to provide everything they needed.

My childhood was filled with fun memories of her as well as some lessons I learned the hard way. She’d always warn my younger brother’s and I not to go out there where the barn was. One year during our visit, I was about 10 years old and had to see what was inside that old barn, not realizing my youngest brother who was only 5 at the time, had follwed me. After my investigation and disappointment of not finding anything other than bunches of hay, my brother and I found ourselves being chased by that mean ol’ bull. His short legs wouldn’t allow him to gain any speed, so as I went to grab him, we escaped the dangers of the bull but unfortunately I didn’t escape the barbed wire fence during our get-a-way. My scared knee’s still bare a reminder of that day which my brother’s and I laugh about all the time. My fondess memory of times with Big Momma was being in the kitchen preparing suppa (she still used the big wooden spoon, but only for stirring now). She sang these old negro spirituals that were passed down to my mother who Big Momma helped raise and have always stayed with me which I’ve shared with my children and grandchildren while preparing meals during the holidays. My favorite is called “Great Change in Me”, here’s a snippet!

There is a great change in me, great change in me. I am so happy and I am so free. Since Jesus brought me out of the darkness, into this marvelous light and oh oh oh there’s a great change in me”!

I learned that these songs were Big Momma’s way of lifting not only her spirits, but also the family in times of struggle. She had spent her life as a faithful servant to the Lord and knew His devine power. This was her way of letting us know that God is always with us. I love you Big Momma! I am thankful for the time I spent with you and I pray I make you proud, for I now know that all your sacrifice and the struggles you’ve endured were so that I could be here today and continue moving forward!

Literally, Judging a Book By It’s Cover!

I’m certain that at some point we’ve all heard the phrase “never judge a book by it’s cover”, which is great advice I’ve always tried to stay mindful of, especially regarding people. However, that was not the case when I stumbled upon the books featured here today. As I recall the time I came across them in my haste and excitement at a yard sale, my thoughts were not only that I was getting a great bargain for $1, but I was also intrigued by the covers which sparked my curiosity. In this particular one shown above, my hope was that it would reveal information that may be useful later in life. I’m not sure what I may have been going through at that time. I was obviously still young as well as a bit na├»ve perhaps. The second book (shown below), well let’s just say by the cover alone you can probably quess what I expected to find inside. Although both were great reads for completely different reasons, initially I was disappointed upon discovering that neither offered what I’d anticipated, resulting in a lesson why not to “literally judge a book by it’s cover”!

Not that I ever actually wanted to kill a boyfriend or think that I would have to, but lets just say I like to be prepared. The book basically revolved around a woman who abducts another female in an attempt at convincing her to help kill the boyfriend. Unfortunatly, circumstances lead to an interesting twist where suddenly the lives of the two women is in jeopardy after becoming best friends. Within the title it actually states “in ten easy steps”. During a time when consumer’s were overwhelmed by marketing strategies that convinced people certain tasks were easily accomplished in “steps”. Losing weight, how to quit smoking and even cooking meals to name a few. I found the book to be most useful by simply leaving it in plain sight on my coffee table. I loved the reaction when ever males visited. Be it friends or relatives on occassion, their responses were always interesting and somewhat humorous. My brother’s especially would say “you’re crazy as hell Toot-Toot” (my childhood nickname). When it came to a male suitor, it was obvious the book made them nervous (my various black widow tattoo’s didn’t help either). Only my brother’s or those close to me would inquire about the book. Others were afraid to ask and acted as if they hadn’t noticed it sitting there, eventhough I couldn’t help but notice their eyes repeatedly glancing at it while continuing to squirm in their seat. Most of them I never heard from again. Seemingly it was the alpha males (or those who thought they were) who were bold enough to ask about it or even go as far as to challenge me with questions that I always met with a witty response. Maybe that’s why I’m single now, lol. I was never surprised at all but did find their reactions as a whole to be extremely entertaining.

While Hung does in fact reference the myths of penis size and the endowment of African American men, it’s also a double entendre as the author writes about the times when black men were literally being hung from trees. I was surprised to find that he opens the book with a letter to Emmett Till, the young boy who was lynched in the 50’s for whistling at a white woman. The author spins a brilliant web to express how sexuality among black males is depicted throughout books, sports, movies as well as pornography. He reaches back to the times of lynching and the Jim Crow era writing about how black men were often disfigured by having their genitals cut off in an attempt of psychologically torture causing them to feel less inferior to other race groups. The author continues by sharing how African American men; when it comes to sexuality are often given the more dominent roles in film mentioning actors such as Denzel Washington as well as famous athletes often reffered to as “mandigo’s”, which according to the Urban dictionary loosely means “big black guy”. Overall Hung was a very enlightening read, offering a perspective I hadn’t given much thought until I began to adjust my mental lens while viewing men of my culture in society, particularly those of a certain social status.

Where I’m From

I’d like to share a poem I came across many years ago that has become part of my collection of favorites. George Ella Lyon is an American author from Kentucky who has published several genres, including picture books, articles, juvenile novels, and of course poetry.

I am from clothspins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it taste like beets.)
I am from forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
      from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls
      and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I'm from He restoreth my soul
      with a cotton ball lamb
      and ten verses I can say myself.

I'm from Artemus and Billie's branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
      to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments--
snapped before I budded--
leaf-fall from the family tree.

(In case you were wondering, that very last line is what caught hold of me, lol. Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!)

My Greatest Fear Became My Greatest Blessing!

Most of us, when hearing the word “fear” think of certain types of phobias like claustrophobia or arachnophobia. My personal fear has always been acrophobia (fear of heights) and aerophobia (fear of flying) which I’m slowly overcoming. The type of fear I’ll be writing about today however, I don’t believe is considered as an actual phobia. My fear is more of a “fearallacy” (a made-up word of the day borrowed from a follower, thanks ShiraDest ) meaning: A fear based on false, incorrect or mistaken reasoning. During my childhood, hearing stories in the news about babies being kidnapped, dying fron SIDS, not to mention my own personal experiences of abuse in general, I told myself I would never become a mother and until my teenage years the very thought of being a parent had been my greatest fear.

I destinctly remember a time in my life when that fear turned into panic. After my mother discovered my stepfather had been sneaking into my bedroom, the series of events that shortly followed may have been more traumatizing for me than the actual abuse. Arriving at the police station, the officer had a naked doll and proceeded to ask me to point to the areas where I’d been touched. Then asking what body parts of my stepfather was I touched with. He didn’t use proper names for male or female genitals or any of the other body parts which I found to be odd. Years later I viewed a case on the news where a sex offender was aquitted mainly due to the witnesses not using the correct terms regarding genitals while testifying (one of the main reasons I taught my children it’s ok to to use the words “penis/vagina” in proper scenarious). Not long after my visit to the police station that day, I visited some sort of counseling group. The person talking told us (and I’ll never forget her exact words) “it’s more than likely that children who are abused sexually, will grow up to be abusers as well”. I knew that didn’t sound right but after all, she was the professional and I was a child. The fear stayed with me throughout my childhood that some how I was tainted and couldn’t avoid becoming a monster.

I realize that as an adult, this all sounds rediculous, but as a child with no one to talk to or confide in, the mind has a way of developing the most bizarre thoughts, hence “fearallacy”. When I had my first child, I was afraid to hold her because I didn’t know how to. She was tiny and fragile. It was because of my experience and what the lady said the one time I went to counseling that caused me to stay clear of children. I had never held a baby before and the doctors couldn’t understand why I was shaking when they placed her in my arms for the first time. Obviously as I grew older, I learned that lady was what I called a “quack counselor” and didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. My apologies to those who may be offended by this staement, but to remain truthful, I have to say that I will kill someone if I became aware they were hurting children in any fashion.

The point is that my issue with fear is that I basically let it run my life for many years, especially when it came to being a mother. I kept my children close and made all my decisions based on fears while thinking I was protecting them. One example with my daughter is a spin from my post Who You calling A BITCH. The reason my consignment shop mentioned in that piece didn’t prosper was due to fear. My daughter had just begun kindergarden and I picked an office space near her school, but that wasn’t comforting enough for me. I was fearfull she’d be kidnaped , bullied, mistreated by teachers or staff, so I actually began working at the school. First in her class as a teacher’s aide, then yard duty and eventually teaching a science outreach class for K-3. Another incident envolving my son while living in Arkansas temporarily, talking with his teacher one day regarding his progress she mentioned “cps” and I snapped. I was escorted off school grounds, couldn’t watch my son perform in the play that day and by the time I’d made it back to town, the news of what I’d done had spread across three counties. My fear was that no one was taking my children from me EVER! The problem is, after playing it back and speaking with the principle, she didn’t say “CPS” as in child protective services. Those letters were merely an acronym for something regarding a program the school offered. I embaressed my son that day and will never forget how damaging fear can be. I learned to stop letting fear control me and my decisions. Relatives, friends and co-workers, people who’ve been around me don’t actually know me. They have no clue as to the reasoning for my behavoir and strange ways. The reason I’m paranoid, so organized, determined to keep a cleen house and have only utalized a babysitter once or twice and the list goes on all from making decisions based on fears mostly regarding a possabilty of losing my children and keeping them safe. I’ve never shared this with anyone other than my children and that was in hopes of them understanding my madness so-to-speak. I can’t believe how in this very moment it feels like a weight has been lifted and I’m floating along with no worries at all.

I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes that would cause harm to my children or give reason for someone to try taking them away from me. There was/is not one person I can think of that will love and protect them like their mom which is also why I knew that no matter what I faced in this world I had to survive. I would cry many nights at the thought of if I died, I could never think of one single person that I knew capable of raising them providing everything they needed as a whole. Once they became teens, witnessing the dynamics of their friend’s and seeing for themselves what the world is like, they thanked me for not only keeping them safe but also for keeping an open line of communication with them both ways, eventually making decisions as a family and accepting their input and ideas on new perspectives. The fact that they appreciate what they now recognize I was attempting to accomplish; although on ocassion meant disappointment for them, yet the end result being that their love, compassion and understanding turned my greatest fear of becoming a mother, into my greatest blessing!

The Blind, Beautiful Faith of a Child

Note: The following story, along with several of my other works are featured in Our Black Mothers: Brave, Bold & Beautiful. This is a piece I’m extremely passionate about for various reasons. During my first few readings I was overwhelmed with joy by how it touched and resonated with the audience, resulting in future invitations to read and or speak from the heart regarding my experiences as a mother and what I’ve learned. I’d like to now share with you. (Tim’esa is shown in the above image of the book cover on the top row and far right with the beautiful smile).

My mom left me to believe I had the flu when I was 17 and had been hanging around the house for over a week vomiting, but the reality was that I’d soon become a mommy myself. Although, I wasn’t quite sure what a “mommy” was because I’d never experienced that particular relationship growing up. I had never even held a baby or changed a diaper. Yet, the instant I rubbed my belly, I knew that I would indeed be the best mother I could to the person growing inside me. Immediately I’d fallen in love with my child and in that moment there was no preference whether it was a girl or boy. Eventually I gave birth to three children over the years, but my first precious gift came on July 13th 1990 at 7:13am. I named her Tim’esa.

Being a mother has been my most cherished position in life. Even now as young adults, my children and I continue to have healthy and positve relationships even though there are constant challenges for everyone during their journey’s. While raising my children as a single mom, it has always been important for me to express honesty, love and communicate openly which happens to work both ways. I was always the “momma” which I made clear. However, life has taught me that it is especially important to listen to children. Some parents often get hung up on a power trip feeling as though their way is the only way, particularly in the old days when kids simply didn’t have a say. Yet in this day and age many of us depend on our children for input, mainly for things such as all this new technology. I personally had a hard time coming from the era of eight tracks to cassettes and from VHS to DVD’s and now iPods. I refuse to have a cell phone!

Wise mother’s learn just as much from their children as the children do from them. Children need to know they have a VOICE too. I stongly believe as human beings and children of God we can all learn from one another. At the age of four, Tim’esa and I had recently moved to a new state. We didn’t have alot and the first few days we only had enough food for her to eat. As we curled up on the floor of our unfurnished apartment, I held Tim’esa in my arms as she wiped the tears from my cheeks. She looked up into my eyes and said, ” Mommy, you know God has boxes with our names on them with everything we need up there. All you have to do is pray and ask him for it”. I admit that I wasn’t paying much attention to what she said to me at first because it wasn’t making sense. She made sure I was listening though when she said, ” He doesn’t hold what we want momma, only what we need”. Before that day, I’d never actually prayed nor was I sure how to. On that day my four year old told me “just talk to Him momma, He’s listening”. She explained to me that he actually hears us whether we talk or not because when it comes to God, even our thoughts are not private.

I was reminded of a valuable lesson that day. Somehow over the years I allowed my faith to get away from me. Later in life as my children grew older, I began to realize that the Lord had not forgotten about me. It was through my children, His cherubs, that he saved me. I was headed down a very dark, destructive and rebelliuos path. I allowed rage to overcome my heart, basically giving up. Becoming a mother restored my faith as well as my strength. I now have my babies who depend on me. Before that day, I don’t recall how many times or if ever Tim’esa had been to church. To this day, I’m still not she where she learned what she taught me that day about prayer, but the sincerity in her VOICE and the serious look in her eyes is one reason I’ll always remember that day and listen when a child has something to say.

As mother’s, we tend to be very protective of our children. Once my daughter began junior high, I was worried about the friends she’d make. Everyone always seemed to adore Tim’esa where ever she went. However, I’d warn her about befriending the “pregnant girl” concerned that such a girl would be a bad influence on my baby. I hadn’t realized or considered that I taught Tim’esa to think for herself. She was not only strong, but had proven to be a leader and very independant. One day she told me, ” momma, my friends don’t have to be a bad influence on me. Why can’t I be a good influence for them”? Silly me for never considering that perspective. It was almost as if she’d purposely seek out the troubled kids, somehow sensing they were in need of a good friend. She had never given me a reason not to trust her(other than always stealing my last slice of watermelon) and once again it was a reminder from my child to exercise my faith.

Green Eyed Monster

Envy (noun): A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck

(verb): Desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to (someone else)

I’m sure this is a behavior we’ve all exhibited at some point in life even if it was an isolated moment in time, usually during childhood before we learn better. For instance, not being picked for the team or perhaps not being one of the teacher’s favorites, therefore becoming envious of those who are choosen and become the teacher’s pet. I recall myself being envious of two distinct scenarios. As a teen I remember the feeling of envy towards certain people who died. My stepfather was my first experience with the death of someone close to me. I wasn’t sad when I heard the news, more in shock, disbelief and anger. I somehow got the impression that bad people were fortunate to die and leave this world, no longer forced to face the pain, struggles or chaos in society as a whole. I can’t believe I actually thought good people were left here to suffer. Thankfully, I soon realized how ridiculous my thought process was. As an adult I then grew envy of drag queens. I know, call me crazy but the skill and patience it takes to apply makeup and wigs so flawlessly is a work of art in my opinion, also a skill , at one time I wished I possessed. On a much more serious note, unfortunately “envy” can be destructive, destroying families as well as friendships. I used to wonder why the word is refferenced to the phrase “green eyed monster”. Although the term was first coined by Shakespeare in his play Othello in 1604, jealousy is universal in human nature and can even lead the nicest people to do awful things.

I’m writing this post from a place of sadness. Recently I had to make a tough decision on whether or not I should end a nine year friendship or actually what I thought had blossomed into a sisterhood. Due to my health and medical issues I decided that because of the constant stress it was causeing me, it no longer felt like a friendship and wasn’t worth it. This particular young lady who I didn’t want to befriend initially only because it’s always been hard allowing myself to get close to people in the first place, eventually became someone I grew to love. She was a witness to all my latest storms. When my seizures began out of nowhere, my husband disappearing, homelessness along with everything else that tried to weigh me down. While watching me struggle my way through, I can’t say she didn’t help to an extent; however it didn’t go without notice, help was offered when it benefited her which was fine because I also noticed areas where she struggled, figuring we could help each other.

What many jealous people don’t realize is that someone can appear to have it all together in life from the outside, but often we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. Just because a person lives in a big house in an upscale neighborhood, driving a fancy car doesn’t mean they’re happy. People struggle with weight and other insecurities. Some have hidden addictions, issues with self worth and burried trauma. Loneliness is a huge factor for many. Having money and people around you constantly doesn’t mean you’re not lonely when those people don’t actually give a damn about you and are only there to help spend your money. In my case, it became clear that this person desired certain qualities I possess when she’d repeatedly say ” I wish I could ??? like that”, referring to how I’d do/handle certain tasks. I was confused at first because she’d seen me at my weakest most vulnerable moments where I was contemplating suicide or just on the verdge of giving up, but my faith nor who I am won’t allow it. Often it’s offensive when people tell me how strong I am. I think to myself, if only they knew. She would ask me questions like “your weight doesn’t bother you”, “how come you have so much confidence?” Or she’d say, “I’ve never seen you cry about your husband leaving, aren’t you sad”, “why not call him and find out why he left?” Truth be told, it wasn’t that sad of an occassion. I miss her way more than I could ever miss him. The question that always gets me is “why are you always smiling and so bubbly with everything you’re going through?”

I constantly tried to explain that my actions were simply a choice. To be angry would not bring good results if any. When realizing that regardless of what I had to face wasn’t going to break me, she then began to sabotage the friendship. I desperately wanted not to believe what was happening, but soon became too obvious. Every time we were together which was suddenly rare, she would intentionally try starting an argument or push my buttons by making up things that simply didn’t make sense. Because of her I felt forced to start keeping “receipts” (not necessarily in the literal sense). Knowing I struggle with memory and minor details due to the seizures, she would say and accuse me of things that didn’t make sense and weren’t even close to my nature. So I began checking those receipts (text messages etc.) for the facts. As a friend, I’d talk to her about it giving her an opportunity to account for her actions and/or apologize, but she’d shut down claiming to either not remember (eventhough her memory was just fine all the years before) or try convincing me that I was making it all up eventhough the proof was right there in front of us. Once she was caught and as delicate as I was trying to be for the sake of the friendship, she stopped calling. She may answer if I call, but her entire demeanor had changed. I believe she was avoiding me due to shame and for some it’s too hard to admit when your wrong. It’s ok though because I’m not angry at all just sad that she doesn’t see the beauty in herself like I do. Like I prayed in making this decision, I pray for her that she learns to love herself and gain confidence in all aspects of her life. I will continue to pray for her always, we share some great memories. I have to take care of my health first and don’t want or need people in my life who don’t support my dreams or dismiss and belittle the work I’m passionate about or cause more trouble and stress on top of what the world already throws at us on a regular. If we are not careful envy/jealousy can also end in tragedy just like in Othello. I can’t help but wonder why someone would even name their child after one of the seven deadly sins. Was it coincidence or motivated by character?