All the Freshness

Here we are at the start of a brand new year. We’re on the first page of the first chapter of a brand new book. For the most part, this day represents a new beginning. The slate is clean. It’s January 1st. We’re far into the 2000s, but we’re on the first day of 2018. Not that we needed to wait until today to start anew, but it just feels more empowering starting out with a host of ones: day one, chapter one, page one, month one, etc. This is for the ones of you who have forgotten that you are the one.

It’s Time

I spent a ridiculous number of years sucked under by self-doubt, no self-esteem, no self-confidence, the fear of stepping out on my own terms, and a deep belief that I was just worthless. That’s what can happen after years of mental and emotional abuse. That’s what happened to me.

All the things that make me the woman I am today — my ability to write, my ability to lead, my ability to empower, my sense of self — were all there, they are just buried. Every time one of those traits would try to surface, my ex was there to smack it right back down to where he wanted it to be. Mental and emotional abuse is real, folks. I didn’t start out as some little shrinking violet. It took a long time for me to fall flat on my back, but once I was there, I laid there for years. I was able to look up, but I wasn’t able to get up.

 

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Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

One day, though, I decided that I would no longer be defined by the words in his dictionary. I decided I would use the ones in my dictionary and if they weren’t there, I’d create them. I decided that I would use all the things inside me to pull up and out. I decided that I would not only survive, I would thrive. I decided to sail through this life on my own steam. Have I accomplished everything I set out to do? Nope, but you better believe a large part of my goals will be satisfied before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2018. It’s my time. It’s your’s, too. Let’s get on it! Strike the match that’ll ignite the inferno of your greatness.

What Not to Do

 

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Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

Stop letting folks decide who you are. Stop letting folks shape your opinion of you. Stop letting those who can’t tell you that you can’t! Stop holding on to people who couldn’t possibly care less if you’re in their lives or not. Ladies, stop holding on to men who are holding on to someone else. Men, stop stopping in your tracks for women who are only out to use you. Stop trusting folks with your heart when they’ve proven over and over again that they have no intention of ever doing right by you, your feelings, or anything else about you. You’re better than that. You deserve better. Get after it.

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Death By Any Other Name

Hey, y’all! I’m so happy to be back. March was a particularly hard month for me, but finally, I’m back.

Death is a part of life; I know that. At almost 50, I have lost some very important people, namely my parents. You don’t reach my age without having dealt with losing people in any number of ways — cancer, car accidents, heart attacks, etc. I’ve been the comforter of the bereaved and I’ve also been on the receiving end of that goodness. Up until March 13th, though, I had not experienced the aftermath of death by suicide.

“He’s Dead, Mama, He’s Dead!”

That day started out pleasant. My granddaughter was visiting and as usual, there were people in and out of the house all day. My nephew and a family friend had come down for lunch so the day was made even better with a little ribbing and some good laughs.

They had been gone a couple of hours when the house phone rang and as selfish as it may be for me to say this, I’m glad my sister answered. When the call came, I was working feverishly on a submission piece, but I stopped when, for the third time, she yelled, “Calm down, mister!” (My sister has called her son “mister” since he was a child.) By this time, I could actually hear him yelling and I was across the room.

The next words I heard were, “Who died? How? Jesus, no!” She then hung up and I knew I needed to give her a minute to gather herself. I also knew I needed a minute to brace myself. Everyone knows that my nephew and I are extremely close so whatever vexes his spirit will automatically tear mine apart. Finally, I asked who died and she calmly said, “His little brother, ****. He killed himself. He hung himself.” Before long, I’ll write about the rest of that day, but I’m just not ready to right now. Please understand.

The Sudden

By now, most everybody knows that I finally severed ties with the woman who had been my best friend for nearly 30 years. That friendship needed to be over in the larger sense, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be there if she needed me. I don’t believe in fake operations, but I also feel that we should be there for others regardless of the circumstance.

I found out that her ex-husband passed on March 10th. He was 48 years old. Had I not seen a post from a mutual friend extending condolences, I wouldn’t have known. As it stands, he had been gone over two weeks and she had not said a word. I wasn’t the only one who was shocked over his passing and the fact that she had not at least made others aware of it so that we could send cards and/or flowers, so I’m not alone in my anger. I will leave this alone, but I’m appalled that she didn’t even let me know.

The Inexcusable

As I said earlier, I have seen all manner of death. As of March 13th, I have now experienced nearly all manner of death in my immediate circle. Suicide is hurtful to the ones left behind. It happens for any number of reasons. We pray for the souls of those lost to it as well as the lives, minds, and hearts of those left to grieve.

Latina Verneta Herring, 35, of Florida, died on March 27th. Her death is inexcusable. It is yet another example of what happens when a woman’s cries are not taken seriously. Police told her to stop making false accusations and to stop calling 911 after they’d gone out twice. The man who killed her and her 8-year old son had even told police he was afraid he was going to do something to her. He did. He killed them.

Ms. Herring’s death is the reason that domestic violence/abuse must always be spoken about. We can’t sweep this stuff under the rug. We can’t turn a blind eye to this travesty. It won’t stop until greater efforts are made to make more people aware of the signs and to let the victims know there’s no shame in talking about it and leaving.

My Prayer

I pray for this woman’s family. I pray for the victims of domestic abuse who carry the invisible scars of mental and emotional abuse. Stay aware. Help when and where you can and should. A life just may well depend on it.

 

Last Night

The Oscars…I didn’t watch, but good Lord, my phone went nuts when things went well, haywire.

Contrary to what some people believe, I’m on Facebook and Twitter so much, not for investigative reasons (i.e., nosy), but because I find lots of work on social media. I’m a writer and I freelance. It’s my work. It’s how I eat and feed my kid.

Anyway, I was on Facebook, as usual, last night making a list of publications that I’m going to query and submit to this week and I couldn’t help but see the various posts about the Oscars. Some people had no knowledge of the movies/people that were up for the award; some people were ticked about who was being presented with the coveted award. Some of the posts tickled me; some pissed me off.

There wasn’t a lot of political talk on my Facebook wall, but man, my Twitter feed was on

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Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

fire just like it always is. When Anousheh Ansari read Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech, which was expected to stir a little controversy since the director had already said he wouldn’t attend, Twitter went nuts. People are entitled to their own opinions and Twitter is the place to find all of them.

 

 

I don’t stand for prejudice in ANY sense of the word and it makes me want to puke when I hear of bans, intolerance, discrimination, racial inequality, gender bias — any of it makes me SICK! Here’s the thing: you can’t paint (for lack of a better word) a person according to his or her race, sex, sexual orientation, or anything else. That would be saying all white people are members of the Klan. You would be saying all black people are on welfare. You would be saying that all Muslims are extremist. Stop that crap. It’s not true and most folks know it. I say most because, unfortunately, there are people who are too ignorant to look past a person’s color or sexual orientation to see the inner-person. That’s so stupid, but there are tons of people out there who are like that. Anyway, back to the Oscars.

 

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Photo credit: SheKnows

Viola Davis. Viola Davis. Sweet Jesus, that speech. Like I said, I wasn’t watching when she delivered that thing, but I’ve watched it 1000 times since she did it. See, what she did here was light a fire in the hearts of artists. I don’t mean just actors. I believe she was speaking to artists in general. When you think about it, that means all of us. Whatever it is that calls your name, whatever it is that makes you go and give your all, is your canvas. For me, that is writing. I’ve known my entire life that I want to write. As a child, while everyone else was out playing, I was writing. I was either writing or reading, my second greatest love.

 

Viola said there’s one place where all the people with the greatest potential are gathered, and that’s the graveyard. She wants us to tell the stories of the people who “dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost”.

Y’all…it’s our duty to tell those stories. I’ve said it time and time again, and I’ll say it again — you don’t live through your thing, whatever it is, to remain silent. How dare you live through domestic abuse and not share your story? How dare you live through child abuse and not use your words, your journey, to help other children who need to know they can survive?

Sure enough, your business is not anyone else’s, but in my eyes, if you choose to keep your story to yourself, you travels have been in vain. Yep, you learned a lesson, but aren’t we all teachers on one manner or another? We’re most definitely students of this life from the time we come into this word, so why not pass on the lessons we learn?

Carry on with your day, carry on with your life, but do what you were put her to do — help others. Whatever your calling is, put your artistic ability into play and get on it. You’re the artist. Paint that thing!

 

Book Review: Waters of the River Red by Susane Lavallais Boykins

As an avid reader, I’m always on the lookout for books that speak to my soul, my spirit, my heart and my mind. I found all those connections in Waters of the River Red by Susane Lavallais Boykins.

February is Black History Month and tucked away nicely on the 14th of the month is Valentine’s Day. Waters of the River Red came to my attention late last week and I couldn’t have asked for a better book to pay tribute to both the subject of Black History and Valentine’s Day, the day of love. This book touches on every emotion from the pain of unrequited love to suppressed anger that threatens to overtake common sense and everything in between. We’re given access to a true love story while we’re also exposed to tragedy, shame, and misdirected hatred. Let me tell you a little about it.

Loss and Heartache

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Photo Credit: EngineerGirl

The story opens in Marksville, Louisiana, during a somber time in the life of the main character, Charlotte Ford. It’s August 1960 and she has just lost her best friend, KeyKey, to cancer. Immediately, we’re able to identify with Charlotte, because unfortunately, I think we’ve all been affected by the evil that is cancer. During this period of mourning, we’re introduced to Charlotte’s staunchest source of support and strength, her mother, Josephine (affectionally known as Feen), who is so reminiscent of the strong Black woman whose primary attention is to her family, especially her children. While Charlotte is an elementary school teacher, her mother, continues to work as a maid. Feen made certain that her girls received an education in order that they lived easier lives than she did.

One thing that Feen is not able to shield Charlotte from, though, is the same thing that any other parent seeks to block from a child’s life and that’s the pain of a broken heart. As hard as her mother tried, she wasn’t able to stop Charlotte from delving into a relationship that spelled trouble from the start. As a grown woman, Charlotte knew better than to take a bite of that forbidden fruit but she did it anyway. She paid the price for falling in love with a married man. Most certainly, things got worse before they got better.

One of the things I liked most about this book is that the author allowed the characters to be real. They made mistakes just like everyday people. None of them went without paying the consequences and that’s what makes this book worth the read.

Secrets and More Secrets

Charlotte finds herself in a position that would have caused her tremendous shame in that day and age for more than one reason. She was blessed, however, to be surrounded by people who genuinely loved her and were willing to go the extra mile for her. This book provides an excellent example of what unconditional love looks like.

If you don’t know what strength looks like in the human form, you will see it in Josephine Ford. Her resilience and refusal to stop living in the face of adversity are what real women are made of. She holds a secret that is excruciatingly heartbreaking. Her’s is a story that must be read.

You’ll see what sacrifice looks like in the character, Adrian Fonteneau. He is a man’s man.

You’ll see what it means to be willing to let go in order to live the life you want to live in Lucien Ford, Charlotte’s father.

You’ll see what it means to hold on to secrets that burn the very soul in order to spare the feelings of the ones you love.

The Pain and Release

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As a very outspoken advocate against domestic violence/abuse, this book touched my core. Laura is Charlotte’s older sister and the author shines the spotlight on the fear that many domestic violence/abuse victims feel. She also shows us the courage it takes to finally get out. Ms. Boykins does an excellent job in the delivery of the fact that the victim is not at fault in cases of violence and shows just how badly things can go.

Peace, At Last

I can’t recommend this book enough. It not only flashes back to give the reader a little history of the lives of Blacks in the 1960s south, we’re also given a clear picture of a woman’s ability to stand strong in the face of controversy.

Head over to Amazon and get your copy today! You won’t regret it.

My Party, My Celebration

There has seldom been a time when I haven’t heard the words, “I’m sorry” when I tell people that I’m divorced. I’ve received the most sincere condolences (for lack of a better word) from people who knew how long I had been married. I also get the question, “Are you okay?” more times than you can imagine. The true heartfelt sympathy that’s extended in those words is genuinely felt in the core of my heart. I appreciated everyone who has said them to me. Here’s the thing, though: my divorce was an occasion to celebrate.

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Photo Credit: The Wholesale Balloon Company

What many people don’t know when they are extending their condolences for the death of my marriage is that I had been abused so deeply, mentally and emotionally, that I almost died. Those who do know about the years of hell I lived through, congratulated me. My ex-husband didn’t bother to tell his older children that we had gotten divorced so when I did, my step-son simply said, “I’m so happy for you, Trease. You deserve better.” The friends who knew enough of the details sent messages telling me that they were thrilled that I was finally free.

I had been left with a high school senior who needed a positive male role model more in the days right before he left for college than he ever had. My son had become a father at 17. I believe one of the strongest influences in a child’s life is the same-sex parent. My child had seen the absolute worst example of what a man should be and how he should treat his mate. What I wish people would understand is that it’s better for a child to be completely removed from the presence of a rogue parent than it is for them to be exposed to that person’s shenanigans. I am blessed in that my son chooses to do things the exact opposite of the way he saw his dad do them. That includes everything from the way he treats his girlfriend to the way he makes sure his daughter knows she is what he lives and breathes for. He’s not verbally abusive to his child the way his father was to him. For that I am grateful.

Did getting divorced hurt me? Yes. I went through the cycle of wondering what I could have done to make that thing work even though it had been in a coma for at least 10 years and actually needed the plug to be pulled. I had tried. I had hung on with both hands for years and ultimately, the man who should have held me closer and tighter than any other person in the world was the one who pried my fingers off the ledge so that I fell.

What people need to understand is that I’m perfectly content with my life. Does that mean that I’m settled where I am? Nope. I want better. I have to do better. I’m ready to have my new home built. I’m ready for my book to reach the public. I ready for my blog to reach more women. I’m ready to graduate with my MFA so that I begin work on my doctorate degree. There are a million and half things to do in order for me to accomplish those goals, but I cannot express enough that the journey is just as exciting as the destination. Don’t be sorry for me. Don’t worry about me. Celebrate!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

The Truest Assessment

Since I began sharing my story of survival a few years ago, I’ve often been asked if there is anything I would change from or about my past. People want to know if there is one thing I would do differently, re-do, or not do. The answer has always been the same: there is not one thing I would change. The most immediate reaction I get is almost always one of surprise because in most cases, people know of the things I endured and they know that I almost died because of the mental and emotional abuse. They know of the spousal rape. They know that he was the one who filed for divorce. Here’s why I wouldn’t change anything.

IMG_C4952BDE2027-1.jpegSome of us are dealt hands that suck, plain and simple. We end up in jobs we hate, we end up in abusive relationships, we lose all the material things we own, we’re blindsided by people we trust; hell, we destroy our own lives! Some of the things that happen to us are unavoidable like the deaths of loved ones, getting laid off from a job we’ve held forever, and natural disasters. Then there are things that can be avoided, but that we allow to happen like dating the same type of guy or girl and getting crushed again in the very same manner as before, or rushing into relationships and then finding ourselves sorely disappointed when that man or woman turns out to be everything we don’t want. I fully believe, though, that once we’ve found our way out of those situations, we’re supposed to share our experiences so that we can help others. You see, a man can do a pretty good job of describing PMS and childbirth, but there is not a man alive who can tell me, with 100% certainty, what labor is like. He can’t tell me what it’s like to have boobs so sore from PMS that the gentlest breeze feels like an uppercut to the nipples. I feel the same way about all the things I’ve gone through in life.

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How would I be able to reassure you that there is life after abuse if I hadn’t lived to tell the tale?

How would I be able to tell you that all men are not the same if I had not allowed myself to fall in love again after all those years of abuse?

How would I be able to tell you that starting over at any age is okay if I hadn’t had to do it at 45?

How would I be able to assure you that it’s okay to stomp on the fear and shame that kept you weighed down during the fight because part of your calling in this life is to share your story after the fight so another person can draw from your strength?

I wouldn’t be able to do any of these things had one thing gone better, had one day be easier, or if I had decided that I wasn’t going to celebrate every trial and turn it into a triumph. So my answer will always be no — I wouldn’t change a thing, I wouldn’t re-do a thing because the lessons I learned and the privilege I have in being the bridge for others to cross over on is payment enough for my troubles.

NaBloPoMo November 2016