2018: Arms Linked & Armored in Love

This has been an incredible year. Mind blowing in all the best ways. There were some unpleasant events (mostly revolving around the political circus that has become American government, which turned on the kitchen lights to a social infestation of roaches feeding on hatred and a lust to conquer people, acquire power and money and then invent new ways to justify their vile means of doing so. However, out of these awakenings, we have advanced to a next level of doing better – talking about racism, sexual assault, corruption, and setting firm boundaries with what we, as a unified people refuse to tolerate, no matter how much money and power you have. We have rebirthed movements, protests, and coalitions; and for this end, I’m grateful for the tumultuous events and the ever-jolting media headlines.)

I’ve also had surprises of divine caliber (an artistic collaboration with a dear long-distance friend, which led me to a 17-year reunion with a Detroit dance sister, who happened to be looking for new members for her dance company, just on the cusp of me retiring from my former group; the blossoming of many beautiful intentional friendships; my inspiration to reboot my Hibouleans series for print, send myself on a signing and performing tour, finally record and share Secondskin, the theme to my book score; the brilliant beginnings of a brand new full-length novel; an unexpected move to the home of my dreams, and a taste of the sweetest of blended family life).

Last year, I set some goals for myself: five boundaries for behaviors I will not allow, and five invitations to what I will allow. And while among other resolutions, including working out daily, becoming a vegetarian, and blogging monthly, which slipped miserably between the cracks of life, I am proud to share that I coolly and calmly maintained my commitment to my five boundaries.

I boldly – yet lovingly – consistently said, “No” to behaviors, conversations and situations that were unhealthy for me. And in doing so, and checking-in with friends for support and reinforcement, I was able to evolve into a stronger, healthier more fierce level of myself. So, this year, my annual reflection and dedication is a collection of the wisest sayings from my dearest friends; the friends that have seen me, encouraged me, loved me and helped me hold the heaviest of things.

  1. Love doesn’t mean Yes (NH). Loving someone does not mean that you are required to spend precious time, money and energy, performing or enduring something that is not helpful, pleasant or healthy for you.

Your love is not contingent upon martyring yourself for their comfort. You can both love someone, and lovingly walk away saying, What you’re doing right now is not good for me, and while I love you, I do not have to participate.

  1. If you need someone, they have power over you (JR). JR gave me this perspective when I shared my relationship mantra with her: I’m not going to be with someone because I need them; I’ll be with them because I want to be with them. I view a healthy partnership as one that is consciously made out of love, not obligation.

She told me that if/when you do feel like you need someone, then their power over you is knowing you can’t survive without them. It is so important to remember that our survival, healing or growth should not hinge on someone else giving it to us. If we allow them that power, we might be at their mercy in more ways than one, and they will continue to take advantage of that imbalance.

I view a healthy partnership as one that is consciously made out of love, not obligation.

  1. I’m not responsible for your feelings. If my boundaries upset you, it’s your decision to be insulted (JR). Another bit of JR wisdom here. My personal growth, as I invoked in my 2017 post, has been in boundaries: drawing lines for what is best for me and not pushing them to appease others over myself. She reminded me that I don’t need to redraw or redefine my boundaries to make other people comfortable, and if they don’t like my rules, that is their decision.


  1. Little information and strong boundaries (JR). She’s full of fantastic –isms isn’t she? This was my lesson later in the year, when I realized that oversharing some personal information with friends or family can be unhealthy for both them and me. I need to share wisely and keep up those boundaries, only letting a select few into my private circle.

 I don’t need to redraw or redefine my boundaries to make other people comfortable


  1. You don’t revolve around your life; your life revolves around you (JM). Between summer and fall, when I was rebooting my novella series for print, I suddenly became overwhelmed with tasks – and I was doing them all on my own. I was in the middle of a bad business situation with someone I planned to hire for my books and I was tiptoeing around a difficult conversation, afraid of seeming like the bad guy.

JM reminded me that this book – and any other part of my life – is MINE, not anyone else’s. The only person that needs to be proud and satisfied and happy is me. That means I need to step into the chief executive role of my book company, and start to make all my self-imposed demands revolve around me. I cannot let myself get tossed around by obligation; I am the center of my own universe.

  1. God doesn’t contradict [godself] (JM). Ok, she actually said “God doesn’t contradict himself,” but I am dedicated to releasing God from the confines of gender pronouns (too many people really think God is a white man in the clouds), so I exchanged the pronoun [insert grin here]. Anyway, I was in the midst of some intense imposter syndrome at this point.

Sometimes, as most artists can relate, I just want to create, share it with the world and hope that someone also appreciates and accepts my gifts. But as soon as it goes out into the world, I think, “oh crap…I what have I done!” I was embarrassed and ready to retreat after making such a huge fuss over my book.

Self-publishing is intimidating because I don’t have an agent and publishing company to back me and remind me that my work is fantastic. They’re not there to tell me that because they have longevity and credibility and they’ve studied markets and trends for decades, the people will devour what they’re served. When it’s my own show, I’m basically asking strangers to take a chance on me and my adventures and hoping, desperately, that they’ll enjoy it.

Self-depreciating thoughts flooded my conscience. I felt like I was sabotaging myself and that I should just stop trying to be anything other than a mother, like so many others in my past had told me: Octavia, you’re doing too much, your priorities are off, you’re being selfish and irresponsible. Just sit down, shut up, raise your kids, clean your house, keep your husband happy, stay married.

I wanted to rewind five years and submit to being unremarkable. Unremarkable, predictable, stable and safe. Then JM asked mid-crisis me, “Are your books, talents, visions, musicianship, passions and calling from God or are you just doing this yourself?”

“No, no, this is part of my divine purpose.”

“Ok, then. And those beautiful children – did you just roll over and decide to make them yourself because you wanted the responsibility, or are they gifts from God, too?”

“They’re gifts from God,” I mumbled like a toddler when mom is schooling you hard.

“Well, God doesn’t contradict himself. God isn’t going to give you this passion and give you the children and make you pick one because one is righter than the other.”

And scene.

“God isn’t going to give you this passion and give you the children and make you pick one because one is righter than the other.”

  1. Caves form character in ways crowns never can (JS). This was the lead message in a sermon series at my church called Caves & Crowns, where we spent several weeks studying David’s life and lessons. Most people know only two main things about David – that he single-handedly took down Goliath when he was young, becoming a hero and a legend all at once; and that later in life as king, he slimily took Bathsheba because he wanted to and he could. What we rarely hear is how he spent the time between Goliath and Bathsheba hiding from Saul in caves. It was the darkest and most unpredictably dangerous season when he was able to create and learn the most. Those caves were studious, prayerful and reflective. The time in exile is what seasoned his character, spirituality, creativity, and legacy – things that aren’t usually gained from the throne of wealth and power. As I hustle like crazy to achieve my goals, I know that it is these lean and uncertain times when I will remember what is the most important.

Time in exile is what seasons character, spirituality, creativity, and legacy – things that aren’t usually gained from the throne of wealth and power.

  1. Fear fears love (JS). Another lead message from my church. This series was called The Heist and we studied ideas that imprison us. Fear can be crippling but it is real. Fear can also be a teacher. Some people pair fear with faith, but the only true way to fight against fear is with love. This spoke to me at the time because I was seeing insecurity and jealousy in people I love. There was a lack of trust because their fear was stronger than love. Love builds trust, but fear fosters insecurity. And now, I carry this with me when I have my artist imposter moments – I create – music, art, stories – because it is my passion and my love. If I feed my fear of disapproval, then I’ll be repressing my love of the craft. I will continue to create because I love to do it, and I won’t stop because I fear rejection. Love is greater than fear.

Love is greater than fear.

  1. If it’s not a f*ck yes, it’s a hell no (basically, all of the friends). Instructions: apply liberally to everything, including relationships, shoes, dresses, all accessories, furniture, apartments, vehicles, concert tickets, employment, friends, vacations and pets. Do not dilute or rinse. Does not always apply to food.


  1. I love you and I would do anything for you (CJ). Omigod. This one made my cry. And I have had other versions of this from my crew over the last 2-3 years (DS, GP, AH, LW, KP, ST, RS).

I’ve been in the Fine, I’ll Do it Myself, modus operandi since I was probably 7 years old. And while I’m eager to help others if and whenever I can, it often takes someone to shove help in my face before I accept it. I’m almost always too ashamed to ask, and when faced with an offer, I’m hesitant to accept. It’s not just because I’ve watched others live life with their hand out, always asking to latch onto someone else’s prosperity, and I don’t ever want to be compared to them, but also because I don’t want to need anyone (see No. 2 above); I don’t ever want to feel like there’s a debt I could never repay and have someone hold that over my head.

I have been in so many relationships where every good deed or gift was expected to be matched or repaid. I don’t want those obligations imposed on me. BUT. When there are true gifts, those that come from the purest and most honest places of love, there is no other expectation but to support each other. I have to remember, it’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to accept a gift. I’m grateful for those that have helped push me along. I couldn’t be here without you. You’ve encouraged me, watched and cared for my children, fed me, cried with me, laughed with me, laughed until crying with me, moved me – literally packed me up and moved me across the city, run errands for me, counseled me, and held me.

As you can see, I have some pretty incredible people in my life. I’m grateful for all of them and all of their wise words. We’re going into 2018, arms linked and armored in love.


Octavia Reese Abracadabra


MAO, You Know Better

I need to talk this one out with my favorite therapist: my keyboard.

I’ve been tagged in all the things and murmuring in the groups and dryly commenting snips of my opinion on my Facebook timeline, but then I thought – wait, what am I so afraid of saying out loud? I haven’t held a title in 11 years and I’m completely and fully retired…but I’m still tight-lipped under the fear and shame of actually speaking my mind. I’m still afraid of not sounding like everyone’s favorite sweet, demure, mild-tempered, crown-wearing inspiration. I’m still living under the censor of Miss America.

But I’m not a titleholder any more. I’m a bold, fierce, grown woman who is ready to fearlessly and fully step into her purpose and calling. At least, I’m trying to be. And with that dedication of rebuking inhibitions, let me tell you what I really think – or at least, ask the challenging questions:

I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…

 1.       Miss America Organization, what do you think are you doing? (Hear me saying that in my most disapproving Mom Voice) Why are you dragging your heels and deliberating over what is very clearly a cut and dry decision? Netflix, CBS and NBC all acted more swiftly and justly than you – and they are for-profit entities. In taking time to “properly” “investigate” (those are air quotes, by the way), you are putting one wealthy white male’s fragility above hundreds of thousands of strong, brilliant, ambitious women you claim to represent and uplift. You’re brushing off all of our #metoo stories, all of our social platforms, all of our hard work and dedication to becoming our best selves and helping the next wave of young women to climb upon our shoulders and achieve higher. Shame. On. You. Suspension? Really? That’s lazy. It’s ineffective, it’s inconsiderate, it’s rude. You, too are a victim of your own censorship; your own imposed keeping-up-appearances lifestyle. It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade. We all know, well-behaved women seldom make history (thank you, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich), so let’s put some hot sauce on these unsalted boiled carrots. It is 2017! In the year of the #metoo campaign, the silence-breakers being our persons of the year, with the march of the nasty women in pink pussy hats, you know better.  

It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade.

2.       When people find out I was Miss Michigan, their gut reaction is, “Well, gosh I can see why, you are SO BEAUTIFUL!” I choke on my immediate response and accept the compliment – truly, I appreciate the kind words. What makes me gag a little is that people STILL think all we do is smile and wave and say “world peace.” They don’t know about the years I spent practicing my cello until my fingers were numb and immovable; they don’t know about the hours I spent dancing until my toes bled and physically training my body to do beautiful and amazing things on the stage. They don’t know about the hours I spent writing and speaking about the need for cultural diversity at all levels of everything that is American, and how much better humanity would be if we took a moment to empathize and converse with someone of a different background. They don’t know about the time spent writing and rewriting my life view essays, training, and crying, and holding my sisters’ hands as we work ourselves raw to put ourselves through school, and add something worthwhile to our resumes – all so that we can climb just one more rung in the ladder that is still a white man’s world.

Miss Michigan Octavia Reese
(C) misswaynecounty.org

The masses still think we are just money-making babes in bikinis and most of them associate us all with Trump’s Miss USA ties. Well, The Miss America Organization is vastly different from the Miss USA Pageant – at least it was until the news broke out. Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House. It’s disgusting. To the MAO Board, it is your lack of action that is putting ratings, broadcast backing, viewership and support in jeopardy – not the CEO’s deplorable behavior. If you say you’re different, be different. Do the hard thing. Be bold. Be fearless. Maybe we just need a woman of color running that place. We made it happen in Alabama. Let’s get it done in MAO.

Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House.

 3.       Miss America is NOT just another beauty pageant. It used to be. It was made to be. But it has since evolved into the largest scholarship organization in the country, helping to put young women through school and repay student loans. It is the only “pageant” system that requires talent on and off the stage. We have intimidating academic aspirations and accomplishments; we donate hours upon hours of our time and talent to spur our society onto some better version of itself; our cultures, practices and skin tones and bodies come from all curves of the globe; we eat right, work out, take care of our families and friends, and we look damn good doing it. It’s time that the state and national leadership – reflected this. Why isn’t Miss America being run by a woman and backed by a thoughtful, compassionate, world-changing, forward-thinking, culturally and ethnically diverse, Board?

As a mother of half-white sons, I wonder what they think of me. I wonder how they see my role in their lives and how that translates to all women – all Black women. I wonder if I’m raising them to be the kind of man that will not only NEVER call a woman a c*nt, but would also bravely stand up to the kind of disgusting man that would. I wonder if they will not look at a woman as “other” or “less than.” I wonder if they see my hard work and will in turn do that hard work themselves, or if they will just expect other woman to pick up the slack for them. I wonder these things. I lose sleep over these things. I pray that my boys will grow into men that know better. Men that wouldn’t bring another white man onto an already monochromatic team – men that will deliberately look to work for and with and uplift women of all colors – men that will be honorable and make just and fast and swift decisions with compassion and care, putting the safety and peace of mind of others before their own selfish gain…and I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…

~ OR

Believe Me, Too

Last week, at the pinnacle of the viral #metoo movement, I shared an Ebony article on Facebook. It was a passionately-worded piece wagging its finger at all of the #metoo hype, as if to say, “Hey! We’ve been saying this for a decade and the movement was started by a Black woman!” While the article did feel a bit ragey, with its give-credit-where-credit’s-due feel, it highlighted several things:

  • Black women are overlooked
  • Black people’s problems tend to *stay* Black people’s problems
  • Celebrities with high-profile scandals have a vast reach
  • White celebrities can get ish done

I even wrote a disclaimer on my article-share, warning my friends and followers to not be turned off by the title and tone. I urged my friends to read it. Read it becausmetoo snipe hey, this isn’t new. This is all races, all sexes, all genders. And it’s a whole lot easier to ignore abused people – especially when we’re shouting from the margins.

Well, I had a friend. That one (sometimes three) friend(s), that did have to say something about – by my own words – “playing the Race Card.”

He expressed his thought that justice is great, why bring race into it? Just be grateful this is getting attention! 

I saw red. I saw flames. If I had laser eyes to shoot at his fingers on the keyboard via the inter webs, I would have aimed and fired. We went back and forth a little, but then he did something amazing that I never expected. He took it to the DM.

And it went down. But it went down beautifully.

He asked me to explain how we missed each other, why his challenge to my article-share insulted me, and how he can be a better ally.

Yeah. He asked how he could serve me

And by the time we exchanged stories, we were both in tears.

We saw each other. We heard each other.

He asked …how he could be a better ally.

This is my DM response to him, (some parts edited for this blog and names removed), and it’s   something that all well-intentioned white people should read before they roll their eyes at yet another angry Black woman that makes everything about race and gender:

[TLDR Version: Privilege is real. We live in a constant state of gender and race humiliation. It happened to me, too. Believe us. Whether its racism or sexism, believe us.]



The first time I ever saw white privileged was when I was going through my divorce. Yeah. I know it sounds weird. My first time. But when you’re Black in America you only see the negative attitudes towards your own race and not the actual privilege of being white. That’s not our side of the story. When he and I decided to split, I was the one that was depressed and miserable in the far burbs so I was happy to move.

But I had spent the majority of our marriage as a full-time mom/student with part time gigs. I didn’t have a resume, savings or a sustaining job. Every day while I was still home with the kids, he would come home and say: did you get a job yet? How many applications? Any interviews? How about an apartment? When are you leaving? The pressure was maddening. I wanted to punch him and throw up and run away crying all at once. Every. Day. I felt unwanted and lazy and rejected.

But then I realized he wasn’t deliberately bullying me. He just had no idea. He didn’t have a resume. He’s never had to sell himself on a piece of paper to strangers. He’s never asked strangers for a job and he’s never not gotten an offer for a job he asked for. He lives in a bubble of privilege where he’s never had to go without or rely solely on his own talents. He’s never had to worry that he wouldn’t get an interview because his name sounds “exotic” or “weird.”

He’s never had to worry that someone would look at him and think “a man can’t do this” or “a dad can’t do this.” That is privilege. But people always think a woman can’t do this or a mom isn’t as committed as a childless person. These are things I choke on daily.

He had no idea how difficult it can be to get a job especially when you’re not a white man.


You aren’t humiliated by others for the color of your skin.
I just got a lotus tattoo for my birthday. Beauty and blessings springing forth from the mud. X— made some mud comments about me in sixth grade. Again, not your reality. Not even on your radar. But it was stinging and humiliating. It made me feel ugly and less than and unlike and unaccepted and rejected and reminded me that I will never be one of you.

My new ink is my peace with that. I know now that I am beautiful and talented and radiantly intimidating. In first grade I had to change for gym class alone because my changing buddy’s mom found out she was undressing with a black girl and didn’t want me around her daughter. And that, too. All the time: Black girl. I hate it when people say, “so this Black person — no offense — was talking…” Why is “Black person” offensive? I’m not sorry I’m Black. Does my Blackness offend you? Why are you apologizing? I am Black! Say it! Black isn’t a bad word. N** is. Black isn’t. Neither is white. Say it. We are our colors and we all deserve to be seen.


With all of that said, it is SO crushing then, when I say to someone, for example, a white significant other, “Babe I had a weird experience today and I really feel like it was racially motived,” and he says, “nahhh I don’t think so. Maybe you did something wrong.” That’s the most devastating thing. When people in the majority point fingers at me and accuse me of playing the race card.

When I experience something and feel sad and violated and discriminated and someone that couldn’t possibly be able to relate blows me off and says they don’t believe me — it’s a terribly crippling feeling. It’s gaslighting. It’s crazymaking.

If I say “this feels racist,” BELIEVE ME. Please. This is my world, not yours. Please believe me that something hurts and it’s not fair. What if we went to the doctor complaining of illness and he doc says, “Mmmnah I don’t think so. Stop whining!”


The last place I worked my coworker rubbed my knee under my dress when the two of us were alone in a conference room. Later he “brushed” past me rubbing his body on my butt. Twice. And then when we were leaving that hospital site, we were alone in an elevator and he stroked my face. Twice. Because I looked tired. I wanted to slit his throat and set myself on fire.

When I reported him to HR, the woman said,” nahhh I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound like X—. Maybe he meant…”

By this time I was numb and tuned her out. Here’s a woman WHOSE JOB IT IS TO TAKE MY REPORT and she didn’t believe my story. #metoo

This happened to me! And she didn’t care. Now, sidebar, there is another dynamic between women where unsolicited sexual advances by an attractive man are not crimes but compliments. Part of me wonders if she was jealous that X— was flirting with me and not her?? Who knows. I don’t care. The point is that she didn’t believe my experience. But she’s not me. Don’t tell me my truth is not true. Now this part is for you and your brilliant girls: when they come to you, and they will, and they say, “Papa someone made me feel weird today,” BELIEVE THEM.

Don’t ask what or if they did anything to deserve it. Don’t tell them “nnnnnno I don’t think it’s like that. Why are you forcing some issue into this?“
Don’t assume they’re just girls making things up or being dramatic or being emotional or too sensitive or being [insert negative idea about women here].

Listen. Believe them.
They will need you to just believe them. And hold them. And validate them. And tell them it’ll be ok. And tell them you’ll do something.

And then… do something.


Why I Aborted My Pro-Life Movement

It’s time for the annual Pro-Life Rally in Washington. I was there when I was 17. I was a staunch Republican. I regurgitated the propaganda like a good Catholic girl. I chanted, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!” at the top of my lungs and even in my sleep. I saved my stop sign poster. I pinned it to my wall.

About a year later, my heart hurt. I felt like I had let myself down. I felt like I had betrayed my faith, my voice as an American citizen, and my honor as a Christian to love my neighbor. I took my poster down. I closed my mouth. I started thinking and listening more than yelling and parroting. That was the beginning of the end of my affiliation with the Republican party. But that’s another story…

Morally and ethically speaking, I am still pro-life. Politically speaking, I turned my back and here’s why.

  1. I’m Pro-Choice because I’m Christian (Part 1). I’m the sort of Christian that leads with my heart. Compassion. Empathy. Gratitude. Not contempt, condemnation and fear. When I took the required ethics course at my very conservative, very born-again, very evangelical high school, it forced me to think. I can’t say it had the outcome they expected, but think I did and for that I’m grateful. I couldn’t understand why all these Christians that powerfully led with their faith and spewed out Sanctity of Life rhetoric around fetuses were also passionately pro-war, pro-gun, pro-defense, and pro-death penalty. If all life is sacred, then shouldn’t…all… life be sacred? If it is a law to save the babies, then also make it a law to destroy your guns, disassemble your bombs, resolve conflict with peace, and abolish the death penalty.


If all life is sacred, then shouldn’t…all… life be sacred?


  1. I’m Pro-Choice because I’m Christian (Part 2). God gave us the gift of choice. And what God gives to us, shouldn’t we pay forward? Love? Forgiveness? In acknowledging the holiness of our God-breathed existence, shouldn’t we honor the way that God created us, which is in God’s image, with free will? Free will is a God-like quality. That. Is. Terrifying. We are little gods running around the planet. But instead of giving out free will like The God, we use our free will to take it away from others. Wait what? Yeah. No. That makes zero sense. How dare we deny God’s gift to each other to make our own decisions! If we restrict or diminish what God has given us, we are elevating ourselves above God. By withholding God’s gift of free will, we are interfering in God’s blessing and ultimately condemning ourselves. Respecting free will is respecting our God-given gift of independent thoughts, ideas and values.

I chose to have my children.

  1. Personal preferences shouldn’t be laws. I like chocolate cake. That doesn’t mean in Octavia’s country red velvet cake is illegal. Those that enjoy red velvet should not be mocked, ridiculed and imprisoned. If you want red velvet, eat your red velvet. I will have chocolate. Enjoy. It’s your body, eat what you want. Ok, my cake metaphor is hokey. I’m no anarchist. I think laws are necessary. I think people should be held accountable. But laws are necessary for public health, for the greater good, for things that universally affect, protect and care for all of us. The choice to abort a pregnancy is a very personal, private, difficult, heart-aching decision that has no business being on the public agenda.


  1. Pro-Choice does not equal pro-abortion. No one loves abortion. Have you ever seen anyone get excited and throw a party because they’re having an abortion? Absolutely not. The thought of it makes me sick. But being a parent, what crushes me even more is an unwanted, unloved, and uncared for child being born and forced even deeper into the margins, made to be invisible, desperately trying to survive and make a life, ultimately falling into the cracks and statistically, crime, drugs, prison or death. Where is the sanctity in this life? Who is rushing to adopt all of the children that might be forced to exist? If abortion becomes illegal, someone had better start building the biggest and swankiest home and school for all of these children and also providing top-rate prenatal healthcare, birthing luxuries and post-partum care for all of their mothers. Better yet, this birthing hotel should be funded by all the men that fertilized these goddesses’ eggs. What would happen if we held men as accountable for providing for and caring for their babies as the mothers? If you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one. It’s your choice. I chose to have my children. I can’t imagine if the tables were turned and I were forced to abort.

The choice to abort a pregnancy is a very personal, private, difficult, heart-aching decision that has no business being on the public agenda.


  1. The Pro-Life agenda is punishing women for having sex. It isn’t about the babies. It’s about condemning a woman for being a woman and enjoying being a woman. It’s about forcing her into shame because she tasted the pleasures of sex and doesn’t want (or isn’t equipped to take on) long-term consequences of a child. Ridiculous variations of this include forcing her to fully fund arrangement of funeral services and burying her aborted child or even the threat of imprisonment for murder. But why is it always the woman that is dishonored? Her body will be wrecked from the inside out. She will struggle emotionally, mentally, physically, financially. Who has compassion for this woman? I don’t even want to start ranting about cases of rape or incest. If this is a shame game, it takes two to make the child, so please, bring in the father. Bring the man in! Inflate his insides and stretch his abdominal skin 500x the normal size. Implant a 10lb parasite that rubs on his organs, sits on his bladder, pinches his nerves and kicks his lungs. Slice him from rectum to urethra. Let him bleed for two months to recover. Let him suffer along with her and the two can collectively wear the shame of procreation. Back to point No. 4, if this is about guilt and consequences, make the daddies personally fund every ounce of healthcare required to have a healthy pregnancy, birth and post-partum recovery. And let him raise the child.


…this birthing hotel should be funded by all the men that fertilized these goddesses’ eggs.

 Also, criminalizing abortion is not a decline in abortion. It’s a decline in healthy, medically-sound, legal abortions and an increase of dangerous quick-fixes and botched shortcuts. If a woman is determined not to have her baby, she will find a way not to have her baby. Believe me. We are resourceful. This is dangerous. This is terrifying. How many women will be put at risk for permanent damage or infection – or mental breakdowns – because they’re inducing miscarriages or inflicting self-harm? This is the ultimate punishment. And for what? Having sex?

To those marching: good for you. I support marches and protests and anyone speaking their voice. But I ask you to stop and consider why you’re marching. Would it be better to share compassion to women going into an abortion? Or maybe you could volunteer at Planned Parenthood to help educate women on how to prevent pregnancies in the first place. Maybe you could even start a young women’s self-care initiative to help girls validate themselves rather than looking for approval and acceptance through sexually pleasing a man. There are so many alternatives that are equally pro-life but not anti-women. 

Carrying a child is a blessing; a magical God-like honor. And it is an honor for her to choose her path. Let the woman decide for herself. Stop talking and start listening. Be a vessel of compassion, not contempt.

~ OR

Remember who you are

This MLK day is somehow more meaningful to me than the previous 34. In the last three years, I’ve become more aware. More aware of my likes and dislikes. Of what I will accept for myself and from others and what I will absolutely not tolerate. More aware of what makes me belly laugh and what makes me giggle nervously. More aware of things that bring me joy and things that bring me heartache. More aware of my unique strengths and genuine weaknesses. More aware of what I want to and can change and of what I cannot change. I’m more aware of the talents I bring to the table and how and what I can contribute; more aware of what I cannot do and where I must ask for help. I’m more aware of my voice and when to speak up. I’m more aware of when to sit quietly and listen. I’m more aware of the forces of nature, the science of instincts, the patterns of behavior, and the mystery of spirituality. More aware of what my You see, I’m more aware of who I am. Today, I remember who I am. And I am more than any condition or less-than ideology.

I cannot hate you without also hating myself.

I’m not beautiful for my age. I am beautiful. Period.

My dreadlocs aren’t clean and gorgeous for locs. My locs are gorgeous. Period. And my hair is my crown. Period.

My skin isn’t not-so-dark. My skin is dark and delicious. Period.

I don’t speak well for a Black girl. I speak well. Period.

I haven’t accomplished a lot for someone in my situation. I have accomplished a lot. Period.

I haven’t done a lot for someone from 6mile in Detroit. I have done a lot. Period.

I don’t have an amazing body for a mom. I have an amazing body. Period.

I’m neither too confident nor too independent. I’m confident and independent. Period. 

I’m not strong for a woman. I’m strong. Period.

Remember who you are.

If you’re having a memory lapse, society has you feeling less-than, you’re swimming through a sea of can’ts and aren’t sure of who you are or where you’re going, these three things always get my feet back on solid ground:


When I was Miss Michigan, my platform was Building Bridges through International Experiences. I spoke on the importance of stepping outside of the box of normalcy, moving past fear and judgment to experience life alongside someone different from you. I encouraged my audiences to love and embrace each other as their neighbors on the planet. I told my audiences about Ubuntu, a South African word so broad and beautiful there is no direct translation into English. But it means humanity. It means compassion. It means we are one. We are each other. It means I cannot hate you without also hating myself. Remember who you are.

I am a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars.

One of my favorite professions of faith, Desiderata, which came to me under very supernatural conditions and I reflect on with unlimited love, reminds me that we – all of us here on this planet – are made of the same combinations of chemical elements that make up life-giving trees and energy-producing stars. Yes, the same science that explains the breathtaking beauty of the Milky Way and the Northern Lights is the same science that makes electrical impulses flex our heart muscles and fires neurons to process external stimuli. Once you let that reality sink in, how could you ever doubt yourself and your own abilities and goals? You are magical! How could you ever endure diminishing and degrading societal norms when you truly understand that we are literally all the same elements? How could you ever think to humiliate or denigrate your neighbor? We are made of each other. How can I hate you without also hating myself? Ubuntu. Remember who you are.

The same power that raises the dead is inside of you.

About a year ago, one of the lead pastors at my church elaborated on the idea of God in us. In, being one of the four words he used to detail how to be one with God in all of God’s glory in his book, Four Small Words. In that sermon, he said, “The same power that rose Jesus from the dead is in you.”

There are only a few sermon statements that stay with me and stay forever. That was one of them. If you are Christian (and I am) and truly believe that women and men are made in the image of God, are we not equipped with the capacity to embody even a fraction of God’s limitless love and power? And if you are any other agnostic believer, and God – The Universe – The Creator – The Physicist – Love – whatever you believe God to be – is all knowing, powerful, loving and present, are we not made of that same magic? Indeed we are. We are radiant beams of energy, composed of the same spirit juice that created our entire spectrum of sensations and range of emotions and capacity to exist.  Remember who you are.

The same science that explains the breathtaking beauty of the Milky Way and the Northern Lights is the same science that makes electrical impulses flex our heart muscles and fires neurons to process external stimuli.

When I look out at the pain and negativity pulsing across our world today, I have to admit I am terrified. But rather than feeling discouraged, I am empowered. My fear emboldens me – not to persecute, point fingers, and blame others for my discomfort, but to remember who I am, who we are and be better. I’m encouraged because I know that our world needs us now – us, meaning, those of us who know who we are. When you remember who you are, you realize that it is up to us to embody compassion, exhibit love, and shine our light brighter than the darkness that threatens to oppress, bully, humiliate and weaken others. Remember who you are and be better.

Today, I remember who I am. I am a cosmic and radiant goddess and I am beyond any limiting, diminishing condition. I am. Period.

Sweet Relief: Three Ways to Cleanse Your Spirit

Do you ever have epiphanies on the toilet? I do. Here’s one…stay with me…

The Toilet Diaries: December 2, 2016

This morning as I changed my feminine product, emptied my bladder and bowels, I got chills. The chills of relief when all the waste I’d been holding inside for 8-plus hours finds its exit and I can relax. I felt my body melt into itself exhaling, “Ahhhh this feels better.”

If our physical body so desperately needs to release, surely the law must be consistent for the whole soul.

I remembered being a child and laughing hysterically with my best friend at the phrase, “What a relief!” in response to having a nice long steamy piss.

But all this relieving eviction of body product got me to thinking…if our physical body so desperately needs to release, surely the law must be consistent for the whole soul: emotions, spirit and psyche.

Have you ever tried to hold your pee when a convenient toilet escapes you? Perhaps you’ve experienced the horrifying “prairie-dog” effect when your body just can’t make the dog stay in the hole. For the love of all things holy, why can’t the careful walk to the toilet also be the swiftest? The gush of blood when you just weren’t prepared. Eating that one wrong meal and you can’t keep the food down. And don’t your eyes pop out of your head if you try *not* to sneeze or do it with your eyes open? Or worse yet, martyring yourself trying to hold your gas for mutually the fear of embarrassment and the olfactory safety of your neighbors, but you finally reason with yourself to free the trapped air and your heart sinks into your pants when you feel that it’s actually a shart? Please, dear God no!

It is nothing short of torturous misery to try and hold in vomit, poo, pee, gas, or a sneeze – and it is equally all things glorious to release them.

Heaven bless the perky rebound after throwing up too much alcohol or a disagreeable dish. Freedom. The cosmically orgasmic sneeze when our bodies reject a sinus intruder. Yes! More! Finally taking that Austin Powers-long pee after a good night’s sleep. Hallelujah! Making it to a toilet when your intestines have had enough. Pure ecstasy! Feeling your body deflate five inches once you release a massive gas pocket. Slow, wordless smile.

It is nothing short of torturous misery to try and hold in vomit, poo, pee, gas, or a sneeze – and it is equally all things glorious to release them.

For our physical bodies to function properly, the ugly must come out, up, down, AWAY. And into the air or down the drain. Are we properly cleansing our minds, spirits and hearts of its waste too? How do you practice the letting go of old memories and heartache that is certainly rotting and creating toxic fumes that prevent us from healthy function? I came up with three categories that sum it all up for me:

1. Burn

    Fire is a timeless symbol of not only power and passion but also equally life and death. The phoenix sets itself ablaze only to rise from the ashes again. Burning incense is a universally sacred practice. Two ways to burn yourself clean: first, sage. Smudging is another ancient practice of purifying space, energy and literally the air around you by smoldering leaves or sticks. The second is by naming your filth – write a letter to someone you need to forgive, write down the missteps that are anvils to your soul. Maybe it will be paragraphs; maybe it will be pages. Write it all down, weep over it, and then light it up and let it go…safely of course.

    2. Birth

      Nothing says out with the old like in with the new. The order doesn’t matter. Sometimes the arrival of something new can push the old aside. Other times, you’ve successfully eradicated your spirit gunk and although its exit is healthy, you’re left with a void of what was. Cleansing yourself through newness can be anything – something powerful that you create, design, develop; a therapeutic shopping spree to signify change; the first ceremony of a new tradition; moving or relocating to start anew in a new place; find a new way to give back to the community. Dumping your spirit’s waste in this way can be your renaissance.

      3. Be

        This is my personal self-care favorite. Being. As an extrovert, I tend to find my energy among people, but I also have introvert tendencies and need to indulge in delicious hermit-like moments to find my balance. Part of my soul-cleansing process includes quality alone time. This isn’t the avoidant type of me-time that includes eating comforting lime chicken or steak tacos (La Pasadita is the best – corn tortilla, onions & cilantro) on my couch in droopy sweatpants I’ve had since high school and watching made-for-TV movies from the 90s (you know the ones with Tori Spelling and Joanna Kerns…). Although these moments feel GREAT, I mean the actual art of being. Unplugging, looking inward, opening your soul to let go of the old and bad and ugly, and welcome in love and compassion and light. Meditate, pray, go to a sensory deprivation chamber, go off the grid for a few hours – heck, try a whole week! Delete the site history of the internet browser that is your soul and refresh your deepest core.

        Spiritual cleansing sweet relief soul waste
        If you have more tips – or have particular success with any of these, please write to me and let me know. Let’s continue the upward trend of healthy release. What. A.  Relief. 


        2017 Mantra: Allow the Magic 

        I’m not part of Team Burn 2016 To the Ground. I had a great year. While it was full of loss – of lives, loved ones, and trust; and equally full of pain, heartache and betrayal. I was assaulted, attacked, violated, harassed, disrespected, insulted, bullied and berated. I got hurt a lot in 2016.

        But here’s the thing: 2016 was also overwhelmingly also full of growth. I grew in areas where I didn’t even know I needed to be challenged. I saw things from other perspectives when I thought I had already examined all options. I saw myself with new eyes. I saw others with new eyes, too. I learned vulnerability and openness. I remembered how to relax and be OK with – and without – being OK. I learned to advocate for myself. I was encouraged, inspired, uplifted, empowered, adored, cherished, complemented and celebrated. I was seen and lovingly embraced a lot in 2016, too.

        What boundaries am I willing to set to make this the most transformational year of my life?

        Last night, after the various glittery balls around the world dropped and the star in Chicago rose, one of my best friends asked, “So what’s your 2017 Mantra? Every year starts with a mantra!”


        I hadn’t put much thought into it, but some of my best ideas are my gut’s first urging. My inner voice cried out before she even finished her thought:




        I use this phrase a lot when I’m being the wise best friend and my girl had another run-in with the crappy boyfriend. But until the most intimate part of my living energy spurted it out, I had never considered it in all areas of my life.

        2017 is my year of boundaries – with myself, with my children, with my friends, family and love interests. What boundaries am I willing to set to make this the most transformational year of my life?


        1. What I allow for myself will continue. I have dreams. Goals. Aspirations. I have a vision for my mind, body and spirit. In the last five years, those milestones have been on a revolving scale with timelines extended due to the circumstances. But what if I held myself to a new standard? What if I did whatever it takes to make my dreams come true? What if I allowed myself to never hit snooze on a weekday and actually go to the gym before work? What if I stopped allowing myself to take a pass on packing my lunch and stopped eating at restaurants every day? What if I stopped choosing (anything else) over finishing the laundry?

        What I will allow to continue for myself is being bold and radiant. Living into my calling rather than shying away from it. I will allow myself to eat healthy and spend wisely. I will allow myself to be disciplined in study, art, music, dance, and fitness. I will allow myself to enjoy my lifestyle to the fullest.



        1. What I allow for my children will continue. Tantrums, whining, begging, screaming, arguing, avoiding chores, procrastinating…typical for children, yes, but these aren’t things they outgrow. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of adults this year have adult sized tantrums, and bicker, tease and bully like children. My responsibility as a parent is to raise adults that can think critically and handle adulting without reverting to infantile behaviors on grown-up scales. Discipline, emotional maturity, and calm problem solving starts now.

        What I will allow to continue for my children is positive reinforcement, intentional quality time, praise and rewards, boundaries, healthy conversations about emotions, and more responsibility with contributing to our home and housework.


        1. What I allow for my friends will continue. I’ve lost friends this year – some to death, yes but in this case, I’m referring to friends lost due to just being slowly squeezed out of the circle; so slowly I wasn’t sure it was happening until it was over. And that’s OK. But I realized that over the years some of those friends have deeply hurt me, whether they knew it or not. I’ve allowed myself to suffer in silence, not fully understanding that I had power within me all along to steer those friendships; I just didn’t use it. I’m also learning that in forever friendships, a silent friend does not equate to a good friend. Just like in marriages, or any lifelong connection, if you’re not challenging each other in growth, what the heck are you doing for each other? Friends cannot allow friends to follow destructive paths, nor can they allow their friends to take the easiest route, avoiding their highest potential.

        What I will allow to continue for my friends is the glorious give-and-take of enjoying each other’s’ company. We come bearing gifts for each other – gifts of time, growth, comfort, compassion, acceptance, laughter, presence, love and forgiveness.


        1. What I allow for my family will continue. I have a colorful family. I don’t mean ethnicity or lifestyle. I mean psychologically. My entire life I’ve been around destructive patterns that I’ve had to endure – or perhaps that I’ve allowed myself to endure. It’s OK to respectfully decline abusive conversations. It’s OK for me to not allow this cycle to continue.

        What I will allow to continue for my family is accepting and loving me for who I am and who I want to be. We will speak to each other with tenderness and empathy, and respect the decisions we’ve made for our individual lives.


        1. What I allow for my love interests will continue. Just last week, I had a potential date. Someone I met online on a Monday, began texting on a Wednesday and was about to meet in person on a Friday. But this person was already playing power games – holding something over my head and expecting me to jump for it. He set the foundation for our relationship that he would have all the cards and I would have to take whatever he dealt. I shut it down immediately. He gave me a beautiful apology, which I accepted. I also told him that power games now meant power games in five years and I’m just going to pass. I cancelled our date and we never met. It was deeply fulfilling. And also deeply healing. While I would love to be in a partnership, I am very happy without a significant other, and there is no reason I should make these kinds of exceptions – especially with a stranger – just to not be “single.”

        What I will allow to continue for my romantic relationships is serving each other in love, enjoying each other’s company and uplifting each other’s dreams. We will design our own family culture, and have patience, compassion and forgiveness with our flaws. We will accept each other without the intent of changing one another and will grow together, helping each other along the way. We’ll communicate freely, welcome vulnerability and set expectations. We will allow each other to be sad, angry, upset, without letting that shake our unconditional love.


        There’s no badge of honor in martyring yourself for the comfort of others. If you are unhappy, uncomfortable, unfulfilled, unimpressed, and uncertain, just say no. Don’t allow it to continue. Allow yourself to live into your truest self because denying your inner voice is the biggest crime you could commit against the world. You – and I – are here to be our best and truest selves. You – and I – are our greatest gifts to the world.


        2017 is my year of boundaries. My #shutitdown year. My #allowthemagic year. I’m a fierce and cosmic goddess, formed in the image of God and the same elements of the cosmos. I am strong and powerful, if I allow myself to be.

        Octavia reese cosmic goddess allow the magic  

        What’s your 2017 Mantra?

        Octavia reese 2017 mantra magic
        2017 Mantra


        Dating…with Children PART 2: The Childless Other Person

        So, you’re smitten with a parent…but half of those kids’ chromosomes are not from you. Yikes.


        Not yikes! Shame on you! We’re awesome!

        OK, no shame, really. It’s totally acceptable. In my opinion, any aversion to dating a single parent is just as superficial as being primarily attracted to a certain skin color or body type. And the stigma of single parenthood is just as archaic as Jim Crow laws. Unfortunately, the philosophies still prevail today; they simply lurk under different headings  <ahem bathroom & gender ahem> [don’t get me started]  or are introduced with false acceptance such as, I’m fine with it, BUT...

        Save your big but.

        Abstaining from single parents is simply your preference. It’s also something you can get over – if you want to. But the cool thing about dating is that you get to date who you want. So if you’re likely to avoid dating a parent, that’s OK. This article is not for you. You can also jump onto chats like these and connect with your fellow brethren.

        Ok ok ok, maybe I’m a little bitter. But still. I’ve been burned. I’ll venture to average about 90% of men I’ve dated since my divorce that either went ghost or ended things because I’m a mom have come back, regretting their judgmental rush to rule me out. Well, as I’ve said before: 1. I’m awesome (along with many other single parents) and 2. I will not be back-burnered while you look for something better. Because when you come back feeling silly and want another try, this is what I’ll say: Nope.

        And I might sing this song.

        And I might make this face.


        On the other hand, if you are brave enough to think about entering into a relationship with a single parent or if you are already in a relationship with a single parent, here are some things to consider:

        1. It’s OK to say you’re not ready. So, yes, you are head over heels for a single parent. Praise Baby J. But you’re terrified to meet the kids. What if they don’t like you? What if you don’t like them? What if they’re naughtier than you expected? What if xn?

        Remember, you have a voice. If things are moving too fast for you, just speak up. Slow does not mean no. No means no. Asking to slow down isn’t rude or rejecting; it’s valid and healthy – especially for the kids. The same way kids deserve two happy and healthy parents, they deserve the happiest and healthiest version of YOU as the significant other. If you’re really with your Best Match, they’ll understand and respect your pace.

        Asking to slow down isn’t rude or rejecting; it’s valid and healthy – especially for the kids.

        1. Acknowledge what you’re in for. I’m reading this incredible book right now called Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortnberg. A section in the very beginning stood out to me and will stay with me forever:

        A friend of mine was ordering breakfast during a recent trip in the South. He saw grits on the menu, and being a Dutchman who spent most of his life in Michigan, he had never been very clear on the nature of this item. So he asked the waitress, “What exactly is a grit?”

        Her response was a classic. “Honey,” she said (in the South, waitresses are required by law to address all customers as “honey”), “Honey, they don’t come by themselves.”

        Grits don’t exist in isolation. No grit is an island, entire unto itself. Every grit is a part of the mainland, a piece of the whole. You can’t order a single grit. They’re a package deal.

        “Call it a clan, call it a tribe, call it a network, call it a family,” says Jane Howard. “Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” It is not good for man to be alone. Dallas Willard says, “The natural condition of life for human beings is reciprocal rootedness in others.” Honey, you don’t come by yourself.


        None of us come by ourselves. Even if you’re an anti-single-parent dater, you still have to deal with your lover’s mother(s), father(s), sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, cousins, best friends, work friends, kinda-friends, dogs, cats, lizards, fish…germs. Everyone comes with an arsenal of people and connections and microorganisms that you’re going to have to navigate anyway. So kids aren’t going to be that much more added to the circus for which you’ve already bought non-refundable tickets.

        Kids are a lot of work. They’re needy. They’re loud. They’re rude. They’re dirty. They’re messy. But they’re also hilarious. Compassionate. Honest. Adorable. Gentle. Affectionate. And they’ll teach you more about life than any fancy professor with a ton of letters after their name. You’ll feel drained, overwhelmed, terrified, uncertain, and you’ll probably doubt your decision at least three times a day.

        But children are, unfortunately (or fortunately?), temporary; just like any season, phase, and quite frankly, all of life. So enjoy the ride. Savor the moments. Take pictures. Smell the rain. Remember how tiny their hands are in yours. Remember how soft their fingertips are as they touch your face. Remember that joyful giggle.

        As I mentioned in PART 1, the kids will grow up, move out, chase their own dreams and start their own families. At the end of the day, you’ve just completed one of the grandest adventures with your Best Match and Life Partner. Isn’t it amazing what you two can accomplish together? It will be worth it.

        Remember how tiny their hands are in yours. Remember how soft their fingertips are as they touch your face. Remember that joyful giggle.

        1. Remember what we’re NOT. Single parents are not charity cases. We don’t want your pity. We don’t want favors. We are strong, resilient and dedicated. We are fierce and driven. We’re survivors. We don’t need you to be our hero because we’ve already become our own heroes –for ourselves and for our children. Please don’t date us thinking we need you or that karma is going to come rain goodies on you because you’ve taken in what others have kicked out. Remember that we’re just souls hoping for passionate unconditional human love like any other single person. If you think you’re doing some noble deed by dating a single parent, please leave us alone.

        Remember that we’re just souls hoping for passionate unconditional human love like any other single person.

        1. Know your role and know your value. You are engaging in a partnership with someone that could be – or is – your Best Match. Your role in their life and family is their Best Match. You are not a substitute parent (and PLEASE don’t even entertain the temptation to compete with or one-up the other parent). You are not a babysitter. You are not a disciplinarian. If you feel a lot of pressure to fill roles outside of significant other, speak up. Of course, joining in a lasting partnership involves sharing some responsibilities, but take a step back and consider how your presence lands in the kids’ world. It’s better to slow down and limit your time with the kids than to impose and confuse them. Remember that your presence might make them feel guilty; like they’re cheating on their other parent by enjoying your company. More on the kids point of view in Part 3…

        Your role to the children varies, depending on their age and developmental stage when you enter the scene, but you are always meaningful. As your relationship with the kids grows, you can be a huge asset – especially to older children. For teens in particular, you might be their preferred adult confidant and listening ear; they might open up to you more than they would their biological parent, trusting that you will guide them without shaming them. You can be a very powerful positive influence for them when they need a consistent and reliable presence the most; something really meaningful, filling a unique space between friend and parent.

        Joining in a lasting partnership involves sharing some responsibilities, but take a step back and consider how your presence lands in the kids’ world.

        1. Communicate – comfort level and expectations. I personally hold to the One Year Rule. When you have kids and you’re dissolving a marriage in the state of Illinois, you’re required to take an online course and pass an exam on successful co-parenting. It was actually very practical! (High Five, State of IL!) When it comes to significant others, the course recommends the One Year Rule; that you and your significant other have been consistently and officially dating for at least one year before making introductions to the kids. This is to protect the children – from confusion, from having too many inconsistent people coming in and out of their home, from getting attached and then getting heartbroken when you break up, from setting their relationship norm to a standard of “shallow” and “temporary,” and so forth.

        If one year is too long – or not long enough – speak up. As I mentioned in another article on starting a relationship off right, holding back your fears or reservations only plants seeds of resentment. Communication is the foundation to any relationship, no matter how intimate or minuscule. So speak up. Discuss. If you’re not comfortable sleeping over, say so. If you don’t want to watch the kids, don’t. If you’re not ready to be alone with the children, let it be known! Your successful and loving relationship with your significant other’s kids revolves around you being comfortable enough to be your Best Self. Those adorable kids deserve to receive the best version of you when you’re together.

        At the end of the day, you’ve just completed one of the grandest adventures with your Best Match and Life Partner. Isn’t it amazing what you two can accomplish together?

        So talk about the big things with your partner and check in to make sure you’re still on the same page. Coordinate schedules, make sure you have date nights, make sure your interactions with the kiddies are balanced – neither imposing nor scant – and if the other parent is in the picture, you’d better figure out how to cooperate with them, too! Grits, man. Amirite?


        Check back soon for PART 3: The Kids.


        Don’t Recover. Adapt.

        The news makes me want to vomit. I’m demoralized by the American presidential election, disgusted with the global rejection of those displaced by war, confused by war period, angry at routine segregation and oppression, and the rampant injustice and violence makes my insides curdle.

        But if recovery is getting back to normal and normal  is slaughtering, ravaging, ridiculing and degrading our neighbors, then I don’t want it. I don’t want to go back to a normal where fear begets discrimination and pride births peonage.

        I hate that we’ve almost forgotten about Emily Doe simply because another tragedy upstaged the atrocity. I hate it. I hate that we saunter from one sickening unnecessary evil to another. I hate the heartache. And somehow, this pain is so familiar to me.

        I stand in solidarity with Emily Doe. One night I shared a taxi with a close friend. We agreed to drop me off first. And then he asked to use my bathroom. Of course. Why not. I told him to use it and let himself out. I was exhausted and going to bed. I said goodbye. And then I woke up to the sound of my bed knocking against the wall; my sweatpants waistband closer to my knees than my ribs. I’ll stop there. I won’t say I was raped. He did stop. But I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months. I want to move. I want a new bed. I want to burn my sheets. Just like Emily wrote, “I wanted to take off my body like a jacket” and throw it out with the garbage. I still do. I get it, Emily. I ache with you.

        And Orlando. God. The agony radiates through my soul. My stomach crawls up into my throat every time I try to read the details of the horrific night. I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to lose someone to violence, too. I wish I wasn’t familiar with getting middle-of-the-night calls that someone has been shot. Killed. I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to huddle on the floor in a corner and pray the bullets miss you. And your brother. And your mom. I wish I hadn’t been to more funerals than weddings – two of them children, murdered in the streets. I wish I hadn’t lost my dad without saying goodbye. I get it. To all the family and friends off the victims, I ache with you.

        I don’t just empathize. I understand. I cry with you.  And it sucks. And it doesn’t get better. It doesn’t get easier. And I hope to God we don’t recover.

        re cov er

        As I – we – are surrounded by loss, I’ve realized two simple truths: 100% of people will die. 100% of people have faith (even if you believe in nothing, you must believe in that nothing with all of your soul). So it makes sense that 100% of people will experience grief at some point. Whether it is the loss of a life, the dissolution of a relationship, a stabbing violation of trust, the pain and betrayal is universal. You are not alone. 100% of people understand.

        All of us have experienced a version of emotional trauma that leaves us with a gaping void in our spirit.

        Most people will try to ignore the emptiness. It’s so much easier to remain where we are comfortable and unchallenged. We act like everything is fine. We try to recover. We try to go back to normal. But if recovery is getting back to normal and normal is slaughtering, ravaging, ridiculing and degrading our neighbors, then I don’t want it. I don’t want to go back to a normal where fear begets discrimination and pride births peonage.

        I don’t want to make a recovery to that. I want a relovery. I want to adapt. I pray that we will adapt.

        Adapt to lead with love.

        Adapt to allow space to grieve.

        Adapt to remember.

        Adapt to be nonjudgmental of our neighbors. All of our neighbors.

        Adapt to look within ourselves first.

        Adapt to identify our prejudices and control our actions.

        Adapt to own our emotions.

        Adapt to respect others’ emotions.

        Adapt to uplift others’ decisions.

        Adapt to celebrate our differences.

        Adapt to be a willing student.

        Adapt to use I-phrases; not you-phrases.

        Adapt to stop blaming.

        Adapt to admit fault.

        Adapt to apologize.

        Adapt to be brave.

        Adapt to let go.

        Adapt to name our fears, insecurities, and silence them from the inside out.

        Adapt to improve someone’s life, not take advantage of it.

        Adapt to honor your neighbor as yourself.

        Adapt to make unselfish decisions.

        Adapt to protect and care for strangers.

        Adapt to ask for help.

        Adapt to constructively cope with dissonance.

        Adapt to release control.

        Adapt to include instead of condemn.

        Adapt to be confident.

        Adapt to know when to stop.

        Adapt to speak up.

        Adapt to accept.

        Adapt to back off.

        Adapt to listen.

        Adapt to learn someone’s story.

        Adapt to see people.

        Adapt to be thoughtful. Curious. Caring. Gentle.

        Adapt to be kind.

        Adapt to heal.

        Adapt to unite.

        Adapt to forgive.

        Adapt to understand.

        Adapt to empathize.

        Adapt to love.

        This much I know is true: we will find a new normal. We’ll eventually stop crying every day. One day, we’ll stop thinking about it every day. One night, we won’t have nightmares, or cry ourselves to sleep. Or replay the instant over and over again. One day we won’t occupy that strange space of something that is ending. One day relief will come for longer than a handful of minutes a few times a day.

        One day we won’t occupy that strange space of something that is ending.

        But some days the sadness will feel fresh again. Real. Surface-level. Raw. It might be in a year. It might be in five years. It might be in two months. We might get dizzy when the wave hits us. When what’s left of that empty pit of loss peeks out from our core and tugs at our memories. It could be a smell. Or a song. Or a stranger’s voice in the distance that has an eerily familiar cadence. It won’t get easier. It won’t get better. But we will adapt.


        #speakwoman #prayfororlando #peacefororlando #gaypride #orlandopride #weareorlando #adapt #recover #stoptheviolence #regrouprebootrebuild #emilydoe #rape #roadtorelovery

        What Are Negging & Gaslighting? Abuse, That’s What.

        Earlier this week, I shared an article about Training Your Partner/How to Start a Relationship off Right and I fittingly, had the opportunity to put Step 5 into practice this week, too (see my final word below).

        I had been on a few dates with someone and there were red flags that I noticed but chose to ignore in the name of being mature and responsible and giving this person the benefit of the doubt. Once I followed my own advice, Steps 1-4, it was most definitely time for Step 5. Why? Because he was exhibiting abusive behavior. It was subtle, sneaky. I didn’t really see it happening. He was a fun and pleasant person, and I genuinely enjoyed his company. But in the midst of our good time, he would insult me and challenge me so regularly, I started to feel inadequate. And then I realized why: I was allowing myself to endure abuse.

        Finally, there are names for these patterns. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s time to learn, look and listen. Equip yourself and be aware: This. Is. Abuse.


        Negging is that tricky subtle negative garbage that is intended to knock down your confidence just enough so that you’ll be more <air quotes> approachable. The Neg-slinger hopes to pique your interest for being seemingly so disinterested with you that they treat you as if you’re nothing special. AKA passive aggressive insults. AKA bullying.

        In this article, where negging is introduced as a pick-up method complete with tips and tricks for using the best neg at the best time to get the girl you want, the author also warns against using the negging <air quotes>“technique” inappropriately, where is comes out as an actual insult. Well guess what, it is an actual insult. Negging is bullying. Negs are passive aggressive self-esteem-crushing blows no matter how you want to define and refine it. Negging is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Do not put up with it.

        Some that I heard recently:

        “Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

        “Omigod, I can’t believe you’re not wearing tights. That dress is so short. Aren’t you cold?”

        “Three kids, huh? What’d the third one do walk outta there?”

        “Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

        Please imagine my face in response. There were no words. <Negger, please.>



        Have you ever been made to feel like you don’t remember things correctly, or your judgement is off, or that you’re just plain going crazy? Yes, that’s a thing. That’s an abuse thing. It’s called gaslighting. Gaslighting is when your abuser makes you question your own sanity.

        “Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

        The term owes its origin to the 1938 play Gas Light and its film adaptations. The term has been used in clinical and research literature.” (Wikipedia)

        “Wow, you totally made that up.”

        Unfortunately, gaslighting and negging can go hand in hand. Because in the context where you might actually stand up for yourself against a neg, a gaslighter might say:

        “Wow, you totally made that up.”
        “You’re just too sensitive.”
        “I’ll talk to you when you’re not PMSing.”

        No, a-hole you need to stop being a jerk. It’s not me. It’s you. I’m not internalizing things incorrectly; you are saying hurtful things and you need to stop.

        Gaslighting is a high-stakes mind-game for control of your emotional and psychological dependence. Be aware. Your experience, perception, and opinions are all valid, especially when you feel hurt.
        Emotional abuse is brutal. It peels back your skin and digs its nails into your most vulnerable places. It’s an infection that seeps into your soul, telling you there’s something wrong with you; you’re not good enough; you’re a disappointment; no one wants you. Emotional abuse speaks life into whatever your self-defeating thoughts are. It crumbles you from the inside out, ultimately making you fully dependent upon the abuser as you fight for their approval. But it will never come. You will bend over to satisfy them, but they are insatiable. You’ll fear the same rejection by a stranger so you want to stay where its comfortable. At least you have someone right?


        Be strong, be confident. Even if you have to do it alone. You deserve to be happy, comfortable and fully accepted by yourself as well as in your relationships. If someone isn’t making you feel seen, loved and valued, then you deserve better.

        So, here’s what I sent to my once-gentleman caller after I had certainly endured quite enough of both his negging and gaslighting:

        I just listened to your message. Let me be clear that I am not now and was not Friday riled up, angry, or upset; nor have I overreacted. I am very calm and matter-of-fact. I know what kind of man I want to share my time with and energy on and you have simply shown that you are not that man. Plain and simple.
        We are not married. I am not obligated to keep company with someone who has imposed negative critique on both my physical figure and my home in addition to continually taking a teacher/preacher tone with me as if I need to learn lessons in patience, wisdom, confidence and my family relationships. I have the right not to entertain a relationship where I do not feel fully accepted and cared-for as-is. I do not need to be coached/changed/fixed/improved/educated and if I do I will take the initiative myself, not because you told me to.
        I appreciate your effort after the fact, but I cannot trust words, only the actions you have shown me and what you have shown me is that you want to be with someone tidier, more physically fit, and willing to be lectured. I am not that person. I am quite comfortable in my skin and in my apartment and I am mature enough to handle my own relationships and decisions without you imposing unsolicited advice.
        In your next relationship I do hope you do not imply her body or home need improvement. Most women will not respond well to that or as mildly as I have. Also, thank you but no thank you for dinner. If you’ve already got one foot in DC, I really don’t see the point even if you managed to stop casually insulting me on a regular basis. I’m certain there is someone that is a better fit for you as I am sure there is for me as well. Good luck.

        AND SCENE. Do not settle. Be strong. Advocate for yourself. It is much better to be alone and healthy and happy, than in a relationship that is defeating and miserable.