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:

Ubuntu.

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.

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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.

Wait…

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.

comeback

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.

~OR

How to Train Your Man: Tips for Creating Your Ideal Significant Other

In short, there’s really only one necessary step in training your significant other.

Step One: NOPE

The End.

As a woman, single and sorta-looking, I cringe every time I hear the phrase, “I’m still training my husband [wife] [boyfriend] [girlfriend].”

CRINGE. SHUDDER. HISS.

Because the following are things that can and should be trained: pets, skills, muscles, hair, plants. An adult human is not one of those things. Now don’t get me wrong, if you have the trainer/trainee relationship and that works for you, then more power to you and that role-playing synergy. Thank God you two found each other.

But the mentality that someone should pick the closest prototype to their perfect partner with expectations to shape and groom them into that perfect partner is an idea I hope can be quickly eradicated from our social-majority thought. Not only is it unfair to the “trainer” because they are obviously settling and compromising their standards, but it is abusive for the “trainee” to live under constant scrutiny and judgement from the person that should love them the most, unconditionally. The “trainee” has the right to be themselves, relax and be comfortable in the intimacy of home.

Therefore, I offer this alternative title:

Learning Love Together:  Five Tips to Starting a New Relationship off Right

  1. Get Real. No One is Perfect.

There’s a thing I like to call the Prince Charming Syndrome. It involves being exposed to stories and movies that illustrate some perfect romance, budding with a delicious tension, finally blooming into a flawless, uncomplicated union, and they lived happily ever after.

Lies.

Coming from a single-parent home, I didn’t have a daily relationship to set the bar for me. Really, my only examples of marriage or any long-term relationship included my married-and-divorced-three-times mother; my godparents, who remained married but lived separately for several years and argued – both earnestly and jokingly – incessantly; and…The Huxtables. So, if it isn’t obvious, my perception of life partnerships was a bit skewed.  With Hollywood as my standard, I suffered from that Prince Charming Syndrome. And swiftly abandoned every relationship that required any effort or working through issues. By the time I had developed a relationship work ethic, my marriage of almost ten years was beyond my own repair. All affection was a distant memory and my vision of the future was 180 degrees away from his. So I valiantly galloped off into an opposing sunset.

The more I put myself out there, post-divorce, embarking on a spree of great and not-so-great dates, I realized, everyone is different and no one is flawless – no one is a particular upgrade or downgrade from my once-spouse.

Everyone comes from issues, passed down from their parents, passed down from their parents, and everyone internalizes, suffers from, responds to, and exhibits those characteristics differently. Some people are aware of those traits, others are not. Some issues lay dormant for years, awakening with a specific trigger, while others rear their ugly heads early and often and speak louder than words. And depending on how those negative qualities land in the significant others’ world (don’t forget the significant other comes along with their own cocktail of problems), the possibilities for volatile mixtures are endless.

So then what?

Be introspective. Take the time and energy to know yourself.

And be thoughtful. Take the time and energy to know your significant other.


  1. Learning Each Other Takes Time and Communication.

Team projects in the workplace involve a handful of key factors that make or break the outcome: intentional leadership, setting expectations, proactive communication. This directly translates into relationships.

The success of every relationship hinges upon this openness. I know, this is a typical date-killer, the DTR (Define the Relationship) Talk. But really, I don’t want my time wasted and I don’t want to waste someone else’s time either. It’s OK to set boundaries, timelines, communication norms and preferences, and be clear about what you hope this developing relationship looks like. Letting your new partner know ahead of time, “I don’t text every day,” or “I’m more of a caller than a texter,” or “I’m not ready to fall in love, but I want to get to know you better,” are all very reasonable things to say on a first date – better yet, before the first date. If your relationship is lacking these basics, as time moves on, resentment will infect your partnership and slowly eat away every fiber of your connection.

Proactive communication and setting expectations are not things that happen naturally or automatically, either. Someone has to take the lead. Ideally, both partners would happily co-pilot their Ship of Love as it pulls out of Infatuation Harbor. However, this might not be both partners’ forte. If the responsibility falls more on one side than the other, make sure this too is communicated and accepted. If not, it could easily be another foothold for resentment; where one partner feels they are doing all the work to maintain the health of the relationship and the other is absent at the helm.

Set the tone early so that unrealistic expectations are not assumed, feelings are not hurt, and your new relationship doesn’t implode in the first month.


  1. Honoring Each Other Takes Selflessness.

In order to truly honor your partner, you have to bend sometimes. Yes, compromise. When I was a kid and my godmother would resolve spats between my brother and me, she would say, “You guys have to compromise.” It felt like slander. An expletive. Profanity. I want what I want when I want it even if it’s not my toy. Gimme! But she was right. Compromise is the only way to resolve partnership issues. However, unlike childhood squabbles, the compromise cannot take place out of guilt or because Auntie said so.  In a relationship, it must be done with love, compassion and selflessness. If not, enter that sepsis of bitterness once again. Honoring your significant other means selflessly compromising, and doing it with joy, not obligation.


 

  1. There is Give-and-Take

OK, let’s face it: adulating is hard. There are things are just a big fat huge annoying pain to do. Like sorting dirty laundry. Washing it. Drying it. Folding it. And putting it away. Ironing. Dishes. Putting away dishes. Sweeping. Mopping. Vacuuming. Unfortunately, they all have to be done. Even worse, they all have to be done over and over and over again. The absolute worst thing is when you’re in a relationship and you’re still doing everything despite this partner that can’t seem to help. Or this partner that not only doesn’t help but makes things worse, i.e. putting dirty dishes near the sink rather than in the sink or dumping dirty laundry on the floor rather than in the hamper. These little annoying things can set your soul ablaze with rage, or give you one more opportunity to remember that no one is perfect, you can proactively communicate, set realistic expectations, and lovingly compromise.

Let’s take the latter. Perhaps you hate doing laundry but don’t mind the dishes? Trade. Instead of expecting your partner to perform perfectly the thing they avoid the most, set your expectation to, “This is my job,” and release them from the responsibility. Allow them to take over something that you equally abhor. Better yet, if your hate is mutual and one of the things that draws you together, alternate days and make it a game. Reward yourselves with a romantic game or some QT alone when all the chores are done.


  1. It’s OK to Say, “This Isn’t Right.”

A lot of us are raised to avoid rejection conversations (why many people go ghost when something in the relationship has turned them off; it’s just easier – inconsiderate, but easier) or to do it as politely and delicately as possible (which is just annoying if you’re the one getting dumped). But guess what? It’s OK – no, more than OK – it’s healthy to speak up and say, “This isn’t working for me.”

It’s OK to voice a situation where your partner has made you feel uncomfortable, and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it to work through that breakdown or if the situation is unforgivable and you’re just done. The point here is that you have the power and the right to stand up for what you want to get out of your relationship. And if it’s not working, it. Is. O. K. You don’t get Brownie points for putting up with a relationship that isn’t meeting your needs. Stand up for yourself. An unhealthy relationship is not better than being alone.

I recently decided to make a list of must-haves and a list of deal breakers. If we make the same lists for homes, vehicles, other big parts of our life that require both a significant investment and a considerable commitment, then why not do it for the person we expect to share our beds, meals, hearts, and life with for eternity? To be clear, this is not a check list with boxes and dating is not a job interview. But it is valid to outline characteristics you hope your partner will possess, as well as a list of things for which you absolutely will not settle. Don’t make exceptions that ultimately force you to smile through your misery or slowly waste away until nothing of your soul remains. Don’t sell yourself short. You owe it to yourself to be fully loved and fully happy; and your partner deserves it too. If you make too many exceptions and excuses, you’re condemning both of you to an unfair compromise that will crumble your life force and extinguish your zest.

At the top of my list: ability to show unconditional love. Unconditional because I want to be able to relax with my partner, be vulnerable and open with zero fear of judgement or abandonment.

And I don’t want to be improved. I’m not a puppy. I’m not a professor. I do not want to train or be trained. I just want to walk alongside someone and be cherished. Don’t we all?

~OR

Before Memorial Day

It’s a holiday. While I’m on-call, many of my fellow Americans are doing the yooj: gushing over the all-too-rare magic of a long weekend without the sacrifice of one priceless Vacation Day or a sacred PTO cash-in. Yes, one of those Mondays that has something to do with the military and too many of us have no idea whether it is Memorial, Labor or Veterans Day. The only thing that triggers brain activity: Day. Off. Fer’ Murica.

It’s the unofficial start of summer with a widespread epidemic of day drinking, lounging, sun poisoning and wishing for still just one more day like this.

Don’t wait until you almost lose someone to see someone.

One more day. It’s Memorial Day. What we’re supposed to think of is those that are serving, those that returned from serving, those that died serving, and those that disappeared serving. This video (again, wrong Monday Military holiday, but same thing…), really got me in the feels:

 

There’s something beautiful and aching about the desperate, automatic, instinctual throwing of limbs around the body of someone you love and miss…like you have to touch them with as much of your bodily surface area as possible and you’ll never let them go again.

My boys hug me like this. It almost brings me to tears each time. I want to freeze the moment and hold them forever. And I know one day they’ll be too cool for me. One day, they’ll start doubting and pulling back and refraining. One day, they’ll tone it down like the rest of us.

We’re muted. We’re diluted. Until we experience the threat of loss. Until that stabbing wake-up call;  that one instant it takes for us to start seeing each other again.

I wish these stunningly passionate wordless expressions of deep affection were more common. I wish we’d be like eager uninhibited children, or the military-relative that has been on-edge for two years or more. I wish we would greet family before leaving for work on the Tuesday after a nice long holiday weekend  and instantly do the same when that awful vacation-hangover workday is over.

Don’t wait until you almost lose someone to see someone. They don’t even have to be in uniform. Hold them now. Embrace them before they’re deployed. Before the diagnosis. Before the accident. Before the 911 call. Before the coma. Before the hospice. Before the abandoned Facebook profile. Before the memorial. Before the void. Before the hole in your spirit. Before they are a memory. Go cling to someone you love while you have them.

Happy Memorial Day.

~OR

What? No.

I knew I had to save these or no one would believe me…

IMG_7796.PNG

And PS don’t get bug-eyed…for anyone that knows me personally and is doing the divorce math, the Good Pastor and I had a discussion and after asking him several times if he was certain of divorce (are you SURE are you SURE are you SURE??) he gave me permission to start browsing the field while legally separated. Yes, I asked his permission. Why? Because. #thegoodwife

~OR