S A N K O F A

I’m crossing into the next decade wrapped in the arms of SANKOFA — that go back and get it, your baggage made you amazing, your past is the seasoning to your future, can’t grow without roots feeling that I am who I am because of what I experienced — and that is a glorious empowering feeling. I’m embracing the last ten years and moved to tears about what the next ten have in store. I’ve got so many feels. So much to be grateful for. I have the best kids in the galaxy. I have the best friends in the universe. I am so fluffing excited and overflowing with love. Here’s a recap:

DAY WORK:

SLAYING. Best year ever. I have a growing positive reputation under new leadership, which is opening doors to meaningful shifts in my own career and for the future of our team. Plus I love saying that I work at one of the leading children’s hospitals in the country. Even though I don’t see patients, my work is meaningful and the cause is worthy.

LIFE WORK:

  • I started producing two new podcasts but lost motivation on one of them — detailed by an issue to be mentioned later.
  • I only published one new book this year when I intended to publish two or three. BUT I PUBLISHED ANOTHER BOOK!
  • I wrote and recorded a short film score.
  • I appeared in one film and two TV shows.
  • I started a new manuscript — thats three novels in the wings, not including The Hibouleans.
  • SEVERAL incredible book events from Detroit to Aurora and I was so honored to share a panel at Wakandacon with groundbreaking black SFF novelists.
  • I danced all over Chicago — Grant Park, cubbie bear, links hall and in both airports!
  • And I got to perform a few shows in Chicago and Michigan with an incredible band.

I have a few other ideas in the works to come out in 2020 😍😍😍

PERSONAL WINS:

I got a new bed! I had been sleeping on the same mattress I had since I was 16 🤣 I feel like a whole grown up now!

I went on an epic adventure — I’ve always been a spontaneous risk taker but because of LIFE I hadn’t left the country in 15 years. It was a profound shift in my self worth and manifesting my dreams.

I joined a new church community that is nurturing and affirming in all the ways I need right now with little Octavia-shaped spaces for me to serve the community too.

And Morrison DaVinci Coltrane Reese AKA MUPPET has joined our family!!!!

ROMANCE:

I was intentionally dateless in 2018… I thought I was ready to dive back in in 2019 but I wasn’t. What I won’t do: I will not *look* for someone. I will not chase someone that doesn’t emphatically reciprocate a desire to be with me. I will not settle. I will not be ridiculed. What I will do: I’m going to keep taking time to meet my own needs, date myself, have fun with myself and be open to the truth that who is for me will come to me with unconditional acceptance 🥰

I got married before I was ready. I had kids before I was ready. I got a divorce before I was ready. I’ve been playing catch-up my whole adult life barely making ends meet.

MONEY:

Finances continue to be painful for me. I got married before I was ready. I had kids before I was ready. I got a divorce before I was ready. I’ve been playing catch-up my whole adult life barely making ends meet. BUT my lights are on and I refuse to let my children grow up the way I did… On someone else’s couch. In someone else’s bed. Doing homework by candlelight. Never having friends over… and I’m certain 2020 is the year when things flip. For the best. And I will never have to have a neck pain, a stomach ache, a twitching eye over money again!

MESSES:

I’m getting sued! It’s a long and agonizing process. If you ask me privately, I’ll direct you to public records. But I won’t comment publicly at this time.

FRIENDS:

I have been practicing intentional friendship the last year or two. Realizing that I’ve always been a bit awkward and I never knew how to do it properly, it’s taken a considerable effort to emphatically reciprocate true friendship. And let me tell you: I HAVE THE BEST FRIENDS. Regardless of the state or country, you spoil me. You remind me that I’m fun and worthy and beautiful and lovable. You know my love languages. In addition to the best gifts ever, you bring me unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness when I flake. And you never stop. You see me. I am so grateful for your love and laughter. And I am doing my best to mirror it back and reflect big shiny love all over you too. Ok I have to stop because I’m crying.

GROWTH:

Remembering The Force is real. Shifting my inner dialogue. Maintaining healthy boundaries. Advocating for myself — being assertive is not being “mean.” More tattoos. More travel. More 🦆 YES moments. 😁😅🥰

Cheers to 2020

~OR

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

date a man who knows you are magical…

You are magical.

Hopefully you know this already. Date a man who knows it too.

A man who smiles when you speak of wings, dragons and is not afraid of the wild tangle of your imagination.

A man who willingly submits to the spell of your lips on his.

A man who joins you when you chant—who does not run away when your gaze turns inward.

Such a man remembers the sacred power of women that made him, shaped him and taught him to love. He has not forgotten to respect the Earth and her denizens. He has not forgotten to respect you.

Date a man who knows you are magical, yet does not fear nor hate that mystery in you—for this man is your equal. He will challenge your pride with his own, will check your obstinacy with his, will honor your intelligence by matching it.

When you momentarily forget the brilliance of the light you carry, the silvered glass of his knowing will reflect it for you.

When doubt eclipses the glow that sustains you, his faith will ease it.

This man, of course, is magical too. Truly, what is more powerful than being able to recognize magic in others? If you encounter him, you will not fall, but rather grow, in love—the simplest magic of all.

He will leave you room to expand, while never going too far when you wish to tell him a story. He will learn your secrets and teach you his.

When he lays upon the ground, he listens to the pulse of the world and when he lays his head upon your chest, he does the same. He knows the incantation of your footsteps by heart—carries the charm of your gaze in his pocket.

Date a man who knows you are magical and make sure he knows he is magical too. No potion nor powder could conjure an apparition half as powerful.

Meet him at the witching hour and watch the magic fly.

~

Author: Toby Israel

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

[repost from http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/02/date-a-man-who-knows-you-are-magical/]

~OR

why men go crazy around the holidays pt. II / lock on my box

Well, Episode 3 is here. I started out examining why men — really past dates of any gender — seem to make a grand return around the holidays… and then it turned into my first ever song and dance on film (and by film, I mean microscopic digital storage space). Once again, I had to take the “what the hell” state of mind on this and just put it out there. Enjoy.

~OR

random reflection…

I just had a fantastic holiday performance with my orchestra CMSO at St. Raph’s in Naperville.

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And thanks to an incredibly supportive and selfless dear friend, my three boys were able to catch the “holiday pops” end of the show. They loved it. They were so thrilled to not only attend their first orchestra concert but watch their mommy up on stage. They recognized the pieces from The Nutcracker, The Polar Express score and tons of other holiday favorites. And they watched other children their ages perform too.
And then I thought…I’m a performer. I love being on stage. I love having family and friends in the audience. I love it. Love it!
And then I realized how long it had been since family or friends actually came to my shows…
So here’s the thought: if you’re a performer and your significant other expresses zero interest in watching you do your thing, just sit with that for a minute and ask why. Yes, invite him or her. Let them know their presence is welcomed and appreciated. But honestly, you shouldn’t have to. Do they need to be pageant mom front and center of every show? No. In fact, that’d be creepy. But it should be second nature for someone that truly cares for you to want to show you that by supporting your passions.

And if your significant other is a performer, support them. Show up. Being flowers. And then give him or her a big fat kiss.

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Support the arts.

~OR

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