All Things Considered…..

Life is messy, people are irrational and nothing is perfect. All things considered, I am still here. Turning 41 today has been great and has been a time of reflection. When I turned 40, I had a sudden sense of dread because my “list” was not done. I had a list of “should have dones” I felt were mandatory to have completed before my birthday. Needless to say I didn’t finish it. What was I going to do? I wanted to have these things checked off and done. I felt like this list equated success and since it was incomplete I was somehow unsuccessful.  After sitting in the feeling of dread for a while, I finally decided what I was going to do. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I decided to live instead. Don’t misunderstand me, I am an organized person who likes to plan but I no longer wanted to equate success or happiness with things or a list. I gave myself permission to not be so rigid, but instead take life as it comes. By the grace of God, hard work and a great support system, I have overcome many obstacles in life. I have and will continue to help people along the way because I feel like that is the reason we are here. That is success.

I leave you with this short poem I wrote in honor of turning 41 today. I am excited about what the next year has to bring. I know there will be wrong turns, detours, delays and maybe even some stop signs. Life is a journey and I am constantly learning and growing. I will survive it and be a better person for it.

 Okay

 I didn’t get the promotion, but I still have JOBS, I am okay.

I didn’t get the house I thought I wanted at the time, but I have a fabulous place and a roof over my head, I am okay.

I didn’t get the date I thought I was not going to be able to survive without, I am okay.

I have defeated some Goliath’s this year that I never thought I could face, I am okay.

Thank you God for not giving me what I thought I wanted, but what I needed instead. I am more than okay…. I am truly blessed.

 

 

 

 

Life Beyond The Snapshots….

I remember when I was in college and I was asked to write a paper in my Philosophy class on a picture or painting that was important to us.  I chose the oil painting of my father. He was in his colorful dashiki while he was in the Navy. My father looked invincible in that painting. He looked so strong, confident and fearless in that exact moment. The painting is hanging in my home office and I have the pleasure of looking at it on a daily basis. I find myself smiling with an overwhelming sense of pride for my father.  On the days I can manage to look at it without crying, I can’t help but wonder what was really going on in his life at that time. He was young, handsome and in the Navy. What could he possibly have to worry about right? Wrong! He was away from home, he missed his family and the Navy was not all glitz and glamour. He was human and he never claimed to have the perfect life. I often times wish I would have discussed this painting with him before he passed away. Unfortunately I did not know it existed until after he was gone.

I really get enjoyment out of looking at photos. I stare at them and wonder what the person was going through at that time in their life or what they were thinking at the exact moment the photo was taken. As I reflect on some of the  pictures I have taken throughout the years, I laugh because although I may have looked as if I had it all together, it was a completely different story before and after it was taken.  I am looking at a picture my friends and I took while we were in graduate school. We were at Pappadeux’s laughing and smiling as if we did not have a care in the world. Quite the contrary, life was coming at me from all directions. There were days I did not know how I was going to finish all the tasks I had to get done.  During this time in my life, I had a lot going on. I was working full time while attending graduate school full time. It was hard to balance home, work and graduate school. I was feeling home sick because my father was alive during that time and I missed him so much. I called home daily just to hear his voice.  I was even dealing with HS, but I did not have a diagnosis at that time. I had these cysts that would appear out of nowhere.  I was in pain daily. I was not able to share it with anyone because I did not think they would understand.  You could not tell any of these things just by looking at my snapshot.

With the popularity of social media, it is easy for people to get caught up in envy when it comes to other people. When you look at Facebook , Instagram or any other media  platform, you see people always on vacation, going out with friends or shopping. I have heard people say how it makes their lives look boring and they find themselves depressed after being on social media. The pictures we see are but a snapshot of their lives. Rarely do we get to see the crying children, overdue bills, break-ups or the other imperfect moments we have daily.  Life was going on before the snapshot and will continue after it as well. All we do is capture moments in time.  Each and every one of us have a different journey. It is important we follow our own journey and not envy or compare our lives to someone else’s snapshot.

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I Know…..

I know are two simple words that can take various tones when used. When parents ask their kids to remember to clean their room or finish their homework, kids typically say “I know!” As adults when we hear something we think we already know, we tend to interrupt the speaker by abruptly shouting   “I know!”  I know can also be used as a positive confirmation.  I was talking to my nephew Jay yesterday and I told him I loved him. Jay said “TT I know.” I could not stop smiling. My heart was filled with joy and I responded with a “thank you sweetheart.” It actually made me stop and think about how many people actually know they are loved.

For someone to know that you love them is so important. There are people that use the word very loosely and sometimes it’s hard to take them seriously. It is important to stop and think about who you tell and how you show people you love them. Do you only say the word without action or do you show the person the best way you know how. Not only do I tell my nephew whenever I speak to him I love him, but I also call him to check on him. We text each other just to say hi. I let him know he can come and talk to me about anything free of judgement.  When I go back home to visit, I make sure I spend as much time with him as I possibly can.  Here are some other ways you can put your love into action for your family and friends so they know you care.

  • Encourage their dreams
  • Be physically and mentally there as much as possible
  • Really listen to them
  • Write a letter or send a text
  • Set clear boundaries
  • Celebrate a recent success
  • Share and make good memories together

A Delay Is Not A Denial

I think it is fair to say we live in an instant gratification society. We don’t want to wait on anything nowadays. Once we decide we want something, we want it right then and there. Standing in lines, being on hold or sitting in traffic is often times seen as the bane of our existence. I shamefully admit I am guilty of  being impatient at times. Atlanta traffic will cause even the most Zen person to want to turn around and go back home. The traffic report tells us to expect delays on certain routes, but for some reason when it happens we act as if we didn’t hear anything ahead of time. Rather than wait for our product, an answer to our question or arrival to our destination, we would rather leave or give up all together.

For some reason we tend to feel like a delay is a denial. As if there is someone telling us  “No!” without any explanation. I recently placed an order with Amazon and was guaranteed free 2 day shipping. I ordered an item for my mother to take home to her at the end of the month. Yes, you read it right, the end of the month. I placed the order on a Tuesday and it was supposed to arrive in the mail by the end of business day on the following Thursday. When I checked the mail on Thursday there was no package. I even waited an hour and went back to check again, just in case the postman was running late. The package did not arrive as promised. I was so upset. I wanted my package so that I could check it off my list and put it directly in my trunk.  When I got back home, I immediately got on the phone with Amazon to attempt to track down my package. The representative apologized for the delay in delivery of my package and began her search. I have to admit I was initially upset and I felt like canceling the order. The representative asked me if I wanted to return the item for a full refund. That was when I had a moment of clarity about my package. 2 day shipping is a nice incentive, but things do not always go as planned. Life happens and at the end of the day (maybe not that particular day) I was still going to get my package. The package was important because it was for my mother, but it would be 3 weeks before I would get it to her. The arrival date didn’t seem to be as important and I thought it was. I told the representative no thank you and I would wait on my package. She credited $5.00 to my account for the inconvenience .

Frustration and impatience comes along with living everyday life. Practicing patience when something is delayed will not only help us calm down in the present, but help us become more mindful when similar situations occur in the future.

 

The Bigger Picture….

As a counselor, I am familiar with The Serenity Prayer. It’s used frequently with individuals working on their issues with addiction.  I can remember when I first began to familiarize myself with the prayer, I thought it was so profound. Not only were you asking for help from God, but you were realizing you were not in control of everything.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I memorized it word for word and used it not only while working with others, but when I felt myself becoming anxious about things beyond my control.

Yesterday I was asked by a colleague if I knew the Serenity Prayer. Of course I happily said “Yes!” I recited the prayer aloud. Then I was asked about the rest of the prayer. ” I sat there like a student called upon in class with a pounding heart that did not know the answer to the question. I reluctantly admitted I said all I knew of the prayer. When she presented the rest of the prayer to me, I was literally speechless. It was so beautiful. There was so much more to the prayer that I have been missing all of this time. It read like a beautiful note written to God asking Him for guidance to make it through this life so that we can meet Him in the next. I discovered the bigger picture on my narrow day to day view of the prayer.  I hope when you read this prayer, it makes your heart smile as it did mine. May it inspire you the way it inspired me.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

 

Who Do You Think You Are?

One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is who am I?  As you were reading the sentence, did you actually think about it?  Did you have an answer right away or did you defer to a memory of what someone else said about you? Things like, my friends say I am funny or my mother says I am sweet. Going back to those thoughts happens more often times than not because so many people really don’t know what or how to think about themselves.

When we don’t know what to think about ourselves, we tend to depend on other people to tell us who we are. This causes a significant problem in our lives.  Anytime you need something that comes from someone else, you are at their mercy. If they don’t give you what you need , such as an identity, you end up in a tremendous amount of confusion or pain. You will end up trying to be someone you’re not. Your actions and behaviors will be based on someone else’s opinion of you and not your own.

Knowing who you are is very important in order to make it in life. People will speak or think negative things about you for no reason at all. People form opinions about you such as you are mean, unloved, dumb and any other cruel thing they can think of because they may be feeling that way about themselves. Just because it’s said about you, does not mean you have to identify with it. What you think about yourself is what matters. If you don’t know what to think about yourself start thinking about who you want to be. I am so glad I started telling my son positive affirmations when he was just a boy. I told him he came from kings and queens. I told him he was strong and a good person. I also told him he was smart and powerful. I made sure he knew he was loved and I was proud of him. Whether or not he listened was not important, as long as I affirmed great things to him was all that mattered.  Know who you are and your self worth because if you don’t someone else will tell you. I want to share some affirmations I say to myself as often as I can to help me along the way. Feel free to use them for yourself.

  • I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming today
  • There will be some times today when I smile.
  • I am a powerful person.
  • I’m glad that I still have time in this life to do the things I want to do.
  • I am superior to negative thoughts and low actions.
  • My efforts are being supported by God; my dreams manifest into reality before my eyes.
  • Though these times are difficult, they are only a short phase of life.
  • I am blessed with an incredible family and wonderful friends.
  • I am conquering my illness; I am defeating it steadily each day.
  • Everything that is happening now is happening for my ultimate good.

It Happened On A Thursday Night….

I really enjoy binge watching old television shows. I get excited about viewing things from the adult perspective. Watching the shows as a child, I was focusing more on the fashion and the celebrities.  Now I get a chance to see the things I missed and learn a few lessons in the process.  The latest show I have been watching is “The Cosby Show”.  Just seeing the title of the show made me laugh. It automatically took me back to my childhood. I couldn’t wait to get home from school on Thursday. There was no time to play around. Homework, dinner and a bath had to be done so there would be no interruptions.  The house was quiet when the show came on. There was a strict no talking rule. I can even remember a time when not being able to watch the show was part of my punishment for getting in trouble at school. I thought my life was over. Since everyone I knew watched the show, it was the first thing we talked about at school on Friday morning. If I didn’t watch it, what was I going to do while everyone else was talking about it?

As I sit and watch each episode, I become so overwhelmed with so many positive emotions. (My dad was alive when this show was on and I am really missing him right now)  When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was one of the Cosby kids. Now I realize, I was one. Well, I was a Cobb kid and that was better than a Cosby kid.  I had everything they had,  except the fame. I couldn’t see it then, but it is so clear now.  I actually scribbled a list in my journal.

  • They had nice clothes. I had nice clothes.
  • Their parents had good jobs. My parents had good jobs.
  • Their parents loved them. My parents loved me.
  • They had a nice house. I had a nice house.
  • They had a two parent home. I had 3 parents and a multitude of aunts & uncles. My grandmothers and great grandmothers were alive when I was young too.
  • They had friends. I had friends, but even better I had a gang of cousins. My cousins were my friends that I got to be around all the time.
  • Their parents were very involved with their school life. Not only were my parents involved, but so were my grandparents, aunts and uncles.

The one thing that had such a profound influence on my life from “The Cosby Show” is this show was the reason I knew wanted to go to college one day. It was amazing to see all of those smart and beautiful black people together. I was introduced to sororities and fraternities and I wanted to be a part of it all. Of course my parents had told me I should grow up and go to college, but they didn’t make it seem as fun as the show did.  They talked about getting a good job and providing for a family. That sounded too much like hard work, so I wasn’t keen on the idea until I saw the show. My life was changed forever. I wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, professor and a professional student.  My major did not matter as long as I attended Hillman University. My dreams took a slight detour when I discovered Hillman was a fictional institution. I was hurt, but I got over it because I still wanted to go to college. Fiction or not, I think Hillman served its purpose for me and many black children growing up at the time.

I consider myself fortunate to have grown up with the immeasurable amount of support I had.  I have come across so many people who not only didn’t have support, but they didn’t have a family. When I tell stories about the mischief I would get into with my cousins, some people look as me as if I was speaking a foreign language. I would not trade those memories for anything. I know we got on each others nerves, got into arguments and fights, but in the end we still came back together.  We may not have been the Huxtables, but we were family. Our lives may not have been “picture perfect”, but as J. Cole says “It was worth the picture still.”

 

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”
― Maya Angelou

 

Puppy Love

I was never a dog person growing up. I thought there were only two kinds of dogs; vicious ones and  stray ones running around outside eating everything in sight. Honestly, I was afraid of both. I tried not to walk past houses with dogs in fear of being chased. If I saw a stray dog in the yard, I would stay in the house. Once I moved to Atlanta, it was as if everyone had a dog. They were in cars, purses, department stores and even on bikes with their humans. For the life of me, I could not understand what the fascination was. Then I met my wonderful friend Machelle. She had a Pomeranian named Cody and I thought he was going to eat me alive. Whenever I went to her house, he would bark and I would run from this 5lb ball of fur. Machelle insisted he was trying to get to know me. I insisted he was trying to rip my skin open to eat my insides. Yes, I was a bit dramatic but fear does that to you. During one of my visits, Machelle and I were laughing about something silly and Cody jumped in my lap and rested. I didn’t know what to do next. Do I run? Do I throw him off my lap and head for the door? Do I ask her to get him off of me?  I ended up sitting there. She told me to rub him if I liked. That was when it happened, I was converted. Cody let me rub him and I started talking to him. I felt like he understood each word I was saying to him. We became instant friends. I couldn’t believe I was ever afraid of him. He was so fluffy and friendly.

I had the “puppy bug”. I played with every puppy and dog I saw. I had full blown conversations with them not realizing I was ignoring their owners. I would leave the interaction knowing all about the dog and not even knowing the owner’s name. (I still do that!) I decided I wanted a puppy. I started doing research on the best breeds and all of the do’s and don’ts about getting a new puppy. The opportunity presented itself and I was able to get a Scottish Terrier. I named him Ali. He was the absolute best. We developed a great bond. Ali taught me so much about patience and unconditional love.  We had routine and my favorite things became his favorite things. Ali even taught my family a bit of patience and understanding. My dad, mom and second-mom were not dog lovers. When I took Ali home to visit, I thought we would not have a place to stay. When I introduced them to Ali, all they wanted to know was if he was going to bite them. All he wanted was love.  They welcomed us both with open arms . They loved Ali because I loved him. He was now a part of our family. He got gifts at Christmas like everyone else. It was wonderful.  I was blessed with Ali for 13 years. I lost him to cancer in September of 2016.  I was devastated and I vowed never to get another dog. It hurt too much when he died.  The first night I walked back into my house and he was not there to greet me was unbearable. I donated all of his belongings to an animal hospital the same night.

More than six months had passed since his death and I was still without a faithful companion. My friends kept asking me when I was going to get another puppy. I was so reluctant to the idea. There were days I wanted another dog and there were days I didn’t.  I could never replace Ali and I didn’t want to love another animal the way I loved him.  To tell you the truth, my life was really boring without a dog. All I did was work and when I wasn’t working I was constantly trying to find something to do.  On my son’s 24th birthday April 1, 2017, I received a text message asking if I was still looking for a dog. I asked ” who is this and who sent you?” Then it happened, he sent me a picture of this 1lb Maltipoo and I fell in love all over again. My friend and I went to Greensboro and picked him up.  Please allow me to introduce you to my Gambino. He is so smart and spoiled. I wouldn’t want him any other way. He is about 7 months in this picture. He refused to go to bed that night.Gamby1

Music Is Medicine Too….

I consider myself an avid music lover. I listen to all types of music. I love r&b, rap, soul, jazz, gospel, country, blues and classical. Music really makes my heart smile. I can remember as a little girl using one of my combs as a microphone when I sang the latest tunes. I would stay in the mirror for hours singing my heart out. My cousin and I even started a singing group. The funny thing is she could actually sing and I was really good at singing over the music. Too bad I didn’t have auto tunes back then. I listened to my Walkman so much, I would put the batteries in the freezer in order to keep the music going. Music has the power to help form bonds and bring happiness in any situation. When I was growing up, my mother and I would sing each and every song by Anita Baker and Luther Vandross at home and in the car. We sang the songs as if we were headlining the shows ourselves.  You choose your genre depending on how you are feeling at the time. I really don’t like driving in Atlanta traffic, so when I do it requires very loud rap music. I put on Ludacris’ song  “Move”, take a deep breath and I am ready for my journey. I belt out this song at the top of my voice over and over until I get to where I am going. Am I singing to relieve stress or am I giving other drivers instructions? Either way, it gets me pumped and on my way. When I need to write or study, I listen to Mozart or Beethoven. Classical music takes me to the countryside in England and relaxes me to the point were everything begins to make sense.  Okay, maybe I go to sleep and forget what I am doing. It’s okay, I just start over when I wake up.

Music can take you back to a good place or an unpleasant one. I can still remember the song that was playing the night my father passed away. It was Jill Scott’s “I Keep/Still Here.”  The long drive from the hospital as tears rolled down my face and that song will forever be burned in my brain.  It’s such a beautiful song, but whenever I hear it I am overcome with sadness because all I can think about is the night I lost my father. I take my time to cry and then I try to remember music that reminds me of a fun time with him. Like one of the first times I drove back to Alabama after I moved to Atlanta. I had just purchased a new Honda Accord and my father wanted to go for a test drive. I literally forgot I was listening to Trina’s album “The Glamorest Life” at full blast when I was driving home. I forgot to turn it off before he got in the car. When he came back into the house, he gave me this look and said ” what was that girl saying on that song?” I told him it was my ex-husbands CD and he forced me to listen.

Music is my friend and motivates me when I need it. Music can really help if you give it a chance. There have been studies done that prove listening to music improves chronic pain, your memory and your workout. Listening to music can lift your mood and help you relax, which will bring down blood pressure and relieve muscle tension. With all these benefits that music can carry, it’s no surprise that music therapy is growing in popularity. Many hospitals are using music therapists for pain management and other uses that support their patients’ health. So I say listen to your music and dance to the beat of your own drum.

Today I Chose My Scars…..

The day was filled with doctor’s appointments and I worried about having the energy to get it all done. I was so anxious today, I drove to the old office building for my appointment. Maybe it wasn’t anxiety, maybe it was the trap music I was listening to while I was stuck in traffic for an hour. Did I mention the office is only 15 minutes away from my house? The only appointment I was looking forward to was my HS appointment with Dr. Weisman. She has a way of making me feel like I can rule the world because if I can live with HS, everything else is a breeze.  Even though Dr. Weisman knows each and every scar and active place I have, it’s still uncomfortable when you are au naturel in front of your doctor, nurse practitioner and nurse.  After she checked in with me, she began my examination. She was so proud of the progress of the healing in places, especially my left arm. Dr. Weisman then asked me if I wanted to have surgery to remove all of the scarring. My first reaction was “umm yeah!” The chance to actually cure HS on a part of my body is what I have been waiting on all of my life. Or at least I thought it was. Just as I was about to have a full blown party in my head, I had some questions about the surgery.  Will it hurt? How long is the healing process? Will I have a scar? Will I need someone to stay with me? And again, will it hurt?  She told me the doctor would cut out all of the scarring from arm, take skin from my thigh and put it under my arm. There is at least 2 weeks of down time and several weeks of not being able to lift my arm.

I immediately began to weigh out the pros and cons. I wouldn’t have HS under my arm and no more bandages. That was the only pro I could think of. The cons came to mind so naturally. What about work and Gambino? What about the healing time of the place they are removing the skin from? Will the new skin under my arm look like normal skin? Am I just replacing one scar for another? Will this really change the type of shirts I wear? After taking all of those things into consideration,  I declined Dr. Weisman’s offer. She was perfectly fine with my decision and told me she completely understood. I thought about all of the new ventures I have coming up, now is not the time to stop. I feel like I am in a chapter of awakening in my life and I am looking forward to what it has in store for me. At this point in my life, I am okay with my scars. My scars are a part of me and they come with the package that is Yolanda. Love it or don’t look.