Cousin Love: Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed

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A Good Time Equals=Love+Laughter+Hugs+Sarcasm+Jesus+Spades+Adult Beverages+Fish Fry+Good Music(-)Foolishness(-)Drama.

As I reflect on my childhood, I realize how influential my family is as an adult. From the Friday Fish Frys at Aunt Gladys and Aunt Van house to Ms. Agee taking us all to Rouge Park for a picnic, family and togetherness has been the pillar of my existence. Each person brings their own unique brand of crazy to the table. We are accepting of each other’s flaws and missteps. We also rejoice in our accomplishments and celebrations. It is amazing to have a group of people that share the same inside jokes and can laugh all night long about things that would tear most families a part. I tell people all the time if you can’t get along with my family you must be insane.

We are the first ones to give a potential mate the once over to make sure they are legit. We also get in each other’s business from time to time (ok, maybe it’s more of the older cousins job) but we do it out of love and concern. In tragedy we are there holding each other up, drying each others tears and trying to make sense out of our nonsense. Our GroupMe chatroom is the place secrets are told, private pictures are shared and craziness is consumed. We will kill a brick for each other but hold on another accountable.

My family is not perfect, but it’s our perfectly imperfect way of loving one another that we continue to stay together.

Hey Cousin!

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Change Your Narrative One Thought At a Time: Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed

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In a previous blog, The Tales We Tell, I wrote about how we have a tendency to live life through the narratives we create or were told growing up.  Each experience in life adds layers to the narrative and before long our life is a movie that has twenty sequels. I pride myself on using this platform to evoke thoughts, reflections and solutions. The process of changing your narrative starts with one simple, but at times, difficult step. Change your thoughts.

How you see your place in the world impacts your narrative. The people you attach yourself to can infiltrate your story. The truths and lies you feed yourself and others make for really good storytelling. We could all probably win a Writers Guild Award for the story we have etched in the recesses of our mind. This narrative is played out in our everyday decisions and interactions.

But have you ever wondered what would happen if you selected a different thought? Yep, it’s that simple. Choose to believe something other than what you have been told or conditioned to accept. The key to re-writing your life script is to actually show up as the main character and put your thoughts into action. No longer can you be a bystander in your life. You can no longer let life happen to you. Your changed thought process has to align with your actions. Put the world on notice. You will no longer think or act as if your situation will never change or get better. That last line was really me talking to myself. See how that works?

When a thought pops into your mind that is contrary to how YOU want to show up in your life story choose a different thought. A thought that is more positive, more loving and more true to who YOU are. When people try to remind you that people like you don’t do things like this. Choose a different thought. Then say that thought out loud. Put them on notice. No longer will that be your narrative. The other key to changing our narrative is to own how we have contributed to it. Good, bad or ugly. Again it starts with a thought. Just as thoughts can change so can narratives.

My all time favorite narrative changers are:

  • Mary J. Blige
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Serena and Venus Williams
  • Precious Jeter (my little cousin)

Come back to Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed during the first week of April as I explore how changing the narrative had the butterfly effect on these women.

Thanks for coming out, God Bless, Goodnight!

This Flesh Is Amazing: Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed

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Isn’t it amazing in the times that we need God the most we seek Him the least?

Isn’t it amazing to know we need change in our lives but rarely do we actively seek it?

Isn’t it amazing how we allow fear, doubt and uncertainty to stifle our gift?

What’s really amazing is that these rhetorical questions all have one thing in common—flesh. The only times these questions really come forth is when we are operating in our flesh. Your flesh will make you question God, your need to change and your ability to use your gifts. I heard a sermon yesterday from a pastor I love and respect. His message was amazing and simply stated, “You ain’t really a champion until you learn how to defeat yourself. Learn how to kill the inner me and not the enemy.”

When our flesh rises up like a flood anxiety, fear, panic and distress are given a safe but unstable place to reside. The place is safe because it is familiar to us. However, it is unstable because at any given moment a new emotion can be evoked simply because we are operating in the flesh. Since I am a solution-focused strategist here is what you say to yourself when it seems your flesh is winning and you feel defeated:

No matter what storm rages in your life today. No matter how fierce the winds or how high the waves may be. Where you are today is no surprise to God. Heaven is not in a panic and neither should you. 

If you need to seek God more but can’t find the words pick up the Bible and just pray to God that He leads you to a scripture that will speak to your situation.

If you need change in your life, find one thing each day that has significant impact. Just one. Not five, not ten just one. At the end of the month you will find that you have made 30 small changes that will then equal one big change.

If you are allowing negative emotions to stifle you gift, remind yourself who the giver of the gift is. God doesn’t give out white elephant gifts. He is an exclusive giver of the gift. Your gift was handcrafted and designed exclusively for you. It’s a rarity. Bask in the ambiance of that fact alone.

Our flesh has to die on a daily basis. Our win in life depends on it.

 

Top 5 Reasons Mental Health Days Are Important: Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed

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As a social worker mental health care is just as important as physical health care. I cannot give fully of myself from a cup that is empty. When practitioners don’t engage fully in mental health self care I tend to think they are committing malpractice. Now this notion may sound harsh to some but it is the truth. When you are not mentally coherent on any job you are not at your peak performance level. However, when your career involves the lives of others self care must remain at the forefront of your mind.

Here are my Top 5 Reasons Mental Health Days Are Important:

  1. It prevents you from going off the deep end. When I am sleep deprived I get cranky and irritable. This then leads to me being more anxious and intolerant of others mistakes. When my body language becomes profound and deliberate during meetings I know it’s time for me to take a mental health day. I just might be one meeting or email away from going ziggity boom on someone who truthfully doesn’t deserve it.
  2. You need to recharge to perform at maximum capacity. Now this is tricky. Take too much time off of work you might not want to come back. Take not enough time off and you are right back to square one. We all need either short staycations or longer vacations to recharge our spirits. I won’t say batteries because we are human beings and not human doings. If you are constantly going there is no time to slow down and just enjoy life.
  3. You need time to reflect. All work should follow this cycle: Brainstorm>Create>Implement>Reflect>Adjust. There are many people who skip the reflect piece and never adjust. This cycle is even applicable to your personal life. Reflection allows us to become centered and process what is going on in our professional and personal lives. Growth only comes by reflection.
  4. It helps others figure it out. If you are constantly the go-to person at your job or even at home having a mental health day provides opportunities of growth for others in your organization (yes, your family is an organization). When you take a mental health day you have to fully go off of the grid. No emails, text messages, phone calls, etc. That day or days is solely committed to filling up the tanks of your life that are now almost empty. The world will not stop spinning if you are not present.
  5. Your loved ones will thank you for it. When we are exhausted, tired and anxiety ridden it can at times seem as if an alien has taken over our bodies. No amount of coffee can temper someone who needs to take a mental health day. Better relationships make us better people. We cannot get to better when we are at our worse.

Self care is a daily choice that we must actively seek if we want to live whole and happy lives. The normal work environment is not set up to make self care a priority. Mental and physical health are the two areas that I advocate for people to become self centered in.

What good are you to others when you are bad to yourself?

Top 5 Things My Mama Told Me But I Didn’t Listen: Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed

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My mama is a very wise woman. Growing up I thought she thought that she was a know-it-all. Well, she kinda is. My mother was double promoted in elementary school and graduated valedictorian of her high school class. She also gave birth to me at the age of 18 years old. She also has her associates, bachelor and masters degrees. So, yeah I can say that she is educated inside and outside the classroom. Now that I am real grown with an almost 20-year-old of my own I can wholeheartedly say my mama is the real deal Holyfield in the advice and wisdom department.

Here are my Top 5 Things My Mama Told Me But I Didn’t Listen To:

  1. I don’t care if you are married, single, divorced or separated when you have a baby you will do most of the care-taking. That baby is yours no matter what. Now at the time I was a young pregnant 19-year-old who thought the father of my oldest daughter and I would stay together forever. My mama saw the writing on the wall, but I was young-dumb-and-in love. In my young mind I thought my mama was being a hater because my sperm donor was never around (although the Lord did bless me with a “daddy”). But what she was saying came from her own personal experience. She knew you can’t really respect young love fully because it’s naive and full of fluff.
  2. Being impatient will get you in trouble. My patience has developed over the years. As a teenager and young adult I was always getting into trouble or putting myself in places of hardship because of my impatience. And most of the times my parents had to bail me out. It was not until I slowed down and really processed my decisions and actions did I begin to understand the constant merry-go-round I was on. Now I just sit back. Watch. Then act.
  3. Exercise and eat right in your 20’s and 30’s. Weight will start to catch up with you by the time you hit 40. I have flirted with my waistline for as long as I can remember. I have always been shapely. However, the women on my maternal side are known for having a lotta junk in the trunk. We have heart disease, arthritis and cancer as well. Since I hate the scale and normally judge how much weight I’ve gained by my side rolls, let’s just say I need to hit the gym or the Quan to get rid of these love handles.
  4. Pay yourself first. I knew this advice was in reference to money, but as I have grown older I understand this in a broader sense. Pay yourself in time, self-care, energy and love. My mama has shown me that you can’t give of yourself when you are depleted in many areas. Now, just to let you in on a little secret. My mama is very generous to folks who are doing something with their lives. However, don’t play with her or her money. My sister and I have coined her “the dopeman”. She doesn’t play when it comes to loaning money or paying bills that have her name attached.
  5. It don’t take all day to do nothing. As a child I really didn’t understand this phrase. But the older I become the more I use it in my everyday life. The phrase simply means that if there is something you really want or need to get done it doesn’t take all day to do it. In essence stop bs’ing your way through life.

So there you have it folks. These are just a few of my mama’s nuggets of advice that I should have applied earlier in life. Let’s be real. I needed life to whoop my butt some to appreciate the fullness of her life lessons.

Suburban Birthday Party Conversations: Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed

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I live in a suburb that is 45 minutes from the city I love, grew up in, and cherish—Detroit. I come from a working class family of postal employees, big 3 bonus check getters and what can brown do for you delivery drivers. Living in suburbia at times is great and there have also been times when I am uncomfortable and/or annoyed. The reason I love and connect to the television show Black-ish so well is that although I don’t have the wealth of Dre and Bow I still understand their plight of wanting to give their children better. Being an African American, middle-class, single parent from Detroit has presented many challenges and triggers for myself and others during my time here in suburbia.

There are observations, conversations, and preconceived notions that trigger us. For instance, one of my triggers is when someone comes to me with a issue and they want to focus on the issue instead of the solution. I have been known to stop people mid conversation and ask “is this a venting session or a solution session?”. This allows me to adjust my level of expectation, time and energy accordingly. So as I tell this story about overhearing something that triggered me please adjust you level of expectation, time and energy because I am venting. I’m not looking for a solution.

I took my youngest daughter to a birthday party of a classmate. I sat with some moms that I have known for a while. We talked about all things Common Core math related and came to the consensus that the devil must have written the curriculum. We also discussed how lately our lives have been disorganized, filled with commitments and piles of clothes all over the house. All three of us at the table were also single parents. We confided that we should not to be too hard on ourselves and that our children would survive if they ate meatballs for breakfast. By the way we are all Black-ish!

Then all of a sudden I hear a conversation behind me from a mom who works from home, has a college student help her after school with her (2) children and a husband works for the local university. Her husband has been on a business trip for the last week and she is crying and moaning about taking care of the children and their needs and commitments while he is away. Now her children are at the age where they are self-sufficient. She then asks the other parent (who is also black) “how do you do it when your husband is away on business?”. Her response was priceless. She gave her the sistah-girl head cock to the side and said “we manage”.

As a single parent that conversation irritated my soul. (Insert DMX Party Up music). I do this on an everyday basis. Just me, myself and I. I make sacrifices of time, energy, sleep, dreams and money to be a parent. By myself. Did I intentionally sign up for the singles section? Not really, but hey it is what it is. However, to hear a mother whining because you have to do it alone WITH help for a shortened amount of time made my last nerve evaporate because it was being tapped on. Then I had to check myself. Am I hating? Slightly. Was I jello? Not really. Was I annoyed? Hell yeah. And guess what it’s okay. I’m human. What is everyday life for me is a struggle for others, I get it. When people say, “I don’t know how you do it.” I gently remind them you will never know. God only gives the strongest battles to those who are built for it. Do I struggle with everyday life? Yes. But I can’t groan and moan about it everyday. It doesn’t serve a purpose. And it distracts from the fact that everyday I make a conscious decision to get up, dress up and show up.

I simply need to get ish done. Point blank period. I have to save my single mama tears for something that’s worth the work. And this overheard suburban birthday party conversation was not worth it.

The Tales We Tell: Not So Random Thoughts Before Bed

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We have a proclivity to share the narratives in our lives that either bring the most shock and awe, sympathy or makes us look like the hero. These same narratives, however, keep us stuck to the past. They prevent us from moving forward in our lives and creating new narratives that yield better results. The mind is a peculiar thing. Tell a story enough times to yourself and to others, you will eventually find that your decisions are solely based upon the narrative.

What’s interesting about most narratives is that we are usually the protagonist. But when we dig into the real story we find that there are more antagonistic characteristics than we want to be held accountable for.  For example, my old narrative was a combination of the shock and awe, sympathy and hero. Here is what I told myself and others for a long time:

  • I was a teen mama who was kicked out of the house at 19 years old. I constantly worked my behind off and struggled most of my life because of 2 bad marriages where the men broke my heart. I take care of my kids by myself and that’s why I can’t make ends meet and take a nice vacation with my family. I put myself last and others first. This is my lot in life and it won’t get better. 

Ok now here is the truth and the new narrative:

  • I got pregnant when I was 19 years old and had my daughter when I was 20 years old. My mama kicked me out the house because I didn’t want to pay rent even though I worked 40 hours or more per week. I was ungrateful at times and angry at the world. My attitude sucked. I’ve had to work a lot in my life but I was also married to man who allowed me to stay home after I gave birth to my son. I played a big part in both of my marriages failing. One failed because I didn’t know how to be a REAL WIFE at the age of 24. The other  failed because I was disobedient and didn’t listen to God or sound counsel when they told me to FLEE. I have been irresponsible with my finances at an early age and money flowed through my hands like water from the hose on the side of the house. I put others first because it’s easier to deal with their mess, than to deal with mine. However, this way of living IS NOT my lot in life and God says that I will be the head and not the tail. I have learned to make better decisions based on my new narrative that my financial resources and wealth are directly tied to my gifts. 

We learn at a young age to weave, re-enact or re-tell the stories and images that will garner the most support around our issue. The story is then imprinted into our brains and the next thing you know it becomes a part of the DNA that we pass on to our children. And their children. And their children’s children. You ever wonder why you see an entire family generation after generation on public assistance? That’s the family narrative at work proclaiming that this is their lot in life. Are you a apart of a family where everyone works for someone but never for themselves. That’s the narrative that says our dreams, visions and gifts don’t matter. Play it safe and eventually retire.

The ability to change the narrative is very simple. Be upfront about your part of the narrative. Make a conscious decision and effort to choose different. There is not magic potion or profound philosophical advice. Just choose. Short, simple and sweet. Choose.