Posted in Grief, Life After, Lifestyle

My Gentle Giant, #myKevin

Posting in honor of my late husband’s birthday today. I wrote this over a year ago but didn’t publish it. Today seems like the perfect day.

I’ll never forget the day Kevin sat across from me at a table in our work cafeteria and revealed an unexpected side of his personality. You see, we met at work. He was a manager. Very professional, knowledgeable, and well-put together in his appearance. He smiled and spoke to mostly everyone he crossed paths with. But as we were growing closer he didn’t want me to have any misunderstanding about who he was.

“I ain’t always nice.” He said sharply. In fact I think his exact words were, “I ain’t always a nice motha fucka!”

He went on to explain that he was educated on the streets and in the classroom. He knew how to play the corporate game and make nice with people when he had to. In the workplace he would check people very professionally because he wasn’t losing his job for anyone. Outside the walls of the company, though, he would go the fuck off and cuss motha fuckas out! His words.

I was 33 and I had never had a man express such a thing. I was shocked, speechless but so intrigued.

In later years , during some of our most difficult times, I would remember this moment and think, “Girl, that was your chance to walk away.”

But I’m so glad I didn’t. And I don’t say that now because he’s gone. I say that because God used him to teach me about the complexities of man, the complexities of love, the complexities of life. And He used me to teach Kevin about unconditional love, forgiveness, and kindness.

My husband was hard as hell. He could have the worst attitude and hold grudges for waayyy too long. But he was also a man who loved God, loved musicals, loved to sing and rap (of course, with lots of profanity). Lol.

But he was also a man who would pull the car over to take a picture of a rainbow, and remark of its beauty.

I learned to appreciate such beauty, too, because of #myKevin.

Naturally Yours,

LA

Posted in Entertainment, Inspiration, writing

Writing Wednesday: The Makings of a Story

Where do the ideas for your books? This is a common question asked of authors by readers and aspiring writers. The answers vary. For myself, the subjects that I’ve addressed in my novels have been retrieved for the pages of my life. The stories aren’t biographical by any means, but they’ve been sparked by things I experienced.

For example, Unfinished Business my first novel, is about a woman addicted to a past love for what she realizes are the wrong reasons. She learns the hard way that this man is no good for her while risking the possibility of a new and true love. My personal experience was I was madly in love with man from my past. I believed that we were soulmates, meant to be together. Even through other relationships (marriages, too), I thought we’d find our way back to each other and live happily ever after. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m accepting that he’s not the man God has for me. Nevertheless, the idea of being addicted to a man and the havoc that can wreak on a woman life is the story I created.

My second novel, Reconciliation to Hell, is about a married couple who are trying to rebuild their marriage after the husband had habitually cheated on the wife. She endured it because she valued the lifestyle he afforded her and didn’t want to give it up. But as soon as signs from his previous behaviors arise, she realize she doesn’t trust him and she’s done being made a fool of. For this novel, it was the title that was torn from the pages of my life. I’d divorced my first husband after 3 years of marriage, not because he’d done anything wrong, but because my heart was somewhere else (see Unfinished Business). He spent five years telling me he still loved me and that I was at fault for making our family a statistic of the black community–another fatherless home, single mom raising the children. So, after another failed relationship, I caved and reconciled with him. DISASTER! The man had clearly forgotten to tell all of his lady friends that we had remarried. They were calling and all times of the night and he was obviously still dealing with them, which led to our second and FINAL divorce. I shaped the story of Reconciliation to Hell around the married couple introduced in my first books.

I swear my life is so interesting that the ideas just keep coming. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from being open to a new idea, from an unexpected place and time. I was helping a new gentlemen friend clean out his aunt’s apartment who hasn’t lived in the apartment in nearly a year. The family is finally ending the lease and since he’s the only one laid off from work during CVOID–everyone is working from home–he’s stuck with the bulk of the work. Anyway, for the story…

We’re going through the stacks of paperwork and throughout them, there are these letters and cards from this man named Tod (not a typo, Todd spelled with one “d”). They were sent 2016-2018. Some were the holidays and others were just because. One letter included the verbiage, “This is for April”, perhaps rent money or a loan repayment. My guy friend and I laughed and kidded around every time we came across a correspondence from Tod.

“This better not be another letter from Tod,” he’d say. I probed for more of the story about his aunt and Tod. He was obviously someone special to her, and her to him. Dude, I’ll call him, tells me about his aunt having lived in New York for a time before the family moved to Detroit for factory jobs, though she’s a nurse. She met and had a relationship with Tod, during her early 20’s. When she moved to Detroit with her siblings, she and Tod maintained and on again, off again love affair that lasted throughout her adult life.

She and Tod are both in the 80’s now. And he just married sometime in 2018, the last year of any of his correspondence. Questions swirling around my head:

Was the only man who’d captured her heart in 60 years of her life?

Who did the man end up marrying?

Was their love out of convenience or love?

Is she didn’t become afflicted with Alheizmers, would she have responded to him and maybe they would have gotten married?

It’s so many ways this story can go for his aunt and Tod… Only time will tell.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in writing

Author L.A. On Writing

The other day I was sitting at work , minding my own business when, out of nowhere, WHAM. Three writing ideas hit me all at once. As is my custom, I jotted the titles on the nearest sheet of paper—a sticky note pad conveniently kept next to my computer. After I wrote them down, I tore the paper off and secured it to my personal laptop, for safekeeping.

I resisted the urge to scribble down my the thoughts on the subject because I’m actively practicing sticking to my current writing project—my third novel. This is very difficult but it also gives me a surge of creative energy to move my manuscript forward. I’m working on the first draft of the novel, and for the first time, not trying to write it in the linear fashion I did with the first two. Instead, I’m allowing my mind to work freely, jumping from scene to scene, jotting down notes, adding descriptive points to characters, etc. This awesome writing software, Scrivener, is the conduit that allows this freedom with everything in one place. In fact, I’ll probably create projects, in Scrivener, for the ideas that I wrote down on the sticky note.

I used to worry about losing the excitement for new ideas if I didn’t immediately stop what I was working on and start writing on the new idea. Over the years, though, I realized that when ideas are close to my heart and meant to be written, they will be written. Case in point, the idea for my current novel came to me while I was finishing my second novel. Not only that, these new ideas are my personal stories that I long to share with the world. Although writing them requires the same in-depth process of creating characters, scenery, plot points that fiction require, it’s slightly different because I’ll be recalling memories from my past.

Similar to ones Yoga practice, every writers’ practice is unique to them. I would love to know how other writers handle the injection of new ideas when you’re in the middle of a project. Share your writing or creative process in the comments below.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in People, Relationships, writing

Father’s Day Reflections

I began Father’s Day 2020 with a bike ride through my neighborhood on the bike I bought that I’d taken to the wheel repaired the day before. Considering my father introduced me to bike riding as a child, as well as all of my lifetime fitness endeavors, it seemed the ideal thing to on the annual day to celebrate dads.

Along the bike ride through cul-de-sac neighborhood, I listened to my favorite Pandora station, singing along to my favorite old school R&B jams. Again, I thought of my dad. I remember riding in the backseat of our red car. He always had, what sounded to me as an eight or nine year old girl, like old school music, and he usually sang along.

Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought.

I pushed my bike ride for thirty minutes when I was actually ready to head home after 11 minutes, according to the time on my watch. Since I’m no slacker, I kept riding until I reached a suitable time to be able to claim that I’d exercised. When I returned home, I went inside and then put my 2 dogs on their leashes. The weather was so pleasant that I decided to continue my workout in the backyard while the dogs were doing their thing.

I retrieved my hula hoop and 2 sets of hand weights and kept the music playing in my ears. I balanced the hula hoop around my waist while lifting 5lb dumbbells above my head, working my shoulders. Then I took the hula hoop and swung it from hand to hand, working the sides of my waistline. Exercising in the backyard made me think of my dad too. Remembering him jumping rope on the paved basketball quart in our backyard after he’d completed his jog around the neighborhood.

Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought again.

It was then that just a twinge of sadness. Because me and this man who is so much apart of who I am are not in the relationship that I wish we were. I don’t allow the sadness to linger because it is not mine to hold. I am not at fault for the lack of relationship with my dad. It was his decision to cut off communication with me. It was my decision to stop trying to make him change his mind.

Today, my dad and I have a distant relationship in which I don’t question his love for me and I try not to give too much thought to the “why” of our relationship. Instead, I love him from afar, sending him text messages on his birthday, Father’s Day, and Veteran’s Day. I chose those days because they don’t really require a reply, which he may not be inclined to do. But if he does respond with “thank you”, it’s all good. If he doesn’t, it’s still all good…for me, at least. I figure I can’t be wrong being on the giving end of love.

While this is not the daddy/daughter relationship that I envisioned with my dad at this point in my life, this is what it is. He raised me with the belief that family relationships were all the mattered, but in my adult life, his actions have displayed quite the opposite. Therefore, I’ve had to see him for the person he is today and deal with him accordingly.

I’ve had people question me about the efforts I have made with trying to maintain a relationship with my dad. Some think I do too much to even text him on the few occasions a year that I do. Some have said I could do more to improve our relationship.

If this topic of daddy/daughter relationships is of interest to you or someone you know, I invite you to join me and three other contributing authors to the book, in a virtual event on June 27, 2020, from 2-4 PM. We’ll be reading excerpts of our stories and having a conversion about this silent pandemic.

Hope to see you online.

Event link

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Encouragement, Lifestyle

How You Can Support the Fight for Justice

Since the senseless of brutal murder of George Floyd, protests have erupted all of over the country. In fact, I recall a news clip stating that all of the 50 states have had them.

Everyone doesn’t have to show your solidarity for the cause the same way. I look at it like exercise. While the goal for fitness enthusiast is weight loss, weight loss maintenance, building muscle, feeling good, there are multiple ways of accomplishing it. Some like running. Some like spin class. Some like Zumba. Some like walking. Everyone chooses the activity that works best for them.

As the protest occur in your city, maybe your heart longs to join the crowd but you’re scared of violence that could occur from violent protestors or the onset of more police brutality. Or maybe you’re like me and just don’t like large crowds.

The good news that there is plenty that you can do. I actually suggested these to my pregnant daughter who has a burning desire to join the protests but knows that ain’t happening:

  1. Vote in every election. Invest times reviewing the sentencing history of judges up for re-election. Attend voter education forums to be a more informed voter.
  2. Make signs for your car window to make your position known wherever you go. You can blast #BlackLivesMatter on every road you drive in, whatever neighborhoods you cruise.
  3. Contact your local and state officials. Press them for the reform you want to see. If we all contacted their offices as much as they blow up our emails when it’s election time, they’ll know we expect them to work for the issues that are important to us.

Just my two cents…

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Grief, Lifestyle, Women

My Heart Is Broken

The country is in an uproar. We were already dealing with the world’s first pandemic. Then our United States had to remind black America that CVOID-19 is the least of our worries. Because once there is a vaccine–and it’s coming–CVOID-19 will cease to be the problem that it is today. However, black men in America, thus black women, will never be safe in this country.

I have not spoken about the issue on social media but, of course, I’m having those conversations with family, friends, coworkers. I choose to protect my peace by avoiding the combative nature of social media.

Make no mistakes about it–my heart is broken that on the same day a white woman threatened a black man about calling the police to say that she was being threatened by a black man when all he did was ask her to put her dog on a leash per the park rules, that another black man was killed on the street at the hands of a police officer…all captured on social media.

My heart is broken because that white woman knew the implication of the call to the police on that innocent black man. She wanted the black man to run away in fear when he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Simply challenged her privilege.

My heart is broken that those police officers in Minneapolis didn’t even flinch at the fact that they were being recorded when they killed that black man. Why? Because our in-justice systems continues to vindicate these officers regardless of what the video shows, regardless of what hundreds of witnesses can testify to.

My heart is broken because I am a mother to a young black man (16) who will soon have to go out in the world without me at his side. I am an aunt to four more young black men (ages 17, 13, 11, 10) who will do they same. I have a black brother. I have black uncles. I have black cousins. I have a black son-in-law. I have black men friends. Good men. Not criminals. But, guess what, even if they did do something against the law, they are entitled to the same due process of their white counterparts.

My heart is broken that within our black community some our people want to talk about black on black crime. While it’s definitely a conversation to have, let’s have it when black on black when that happen. Right now, the conversation is WE are not okay with police officers, whose jobs are to PROTECT & SERVE kill black men when they are already under arrest, when their backs are turned, when they are unarmed, when they simply fit the description of suspect.

My heart is broken that I couldn’t fully enjoy the beautiful weekend because of the civil unrest, protest, black CNN reporters being arrested doing the same job of a white CNN reporter, a random shooting into a crowd of protesters, looting across the country. And let me not forget the violence inciting words spewed by the man who is the head of our country that remain on Twitter for the world to see today.

So you may not see me comment on videos and posts on Facebook, but know I am infuriated, sad, feeling hopeless. Something has to change.

My heart is broken…

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Encouragement, Goals, Inspiration, Quarantine

Wellness Wednesday—

I was trying to craft some words for this post to go along with this picture, but I concluded that the words say it all.

I have three of these notes taped around my cubicle at work. Whichever direction I look in, these words are in my line of vision. They remind me to use my down time, specifically at work, wisely. Instead of chatting it up with coworkers or watching a series on Netflix when work is low, I should be preparing what I’m going to write in the evening on my manuscript or planning my social media marketing plan to promote my blog and my books, working on my online graduate course, reading a book, or updating my resume.

If you’re laid off due to CVOID-19, or at home with nothing to do because everything is closed, I encourage you to take heed to this words.

When you see these words, what comes to mind that should you be doing with your time? Tell me in the comments below.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Health, Lifestyle, Quarantine

Personal Days–No Better Time To Use Them!

Was it the driving past signs instructing me to “Stay Home, Stay Safe” when my employer declared that my department has to work in the office? Was it the taxing, 30 minute commute to work to sit at a desk for an 8 hour workday, with maybe 4 consecutive hours of work to do? Or was it the early morning Beachbody workouts that I’d been doing the previous three days wearing my body down?

Whatever the cause, the thought, “I need a break” sprang into my consciousness on Wednesday evening. I was tired of making my coffee to-go, nuking my oatmeal in the office microwave, sitting in my cubicle with no one around, and mumbling “good morning” to my co-workers through the required face coverings we have to wear whenever we leave our cubicles. It’s kind of defeats the purpose of being at work with people but not being able to interact with them like we’re used to. I missed being at home–even with a shelter in place– with my family. People I can greet openly with a smile, see their entire faces, and knowing we’re all in this together.

I called in for the first personal day of Thursday, fully anticipating going back on Friday. Until Friday came. My body said, “No, not yet.”

I listened and, today, being back at work, I’m in a good head space. Over the days that I was off, I got my workout in, albeit, not as early in the morning. I rested, watched t.v., did some writing on my novel, enjoyed my family.

Time off work is essential. And, not just for those of us reluctantly going into the office. My daughter’s company is so insistent that their employees, BTW, who are all working from home, take time off work that they have implemented mandatory “disconnect” day. Like, they have put on their calendar a totally fictitious holiday called, “Kind Day”!

Unfortunately, my billion dollar employer is not about to do that. And, yours probably isn’t either. However, like me, you probably have personal paid time, and maybe even, some non-paid time at your disposable. Use it!

I know it feels strange using vacation time to NOT go on a vacation. Or a personal day NOT for a doctor’s appt or personal pamper day at the spa. But, please know, that your peace of mind is so worth it! You’ll thank you for it later.

Happy Monday!

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Encouragement, Inspiration, Lifestyle, People, Quarantine, writing

Weekends in Quarantine

Am I the only one who hesitates when asking friends old-fashioned questions as conversation starters?  What are plans today? Have you made it to the gym? What are you doing this weekend?

Answers used to include exciting things like, ballroom lesson on Monday, choir rehearsal on Tuesday, sorority committee meeting on Wednesday, Yoga class on Thursday, dinner and a movie on Friday, shopping on Saturday, church on Sunday.

Boy, have times changed. Now the responses to those questions are:

“Nothing.”

“Going Walmart.”

“Going to Sam’s Club/Costco.”

“Going to Kroger/Meijer.”

Not very much variety, huh.

Me…I have never been more tired of going to the store as I am in these days. That can not be the only thing that I look forward to on weekends. Therefore, I plan to do so much more in my free time:

  1. Read (and finish) the books I’ve started
  2. Spend 2-3 hours writing my 3rd novel
  3. Swap out winter wardrobe for spring/summer wardrobe
  4. Remove clothes from my closet that do not bring me joy (or I can’t fit anymore)
  5. Organize files on my computer (i.e. school work, personal essays, articles for publication, blog posts, book ideas)
  6. Bake (and share)
  7. Exercise
  8. Oh, and I should include something that involves my 16 year old son, but it’s like pulling teeth to get him out that room. He comes out for food and drink. He seems to fear I’m going to put him to work when he emerges so I try not to do that when I hear his footsteps,

I’m happy to add more things on this list. Got any ideas? Post in the comments below and enjoy your weekend.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Encouragement, Lifestyle, People, Women

Meltdowns Do Happen

Hey, it happens. Meltdowns, that is. They come at you like a bolt of a lightening of a clear, sunshine day. Recognize it for what it is. Give in to it. Let yourself feel the emotions of all that is within you, all that is overwhelming you. Cry, scream, ask the High Heavens, “Why Me? Why does it hurt so bad?”

Then, get over it.

You can’t allow to stay is that space for too long. You can’t focus on all that isn’t going right in your life for too long. Nothing is going to come of that. Instead, embrace this human moment and then focus on the good.  

I speak from experience. My moment came from frustration of looking for a telephone number written on a receipt that I know I had put right there. Instead, I was faced with a stack of mail, bills, and other paper work that I won’t deal with and/or don’t want to throw away! If I could have balled myself up in the corner and cried I would have. I did the next best thing…ordered a BBQ Chicken pizza and made myself a margarita. I didn’t quite cry, but tears welled up in my eyes and a feeling of complete helplessness came over me.

I had to make a couple of phone calls. Ironically, one of the people on the other end of the phone was a certified counselor and I reluctantly shared with her things I can’t say to others.

“I’m overwhelmed.”

“I’m feel so alone.”

“Everyone thinks I’m so strong, so I behave like a strong person would. It’s hard keeping up the façade.

When I got off the phone with her, I felt a weight lift. I spent the rest of the evening going through some of that mail, throwing some paperwork away. More weight lifted. Music pouring from Aliyah Radio on Pandora had positive affects on the atmosphere. I lit a scented candle. I danced. I sang with all the capacity that my lungs allowed.

The next morning, I felt better but the negativity tried to seep back in. When I got to my desk at work, I meditated and decided to write out some things that I had to be proud of:

1. Emotionally eating yesterday, I only ate 1 1/2 slices of pizza, and I burned off some of the calories with dancing. I still prepared a healthy breakfast and lunch for today, leaving the mistakes of yesterday where they were–in the past.

2. I resolved a billing discrepancy that was long overdo.

3. I spent the evening relaxing to good, soulful music.

4. I answered the call of a friend and was able to pause from own emotional hurt and empathize with hers.

5. I organized some mail and opened some envelopes that I’d been avoiding, threw some stuff in the trash. My room was cleaner this morning.

6. I did locate that phone number that ignited the meltdown in the first place. Finding it felt like a gift from God for overcoming the wrath of my buried emotions.

7. I admitted the truth to myself–I am human. I hurt. I feel alone. I’m angry. I’m sad. But I’m also surviving and thriving in the midst of it all.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.