So This Happened Today: Journey to My next adventure

Monday, June 21, 2021

Either third time’s a charm or third time’s a swift kick in the butt by God himself: “This is you last chance to trust Me.”

Opportunity #1: March 2006. I was in a strained marriage, had just had my second child two years before, and was working on my master’s degree when the department I was in decided to move the work to Dallas, TX. I’d had great plans for my career at AT&T once I received my MBA in Human Resource Management. I’d hoped to be an encouraging and supportive trainer like the Sabrina, the woman who trained me eight years before. Plus, my eight years of service wasn’t going to garner me any significant severance package. Nothing like the 100K buyout that my husband had been offered on the job he only had 5 years employment with. Moving with the work wasn’t an option. So I stayed and waited for the company to place me in another job in the company, hoping it would come with opportunity to advance.

Opportunity #2: June 2019. I’ve been working in my current dept for nearly 15 years. The work we were doing was on the declining side of the business. There has been no opportunity for growth or promotion within the department and pursuing opportunities in other departments within the company have proven fruitless. Admittedly, all the “no’s” from AT&T was a blow to my confidence. I became discouraged and began doubting my abilities. Thankfully, though, I had my writing. Pursuing the passion eventually became my priority over anything AT&T had to offer. Still, when the offer was made to take a buyout package when the company was making cuts in the department, I was scared to make that move. A couple of major things had occurred in my life by this time. First, I’d lost my 2nd husband, Kevin, after a house fire and a terminal illness in 2017. I was back to being a single mother, responsible for an entire household on my own. Then, I suffered a stroke in 2019 and had to start a regular medication regimen of blood thinners and cholesterol reducing pills. How would I pay for this expensive medication? How was I going to manage all of this on my own?

You can’t leave now, Charmine. You need AT&T’s comfortable salary and good benefits for you and your son.

The weight of that voice influenced my decision to stay. So I remained in my daily discontentment of complacency and fear of trusting God with…what could be next.

Opportunity #3 June 2021. The restrictions of the pandemic have been lifted. My son made it through an entire year of online school and is going into his senior year of high school. I’ve been dating a guy that I really like. And I finally got connected with a contractor to build a deck in the back of my house. Then the week I made the final payment on the deck and two weeks before me and the new guy have a trip planned for Chicago, another force reduction is announced in our department. The first part of the reduction is the buyout offer.

My first thought was, This is your time. It’s now or never, Charmine.

My second thought was, Can you really do this?

Then I heard the still, quiet voice of God, “With Me, you can. I will never leave nor forsake you.”

I always give God credit for being my provider but I’m guilty of giving too much credit to AT&T for providing me a life of comfort. I’d bought into this corporate/blue collar culture of boasting about my 20 years seniority, my 4 weeks of vacation, the company 80% 401k matching, employee discounts on my cell,TV, and internet service. I wanted to get the rest of what AT&T promised me. Another recognition gift when I reached 25 years of service, another week of vacation, etc.

BUT…brace yourself…AT&T CAN’T HOLD ON A CANDLE TO WHAT GOD HAS FOR ME (AND YOU ) AS LONG AS I TRUST HIM!

So, on Friday, June 18 I signed my name on the line and dated the paper accepting the buyout offer 2021. I didn’t turn it in until the following Monday BUT the decision was made that Friday. There was no pondering over the weekend. There was pure acceptance and calm in my spirit. Then I preceded to celebrate the launch of anthology and at a beautiful party in the garden with some of my best supporters.

I must thank the people in my life who didn’t naysay me but encouraged me to fly and trust God! They include my daughter, who has been my #1 cheerleader, my friend and Conversations Between Widows co-host Tonia, the new man in my life, who shall remain nameless for the time being :), a former coworker, Karen, who likely doesn’t know how God used her to encourage. Her words to me on in a random conversation were, “I wish someone encouraged me to pursue life outside AT&T when I had the chance.” And there she was doing it for me just hours after I decided not to leave.

Follow my next several posts as I journey to my next adventure of life…

Naturally Yours,

LA

My Gift for Father’s Day 2021

It took a long time before I got to this point with my father. I wrote about what started it in a story that was published in an anthology Daddy: Reflections of Daddy Daughter Relationships. My father’s first rejection of me, his second oldest daughter, the one he used to call my love.

At the particular time, I hadn’t given up on our relationship. I professed my commitment to our relationship because he was the only father that I had. I didn’t feel that I had any choice.

Then, in 2018, my husband died and my father didn’t push past his own pride and reach out to me, his daughter. Then, in 2019, I suffered a stroke and he still didn’t call.

I didn’t need any other non-action on his part to know where I stood with him. It took all of that non-action, coupled with my ignored text messages and unanswered phone calls to him to finally get.

I gave my relationship with Dad to God and continued to live my life to the fullest.

When Dad’s birthday rolled around in December it everything for me not to reach him. His birthday was etched in my brain like a name scribbled in wet concrete that had dried. I’d never forgotten to call him or text him. This year was no different except that I was deciding to not to call him. I was no longer subjecting myself to his lack of response or reciprocation when my birthday, his daughter’s rolled around. My intent wasn’t to hurt him. I was simply protecting my feeling from being hurt by him.

After no “Happy Birthday”, “Happy Veteran’s Day”, “Happy Father’s Day” from me, something must have clicked in his brain. Suddenly, when October 15th, my birthday, rolled around, I received a “Happy Birthday” text from him.

I nearly fell out of my chair!

After the text for my birthday, I got another one for Christmas. Several months later I received one for Mother’s Day.

I didn’t know what had gotten into my Dad or how long these gestures of love would last? I didn’t know if he was trying to get me back on the bandwagon of displaying the love that he knew I still had for him.

But what I really didn’t know was that these gestures would lead to my Dad inviting myself and my siblings, whom he also had limited conversations with over the years, out to dinner with him Father’s Day 2021.

All I can say is: Look at God!

It’s been at least 20 yrs since the four of us have been together!

I’m Speaking Now

When you have a goal, it’s important to keep it at the forefront of your mind. Several years ago, I jumped on the dream board bandwagon. I put all the things that I wanted on the board from declaring myself a bestselling author to purchasing a home.

I’m blocking the board, showing off a hairstyle (lol) BUT this was vision board, which I kept hanging in my cubicle for like 4-5 yrs.

I also put on there to become a contributor for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’d never purchased one of these books, until recently, but I’d always been aware of them and somehow or another one or two of their books found a home on my bookshelf. Currently, I have the Chicken Soup for the Forgiveness Soul and Chicken Soup for the Couples Soul. I can’t remember when I decided that my personal stories could find a home within their books, but I started keeping an eye on their website for topics I could write about. In fact, now that I think about, I have to credit Dr. Mary Edwards for sharing the publishing opportunity with me. I met her when she was a vendor at my workplace, selling her books. After she shared the story of how her first book, Born Grown, came to be, we were instant friends. That day she also told me about her writing experience with Chicken Soup For the Soul. She’d been published multiple times and asked to be a judge for the stories at one time. She added me to her mailing list and would periodically send the list of topics the publication was looking for. I was so interested that I started going directly to Chicken Soup’s site to check for myself.

The first story I submitted was for a book called Home Sweet Home. My story wasn’t selected but I didn’t give up. Sometimes I would go several months without checking the site, but I was always reminded of what my goal was when I looked at the dream board hanging in front of me in my cubicle. Though I submitted quite a few times, there were only a few in which I knew I put my heart and soul into the story I penned. “Sisterhood”, the story that was selected for the I’m Speaking Now book was one of those stories. I wrote about two very significant events in my life: becoming a member of my beloved sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and losing my husband, Kevin. Both events were life-changing and that came across in my writing.

I just love how God shows up in my life. I stand on the promises of His word. In the Bible, scripture says that God WILL give you the desires of your heart. Scripture says all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed. Scripture says faith without works is dead.

I’m here to testify what God has done for me. He has given me the desires of my heart. I didn’t sit back and just wait for it to happen. I continued to write and read the books to learn what kind of stories they published. I also prayed for this to happen and had faith that it would happen.

It may not have come when I wanted it–the first time I submitted, but it has come right on time. It is no coincidence that my first story is published in this particular book. The editors of Chicken Soup knew that this was the time to share the stories of the Black woman. And they wanted new voices for this book. One of the emails I received from them stated that they selected quite a few new contributors. This is only the 2nd time in the book’s history that they’ve dedicated a book for African American stories. Every book in this story is written by a black woman, sharing a story pertinent to her life as a Black woman. This is book is going to be a bestseller. And my story is in it!

DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Delta Authors of Tour recap

Just before the Friday author only event

It goes without saying that the Midwest Delta Authors on Tour was a success! I sold the most books that I have ever sold in one event. Thank God I had additional inventory on the way for the weekend of the event. But for real, I must say I really enjoyed this virtual event as I have all the other events that I’ve participated in since the start on the pandemic. As someone is gets quite nervous when front and center before a crowd, the virtual events are right up my alley! The comfort of home calms my nerves.

However, like any event, though, there are still some takeaways.

  1. Assistance during virtual events is as important as in-person event. Now the committee in charge of this event was aware of this fact. I was assigned as shadow for both days of the event. However, there really wasn’t a need for a shadow on the first day, which was a private event for the authors of local chapter and regional leadership guests. But on the second day, there definitely was. And my shadow was no where to be found. I needed her during the breakout room to manage the chat while I was speaking to the people who joined my room. I still have no idea why she wasn’t there. It may have been something out of her control but I was left to manage alone. Obviously, I missed some comments in the chat but I handled the pressure like a pro. Now, what I didn’t handle so well were my own plans for the event. Since the breakout rooms weren’t going to be recorded, I had the idea to record myself doing a reading of one or both of my books to add to my online media kit. Unfortunately, when those guests started filling up my room, pressing record on the phone was the farthest thing from my mind.
  2. Following directions is key. The participating authors were asked to sign books. I can’t recall if we were asked to do this before the event but that would make sense. While I did begin the process, I stopped entirely too short. Likely due to some self-doubt that I wasn’t going to sell that many books. But boy did I? I’m sure attendees wouldn’t be that upset if they received an unsigned book. However, I didn’t want to take that chance. So I’ve been signing each book before I send it out. Then on top of that, I got the late idea to include a personal note with each book thanking them for their purchase and reminding them to sign up for my newsletter. It’s time consuming but I’m taking full advantage of contact with possible readers and longtime fans of my work.
  3. Prepare for the unexpected. And I’m not just talking losing one’s internet connection or flubbing your prepared presentation. How about your dad, son, and your son’s girlfriend waltzing into the front door, leading into the living room where you’re doing your presentation? And, of course, they don’t come in quietly. Noooo. My Dad comes in announcing that he brought me some fish back from the outing. SMH. He totally looked past the message in my eyes screaming, “Hey!!! I’m in the middle of something.” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I should have put a sign on the door, “Presentation in Progress”, for the off-chance that they were going to return from fishing before I was expecting them. It was also at the moment that I was happy that the breakup room wasn’t being recorded.
  4. Don’t forget Amazon appreciation day. I don’t know if this day exist but it should. After selling over 100 books, I definitely appreciate the order fulfillment that Amazon provides for my print-on-demand books ordered through them. Because, let me tell you…making multiple trips to the post office over lunch or after work to fulfill these orders is a true labor of love. But I’m loving every minute of it.
Front view of my fav gift for participating in the event!
Back view of my fav gift for participating in the event!
Order fulfillment in progress

Delta Authors on Tour-Detroit Style

The big day has finally arrived! I couldn’t be happier.

I have been a member of the Detroit Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc for nearly 9 years. And as soon as I got the chance, I registered my first novel, Unfinished Business, in the yearly Delta Author directory compiled by our National Arts & Letters Commission of our national organization. When I published my second novel in 2016, Reconciliation to Hell, I included that one, too.

As I a result, I have been invited as a feature author for literary events on two different occasions by two different local chapters. First, the Inkster Alumnae Chapter, followed by the Southfield Alumnae Chapter. But this is my FIRST time being featured by my home chapter, the chapter where I was initiated–the Dynamic Detroit Alumnae Chapter. I am super geeked! It’s nothing like the support of home!

Detroit Alumnae Chapter is the final stop on the National Delta Authors on Tour. There is a private event taking place on Friday, May 1st, in which the featured authors will hobnob (virtually, of course) with national and regional leadership and fellowship with one another. The next day, Saturday, May 22nd is the event for the public to meet and greet (virtually, of course) with the authors and talk about the awesome, exciting, and intriguing books that everyone has written.

If you haven’t had the chance to register, here’s the registration link. If you can’t make the event you can go here to order books.

Celebrating Mother’s Day

Motherhood has been good to me.

This is why I coined the name “Irritated Tya” for my daughter. She was clearly ready to get out of that swing. She’s 3 months in this picture.
My son Nate the Great at about 6 months.

I started early at 19. But I was so ready for it and blessed that God had allowed me to conceive and birth a child. At 19, I didn’t realize how hard that is for millions of women around the world. I didn’t take it for granted. Over the years of raising my daughter, and nine years later, my son, I thanked God for His provision in my life and covering my children.

I remember testifying one Sunday in church about how good God had been to me. I’d raised my children, primarily, as a single mother although I was married twice to their father and then my late husband. Unfortunately, though, neither of them were very helpful in crux of parenting. By that I mean, I was the one responsible for transportation to and from school, doctor appointments, emergency visits, extra-curricular activities, the birds & the bees talk, assigning chores, transporting to part-time jobs, disciplining, homework, college planning. All that! But the consistency with which God showed up in my life, I never considered it a struggle.

My mom with my children.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it was easy breezy. Parenting is parenting. The hardest and most important, and most rewarding job I would ever have. I made the sacrifices I considered necessary. Partially to make it easier for my support system of my family to help me. Partially because I wanted to be as available to my children as my mother had been to myself and my siblings when we were growing up.

My mother said something profound to me that her mother said to her. I don’t know if I was sharing my life goals with her or complaining about the overtime I was missing out on at my job at the time. But she said said my grandmother told her, “Your children won’t always be little.”

My mom was always present with my children ❤️

Of course, when they are little, you can’t see that far ahead. You just see the right now. But not too long ago, when I realized that I have a 26 year old and a 17 year old, those words resurfaced in my mind. And I was, wow, where did that time go?

My daughter is off on her own with a husband and baby, and, though, my 17 year old son is still in high school, he’s kind of doing his own thing.

I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about when this time in my life would come. But, I sure hadn’t expected to be a widow when I was entering the empty nest phase of my life. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying this space of time in my life.

I love that I can go on vacations with friends without having plan babysitting for my children. I love that I can pay for a membership to a Pilates class, that ten years ago, I would have swore was too much. I love that I can splurge on a private Hot Yoga class, if I want to. I also love that I can sleep in on my Saturdays because my son can drive himself to Saturday morning bowling league.

This is a good feeling. While I know that parenting never truly ends, the declining level of responsibility that develops over time is to be appreciated.

On this Mother’s Day, I’m celebrating my mother’s unwavering support and love of me and my children in the early years of parenting and right now. I’m celebrating God’s grace and ever-presence in mine and my children’s lives. And I’m celebrating me because…

I DID THAT!

Visiting Arizona for my daughter’s 26th birthday. See my grandbaby in the corner.

Detaching From what you Love

The month of April was as busy I expected it to be. Two final papers for the two graduate courses I was enrolled in, both of my children’s birthdays, nearly weekly bowling tournaments for my son, and just regular life stuff. And then in the midst of all that, I had to two speaking engagements promoting within the same week!

Can you say stressed?

When it was all said and done, I was in need of a break. Break from writing. Break from posting. Break from thinking about writing. Break from thinking about posting–book related stuff, at least. I just needed to decompress.

However, I didn’t really know how. Writing and promoting my writing has become so infused into my daily life, I nearly didn’t know how to get through the day without pulling out my laptop or phone to write or create a post for social media.

But I knew the detachment was necessary for my mental well-being.

“But, you’re a writer. This is what you love. How can you be stressed doing something you love?” You may be asking.

Easy. When you do what you love, and you begin sharing it with others, it becomes work. No matter how much I may like what I’m writing, I still have to consider my readers in the process. I once read a quote that went something like, “When writers begin losing interest in their writing project, it’s because the real work of writing has begun.”

I still love creating stories and following my characters on their journeys or crafting my life experiences for readers to learn from or identify with. But when I’ve been doing it for a certain length of time, there comes of time to take a break.

It just so happens that when my graduate coursework was coming to an end, God created an opportunity for me to have a couple of weeks off work. I took that time to enjoy sleeping in, watching a couple of movies, and reading a great collection of stories from an author in one of writing group’s that I’m in.

I can’t believe that I went 10 days without opening my laptop. My mind said, “Thank you, sis. We needed that.”

Have you recently taken a mental break from something you love to do? Share in the comments.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Will I Ever Be Ready

Spring is struggling to break through in Michigan. But it’s so close, I figured it’s a good day to put some winter clothes away. While sorting through some things that I packed away last summer, I came across this dress.

My late husband, Kevin, immediately came to mind. This was one of the first things he bought me early in our blossoming relationship. I still love this dress. It wasn’t something that I would have chosen for myself, but I loved it anyway, mainly because he bought it for me. I would learn years later that receiving gifts is my primary love language. It’s not the price of the gift, it’s the fact that someone has thought of me and wanted to do something to make me happy.

It’s been three years since he passed away. I can’t wear this dress without thinking of him.

“Is that okay?” I ask myself? Is it fair to the guy that I spend a lot of time talking to these days? Will getting rid of the dress prevent the sporadic thoughts of my late husband?

Luther Vandross station on Pandora radio is playing. The O’Jays “Forever Mine” begins playing. This is Mom’s jam. Kevin, a man who loved music even more than me, loved it too. Suddenly, I can hear him singing along with Eddie and Walter. I miss hearing him sing. He was a great singer. He sang with passion and soul.

Then I envision us dancing together. He’s the first man in my adult life that I enjoyed dancing with. Our love developed, in part, on a dance floor. We used to go to the after work affair and dance like teenagers, as though one of coworkers couldn’t have been on the premises. We didn’t care. He learned that I was rhythmic in my hips and my soul. Most people don’t see that about me at first glance. He did and loved it.

It’s been three plus years (thanks to his illness) since I enjoyed dancing with a man.

Continuing the transition from winter to spring, I came across some a Kevin’s fraternity paraphernalia.

He loved his fraternity almost more than life itself. Becoming apart of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc was one of his greatest accomplishments. It inspired me join the sisterhood that I belong to. We embodied what’s called that Coleman Love.

These are the few things that I have left of his possessions that weren’t destroyed in the house fire that claimed his life. Part of me knows I should pass these items to his best friend/fraternity brother. But I’m afraid to let them go.

Over these three years, I’ve been saying I’ll give things away when I’m ready. When will that be?

I don’t know. I just don’t know…

Why I Write: The Page

The Page

Keeper of my secrets

Stories from the depths of my soul

Sometimes true;

Sometimes from the scenes of my imagination;

My dreams

My nightmares

My deepest fears

The crisp white on a notebook page

Or the grainy white of the computer screen,

Never turn me away

Never ignore my pleas

Not afraid of my tears

Not expecting me to be strong

Rather wanting all that I have to give,

to share, to dare

To say.

I can be who I am

I can be who I want to be

I can be who I’m afraid to be

In the open world

There is no judgement on that page;

On that screen

I…AM…FREE