New Year’s Eve

It’s here. The last day of 2013. Can you believe it?

I awoke to find an email from WordPress, detailing the milestones and stats for the year. My top posts included a brief remembrance of my mother, Marla’s narrative on living with lupus, and the introduction of the Joy Jar – a beautiful idea I may revisit in the coming year.

I also began writing about sexual violence and I spent a good deal of time pondering a theory of love, something I plan to do a great deal more of in 2014. My thinking and writing are always evolving and it’s enlightening to see what resonates from month to month and year to year. I hope you’ll continue to join me on the journey.

Wherever you are in space and time, I hope you are winding down the year with an abundance of peace and joy. I pray the dawning year is full of beauty, love, and good cheer. And if you should wish it, a standing ovation…

wonder“Bravo!” I heard Dad yelling through his hands.

“Why is everyone getting up?” I said.

“It’s a standing ovation,” said Mom, getting up.

So I got up and clapped and clapped. I clapped until my hands hurt. For a second, I imagined how cool it would be to be Via and Justin right then, having all these people standing up and cheering for them.

I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.

Top posts for September

Here are the top posts from last month’s 30in30 challenge:

September is my mom’s birth month. She was on my mind, and subsequently, on my blog. Early in the month, I wrote about the Barnes and Noble she never had the chance to enjoy. Later, on her birthday, I shared a co-worker’s wisdom about mothers and grief. In short, losing a mother can leave you broken-hearted, even a decade later.

I talked about vulnerability and learning to be “intentionally transparent” with the one you love. Easy to want, but often hard to do. It boils down to being honest with yourself first. That level of honesty and clarity about myself and my needs is at the root of an emotional wellness strategy I learned in September.

Emotional wellness is important, but wellness extends to many domains. In honor of National Women’s Health & Fitness day, I wrote about prioritzing physical wellness in the face of a busy lifestyle.

Last month, Diana Nyad made history, and she endures as a testament to dreaming big, and never giving up. It is with that spirit that I welcome October. I’m revising and devising my goals and striving forward each day. I wish the same for you.

Last, but not least

I debated yesterday and today about what kind of entry I would write for my last 30in30 this month. I wondered if it would be a roundup of the top posts of the month. I considered featuring my favorite posts. I pondered whether or not to share my my girlfriend’s story about lupus (spoiler alert: coming soon).

Today during dinner, there were unexpected fireworks. I thought about posting that story, including the fact that several patrons ran out onto the balcony just to witness the display.  We all clapped at the finale.

But the truth is, I’m sleepy. It’s past my bedtime and I’m just happy I made it through another challenge. As always, I learned a lot about myself and my life during the past 30 days. I’m in a completely different place than I was during the last challenge this March. I’ve moved and I’m acclimating to a different way of life. The promise of new employment came and went. I’ve gotten my running mojo back. Surprising story ideas are brewing. And I’ve made small but significant strides in my professional life.

Lots going on. And in the middle of it all, I wrote one post every day for the past 30 days. For the time being, I’m planning to pull back a bit. I want to try something new…

My goal is to write one post per week. These may be more developed than my previous posts. Not sure yet. I like the discipline of a regular schedule, but every day isn’t sustainable. So this is a compromise I’m trying out.

We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, do you have any topics you’d like me to write about? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Last, but not least: Congratulations to me!

Knowing that to give up is to be defeated by oneself, continue single-mindedly to take small but significant steps in the shaping of your destiny. ~Daisaku Ikeda

What to ask an author

Today, Tayari Jones is interviewing Khaled Hosseini, the author of Kite Runner. She’s been compiling and polishing questions to pose:

First of all, I love Tayari’s approach to life. I really enjoyed meeting her in person during the release of her novel, Silver Sparrow. She was vibrant and full of encouragement. I follow her musings and world traveling via social media, and I always find her updates authentic, thoughtful, or inspiring.

The tweets above are no exception.  She realizes Hosseini may be tired from a long flight, and she concedes the participants may not want to hear the standard questions asked of authors in general, or of this author in particular. I appreciate her open-minded, open-hearted approach to frame this experience for all involved.

I responded to Tayari on Twitter and FB. Here are a few questions I’d want an author to discuss:

  • Talk about your writing journey. Not just professionally, but personally. How/why did you begin writing?
  • You’re best known for {insert topic or genre here}. What other {topic or genre} would you be willing to tackle? Why?
  • What’s the dream project you’d love to write? (But maybe you haven’t b/c of time, expertise, doubt, etc.).
  • Do you ever have to balance writing authentically vs. writing for commercial success? If so, how do you navigate that? In other words, do you find yourself writing for the audience, more than  self?
  • Regarding an author’s favorite piece: What makes this piece your favorite? What do you hope readers will take from this work?
  • Especially of fiction writers: What is the writer’s role in today’s society?
  • Especially for seasoned writers: How has your approach to writing changed as your life circumstances have changed?

That’s my list! If you could pose any question to an author, what would you ask?

Seeing to the ugly

“The less of yourself you feel when you are with someone, the less of them you should probably see!” – Lakara Foster

I logged into Facebook this evening, and my friend Tia had the quote above as her status update. I quickly commented, “That’s a word,” and I meant it.

I totally agree with that sentiment. I’m nearly 40, and the best thing about being 39 1/2 is the fact I’ve spent nearly a decade living  authentically. It was as if some magic switch turned on at or around my 30th birthday, and I shed the bullshit and suddenly became myself. The dormant me, always there, sprang forth. And even though it’s fair to say I’m still (and always will be) in a state of becoming, being true to myself and learning to live life on my own terms is freeing. It’s joy.

It’s not a secret to close friends and family that I’m in a romantic relationship. It’s been an amazing experience – one in which I’ve been able to grow as an individual and as a partner. It’s beautiful and yet it’s challenging. Not in a toiling, difficult sort of way, but it takes effort. And part of what takes effort is allowing myself to be me. The normal day-to-day is easy. Yet when inevitable moments of tension come up (growth opportunities in corporate speak), there’s always the option to avoid the situation, to play a role, or to be myself.

Sometimes  “myself” has feelings I wish I wouldn’t have. But these feelings, whether or not they align with reason, are human. Experiencing them is what it means to be human. Exploring them openly is what it means to be intimate.  To the degree that you feel you can be honest with a friend, partner or lover – intentionally transparent – that connection is a healthy one.

It’s not easy, but it’s honest. And worth it.

You are the sunshine of my life…

The blogosphere can be a cheerful place, and one of the things I like best about it is how fellow bloggers cheer each other on. We do this by commenting on posts and amplifying favorite posts across social media. We also give kudos and encouragement by nominating each other for awards. In her entry yesterday, Alexis nominated me for a Sunshine Award. The requirement for this award? Another blogger simply enjoying my blog! It’s a sweet sentiment and a nice reminder that although people aren’t always visible or vocal, they’re still reading.

Sunshine Award recipients have duties:

  • Include the Sunshine Award logo (above) in your blog post.
  • Link to the person who nominated you.
  • Answer these 10 questions about yourself (below).
  • Nominate 10 bloggers and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

I don’t read 10 blogs regularly, so I won’t nominate that many. I will say that two of my favorite blogs are Joshunda’s Tumblr which is always inspirational and interesting, and Intelligentsia Brown’s Get Chose Movement which is probably best described as scholarly ratchetry. She hasn’t written  much as of late, but neither have I. I’m hoping for a resurgence soon. There are a few others I enjoy from time to time, and I reserve the right to add to this list throughout the month. :-).

So about those questions…

1. If you couldn’t blog anymore, what would your “outlet” be?

I love Twitter, and I definitely use that as a way to fellowship and communicate and develop ideas. I have a decent following there and I learn a lot through engaging my tweeps.

2. If you could go to a spa and get any treatment they provided, what would you get?

I go to spas at least annually (on my birthday), but I strive for more often than that. I always get a massage and a pedicure, but lately I’ve also added facials. The best treatment I’ve had was a combo wrap, scrub, massage, reflexology deal in Mexico a few years ago. So what would I get? All of the above, please.

3. If you could go back in time, would you have followed a different career path than you did? What would it be?

I have a journalism degree, and I’d still like to dust it off and put it to good use. If I could have a do over I may have pursued magazine journalism or creative writing – both things I was angling toward when I veered toward teaching instead. In any event, I’m happy I became an educator, and I plan to begin my second career as a writer sometime around my 40th birthday.

4. You can plan any type of vacation you want. Would you want relaxing or adventurous?

I’m all about relaxation. Sure, we can add a little bit of adventure to the mix, but mostly I long for time and space to recuperate and recharge. Give me a couple of days on Caribbean island and I’m set.

5. What food do you hide from your kids and sneak after they go to bed?

I don’t have kids. If I have any later, or become a stepmom at some point, I’m not quite sure what I’d hide from them. I don’t eat anything that I don’t recommend children eat.

6. What TV show (that is currently on) are you addicted to?

I stopped watching live TV over a year ago, and I haven’t plugged my television up since I moved in April. Because so many people have talked about Orange is the New Black, I have started watching Season 1 on Netflix. I enjoy it, but I’m not addicted. I generally spend free time reading, tweeting, or spending time with my SO.

7. What was the best book you’ve ever read?

Hmm. This is a hard one. There are lots of best books. In fact, I’m gonna just refuse to name one. Some of my favorites include:

  • most of the Harry Potter books,
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God,
  • Silver Sparrow,
  • 32 Candles,
  • The Narrative of Frederick Douglass,
  • The Bluest Eye,
  • several of the early Alex Cross novels,
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham,
  • most Judy Blume books,
  • Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon, Maybe,
  • I Wish I Had a Red Dress, and
  • Interviewing as Qualitative Research.

As you can see, I find pleasure in all sorts of books.

8. Do you play a musical instrument? If not, what would you play if you could?

I’m a flautist. Or was. I’d love to learn piano. I took lessons for two weeks one summer and it was great.

9. What was the first and last concert you’ve been to?

Tricky. Growing up, I went to a few concerts with my parents. One stands out in particular: The Tempting Temptations and the Fabulous Four Tops at Chastain Park in Atlanta. I haven’t really been to concerts much since then. The only other one that stands out was 2 Live Crew at FAMU my freshman year. Ratchet, yes indeed.

10. What is your favorite holiday?

Growing up it was Christmas. Mainly because I loved Christmas lights and singing Christmas songs around the house. I remember shunning the commercial aspect of Christmas as early as elementary school, and I never really celebrated for religious purposes. For both of those reasons, I’m not really into holidays at all now, but I do enjoy celebrating days of personal importance. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Days like that are special, or holy to me. I have an anniversary coming up, actually. September 15th. Blue and I will celebrate one year together. That’s not significant to anyone else, but it’s important to us.

And speaking of sunshine…

Thirty days hath September

I’m young at heart, and recently celebrated my 39 1/2 birthday, but few things keep you as flexible and free-spirited as children.  Last night was a good reminder of that.

Fire and Ice SorryFour of us negotiated pawns in the new “fire and ice” version of Sorry, when we stopped to comment on the intermittent percussion piercing the quiet evening.

Blue went to investigate and came to report there were fireworks nearby! You may not know this, but fireworks are one of my favorite things.  “I wanna see!” said my inner 10-year-old, and we dashed outside to check them out.

Barefoot, we stood in the grass, craning necks and blocking  street lights with palms to admire the colorful blasts lighting the sky. The youngest among us decided it was a great time to run around and requested we time him as he ran back and forth between mailboxes.

Suddenly it was a race. We each staked out lanes in the middle of the empty street and scouted a finish line. A nearby fire hydrant seemed a good marker, and I silently questioned the wisdom of sprinting in a dress without so much as a warm up or stretch. Off we went, legs flying, balls of feet smacking pavement.

Seconds later it was over. Breathless, laughing, we turned around and walked back, girls gloating – the clear winners. Back indoors we finished our game. Boys the winners that time.

And with that, August ended with a bang.

Now it’s the first day of September, and it’s time to begin blogging again. This post opens the month and opens my next 30 and 30 challenge. Over the next 30 days, my plan is to write 30 posts. As always, they’ll be about whatever moves me at the time. I hope you’ll hang around.

See you tomorrow.

xoxo