Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God Made Grandmothers

(This is a photo of my grandparents for their 50th Anniversary.They were married for 76 years.)

Nellie Gamble is my grandmother's name but I called her Mama.  A few days ago I was thinking about how much my grandmother loved me, taught me and influenced my life.  The amazing thing is that I realized that I don't talk about her enough or allow myself to think about her because it still hurts me to know that she is now gone.  However, lately as I go through another life transition I have been reflecting alot on her life, spiritual teachings and our special love bond.

My grandmother was my protector, my hero, my first teacher and my  spiritual mentor.  I literally thought my grandmother was a SAINT!  She always wanted to be a teacher so she taught all of her children and even taught me how to read at the age of three. She thought that being a "school teacher" was the ultimate honorable job. She always talked about how becoming a teacher was her dream but she abandoned it to get married at the age of 15.  

She was encouraged by "her grandmother" to marry a 20 year old local landowner and farmer.  He was one of the infamous Gamble boys that was the son of a local white landowner that openly loved his black wife and took good care of their 13 children. (NOTE: This was in the late 1800's in central Alabama so this was very rare)  

My grandmother said that her grandmother felt that it would be best if she got married because she was poor and raised as an orphan.  The family felt as my grandmother became a young woman she needed a husband to provide her with the life she deserved.  Therefore, my grandmother dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and became a wife.  Yet even more than 50 years later she talked everyday about how she wished she had finished school and become a school teacher.  She said that in some ways she was glad that she made the decision because she always followed the advice of her grandmother. My grandmother said that her grandma was the BEST in the world but I disagree...SHE was the BEST.  

Tonight I decided to briefly reflect on some of my best memories and core lessons learned from my grandmother on my blog. 

Love is a Piece of Cake
On the third of every month-after my grandmother got her social security check- she would dress me up, put on her best dress and we would take the public bus downtown.  She would shop and pay bills but one of the highlights of our downtown adventure happened to be our cake ritual.  After all the business had been completed, we would go to Woolworth Department store.  She would always proudly take me to sit at the dining counter and order me a piece of German chocolate cake and glass of milk.  My grandmother had severe diabetes (what she called sugar) so she never would order any cake for herself but I always knew it was her favorite.  

She would always place her "pocketbook" in her lap, place my order and patiently watch me eat.  She would never talk while I was eating but seemed to enjoy the process. She was so proud to be able to buy me a piece cake and glass of milk. She absolutely enjoyed seeing me finish my treat...and it was always good!  The ritual always seemed like it was our little secret.  It was the one thing that we always did together that no one else knew. I now realize how precious those moments were in my life.  There was so much love exchanged in those quiet moments with my grandmother at the Woolworth counter eating a piece of German chocolate cake. 

I promise you that Jesus was my grandmother's best friend!  She talked to him about everything---I mean EVERYTHING.  She would declare his name aloud when she got good news, bad news, no news or if she wanted some news.  My grandmother was so openly tight with Jesus that my brother and I would be afraid that Jesus would "tell on us" to her when we did something mischievous.  I remember thinking as a small child, "I know Jesus must get tired of her because she talks to him, sings to him and calls on him all day long!" Her favorite song was "What a Friend We Have In Jesus."  She absolutely BELIEVED and LIVED the words of this song. For this woman Jesus was her BFF (Best Friend Forever)!!!!!

"If God Lets Me Live That Long And Nothing Happens"
My grandmother would declare this ENTIRE statement listed above before she made any commitment to attend an event or activity. She would say the entire phrase before saying "Yes, I'll be there." This was such a part of her daily mantra that she had developed a cadence with the phrase.  She said it was almost like it was part of a song.  What I learned from her through this declaration was that she always acknowledged that God was in complete control of her time on this earth. He blessed her with 91 years of life. 

"Somebody Bring Me My Gun"
I never saw this infamous gun that my grandmother would always refer to, however  if anybody strange or uninvited came on our porch or to our home while my grandfather was away she would loudly request that my brother or I would bring her gun. Of course, we would look at each other confused and think, "What gun does Mama have? Where is it?"  Before we could ask the question she would give us "that look" and we knew to sit down and shut up.  Due to her health and weight my grandmother had limited mobility. This was her way of warning a possible intruder that she would do anything to protect her grandchildren. It worked because this declaration would ward off any stranger  that would come to our home announced. 

I have tons and tons of more stories and memories to share.  Perhaps I will share them in future blogs. For right now I will savor the four memories and phrases that I listed above.  

I think there is always one person in each of our lives that God has placed on our individual paths to give us unconditional love.  My grandmother was that person for me.  She loved me fiercely, patiently and consistently. She taught me that true love never fails.

There is a lot that I don't know but the one thing that I know for sure is that God Certainly Made Grandmothers! I miss you Mama!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

A 40 Year Love Journey: The Healing Story of a Little Brown Girl

The Little Brown Girl
She's only 7 years old.  However, she has technically lived on this earth for more than 40 years, given birth to a child, experienced years of life lessons, inspired hundreds of people, raised millions of dollars, traveled the world and accomplished many professional and personal feats.  

Perhaps you have seen her before...she is that little brown girl standing on the corner holding three balloons (two yellow and one white) in her left hand while simultaneously twisting her pink satin hair ribbons with her right hand. She is the little girl with the bright smile, tiny gold hoop earrings and two afro puff ponytails placed on opposite sides of her head. 

She always wears a beautiful pink summer cotton dress adorned with white lace trimming. (This is her favorite dress because her grandmother-- the one person that loved her unconditionally-- bought it for her from Naman's department store in downtown Mobile more than 35 years ago just for being a good girl at school.)  She also proudly dons her favorite shiny white patent leather shoes (with a few scuff marks) and fancy dress socks trimmed in white lace and embroidered with tiny pink flowers. 

The Family
The little girl's family loved her dearly.  Her mother called her Sweet Chocolate Chip, her grandmother called her Ma and her aunts and uncles always called her Baby Girl.  However, she secretly always wanted to be called Princess--but only by her Daddy if they would ever meet again. She vaguely remembered meeting her Daddy once but that was such a long, long time ago.  She often wondered would he remember meeting her.

The Wait
She's a patient little girl that consistently stands in that same spot on the same corner, in that same pretty pink dress, with those same balloons for more than 38 years waiting for her Daddy to pick her up. She always believed in her heart that he would come back and take her for ice cream. Therefore, she filled up all of her time with activities and got through her days by working, leading projects, singing, and talking with her friends.  

She never told her friends that she was waiting on Daddy.  Her friends only believed she was loved by her family.  Everybody thought she was a smart and happy little brown girl.  For the most part, she considered herself almost happy except she knew that everything would only become perfect when Daddy came back.

As an innocent little girl she knew the sweetness of being loved unconditionally; however she also knew the bitter taste of being rejected. For years she never knew what to call those strange sensations in the pit of her stomach that came each time she felt "unloved and unwanted". However, she could vividly remember the very first time she felt those strange emotions--it happened at her "other" grandmother's house in Mississippi after seeing a picture of her absent father standing next to her sister (that was only 2 years older) sitting at her grandmother's table while flashing big radiant smiles.  

The Messages
During this visit to Mississippi the little brown girl carefully studied the family photo and couldn't understand why she wasn't in the picture. As she looked through the photos with her grandmother she remained quiet and painted her face with a great big smile.  She never told grandmother how she felt seeing the picture of the happy father-daughter pair that didn't include her.  Privately her active mind created strange messages such as, "What's wrong with me?  How come he loves her but not me? Why am I not good enough? Can I prove to him I am a good girl?  How can I make him love me?

The Twins
It was much later in life that the little brown girl realized that those strange messages were actually twin emotions and their specific names were Rejection and Abandonment

The little brown girl didn't particularly like the company of Rejection and Abandonment so she hid those twin emotions and buried them deep, deep down in her heart. She even tried to erase those emotions and feelings from her memory.  She almost succeeded until the day her heart was broken wide opened and shattered into a million pieces by that tall boy from down the road.  

The Playmates
The little brown girl really loved that tall boy from down the road and thought he would be her playmate for life.  They danced, they laughed together, they sang their favorite songs, they dreamt together and they even played house for many months. 

Although the tall brown boy had also lived on earth for more than 38 years, was divorced and had fathered two children-- in reality he was still that 8 year old little kid inside.  Ironically, he too didn't have a relationship with his Daddy either and in fact he didn't even know his real father.  But the tall boy said that this didn't bother him because he was big and strong.  He never talked about it.  But she knew he cared.

The tall boy constantly told the little girl that she was special and that he deeply loved her.... but sometimes he made her feel like she didn't really matter.  

One day for some unknown reason the tall boy just picked up his toys, left the sand box and moved away. There was no reason given, no explanation, and no real discussion.  He just left the little girl in the sand box to play all by herself.  

The Intruding Thoughts
As soon as the tall boy moved away the little girl's twin emotions of Rejection and Abandonment came back, tapped the little girl on her shoulder and demanded their rightful place in her heart and mind. She was now in a state of shock with a shattered ego, fractured feelings, and a broken heart. The little girl no longer had the strength to hide, wrestle and/or lock those strong emotions and feelings away. Her resistance was low.

Therefore, those twin emotions anchored themselves in the center of the little girl's mind and slowly took over her daily thoughts. Each day the intruding thoughts became stronger and stronger. Before long her thoughts led to many restless nights and tear filled days.

The Resurfacing Messages 
The little girl finally accepted that the tall boy was never coming back but now she heard those old messages louder than ever in her head.  They were the same exact messages she felt when she thought about Daddy. In every quiet moment she could hear those familiar messages, "What's wrong with me?  How come he loves her but not me? Why am I not good enough? Can I prove to him I am a good girl? How can I make him love me?

Seeking a ComfortingWord
The little brown girl was so tired of hearing those messages.  She needed immediate comfort and relief from the pain. She began to reflect on the things her grandmother taught her that would help her feel better.  She remembered that her grandmother--the one that loved her unconditionally--had always said that "God's word" could bring her comfort in the time of need. Therefore, the little girl picked up her bible and began to seek for the "word" that would bring her comfort. 

One morning she sat down in her quiet corner and read Roman's 12:2 that stated, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may determine what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

To be continued......

Stay Tuned for Part II: "Let the Healing Begin"

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Mama's Most Memorable Moments

It just hit me that my only child will be graduating from high school in less than two weeks.  The day has finally come where there will be no more parent/teacher conferences, no more boring PTA meetings, no more hours of Black History programs and Easter speeches, no more homework patrol, no more late night nursing-a-sick-child back to health, no more curfew control, no more room cleaning raids, no more restrictions, and no more whippings.
However, I realize that I am going to miss every single moment of raising a child!  My baby boy is actually grown up!  This past Mother’s Day I was sitting in the park thinking about my most memorable moments as a mother.  Here are a few a my favorite memories below:
"Trauma of the Flies"
My son and I traveled to Africa when he was 5 years old.  After visiting the country for about two weeks our delegation wrapped up our program and prepared to return home.  As a going away gift, our host family organized a huge crab boil cook-out in the village.  However, during the cookout my son and I noticed that there was an abundance of flies everywhere around the crab pots.  The flies landed on the pots, on the crabs, on peoples faces, and on the serving plates. Flies were EVERYWHERE!!!! 

My son (who hates bugs) sat quietly at the table while our freshly boiled crabs were being served and handed to us on plates.  After about 10 minutes of observation my son couldn’t take it anymore.  He yelled out and startled the crowd; this caused everyone in our vicinity to stop and look in our direction.  My son then shouted out at the top of his lungs. “Mommy, Mommy what is wrong with THESE people??? THE FLIES, THE FLIES are EVERYWHERE? Can’t they see THEM?  I just can’t take it anymore.  I don’t want any party.  I want to go home NOW where we don’t EAT flies!” This was one of my most embarrassing moments...but VERY funny!
"The Exposed Breast Mystery"
I breastfed my baby until he was 15 months.  At 15 months I began to ween him so I only breastfed him once each evening right before bed. I had completely stopped breastfeeding him throughout the night although he still slept in the bed with me. I soon noticed that I would wake up in the morning and always find my right breast outside of my gown. During this time I was very surprised about the change in his eating pattern in the mornings. I realized that he wasn’t hungry as usual after he woke up. Ironically, I woke up one night and caught the little rascal! I now realized that he was stealing a midnight nursing  while I was dead asleep. I was too OUTDONE! I started sleeping in t-shirts and pajamas from that day forward.
"The Weekend Excursion"
Like most teens, my son went through a rebellious stage around the age of 14.  On Thanksgiving a few years ago, I put my son on a greyhound bus to visit his Dad in Alabama.  Later that evening I discovered that he never arrived.  The next 48 hours were the worst hours of my life!!  I felt like I was in hell.   I was convinced that someone had stolen my precious teenage son and hurt him because he had never been out-of-place up until that point.  After viewing hours and hours of video at the Greyhound bus station, reporting an Amber Alert, and activating a personal search team of my friends for my son...he casually calls me 98 hours later to ask, “Ma I was wondering can I come by the house to get a change of clothes? I thought to myself.......WHAT???!!! 

Well, needless to say he came back but he was on lock down for a long time.   Almost a year  later when I could finally talk about the ordeal without wanting to choke him I asked,  “Son, why did run away and worry your family?” He looked shocked and calmly replied, ” What are you talking about Ma?  I never ran away. You and my Dad just overreacted. I was only on an Atlanta excursion with a few of my friends.” This is one of my most fearful and yet the most relieved moments with my son!

As you can see, I have had plenty of adventures with my son.  There are too many to recount on this blog.  And....YES I am very glad that I have almost completed this phase of motherhood.  However,  I am looking forward to many, many more great years of creating great memories and adventure together! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dispelling the Myths of Black Singlehood: Myth #1

I am very committed to spreading love throughout the world, therefore I always try to write blogs that are either positive towards male/female relationships or personal accounts of my “hope filled” love journey.   However, today I am going to deviate from my usual blog style and share my frustrations with this “being single” debate.
Jesus tells us in the scriptures that “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  The truth for me at this moment in time is that I am incredibly frustrated with the opinions, advice and perspectives of people on why the majority of BLACK WOMEN are unmarried.
In most of my conversations, the blame and current "condition of the unwedded" appears to fall squarely on the backs of black women!  Really???!!
MYTH #1. Sisters Don't Want the Good Guys

Do y‘all REALLY believe that sisters don’t desire a compatible, financially secure, God-fearing “good” brother to date?  Do you think we purposely choose “busters, a-holes, cheaters, fakes and liars“??? Is it possible for us to have simply been wrong, made a mistake, not right for the other person and/or just not a good fit?  

Perhaps there is a very small percentage of women that want to be abused mentally, physically and/or emotionally but ALL of the sisters that I KNOW desire a good, God fearing, principled man. Moreover, I think we are usually attracted to men that show the appearance of being upstanding, stable, and “good men.”  It’s usually only through trial and error (coupled with time and experience) that we discover that the brother perhaps is not who is presented himself to be. Or perhaps we are not where we want to be.

Recently, I had this debate with a very, very good male friend of mine.  He stated, "Sisters don't want to date good guys. Y'all only want the bad ones.  There are plenty available good men out there but y‘all ain't considering them."  He went on to tell me that my preferences (like height) were impacting my ability to  find a good man.  
After about an hour of exhausting debate, I finally acquiesced and mentally started to accept what my male friend told me.  But later that night as I looked inward and reflected on “why I don't like good men” I realized that the statement was simply—-NOT TRUE!!!   The truth is that I (like most sisters) am attracted to men that demonstrate assertiveness, talents/abilities, confidence, security, strength and/or “the perception” of leadership.
Speaking from my personal experience, I am usually attracted to tall strong men (protection), smart men (security), spiritual men (covering), and attractive men (procreation...you know...we have to make pretty babies).  But who doesn't want a WINNER?  Our male counterparts have preferences and they also desire to connect with a winner! By the way, I don’t see the men openly supporting or running to see the games of the “worst looking teams” in the league.  
Most women certainly find more interest in men they are physically and emotionally drawn to and vice versa. Let's be honest---nobody desires a mate that lacks confidence, assertiveness, strength and presence.  I think my preferences are perfectly legitimate.  By the way, I don't think that I should overlook a good brother that is 5"5 tall but the truth is because of my height I am very seldom approached by this type of man.  However, regardless of my preferences I have tried to remain open and approachable—- so where are ALL these available good SHORT men?
I certainly don't think we should allow our preferences to block opportunities.  However, my overall point is that as human beings we all have preferences to certain personalities, certain people, and certain environments. I don’t know how much of our preferences are driven by instinct or socialization?  Perhaps it is a mixture of both.  I simply don't believe that having preferences means that I only desire a "bad" man.  In fact, I think good and bad are very relative terms...but I digress.  
Mating preference appears to be a very natural behavior for animals and mammals in particular.  If we closely observe the behavior of highly intelligent animals (lions, birds, penguins, whales, etc.) we know that there are certain preferences that attracts the female species to select her male counterpart.  Of course, the responsibility of humans is different.  My point is that we are all trying to figure this thing call "love" out!
Ironically, with the exception to my relationship(s) with "baby daddy" and the "imposter" I have actually dated some really good men that treated me well.  Obviously, there were some compatibility issues in my former relationships but for the most part I feel that most of my ex’s are good men. Therefore, I can say with confidence that, "I like and expect to find a GOOD man!!"   
So why are so many black women single?  It's a complicated answer but contrary to popular belief--- I REFUSE to believe it's mainly because we don't want  a "good man"!
Stay tuned for the dispelling of Myth #2......

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Want An Arranged Marriage

A few years ago I visited with a dear friend in Nigeria that is the daughter of a former deceased President of the country.  Her father had been an extremely famous and wealthy man in Nigeria.  He was the first democratic elected President of the country but died before taking office.
During my visit to her home in Lagos, she was offered a marriage proposal by a extremely wealthy Nigerian business man. (Matter of fact he was close to becoming a billionaire)  With both her father and mother now deceased, the wealthy business man asked her to marry him so that she could maintain her lifestyle and elite social status in the country.  
To my surprise my friend told me that she wished her father was still alive to choose her husband for her.  I was simply perplexed by her position!!!!  This was an extremely brilliant and modern Harvard educated young woman that actually wanted her father to decide on her husband??!!! This same friend had openly organized for women’s rights around the world. Her mother was a famous activist that was killed for her fight for the rights of women.  YET she wanted her father to select a suitable husband???!!!???
I remember saying to my friend, “I really don’t understand.  Would you actually want your father to choose your mate? Do you want an arranged marriage?”
My friend looked at me and said, "Of course. I would absolutely trust my father with selecting my husband. I would much rather prefer that.” Then she proceeded to tell me her reasons why.  
My friend proudly stated, “My father loved me unconditionally and I know that he would only have chosen the right man for me that would love me they way that he did. I trust my father’s love for me.”
Her answer completely floored me.  But years later as I reflected on what she said I have finally come to an understanding of her position.  Now I too am finally ready for my Father to select my husband for me.
Let me be clear that you know that I am not talking about my biological or earthly father (unfortunately I wasn’t as lucky as my friend to have a Dad that demonstrated his love in my life).  
But what I mean is that I am finally ready for my eternal Father (God) to arrange my marriage for me and select my mate.

Dear Father God,
I thank you for the many blessings in my life.  Please forgive me of all of my transgressions, evil thoughts, and disobedient deeds.  Thank you for putting an overflow of love in my heart.  Thank you for giving me the desire to want to share my love with a mate.  Thank you for the gift of love and the desire to share that love.
I will no longer continue to lean to my own understanding.  I will absolutely trust your will for my life.  I will no longer try to make someone that I love be something that they are not.  I understand that we are all of a journey towards love and it is only you that can direct and change the hearts of man.  Teach me acceptance and forgiveness. 
Thank you for interfering in my life even when I don't want you to. Thank you for separating people from my life even when I want to hold-on tighter. Thank you for allowing me to feel pain--just enough to release and move towards changing my circumstances. Thank you for giving me revelation, deliverance, grace and protection.
Father God, I am so ready to follow your lead! I now recognize that I have been getting in my own way because of my ego, my insecurities and limited understanding.  I surrender my all to you. I am finally willing to accept YOUR choice of a man because I know that ultimately you know what is BEST for me.
Father, I thank you in advance for setting up my "Arranged Marriage." In Jesus' name I pray.     

Your Daughter LaTosha

Sunday, May 1, 2011

You know you're a grown woman when......

My Aunt says that life just begins a forty.  I am finally starting to understand what she means.  Since my 40th birthday I have cut off all my hair, let go of someone that I love, started writing my book, preparing my son to go off to college, began a new self-care regime, working on my own emotional healing and developing a new outlook on life.  
Each day I feel like I am going through a re-birthing and re-shaping process. This is not an easy process. However, every day I feel like I am evolving into a new and different phase in my life.  Each day I am challenged but I am learning to feel more, listen more, learn more-- but respond less, worry less and react less.  
Last night I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "Look at me, I am finally a grown "A" woman." Being grown has far less to do with age than I thought in the past.  However, the blessing of age is experience; experience brings wisdom; and wisdom brings better choices.  
Below I decided to write this blog and share my personal short list of "How I came to realize that  I have finally become a grown woman."  Read, reflect and enjoy.
You know you're a grown woman...When your compliments to self mean more to you than the compliments from others. 
You know you're a grown woman ....When you rather buy a quality $250 (or more) purse than buy 10 purses for $25 in different colors.
You know you're a grown woman ... When the bartender asks you for an I.D. and you are no longer flattered by the request.... instead you are offended.happy  
You know you're a grown woman...When there is NOTHING cute in the cheap clothing stores.
You know you're a grown woman ... When you look in the mirror and you look like a well taken care of and put together 40 year old and NOT a hanging-on-a-thread middle aged woman trying to hold-on to her style and same look as in her 20's.
You know you're a grown woman ...When during intimacy you no longer "fake the funk" with your partner but instead you give explicit instructions and sometimes....hands-on lessons.
You know you're a grown woman ...When your bra and good panties are the most important and valued items in your wardrobe.
You know you're a grown woman ...When at any given moment you can find a comb, bottle of lotion, safety pin, aspirin, hand sanitizer, perfume, tissue, phone charger and bible (or journal) in your purse.
You know you're a grown woman ...When someone doesn't pay you back the $20 they owe you and instead of being angry you feel relieved..knowing this is a very cheap price to "cut them off" for future asks.
You know you're a grown woman ...When you finally like your ex's wife or girlfriend more than you actually like your ex.
You know you're a grown woman ...When you no longer act out of guilt and a "sense of obligation" but you actually say NO to things that you don't want to do.
You know you're a grown woman...When you refuse to buy that $300 dress because it's not practical but NOT because you don't have the money.
You know you're a grown woman...When you consider massages, facials and pedicures as part of your health care plan.
You know you're a grown woman...When you inform your employer that regardless of budget cuts you will only stay in hotels rated 3.5 stars or better......And you don't share rooms with co-workers!!!
You know you're a grown woman...When you run into one of your old flings (that you were crazy about back in the day) and you can hardly remember his name.
You know you're a grown woman...When admitting that you were wrong feels liberating instead of debilitating....and that being wrong is not "the end of the world." 
You know you're a grown woman...When you get a late night booty-call from an ex and you listen quietly and then burst into hysterical laughter or start ministering to him with the scriptures.
You know you're a grown woman...When you stop looking for love and finally let God set you up in an arranged marriage with his choice of man. 
You know you're a grown woman...When you look in the mirror and finally fully accept and unconditionally love the person looking back at you.  
This is my simple list.  Please share your list of  “How do you know when you have become a grown woman!”  Live, love and enjoy life!  heartheartheart