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Once Upon A Time When I Was Colored

I was not born by the river in a little tent, but I was raised in the Jim Crow South. I was never the object of taunts and racial epithets, but I did drink out of the water fountain marked “Colored” and I did see food handed out to my grandparents from the side window of a “Whites Only” cafe. We had no buses in which we had to sit in the back, but I do remember road trips with my parents where the bathroom was the side of the road because we could not use the restrooms at the gas stations from which my father purchased gas for the car. Our teachers taught us well in our segregated schools, but I often wondered who were those kids whose names were written above mine in my text books. My baptist church was all Negro and His race was never an issue, just the condition of my heart. I learned to be my best, to do my best in that marginalized community because everyone from the maintenance man in the school to the preacher in the pulpit and, all others in between, expected nothing less. I was not taught to hate people but I despised the system that tried to force their definition of me on me. No, I was not taught to hate, but I learned to be discerning. I learned to be twice as prepared and to speak up when I had something to say. I learned to pay attention and when the time came, to apply what I had observed. I learned never to blink, especially in those moments when it was expected that I would. I learned to never let them see me sweat even when all I wanted to do was scream out my frustration.

I remember my first experience in an integrated restaurant. The woman/mentor who took us there noted my folded arms and told me to unfold them because I had a right to be there. I never folded my arms again in a new experience again, no matter how different the experience was to me. I always looked like I belonged, which was unsettling to some but it worked for me, always. I have had conversations with people who truly wanted to know, not for curiosity’s sake but because they wanted to do better, be better. I’ve had a jr. college civics professor (my first integrated experience), who pronounced “Negro” “Nigra,” apologize in front of the class to the three Negro girls in the class and then ask us for the correct pronunciation. I’ve had a California colleague exclaim over my natural hair, “Oh, I just want to touch it,” but quickly thought better of the idea when she caught the look in my eyes.

I haven’t seen it all but I’ve seen enough to know that all this back and forth will accomplish nothing. Until genuine courageous conversations begin to take place, we will all find ourselves waving our banners at one another while the beat goes on!

Happy Birthday To Me

My birthday was November 24th. It seems, these days, that birthdays are on speed dial, that just as soon as the last candle is blown out on the birthday whatever, the earth double times its 365 and as I’m adjusting to that new age, it’s time to say “Hello” to a new number.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; there are more years behind me than there are in front of me and, yes, I do have a few “I wish I had” thoughts as I travel down memory lane. But, this has been an intentional year of courage for me, a year to say “Yes” to the adventure of walking into the unknown for discovery, revelation and life lesson. I never imagined that freedom could be a by-product of daring to take the next step without an outline, agenda or commentary (figuratively speaking, of course) but that’s exactly what I’ve experienced.

In years past, I would have said “No” to new relationships, travels to new places, stretching a talent or embracing a new skillset. This year, I’ve stretched and reached for the stars just out of of my grasp. I’ve taken the next step even when I did not know where it might lead. I’m learning to quash those negative voices that demand I return to the safe and comfortable. This year I might even begin to share my age (don’t press me, though).

Here’s the point I’m trying to make. You will never discover who you are until you dare to step into who you think you aren’t! I know, it doesn’t make sense but it really does. I defined myself by who I thought I wasn’t rather than embracing who I might become. I am still God’s blank canvas, His painting of the me He designed me to be is not yet completed. I can’t wait to see what the next stroke of His gracious brush brings about in this chapter of my life.

I began this piece last week, seated at a table in a Louisiana Library that was swathed in southern accents as two dueling gray haired librarians debated the merits of this, that and the other.

It was quiet. It was southern. It was heaven!

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Posing outside of Southern University, Baton Rouge

 

 

GENIUS!

I originally posted this as a comment in a Facebook thread about people throwing shade. I want to share it with those of you who have had shade thrown at you, been ignored or overlooked, or just downright kicked to the curb.

This one’s for you:

“Genius attracts detractors like a magnet. Genius reminds people of their lesser strengths and insecurity pushes them to act out in arrogance aka shade. The sad part is when they are eventually shaded by the person they so admire (and it will happen), they will be crushed but unfortunately they will not see it as a reflection of their own behavior.

Genius does not have to announce its greatness, it just shows up. The arrogant work hard to prove they are great because otherwise, in the face of Genius, who would know or even notice them?

Genius does what it does without attitude or self-constructed hoopla because, well, it’s Genius. Those who throw shade can only do so because they are standing in the light of Genius. There can be no shade if there is no light.

Keep moving forward, Genius. There will be more shade as your light grows brighter but just remember, their shade can never diminish your light.

Genius’ “weakness” is that they almost never see themselves as Genius because they just do what they do, but others see it and covet it to the extent that they seek to diminish it.

Bottom line: Do You, Genius, and stop giving free press to the carriers of shade. They do not deserve your acknowledgement nor benefit of your light!!”

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#donnanotdiva #awomansplace

Not Again!

Earlier this year (2017), on a Sunday morning, I drove to Church, bounced out of my car and before I walked into the building, I looked down at my feet. To my chagrin, I had on mismatched flats. Both pairs were black but each had a different embellishment so I knew the difference would be noticeable to the inquiring eye.

I dashed back to the car, fervently praying that I had left a pair of matching flats in the trunk! No such luck. The only pair of shoes in the trunk were a pair of my daughter’s stilettos.

Now I love a pair of stilettos. I have written about my womanish stilettos. But, it had been over two years since I’d worn heels (hip and knee issues eventually replaced), so I shuddered at the thought of putting on those shoes. But, in my mind, I had no option, so I teetered my way into the sanctuary.

Everyone expressed surprise that I was not only in heels but in those heels! As I contemplated twenty minutes of standing in those heels, I blurted out my truth, “I wore mismatched flats to church this morning and these were the only shoes in the car!”

After the laughter died down, one young woman said, “I might have some flats you can wear.”

Those flats turned out to be slides topped with fuzzy stuff. At this point, I did not care what anyone might think. At least my feet would be flat on the ground. Fuzzy slides it would be!

Since the day of that mismatch mishap, I make sure my flats match before I walk out the door.

Let us now rewind to this past Sunday.

I again was a part of the Praise/Worship team. I pulled out my flats and intentionally made sure I had matching shoes. When I arrived at the church, I stepped out of the car and looked down at my feet.

Yep, you guessed it! Mismatched. Again. What. The. Hades!

I walked into the church and the first person I encountered, I pointed to my shoes and said, “Yes, I did it again.”

Same mismatched flats! Yes, we all laughed. Again.

I did my best not to care. Didn’t work. I felt like those shoes were screaming, “Hey, look at us! We don’t match!”

When sound check was done, I rushed out of the building to the car to search through the car trunk.

One stiletto that belonged to my daughter, no mate. One black flat, no mate. One black patent leather medium heel, wearable, no mate. One black kitten heel, no mate.

I am not frantic. I am determined. I open a car door to the back seat and I search under the seats. I seem to recall the mates to those wearable heels under the car seats.

Nothing, no mates, no flats, no thing! When did I clean out the car?

I go back to the trunk and begin to tear it apart even more (thank goodness, I don’t have much in my trunk).

After much tossing of stuff aside, I find the mate to the medium heel (at least I hope it”s the mate but at this point I do not care).

Wait. I have not worn heels for Praise/Worship for almost three years. What if I trip! What if I stumble! What if I topple over?

No such incidents, I’m happy to report. I also now realize that I can wear heels on those Sundays I am on the team. However, I am in the comfort-first stage of life, so flats it will continue to be (with an extra pair always in the trunk, just in case).

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I Spy With My Little Eye

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From Alice Walker essay, “Beauty When The Other Dancer Is Self”

“I am twenty-seven, and my baby daughter is almost three. Since the birth I have worried about her discovery that her mother’s eyes are different from other people’s. Will she be embarrassed? I think. What will she say? Every day she watches a television program called Big Blue Marble. It begins with a picture of the earth as it appears from the moon. It is bluish, a little battered-looking, but full of light, with whitish clouds swirling around it. Every time I see it I weep with love, as if it is a picture of Grandma’s house. One day when I am putting Rebecca down for her nap, she suddenly focuses on my eye. Something inside me cringes, gets ready to try to protect myself. All children are cruel about physical differences, I know from experience, and that they don’t always mean to be is another matter. I assume Rebecca will be the same.

But no-o-o-o. She studies my face intently as we stand, her inside and me outside her crib. She even holds my face maternally between her dimpled little hands. Then, looking every bit as serious and lawyer-like as her father, she says, as if it may just possibly have slipped my attention: Mommy, there’s a world in your eye.” (As in, “Don’t be alarmed, or do anything crazy.”) And then, gently, but with great interest: ‘Mommy, where did you get that world in your eye?'”

When my grandchildren look into my eyes, what do they see? Do they see a world full of hope and brilliant expectation or is it a world filled with rancor, acrid bitterness and yesterday’s dark regrets?

When my grandchildren look into my eyes, what do they see?

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Like Fine Wine

“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
                                                from “Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning

Listen Up!

I am grateful for every day the good Lord has allowed me to live. But, I’m not the one who broadcasts my age. This is not vanity on my part. This is wisdom. I know that as soon as I become the Seasoned Sister, the Mature Maven, the Perfectly Aged Matron, the Dowager Deaconess, there will be those who will then want to put me in that box they have created for “the old folk,” and at some point I may begin to accept it as my destiny (rocking chairs, front porches and sweet tea sipped through slipping dentures). Sure, I now call everyone “Dear” and “Sweetie,” but that’s because I am kind and compassionate. Not because I am old(er)! 

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“No, no, no,”

I do not understand why as soon as a person hits a certain age, people begin to act as though they have hit some “use by” date and therefore should be discarded..

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News Flash, y’all. Until the good Lord says, “Sit down, Donna,” the purpose is still in place and as long as I can, I will continue to stand for Him.

It is true. I no longer have the energy I once had, and some things demand just too much of what little I do have, but as long as I can, I will. Yes, there are some things from which I will have to step away from, eventually. But until then, I’m will continue to stay the course. Besides, age is all about mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!

At least that’s what I’ve heard!

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Besides, I still look good!

Old people were young people before young people were people! ~Tom Wyatt

I CRIED TODAY!

 

Today is “National Widows Day”

And

I cried today

But

I did not cry because I am a widow

Even though I am a widow

But

I did not cry today

Because he is no longer present

I cried today

Because some people took the time to say,

“You are not forgotten”

I did not know that tender place existed

Until

“You are not forgotten”

It is so easy for widows to be lost in the fog of grief

I do not mean a widow loses her way because of her grief

Though this is possible

The journey on the path of the new normal can be quite circuitous

Fraught with fear of the unknown

Strengths to be discovered

Obstacles to overcome

Courage to be cultivated

But this is not what I mean

When I say a widow is often shrouded in the fog of grief

I mean too often others lose sight of her because of her grief

Unable to relate to the loss

Or her struggle in the loss

They lose sight of her because of her grief

Familiar voices no longer call out to her

Familiar faces fade away

Memories are sometimes her only recourse

But they too are painful reminders

Of forced isolation

That which is too often a part of mourning

Others try to construct a timeline

For her grief

As though they know what that timeline should be

For her grief

Married friends

Challenged by her singleness

Begin to exclude rather than include

They do not realize

That “single” only means to the widow

A double bed that now only makes room for one

The spouse’s name is no longer spoken

Unless she speaks it

The stories she so treasures

No longer told

Unless she tells them to herself

It’s the widow’s walk without the wail

Or a mournful claque

To encourage the grief over loss

The supportive recognition of her sorrow

Dissipates

After “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”

She is alone

Shrouded in her grief

As though she was buried

With her husband

“Donna, you are not forgotten”

Yeah, I cried today

For additional information about “Widow Wednesday:” http://widowwednesday.com/national-widows-day/

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