Attitude of Gratitude

wp-1451537647407.jpegThese days we live in a world where every time you turn on the tv someone is trying to sell you something to fix your flaw.  Weight loss products, hair color, hide the back fat, whiten your teeth, stuff these pads in your pants to give you a big butt!  We can all find something we would like to fix or change about ourselves, but did you ever stop and think that maybe the one thing that bothers you most, is the one thing that makes you, well, YOU!  It sets you aside, makes you authentic.  What if God said, “I’ll give her a crooked smile” or “I’ll give him a gapped tooth.”  What if that birthmark was God’s final touch to make you unique?  My cousin and I were talking about Jennifer Grey’s nose job.  (She was the lead in the movie Dirty Dancing, pre nose job and played in Sex in the City post nose job)  We were saying how much different she look afterwards and my cousin said she looked better.  “I don’t know,” I replied, “she just looked so different.  What if that was what made her, her?  What if God cried a little that day because he had made her just right and she went and changed it?”  I still don’t look at her the same.  Her nose does not make her who she is but she just looks so different to me.
We all have that one thing that bothers us.  We all have that one thing that makes us self conscious.  For me it is my weight.  I have struggled off and on with my weight over the years.  I have done Atkins, Weight Watchers, you name it, I have tried it and I have succeeded many times.  Here’s the thing, even when I have gotten to the weight I thought I wanted to be, I wanted to lose more!  I still found something I wanted to change about myself!  Here’s the other thing, my weight does not define who I am!  I am still the same person no matter what.  My friends and family love me regardless.  Now, this is not a pity party in anyway, I actually have a point to make.
Recently I have been reading and seeing a lot about the power of positive thinking.  Oprah has had different shows and speakers on the Law of Attraction and the science of positive thinking.  Whether you agree with these theories or you believe in reaping what you sow, once you begin to be grateful for what you have, your perspective will change.  For example, I struggle with my weight and wanting to lose weight, but if I look at some of my skinny friends, they have struggled to gain weight.  When I look at others who have health issues and illness, I can be thankful for my health.  I can spend my day complaining about my job or I can be grateful that I have a job.  With 2015 coming to an end, I want to start my new year out right.  So, I have begun to start each morning by getting up a few minutes early to be grateful.  To take a few minutes and write down what I am thankful for.  What I love.  They say attitude is everything and I am finding that this helps to put me in a good mood for the day.  Throughout the day when people irritate me or things go wrong I try to step back and look at my issue from a different perspective.
With 2016 around the corner, I want to take the focus out of the flaws. Too often we focus on the wrong flaws!  We watch the news and see all the real world problems going on.  We have flaws in the government, flaws in the justice system, flaws in equality.  Here we are feeding into our own superficial flaws.  I’m tired of feeding the negativity.  I want feed the world with love and positivity.  I plan to try out something I heard about.  Pick a person each day and send them an email, a text, a card or a letter telling them why you love them or what you admire about them.  You can even just let them know you are thankful for them.  Encourage others to do so.  You will be surprised to know that it not only makes the other person feel good, but being grateful can make you feel good as well.  Let’s see if we can cause ripples of love throughout the nation.  Let’s look at our flaws from a different perspective.  One of love, acceptance and thankfulness. Let’s be grateful.

Christmas Blessings

As I sit and think back to a couple of years ago at Christmas, I remember it was our first Christmas in our own place.  I was happy that it was finally just the two of us (my son Isaiah and I), but my heart was breaking because I had no money to spend on my son.  I knew his dad was getting him an ipad.  I knew he wouldn’t go without, but as a mother I hated that I couldn’t get him much for Christmas.  I remember bawling my eyes out.
This year is different.  Money is not my concern this year. I’m not rolling in the dough by any means, but it is not a stress.  However, this year I have noticed so many posts of people who have lost children, parents, and loved ones at this time of year.  My heart was heavy as I saw that an old school mate had lost her son to cancer.  Her son, who was about the same age as mine.  Seeing this hit me hard.  As a mother, and a sensitive person, I couldn’t help but cry.  In fact, I sobbed.  I could NOT imagine having the strength to deal with losing a child.  I thought of friends I had lost and how their mothers had went through this.  No matter the age, I could not fathom the pain these mothers (and fathers) have endured.  I cried. I sobbed. I prayed.  For love and healing for these women.  I prayed that if I couldn’t take away their pain maybe I could share it some how. 
Every year I say I’m not going to stress at Christmas.  Every year I say I will break this cycle I’ve carried on of getting emotional and stressed out trying to have the “perfect” Christmas.  This year I mean it!  This year I am going to think of all the mothers wishing they had their children in their arms.  This year I am going to hold my son a little tighter, hug him a little longer and kiss him a few extra times.  I’m going to enjoy every moment with my family, even when they get on my nerves!  I’m not going to stress making it the perfect day.  I am going to say a prayer and thank God for every single one of them.  I’m going to say a prayer for the mothers out there missing a piece of their hearts.  I’m truly going to be thankful for the blessings I already have. 

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Greg

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Today would have been my friend Greg’s 38th birthday.   Greg and I met through City Year back in 1996.  Fresh out of high school.  He was always the kid on the team who looked like a “hot mess!” In City Year, we learned that as a team member it was our duty to uphold City Year’s standards, which included shirts tucked in, name badges on, and pants crisply ironed.  I can’t tell you how many times Greg got sent home or written up for showing up with his shirt hanging out, no name tag, clothes all wrinkled, and shoes practically untied.  I can still picture the look on his face when Danielle,  our team leader would reprimand him.  That blank stare like, what did I do? His voice would go up an octave or two as he questioned her.
He was always cracking jokes, making silly faces, imitating Adam Sandler or Jerky Boys stand up, and just being a plain goof ball.  In fact, I remember the time him and Dwayne got kicked out of a meeting for laughing.  The two never said a word to each other! They just looked at each other and got in trouble.
You develop quite a relationship with the people you work with on your City Year team. Even if you don’t keep in touch much after, those are special friendships you don’t forget.  Greg and I kept in touch here and there in the years after City Year.  We would visit or chat on the phone from time to time.  I remember one conversation when I asked him, “Do you ever make up your own skits for Saturday Night Live in your head?” Absolutely he did! As we discussed our dream to be cast members one day.  He always made me laugh.  With Greg I could be my silly self.  When I remember him it always brings a smile or a chuckle.  I can hear his voice vividly.  
Yet, every once in a while I will have dreams of him.  In my dreams he is always quiet and gives me a hug, a kiss on the forehead or holds my hand.  Sometimes I wake up crying but mostly I feel comforted.  It feels nice to have a visit from him.  Makes it seem like he’s not so far away.  Today, on his birthday I would like to keep his memory alive and share this poem I wrote for him.

Sometimes you can ignore it
Sometimes you can forget it exists
But only for a little while
Then it comes back
Bigger
Stronger
More overwhelming
The pain
The sadness
The hurt
Some days you go on
Pretending it’s all a dream
Then one day you wake up
It hits you
Not in the face
Not in the stomach
Even worse
In the heart
He’s gone
It’s not a bad dream
Its real
And it hurts
And i cry
And i remember the silly voices
The funny faces
And i laugh
And i smile
And the pain subsides
But only temporarily
And now i look forward to my dreams
Because it is there that i get to see you
It is there that you now visit me
And you hug me
And you kiss my forehead
And for that one moment the pain is gone
And you are here

India Arie’s Christmas with Friends Show in Boston

This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to go to the Christmas with friends songversation in Boston with India Arie.  India does not call it a concert or a performance, it’s simply a songversation.   She recently released a Christmas album and is doing a Christmas tour.  When I first got to the show I was excited and nervous.  With the combination of the holiday season, PMS and my mother’s genes I was feeling very emotional!  When India came onto the stage, she started with her prayer and sang I Am Light, the lyrics were so healing.  It was like therapy. Reassurance.  I am not the things I have done or my past mistakes.  She spoke to my heart, telling me to let the past be the past. It does not define me or who I am.  I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks.  It was like I had been holding my breath and finally I could release it all.  Let out the old carbon dioxide and take in fresh air!

The room, filled with so many different people.  Every shade and hue from a milky white to a sweet caramel and  a deep dark rich chocolate.  All gathered in one room.  One purpose.  To listen to India’s voice, her message, her WORDS!  As she sang the classic “Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music to The Christmas Song while weaving in many of her hits from over the years.  I thought to myself, she could sing a death metal song right now and make it sound like rainbows and unicorns to my ears.  It was like I could see the music notes dancing throughout the theater.  As I looked around to see the multitude of different people, every color of skin, every shape and size, bald headed, curly hair, short, tall… there was at least one of everyone in the room… It was pure beauty.  It was like the Benetton ads from the 90’s.  Every single person smiling, crying, singing, healing!  It was an overwhelming feeling of PURE LOVE!  With the hate, the fear, the violence going on in the world these days it felt amazing to be a part of this moment.  To be in that room full of love for one night was so healing!!!  Even more comforting  was to know that I could share that moment with my son.

At 17, my “Pooky Bear” ( a name I made up to embarrass him but it never works because he’s too confident) doesn’t like to hang with Mama bear too often.   Somehow over the years of listening and singing (not so great) to India’s music, he too has become a fan.  As a mother, it was my joy and blessing to have the memory of that night with my son.  The show was amazing!  India was and is amazing!  I know, I know, she is a woman like me, but she can sing much better so I gotta give her props for that.  It was a great night.

When we had first arrived and waited for the show to start, we looked around and discussed the fact that there seemed to be such a strange crowd of people and how some didn’t seem to fit in.  We even joked about the fact that the older white lady who had come by herself and was sitting next to us would be me in about 25 years. However, by the end of the night it all made sense.  This group of fans may look like they don’t fit, but over all they had much more in common that one would think.  To limit this crowd, as being brought here because they are India fans barely touches the surface. To be present that night and feel the peace and unity as the audience sang along to One.  To realize everyone in this room had so much more in common.  On the outside we were all so different, but together we all shared a common spirit of humanity, love and peace.  In that moment, in that theater, it was felt.  For that one night  we forgot about all the fear, the pain, the hate and violence going on outside.

As we drove home that night my son and I were talking about the show.  I wish I could describe that overwhelming feeling of love.  It felt as if my heart was pouring over with love.  As if I could no longer contain it.  India has a song called Soulbird Rise and refers to her fans as “soulbirds”.  The best way I can sum up the night is with this poem I wrote.

Let me be your soul bird

Together we will fly among the clouds

Let me be your soul bird

We will rise above the crowds

To speak our truth

Our voices heard

Our message strong and loud

One love that grows

One peace to show

One step to take

Towards Unity

Cause that’s our common ground

Let me be your soulbird

While at the show India mentioned that she had recently written several essays and encouraged the audience to read them and comment.  I found it very interesting that she talked a lot about the power of words and how we use them.  I have started reading her essays and encourage you all to check out her page. (Soulbird.com)  I’m not saying this just because I am a fan of her music, but I am a fan of her message and her words.

It’s funny that this was a Christmas show, yet reading over my blog, there is no feeling of Christmas.  I don’t talk about sleigh bells or presents or Santa anywhere in here!  For me, no matter what holiday you celebrate, it’s about being together.  It’s about sharing memories, laughter, food, friends, family and love.  The show that night, for me, was about creating memories with my son.  Everyone gets so wrapped up in the spending money, buying gifts, making sure everything is a certain way.  Maybe that is what the show was supposed to do. Remind everyone to take a break from the stress, the chaos in this world and just create a positive memory.  A feeling of love.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas or whatever you may celebrate!  Peace on earth!

 

 

Using My Words

So recently I started this blog, not really knowing where I was going with it.  Everyone would ask, what are you going to blog about? What is your theme?  I had no idea.  So one night I sat down and just started writing my introduction.  It seems that each time I go to post I just kind of wing it!
I keep thinking about the questions though. What am I writing about? I don’t want to blab about nonsense.  I want to make a difference with my words.  I want to use my voice.  I want to create things.  I want to empower people.  To spread love.  That is my mission.  There is not enough, nor can there ever be enough, love in this world.
Tonight I am going to see India Arie with my son.  If you don’t know who she is or know her music, check out her website http://www.soulbird.com.  She may not be your style of music or your favorite, but she is one of mine.  I have been thinking a lot lately about why I really admire her as a performer.  I have been thinking about her music and why I love it so much.  It’s because she creates a feeling!  When I listen to her music I feel good!  I feel the release of endorphins, whether it makes me smile, cry, laugh or just sing loudly (and badly).  If I’m having a bad day I just close my eyes and listen to Purify Me and it calms me.  If I’m feeling not so great about my appearance I can listen to I am Not My Hair and realize that my real beauty comes from my soul.  If my son is being a typical teenager the lyrics in Beautiful Surprise remind of what a blessing he is to my life.  When I  need to escape this craziness, I close my eyes and go to Beautiful.  As India transports me to a peaceful place in my mind.  Days I am discouraged, she reminds me of the Strength Courage and Wisdom we all posess inside.
Thinking about her music and the mood it creates, has made me realize that is what I would like to do with my writing.  When I listen to her music I feel love and peace.
I want to use my words to build people up. To remind you that just because you are having a bad day, doesn’t mean it is the end of the world.  There is always tomorrow.  To remind people that just because you have a moment of weakness does not mean that you are not a strong person.  Having a bad hair day doesn’t define the beauty that is within you.  Don’t look in the mirror and let it define your value!
Words can be so powerful.  Remember the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” That is definitely not true.  People get stuck in verbally abusive relationships all the time and the only thing bringing them down is the power of words.  Words can be used to tear down or build up.  So remember to use your words carefully when, writing, commenting or speaking.  I choose to use my words to build.
So what is my theme or mission with this blog? It’s using my words to create love and peace.  To remind not only myself, but all of you reading this blog, that you are amazing!  You are beautiful, strong, people with a purpose.  As India says in her song dedicated to Stevie Wonder, you are Wonderful!

*please note the italicized words are song titles of just a few of India’s songs. 

Tsunamis in my mind

“Wow! You’re a great writer” they say. Yet, I question them. It’s funny to me, because really, I’ve been doing this my whole life.  I had no idea other people would want to read my work. I didn’t know people would enjoy reading my thoughts, my feelings, the tsunamis in my mind. It’s really just how my brain works. Just spitting out words and arranging them on paper. Somehow words seem to organize themselves better when they move from my brain to the paper. Not so much when they move from my brain and out of my mouth. Somehow they just don’t flow the same.  They become jumbled and confused at times. But when pen hits the pad it’s like my brain just flows, the words spill out and it all makes sense. It’s like a cleansing.   It’s my therapy.  It’s how I clear my head, calm myself, bring peace to my inner being.  And once I am done and the pages are full, the tsunamis in my mind are calm once again. For a brief moment my mind can rest.

Ups and Downs and Other Lessons

It’s been a couple of weeks since I started my blog.  To be honest, around the same time I was starting my blog, I had just shared one of my first writings publicly.  (See link at bottom of blog)  It was a response to a blog I had read by Wendy Grossman, as well as, how Wendy and I became friends.  Long story short, my post on Wendy’s blog got some serious recognition and feedback.  The response was overwhelming and exciting.  I felt like I was ready to quit my day job and become some famous author.  Ok, ok, maybe I got a little ahead of myself.  

I was on a natural high from the love and positive comments I was getting from everyone.  But as we all know what goes up must come down.  And then it happened…the crash.  The negative comments, the criticism, the misconstrued words.  As much as I tried to prepare myself for this, there is no preparation.  It’s amazing what the power of words can do.  

I learned a lot from that first post.  I learned that words have the power to create and the power to destroy.  I learned that once you put something out there, you can’t really get it back.  I started thinking, maybe I’m too sensitive to be a writer, if I can’t take criticism.  After a few days of anxiety, my mind spinning itself out into ridiculous scenarios and trying to think of how to fix or correct the fact that someone took my words the wrong way, I had to step back and look from a different perspective.

I started reading blogs and reviews, comments by people on facebook and all over the internet   I started seeing how some people, regardless if right or wrong, are just rude and hateful.  I saw that some things, just aren’t for everyone.  For example, I love India Arie, so while listening to her music one day, I started to notice there were songs i would skip and others I would play twice.  I realized that certain songs I just like better, they sound better or I relate more to the song.  It doesn’t mean she is an awful artist or some of her songs suck.  It means we all have our own point of view, our own preferences.  It means some days we crave chocolate and others we want salty and spicy!

I also realized just how sensitive I am. I have always known I was sensitive.  I’m a people pleaser.  I hate conflict.  Really I focused on this about myself a little more.  I kept trying to tell myself not to be so sensitive.  I kept saying not to take the negative comments to heart.  Don’t let one or two people bring me down.  But I did.  I cried, I felt anxious, I couldn’t eat. Yes it was a bit much, but it is me.  It’s ok to be sensitive.  It made me realize that is what makes me, ME!  My sensitivities give me the ability to see other people’s point of view.  To try and understand people’s pain and stories even if I have never lived them.  My empathy is a gift.  To feel love above all, you must experience pain and hurt and anger so that you can appreciate all the beauties this world has to offer.  

So as scary and wonderful as it was to start putting myself out there, it was healing and strengthening too.  It is helping me to grow and nurture my inner child.  I actually had a bit of writer’s block for the past couple of weeks.  I was still writing, but i was scared to think of sharing again.  To put myself back out there. I have now realized that every blog, every post, every word that I share, is helping me embrace my inner Ginger.

 

To read the original blog I am referring to, please check out Wendy’s blog linked below

http://wendyjanegrossman.com/2015/11/16/a-reader-responds-elissa-butson-on-why-shes-attracted-to-black-culture/