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#WhyIMarch: I’m Pro-Life, Christian & I Support Planned Parenthood

14 Jan

Faint shouts of “Come here!” and “Jesus loves you!” greeted me as I stood outside a Planned Parenthood clinic trying to assist a stranger. Like me, she had been in the waiting room for what seemed like ages. Her car wasn’t cranking, so I waited with her outside until help arrived.

Earlier, I was getting chilly in the waiting room, so I went to get a jacket from the car. The shouts from the protesters roused.

Scoffing a bit, I told them, “I love Jesus too! And I’m not here for an abortion.”

“Okay, good. Come on over here. Let us pray for you.”

I shook my head, exhaled and kept going. It would be a few weeks before I marry my husband. Until then, I didn’t have proper medical insurance to get birth control. I use it for other reasons besides contraception.

After what felt like eons, a group of us were called back. There were several rows of small chairs facing a tiny television. We were asked to watch a video, and then  (eventually) we would be seen by a doctor.

Then my confusion turned to fear. I was watching a video about about an abortion pill. The simplicity of the instructions frightened me.

Me, a pro-lifer, in the middle of this mix-up. The video ended and I scrambled back to the counter and said, “I’m in the wrong place. I’m just getting a pap!”

Some of us were shuffled into a smaller room with chairs and blankets. It reminded me of my mother’s chemotherapy treatment room – small, a bit cramped and devoid of chatter or activity.

I looked around at the faces of the women around me and felt so scared for them. Most of them looked in their 20s, possibly late teens. And they were about to take one little pill to erase a “mistake.”

Flashbacks of a protest I attended as a teenager trickled back. I remembered the enlarged posters of aborted fetuses. (I couldn’t bring myself to hold one up.)

Someone gave me a book revealing the “truth” about Planned Parenthood. I tossed it in the back seat of my car but never read it.

Those thoughts drifted to the back of my brain. I blinked my eyes a few times and looked around. Everyone was gone except for me.

I had dozed off for who knows how long. 30 minutes? An hour? This would not bode well as I was supposed to be at work. I went back to the counter and, finally, I was seen by someone.

An anxiety disorder makes paps ridiculously painful and embarrassing. I remember the sound of the speculum clanking on the floor after the interminable test was done. My body physically rejected it.

Finally. Finally. I received birth control prescriptions and left the building.

The protesters were gone. They had done their work for the day, I suppose.

Several weeks later, the most perfect day of my life – the day of our wedding – came and went.  I no longer needed PP for medication or check-ups and my life continued.

It wasn’t until I read about plans to defund Planned Parenthood did this memory push forward in my mind. I read stories about women having to resort to unwanted pregnancies or dangerous abortion procedures, because they couldn’t make it to a hospital.

I could see them – overburdened, crying and in pain. The very idea was dreadful.

This is when I became anti-abortion, not pro-life.

Think about it, is there any one out there who is pro-abortion? Of course not.

If faced with an unbearable choice, I’d be more inclined to think about adoption. I do believe that life starts at conception.

More options is the answer, not restricted access. From my experience alone, I’d advocate for more funding for these types of clinics.

A woman should be able to select from different options when she’s pregnant.  We are in the most powerful country in the world. Our women deserve choices.

Somehow, not even the phrase “pro-choice” encompasses everything I’m passionate about.

What happens if the child grows up in a poor home or an ill-kept foster home? What if a woman was raped, traumatized and pregnant?

What about their loved ones, who must help her pick up the pieces of her life? How could I say I’m truly “pro-life” if I don’t consider the other countless lives involved around the upbringing of this child?

Maybe if more “pro-lifers” went inside the clinic to volunteer instead of barking at patients outside, they’d understand.

Maybe if “pro-lifers” were focused on caring for women, they wouldn’t have voted for an ill-suited, misogynistic president-elect based on this one issue. (Yes, I am aware of people who voted for Trump just because Clinton is pro-choice. It doesn’t make sense.)

Saying #ImWithPP doesn’t make me any less of a Christian. Even though my experience was unpleasant, having the clinic really helped me.

I still think abortion should be the last resort for women. But my mission of faith extends beyond the womb. My soul is eager to embrace and support other women no matter their circumstances.

Why a Great Job Is the Best Kind of Relationship

7 Sep

I don’t care what anyone says, there are times where you should just take a break from writing, even if writing is your job.

These past few months have been one of those times. After following the strict but sage advice of one of my writing mentors, Linda Formichelli, I read her book “Commit.” Unfortunately, “committing” to something also involves “un-committing” to everything else.

After an important conversation with my husband, I determined not long after my last post that I’d start looking for a job. A “real” one. That is one where the paychecks are steady and you actually are within a working environment around other people.

I sent a blanket email to a lot of then very important people in my life that I had committed to saying, essentially, “I’m sorry, but I quit.”

It’s the self sabotaging email that perfectionists with anxiety send out more often than they should.

I was really surprised at the responses (or lack thereof). Most of the people who I had recently committed to responded almost immediately and said, “I’m here. I can help.” Some of these people were barely my acquaintances, because I had just joined their organizations a short time ago.

Others I considered my closest friends ignored the email or later gave terse responses after some prodding. I was disappointed and was finally able to express that much later, but it reminded me that the only people in my life who are consistently there for me didn’t get involved much in my business  – that’s my tried-and-true friends and family.

Despite coming to this devastating realization, I moved on. A few weeks after Loving Day, I started a new job and, like any great relationship, I find myself not having to prove much of anything. It took one interview (well, three with different people in one day) and about a month to show that I know what I’m doing.

Again, I was surprised. These people barely knew me, and every job always takes a warming period. Because I’m an introvert and overachiever, I have to soften my motto of “I don’t come to work to make friends” or Scandal’s overarching theme that black women have to work twice as hard to get half the benefits. Because I only have one officemate and most of my co-workers are in other buildings, when I’m near their offices, I stop myself to say hello, to catch up. Most of them are usually very busy, but I like to preface my stops with that acknowledgement.

I want my stops with them to be like a gentle reminder that there’s more to work than just being stuck staring at a computer screen. Plus, it’s forced me to pull out of this social funk you tend to enter when you work from home.

So, like most new relationships, there has to be some effort on my part. You don’t expect to become besties after a few interactions. But I mean when I say, “Great relationships mean not having to try as hard,” something I learned from a former friend many years ago.

The right job (or relationship):

  1. Minimizes mistakes. Yes, the ideal job is supposed to be one where you grow and learn to lessen the amount of mistakes you make. But as someone with anxiety and bad run-ins with bosses and co-workers, I was afraid of even making the smallest mistake. My boss is quick to say, “It’s no big deal,” and she means it. She’s not going to bring it back up again or threaten to take away my job. If a boss (or friend/romantic partner) tells you, “It’s okay,” you’ve got a real winner.
  2. Celebrates the small wins. Every time I sent an email where I wanted to hold back on congratulating myself, I get replies that are encouraging, even when the final results of my project aren’t quite what I wanted. This is the marker of a great job or a great relationship – where folks make it a point to congratulate the smallest achievements.
  3. Ignores the things that don’t affect success. I’ve had jobs where I was told what I wore was inappropriate (the “yoga pants incident”). Or that my personality was too open. (Vague speak for “We are frightened by your drive/attitude/behavior because you’re too young/too angry black woman/not black enough.”) It was really demeaning experiences. I have roaring laughs, joke a lot and tend to get overly excited or enthusiastic about things. My bosses and co-workers aren’t (openly any way LOL) irritated or see these traits as flaws. In fact, my enthusiasm was a bonus during the interview process and still works today. (Although my boss will tell you it was my writing, not my winning personality, that landed me the job LOL) My husband has seen me with good hair days maybe 3 months out of the almost five years we’ve been together LOL. The rest of time it’s damaged, kinky, stinky or just boring. But he doesn’t care. Quirky or even annoying personality traits are simply hurdles to overcome in a solid relationship. They aren’t used as excuses to end things or make things difficult.
  4. Gives you reasons to stick around during the rough times. Despite the fact I’ve garnered something of a dream job, part of that “dream” includes all of the crap I have to endure – mainly the inordinate amount of walking during hot weather. Also, it really, really sucks to get sick when you don’t have a lot of sick leave and your boss is out of town at the same time. (Oh, dear Lord.)Life is fraught with problems. The older I get, the more I realize “Everybody’s got something.” It helps me to empathize more and complain less. My “somethings” may seem like the end of the world to me, but I have plenty of friends  whose “somethings” are worse.(This brings me to an aside: if you’re like me and you suffer from a mental illness like anxiety or depression, never, ever, ever downplay your “something.” That’s what contributes to the stigma that having an unseen illness isn’t “as bad” as someone who experiences physical illnesses or disabilities. I’ve been trying for years to get over that…to not see what I’m experiencing as something to just get over.

    What you’re experiencing is real. It’s valid. And when it affects your life, it’s okay to talk about it.)

Every relationship is a challenge, but it should never be a constant uphill battle. Sadly this was something I was beginning to experience working from home and within certain relationships.

Even the people we dislike the most have a “something” to overcome. We have the ability to use it to make our dream jobs or relationships come true.

But don’t work *too* hard at it.

 

We’ve Come A Long Way: On Gratitude

27 Dec

weve_come_a_long_way

Despite what’s happening in our country right now, I’m deeply grateful for how far we’ve come.

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but my parents spent their entire childhood in SC dealing with seemingly innocuous injustices: entering stores from the back, using separate everything and, when walking at night, always being sure to hide as soon as you saw car lights.

They’re not bitter, not once ever openly rejected my white friends and dates and, well, when they and J’s family are together like they were for Christmas I just want to cry. It’s just unbelievably awesome. Like something out of a cheesy Hallmark movie LOL. Sure our families are so very different in many ways other than race, but they still make sure to get comfortable with each other and feel like one family.

I may preach about what happens these days and use polarizing phrases like “white privilege” and “institutional racism” and that the phrase “post-racial society” is almost laughable it’s so false.

But I know how far we’ve come. I’ve studied and appreciated what happened during the Civil Rights movement and love talking about it.

Even though there’s always awkwardness from the cold stares and general discomfort living here as an interracial couple I’m grateful. Every time I walk into the front of a store or step onto a plane and an employee gives me a smile, every time I show affection for my husband in public and, shoot, simply every day I go to bed and snuggle up for the evening I’m grateful.

Our Christmas this year.

Our Christmas this year.

One of my favorite moments of the year was listening to activist Rep. John Lewis at Dragon Con talk about his motivation for the graphic novel “March.” He had met my husband while here and my husband thanked him for being an honest politician and what he’d done to make sure we could be married.

Lewis later referred to him as a “white brother” and handed out his cards to everyone. A couple of months later, he sent us signed copies of his books.

When it was time for audience comments, I knew I should thank him for the gifts and to say, to the audience’s enjoyment, that my husband couldn’t attend because he was in the board gaming area. (When I sat back down later, someone next to me whispered, “Your husband is REALLY a geek.”)

But like a few other audience members before and after me, I began to cry. His suffering and sacrifices while growing up, living and fighting for justice in Alabama had a direct effect on my life today.

He and his co-author, congressional aide Andrew Aydin, were signing books afterwards, so I anxiously waited in line to say hi close-up and get Aydin’s autograph. Lewis remembered speaking to my husband which floored me. Considering that meeting many people in and out of his constituency is a regular activity for him (and he’s 74 years young), I was so happy and stunned he remembered.

Aydin said “Aww” when he saw the books and the envelope they were shipped in. It appeared Lewis had packed and addressed the envelope himself. After affirming he met my husband, it was time to move on so I quickly thanked him, shook his hand and pressed my cheek against his. I was beaming the rest of the day and couldn’t wait to get back to the gaming room to let the hubs in on what happened.

Because of leaders like Lewis, we’ve grown dramatically, particularly here in the South compared to my parents’ youth. It’s amazing how much little time has passed but how far we’ve come. You can liken it to the advancement of technology in the last 30 years or so. It’s phenomenal.

To close 2014, I’m choosing to reflect on the greatness we experience on a daily basis and seem to take for granted. I’ll stumble and allow negativity to come back. But I know we’re almost there. Today I choose gratitude.

1,000 Words Behind a Photo

21 Oct
honeymoon story hurricane sandy

Lovely, aren’t we?

“A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

Yes, I’m starting my blog with a cliche. Deal with it.

I decided to finally scan the photo my husband and I took on our honeymoon cruise since today’s our two-year anniversary.

I cannot stop laughing at it.

Not just because I hate these hokey photos, and the scan picks up every imperfection, and dear hubby has one of his hands in an awkwardly hilarious place.

It’s funny, because we look so happy. And we kinda weren’t.

For the formal night I donned makeup, tried to do something with my hair which was ultra curly for the wedding and took “getting ready” photos I proudly display on Facebook.

So if you’ve never heard us share anything about our honeymoon, and why our FB album is kinda small…well, it’s a doozy.

We had a third guest with us. Hurricane Sandy. Wow, I’m even shaking my head now as I think about it. When we left, she was a tropical storm, but upgraded on our way back.

So we spent a few minutes enjoying formal night, because I was starting to get seasick from the 50 mph sustained winds.

What started off as a beautiful day in Charleston turned bad quickly. It was clear when we set out, but the winds picked up, making mini golf on the top deck interesting.

We made it to our first destination, Nassau, but because of the weather our excursions were cancelled. If you haven’t been to Nassau before, outdoor activities are pretty much the best thing about the town.

It was overcast, so we just walked around. We couldn’t go through the Atlantis hotel completely without doing a tour, so we avoided that. I picked up a bathing suit since I forgot to bring one. There were workers putting tape around the street lights. But the swim shop owner seemed pretty calm. They’d seen many hurricanes and the U.S. media makes a big deal about them. (I wonder if she changed her tune after Sandy caused 2 deaths and $700 million in damage in the Bahamas a couple days later?)

Ironically, this was my husband’s first cruise, and he felt fine. It became something of a comedy seeing people stumbling around with the tossing and turning of the ship. Of course, these ships have stabilizers, so normally you feel absolutely nothing, but not this time.

And as this was my fourth cruise, of course I’d be the one who felt sea sick.

Strangely enough, they don’t carry seasickness medication on the ship. Yes, you can buy extraordinarily expensive duty-free watches but not Dramamine. The best they could offer was an acupressure bracelet. It only was useful when used as a hair tie. So we spent the cruise chugging baaack and forrrrrth…all day and all night.

Go ahead and make “motion in the ocean” jokes, because it was absolutely true.

We woke up the next morning, and we were still on the go. We should have docked in Freeport. When we called the staff downstairs they informed us we were going there. Not quite an hour later, the captain’s on the loudspeaker saying we wouldn’t be stopping after all. (This communication error was just one of the missteps on this cruise.)

So our second and last port was out. We’d end up watching everything (which is not much) on TV.  Most ships have the location and path of the trip using radar on one channel. Right behind our bitty boat icon on the screen, was the satellite image of a perfectly-formed hurricane.

Sandy never stopped pursuing. She’d tail us the entire way home.

So to compensate for missing the port they’d give us the next best thing – they’d slow down and give us an extra day at sea.

I’ll….let you think about that for a minute.

This was a small, older ship, and with the pools and upper decks closed, the one activity we did was hang out in the casino. We’re not really into gambling, but we gave it a go until we tired of the cigarette smoke. There’d be epicly boring trivia, indoor shuffleboard…and that’s about it.

The highlight of the cruise was hanging out in the bar for karaoke where I belted out a tune. It was awesome to have someone stop us the next day and say, “Hey, were you at karaoke? You were really great!”

I’m kind of a rock star.

And the crazy thing? I don’t remember hubby and I getting frustrated or angry with each other not even once that week. Of course, we were upset with what was happening, but we never took it out on each other. We made the most of eating cold fries and watching crew with plates trying to keep their balance.

We still managed to enjoy our honeymoon when everything around us was falling apart.

Eventually, the crew realized it was a bad decision to stay at a slow pace while Sandy ominously followed us, so they started booking it. We were going so fast, we sat at a restaurant watching dishes clattering and hearing this ominous and awful noise that sounded like a dying engine.

Surprise! Someone gets injured, so they announced we’d go back to port early. We sat at the Charleston port for an entire night to await customs the next morning. However, we were grateful for the stillness and the cell phone reception.

The downpour the next morning left us completely drenched, but we had a nice rest at a local hotel before heading home. Mom wasn’t so happy she couldn’t get in touch with me for a week, but we were safe.

Despite this, we’re not giving up on cruising. We need a honeymoon do-over. And, yes, we’re going on a different cruise line…and not during hurricane season.

You know how most bad situations seem funny afterwards? This was only kinda one of them. But, hey, now we have a great couple’s story when hanging out with new people!

35 Answers to Unspoken Prayers (Final Part)

29 Jun

answers to prayer

Here is part one and part two. I’m so bummed this series is coming to an end, but I’ve really enjoyed writing it. Even though it’s very personal, I hope you got some enjoyment out of it.

21) Daily cuddling I rarely have to initiate.

22) The ability to vent or be distracted with the click of a button or a tap on a keyboard.

23) All of the possibilities with my writing and VA business.

24) Realizing if I end up with a job outside the home, I’m able to still keep my clients, because of the way I’ve structured my business.

25) How Loving Day came together so well.

26) There are people here and in SC who love me just as I am.

27) Being in town to see my niece graduate from high school and hang out with good friends.

28) Having my niece randomly call to ask for advice! (I have mentioned her before, but still, YAY!)

29) Seeing my parents enjoy their retirement years.

30) Breaking out of my shell by doing more public speaking.

31) My husband’s dedication to his job, even when it gets tough.

32) Having a few hours of relaxing alone time each day.

33) That I’ve learned to be more mindful and appreciative of my environment and the people in it.

34) I’ve lost some weight just by eating less, but having the desire to do more for my health and fitness.

35) Being able to come up with 35 reasons to be grateful that I’ve never had to pray about!

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