Father’s Daughter

This is a piece that I wrote in December of last year

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I am my father’s daughter were the words that ruminated in my mind as I boarded my plane home from Tennessee last night. I smiled. I felt the peace settle into my spirit and realized that I am truly happy. Happy to know my father.

I shared my story earlier this year about how my father was an absentee father and how I learned to forgive him. I did forgive him. We started to build that bridge and get closer. I thought we had all the time in the world until he asked me to call him. It was early October.

I did call him. “I have cancer daughter” were the words that he uttered. I broke out in tears. The sobs of a child in mourning were muffled as I covered my mouth and closed my office door. “What” I stammered. “I have cancer baby” he replied. I went numb. He talked about seeing the doctor and his acceptance.

My dad had accepted that it was okay to not want to do treatment. I’ve lived a long life he says. “Dad, you’re 60, that’s not long” I muttered. However, he seemed okay with that. He was tired he told me. He wanted to die. I wanted more time. I wanted memories. How could I make up for the last 31 years missed if he was checking out? How could we get to a place of peace?

I realized a critical point in my life. I had to try. I had to truly forgive and get back to knowing this man. That’s all I could do. I cried. I left work in tears because I couldn’t bear the thought of the man that I was publicly admitting that I loved to not be here anymore. Time was slipping. Time was invaluable. Time was what I wanted. More time. I booked my flight home to Tennessee the following month and began about the task of making sure that I could create some memories.

Memories were just what I created over Thanksgiving. I spent days with my dad and family. Laughing, crying, eating and just visiting him. He spent many days in a melancholy mood obsessing over the past. He was remorseful when he talked about seeing me in 2004 and how he ignored me. He let the tears roll down his face as he said, “I’m so sorry baby”. I smiled and with tears in my eyes I said, “I know daddy. I forgive you. The same God that has granted me grace and mercy all these years has given me the gift of forgiveness.”

I learned so much about my dad and my dad’s family during my brief visit that I am in awe that it took this long. This long for me to know my dad. To know his family. To know his life. To hear him openly talk about his other children with other women. There are at least eight of us. I am the first born girl. The oldest girl he says with pride.

I don’t know if I’m happy that there are so many children that I don’t know, but what I do know is that I will no longer hold on to the past. I will no longer hold him hostage to the pain in my heart because time with him is of the essence. The time we spend is more valuable than holding on to the pain. In this space between peace and forgiveness is a grown woman who openly proclaims that I am my father’s daughter.

I have his eyes. I have his stubborn nature. I have his laugh. I am his. He is mine and even though our time is not known, I promise to spend every minute loving and appreciating this man for who is now.

© Tikeetha Thomas

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Raising Our Girls

I’m a product of a broken home. A single parent home. My mother raised me. She did it alone. My dad wasn’t there. Not mentally. Not physically. Not spiritually. Not financially. So, my mom worked three jobs to provide a roof over our heads, clothes on our back and food in the house.

She worked. She worked hard. While working those three jobs she went to school. She was still working to earn her bachelor’s degree while I was in school. She earned it when I was in college. She now has her doctorate in education. She’s pretty determined huh?

My mom taught me that life is about survival. There is no shame in starting over. You will do what you need to do  to provide for your children. You have no choice. You have no option. You’re a girl who will become a woman and you have to be strong.

Even when you don’t want to.

Being raised in a single parent home as a young girl I saw that determination and knew that nothing less would be expected of me. But, that singular focus to raise a strong black woman did something to me when it comes to my relationships with men. It blurred them. It gave me a false understanding of roles in relationships.

What do you mean T?

I didn’t see a man as needing to be a provider because a man wasn’t providing for me in any way. I was going to be able to provide for me and any children I had because that is what women are supposed to do. Step up at all costs.

I did. I went to school. I studied hard. I got married. I resisted having children until I could financially afford to care of them on my own. I struggled to maintain an outside appearance of a united front. A picture perfect couple. We weren’t.

I was emasculating him in some ways. Not letting him know that he was needed. Making him feel as though he was just a piece on my board game because I could buy the game, play by myself and replace any broken pieces. Dang.

That was kinda harsh. I owned it. I had so many standards for men that you had to have all the things on my list or you would be dismissed. But, what I wanted truly was not on that list. I needed emotional support. I needed a man who valued my need to communicate and support me emotionally.

I needed to know that someone had my back. But, I never told anyone. Not any boyfriend I ever had. Not my ex-husband. I was afraid of being vulnerable. Superwomen were indestructible. We could never show vulnerability.

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And So It Begins

Today is going to be a L-O-N-G day. Munch’s project was due today. No exceptions. It was another rainy day in Maryland and I had to use a large trash bag to cover his project up so that it didn’t get wet. We worried over that this morning at 7 am. But, I’m happy to say that we completed it.
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I told Munch to return the trash bag today so that we waste not want not. LOL. Don’t judge me. I ran outside to tell the before care driver to please make sure that Munch doesn’t leave his project in the van. It can’t be late or he will get a zero. He said okay. Kisses good-bye to my beautiful son and then I had to rush to get ready.

I had a follow-up doctor’s appointment on my right shoulder that’s been bothering me for the last month. I had the MRI’s done on Monday so I was anxious to find out what the heck is going on with me. The pain was subdued now because of the medications. I can actually go a whole 24 hours without a pain pill.

The results were inconclusive. No major damage. No spinal damage. No pinched nerves. He recommended therapy 2 times a week for the next 4 weeks and then follow-up again. Ugh! I then rushed to work in another rainy mess of a day.

I get to work and begin working and looked down to check my messages and found out that my son left his book bag in the van. The front office called me. Ugh! A call and a couple of text messages to the director of the center. He needs his book bag. His lunch and Tae Kwan Do uniform are in it. The director called back to say he would bring it. I called the school and said that Munch can eat at the cafeteria because I have money on his account.

Tonight is his presentation on Maya Angelou for the PTSA’s Black History Month Program. I’m excited. I wrote the speech yesterday and we worked on it last night. My best friend said, “Let me see it. She was your literary hero so the report is probably too long.” He cut it in half. Ugh! Munch will probably like it better.

I will let you know how it worked out tomorrow. Wish us luck!

 

Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 1

Thank you to Lisa Amaya,  Life of an El Paso Woman, for nominating me for the 3 Day Quote Challenge. I love reading quotes because I look for inspiration in everything. Quotes encourage my spirit and let me know that I can run on.

Here is my quote for today:

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Each day I will nominate three different bloggers to participate in the challenge. I nominate the following three for today:

A Perfectly Flawed Ruby

MidiMike

Riddle from the Middle

When Being Strong Kills You

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard men tell me that I’m crazy. But, I think what I’ve heard uttered in frustration is something that I want to bring attention to now. The myth of the strong black woman. This myth that seeks to guide us as we grow up in facts cripples us by the time we’re grown women.

We’re taught that we shouldn’t be vulnerable. That we should be able to get through the problems that we encounter with strength and determination. We should just keep on keeping on. But, that’s not true. So many black women suffer from depression and are not getting the help that they need.

We try to explain it all and say “Oh, she’s just a little sick right now. She needs to pray on it and she’ll be better.” We can’t pray away mental illness. We have to address it and we have to stop teaching our girls that they have to grin and bear the pain. It’s too much.

Being strong is killing them. I’m tired of reading stories about my sisters who are struggling with underlying cases of mental illness and no one in their circle seems to know it. Blame it on the fact that we are uneducated or unconcerned about mental health in this country, but I have to say “Please stop ignoring it. It’s killing us.”

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I know. I get tired. I get tired of being a strong black woman. I watched my grandmother raise 11 children on her own and then raise some of her children’s children. If that wasn’t enough, she took in foster kids. One summer that I spent with her she had 13 other children that summer. Who the heck openly commits to raising 13 children for the summer? Why? I know she loved us but did anyone think that maybe that was too much? Let’s alternate kids for the summer?

My own mother pushed aside her pain to raise her children by herself with no financial, emotional or physical support from my dad. I still remember the day she said to me “Your dad is gone. I need you to be a big girl and help me with your brother and sister.” I was 10. Thus began the need to be a strong black girl who would become a strong black woman.

I’m not against therapy. I’m a big supporter of the need for therapy. I will often say that black folks need three things: Jesus, wine and therapy. We often neglect therapy believing that we can pray away our pain. But, if you are in immense pain can you even hear God’s response? No. The noise is too loud.

So, we put on our cape and continue to fight for the injustices of the world and never worry about how it is affecting us. How it is killing us because we are supposed to worry about everyone else but ourselves. We don’t want to be weak. Therefore, we continue to do everything around us to make people not see that we are cracking under the pressure. Try to live a normal life.

We deny that we are hurting for the convenience of others. To try to appear strong in spite of the pain. To endure. To deny the ugly truth that sometimes life is hard and we need help. We need your listening ear. We need sympathy and we need your encouragement that we should seek help.

I’m tired of reading stories where black women are killing their children, each other or themselves in what is clearly undiagnosed mental health issues. We have to stop saying be strong and tell them that it’s okay to not be strong. Be you. Find your authentic voice and get help. It’s okay.

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Disclaimer: I don’t own these photos. A quick Google search was performed to find them.

Three Things I Want You to Know – 11/21

This week was rough ya’ll. I’m thinking about taking a break from social media including blogging. I realized that I am too empathetic and this is causing me to get discouraged in humanity. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind. Wondering what is going on in this world.

So, my three things that I want you to know this weekend are based off some of the things that are floating around on Facebook and in the media.

  1. Black women are not responsible for all the ills of the world. We are not solely responsible for raising our children. It takes two. Black women love themselves and I will admit that all of us have issues. Everyone, not just black women, but to say that we lack self-love and therefore we teach our sons the same thing so they have no regards for life is a fallacy that needs to stop being circulated. Instead, I implore you to change your environment and become mentors to children that don’t have a father or mother in the home and stop making blanketed statements about black women. I am a black woman and I am raising a son with no man in the house. He will be fine. Many other black boys will be too.
  2. I’m a black person. A black woman. I am not giving my black card back to the quasi-pro black police because I changed my Facebook picture in support of solidarity to the lives lost on Friday, November 13th. I know France’s history and I also know the history of the U.S. We’re no better. I can have sympathy for the tragedies that occurred in a country where my son is learning to speak their language. A place where I plan to visit in the next couple of years. To a country that has seen more tragedies than many of us can imagine. But, I’m still black. According to The New York Times there are approximately 8 million blacks living in Europe and I can support whoever the heck I want because first and foremost I am a child of God. I pray for everyone regardless of their race, nationality, religion or sexual preference.
  3. This grandstanding on not letting Syrian refugees in our country is getting on my last dang nerve. Who are you? Dang, didn’t we steal this country from the Native Americans? Aren’t we refugees? Not everyone is a terrorist and not everyone who is a Muslim is a potential threat. We have to stop this foolishness. We are a country that loves our guns but can’t stop the American terrorists who were born and raised in America from shooting up schools, killing children or blowing up government buildings and we think we are safe? These people are running from the wars in their country and seeking refuge. Hell, I want to seek refuge sometimes because I’m scared of a radical American shooting up schools. We have to stop acting like we care about people and tie it to other issues of social injustices. Separate them. Attack them one at a time. If you are not part of the solution, step the heck back and stop being a part of the problem.

Rant over.

Have a great weekend loves!

Who Knew

That I would like to work out with him. That I would enjoy working out with a man trying to live just a little bit healthier like me. What are your fitness goals? Are you trying to lose a lot of weight? Nope. Just trying to be healthier. I don’t want to be on medications.

I changed into my workout clothes and switched my hips when I walked in front of him, so he could get a good look at my bum! Yep, I was flirting. But, I was serious about the workout. I was sweating with my make-up running, but I was still looking cute. My hairstyle was holding up. I listened to Fetty Wap Radio on Pandora while we worked out. He listened to love songs. He smiled. I smiled. He has a nice smile.

He is an introvert. He is a parent of one. Has had similar experiences. He’s smart. He’s funny. He gets my satirical sense of humor. He likes my witty personality. He likes my desire to be a happier and healthier version of me. Who knew working out could be a fun date? Maybe we should do this again?

 

Photo Credit: Black Hair Magazine
Photo Credit: Black Hair Magazine

Dating and Domestic Violence

I read the tragic story of Bianca Richardson Tanner this summer and was immediately heartbroken. Bianca was a beautiful, 31-year-old educator and mother. She was reported missing by her boyfriend and 10 days later her body was discovered in a wooded area in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was a victim of domestic violence.

According to her family she had moved to Charlotte with her boyfriend to start her teaching career this fall. Her dream. Her dream died the day she did. Thankfully, her boyfriend was arrested for the crime. How did they catch him? Because Bianca’s courageous three-year old son told the police “Mommy got a spanking with the belt. Angelo kicked mommy’s butt and made her cry,” the boy told police according to court records. “Angelo is mean to mommy and hurt mommy in the face.” The police now had a starting point.

Let’s talk about Bianca’s case. Bianca’s boyfriend was a violent offender against women. He had abused other women prior to Bianca. Bianca never knew. How could a man have three separate abuse charges filed and not have spent time in jail? Why can’t we enact a required law that causes charged abusers to register like sex offenders? I mean did he really have to abuse three women before murdering the fourth. No.

We as women need to be educated when it comes to dating men especially when we have children. We need to diligent about background screenings for potential mates. Even if everything comes back clear, we need to leave at the first sign of abusive behavior. Why do we stay with our abusers? I don’t care if he says he’ll never do it again. I don’t believe it and neither should you. I mean Bianca was abused before right? According to her son, her boyfriend was mean to her. Last month, I read this great piece, by Feminista Jones, for Time where she said:

“Racism and sexism are two of the biggest obstacles that Black women in America face. But because many Black women and men believe racism is a bigger issue than sexism, Black women tend to feel obligated to put racial issues ahead of sex-based issues.”

As I read this, one thought entered my mind, “Yes.” This is why we stay. We have been programmed to believe that our value as black women is to support our black men first and then women issues. We wonder “Am I black or Am I woman”. We can’t seem to simultaneously fight two battles because we have to be strong black women holding down our black men and our black people. But, what about self? I want to change that.

We need to change that. A study of 2011 homicide data conducted by the Violence Policy Center examined that “The disproportionate burden of fatal and nonfatal violence borne by black females has almost always been overshadowed by the toll violence has taken on black males. In 2011, black females were murdered at a rate more than two and a half times higher than white females: 2.61 per 100,000 versus 0.99 per 100,000.” These are not total strangers. More like boyfriends and intimate partner violence.

Recognize the signs. According to Safe Horizon here are some signs of domestic violence:

Does your partner ever:

  1. Accuse you of cheating and being disloyal?
  2. Make you feel worthless?
  3. Hurt you by hitting, choking or kicking you?
  4. Intimidate and threaten to hurt you or someone you love?
  5. Threaten to hurt themselves if they don’t get what they want?
  6. Try to control what you do and who you see?
  7. Isolate you?
  8. Pressure or force you into unwanted sex?
  9. Control your access to money?
  10. Stalk you, including calling you constantly or following you?

So, what do you do if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence? First, get help. Call the police! Leave. There is no reason to stay in an abusive relationship and you have to trust that people will help you. You can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Safe House Center has created a handbook for survivors of domestic violence. You can download it here.

Let’s remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and not forget the women who have fallen victim to domestic violence like Bianca Richardson Tanner. Let’s encourage each other to never forget Bianca and know that we can make a difference.

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Check out this video I posted last month about a woman who didn’t hit first and was a victim of domestic violence:

Great Marriages and the Reality

My Facebook friend posted this link last month for a piece entitled “It’s time to accept this fact: A really great marriage is rare”.  I read the article and the researcher made some great points. It wasn’t a woman arguing that people shouldn’t get married, but that great marriages were rare and that there has been a shift in our society whereby women don’t need to marry because of the shift in our circumstances and/or cultural norms. Women have more options and don’t need men for financial security, sexual satisfaction, to have children or for social approval. Women have in essence changed the game. We’ve become more powerful.

I pondered that theory and I have to say that the researcher has a point. When you look at the changes in our society over the years, you see that not only in other races, but especially in the black community, there is a shift. More black women are earning more than their black male counterparts. Thus, it makes it harder for college educated women to find their ideal black man “IBM” who has equal or more to her in terms of wealth. Black women are working hard and waiting until later to get married. But, when you’re ready to get married, your IBM doesn’t come in riding on a white horse to sweep you off your feet.

Fairytales are just that. Fairytales. Not meant to provide any form of reality for our young girls. But, could I as a feminist really truly believe that I needed a man for anything? I don’t know if I was ever sold on the whole happily ever after fairytale that other little girls were taught because I knew better. My reality didn’t include a happy queen and a happy king. In my post yesterday, I talked about how my dad is an alcoholic so any chances of a prince charming taking care of me were replaced with the reality that he didn’t exist. People had faults.

Those faults translated into the fact that I grew up in a single parent home and I knew that I never wanted to be like my mother. She wasn’t a bad mother. She just short changed her life to have me and my siblings and to be a wife. Would she have made the same decisions now in today’s society? I don’t know. I would like to think no. I think she would have given birth to me and gone back to college like my grandfather insisted. I think she would have accepted that she could be considered a social pariah in a small town, but she would have been just fine raising a child on her own after getting her degree. She would have been considered a game changer by my standards.

But, she didn’t change the game. She followed her heart and cultural norms. Those norms shaped and impacted my belief in marriage. That fostered with the environmental factors and social shifts helped me realize one thing…I didn’t need to get married. I didn’t need a man for anything. Men were dispensable objects that had no real value other than fixing my car, maintenance on my house or just friends who I could toss ideas about my career path with. Not worthy of having the title of husband or father because I was jaded and I didn’t believe in happily ever after. I would never sacrifice my career to be a wife or mother. It wasn’t an option.

However, that changed when I found someone who wanted to marry me with my flaws and all. With my jaded view of reality in tow, he sought about finding refuge in my heart and spirit so that he could show me or whether prove to me that men weren’t dispensable objects and I could be both a wife and a mother and I would love it. Problem was that I didn’t love it. I loved him. I loved our family. I loved our son. But, I didn’t want to live my life being disappointed and feeling lonely and unloved. Yes, people have problems. I get that, but when the problem is the two people what do you do?

You make a decision on how your life will play out.  Whether it be a comedy, love story or tragedy, you have to know marriage is what you make it. It takes two people who share, not only the same value of marriage, but the desire to keep it healthy and functioning. You will make mistakes, nothing is perfect, but if you want to find someone who at the end of the day you would rather fight with than without then you have hit the jackpot.

“The painful truth is that really great marriages exist, but they are rare. What we as a society should probably be telling married people is, “If you have love, passion, companionship and equality in your marriage, you are wealthy beyond words. If you don’t, you have two choices. You can decide that your marriage is the best you’re going to get and try to be content. Alternatively, you can leave your marriage to play the lottery of finding that perfect partner, accepting that you are unlikely to win and may have to stay single for the rest of your life.” – Danielle Teller

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Open Letter to a Friend

There are many titles that describe me:

Woman, Mother, Feminist, Womanist, Career Oriented, Ambitious, God fearing, Black.

Too many more to name, but I wear many hats daily. Life is not simple. History teaches us that if we don’t know our history we are doomed to repeat it. That is a fundamental fact. God is in everything we do and breathe, but that doesn’t mean that because I love God I can’t love my race and want us to be better. Race separates us and Gender separates us. That is the point that I’ve always tried to make. You can’t speak about being a woman just because you love God and treat everyone the same. You are a man. You will never know what it is like to give birth, have breasts or a cycle every month. Doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with me about these things, but you can’t speak on them from experience because you haven’t experienced them for yourself. And I can’t speak on being a man. I can’t speak on being Jewish. I can’t speak on being gay. I am none of those things. But, I can empathize with injustices that are done to each and every group. Because I am human. However, I can speak on being black and being a woman because I am both.

I’ve spent most of my life knowing that I had two strikes against me: the color of my skin (black) and my gender (a woman). I have always told you that the difference between me and the next person is that I wanted it bad enough. Doesn’t make me better than someone else. It just shows that I am ambitious with a fighting spirit. I get discouraged at disappointments. I get heartbroken, but I keep pushing forward. I love and respect everyone, but I will always want my people, black people, to do better. I don’t blame the “man” for anything, nor do I believe that every person who is not black is against me. That is not true.

Belief. What do I believe? I believe that we are still fighting in some areas to be heard and to be treated equally and fairly as black people and as women. I believe that there are many myths that black women are trying to change, avoid and defunct on a regular basis. These include being ghetto, angry, a chicken head and promiscuous. I don’t believe that everything is equal and that racism doesn’t exist. We are better than yesterday and I pray that we continue to get better. But, alas we are human. I know you may say that I seem to have a great career and make decent money, but I had to fight and prove my worth in everything. Nothing was ever given to me. I earned it, but I believe that Affirmative Action is part of the reason and wonder where I would be had there been no Affirmative Action?

I wish the success of everyone, but as a black woman raising a black man, I will never let him believe that racism doesn’t exist. But, I want him to know that his attitude towards it and his people will play a part in his future. He can’t sit idle and watch his brothers take the wrong path without speaking up. He can’t be discriminated against in school without speaking up. He can’t go to medical school or travel the world without knowing that he is somebody divinely created by God, but that the color of his skin will always matter to some people. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best in his “I Have a Dream Speech.” He said, that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

That day has still not come as long as there is racism in this nation. We have made significant strides as African Americans but there is still work to do. I will always fight for equal pay, equal education and benefits for those that don’t have them. We may not agree on what is important in this world, but I as a human being, a black woman can’t sit by and do nothing. I don’t ever want you to treat people differently as a supervisor. Hire and fire based on your company’s policy and not bias.

I want you to know that I support your ministry and you deserve to reach the masses from the pulpit. I will try to continue the footwork and knowing that in order for our churches to be successful, we as a people have to be successful. Not a black thing or white thing, a human thing. I just need you to understand and accept me as I am. A black woman fighting for her people and for God.

OLYMPICS BLACK POWER SALUTE