Hey You

I turn 31 in a few hours.

I didn’t think I would get here. Once I realized we all weren’t going to die when the clock struck midnight on 01/01/00, I was convinced God was going to come back long before now.  On the other hand, it would be a complete lie to say I didn’t at all imagine what my life would look like at this point. My younger self would have painted this picture:

I have been happily married for 4 years with 1-2 kids. I would be a thriving pediatrician making a huge impact on young lives. When I leave work, I would come home to the house my husband and I built.

That is not my life. Not one part of that is happening. I definitely wouldn’t have imagined I would be living in my uncle’s loft, waiting to start working again, questioning who I am based on what I have and have not achieved. At the same token, neither my pre-teen self (or 30 year old self, for that matter) would have guessed what would happen between 11/24/16 and 11/24/17.  Here’s what really happened:

Junior year of college, I realized I loved biology but was more passionate about mentoring young people. I couldn’t have as profound an impact as I would have liked as a pediatrician and decided to take a different, cheaper (lol) path.  That led me to be a gatekeeper of an awesome college and helping prospective students not only consider my institution of higher education but any institution. Sometimes I did not care where a young person went but that they thought they could go and where they wanted to go. I had the ability to plant seeds of hope. That career rolled into student engagement and development.

Wow. What a career. I was challenged in so many beautiful ways in my most recent. I don’t know if the students realize just how reciprocal that experience was. Some would ask me questions that I either did not know the answer to or just hadn’t considered and I had to think. They couldn’t walk away empty-handed. They didn’t come to me to walk away empty-handed so we had to think it through together. And sometimes I just had to say, “I don’t know but this is what I do know…here are some things to consider, people you may want to speak with who might know more.” Watching those young adults process what’s to come next, laying out their hopes and ambitions showed me how complacent I had become.

I would say I am a fairly reasonable, logical person…to a fault. I will think myself out of a good time. That being said, I do not take a lot of risks. I make pros and cons lists and I go with what makes the most sense based on my many hours of mulling it over. Most often, I am right in my decisions. I like certainty, accuracy. I am not proclaiming to always be right but when it comes to making decisions for myself, I am pretty sure in my decision when I make it. That’s smart. That’s logical. It’s cute but it’s not fun and, for me, it wasn’t living. So, when the time came to decide if I was going to continue another year in my most recent position, I had to say no even though I did not have anything lined up. I took a leap of faith.

I have read a couple of cool books by cool people talking about daring, out of the box, leap of faith type of experiences.  The two that come to mind are Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Amazing books. I highly recommend them. I resonated with so many of the stories. I just hadn’t taken my leaps, tried new things, stepped out of the comfort zone, looked past the fear. I stayed right where it was safe thinking about how much these books made sense…until I said, “No.” No meant I had a month and it was on to something new yet unknown.

I want to say these leap of faith stories only talk about how they took these leaps and everything worked out and yay; that they don’t tell you of the struggles between the leap and the landing. That would be a lie. The truth is I read the in-betweens. I held on to the yays, the magic moments. These last few months after my “no” has been a S T R U G G L E!!! I can’t begin to tell you about the internal challenges. Struggle bus central.

So, here I am. 30 going on 31, riding what feels like a neverending struggle bus, living in my uncle’s loft, waiting to start a job. I traded my friends for my family.  They are both awesome groups of people but different groups of people. Social life, professional life, romantic life…all of it is up in the air. Why? Because I said, “No.” Here’s the beauty of that:

I said no to living in fear. I said no to living a life that I wasn’t happy with. I said no to stress and anxiety. I said no to complacency. I said no to routines. I said no to comfort zones. I said no to doing what I have always done: what “makes sense.”

My “no” meant “yes” to faith, to new adventures and challenges. It meant yes to taking risks for the betterment of my growth. It meant yes to living. It meant yes to trying.

So, no. I am not at all where I thought I was. I am in a moment of character-building. I am living an adventure, choosing my happiness and taking risks. I am saying “yes” to “big magic.” Many do not understand it. Many have ideas and suggestions as to what I should be doing. Hell, I have thoughts on what I should be doing or should have done but, here we are. I can’t say I made the wrong decision. I know I made the right one, in fact, I just did not, and do not entirely know where this will lead me and that is the scarily fun part.

My mom has been pretty retrospective today. She talked about how she was feeling 11/23/86. She couldn’t sleep. She walked the house looking at everyone else sleeping. She was so uncomfortable. She happened to walk back to her room and my dad asked if she thought they should go to the hospital. The next afternoon I made my debut. Funny enough, I was born on a Monday. It’s funny because that just makes sense to me. Let’s start this life at the start of the week. LOL

My mom said today, as we were standing in the kitchen cooking, “Sweet pea, I’m proud of you.” I have heard that a lot from her but, in those moments, it made sense. Currently unemployed(ish) without my own home and few dollars in my pocket I quipped, “Why?!” She said, “Because you’re living you’re life your way…the way you want to live it.” I am. I must admit I am pretty proud of that myself.

Going into 2017, I felt it would be the year of reconciliation and it surely was. So many relationships were reconciled but, there were things reconciled within my own self as well.

So, here’s to 31. May you live your life with conviction and truth. May you live it brave, creatively and compassionately. May you trust the process and continue to learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. May you continue to trust God and your gut. May you continue to build relationships so powerful they make you cry. May you love honestly though it can be both overwhelming beautiful and painful…because, regardless, it’s worth it. May you continue to dream, to hope, to play. May you massage your passions and curiosities. Let yourself create and let it be. Hey you, I love you.

– Me

 

 

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Ancestry.com just lit my life on fire

Hola chicos!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I apologize and will have something on what has been going on in this head lately. This post is about Ancestry.com.

If you’ve read some of my previous blogs you may have learned that I have been tracing my roots through Ancestry.com – meeting people, researching where my folks come from, etc.  You will also know that I love researching things (of interest). That being said, let me tell you about this new feature that just hit the website.

I was digging through records, cross-checking things as usual. The page started glitching and I rebooted it. When it popped up, Ancestry upgraded the lifestory page, presenting the information gathered in a new way. The two most exciting things about this upgrade are the history blurbs and the maps.

I’m not a big history person. I will look up events when it suits my need to understand a particular topic or event. This is awesome because it tells you what was happening at a particular point in history where your relative was living.  For example, I have an ancestor that was born in Virginia in 1825. There is a history blurb discussing the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion as that happened in the place where my grandfather was at the time he was there. So friggin’ cool.

The maps?! Yo. Beat 4, Beat 3…mean nothing to me. Did these places eventually become cities? What cities did they turn out to be? Are those areas and cities the same today? Guys, they put the address collected from the census on a google map and let you zoom in to where those houses were … on today’s map. It also helped me see, where my grandfather was in one house on the census, and in a different house on the second census, they were literally a stone’s throw away from each other. Additionally, they are not on any current road and would essentially be in someone’s backyard.

Ancestry just tickled all of my fancies this morning. This is so awesome. It further brings the notes on a page to life and I gain a better picture of what their life might have been like when and where they lived it. I guess there’s a possibility this is not new but I just discovered it sooo….

It Takes Work to Look This Good

Let’s stop kidding ourselves – no one is flawless and most of us woke up looking like this:

bedhead

We all have our routines to look as we deem presentable. As a curly woman, my hair has the grandest routine. As a brown-skin babe, I need to be sure I’m not out here looking like I played in chalk. This post is dedicated to my skin care routines. I will post another for my hair.

I believe in pampering myself. In fact, I got my legs and underarms waxed today (shout out to Tianna)! I could shave buuuut, I’ve been converted.  I believe in paying for quality and living within my means. Beauty products will singe your pockets. I like to be as natural as possible because it’s cheaper and, almost always, safer and better for the skin. And with so many products out there, it’s just easier to Memorize my little recipes.

My most used beauty product is0831171610_HDR[1]

SURPRISE! LOL I bet you weren’t. I won’t say it’s a holy grail but it is pretty friggin’ awesome! In fact, I’m never without these 3 oils:

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FRESH BREATH

Did you know you can use coconut oil to clean your mouth? It’s called Oil Pulling. Oil pulling is great for oral health (drawing out toxins, killing bacteria) and, while it can be a little gross, my mouth is the absolute freshest EVER when I oil pull. That is not an exaggeration.

Take a tablespoon of coconut oil and put it in your mouth.  Swish it around for 10-20 minutes and then spit it out.  It’s that simple.

To be more specific, you should do this on an empty stomach.  I do it right after brushing and flossing my teeth. I am weird about textures so I will put the tablespoon of oil in a small measuring cup and nuke it for about 10 seconds.

Swishing for 10-20 minutes is probs the hardest part. I typically distract myself but picking out what I am going to wear for the day, ironing if necessary, scrolling through the instaposts I’ve missed whilst sleeping and then it’s time to spit it out.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature so you do not want to spit this down the sink.  I spit it in the trash can, then I get a warm cup of water to swish my mouth again getting rid of excess oil (and the taste) and spit that out. You will have fresh breath all day. I promise it’s worth it.

FACE WASH

You can also clean your face with oil. I mostly use castor oil and tea tree oil when doing this but have used Coconut oil when I was out. Different oils have varying effects on different skin types so I used this article, among others, to help decide which oils to use.

The article above will talk about percentages of oils but I just take a finger full of coconut oil, or pour enough castor oil to pool in my cupped palm, and add about 4-5 drops of tea tree oil and/or lavender oil. I rub my hands together to mix the oils and then massage it onto my face in circular motions for about 30 seconds. I will find something to do for 1-5 minutes (typically it’s my morning poo) and then drench a fresh face towel in hot water. You want it to be as hot as you can stand it because you ring it out and apply it to your face as a steamer. Let it rest on your face for 30-45 seconds and then wipe. You can choose to re-wet the rag and steam once more. After you wipe all of the oil off, admire your moisturized, clean, soft skin. It’s safe to do every day.

FACE MASK

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If you hadn’t yet heard of Indian Healing Clay you should consider hopping on the bandwagon!  My face was doing some crazy itchy, break out thing and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. My friend got me hip to this (I’ve heard of it but never used it before) and that was all she wrote.

There are tons of clay face mask recipes out there. Google some you think will work best for you. A little clay goes a long way so this lasts a long while. Also, you do not want to use metal when working with the clay as it will activate it before it has a chance to touch your face.

I put two 1/2 teaspoon scoops of clay into a plastic bowl. I add about two capfuls of apple cider vinegar. [I always use apple cider vinegar with the mother. Look it up. (I feel like someone’s mom giving you all of these articles to read and things to research. I hated when I asked my mom something and she told me to look it up.)] I might add a little bit of water for consistency sake. I add about 4 drops of tea tree oil and/or lavender oil and mix with my fingers. You can mix with a plastic spoon, wooden spoon or glass wand…or something.

Once the clay is mixed, I smear it on my face with my fingers and let it sit for about 30 minutes. When I first used this, my face itched so bad, I was doing the absolute most in my friend’s living room. I’m already animated but this was over the top and I wasn’t joking. It was quite sad actually. Nonetheless, it was only that one time it itched like that. It was probably because of all the years of toxins being drawn out of my suffering skin.

I would encourage you to not let the clay completely dry but once you are ready to remove it, take a fresh warm rag and wipe away. Your skin will be super soft. I typically take a tiny amount of coconut oil and put on my face after this. I usually do a face mask right before bed. I’ve also done it at the top and middle of the day. *shrugs*

Body Cleansing

It is important to make sure you are washing with products that are going to hydrate your skin. I try to stay away from products with harsh sulfates in them. I LOVE LUSH Cosmetics and encourage you to visit their store. Due to recent changes in life, and going back to the means part of this blog, I haven’t purchased any in a while.

What I am using now is Dr_Bronners-soaps

Dr. Bronner’s soap has been amazing. I first heard of someone using it at my friend’s house that told me about the clay. Actually, this friend has recommended a lot of stuff. We share finds often.

One day, she (or I…I don’t remember) found an article talking about using Dr. Bronner’s for vaginal health. I don’t think she was using Dr. Bronner’s for skin at the time. If you know anything about Dr. Bronner’s is that it can be used for 1 million things. That being said, using it for the very sensitive lady parts raised our eyebrows. Among further research, I gave it a try and LOVED it.

Not going into details, I was solely using it for the little lady until I stopped buying LUSH and began using it for my whole body. I use the bar soap and only use tea tree, peppermint or lavender as those were the ones highlighted for the original intent. Baby Unscented is apparently good too. It works better than any of the vaginal cleansers out there. Another part of the vaginal cleansing conversation is that the little lady doesn’t need anything – a topic for another day.

Dr. Bronner’s is vegan, fair trade, organic and many other things. They really try to make the most natural soap possible. As with anything, I looked at the ingredients before purchasing and was content. It’s made with a lot of oils and my skin feels loved when I’m done showering.

POST-SHOWER

Lastly, once I pat myself dry, I moisturize with, you guessed it, coconut oil. My skin is always so soft. The coconut oil traps in the moisture. It’s cheap(ish), natural, bug repellent, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and moisturizing. I don’t like the smell, which typically goes away, but the coconut lovers can always smell it.

And that’s it folks. These are my skin care (and mouth) routines. If you give any of these a try, let me know how it goes. Oh! If you shave, coconut oil is good to put on your skins following. I also put it on as soon as I got home from the waxing parlor. 🙂

Until Next time.

Dammed

Tears are a tricky thing.  They need to come with a manual of operation.  You shed them too often, people get uncomfortable and assess your level of stability.  You don’t shed them at the right moment, you may be viewed as cold. They arrive sometimes on the doorstep of your lids uninvited.  Sometimes they push their way over the dam. Tears are interesting.  It’s really the whole gamut of human emotion that accompanies tears I find interesting.

There was a point in life that I cried a lot. Prior to that, I only really cried if I was really sad or really angry. I guess I was both in this particular moment. I cried so much that one day I decided I was done with crying.

I’ve never been angry to the point of not crying. I just felt like it was dumb to cry anymore.  I remember talking with a friend saying “tears are time wasted,” and she quoted a

I remember talking with a friend saying “tears are time wasted,” and she quoted a homie retorting, “Tears do nothing but wet your face.” That solidified it for me. I was done.

Years later, I’m ready to cry and can’t. I don’t even remember what it was, but I felt the moment needed a good cleansing cry and it wasn’t there. Do you know how horrible it is to want to cry, cleanse your soul, and not be able to?

lightning

See, a good cry for me is like a thunderstorm. It’s powerful, a little loud, rumbly, intense but when it’s over…the air is clear. You know lightning creates O3 in the air? That’s why the air feels and smells so fresh after a storm. That’s what I feel a good cry does for me…cleans the air and I couldn’t get it.

It felt like something was stuck in my chest. This went on for some time. I began to try to recall the last time I cried. I would get excited if I had a single tear, trying to coax more. Have you seen The Holiday with Cameron Diaz? She’s trying to cry and nothing happened? That was me.

cry

Then, This Is Us happened. I. Love. This. Show.

I cried. Cried, cried and cried. I was surprised initially because I’ve never been one to cry over movies and, definitely not tv, but this seemed to be a new thing.  Other movies that solicited tears are:

  • Me Before You
  • The Last Word
  • Lion
  • Moana

Just a few that I can think of right now. But This Is Us took me out the game every single week and I loved it. It made me feel. It chipped away at whatever was building up inside and allowed me to release it. I resonated with the characters and their stories and felt for these unreal people (though the stories and experiences are very real, even if they aren’t my story).

happy tears

I allowed nothing to stand between me and the tv at that time. I even think I let another show fall on the Hulu list because I was not missing This Is Us! It was a cathartic, cleansing experience. It was even better that it aired in the middle of the week because I was able to continue with whatever situations I dealt with at work. I had fresh air. (I also have a couple of theories on how Jack dies and cannot wait for the shows return.)

After This Is Us, I felt good about the ability to cry and was adamant about not losing the ability to do so. Who cares that someone may think something particular about me crying. I must admit, there were a couple of situations where I held my tears but, otherwise, I was crying everywhere.

tears

Kids. Kids will pull tears like nothing else. Why? Because they are so friggin’ cute! Actually, they remind me of innocence and fearlessness. They remind me to live. I remember crying watching SYTYCD season 13 with the babies. Yes, this was before This Is Us but the babies just pulled it out of me. Most recently, maybe the most embarrassing moment was in the mall.

The mall has a big open center in the middle. This is perfect for Christmas, Easter and any other event that comes because you can watch on that floor or from the second floor. This particular time, it was talent search. People of all ages signed up to be a model or part of some commercial.  Their first audition was right there in the mall. Parents walked babies down the runway. Kids skipped and danced and recited lines and I stood in the food court hanging over the balcony with my mom and other spectators.

I cried on a couple of occasions right in the middle of the mall. I looked at my mom and exclaimed, “I don’t know why I’m crying! They’re so stinking cute!”  Going back to emotions, it was a happy time but not necessarily a direct happiness. Nothing was happening to me. I didn’t know anyone that strutted, shuffled, skipped, spun, sang or waddled down that runway. But, I was ok with it.  Why should I have to hide my emotions?

Why do feel the need to hide emotions? I know it is a defense mechanism to not show emotion. I have mastered a blank face. Equally, I don’t think I should hide them. Of course, there are levels of appropriateness but, showing emotion is ok. Society, parents, they tell us not to cry. It’s a sign of weakness or it’s unneccessary. Any child who lived in a house where you can get spanked have probably heard, “Stop crying before I give you something to cry about!” Excuse me, ma’am/sir, you’ve already achieved that particular objective.

I came to appreciate tears. I have shed them for friends. I have shed them for myself. I have shed them because I was so overwhelmed by the cutest of children. I don’t feel any less strong. In fact, I think showing emotion shows strength. A display of emotion is a display of vulnerability and it takes strong people to be vulnerable. So there. Having not been able to cry because I shut it off, I welcome the tears and emotions. I feel them, process them and find appropriate outlets to release them.

I encourage you to take a moment to stop and check how you feel. It can be easy to be too busy to feel. I’ve found myself on the too busy for emotions train which is crazy. Self-care requires self-assessment and self-alignment. Happy, angry, sad, scared, guilty, contrite…whatever it is, feel it. It’s ok.

gotchu

Reply to Visceral prompt

The Church: People and Building

Disclaimer: I’m not quite sure how you’re going to respond to this post and that’s ok. 

I went to church yesterday.

I haven’t been to church in a while. Church used to be a huge part of my life. Church was a consuming part of my life – which had its pluses and minuses, neither of which are the point of this post.

When I left the last church I was a member of several things shifted in my life. That time was one that will go in the books as a pivotal moment in my life – simply because so much happened. Because I valued church and God’s people and being a part of a community, naturally, I began to search for another church home. Between that time and now, which is a span of about 4 years, I have visited 5 different churches.

Around the same time I left my church home, my fiance and I separated. I had a bad habit of boxing my emotions, putting them away and moving on until something happened and, like scissors to tape on move-in day, ripped them boxes open releasing an unfair wave of emotions for the situation at hand. That being said, I wanted to be fair and honest to myself to feel and process those emotions.

Yo!

YOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

That was rough. I was angry which made me more angry because I know anger is never the first emotion…but I couldn’t help it. It was how I felt. Talking to people was challenging because they threw scripture and common phrases like candy at a parade. That pissed me off even more. I remember yelling at my dad, telling him he wasn’t helping. “I know the scripture,” I quipped. “I have studied it forward and backward. That does not help me process how I feel!”  The scripture began to feel like something people said when they didn’t know what to say, instead of just listening and talking to me. We weren’t having a conversation. Granted, I was angry; so,, I don’t know how much of a conversation could have been had but that’s how I felt.

What was most difficult to explain, and this is where the church comes in, is that I became angry with God. I was angry with God and His people did not help the situation any.

At the first couple of churches I visited, I found everyone wanted to know what church I attended and why I left. That felt messy through and through and I wasn’t about it. In addition, when my fiance and I split, people attempted to surround me with community but I found that they would ask questions about my relationship only to share what I have shared. Now, my perception of the community and His people have been tainted. In a moment when church should have been solace and refuge, I was not finding it because the leaders were showing themselves. Granted, I understand people are not perfect but I also couldn’t honestly stay in a community that was searching and gossipy. That wasn’t helpful for me.

In fairness, I met some amazing people in those churches that I came to value and appreciate and spend time with outside of church. In hindsight, I appreciate them even more because I know I was not an easy person to handle at the moment, but they reflected the heart of God and that’s what I needed to be reminded of. Nonetheless, the greater church community became an issue for me.

I would like to clarify that just because someone hasn’t been to church does not mean that they are still not connected to the spirit of God. That being said, here are some things I ran into and problems that I have when I visit churches.

I would walk into churches, turn right around and walk out. Either the atmosphere just didn’t feel right or people pounced on me like predator to prey or ignored me entirely.  The church should very well feel inviting but don’t try to make me a member on day one. At the same time, I don’t want to be a member if you can’t acknowledge my presence. Y’all ain’t got (yes, I said it) a welcome community? No usher to give me an offering envelope? Nothing?

Moving on to praise and worship, I do not want to play Simon Says during praise and worship. I want to praise and worship which may not look like raising a hand when you say or clapping on your cue or shouting at the top of my lungs upon your request. Honestly, it’s quite distracting. My understanding of the Praise and Worship Leader/Team/Choir is to lead people in praise and worship and usher them into the presence of God. I feel like so many are more focused on the congregation’s response. I wonder how different this part of the experience would be if the leaders just focused on praising and worshipping God. Let’s also add the unsubtle chidings for not playing monkey see, monkey do and bullying the congregation into “praise” by using lines such as,” You don’t want to praise God” or “Are you not thankful for what God has done in your life?”

The Word. I told y’all I love research. Sitting under a pastor that broke down Greek and Hebrew, really taught us the word and how to figure it out for ourselves was great. Of course, that means I’m sitting in church listening to the word thinking, “No, sir/ma’am, I’m pretty sure that word in Greek/Hebrew means _____, which is totally different than how you have explained it to the people.” I hate when the Word is twisted and manipulated to convey something it isn’t.  John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  If the scripture is being twisted and manipulated for you to talk about how we got Trump as president or how someone has a spirit of stubbornness because they didn’t lift their hands when the Praise and Worship leader said to (yes, I heard that), I have a real problem with that.

I recently published a post talking about love and how I struggled to find words to convey love and that’s because God is love. The most distilled version of love is God. His word reminds me of that. It reminds me of how He places the stars in the sky, knows them by name, keeps the universe in orbit and still knows the number of hairs on my head. We shed on average 100 strands of hair a day; that means He keeps a running tally. Daily, God assesses the number of hairs on my head and manages to do the same for every other human on this planet, among everything else He is doing because He loves us that much. That is why I am very critical when it comes to hearing the Word of God.

If you’re still reading, you’ve probably figured out I’m really struggling with finding a church to be plugged into. And I began to wonder if I’m being too hard on the church.  On the other hand, is the church doing what God intended it to do? I remind myself He doesn’t need me to be a member of someone’s congregation in order to use me. But what really hurts my heart is how many more believers feel church isn’t for them.

I heard someone say recently, “I mean, I’m just going to live my life and whatever consequences come of that, I’ll deal with them then.” Wow.  YOLO is a lie. Even if Christianity isn’t a thing to you, many faiths, religions, belief systems believe that it doesn’t end here – that there is life after death and that said life is dictated by what we’ve done with this one.

So, while my frustration with the church has changed over the years, I am now most concerned with the fact that people young and old have, as it seems, given up on the church, and all it has to offer (community, word, fellowship, covering), because of the people in it. That hurts my heart. That makes me, well, angry.

Olive Juice

I believe in love. Agape, Phileo, Eros…I believe in it wholeheartedly.

I believe that two people can love each other so deep that they cannot live without each other.

I believe in a love so powerful that it turns strangers into family.  I don’t use “family” loosely.

I believe in a love so strong that it checks the hate in someone’s heart.

I believe love heals. Redeems.

I believe in a love so massive that I am truly struggling to find words to describe its essence, power, magnitude.

I just hope I’m not the only one that believes it. Knows it.

Storytellers

I love research. I will research something with the quickness! Most recently, my mom was driving as she and my grandmother were on our way back from Tennessee. I guess I was so into my phone, more than the usual gameplay attention, that she asked me what I was looking at. I looked at her and said, “Oh! I’m just looking up how tree rings are formed during the growth process.” Once it came out of my mouth and there was a pregnant pause I said, “It didn’t seem so nerdy until I said it out loud.” She laughed. Hard.

woods-forest.jpg

Of course, I felt like I had to explain.  “I saw some trees back there that were tall and pretty. Then I started thinking about how old they must be to be so tall. Then I was wondering about how the rings are actually formed in the tree.” I never quite recovered my street cred…not that I had any with mom…she has, by default of her position, seen me at my worst.

diaper

I share that story to say, my it takes the littlest bit of curiosity to consume me in research. One thing leads to another and another and so on.

I recently submitted my DNA to Ancestry and received my results. I have since been (you guessed it) consumed in researching about my peoples. Some of that research is combing through documents and cross-checking information to make sure what I put on my tree is correct. Some of the research involved interviewing family members that I meet along the way. I would love to find out which of my peoples came from which countries and such but, interviewing is the best part.

I’ve already share conversations with my cousins Michael and Mattie. They are both older people. The older, the better. Why? Because they have stories for hooouuurrrsss on end. And you know what else? I don’t care that they may be so old their memory skews the story a little bit. I don’t even care if they intentionally changed a minor detail. Granted, for accuracy purposes, the scientist in me is a little peeved by that, but I love a good story. (Sidebar: I have found so many who have changed their names, fallen off the face of the earth, people lied about their age all. the. time. which makes it hard to track and verify if these are my folks. Just a smidgen annoying) 

I tell stories all the time. Some stories I make up just to see how convincing they are. But the stories of people who have lived through the Civil Rights Movement or collected stories from their grandparents who were slaves…unbeatable. I spoke to two cousins alone who were 80+ years old. Both of them had stories. Both of them had different stories. Both of them had different stories about the family.

With Ancestry, you have the opportunity to find living relatives but you may not always know how you’re connected. These stories are like additional clues in how to spin the puzzle piece to fit. Again, the older the better. One told a story about how he went with his grandmother (my great great grandmother) down south to visit her sister and the cousins he met. He threw out names that were like buzzwords for me because I was trying to see how they were related. I had another hint.

I spoke to his sister later in the day. She told me about how she was always sitting and talking with her grandmother. She asked tons of questions because she was curious. She said, “If I wasn’t sitting with her, I was talking with Grandpa.” She said, “The stories grandma told about slavery would make you cry. She would have to stop sometimes because it was too much for her. But, you know, she was half white.” That information was news to me based on my research so I beckoned for more. “Yea. Silas, her father, was half white. She was in the sun so much it bleached her hands and arms dark like the rest of us. You know, she didn’t wear stockings like the ones we wear now. She never wore white and she wore thick cotton stockings because she didn’t want her legs to show. They were white.”

I was stumped. I will post a picture of this lady’s 50th anniversary with their spawns. She was a dark lady. Now, whether or not the details of the story are true – which I guess they could be, I don’t know. Again, the lady is 82.

Mi Familia

You know what I like about hearing older people tell stories? They tell it like narrating a movie.  I feel like I’m there. The warmth in their voice when they describe their love and admiration for someone. The sparkle when they explain how gorgeous someone was. The pride when they proclaim how good-looking the family was in general. What was once names on a page are now characters, people. Real people. My people.

Ok, one more story. The lady I spoke with earlier today said, “Your grandmother and I fell out. Ask your uncle, he knows some of it. I told him why we fell out too. Your grandmother…she was a good dancer. An outstanding dancer; I’ll give her that. She could dance. I was a great skater. She could dance and I could skate. We used to go to this skating rink. I couldn’t dance like she could and she couldn’t skate like me. And that made her mad. So we fell out.” She laughed. Hard.  “And there was this boy named Big Charles. I liked Big Charles and she like Big Charles. And we fell out over that. And you know what? Charles went on to the military and married someone that wasn’t neither one of us!” She laughed again. Hard. Again. And I joined along.

My paternal grandmother's family
I never met my great grandparents (the lady in the middle and the gentleman on the end) but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing my grandmother (on the far right) and my aunt and uncles. Mighty fine people.