Nikki Giovanni, My Hero

photo (24)-aSometimes, something really, really amazing happens to me. And that thing, whatever it is leaves me stupefied. One of those things happened to me last week.

Opening my mailbox I was astounded by all the junk mail I had received that day. I flipped through the circulars and came across an envelope addressed to me. The return address was Virginia Tech.

I carefully unsealed the envelope and read the note. It was from Nikki Giovanni! Yeah, you read right. THE Nikki Giovanni! She stated she had read my latest book and called it “strong and wonderful”. Wow!

I had the opportunity to meet Nikki Giovanni at The University of South Carolina in 1998. I stood in the middle of a crowded room and told her “It’s not often that one gets to meet her hero. Well, today, I’ve met mine.” Then I burst into a shameful display of tears and snot. But I didn’t care, because…it was NIKKI GIOVANNI!

She signed my notebook of badly written poems and I told her that her signature would serve as good luck to me because I had hopes of one day becoming a published author. She laughed. But I believed what I said. And of course, years later, my words came true.

Nikki Giovanni has inspired me in ways I could never verbalize. I love her writing. She’s so truthful and matter-of-fact. I love it. I only hope to become half as prolific as her.

Now, I must find the perfect frame to display the note in because….it’s from NIKKI GIOVANNI! It must be displayed!

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Separation Anxiety: Parent Edition

President of Georgia Jr. Beta Club at the National Jr. Beta Club Leadership Conference in Greeneville, TN

President of Georgia Jr. Beta Club at the National Jr. Beta Club Leadership Conference in Greeneville, TN

We have a very close knit family. My children, ages 12, 9 and 5, haven’t been away from us but once when Mr. Incredible and I headed to Miami for a conference in 2011.

So you can imagine how difficult it must have been for us to send our 12 year old off to the Tennessee mountains for the National Jr. Beta Club Leadership Conference. She’ll be gone for five days.

Last night I had a really bad mommy moment where I got down about her not being at home. While I know she’s having an awesome time with her new found friends, I couldn’t shake the feeling of uselessness.

This is the third day of her trip and to say that our conversations with her have been scant is an understatement. The only time she communicates with us is when we initiate a text message once a day.

She’s sent a few pics and a video of her experiences but its obvious that she isn’t thinking about us one bit. That makes me sad. I feel like she doesn’t need me. And it’s the worst feeling for a mom to feel irrelevant in the lives of her children.

She’s having fun. I guess that’s all that matters. And she’s gaining leadership experience and enjoying learning new things, which I’m thrilled about. But she’s only 12. She’s still my baby. And I miss her.

Friday can’t come soon enough.

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Taking Charge of My Health

exercise (1)With each passing birthday my list of health concerns grows. I find that I’m visiting the doctor more and sharing problems with her that are reminiscent of my parent’s complaints: extreme exhaustion, lack of energy, constant headaches, insomnia.

Years ago, when my doctor told me I had arthritis in my knees I was shocked. But I attributed it to years of cheering and being a cheer coach.

And when I saw a sleep specialist and was diagnosed with sleep apnea it scared me.  The doctor assured me that sleep apnea was heredity, but could be controlled with weight loss. So, I took my CPAP machine home, and considered loosing weight.

Then a few months ago I was stricken with a terrible case of vertigo. It was an awful ordeal….one that I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. I was incapacitated for days. I laid in bed thinking how scary my circumstances were and how I have to make an effort to get better.

For the next few months I pondered how I should go about this life change. I began drinking water and went on a walk or two. But I knew I needed to find a way to stay committed to my health. So yesterday, I joined a gym. This is my second, or third go round with being a member of a gym.

My first two tries were unsuccessful. I wasted an exorbitant amount of money because my gym membership just sat….unused.

This time, I decided to get an accountability partner. Along with joining the gym I hired a personal trainer. And I actually gave him my REAL phone number…which means I can’t hide. He can call me and force  me to get my butt to the gym.

My first appointment is in a few days and I’m a little bit nervous because I’m not used to being pushed out of my comfort zone. And breaking a sweat is waaaaayyyyyyy out of my comfort zone. To ease my nervousness I took a Zumba class this morning.

It went OK. I was at least able to keep up with the instructor for the first 10 minutes. But soon after that my felt my heart bursting out of my chest and my knees cracking under the pressure. And while I didn’t stop, I certainly slowed down my pace. So yeah, I gave a half-assed effort for the remainder of the class.
But I certainly didn’t quit.

And I guess that’s the most important part….I didn’t quit.

Do you have experience with a personal trainer? What has been your exercise experience? Let me know in the comments.

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Our Couple’s Massage

The Art of Touch Mr. Incredible and I are massage connoisseurs! Yes, we are experts in the art of getting massages. We’ve been rubbed down by the best…..and the worst of them.

So when he told me that we’d be trying this new therapeutic massage center in Atlanta I was quite excited.

The space was beautiful…..a simply decorated, calming space that immediately put us at ease upon walking through the doors.

Our massage therapists introduced themselves and asked a few questions about our general health. Once we were lead to our massage room I quickly warned my therapist that I am abnormally ticklish and she should not be distracted by my incessant laughter.

(Remind me to tell you about my experience a few years ago in Braselton, Ga with a very rude masseuse that was visibly bothered by my laughter and nearly threw me out of the room.)

Once we disrobed we made ourselves comfortable on our individual massage tables and waited for the therapists to reenter.

Within minutes I had become totally relaxed and began to drift somewhere in between sleep and alertness as the massage therapist began my massage.

She was extraordinary. Her expertise was evident as she concentrated on my tightly wound muscles.

Our hour long couple’s massages were such  needed stress reliefs. After our therapy session our masseuses spent time talking with us about ways we could relieve tension at home. They gave us lots of advice about how to take care of our bodies in between massage sessions.

Long after our session ended Mr. Incredible and I sat on the plush couches in a fantastic lounge area sipping water and admiring the breathtaking artwork that lined the walls and the amazing view of midtown Atlanta.

It was an absolutely enjoyable experience and we cannot wait to visit again. Our  14th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few months and I’d LOVE to go back to celebrate.

If you’re looking for a great gift idea for a loved one, or if you need a massage yourself,  I’m certain you should try a therapy session at The Art of Touch.

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A Lesson in Exercising My Faith

tumblr_m4gfh1mqJT1qhmhdfo1_500Exercising one’s faith takes a great deal of determination.  Its difficult to believe a thing when all your senses point to rejection. A few days ago I had an amazing opportunity to work at incredible company.  I was ecstatic at the chance.

I felt that this was the place God wanted me to be. On a large white board in my home office I wrote a declaration that I would be employed by the company.  I spoke that declaration every day leading up to the moment of the interview.  I continuously thanked God for the job offer I had yet to receive. I believed!

The interview went swimmingly well. I was a bit nervous- but I remained confident that the job was mine.

Receiving The Call

My interview was on a Monday.  I spent that evening and all of the next day thanking God for giving me this job.  It wasn’t easy . And doubt would often push its way in my thoughts. But I replaced that doubt with praise for my new position.  Wednesday morning I received the call. “Mrs. Grant, we would like to offer you the position.” I was beyond excited! I was careful to thank God for honoring my faith and helping me land the job.  I was so thankful.  This was the first instance in my entire life that I had truly exercised my faith in god. I was astounded.

The Next Day

Thursday afternoon, still reeling from my triumph, I received another phone call. “Mrs. Grant, we have to rescind the offer.” Through no fault of my own  the job that I had been offered just 24 hours before was now being taken back from me.   The company had decided that the position was, in fact, not available.  I was incredibly disappointed.

Remaining Faithful

Though disappointed and shaken by this news, my faith in God and his willingness to act on my behalf remains in tact.  I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But I do know that God is already there waiting for me.

What disappointments have you faced in your life that have tested your faith? Let me know in the comments.

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Happy Birthday To Me!

Yes, I DID walk around all day with my tiara and birthday button!

Yes, I DID walk around all day with my tiara and birthday button!

My birthday weekend was too phenomenal to sum up in a blog post. Suffice it to say, I had an amazing time and Mr. Incredible did a fantastic job of planning our three day celebration. I’m 38 now, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. But here are a few thoughts I had as I awoke on my special day:

Am I really 38 years old? That’s a little depressing and very exciting all at the same time. I remember when I was younger I thought 38 to be so old. But I still feel like a kid sometimes. Then there are moments that I feel so mature and wise, like I’ve accumulated this wealth of knowledge from my life experiences. One thing I’m thankful for is that I’ve become totally comfortable in my own skin and while it would be nice if everyone liked me, I don’t begin or end my day with thoughts of people’s opinions of me. I say what I say, think what I think and live how I live. I’m quick to state my opinion and even quicker to apologize when I’m wrong.I am totally clear on what I will do and what I won’t do. I try to be kind to people but I’m certainly no pushover. Happy Birthday to me!I guess I’m grown now….I guess.”

 

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Remembering Walter

heavenSeveral attempts have been made to formulate my thoughts on Maya Angelou’s passing into a blog post that would adequately describe what her writing has meant to my life. I felt  like it was my responsibility, as a writers, to say something about this extraordinary woman.

I sat and thought about the feelings that emerged in my spirit years ago as I read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I remembered the exhilaration of performing Phenomenal Woman in the Miss Sumter High Pageant in 1993. And I reminisced about the many, many years of teaching high school English that Maya Angelou was my poet of the week.

Memories ran though my mind of the ways Angelou has inspired me and caused me to dream that I could be something greater. But I was paralyzed with shock from her death. My attempts of memorializing her in a post had failed. So, I resigned to the notion that I would, in fact, not write anything on this blog. I would simply honor her by continuing to write and publish books that lifted the spirits of my readers.

Then, last night I received some news about the passing of one of my college mentors. He was only ten years older than I. I sat there, amid my shock and sadness trying to comprehend the idea of death.

I imagine if we knew the majesty, the grandeur, the illustriousness, the eminence of Heaven that instead of shedding tears and succumbing to our sadness when a loved one passes, we would rejoice and give thanks that they have entered into God’s promise.

For the past few months I’ve had a strong urge to contact my mentor and tell him about my latest book. One of the main characters in the novel, Walter Thomas, is based off of him. I never got around to contacting my mentor or sending him my book. But, my God, how I wish I had! He was such a kind-hearted man. A strong role model and great leader. He will certainly be remembered well.

A tall muscular gentleman walked towards Ms. Greenley.  He was dressed in a gray Brooks Brother’s business suit with a pair of black, newly shined Stacey Adams shoes. A burgundy ascot peeked from his topcoat. He had one hand in his pocket and offered his free hand to Ms. Greenley.  Walter escorted Ms. Greenley into his office.  He pulled out her chair and motioned for her to have a seat.  Walter Thomas sat across from her at a circular table in the corner of his office.  A copy of her manuscript sat on the table along with a pile of garnet and black folders.  Walter took a sip of tea from his Alpha Phi Alpha engraved glass mug and handed Ms. Greenley one of the folders. ~ Excerpt from Chapter XI The Miseducation of Ms. G

Thank you, Walter Jackson, for helping me write my novel. I will forever remember you.

 

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The Errands Left Undone

My, on my way to tackle errands.

Me, on my way to tackle errands.

Today was a ‘run around town, tackle some errands’ kinda day. So, I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. I threw on my Capri pants and tank top I recently purchased from JCPenney along with my Okab shoes and headed out the door.

I had an early meeting to attend- which should have only lasted an hour, but ended up running twenty minutes over- then I had to chauffeur my daughter to her hair appointment, do some much needed grocery shopping, and pack for our upcoming family beach vacation, not to mention clean my house from top to bottom.

My busy day was all mapped out! Just when I finished the grocery shopping my body decided to totally shut down.  I got home I began feeling  ill. I laid down with a terrible headache and was unable to get any more of my errands done. I wasn’t even able to accompany my family to dinner. I rolled around in bed all evening with stomach pangs watching The Incredible Dr. Pol shove his arm up a cows butt- which made me even more ill.

I don’t know where the stomach pangs were coming from. Could it have been those scrambled eggs I ate for breakfast? Or maybe it was that Wendy’s single with cheese I scarfed down a few hours prior? Who knows? But I was down for the count for the remainder of the night. Now it’s midnight and  I’m finally able to crawl out of bed to write this post.

I guess I’ll tackle my uncompleted errands tomorrow.

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My Dream Job

3299c04Many months ago a friend posted the following question on Facebook: “What would be your dream job?” I didn’t respond to the post initially. But over the past few weeks, I’ve given it much consideration.

The first thought that entered my mind was an online teaching job that would allow me to work from home. Then, I thought better of it and decided that my dream job would be working as an editor for an online magazine….still, working from home.

But neither of those professions would allow for much human interaction, and I desperately need human interaction. I’m quite a bit of a social butterfly at times. I MUST talk to people.

Moreover, working from home would be a dead weight on my fashion sense. I love creating outfits to wear, applying my make up and styling my hair each day. Yes, I’m a bit of a princess.

After more thought I finally settled on a career that would suit me perfectly. Teaching literature courses to English majors at an HBCU would be the quintessential job.

I was an English major in college and I am totally in love with all things literature. I am such an avid reader! And I’ve even written a book or two, so being an English instructor would suit me just fine.

I had the opportunity to teach high school English for many years. And while I enjoyed it, the politics of the education system and the behavior of public school children can be overwhelming and disheartening. So, I believe that moving up to the university level will cut down on the distractions of discipline and give me a chance to focus on the students’ learning.

I desire a Historically Black College or University because I have a soft spot for HBCU’s. A few years ago I created a web series to highlight the amazing work that HBCU’s are doing for our nation. It’s my way of promoting these colleges in order to raise awareness and hopefully increase funding to the schools.

Teaching at an HBCU would be another way of giving back to my community.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever land my dream job. But  I’ve put my desire  into the atmosphere hoping to yield a positive outcome.

Tell me about your dream job?

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Advice for Writers

images (1)Long ago, when I was a mere senior in high school, I received a piece of advice that I have never forgotten. It came to me in the form of a  typed, double spaced, two page letter. The author, an amazing writer who I have since befriended, offered his advice to me, an aspiring writer. Within his letter there was a simple sentence that has stayed in my spirit all these years: “Write what you know.”

I didn’t get it at first, because, I was 17. And I didn’t KNOW anything. But now, twenty years later, I totally and completely understand. I live in a place of the constant narrator. As I move through my day to day life I operate as an omniscient observer…always watching, looking, thinking. I have a seemingly dual existence: experiencing things first hand, yet hovering above myself, narrating the events as they occur.

So, after a decade of teaching English literature and observing the crazy of the public school system, I decided to write what I know. Thus, The Miseducation of Ms. G was born. I love this novel. Not because it’s MY book. But because it gives such an accurate account of an urban school system. This is as close to real life as it gets, people.

A few years after I received that two page letter, while bopping through the campus of The University of South Carolina trying to find my way, I received a second piece of advice from that same amazing writer who, by this time, was  my professor. I sat in his office, as I had done numerous times, and listened to him talk in his heavy Jamaican accent. “KrisssTAL, whaht arrr you afred of? Dat’s whaht you shud write about.”

What WAS I afraid of? I was afraid of snakes. I was afraid of the boogey man. I was afraid of Freddie Kruger and the Exorcist. But most of all I was afraid of loosing the people I loved the most- my family. And this fear, this heart-wrenching panic, was the catalyst for Under The Palmetto Tree.

My mother’s death took the wind out of my sail. It threw me completely off track. Her unexpected passing was the single most terrible experience of my life. I was completely stuck, succumb with grief and despair. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely breathe.

The one and only thing I could do was write. That is what sustained me. And from the ashes of my despair, Under The Palmetto Tree was drafted and sent to my publisher.

I’ve received a plethora of writing advice from some of the greatest penman over the years: Nikki Giovanni, Michael Eric Dyson, Tia McCollors. But these two things, “write what you know”, and “write what your afraid of” have been the driving force for my writing career thus far. So, shout out to Kwame Dawes for his timely wisdom and amazing craft.

Is there someone who has helped you along the way? Who inspires you?

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