The Kindness of Strangers

When Southern Mom died, my linesisters in the DMV rallied together, brought me dinner, bought my plane ticket home, and loved on me when I wanted to be left alone.

As the plane descended upon the city where I grew up, I cried silently to myself.  The flight attendant saw me, gave me some Kleenex, and asked if she could hug me when the plane landed.  I said a soft, “Yes.”

I’m not sure how they knew, but what each of those women gave me at those moments are what I needed, even if I didn’t want it or think I needed it at the time.

Upon my return to DC, I cooked dinner for linesisters.  I wish I had gotten the airline attendant’s name that was so kind to me so I could have properly thanked her.

It’s amazing to me how strangers or your friends or people you hardly know are so kind to you, not because they have to be but because they want to.

Since the passing of Southern Mom, the relationship between my maternal family and me has not been great.  I know I haven’t behaved perfectly, but I definitely feel like some people have done things and treated me unfairly when they shouldn’t have.  I don’t want or need to go into details, but I’m always amazed at how sometimes your friends will treat you better than family.

So, I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing for the past three years-pray for everyone and live my life the way I know my mother would want me to.  I see a little bit more of her everyday in the things that I do.  And I hope that I am making her proud.

Hopefully one day things will work out and get back to normal with my family.  But until then, I can’t let what’s bad hold me back from doing what’s good.  I pray that those of you that read this will remember that as long as you are doing what you are supposed to do, that’s all that matters.

Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

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Moving Forward

It has been almost 6 months since Southern Mom passed.  Some days are great.  Some days are not so great.  Last week was rough since I had to go to home to handle some business on her behalf.  (I took the shortest trip home I’ve ever taken this weekend.)  And while it was rough, especially Sunday, I am moving forward.

There have been some upsides and positive things that have occurred-I presented at a workshop this weekend related to education.  I received an email earlier today about speaking at an engagement this weekend.  I started a book club.  We’ve met twice so far, and these ladies are a trip!  We have so much fun together.  And, most importantly, I bought a house.  In DC.  (My soror/friend/road dawg Original Najeema suggested I blog about that.)  Let me say that was not an easy process.  And I definitely thought it would take me at least a year to do it.  But I did it.  And I love my house.  Now, I will be brutally honest with you-while I LOVE my house, I was hoping that the seller would have assisted with the closing costs, but that didn’t happen.  And while I definitely could have walked away, I didn’t.  And for a number of reasons.

One, I love that house.  It is completed renovated and has the amenities/updates that I wanted.  Two, I was tired of house hunting.  Sure, it was fun in the beginning.  But every house, with the exception of one, that I put an offer on or was interested in, someone beat me to the punch. (LONG on that first house…)  I got tired of finding gems that other people found before me and watching them take possession.  Third, it was EXACTLY what I told my realtor I wanted.  So why wouldn’t I keep it and move forward???  Lastly, I had to tell myself that while I was putting up all of the money upfront, it would still be MY money, going towards MY house, and benefiting ME in the long run. So, earlier this month, I became a homeowner!  My realtor took a picture of me at the last walk through (where I was VERY animated), and of course, I celebrated with a happy hour.  What’s super funny is that Southern Dad called it.  His words two days before I closed?  “Ok, Elle, when you close, it’s not the end; it’s the beginning.  And don’t think you have to go out and celebrate with a happy hour.”  O_o Color me shocked!  How did he know my life???  Needless to say, I didn’t tell him until the day I closed that he was right about the happy hour and that invitations were sent the previous week.  We both got a good laugh from that one.

While I’ll always mourn my mother, I can’t become stoic.  I have to keep moving forward.  I know that’s what she would want.  And I thank God everyday for my family and friends for their continued support.  I know I couldn’t do half of the stuff I need to do without them willing to lend a helping hand.

I read an article this weekend when a friend shared it on Facebook.  While I don’t like the term “Motherless Daughter”, it was SPOT ON with all of the thoughts that I have when it comes to my mother and how to deal when people ask about my parents or how to deal with a potential mate in the future.  And even now, certain things happen that make me think of memories I have with my mother (that time we would sing Sisqo’s “Got to Get It” just because of a particular lyric in the song, that time I heard her curse for the first time because I spilled Dr. Pepper in her car (I was floored!), how she would tell waitresses to call her by her name and not “Hun” or “Sweetie”).  She was such a dynamic person, and I hope that I have made her proud.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

Snow

“Mom, it’s snowing!”

“Oh, I wish I was there with you!  Take a picture so I can see it!”

That was how a conversation typically went whenever I would call my mom and let her know that it was snowing in DC.  That woman loved snow.  When I was younger, I remember when my mom would make ice cream from snow.  But never the first snow of the season.

“You don’t use the first snow of the season; you have to wait until the 2nd or the 3rd.  And you have to make sure that it’s pure white and doesn’t have ice mixed with it.”

Then she would make it.  I’m not sure what ingredients were used, maybe some vanilla extract, but that’s about it.  And it didn’t snow that much in South Carolina when I was growing up, at least not often enough to have multiple snow days each year.  But I distinctly remember my 9th or 10th winter when my best friend lived around the corner, we made snow angels in my front yard, and my mom made us ice cream.  And it was delicious.

I’m not sure what difference it made whether it was the 1st snow or the 10th snow, but it was embedded in my head to not use the first snow of the season if I wanted ice cream.

Every time it’s snowed since October, I’ve thought about my mom, even if it snowed less than an inch.  Even today as I was cleaning off my car, I thought about her.  The snow was so pure and white and, without any ice mixed in-the perfect batch with which to make ice cream.  My first thought was, “I should scoop some of this in a bowl and make some ice cream.”

When I purchase my first home, I’m getting an ice cream maker.

Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

Where is 2015?

That’s right, I’m rushing 2014 to end.  And we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet.

This year was a rough year for me.  Starting with losing my job in March (I was looking to leave anyway).  Three weeks later, I lost my grandmother (my mom’s mom).  High notes?  I spent 2 weeks at home and celebrated my birthday and my aunt’s wedding.  Super high note?  I got a job.  A job I LOVE!  Still love it.  It’s absolutely amazing, and I am able to use all of my skill sets.  Then, the bottom fell out.

My mom died.

That’s the first time I typed it.  And explicitly shared it on social media.  Sure, I’ve posted pictures of her and me.  I’ve shared when I’ve had crappy days.  But I never stated on Facebook, Twitter, or any other forum that Southern Mom is gone.  It only took me 6 weeks to share it.  And I feel some type of way about sharing it.  Like if I didn’t say it aloud or share it with proverbial strangers that means it wasn’t real.  To go from talking to someone everyday for 32 years, and then to not being able to talk to them unexpectedly, it’s just…I can’t describe it.

The great thing is that since Southern Mom retired last year, she and I were able to pretty much keep true to our word of seeing each other at least once a quarter.  Last summer, we went on a family vacation with our extended family.  Then she came to DC when I competed in the Exquisite International Pageant in August.  I spent all of my Christmas vacation with her.  I spent two weeks in April with her.  She came to DC for Mother’s Day, and I went back and spent a few days with her in SC.  The last time I saw her was in September when I went home for my linesister’s wedding.  When she dropped me off at the airport, we actually sat and talked and spent quality, quiet time together.  She said she would make my favorite cake (key lime) when I came home for Christmas.  (My cousin and I made it when I was home.)

Less than a month later she was gone.  Suddenly and unexpectedly.

Some days are great.  I can smile when I talk about her.  Not choke up.  Still keep a sunny disposition and happy demeanor.  Other days, I cry.  I can barely get dressed, and I want to stay home.  I can’t talk about her, because my eyes start to water and my throat tightens up.

I’m sure these roller coaster of days will last until God decides I’ve served my purpose on this earth and calls me home.  Until then, I plan to make sure I make my mother proud and ensure she has left behind a positive legacy.

So, yeah, even though great things happened this year, the ultimately worse thing happened, too.  I’m super ready to see January 1.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

Interview with An Author – R. Bryant

I went to the best university in the world.  My classmates are some of the most awesomely talented people I know.  And I am so happy to introduce to you R. Bryant, a new author who published her first novel, Yesterday Mourning, earlier this year.  Read below to find out more about Ms. Bryant, her work, and her future plans.

Provide a synopsis of your book:

Yesterday Mourning delves into the reality of what happens to individuals and families when their expectations of one another are rarely spoken and subsequently not met. It deals with love, loss, and the fears surrounding both.

“Yvette is a forty-one year old woman devastated from losing both parents during her twenties—one to terminal disease and the other to life’s complications. Vera is the stepsister she never imagined nor wanted. When their father’s health takes a turn for the worse, both must decide if they have the strength to release yesterday’s burdens or will a childhood secret damage an already broken family.”

How long had you written it before it was published? 

There wasn’t a lot of time that passed between writing the final words and the soft launch in May. I would say about two months at the most.

Where did you get the idea of your story?

The novel is actually inspired by my life, my loss, and my regrets. Back in 2006 my mother, Vanessa, lost her short but painful battle with metastatic melanoma. The cancer is extremely rare in Blacks (lifetime risk of 0.1%) and quite fatal usually due to late detection.  Losing her was devastating for my entire family and we all went through a bit of soul searching.  Yesterday Mourning was a way for me to pay homage to my mother as well as acknowledge some of the unrealistic expectations I had for myself and others during that time in my life.

Do you have plans to write another novel?

Yes. I’m currently working on the second book in the Mourning series and I’ve already started outlines for a few more.

What has been your biggest challenge thus far?

Making sure I make the time. It’s not that I don’t have time to write or to do a lot of the activities that help build a writer’s platform, it’s being committed to it and being okay with sacrificing other things in order to see my dream materialize.

What is your favorite book?

The Alchemist. The themes in that book have had a tremendous impact to how I see the world and my life. Understanding how easy it is to go in search of treasure and become jaded, disheartened, lost, lazy, tricked, etc., only to find the treasure has been right under your nose the entire time. 

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years regarding your writing?

Several novels, short stories, and poetry collections published along with a very popular blog. I’d also like to start a nonprofit in my hometown that provides writing workshops for young girls.

Where can your book be purchased?

Currently it’s in eBook only and available on Amazon, Smashwords.com, B&N.com, and iTunes. However, the printed version will be available in October! That information is hot off the press!

Where can you be found on social media?

-Facebook.com/YesterdayMourningBook, Twitter: @Atiner, Goodreads,

Blog: myndmatters.wordpress.com

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

I’d like them to know how much I sincerely appreciate their time, their feedback, and their support. It humbles me to hear them tell me how much my novel moved them to tears or made them reconcile relationships that had been non-existent for decades. My readers inspire me and for that, I thank them.

Big “Thank you!” to Ms. Bryant!  And exclusively for Southern Girl in the City readers, you can purchase Yesterday Mourning for only $0.99!  But hurry, this special ends next Monday, September 23.  Visit this site and use coupon code “NT38Z”.  As an avid book reader and self-proclaimed bookworm, this is a read you do not want to miss!  And I can not wait to read future works from Ms. Bryant!  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

Happy 60th Birthday, Southern Dad!

No, my dad will not read this as he’s not much for the internet, but I can tell him about it.

What can I say about Southern Dad?  In a lot of ways, we are very much alike.  I even think I favor him more than Southern Mom. 

My dad jokingly calls me by one of his cousin’s names who remembers everyone’s birthday AND how old they are!  Each year I remind him just how old he’s getting.  But he also turns the table on me a time or two. 

Growing up, I couldn’t wait to see my dad; to me, going to Hilton Head or Jacksonville was a vacation.  I remember sitting on my daddy’s lap as a little girl, watching tv and rubbing his beard.  I’m fiercely protective of my parents, maybe because they were of me…and quietly still are.

My dad has challenged me in ways I never thought imaginable.  And even though I’m sure he has wanted to keep me as his “Little Boo Boo”, he has allowed me to grow up. 

So, to my daddy, retired educator, avid golfer, brother, and uncle, I wish you the happiest of birthdays this year.  You have touched so many lives, from your students, nieces and nephews, and especially mine!  Enjoy your day, and go play a round of golf!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday!  Growing up, it was definitely because of the gifts.
🙂 Now, it’s because I get to spend time with my family.  Last night, my maternal side had Christmas Eve dinner a day early.  It was awesome seeing my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I especially enjoyed meeting my two new baby cousins.  Most important, I get to spend time with Southern Mom!  We’ve hung out, talked, cooked together, and even did a little shopping!  Tonight, we’re going to see Christmas lights.

I’m excited about going to visit my paternal side on Christmas Day for our annual family dinner.  Southern Dad and I get to hang out a little, which we haven’t really done since I moved to DC.  Although I won’t get to meet my Godson this time, I can’t wait to see my other family members.  Southern Cousin and I are getting our run in on Wednesday, and the rest of the clan is supposed to go see “Django Unchained” later in the day. 

I missed out on spending time with family last year, so I’m enjoying every moment of being back in my home state.  And I think my family has and will enjoy it, too.  Especially my older cousins that still pick on me.  And I wasn’t ready for my younger cousin, who alerted me to his high school graduation next year, saying “Yes, ma’am” when I confirmed that he was in fact a senior.  I told him to pump his brakes-you don’t have to call me “ma’am”!  But I am glad to see his parents are raising him right.  Those children in DC don’t say it. 

So, whatever your traditions, make sure to enjoy this time with family and friends.  But don’t forget the most important reason for this season-Jesus.  I wish you all a happy, safe, joyful, and blessed holiday!  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!