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Happy Four Year Anniversary of my blog! :)

wpid-wp-1411652883097.jpegFour years ago in August, the weekend of my birthday I packed up my two offspring and headed to the beach. I knew that my life would never be the same when I returned and that I was embarking on a journey to recover the joy that I so desperately fought to create by marrying their father. After almost a year of counseling I realized that our nine-year marriage was not salvageable and I had to start planning for my release. I will never forget sitting on the couch next to my husband as he told our counselor that he’ll “never be the type of man to sit down and ask me how I’m feeling”. I knew then that my heart would never find a safe place with him and that I had found someone emotionally numb to marry because at the time so was I. I married my children’s father just two short months after burying my own mother and wanted a way out of the grief. Once my son was born I abandoned my career and my writing to become supermom and perfect wife. I don’t regret the time I took to raise my children but during those years I lost myself. I even stopped going to church because my husband wasn’t. Today I see more clearly and take responsibility for the part I played which has helped me to be authentic with myself going forward. If I had not accepted the reality of my choices then, I would not have been able to move on and create the joy I needed my life. The only regret I have is of not  regaining consciousness sooner.

Today, four years later, I remain unmarried and am now faced with the difficult task of parenting alone but I am a much happier and more peaceful person. I am blessed to have family and friends and sometimes extremely nurturing childcare providers who help make the journey much easier, and their father’s financial support. I started this blog so that I could have a place to recover my passion for writing. I am so grateful for all of my subscribers and those who continue to comment and encourage me to write because it has been a safe haven for my emotions and a place to share my journey. I hope that my honesty will help others to reinvent, recover and/or recreate themselves. I’ve learned from losing so many loved ones that tomorrow is not promised and to embrace each day with the same energy I would if it were my last. I am thankful that I am able to continue to be self-employed which affords me the flexibility to welcome my children home from school and taxi them to their extra curricular activities after school. I am enjoying them now.They have not had an easy four years during our separation so I am dedicated to making the rest of their life as consistent and safe as I can, without neglecting my own needs. My daily meditation and prayer helps to keep me centered and I am learning to ask for help when I need it, emotionally and physically. I make amends to my children by loving myself and taking care of my mental, physical and spiritual health so that they are free to live their lives authentically without worrying about me.

Currently, I am getting to the gym on a regular basis, I get all of my physical and other health check ups and my long-term goal is to stay on this course keeping my body strong and healthy well into my nineties. I would like to be around for my grandchildren and the work starts now. A long time friend and follower suggested I start a Parenting blog, and I did! www.AfricanAmericanParenting.com is my other WordPress blog and has a small following. I share some of the ideas and tools that have helped me raise my children over the past decade. I am also beginning to make a bit of a name for myself in the local poetry community and attend open mics and other artistic performances. It’s a struggle finding the time and energy to get out during the week and/or weekends not to mention the expense of paying a sitter and the price at the door, but it’s my passion. I can’t get out as much as I’d like but I love sharing my poetry and I enjoy being inspired by the performances of other artists. Just a few days before my birthday this year I was given the opportunity to open up for a few well-known poets at The Collective All Artist Open Mic at La Rose Jazz Club in Philadelphia and it was a phenomenal night for me! Not only did my family and friends come out to fill the room, but a few local and extremely talented artists offered to support me so that I could perform my poems accompanied by live music and a vocalist! We practiced for two hours and put on a show that I am extremely proud of. For me, it was confirmation that I had indeed recovered Tonita (aka Toni Love)! The energy in the room was magnetic and they asked me to return in the near future to perform as the featured artist. What a thrill! I am so thankful I thought to have it all captured on video. You can see me performing my original poem “Finally Over” featuring the gifted vocalist Bruce Mustafaa, accompanied by the multifaceted Lamont “da Villain” and accomplished poet and percussionist Omar Sharif right here –> http://youtu.be/Ykb_NMRLPms. I am working on an EP of six or seven poems and hope to present it in early Spring, and I look forward to expanding my fan base and featuring in venues outside of Philadelphia. I am humbled that some mention Jill Scott when they see me perform and I know I have a long way to go before I am ready to share the stage with such Philadelphia royalty, but maybe not. My life thus far has been proof that anything is possible and that it is never too late to pursue your passion. I spent so much of my life trying to force solutions to unfold the way I thought they should or how I wanted them to be. My Creator has proven to me that I can ask for what I want but I cannot hold onto my wants like a shield. Often times I have to let go, step aside and allow the blessings in whatever form to come into my life. I am open to receive.

Thank you for taking this journey with me for the past four years. I couldn’t have done it without you. Stay tuned..the best is yet to come!

Happy Anniversary! Stop through again soon!
Love,

Toni

What if I fall?

Toni:

“Falling is just another way of flying”. I loved that line and thought I’d share this blog with you. Make it a great day!

Originally posted on Cristian Mihai:

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“What if I fall?” 
“Oh my darling, what if you fly?”

Do you ever ask yourself if you like the person you are? If you are who you’ve always wanted to be? Do you know who you want to be?

To be honest, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized who I really wanted to be. I want to be that guy who tells people they can fly. I want to see the magic they have stored up in their hearts for so long. And I want to make them see it, I want to make them use it. Because, truth be told, falling is just another way to fly.

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Memories of a War Veteran..I haven’t forgotten

Soldiers TearsI can hardly remember his smell, but I will never forget his smile. Even his face is fading in my memories, but his physical presence has left an inexplicable imprint on my heart. On this day of remembrance and honor for those who served our Country, we often think of those brave souls most who laid down their lives to keep us safe. We memorialize most those fallen soldiers who fought in wars and in countries far away and did not come home alive. Yet we don’t always think of those who came home from war and touched our soil physically complete, but mentally and spiritually deceased. I write about these fallen soldiers because I loved one..my Uncle Bay. His name was Robert Austin but his nick name was “Bay” so we grew up calling him Uncle Bay. He had a beautiful brown-skinned wife, my Aunt Barbara and she loved me as if I were her own daughter. She had a beautiful smile and contagious laugh and she and my mother grew close because they were both married to Austin men who also had a close bond. My father and Uncle Bay were both very charismatic and handsome men and were famous for the trouble they would get into when they would frequent the night clubs and speakeasy’s in Philly and South Jersey. For some reason I also took fondly to Uncle Bay. Maybe it was because I sensed his bravery, maybe because I knew how much my father loved him, or maybe it was because I knew he adored me, but I felt s special bond. I would see him whenever he came to our home or when we visited our grandparent’s and he always gave me a big hug, told me how pretty I was and like my dad would spoil me rotten. I was very young, not quite seven years old when I remember sitting, talking to him and he insisted on giving me a piece of his jewelry. I of course loved jewelry and the idea that he would want me to have what I thought was an expensive piece of jewelry it made me feel so adored. I chose a name bracelet that was not engraved, but had big beautiful silver links and I kept it safely tucked away in a box in my room.

It would be not even a year later that I would be told of my uncle’s passing. My Uncle was a Vietnam War Veteran. He was fortunate to be one of the ones to come home alive, but the person who left never really came home. He was sad, he was depressed, he struggled with the choices he was forced to make at war and never really felt comfortable in his skin when he came home. He was a walking casualty of war. I remember the newspaper article and feeling so angry that his precious life could be ended in a corner bar brawl. I was seven but I wanted to know where it happened and I didn’t feel right until I saw the place myself. I wanted to find someone to blame. I wanted my Uncle Bay back. I couldn’t wrap my head around it; how some strange person could have the right to take the life of a brave soul who served his country so easily and quickly. My uncle wanted to escape from himself and couldn’t wait for my dad to come to the house to pick him up so he went out on his own. My dad never got over the guilt and the anger. I am no longer angry because I understand that back then they often did not diagnose post traumatic stress disorder, nor provided the necessary help, especially to Veterans of color. I understand that Uncle Bay felt the only relief was to provoke someone to take him from this life. I understand that he is in a better place watching over me and my family. I understand that he did not choose to serve in Vietnam. I understand and because of that I have never forgotten.

I love you Uncle Bay. Happy Memorial Day!

It’s all Temporary (Memoirs in a Cast)

Cast Yes, that is my left foot in a cast. A little over three and a half months ago I found myself laying flat on my back in the street after I stepped off of the curb onto a sheet of ice and fractured my Fibula (the smaller bone on the outside of my ankle). I thought it was just a sprain, but fortunately a good friend who is also a Registered Nurse found me in the street and urged me to go to the emergency room for an x-ray. I was devastated when the doctor told me I had suffered a fracture. I spent six weeks in a cast and on crutches, three weeks in an ugly, bulky black boot and now I’ve graduated to an ankle brace and running shoes. Thankfully, I’m making progress and I’ve got two more weeks to go before I am finished my physical therapy. It has been extremely challenging to say the least, especially as a self-employed, independent mother with two fairly young children. I am so thankful that the fracture did not warrant surgery and I am thrilled that I did not fracture the Tibia, which is the larger, weight bearing bone in my lower leg. And although it was extremely uncomfortable, frustrating, inconvenient and sometimes painful, I was also very aware and grateful that this was a temporary condition and that one day I would be walking again.

I felt sad and depressed at times but when those feelings started to rise, I reminded myself that there are millions of people who spend a majority of their lives on crutches, in wheelchairs and walkers. Making a mental gratitude list would pull me right out of my pity party. I must say that I learned quite a few things while I was incapacitated; wisdom that you and I have most likely heard somewhere before, but really came into focus during my recovery period and I felt I needed to share them with you:

  1. Don’t mess with Mother Earth. When there is snow and ice on the ground, put your boots on, even if you are just “running” to the store. Your new cross trainers may have traction, but they are no match for snow, and definitely not when it’s laying on top of a thick patch of ice that you can’t see!
  2. Stop trying to do everything all at once. The day I slipped on ice I felt so motivated. Earlier that morning I had a meeting with my friend and marketing consultant about a new business venture, I volunteered at my daughter’s school, went to a clients office, went food shopping, handled one of my duties as PTG (Parent Teacher Group) Treasurer  and was on my way to squeeze in the rest of my “to do” list before the kids got in from school when I fell. As the sole caregiver for my seven and twelve year old, as well as a self-employed accountant during tax season (not to mention the volunteer positions and other ways I help my community), my plate was overflowing.  I get so exhausted that sometimes I have days when I don’t feel like doing anything at all; then of course my “to do ” list gets backed up and I go into Superwoman mode. A good friend told me just a few days before my fracture, “even Superwoman has to put her cape in the dry cleaners for a few days” but Superwoman didn’t listen. I found out the hard way that when Superwoman is too stubborn to slow down, God sometimes does it for her. I am going to stop volunteering for so many things and am going to selfishly take time more time to focus on what’s most important to me instead of what I do to please others. Lesson learned.
  3. Allowing others to love and care for you is not a sign of weakness. I was overwhelmed by the constant outpouring of love, prayers, text messages, emails, visits and help that I received while I was unable to take care of myself and my children. When you are unable to put any weight on one foot, and are subjected to crutches, it’s impossible to make beds, do laundry, stand at the stove and cook, wash your daughter’s hair, pick up after the kids and even sit down on the side of your child’s bed to give them a kiss goodnight. And since I am used to doing all of that myself, I hadn’t a clue of who, what and where to ask for help. You feel less than a woman because you can’t take care of your children’s needs, you can’t take care of your home and you feel so unattractive add useless. It’s almost depressing, but my reality was that I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t’ let my kids starve because of my pride so I was forced to ask for help. What I found out to my surprise is that my dear friends, my family and even those who were not so close to me were ready and willing to help me and support me in any way that I needed. I felt so loved and appreciated that it was sometimes overwhelming. Today I know just how much I am loved and appreciated.
  4. Your children need to learn how to care for themselves. As a mother, I am so used to doing everything for my children yet  I was now forced to start teaching my children how to take care of the household and hence themselves. I guess I thought that if I did everything they would always need me, not realizing that by doing everything, I am not doing my job as a mother, which is to teach them to be self-sufficient. I taught my son how to scramble eggs, make five minute gits and bake turkey bacon in the oven because I got tired of eating cold cereal for breakfast. To my surprise he loved cooking and loved the science behind it all! He also learned how to load the laundry and dryer. My daughter learned how to wash herself up at night and get herself into bed, and was my legs when I needed anything. My son took over my job of reading her a bedtime story. I was upset that I could no longer walk my daughter to school but she was so proud of the fact that she could get across the street and back on her own. Now that I am able, she doesn’t even want me to walk her to school! A mother’s job is to teach her children how to survive in this world without her. I can now take that off of my “to do” list.
  5. Nothing is more important than your health; don’t take it for granted. I believe that if I hadn’t been getting to the gym on a fairly regular basis, staying active with my kids, eating healthy foods (I gave up fast food a few years ago), keeping my weight down, sacrificing to buy organic foods, practicing meditation and maintaining a healthy spiritual life, this recovery would have taken much longer. I am healthier than I thought. I also decided that I had to put my health first even if others (clients) were frustrated, disappointed, pushy, and lacked compassion, I had to take the time to heal and have faith that my needs would be provided for. If I allowed others’ needs to interfere with healing, I was jeopardizing my business anyway. At my age, the doctors were surprised that I did not need to stay in the cast or boot longer than I did. My physical therapists are amazed at the progress and strength I have in this ankle after just a few weeks of PT.  I am amazed that after almost two months of not driving, being stuck in the house with two kids, still grieving the passing of my father, with limited connection with the outside world, I still maintained my sanity! All because I focused on my healing and put my needs first for a change. Which leads me to the last lesson…
  6. Everything is temporary. One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from meditation and Buddhist teachings and had to re-learn during this recovery is that everything is temporary. When you are in the midst of a crisis or uncomfortable situation and you feel like you will not last or that it will never end, think of a lightening storm. I remember as a little girl I was taught that instead of just sitting there feeling fear, to count the seconds in between the claps of thunder because the longer the time in between two claps of thunder, the farther away the storm. I would be so focused on counting that it took my mind off of the fear. The storm would move further away and before I realized it, there was no second clap of thunder to count at all, and the storm was over. Even storms pass through. If we remember that things change every single second, then we can focus on what we can do in the moment to enjoy the time and space we have, knowing that even if this moment is difficult we are guaranteed not to be faced with it forever.

When they told me I fractured my ankle, I cried. I couldn’t imagine why God would immobilize me when I had two kids, a household and a business to manage. It seemed so overwhelming and felt like a prison sentence at the time. I imagined at my age that it would take forever for me to get this cast off and get some normalcy in my life. Today as I sit here writing and walking around in my bare feet, I take the time to absorb the lessons I was knocked on my behind to learn. Save your energy on stressing about a situation, because the moments are only temporary. Just let go and allow yourself to embrace the love and joy in the atmosphere because it is there and love is forever.

Yes Black Girl, You Can Get Head Lice! The Finale

 

Success!

Success!

Here we are a month later and still no return of the yucky head lice or nits (eggs) so I thought it would be helpful to parents like me, who are virgins to this experience, to follow-up my first blog post on March 2nd http://tonitalove.com/2014/03/02/yes-black-girl-you-can-get-head-lice/ about how to eradicate head lice from African-American hair using natural products.

You definitely need to refer to my original blog post where I found out that one of the best ways to kill head lice is heat. After the Rid shampoo that they sell in the drugstores started to take my daughter’s natural hair out on the spot, I searched for an organic remedy. In a few words, the natural remedy is heat to kill them and heavy oil to help loosen the eggs that they leave behind. Both my daughter and I wear our African-American hair in its natural state, but I did invest in a flat-iron for the special occasions when she wants to wear her hair straight or in spiral curls. I never expected to use it for any other reason, but I’m even more thankful now that I have it.

Well, after the first wash and flat-iron, and the use of the Robi Comb that I mentioned in my earlier post, I had killed all of the lice (and yes I did see live lice….ewww!) I could see in her hair. The process was tedious because she has long, thick, wavy hair and you have to comb through it in sections about 1/4th of an inch thick in order to see and remove the lice. They love to hide in the crown of the head as well as the edges (near the ears, forehead and nape of the neck) and will move from one area to the other as you are working through the head. Contrary to popular belief lice are not white; the live adult lice are brown and the eggs (nits) are white. The adult lice are pretty easy to dislodge. It’s the eggs that glue themselves to the hair shaft, that are difficult to remove. I proceeded to get all visible lice and nits eliminated from her hair, then washed and flat ironed it again and sent her to school. It had been a two-day process and I was so proud of myself that I had zapped all of those scalp vultures and that I didn’t see one white speck of anything in her hair. Twenty minutes later I get a call from the nurse that she could not return to her classroom. The reason I didn’t see any white eggs was that the remaining eggs had started to hatch and had turned brown, making it almost impossible to see in a head of sandy brown hair! I was devastated and she was so disappointed that she would miss yet another day of school. The nurse asked if she could snip a strand or her hair with the brown nit on it so that I knew what I was looking for, and I realized this wouldn’t be an easy resolution.

Feeling defeated, I picked up the phone and called my local health food store, Martindale’s Natual Market http://www.martindalesnutrition.com/  to see if they carried a natural head lice removal kit. Hallelujah, they did, and it was surprisingly inexpensive at about $25 for the shampoo, lice oil and nit removal comb kit. It’s a lot less than taking your child to a lice removal salon and paying $100 or more for their services! I was so happy and so relieved, but here I was with a broken ankle, on crutches and didn’t know who I could get to pick it up for me. The staff at Martindale’s is extremely well-informed about holistic and organic foods, nutrition and care and are always so compassionate but it floored me when the woman on the phone said that she would bring it to me when she finished her shift. I almost cried and thanked her a million times when she showed up at my door less than two hours later. Since I had removed the lice I proceeded to use the Safe 4 People “De Bug Lice Oil” http://www.safe4people.com/html/ptotoday.htm which after treatment, makes the hair shaft so oily that the nits are much easier to remove and sometimes slide off by themselves. I’ve heard from other parents that mayonnaise or petroleum jelly work in the same fashion, but none were African-American and I didn’t want to risk taking the chance of it not working in my daughter’s hair. I followed the directions on the oil, once again sectioning the hair and applying this extremely thick castor oil-based solution to her dry hair. It took about an hour to apply, and two more hours of her sitting with a shower cap on her head. Two hours later (less time if you use their shampoo first; I chose not too since the shampoo is for removing that lice and I had done that already), I rinsed her hair in warm water once again went through the tedious process of removing the nits from her hair. Since her hair is so thick and curly, and it’s much easier to use the tiny nit comb on straight hair I had to blow dry and flat-iron her hair once again. I could see that a lot of the nits had washed off with the warm water, but I still needed to section her hair and comb through each section with the nit comb, this time using a flashlight to ensure I could see every little brown nit possible! Two more hours later ( suggest you start this early and not wait until after dinner like I did!) I put a little Jojoba oil in her hair, lightly touched her edges with a bottle of tea tree oil I also purchased from Martindales (I read that lice do not like tea tree oil), and sent her to bed on fresh linens and a brand new pillow. I was taking no chances!

The next morning I checked her hair and scalp again, feeling paranoid with each piece of white lint or dandruff flake I found, and sent her to school. We both prayed that it would be a successful day. About half an hour later it dawned on me that the phone hadn’t rung and it was well past the time that she should be in her classroom. I didn’t want to assume, so I called the school nurse myself. She said “well done, her hair and scalp look great”; I exhaled. “How did you do it without using the drugstore solution?” she asked. I proceeded to give her the short version. She said that she shared my experience with the nurse from the other elementary school because she who was unaware that children of color could even get head lice.  She also said she would share it with other parents and I let her know that I’m happy to share my story with any other African-American parents at the school who need this information.

So, yes I am now the head lice removal expert (hahaha) and I am happy to pass on my knowledge to other parents. She will be wearing her hair up and braided if necessary at least during school hours and will not be sharing dress-up wigs or hats with her friends for quite some time. I truly hope I will never have to rely on this information myself ever again, but at least if I have to go through this again, I will grab the Safe4people kit, my Robi Comb and my flat-iron and get to work!

Oh, the joys of Parenting!