#This is Us – This is Me

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies…

~Erich Fromm

Last nights episode of This is Us hit me to the core. I have been a fan of the show since it’s inception, not only because the writing is so beautifully woven but I was particularly impressed at how perfectly they captured the personality and stressors of being a gifted black male in a white world. Randall reminds me so much of my own son and although I am not a white woman, as a sole parent, I can relate to her character as as a mother mostly raising her children on her own.

This episode brought back the deep sadness that I felt as the caretaker for my own mother. The hospice nurse coming to let us know that she had 48 hours left with us and the goodbyes we had to say as we stood sobbing by her side. It was the most heart wrenchingly beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced. At the age of 35, in my first trimester, carrying my first born in my womb I wished time would stop in that moment and raise her up just to see me through my pregnancy. I carried so much grief for so long afterwards, not just for myself but for my unborn child who would never know how it felt to have a loving, nurturing grandmother hug and kiss them. So of course my tears flowed during the goodbye scene, both affirming the end of this part of her journey and experiencing the writers vision of a soul’s transition from this life to the spirit world. I saw myself in the only daughter, the last one to say goodbye moments before she took her last breath. I saw my brothers, I saw my Godmother, her best friend letting her know it was okay to go and that she’d take over the nurturing.

I saw the sadness, the pain and the peace.

I saw the joy when Rebecca was finally reunited with her true love.

There was so much that reminded me of my own mother’s transition, yet what hit me the most was how Rebecca questioned if she had done enough as a mother. The what ifs that I often feel especially when my children are struggling with school and life. The questioning and guilt I feel when I leave them alone or with a caregiver because I just need some time away from all of the heavy responsibilities of giving and mothering. I adore my children and I wouldn’t have it any other way -well, maybe I would have a regular housekeeper! – raising them on my own, but I think society places such a burden on the custodial parent regardless of why the other parent is absent from parenting.

I am thankful that I have loved ones who remind me that I am a loving mother, and that I am doing the best I can with my children. I remind myself of how much I’ve sacrificed to provide for and support them. I think one thing the writer didn’t get right is that our loved ones continue to show up for us, care for us, help us and nurture us even after they transitioned. I’m sure I will do the same for my children and loved ones when I transition.

And because I have several decades of healthy life remaining in this lifetime, I am committed to incorporate #rest into my daily living so that I won’t have to wait until my transition to experience true rest.

Love,

Toni

bit.ly/tonilovemerch

The Day I Left God – Performance Poetry with Sistahs Laying Down Hands, Mother’s Day 2018

Mother’s Day is always bittersweet for me. I know as a Mother that there is pressure to smile and gush at the numerous mother’s day wishes, cards and love from my kids, but even after seventeen years, I still awaken with a small void knowing I can only speak the sentiment to my own mom, and seek to hear her respond in soft whispers of the wind.

When I was asked to collaborate with the phenomenal drummers and artists Sistahs Laying Down Hands for Mother’s Day I immediately said yes. Every performance together has been a gift to me and as I tapped into my intuition I knew that I needed to be in that space on that day, I just didn’t know why. I chose to recite a poem I wrote as part of my grief work after my mother transitioned. I was in my first trimester and I thought God to be so cruel to take my mother when I was first becoming a mother. Writing helped me come to terms with the loss and my faith and I recite this poem to help other motherless children feel that it’s okay to speak the pain of grief and release it.

I didn’t know that at the dawn of Mother’s Day this year I would be admitting my first-born to the hospital after spending hours in the emergency room. Everything in me wanted to cancel the performance but I had committed and my son told me “you should do it Mom, I know you’ll be good”. So with little sleep and a strained voice I sang and performed my poem surrounded by the healing energy of the drum. It was where I needed to be and I am grateful for the opportunity to receive the strength and the spiritual support through art.

My poem is about 5 minutes in, but you will want to watch from the beginning for a wonderful spoken word of remembrance of mothers and of course the powerful hands of the Sistahs Karen Smith and Miriama Koroma! You can search this blog for the words to the poem.

May you be continue to feel the nurturing of a mother’s love in spite of where she may or may not be in your life. Love comes in all forms. ~Toni Love

#loveistheanswer

 

International Day of Women : The blessings that come when you show up! ūüíô #strengthsourceproject

Browsing through my Facebook feed I come across a notification that a friend tagged me in someone’s post. As one who is both a businesswoman and artist I know a diverse group of people and am a bit picky about what I’m tagged in with the permanence of social media. Much to my surprise I saw the photo taken of me last year posted on the photographer’s Facebook page and appeared both digitally and I’m print on page 5 of the Philadelphia Inquirer!

The #strengthsourceproject is this beautiful collage of photos and stories capturing the moments that built the character and resilience of women of all colors, ages, shapes and class. It’s a brilliant compilation and I’m honored to be a participant.

If only you knew how sad I felt that day. I had just found out my daughter was diagnosed with dysgraphia, a severe learning disorder that makes it difficult and frustrating for her, an advanced reader to process writing. The same exact day my son’s school counselor called about him exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression (the dance partners of a highly gifted and intuitive brain), avoiding teachers and classes as a result. As their sole caretaker l was overwhelmed with the decisions I had to make on my own knowing I would also not receive the financial support.

I was going to cancel the meeting I set with Carrie for the photo because I just wanted to go somewhere and cry. I wore bright colors on purpose to lift my spirits. She was so warm and compassionate when I met her in Fishtown by Franny Lous Porch and reading the other women’s stories really gave me the strength to deal with it all.

And oh the blessings that have come because I showed up! Aside from this acknowledgement in the paper, since that day my children have benefited from angels in the form of teachers and therapists. My daughter has been tutored by a retired teacher for free and my son’s therapist only charges me a tenth of his normal fee because I was transparent and unafraid to speak my truth and ask for help.

My strength is my truth and I’m grateful that my transparency is able to help other women. The stories on the blog are powerful. I hope you get to read mine too. Please share your favorite in the comments. It’s okay if it’s not mine. I’m every woman ūüėä

Toni Love is on Hear Now.com FREE OFFER!

You can now go to one site to choose how you want to experience Toni Love’s EP “The Restoration”. You can purchase the limited edition EP with graphic cover and artistry on the actual CD, or you can download one track or the entire body of soul-stirring poetry online. If you email me at tonitalove2@gmail.com with proof of purchase, I will mail you a Toni Love t-shirt for FREE! Wishing you a fabulous summer and days full of joy and LOVE!

https://tonilove.hearnow.com/

~ Toni

#loveistheanswer

Not One (New original poetry by Toni Love)

 

Mothers of Black Sons and all who support in solidarity are welcome to join us as we stand together United against racial injustice, police brutality and inner city violence. We need your collective voice, wisdom and support to effect change. Please come out Sunday, October 16th at 12noon. We will march from Broad and Cecil B Moore Avenue to 1401 JFK Boulevard, Philadelphia. In addition to being a poet, I am the mother of a young black¬†male. I am honored to be on the program and will recite this piece as well as my poem “Born of Warriors” written after the #PhiladoCastille murder.

MOBS can be contacted via email at : millionmomsphilly@gmail.com. Please also donate as little or as much as you can to MOBS Go Fund Me which will help cover the cost of permits and travel to our state and US capitols. Gathering as one unit is an essential part of the healing process. I hope you come.

~Toni #loveistheanswer

Not One   

Not mine, son
Not mine

Not my son
Not my brother, nephew, uncle or current lover
Not my neighbor cousin or future husband

Not mine, not hers
Not anybody’s
Son

I am not saying “no more”
I am saying “not one”

We with the millions of ancestors behind us
Forge a force you will feel into centuries

Your gated communities will not be safe
Your land will not be prosperous
Your wealth will not sustain you
Your privilege will not save you

We are millions today plus millions from centuries before us
We are far more than your eyes can see

We gather together
Seen and unseen
When mothers pray
The heavens come forth to listen

So rest assured and be forewarned
There will be a price for your descendants to pay
If you ever look at our sons in a disrespectful way

We, collectively are not playing with you today

No more
Not one
Not
One
Son

(c) Toni Love Publishing

 

 

 

Toni Love in Baltimore Oct 7th at Peace & A Cup of Joe!

I’m heading to Baltimore in a few weeks..Yay!

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I love my city but the only way I grow is to push myself outside of my comfort zone, so I’m venturing out to Baltimore, Maryland in a few weeks.¬† Heard Through The Grapevine,¬†a fun, lively and classy¬†open mic poetry event hosted by the fabulous Simply Sherri of Simply Poetic Entertainment¬†includes a wine tasting.¬†The intimate setting at¬†Peace and a Cup of Joe, 713 W. Pratt Street is the perfect backdrop for a night out with friends or lovers. The doors open at 7pm and the first ten people will receive a FREE download of my new EP titled The Restoration¬†.¬† I’m truly excited and looking forward to seeing my Baltimore, Washington DC and Virginia family! I will have copies of ¬†my new EP The Restoration for sale as well as my signature ¬†Toni Love T-shirts while they last.

Please be sure to follow me on Twitter  and Instagram and like my Toni Love Fan Page to stay updated on my latest shows and my weekly broadcasts on #Periscope. You can also find me on Reverbnation! Check frequently for new videos, shows and updates on upcoming performances.

If you’ve had a rough week, and need an emotional lift, come out on October 7th¬†and I’ll be sure to give you all the love you need!

Thanks for visiting! Love, Toni

Toni Love in Baltimore Oct 7 and on Reverbnation!

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First I want to sincerely thank my new followers! I hope you enjoy what you see and hear and please return often and feel free to share to your friends!
I will be reading and performing poetry Friday,¬†October 7th in Baltimore, Maryland at Peace and a Cup of Joe. The event includes a wine pairing and is hosted by the fabulous Simply Sherri of Simply Poetic Entertainment¬†at Peace and a Cup of Joe, 713 W. Pratt Street. The doors open at 7pm and the first ten people will receive a FREE download of m debut EP titled “The Restoration”!¬†¬†I’m excited and looking forward to seeing my Baltimore, Washington DC and Virginia family. I will have copies of “The Restoration” for sale as well as signature t-shirts while they last.
I also wanted you to know that you can find Toni Love on Reverbnation! Check frequently for new videos, poetry and updates on upcoming performances by clicking the link below.
Toni Love Reverbnation Page
Come out on October 7th¬†and I’ll be sure to give you all the love you need!
~ Toni Love #loveistheanswer

Thanks for visiting! Love, Toni

Blind Faith;heart lessons at a rest stop

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The kids look forward to our annual beach vacation all year. It’s an opportunity to get away from the day-to-day pressures and routine of school, home-life and chores and simply sleep, eat and play! I look forward to it as well. It’s the only week of the year that we are all home at the same time with no obligations and I am not the only one in the house they can go to for whatever they need. Here they have other adults and older cousins who can drive and are responsible enough to take them to the beach,the local recreation center or keep an eye on them at the house. It’s also a gift to spend quality time with my youngest brother, my god-daughter, nephews and their friends. So much laughter shared among us and I take the opportunity to inject some elder wisdom into our conversations when the subject permits. To have all of this goodness occur at the beach is the icing on the cake!

I plan and save all year. This year, right before our scheduled trip my largest client fell behind considerably on the payment of my monthly retainer. As a precaution I always keep a reserve in my savings but I reserve it for emergencies, and a vacation does not fall under that category. I thought for a minute about cancelling the beach trip but I knew how disappointed the kids would be and I was looking forward to and deserved a break before the school year began. I was angry and frustrated but I moved some money out of my savings, made sure the bills were paid and the fish was fed before I packed up the three of us, and prepared my mind for the six-hour drive ahead of me. Six hours with three anxious and excited kids, and I couldn’t stop worrying that this could be our last trip down here for a while. If my client couldn’t bounce back from their financial problems, could I manage until I found more work?¬†I was supposed to be relaxing but I have to admit I was a little on edge and still wondering if I made the right choice to continue with the vacation.

At about the four-hour mark, my bladder insisted I pull over at the rest stop in Virginia. Stuckey’s is famous for their variety of nuts. Anything from fajita almonds to honey salt cashews; most travelers stop for their fresh pecans and peanuts. I walked in and was instantly reminded of my grandfather Jabez (Pop Pop we called him) known to bring a bag of fresh peanuts home every time he went south to visit his Southern Baptist church family. He grew up near Jimmy Carter’s family peanut farm and founded a Southern Baptist Church nearby Bainbridge, Georgia. I grabbed a few cans of cashews to snack on for the remainder of the trip, handed them to my daughter for safekeeping and hurried to the women’s bathroom.

When I came out of the bathroom my daughter had both cans and a piece of wood shaped like a heart in her hands. She smiled and began to say as if reading my mind “don’t ask Mommy, just buy it..you have to trust me.” I gave her a look that translated into “what are you up to now, Janai and how much is it going to cost me?” I asked her if she could at least tell me the price. She wasn’t sure and again she said “Mommy, just buy it.” My daughter has such a kind heart. She is always giving or creating something to give to a friend or family member, usually at my expense. I love her compassion but it sometimes comes with a high price tag. I finally gave in figuring it must be important to her and I could always return it if it’s too expensive.

Somehow the woman at the register figured out what she was doing because she didn’t say the name of the item, just the price and smiled behind me at Janai. I had to chuckle and was relieved that it was under three dollars and not another high-priced souvenir. When I turned around to go to the car she ran in front of me saying “just wait a minute Mom, I have to do something, just wait.” and shooed me to the passenger side of the car. I still hadn’t a clue what she was doing until she gave me permission to open my car door and reveal her gift. I saw this beautifully painted heart hanging from my rear view mirror with the words “Mom, you are a blessing”. I had to hold back the tears. It’s a special moment when you feel that your children understand all of the strain, struggle and sacrifice you have to go through to make their lives more joyful and take the time to show you how much you’re appreciated. It’s a rare moment and I had to sit there a moment and take it all in before I grabbed the wheel and continued to drive two more hours to our destination.

Later that evening, as I sat back on the balcony with a glass of wine enjoying the sounds of the crashing waves heard from the nearby beach and children’s laughter coming from the pool below I thought about that moment at the rest stop. Not only was my daughter being her sweet thoughtful self, but maybe she was also being used to send me a message from a higher source. I know that there are often times in my life where I am fearful of taking a step and doing something because I can’t see the outcome and I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I want to know what I’m getting into. I don’t trust what I don’t see. Then I’m reminded of one of my favorite anonymous quotes. “God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame”. The blessings I often blindly receive are such a powerful statement of love that I never know they are coming. And they are always much more than I could ever have thought to ask for.

This was yet another reminder to trust the process and have faith that something greater is going to be revealed to me. All I could see in my daughter’s hand was a piece of carved wood, but when she was ready to present me with my gift I found it to be more beautiful than I could have ever imagined!

Who Am I? I Am You & We Are Connected!

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You may have seen my face, maybe took a minute to listen to a sample track or even purchased my debut EP titled “The Restoration”, but do you know my story? I love poetry because I love telling a story. I love music because it adds color to lyrical expression. When you listen to my CD, you experience the two dancing together. I tell a story of love, loss and renewal within each track on “The Restoration”. You can purchase it on iTunes, Amazon Music¬†and CD Baby. If you would like an autographed copy, please purchase from my site —-> Toni Love Merchandise¬†where you will find Toni Love T-shirts as well!

I am excited about my interview with¬†Connected Woman Magazine! Although¬†I’ve been fortunate to have my poetry featured in other online publications in addition to being interviewed for several online radio stations, this is my first magazine interview! It was a new experience for me and a lot different from radio interviews because¬†I was given detailed, probing questions in advance and had to take the time to ¬†write thoughtful, honest responses. Some of the questions were more difficult than others because it required me to dig deep into my past and revisit places I’ve long tucked away. This interview¬†process¬†was a welcome experience because it made me think about how my poetry could¬†be used to guide other woman towards healing so they too can be restored.

I hope you take a moment to visit the Connected Woman Magazine online edition tomorrow, June 8th. I am honored to be featured along with several other fabulously connected women, and I hope you are inspired by us all. I am you, you are me and we are all connected!

Thank you in advance for the LOVE!

~Toni  #loveistheanswer

 

 

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