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

Rewriting my story and owning it!

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I was clearing out my “drafts” folder and realized this post was never published. Two years ago, just eight months before the release of my debut EP “The Restoration”, I was given the opportunity to share the stage with two Maryland-based poets which was my first time as a paid feature. For me that was a milestone. I don’t get asked in my own city, maybe because I’m new on the scene, maybe my age and maybe because I don’t fall easily into any type of spoken word category but¬†I am learning to sit comfortably with being not popular. I am okay with being different because it’s about the process of creating art for me and the energy I get when I know the audience is responding and feeling my written word. Ironically a month from now I will be featuring for the same poetic prowess Simply Sherri in Baltimore for her Heard it Through the Grapevine and I am looking forward to the experience. It’s a treat to be surrounded by¬†the energy of the artists in the DMV and I can’t wait to see them again, they always give me so much love in return!

Anywhoo…just thought I’d¬†post this and I hope that I will see you in October! Visit my ¬†Facebook¬†page for updates and more information or CD Baby¬†to hear samples and download my debut EP titled “The Restoration”. ¬†I truly appreciate the love!

I’m starting to understand how this life journey works. Half way into writing my story, just a few months from reaching what¬†is supposed to be my golden year and I am finally giving myself permission to rewrite my story. Every few years I get to the end of a chapter, look back, reflect, revise, and restate my vision for my life before I move on to the next. This past Saturday night was one of those times¬†when thoughtful contemplation met up with years of unconscious manifestation and moved me towards a new chapter in my life. When Sherri of Simply Poetic Entertainment¬†contacted me to see if I would be interested in co-featuring at her first Philadelphia edition of Heard it Through the Grapevine, I was pleasantly surprised! I met her once as the spotlight artist (opening up for her and the other feature) last August so when she contacted me I had to make sure feature meant what I thought it meant before I got really excited. As she expanded on¬†the details I knew I had to say yes. An evening of wine and love poems; that had Toni Love written all over it! ¬†I started to think about the poems that I would recite. The flyers and event page went all over social media and I promoted the show with the same reserved passion that I always do but I was still nervous about making sure I carried my weight as a performer.¬†

I arrived early, asked them to save me a glass of Sangria from the wine tasting (I can never eat or drink before a performance, it makes my stomach uneasy!) and sat down to calm myself. What many don’t know is that I almost always completely blank out before a poetry reading. I can’t remember anything I’ve written and I often grab a book or start printing out poems so that I’ll have them in written form just in case. My biggest fear is that I’ll stand up and forget everything.¬†¬†I panic, I pace and then I remember to sit down and breathe. As I sat I saw faces of love walk into the small gallery one by one. Friends who lived on the block I grew up on, a sorority sister who drove a few hours to get there, fellow poets, my Italian mother (that’s my nickname for her), and my brothers. I watched them add chairs as the room filled and the walls expanded. By the time I took to the mic it was standing room only. I was still nervous but excited and overwhelmingly grateful at the same time. Sherri said “you have a lot of support here..I’ve been asking who they are here to see..” ¬†It was a vision that I didn’t know would be replicated seven months later at my EP release party. There’s nothing like looking out into a room full of faces that reflect genuine love. Nothing.¬†

I recited four poems and sang a bit too. It was an exciting night! The quote below is a comment sent to me the next day from the host of the event. I hope to see you at a performance venue soon. I will always return the love.  #loveistheanswer

Toni Love: I knew when I met you last year you were a dynamic performer and would wow that crowd. Your energy is incredible and your words were amazing. Let me know when you get that CD done, so I can get one.

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

 

 

Who Is Toni Love?

Have you had your heart broken and are afraid to love again? Do you feel like you give yourself to others and don’t know how to love yourself? Do you yearn for a surge of passion and romance in your life? Do you love good music and poetry? If you can say yes to any or¬†all of these questions, then do yourself a favor and click the link below to order my debut EP titled “The Restoration”. I intertwine poetry with the brilliant music of Robb McCall to explore all of the above emotions and feelings. As you allow yourself to become¬†immersed in the music and share in my journey, I am confident you will fall in love with love again!

You can purchase the entire EP with the bonus track or download the digital version by clicking the link below:

Order The Restoration on CD BABY.COM.

If you would like an autographed copy of the EP, or a Toni Love T-shirt, please visit my site by clicking here —->¬†Order Toni Love Music and Merchandise.

All CDs, t-shirts and tickets ordered from my site will arrive with a hand written thank you note and autographed as you choose.

The Restoration is my gift to you. I believe we can do nothing without love first. I offer you a chance to release old love, rekindle your current love or to believe that the love you seek will become more than a dream. Get the love you desire today!

~ I thank you for the love! Toni

#loveistheanswer

 

 

The Restoration: Toni Love’s London radio Interview with Wayne Boucaud

I am so excited to announce that my debut poetry EP titled “The Restoration” has gone international! Last week, I was interviewed on the Wayne Boucaud London radio show Black in 3D, and a few of the tracks as well as the fun and engaging interview can be heard by listening to the broadcast below. If you like what you hear, the EP is available for download on iTunes, Amazon Music and CDBaby in addition to other outlets. So don’t delay, press play and enjoy the great music and the love!

I thank you in advance for your support and please comment!

~Toni Love #loveistheanswer

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

A Snowbound, Single-Mom’s Prayer (Original Poetry)

1622048_10201994660362900_1691772360_nWell, it’s day two of this winter blizzard, and the schools have been closed both days. When you’re homebound with two young, energetic kids you have to keep a sense of humor and an attitude of faith and hope! I enjoy sleeping in, and I love my kids dearly, but boy am I looking forward to the dog days of summer! I wrote this poem for fun. It’s titled “A Snowbound Single-Mom’s Prayer”. Hope you like it:

Now I come in from the cold
No help with groceries
Nor hand to hold
The kids are excited about the snow
And my only prayer is that the lights won’t blow
Please keep the heat and the television going
So I’ll have a little peace and work flow while it’s snowing
And after movies, popcorn and snuggling of course
And the kids are finally tucked in their bed
May a handsome and thoughtful neighbor arrive 
To lay my salt and shovel a path around my…shed.¬†

(c) M. Tonita Austin  1/21/14

Back to life…back to reality…

Me and the kids
Me and the kids

Well, today’ it’s back to school for the kids, and getting back to the mindset of prosperity, writing and productive work for me! This year was the first year that I stayed home with the kids for their entire winter break and did not schedule them for day camp at the Y or any other place. I thought that I deserved to have just one day to myself during their ten day break, but intuition told me to just enjoy them. Sometimes when I hear that voice that whispers to me to take time out for them, I can become fearful that I’m getting a message that something may happen to them or me and that is the reason we should cherish this time. But then I realize that sometimes it may just be their subconscious speaking to mine and they just need more mommy time. So, I made sure we had groceries and that the cable bill was paid and made no plans other than to attend a local Kwanzaa celebration and enjoy our family and friends during the holidays. We had a few impromptu yet fulfilling lunch and dinner gatherings with friends, some football, board games, reading, lots of movie time on the couch, a few pajama days and even some days that they were both not feeling well, and recovering. It was the first time that I purposely chose not to try and “use” the time to cram in every library, museum or other extra curricular event that looked exciting and intriguing during the holiday break. They both get so over-worked (in my opinion) at school that I wanted them to just do nothing for a change. Yes we may have put on a pound or two and the kids may be raddled due to the relaxed sleep schedules, but their bodies are healed, they got lots of love, snuggles, family time and cultural enrichment, and most of all a break from the day to day stress of school and extra-curricular activities.

They are not over-scheduled like many suburban kids I know of  these days, but I do try to balance the lack

of gross motor activities in the schools with sports and dance and other physical recreation. Aside from the recreation, they both will be taking Mandarin Chinese this semester on Saturday mornings (my son is in his sixth year, and my daughter wants to do whatever her big brother does), so we have a few commitments but not excessive. I don’t do more than one sport in a season unless it’s swimming lessons, and unless they are with their father for the weekend, or beg me to see the latest Disney movie, we spend Friday and Sunday nights at home. Even energetic and/or brilliant kids need down time too. They need time to relax and release and not worry about time and schedules and assignments. And for this reason Friday nights at our house are sacred. They are almost ¬†always reserved for what the kids refer to as “movie night”. We get early showers, get in our pajamas, pull out the fleece blankets, search for a great family movie, pop some popcorn (or grab a bag from the Wawa) and head to the couch for snuggle time. It’s the most inexpensive way to treat them to a special night and after all of these years it’s still their favorite night of the week. They love it because they get uninterrupted quality time with me and I love it because I know there will soon be a day when Friday nights will be spent with a blanket, myself and a good book because they’ll be at the mall, going to a movie or a party with their friends. So for now, for reasons I don’t necessarily share with them, it’s my favorite night of the week too!

 

 

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