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! šŸ’™ #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 šŸ˜Š

Listen to Toni Love on London Radio; The Wayne Boucaud Black in 3D Best of 2016 Radio Show

I am honored to be included with these uniquely talented and remarkableĀ artists on Wayne Boucaud’s “Best of 2016” Radio show compilation. I love the music my fellow artists are creating and I consider Wayne the London version of Don Cornelius of Soul Train because he is a relentless supporter of the arts and provides a stage for emergingĀ artists to share their heart’s work with his audience! I appreciate the opportunity to share my love.

Listen in and let me know how you like the show. #loveistheanswer

 

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?Ā 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!

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