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

“Grief Waits” – Original Poetry by Toni Love

Grief Waits
Grief Waits

I read this original poem “Grief Waits” at The Collective All Artist Open Mic a few weeks ago at Rose Petals Cafe and Lounge and a few people asked me to post it. This was written a few weeks after my father transitioned, not for sympathy but to support the little girl inside yearning to tell her story. Not sure I’m finished with it, but here it is:

Grief Waits

She cries
Into makeup stained pillows when no one is awake
This single mother of two wants her own daddy back
But no time to be sad with taxi runs to baseball ballet and piano lessons
No chance to cry with the babies watching and counting on her strength
Even peaceful meditation is interrupted by children’s nightmares¬†soaked in sadness
She greets the morning sun holding back the tears
Adorning sunglasses so the suburban moms don’t ask her “what’s wrong?” as she skips her child to school

Gotta make sure her offspring are happy and
Gotta make sure they keep up their grades and
Gotta keep their schedules consistent so they won’t feel the pain
Gotta keep a smile at the job and
Gotta search for the desire to
pay the bills, do the laundry and cook them a healthy meal

Gotta shield them from the rain

But who is taking care of the little girl who just lost her daddy
Who makes sure she eats and keeps the heaviness of her heart from sinking into the pit of her stomach
Who holds back her fear of the journey through life as an orphan and raising strong kids alone while the village is slowly disappearing
No grandfathers, no grandmothers, no great grands, no mother no father
No father

Who holds her at the end of the night when the kids are counting sheep and she can’t find enough energy to weep
Who takes her by the hand and lifts her off her feet to give her burdens a chance to sleep
Who says its gonna be okay and wipes her tears away
Maybe tomorrow will be a better day
Maybe then she’ll feel like going out to play
But not today

Because she’s tossed and turned all night
Living a nightmare until the first ray of daylight
Then its time to dab away the pain and push away the tears
Because its 7:15 and the school bus will soon be here
And no one wants salty tears in their lunchbox

Yet she rises once again meeting the morning with a smile
As grief waits behind every closed door

God Bless the Child

(c) M Tonita Austin aka Toni Love  5/30/2013

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

Check outToni’s Room 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. I started this blog a little over three years ago and I have poured my heart and soul out here. I want to thank all who have taken the time to read, comment or both and I hope that I helped someone by being open and honest with you about my life’s journey. Please feel free to share and subscribe! Thanks again and I wish you a blessed, joyful and prosperous 2014!

Toni

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑