Life.

I had a conversation with you last week. This conversation exposed me to a funny story that left a young Grant “injured” (mostly his pride) in the backyard in a similar fashion to one of my many “toughen up” sessions with my older sister.

Younger siblings never want to admit it, but we have a different kind of love and respect for our older siblings. They help raise us. And, although it’s mostly in a much less friendly and far less peaceful way than our parents, their “lessons” play a huge role in who we are today.

I didn’t know you well outside of casual convos that sparked from IG Story responses and hanging out a couple times in group settings, but from that time alone I knew you were proud to be Grant’s big brother… You helped raise one of my best friends who also happens to be one of the best people I know all around. So, I just wanted to say thank you for that.

Rest in Complete Paradise. As long as we are here, we promise, Grant will always be ok.

•••

Life is incredibly too short. At 28 or 82 I don’t think anyone will ever say that they wish they had less time. It definitely hurts more when it’s our peers, the 20-somethings… We are still in our invincible years. It’s only really moments like this that remind us and make us reflect on everything.

We need to remember time isn’t promised to any of us.

And, I don’t mean being sad and morbid all of the time. I mean going out and really LIVING. Not wasting time with fear and drama and hate. Being able to look back at every single day and say I don’t regret a minute of how I lived it.

Doing whatever gives you the feeling of sun on your skin, sand between your toes, and wind in your hair…

I need to live like that.

It Only Took 12 Years…

This place has always terrified me.

I remember the first time I came here. It was a beautiful April day, and our car led the procession to the building I walked into a few minutes ago. Everything up to this point was still so surreal to me. It was the day of the funeral and I still questioned if the person they had in the casket could really have been you. I knew you would walk through those doors any minute and say this was all some awful mistake…

I’m not sure what gave me the courage to finally walk into the room I sit in now on that day. I truthfully only made it a couple steps in before seeing the hollow space in the beautiful rose colored marble walls and your name written in gold on the matching marble slab waiting off to the side to later be put back into place.

Instantly the world went silent.

This was real. All these people were real, my itchy blue sweater was real, that beautiful white marble casket did indeed belong to you, and the emptiness I felt inside became so much deeper…

I lost it. I mean you were there. I could hear myself screaming and crying but couldn’t stop.

After what felt like forever (but I’m sure was only a half a minute if that) Dad came from wherever he was, threw me over his shoulder, quickly walked outside and sat me on a bench next to JaMar. He kissed me on the forehead, just as stoic and composed as he always is, and walked back inside.

To be honest, I told myself I would never come here again, Mommy…

Definitely not alone. And, definitely long enough for my mind to wander or to start to feel anything.

But, here I sit.

Secretly still hoping you would turn the corner and ask why I’m staring at your name on the wall, or what I’m typing out on my phone…

– Loni Monster

How Am I?

You know when people say, “some of the worst things happen to the best people.” Or what about, “God gives the hardest battles to the strongest people.”

Well, they kinda just make you want to be a terrible weak little troll to avoid all of this life stuff that the best and strongest get.

But, I can’t be that way.

I was born to Yvonne and Felton, two of the world’s best people, who therefore had to raise three of the world’s strongest children who cannot, have not, and simply will not be ruled by fear.

That’s how I am.

-Loni

Honeycomb

I am a honeycomb.

Intriguing, detailed, beautiful even… from a distance. Then immediately puzzle-like, intimating, and unapproachable when you see the swarm of honeybees protecting my innermost stuff.

My gold. You know, that raw kind of honey. Full of vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants… my fears, my insecurities, and my secrets to life and healing.

Nah… I’m sorry. I don’t open myself up at your command. I’m not a shiny bear-shaped bottle with a pop-top.

We honeycombs need a beekeeper not a convenience store shopper.

Someone who prepares to be stung, but with so much patience and skill that it may never happen. Who doesn’t carelessly destroy the honeycomb or use it up in their pursuit of the honey inside…

-Loni

Dating?

It’s crazy that while half of my peers are in relationships and getting engaged/married, the other half have sworn off dating all together. I truly think it’s because the dating world is not always very pleasant or inviting. Not many people are dating intentionally, or it’s just not clear who is. There is a lot of dishonestly and confusion, creating a huge lack of trust… but there is also a lot of loneliness, which now creates a huge problem.

We have a bunch of not really single people (you know when you’re “talking” to “your man” for two years because you’re “not pressed” [you lied] for a relationship… but you also don’t want to be alone… but you don’t go on dates because “you’re chillin”… but you spend all hours of the day together/texting… but he can “see other people”… but you still be crying because why should he need to… but he’s not your man……….. Sound familiar? No? Just me then. Cool. Lol.) in the dating pool.

It’s bad enough feeling as though you have found your person, only to realize they’re not. It’s ten times worse when all of this could have been avoided with a simple conversation that seems to rarely happen because of that thought that it could bring a quick end to/put a damper on things if you both aren’t on the same page… but most times that’s how it ends up going anyways, right? So, if you know what you want and communicate it, there’s no reason for any of us to be in these bizarre “situationships” and developing such a negative attitude towards relationships.

All of this lack of transparency and all of the blurred lines make dating complicated for everyone (those who want relationships and those who don’t). This is not to say that now that we are of a certain age we absolutely have to be seeking marriage. That’s just not true. What I am saying is that we are of a certain age where transparency and honesty are a must.

Personally, I’m trying to get to at least my Grandparents’ 60+ years, but this is now a scary thing given the way we date in 2018. It feels this way because eventually you gotta put all your eggs into one basket and just pray to God that person cares about not breaking them as much as you do… as your stomach twists and turns with that I’m just trying not to look dumb feeling (that all of us twenty-something’s have felt at least once) when starting the process all over.

But we ultimately do. You know, not look dumb, but start again… put our eggs into one basket. Hoping to get it right. Even though getting it right seems less like anything we can make happen ourselves and more of the stars aligning…

-Loni

2018

It’s 3:54 AM, 13 days into 2018, and I finally decided to log back into my account.

The new year thus far has been pretty great. There are lots of new things going on in my life, and I’m excited for them. My 2017, on the other hand, was quite terrible.

I definitely won’t be starting any stories with “Back in 2017…” as my grandchildren huddle around my rocking chair. It was just one of those uncomfortable, “growing” years… We all have them. But, at the time, none of the madness felt anything like growth to be completely honest. It sucked. It felt more like having the Midas touch, but instead of gold everything turned into the Smiling Pile-of-Poo Emoji (I had no idea there was an official name for that emoji… thanks Google).

Name anything you can think of, and it probably happened to me… Except for a Glow Up (in any sense of the word and in any aspect of life). Instead, the world hit me with a strong, “Gurl, you thought.”

However, around the end of the year (thankfully) the smoke began to clear. I could now begin to see that maybe that person was only supposed to be around for a season. Or even that the struggles I faced at work were to show me who I really was when things weren’t easy, ideal, and/or fair. And, mostly that my “light and momentary troubles” shouldn’t have the power to remove the life from the things I enjoyed (like this blog) or steal my happiness.

#Growth.

I didn’t really come into this random burst of inspiration with much of a plan or with any deep insight to share… But, I can say that it’s nice to be back (the WordPress app is downloading on my phone as we speak).

Cheers to a 2018 full of getting UP, getting WELL, getting OVER, and getting HAPPY. 

– Loni

Ecclesiastes 3

 

FJ Smith

I was tasked with writing something about you to share with the group today. As one of your more introverted grandchildren and a frequently reminded, non-member of the “Original 5”, I didn’t really expect to be here… But, since I am, what could I write to truly convey the man you were to everybody?

As I think back on my moments with you:

My oldest memory is one of your many attempts to cheer up the incredibly bratty child version of me one hot afternoon. Your peculiar blue-green eyes lit up even brighter as you shuffled across the floor with your signature tube socks pulled over the bottom of your khaki pants. You danced and sang your heart out about a small girl from Minnesota named Elon Nadeen… Just to put a smile back on my face.

My most visited memory is only a few seconds long, but I often replay it in my mind. It’s the quick flash of my Grandma’s shy smile as you sat at the table talking about courting a pretty brown-skinned girl with a coke-bottle shape. I’ve always secretly hoped to smile that same smile one day.

My most cherished memory is sitting on the couch watching my Mom listen to your stories for what felt like hours at a time. It was as if she was memorizing not only the words you said, but the way you spoke, because she knew that uncorroborated or not, those stories were filled with decades and decades of wisdom that no one else had… I’m glad you get to enjoy each other’s company once again.

Reflecting with others on what to say today made me realize that all of our favorite memories are quite different. Your actions and words stuck with each one of us here in a unique way and impacted the most important parts of our individual lives.

Regardless of the memory it’s evident that you were RESPECTED – there is one seat in the kitchen that we all knew better than to try and take.

You embodied what it means to LOVE – you unapologetically loved your wife for all of us to see and replicate in our future relationships, and no matter how full your house was we always knew there was room for one more of us…. But if we were gunna eat somewhere other than the table we had better put some paper towel or newspaper down…

You showed us how to WORK HARD – and although some of us only knew you after you were retired, that front porch was swept to perfection every single day, before you shared stories of your journeys years before.

And that you left a LEGACY – just look around. 9 children, 23 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, 7 great-great-grandchildren, and counting. Doctors, business owners, pastors, chemists, teachers, engineers, artists, lawyers, nurses, and more.

It goes without saying, but we will miss you, Granddaddy. We will always remember that you love us, that you’re proud of us, and to “stay with the group.”

– Elon Nadeen

Frequent Flyer 

Being on a plane every week makes it very easy to spot the nervous flyers. Honestly, I enjoy watching them. My personal favorites are the people that grab the armrest (and/or your actual arm) with the slightest hint of turbulence, and those that mutter a quick prayer under their breath with every noticeable change in altitude as we takeoff and land. 

It’s nothing to be embarrassed of, I totally get it. We’ve all seen Flight. You’re putting your life in someone else’s hands, and if things go bad there’s no guarantee the pilot will have Denzel’s plane landing ability. However, what makes me smile through my encounters with these passengers isn’t their obvious discomfort (I’m not that mean). It’s the thought that despite their uneasiness, they got on a plane anyways.

Observing people face their fears pretty publicly makes me reflect on where I could be now if I chose to do the same earlier in life. There were many times when I failed to take on a challenge, or took a more “comfortable” route, because of my own anxieties. Looking back now, I truthfully don’t know how those situations could have gone, but at the time I let the risk, uncomfortableness, and uncertainty outweigh the potential reward.

There’s a saying that “a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” It’s true, I’ve lived it. That will never be the case again. I’ve made the decision that the temporary sting of rejection and failure is not nearly as bad as the feeling you carry in the pit of your stomach while living with regret. 

We all have goals in life – in the case of the nervous guy next to me, a destination – and we all have something pushing us towards inaction. Your life can move down a completely different path in the slightest, but (often deceptively) crucial, moment. Once it’s gone there’s no guarantee of another… So what will do you do in this moment? Take the flight or watch the other planes from the safety of the ground? 

-Loni

Insecure: Part 1

Walking around the streets of Toronto in a bikini isn’t something I ever thought I would do (I didn’t even like going to the pool in a bikini). But, that’s exactly what I did this past weekend. Actually, when I think about it, there are quite a few things I never thought I would do and plenty of experiences I would frequently hold myself back from due to twenty-something years of being ridiculously insecure.

Insecurity is an interesting thing in the sense that it can take on completely different extremes from person to person. Even the most confident people are insecure about something, and sometimes it’s hard to identify the most insecure people of those among us. I know I definitely faked it. So, when I tell people just how bad I felt for years, they think I’m exaggerating. But, it’s true. What was going on in my head wasn’t anywhere close to the girl I was portraying every day, and if insecurity was indeed measurable, my readings would have been off the charts. I’m talking major records broken here people! In fact, thinking back (I cannot believe that I am writing this and putting it on the internet), I can’t think of a single thing I liked about myself. Not one. I won’t go into detail at this moment (which is why I will go ahead and determine this to be Part 1 of quite a few posts), but being uncomfortable with my body type quickly grew into a mindset I just couldn’t shake. 

Now, before you read anymore, you have to understand a few points, that (1) insecurity isn’t necessarily logical, (2) when it’s allowed to grow unchecked it will consume every aspect of your life, and (3) when you can’t find the validation you’re looking for in yourself, you will go somewhere else to get it. The third point is why you’re reading this today.

I don’t look much different than I did a couple of years ago (the change was completely in my mindset), but back then I hated what I saw in the mirror. Just the thought of showing off my legs/chest was still very stressful for me. In fact, I would often tell myself no guy would pick me if they ever had a choice. However, despite how unattractive I felt, I found my validation in “situationships” (I use this word because I’ve only had one actual boyfriend in my 25 years of life). That makes no sense at all, right? Well, refer to my first point in the paragraph above. 

In these “situationships”, I often found myself tolerating all kinds of lies and disrespect from guys I shouldn’t have been dealing with in the first place, but out of fear of the inability to find something better, I was left trying to fix things that weren’t worth my time. Even when I encountered a good guy, my own jealousy, doubts, and anxiety would tear the situation apart from the start (yes, women can hurt men… we can talk about this later, Part 1 remember?). Either way, as someone who didn’t love herself, I had no business trying to create love with someone else. It was selfish. There’s really no other word for it… How else would you describe an empty vessel hoping to get full from someone else’s supply?

I write all of this to say that I think this is the freedom I enjoy most now that the weight of all of the insecurity is off of me. Actually, I know it is. The freedom from validation. Sure, it’s nice to love my body, talents, and super-weird-introverted-nerd personality, but it’s even nicer not having to go to someone else to help me do that. For the first time I’m truly “single”, and I don’t feel empty or lost. For the first time I’m not franticly trying to fill a void with anyone who gives me attention. For the first time I’m not pretending to be someone that I’m not.

It’s hard to describe and may even sound dumb to you, but I wake up and the sun shines brighter than I’ve ever seen it. I’m happy. I look in the mirror, still happy. I pick up my (dry) phone, still happy… 

-Loni

Black Girl, White-Collar

I didn’t think I’d have this issue when I got older. I’ve always been the token (or one of few), after all. I grew up in a Minnesota suburb, I attended private school, I studied engineering at a PWI… I should be used to it by now, right?

Not quite.

I was always able to create my own community within another. Although I may have attended Georgia Tech, my friend group didn’t exactly resemble the demographics of the school. However, as a traveling consultant, I no longer have the privilege to ignore my “token-ness”. I’m reminded daily of that fact that I’ve been at my company over two years, and I’ve only been staffed on a project with another black person once. To make the gravity of this a bit more clear, that means that the majority of my interactions with an employee that looks like me have been virtual… So, maybe you can begin to sense why I might be in need of some community.

And, no, it’s not that I can’t have friends of other races, but you need to understand that there are just some things that come with being a black woman (or a person of color, but I will only speak on my experiences) in a space dominated by the opposite that others just won’t experience. There are some conversations that begin to add up after a while. Some comments that really start to get under your skin… And, it would feel amazing to be able to look into someone’s eyes and receive immediate understanding in those moments rather than awkwardly smiling and searching the floor for a way out.

There’s a constant explanation that I didn’t cut my hair, but that it can be a million different lengths and textures depending on something as minor as humidity.

A feeling of frustration from seeing half of my life screaming the names of black men turned hashtags, while the other half goes about its normal Tuesday routine.

The constant assumption that I know the latest dance craze (and the joke’s actually on you because I can’t dance).

Subjugation to the blatant use of “nigga” (and other words like “ghetto”) by people who have apparently deemed me “less black” and therefore a safe place…

And then, of course, the responsibility to explain why that word is like a punch in the gut when it’s used by a someone who isn’t black.

Fear of gaining the “angry black woman” label, even when I know that those same words would sound completely different coming from a man of another race.

Constant wonder around if receiving comments about how articulate I am come purely from the fact that I actually speak well, or because you might not expect me to.

Witnessing the fetishing of black men (especially mixed-race men, because… well, you know… that’s more acceptable).

Fighting back the urge to scream every time someone mentions that they “don’t see color”, because they have the privilege to live in a colorless world while I’m constantly being reminded of mine.

Knowing that the higher I climb, the darker my rose-colored shades will need to be just to cope.

And, an understanding that it’s just not good enough to be great at my job (My Dad taught us this before we were even old enough to have jobs). I also need to possess armor for skin, incredible poise, and expert word choice to navigate each day.

Before you ask, yes, I love my job. No, everyone I’ve encountered at work has not made me feel this way. But, yes, every single one of those scenarios has happened to me countless times. And, no, I’m not angry…  I’m just cluing you in to my daily reality. Why is it that you expect me (or anyone) to be OK with ignorance just because it’s not racism?

-Loni