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Thoughts from the Road: Created in Violence

We are created in violence
Birthed in pain
Our only constants
Conflict and struggle
What can we possibly 
Ever know of nonviolence
When even our peace is achieved
Within storms turbulent
Enough to alter
The landscape of our lives

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Thoughts from the Road: Purifying Change

Since mid-March, I’ve been traveling across the country. I hit the road after selling my home in Southern Arizona. There were no immediate thoughts on where to pitch my tent next, so I decided to roam a bit and see where the Spirit led.

Before Covid-19, I thought I’d travel abroad for a few months to a year. But even homeless and mostly untethered, I wanted to be in a land I understand how to move in during a global pandemic. So international travel was out. 

Driving across the United States was initially an exciting proposition. It’s been on my to-do list for over two decades, but I had hoped it would be done with a partner. A test of sorts of our compatibility and adaptive skills together. That thought was one of the first things I released as I began planning my post-Arizona life. No more shelving hopes for a future that isn’t rooted in today. No more putting things I want to do on the back burner because there’s no one to share the journey with. I released myself from that tether and the fear of becoming so comfortable in my singledom that I no longer allow space to accommodate another.

That’s when the opening began. As each tether and fear is released, hidden spaces are exposed and unexpected grace appears for my vulnerabilities.

I thought I would make time to write a lot while on the road, but of course that didn’t happen. All the “free” time I imagined was actually spent driving and sleeping. There was a lot of thinking and even more releasing. I focused on healing and opening. Still working on both, but more aware of how I’ve closed myself off over the years as a process of self-preservation. For a time it was necessary to remain isolated and nurture my solitude. That time has come to an end and its important to flow in the direction of life.

I don’t know how I’m being purified, but I know it’s happening.


I don’t know what the end result of this process will be, but I know I am already changed.

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POEM: I Am from…

I am LaShawnda, sister of Kim and Nicolette.
We are daughters of Terry Ann, the daughter of Bessie Mae,
The daughter of Lizzie, the daughter of Mae Emma, the daughter of
Many Unknowns.

I am from coconut oil and bergamot grease
From pinto beans and bananas.
I am from the light.
From home-cooked meals and shadowy corners,
From Thanksgiving feasts are for week-long leftovers.
I am from the iris;
The majestic maple tree,
Whose thick trunk I remember climbing and falling from.

I am from nowhere and everywhere.
From many mothers and no real fathers.
From silence, violence, solitude and perseverance
From hard work tempered with spots of joy.

I am from share-croppers and life-long toilers,
Farmers, gardeners, strong women, and providers.
I’ve been formed through the oppression of my ancestors
The generational resilience of my grandmothers and
The unruffled pragmatism of my Mama.

I am from lies and “keep it in the family”
And God is trying to tell me something
and do unto others as you… well, just do as I say.
I am from stardust and grace, refined in the fire of supernovas.

I am from Gary, Indiana by way of Mississippi and Arkansas
By way of Virginia, South Carolina and Louisiana
By way of Cameroon, Nigeria, West Guinea, and Britain
By way of One Africa seeding the World.

I am from the beginning and the end.
From all that is and all there will ever be.
From salvation and damnation, prophecy and legacy
I am from abundance and sufficiency. I am existence.

~ LaShawnda Jones
from I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America

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Give Yourself Permission to Be Uncertain

This is about fragility, vulnerability, uncertainty, poor decisions and giving yourself permission to do things over when you’re in a better mental state.

#life #permission #doover #selfhelp #selfreflection #fragility #vulnerability #uncertainty #harvest #harvestlife #evolution #women #woman #womanhood #harvestlifeblog

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Be Your Own Best Present

2020 year-end reflection and message for those of us used to putting everyone else first and feeding into situations that don’t nourish us. Just as we try to be available supportive and our best selves for others, we should be equally, if not more so, for ourselves.

 

Related posts:

Everything I Thought I Knew About Diabetes Was Wrong

The getting-overness of it all.

 

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Virtual Bible Study: Marriage & Relationship

This is a follow-up to You’re Invited: Virtual Bible Study. The first discussion has been scheduled. Yay! It will be a recorded Zoom call on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at 9:00am Central Time. The topic is Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles.

  • Text: Book of Ruth: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz
  • Text: Genesis 29-31: Jacob, Rachel and Leah

Zoom details:

Please note the call will be recorded and shared.
Time: Oct 20, 2020 09:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/72581560853?pwd=Vm0yK1p0Yk5rUWIrVEtnbVJ3dklyUT09
Meeting ID: 725 8156 0853
Passcode: CSV2T2

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Everything I Thought I Knew About Diabetes Was Wrong

Did you know diabetes mellitus is a term for a group of disorders that cause elevated blood sugar (aka glucose) levels in the body? Known by it’s first name, diabetes is a chronic (aka long-lasting) condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Glucose is a critical source of energy for your brain, muscles, and tissues.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) which is released into your bloodstream. This triggers the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin acts as a “key” that allows glucose to enter the cells from the blood. If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to effectively manage glucose, it can’t function or perform properly. This produces the symptoms of diabetes.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications by damaging blood vessels and organs. It can increase the risk of: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, eye disease

Nutrition and exercise can help manage diabetes, but it’s also important to track blood glucose levels. Treatment may include taking insulin or other medications.

Diabetes and Food Memories of Mom

My mom was a diabetic. I don’t remember when she was diagnosed, but she would have been in her early or mid-thirties. I do remember watching her shoot insulin into her belly. That’s pretty much all I remember. Oh, and she was a drinker. Not too heavy, but she loved beer and now that I look back, her mood swings could have indicated some habitual drunkenness. She also enjoyed drugs and sweets. Memories of Mom’s baked goods still bring joy. When she threw together caramel cake with icing, banana pudding, and sweet potato pie from scratch, I would literally stand transfixed at her elbow peering under her arm or looking over her shoulder as time went by. Normally, I don’t claim regrets, but my greatest regret in life is that I didn’t get my mom to write down her recipes. Watching her cook and bake was not the same as having written instructions.

In the fourth grade I had my first Home Economics class – remember those? I still have Dotty, the stuffed animal I sewed that year. We learned to make French toast and vanilla pudding from scratch. There were many other dishes, but these were my favorites. Mom allowed me to make French toast and other simple dishes for the family on weekends. When I was fifteen, I took it upon myself to gift my mom and siblings with caramel cake. I threw flour, sugar, milk and eggs into a bowl and baked a brick. Mom was by nature laid back and easy-going person. A super pleasant and beautiful soul, truly. One of the few times I was the target of her rage was when she woke from a nap and saw that I had “wasted” so much of her precious baking ingredients. Desperately, but to no avail, I explained that I did not “waste” her flour, sugar, eggs, milk, precious vanilla extract and whatever else I tossed into the mixing bowl, I was baking her a cake. She stomped and screamed as she pulled my brick from the oven and tossed it on the counter. Truly bewildered, I didn’t understand why she didn’t appreciate my initiative and desire to bake one of our favorite deserts.

Today I understand. Today I can hang my head at my obtuseness. But I still wish she would have fussed and then shown me how to make her fabulous caramel cake. As far back as I can remember, Mom had worked several jobs at a time. The pride of her life was being able to say she provided for her family without government assistance. However, we were extremely poor financially. Everything, especially food, was precious. I knew that. Understood it. But that day, I didn’t consider it a waste to attempt to emulate my mother. She died a few years later and I have no other memories of trying to cook or bake her dishes. Since she’s been gone, I’ve asked relatives if they know how she cooked her banana pudding, sweet potato pie, caramel cake, turkey dressing, potato salad, pinto beans, chicken noodle soup or any of the foods that brought me comfort and joy during my childhood. No one knows. My mom cooked by taste, sight and feel. She was self-taught and as the eldest of eight children, everyone enjoyed her cooking, but no one could duplicate the magic.

This is all I knew about diabetes growing up: My mom had it. She had to take insulin. She also smoke, drank and did drugs. Subliminally, diabetes wasn’t a big deal.

Food as Comfort and Love

I’ve long known that food is my comfort. Certain foods remind me of home and love. Until the writing of this post, I hadn’t connected my “sweet tooth” to what my mom’s deserts and home cooked meals represented to me. For most of my adult life, I’ve attempted to recreate the taste, texture and feel of my favorite foods. This has led to baking becoming one of my favorite pastimes. I still haven’t mastered caramel cake but I’m closing in on an excellent caramel icing. My sweet potato pie is gift worthy and has been has been requested during the holidays, as have my staple sweet potato dishes. I haven’t attempted banana pudding from scratch again, but it’s on the to do list.

So… just as I’m coming into my stride as a baker, I get diagnosed as a diabetic during an intense DKA episode. I was sick, but didn’t know I was a diabetic so I was cooking and baking peach cobbler, caramel cake, banana bread and similar yummies to make myself feel better. In my ignorance, I was killing myself. Despite having a diabetic mother, brother and grandmother and since my diagnosis learning, five of my maternal uncles have diabetes, I knew nothing of the signs or symptoms common to the disease.

I Knew Nothing

Honestly, despite having a mother who had to use insulin daily and a brother whose death was inconclusive because he was a diabetic who had drugs and alcohol in his system when he was beaten to death, I knew nothing about the mechanics or practical requirements of diabetes. Both of my grandmothers fought chronic illness for most of my life. Yet I can’t tell you the sum of their illnesses or how their lives are impacted by each disease or how likely it is that I’ve already developed the same diseases or will soon do so. Disease isn’t talked about on either side of my family as something that is avoidable or even treatable to good health. There’s a resignation to disease with my people. So much so that it’s a side note or conversational add-on.

Quick Facts from CDC.gov

  • More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.
  • More than 88 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and more than 84% of them don’t know they have it.
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States (and may be underreported).
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes; type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5-10%.
  • In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese. [https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html]

What is Diabetes?

Closeup of dictionary page showing definition of diabetes

With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should.

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.

Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart diseasevision loss, and kidney disease.

There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help. Taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education and support, and keeping health care appointments can also reduce the impact of diabetes on your life.

There are three main types of diabetes: prediabetes, type 1type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

Read related posts:

Poem: Sister, Sister II

Morning Stretch and Praise Break

Sources: CDC.gov and Healthline.com, American Diabetes Association

 

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Poem: Be Anything

I had such bright
hopes and dreams
when I believed
I could
be anything
I tried
strived
over-achieved
if thoughts manifest reality
the American Dream
wouldn’t be
unreachable
and life would be
different
all I truly wanted
was freedom to be me
without threat, violence
shame or compromise
how tragic
being me
proved to be
the hardest thing

~ LaShawnda Jones, 2020

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Terry Ann: Woman. Seed. Fertile Ground. Inspiration.

In the summer of 2018, I began working on a portrait and prose book project about womanhood. That summer I returned to my hometowns Gary and Milwaukee and asked friends, family and old connections to pose and share some words about their womanhood experiences.

When I began sketching out the project my mom was not top of mind. As the project morphed into various incarnations, the hope was to pull others in along the way. But the more women I talked to and the closer I got to women who had been close to her, the more Mom began to dominate my thoughts.

I can’t ask my mother what her womanhood meant to her. She died just as I was coming of age. Oddly enough, I hadn’t considered my own womanhood in the context of the project until I visited my mom’s gravesite in Milwaukee. It was there that I realized I hadn’t really known her as a multi-dimensional person. My perspective was only as a daughter looking up. As a result I began questioning and exploring the layers of my own personhood. Perhaps my Mom became my proxy. I chose to focus my questions on how she was before becoming a mother.

During the visit, I asked relatives: What do you remember about my mom?

I wasn’t prepared for the responses. Such a simple question seeking to learn about personality and character, unleashed stories of actual and imagined trauma and violation. Things she would have shared with me during her lifetime if they were true. It’s interesting how I was able to reject the lies for what they were after holding their words up to the relationship I had with my mom. She was an honest and straight-forward woman. She didn’t wallow in past trauma, hide from it or keep it from me. Her story was her story and she told me what she wanted me know. More importantly, she answered my questions truthfully.

The more I analyzed my urge to ask others about who Terry Ann was before she became my mother, the more I realized I have only to look within. Everything I thought I didn’t know about my mother is actually in me because she remains a part of me. She’s the seed and fertile ground I sprung from and her life is forever my inspiration.

My sister had the only words worth sharing. She said, “I remember everything, but I can’t put words to my memories.”

Truly profound.

Perhaps that was my true dilemma as well. I know what I know, but somehow I can’t speak it all.

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Living without permission

I’ve been feeling like a rebel in recent years. Marching to the beat of my own orchestra. Listening to the voice whispering to me through the wind. Choosing to grant myself permission to live on my own terms. Deciding to embrace the fear of doing such even as I continue to forge ahead. For a spell now, I’ve been bombarded with examples on why living without permission is so important for our overall well-being.

Guy

I have a male friend who has had an extremely hard time in New York City since he moved to the city fifteen years ago. We have periods of connection when we check on each other before falling off again. Shortly after I returned to New York City to relist and market my apartment myself, we spent a day together in my empty Harlem apartment. We caught up on years of missed conversations and hardships. By the end of the evening I became frustrated with him. The common theme throughout his constant hardship was his undying belief that others would look out for him and his interests therefore there was no need for him to take precautions for himself. He repeatedly put himself in situations that were not only unfavorable towards him, they were often dangerous and left him at the mercy of people who had no stake or concern for his well-being. Alternatively, when he was blessed with good work environments (perks, benefits, kind managers, etc.) he abused their generosity. My strong admonition was that he needs to make better decisions for himself.

It astonished me how much power he gave others over his life, livelihood and well-being. It sounded as if he didn’t make a move unless someone with no responsibility to him was ok with what he wanted to do.

He became a real estate agent a year before I did. He stayed with that agency for a whole year without doing anything, not even an open house, because they wouldn’t help him or answer his questions or give him his pocket card (proof of profession and associated agency in NYC). When we first spoke about this, I was in Arizona and had been a licensed agent for four months. In my first month, I hosted no less than ten open houses for other agents, most of whom I still haven’t met. I was genuinely perplexed by Guy. When I asked him why he didn’t simply change agencies if help was so important for him, he responded, “I didn’t think I could.”

Real estate agents are independent contractors. The only agents who may have difficulty switching firms are those who have property listings. Listings belong to the agency, not the agent. Sometimes agencies will allow you to pay a fee for your listings to take your clients with you. If you have done absolutely no business for an agency, you could literally walk out the door in the middle of a conversation and nobody will be calling to check on you. So for Guy to not even have this minimum amount of initiative to look after his professional interests as well as his ability to provide for himself sort of blew me away.

Colleague

Last week, I met up with a former corporate colleague for dinner. We last saw each other the day I thought I had finally moved from New York City for good in February 2018. We had a good catch up. I shared some of my recent hardships concerning the delayed sale of my NYC apartment and how being in limbo through a long transition between two lives in two states has really shaken me loose from people and things I had long resisted letting go of. I shared that one of the ways I plan to commemorate the end of my life in NYC and the beginning of my life in Southern Arizona was by cutting off my hair and starting from scratch. I viewed it as a way for me to free myself to let go and grow.

Colleague immediately said, “No! Don’t do that! As a friend, I’m telling you that won’t be a good look. Don’t do it.”

I bit my lip, but the words on the tip of my tongue were, I’m not asking for your permission. I wasn’t even asking for your opinion. Instead my head tilted to the side and with a bemused look on my face I told her, “This isn’t a beauty decision. It has nothing to do with how I will look.”

“Still – don’t do it.

“I’m doing it.”

“Don’t do it.”

And around we went for a few rounds until she convinced herself that I didn’t mean cutting everything down to a buzz cut. A short cut was fine, but a buzz or bald look wouldn’t do. I hadn’t really thought about how short I would cut so I let the conversation fall off there, but it amazed me that a casual work acquaintance felt comfortable telling me what I could and couldn’t do with my own hair.

Grandma

Over the holiday weekend, I received a call from one of my aunts. She shared a story about my Grandma who has been suffering greatly from various health issues for the last decade. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Around that time she lost the home she had been living in for over thirty years which led to her being bounced from relative to relative. She is now in the fifth household in as many years. Grandma is a very strong-willed woman with a violent streak and a horrendous (though funny-to-me) potty mouth. When I visited her a couple of summers ago, she was completely subdued and scared to speak openly in front of her then “caretakers”, her youngest daughter and son-in-law. They had been abusive towards her which was the reason for my visit. My intention was to take Grandma home with me but she didn’t want to leave her hometown or her great-grandbabies. However, I let her know the choice was hers and it shouldn’t be made in fear. She chose to stay. A few months later she chose to move in with her oldest living daughter, the one who called me. They didn’t last long under the same roof and grandma was soon packed up and moved next door to my cousin’s house where she’s been for the last year. It was this cousin who received a call from senior day care informing her, “Your grandmother got into a fight today. You have to come pick her up.”

Sometime before the fight, Grandma had reported to her daughter and granddaughter that another woman (who is also suffering from dementia) in senior day care had been slapping her and pulling her hair. Both my aunt and cousin were horrified to hear this and both adamantly told her the next time that woman put her hands on her she could hit her back. Who knew Grandma would ever need permission before hitting someone back!? But she did. The day my cousin got the call, my grandma’s bully had pulled her hair hard and slapped her across the face. According to the day care workers, the next thing they saw was grandma slapping the woman back and choking her out. I’m told it took two workers to separate them.

Grandma is dependent on a walker. She’s had several strokes, she wobbles when she stands and half of her body has to be maneuvered by hand. I had picked her up from day care on my last visit and know what the set-up is. They seat everyone at a long table in the middle of the room. My questions to my aunt were, how was Grandma choking this woman out? Were they both on the ground or was Grandma balancing her weight against the woman’s throat? She can’t move without her walker. How long did it take for her to turn around, get up and get to the woman? Sadly, my aunt didn’t have my desired details.

All that said, Grandma has obviously been experiencing a great deal of abuse. My comfort here is that she tells people about it and so far we’ve helped her to help herself a bit. On the other hand, I’m extremely saddened that she has loss her voice to a great degree and her sense of autonomy overall. The woman I grew up knowing and whose roar mine mimics would have never waited for permission to defend herself.

Me

Though I’m able to identify instances of permission expectations now, I’ve lived most of my adult life seeking permission like so many others. Permission in the form of acceptance, understanding, appreciation, acknowledgement, support and validation. We live in a global society where people think they have the right to minimize others and keep them in boxes for no other reason than their own experience of privilege. Privilege via hierarchy, status, appearance, position, proximity, birth order, relationship, etc. I can’t count how often I succumbed to the preferences of others to my own detriment, but I know I began fighting that conditioning before my tenth birthday. Thirty-four years later I’m still fighting to understand what it truly means for me to live as I believe, as I want, as I plan, as I hope and as I am able to provide for myself. As many lessons as it takes, I will continue to seek only my own permission to live my best life as my best self.