Source: #IAmMaryJane (Are you Lisa?)
I woke still thinking of a fictional television character, of whom, up until lately, I was not too attached. The #UglyTruth episode of hit drama Being Mary Jane dealt with the suicide of the title character Mary Jane Paul’s oldest friend Lisa. Over the last year, and especially in the last couple of episodes, the relationship with the two had been strained, to say the least. It was filled with drama, betrayal, insensitivity, hurtful words, envy, dysfunction, toleration, avoidance and blame. Their friendship culminated with an epic revelation, and gut-wrenching dismantling of a sisterhood which had spanned decades. Mary Jane’s friend Dr. Lisa was smart, accomplished, a philanthropist and beautiful, flaws and all. Yet, Lisa committed suicide in the opening scene after years of depression and bi-polar disorder, lack of fulfillment, unrequited love and following a time in her young life of sexual abuse, all leaving her feeling alone and unloved. Even though their relationship was strained, again to say the least, Mary Jane was left with the task of planning her friend’s funeral, and was asked to offer words by her estranged parents. She did. Boy, oh boy. She did.
Not to reveal too much more for those who have yet to watch this moving piece of cinematic call to action, I will just say that my emotions were all over the place following the episode’s end. It hurt for Lisa, and those like her in life who feel death is the solution. It also hurt for Mary Jane, and those like her in life who are left to deal with death, especially when there are questions of “what could I have done differently” attached.
Mental illness is real, and it affects persons of every walk of life. The end of the episode offered help for those who feel suicide, for whatever reason is the option. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) offers help for those in need. What struck me most, however, from this episode was Mary Jane’s cutting and raw eulogy which challenged others to do more for those who are in need, by simply letting them know they are loved.
I don’t know of many personally who have taken their own lives with the exception of the young boy who lived around the corner when I was growing up who hung himself one day in the 80s and a former co-worker from the 90s. After watching that episode I started speed-walking through my mental rolodex to scan my list of friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues who might be like Lisa and I’ve simply been too busy to see or too consumed with my own concerns to care as much as I should. #IAmMaryJane Wow. That stung even typing it. I pray to Jesus that no one in my circle of life is or has ever pondered suicide, but I must, we all must, do more to be there. Think about it. We all likely have the friend whose name is mentioned and words like “he’s crazy”, or “she gets on my nerves”, or “he needs to get it together”, or “she just needs to get over it” come to mind. I hope I’m not the only one who has avoided the phone calls of someone because I simply didn’t want to hear the complaining, blaming, or negative talk because of what I had going on or what I didn’t want to be involved in, if nothing more than to offer a listening ear. We’ve all possibly had that person, who, when we met them or shortly thereafter, we realized something wasn’t quite right, especially regarding their friendship and relationship matters, or past hurts, and we tolerated them until those same things we tolerated turned on us.
So what do we do? Again, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is here for anyone who sees death as the way out. If this is you, know that you are loved and there is always HOPE and a reason for living. But for those of us who are in their lives, we have to, as Mary Jane said, let them know we love them, we really, really love them. We must do this not through judgment, not hampered by our personal frustrations with their situations, not making light of the trials of their life, not to make us feel noble or good, but simply because they are human beings as we all are, deserving of love, support, empathy, sympathy, counsel, listening ears, open hearts and assurance that their existence matters especially when they are in the fight of their lives, for their life.
Shhhhh…don’t tell my Mama, and hope that she’s too busy to read today, but lately, as I’ve posted before, I’ve been feeling like life is in limbo. It seems as if nothing has yet come to pass in some areas I’ve been wanting and waiting to come to pass. Now, the limbo in literal forms can be fun and quite funny, but who likes life in limbo? I shole don’t!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels or has felt that way. Not at all to discount the miraculous blessings of my very recent or far away past, or to be ungrateful for the signs and wonders I see every, single day, because God has been better than good to me, but I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting on some major moves in my personal life, career life, social life, health, wealth, ministry life and just life in general and it seems, that like a too tall person who shimmied up to the pole with festive beats in the background, ready for the challenge, excited about the possibilities, being cheered on by the crowd then forced to bend his/her body down low enough to make it under the pole, and gets stuck, I’m in limbo. It’s like I’m in there fully, but not quite out of there finally. That can be so very uncomfortable, and downright scary, not to mention a wee bit discouraging, especially if one has seen what the other side looks like (and I have) and is wondering why in the world the proverbial dance seems to linger so long this time. I’m glad to have been invited to the party, but I don’t want to just continue to shimmy, bend, wiggle, brace myself, pace myself and scoot little by little. I want to make it on through to be able to bust my victory move on the other side.
Just as I was continuing to entertain the thought of my dislike of limbo, Facebook did me a favor and reminded me of something I said exactly two years ago. So today, I share with you, my fellow limboers as I remind myself…Your life might not have turned out the way you envisioned, but do know that God’s Vision is better than what you envisioned even on your best day. He’s been handling humans, moving mountains and perfecting promises forever! He’s certainly not going to stop before taking care of you!!!
And with that, I’ll choose to redirect my focus from the dance to the Dance Instructor, knowing that He (as in my GOOD God) knows what He’s doing and never, ever misses a beat.
There’s a hidden jewel tucked inside of Homewood’s Little Professor Book Center that’s serving up food so fresh, tasty, and made with love it evokes the memories of food your grandmother used to make, especially if she was a five-star cook who could whip up anything from Apple Smoked Pork Loin to a Kobe Beef Burger cooked perfectly to a Grilled Salmon Sandwich with dill and lemon, and a side of crispy chips which will make your mouth dance. Crape Myrtle Café is its name and that’s a name you should certainly remember. I’d not been there in years until recently, but was not surprised to see the inviting menu, stellar service and quietly, entertaining atmosphere nestled among a book store was just as lovely as I had remembered. Many come for the books and come back for the food. Books and food. What can be better than that?
On a recent visit with a business colleague, and in the mood for soul food, I listened to the sage wisdom of the gentleman at the register and ordered the Beef Tips Over Rice. Knowing I was headed home for the day and in no threat of the “itis” ruining my vibe I also ordered fork tender collards, and black eyed peas so scrumptious they would have made Alberta Scott (my paternal grandmother) spin around in her powder blue Lazy Boy…God rest her soul. My associate ordered the Wagyu Hamburger Steak, with gravy and onions sans the onions, fluffy mashed potatoes ladled with gravy and greens. We both devoured a cornbread muffin about as buttery, sweet and moist as restaurant-made muffins can be.
The meal was perfect, and surely didn’t disappoint from this treasure I’ve been enjoying for more than a decade. It was so tasty I didn’t even stop through the bookstore to sneak a peek at the latest in literary offerings. That hardly ever happens. I was so completely satisfied by my savory, mid-day experience. The only thing which would have made my visit to Crape Myrtle Café any better would have been had I known in advance that my dining companion was paying for the meal and would have ordered their Carmel Fudge Pecan Pie to take home. Drats! Oh well. There’s always next time.
Emotions can make us so emotional. That’s especially so when they’ve been caught off guard, dealt a blow, had the rug pulled from up under, snuck up on, or as we used to say on 19th Street SW in Birmingham, Alabama’s West End, when someone has decided to “bust a cag” on our feelings. There’s nothing like a bruised ego, a bit of devastated pride, or some wounded notions to trigger the two-year-old baby in the best of us.
I, for one, have had the wind kicked out of my emotions too many times to type. Looking back, I can chuckle now as I think of most of my 20s being a perfect picture of “emotions run amuck”. (Thank you to all the friends and family who hung in there with me during this time of, shall we say, growth. Thank you to the creator of social media…
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Source: The Courage to Cry
Warning…this post is random, yet not random in a random kind of way…
This morning I woke like every week day morning to the sounds of Pandora. Each day I start my day with a “Thank you Jesus”, time of quietness and meditation with a backdrop of Pandora stations like Douglas Miller, Richard Smallwood or Walter Hawkins. I’m old school with a modern day flare. Today, like all days I was encouraged, comforted, inspired, and moved by music. I followed that up in my car switching stations to hear a cornucopia of tunes like Prince’s Kiss, the new gospel hit by Tye Tribbett and Isreal Houghton and Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer. I’m a Gospel girl with a serious hip-hop affection.
As I prepare to say my final “see you later” to my mentor, Myrna Ria Ross, who was the epitome of a musical genius, I was reminded of just how permanent, purposeful, freeing and needed music is.
I had an associate once who could think of a song from just about any word spoken. I’m not joking. You say it. He could sing it. I used to marvel at his quasi-talent to be able to hear a word, any word, and instantly drop a song with that word in it by the likes of Uncle Luke, Billy Idol, Barney, his fraternity’s chants and anyone in between. If you were among those privileged (or held hostage in a public space with him) he would often add a little dance move to his musical entertainment too. What marveled me more was knowing a bit of his history and all he had endured, and the fact that a song (albeit sometimes a wacky one) was still in his head and his heart. The same is so for an ex-boyfriend who shaped a large part of his life around music. He could tell you each song on an album, what year it was released, who produced it, what the video looked like, what he was wearing when he first heard it and also which songs helped him through some of the darkest, most difficult days he was trusted to endure. I admire that. Then there’s this quote floating around the internet which asks which song should be played when you enter the room. During a recent family fun day we spent too many hours laughing and pondering that question. I came up with the Commodore’s “Brickhouse” (minus the 36-24-26…LOL!) Others came up with songs too funny to mention. Then a relative sends a random text message requesting a special, and oh-so hilariously appropriate song be played at her funeral decades from now and the thought of having a song or songs as a soundtrack to life whether something silly or more serious was driven home even more. Music is a gift.
I remember songs from both fun times and heartbreak in my teens and 20s. I remember songs I shouldn’t have been listening to as a little girl growing up (Like “As We Lay” on the church trip to the nursing home…God bless us…LOL!). I remember songs when I received good news. I remember songs when the news was far less than favorable. I remember first hearing songs which, at the time, I didn’t know would become my favorite songs. I remember songs so stirring (in a teenagery kind of way) they made me write them down on paper from my radio in my room. I remember songs so infectious they destroyed the best of my presses or perms. I remember my introduction to Kirk Franklin and a real, grown lady relationship with Christ. All of them served a purpose giving me a reason to pop, bop and shake, providing some comfort, spreading a message or simply replacing sorrow with a song. That’s music to my ears.
The moral of this message is…Find your song and stick with it.
Hot off the press…remixed for #TBT (Throwback Thursday)
Sunday, September 14, 2014 was a revelatory day for me. While enjoying the fun and food at Birmingham, Alabama’s Trucks by the Track I was reminded by my sister that my bra on the left side was showing over my black and white striped sundress. This dress, in particular, has always been one of my favorites as it’s fashionable and flowly all in one. It’s the perfect frock for a food truck fest. The problem is, regardless of when I wear it and what I wear it with my bra on the left side always seems to inch up to be seen. I’m a lady, in the truest, southern-sense of the word so I don’t delight in having my “secrets” by Victoria or Delta Burke (Google it) seen. Having had that particular maxi-dress in my wardrobe a few years I’ve attempted to overcome the undergarment issue by adjusting the straps…
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From Angela Eats the Ham
Growing up I would hear my mother tell stories of my love of food, two in particular, hot dogs and pizza. Not much has changed over the years as I still enjoy a good chili, slaw dog with ketchup, mustard and a warm bun, and pizza of any kind, except with anchovies.
An evening with my five-year-old and three-year-old niece prompted a pizza making party. While they relished in placing far too many pepperonis on their individually made circles of sauce-laden goodness, I was inspired to pull a little of this and a little of that from the fridge and the pantry to whip up an uber-quick and super tasty, grown-folks chicken sausage and spinach treat.
With a premade pizza crust, I covered the base with alfredo sauce, about four tablespoons to be exact. The next layer contained about a half-cup of low-fat mozzarella cheese, some sliced, organic chicken/apple sausage topped with fresh baby spinach, and finished with a pinch of Italian seasoning and a southern sprinkle (that means a whole heap) of grated parmesan cheese. Baked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees this pizza could have easily rivaled that of a gourmet chef in some fru-fru establishment. It was tasty…and pretty if I do say so myself!
Try one for yourself using what you have and what you enjoy. You’ll be surprised at how surprisingly delicious, filling and quick it can be. Plus, the memories of making pizza magic with the ones you love can never be matched. Bon Appétit!
Another day I’ve awaken to the thought of my Myrna Ria Ross. The teacher who actually never taught me in a classroom, but taught me so much through the last nearly 30 years of life passed away on Saturday night. In the wake of her passing, my social media timelines have literally been flooded with words so stirring, soothing and comforting that I am again compelled to post following my previous post of If You Love Someone Say So.
Even though I call her “my” Myrna Ria, I’m smart enough to know that she was shared by thousands. It amazes me that one woman’s heart could be big enough to hold the secrets, pains, successes, journeys and joys of so many. It floors me that her head could carry the names of them all, with stories of old and new attached to each with an ease I now marvel over all the more. There was something about Myrna Ria that, if I am only able to borrow but an ounce of, I feel I’ll be on my way to living a more meaningful life.
In her presence she made every, single person feel special. I can remember my junior year in high school after the death of my first love. Returning to school the Monday after his Saturday night murder is somewhat a blur to me. I remember bits and pieces, thankfully, of things which matter most, one of which is the embrace she enveloped me with as I wailed from within depths of me that, at the tender age of 17, I had no idea existed. I remember the constant follow up she gave me making sure I was okay. Fast-forward decades later, and the adult Angela, who’s never too old for “her” Myrna Ria would sit in her office and in an attempt to help her with whatever project or thought she was stirring up would relish the scriptures she would drop throughout our conversations, or the way she would look at me, almost through me, to make sure I was really okay following a few things which have happened in the last few years. I remember her confidence in me which, even at this older age, mattered so much, especially in times when I was questioning my position in life, next move, or if I still had it, particularly regarding some past career passions I was longing to resurrect.
Again, not to think too highly of myself, in all that she did for me in the few things of many I just shared, she also did the same things for so, so many more. She availed herself to everyone with such a welcoming spirit, which only comes from someone who desires to love as Christ loves. I would watch her talk to me in her office for hours, while also sincerely entertaining students, talking to fellow teachers, tending to all-important choir business, and still having an uncanny ability to give everyone and everything the attention desired making us all feel special. No one felt short-changed in her company. That’s what I want. Like Myrna Ria, I want to be able to be as she was, sharing undivided attention with such genuine finesse that it feels undivided even when it isn’t. I want a selfless spirit which invites others in to trust me with whatever portion of their lives my life is needed. I want to care enough to remember the things big and smaller about people, their lives and the people who matter in their lives. I want to be able to have Scriptures in reserve so plenteous that no matter the circumstance I have something to share with whomever needs it wherever I am…and let me tell you, she was so unapologetically bold about sharing the Word she would drop some Jesus on anyone, anytime, and anywhere. I want that. I want to be able to look someone in the eyes and see what’s in their heart then be there to help like she did. I want to take a page out of the music manual of Myrna Ria Ross and make each person feel special in my presence. That’s what life is about. The people we come in contact with are coming from places and situations we may never experience or understand but we owe it to them to make them feel special, because they are. That’s exactly what Myrna Ria Ross did and I’m grateful to be counted among the many who were able to experience it for myself.