Blogtober #12: Bookworming It.

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Welcome to Monday. Since this time of year–for me, anyway–breeds even more reading than usual, I wanted to share my top four favorite books of all time with y’all. (Fun fact: I declared that I would never combine you + all once moving to Texas. So, yeah. Y’all it is. Never say never.)

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. What can I even say about this inspiring book? You know it. You either read it and/or watched the film adaptation in your classroom growing up. You fell in love with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. You were moved by this engrossing tale of lessons and race relations in the Deep South. You loved reading about Scout and Jem and Boo Radley and Dill. You were enraptured by the trial and case of Tom Robinson. This book was everything for me. As a budding writer and just as a person, I’ll never forget how this novel made me feel.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. Loooooookkkkk. Let me tell you. My 12th grade English teacher was the meanest lady this side of Planet Earth. I wish I were exaggerating. Nevertheless, I will forever thank her for inciting my enduring love for Jane Austen and her writing. Never have I loved fictional characters more (Elizabeth Bennet: personal hero; Mr. Darcy: husband), for one thing, and never have I adored the witty writing style and voice that an author created even more. It felt as if Jane was talking to me privately about these people she knew.

A Good Man is Hard to Find (and other stories), Flannery O’Connor. If Austen significantly influenced my writing style, then Ms. O’Connor majorly informed my desire to end a story with a bang. She knocked my literary socks off when I discovered her in college. Not only were her observations about human nature absolutely unrelenting, but so were the finales of her fascinating stories. (Seriously.) My love of writing short stories was also influenced by her; there’s nothing more enticing than fitting what could be a novel inside a short piece of work, which Flannery did over and over again.

Everything written by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Lois Lowry. You’ve likely heard it before, but most writers begin as voracious, devoted readers. Well, these three authors began the ball rolling for me. Memories of ensconcing myself in library stacks surrounded by their stories of intelligent, verbose heroines, annoying siblings, and the pain and discovery of girlhood are never far from mind. They began the blueprint for me. And yes, I’d read all those books over again now and still relate to them.

I have tons of booky favorites, needless to say, so another post with a new batch of favorites will come. Here’s where I’ll tell you that gone are the days when I had stacks and stacks of actual books that my mother threatened to get rid of if I didn’t arrange them with some semblance of order. These days, I enjoy maintaining a digital bookshelf and read everything on my Kindle app. (I’d love an actual library, but the living arrangements don’t presently have room for that. Maybe in the next place I find with more room.) I also have a Kindle Unlimited membership through Amazon and yes, it is awesome. A friend of mine knew how much I loved the whole library book borrowing system and recommended Kindle Unlimited–and I’m glad she did. With this membership, I can borrow books and discover an array of authors whenver I like. At present, I’m reading Mindy Kaling’s latest six series essay collection, Nothing Like I Imagined (Except for Sometimes), and the convenience of borrowing the titles and simply returning them when I’m done is the best. Gift the membership to yourself and/or to other bookworms in your life here.

Happy Reading and bon Monday.

A Stoop Wedding.

So, this pandemic and the resulting quarantine has proved, over and over again, that necessity truly is the mother of invention. I’ve seen people find creative ways to continue living and doing: roll-by parties (especially for 2020 graduates), young folks creating sanitized ways to hug their family and loved ones, so on. And one favorite thing I’ve come to love during these unique times are virtual weddings. Y’all. Virtual weddings, though. The intimacy (almost reverential), with just the couple and maybe an officiant, are so striking and beautiful to me. But when I read about Elaine Welteroth’s (whom I just adore) absolutely amazing wedding on her Brooklyn stoop, the squealing and inspiration was endless.

Image courtesy of Vogue magazine

Here are five reasons Elaine’s stoop wedding slayed me:

1. Like I said, I’ve been hooked by the intimacy of weddings in the time of COVID. Elaine said bump that. She had guests, bridesmaids, even her neighbors there for this wedding, all while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

2. My queen Lupita was there.

Image courtesy of Vogue magazine

3. I felt a palpable sense of joy while reading about Elaine and Jonathan’s commitment to still having this beautiful day happen despite possible obstacles. It was really lovely.

4. There was an elegant simplicity about this wedding. Elaine’s wedding dress came from her closet; her veil belonged to her mother. Everyone wore white. Just dreamy.

5. The mechanics: a “Soul Train” line of bridal party members socially distant standing on the sidewalk while Elaine walked down the “aisle”; each person having a FaceTime “buddy” so friends and family could see the ceremony. The love was truly in the details.

Image courtesy of Vogue magazine

This wedding was beautiful, dear reader. Like most weddings, yes, but I really appreciated the creative lengths Elaine and Jonathan went to ensure that despite the current climate, it would be beautiful and memorable. Read the article and enjoy.

Have you attended any virtual weddings? If so or if not, what are your thoughts about them? Let me know in the comments.

Square Peg Stories. (#2)

Welcome to Friyay, and welcome to our second Square Peg Story. (Look for this feature twice a month on Fridays.)

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Today, you’re going to meet Lauren. I’ve known this lovely beacon of light for several years now and have always been impressed by her positivity, her smile, her talent, and her fashion sense, among other things. Everyone needs a Lauren in their life. Meet her below.

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Tell me how you feel you stand out from the norm.
LL3What is the norm?! LOL I ask myself that all the time. I will say I never felt I stood out from the norm because I don’t even feel normal.  As a black girl growing up in the Bronx, you automatically get labeled as this rough, tough heartless person before you even open your mouth or people get to know you. I have the same feelings/insecurities as any woman no matter where she’s from.  I keep things bottled up and the slightest thing (like my coat pocket getting stuck on the doorknob) can send me into a crying fit like a baby. I was always told I was sensitive and it always stuck to me as a negative trait, something not normal. However, being sensitive is actually a normal thing. It means I feel things deeply and have a strong desire to bring happiness to the ones who I love and not have them feel pain. So I stand out by being true to who I am as a sensitive, full of emotion type of woman with her own sense of style that fits her outspoken shy personality.  It took an artist like Kelis to really help me see that standing out from the norm as a black woman was super cool and dope. To this day I still embrace that feeling!

What’s a time you took your own path and chose the road not traveled?
Okay so this is going to sound funny but what I can think of is a situation when I was much younger.  My sense of style was always different than my sisters or anyone for that matter (so I thought). I showed them an outfit and my eldest sister said, “I mean, I LL2wouldn’t wear it but if you like it, then so be it.”  My mom said I looked dejected because I really wanted it and was on my way to put it back but she said, “Lauren, you love it! It doesn’t matter what other people think.  This is you, mixing patterns and colors that don’t go together.  Never let anyone make you feel uncomfortable about what you like and want”.  LET ME TELL YOU HOW PROLIFIC THAT WAS TO ME!!!  That spoke to me in so many ways that it stuck with me to this day.  Many of my friends now will say “Somehow what you have on Lauren doesn’t make sense to me , but it makes perfectly good sense on you!” or they see something and say, “That is so you, Lauren. I see you rocking this!”  I have changed the narrative of feeling dejected into feeling inspired. I don’t necessarily take a road not traveled but I do travel that road in a way that I like and makes me happy.
What would you tell your 15 year old self?
OH 15yr old Lauren……first let me give you hug.  Your life is going to get much worse before it can get better and that will be a lesson that will help you during your tough times as an adult.  You are beautiful, you are unique and not everyone will love it or like you but YOU will be proud of who you are.  Don’t let rejection bring you down.  People reject what they are not ready for in their life and my dear WHOA! what you have to offer in love, friendship, talent and heart will shake even the tallest mountain!  Your presence will be felt in a room and your smile, your smile will be the one thing that makes lions purrrr. Make sure to always smile bright wherever you go, whomever you’re around and whatever you are doing. It will make others feel special and loved.  Don’t let anyone tell you you are too strong; you have been through soooo much that others would’ve broke under the pressure and your endurance under this pressure has produced a beautiful rare pearl.  Wear it proudly but allow your heart to be loved. You are worthy of that although no one has ever shown you it.  Men will come and go but you stay true to yourself and one day SOMEONE will appreciate your beautiful rough pearl self.  Love you always even when you don’t!!
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Who are you?
I am Outspoken Shyness!! I am outspoken when I need to be but oh so shy at the same time.  I speak my mind but hide it behind a blushing smile LOL.  I am a lover of all things dance. I love to dance in supermarkets, in the streets, it just doesn’t matter where! I love to travel. I love, no, I am in love with all things Italian. I tell people I am Italian at times. I have a song for every situation in life, even if it’s not my situation and I will sing it for you lol. I am a woman who would love to be in love but until that happens, I will photograph the love I feel in my heart. I am an ambivert at heart.  I overthink everything and already know what you will say after reading this because I thought of it while I was typing all of this.  I am a city girl with a country heart and a love for the outdoors.  That’s who I am.  Lauren Layne…Just 2 LLs.
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Full of life and sincerity, no? Thank you, Lauren! Your kind words to your own self are reminders that, as women, we are our first fans, advocates, and true loves. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I take the following from your responses:  People reject what they are not ready for in their life and my dear WHOA! what you have to offer in love, friendship, talent and heart will shake even the tallest mountain! Please follow Lauren on the ‘Gram: @Just2LLs
Keep telling your own stories, dear reader, and share them if you can.

 

Square Peg Stories. (#1)

Welcome to a brand new feature on TSP.

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By now, I’m sure you’ve captured the following about this little corner of the Internets:

  1. Women’s empowerment means the world to me.
  2. Every woman has a journey and a story, and I’m significantly interested in both.
  3. It’s not just about me.

All that said, we have a new feature here on TSP: sharing the inspiring/empowering/personal journeys of other women. I’m blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of women/sister friends whose individual paths in life can be mirrors of inspiration for others, and it’s my privilege to share these with you. Today, we’re sharing the first Square Peg Story. Meet Tiara.

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Tell me how you feel you stand out from the norm.
Is it weird that I don’t think I stand out from the norm? There was a time that I felt that I did, but in a negative way. I always felt that I was the only one with body and self esteem issues, the only one with mommy and daddy issues. I thought that I was the only one who felt I was undeserving of happiness and love because I just wasn’t good enough. It was a very lonely feeling. However, once I started sharing my story and opening up to people I realized that I was not alone. There are so many other people, or women out there that deal with the same things I do.  That’s why I say I’m not that different.

What’s a time you took your own path and chose the road not traveled?Tiara2
Hmmm. I think for me that was probably when I decided to pack up and move to Charlotte, NC. It was a year after I graduated from college. I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to go. The odd thing about it was that moving there would be the first time I was going somewhere with no family and no contacts. I just–I was looking for a reason to believe in myself, and to believe that I could thrive and survive on my own. I knew what I wanted for myself and I was starting to refocus on my life spiritually. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get that spiritual growth if I stayed where I was. So despite the concerns of those closest to me, I made the leap. It was probably one of the best decisions of my life. I met amazing people, accomplished some spiritual goals, including getting baptized. It was great!

What would you tell your 15 year old self?
A LOT! Lol. I’d tell my 15 year old self to be vulnerable. There were times that I was told i was a cry baby and punished for crying so I learned to hide my feelings. Which has made expressing my feelings a challenge now that I am an adult. I’d also tell myself that it is okay to make mistakes, just don’t let them define you. Don’t be afraid to fail. The way people, family, parents and friends treat you is not a reflection of you, it’s them that need to do or be better. Ignore the negative voices around you. Never change your heart. Give the best of yourself and your love to YOU FIRST, then pour into others!

Who are you?
Wow! Good question. I’m still learning how to answer that. I shock myself every day.Tiara1 But I guess I’d say that I’m a person that loves love even though it hasn’t always been kind to me. I’m a hopeless romantic. Sometimes too hopeless. Lol. I’m a dancer, and a music junkie. I’m an over thinker, and a perfectionist. I’m a person that loves to laugh until I cry. I’m an introvert, a writer. A blogger, and now I am a self love junkie!

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Thank you, Tiara! Your willingness to share your journey is a breath of fresh air. TSP wishes you well on your continuing journey, and I take the following from your transparent responses: Give the best of yourself and your love to YOU FIRST, then pour into others! Please follow Tiara at her lovely blog here.

Keep telling your own stories, dear reader, and share them if you can.

A Black Woman and Her Hair.

***This post was inspired by a video I watched last night on YouTube from Whitney White, a natural hair influencer that I took note of years ago when I began my natural hair journey. See the video here. While watching the video, I felt the deeper implications of the joy Whitney felt when she cut her waist-length hair. Whitney’s subsequent Instagram post about said haircut really got me thinking: as Black women, our relationship with our hair is so, so deep. And I wanted to talk about that. So here we go.***

My relationship with my hair began when I was about 12 years old, when I received my first relaxer. Prior to that seminal moment, I was an energetic kid; not really focused on pic2pic1my messy pigtails and all of that. I really had no concept of those things. In the adult world, however, my mom was hearing from some relatives that my hair, along with my sister’s hair, looked “wild”. Peer pressure is powerful, and it certainly doesn’t wane when we grow taller. My mom responded to this “wild” talk by taking us to our very first salon visit, where I received my first relaxer. Yep, it burned. Yep, I said nothing as it burned because I wasn’t one of those kids that spoke up. (Whew.) Born from that was something I had never known before: straight pic3hair.

Unbeknownst to me, also being born was the direct tie between my self-image, my sense of beauty, and my hair. This is universal, by the way. All women go through this at one point or another. But when it comes to us as Black women, Black girls, the path is altogether different and far more complex. The kinky and curly hair we’re born with, when it’s straightened and “relaxed”, now becomes largely acceptable, malleable, presentable. Westernized ideals of beauty become us. I remember feeling a sense of anticipation before I walked into the school the weekend after the relaxer. My long hair hung down my back. I felt pretty. And needless to say, I was the center of attention that day. “Look at your hair!” I heard more than once from a variety of girls. It was amazing.

From then on, I would beg my mother for a relaxer when the straight hair reverted back to its curly texture. If you know anything about my mother, you know that this begging typically fell on deaf ears. Despite her now knowing how to apply the creamy stuff, relaxers would be saved for specials occasions (like our annual worship meetings) and nothing more. Once in a while, once, she’d give in to a random relaxer request, but overall, it was usually a no. Needless to say, when I finally started making money and working for myself, I took myself to various salons for my touch-ups and things of that nature. Again: the state of my hair was wrapped up in how I felt I was being exposed to the world. I’ve mentioned the long struggles I had with my self-esteem and self-image. I can honestly say that when my hair was straight, I felt valuable. There was power in those strands.

bob6But as I got older, something started happening. I wanted to experiment more with my hair. Straight, long hair wasn’t enough for me. When I turned 30, I cut it all off and opted for a chic (still straight) bob. My mother nearly passed out. I think she thought I’d shave my head. (That came later.) bob1From there came more experiments: an even shorter bob. An asymmetrical cut with one side shaved and the other side long. Weaves. My hair now became a canvas, a tool for expression. Black women: for many of us, our hair is our art. It certainly became that for me. Still holding its power, yes, but also very much mine. I still had a bob2relaxer, though. Because it was all I knew. Remember: my hair journey began with it being straight. Prior to that time, I didn’t even care or notice.

Whitney says this on her Instagram post: This was more than a hair cut to me. I NEEDED THIS. I NEEDED to see myself as I felt inside.

Reader. Those words hit me. Because after years and years of experimentation and yet maintaining the straight look that still felt acceptable to me and to the world, I woke up one day and didn’t want straight hair anymore. Can’t explain it. I remember being in that revert/touch-up time and feeling the roots on my scalp and loving how those curls and coils felt against my fingers. And like Whitney said, something was happening inside of me. That prison of low self-esteem and feeling like a zero was losing its hold on me, and somehow, my hair was following along. I wanted to be myself. And I wanted the hair on my head to reflect that. When I told my mother I was returning to mybigchop2 roots, to my natural hair, her excitement was indescribable. “Your natural hair was so beautiful,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re going to see it again.” It reminded me that hearing that her children’s hair was “wild” hit her hard. She had no intention of straightening our hair. But such is life. She was happy the choice became mine.

Says Whitney on IG: It was suffocating and I was no longer someone who needed the extra length, the extra baggage to define her. I DEFINE ME by BEING ME. And just like I no longer wanted to carry MY extra baggage with me into the future, the hair could kick it too. Those words describe my Big Chop in 2012. Shaving my head in 2018. And all the styles and haircuts in between. Women: some of us, a lot of us, hold emotion in our hair. I certainly did. And I continue to do so. It’s no surprise that, while in reflection, I realized that a lot of heartache and disappointments in my life preceded my hairstyles and/or the reduction of length.

Whitney: Also, while yes – it IS just hair, it will always simultaneously be MORE. It’s more than “just hair”. It’s a lot. Art. Emotions. Power. Wherever you are, whoever you are and whatever hairstyle or texture you maintain (because I’m not a guerrilla girl; I returned to natural on my own accord, so do you do you do you):

shine.

That’s the bottom line.

On Harry & Meghan.

If you’re living on this side of Earth, you’ve heard that Harry and Meghan have decided harrymegsto significantly change their status with the royal family. (I won’t link to any articles because, whew chile, the bias.) In other words, H&M want to step back from being senior members of the royal family, become financially independent, and split their time between the UK and North America. I’m here for it. Let them live. Let them also live in a place where they’re not targeted viciously. I support it. The vitriol and abject racism I’ve seen for Meghan in the British media is indescribable. We talked about leveling up, didn’t we? Well, they did and I think it’s a fabulous decision. I won’t even discuss all the fallout and how Piers Morgan is just…no words. Team H&M. (I definitely hope Meghan resurrects her blog, The Tig. Wonderful writing. Wonderful voice.)

In that vein, I wanted to share a ‘lil short story I wrote inspired by the royals and my admiration for the Ginger Prince and his lovely wife. In case you’re wondering, 2020 hasn’t necessarily resurrected my creative writing. But I have hope. Read on, enjoy, and onwards & upwards. For everyone.

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The Queen and the Green

The queen had spinach in her teeth. The offending green vegetable was right there, lodged between her two front teeth for all the world to see. And the world would see it, because after this morning tea, the queen would announce to the free world that her eldest grandson, the prince, was engaged to his troublesome fiancée.

For the record, she, Margie King, was the troublesome fiancée. She was the American commoner, the former executive assistant to the prince’s solicitor, the woman who wore a dress that didn’t even reach her knees when he had first brought her to meet his grandmother. (Never mind that the dress, hastily purchased when he had made her aware of his plans, had shrunk in the wash and was short because of that and not because of some wicked attempt to shock the ruler of 14 countries.) She was also the woman who wanted to alert her soon-to-be grandmother-in-law that there was spinach in her teeth.

It baffled Margie that no one was saying anything. The woman was presiding over a grand, long table, flanked on both sides by various family members and relatives, and no one had the guts or decency to tell her about the spinach. Yes, Margie was aware of the rule that that no one could approach the queen without being summoned or being spoken to first. Clearly, propriety trumped sparing her from humiliation. Even the queen’s husband, the perpetually bored prince who seemed half asleep most of the time, openly observed his wife’s mouth as she spoke, his eyes widening with each word and subsequent presenting of the food in her teeth. Margie was pretty sure that the man wanted to laugh. Unsurprisingly, he, too, said nothing.

Where were her ladies-in-waiting? Did they even call them that anymore? Margie had done about a month’s worth of royalty-related research to prepare for this event, but wasn’t sure if she had read anywhere that ladies-in-waiting still retained that title.

She wanted to tell Frederick about it, to lean over and whisper in his ear that someone needed to help his grandmother. But Frederick was seated about twenty cousins down from her. Someone had muttered “royal protocol” as a reason why they weren’t seated together, but Margie didn’t buy it. She knew it was the queen’s way of prolonging what it would kill her to soon announce—even if that meant temporarily separating her grandson from his fiancée during tea.

She would never forget the queen’s face six months ago, when Frederick declared his intent to marry her. Rage. Confusion. Fear. Nausea. A bit of sadness. Her features twisted up like the worst scene in a horror movie, right before the end comes. Margie had stood off to the side, breathlessly observing a stately sovereign turn into a creature of volleying emotions. Well, the twisted features aside, there were no actual outward emotions being displayed. She had the stiff upper lip reputation to maintain, after all, even if the audience was just four people: Margie, Frederick, the queen herself, and her half-asleep husband.

For a moment, Margie forgot about the spinach and thought about him. Her regard moved from the queen and rested on Frederick (although she could barely see him), her Frederick, the man she didn’t know she had been dreaming of until they met.

It had been raining buckets that evening. Her boss, Mr. Knox, had requested that she stay late to assist with greeting a client that would be arriving after closing time. Margie knew that Knox had high-profile, top-secret clients, some unknown to even her (such as this one) but the image of trudging through the rain and the dark to get to the Tube instantly became that top-secret client’s fault. She intended on being as nonchalantly rude to he or she as possible.  

He had arrived precisely at half past six, calmly entering the lobby as if there weren’t oceans of rainfall and high winds behind him. No one was with him; you’d think the heir to a throne would be trailed by a sea of security detail. That being said, yes, she had immediately recognized him. Who wouldn’t? Everyone knew Prince Freddie, The Prince of All Princes, a title coined by the media. His handsome good looks (in real life, Margie quickly decided that “handsome” as a description was grossly insufficient) and famous girlfriends were well-known and well-reported. Standing up from her desk, she had greeted him—stopping herself from bowing—and led him toward Knox’s office straightaway, as her boss had instructed. “You move quite fast,” he had said from behind her. Margie gulped and turned around, glancing at him. He was smiling, his dark hazel eyes dancing at her. Instead of explaining that rapidly walking was her way of avoiding a royalty-related collapse, she had merely smiled at him in return and said nothing in reply. She doubted that her voice box would work properly anyway.

Much, much later, Margie watched Knox and Frederick speak to one another in hushed tones in the lobby. Their appointment had officially ended but the conversation continued. Margie then wondered if there was some sort of prenuptial agreement in the works; the prevailing rumor was that Frederick was close to proposing to his latest girlfriend, a French actress. Was that why he was there? Did royals even have prenuptial agreements? she then wondered. However, the presence of Mr. Knox now standing by her desk sharply interrupted that line of thought. She stood up. “Yes, Mr. Knox?”

“Our client would feel most welcome if you would allow his driver to take you home,” Knox replied.

Blinking rapidly, she glanced at Frederick, who again smiled warmly at her. “It’s rather awful outside and you’re here late because of me,” he explained. “Ridgely will take you wherever you’d like to go.”

“But…how…?” Her voice trailed off. At the moment, she wasn’t sure how to form a complete sentence.

“Simply say thank you, Ms. King,” Knox instructed under his breath.

Nodding, Margie turned off her computer and grabbed her handbag. After a year with Knox, she had learned to simply move quickly in spite of whatever questions she had about something. She approached Frederick and thanked him for his kindness.

“You’re quite welcome,” he had responded, holding her stare long enough to communicate that perhaps this wouldn’t be their last meeting.

It wouldn’t be. 

“Ms. King,” said Ridgely the driver as he pulled up to her flat in Clapham that rainy evening, “His Royal Highness would like to contact you for dinner later this week if you would like to leave your contact card inside that box next to you.”

His Royal Highness? Dinner? Her contact card?

“Did you leave your card?” her flat-mate, Dory, shrieked after Margie had dazedly informed her of the evening’s events. “Did you, Margie?”

In that moment, Margie’s her mobile phone vibrated in her palm. With wide eyes, she presented the text message on the display to Dory: I hope I’m not being too forward, but you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. 

Many quiet dinners later, he confided in her that the French actress he was dating was a longtime friend from university that had agreed to attend all public events with him. He had long tired of questions about just when he would marry. “It’s exhausting, really, but I’m well aware that it’s the price we pay for this life. I’m hardly complaining,” he had remarked that evening. “They’ll simply have to wait until you say yes to me.”

Margie had nearly choked on her wine.

She gaped at him, waiting for him to continue. He gazed at her meaningfully and reached for her hand. It wasn’t the most romantic venue—Bernie’s Fish and Chips was a few miles from her flat and was the only place they could eat without being mobbed, being that most of the clientele were slightly inebriated, blue-collar blokes who thankfully had no idea who anyone was, much less the future king of their country—but Margie clutched his hand and recognized the moment for what it was.

“Are you asking?” she whispered.

“I’m imploring. Please marry me, Marjorie Lorraine King. I’m quite sure I can’t take it anymore, when you’re not next to me, and I’m also in love with you, so it just won’t do.”

She had laughed as tears cascaded down her face. “You have a way with words, Prince Freddie. You really do.”

He grinned at her. “So? Marry me?”

Margie said yes. Rather, she repeated it.

“It won’t be easy,” Frederick then said. “We’ll have a few mountains to climb: the prying eyes, the press, the questions.”

“The fact that I’m black and you’re white.”

Frederick nodded. “We live in a maddening world, don’t we?”

“Absolutely. But I’m ready for anything, Frederick.” She leaned into his tightened embrace and breathed him in.

“Believe it or not, darling,” he said, “the biggest issue, above all, will be my grandmother.”

Now they sat twenty cousins away from each other, his grandmother baring a portion of spinach in her teeth and everyone remaining silent on the matter. Some of them would likely laugh and wonder why Margie cared so much. Wasn’t the queen the same woman who muttered that she was troublesome when she arrived at the palace with the now discarded above-knee dress? The same woman who regularly leveled Margie with the kind of vicious stare meant for enemies of the kingdom? And yet she was also the same woman who  invited 10 year-old girls from low income areas to tea at the palace two Saturdays a month, something the media didn’t know about. The same woman who sometimes put her head on her half-asleep husband’s shoulder when they were walking around their country home (he was pleasantly surprised each and every time). It was just spinach, but it might as well have been a “Kick Me” sign on her back. Margie had learned about the court of public opinion since her courtship with Frederick had begun. It was the one place the queen had no power over, and no one deserved to be fodder.

The queen then abruptly stood, signaling everyone on both sides of the long table to do the same. It was time to hold the press conference in the Tudor Room. As she smoothed her dress down–brocade, tea-length, and gifted to her by her kind, soon-to-be aunt-in-law–Frederick quickly appeared by her side. “You look beautiful,” he whispered in her ear.

“Thank you. Your grandmother has spinach in her teeth.”

Frederick chuckled. “She knows. She does it on purpose to see who will have the courage to approach her unsummoned and inform her. I’ll be sure to let her know that you said something.”

Stunned, Margie then looked up and found the queen studying her, the latter’s demeanor not quite as stone-faced as it typically was when she placed her attention on her troublesome almost granddaughter-in-law. Her expression seemed…softer? The woman couldn’t hear that far, could she? Did she know that Margie had mentioned the spinach?

“Come, Frederick, Margie. We will be late,” the queen called over to them.

Margie couldn’t even recall when the queen had mentioned her name.

“Onwards,” Frederick said softly, lacing his fingers through hers.

And upwards and everything in between, Margie thought, as she watched the queen begin the processional as the first in line.  

[Not] Writing.

close up of hand holding pencil over white background
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

I haven’t written anything creatively in a long while. Fiction is my thing, my jam. You know that. But it’s been excessively hard for me to hunker and write. I have some suspicions as to why. Let’s talk them over.

  1. No inspo. Like most artists, inspiration is so huge for me. I need that flow, that impetus, that spark that leads to me wanting to sit down and work on something. I haven’t had that in a while. For the record, I personally gain inspiration from the people around me, from visual art, from music, and really anything that germinates into the desire to storytell. And although those things are still around me, nothing is really germinating.
  2. No patience. Lest you believe I’ve abandoned my passion altogether, however, there have been times when I’ve worked on stories…and then I’ve quickly let them go. I don’t know. Something comes over me. I’m moved to action and then the flame quickly goes out. If I understood why that happens, dear reader, perhaps it wouldn’t happen so much.
  3. No… You know how difficult this year has been for me. Maybe this is the fallout. Wanting to find catharsis through writing but not being in a place where I’m ready to go there. I think this particular reason is a strong possibility.

My intention is to find a quiet place somewhere and just allow the muse to do what she does. Maybe a trip to a museum. Or a few days out of town, alone, armed with a notebook and a pen. Something. Because at the end of the day, I miss writing creatively. I miss the excitement that comes from creating. Gotta get back.

Lessons.

affection board broken broken hearted
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This post is inspired by a very moving and honest post on In My Sunday Best, where blogger Sade openly discusses her experience with relationship rejection. Read it and reflect; I appreciated her candor and discussing the inspiring lessons she learned about herself. As I read it, it reminded me so much of my own journey. A journey fraught with rejection.

Before I go on, I want to thank my tried-and-true readers for hanging with me in this little corner of the webverse. I’ve always considered This Square Peg to be an online journal. And in a journal, you talk about the highs (loving my natural hair, my writing, my adventures) and the lows (managing my depression, emotions, and the various disappointments of life). Thanks for supporting your Square Peg through it all, with your comments, your follows, your reading.

My first foray into admitting my feelings for someone and the rejection that came after happened in the 8th grade. At the time, I didn’t necessarily feel rejected; although my declaration of “love” was by no means mutual, I still felt that the object of my affection and I became somewhat friends after all of that. Nevertheless, it started the ball rolling. The combination of movie fantasy, being a romantic (more on that later) and an intense desire to be loved/be in a relationship were usually the catalysts. Despite being a shy girl, something came over me during those moments–being bold and expressing how I felt meant more than anything. Throughout my 20s, it happened time and time again. Meeting a guy, finding myself attracted to him, eventually opening up and telling him how I felt. I continued on despite the pain of rejection; somehow, there was a degree of hope that one day, the person I was meant to be with would cross my path. But hope isn’t steel. Eventually, it all started to affect me: what was so wrong with me? Why didn’t they want me in return?

After this happened, I was officially done. I told myself that even if I was attracted to someone, the weariness on my heart and the embarrassment of putting myself out there with no mutual return were simply things I no longer wanted to risk. I was also suffering from what Sade eloquently described as “rejection as reflection.” Their rejection of me had translated into seeing myself with incredibly negative eyes. Unworthy. Unpretty. The rest. By the time my 30s came along, although I became committed to now loving myself and repudiating that negative self-view, there was no way I was ever going to put myself out there again when it came to relationships and matters of the heart.

These days, I continue to remain stalwart in not approaching a guy with my feelings; I’m fine with the menfolk doing some work. However, I also don’t believe in coyness or not being open if I share his feelings or his interest. I don’t believe in stringing people along. But that man hasn’t shown up.

Yet.

Let’s talk about that word, yet.    

A friend recently described me as a romantic. Deep down, I balked at the description. Something about that word completely turned me off; I imagined treacly women who were hopelessly waiting on fairy tales and other unrealistic, rose-colored wants for a relationship. Sure, I believe in love and in falling in love, but I’m also not naive to the uneasy parts of relationships. I lived in a household when things got all too real, at times. Never doubting that my parents loved each other, I was equally exposed to times when things weren’t so pretty and escape, by all parties, seemed ideal. So being described as a romantic wasn’t my favorite thing. But it’s me, folks. I had to analyze why it put me off so much. See the previous sentences. I associated a romantic nature with a weak nature. Weak and unrealistic and living in a total fantasy world. But that’s unfair. A romantic person who believes in love and wants it for herself can also be a realistic person who has her feet squarely planted on the ground. So yeah, I’m a romantic realist. It is what it is. Thanks to that friend who got me thinking and ruminating.

So, to wrap rejection and the yet in a pretty bow: not allowing my history with rejection to douse me with negativity, cynicism, and a belief that love will never come is something I’m trying to balance. I don’t want to give in to mentally throwing away the idea of love because it hasn’t appeared, or base my feelings on things not working out in my past. Like Sade reasoned, none of those guys were meant for me. Looking back, I can make that statement with absolute certainty.

Share any thoughts you have in the comments.

 

 

Your Elephant, After All.

Dearest reader, last Friday, I published my third book. I seem to favor anthologies and this publication is no different: Your Elephant, After All is my third collection, and this time, it’s poetry. I am exceedingly proud of this book, especially because it was born during a difficult time.

book

As you know, life hasn’t been the easiest for me lately. There have been more downs than ups, but thankfully and prayerfully, I continue to push ahead. Two weeks ago, I was wide awake in the early hours of the day (the requisite 3AM), my mind racing, and decided to find something to read. Somehow, I ended up on the Notes app on my phone and somehow, I ended up reading some of my own poetry. Of course, I had nursed plans for a third book of poetry months and months ago, having created the draft and formatting of the pieces in both written and electronic form. But, owing to my creative ADD, my attention soon went elsewhere.  Enter two weeks ago, 3AM, and a resurrected desire to come back to my temporarily abandoned project.
From then on, I started working on the book almost every evening. The title changed. I edited some, if not all, of the poems. draftThe original idea of 22 poems turned into about 38 pieces. I decided that this would be my first book with photographs. Needless to say, if you’re passionate about anything, the process can be enthralling. As an artist, the creating part is nothing short of breathtaking. And honestly, it helped to take my mind off, well, my mind. Even if that meant just a few hours a day of purposeful activity, the refocused energy was welcomed. After a pretty rapid cycle of work, I was finished last mid-week. By Friday, the book was live on Amazon. Some other details about YEAA:
  1. The title came from one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written and it fit perfectly for the theme of the book. To me, elephants (my longtime favorite animal) represent majesty, melancholy, supremacy, sadness. Basically the two-sided coin of life. And these poems run the gamut of all of those things and more.
  2. This was my first time publishing with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Before KDP, I used CreateSpace, also owned by Amazon; the two have now combined together. It was a fairly easy process. From cover creation (I used my own artwork, but KDP offers plenty of cover choices to pick from) to establishing the price of the book, the process was smooth. General frustrations came from ensuring that pagination and margins and all that were right, but that’s part of creating something visually appealing, so in the end, it was fine.
  3. YEAA is available in paperback only. Note that my first two books were made available in both hard copy and digital, and I’m aware of what’s more popular and convenient. Nevertheless, I really wanted to explore removing the digital book feature as an option and sticking with hard copy only. Being a reader myself that 99% of the time goes with digital, I also still love physical books. Their feel, their gloss, their look. So I went against my own comfort level and decided to try something different with this collection.

I’m really proud of this newest creation. Not only am I expanding my profile as an author, I was inspired to continue to focus on my work and plan for my next offering. It was also refreshing to just be knee deep in words and formatting and pagination and creating–and away from days of being mired in my own endless thoughts. So here’s to insomnia, I think, which started it all.

Lastly, to you, dear reader and supporter of this tiny corner in the blogverse: thank you. Whether or not you buy my book, you’re always here. I’ll take that.