SPOTLIGHT CORNER RETURNS with @Sheswrite

After a three month hiatus, I am proud to bring back SPOTLIGHT CORNER!  My first featured guest is Melanie Coffee Hesselberg AKA @sheswrite.  I met Melanie on Twitter and I discovered we had a few things in common like: she’s African-American, she is in an interracial marriage, she is a mother, she is a blogger, she resides in Chicago (where my family so proudly hailed before they moved to San Francisco), and she has experienced something that I experience everyday in my local community being the wife of a caucasian man.

Melanie wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on August 25, 2011 called My On-Again-Off-Again Relationship With White People that forever in my heart made her my kindred spirit.  I want to be clear. This piece is NOT a piece of work that incites racism or hatred, it merely looks at Melanie’s experiences form her perspective as one half of an interracial couple and her experiences as an African-American woman.  The flurry of feedback on the piece really gave me pause to think about my own experiences with both my husband and my own friends in terms of race relations.  Her piece inspired me to have real life conversations about how I felt and what i hoped and dreamed for in terms of equality for my children. I could go on and on, but then you would never hear what Melanie has to say about blogging and when you are done reading this piece, I highly encourage you to click the links in this post to get to know her better.

So with no further introduction …

There’s a scary thing about blogging. At least for me there is. It’s the people who read it. I know, I know it sounds ridiculous. But I’m a writer. I write to write, not necessarily to be read.

Esoteric? Perhaps, but it’s how I feel. So when I blog, I try to write without thinking of being read. In my job as a journalist I’m always thinking about the reader, trying to convey the facts objectively so that people can draw their own opinions and not simply digest what *I* think.  This requires examining all phrasings to consider whether they can be misunderstood.

With blogging, I put my fingers on the keyboard and just go. Clickety-clack-clack away. This past summer I was approached by an editor at The Huffington Post to write for their BlackVoices section. My first response: YIKES! On my personal blog I could whirr away at whatever I wanted, now writing about something as sensitive and personal as race to such a wide audience. Naturally, I figured I’d be an idiot to say no, but  beyond the “yes,” what would I say?

I was talking this over with my friends and finally settled on my relationships with white people.  To stay true to my “voice” I tried to write just for myself. I tried not to think of how many people would read my post, what they might think. I simply wrote.

When it was posted, it stirred up an amazing response. I got about 400 comments and it was an eye-opening conversation on race. I think that the comment section was more interesting than the piece. The response ranged from the racist, to the white people who said: “I’m trying to understand” to people who called me racist. When some of the negative comments started pouring in, I wondered, do I respond? Of course the first reaction is to defend yourself.  My husband advised me to wait a bit.

I did and I’m glad. Evenutally I decided not to respond to any of them. I figured that above the comment section I said what I had to say and below my writing was where people could have their say. It’s a line I decided not to cross. And I’m glad I didn’t.

It was good to get people talking about race. I know of a few educators who passed this piece along to their high school and college students as a way of opening up the conversation. My Facebook page also had a good back-and-forth about it. I was really humbled by the response and how it helped start honest discussions.

We need more of those, especially when it comes to issues such as race.

All of this goes back to what inspired me to become a journalist. I wanted to help break down barriers and for me, that’s to do that through educating people. Teaching them something whether it’s a quick walk in my shoes, those of the Chicago superintendent, a single mom on welfare or a stroke survivor. Opening our hearts and minds to each other to foster more understanding.

I think I’m getting a little too esoteric again. Nevertheless, I suppose that’s why I like to blog. It’s writing to write.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing the SPOTLIGHT CORNER Melanie!

Melanie can be contacted at:

Her Blog: http://www.sheswrite.net

Email: sheswrite9@gmail.com

Twitter: @sheswrite

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Sending My Love To You (Did I mention this is a list of things I love about me?)

A girlfriend of mine (She-She) asked me to write five things that I love about myself and I decided to publish it as a reminder to myself of just how many ways that I am loved and I am a reflection of self-love for my children and friends:

Dear Me,

Here is the things that I love about me:

1.  My Faith in GOD ~ I am faithful to GOD and his plan for my life.  It has not been easy to follow or accept GOD’s plan but it has always guided me down the appropriate road for my benefit.

2.  My Open Heart ~ I love my open heart.  So many things have happened that could have easily made me harden my heart but I didn’t allow it to close me off from people or to close my heart to new people, places or experiences.

3.  My Determination ~ To look into myself and discover and unravel all of the layers of me. The un-perfect layers that have melted together to become the me that I am today, in spite of the me that I was yesterday.  My determination to review my life with accepting eyes and through a lens that allows for human errors, human tragedy and self-acceptance has been the key to living a healthy life with PTSD for me.  Sure, I still stumble and fall from time to time — but I do not collapse like I previously used to when situations occur that trigger my PTSD.

4.  My Willingness to Help Others ~ I take pleasure in helping others.  I have been so blessed by the people who have helped me in all aspects of my life and I know it is a privilege to help others!

5.  My Creativity ~ I truly know how to make lemonade when lemons are thrown at me.   Lemonade is my way of making the best out of unpleasant circumstances, it’s a way of stretching resources and getting positive/negative energy out of me.  My creativity helps me express myself in ways that I may never verbalize.  I quilt to tell a story with fabric.  I write to vent, to tell my truth, to tell how I desire something to be and to help others that may struggle as I have struggled.

This exercise took me about 1 hour to write.  It is very short but I honestly struggled to think of things I love about me, mostly because I have never been encouraged to make such a proclamation.  This my Valentine’s Day gift to myself.  This my proclamation of self-love!  If you are reading this and you have never done this before I highly encourage you to do so!

Here is your challenge:

Name five things that you love about you!

Write it down, shout it out to the world, toot your own horn, because if you don’t who will?

Love,

Sammie

Reflection on Happiness

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
Dalai Lama

Happiness is not a fleeting moment that can be captured in a mason’s jar. Happiness is a conscious choice. I believe that to be the case. It’s kind of like mind over matter. I say this after experiencing some of the best and worse times in my life.

As I sit here enjoying yet another day, which will be filled with blessings, I reflect on the choice that I am making to be happy, regardless of the bumps and bruises that I will encounter today. I am cognizant that I am making this choice without the aid of the anti-anxiety medication that I have used for the past six months to help me deal with PTSD and frankly I am okay with that!

Today I choose to be happy. Yes, I said CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY! I choose to be happy because happiness is really my choice. I can choose to dwell on the negative or positive things in my life and right now I am choosing happiness!

There have been so many negative and bad things going on lately but they can not be allowed to outweigh the good and positive things that continue to surround me and bring me joy. I read a brief about the Happiness Project book and I have to admit I was truly inspired to put it into practice in my daily life. So without further adieu:

My Twelve Personal Commandments of Happiness

1. Let it go! (The bitterness of the past arguments, fights and life’s disappointments will only continue to cause problems in the future if I don’t let go of my anger, bitterness and resentment.)

2. Do it now. (There is no time like the present. If I don’t do it, I can’t count on anyone else to do it!)

3. Doing something everyday just for me. (It’s important to take care of my own needs especially since I spend my days taking care of so many other people’s needs — especially my children’s needs first.)

4. Treating others as I desire to be treated. (This really requires me to reflect on item number one so that I can react to people differently.)

5. Enjoying the process. (Too many times I am over-scheduled with too many things that I don’t want to do but I am required to do because of the kids activities. I know I should enjoy things more especially when I see that my kids are enjoying it. I need to take time to remember it’s not always about the end results it’s the process of getting there as well.)

6. Being more open with others. (No longer hiding behind my kids, insecurities to inform others that I can’t participate in things due to lack of money. My family is not the only family dealing with an economic crisis. Sharing my true and honest feelings about things instead of withdrawing from friends and loved ones.)

7. Purging. (Ridding myself of the clutter in my mind, heart, body, closet and house. Things bog me down. Be it purging the things in my mind: ie.. fears, doubts, anger, confusion, desires. Be it purging the things in my home ie… the clutter of holding on to things that are no longer relevant in my life. Purging “things” that create confusion is now a necessity that must go high up on my list of things to do. When there is too much of everything and that feeling of utter confusion occurs, I know it is time to purge because if I don’t it will lead to chaos. Nothing more needs to be said about that.)

8. Venture out into new pastures. (Trying new things, new foods, new friends, immersing into new cultures. Develop a new skill set, try a new job, volunteer for something that will allow me to learn something new.)

9. Decide to have it ALL! (Stop selling my hopes and dreams short and settling for less than I deserve by making the decision to say, “I can’t do that.” I can do anything that I put my mind into figuring out. However, I can’t do it all at one time and I must discern the difference. There will be times in my life where I can dedicate some time and energy to being the best at something else. I need to stop feeling like, if I’m tied up with one thing right now that it means I can’t do specific things. I just need to be patient and know my time is not GOD’s time!)

10. Conquering my fears. (Accepting the unknown and understanding that whatever happens is the way that it was supposed to be.)

11. Honoring my temple. (Listening to myself and my body.)

12. Be grateful. (Being grateful in all things at all times for the lessons that I will learn.)

What will your commitment to happiness be in 2012?

Song of the Week — WTF by Elle Varner

Ever had one of those kinds of days where you throw up your hands and say WTF (What the f*%^)? Well then you can totally identify with my current vibe. I am just 6 weeks out post-op and still having some troubles with digesting my food, not feeling a 100%, I have a garage full of boxes that still needs to be unpacked or otherwise disposed of and I just don’t have the mental or physical energy to deal with it.

I woke up with another song in mind for today but since my girl crush (Elle Varner) snuck into town last night, performed at Ruby Skye and dropped a Mixtape CD this morning, I had to get my grove on and test out the eagerly anticipated songs.

Much to my delight — CONVERSATIONAL LUSH does not disappoint and this song in particular titled WTF, just kinda captured my mood today. It captured the irony I am currently calling my life and although the circumstances of her song are unlike any that I have experienced before, I am still sitting here contemplating WTF!

WTF am I gonna do to get my “get up and go” back? WTF am I gonna do with my future, am I really gonna stop teaching and settle for an office job? WTF? I am really not sure what’s gonna happen but right now I am gonna enjoy the ride and sing along until the dust settles!

Have you ever felt like life on the road less traveled is full of bumps and bruises that are insurmountable? How did you manage to get through? I am choosing humor and music. How about you?

20 Things I’ve Done In My Life ~ Gratitude Journal

GRATITUDE JOURNAL ENTRY #1 for 2012

I have had a great forty+ years of living and I’ve done some pretty awesome things. There are tons more I’d love to do, but this is not a bad list of my top twenty life highlights for my gratitude journal!

1. Married to a wonderful man.

2. Completed my Masters Degree just before I turned 40 years old.

3. Became a Certified Meeting Planner.

4. Gave birth to amazing children.

5. Became a Soccer Mom.

6. Traveled to: Paris, France.

7. Went Parasailing in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

8. Sang a solo in front of 3000 at a conference.

9. Walked in a 5k race.

10. I was told by my favorite author, Mr. E. Lynn Harris (R.I.P.) “You have the name of an author!”

11. Danced the night away until I had blisters on my feet.

12. Saved someone’s life by performing CPR.

13. Rescued two children out of a burning apartment.

14. Raised $300,000 to renovate a preschool.

15. Voluntarily read through the entire bible.

16. Had an article published in a magazine.

17. Breast Cancer Survivor.

18. Rape Survivor.

19. Written a book on helping children who suffer from the impact of trauma that is currently being edited for publishing in the Summer of 2012.

20. Made the decision to take back my life and get healthy!

Wonder — Dedicated to #BlogHer11 Attendees and Us Here at Home

Everybody has a story. Our story is about: our experiences, our families, our triumphs, our challenges, our reactions to the daily occurences in our lives. We are Bloggers, more specifically we are BlogHers! We support each other, learn from each other, and encourage each other.

Our stories are full of wonder. The wonder of who we are, what will we become, why will we become that way, where will our lives lead us and when will we know that we have become the person we’re destined to become. We prod along, learning, striving, living, existing and being the magnificent wonders that we are. One day we meet and share our stories online and become a unique member of a sisterhood/brotherhood that share similar experiences but seen through our own perspective. We are wonders now connected through thoughts, words, exchanges, and computers until a wonderful event like BlogHer happens. BlogHer is place to physically meet the people that we have shared our lives with online, a conference to celebrate the wonder of who we have become and to make tangible the connections that we have made through our blogs.

I thought of this song today as I am siting at home thinking of the friends I’ve met this last month that are at BlogHer11. I celebrate each of you that are attending and those that could not for whatever reason! Our stories are powerful, our lives are truly full of wonder, and our laughter heals the world.

Enjoy BlogHer11 Ladies. I will meet you at BlogHer12 in NYC next year and in the meantime I’ll see you here online!

Love,

Sammie

***********

“Wonder” Lyrics by Natalie Merchant

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask intimate questions
Want confessions
They reach into my head
To steal the glory of my story

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

People see me
I’m a challenge to your balance
I’m over your heads
How I confound you and astound you
To know I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as you can see you can offer me
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

You don’t get to tell me WHO I can be anymore!

This is the August 1, 2011 writing prompt from The Red Dress Club called Mentors. Unfortunately I was unable to link up but I wanted to post this anyway.

*********************************************

One of my favorite books is by Loraine Hansberry — that’s right it’s TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED, AND BLACK.

When was younger I used to call this the triple wammy! I was too young to understand that I needed to work harder than others in order for others to recognize my talents because of my color. I didn’t understand why my 2nd grade classmate couldn’t play with me anymore because her mother told her that “blacks were stupid and dirty.” I couldn’t comprehend that in my young mind how someone would think that I was stupid when I had skipped a grade to be in that 2nd grade class! I was devastated that my friend wouldn’t play with me anymore but I had an amazing teacher, who was angry enough about my experience to include a classroom lesson about how Americans differences make our country stronger! This may not seem impressive today but I assure this was quite controversial in the early 70’s and it was not a part of the state standards on curriculum.

Mrs. S. introduced us to all kinds of authors, who were all nationalities and paraphrased their biographies or autobiographies to explain to us what it was like in “their” AMERICA, and when she read from TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK something touched me.

I loved Ms. Hansberry’s story and I continue to be inspired by her daily! There have been so many times in my life when have doubted my own talent, diminished my own gifts in order to make others feel better about themselves or just surrendered my power knowing I didn’t have the confidence to follow through with my decisions because of my inexperience. But as I look back on those experiences, I reflect on how much I’ve grown, the confidence I’ve gained, and I proudly proclaim to those who doubt me or question my abilities — “You don’t get to tell me who I can be anymore”. I have surpassed the expectations of many people in spite of my age, gender, economic status and life circumstances.

Because of Mrs. S.’s care, love and “teaching outside of the box”, I am a confident, resilient, intelligent woman. I am an advocate for change and tolerance among Americas youth and I too am a TEACHER!

Thank you Mrs. S. for teaching me that I am blessed to be YOUNG GIFTED AND BLACK!

Post script:
You may wonder if my friend and me ever made up. Mrs. S. made sure that that happened. In fact, we all reconnected last year via the telephone when we found out that our beloved teacher is now suffering from a brain tumor.

Best Thing I Never Had — 7/31/11

This song is just the best thing since sliced bread!

How many times have you looked back in our life and remember something was just so painful that you thought you would die. Perhaps it was young love that ended prematurely in your eyes and you wished you had died when it was over. The beautiful thing about those experiences are they are the PAST! You grew up and you got over it. It wasn’t easy but you lived through those moments and they became hours. Those hours became days and those days became weeks. Those weeks became months and your heart healed as those months became years and you realized that the very thing you thought would break you, gave you the strength to go forward.

Its funny how the things we just had to have in our youth often turn out to be the BEST THING WE NEVER HAD!

BEST THING I NEVER HAD — lyrics
What goes around comes back around (hey my baby)
What goes around comes back around (hey my baby)
What goes around comes back around (hey my baby)
What goes around comes back around (hey my baby)

There was a time
I thought, that you did everything right
No lies, no wrong
Boy I, must’ve been outta my mind
So when I think of the time that I almost loved you
You showed your ass and I saw the real you

Thank God you blew it
Thank God I dodged the bullet
I’m so over you
So baby good lookin’ out

[Chorus]
I wanted you bad
I’m so through with it
Cuz honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had
You turned out to be the best thing I never had
And I’m gon’ always be the best thing you never had
I bet it sucks to be you right now

So sad, you’re hurt
Boo hoo, oh, did you expect me to care?
You don’t deserve my tears
I guess that’s why they ain’t there
When I think that there was a time that I almost loved you
You showed your ass and I saw the real you

Thank God you blew it
Thank God I dodged the bullet
I’m so over you
Baby good lookin’ out

[Chorus]

I wanted you bad
I’m so through with it
Cuz honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had
I said, you turned out to be the best thing I never had
And I’ll never be the best thing you never had
Oh baby I bet sucks to be you right now

I know you want me back
It’s time to face the facts
That I’m the one that’s got away
Lord knows that it would take another place, another time, another world, another life
Thank God I found the good in goodbye

[Chorus]
I used to want you so bad
I’m so through it that
Cuz honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had
You turned out to be the best thing I never had
And I will always be the, best thing you never had.
Best thing you never had!

I used to want you so bad
I’m so through it that
Cause honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had
Oh you turned out to be the best thing I never had
Oh I will never be the best thing you never had
Oh baby, I bet it sucks to be you right now

Goes around, comes back around
Goes around, comes back around
Bet it sucks to be you right now
Goes around, comes back around
Bet it sucks to be you right now
Goes around, comes back around
Bet it sucks to be you right now

The Photo Session of Sammie Love (#trdc)

I entered my favorite local hotel with my bags. Checked in, and entered my room. My nerves were beginning to get the best of me. I pulled out the champagne bottle and strawberries that were set up in the room to try to relax.

Knock, knock, knock!

I breathed deeply and thought ‘What am I doing?’

I went to open the door for Chloe and Margo and my heart was palpitating.

“Hi Darlin’,” Chloe squeeled, as she gave me a huge hug and a kiss. Her hand lightly touched my hair and the room suddenly turned electric. “This is Margo but her friends call her Voila!”

Chloe, Margo and me spent the next three hours together with a camera, lights, and make-up creating The Naughty Girl Session Of Sammie Love, a set of intimate photos as a gift for my husband and a final picture entitled Embracing My Scars, which was used as a photo for an article that I’d written about being a rape and breast cancer survivor.

“Smile for me Sammie!” Click.

“Tell your hubby to come here!” Click.

“Make me wonder what you are thinking right now.” Click.

What Chloe revealed through her camera was the beautiful me that I had never really seen. This version of me was youthful, carefree, brilliant, sensual and sexy. I hadn’t seen that image of myself in quiet some time. I’d lost her after getting caught up in my life as a survivor, wife, mother, friend, employee, student, boss, writer, parent advocate, champion of children and lover of all things sweet!

The beautiful woman that Chloe captured on film was the woman that I was rediscovering on a daily basis, and this woman had spent years caring for others but finally decided to make it a priority to take care of herself.

When the Naughty Girl Photo Session of Sammie Love ended, I had bonded with two new friends, discovered the sensual woman that was hidden deep within me, and I walked away with one hundred and five: fabulous, amazing, sensual, thought provoking, reflective pictures that captured moments of my life for myself and my husband. I am inspired by my photos daily and the photo in the header is one of my favorites. Special thanks to Chloe Jackman and Margo Cristein of Lovely Me Photography – San Francisco www.lovelymephotography.com for helping me find my sexy!