And this is how you make it work…

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It’s the middle of the day on a chili Saturday in Atlanta. Slightly overcast and all feels calm. I’m in the center of the city where it is usually hussling and bussling. Not today. Today it is a peaceful scene. I’m sitting in my favorite restaurant. A cozy café in the heart of the city. Walking through the door means walking back in time. Ella playing on the speakers, soft and gentle, not overbearing. A quiet table in the corner is to be my preferred spot for this most needed date with myself. A tiny vase sits in the center of the table holding a single stem of the sweetest looking flower. This is my perfection. A good book, a great cup of coffee, a little Ella in the background and a great momentary escape.

Life is full of distractions that can quickly kill the romance. This is why many couples either don’t last or just lose their luster. They go for years simply co-existing.  That’s not for me and it will never be us! I am so in love with her and love how it feels to love her so much that I (we) work to protect its constancy and permanent existence. So I sit in this coffee house by myself: regrouping, re-energizing, re-viving myself. And where is she?…respecting my space.

Our days are filled with work responsibilities, school deadlines, PTA functions, kids concerts, parent/teacher conferences, bill paying, family drama, deaths, births, and the list goes on. In the midst of it all, we make it a point not to forget the why and how we came together. So we work on it. We spend quality time together (regular date nights help) and make it a point to allow ourselves some time apart. For as much as we have in common, we have just as much that sets us apart. After all, we are two different people. I enjoy getting my hair done, she likes playing sports or hanging out at the park. I like coffee, she drinks tea. I enjoy reading books, she likes to listen to music. Her guilty pleasures are not mine. So we allow ourselves those differences and give each other space to enjoy them. Just as important however, is appreciating those things together once in a while. We compromise often and it serves us well. Every so often she goes antiquing with me and other times, I brave it out and climb a rock wall or two with her. I love how we challenge each other that way. Focusing on the good things that our differences bring rather than trying to force one to be more like the other. She takes the time to learn my culture and I take the time to learn her’s. She can make a mean pot of “Arroz con habichuelas” and I actually make a decent pot of “greens.” I love the blend that has become “Us.” Today is about the individuality in each. She spends time with her “Ace” and I sit in this coffee house with myself. Later tonight we’ll meet for a date.

Relationships really are not as difficult as most people make them out to be. You just have to step outside of yourself long enough to notice, there is someone else in this relationship with you. Love each other for who you are together but more importantly, who you are apart from each other. Foster those differences; you were attracted to each other for a reason and that includes the things that make you different from each other. Embrace that. Life is full of enough stressors to then add your own fabricated list of must have’s or should be’s. Allow yourself time to miss each other. This will keep you on your toes. Surprise each other. Impromptu lunch dates in the middle of a workday go further than you think. Do something that the other person usually takes care of before they get a chance to tackle it (do the laundry before she gets to it, make dinner if you get home before her).

My sweetheart wrote the book on this and in my world, it is a number one seller! It’s the simple details…she buys me fresh flowers regularly, I leave her love notes in her lunch bag. She surprises me with soft gentle kisses as I cook, I greet her every day with the warmest embrace and kisses on her face.

We only live once folks, make it count! Consider one another and enjoy life as God meant for us to!  With love-

The Fairytale of LIFE

I heard a song the other day that took me back to my day-dream days. Back when I was a young girl often lost in thought thinking of what life would be like when I finally got to grow up. Will I be married? Who will I love? Is it possible to love one person forever? Will I have kids? What will they look like? Will I like the people that they are? Is real happiness how it is in storybooks? Is that real? That song I heard on the radio took me back to all of those questions and many more that often stumbled around in my pondering head. And in that instant, I remembered everything about that young girl. I remembered how it felt when I imagined what love was and what I anticipated life would be like. Almost as quickly as I remembered her I realized; I am one of the lucky few who get to live life just as I imagined it to be.

I think life itself is more like a fairy tale that we care to take notice of. It has it’s drama, it’s heroes, and it even has the occasional villain. The question is, do we take the time to LIVE it, NOTICE it, APPRECIATE it.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of living what I call two lifetimes. I lived one life for the first half of my existence and underwent a rebirth that will take me to the end of my days. I can’t say that I regret either one. My first life allowed me to create two amazing individuals that already add to this world of ours in their own right, but this second life…this second life is my fairytale come to life. Everything I dreamed of as a young girl complete with all the feelings I felt then in anticipation. Life is so much richer when you can truly appreciate the simple things in the blessings that surround us each and every day rather than focus on what we lack. I choose not to focus on the fact that I am not rich or that I don’t have the perfect shape. I choose not to notice the many less than favorable aspects of my life or who I am. Instead, I like to focus on the fact that watching my kids play their instruments in school functions fills my heart. I choose to focus on the fact that my daughter’s kindness and philanthropic spirit are awe-inspiring. Or that my son’s level of intellectual ability leaves me thinking, “ I created him?” I also choose to focus on the fact that my life partner is the perfect balance to my often out of sorts approach to life. That after three years together, she can still make my knees weak and butterflies dance in my stomach just from entering the room. I choose to focus on the fact that I have had the presence of mind to know that I have been blessed and to live in that reality long enough to not take those things for granted. I focus on nurturing what I have in order to protect my “Happily Ever After.”

And so, as the song on the radio ends, so does the momentary flashback. And in its wake, it leaves behind a trickled smile that lasts for days; for I have arrived!

The Proposal

It was a cool evening, a perfect 68° degrees outside when she asked me out for a walk. And as we walked we carried on a sweet conversation about our busy days and how we both look forward to moments such as these. She is my favorite form of decompression after a long and hectic day. We walked along the sidewalk in a familiar path toward the gazebo that quietly sits atop the gardens across the street from the home we share. She asked if we could sit and chat for a bit. I noticed the flickering light and felt we were walking into someone else’s quiet time, so I tugged at her for us to go back. Something slowly built up around my heart as she gently continued to pull my hand telling me to go on. “It’s ok,” she said. As we got closer I came to recognize the candles from our “Zen” room. I thought, “Sweet as always” here she was surprising me with another date night. She pressed ‘play’ on the already cued player and our song began serenade us. I had to fight back the tears even then but little did I know. She talked to me about forever, talked about our forever. She asked if I ever doubted that she has always known what she wanted. I told her how my only doubts came from recognizing how amazingly rare she is, how I felt humbled by the thought that she would chose plain little old me. I nearly lost all feeling in my legs as I saw her kneeling down before me. I honestly think I forgot to breathe. She told me she never again wanted me to doubt for one second that I am what she’s wanted and the one she wants to be with forever. And with those words she simply said, “Will You Marry Me.”  I did forget to breathe and in that moment I couldn’t make myself remember how. I couldn’t even speak and so, I cried. Quiet tears made their way down my face and in a whisper I finally said, “Yes!” She slipped a ring on my finger, I buried my face in her neck, and for what seemed like forever we held each other tight.

It was a little while before we made our way back home. I hadn’t even thought of what my ring looked like. I was still trying to get feeling to return to my legs and get back to breathing normally, when we finally made it home. She said the ring was a very special one and so we sat down as she introduced me to my new sparkly friend. She is a custom, hand-made, ebony beauty with pearl inlay and solitaire diamond in the center. I fell in love. I fell in love with this ring that made me feel so special and fell in love with her all over again for thinking so highly of me that she would go to such lengths. I feel loved and now I get to spend the rest of my life showing her the same. Here is to a lifetime of love!

Till next time…I’m off to plan a wedding!

A Special Place

A Special Place

Atlanta is home to one of the most diverse communities in this great country of ours. Typically, you move to this city (finding a native Atlantan these days is like finding buried treasure) and you will find that it’s people are welcoming and just all around affirming. Here in Atlanta anyone can feel free to be who they are and we will love them for it. That is until, you step into a little niche found within the neighborhood of Druid Hills. A place now known to some and as the ‘stepford’ wanna be ‘twilight zone’ of the “A.”

Druid Hills is a sweet looking little place nestled in the city of Decatur. It sits quietly, just outside the hustle and bustle of tall skyscrapers and harried commuters. It is a safe haven just outside this great metropolis that is Atlanta. Driving through you’ll see the typical signs of suburban life; mom’s strolling about pushing baby carriages, folks jogging along trails of horticultural masterpieces, dog’s playing with their human families on the well manicured lawns. It is regular Norman Rockwell kind of stuff. Druid Hills has so much to offer but, there is a little gem, within that indisputably lovely little place that makes Druid Hills just that much more special.  It is known as The Frazer Center.

Every town in every city has a number of academies and schools.  Druid Hills is no different. What is different is that in this affluent area of private schools and prep academies also lies one of the greatest learning environments this city has to offer. The Frazer Center is an inclusive learning environment that offers vocational training to adults with special needs and a rich education for preschool children at all levels of ability or disability. The center was founded in 1949 by a couple who had been disheartened to find that very little was available in terms of early education for their own child who had Cerebral Palsy. Though the Frazer Center started in the basement of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in 1952 the center was relocated to where it stands today.  Through the years the center has grown and expanded in so many ways. The center began to offer services to adults with disabilities in the 80’s and in the 90’s a beautiful garden was added. The center has continued to evolve and serve the community in immeasurable ways. Much like the center has changed, so has the neighborhood surrounding it. Beautiful homes were erected throughout the perimeter of the Frazer Center’s lush grounds and the small enclave known as Druid Hills grew to the picturesque small utopia that we see today.

Utopia would be the perfect word to describe this a area of Druid Hills if we could base the truth on mere appearances. The reality however is a sad one. See, all of those beautiful homes that popped up all around the center serve as dwelling to a group of citizens who are not at all impressed with the Frazer Center, what it has meant to a great number of families or what it continues to do for those who really depend on it’s existence. I must clarify, I do not imply that every homeowner of Lake Claire shares this sentiment but the handful that does have made quite an impact. For some time now residents of Lake Claire have all but declared war on the Frazer Center. It seems that those pesky special transportation buses have posed a danger to the neighborhood of magnanimous proportions. To hear the feedback from the “select few” neighbors one would think those busses are more like torpedoes barreling down their perfect roads just aiming for unsuspecting victims to demolish in it’s path. The “select few” have brought up a number of concerns and have caused such a ruckus in getting those concerns heard that this non-profit special needs center has been forced to spend an obscene amount of money to defend its right to be there. To say that this is a sad situation is an understatement of monumental proportions.

There is enough by way of research on the subject to find that at the onset of the issues the neighbors may very well have had some legitimate concerns, however since the disputes have gained steam, the arguments have become less compelling and the neighbors of Lake Claire firmly secured a place in the Ogres Hall of Fame! Time is their weapon and bullying is their ammo. They sit at the back gate of the center watching each and every car that goes in and out of the center. They log every little detail and write letters of complaint to all who’ll listen about it. There actually is a woman who apparently has enough time on her hands to whip out her RADAR GUN and literally clock the speed of cars as they drive by. At this point, honestly, will anyone care about the concerns and see any validity in what these neighbors have to say? From where I stand, these “select few” now look less like concerned citizens and more like suburban bullies. They make demands almost on a daily basis and as much as those demands are addressed by the center, it is never enough. The center has had to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars (did I mention this is a non-profit program) no only to pay attorneys to defend them and their right to be there but they have also made numerous modifications in order to address the neighbor’s concerns good faith. Anything and everything that the Frazer Center can do to alleviate the situation has been done. The only thing left would be to close its doors. Personally, I think that is the outcome that the “select few” are aiming for and I don’t believe they will rest until they get it. My question is, why? Why have they sunk their teeth into this center which has been there much longer than most of them have? What is the outcome that will finally allow this center to get back to what it was created to do: serve special families in the community? When will the center be able to use their resources to purchase much needed special needs equipment instead of wasting it away in defense of their right to be there?

I believe that the Frazer Center is a very special place; a place of selfless devotion to the care of the flourishing futures of special children and adults. I also believe in another special place.  I believe in a special place for people who pick on the weak; a special place for those who have a selfish disregard for others. A special place for those who lack the diplomacy to express themselves or meet their own needs without decimating the needs of others.

Some Resources:

VirginiaHighland-DruidHillsPatch Residents, parents, discuss frazer center traffic issues http://vahi.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/residents-parents-discuss-frasier-center-traffic-issues

http://www.lakeclaire.org/wpsite/2013/05/a-request-from-the-frazer-center/

http://www.eavbuzz.net/forum/off-leash/need-help-legislation-to-block-frazer-center-bus-service/

A Cultural Experience

There is so much that I admire about the African American culture. It is an indisputable fact that this is a culture of copious strength and virtue. I have come to know this through my interactions with friends and their families in the past but recently I have had the pleasure of living it for myself. My partner is an African American woman from a deeply rooted family. As our relationship grew so did our connection to each other’s family. Her parents treat me like another daughter and her siblings routinely call me “sis”. It is not lost on me that I am privileged to be welcomed into this tightly knit fold that is The Family.

The African American culture as it is known today has evolved through the years yet much has remained the same for centuries. Family has always been a paramount aspect of who they are and reverence of elders is a very essential part of that. Family reunions are a regular occurrence and big Sunday dinners are quite the routine. Recently I had the honor of taking part in a family reunion. I have to say that it was an unforgettable experience for me. Fish fry on Friday, picnic on Saturday were just some of the things that I had always heard of and just now got to experience. Sounds silly to some perhaps but it was meaningful for me. There were folks who had not seen each other in years and others who had actually never met. The tie that bound them all was family and that was a palpably strong tie felt throughout the entire weekend. The most memorable thing for me, as the outsider welcomed in, was just that; the welcoming. As soon as I was introduced and it was known what my connection was to the family, enough said. To be part of so much love and affection among people who rarely saw one another was humbling.

As I mentioned earlier, the elders are revered in this culture and that was certainly the case in this experience. There was always a place of veneration for them whether it was the head table at the main functions or the comfy couches prominently placed near the activities. Whatever the location, the sovereignty was there. Recognizing this makes me all the more humbled by the connection that I have come to build with my partner’s Family, especially her grandmother. I met her years ago when my partner took me back to her hometown. I remember feeling nervous about meeting her family for the first time. During that trip, I sat and listened to her grandmother talk about days gone by and tell stories about the family. I loved listening to her. I loved watching how her grown children still behaved as that, her children. This is something that I have found to be quite characteristic of the African American culture. A continued respect regardless of the age or status in life. That experience allowed me to see first hand how deeply held are the values of African American families. And now here we were, family reunion time and having vicariously developed the same values, I eagerly looked forward to seeing grandma again. The best part of it is, it seems she was just as excited to see me. As my partner walked up to her grandmother and gently kissed her cheek ‘hello’ grandma’s first words were, “where’s Liz?” My heart was full I saw her face light as up as she saw me come to her. Now I understood what it felt like to have the most respected family member acknowledge you. Just another dimension of the family values of African American families.

I have come to experience the closeness that African American families are known for. I have come to learn first hand what makes a family strong and deeply connected. I am very aware that my own lineage is not what allows me the privilege of this knowledge but the warm and open-heartedness of a people who haven’t always experienced the same unconditional regard from others. Despite the painful history, African Americans have continued to be strong, loving, tight knit, family oriented folks unwavering in their ways.  I am blessed to now consider myself a part of that.

Sincerely,

The honorary Inductee J

Indescribably Her’s

Her spirit is as gentle as the echo of a whisper

her presence as commanding as the roar of a thousand lions.

She speaks volumes without uttering a single word

and in half a smile she’s hooked you in.

The strength of who she is holds no measure

with wisdom as rare as the bluest of moons

to know her is to know the feel of a long and warm embrace

and to be loved by her goes beyond the expression of any words.

She touches you and you are lost

Unrecognizable to anyone, you melt into her beckoning

And with the sweetest glance she owns you

Whatever the price to be her’s is what you’ll pay.

Her gaze is striking and yet it is ever so sweet

She has no need for superfluous expressions

What she must say is expressed quite clearly

In the simple gesture of her reaching for you.

And so to her you go, sliding into her grasp

your composition changing, however slowly,

you meld into her soft authority and in that act

you have become what she orchestrated you to be.

Indescribably her’s….