From Soldier of War to Children’s Author – Vera Harris

I find women veterans fascinating. Women all over the country have been raising their collective voices in the #metoo campaign, sharing stories of sexual violation. From Harvey Weinstein to Bill Cosby, we are seeing evidence of how years of protected patriarchy leaves women vulnerable to abuse. So, there is something powerful about a woman soldier. Vera Harris is a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army having earned the distinguished honor of being the first female Command Sergeant Major to serve in an Armored Cavalry Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Vera has taken on a different battle in her retirement from the armed forces; that of an author of children’s books. I had the honor of interviewing her recently.

Why do you write children’s books?

I was inspired by my grandson to write children’s picture books because I wanted not only my grandson but other children to develop a love for reading. I enjoy reading. I have been a reader all my life and I noticed that my grandson struggled with reading. So, I decided to write easy sight words so that kids like him could develop the courage to read (and) would enjoy what reading brings. Reading will help them develop into leaders and productive citizens. In my experience, most readers are great leaders and introducing children to the art of reading will help kids become great leaders in school, in their communities and in their circle of friends.

What impact do you hope your books will have on others?

The main impact that I hope my books will have on others to encourage young children to enjoy and develop a love for reading books so that the love of books will follow them into adult life.

What was the biggest obstacle to you becoming an author and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest obstacles to becoming an author is writing books that will engage young minds. I am learning more from veteran authors, from training, and conferences that specialize in helping authors improve their writing. I write from experience and from my imagination, so I am constantly working on books that will open up children’s imagination as well.

What should we expect from Vera Harris in the future?

I am excited about the future! I am currently working on my fourth children’s picture book which will be released in 2018. And since becoming a published author, I have been invited to speak at some events. I am enjoying and learning so much on this journey!

From defending our freedom as Americans to championing literacy for children, Ms. Harris is a true American Hero. You can connect with Ms. Harris by the following:

Happy Reading by Vera Harris

Vera Harris
Vera Harris of Happy Reading by Vera

Amazon.com/author/veraharris

Happy Reading by Vera – Facebook

Instagram: @vharris5413

Twitter: @vharris5413

A Most Powerful Prayer

There was a season in my life when I felt like a lioness spiritually.  I could check several things of of my how to be righteous checklist. My prayer game was strong. Check. I had completed reading the entire bible. Check. I paid my tithes on time. Check. My life was so full. I had church, singing, school, family, and friends.  No idle time for the devil to make a playground of.

I was truly asking, believing, and receiving. Feeling self-assured, I decided to ask a bold prayer:

  1. God reveal to me those who are not for me.

It was a prayer that I felt I already knew the answer to. At the time, I naively, believed that I had no enemies. To me knowledge, I had not mistreated anyone. So, I expected nothing to happen.  And then something happened. People started to fall away from my life. I am talking about folk who I thought were my day ones, my ride-or-dies. I look back on it and wonder – wow. It was swift and exact like a two-edged sword.

God will answer your prayers so be careful what you ask. Your frame of mind matters. Ask from a pure heart and not spiritual arrogance, as was my case.

I am older now. I have gone through a process of forgiving, even when the the person has not acknowledged or asked for forgiveness. I realize that Christ has forgiven, and keeps forgiving me without adding each offense to my account. Isn’t that a beautiful thing – grace? All of it stems from God’s love for me. It is infinite and complete. One of my goals in life is to love completely.

Image result for dorothy wizard of oz road

Twenty years older and wiser, I have decided to edit that prayer. I now pray:

  1. God reveal to me those who truly love me.

The good people God allows in our life are a gift. I don’t want to overlook anyone in my life who may be feeling unappreciated. Like Dorothy in Oz, we can spend our lives on an a wistless journey to find favor of impotent wizardly friends. People who we feel that if we can garner their favor they can provide access to some secret loyalty or treasure that has been kept from us. Family and friends – these are the true treasures of life. If you have people who truly love you, you are rich.

 

A Strange Thanksgiving Ritual

The candied corn has not even grown stale and Christmas decorations are all over Indy. The lights have been strung from the top of Monument Circle. Christmas music is playing on radio stations.

Attention people! You will put some RESPEK on Thanksgiving.

Image result for respect thanksgiving

And, why not? In our materialistic and selfie-driven world, Thanksgiving allows us to focus on so many people and trappings we take for granted.  It is the time of year in which we are advised to make a list of things for which we are grateful. Some familiar tropes come to mind;  family, employment, home, safety, the usual suspects.

For an unusual ritual, how about being grateful for the issue that causes you the most angst. What is it that you must overcome to be faithful to the thing you love?

I was an avid reader as a child. I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I remember a family friend gave me free access to his bookcase. I selected the thickest set of books I could find. It was Victor C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic series. As an adult, I understand that this not exactly classic literature. Each book was over 400 pages and I saw completely each one as a challenge.  Those tales intrigued and frightened me. Words on a page could elicit such strong emotion.  This love of reading grew into a desire to create stories that would allow my readers to feel – love, longing, courage, gratitude.

I love to write. It is my calling and my passion. My biggest hindrances to writing as a career are time, work/financial obligations, fear and self-doubt. How can I afford health insurance if I am a writer? What if I am unable to sell my books? What if I reveal too much and people judge me? The struggle is real. The love of writing compels me to sacrifice for the thing I love most. My obstacles push me to not give up. I fight for time to create.

The truth is your problem serves a purpose (courtesy of TD Jakes). If I did not have financial obligations, I may not launch a marketing campaign large enough. In essence, I may just play it safe and small. When the odds are against you, you have to play big. Challenges can be the springboard to success. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this hardship? How can I use it to my advantage.

I am grateful for the struggle. I know I cannot take one second or opportunity for granted. I know I must be ready and not ‘getting’ ready when the big break presents itself. It is hard but that is the point. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

What challenge are you grateful for?

 

 

An Intimate Discussion with Tamala Baldwin of Curvy Girl’s Rock: The Series

As a writer, I am tasked with articulating the human experience. My characters must resonate with readers by being relatable, honest, and sometimes, outlandish. In 3D, relating to each other can be a bit more precarious.  It is easier to trust the person on the page than the one sitting next to you on the subway. Then, there are people whose radiating presence penetrates the hardened façade of strangers making them feel at ease. Tamala Baldwin is such a light.

Tamala is a renaissance woman for the millennial generation. TV Host, Speaker, Producer, Author, and Businesswoman top the list of her amazing talents. This year, she had added actress to that impressive list. Tamala is staring in the Curvy Girls Rock: The Series, fulfilling a dream which fear had held her back from for many years.

Three years ago, Tamala interviewed me to discuss my debut novel, “Ruth’s Awakening: A Love Story”. Who knew three years later, I would be blessed with the opportunity to return the favor. I

  1. What is your gift? Describe your journey identifying, owning, and sharing that gift?

For the longest time, I believed my gift was that of performing.  Though I absolutely LOVE to perform, I learned that my true gift is so much deeper than that. The reason I believe I was born was to share the gift of human sunshine. Sunshine can change anything, transform anything, re-make anything, and cause anything to become as beautiful as nature intended. In this lifetime, I have been able to experience an enchanting union with the radiance of my own soul and I feel positively free, as if nothing could ever stop me because of this sunshine.  My gift is to share these sunbeams to everyone I meet and one of the ways I feel drawn to do that the most, is through storytelling.  We are so blessed to be alive.  We are so fortunate to have the luxury of time to evolve into greater expressions of ourselves through the experience of life. Capturing the human experience in order to help others tap into deeper awareness of their own sunshine . . .  that is my gift.

Coming to this state of awareness has been extremely difficult.  As someone that is so open to the light, navigating the shadow or darkness was definitely part of my journey.  As a child, God shielded me from internalizing what I saw, but that shifted in my 20’s.  It was as if my Creator opened the gates of heaven and I experienced the harshness of life for the first time. It was as if I left home and wandered in the wilderness.  Of course, in my infancy, I thought this was a punishment, because I TRULY never experienced REAL sadness even though I grew up in the hood and saw a lot of things during the 80’s. Yet, I realize that the wilderness is not a punishment.  It is an invitation to become aware or conscious of your divinity, who you are and the paradise that you come from.

This awareness of GOD being closer than breathing is forever expanding, so even though I have this amazing love buzz in the center of my heart, every day I am being purged and cleansed of fear, guilt, doubt… of anything that gets in the way of experiencing more TRUTH.  For example, it was only after the passing of my mother did I realize there was a part of me that was afraid and was still hiding.  We all hide and it is only until we REALIZE and see it for ourselves can we step from behind it and into the light.

  1. What is fear to you? Describe an instance when you have had to overcome fear.

My fear was that I was not the ideal weight to act. The goal of the media is to tell us what to think and somewhere along the line, I told myself that I was too fat (I am a size 12 and sometimes a 10) to pursue acting.  Yet, after experiencing the loss of my mother, it allowed me to release that.  Losing the person that loves me the most in life freed me from the lie that I was telling myself, which at the root, was that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough and so forth.

Let me tell you, releasing that untruth has been so freaking liberating! It was like a weight, I didn’t even know I was carrying, was lifted.

Fear is anything that keeps you from experiencing the Truth.  Fear is a weight that can paralyze you from fulfilling your purpose.  Fear is a deceiver and a lie.  Fear is something that keeps you hostage and dims your light.  Fear is that bad friend that holds you back from doing what God has called you to do and will use any means necessary to manipulate you. The only way I know how to handle fear, is to seek refuge with God, my Creator and the Lover of my Soul.  I don’t address fear.  I don’t ask fear to flee.  I ask God. The reason I was able to release the fear about being too big to pursue acting was because I prayed to God day and night for clarity on my purpose.  After losing my mommy, I was so confused about what I was meant to do with my time here.  Should I go back to working a 9 to 5?  Should I stop performing and teach?  I had no idea what to do especially since I am a caregiver for a mentally ill sibling.  Since I knew I was coming from a place of fear, I asked God, who is my Ultimate Protector, Lover and Best Friend. When I say who God is to me, I mean it with all of my heart.  We go together and so when I go to “him” it is one of the most intimate part of my day.  God loves us so much that there is no need to look at the fear.  Casting our gaze upon LOVE is all we need.

  1. What do you want viewers to take away from Curvy Girls Rock: The Series?

Curvy Girls Rock is the second series I booked since I became awake to this fear that had taken up residence in my mind.  The other series I am also working on is, “Asunder”, which can be found on Amazon Prime in 2018. When I booked,  “Curvy Girls Rock: The Series”, all I could do was smile at the synchronicity since this series stars women that are curvy in size. All I could do was smile at God at this opportunity that was a direct reflection of the fear I had just released.  All of us are born with purpose and to add sunshine.  No matter what is happening around us, what has happened to us, where we went to school, or what we look like – we are here and charged with purpose.  “Curvy Girls Rock”, was a wink from God affirming that truth and we must never believe the lies we tell ourselves.  Rather, to trust the greatness, the love, the sunshine that dwells within us.

Being the light may sound a little cliché but every platitude starts as a commonly accepted truth. Humans radiate light and absorb it.  We need it to live, grow, and thrive. Light requires a fuel source. We call that source God.  When we connect with God intimately, his light flows through us. Thank you Tamala for allowing the light of God to shine through you to us.

You can follow Curvy Girls Rock: The series by subscribing to its Youtube channel of following its Facebook page.

What’s Good On Netflix – Middle of Nowhere – A Film by Ava Duvernay

I am a lover of words – spoken or written verse. All forms tell a story. The art of storytelling is our heritage. In times past, that is how history was transferred from generation to generation. The word becomes immortal.

Middle of Nowhere, a film by Ava Duvernay (of Selma fame), tells the story of Ruby who struggles to hold on to the love she has for her husband Derek who has been sentenced to eight years in prison. Ruby drops out of medical school to passionately stand and fight for her man who seems more resigned to his fate.

Duvernay uses well-crafted dialogue and imagery to tell a beautiful story of love and self-discovery from a black woman’s perspective. The added nuance of Ruby struggling to wrap her hair in a scarf, becoming frustrated with the act, and then tossing it to the side in silent acquiescence – is a black woman’s act. Only a black woman who has performed this hair ritual would have added it to this scene. Its addition lends credence to the character and story.

Four Things I Love:

  1. Honesty – The honest portrayal of the affects the incarceration of black men have on the women left behind. Ruby, her sister Rosie and her mother Ruth are all single women struggling to connect with each other while coping with the harsh reality of the absence of men in each’s lives. This film illustrates the truth of how complicated and powerful the force of love is. It can make you willfully blind and selfless. If that same love is turn inward, it can make you brave.
  2. The cinematography – It is the shot of Ruby’s left hand on a bed after a night with her lover that allows Duvernay to show the story and not tell it. There are multiple scenes where the directing and camera fill in the gap when the words are absent.
  3. David Oyelowo – (also of Selma fame) is wonderful to watch. I kept looking for his British accent to slip through, lol. I think it is his gaze. It commands attention. I was left wanting to see what he would say and do next.
  4. Omari Hardwick – (we are not worthy!) is so flipping gorgeous. He has that, ‘hood dude you cannot help but love even though your momma says he is no good,’ steeze on lock. There is a scene in which he almost cries that had me yelling at the screen, “I’ll wait eight years, baby!” ROTFL. Good looks aside, the brother can emote. Some handsome actors just stand there and flex. I give props to the guy for having genuine skillz.

I look forward to sharing with you other stories from African American women. I promise not to reveal too much, after all, I want you to see the films and support our sisters.

Please check out the Sundance Award winning fill Middle of Nowhere now streaming on Netflix.

Are Soul Ties Biblical?

I have read the entire Bible. It took me about 3 years but I did finish. I cannot recall anything mentioning a ‘soul tie’. I will admit, I am no biblical scholar so I am open to correction. I see services, conferences, and books marketing this ‘soul-tie’ idea and how to break it. The tying of the soul tie concept in with Christianity just does not jive with me.

I started researching this idea of soul ties via Google. Some Christian sites laud the idea and some do not. Continuing my investigation, I found something eerily similar in an arena outside of Christianity – metaphysics. The definition of metaphysics is pretty broad. It is the study of existence. Are you still confused? Okay, good.  In this worldview, soul-ties are referred to as ‘energy cords’ or ‘ethereal cords’. The idea behind it all, is that when two individuals “bond” or “unite” (sexually or emotionally) their souls become entangled so that moving on is impossible without first breaking the soul tie.

In terms of Christianity, scripture is used to bolster the concept. Although the term “soul tie” is never mentioned in the bible, one scripture referenced in support of the idea is:

“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” (1 Corinthians 6:16).

The two becoming one flesh is used as evidence of souls become tied together. I understand it to mean that physically two people are bonding but the unity does not involve their souls. I mean, what is a soul exactly? Some define it as the non-physical part of a person. There are many varied definitions depending on the belief system. Let us for for this discussion define the soul as the inner essence of someone. How can your essence be conflated with another’s? If the souls are joined, how does one divide them again?

One of the steps listed to break the soul tie is to write the ex’s name on a sheet of paper, light a candle, and burn the paper. You are reciting out loud a prayer to exorcise this person from your soul. This is problematic for me as a Christian because the practice of lighting candles, reciting chants, and burning names is very similar to a “fire spell”. A fire spell is used to spiritually cleanse yourself, to get rid of feelings and behavior, and even to communicate with the dead. I found this info on sites about witches and the occult.

Just because something is a trend does not mean we can blend it with the bible. Read the bible for yourself. If our souls belong to God, how can they be tied to another?

What say you?

 

Image result for soul tie

On the Other side

The sun comes up,

Your feet must move.

Carmel Indiana Sunrise
Photo Credit: Felicia Malone

Find your dance.

Find your groove.

In standing still,

You become the bones.

The valley is full.

You won’t be alone.

If you cannot walk,

You must crawl.

Don’t give up.

Don’t you stall.

Find your groove,

Find your stride.

Your promise awaits,

On the other side.

© 2017 Felicia Malone

#whyIwrite

I wake up in the morning, pray, and grab my phone. I read a scripture or online devotional and then, I check my notifications. I may be a just a bit addicted to social media. Pray for me.

I am swiping up, in the Twitter app this morning and I see the hashtag #whyIwrite. I suppressed the urge to shoot off a quick 140 characters to hop on the trend. I thought, this will require some introspection.

Writing my debut novel was a lot like giving birth, cliche as it may sound. I felt I had the story that had been building in me for years. I was swollen with characters, plots, and exposition. The stories of the myriad of women and men I have encountered through life provided DNA segments building the unique personality of each character. I had begun the Ruth’s Awakening: A Love Story nearly a decade before. The idea, the dna, all brought together in the love making created a life that built up inside my mind. I just had to bring it forth.

Image result for writing is making love

Everyone always asks, when is part two. The truth is, I have allowed life to distract me from the art of love. Love is action. Love is deliberate. I am learning to write as a discipline. It is my passion. Some days, I am so wiped out, I do not feel the burning in my soul. It is like a marriage that way. I guess. I have never been married. But, I have read that you must choose to love your spouse even when do not feel like it.

My fingers are vessels carrying my thoughts to the keyboard. Words and writing – love in the making. Love making. There I go again.

So, why do I write? I write for love.

Let It Burn

*Cue Usher*

I burned my right index finger Monday night attempting to turn chicken with a short fork. I reached into the oven just a little to deep a YOWZAA! My index finger has a grill mark.

I immediately put a cube of ice on it and the pain subsided but as soon as the thing melted the pain rebounded. I started looking for a quick remedy. I slathered antibiotic ointment on it. That made it worse. I got another cube of ice and the ointment congealed. I was in a bigger mess trying to avoid the pain of my little mistake in judgement. Note to self:  always use a long fork when testing food in the oven. It’s like cooking 101.

Waves

Finally, I just lay in bed. I began to try a mind over matter approach. I thought intensely about another part of my hand. It worked temporarily but I kept reverting to my darn finger. It was not the worse pain I had ever felt but geez did it hurt.  Noting the futility of my efforts to minimize my suffering, I had new thought – just ride it out. I reasoned that the pain could only last a few minutes or maybe even an hour. I knew for certain that it would not last forever.

A funny thing happened. I went to sleep.

The next morning I hardly remembered the burn on my hand. I saw the scar – a reminder not to do something so stupid again – but the pain was gone.

Pain is our body’s response to trauma. The nerves fire off intensely warning you to stop what you are doing. As my skin touched the heated metal coil my hand instantaneously jerked back. My body’s instinct kicked in to protect me.

God has equipped us physically to avoid the damaging things that cause us pain. It will come. Loss, heartache and disappointment are a part of life.  Pain is inevitable. You can lament your fate or evaluate the root cause and learn the lesson. Avoidance only leads to chaos.  Numbing it with substance abuse or other quick fixes leads to worsening of the initial condition. Ride the wave. No matter how high the crest, waves always crash. Pain does not last forever.

Standing in the sun outside of my office. I realized the heat is necessary. I closed my eyes and let the sun sink into my pores. I needed a vitamin D mood boost. The scar on my finger is shiny and brown. I have learned the lesson and the pain is gone.

 

Report from 2015 – Talulazoeapple.com http://www.talulazoeapple.com/apple/2015/06/let-it-burn-let-it-burn-let-it-burn.html