Recurring Dream

I walk up the stairs to the 2nd story of a three-story Chicago apartment building again. I cannot recall how many times I have climbed those stairs. The apartment on some visits is the peeling paint version from the 1980s with the storefront church located on the 1st floor. Tonight, it is the gentrified edition with glass entry doors. The old church is now a performance arts space.  Inside is always the same. Slightly splintered bare wood floors with a thick coat of brown paint to protect bare feet.

I walk down the hall and peer into the door that leads to the room she shares with her preacher husband. It is empty. I walk in and the floral bedspread has been neatly drawn across the mattress. I sit on the stool in front of the wooden dresser with the attached mirror. I am still fascinated by the collection of perfume bottles arranged on a mirrored plate. I pick up an ornate glass bottle filled with pink fragrance and squeeze the atomizer. A floral aroma fills my nostrils with her presence. I spin my head around, but the room is still empty.

I leave the bedroom and turn down the hall. I see one of her living daughters sitting at the kitchen table. She is an adult like me. The chairs don’t match. I sit with her and feel her sadness.

There is yellow paint on the walls and white paint on the baseboards. The metal pipes are exposed under the sink. My memories are fractured like a broken mirrored plate. Nothing quite fits but pick up a shard and you will see a piece of the past clearly.

I stand up from the table and walk toward the backdoor. There is a large two by four wooden plank across the door held up by two metal brackets. I have since learned that contraption is called a drop bar.  I lift the drop bar and turn the lock handle.

The porch is concrete with thick gray paint. The paint is always thick here. It is the years of coats, layer upon layer, to make the old appear new. It is fun to pick at it when bored. The stairs lead to the 3rd floor. I was stung by a bee sitting on those stairs. My nanny had made us kids cheese toasts in the oven. She had drizzled honey over the top of mine. I was sitting on the 2nd stair with the sun warming my left side and swinging the toast with my right hand when I felt a sharp pain on the inner flesh of my right forearm. The toast hit that gray paint honey side down. There is a cost to happiness when it is at the expense of others even if the other is a bee.

Nanny has been dead since 2008. Tonight, I am back to 1987 or so.  I feel present in the past, more solid than I feel in 2022. It is where unconditional love exists, where memories never age. This ephemeral delight is always interrupted by a stinging awareness that this isn’t real life.  Not real physical life in the present, I mean.

What is life anyway if not a dream?

Lessons from the Porcelain Throne

I did not have “stick my hand in a public toilet” on my Sunday BINGO card, yet, here we are.

I get up Sunday morning excited for service. I have been working from home for the past three weeks and really dreading having to drive into the office on Monday. I was looking forward to church to shift my mind from trepidation into gratitude.

I woke up feeling pretty good. After a year of foot issues and several podiatry appointments, my foot is on the mend. I pull out my marron dress and matching maroon knee-high boots to wear. All suited and booted, I decide to wear my handmade beaded bracelet I had made at a Black Girls Run Indy event. In the center was a silver metal decal with the letters BGR on it. I began to reminisce on the sense of community being a part of this group provided me while I was working in a state in where I knew only two people.

December is the last month of the year; however, December is also the month of Advent. Advent is when Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah. I am expecting great things as Advent connotes. The sanctuary is decked in Christmas decor. Poinsettias line the base of the stage where the praise and worship group belt out songs that lift my spirit. The preacher is in his bag. I am feeling mighty good by the end of service.

I run to the restroom as I typically do at the end of service. I walk down a side hall to get to the bathroom with the highest water pressure. My hands don’t feel clean after struggling to get the soap off at a low drip faucet like the bathroom near the entrance of the sanctuary.

My bracelet is dangling over my right hand a bit, so I pull it up higher on my arm when – SNAP! The cord breaks. The beads and bobbles tumble down, mostly into the commode. I am literally near tears, because, why!? lol. A woman walks in and I have to explain my dilemma so that she won’t walk into the stall that contains the toilet with my bracelet parts in it.

She is sympathetic and even tries to help me find gloves in the bathroom cabinets. Alas, there are none. I am faced with a real decision. She says what I am dreading.

“You’re just gonna have to stick your hand in there and get them out.”

<Insert> Denzel Washington one tear</>

I fish maroon beads out of the toilet bowl with my bare hands and placed them into a wad of paper towels I had gathered.

The woman exits the stall and I am furiously washing my hands.

I move to allow her to wash hers as another woman is at the only other sink. I plan on washing mine at least two more times. No need to make her wait. She kindly states, “It will be alright.”

She is right. I retrieved my bracelet pieces. I can restring those. What was once broken can be restored. I later met some friends for brunch and didn’t even bring up the bracelet debacle. I really enjoyed my Sunday.

Are You Afraid of Your Dreams?

What happens to a dream deferred? – Langston Hughes

Dreams

I was listening to Les Brown this morning on my way to church. In his famous speech, “It’s Not Over Until You Win,” Brown states that most people are not following their dreams because of fear. Some are afraid to fail while others are afraid to succeed.

My dream since age 12 has been to be a successful writer. Meaning, I want to generate income being creative — as an author, blogger, speaker, etc. The First Lady of my church asked me to contribute to our annual women’s conference in a creative way. She really left the format up to me. Talk about a God-wink. I decided on spoken word.

Twenty plus years ago, I was a freshman at the University of Illinois. There was an African American cultural center affectionately called , “The Black House”. There was an open mic night weekly. This was the 90s when neo-soul and poetry slams were the latest rage. Each week I attended, I would sit in my seat trying to muster the courage to read my material. What if they don’t get it, if they don’t snap their fingers, or if I trip and fall on my way to the stage? Fear always won.

Fear Redux

For the past month, I have written, re-written, and rehearsed the performance of my poetry piece. I was okay until this final week. I have been travelling for work all week without much time to rehearse. Old man fear showed up taunting me again. What if you forget the words, if your nervousness causes your voice to tremble, or if your trip and fall on your way to the stage?

Today, I made it to that stage without falling. I spoke the words passionately although my hands trembled in the beginning. I remembered every single word. The audience stood and applauded.

Reimagining the Dream

The theme of today’s event was – Relate, Refresh, and Reimagine. I imagined myself getting on that stage in college and reciting my poetry to a receptive audience with their arms raised and fingers poised to snap and the right inflection of words. That moment never happened. Since then, I have worked on my confidence, presentation skills. I am a skilled software trainer. I travelled to a work conference this week and taught a session in a large ballroom. Life has a way of preparing you for your heart’s desire.

I am 44 years old. Today, I conquered a fear that had haunted me since age 18. I went back to my seat completely overwhelmed by the significance of the moment. I fought back tears as women came by to hug me and express their appreciation of my performance.

Felicia Malone performing an original spoken word piece.

You are never too old to conquer a fear or to live out your dreams.

Called to Create

“In the beginning, God created . . .” is the starting line of Genesis, the first book of the bible.

Something from Nothing –

According to Google (Oxford Languages) dictionary, to create is to bring (something) into existence.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 when he was 29 years old. Samuel Morse, the inventor of Morse code, created the telephone’s predecessor, the telegraph. However, the idea preceded him by nearly 100 years!

Every great innovation starts with a novel thought. The seed of thought yields our reality. Contemplating while awake or even daydreaming serves a function in the creative process.

Daydreaming is a form of imagination that opens new horizons for the individual to his unknown future visions; i.e., it is the psychological process that allows the individual to live his distant or impossible ideas.

Source

“Living his distant and impossible ideas.” Daydreaming is pleasurable and beautiful. You cannot live with your eyes closed. You need to put action to dreams to bring them into reality.

Order from Chaos

Humans can have greater than 6,000 thoughts per day. I can start thinking about what I will eat for dinner and end up researching the origins of bananas. The answer is Southeast Asia in case you were wondering, lol. Writing gives order to my chaotic thoughts. Journaling is a technique used in therapy to help a person sort through complicated thoughts, memories, and traumatic events.

When I decided to Netflix, I end up spending an hour searching for something to watch only to end up watching reruns of Girlfriends. If I dare to watch something the app has suggested, I end up critiquing instead of enjoying ‘new’ shows or movies. I spot plot holes and lack of character development. My creative juices flow after I turn the television off.

My first novel, Ruth’s Awakening: A Love Story, began as an idea I had to tell a love story written from a church girl’s perspective. The idea was born in 2007 and published in 2014. It took concerted effort to weave my idea of a love story into a published work.

The cover of Ruth's Awakeing: A Love Story
Ruth’s Awakening: A Love story by Felicia Michelle Malone

Writing is my joy, my life’s purpose, and my calling. In the image of my creator, I create – characters, stories, worlds – from the infinite flow of the imagination.

Your Calling

Creatives are throughout the Bible. . David built the temple. The Proverbs 32 woman made tapestries and clothes of fine linen. David was a poet and a songwriter. The song of Solomon is a love story. Even Jesus was a carpenter!

Are you called to create?

Out of Control

Janet Jackson’s top charting album Control debuted in 1986. I was 7 years old. I had no control over anything. I went to church, to school, and to bed when I was told. I ate what was put in front of me. However, my siblings and I did jointly revolt against stewed rutabagas. I shared my room and my toys. I could hardly wait to become an adult because that meant having a say in what happens to me and controlling the stuff around me.

Poor delusional 7-year-old me. Much of life is out of our control – my control. The ones we love will behave in ways we wish they would not. An employer may move the company to another state. Your neighbors will put in noisy windchimes that sound like the intro soundtrack of a horror movie every time the wind blows. #argh. It is all out of our control.

What you can control is you. And that’s a big task. When I wake up in the morning, it is a decision for me to give thanks. Most days it is natural. Other days, when I have slept in the wrong position and wake up with a crook in my neck, or have to do some arduous task; my first thought is not always gratitude. So, I make it a practice, part of my morning routine. “Lord, I am grateful for life.” That is my repositioning mechanism. It reroutes my train of thought from all of the unpleasantries to the beautiful serendipity of this life.

You actually have a lot of control. You control if and when you eat, workout, listen to gossip, watch TV or read a book. You choose whether to curse the sun or bask in its heated glory. Choosing wisely affects your growth – mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Like Janet, you are in control.

. . . And A Funeral

Last Saturday, I celebrated two people embarking on a new life together – a wedding. This past Saturday, I celebrated the life of my aunt – a funeral.

Life is impermanent

In 2019, we were on the warm sands of Jamaica celebrating her grandson’s wedding. The wedding was a beautiful moment where family got together to celebrate a happy occasion. In retrospect, I am grateful to have spent that time with my aunt. Who knew that eight months later the pandemic would arrive? Travel and weddings were halted in the face of a global crisis. The wedding last Saturday, was the first I have attended since my little cousin’s wedding in Jamaica.

Every time someone passes, the universe shifts. Much like the pandemic, there is the world that existed before and the new world order that exists after the event. I think about my godmother whose passing caused seismic changes in my world.

Life is cyclical

My aunt and my godmother were both old school saints. Having grown up COGIC (#IYKYK), the old school saints represented tradition and faithfulness. My godmother was someone whose advice and judgment I trusted. The old saints could ‘get a prayer through’. With the passing of the old guard, an uncomfortable truth is birthed. We are the new elders.

What will our legacy be? What will my legacy be? It is tough thinking of myself as an ‘elder’ when I still feel the preteen angst of not quite knowing how I fit in the world. I am still learning and growing.

Bearing the Load

Funerals are horrible for empathic souls like myself. I cry when I see another’s tears. My heart aches when a head is bowed in sorrow. Words cannot erase the sting of death. Being present in loving support is all we can do. If pain is transferable, then so must be hope and love.

My nephew was one of the pallbearers. A loaded casket can weigh at least 300 pounds. Yet the weight is distributed amongst six or more men, making the load less heavy. We attend funerals to celebrate the life of the person who has graduated to heaven. We also go to provide emotional support to the immediate family so that an unbearable loss can be borne.

Marriage Is On the Horizon

At age 30, I was 10 months into my new city of Dallas, Texas. I would be starting grad school in a few months. I spent my Saturday mornings floating in my community pool chasing clouds. Everything around me felt like spring – fresh and new. Being single was an asset providing the freedom of movement and self-determination I needed to move away from family and start fresh halfway across the country. I did not have to consider the opinion of another person (other than my mom who was all for it) when deciding my life’s goals. I was aware of my singleness. However, that awareness was a soft rimshot in the background of my mind. Life’s music loudly drowned out the noise.

The 2009 census data revealed 70% of black women remained unmarried. This data point became the topic of many talk shows and evening news specials with talking heads sounding alarms about women like me – educated, female, and black – doomed to be forever single. The rimshot became a foreboding boom. The warning was not just from distant media figures that could be tuned into and turn off of my own volition. Every married person I encountered had a a stick in hand adding to the cacophony. When an invitation to dinner by a married couple turned out to be a kamikaze blind date, I felt the impact of that stick right across my forehead. It was if my singleness made other people uncomfortable. They felt urged to fix it with or without my permission.

I attended a beautiful wedding this weekend alone, still single. The bride, 50 years old, married later in life. Turns out that 2009 census data had been misinterpreted.

A look at recent census data will tell you that the 70 percent we keep hearing about has been misconstrued. According to 2009 data from the Census Bureau, 70.5 percent of black women in the United States had never been married — but those were women between the ages of 25 and 29. Black women marry later, but they do marry. By age 55 and above, those numbers showed, only 13 percent of black women had never been married. In fact, people who have never married in their lifetimes are in the clear minority, regardless of race.

Angela Stanley, New York Times

Early in life, I learned that the natural trajectory of a woman’s life went something like – daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, fiancé, wife, and mother. Who are you if you do not belong to anyone? I wanted to learn who I was before having to be everything to someone else. I am brave, witty, funny even. I care way to deeply about everything. I love big and wide. I am dependable. I trust against the residue of doubt that bad experiences have left behind. I am adventurous in measured doses. And I learned all of this about myself while being single.

This is not a “Say it loud. I’m singe and I’m proud,” post. It is an acknowledgment that my singleness has served a purpose. Marriage is still a goal, not just THE goal.

Wedding look April 2022

Dallas Black Bloggers Meetup at Native Coffee

I forget names as soon as they pass from my auditory nerve in my inner ear to the auditory cortex in my brain. It’s my superpower.

A group of women met today to discuss blog content and life at Native Coffee. It’s a coffeehouse in a church or church in a coffeehouse. Not sure which.

Matcha Tea

God has a way of winking at you. I have my biweekly book club meeting today at 2:00 PM. We are smack dab in the middle of reading, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. In it, Mark tells of God giving him the idea to start a coffee house in what use to be a crack house. So, apparently, Mark started the wave of church adjacent coffeehouses.

Speaking of water, learning to swim is a counterintuitive exercise of the mind. In order to float, you have to let go of control of your limbs. Every muscle fiber wants to fight to keep your head above water which only pulls you furthr beneath the surface.

Being in the presence of other creatives is freeing. I shared my frustration with being in a season of uninspiration. Is that a word? It is definitely accurate. I got support and advice. No one told me I was being extra. It was comforting.

Like floating faceup in a blue pool with the Jamaican sun in your face. Freedom.

I even felt inspired enough to crank out this post. Community matters.

Hidden Talents

There is a story in the bible known as the Parable of the Talents. In this parable, a man leaves on a far journey. He entrusts three servants with varying amounts of talents. To one he gave five; to another two; and to the third, one talent. Upon the man’s return, he called the three servants to account for what had been given them. The first two doubled their amount of talents through investments and hard work. The third hid the one talent in the ground and returned the single talent to the man. The prosperous servants were granted many things due to their profitability to the man in his absence. The third unprofitable servant was punished.

As I write this post, I am listening in on a Zoom with a woman who is leading worship via piano – singing and playing worship songs. She is a former music teacher who can no longer teach due to health issues. Although she is no longer able to use this gift in her former career any longer, she is still putting the gift to use sowing into the spiritual lives of myself and everyone else on this call.

What is your ‘talent’?

In the Bible the talent in the parable is a monetary unit. It is a tool that can be invested or loaned out to increase its value over time. The initial amount provided to the three servants was money that belonged to their master. It is because they multiplied the value of that investment, they were rewarded by being made ‘rulers’ of many. A hint to discovering your talent is to realize it is a gift entrusted to you from the Father. It is valuable in its original state. Your management of it is the key to your increase. Are you frustrated with a lack of success in your career, finances, relationships? Could it be you have hidden, undiscovered talents in you?

Writing is my talent. It is the activity that brings me the most joy. Today I am inspired to keep sowing my talent via this blog and my books.

Hidden Treasures

This scripture popped in my head today in the early morning hours:

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 NIV

In the biblical context, God is speaking to a pagan king. He promises to give King Cyrus “hidden treasures” because he allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

I pondered upon the meaning of the text. God will bless those who bless his people. Who are God’s people? Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Then I asked, who can I bless?

Someone needs what you can provide; be it your time, money, attention, or service. Those who need it the most may not ask for your help. You need to seek out opportunities to assist. Prayerfully ask God to reveal who needs you. You do not have to be perfect to be a vessel for God’s glory. Look at King Cyrus. You only need to be willing.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Mathew 7:11 KJV

Christmas 2021 is over and done. You could not control the gifts you received. Trust me, I know. I got a tin box filled with 3 stuffed Minion characters for the Secret Santa exchange. The good news is that you can control the gifts you give. God is the best gift giver. Like, who can top eternal life? Even in this present world, you can receive “hidden treasures”. Not that you give to receive, but a promise is a promise.

Ask yourself today, “Who can I bless?”

What are your thoughts on today’s topic?