Love Language # 6

So I am staring down the barrel of the end of a relationship. Side note: be careful when you date a writer, because pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is one heck of a catharsis. I am honestly at peace with the whole idea, and honestly I am thankful that I kept this one pretty close to pocket…it minimizes the fall out. But I’d been struggling with how to explain when the few people that DID know about *him* ask what happened. He wasn’t disrespectful. He had a romantic bone somewhere in his body. He loved the Lord, which is always my line in the sand. He is a great dad. He works hard and knows how he wants to grow his passion project to eventually be his main source of income. On paper, he was everything that I’ve prayed for and everything that I think I deserved, so what on earth was the problem?

The problem is that I never saw him. And I spent a large amount of time rationalizing and asking and begging and questioning friends (I tend to bounce things off of people because I am highly sensitive and I know this–thank God for sisters who tell you to chill!) I never felt like he was being dishonest or unfaithful, but as someone who LOVES quality time, I struggled to foster a connection with someone who was never around. Even when I came to that conclusion, something still nagged inside of me, though….and then I came across this post on Instagram from @messinabottle:

lovelang  who would have thought that a social media post would be the thing that would click?

The 5 Love Languages is a theory by Dr. Gary Chapman that has been around since at least 1995, but maybe longer in some form or fashion. Dr. Chapman asserts that everyone in the world responds best to one of five “love languages”, and by learning which your partner appreciates most and which one you respond to, a couple can practically and effectively love each other at length. These five languages are:

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION: This language, according to the website “uses words to affirm other people”. In other words, I know that you love me when you tell me–in person, through a mushy text message, on a post it note in my lunchbox. Cards are as good as gold. Tell me so I know it’s real.

ACTS OF SERVICE: This can be summed up by these sage words from Migos:walkittalkit In other words, talk is cheap. I need to SEE that you love me. Make me lunch, offer to take me out, drive me to catch my flight. Serve me somehow.

PHYSICAL TOUCH: I know that I am loved when I can physically feel you next to me. This could be hugs, kisses or…sectionalceiling.PNG…heh.

RECEIVING GIFTS: Buy me stuff. Gets no simpler than that.

and finally…

QUALITY TIME: The important thing here is not just hours logged, but the fact that the time is meaningful, undistracted and undivided.

koality isn’t he cute? I can’t bear it. I’m here all week folks!!

One thing that Dr. Chapman also notes is that there can be different “dialects” of love languages, meaning that within the love language of Acts of Service, for example, there are fifty thousand ways for a partner to express his or her love. My primary love language will always be words of affirmation, however I have come to realize that quality time and physical touch are biggies as well.

Guess what, though? I think I have discovered a 6th love language–or maybe the one that makes all of the others possible. It all came from a conversation that I had today as I was driving to Philadelphia with one of my close friends. Her brother and a friend were asleep in the backseat and we were on I-95 for what felt like 200 miles…felt like the perfect time to talk. I mentioned to her that I wasn’t seeing *him* anymore, and how I wasn’t even all that upset about him specifically–and suddenly this popped out:

“I just really want someone to study me.”

I was taken aback by that thought, but it really does sum up what has bothered me about both platonic and romantic relationships in the past. Let me explain:

Scenario One: My grandmother is family famous for buying things at random throughout the year and designating them as Christmas gifts when the season hits. I am sure that this saves her the stress of a holiday rush, but it means that we sometimes (usually) get gifts that are random. In my case, this has meant the ENTIRE bath set of grapefruit scented Clinique (including talc) or 3 floral cardigans, size 3x.

Scenario Two: My grandfather got me a keyboard for Christmas. I have never played the keyboard. I have never mentioned wanting a keyboard. The keyboard is still in the box that it came in, and one friend has mentioned wanting to take it off of my hands but I haven’t regifted it yet for fear that my grandfather will ask me to play it randomly on a Tuesday.

Scenario Three: I told *him* at least eleventyseven times over the past 9 months that I wanted to spend more time with him. On each occasion, he agreed that this was a thing that needed to happen. It didn’t happen.

In each of these scenarios, there has been me, someone else, and a complete overshoot of how best to love me–and it boils down to being able to study the one you love like your favorite textbook and figure out how best to make them tick. That’s love language 6. The art of the study.

In my phone, I have lists with initials attached to them. These lists have favorite colors, scents, places, hobbies, musicians, etc. One list, titled S.M. has the color red, Boston Baked Beans, The Roots, anything sociology, superheroes and princesses, fo’ the kids. Another, marked MD, also has red–but it has Nas, blue, anything with elephants, sneakers, Skittles, earrings, etc. List TC has gospel music, vegan food and list AB has anime, a favorite brand of wine, nursing and dog paraphernalia. JUs list has Nigerian food,  macarons, recipe books, a favorite flower, and I just added a place in her town that she likes to get food from. There was a list that I’d started called DJC–that had the color blue, watches, music, certain cities, etc. None of the things on these lists were acquired through asking pointed questions. I have found that if you really listen when people talk, you will eventually get everything that you need to know–because everyone’s favorite topic of conversation is themselves 🙂 What I have also found is that people are used to not really being listened to–so when you take them to that local spot to eat or buy them an oil in a scent they love, they are shocked:

How did you know I liked this?”

You told me so.”

I think that what I am looking for–what I am missing– is people who compile lists about me–who love me enough to hear me and translate my love language. I am on a continual search for people that have SO lists and who go out of their way to show honor the way that I really try to be intentional about doing. That love language of studying people–their mannerisms, the songs they hum over and over, what makes their eyes light up–that is the one that makes the hugs and gift giving and rides to the store possible. It creates the “OMG I needed this!”s and the “How did you even guess?”s. It engineers the surprised reactions and the tears.

So yeah, I think that when I am in conversation with my Christian friends—my girlfriends–my searching for something real and we’ll know it when we find it friends–and the topic of love languages comes up, my answer from now on will be study. I feel that I am loved when the research spans pages and the results are tangible. I don’t think that this is too much to ask for, and I know that I love a God that goes above and beyond.

Yours in the waiting,

Steph ❤


The Words They Need

If you have ever studied anything having to do with education, be it the policy, philosophy, or pedagogy of it all, you may be familiar with the term “the ten thousand word gap”. If not, let me enlighten you: the 10,000 word gap is the amount of words that children from wealthier, more established families understand when compared to children from less stable, more impoverished households. Some of this is experience based—why would a child from a poor home in Baltimore or Detroit or Chicago have the schema to know the meaning of “jacuzzi” or where Aspen, Colorado is on a map? More of it is because the offspring of parents who work 12 and 15 hour days, balance work and school and are struggling to keep the lights on aren’t usually having the kinds of rich conversations involving rhetoric and reason that you can have when your soul ain’t exhausted.

I hate to break it to you, but the 10,000 word gap doesn’t even scratch the surface anymore. From The Atlantic:

”for more than three years, they sampled the actual number of words spoken to young children from forty- two families at three different socioeconomic levels: (1) welfare homes, (2) working-class homes, and (3) professionals’ homes. Then they tallied them up. The differences were astounding. Children in professionals’ homes were exposed to an average of more than fifteen hundred more spoken words per hour than children in welfare homes. Over one year, that amounted to a difference of nearly 8 million words, which, by age four, amounted to a total gap of 32 million words. They also found a substantial gap in tone and in the complexity of words being used.”

THIRTY TWO MILLION WORDS. How does this not break your heart? I decided to write a letter to the young girls I work with with my take on the word gap.

Dear Queen,

This has been a really rough week for us  Heck, it’s been a rough month—the year was supposed to fly by after Spring break, but instead it has trudged, weighed down by your antsy silliness and my frustration, your lack of integrity and my frustration, my frustration and your…frustration. Here we are though, with 6 more weeks until I set you free. Some of you swear you aren’t returning, which I, a veteran of your parent’s hasty promises yet unkept, will believe only when I don’t see you in August.

You’ve been driving me crazy lately because, after all, it is May, and I feel like I am having to use the precious amount  of words per minute  that I get with you haranguing instead of encouraging and nagging instead of supporting. I don’t like that. PLEASE understand that I hate that just as much as you do.  I want to close your word gap singlehandedly with all that you are missing, and that’s such a lofty goal that I walk away exhausted. 

You, my dear, have a word gap. Here is what you hear regularly. 

No – This is the word that takes away your permissions, shuts down your imagination, stunts your growth and blocks your escape route. Often, it is a response to a decision that you’ve made. No, you can’t eat in the lunchroom because you won’t sit down. No, you can’t have your cell phone in class because despite all the good that could be done with it, all you’d do is make videos all the livelong day. No, you can’t play outside because I need you to come home in one piece. No, you can’t go with your friends because I don’t get paid until next week. On and on and on.

Stop – Stop switching. Stop being fast. Stop looking at these boys (never mind the fact that these boys are looking at you and should hold equal responsibility). Stop being so loud. Stop getting smart. Stop cursing. Stop running. Stop being too much and too little and too late and not enough. 

Never – You will never get off of this block. Never be more than this. Never be better that me or your mom or your dad or your guardian. Never win. Never try. You will never get into the school of your choice acting like that. You will never pass. Never  grow. Never change. Who you are is why you’ll always be. 

Here are the words that I want to fill your gap with:

Yes – Yes, you can complete that assignment  You can get it back with a grade you were expecting and submit it again because once you know better, you do better. Yes, you can demand to be treasured and cared for. Yes, you deserve goodness and light. Yes, you can have a hug. Yes, the world is conspiring for your well being. Yes, you are made of the same universe as stardust and high tide and the Aurora Borealis and you are twice as magical as any of these.

Go Confidently in the direction of your dreams. Go pursue that thing that scares you. Go hug that person that you had beef with and fixed, but the atmosphere still feels a little beefy. Go take that class. Go sing that song. Whatever you do, just GO. 

Passport – You loved making food from around the world. You loved trying my Spanish snacks last month and have been harassing me for a new country even with my protestations that I don’t know when the next box comes. I wish for you to hope on a plane and go somewhere where you don’t speak the language. I want you to feel small at the base of the ocean. To taste your humanity at the top of a hike . To be confidently lost in the wilderness is an excellent allegory for your life. 

Freedom – Freedom from your phone. Freedom from expectations. Freedom from an oppressive regime that paints targets in tears and legislation on the backs of your brothers. Freedom from sadness. Freedom from shame. Freedom from the inner city. Freedom from worry. I want you to have a taste of total liberation and get so hooked on it that you chafe under anything that restrains you. 

Home – Home is anywhere and anything that brings you comfort. Maybe that is here in Baltimore. Maybe that’s a beach in Bali. Maybe it’s a classroom in a district that supports your inquisitiveness. Maybe it’s where the lights are always on and there is ample food and a warm embrace from someone who REALLY wants to hear about your day. Maybe it’s her. Maybe it’s him. Maybe it’s a forehead kiss or a chicken box from someone that studied your love language and wants to make it happen. I found my home in spoken word and cuddles with friends and in Jesus and maybe even in him, but my home isnt’t necessarily yours. Find where you are rooted. 

Love – I don’t want you to get to 25 before you know what Love is and I don’t want you to be 30 before you demand it for yourself. Love is high standards and high pitched laughter and trips to the movies and watching you march and stupid inside jokes. Love is also coming back to work with you a mere 24 hours after you told me to get the f*** out of your face and gave me your arse to kiss…and harboring no resentment. Love is giving you 1000 chances to break my heart into fragments with the gaps in your  heart because chance # 999 May be the one that clicks. Everybody in the world isn’t equipped to love you this way. Respect the effort. 

I would be here all day if I continued typing the words that I want to fill your gap with—but these will have to do for now. If I am lucky, you’ll leave me in June fully able to define these words. In the words of Kendrick—-we gon’ be alright. Let’s just continue to add new words ok? You can always use my pen. 


Love you always,

Ms. O.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Hello beautiful people!!

I’m terrible at this. I tend to “micro-blog” on social media because it is more accessible and has a wider audience, but why on earth am I paying yearly for this domain name if I am not going to actively blog? I need an accountability partner, y’all. 

2017 has been a doozy. Full of highs and lows—uncertainties about the health of my grandfather that made the holidays tense, but then came moments where he seemed so HIMSELF (for better or worse, haha) that I couldn’t help but feel giddy. With the help of good people at work, I basically created a position based on a need that I saw—and was successful. I contemplated leaving school to be a traveling merchant more often than I cared to admit (lbvs). I took a step back from a position that I loved—that I thought was a part of my identity—because of heart hurt. I found new sister friends.  And so on and so forth. 

At the church that I attend, People often speak on having an anchor verse or biblical statement that has kind of carries them through the year. In the past, my favorite book/chapter has been John 4–specifically the portion about the Samaritan woman. The TL;DR version is that according to the laws and culture of the time, there were several reasons why Jesus and this woman shouldn’t have conversed the way they did: Jews and Samaritans were at odds, the woman was alone and shouldn’t have been talking to a man, AND she had a bit of a reputation. Nevertheless, while she focused on all the why nots, Jesus talked with her, she stated her faith, and (HERE IS WHAT I LOVE) an entire town believed in Jesus because of what she did. I love the idea that the way we live our lives in spite of our imperfections is our biggest ministry. 

Another year, the repetitive message seeemed to be “Wait and See.” Patience, my child. As we go into next year, I KEEP seeing some form of this:

I mean OVER and OVER and OVER again. So either I keep colliding with a whole bunch of people whose lives are not progressing at the pace they dreamed about as kids, or God is trying to tell me that His timing is sovereign. I definitely wanted to be a homeowner by 30. I definitely wanted to be married and either 1 kid in or *practicing* for the privilege. I didn’t envision at 18 that I would be 30, 30 some credits away from my BA, single(ish?), and watching my friends go hard in the paint two degrees and two kids in. But in the words of Ledisi, it’s alright. Even though my path on paper looks like a drunk toddler drew it, I am convinced that I have connected with enough people small and large and convinced those people of Gods love for them, of grace, of forgiveness and of unconditional love for this to not have been a grand waste of my time. 

So, for 2018 and beyond, 

I’ll finish my degree when I am supposed to. And with it in my hand I’m gonna run straight into my mom’s arms who left Towson because of the racial climate 30+ years ago and never went elsewhere—and then I’m going to go to every person over the age of a typical college student who secretly wants to go back but thinks that there is no room in the lecture hall for a 30-40-50-60+ adult with bills and responsibilities. I’m going to tell them that I failed developmental math over and over and I had teachers who told me to just quit but I also made deans list a couple times and even when i didn’t, my cumulative GPA never went below a 2.8 with a full time job and by God, it is finished!! 

I’ll get married when I am supposed to. I feel very strongly that I am meant to be someone’s wife. It may be while I still want to bear children, maybe it won’t be. Hey, maybe I won’t marry—even though I want to strongly for reasons spiritual and—ahem—otherwise, maybe I’ll be the fly single auntie on all the line dance cruises who has grown to love her peace and quiet. Maybe I’ll hit 40 and adopt one of these girls I’ve taught who desperately need to be loved beyond reason and knocked upside the head occasionally. 

I’ll have a house when I am supposed to—but maybe what I am supposed to craft is a HOME—with a spare bedroom in case someone is down on their luck and a dining room table that can sit whomever and a kitchen where magic happens and the soul food and cocktails flow. 

Even in the midst of the mess, 2017 was good to me. I found new friends to love. 

My daddy is holding and maintaining. 

I got to celebrate friends birthdays. (Not pictured…my first time at the gun range right after this photo). 

My high school keeps on winning the homecoming game! (#cityforever)

A reminder when life gets hard. 

Randomly went to a concert on a weeknight at the spur of the moment. Daniel Caesar 😍

Gained a new friendship of my own with someone that I’ve always known as “a friend of a friend”. 

Goddaughter turned four and started preschool!

It pays to have friends in your profession. Teacher comedy tour!

Also pays to have a community of faith at work. They’ve moved on, but they went to/performed at my fave open mic this year!!

Saw some of my favorite Christian poets. 

Sat in class with this dude. Axel is over 50 (I believe—he has kids my age) pursuing his undergrad degree. People like him give me hope. It CAN be done. 

The woman to the far right is my “work best friend”. One of the most dedicated and intelligent people I’ve met recently. She deserves so many good things. 

Dyed my locs purple and pierced my nose—just because I felt like it. 

I love that we can be silly, serious and sanctified all within the same conversation. Get you a HER!

This photo is actually from last year, but it’s meaningful because this year, my principal came out of remission and is battling breast cancer again. (#effcancer!!). But the way that my professional community comes together to stand in the gap while she goes through treatment is something to be proud of. 

Traveled alone out of the country for the first time. Celebrated my 30th birthday surrounded by 30 women that have guided me along the way. 

I commit to trusting the process, even when it gets difficult. I hope that you do as well. 


(I sent this email to the families of the girls in my advisory group. Never sent such a prose-ish note to them before, but I felt compelled. Likewise, I feel compelled to share it with you—maybe you aren’t a 12 year old with a changing body and racing mind…but somebody out there is going through a change that is altogether messy and beautiful. Honey, you deserve patience. Grow. 


Good evening, Slay Queen Families!
I saw this quote online earlier and was struck by how much our girls need to hear it:

“She’s learning to love herself. It can be an internal war or some days and it can be bliss on others, through it all, she deserves patience.” ~ Billy Chapata
I’d be lying if I say that the girls don’t drive me crazy sometimes…as I know they drive you as well. They say things—do things—or not—and it seems like everything you’ve ever told them went in one eardrum and out the other. 
But there are days, right? When all the right things happen. When you ask them once to do something at home and it gets done—or better yet, when you don’t have to ask. For me, it’s watching your girls help younger Scholars create their SLC greetings during Crew last week when their advisor was running late. It’s when some of them come into study hall and pull out their planners/notebooks and get started on their afternoon responsibilities without the slightest peep from me. It’s when I think I get on their nerves with all of the repetitions of “respect has nothing to do with liking someone” and “and whose responsibility was that, again?” and “45 minutes in BOTH subjects in iReady!!” and yet…they surprise me at the end of the school year with a poster (and a plate of whipped cream to the face 🙄) because school won’t be in session when my birthday rolls around. It’s awesome JumpRopes when they are outstanding in class. 

It’s moments like these when I feel like the hard work WORKS. When the blood, sweat and tears doesn’t seem to be in vain. When I catch glimpses that these girls will be high schoolers in a few short years and that fact doesn’t scare me a bit. I love to share these moments with you because I’ve only been riding this train for a year—you’ve been conducting it for a lifetime. 

Some days, it can be an internal war. Some days, it can be bliss. Through it all, she deserves patience. They deserve patience because as much as we scratch our heads at their behavior from time to time (or all the time), they don’t get it either. They deserve patience because we remember what it was to be the gangly, awkward, hormonal, irritated, pimply, complicated pre-teen wonder. I definitely remember—and I remember the adults that fought past my foolishness and left an impact because despite my efforts to the contrary, they saw WORTHY all over me. 
This week, I vow to give them patience. Hold me to that!! Right here is where the waiting meets the promise. 

What Kendrick–I Mean Jesus–Taught Me

Hello beautiful people!!

I am currently writing this post from the same spot I’ve written/watched/read/eaten many things over the past few days: on my bed–in my room–under a softly whirring ceiling fan–in a hushed household. The only thing that I can hear right now is the occasional click of the pull cords as they are being knocked into each other by the air the blades produce. 
A set up like this gives one mucho time to sit and think, wouldn’t you say?
If you’d asked me last week, before Wednesday at around 11:45am, I’d would’ve told you my big plans for this week off (my school is on an intercession break). Honestly, a lot of resting would have been included, but also, evenings out with friends after class since I had no work to wake up for. Impromptu early morning movies with only a few retirees as my company. Cleaning my car. Cleaning my room. Cooking sumptuous breakfasts with things like French toast and pancakes, things I don’t have time for during the week. None of that included rolling my ankle at work and fracturing the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot (while walking down the steps no less.) 

I was fighting crime. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 

My plans didn’t include hopping around like some ratchet species of kangaroo, crying in frustration that first day while it took me upwards of 15 minutes to get from the car to my bed, wrapping scarves around my crutches because they were killing my underarms, or needing my mom to help me undress from the waist down.

 None of that. (Side note: Is Randy wearing foundation?! I digress.)

But it is always my goal when crappy life stuff happens to find my good. There is good in most things–I think that you HAVE to view life that way to keep from being either incurably bitter or certifiably crazy. Silver linings MATTER. 
1. Rest

One upside of not being able to use one foot for an indeterminate amount of time is that you have to rest. I’ve discovered that I like to rest and be a homebody–on my own terms. When I have the option to do otherwise. After 24 hours of being propped up in bed, I decided that I was going to work Friday if it killed me. And while that probably wasn’t my smartest decision, it turned out that Friday was the kind of emotionally charged day at work where I needed to be around people both to give and receive comfort. I have this entire week off to rest and recuperate, though. Friends have come through with junk food and participated in binge-watch marathons, I’ve been keeping my foot up, and hopefully this will aid in the healing. I’m blessed to be in a position that allows me that time to rest without affecting me financially–I remember a time when my check would have looked markedly different had I had to take time off for an injury like this. The Bible says in at least 20 different places how important it is to rest; for spiritual reasons, such as recalibrating our spirits to the voice of God…but also physically, we burn out if we do not rejuvenate. 

2. Be humble 

I’m not going to lie; by yesterday, I’d had enough of being patted and pitied. I was ready to screen print a shirt that said “I FRACTURED MY TOE” so that people would stop asking. I was irritable and frustrated and I’m sure, more than a little snippy. (I apologize to any recipients of that!) I was over the crutches and the slowness of movement and the being forced to rely on others for basic tasks. And then I went to church. Wouldn’t you know it, Pastor Stephen preached on the need for humility. Talk about putting me in my place and stomping all over my toes!!

He said 

• You cannot be humble and justify yourself at the same time. 

• You cannot be humble and have “but they better nots…”

• You cannot be humble and wear a stopwatch. 

1 Peter 5:5 says to be clothed in humility because God resists the proud. Ouch. So as much as I like to be the doer, the planner, the maker, the bringer, this space means that I have to not just deal with my current situation, but use it to practice putting on a sense of humbleness that I thought I had but which might really be situational. 
3. Accept help 

This is my mother. She, unbeknownst to me washed every stitch of clothing that I own (only slightly exaggerating!) yesterday while I was at church. I mean, this woman washed staff shirts from jobs I don’t even work at anymore!! My first reaction was to cycle through shame and annoyance and admonish her for going through my stuff and doing something that I am completely capable of…but then I thought…am I capable?! I am on crutches!! How was I going to drag my hamper and walk down the hallway to our laundry room, balance myself on one leg and load the washer, dry and fold? This goes back to humbling myself. I had to fight against feelings of inadequacy, “being a bother”, etc and let myself be taken care of! Still though, stop with the pity. Enough, already. 

Anyway, I am (hopefully) off to the ortho tomorrow and he will (hopefully) tell me that I can ditch these crutches, wear two shoes and DRIVE sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I receive the message from Kendrick, I mean Jesus, that sometimes, stillness is spiritual and humility is a skill that always needs working on. 

*lifts crutch in solidarity*
Yours always,

A Teacher Left Yesterday (Poem)

A teacher left yesterday.

She left a note in sprawling cursive on the board

Saying “you are great girls, but life happens”

Code for: this isn’t what I signed up for

Code for: the hell i’m going through ain’t worth the dividends.


When you found out, you cheered

Quickly shushed and having the grace to look remorseful

You said “i mean, she was too soft”.


Why do we have to be hard to get your attention?

Preparing for battle, helmet against the

Thoughts that tell us we suck at this, that we make no difference.

Breastplate guarding from the arrows of disrespect and disdain?


This is one long metaphor about contributions from self to our own inequality/


Bad enough that the building leaks, that mice reside within its walls

That antiquated tampon machines painted shut still chillin’ in the bathrooms

As heralds to how long these walls have stood.

Bad enough that bars crisscross windows from the outside and half of

The windows house bolts to keep the bad guys out.


These are the things we can’t control

The rolls of dice, the unfortunate of luck

“The price on the menu of attending a city school”.


But what of the typeset on the bathroom stall?

BICTH written in robotic text?

What of the throwing of hands and the insults disguised as greetings?

What of the taking pride in making people cry?

What of the mistreatment of those stalwart and crazy in love enough to teach you?


You are inhabitants of a world where your zip code and your melanin gives others

Reason to hate you

At the very least, reason to assume they know you

You MUST be handled roughly. It is all you know. You don’t have feelings.

In the classrooms down the street they are referred to as “friends”,

In singsongy voices full of pride and sugar

In here, your friends call you dummy without flinching.

Those with a birds eye view think that you are savage, as are your friends,

As is your family. You are step above beast.

We tell dogs to heel. We order you to sit.

Believe me when I say it shouldn’t have to be like this.

Who looked at you and decided that you are incapable of reason?

That you don’t deserve logic? That you are beyond love?

Worse yet, when did you start to believe it too?


When someone doesn’t believe that they can handle your fire, let them go.

But mourn a little bit at the flower that didn’t get to grow.

Get a little angry that people go in and out of your life like

Plastic horses on a carousel. At your age, unfortunately loss feels familiar.

But do not rejoice. Accept, but do not congratulate.

You are worth so much more than ephemeral and sometimes.

A Soft Reset

Hello beautiful people!!

Here I am, on the other side of 30! As soon as the clock struck midnight, I immediately felt the wisdom of three decades on the earth settle like a mink stole around my shoulders. It was then that I knew my calling. *dramatic music*

smartvenn Clearly, I am joking.

I am three days into my 30’s. I still enjoy a good cereal and cartoon combination (when I am not watching nerdy documentaries, of course). My car is not as clean as I’d like it to be, and I look at other similarly-aged people and wonder when I will feel “grown-up”.

One thing that has continued to evolve, though, is my policy on friendships.

If you know me as more than a passing acquaintance, you know how deeply I value my friendships. I will give you my last dollars and eat tuna for the next two weeks. I will get up out of my bed and bring you chocolate milk if you are having pregnancy cravings (true story.) I may even help you move if I love you enough, and we all know that no one truly enjoys the moving process, not even the ones doing the moving. This is just the way that I was wired and I have come back to it after years of being hurt; Godly grace attached to my own imperfect heart.

depthsofheart (image found at CheriSHEd Ministries. I don’t know if this is original and want to give credit)

Because I do have an imperfect heart though, I have been known to quickly cut the ties when I feel like I am doing most of the work in a friendship and to cling tightly to first impressions. I am aware of that and know that this is where I need grace the most in the area of friendship. I know people who are regretful about making their own less than stellar first impressions out in the world, and I wonder often what kind of connections I’ve missed out on by being so resolute in my assessment of some people.

The recurring message this week seems to be to give another chance.

I’ve had two occasions recently where I had to be intentional about extending the olive branch: the first was at church with someone that I perceived to be snooty and looking down their nose at me for a while. Somehow, suddenly, we started chatting and this person is actually really witty and funny. We talked and laughed for awhile and I walked away from the encounter with a smile on my face but also wondering what I could have missed out on from this person. I know that it has broken my heart in the past when people have told me that they assumed I was standoffish simply because it was hard for me to “make the first move”. The second was someone in a professional setting that I’d completely assumed wasn’t “down for the cause” or worried about the urgency of getting these kids on equal footing.  After a pleasant interaction with them, I had to deduce that I really don’t know where her heart is. I had to open myself up to these people and let God cover our interactions with something supernatural.


Right around this time, my phone started acting reallllly stupid. The middle of the screen stopped working, and as soon as I figured out how to work around that inconvenience, it began “ghost typing”. Random strings of letters would start typing on messages, under people’s statuses, or in my Notes App. Pages would zoom in and out uncontrollably. Pandora opened itself and Kendrick Lamar started playing. I’m not even joking!


When I looked up what to do about this, several recommended doing what is known as a “soft reset”. A soft reset doesn’t completely restore the device to factory settings–whatever programs you are operating in will be closed and unsaved material will be lost, but the data on the hard drive and apps will remain unchanged. It ended up only working for a short period of time.

Here’s the thing though: You gotta give yourself and your heart permission to give the people in your life a soft reset. Guard your “heart drive” of course, but sometimes closing current programs and starting over is a win all around, especially for your peace of mind. Hey, if it doesn’t work, you have enough random access memory to know that this is officially a toxic situation and must be dealt with, right? But you will never know if you don’t try.




My 30 is Not My 20


Hey beautiful people!

 I am roughly 4 days from my birthday and staring 30 right in the face. One thing that I have seen a lot is posts claiming that 30 is the new 20, along with all types of algebraic equations so that people don’t have to call themselves what they are. (“I am 20+10…NOTTTT THIRTY”!) More power to you, but…

What’s wrong with 30?

Before I begin, let me state the fact that this post doesn’t come from a woman who has done everything that she set out to do by 30. Not even close! I look back at lists that I wrote, and depending on the day, I either laugh at my folly or shake my head in despair (kidding.) But this post DOES come from a woman who is saved by grace, oand that means that even my missteps have the aroma of a second chance clinging to them.

Here is why, for me, 30 is not 20


  • At 20, I was in a dead end situationship.



I haven’t been a serial dater, so I don’t have a whole lot of horror stories, but the ones I do have are pretty spectacular in their awfulness. I can’t remember which, but if the years line up correctly, I was either wasting my time with the African boy who was trying to marry me quickly for citizenship (yes, really), the Friday’s waiter boy who told me that I was too “white bread” (i.e. not willing to live on what he considered the wild side), or the Armenian Hopkins boy that was perfectly content with making out on a computer chair in his dorm room but not much else. These weren’t all simultaneous, I just can’t remember which one I was talking to 10 years ago. The common vein that runs through all three is that none of them valued me. This has something to do with their own respective immature mindsets and EVERYTHING to do with my lack of self worth. Let me be transparent here: I am aware of the dating mistakes in my lineage. I know what I want out of a relationship–and I “knew” back then, too. But a love language of words of affirmation that was unrefined and not prayed over manifested itself as CRAVING acceptance and love from some pretty incorrect sources. In order to have a love language, you have to love yourself enough to know what you need from somebody else. My 30 is not my 20 because I love and like myself enough to know (and bounce back quickly to knowing in my weaker moments) that I am worth a lot to God spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. As He whispered in my ear at 24: “you have saved yourself this long and THAT’S what you give yourself to? No, girl”

  • At 20, I was in unhealthy friendships.


See above. When you don’t know who you are or Whose you are, you are liable to accept whatever comes your way because you are grateful for the company. I was friends with people with whom there was an unhealthy balance of power—I was constantly seeking to make them happy and there was no reciprocity. There was also a lot of drama present–I was spending time with people who were making unwise choices and reaping the results. I’m not really a fan of Tyler Perry’s movies, but one thing that Madea said that has always resonated with me is “I would rather be by myself in the corner with a puppy and a goldfish than live with somebody in my house and wonder what the h*ll they’re here for.” I often say that peace is paramount in my life. I am past the point where drama and pettiness and tit-for-tat and controversy is fun. Of course, I love people and I value what they bring to my life, but I also wholeheartedly believe in getting a return on my investment–not in money per se, but in energy, effort, and time. The Bible says in Romans 12:10 to take delight in honoring each other. Another translation says to outdo each other in showing honor. I have some friends that I see once a week and others where we go a couple of months between visits, but the greatest common denominator in all of the people that I count as close friends is that current of reciprocal love that flows between us. My 30 is not my 20 because, although Madea was talking about her real house, metaphorically, my house is my life and I keep friends in my house whose purpose I never have to wonder about.

  • At 20, I wasn’t confident in my professional worth.


Around that time, I was working in an unnamed family fun spot here in Baltimore, and was making exactly 7.00 an hour. Whew. It worked for me because, like your average 20 year old, I didn’t have many responsibilities. I had my license but no car, a Virgin Mobile cell phone, no rent to pay—my little 300 dollar checks were golden! There was one problem though. I signed a contract that said that I was to make 7/hr for the first 90 days, after which I’d have a performance review. If they were pleased, I’d be bumped up to 7.25/hr for another 90 days and then I’d have another review. If they were satisfied with my work after those 180 days, I’d be bumped up again and top out at a whopping 7.50/hr. Somewhere along the line, I got wind that new people coming in the door were starting out at 7.50, with the same quarter raise every 90 days until they topped out at 8.00/hr. In my mind, this wasn’t fair–you mean to tell me that after being a loyal and model employee for a year at this point, someone who was just starting to work there would make the same starting salary as what I currently made after working up to it? But do you know what I did? I complained to myself and commiserated with coworkers…and I stayed there for roughly another year before pursuing another opportunity. Not once did I go to management and state my case and ask for a raise. Not once did it occur to me to challenge the status quo. In the book “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change”, Linda Babcock says that 46% of men are willing to negotiate their salary, while only 30% of women are. Out of those above percentages, 39% of men are apprehensive about the negotiation, and 55% percent of women are. While men are expected to bargain, wager, and argue, women fear being perceived as argumentative or a “nag”…simply because of asking for what they feel they deserve. When women DO negotiate, however, they are quite successful. I was a great employee at Unnamed Family Fun Place–I was always on time, respectful, good with families and schools, a team player, and in uniform. Chances are, had I negotiated, I would have gotten that raise! Fast forward to this year in my job as an assistant teacher, I really tried my best to be a model employee. I showed integrity, outperformed expectations, tried to think of solutions before problems arose–and it paid off! I was asked to take on some leadership duties–and guess what some of my first  questions were about: compensation. My 30 is not my 20 because I understand that my time and my talent are worth something. People will take all that they can for the free.99 if you let it be known that that is your modus operandi. It is no longer mine.

  • At 20, I had analysis paralysis.



I cared a WHOLE lot about what people thought about me. Do you know how exhausting it is to weigh every interaction, every move, every conflict, and every notion against the perceived potential judgement of other people? There were things that I did not say that should have been said and things that I should have protested but didn’t because I didn’t want to make a scene. I looked at friends of mine who have always been the ones to say what others are thinking and thought how much better they must sleep at night compared to me, lying awake with all of the things I wanted to say running circles around my head. My 30 is not my 20 because, while I am still not a fan of a confrontational conversation, I have learned that as long as my Lord and my mama are pleased, I am ok. (Sometimes, not even my mama….we had to work on her excitement for these tattoos and the nose piercing). Everything ain’t for everybody, and while I have a network of trusted girlfriends that have earned the right to critique my life decisions, my life is my own at the end of the day. In the Spirit of the Lord, there is FREEDOM, and that means freedom from the weight of what people think. This year, I pierced my nose, traveled abroad alone, shook my behind at a silent party with my sis and my headphones to keep me company, and drove to Virginia for a conference at the spur of the moment. And it was great. The year isn’t even over yet!


There are countless other examples, but these are four big reasons why I am excited to head into this third decade of my life. I have learned so much, and it is my hope that with these lessons, I can avoid some of the heartbreak of my 20s. I predict that these will be my best years yet!!!

The (Un)Bearable Blackness of Being

“For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”  -The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

Hello beautiful people,

I’ve missed you! There is so much that I have wanted to say. I don’t know about you, but when I get overwhelmed (in this case with words that I want to write), sometimes I find it easier to not write at all. This is just one of many attempts to process some of what I have been seeing and feeling lately.

Recently, I went to go watch a student of mine march with her band on a steamy Saturday afternoon. It was muggy–the kind of “a 30 second monsoon is imminent” kind of disgustingly muggy that makes one feel as though they are swimming through pea soup. Everyone was assembled in what basically amounts to a parking lot in front of an old vocational skills center. There was no shade and no seats in sight. And it was LIT.

Let me recap if you missed it. Humid day, hanging out in an empty lot waiting for festivities to begin, and it was SO much fun! Watching people prepare for their band’s turn to go on, talk and laugh, sprinkle water on faces or on washcloths draped on heads to keep cool…listening to the DJ at the far end of the parking lot encouraging people to invite others because “we need to support our kids when they are doing the right thing!” it occurred to me randomly, as it often does nowadays:

MAN….I really love my people! I mean, we can make a celebration out of anything–growing up, I can’t tell you how many times a simple summer Sunday dinner of grilled food ended up being a cookout–Mom and Auntie would invite a few people, I would invite the bestie and a few others, someone would throw 92Q (if I had my way) or 95.9 (if I didn’t) on the radio and stretch the cord to sit in the doorway, Scrabble/cards/dominoes/Jenga would come out, and there you have it…insta-party.

I flash back to when my great-grandmother passed during my junior year of high school. Sad occasion, yes. But one of the first things that I remember my mother or grandmother saying was that the family was all wearing winter white. Why? Because this wasn’t a funeral, dark and depressing complete with weeping and gnashing of teeth. This was a celebration of a 91 (i believe) year long life that had been VERY well lived. My great-grandmother deferred college for herself for years and made sure that every last one of her siblings would have a chance to go. She loved her man with everything in her and together they loved on their daughter, grandchildren, and in my great-grandmother’s case, my cousin and I. I have fond memories of her making me big ol’ country breakfasts when I stayed at her house and saving my behind when I did something worth getting in trouble for.

When I was little, I used to hear the pastor say “hallelujah, anyhow”. Things may go completely awry, but if you can find just a small glimmer of hope, just a slight reason to have joy, you can make it. This is a post celebrating what I feel like we do best as a people–we rise above the nonsense, refuse to let said nonsense define us, and do what we can to find a “hallelujah anyhow”. These are signs of  our resilience.

Every May, you see the prom parade commence. When I left for my senior prom back in (gasp!!) 2005, my mom probably laid out a few snacks, everybody took pictures of my date and I in front of the hot pink azalea bush in my front yard, and that was that. My aunt-by-marriage’s mother (to this day, I am not sure how she ended up seeing me off) stuck a 20 down my dress “for emergencies” (yes, she stuck it there herself), my grandfather probably mildly threatened the life of my date, we hopped in my uncle’s Escalade and rolled out. Nowadays like clockwork, you hear stories of parents shipping in three tons of sand, several luxury cars and a CAMEL for an epic Dubai themed prom sendoff.

Also, like clockwork, you hear the naysayers (actual comments below):

“Why do those people put so much emphasis on appearances?”
“I wonder if she even has a job–wasn’t she sick?” How’d she afford it?”
“I bet she hasn’t invested that much in his college education!!”

(Just so we are aware, Johnny Eden, Jr. had a 3.8 GPA, his mom wanted to honor his excellence, and she WAS incredibly sick but promised herself that if she lived she’d celebrate her son. I don’t know if she has saved for his college education, but that’s not really my business.)

There was an article posted by The Washington Post about Baltimore ( and presumably other low-income, high-violence cities) and it talked about how these cities tend to go all out for high school graduations and proms because there is a high probability that they won’t have a significant amount of happy events to celebrate in the future. People are being killed. They are dying from high rates of preventable and non-preventable diseases. Drugs are running rampant. Nihilism is at an all time high in these high trauma neighborhoods…people report feeling trapped in the cycle. The talented, the bright, the motivated are encouraged to take hold of every opportunity that they can and LEAVE.

A few days after the humid parking lot marching band extravaganza, the news hit that the officer who murdered Philando Castile would not be charged in his murder. A wave of anger followed closely…theoretically, wasn’t Castile doing all of the things that we are told that we must do in order to spare our lives when speaking to police. Remain calm? Did that. Keep hands where they can be seen? Check. Generally be an upstanding member of society? Yes. Respond to officer demands? Yup. And still, another death certificate was being crafted.

In the book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” Kundera weighs Nietzsche’s philosophy of eternal return (that with an infinite amount of time and a finite number of events, events will repeat themselves) with Parmenides’s understanding of life as lightness. It seems to be that the lives of Black people in this country are filled with the eternal return of situations that shouldn’t bear repeating.

Every time another acquittal scrolls across the screen.

Each time a star football player who is a standout in the league gets blackballed for silently protesting injustice.

Every time a #BlackWomenAtWork hashtag needs to be added to because we feel invisible in the workplace.

Every time a person paints themselves in Blackface and doesn’t understand (or care about) the implications.

Every time a movie is cast and people don’t understand why _______________ is Black now.

For every microaggression, every ill-timed joke, every comment, we feel that unbearable Blackness of being…

And yet.


We inevitably choose lightness. We choose to BLAST Frankie Beverly and Maze and two step with a drink in hand. We choose to scream and yell and go absolutely nuts when our collective babies graduate and beat the odds. We choose to have debutante balls, crab feasts, bull roasts, step shows, fetes, prom sendoffs, marching band exhibitions, praise parties and hilarious gender reveals. There was an article on the HuffPost that said “Black Joy is Black Resistance”. I agree. We choose that lightness of being.

And I am so glad that we do.


With This Broken

Hello, light streaming through tattered Venetian blinds,

I see you, slightly askance, kind of walking in what you were placed here to do but not really. Your purpose has taken a gangsta lean and you find yourself wondering what the point is if more often than not, people have to contort themselves to figure out what you are even doing anymore. 

This post is for anyone who has suffered a storm, a setback or a situation. For anyone who has been knocked off course, for anyone that, if they are honest with themselves, has lain in bed in the midnight hour clinging to the precipice of a promise with no real faith in their grip. 

I used to be you. I’d be lying if I said that my mind doesn’t still occasionally attempt to flirt with that line of thinking in the dark. 

I was talking to a friend of mine through text tonight who happens to be in med school. B. is the kind of sisterfriend that turns what she touches into gold–or at least that’s the way it seems. I don’t want to trivialize her hard work though because I know sis is out here grinding like bad brakes, but from outside the windows looking in? She’s effortless genius personified. 

She was telling me that she starts clinical rotstions tomorrow–and after I asked her what specialties she’d be working in, she said, among others, psychiatry and the surreal nature of working in a psychiatric hospital. 

I don’t know why, but parts of my story that I don’t think I’d told her before just poured out onto the “page”: that I can believe how surreal it is because I was diagnosed as clinically depressed when I was 18–and it is because of this that I can (only slightly) identify with the idea that the mind has a mind of its own and it’s no joke. That’s to say nothing of people that are really out here in the trenches of schizophrenia and manic ideation. Like, I had INCREDIBLY low self image–something that looking back, I think was on the edge of my personality for awhile (cue self deprecating jokes, etc) but really manifested in college when I was surrounded by girls who loved to drink (expertly, at 18!!!) and party and with whom I did NOT mesh well. And I remember my sleeping patterns and my eating patterns being shot to heck, and thinking at 2am that the only people who may have loved me were like 120 miles away. And the mind plays tricks–how disappointed everyone would be if I failed at this. If they were enjoying their everyday lives without me in it, etc. BUT!! My relationship with God during that time went from something that was really on the periphery of my life to being my sustainer. I think back and God actually brought people into my life even during that dark/low period that needed to hear a word from Him. I was able to introduce people to Christ even while in my storm, and for that I am forever grateful. 

And that brings me to the point of this post. I don’t know what has happened in your life so far. I don’t know what setbacks have you weary. But I have a feeling tonight that someone out there on WordPress, or that I am connected to through one of my social media accounts may be on the edge of their destiny staring into a chasm of fog, not knowing where to place their next step. I need you to know this: 

Whatever it is that has bruised you and battered you and perhaps even broken you might be the very thing, the most transformative and transparent part of your story that compels someone else to keep on keeping on. In my own example, I think that God illuminates women to me who are struggling with self image. Now, is mine perfect? Nope–it is eons better than it was though, and I take pleasure in telling these women that they are loved and known, worthy of honor and adoration NOT because they look good but because they ARE good. Every time that happens, every time someone walks away from me and they are heading towards feeling like they are valuable, I send a silent thank you upwards. 

Who would have thought that 18 year old me, struggling with what I perceived to be my invisibility, would be charged with the responsibility of loving on people past the point of reason? Who knew that in some respects, this would actually be my job–to have young women watch as I treat everyone from the custodian to the executive director of my school with the same care. Who knew when I was sitting in my dorm room alone, clinging to the edge of my purpose with tension? 

God did. 

Think of the story of the Samaritan woman. I love John 4, and every time I read this chapter, I find something new. This time, it was that this woman had quite a past–and quite a present. According to the scripture, ““The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” She’d been married a handful of times, but she was also sharing a bed with someone she wasn’t married to. This probably wasn’t the vision that she had for her life–I wonder if SHE ever wondered what she was supposed to do with all of her brokenness?  Then Christ showed up. Their conversation challenges the dichotomy of the time in which the scripture is written–this unwed woman is conversing with a man she doesn’t know like this is conventional. She challenges Him. She digs. And ultimately, she runs to her folks saying that she has found the fulfillment of prophecy. She runs to them saying “Yo, this guy told me everything I ever did–all of my bad AND my good. He sees my mess and He’s still here!!” {Stephanie translation hahaha}

 And the townspeople were like “whaaat?”
Here’s my favorite part though–that 39th verse in John 4: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

Honey, this is what you do with your broken. Don’t hide it. Don’t pretend it never existed. Don’t sanitize it for the onlookers (thought the temptation be mighty). No, take your broken in one hand and your calling in the other and carry them both as you walk in this world and talk about what is really real. 

So hello, streaming sunshine that peeks through the spaces where the blinds are missing. You are so beautiful. I don’t know if you are taking the form of the sun pushing in or the blinds trying to hold it as it escapes through fingertips but you–yes  You–are worthy and you have purpose. You are still useful, still important, and there isn’t a storm or a demon in hell that can change that fact. 
The world is aching for someone to change it with their broken. And so am I. 
Love you (mean it),

(*Just a note: I will never sit here and say that medicine is a crutch. If you are dealing with mental health crises, please–get help and get medicated if the doctors think that is the best course of action. I am all for hugs and journals and candles and fresh air curing what ails us, but it would be silly to pretend that among all of Gods gifts, modern medicine ain’t one. Self care is priority.)