#newyorkred

“A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory.  What a tragedy this can be in the history of a family.  Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives.” – Dennis B. Neuenschwander

Family.

This past Monday morning, I lost one of my favorite aunts.  She was the last living of my mother’s 15 siblings and on the heels of losing my mother two years ago, my grief is deeply felt.   I know that I will never see my aunts and uncles again in the physical realm, and the individual and collective loss leaves a discernible void in my life; I feel like I can almost touch it.

The saving grace is that in their wake, they left me with a ton of great and happy memories.  It was always a good time when my mother’s side of the family were all together.  When I was young and living in New York, we would take a road trip to Washington, DC at least once or twice a year to visit or to attend a celebration of some milestone or birthday.  I was always so excited to go!  And oh…how the good times rolled – food and drink, jokes and laughter, hugs and kisses and just … love!

My relatives also left a legacy to me, my brother and cousins – a treasure trove of photos! My family loved photographs!  My mother left behind many photo albums filled with black and white and color photos of family and friends from way, way back, chronicling the years of both sides of my family.  Through the years, we would flip through the pages of the albums together and my mother would tell us who was in the photos if we didn’t know, and showed us pictures of our grands and great grands.  I still flip through them occasionally, but this time, I do it with my son.  I tell him the story of his family, so he can put names and faces to his ancestors; and with that, the priceless legacy of family is passed on.  It is the duty of each person who knows a part of the story to pass it on to the next generation.  I believe knowing who your family is somehow grounds you like nothing else.  It’s valuable and precious and no material thing can top it.

I am grateful to have known all of these wonderful people – my aunts and uncles.  I am so sad that they are gone, but the bittersweet memories of them and how they loved us lives on in our hearts.  Fond memories spring up each time I look at the glossy photos of their smiling faces. I am appreciative of the stories and seeing the faces of those in my family I’ve never met or those who passed on when I was too young to have remembered them.  Even though there remains so much of our story to piece together, I am grateful to have known and loved many of the people who are a part of it.  Yet even more, I am proud to be a part of the story, right along with them.  Knowing where you come from plays a big part in who you are.  “We all carry, inside of us, people who came before us.” – Liam Callanan

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The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Jack Kornfield

In many of my posts, I will talk about my mother.  Mommy passed away at 90 years of age in April 2017.  In the days following her death, I spoke with numerous relatives and friends who told me great stories about my mother, and to be honest, I came to know her a little better because of it.
As the years progressed from my childhood into my young adulthood, my mother shared stories about herself, some humorous, some shocking – but listening to the stories made me realize that my mother was human.  She had fears, she had flaws, she had victories, she had strengths.  Many of us grow up viewing our parents as superhuman and immortal (or at least that’s how I viewed my parents), and I think that notion is part of the explanation why it was so devastating to me when they each passed away.
I listened to an Oprah Masterclass podcast (if you haven’t listened to any of these, you really must!) – wherein she spoke with singer/actress Vanessa Williams.  Vanessa said she’s always been open and candid with her children about her past and told the type of stories about herself most people don’t tell their children.  Her philosophy is by sharing  her experiences and what she learned from them, her children will also learn from them and/or make better informed decisions.  She is also convinced that being candid with her children helped them to better understand her.
I wonder why many parents are not honest and open with their children in this way.  Will keeping it real tarnish the parent persona?  If a parent shares that they’ve smoked marijuana in the past, will it somehow prompt their children to do so as well?  Will ‘fessing up about their past damage their children?  Or is it because they believe it’s not their business to know?
Many of the things I learned about my mother after she passed away weren’t new, and some of them were told from the perspective of the storyteller.  But it made me realize that I hadn’t asked certain questions to learn more about my mother while she was alive – things that could’ve possibly given me more insight into what made her tick.  I discovered I knew a lot, but also knew so little…and regret now that I had taken advantage of the time I thought I had.
Weeks later in a totally separate Masterclass podcast – singer Stevie Nicks mentions a similar experience – after her mother passed away, she realized there were so many things she’d never discussed with her.  Why?  Because, she too,  thought she had time.
Talk to your parents.  Think about it; aren’t there things you are curious about that you’ve never asked?  Family history isn’t reserved solely to finding out who Grandma and Grandpa was, or digging back into the family tree and learning that your great-great-great grand was a slave or grew up in Ireland or was the king or queen of some distant land.  While these facts are important, it’s also important to know the “stories” behind who they are/were; these stories are genuine threads to the intricacy of your life and who you are.
Talk to your children.  Tell your story, or at least the many parts you feel comfortable telling.  But I dare say, the true lesson lies in the parts that you feel uncomfortable about telling; those are the stories they really need to hear.  Tell your story.  Because you really don’t have time
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She is a survivor.
She is an advocate for ending domestic violence.
She is the author of  “Why Didn’t You Ask?—A story of Domestic Violence and Rape.”
She is the Executive Director of Membership Relations for Classy Living Society.
She is an Ambassador for the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence.
She is a member of The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
She is the recipient of Classy Living Society’s 2018 #KeepGoing Award!

This week, I’d like you to meet my CLS Sister, Panya Dixon!  Look for guest blogs coming up in the future from this powerful Ambitious Winning Woman!  Read her feature in the Chronicles Too! by clicking the link below!

Panya Dixon

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This week, we celebrated the arrival of the New Year and nothing else conjures up tradition like holidays.  For example, there’s an old Southern tradition that collard greens and black-eyed peas should be eaten on the first day of the year to guarantee luck and prosperity for the coming year.  The greens symbolize dollar bills and the peas represent coins; plus, add a little cornbread and there’s your gold!  For those of you who eat greens and peas each year on New Year’s Day (and for those of you who don’t) have you ever actually noticed whether eating these foods have had an impact on your financial status?
Now, by no means am I saying that you shouldn’t believe in the luck that greens and peas can bring you.  But I urge you to take a moment to get a good look at old traditions and rituals we partake in, yet don’t know where they came from or when and why they began  – we just do them because “it’s always been done this way.”  But… do they generate results?
The story goes a little something like this:  a mother was teaching her teen daughter to prepare a holiday dinner – a true rite of passage passed down from mother to daughter.  As Mom is getting the ham ready for the pan, she carefully cuts off both ends of the ham with a big knife – about 3 inches is whacked off each end.  “This is what you have to do before you cook the ham,” says Mom.  With a quizzical look, the daughter asked, “Why? You’re wasting part of the ham!”  The mother says, “I don’t know, that’s what my mother did. It’s always been done this way!”  Frustrated now, the daughter replied, “But Mom, there’s got to be a better explanation for it than that.  Does it cook better? Ughhh, I don’t understand!”
Sensing this wouldn’t be the end of her daughter’s questions about the lopped off ham, Mom called her mother.  “Mother, why did you cut both ends off the ham before cooking it?”  Her mother replied, “Because that’s the way your Grandma did it.  It’s always been done this way!”
Now, Mom was just as perplexed as her young daughter, so she decided to call her grandmother.  “Grandma, Mother said she cut off both ends of the ham before cooking it because that’s what you did.  Why did you do it? Did it make it taste better?  So it wouldn’t dry out? Why?”
Grandma replied, “No. The only pan I owned was too small for the ham, so that was the only way I could get it to fit.”
This brings me to the subject of resolutions.  I think it’s a good practice to have a few resolutions each New Year; there’s never anything wrong with a list of goals to set us out on the right foot for the year.  In years past, I’ve made long lists of resolutions, only to reach the end of each of those years without accomplishing one of them.  For a time, I decided not to make any because not achieving success was so heartbreaking and I’d get so down on myself.  This year, I’m examining things a little differently – the reason I wasn’t successful 75% of the time with resolutions was I was trying to accomplish things the way OTHER people thought I should do it.  No matter whether it was right for me or not!
In honoring ourselves, it is imperative, that WE figure out the “right way” to care for ourselves to achieve success.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t look for help from the experts, but most of us have gone at some of the same things over and over – so we definitely know what doesn’t work, right?
Truth be told, the turn of the New Year holiday cannot magically transport us into brand new beings.  WE have to be active participants in our own transition.  Maybe we should start a savings account instead of relying on eating greens and peas.  Maybe we should try a new way to conquer the challenge of those same old resolutions we keep making every year.  Maybe we should ask questions instead of doing things the same way all the time because someone told us it would be best.  If we are not successful in what we are doing, it is true insanity to keep trying to go at it the same way and expect different results.
There’s a whole world of methods out there to accomplish what you’re trying to do.  Stop cutting off the ends of the ham because someone told you to do it, and figure out a new way – the perfect way for you – to get results.
I wish us success!  Happy New Year!  Now pass the collard greens!
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Yvette Greene stole my eyeglasses when I was in the fourth grade (her name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent).

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was nine years old.  The teacher told my mother I was squinting to see the blackboard, so my mother took me to the eye doctor on Fordham Road in the Bronx to get them checked out.  Sure enough, I was extremely nearsighted in my left eye and a bit nearsighted in my right.  I was given the privilege to choose the frames I wanted for my glasses – and I chose a pair of light blue cat-eyeglasses; I guess we’d call them retro today – pointed at the top edges with silvery accents right at the tips.  They gave me an eyeglass case, and my mother printed my name and address on the inside flap with a black magic marker.  I was told I didn’t have to wear them all the time if I didn’t want to – but that I should definitely wear them to see the blackboard in class so as not to strain my eyes.

I was soooo proud the next day when I got to class and showed my eyeglass case to Yvette, who sat next to me in Mrs. Gold’s class.  I popped open the little snap on the front of the case, and with so much flourish it would make Vanna White jealous, I displayed my sparkling brand new glasses inside.  I placed them on the bridge of my nose, and was so excited because I could see the blackboard (and everything else) with such clarity!  I looked around the room to see who was looking at me, because I just knew I was looking good!

The details of the how it happened and the what the heck happened is fuzzy — somehow I arrived home a few days later without my glasses, the case, the glasses, everything – gone.  I would imagine I was nervous about telling my mother they were gone (“I lost my glasses…”), and I can also imagine she wasn’t happy about it, and I was in deep, deep trouble…

But this I do recall: the following day when I arrived at school and walked into my classroom…there was Yvette sitting at our desk with my eyeglasses on her face.  I was astounded and bewildered – as I gazed at “Yvette’s glasses” and noted they were just like mine – light blue cat-eyeglasses with silver accents at the tips.  Yvette sat there, wearing my glasses and looking around the room to see who was looking at her (even though I’m sure she couldn’t see worth a darn), just like I did when I first showed them off.  “How do you like my new glasses?,” she asked me.  What did I do?  Well, I was a lover, not a fighter, so I said nothing, until I arrived home after school when I told my mother that Yvette had accidentally “borrowed” my glasses.

The next day, my mother went up to the school to report this egregious act of thievery and Yvette was taken to the principal’s office where she was interrogated as she sat in a chair with her hands tied behind her back and water dripping on her forehead until she confessed (not really, but it sounds good and dramatic, doesn’t it?).  In the end, my eyeglasses were returned and all was right in my nine-year-old world.

The years have passed and I’ve had Lasix surgery – so no more glasses and I have no idea where Yvette is these days.  In looking back at this life event, two things come to mind.  First, I suppose my gloating and shoving my eyeglasses under Yvette’s nose probably egged her on to “borrow” my glasses.  I guess I should be flattered that she was so impressed by them that she had to try them for herself.  After all, as they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery!  But, I also know that even though she probably thought she looked really cute to everyone in the outside world, actually, she really couldn’t see or focus on a thing while wearing them!  They weren’t made for her, they were made for me.

Sometimes you may envy someone else for something they can do, or something they own – so much so that you may decide to “borrow” it.  But guess what?  Just like Yvette, you’ll find your “focus” is way off and not right at all.  You know why? It’s because whatever you’ve decided to try on for size wasn’t made for you, it was made for them.  It may look shiny and perfect when they show it to you, or tell you about it, but it looks that way because it’s only for them.  Besides, you have no idea what that person had to endure to get where they got.  I wore glasses because I couldn’t see clearly past a hand in front of my face.  And even if I did look really cute wearing my glasses, Yvette was a “far sight” more privileged because she could see clearly without assistance – I think…

Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”  I have learned that when you take the time to explore what’s for you, you’ll feel so much more comfortable in your own skin, doing your own thing.  And it can never really be taken from you.  What’s for you is for you; and if it’s worth having, it won’t come easy.  What you envy has not come easy to the object of your admiration either – you may see that girl on the street who looks just fabulous wearing her glasses, but also remember she probably can’t see who’s waving at her from across the street without them.

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Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare.   Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.  And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them.   And new ones will find you and cherish you.  
 
And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” ~ Audre Lorde
In the last few days I have hashed and re-hashed over various subjects to post about.  None have seemed quite appropriate to my current season. Until I stumbled upon the above quote by Audre Lord.  
 
I have always shied away from confrontation (not to be confused with non-confrontational because as humans we are all faced with conflicts now and again).  I also tend to remain silent rather than speak my mind — out of intimidation or for fear of not being heard, acknowledged or just plain fear.  I wouldn’t express my ideas for fear that they weren’t good enough, or didn’t make sense.  I wouldn’t express myself for fear of invalidation or that no would agree with me.
 
I have realized that this stance does not serve me well.  Imagine all of the creativity I’ve wasted because I haven’t shared!  You will hear me say on many occasions that God is slapping Himself in the forehead because many of us are sitting on the gifts, talents and abilities He’s given us instead of  sharing them with the world.  The tragedy!  All because we are afraid no one else will think our offerings are as great as we do.
In my case, Audre Lord’s quote hits home – I asked myself – “what’s the worse that can happen?”  If you can withstand whatever “worse” your words may dredge up, then it is worth it to break your silence.  It’s worth it for you to stand up for yourself.  It’s worth it because – even if you only halfway inspire ONE person among those others you may anger, or who may put you down, etc. – you’ve spoken your truth.  That’s golden!
 
It is not important whether your words are heard, acknowledged or validated.  But what is most important is that your truth is spoken.  And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and go to the party.
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“If I woulda, coulda, shoulda, that’s what folks always say… . ” The lyrics from the Lou Rawls song speaks to the fact that we spend an inordinate amount of time wishing we were 10 pounds slimmer, or that our bank accounts were larger, or we were more beautiful or handsome.  If only we would’ve chosen to accept that offered position at the other company…or we just generally envy others’ lives as we perceive them to be better than the one we have.  The reality is we should only be concerned with who we are and what we have – right now – and be grateful for it all.

Apart from love, gratefulness holds the most prolific magic wand over our lives.  Actively exercising gratitude has the potential to transform the very nature of our days and compels us to concentrate on our present.  The future is not ours to see, and reflecting on the past is only useful to remind us of lessons learned.  All we have is the present.

I have fostered some of my greatest Law of Attraction concepts from the books “The Secret” and “The Magic” by Rhonda Byrne. To turn up your gratitude meter, one of the simplest models to adopt can be exercised before going to sleep at night and rising in the morning.  At night, think of at least one thing (you’ll think of many!) that you are grateful for that occurred that day.  If you so choose, keep a notepad at your bedside to quickly jot down those reflections.  Your notes will become a rudimentary list upon which to rely when you need a gratitude reminder.

The next morning, press the refresh button!  Before getting out of bed, set your mind on gratitude for the new day.  By concentrating on your thankfulness for the events of the day, nothing but goodness will unfold.  Go through the day saying “thank you!” for the big and small – the simplest of things.  Say thank you for your toothbrush and your shower, your breakfast and your clothing.  Start your car – say thank you!  Because you’re in that dreaded traffic jam means you have a car – say thank you!  Your boss gets on your last nerve, but say thank you anyway – because you have a job!  That great parking space at the mall, that dress/suit you’ve had your eye on is on sale – THANK YOU!

Living a life paying attention to gratefulness and love, every moment of  every day and being steadfastly present in your present only brings you more to be grateful for.  Do not cling to what you think should be and choose happiness and joy!  Be thankful for the good – even the not-so-good – the possibilities for gratitude are endless.  Endless gratitude — we can even be grateful for that!  What are you grateful for?

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New York Red….

 

Welcome to my new blog — New York Red!  This is the place where I will share Musings, Thoughts & Prose on love, life, new beginnings & everything else!  Philosophy, inspiration, humor, a bit of my inside info and things I’ve learned along my journey.

 

I’m a New York girl in Atlanta, Georgia…I always tell people I’ve lived in Atlanta since 1985 and I’m told “Oh, then, you’re a Jawja peach, guhl!” – well, not exactly!  Anyone who knows a New Yorker knows that no matter how long we’ve been away from the Empire State – we still claim ourselves New Yorkers!  My East Coast (New Yawk) accent has all but faded, although it rears its head when I’m excited or angry – or just when it feels like it! Accent aside, one thing about New Yorkers, it’s really not just about how you say it, it’s the way you say it, and that about me has not faded…

 

Where did I get the name New York Red, you ask?  Well, there’s a story behind that too.  One of my friends, an Atlanta native (and you rarely meet Atlanta natives in Atlanta – go figure! *shrug*), and I would banter back and forth about the habits of New Yorkers and Southerners.  She is a true Atlanta lady, with a feisty, yet calm Southern spirit (how do they do that, these Southerners? lol) and she’d say “How come you New Yorkers always….[fill in the blank].  And I’d say “How come you Southerners always….”  Trust me, it’s all in mutual fun and giggles.  Anyhoo, she began calling me New York Red and the name stuck!  For those who don’t know, in the South if you are Black, but have a lighter complexion than a brown paper sack, you’re called RED, which is also short for redbone – phrases which, I might add,  I’d never even heard of until I moved to the South.

 

Needless to say, although I may poke fun, I LOVE Atlanta and all of its  … well… Southern-ness!  This New York girl in Atlanta celebrates the parts of her that are still very much honking yellow cabs, hot dog carts, cheesecakes, pizza, open fire hydrants in the summer, Mr. Softee ice cream trucks and skyscrapers.  But I also embrace the part of me that’s the Varsity (what’ll ya have?), Southern hospitality, inside/outside the Perimeter, shut it all  down when it snows, bless your heart, 100 streets named “Peachtree,” sweet tea and PEACHES kind of girl…

 

In all of this, I’ve learned that no matter where you came from, you pick up where you are and who you are as you go along traversing the globe.  Ella Fitzgerald said “It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”  Whether I remain in the South, or return to the East Coast or change direction altogether, where I go with all of what I’ve gained along the way is what counts.

 

New York Red….

Welcome to my blog.  Pull up a seat, take your shoes off, get a big ole glass of SWEET tea and stay awhile!

 

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Welcome to the NEW Classy Chronicles!

Formerly, the Classy Chronicles was the official online digital magazine of Classy Living Society. The newly revamped Classy Chronicles is now a platform housed on the Classy Living Society website! Through easy-to-navigate dropdown menus, the Classy Chronicles provides an outlet to many subjects of interest at the click of a mouse – articles and features that highlight people who are doing amazing things in the community, health and wellness, work-life balance, beauty and fashion and more!

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