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Lessons I Learned From My Father…

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Lessons I Learned From My Father…

My Daddy and I

As a self-professed “Daddy’s girl,” I often reflect upon the memory of my father fondly. Charles, or “Chuck” as he was affectionately called by many, was one of the greatest men I have ever had the pleasure to know and love. I often tell people that my father was the first man I have ever loved, and I am glad that I had such a great example for a father.

For anyone who knew myself and my members of my immediate family, everyone used to call me his “twin.” I inherited my father’s dashing good looks,  somewhat reserved demeanor, his wicked sense of humor, and his “book smarts” (as confessed by my mother). As a kid, wherever my father was, that’s where I wanted to be. I was even told that my first word was “daddy.” What I loved about him was that he wasn’t the type of guy that believed nurturing was reserved solely for my mother. He did everything for me…except for combing my hair, and was proud of it.  His lap was my safe space and his smile was my sunshine.

In a world where 70% of Black children are born or raised within a single-parent home, I count myself tremendously blessed to have had the positive influences of both my mother and father growing up. There are so many reasons why I admire this man and still thrive from the fruits of his hard work and dedication, that I think I could write a book. But, instead of doing that, I’ll share a few of the most important life lessons I learned from my father. He taught me…

1). There is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes while growing up, I used to get frustrated by how much my dad worked until I caught a glimpse of some of our bills. What I didn’t understand then, but what I eventually did grow to understand, was that providing for his family was one of my father’s top priorities. We were not rich by any means, which meant that my parents had to work to provide a comfortable life for their children and for themselves. My dad taught me that there is no substitute for hard work, and hard work does eventually pay off.

There were times in grade school where I would get so upset at myself for not getting an A+ on that paper or that project I worked so hard on. When I came home to tell him what happened, he would listen to me whine, and then ask one me one simple question: “Did you do your best?” I’d say “yes,” and he’d simply follow it up by saying, “Well, that’s all you can do.” My dad made me comfortable with the idea of putting my best foot forward and rolling with the punches afterward. He’d often say, “All I ask is that you do your best.” I truly believe it’s that same work ethic he helped instill in me that has gotten me to where I am today.

2). To demand respect and to voice unfair treatment. My dad was a very calm man who hated confusion and very rarely raised his voice. But, if he thought something was unfair, he’d speak up about it, and I’m happy to say that I learned that from him. He never took anything laying down, and taught me to fight for what I believed in. I remember the time when I was registering for classes in the 9th grade at my local high school, and my dad went along with me to help. The guidance counselor had my previous transcripts in front of him (which indicated that I was a student that excelled). Things were going fairly well, until the guidance counselor (who happened to be a White man) asked me if I needed to be enrolled in any remedial courses. I didn’t quite understand why he asked that, but I responded “No.” I looked over at my dad, confused, and I could see he was fuming. We finished the enrollment process shortly after and returned home. My dad was so upset, he could barely tell my mom what had just happened. Unable to contain his anger any longer, he decided to drive up to the high school that same day, with me in tow, to give that guidance counselor a piece of his mind. Needless to say, he raised hell that day. He expressed his discontentment to the high school principal and was adamant about the fact that the guidance counselor had unfairly questioned the intelligence of his child simply because she was Black. He demanded an apology, and got one. My dad was never afraid to speak truth to power, and I will never forget the invaluable lessons he taught me that day: to demand respect and to voice unfair treatment.

3). The necessity of expressing my love for those around me. For most of his life, my dad was a big guy, which could be intimidating especially for boys that wanted to take his daughter out. But he was one of the most sensitive men I’ve ever known – a big teddy bear, if you will. He was also unafraid to show this side of himself. He was the kind of man that not only showed love to his family everyday, but expressed it verbally, as well. There was not a day that went by where he neglected to say “I love you.” I knew when he said “I love you” that he meant it. I remember as a teenager, he would often hound me, saying, “You didn’t tell me you loved me today.” Being a hormonal girl with an attitude, I would get annoyed at this, but as an adult looking back, I can’t help but appreciate his loving nudges. I’m proud to say that those were our last words to each other, and he left hearing that from me…voluntarily and unashamed. Now I, too, am unafraid to tell those that I love around me that I love them, and I try to do it as often as I can, just as he did.

4). How to say “I’m sorry.” Another one of the things that I appreciated about my dad was that he was never afraid to apologize for something he may have done wrong. I remember the time when I was around 20 or 21 years old, when we got into an argument. He scolded me (wrongly) for something he thought that I should have done. Even though I tried, unsuccessfully, to tell him my side of the story, he wasn’t hearing it. I remember crying and storming away, frustrated that I hadn’t been listened to. But, minutes later, he came to me and apologized for yelling at me and not listening to what I had to say. He said “I’m sorry,” hugged me, and told me that he loved me. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to say that to me, especially since he was the “parent” and I was the “child,” but he did, which taught me to do the same, regardless of the circumstances.

I don’t hesitate when I say that I don’t know where I would be without my Dad. I’m the woman I am today because of him, which is why I try to honor his memory every day.

Happy Father’s Day to the best daddy ever.

-Love, Your Favorite Daughter

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Dreaming Awake…

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Recently, I have been really intrigued by dreaming. Being the nerd that I am, I even watched a whole PBS documentary about dreams on Netflix. Don’t judge me.  According to experts, dreams are seemingly fictional situations and events that we experience in our subconscious while in deep sleep. During our dream state, it seems that our bodies are paralyzed, while a myriad of realistic images and circumstances take place. Sometimes these ideas and situations make no logical sense, but experts contend that it is imperative that we dream in order to maintain our sanity. Culturally, some people believe our unconscious mind uses dreaming to convey important messages. Certain symbols and images in dreams have come to mean many different things to different people in their waking lives.

One of my very best friends exposed me to this quote a few years ago, and since then, I have become enthralled with it. Why? Because I’m a dreamer. I dream often. And when I do, I dream BIG. I envision the ideal with such grandiosity that sometimes I have to snap myself back into reality. I dream about the seemingly impossible, the unthinkable, and the unfathomable.

I must say that I’ve been blessed enough to witness some of my dreams come true. Even though I do dream big and often, it still blows my mind how and when my dreams do come true. Many times, they are better in reality; way better than I could even imagine.

Ever since I was a child, I have had a desire to do many things. It would literally take me until tomorrow to write all them down. My interests are so broad and sometimes unrelated that they would not make sense to a more logical person. Of course, with all of these things, the details weren’t concrete, but the general idea was there. Recently, the trajectory of my life has shifted right before my eyes. I’m witnessing another one of my life-long dreams finally come to fruition. Sometimes, the very thought of it overwhelms me with gladness, and I’m blown away. I live one charmed life. I can’t give all of the details away just yet, because they aren’t quite firm, but trust me when I say that it is huge. I’m dreaming awake!!

I don’t know if there’s a formula for “dreaming awake,” but I know of a few things that have been tried and true in my own life:

1). Know that “God can dream a bigger dream for you then you could ever dream for yourself”… I read this in a little inspirational book by Oprah entitled, What I Know For Sure. This quote was one that has stayed with me for years, and I am really beginning to understand exactly what it means. Remember when I said that oftentimes my reality is better than my dreams? That’s because God has crafted it. Even the Bible says that not only will He “give you the desires of your heart,” [Psalm 37:4] but He will bless you “exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could either ask or think.” [Ephesians 3:20] And, I’m a living testimony of these things, which is one of the many reasons why I love, serve, and make Him the center of my life. When you let God craft your dreams (and your reality), you will be amazed at how BIG and awesome both will be, because He will position you in right place at the right time to see what you’ve been dreaming and praying about come true. I often pray a simple prayer: “Lord, whatever you have for me, I want it, so prepare me for where You want me to be.” Speaking of which…

2). Carpe Diem, or “Seize the day”… I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m always conflicted about whether to take advantage of certain opportunities when they arise. It’s because I’m the type of person that needs to weigh the pros and cons of each decision and ascertain whether or not such an opportunity jives with my projected life path. But sometimes, you just gotta carpe diem! Again, this proves to be difficult for me because I’m a planner that always has a back-up plan, and back-up plan to back up the back-up plan…you get the idea. It’s also difficult for me to do because often my dreams come true at some of the most inconvenient interesting times. Just when I think that I have everything figured out, something changes. It’s one of the most frustrating things a type-A person like me can possibly experience. I think God does that to me to show that He’s the One that’s ultimately in control. He has to shift and move things in and out of my life to make a path more suitable for me to travel. But, I’m learning to discern which opportunities I should seize and which to wait on. Again, this is all with the Lord’s help. I’ve also learned that certain opportunities have a time-stamp on them. They won’t last forever, so it’s important to take advantage of them when they arise. I personally believe that life has seasons, and when seasons change, you have to go or get left.

3). “Write the vision and make it plain”[Habakkuk 2:2]… I’m a writer, so I’m partial to this piece of Biblical wisdom. But trust me when I tell you that it works. When you have a dream or a vision of something, write it down. But, don’t just write what you wish would come true…write down some tentative plans and ways you intend for that dream or vision to come to fruition. I do this for a couple of reasons: (a) things seem to be more concrete (in my mind) when I write them down. They seem more attainable. It’s something about seeing my visions on paper that motivates me to do something to make them happen; (b) I like to keep some type of tangible record of my goals, dreams, and visions to refer back to track my personal growth. Again, it also helps to see the things that you probably once thought were impossible, happen. I know that it helps me to put things in perspective. If God can do this, then SURELY He can do that!

4). Don’t stop belieeeeeeevin’!I love that song by Journey.  No matter how unthinkable or impossible it may seem well, except for winning that $300 million lottery…you have a better chance being struck by lightening on the second Tuesday of this week,  don’t stop believing in your dreams. Did you know that one of the ways you can kill your dream is by what comes out of your mouth? I believe that my words have power. I speak my dreams into existence and I speak positively about them, because according to Proverbs 18:21, “the tongue has the power of life and death.”  If you’ve let the Lord craft them, position you to see them happen, write them down and go about the business of making them come true, who says they won’t happen?! There may be some difficulties and set backs, but anything worth having is worth working for and sticking with.

So what are you waiting for? Dust those dreams off and go about the business of making them come alive! DREAM AWAKE :).