A spirit like mine sees and feels many things. I can feel insincerity and I can see a lie coming from a million miles away. It's easy to do when you've seen and felt as many as I have.
Maybe that's why I'm so honest. I say what I'm thinking or feeling as if to ensure somehow that I'm not like the others. The ones who lie and the ones who can hurt others so easily.
But pain isn't all that I can see and feel. I can feel the warmth of a sincere touch. It feels so good and it's so different when someone actually cherishes what they are touching. Those slow, careful strokes and pets of the skin.
I keep my eyes and spirit open for such things. One who could touch me like that could also speak to me of things that matter to the both of us. Someone who cares about what I feel and what I have to say. There is a laughter that comes when someone is genuinely happy and I want to hear it bubbling up from the person beside me and I want to be the cause of it.
There are eyes that can see in me what I cannot and I want to look into those eyes and smile.
There is a warmth that soothes me into the deepest sleep. A rest so peaceful that it may as well be death. Rest like that only comes when the burden of trying to be someone you're not, trying to live up to the standards or the expectations of others, when fear of rejection, of not being good enough are finally lifted.
There are arms that create that kind of safe, sound slumber and I want to find them.
Pen to paper, fingertips to keys, and the mind to the infinite expanse.
That is how many of my thoughts and emotions are sorted out. I have to spill them onto a blank canvas to consider everything from different perspectives.
Sometimes its easy and, when I step back, there is a clear picture laid out before me. Its like dumping a bag of marbles on a hardwood floor. You must hold still and wait a moment but when they all stop rolling, you now have the option of considering the big picture or by being selective.
I wonder if that’s how the term “lost your marbles’ came about? Someone trying to sort out their thoughts using a physical example and lost a few pieces a long the way.
I could see how the torment of questions gone unanswered, like the loss of personal property, could drive someone crazy. Especially, when all they were seeking was the truth.
So how do you cope? How do you keep yourself sane when there are things that you still don’t understand, feelings and thoughts and emotions in need of validation, questions that are begging for answers?
In my experience, its easier to change the way you feel. The answer no longer matters if you stop asking the question. Turn away from the torment and it can torment you no longer. Instead, seek new questions and learn to find the solutions within yourself.
I have often found that when you change your focus, you change the way you see the world around you. When you remember what brings you joy, little else seems to matter.
Those missing marbles will resurface eventually. Until then, remain steadfast with your passions.
Those little “ands” in your life are there for a reason and they hold more answers than you realize.
I lost myself on the page of a coloring book.
It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced the kind of freedom that can give you and, trust me, it was well deserved.
Of late, my mind has been wound so tightly around thoughts and feelings that I’ve finally decided I don’t want anymore. I’ve been nearly tormented by a doubt in myself that threatened to pull me under into a depression that would’ve taken me months to dig my way out of.
I’ve been reading novels. I’ve been listing to a multitude of music genres, I’ve been writing, shopping, singing, cooking. I’ve been doing anything I can that would allow my mind to focus long enough to finally let go.
This coloring book was blank until now. It was brand new; none of the pages had been touched.
At first, I had no idea what direction I was going with it. I started with one color out of the 50 that I had to choose from, and I just went for it.
All it took, was coloring in the petal of one flower on the page and I could feel the liberating ease of it taking over me like when you hold your hand under a faucet long enough to feel the water shift from cold to hot. It was seamless.
Suddenly, the world around me didn’t matter. There was just me, the coloring book, and time. I haven’t felt a focus like that in so long that I’m surprised I didn’t cry when I realized how good it felt not be interrupted, not to be so distracted by my own thoughts and ever interrogating mind. With each color, each stroke of the pencil I reconfirmed what I knew to be true. I needed this.
I needed this and I think I understand why. You can’t lose yourself in food or alcohol or drugs or even people. Its all toxic. They are all vices and each one can kill you. No, I’m not saying that I’m addicted to drugs or alcohol or anything like that but what I am saying is that I know myself to take things too far. Even if its all in my mind. Even if the world doesn’t see it because I hide it, I still feel it.
But there is no danger in coloring in a book. It is safe to obsess a little and color as many pages as you wish. Aside from a little cramping in your hand, it harms no one. That’s what I needed. I needed to lose myself in something that I knew wouldn’t hurt me in return.
I let my mind run rampant without holding back, without tugging the reins. I was finally free. Free to think of me and what I want, to imagine the places I could go and the things I could do. Free to imagine the person I still want to become and to think about where I want to go from here, knowing what I now know.
Eventually, I sat up from my focus and looked down at the page I’d been working on and I realized something.
It’s a work in progress and, you know what? I guess I kind of am too.
I started off being super positive because my goal was to inspire others. I wanted others to feel like anything was possible. The only problem was…
I didn’t feel positive all the time.
When my own inspiration ran dry, I would go days without posting any content. I thought that if it wasn’t inspiring or uplifting then I had nothing to say. Then, I realized something. I can’t move forward with my personal brand if people don’t know who I am.
I can’t be real without showing my dark side.
I want to be genuine, and I want people to appreciate, listen to, like, or follow me because they like who I am and what I’m about.
When I’m super happy and excited then I’m super happy and excited but when I’m not, I’m not and that’s what I want people to see.
-Excerpt from an Interview I’ve never had.
I’m chasing inspiration.
I’m running, first in one direction and then another, trying to find a match to my vibration. I’m running but feeling nothing. There is no warmth or tingle of excitement that comes from that sudden spark, that burst of ideas.
I miss it.
Inspiration is like a warm cabin with a fireplace flickering steadily in its hearth and smoke billowing from the chimney. The windows are glowing from the fire and light inside. There’s a lantern hanging above the front door gleaming its welcome to any who approach. A hot cup of something inviting and soothing sits on the counter in the kitchen waiting for me...But I am outside in the snowy forest of lacking.
I’m wandering paths of thoughtlessness and no matter how many times I try to start a fire myself, just to get a hint of what I could be enjoying, a harsh wind snuffs out my efforts and I’m back to rubbing my hands together and blowing into my palms to try to keep my circulation going.
It’s cold and the trees all look grey. The ground is stiff and still and void of the glimmering colors that fill it during the bright seasons of creativity.
There are no birds to sing and chirp their ideas from the tree tops or from the clouds as they soar the skies. There are no deer to stand in majestic poses near the bushes only to vanish the moment I look away, leaving nothing behind but the dance in my eyes and the smile in my heart that I had seen such a creature.
I wish one would show up now, though. I could use that smile and it feels like eons since my eyes have danced in wonder when, in truth, it has only been days.
Still, those days have been long and I’ve been running around trying to find resonance. I need something I can connect with so that I can return to my cabin of inspiration; the place my brain and my heart call home. It is where I am happiest, it is where ideas flow from the mind and through the fingers into the ink of pens then to paper or through the keys of a keyboard to get the message onto to the screen where it can warm the hearts of others.
Instead, I am wandering this harsh wilderness, lost, unsure which direction will lead me back to the heat of the fire or the warm welcome of the drink on the counter.
I’m tired but I keep running. You see, I hate the cold. I dislike the biting chill or the discomfort of shivering. Its exhausting. I’d rather breath long satisfied sighs in the bedroom of the cabin as I lay in the bed of ease and effortlessness. Instead I am trotting about these damned woods and instead of a relaxing sigh, each breath I breath hits the sharp temperature and becomes a cumulus little cloud that eagerly dissipates, escaping where I cannot.
Ah! But within those quick seconds, that little cloud of breath lingers just long enough for me to see it and even if I don’t, there is always another and another to come for there is plenty of air to fill my lungs and thus, I have become a factory of sorts. I produce those tiny clouds as I strain against exhaustion and I notice that each one looks different from the last. I realize that I can blow my breath this way and that, big puffs, small ones, and some that are in between. Could it be? Could this be the glorious sunbeam of imagination shining down on me at last?
Suddenly, my hands don’t feel quite as cold. I my fingertips have stopped tingling and no longer feel as though they are about to fall off. I started thinking how wondrous clouds really were. Those puffy masses floating gently through the skies nary a care in the world. How amazing it would be to float among them or to soar above them. What a view that would be!
I realized then that I had stopped running. Though my chest was still heaving from my efforts, my steps had slowed to a saunter. I looked around to see the break in the trees. The seemingly endless forest had ended and the pathway before me no longer twisted and turned unnecessarily but was now bending in one very distinct direction.
I smiled and felt my heart doing the same. I could smell a wood fire burning in the distance.
If you ask me, the definition for the word undertake is much more profound than the definition for the word entrepreneur (even though they basically mean the same thing).
Undertake: To commit oneself to and begin (an enterprise or responsibility); to take on.
As opposed to
Entrepreneur: A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
To commit oneself to an enterprise or responsibility.
See what I mean? It sounds much better and its an unparalleled truth because when you say "I want to start my own business, be my own boss, and work from anywhere" what you're really saying is "I want to be an entrepreneur.".
It really is a commitment and a huge responsibility that you're taking on because if you don't commit to it and you fail to accept that responsibility, you can't call yourself an entrepreneur. You're just a dreamer.
That's not to say that dreaming isn't important, because it is. In fact, it's how every single entrepreneur got their start. They had dreams and wishes and hopes. They had aspirations; things they wanted to achieve in their lives.
So then, what is it that sets entrepreneurs and dreamers apart? The entrepreneurs didn't stop at dreaming. They took action and did something about it.
They assumed responsibility for the journey they were about to embark on and they committed to it.
So now, is my turn. Our theme is Stories and Strategies for Success and my story is just beginning.
Often, when you hear about how people started their own companies, they start with how much they hated their jobs. They felt like they were wasting their lives and they got sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Right now, that's the part of the story I can relate to the most. My dreams are being stifled by my 40-hour work week. I feel that I'm ready to take my future into my own hands.
The best thing about just starting out is that I have a wonderful opportunity to share, with others, my experiences as I go. Ampersand Squared is all about using what you love to make your life better and elevate your life experience to the highest power, and that's exactly what I plan to do.
For now, the best thing I can do is to learn as much as I can from those who have already been through the beginners phase and came out on top. To build a good foundation for success, my strategy is as follows:
Remember, its not too late to begin. Commit yourself to your chosen enterprise and take responsibility for the journey that you're on.
There is an ampersand in all of us. What strategies are you using to become successful with yours?
Oftentimes when writing my blog, it starts with an idea. That idea usually stems from some sort of inspired thought then I sit down and let my fingers and the keyboard do the talking.
It feels good when I’m on to something. It feels good when I know that I’ve got something important to say and it right there in my mind. Its times like those that I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned or written with everyone.
Recently though, I stumbled upon a blog that talked about entrepreneurs and all the mistakes they make when they’re just starting out. I won’t lie, it stung. It sucked to think that everything I was doing was for nothing.
All my excitement, all my inspiration and every moment that I sat up thinking about how I could reach more people with my concept. It felt like no one cared.
It felt like I had nothing to offer.
Call it dramatic but I sank into a bit of a depression after that. Trust me, you don’t want to be near a creative individual who feels like there’s no point to creating. It’s not a very pretty sight.
I felt like my world had come crashing down. I wanted to take down my blog, ditch my ideas, and just say forget it. Maybe I could pour myself into my full-time job and somehow make it worth it? After all, what kind of value am I bringing to people anyway?
But that’s not my dream and it’s not the way I see my life going. I had to do something.
I was still pondering on this problem on the drive to work a few days later. That article really had me bugged. I kept thinking “why would anyone listen to what I have to say when there are a lot of inspiring and motivational books, videos, and websites out there?”
But none of those other books, videos, or websites has anything to do with me.
That’s when it hit me. The very thing that I talk about most on my website, the very reason I started my blog to begin with was right there all along! ME!
I have my own way of doing things and no one else can do it like I do.
See, it all has to do with value and the amount you place in something changes the way other people see it. For example, anyone can be hired to do a job. The job isn’t very valuable, and neither is the person doing it. But if you get someone with the right attitude and drive, and desire to do more and take initiative. That person brings value, not only to that job but the company and the individual becomes someone that the employer doesn’t want to lose.
That principle applies to more than just work. What if you want to start a YouTube channel about something that you’re passionate about? How do you add value and set yourself apart? After all, there are hundreds of other people on YouTube talking about the same thing. What makes you different?
That’s the kind of value I’m talking about. When that realization hit me, I remembered the reason that I was doing all of this. It’s because I know I am valuable and I want to bring something to the world that people want to be a part of.
Maybe you have a viewpoint that others hadn’t considered. Maybe you’ve got tips and tricks that no one else is using. Maybe your personal experience helps you to see what your talking about from a brand-new perspective and that has value to your audience because they can’t get that information anywhere else. You’re the only one talking about it the way you are.
The same goes for me. If I didn’t think very much of myself or the things that interest me that make me the person I am, my website and all my creative efforts wouldn’t exist.
When it comes to Ampersand Squared as a concept and as a brand that I’m developing, I am as valuable as they come. No one else could do this but me because it’s my vision. I have a lot more value than I was giving myself credit for and from here on out, I can’t discredit myself like that. One key to adding value? Stop thinking that you have none.
I’m more than good enough! I bring value by using my own experiences and insight to show others that they themselves have a value that they may not know that they have. Jim Rhone taught us to work harder on ourselves than we do on our jobs. Why? Because it’s not the job that makes the difference. It’s you. You and me that bring value to our work, to our creations, businesses, inventions, our passions and so on.
Just like me, your value lies in the things that you love. When you put your heart and soul into something, other people will see that. You begin to connect with like-minded people and they will be inspired because something you’ve done will have resonated with them. That’s how you add value. Bring something to the table that no one else can bring. Easier said than done? Maybe.
So, you work on your faults. You improve. You practice. You gain the confidence in yourself and in what you are presenting because you know you’ve got everything in you to make your thing or things shine like no other.
On the other side of it, your interests and passions and hobbies are the value that’s lying dormant within you until you discover it and use its power to accelerate your life.
Take me for example. When I was a kid I loved to draw and color in coloring books. I loved that the colors were my choice and I could do anything so long as it looked good when I was done. The only limit was my imagination and, because my mother encouraged creativity, there was no limiting my imagination, believe me. Even then, I recall getting mad or upset when I’d accidentally color outside the lines. I was picky about what colors I chose and when I’d mess up, I’d be extra careful after that so as not to color outside the lines again. Let’s face it. As a kid, I was superficial. I was very talented and I wanted things to look good.
But see, it starts with recognizing that there is something there to begin with. Having a talent adds value to your life. There is someone out there in the world right now who feels like they don’t have any special talents. Thoughts like that are what make people think that they are worthless because they feel that they have no…..value. Exactly.
So, when I was old enough to wear makeup, those same fundamentals that I had learned in art were still there but had to be applied in a new way. I wasn’t just drawing and painting on paper anymore, now it was my face. See that talent and that value was already there but I still had to practice and try and fail and develop the skills to know what I was doing. I’m still growing and learning as I experiment and try new techniques and products.
The point is that your hobbies and your talents all make you valuable. But, it is your personal development and growth as an individual that continually further your success.
That’s what Ampersand Squared is all about, remember? Your interests and passions are represented by the ampersand. Take one or all of them and use them to make yourself into a better person. Add value to your passions and they will raise you to a higher power. That’s Ampersand Squared.
Hey, there’s an ampersand in all of us. Never forget the value of yours.
We learned, in our segment about energy, what it means when we react negatively to something such as when we procrastinate or resist doing something. It means our emotions and our energy isn’t in tune with that activity and so we see it as something unpleasant. We also learned what it means when we react in a positive way. It means that our energies and emotions are in tune with that activity and when we feel that way, we have to understand that what we are feeling is the key to finding what we resonate with and what motivates us.
Thanks to my introverted personality and my extroverted job, I often feel so drained and void of energy that I have to find the motivation to do many things.
So how do I do it? The first thing I think about is what I’d rather be doing. Do I want to do the dishes? No. Yes, I know they need to get done but it feels like a chore and I don’t want to. I don’t feel like standing there at that sink and working when I’ve already been at work all day.
So, I think about the things that I’d rather do. Would I like to figure out how to take video footage and turn it into a GIF file? Yes. Would I like to chat and write with my friends online to create stories that we write together? Yes! Would I like to find fun and inspiring quotes to motivate myself? Of course, I would!
Sometimes, just laying back and watching mindless TV is all I want to do. Sometimes, playing a video game is all I want to do. Sometimes it’s listening to music, sometimes it’s reading, sometimes it’s creating something new and artistic.
There’s always something that I’d rather be doing than the things that feel like more work. But what if the work needs to get done? What if not doing that laundry means that I have nothing to wear to work tomorrow?
The truth is, sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do. Sometimes the work just needs to be done but that doesn’t mean that it has to feel negative.
I’m always spouting in my blogs that you already have the power to do bigger things and that all you need to do is put your focus on the things that provide positive energy. Focus on the things that you love; that inspire you. That is the bridge to get from negative energy to motivation.
Now that I’ve thought about the things that I’d rather be doing, chances are that I’m going to start doing one of those things. What can I say? They sounded fun! But here’s the interesting thing, often, when I start doing the things that I love, the positive energy that comes from that action is what sparks the inspiration that makes me want to do more.
For example, let’s say that the activity I chose was to watch a movie. It’s fun, its relaxing, it’s entertaining, and I'm a movie buff so it's definitely something that I love doing.
I started watching Finding Dory on Netflix. I’m enjoying the film, I’m admiring the CG animation ( I LOVE CG films) and I really like the story. Seems simple enough, yes?
Ah! But what’s this? I’m watching this movie and suddenly I’m hearing the song “Unforgettable” sung by Sia, one of my favorite artists. I was already happily relaxed. The feelings of forced chores and hard work were already gone but now, I’m hearing a song being sung by an artist that I absolutely love. Now, I’m excited. I’m squealing with glee, I’m giggling, and now I’ve sprung into a sitting position because now this movie has got my full and excited attention.
See that? We’ve already moved from a slumped position to a sitting one. We’ve already gone from content and amused to being fully alert and curious, fascinated, and wondering. That’s quite a leap, wouldn’t you say? But that’s really all it takes. The momentum has already begun and now the energy has been sparked and it feels great and I’m smiling and I’m happy and I might even rewind to hear the song again. That’s positive energy for you.
Well, now my emotions are going haywire. The song is resonating with me because of the story that was just told through those CG fish in that wonderful Disney magic and yet, I’m so excited that I’ve gotten the unexpected surprise of hearing my favorite artist.
Can you guess what often comes next in a case like this?
That’s right! Inspired thought. My mind is going a mile a minute, it’s racing thinking about the movie and how much I loved it, how I’m loving this new song and then the idea comes to me to find out if the soundtrack is available for purchase. I’d love to hear Sia sing that song in the car on my way to work.
So I sprang up from the couch to grab my phone. I began buzzing through Amazon Music Unlimited to find the song and before I know it, the song is streaming. I was so excited that I turned the movie off and stood there singing along with the song, doing slow steps around the living room. It was fun and I was totally in the moment. But positive energy doesn’t stop there. The vibe keeps on buzzing until you’re deliriously happy. So when the song ends, another begins playing. I’d never heard it before but it was Sia, so there was no way I was going to turn it off.
The song happened to be “Flames” by David Guetta & Sia. The song was filled with so much encouragement, so much inspiration and that beautifully creative vocal carried me all the way form excited to ecstatic.
From that point, listening from my phone wasn’t enough. I ran to get my Bluetooth head phones so that I could hear the song with no outside noise whatsoever.
I was dancing, I was smiling, I was singing. I was happy. Somehow I danced my way into the kitchen and there was that pile of dirty dishes, still waiting for someone to tend to them.
This time, they didn’t seem so bad. This time they were more than just a chore, they were an excuse to stand there and listing to all of my favorite Sia songs plus the two new ones I had discovered. I found a randomized playlist to listen to in the hopes of finding even more new songs of hers.
So, there you have it. That’s how you use the things you love to make you feel better than you felt minutes ago. You find the enjoyment of the things that truly bring you into that positive energy and there’s no telling what you will accomplish once that energy begins to flow.
It’s almost like a formula. Resonance sparks an energy, that energy fuels inspiration, and that inspiration motivates us to do miraculous things.
That’s why getting int touch with the things you love is so important. It’s even more important not to limit yourself just because you think you’re doing too much. I have so many interests and each and every one of them brings me the kind of joy that inspires me to do more. It motivates me and encourages me to motivate others.
The things that you love and the things that motivate you are the ‘and’s’ in your life and all of those 'and’s' are represented by the ampersand.
Now you can see how powerful it can me to take the things that you love and use them to empower yourself. That is what Ampersand Squared is all about.
Hey, it’s like I’m always saying. There’s an ampersand in all of us. Resonate with yours and let it motivate you.
I think that it can be very simple to lose sight of what you really want. Some people have become experts in telling themselves what they can’t do and what they can’t have.
So many times, I’ve heard people say “I don’t have time for hobbies because I have to work. I have to earn a living.”
But, when you are immersed in your hobbies and doing what you love, you are happy, and you feel satisfied and accomplished. That’s how you are supposed to feel.
Too many people think that waking up “hating Monday’s” and counting the days until the next weekend is just how its’ supposed to be. That, my friends, is so far from the truth.
The worst part is how much time we lose being miserable or stuck. You look back at how much time has passed and how much progress you could have made or how many opportunities you are missing out on because you think that the things that make you the intricate being that you are, are just things.
I’m here to tell you otherwise. I’m here to tell you that it’s time to refocus. Turn your attention and channel your energy into the things that make you happy.
Look in the mirror. Ask yourself what it is you really want. It doesn’t matter how big. Now, take a breath…And tell yourself that you can have it. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t take ‘I give up’ as an answer because the truth is, the power to be more has always been yours.
What are the Ands in your life?
They are the things you do or have done to express yourself. It is the art form that fascinates you, the activity that inspired you and stoked the fires of creation within you. The ‘ands’ in your life are the puzzles and pencil sketches and watercolors and creative writing and books and bike rides and video games and anime and so may more!
Don’t you remember how much fun it was and how happy you were doing those things? Activities, hobbies, call them what you want to, but they mean something. They are a representation of who you are, what makes you happy, and your talent. Don’t you miss it? Don’t you wish you could do it more?
You can, you know.
Find a way to take the things you love and share them with the world in a way that others can relate to. Present it in a way that is innovative and different. Find new and interesting ways of bringing attention to those things.
The best part? You don’t even have to try and choose which one to use. You can use each one of them in some way. The things you love allow others to see different sides of you. From your creative side to your daring and bold side, you can express one or five of them!
I created Ampersand Squared because I was tired of trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do or be. I was sick of hating my job and just trying to get through the day. I was sick and tired of trying to choose one field in which to excel. Did I want to be in customer service? No. Did I want to be a secretary? No. Did I want to move up the ranks in the hospitality industry? No!
I wanted to be at home with the freedom of waking up with an inspired thought that I could express on paper or with visuals or sound. I hated when a great idea came to me, but I couldn’t do anything about it because work always got in the way.
I wanted to use each of the things that I liked and to share them, not with a Facebook post, but in a way that would intrigue people. The problem came because I had so many interests that I was, one again, stuck as to which one to focus on. Then, I decided not to. I didn’t want to chose one over the other.
So now, Ampersand Squared is a representation of all those people out there who are just like me and are sick and tired of feeling stuck. Turn your attention to the things that you wish you had more time to do because when you make your hobbies and your interests a big enough part of your life, you’ll have more than enough time to do anything you want to.
That is my goal and I’m here to share my journey with you.
Ampersand Squared means to take those Ands in your life and use them to raise yourself to the power of you.
There’s an Ampersand in all of us. It’s time to refocus on yours.
The world is full of influential people but none quite so influential as those who were there for us from the very beginning. I’m talking, of course, about our mothers. Mothers have such a profound impact on who we are as people and it’s so hard to fully express how true that is when I consider who I have become because of who my mother taught me to be.
A single mom raising two kids with very little money but enough resourcefulness to make my sister and I believe otherwise. There was always food on the table and there was always clothing on our backs, but it didn’t end there. My sister and I wanted for nothing as children. We had every Disney movie that came out, more toys than we knew what to do with and we were never told no when it came to bringing home stray pets.
No stranger to discipline, Mom ruled the house with a firm hand but loved even harder. She gave my sister and I room to explore our own personalities and always urged us think for ourselves rather than to let the television do it for us. In fact, we weren’t allowed to have a TV until I was about 7 and my older sister was 9. But before then, Mom would read books to us and gave us crayons and colored pencils, paints, clay, and any other tool to stimulate creativity.
Yes, there were hardships and sometimes, I’m sure there were days when my mom wasn’t sure what we were going to do next. Still, she always did something. I think a lot of the times when I’m uncertain or when I feel like all is lost, something tells me that it really isn’t. Sometimes if I sit and think about things for a bit, I realize that I have options and I can act. I must at least try no matter how upset I am or how hard it seems. That strength is my mother through and through. .
There were times when my husband and I were talking about different directions we wanted to take in life. I remember telling him that I’d really hate to let him go but I’m not afraid to be alone. I know that if I walked out the front door tomorrow with a suitcase in my hand, I can take care of myself and survive on my own. I know how to start over and I know how to stay put. My husband told me that he loved me for being that independent and strong willed. “I get it from my Mom.” I told him.
My mother, Shanda A. Eldridge, was born in 1958 in Saint Louis, Missouri. She grew up in Kirkwood which, at the time was a predominantly white community of St. Louis. She even attended Kirkwood High school where her senior year book picture was taken (shown above). Standing Five feet small, my mother is warm and inviting but feisty and sharp when the situation calls for it. Just like me.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I wanted to sit down with her and look back at how far she’d come and some of the things she remembered.
No internet, not cell phones. What was it like growing up in that time? How do you remember it?
You can’t miss what you don’t know. At that time, we knew nothing about all the portable devices like cell phones and tablets. When we wanted to be social we hung outside with our friends. The telephone was much different back then too. It had a cord for one thing and if someone was on the phone it would tie up the phone line. So if there was an emergency, someone could call the operator and she could interrupt your call. And don’t let it be ya mamma trying to get a hold of you because you’d be in trouble for tying up the phone lines!
I do remember this one time, I thought I had disconnected from the operator. I said something snarky and the operator heard me and cut our phone line off. My grandmother was so mad! We eventually got the line back on but in those days you really did have a third party involved in making phone calls.
With technological advances still progressing, what was “cool” for young people in the day?
Well each decade presented something new. It’s hard to say what was cool to have for kids I grew up with because I had everything. I had my own bicycle, my own television, a closet full of clothes and shoes, and tons of dolls, you name it! As a teenager, music was on 8-track, I had a Spirograph, I had these dolls called Liddle Kiddles that I used to play with. I think I was destined to be a mom because I had a lot of baby dolls.
By the age of 16 I learned to drive. No more dolls. By that age, we were into boys and driving! I was also into school activities like the theater club. I directed the high school musical my senior year. I was the first black female in my school to do it.
Rising kids in the late 80’s and through the 90’s, tell us of your adventure and how things changed.
First of all, and probably the most important thing, is that having kids didn’t come easy for me. I was told at an early age that I couldn’t have kids. I didn’t believe it and I didn’t take no for an answer. When I got married, I sought out a fertility specialist and started my journey to realizing my dream of being a mom. After many doctor visits and surgeries, two plus years, finally, I found I was expecting my first child. It was bittersweet because I had just lost my mother two months before that. While pregnancy was uneventful, the birth of my first child was not. I had to have an emergency c-section after about 16+ hours of labor because my daughter had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. She was delivered just fine, of course but it was a lot to go through. I didn’t even know that I could have another child after that. I was so happy just to have one. I was a mom just like I had wanted to be for so long. Then, low and behold, 22 months later, came my second daughter! (That’s right folks. That’s me!)
I had always wanted to have twins. I thought it would be really cool. My daughters were born about two years apart but I dressed them up like twins anyway. It was too cute not to!
After five years with our girls, my husband and I divorced in 1989.
My journey continued as a single mom for the next 13-14 years. Because of poor choices and decisions, I moved multiple times across the country with two kids. While they were young during the early 90’s, we stayed in Washington State on Whidbey Island, 50 miles north of Seattle.
It was an interesting time, navigating life as a single mom way far away from home or anyone that I really knew. I was providing for kids that were growing up with technology that was a lot different than what I had at that age. My girls didn’t have their own cell phones like kids do these days but we did have a family computer and I learned about dial-up internet and the Chat room craze right along with them.
I remember back then, I ran a thrift store to help out an organization with their ministry. It was only for a few months, but they did a story about it in the local paper and the opportunity evolved into me starting my own philanthropic ministry.
My venture was called “C.R. Ministries”. We gathered, stored, and distributed material goods to programs that served poor and homeless people. We had several agencies, shelters, and families that benefited from the goods we collected through donations.
I was a busy mom but never too busy for my kids. I was there for everything! School field trips, brought their birthday cakes to their classes each year, I home schooled my youngest when the school system failed to give her more attention and prepare her for the 3rd grade. We took rides on the ferry boat once in a while when we’d visit Seattle and other Islands in the Puget Sound. Sometimes it was kind of like an adventure. We’d ride boats in the ocean, visit the horses at local farms and feed them apples, and plenty of trips to the beach to collect seashells, sand dollars, and drift wood. A lot of great memories.
You’ve been living, dreaming, and experiencing life for 60 years! Tell us what you’re up to these days?
Well, I’m on the verge of launching a business. I’ve been romancing the idea for over ten years and it’s about to become a reality. Girlfriends & Sisters Social Network for Professional Women will be taking on a NEW name & a new direction, stayed tuned for the official launch coming later in May. For daily doses of Biz support, tips, practical applications on HOW to GROW your business and profit from your efforts.
“In a funky corner of this sprawling city a sisterhood is forming” JOIN US! ~SHE
Tell us about the values you wanted to instill in your children. Were you raised with those values?
I don’t even know that I thought about what values were important to me or what I wanted my children to learn or know… I was so busy trying to make a life for us… I was bombarded by “have & have not” others having what I wanted but didn’t have. But I think I had what was important to me. I had my children. I was THERE in their lives every day, I wasn’t away at work, trying to raise them over the phone, or unapproachable, I was there. I gave my children “quality time” For all their endeavors & adventures. I was there for school performances, and concerts, & picnics, & field trips, and new adventures like, joining me in outreach ministry, & seeing what homelessness looks like, & being of service to your community, wild adventures on the high seas, learning to drive a boat, seeing wildlife up close & personal, Summer Solstice & sweat lodges & running naked through the woods… That meant so much to me. I wouldn’t trade those days for nothing in the world, except to see them happy like that all over again. Just to be there for them & with them even in a broken mental state, it was very important to me. I wanted to give my children ME! Unlike the relationship I had with my mother… I wanted my children to know me. I had no secrets to hide from them to make them feel distant or wonder what my story was…. I was open & vulnerable. Years before I ever had children I remember confessing how much I wanted to be a mom and how I would raise my children.
I got what I asked for and some that I didn’t. I made mistakes, I made foolish decisions, maybe put them through some things I shouldn’t have. But for the most part, I loved them so much and I was right there with them. I have few regrets. Now that they are both grown, I see the influence I’ve had on them and how they turned out. Both beautiful, successful, smart & talented. I see ME in them and I smile & chuckle a little bit to myself, shaking my head thinking, who knew?
What “message from mom” would you like to leave for our readers?
First, “take flying lessons. What? Learn to F-L-Y First-Love-YOU (fly) and then, tell your story, be yourself, down to Earth, unapologetically & raw. Tell others what you’ve gone through, tell others the obstacles you faced, how you felt, and what did you do to overcome”. ~ SHE
“YES!!! SHARE, TELL your story. Somebody out there NEEDS to hear what you have to say. You don't know how many people can glean from your experience.....” I spent so many years in denial of who I am and what I am capable of. Until I learned to “f-l-y” and then I could embrace ME. Me, with all my flaws and insecurities, self-imposed limitations & fears. I came out of hiding and began to use the gifts & talents I had, to share and bring joy to other people.
So, there you have it folks, a snapshot of the incredible woman that made me, me! As always, she's a joy to talk to and I always learn something new. I hope she never stops teaching me to be me because I get a lot of it from her and I'll never lose her that way.
I love you, Mom!