Finding Family

Finding Family

For the last few years– since my Grandmother’s passing–I have struggled to find where I fit in the world. A major part of who I am–or rather, who I was– depended on her. She was the Matriarch, and I was her dutiful right hand. With her being gone, I felt like I didn’t have any family that I knew inherently that I could count on. I’m an only child but I grew up surrounded by my aunts, uncle, and cousins. I never felt alone. Even after my family had issues, I still had my G-Ma. But with her gone, and my family members dealing with their own grief in the best way they knew how, I felt alone again. Whether it was true or not.

I wrote letters to my family a year after my Grandmother passed explaining my feelings of loneliness and the depression I suffered from. Not a single family member responded to my letters. It would be months before I learned about the apparent issues some of my family members had with me. For a while, I let my pride get the best of me and I had made up in mind  that it was their problem. I decided that it wasn’t even about me. I decided that I didn’t need them. But then the depression started to seep in around the holidays I spent alone.

It wouldn’t be until last Spring that one of my older cousins called me out on my hypocrisy. How can we want to be a family when ridicule each other? How can we even begin to build a relationship with each other if we are all afraid of hearing what the other person has to say? I will admit, what my cousin said to me initially pissed me off. But as the year went on, I realized that he was right. And I decided that even if some of my family members weren’t ready to confront their own egos, I was ready to confront mine in an effort to rebuild the relationships I used to have with my family.

I celebrated Easter with two of my older cousins and we reminisced about the times that used to be. I was still cautious, but I began to feel more comfortable with the idea that we could all be connected again. I craved more. I spent a lot of time asking my Grandmother for guidance. I’d like to think that she has helped me knock down all those walls I used to keep stacked high because I was so terrified of being hurt by the ones I loved the most. Fast forward to Thanksgiving and my oldest cousin tells me that we’re all celebrating at his house this year. He tells me that the very cousin that told me about myself only months before would be flying in with his family.

I contemplated not going. A part of me was still angry–or maybe more ashamed about our last interaction. But something told me to go. Be with the people I love. In all honesty, I love my family despite our shortcomings. I will always strive to remain connected to the frayed edges of fabric because we are all cut from the same cloth. And it takes strong fabric to build a garment. So I decided that I wanted to mend the pieces that had come undone.

I went to Thanksgiving dinner not knowing what to expect. I tried not to anticipate any arguments or any sort of drama at all. I got dressed, I slayed my makeup and I showed up. And it was beautiful. I was beautiful. We were beautiful. Magical. I can’t properly express the love and familiarity I felt in the presence of my cousins and their children. I’m not even sure they understand how much one day made up for all the lost time we wasted. I don’t even know if they felt the same. For me, seeing my cousins’ kids play together the way we used to restored my faith that we could do this. If not for us, but for our children. And if not for the kids, then for my Grandparents. Because all they ever wanted for us all to get along.

Fast forward to Christmas. I had this excitement inside me that I hadn’t had maybe since I was a kid. I was giddy for Christmas. Not because I would receive gifts, but because I would spend it with my family, and this new, enriched version of myself. And again, it was magical. And it felt it right.

Shortly after the New Year began, I received a message from the same cousin that helped me realize the flaws in my perception of family. I was snowed in at work, and had just come in from shoveling 14.5 inches of snow when I looked at my phone. To say that I was humbled is an understatement. His words were those of appreciation, admiration, and love. It felt good–deep in my soul– to know that he could see the changes I have been making and how hard I am trying to break through the walls that we have all built over the years. To know that he saw my strength, and that it gave him hope for people, and the future is so incredibly beautiful.

Although I have mended relationships with the majority of my family, there are still a few people I haven’t been able to reach. I have tried, but I suppose it isn’t the right time for them. I’ll keep trying, though. And when they are finally ready to let me back in, those moments will be beautiful, too. I have faith.

I share this story because I know there is someone out there with a family that isn’t perfect. The truth is, no family is. We all have our issues. I remember writing about being able to choose your friends but not being able to choose your family. The truth is, you CAN choose your family. Just because you are related, doesn’t mean that you are a family. Being a family takes work. It’s about love, loyalty, and honesty. All of these are choices that you can make. I choose Family over that dark abyss of loneliness. I choose love. I choose hope. But most of all, I choose to strive to continue to a better person each day so that one day the rest of my family can see what I see. So they can feel what I feel.

For a long time, I struggled with my close friends referring to me as family. But, I get it now. They were the family I had when I felt that my blood family wasn’t around. I’m sorry that it’s taken this long to see that. But again, I’m learning.

Since my Grandmother’s death, I have been searching for the type of wisdom she had that you can only find in the older generation. Little did I know, I would find it in a Monday night knitting group in a cafe. I didn’t know that you could feel so connected to strangers. I didn’t know that I would ever feel the love and wisdom my Grandmother shared with me. But I’ve found it. And it is beautiful. These two little ladies–now known as Gram and Auntie–have given me the pieces of my Grandmother that I couldn’t experience anymore. They each remind me of her in their own ways. And I love them for it.

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. My depression and loneliness served a purpose and I am stronger for having experienced. I have no regrets because now I truly appreciate the concept of Family and all the many shades, shapes, and sizes it manifests as.

You don’t have to be alone. I encourage you to have faith and choose love. It’s true what they say: Love conquers all.

My family is bigger than I could have imagined. Love ya’ll. Always. ❤


Expand Your Brand


One year ago, today, I started this blog. A whole year. 365 days. 52 weeks, 26 paychecks. And I am still here. I used to dream of having my voice heard by strangers. And look at me. The girl with stage fright–the girl who hates attention–is speaking out. I haven’t posted as often as I would have liked to but self forgiveness is the key to moving forward to a better future. I have spent this past year finding my voice and what is that I am passionate about speaking on. In the beginning this blog was about me sharing my story in hopes that others would find the same burning strength that I do through words.

But, if you’ve followed me on this journey, you’ll see that Finding Fenix has been more than just my story. There have been book reviews, author Q and A’s, political views, shared experiences, and topics about what it means to be a black woman in America. Originally, when I was starting my blog, I wanted to call it Phoenix Tears. At the time, I was (and still am) writing a memoir of what would have been the same title. I wanted to promote myself. What better way to become known than a blog? It hasn’t been that simple.

I decided that Phoenix Tears was a little depressing and not catchy enough. I needed a gimmick so that people would remember me. Thus, Finding Fenix was born. And, to my surprise, this last year really has been about me finding myself all over again. Finding Fenix could not have been a more perfect title for my blog.

I am incredibly proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the first steps to put myself out there. I am humbled that 534 people took the time to view my site and read my content. This number might be small now, but this is just the beginning. I want to expand Finding Fenix. I want to brand it.

There will be more content, and more consistent posting from this day forward. Ambition without a plan is just a dream. I’m awake, now.  I have so much more to say and I want to share it with all of you.

Thank you for flying on this journey with me. Flame on.

How Many of Us Have Them?

How Many of Us Have Them?

        When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

– Maya Angelou

I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “actions speak louder than words.” And in most cases, this is true. But there have been times in my life where someone’s words showed me who they really were. That old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me…”—not true. Words can hurt—but ONLY if we allow them to have power over us. I have learned this the hard way. Too many times, I gave second, third, and 15th chances to someone who couldn’t stand by their word or spoke any sort of negativity towards me. I held onto “friendships” or the “family” that I thought I needed because that’s how I thought things had to be. I was too afraid to be alone but even more afraid of losing the people who I would die for—even knowing that they wouldn’t die for me. What sense does that make? None.

It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that we as human beings are supposed to make mistakes. Some of us learn from them, some of us don’t. It has also taken me a long time to figure out that everyone has a different definition of friendship. Some of us take the word more seriously, but there are also those of us who throw it around with ease and consider everyone a friend. Many years of being bullied, lied to, and taken advantage of have shown me that everyone is not my friend. To be a friend to me is to love, to support, to reach out, to be the light between oceans in the darkness even if I can’t see the light yet. A friend is supposed to be family. For me, a friend isn’t someone I make jokes with–I can laugh with anyone. But a friend is someone I trust–and because of my past there are few people I trust. To know me is to love me and I don’t see the point in opening up my heart to everyone I meet.

I have–or had– people in my life who I love with all my heart but there aren’t at my stage in life yet so they can’t understand or even empathize my pain or the talk about the things I believe to be important. I don’t fault them for that–that’s life. I tried for sometime to continue reaching out to them but we just don’t click. I wish that we could make the friendship work because I believe that somewhere inside of them they feel the same way. But life just sucks sometimes. It’s the way it works. There have just been to many “I’ll call yous” or “let’s get together sometimes.” Too many let downs. Too many chances at fostering a relationship that might not even mean as much to the other party.

The same goes for my family. I have always said that blood makes you related but it does NOT make you a  FAMILY. As I’ve said before, friends can be family. When I was younger, I had a family. We were close. We did everything for each other. But as we’ve gotten older and with my Grandparents being gone–we’ve faded away. I was mentally depressed and physically sick over the fact that I was alone. Because the image of what a family is was destroyed after my Grandparents passed away. I kept trying to reach out to my relatives. But no one ever came to my rescue. It took me too many chances to figure out that I was wasting my energy hoping and wishing for something that just wouldn’t be.

I’m not saying not to trust people or not to have friends. I’m not saying that at all. But what I am saying is that we have to be careful with who we give our energy to. Energy is everything. Energy is how we get out of bed and face the world each day. When you work as much as I do, you don’t have energy to waste. Everything in life is a choice. You just have to decide for yourself which path is right for you. For me, keeping my circle small has been a blessing in disguise. And all this time I thought it was a curse.

How I Got Here

How I Got Here

There are plenty of kids who grow up in the world without knowing one or both of their biological parents—for whatever reason. I didn’t grow up in the system like most of these kids but I could have easily ended up like one of them. If it were not for my grandparents, I’m not sure where I would be. I’m not confident that I could say I would be the person I am today. There were a lot of times where I wanted to make bad decisions (to fit in really) but I didn’t because I was scared to death of what my Grandparents would think about it, what they would do, and how I would be punished.

When I was really young, I didn’t know anything else but my grandparents. I mean, I knew that it wasn’t “normal” to not live with your “real” mom and dad but I still didn’t see what was so special about living with my grandparents. I can remember so many times where I cried alone in my bedroom about not having my mom around. And many more times I cried for the father I could barely remember. The father I knew more through family anecdotes than through actual human interaction. Being a kid is hard enough and having to navigate my way through conversations proved more to be awkward and difficult. I was always having to explain that “my mom died when I was two” or that “I don’t know my real dad.” As the years went on it got to be too much the more I began to understand the process of death, grief, and loss. Eventually Mama and Pop Pop (my Grandparents) became Mom and Dad. I can’t remember exactly when I started calling them Mom and Dad. But I remember that it was seamless, natural. It didn’t feel like a lie. It made it easier to talk to people about them. No one ever asked about my “real” parents unless I slipped and said Grandma or Granddad. Those slips didn’t happen often. I was free.

My mother died at the young age of 26 due to breast cancer. My father walked out of my life leaving behind empty promises. On several occasions. So my Grandparents raised me. Fed me. Bathed me. Walked me to school. Whooped my behind when I needed it. Nursed me when I was sick. I won’t lie—there were times I took advantage of the fact that they thought of me as an extension of their deceased daughter. They spoiled me. My Granddad introduced me to people as his “Heart.” His eyes would do this sparkly thing and he would grin so hard his dentures would slide around in his mouth. My Grandmother—she clothed me with Grace and kissed my forehead. She cooked for me and braided my hair. She gave me advice. I was her baby.

I can’t imagine what it was like for my Grandparents to raise me. How it felt to look into the face of their youngest child every day long after she passed away. I can’t properly describe the abundance of mixed emotions they had to have felt. Perhaps they felt that I was their second chance. Maybe sometimes they thought I would never live up to the legacy my mother left. Maybe even sometimes—though they would never admit it—I was a burden. They were in their Golden Years still raising kids. I’m a coward and never got the chance to ask them.

Deep in my heart, I know the answers to my own questions, though. They loved me so fiercely that it didn’t matter if I wasn’t perfect. They loved my Mother so much that they promised her—on her deathbed—that they would raise me the same way they raised her. Their love for me was so inhumanly enormous that they didn’t get tired of chasing after me. Their bones hurt, and they were chronically ill; but their Love outshined any physical pain they felt in their bodies.

They were more than grandparents—they were my parents. Mom and Dad. My Heart and Soul. They did everything they could for me. And I know now—years later—how much it must have hurt them to not be able to give me world because my Mother was gone. Not many people can say that they have experienced unconditional love. I have. And I can honestly say that it is a lasting and solid flood of emotions.