Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing



Why Do I Care?


*my dad as Uncle Vester in the movie House Party 3 giving his nephew, Kid advice about not caring about what people think of  you*


Growing up, I have heard some variation of this from my father on several different occasions.  Being a sensitive child, this lesson would bear repeating.  It would infuriate my father when I would come home crying about how someone hurt my feelings because they either said or did something to me that, well, hurt. Dad: Why are you crying? Me: Because so-n-so said _________.  Dad: So what? Who are they? They ain’t nobody! Stop caring what people think about you!  I tried to do as he said. I truly did. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to master the art of not caring.  And here I am today, still unable to stop caring.  Truth be told, my father never actually mastered that art himself.  He was another sensitive soul and contrary to what he did his best to portray, he cared a lot about what others’ thought of him.

Thing is though, this isn’t “bad.”  It’s a very human thing. We care. We want to be accepted and liked and told we’re ok. It’s uncomfortable when that doesn’t happen. Depending upon the source of the rejection, or how the rejection is dished, it can hurt. A lot. I’ve spent a lot of time contributing to my hurt by trying to act as if I didn’t care. I recognize today that it’s much easier to simply acknowledge that I do care.  Now don’t get me wrong. Mere strangers don’t necessarily have the ability to break me down with their critique or rejection. However, depending upon the method in which they choose to deliver it, I can be hurt. And if I truly care about you? Fuh-get about it! I am hurt. And you know what? That’s ok.  There is actually nothing inherently wrong with caring about what people think and say about you. It’s a natural, human condition.

I understand my dad’s intentions for trying to teach me to not care.  It was rooted in the desire to protect me. But denial doesn’t actually beget avoidance.  There’s no actual way to avoid having your feelings hurt in life. Sure, I could hide behind a well crafted wall to keep people out, thereby insuring no one gets close enough to hurt me. I actually think we’ve gotten to a place in life where most of us are walking around crafting these walls to avoid pain.  Our ultimate goal is to avoid pain, so we deny, deny, deny. We act nonchalant about everyone and everything, all the while secretly feeling everything.  So yeah, I could do that. However, I’d not only be keeping out hurt. I’d also be keeping out love and all the other good stuff that people have to offer.  I think the key is to allow myself the space to experience my hurt feelings without giving so much weight to what others have to say.  I’m the final judge and jury of my life so I get final say. Someone thinks I’m ugly? Ouch, but that’s their opinion and not a fact. Further, it doesn’t have to cloud my opinion of my looks.  Someone thinks I’m a terrible writer? Well I’ve never! Actually I have and it hurt my feelings, but I didn’t allow that person’s opinion to stop me from writing because I love to write.  And not to sound cocky, but I think I’m pretty damn good at it.  So there.

This comes up a lot now because my daughter is at a pivotal stage in her development.  She reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age and she seems to encounter someone here and there who tells her something unflattering about herself.  And because she takes after her mama in the area of sensitivity, she admits that her feelings become hurt when it happens.  The Mama Bear in me wants her to point them out so I can accidentally trip them on purpose, but I know this is her lesson and I have to mind my business.  Although let me just say that I’ll fight a kid.  Yep, sure will!  Anyway, unlike the lessons my dad gave me, I allow her the space to be hurt.  Inevitably after the hurt passes she tells me that while she was hurt, she knows who she is and she doesn’t believe the person. Well, would you look at that?  Who knew?

I’m not knocking my father at all.  I know he did the best he could with what he had. And I appreciate him immensely for all he gave me.  I think parenting is incredibly difficult and it’s impossible to know with certainty how what you give will impact your children.  But one of the beautiful things in life is that we can learn both directly and indirectly from our parents. This was an indirect lesson I learned from my dad, but it was a lesson nonetheless. And as I feel with all my lessons from him, I’m so grateful for it.


*I do not own the rights to the above video*

Moving on to Peace

Hey! How ya doing? Good to see ya.  Glad to be here.  Sorry it’s been so long.  And let’s not forget, Happy Friday!  I know it’s been a long time.  And honestly, I really want to get better at being more consistent.  It’s been an interesting journey through life thus far.  I keep finding myself in these stages of growth and when that happens, I need to take steps back and process.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  But I had to share this video because I got a lot of feedback (unexpected feedback at that) about something I said on Wednesday.  Wednesday was the 9th anniversary of the day my dad died and I said something about that day and people really seemed to resonate with it so I felt led to share this.  I hope it helps whoever needs to hear it.  Enjoy your day and your weekend!

It’s a Celebration, B*tches!

A magical, marvelous, glorious, and wonderful Friday to you!  If you can’t tell, I’m super excited.  My birthday is tomorrow and that gives me a reason to celebrate myself–something I must admit I don’t do nearly enough.  Now while I’m quite interested in doing the damn thing for myself, I can’t deny that this has also given me an opportunity to grow.  Wanna hear how? Well watch the video.



Seems Like A Mighty Long Time

Today marks eight years since you left this realm. It’s difficult to put my feelings into words. That’s because at any given moment, there seems to be a simultaneous exchange of starkly opposite sensations or experiences. It feels like it was just yesterday I was at the hospital with mom when we received the worst news ever–that you were gone. Yet, it feels as if I’ve been living without you for so long–too long if you want to really know the truth. I marvel at how far I’ve come, as far as grief is concerned. And just as soon as I pat myself on the back, waves of pain will come crashing down upon me. Like I’ve said, it’s difficult to put into words. I guess it’s best for me to start at the beginning and work my way up to today.

That initial moment after your passing stays with me. Hearing mom ask the doctor as she looked sadly upon us, “He’s gone, isn’t he?” and watching her face as the realization that you were indeed gone settled was heart wrenching. I remember screaming “No! No! No!” over and over again, thinking if I said it loud enough that I could reverse it and you wouldn’t be gone. I spent the next days of my life in a haze. One minute I could be seemingly fine, and broken down beyond repair the next. I settled into a grief-riddled depression after that. The pain was too intense. There was just no way I could go on without you. There was no way I could live another day without hearing you shout “What’s gwoings?” or “Hey Daughter!” It hurt too much to know that The Fizzle wouldn’t get to grow up with you. I didn’t want to go on. At least that’s what I thought back then. Today I know I just didn’t want to FEEL. The feelings were too intense. I wanted to die. Yes. That was the answer. That was the only way to stop this disrespectful attack of grief. So I wrestled with the idea of taking my own life. I concocted a few plans, but I could never seem to go through with any of them. Was that you stopping me? I’m not sure, but I’m glad that I didn’t go through with any of my plans.

So that left me with soldiering on. I just had to get up every day and keep living. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. But I did it anyway. I didn’t feel like I had any reason to keep going, save for The Fizzle. She became my reason for living. Gradually, I was able to find another reason to keep going–to be a living demonstration of your legacy. After all, I’m your only child. I’m all that’s left of you. It was up to me to keep your name going. I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to keep your legacy going. I think I put more pressure on me than you did during my childhood. Who would think that’s possible? I stressed myself out. I heard your voice criticizing me every time I felt like I was failing. Then one day you came to me in a dream and told me to “Chillax.” You told me that I didn’t need to put this pressure on myself because you did your work and now it was up to me to do my own work. More than that, you let me know that your legacy isn’t your comedy, or your movies, or anything related to your fame. You told me that I’m your legacy. You told me that The Fizzle is your legacy and out of everything you’ve done, you were most proud to be my dad.

And that allowed me to let go. I had to let go of you. I didn’t want to because I thought letting go of you was me saying that I was forgetting about you. I thought it was disrespectful. But I realized that it wasn’t about letting go in a sense that I’m saying you are not an integral part of me. It was about letting go of the attachment that I had to the past. I couldn’t let go of the desire to hang on to what was. I wouldn’t be able to embrace anything new if I kept holding on to the past. I had to detach. After all, you had. You had transformed. You were no longer saddled with the baggage of the human costume. You were beyond it. I knew you were right. You did your work. And now it was time for me to do my own work. And I could do my work. I could do my work while walking upon the foundation that you so lovingly laid down for me. How blessed am I?

Daddy, I have been through so much since you left. There have been so many tears, so many doubts, so many regrets. But there have also been so much more. So many smiles, so many laughs, and so much love. And you have been a part of it all. It’s because of you I am. It’s because of you The Fizzle is. We talk about you at least once a day–not in an effort to not let go, but more so to make sure that we recognize that your death doesn’t negate your life. Thank you so much for all you did while you were here. And thank you so much for what you do from beyond.

I used to dread August 9th. I used to go through severe insomnia leading up to the day. I would become depressed. In an effort to combat it, I would try to do all kind of things that were in stark contrast to depression. I’ve gone skydiving. I’ve released balloons in your honor. I’ve danced. I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore. Now I feel like all of that was in a way celebrating your death. I had unknowingly created a shrine to the day. Your physical death took up so much space in my mental memory. Today, I acknowledge the day, but I don’t need to celebrate it. And therein lies the beauty of the birth, death, rebirth cycle. While it can seem like you are losing so much in death, you actually gain so much as well. Again, all I can say is thank you. Now I can’t lie. I miss you. I miss you a lot. But I can honestly admit that I love you more. As you used to say, my love for you is non-transferable and I love you from the top and the bottom of my heart.


Your Boops

Heal That Masculine, Man!

Happy Friday!  What a wonderful time it is.  It’s Father’s Day weekend and I feel like that’s a wonderful time to celebrate men.  I love men.  I can admit that I haven’t always been able to say that. However, I’m so grateful that I can say that now.  I think Father’s Day is a wonderful time for us to examine and begin to take the steps to heal our relationship with the masculine because for many of us, the wounds we have in our relationship with the masculine are rooted with our relationship with our fathers.  That’s why I’m not speaking today of the absent dads–the ones who couldn’t (for whatever reason) be the men we needed.  The story is told so much.  I think it’s time for a new narrative. Although, I will sidebar right now and wish love and joy to all of those whose dad was absent.  I’m sorry he wasn’t there.  I’m sorry he wasn’t what you needed.  I hope you are at peace now, and if not, I hope you are on your way to finding peace.

So , as I was saying, dad’s (and men in general) have gotten a bad rep over the years, and it’s time to release those old ideas that no longer serve.  Men are great.  Men are vital.  After all, women may make the world go round, but men are the axis upon which it spins.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

Daddy’s Little Girl

People love to ask me what it was like growing up with Bernie Mac as my father. I still don’t really know how to answer that question. It’s all that I know. He was Daddy. And while his story seems quite extraordinary to some, life with him seemed quite ordinary to me. I will say that it wasn’t anywhere near as hilarious as others seem to think it was. Don’t get me wrong. We laughed a lot. I mean, he was just a naturally funny guy and he had a great sense of humor. He passed it along. However, he took his responsibility as a father very seriously. And as his daughter, I can tell you that fatherhood, as far as he was concerned, was no laughing matter.

I tell people often that my father and I were soul mates. I know that the popular idea of soul mates lies in the romantic. However, I’ve always believed that a soul mate is that person whose connection with you is unparalleled. Your soul mate is the person (or persons) who are there to reflect you in your truest essence. They challenge you in the most life changing ways. That was my father for me, and I him. We were mirror images of one another. While I wouldn’t admit it when he was alive, I proudly say today that we knew and understood one another better than anyone. There were things we just “got” about one another. The flip side to that is that we also had the super power of being able to drive the other crazy.

People ask, “What do you miss most about your dad?” It makes me laugh now, but the truth is, I miss the way he got on my nerves. And he did get on my nerves. About 90% of the 100 billion estimated ones I have in my human body! Hearing that may sound odd to you, but it’s a comforting truth for me. Oddly enough, it’s not the tender moments I miss most. I miss his idiosynchrasies, his bad habits. I miss the little picadillos that made him Daddy.

I found one of my old journals that I kept as a child. I had to have been about 10 or 11 years old when I wrote in the journal. Almost every entry is about how much he got on my nerves and how I will never, ever, ever be like him. Now, those who know me well can appreciate the humor of this. I am like my father. Always have been. In fact, I think I was the last person in my life to recognize it! I’ve known one of my best friend since we were 4 years old. We’ve never had an argument. We were about 14 the one time we came close to blows, and it was because she told me that I was like my father.

This is yet another thing I wouldn’t admit because a large part of me felt like he was larger than life. My dad was a superhero in my eyes. He was able to do the impossible. Hey, he took us from true rags to riches, so why wouldn’t I believe that? I never believed I had that ability. But, I also wouldn’t let him know that. No, I would say the opposite of whatever he said. If he said “Up,” I went down. If he said, “It’s going to rain,” I said “I see nothing but sunshine.” He was intuitive and very strong with his intuition. So he was right a lot. I mean a lot, a lot. He could tell you what you would do before you even thought about the act. And I’m not ashamed to tell you that I just got tired of him being right all the time. So yep, I was contrary on purpose just to prove him wrong. You probably don’t need me to tell you that it didn’t work out very well for me.

Again, these are things that I laugh about now. But the truth is, as much as I resisted my true self (which is so much like my dad), I’m appreciative of it now. I like that we are so much alike. I think my father was a wonderful human being and I’m proud to say that I know him. So here’s a brief list of some of the traits that we have in common.

We’re both extremely stubborn. I mean for real, for real. We will hold our stance forever. You’ll get tired before we do.

We’re both humanitarians and care takers. We’re the one in our circle who takes care of everyone. The unfortunate thing is that we both do so to the detriment of our own selves because we get so busy taking care of everyone else that we forget to take care of ourselves.

We both have a very, ahem . . . colorful . . . vocabulary. Now this one is really funny to me because I was timid about cursing until he died. Once he did, it was as if a part of him fused into my soul and brought his vocabulary stash with it!

We’re both natural leaders. We’re not interested in following a crowd. In fact, we’re more inclined to intentionally go in the opposite direction of everyone else.

We’re both very sensitive. This may shock some, but it is indeed true that the MacMan was very sensitive. He cared a lot about what others thought of him. He just had a great poker face to throw you off the scent of his sensitivity. I, on the other hand, never developed the poker face. Yet, I am just as sensitive–if not even more. Now, we’ll still go on to do whatever we want and leave you feeling like we don’t care, but we do.

I miss my dad. I miss him every single moment of every day. For so long I expected this almost magic day to arrive where I would be over his passing. I finally realized that there is no such day. You never get over it. You just get through it. I can honestly say that I’m through the grief, but I still miss him. I like thinking of him fondly. And I don’t wish to martyr him. Yes he was a great man. But he was also flawed. But the beautiful thing about maturity is that you learn to appreciate the people in your life for who they are instead of who you wish they were. And I appreciate my dad so much for who he is and was. It is said that children go through three stages when it comes to their view of their parents. They begin by idolizing their parents. I am no exception. I idolized my dad. I was in love with him. I idolized him so much that I pitied any man who wasn’t like him. I actually thought that any man who didn’t physically resemble him had some type of deformity. My grandfather’s and my father’s friends were the only exceptions.

It’s said after idolization, children then judge their parents. I can admit that I did judge my father. I judged him for things he did and things he didn’t do. For a long time I felt that he was too hard on me. I felt that he didn’t give me everything I needed from him. It would take me maturing and learning to see him as a man, apart from being just my dad to understand that he did the best he could. He did his best to instill in me the values he believed would help me succeed in life. He didn’t know how to be soft. He only knew how to be hard–even his soft was hard. But it was well intentioned. It was covered with love. And I appreciate that.

People ask me am I proud of my dad. I understand that for many who ask, their question is rooted in his celebrity. The truth is yes, I am quite proud of my dad. But not necessarily because of his fame. I’m proud that my father, without having his father in his life, chose to honor his actions and marry my pregnant mother at the tender age of 19. I’m proud that he remained in our home, leading us as best as he could. I’m proud that he had the courage to dare to dream (a huge dream). But more than just dream, he took the steps to make his dream come true–in spite of the many naysayers. I’m proud that at the height of his celebrity, he held fast to his values and never allowed anyone or anything to deter him from that path. I’m proud that while he may not have been able to soften up for me, he was able to give me everything he had. So I guess that means I’m in the final stage, which is acceptance. I’m proud to say he didn’t have to die for me to reach that stage. I was there long before.

How I Learned to Mind My Own Business

Aahh . . . Love. Love of family, friends, and people in general. It’s a beautiful thing. It feels good to love on people and have them love on you. And when you love people, you care about what happens to them. You care about the things they do. It’s the benevolent thing to do. And it’s only right. Right? Well . . . yes, and no. It’s great to care about our loved ones. But far too often, we fall into the trap of thinking that overstepping our boundaries and inserting ourselves into the business affairs of our loved ones displays love and concern. And like Dwayne and Walter proclaimed on “A Campfire Story” episode of A Different World, “That’s when the fight broke out!” Inserting ourselves where we don’t belong into the lives of our loved ones is a surefire way to create division in our relationships. But we feel justified to do so. After all, we have valid opinions. We can see what they cannot. So it’s our duty to let them know exactly what we think about what they’re doing, what they need to do, and what they should do in the future. And to add insult to injury, we’re actually insulted when our benevolent advice is not met with gratitude. However well intentioned we may be, we can be quite guilty of crossing lines when we do this. Actually, our opinions are not “good” or “bad.” We may even have some sound advice. Hell, we may actually *gasp* be right. Now, I’m not speaking of when those we love are causing themselves great harm (say for example, in a case of a severely depressed person, or an addiction). But in the case of every day living, sometimes we get so busy living our loved ones lives that we forget to live our own. And it’s not as if we haven’t been warned about doing this. Jesus told us to remove the beam from our own eye before trying to remove the plank from our neighbors. New school tells us to stay in our lane. Old folks simply told us to mind our own business. Let me tell you how I learned to do just that.

I had an excellent teacher in learning this lesson. Who was my teacher, you ask? It was none other than my mother. And she honestly had no idea she even taught me. But she did. Allow me to paint the story for you. It was 2009, about eight months after my dad passed away. My mom had decided that she was ready to date. I, on the other hand, didn’t agree. Now let’s look at what I said. I didn’t agree with her choice. Just who did I think I was? Well, at the time I thought I was a supportive and loving daughter who cared about my mom and only wanted the best for her. I thought it was a bit much to expect that a woman who’d lost her husband of 30 years (the man she’d been with from 16 years of age to 50) was ready to go out and date. I thought it was even more than a bit much when considering that said woman hadn’t been on a first date since 1976. I thought it was a bit much to expect that she’d be wholly healed and done with her grief in a way that would allow her to forge a new relationship. And I thought the loving thing to do was to simply tell her so. And I didn’t think I said it an overbearing way. I thought I said it in a “Mom I love you and I only want the best for you” kind of way. But the reality was that she didn’t ask me. To be frank, no one asked me. I took it upon myself to decide that I needed to intervene on her behalf. And I thought I was right. Man, if you’d seen some of these guys! She had no business dating any of them. That’s what I told myself. And for me, it wasn’t so much that I felt that none of them could hold a candle to my dad. It was that I instinctively felt that none of them were interested in my mother as a woman. I felt that they were all just happy to say they were dating “Bernie Mac’s wife.” I knew that feeling all too well. After all, I knew how to navigate those murky waters. I knew what it felt like to have the task of making friends and date all while being “Bernie Mac’s daughter.” So I was helping my mother avoid some of the pitfalls I’d found myself in. Or so I thought.

Again, I had benevolent intentions. The execution though? Not so much. I wasn’t actually being benevolent. I was actually being quite dismissive of my mother and her right to choose. She had a right to live her life the way she felt. She had every right to grieve in the way she needed. She had a right to go out with anyone she wanted. She was 50 years old for goodness’ sake! She wasn’t a child who needed me to hold her hand. All she needed was support. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that support was enough action. I didn’t realize that support didn’t require me to insert myself in her life. Now, I’d love to tell you that I made these realizations shortly after I said something, but I cannot. No, I rode the short bus on this lesson. It took me quite a while to get to the memo. What pushed me to finally get it, you ask? It took me feeling as if my life had completely fallen apart and dissecting everything about it to realize that everything I was upset over had NOTHING to do with me! It was several months later at this point. I’d deteriorated mentally, physically, and emotionally. My entire body was broken out in a horrid rash. I thought it was simply a bad case of my eczema until I went to the dermatologist and learned that it was another skin condition caused by stress. I couldn’t sleep. I was averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep, and I wasn’t eating. I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep anything down. I went to my counselor and told her what was going on and she asked me a very important question. She simply asked, “What does any of this have to do with you?” *Gasp* How could she dare ask me that? Couldn’t she see that it had everything to do with me? “She’s my mother!” I answered incredulously. She looked at me and said, “Yes, we know that. And she’s your mother whether she’s married to your dad, dating a new guy, or perpetually single. This is her life. So what does her dating have to do with you?” I opened my mouth to answer, but I had nothing. So I closed my mouth and just sat there. She was correct.  The truth was that it didn’t have anything to do with me. But I think I made it about me because that was safer and easier than dealing with my own life. The truth was that I wasn’t doing so well with my dad’s passing. I was devastated and I didn’t know I was devastated. I knew I was out of it. But I didn’t have a name for it. I just knew that I felt low and wanted to feel better. To top it off, my divorce was finalized three months after my dad passed. And while I felt I did the right thing by divorcing my ex husband, I still felt a sense of sadness. I still needed to grieve. I needed to grieve not so much what was, but the release of all the unfulfilled hope of what could have been. As if that wasn’t enough, my relationship with my mom had changed. A distance grew between us–one that wasn’t related to my insertion in her business. I honestly think maybe I inserted myself as a means to bridge the gap. Whatever my reasons, it didn’t change the fact that I was so busy minding my mother’s business that I was failing myself miserably.

So then judgment kicked in. I was upset with myself because I should have known better. After all, how many fights had I participated in with my father because he didn’t allow me the freedom to choose–even when I was grown and out of the house. I would often tell him that while I understood his intentions; he still needed to back off. Of course, he wouldn’t. Now years later, he was gone and I was finding myself committing his cardinal sins! But that was judgment. And judgment kept me stuck. I couldn’t get past it. After all, this was different and I was nothing like him because I was right and he wasn’t. But it didn’t matter how I tried to spin it because the more I spun, the more I realized that I was acting and sounding just like my dad. AAaaaaahhhh!

And so, upon realizing that I was acting like my father and that I was running away from my own trouble–also the fact that I was extremely dry and itchy and the steroid cream the dermatologist prescribed was NOT cutting it–prompted me to get out of my mother’s lap in her driver’s seat, in her car, in her lane, on her highway, on her route, in her city, on the way to her destination. Instead, I opened the driver’s side door of my own car, sat behind the wheel, and drove off at a very cautiously slow 5 mph.  Whew! I was scared out of my mind, but I kept driving.  Slowly but surely, my scenery changed because I was on my own route–one that had nothing to do with my mom’s.  And that’s how I learned to mind my own business.

While I will offer my opinion to my loved ones when asked, I won’t insert myself in their lives. I only speak when prompted. Furthermore, I’m done once I’ve said my peace. I don’t entangle myself in their affairs. Yay for healthy boundaries! It took some practice, but now it’s almost effortless, and I think my relationships are the better for it.


The Thing About Family

We are in the vortex of the holiday season. A time of merriment, wonder, love, and community. Or is it? For some of us, yes it’s true this is a time of joy and gathering. However, for others, it’s the opposite. For some of us, the holidays bring about a spirit of depression, loneliness, and even dread. Some of us have no families or communities to gather around. Some of us may have families, but we know a seemingly harsh truth, and that is family and relatives are not the same.

When I was younger, my father would find random moments to teach and philosophize with me about life–or as he called it, to spit venom. A simple request to go to the store could be met with “Let me tell you this”, as he would then proceed to give me whatever was the lesson of the day. He would even tell me, “You may not understand what I’m saying to you right now. But one day you’ll look back on things and you’ll see.” Well of course, tiring of him always being right, I vowed that I would never understand. And I swore to uphold that vow until my dying day. But today, I am happy to admit that I was so wrong. My father was right. I do understand. I understand a lot of what he said to me and what he tried to instill in me. I initially thought he was so cold, for attempting to teach me this lesson. I now know better. And that is what I said earlier. Family and relatives are not the same thing!

My father’s version of this lesson went something like this: “Don’t get caught up in the titles of folks. Just cause somebody is your family doesn’t mean they have your back. Family will do you worse than a stranger on the street. You know Cain killed Abel.” Yikes! Sounds harsh doesn’t it? I certainly thought so. I couldn’t fathom someone in my family not being happy for me, not supporting me, or being there for me. Until one day, I found myself having to face this very truth. There are more than a few family members who I learned did not want the best for me. They are not happy for me when things go well for me, and they actually seem happy if things don’t work out in my favor. The experience left me shell shocked because it went against everything that I thought I knew. I felt robbed. I felt cheated. I had been had, hoodwinked, bamboozled, and well you know the rest. I went into victim mode: “How could they?” And I really did wonder how could they. I certainly hadn’t done anything to them. I lamented over my pain and let my heart bleed. I picked at the scabs on my bleeding heart just so that it would bleed again. I did this for a while until one day, I found myself surrounded by a group of wonderful people who were encouraging, supporting, and nurturing. They praised me where I was strong and offered loving reproof where I was weak. A couple of them have been around for many years and others were new additions to my life, but they shared the same thing: they all genuinely love me. I looked around and heard my father’s voice telling me “I told you!”. I believe Oprah would call it my “Aha moment”. I got the lesson: Family and relatives are not the same thing! Oh! So I’ve had it wrong all this time? So it takes more than a shared genetic link to make someone your family member? Having the same last name does not a family make? Being born into a group does not necessarily make that group a family? If not, then what does make someone your family? Well, as I mentioned of my group, a family is a group of people who come together in the name of love. And when I say love, I don’t mean merely in words. I mean in action. It is very easy to tell someone you love them, but if you are not acting in love, those words are in vain. Such is the case with my relatives. Family is the group of people who seek to understand you, love you, offer you support and encouragement, help when they see you need it and loving reproof to help you become better.

Now sometimes, some of your relatives are also your family members. But there are those relatives who just are not your family. And the thing is, that’s ok. I know this is the time of year when we focus on love and family and some of us feel bad because we don’t like being around relatives, or maybe we don’t have too many family members to gather around. But if you have a group of people who you know love you and have your back, you can rest assured that you have a family. And sometimes those people won’t have your last name or genetic link. And again, that’s ok. Whether your group is as large as the multitude that Jesus fed, or as small as a party of 2, you have a family. Most times, your family won’t look the way you imagined. (I certainly know mine doesn’t.) And while they may not be relatives, a family is much better than a group of relatives any day.

Regardless of what it is, I hope these times find you happy and full of joy. And if you are feeling a bit bah humbuggy, I understand.

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