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Tamara Jeffries

Manuscript and Editorial Consulting

Now I See


A Warrior

Posted on 13 November, 2016 at 16:36 Comments comments (493)
For my sisters in the midst of making change:

"A warrior is a hunter. She calculates everything. That's control. Once her calculations are over, she acts. She lets go. That's abandon. A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy of the wind. No one can push her. No one can make her do things against herself or against her better judgment. A warrior is tuned to survive, and she survives in the best of all possible fashions."

--adapted by Tia Hall from Carlos Castaneda

I got shoes

Posted on 13 November, 2016 at 16:31 Comments comments (24)
I got shoes.
You got shoes.
All God’s children got shoes….
I was talking to Salaama today about a loved one who, we think, is missing a great opportunity. Why is he hesitating over a prospect that seems so ideal, we wondered? Was it fear? Ego? Wisdom? We don’t know—we can’t know—what keeps him from making a move. All we know is that he is a grown man, making his own choices. He must have his reasons, we reminded ourselves.

“I guess I could afford to put myself in his shoes,” Salaama said, wisely. We agreed that doing so was a sure way to conjure up compassion and push judgment aside. And thinking about things from other people’s point of view almost certainly adds value to your relationship with them.

But I told her that I realized that I sometimes spent so much time worrying about what's happening in other folks’ shoes, that I don’t pay enough attention to what’s happening in my own. 

If you’re a wife, a mother or a caretaker of any kind, you probably know the feeling. You’re constantly considering the needs of the people you love. Not just what they need in the moment, but what they’re going to need, what they might need.

To some degree that comes with the territory. But what happens when it goes beyond the family schedule?

It wasn't that long ago that it hit me that I was thinking about everybody else’s career choices and health needs and financial concerns—but paying very little to my own. What was my plan for the future? Where was my next check coming from? How was I fulfilling my reason for being? Is urging someone else to move and grow really the source of my own movement and growth? I don’t want to look up one day and realize that I’ve spent all my energy worrying about other folks’ choices—choices I can’t control anyway—and have done nothing to further my own purpose for being on the planet.

My mother’s father, a poor man with ten children to clothe and feed, insisted on “good shoes”—sturdy soles and high-quality leather—for them all. And he insisted that those hard-earned shoes be well taken care of. I remember my own Daddy sitting down on Saturday nights to wax and polish our shoes for Sunday morning and the rest of the week. These are the people who taught me that taking care of your soles is a good investment. It think they would say that taking care of your own soul is, too.

Dig In

Posted on 13 November, 2016 at 16:23 Comments comments (67)
Periodically, my girl Marva will send me a "brilliant carat" newsletter from business and life coach Simon T. Bailey. More than a month ago, she sent me this one—which I forwarded to firestarter Danielle. For some reason (kismet?), D sent it back to me today. Clearly I was meant to read it again. It was good the first time, but a lot can change in a month. Today I'm "standing in a different river" and this message struck me in a way that it hadn't before. 

Bailey writes: 

"His eyes on fire, Robin [Rampersad] explained that when a tree is going through its winter season, it is denied the ability to produce food through the process of photosynthesis. Everything changes for this tree because it is accustomed to trapping sunlight in its leaves via chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their green pigment, and transforming that chlorophyll along with other viable ingredients into food. This is normal for the tree, and it doesn’t have to think about it. It’s second nature. Yes, this is third grade science but it is so cool.

"In the winter, though, these normal functions are no longer an option because there isn’t enough sunlight to produce food, nor are there any leaves on the tree to trap the light. The tree, at this time, becomes almost dead on the outside, but internally, it begins to search for answers. As a result, it is forced to find food another way. And here’s the brilliance of God—the tree must push its roots deep into the soil to find enough minerals, salts, and water to sustain itself.

"Because the tree has spent the winter anchoring itself deeper and deeper into the soil and finding sustenance in a time of scarcity, it will be able to grow and thrive in the spring and summer months. Its fruit will be of a wonderful quality because the nutrients that helped produce it have come from deep within the recesses of the earth."

I'm struck, today, by the idea that sometimes it's necessary to rely on new and different means of sustenance. We often literally have a favorite place to go for our food. The farmer's market. A favorite bakery. The local burger joint. We rely on that spot to fill us. But what happens when the farmer's market closes for the winter? Or you realize that, for all kinds of reasons, you should probably leave the $8 slices of white-chocolate cheesecake alone for a while? What feeds you then? You have to find another place to forage.

It's true of all kinds of nourishment—physical, spiritual, emotional. Sometimes the thing you've always relied upon to "feed" you—the job, the lover, the church, the ego—can't fill you any longer. Maybe you've entered a dry season. Maybe your field is fallow. But one thing is certain: A sista needs to eat. Another thing that's sure: Spirit will make sure she does.

When you start to fear the haunting "lack" and begin to listen for the hungry moan rising from your belly, reflect on Bailey's story of the trees. Remember the parable of the manna. Believe, if you will, that Spirit always provides. (Kismet.) Believe, if you can, that what comes next may be even more delicious and nourishing than what you've had.

Maybe Marie Antoinette had it right. When your bread is gone, start looking around for the cake.

Suddenly I See

Posted on 13 November, 2016 at 16:21 Comments comments (103)
Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

I was flipping channels one late night and landed on a live performance by a woman I’d never heard of. I put down the remote, intending to have her sing background music as I worked. But this song captured me. I Googled it and I've been listening to it over and over. (So much that Little Bitty has started singing it. "She's a beautiful girl, she's a beautiful girl...")

A few weeks later, flipping channels again, I landed on opening sequence of The Devil Wears Prada and realized that this was the theme song for the movie. So it’s old news. Still, the lyrics to K.T. Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” are fresh and vital for where I am right now. I think it says something about the way I used to feel about myself, the way I always thought I’d feel at this stage of my life—and the way I want to feel now.

Problem is, I’ve been hearing little things about myself lately—and seeing things in myself —that don’t fit that picture. The me I’d like to be is smooth around the edges. She has sea legs; she doesn’t waver or flail when things are in tumult. She does not suffer from procrastination, panic—or PMS.

The me I am has edges and sharp teeth. I do panic, quietly and frequently. I waver. I think one thing—consistently and firmly—until I say it aloud, with all possible didacticism. Then I change my mind. I have brilliant ideas that die of hunger and thirst. I think of the perfect thing to say—three days too late.

And I know I have to accept that. I have to forgive it. I have to mix it in with the fact that I can juggle a million things, think of the perfect gift, write a letter that will always get the interview, fry the best tofu anybody ever tasted, inspire someone to do their best thing, and make a comeback every single time.

I believe in accepting people being people—being human, being flawed, and being okay with that. I believe that in theory—that it’s okay to be messy and complicated and kinda wrong—but it’s damn hard to accept in practice. Not when you want to feel like a beautiful girl in a silver pool of light.

But if you want a face that’s a map of the world, then I believe you have to accept your own humanity—the mountains and valleys, the desert places and the flooding ones. The places where the sun comes up and the ones where all the bones are buried. You have to see all of that in you. And get to know it. And learn to love it.

I'm learning.

Self-knowledge is a nourishment. Self-acceptance is imperative. Self-worth is a treasure. (How’s that for didactic.)

By the way, the chorus of the song goes like this:

Suddenly I see this is what I want to be.
Suddenly I see why the hell it means so much to me.

The Little Red Hen is My Kind of Chick

Posted on 13 November, 2016 at 16:18 Comments comments (30)
Little Bitty's aunt once gave her a book called The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza. 

As I recall, the old school version has the hen running after the other farm inhabitants in search of some assistance with harvesting wheat and grinding it into flour to make a loaf of bread. In this updated version (retold by Philemon Sturgis and illustrated with cunning cut-paper collages by Amy Walrod), our chick has moved to the city and has a hankering for a pie with the works. But her urban friends are no more helpful than the ones down on the farm.

“Hello,” she said. “Who’ll run to the store and get me some flour?”
"Not I," said the duck.
"Not I," said the cat.
"Not I," said the dog.

Little Bitty was appalled and deeply offended by the idea that the other animals kept refusing to help the hen. But I told her there were some good lessons in this book.

First, that hen wasn’t stymied when nobody came to her aid. She went out and bought her own pizza pan, then went back to buy the flour, the cheese, the toppings. She made her pizza dough from scratch, topped it with everything she wanted on it (including olives, onions andanchovies) and baked her own damn pizza.

On top of it all, when the savory pie was done, she was kind enough to share it with the deadbeats anyway. And smart enough to put her feet up and read a magazine while they did the dishes. (Yes, they finally got the picture, to Little Bitty’s relief.) And she did it all in some very hip shoes.

All in all, I’d say this Little Red Hen is a very Plan B type of chick.

It was an old story I’d long forgotten, but one I was glad to share with my little girl. I hope she won’t forget those lessons. I hope I won’t either.