What To Do When Everything About Your Thanksgiving is Non-Traditional

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It’s fall y’all! My excitement in writing those words is pure excitement because here in Texas (and across most of the southern part of the United States) the weather has been unseasonably warm. We were still seeing daily highs in the 80s and 90s until very recently.

But now, it has appeared to have cooled off. First the temps dropped down to the 70s, but now we are waking up to some frost. During the day, the sun is out and the temperatures are comfortable. This is totally cool by my standards because I do not fully appreciate the value of cold weather. Translation: I hate winter. In other words, fall is my jam.

I know for a lot of us the transition to fall happened when football season and pumpkin everything began, but for me it didn’t. During the months of September, October, and most of November, I felt like I was just going through the motions; claiming to love fall but not really feeling like we were truly there yet.

And now we are celebrating Thansgiving. And immediately thereafter, we’ll be into Christmas and Hanukkah and New Year’s. This year in particular, Thanksgiving is different. This year, my family is mourning an additional loss in the death of my aunt that just doesn’t feel right. Holidays were important to her, even the holidays that we didn’t converge at her house. And for lack of a better word, it’s just weird without her being here.

The current political climate of our country is full of tension, stress, and yes, even hatred. That does not bode well for giving thanks. It’s hard, and without going into why and how and healing and such we are forced to wait and see what’s going to happen next.

In a way, we are now forced to accept a new normal, not only for celebrating the holidays, but for living. The new normal signifies change. And change can be hard. But even in the changes, there can be fun. There can be rest. There can be a time for family togetherness.  Continue reading “What To Do When Everything About Your Thanksgiving is Non-Traditional”

In the Wake of Horror.

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This is where I live. This is where I’m raising children. The children of a DART police officer who stayed up all night because they were worried about their father. That college is where I teach. It’s now the site of an active shooter crime investigation. This is my life.

Yes we’re divorced. Yes he does things I don’t like. But for the past 12 hours he’s had to experience some things I could never imagine. Staying awake with your teen children who experience a fury of emotions behind an event like this that directly affects their father is hard.

Today, this is where we are. It is a very painful place to be.

 

At My Lowest Point, LeBron James Was There

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I hear the news and I see the reports. I know that LeBron James is not liked by many because of his arrogance. I know that words have offended many. But not me. Almost a year after my ex-husband and I separated,  when I was facing accusations about my parenting from my kids’ school,  when I had a very limited income, and when I was still trying to move through divorce proceedings with some pride and dignity, LeBron and his mother Gloria had an impact on my kids and me like no other.

Gloria James was 16 years old in 1984 when she gave birth to the man we now know as “King James.” As a teen mom, she was forced to raise him alone as his father was not in the picture and her only other support, her mother, died when LeBron was three.

And while you know the rest of the story as LeBron’s NBA career skyrocketed, our family is living proof of the positive effects of his life. About 8 years ago, Gloria James came to Dallas and hosted an event for single parents through their charitable organization, the LeBron James Family Foundation. One Sunday afternoon, we were treated to a VIP and full access afternoon at the Dallas Zoo. The event did not feature pretentious workshops about how we needed to read to our kids more, it didn’t talk about the importance of nutrition,  and definitely didn’t tell us what we needed to do to be a better single parent (as if we lost all of that knowledge when the relationship with our co-parents ended.)

Instead, the James family celebrated the good that we do through a day of fun. No lectures, no “what you should have dones,”  and no arrogance.

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In 2008, LeBron James and his foundation hosted an event in Dallas that we are still talking about today. My kids were so little then!

That pretentious stuff against single parents is real y’all. It is an unfortunate truth that far too many of us have had to unnecessarily endure. And even today, 8 years later, I still get the side eye, snubbed, and spoken to in tones not becoming to me or my family. All because I am a single mother.

The LeBron James Family Foundation’s mission is to positively affect the lives of children and young adults through education and co-curricular educational initiatives. You can read on the organization’s website that it promotes the belief  that an education and living an active, healthy lifestyle is pivotal to the development of children and young adults. Through a variety of outreach initiatives, the foundation hosts events like the one we attended all over the country, and in particular to the youth of James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio.

Our day with Gloria James ended with an incredible meal served family-style for each family. While LeBron wasn’t there in person (it was during basketball season), he did record a video offering his appreciation to the attending families with a  Walmart gift card valued at $100 for each family.

That gift card filled a gap in my almost-empty  pantry and bought the groceries that would feed us for the next week. As a mom, the feeling of pride that I got from being able to walk into Walmart and buy groceries without counting every single penny of the items in my basket was inexplicable.

Here’s the deal, y’all. When you are a celebrity, and in particular, a celebrity athlete, you are going to be under fire. You are constantly being handled and shuffled around adhering to a schedule that is not your own. Please understand me when I say that I am not defending rudeness and arrogance in any circumstance. What I am saying is that unlike our personal relationships where we are able to talk to our loved ones when rudeness occurs, we don’t have that opportunity with celebrities. We don’t get to talk to LeBron about his statements and his actions. If you think about it, his job is to play basketball, and I think he’s proven that he does that quite well. So because we don’t get to talk to him, we don’t know about the other stuff going on in his day to day life, and we can’t judge.

When he misses a lay up or a free throw, or if his defensive moves are crappy, then we can talk. Liking LeBron the basketball player has nothing to do with liking LeBron the humanitarian.  I just happen to like and appreciate both.

Here’s another fact that is a cause for consideration. Celebrities can’t be vulnerable with us. For safety reasons alone, they just  can’t. And just because we feel like we know them, we relate to their history,  and they are in our living rooms at least once a week, they know absolutely nothing about us. If I have a hard time managing my life as a mom and writer, and all of my friends have a hard time managing their lives, what makes celebrities any different? Trust me, they experience heartache, exhaustion, family strife, and illness. Because all of that is part of the human experience, and we are all human.

With that I say to LeBron James and all the other humanitarian celebrity athletes in the world, thank you.

8 on 8 Photo Essay: Oak Cliff

PHOTOOak Cliff is a historic part of Dallas that we absolutely love. Last month, we found ourselves without electricity for several hours due to to a black out in our area. Eventually the need for fresh air and the ability to charge our electronic devices soon took over and we hit the streets in search of adventure and coffee. So, on December 8, 2015, I am presenting you with this month’s 8 on 8.

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All photos were taken with my iPhone. Have you ever explored your neighborhood just because?

A Tale of Two Cities: Part Two

Two cities that have my heart are Chicago and Dallas. I know that Chicago is unbearable in the winter and Dallas is unbearable in the summer, but I love them both. My friend Kendra lives in the Chicago area and is a travel expert and writer. We thought it would be fun to put our heads (and blogs) together and feature a two-part series on two of my geographic loves. The third love, Mississippi, will be featured later this spring on my blog. If you’re planning to visit Dallas anytime soon, this is a must-have for sights to see!

A Texan Travel Guide to the Best Vacation in Dallas

By Toni Williams

Many are familiar with the Texas slogan, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas,” and visiting Dallas is no different. From the food to the friendly hospitality to the hotel accommodations to fun things to do, this city has your vacation covered! As a matter of fact, the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau launched a BIG campaign across the city and encourage visitors take photos in one of several life-sized sculptures proving that they did it big in Big D!

Longhorn Fun

Texas is famous for its cows, and Longhorns rule the town! While grazing cattle is a normal fixture when driving down Texas roads, it’s fun to know exactly where some of the hot spots are to see them for yourself. I-35 and Riverfront Blvd in downtown Dallas is the most popular place to see the longhorns grazing, and if you pull into the Fuel City gas station, you’ll be able to get a great view (and some of the best tasting tacos ever!)

If live cattle is not your thing, take a quick visit to Pioneer Plaza near Dallas City Hall and you will see why Texans love these beautiful and statuesque creatures. Take photos with the many Longhorn Statues on Young Street and you’ll see what everyone loves.

Presidential Facts & Figures

Dallas holds significant memories in the lives of two U.S. Presidential administrations. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas as his motorcade drove down Elm Street. An x marks the spot where the President was shot in front of the famed grassy knoll. History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Sixth Floor Museum, which is in the exact room that the fatal shot originated from.

Most recently, Dallas has enjoyed being home to the Presidential Library for former President and Dallas resident, George W. Bush. The Bush Library is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, where academics and sports reign supreme.

A View From Above

A quick stop at Reunion Tower is a must for visitors to Dallas. Known to the locals as “The Ball,” this tower stretches 560 feet in the sky and gives impeccable views of the city from its newly renovated Geodeck. The top of the tower is also home to Wolgang Puck’s 560 revolving restaurant and the Cloud Nine Café is closer to the Geodeck for casual dining.

Best Place to Hang Your Saddle or Catch Some Shut Eye

Adjacent to Reunion Tower is the Hyatt Regency Dallas which does not disappoint. Within walking distance and a relative newcomer to downtown Dallas is The Dallas Omni Hotel, home to Bob’s Steak & Chop House restaurant.

What About the Kids?

In recent years, the City of Dallas built Klyde Warren Park along the overpass of Woodall Rogers Freeway. Today it is home to Dallas’ only outdoor skating rink in winter, and yoga, Zumba and awesome trucks during warmer weather. While kids participate in some of the many activities offered at the 5.2 across park, parents find it easy to relax and enjoy the free wifi. Other awesome parks for kids to explore include Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park, and Rory Myer Children’s Adventure Garden (also known as the park without walls) at the Dallas Arboretum.

Dallas is full of fun and adventure, and quite affordable. Admission to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center are both free daily and can easily be added to you list of things to do. Another museum on the list for families is the amazing Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Victory Park.