Living Your Life Out Loud (The Move part 5)…2 min. read

Michelle Obama Farewell Speech with Oprah was on my list of shows to watch in the new year. As I sat watching the interview on YouTube, I knew that I would be inspired. There was no way that inspiration would bypass me while sitting watching two of the most powerful and influential women in the world. But I wanted to be more than inspired to watch and feel hopeful, I wanted to be inspired enough to change. Inspired enough to live my life in a way that would evoke change in others.

This statement from the First Lady moved me.

“Let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and then judge for themselves. Live it out loud. Don’t dial it back. Don’t dilute it. Don’t apologize for it.”

So how do I “live my life out loud”? How do I say exactly what needs to be said? How do I take advantage of those special teachable moments without actually saying a word? My actions are speaking with such authority my lips need not move. My life is speaking out loud with…no dialing back…no diluting…no apologizing. All without losing the effectiveness of the message I am trying to convey. The answer sadly is “I do not know”. I am learning.

I began to think…Can this be done with an assertiveness that makes people watch and listen? A way that does not offend but creates a desire to look within. A way that will impact the people that I see every day. Or even a couple times a month.

This historical area is ever changing but hurting. Buildings and homes are being renovated. New businesses are moving in. People are coming into town to enjoy the eclectic venues, good food, and spirits. But, in between all of this, we have a group of people that are lost. Consumed with the use of drugs, the selling of drugs, prostitution, panhandling, disease, and hunger. It is not only my responsibility to live in a way that provokes hope but to also provoke a different way of thinking and living.

Yes. I know sometimes the way I talk you would think I moved to an entirely different country rather than just a different city less than an hour away. Although the distance is not so great, the world that I have been divinely appointed to be a part of is quite different than that I have lived for my forty plus years. Some days I pray with a vengeance that it is divine and not of my own will, because if not, this may go horribly wrong.

Since the temperature in Atlanta was well below freezing the last couple of days, we had quite a few homeless people that continued to come in and out of the store trying to stay warm. This calls for heightened security, awareness, a special level of sympathy and a whole lot of patience. So often I struggle to balance business and outreach. But in order for me to be effective; I need to be able to present and represent my business goals and my limits of outreach. I believe the most effective and successful people can do this unapologetically, without dialing it back, without diluting their life down to a “message” that appeals to everyone but impacts no one.

I know this can be very difficult to comprehend. But I think if we all take some time to really think about whether we are “living out loud” and living an impactful life, we would start making some changes. That statement made by the First Lady probably meant something totally different for her just as it will mean something totally different to me and you but we all can decide to live in a way that will positively impact our individual “worlds”.

Please feel free to share.

-TanyaG

Crossing the Bridge Into a New Year (The Move part 4)

The Move (Blog – Part 3)

The Move (Blog – Part 2)

The Move (Blog)

© 2017 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.

Crossing the Bridge Into a New Year (The Move part 4)…2 min. read

Almost the end of the year and I am feeling overwhelmed, heavy-hearted and anxious for the new year. I have typed and erased this blog more times than I would like to admit. I wrote a post about the new house. I wrote a post about some people in the neighborhood then I wrote a post about the Christmas Holiday. All of them I read and re-read then decided they were irrelevant since time had continued to tick before I could hit the “Publish” button. 

Then I told myself if I could get out and take some pictures throughout the city something inside me would spark. It would spark my heart, mind, and creative spirit but to my surprise, it did not happen. As I sit here in my little but cozy home still decorated with the beautiful  Christmas tree that my husband, mom, and son surprised me with one day while I was working, I am still finding it hard to find the right words. What is important? I think I am finding this hard because I really would like to share something that is important to me as well as important to you. I ask myself –  is it really important that someone walked up to my front door and stole my Christmas wreath right off the door? Is it really important that a day does not go by in which I am in some way or another engaged in the conversation of using drugs, buying drugs, or some type of criminal activity? Is it really important that I do not understand all the people and lifestyles around me?

This year has been an evolving learning experience for me. Can I sum it up in a few words without letting this go on forever? Well, let’s see.

I have met people who are living on the streets by choice. Met people living on the streets because they are not in their right minds. I have met people who commit crimes without a heart of regret. I have met people who commit crimes because they know no other way to survive. 

This year I have watched a family member make choices that I did not understand. Choices that made me rethink every decision I had made in the last 20 years. As these decisions are being made with disregard to the hearts that are silently praying, I experienced the transition of my grandmother. An experience that I never really thought would come but I should probably not be sad because God blessed her with a long life. As I began to come to grips with this year ending with only a couple of events that shook me to slight unstableness, I hear the news of someone I worked with for quite a few years passing away tragically just 2 days before Christmas. A life much younger than my grandmother. A life too young for death leaving behind a beautiful family. 

Now it is less than a week before the new year “2017” and my heart is overwhelmed, heavy-hearted and anxious.

  • My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude that even though I have experienced loss and disappointment that I can still see hope in the future. Hope in that no decision or situation that I or my loved one’s experience is forever. Overwhelmed with gratitude for my husband, family, business and our home to lay our head at night (no matter how big or small).
  • My heart is heavy only for the moments I missed to love and show appreciation for those that are no longer with us because our time here we do not know. It can be much longer than we expected or sooner than we feel is fair. But it will be okay because more of those moments will come for sure.
  • My heart is anxious for a new year of opportunities to respond differently to people.  To respond differently to the situations I find myself in. Anxious for opportunities to love better than I have in the past that includes loving myself more.

As I know I will shed a few more tears whether in joy or pain before the new year comes, I am grateful for the times, the experiences, the people, and the spirits that have passed through my life. I lift my hands in prayer for us all. Let us be overwhelmed with gratitude; cherish our moments; and be anxious for nothing but the opportunity to love better.

-TanyaG

The Move (Blog – Part 3)

The Move (Blog – Part 2)

The Move (Blog)

© 2016 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.

Just One Picture of Homelessness (1 min. read)

What is your picture of homelessness?

(Picture of homelessness) The walls of my house are made of the many shades of yellow and green. My clothes are not neatly folded or hung in a closet but thrown about my room that has an airy but eerie bright view into the world that encircles me. I have many tiny acquaintances that visit me night and day. Never waiting to be invited but gladly crawling into my space. They live in my walls and other neighboring homes. They do not look like me but they are unique in their own right. Just as I am unique to the well-dressed people who stroll by as I lay in my shabby although beautifully colored home.

As I lift my hand to block the bright sunlight from my famished eyes, I notice the well-dressed people are staring at me again. 

Then I remembered…I remembered… I didn’t always have this special home.

Now I remember. The illiteracy.  The shame and disappointment but a plan put in place. The adventures of living well came with such excitement but faded so quickly. Where was the confidence, the drive, the ambition? The late night studies of 1st and 2nd-grade vocabulary. Why couldn’t I comprehend? Some said it was dyslexia. Some said it was stupidity. Some said I was mental. 

How difficult could it be? It proved to be overwhelming but feeling nothing was impossible. Keep pressing on I say and do. I try and I try. Only to be destitute…living in this special place with the well-dressed people staring at me. 

What is your picture of homelessness?

© 2016 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.

The Move (Blog – Part 3)…2 min. read

I’ve had a few request from some of my readers to see the inside of our house. Some parts are a little scary looking but we are making great progress. These pictures are actually better than when we first came in. We have moved trash from the inside, swept and mopped throughout the house so it didn’t seem so scary to move around in. Remember this is a small house so there isn’t a lot of pictures. I think the people and the neighborhood are more interesting than the house anyway.

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Living Room

This first picture is our living room. It is the first room you see when you come into the house. It feels so weird to walk directly into your living area. I am so used to having a foyer. The room is quite small. We can barely fit our sofa, loveseat, and coffee table in the room comfortably and still have room to dance around.

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The Disgusting Ceiling

I know you probably have that disgusting frown on your face with your little voice screaming “I would never live there! Look at that ceiling!” Well, my usual little calm & reasoning voice was screaming “What am I getting myself into?!” And guess what, this wasn’t the only room with water stains.  But you should know, we got it under control. We had roofers come out to patch up the leaks on the outside then we painted the ceiling. You wouldn’t even know there was a ceiling leak.

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The Overly Green Bathroom

Now I am not a hater of the color green but I do hate the green in our bathroom. Although I am the last to talk, since I just leased out a house with some really horrible paint color in the bathroom (but that is what you get when you trust someone else to pick out the colors). This bathroom has an interesting combination of green, teal blue and black. If you take a peek into the mirror, you can see what I am talking about. Look close you will see it. Every part of this bathroom must be painted and the toilet is cracked so it must go as well.

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The Plain Kitchen

Okay. Here is the kitchen. Nothing extravagant but I really like it. The floors are going to be cleaned. They remind me of the floors in some of the Spanish style homes. A little hot water and bleach go a long way to brighten up the cabinets so they bring a clean look and fresh air into the room. Some decorations and new chandelier make for a great little kitchen.

Needless to say, I am loving this neighborhood so it makes up for the work we have to do in the house. Most of our time is spent outside of the house preparing and speaking about issues in our community, feeding, and clothing the homeless as best we can, and running our neighborhood store and ministry.

Like I have said this historical neighborhood on the eastside of Atlanta with its mixed-use developments, ever increasing Beltline developments, and the mixture of races and lifestyles is more interesting and more exciting to explore.

But I do think you will like the after pictures a lot better.

As I continue discovering “what I am doing & why”, I look forward to talking about the new and the familiar people and experiences that I will and have encountered.

To read more about THE MOVE please follow my blog. Don’t forget to go back and read.

The Move (Blog – Part 2)

The Move (Blog)

© 2016 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.

 

The Move (Blog – Part 2)…2 min. read

The shingles continue to hang from the roof and the pale yellow color of the house continues to fade in the hot sun, time does not stop. I finally finished a busy day at our convenience store which is just about 2 minutes away from our new residence. As I approach, I cannot help but continue to stare at the overgrown weeds that occupy a vacant lot that sits next door to our fixer-upper. On the other side of the vacant lot, a white family lives in a newly built home with a country style porch, a cute german shepherd, and a picket fence surrounding the home.

(I will be mentioning race, lifestyles, and beliefs throughout my post to show as I write that diversity in a neighborhood comes both positive and negative with many learning experiences.)

The overgrown weeds are reminding me that this neighborhood has been neglected. The people that once lived here and the few that still remain from the years past has in some circumstance…some thought process…in some spoken way  neglected the community.

The reasons for the lack of care are not always known although the excuses come both distressing and at times understandably reasonable.

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Overgrown Lot of the Missing Owner (Photo by Tanya Graham)

As I move items from our car to the house, I notice a familiar face. A face that makes me uneasy. Here comes Paul (not sure if that is his real name or not) but that is what we call him at the store. That or either Preacher Man. He is a frequent store customer who has been homeless and an active addict for over twenty years and frankly he doesn’t care to change his living status. Paul is a slim black man maybe in his 70’s. He walks with a consistent odor; mix-match clothes; and sluggish walk of feet dragging. His unkempt  gray and black hair always lives under some type of hat at least 90% of the time. Nothing about him is shy or meek. He is outspoken and doesn’t care what he says at any time. His conversation has often embarrassed me as we take orders from customers visiting outside of the so-called “hood”.

My thoughts “Oh my God. He knows where I live!”

Paul’s first question while standing outside our house goes like this “Did ya’ll buy this house for me?!” He is yelling as if we are two blocks away instead of right in front of him. My husband and I looked at him with a slight grin of amusement and terror all mixed together.

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Our Friend Paul (Photo by Tanya Graham)

To read more about THE MOVE please follow my blog. Don’t forget to go back and read my first blog on THE MOVE.

The Move (Original Post)

© 2016 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.

 

The Move (Blog)

Just in case you haven’t read my first blogging adventure of “The Move” here it is. Next coming blog coming very soon.

TanyaG

Leaving my 3600 square foot spacious suburban home to live in an 800 square foot shotgun house in the inner city of Atlanta could be one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. I stress “could be”. 

Many people would say I am crazy leaving the safety of my well-manicured yard and a neighborhood safeguarded by an overzealous homeowners association. 

Well. I just might be “crazy” but I’m leaving anyway. This very thought of craziness is exactly what got me to thinking. What am doing and why?

As we are in one of the most ridiculous election years that I can remember in my lifetime. Racial issues continue to escalate as people protest police brutality. Same-sex marriage battles. And now who should use what bathroom. 

Wow. This little shotgun house that sits in one of the most historical neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia; rich with history; and…

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