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Lemme see you go back…

Lemme see you go back…

Back…Back…Forth…and Forth…

I’ve been listening to a lot of Aaliyah lately. The anniversary of her passing was a couple of weeks ago, so I noticed a lot of her music has been on my mind lately. I told you about the Bad Boys Reunion Concert that I attended in Chicago on September 1st right? The seats were the bomb, and I was on my feet the entire time singing along to all the great songs from the 90s.

Take me back…

This past week I’ve had that feeling of “take me back.” Take me back to an event, or even a time with a person when it was all GOOD. When there was not a care in the world, or you simply enjoyed being in their presence.

Then it hits you. Maybe I shouldn’t hold on to what was, and focus on what can be.

Now listen.

Memories get me through some of my toughest moments. This week I found myself laughing with my mom and sister about the hilarious stuff my father would do or say.

I laughed with old friends about the adventures in our late teens, and early twenties.

I even attended a college football game match-up between my two alma maters. Western Michigan University vs. North Carolina Central University. Oh the memories…

WMU vs NCCU
WMU vs NCCU

Again I said take me back…

What was I going back to?

Again I say memories are great, but sometimes we hold on to the wrong memories and they can cause us more heartache and pain. I know sometimes I find myself holding on to a memory that is quite toxic for my future. How will I grow if I don’t let go right?

I can never forget how some events or people made me feel in the past, but it’s also important that we have to let some balloons of hope go.

I will be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard for me to let go of how a person treated me; good and bad. Take me back to our first date, take me back to the Juvenile and Trina concert, take me back to my senior year of high school, take me back to the night before my house fire accident, take me back…take me back…take me back.

The thing is time doesn’t move backwards, it only goes forward. I can’t continue to focus on what could have been or what should have been. I can focus on the now, and how I can plan a better future for myself. I’ve made some foolish mistakes, and some that I am still learning from.

I realized this week there are some things I can never get back. Chile, at the top of my list is time and money, I can never get those two back. I can’t dwell on wasted time with people, or money that magically drifted from my bank account.

Even though it’s painful, the best thing you can do for your growth and sanity is to let go of the notion of traveling in a time machine to get what was…back. The truth is…it’s gone.

Seriously.

Give it some time, and if the opportunity presents itself again, then try again, but definitely don’t build the foundation on quicksand. You feel me?

So, stop focusing on the “take me back,” and focus on the “what’s next, or what about a fresh start.”

XOXO,

R.J.

P.S. I spent my Saturday morning with 2 amazing people.  Please be sure to check out their story tomorrow for #GriefTalkTuesday Photography Love Letter Campaign for the Final 48 Project

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From Fist Pumpin to West Philly: Fresh Princess of Books!

From Fist Pumpin to West Philly: Fresh Princess of Books!

I think it’s safe to say after the last three weeks I am exhausted!  The pack/unpack cycle has concluded for at least a month, but I’m definitely grateful for the Historical Tours w/R.J. that were completed.

You know I love a good road trip.  Can you believe of my many road trips on the east coast I’ve NEVER been to Philadelphia?  I rode through Pennsylvania heading to Virginia but never visited any historical sites in the state.  Our nation’s first capital, and I finally made it!

It was chilling cold the first day in Philly so my friends and I decided to venture out on Sunday afternoon.  Our first stop was the Art Museum, and also the scene for the famous steps from the Rocky Movie.   You know we had to go to the top right?! Lol.  RockySteps2

The view from the top of the “Rocky Steps” was amazing.  We hung out at the top because it was the perfect photo op for anyone who conquered the stairs!

Rocky Stairs
Rocky Stairs (Philly Art Museum) – View from the Top

Of course this stop wouldn’t be complete without posing with the statue!

Rocky Pose

By the mid-afternoon we worked up quite an appetite marching around Philly, so we decided to go over to the Reading Terminal Market.  There was so much to choose from but how could we come to Philly without getting a cheesesteak.  Sure, my friends from the area told me to try Jim’s or Ishkabibble but Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagie and Cheesesteak was President Obama approved!  Since my former alias is Carmen Sandiego I was definitely down to try.  Placed my order, took my Ace of Spades card, and waited patiently for my order.

Yum.  Aces of Spade card for my order wearing one of my fave nail colors, Essie - Mint Candy Apple
Yum. Aces of Spade card for my order wearing one of my fave nail colors, Essie – Mint Candy Apple

No need to snap a picture of my food.  We were thoroughly satisfied.  I’ll check the other places out to compare the next time in Philly.

I saw a story on Facebook about one of the oldest African American bookstores in the country was located in West Philly, Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop.  I was excited to stop by, drop off my book, and patronize the business.  We met the late owner’s daughter, Ms. Yvonne Blake.  Her father, Mr. Dawud Hakim began selling books from the trunk in his car in 1959 before settling in it’s current location on 52nd Street.  Can you imagine the history that has been exchanged in that space for the last 40 years.You can honestly get lost in there with the collection of books that is offered in the store.  It is truly an amazing treasure to have in West Philly, and I wish more bookstores like that one existed all over the country.  When you are in Philly be sure to stop by Hakim’s and it’s possible you may see a familiar book(s) in there very soon!

Hakim's Bookstore

 

 

Steele Living My Life As Carmen…San Diego That Is!

Steele Living My Life As Carmen…San Diego That Is!

Okay…Let me explain the title.  My alias online used to be Carmen Sandiego.  In all honesty in some places I still use the handle.  I’m known to pop up anywhere.  When my friends check-in or snap a photo of me to post on social media the response is usually, “Ronnika was there!”  On top of that my favorite color has always been red.  So, in my head I’m really Carmen Sandiego, add melanin and stir!

My friend found $80 roundtrip plane tickets to San Diego, and I was IN! You read that correctly, ROUNDTRIP! ORD to San Diego on a Saturday evening, you can’t beat that.  Clear skies and the weather was lovely, not bad for my first time in Cali.

Seaport San Diego

We were located in a cute boutique hotel downtown San Diego, and not far from the Historic Gaslamp District.  You already know when I heard “Historic” I perked up.  The area which is on the national registry of historic places is known for its redevelopment past.  Since the 1800s the Gaslamp District and SeaPort has revitalized the area into a hub for quaint boutiques, tourist attractions, and a social atmosphere.  The Balboa Park houses the world famous San Diego Zoo, home to the USS Midway (aircraft turned museum), I mentioned the Seaport right?  You can tell that was one of my favorite places.

I didn’t appreciate growing up near water until I was an adult.  It reminded me how we can take some things for granted.

The Real Carmen

 

The Little Black Book…Are we “Steele” family?

The Little Black Book…Are we “Steele” family?

Don’t get too freaked out, this post is rated PG – Past Generations. I know millennials aren’t carrying around books anymore let alone a little black book. Our little black book can be found on our clouds account or stored under nicknames in our phone, but those baby boomers that’s a different story.

Well, my parents are baby boomers so I’m still prone to writing everything down, except  for phone numbers and addresses. After losing many of my contacts in October because I didn’t save my contacts to the cloud I realized how important a little black book would be.

I’ve told you before (and on Periscope) that I’m in search of my paternal grandmother’s family. I honestly want to know where my “Steele” family resides, and learn more about my family history.

I’ve finally made it through the bulk of my dad’s papers, and I came across an address book. A little black book that had addresses stamped on the front. I was flippin through the pages and some of the handwriting resembled my granny’s but most was that of my father’s unique penmanship.

A light bulb 💡 illuminated in my head. It said, “Check under the S alphabet!” Only one person listed in the S section of the book. THE LAST NAME WAS “STEELE!”

Overcome with excitement I ran to my computer and did a Google search of the name and address of this person. I found a few descendants, and decided to go to Facebook. Same name and location in Birmingham, Alabama, but I froze. Would a random inbox or friend request from a stranger scare this person? I definitely couldn’t lead the message with “What up cuz? Is that you?” Lol.

I took a couple of days to figure out what I was going to say.  I finally sent the message along with a picture of the address so they would know that I wasn’t crazy!

I’m anxiously awaiting the response.  I decided to document this journey similar to my other missions. I’m going to hop on Periscope as soon as I receive a response, and of course keep you updated on the site.

I’m excited to share this journey with you and also inspire you to reconnect (or meet) with your family. I believe this little black book is the beginning of solving the missing links in my family history.

Until next time,

R.J. 🕵

#FaveArchivist

The Mourning After…

The Mourning After…

I spent some wonderful summers in Richmond, VA as an intern.  I learned a great deal, featured in the local newspaper and news station.  It was truly an amazing experience.  #SteeleThankful for it.  I wanted to master the art of reading 19th Century manuscript before I departed my final summer in Virginia.  It wasn’t until I came across primary documents with black borders that I became more intrigued.  My good southern friends would refer to it as, “mourning” stationary/letter.

What is a mourning letter you ask?  A mourning letter in the 19th Century was stationary paper with black borders.  For example, the border would symbolize if the person writing the letter has experienced the loss of a  loved one.  The width of the border depended on the sender’s state of grief and/or the timeline of the passing.  Basically the  current emotional state of the sender.  The letter (featured photo) that was written by Mrs. Jefferson Davis (First Lady of the Confederacy) addressed in August of 1899 shows the presence of the black border.

From research I was reminded of the death of the President’s daughter, Varina “Winnie” Davis in 1898.   In true super sleuth, Archivist mode we are able to piece the story together of how Mrs. Davis was dealing with the grief internally from the width of the borders on her letters, and of course the letter itself.

(Sidenote: Have you thought about why its customary to wear black to funerals?)  There was documentation of a woman who wore black for years after her husband died.  Proof that she grieved for over five years!  Interesting, right?

After during research in the archives and losing my father in 2013, I found myself ironically wearing a lot of black clothing. Well, I still do, for other reasons. Lol.  It didn’t hit me until my  last year of school that I was not allowing myself to grieve.  Similar to the people that were writing with the black borders in the 19th century, and wearing black garments, I had to realize that the void of losing a loved one will always be present.  I must allow the borders of my own stationary paper to become narrow.  People have to go in order for us to grow.  I must continue to grow in strength.  Mind, body, and soul.

Day 22 – “Connections” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 22 – “Connections” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

I don’t like bridges. Well, let me take that back. If they have water under them I’m trying to get over them immediately. Even though they are used as a connection. That bridge is connecting me to something. Without them I’m not sure how I would get to the other side. Unless we decide to burn them. So, I guess they are rather important. 
On my many road trips I always get excited when I cross over into a new state. For example heading from Illinois to Tennessee, there’s a huge bridge. I remember the first time I thought oh shoot here we go a large bridge with a body of water under it. I look up and there’s a huge, “Welcome to Tennessee” sign at the top of the bridge. That was my motivation to get over it. I knew the bridge was my connection. I had to keep going. 
Relationships or Partnerships can be similar to a bridge as well. A connection to another person, place, or thing. You’ve probably heard me say this before but I’ve connected with some amazing people. Well, I’ve been connected with some “bad signal/no wifi available” people too. Oh, that just means the connection wasn’t strong enough. No hard feelings!
One person in particular stands out to me. She is the master of connection, in my opinion anyways. When I moved to Houston, TX I knew a couple of people from my hometown, but I connected with a young lady during my short stay in Dallas. I found her through a Google search when I was looking for a place to get my eyebrows done. I saw this place called, “Eyebrow Energy,” the reviews were great and I decided to give it a try. 
I reconnected with Kim when I arrived in Houston, because she too had relocated from Dallas to Houston. This Houston excursion was risky especially being a single woman at the time. My living conditions were not favorable. She offered that I move into her place since she had a spare bedroom. I had cashed out my CD, and truly depended on faith. God reconnected me with her. Being a budding business owner she was connected with some of the elite in Houston. She introduced me to some pretty cool people that I’m still in contact with today. One of them being her sister (Kendra from yesterday’s post).
You see when I arrived to Houston I was pursuing a connection, a bridge that eventually had to be burned. God built a new bridge that connected me with Kim, and I must say the rest is history. 
Are we connected to things that exude positive or negative energy? Why are we connected to it? Is it time to burn the bridge? Even though sometimes it is uncomfortable to cross a bridge over water, just think about what could be on the other side. 
What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 3 – “Faith” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 days of Thanks)

Day 3 – “Faith” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 days of Thanks)

Okay, so I’m starting to have fun with this challenge.  Then a part of me thought, “Can you commit to 30 days of this?”

The answer is Yes!  I have a lot to be thankful for.  When I graduated college there were no opportunities in my field, well at least on the local level.  I had experience as a Certified Nurse Assistant, so if I wanted to move home and make money that’s what I had to do.  I was at work one day and thought, “what am I doing?”  My former professor had a conversation with me about Grad School, and I thought the idea was so far fetched cause the only thing I cared about in college was my History courses.  No, other class mattered.

My brother was living in North Carolina at the time, and I was able to visit the school that professor spoke so highly of.  I decided that day, that I was going to move.  I had less than 90 days to make it happen.

I cashed in my PTO and began to plan my escape.  Just one problem, I didn’t have any money saved.  None, whatsoever, and purchased a new car a few months prior, and I was planning to move July 26, 2008.

Here it was, day of departure, and I had $100 to my name.  Rent would be due within 2 weeks of me arriving, and I had no job.  My sister took the ride with me from Michigan to North Carolina.  She had my back! Once, I got settled with my clothes, and an air mattress until I could purchase some furniture, I went to the temp agencies.  Boom! Offered a position that started the following Monday.

Tunnel Vision - Leaving Ohio, Entering West Virginia.  Destination North Carolina
Tunnel Vision – Leaving Ohio, Entering West Virginia. Destination North Carolina

Unfortunately, Grad school had to wait until the next year, because I refused to pay out of state costs.  I decided to work for a year, establish in state residency, and go from there.  So, you see, I had to exercise my faith, remember that I had a mustard seed, and put in some work.  I’m not saying the journey was smooth or easy, but it was definitely worth it.  Having a little faith can take you a long way!