What's Your YOU-per-Power: Defining Yourself Outside of Daughter, Wife, and Motherhood

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Hey y'all! I know it's been a minute! Did you miss me? Lol. Life kinda happened, and knocked me off my square, but hey, who hasn't had that happen, right? But, in this time that I've been absent, I've filed for divorce... *insert gasp here* Yeah, me and Mr. Henderson have parted ways... but we've been working on being co-parents for the girls. All the rest, in my humble opinion, is irrelevant, right? I've also published more books! I'm at 13 and counting now, 7 this year. But, and this is the real reason for this post. In the midst of all of the chaos that has been my summer, I have found MYself. Now, we all have different definitions of this, but I can honestly say that, at 34, well 35 today, I am just now realizing who I am as a person.

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That Toney Chick/One of Them Toney Girls

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Deacon Toney's Daughter See, when I was younger, I was my daddy's daughter. I looked exactly like him (I used to tell him that he'd make a fine woman lol), acted a lot like him, and people  called me that Toney Chick or One of them Toney girls. He has 4 of us, by the way. All daughters, and all granddaughters. I had no identity because I was attached to him. So, my father's existence defined me. He was a deacon. I sang in the choir. He taught karate. I took it. He wrote songs. I wrote poetry. I was attached to him, even if I didn't wanna be. And, as a daddy's girl, I can't say that I had a problem with it. I mean, daddy is a girl's first love, right? So, I was proud to look like, act like, and follow in the footsteps of my dad. Become a woman that he was proud of. Someone he bragged about. My father's opinion, his existence, defined who I was... Until...

Heyyyy Mrs. Miner

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And Joi Miner was born.

I met Kyle Miner in 2001. We had a whirlwind romance that resulted in a pregnancy and, well, my parents are super old-fashioned. I ended up having a shotgun wedding.

I went from being Willie Toney's second oldest daughter to Kyle Miner's wife.

Now, I won't say that the entire five and a half years of marriage was bad. I mean, we had some great times. But... when I became successful in poetry, something that we were both doing, and made the equivalent to his Firefighter salary writing and performing while being a housewife and mother, things got ugly. But, that story is in another post...

Mango's Mom


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Mango's Umi

During my marriage to Kyle, I was privileged to be the mother of a very calm, very wise little girl, Qadira Miner. She has since evolved into an impressively discerning young woman, who I am extremely proud of. However, and this is especially the case now that she's gotten older, I am defined as Mango's Mom.

I'm a little bitty woman, with colorful hair, who has a daughter that everyone is sooooo in awe of. They want to know about my parenting skills. They have to meet me. They want to know what I did to make her so awesome.

I just tell them that I operate in a no judgment zone. I allow my children to be themselves unapologetically. They hand out face checks like Halloween Candy. And I'm a firm believer that, if you can endure menstrual cramps once a month, you should be allowed to curse. I'm quite the unconventional parent, to say the least.

Mrs. Henderson Is What They Call Me

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Slim 1 and Slim 2

I divorced my first husband in 2006. I met Johari in 2007. He was it for me. I never would've expected that, nine years later, we would be getting divorced. This has, by far, been the hardest separation and breakup in my entire life. You can see it in the above post.

I was proud to be his wife. Bear his child. Sing his praises. Put my career on hold and just be wife and mother. Until, the beginning of this year. I was let go from a job that I was miserable at. He made me promise not to work for anyone else, ever again. He told me to focus on my writing, performing, and my editing. To turn it into a full-on business and he would handle the bills while I was building it.

Well, I don't think either of us knew what being an entrepreneur would mean, to us as individuals, or for our marriage. I was travelling more. I worked hard. Long hours, was too tired to cook or clean sometimes. I was stressed. And then, things really picked up and I broke out as an author, editor, and performer. And... something broke. No matter how hard I tried to continue to be the wife that he needed. His cheerleader, his confidante. Sometimes, I had a job due, a deadline, a show that took me away from home on his off nights, or out of town.

I had to work when others rested because I had no set schedule. And, even when I set one, in order to reach financial goals, I was unavailable most of the time. I mean, I had to sleep sometime.

Communication broke down, on his end. He became angry and... let's just say my first marriage ended up on repeat.

Phoenix Has Risen

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And then, there was Buddha...

I will say that one great thing, other than my pursuit of my entrepreneurial career, was our Buddha. I was done having children. But Johari was such a great father to Mango that I felt he deserved a child of his own. So, at 29, I was pregnant again.

Buddha's a little fireball in her own right, and is a light at the end of any tunnel. But, again, I'm Buddha's mom with the bright smile and colorful hair when I go to her school. I'm the one that she's sooooo much like. Her dark-skinned twin.

I spend a great deal of my free time watching ballet shows, teaching her to read, at the park pushing her in a swing, playing dolls, doing hair, looking at drawings... doing homework... yes, pre-k students have homework.

I'm 35 with a 5 year old. Keeping up with her is a full-time job in and of itself. And co-parenting is proving to be such a learning experience, and yet another thing to tack onto the "have to-do" list.

Who Am I?

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When you greet the man/woman in the mirror, who do you see? 

Recently, I went on a date to see Birth of A Nation. One of the previews that they showed was for an upcoming film, Hidden Figures (I'm superexcited about seeing that one by the way). During the preview, one of the characters said, "We go from being our father's daughters to our husband's wives to our children's mothers."

That rang a bell so hard I got a headache. Like, wait... that was my life in ONE sentence. Made me wonder how many women share my dilemma. Then, I thought back on several conversations that I've had with friends. So many of us lose ourselves in our marriages and our children. So much so that we cannot imagine life without them in it. Now, this isn't a bad thing. Your family should be a priority. But YOU should be one, also.

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How many nights have you wanted to write, or read, take dancing lessons, or sing at an open mic? How many nights have those desires been trumped by having to cook dinner, do laundry, help with homework, iron school clothes? How often are you too tired to pursue your passions?

They end up on the back burner... until they collect cobwebs, get buried beneath a pile of dirty underwear, end up at the very bottom of grocery and to-do lists.

Both times now, after getting divorced, I had to struggle with redefining myself. Yes, I'm still a mother. But, what am I gonna do with some of this time that I'd previously devoted to being a wife... that doesn't include listening to sappy ass love songs, eating ice cream, or crying until I'm dehydrated. What could I do that made me happy?

Who am I, if not Mrs. Miner or Mrs. Henderson? If not Mango's Umi and Buddha's Mommy?

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I'm A Goddess, Of Course!

Your YOU-per-Power

So, I pose this question to all of my women, hell, all of my men who are in relationships and parents. What's your YOU-Per-Power? What's the ONE thing that defines you... just you. Not as a spouse, an employee, or a mother. At the core of yourself, who are YOU? What do you enjoy?

I was blessed. I've been a writer all of my life. I love words. I'm a poet. I'm a performer. I'm a motivational speaker. I'm a slick-mouthed, censorless friend who will give it to you straight, no chaser. I'm a model. I'm an event planner. I'm a producer and director. I'm an author. I'm an entrepreneur. I'm a dreamer. I grind while others sleep. I make miracles happen.

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A dear friend calls me a superhero. Other friends call me Goddess. Some call me Empress. My Mango came up with my superhero name: The Umi-verse. She says that I am so powerful and possess so many abilities that I am my own Universe. And I do it all while being a great Umi. BEST COMPLIMENT EVER!

My YOU-Per-Power is words. I craft them into poetry, workshops, novels. I've read the dictionary 4 times so far in my life. Words make me happy. The sound of them, the way that you can stitch them together like a quilt and make something so beautiful. I love them and they love me back.

Career Is Bae

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