I Love Y’all!

Sixteen years ago today, my mother died. That sucked and it still sucks major balls today. Earlier this week I was in my feelings and those feelings ranged from depressed to downright pissed off.

Then I woke up this morning to a series of interesting events. For the first time in a long time, I’m on the Greyhound back home. I Ubered down to the bus station and had the most entertaining driver ever. It was like riding with my aunt Gina downtown. After checking in at Greyhound and then finding out the bus would be delayed, I went to Starbucks. And that’s when I realized today’s date. Instead of feeling sad, I feel like today, I want to tell my family:

I love you



This picture, taken in 1995 at my aunt’s 25th-anniversary party (that’s me on the far right showing the leg), has everyone in it who gives me my entire life when it comes to my mother (far left). The only person missing from this picture is my cousin RiRi (better than that other Rhi Rhi). Every one of them has reminded me that even when I’m absent physically, they still love and care about me. They check on me around this time every year to see how I’m doing. In the beginning, it made me feel kinda weird because I felt like an orphan. But I realized that they were extending love the best way they knew how at the time. Side note: can you be an orphan after 25?

Because it wouldn’t seem right to have a tribute and not call folks out, let me tell you about some of the people close to my heart and who I would cut you over.

My dad.
This guy. Since he doesn’t get on the ‘Internets’, I’m pretty sure he’ll never read this (and y’all betta not tell him). He’s older (see above ensemble and flip phone). Not quite old, but just old enough that he calls and doesn’t really want anything, just wants to talk. We have our issues, but he has consistently been supportive since my mother’s passing. He lost his partner of 20-plus years when my mom died. Yet, he still maintains relationships with our family because he loved her. He still misses her and if I hadn’t gone in and put my foot down, he would still have certain parts of the house enshrined to VeeJay. That’s just creepy. My mom wouldn’t like that kinda creepy.

My brother
Again… this dude. My brother is the male version of me, except meaner and more ready to fight. It’s hard to explain our relationship. From the outside, people may think we don’t like each other, but that’s just not the case. I love my brother dearly, even when he’s mean. Actually, when he’s mean, it’s now kinda fun to pick with him. Maybe it’s payback for all the years when we were younger and he picked on me. I know he has my back if I need him. So if you ever hear I made the call, somebody is in trouble.

My cousin Jay
Yeah… um… so… I was not nice to her growing up. I was to Jay what my brother was to me: a bully. I didn’t fully appreciate her until I was out living on my own. I love her like a sister. Every now and then I remind her that I think she’s pretty fantastic just in case she forgets.

My aunt Sandy (middle)
When I was a kid, I used to wish that my aunt Sandy was my mom. She had all the cool clothes and shoes. There was always a party at her house too. It was their parties that made me think when I grew up, my place would be the party spot. Alas, that’s not how I evolved.

Since my mother’s passing, I’ve grown closer to my aunt. She’s told me more about who my mother was before she became a parent and quite honestly, I can’t even imagine that version of my mom. Maybe that’s what the kids will say about me if they ever talk to people who knew me in high school. Anyway, I love her for that. It helps me humanize my mother and, ironically, see some similarities in how she and I evolved as adults.

My aunt Gina
Sorry for the old picture, I can’t find the one I want. Growing up, I didn’t see Gina a lot. She was out doing her own thing. When I did see her, I was always excited. Not only was she the fun aunt (she was the baby out living in the world!), she was the master braider. Talk about tenderheadedness and edge abuse. We always looked fresh though and I probably lost about 1,000 beads from 1984 to 1986.

As an adult, I’ve grown to appreciate her life experiences. A few years ago, we had a come to Jesus moment and I shared something with her that I never shared with anyone else in my family. I’m grateful for that experience.

My cousin Toni (left)
Another one of my role models growing up. Toni, like my aunt Sandy, was really vibrant when I was kid. People thought she was my mom’s sister, but they were first cousins. According to my mom, she and Toni were like me and Jay. I don’t see her much as an adult, but when I do, it’s always fun and I still feel that same vibrant energy from her that I did as a kid. I hope when I’m in my… uh… when I’m her age, people will still see me living life fully.

My cousin Kris
Kris is someone I came to appreciate as an adult. We’re both goofy. Before she moved to DC, we were the occasional happy hour/drinking buddies. Kris keeps me laughing. She’ll say something that is completely wtf and mean it. Example: I posted something on Facebook about my bladder. Kris commented that I needed some Ben Wa balls to strengthen my muscles and I was out here embarrassing the family. Kris. Daughter of Mega B.

The Kid and The Girl
I can’t leave a motherly tribute without saying something about my own kids. Despite the barbs, I love them. I haven’t always known how to be a good mother and realize that I’m better at it now that they’re older. These two are hands down the catalyst for a lot of my adult development. Something about having to be responsible for people other than yourself gives you a little more resolve to keep pushing when you want to sit down and say ‘screw it’. It’s because of them that I finished college and graduate school. That I lived in certain areas and maintained steady income when I wanted to kind of wing it. It’s because of them that I had to face a lot of my own past issues and work to resolve them. I can’t pass wisdom if I don’t have it to give. In expecting honesty from them, they force me to be honest too. And I can see VeeJay through me as they grow older. The patience, nailbiting, STFU when they do dumb stuff. I understand it all now through the eyes of a mother when I didn’t through the eyes of a daughter. If I could say one thing to my mom, it would be ‘I get it now.’

So as I pull into Columbus, this year is a grateful year. I understand my loss, but I appreciate the people I have left with me and the ones who have come into my life since to enrich it even more. Without them, I’d probably either be crying, drinking or both today.

Falling into Feelings


I’ve been avoiding this post like… yeah, I can’t think of anything witty. I do know that I need to write though and not talk.

You ever notice how you never see your new car on the road before you buy it, then it seems like every fourth car is the exact same as your car? Your mind starts to pick it out in traffic from five miles away. Then you wonder how you never saw your car before you bought it. That’s me right now.

I’m not really sure what I’m feeling. I will say that I was rolling along until I said something about missing my mother and The Hero asked me if I was okay. That was last week.

I didn’t even notice that the date was getting close until I noticed the date was getting close. I’m not depressed nor do I feel like I need to have a good cry and renew an active membership to the Mourning Motherless Daughters club. I’m not quite there. I just feel… detached. Like I have to get through the next few days and then everything will be sharp and in focus. I can engage with my friends more and not feel like I need to keep them at arms’ length just in case I do break down.

The flip side is the three people I love most, I want to love on them like these are MY last few days. I appreciate The Hero for standing with me when the life storms beat me down. The Kid and The Girl, in recent years, have helped me enter a new phase of mothering that I like. If you tell them though, I will go Liam Neeson on you. Their needs, while more complex, are ones that I feel more equipped to handle.

In some ways, it’s been long enough that I don’t mourn my mother being physically dead. I used to feel bad because some of the crisp memories have started to take on fuzzy edges. I accept that. I even accept that without a photo, I can’t remember the details of her face. I used to think that meant I didn’t love her, but I eventually realized I’m a feelings kind of person and I still have all the feelings and some new ones that time and maturity have helped me understand.

The flipside of no longer having her physical presence is having her present spiritually. I don’t know why, but as I evolve, that’s more important to me. Would I love to hug or argue with her? Sure. But in her spiritual state, she’s guided me through some deeply private emotional moments. I know for a fact that I would not have been able to do that with her physically because of our mother/daughter relationship. Spiritually, we are and aren’t that. We are because I recognize her and in recognizing her, I intuitively understand that she is there to help. We aren’t because we’re not saddled with the baggage that comes with the mother/daughter relationship. Ugh… I am not explaining it well. It makes perfect sense in my head, but the words make it seem like I may need meds. FYI: I am not crazy.

You know I love to make a point, but unfortunately, I don’t have one to make today. I just needed to get it off my chest. To say it in a space where it’s more of a stream of thought than a conversation. Thank you.


So… I’m WAY excited to be featured on the My Post Baby Body blog. I came across it randomly one day and decided ‘eh… why not?’ The Girl is having issues and I’m sure I’m not the only woman with a daughter who doesn’t want her girl out here going through outrageous lengths to get a body someone else wants.

Without further ado, here’s my feature. And when you’re done, check out other womens’ stories.

my post baby body

Women crush everyday of the week! To honor and share stories of women who are crushing it either on the body front or the mama front, I am featuring short interviews of women who are crushing it, hence the title #WomenCrushWednesday. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Deauna!

meHow has your view of your body evolved over the years?

I didn’t have the bounce-back body most women had. After my son, I had a road map of stretch marks. When I had my daughter four years later, the road map was now drawn on what looked like a tricycle tire that no amount of cocoa butter or crunches would make go away. What also bothered me was in my mind I was smaller, but my clothes told a different story. I’d obsess about beating muffin top and belly fat into submission.
As I approached 40 I…

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“Nothing”: The End of Sunshine and Rainbows and the Beginning of Stankness


I’m sitting here trying to remember why I started Honesty’s Protégée and for the life of me I just can’t. I think I wanted an anonymous place to vent. At some point, it evolved into recipes and DIY stuff and it has come full circle back to expressing myself in the best way I know how: writing.

This is all stream of consciousness and with all my stream of consciousness posts, you are free to check out at any point. I usually MAKE a point, but it takes a while to get there. Tonight is probably going to be one of those nights. I have a lot on my mind and I’m not sure what to address first.

Ah. Old patterns. You ever recognize a behavior, discover a workable solution, implement said solution and then a few months, maybe years, later look up and find yourself back at the beginning? No? Well aren’t you the perfect pants (enter hard side eye and smirk). For the rest of us who take a few steps forward and then fall back, it’s frustrating. For me personally, it’s emotionally draining. I try really hard to do things different and when I find myself back at the starting point because of some fuzzy event in the past, I get upset. I try to remember where it went left and typically can’t pinpoint one thing. It’s a series of things that end up in me spazzing out on someone or retreating into my head. And then I start having the dialogue with myself. Feeling shitty because I pushed people I care about away to defend my sensitivities. Everything gets filtered through the defensive lens.

Ugh. That sucks. A. Lot.

See, there’s something about writing this, about getting it out of my head, where it all makes sense. I can defend my own crazy in my crazy court with my crazy court jurors. Every verdict is guilty. But when it has to be retold, when it has to be given as testimony to someone else, it sounds like a hamdog looks: kinda WTFish.

What is my hamdog habit? Being silent about the little things. The little things, people. Why someone used a certain tone. Why they did – or didn’t – do something. What they said to me. When it was said. Why did it even need to be said. I mean if I’m going to STFU so people don’t feel bad, everyone else should too. It’s only courteous, right?

Nooope. Because relationships aren’t cultivated on courtesy. If you can’t tell me I’ve hurt or upset you and vice versa, then why are we interacting with each other? Why am I wasting your time if I can’t help you learn how to be in my life in a way that works for both of us? In a way that honors me and lets you feel free to be who you are? There really isn’t a point and we’re going through the motions. I don’t mean brutal honesty. That’s an excuse to be an ass. You can tell someone about themselves without belittling them or making them feel small.

In the last few days, I’ve learned from at least five different sources that criticism is usually because someone wants me to be better. To treat them better. To show up for them or for our relationship. They want me to be in their life in a way that honors them, not in a way that’s easy for me. And to be quite honest, sometimes that’s some hard shit to hear. Like lumpy throat hard. Like ‘I’ma let y’all play with my ball while I sit on this bench and think on that’ hard.

Here is what I’ve figured out though: things that hurt are things that need to be examined. They need to be looked at for what they are, not for what I want them to be. They are opportunities to learn to love deeper, to form bonds that bind relationships. Ways to find strength and courage to not only love you, but love myself too. They are a call to action and living in the present moment where everything is perfect. Even stankness. Because stankness means someone or some event exposed a nerve.

So as I embrace another cycle of this lesson, I have only two goals: say how I feel and listen to the response from a peaceful, loving perspective. And maybe this time I’ll actually get it.

On the Road to Me


Sometimes it just gets real.

If you read my last post, you know I spent last month on a vicious cycle of partying and half-recuperating. While I joke about my age, I never felt it until last month. I’m definitely not in my early 30s anymore.

Anyway, that whole month of tired morphed into a period of discovery. It’s like I woke up and decided that I’d created a persona that I don’t enjoy anymore. I became someone who sought validation outside of myself. It sucked and I can now realize and admit that in some ways I was unhappy.

Okay… I need a second to get myself together. This makes me emotional. Sigh.

There was a period in my life when I felt at my prime. I don’t mean physically, but in my head, the place where I live all my waking hours. I liked everything about me: mannerisms, how I felt about my body, my hair, my sense of fashion, level of girliness and where I was headed in life. I was looking forward to The Kid going to live with his father (I did love him dearly, just knew that I can’t teach a boy how men interact with each other) and seeing what young, single and kinda free felt like.

Fast forward and I’m here in my early 40s wondering what happened to that version of me. It’s like I buffed all of my sharp edges out for safety. I talk waaaay more now than I observe. I wonder about certain opinions I have. Not because they’re outdated, but just because I’m curious if in my inner parts, they are the things I really believe. I’m exploring that. I find myself consuming so much social media, that I probably have some level of PTSD. And I’ve been marinating in all this for a while.

I’m a doer though, so I did something. I cut my hair. By Sunday, I’ll have some cold-crushing waves. I’m now going over my relationships with a fine-toothed comb. And my finances. And credit. And spending. And eating. And thinking about myself. I’m defining my new normal. Obviously my life situation changed since the bad ass phase. I’m figuring out how to incorporate that me into my current life.

Of course, I wish this was a fast process, but it’s not. I also wish I could go away for about a month to deal with it, but I know I can’t. I have to ride it out and see where I end up. Something different is on the horizon and because I want to see what it is so bad, it stays elusively out of focus.


Honey Smacks and Cartoons

adulthood sucks balls

I’ve been wrestling with writing for the last three weeks. I need to vent in a quasi-anonymous space. You know… when you don’t want someone to give advice or tell you what you’re doing wrong. Or how you used to be. Or who you could be.

It boils down to one thing: I’m tired. And I want to be a kid again, but since no one is willing to adopt and take care of a grown woman, I’ll reluctantly adult.

I feel like I’ve been physically moving non-stop since my birthday earlier this month. I feel like I can’t get enough rest to continue moving, but somehow I keep finding a way to push on. I need a good quality sleep.

I’ve also gained weight. No one seems to notice which means that I’m doing a good job carrying it or they’re liars. I’ll be positive and say that I rock the extra 12 pounds well. Still, that means that a nice portion of my closet is getting no use because I can’t fit certain items. That, of course, forces me to decide to lose the weight or buy bigger clothes. And we all know losing weight takes longer than gaining it.

I am emotionally drained. On any given day, three things are always simmering right below the surface of my emotions. When my life is in balance, these things are manageable. But since I don’t feel rested, they have become things that I’ve started to obsess about relatively often. They are things that I mostly can’t control – you know, other people’s lives and all – but I have a vested interest in two.

American society has also drained me mentally as well as emotionally. The presidential election circus. Police abuse. Terrorist attacks. I’m burned all the way out with everything. It’s sensory overload. I’m frustrated because there are so many things that need to be done, but I feel too small to make any meaningful change. Hell, the truth of the matter is I don’t know WHERE I want to work to make change. The intersectionality of every subject and their importance shift depending on how I feel on any particular day. The upside is that I become more aware of the -isms that I contribute to our collective existence. Or maybe that’s not an upside, but another thing adding to the lackadaisical feeling that’s come over me. I’m losing track.

On top of all of these, I’ve been questioning some of the very foundations of who I am. Is who I am now who I want to be? Is this the life that I see for myself 5, 10 or 15 years from now? If not, what do I need to change? What thoughts, values, morals no longer serve me? What adjectives have I used to define myself that aren’t true? If I look objectively at myself, do I like me? I mean I love me all day long, but do I LIKE me?

I’m starting to realize lately, that I know of a lot of people who have significantly higher tolerances to these things and maybe THAT also adds to the pressure I’m starting to feel. I simultaneously want to rage against everything while taking a nap snuggled in a comfy blanket watching cartoons and eating Honey Smacks. It’s a vacation from the blanket fort.

I don’t think I’m the only person out here who feels like this (see above). I think maybe I’m just not so good at disguising it.

Gratitude for the End of Life Experience



mommy graduation

I wrote this really deep post about how my mother was the greatest person ever to live. Then I deleted it. The words weren’t doing justice to what I’m feeling right now. Not. Even. Close.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate a new type of lesson: gratitude in the way Valerie J. White Hale Johnson touched everyone else. This is not about me. It’s about you (or them if you’re reading this and have no idea who I’m talking about).

My mother was amazing. Not in an angelic way, but in that flawed, I’m-trying-to-do-the-right-thing-but-I’m-human-too way. She messed up. Sometimes she owned it, sometimes not. It didn’t diminish her amazingness. She elevated how a lot of us experienced God. She made good food and hosted great dinner parties (and you know I likes my food!). She was pretty (um… of course she is. Where do you think I get my good looks?!). She was the glue that held us together when she was alive and the bond that pulls me back to my family when I get too far away.

For four years, she was a fantastic grandmother. The grandkids don’t remember her (that hurts my soul), but we do. She was the reason The Girl wasn’t left at the fire station. The reason my brother isn’t a deadbeat dad. The reason The Kid, as… trying as he can be, is able to have the freedom to make all the choices he’s made. Through us, she set some standards. Yeah, we maybe didn’t really get the lessons at the time and maybe botched them up in practice (read The Kid’s formative years), but without her guidance things would have been a lot worse.

So this Mother’s Day, I’m sharing my mother. Thank you to everyone who helped shape who she was. Thank you to everyone who tells me what impact she had on their lives or how they are glad they have known her. Thank you to my brother. In each of us lives the Mommy we know and love. She understood how we needed to be loved and I now understand that it was not even close to being the same. Thank you to my aunts. You’ve taught me about young Val with your stories. I can’t thank you enough. And thank you to everyone who shared her back with me. Your love for her makes my heart pour over with pride for being her daughter.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Ma and Lauren.tif

The day The Girl was going to be left at the nearest fire station