Monday, August 18, 2014

Happy Couple Highlight: Annise and Benny

Annise Mabry 
Benae“Benny” Ingram
Making Love Distance Love Last from Atlanta to Boston

How did you meet:  Annise:  Benae "Benny" and I met through my best friend Michelle Alexander Dowell-Vest. Benny was one of the moderators for the A Gurlz Guide Facebook group and she always had such a calming presence about her when she would enter the room. Then, I started reading her blogs and I was intrigued but when she wrote "Studs with Kids"--she stole my heart. The only problem was I could never determine if she was dating or single so for over a year I simply sat back and watched. That was until I had the opportunity to have her on my podcast to talk about her blog. 

Benny: You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful. It’s true. I saw your face in a crowded place and I don't know what to do. The words to that song fit how I felt when I meet Annise-- her spirit just spoke to me. I had no idea if she was single in fact I was pretty sure she was dating her best friend Sharon. Even though I was attracted to her I am not the one to break up a happy home, so I tried to ignore her. However I found myself going to her page just to see what funny bitstrip created or adventure she had gotten into.  She simply spoke my love language – laughter. She made me laugh out loud.

Being so far away, how do you nurture your relationship: Annise: I've always been a "wordsmith" but somehow usually dated people who were "word challenged"--meaning that they preferred to communicate their feelings and emotions in a different language that I often couldn't hear or didn't understand.  I love cards so early in our relationship, I would go to Hallmark and spend hours looking for "just the right card" for the week. Then, I would bring it home and write a short paragraph on the inside, spray it with my perfume, seal it, then apply my lipstick and fill the envelope with kisses.  I also surprised her with having flowers delivered to her at work. This was a total dating shift for her because I am the femme and she is the stud. But it was a wonderful treat. And on the day that she got the news that her MS had progressed to the point where she could no longer work, I arranged for a local Indian restaurant in her city to deliver dinner to her. I told her "Sometimes you have to replace the worst moment of your life with the best memory of the day."  Can I just say that nurturing a long distance relationship in a lot of ways is a little easier than a face to face relationship because I think it made me become more deliberate in my actions. We also launched an online adult toy store-- Lezmysterybox together four months after we started dating. Ironically, I had implemented a 90 Day "No Sex" rule when we met so here we are trying to stock an online sex toy store with merchandise but yet we aren't having sex LOL...I guess if I had to sum up how I nurture our relationship, I would have to say by being deliberate in my thoughts, actions, and words. 

Benny: A lot of times when loving from a distance we become insecure and/or caught up in self. You think - tonight I am lonely so I will call her and that is all good until its 2am and she doesn't answer the phone.  That's when the trouble starts that plants the seeds of doubt in one’s head.  So when it happens again the person is really feeling some kind of way. Another problem is when loving from a distance is when we are communicating by phone or internet we tend to hide our true feelings. That is easy to do because you can't see each other’s face when those words are spoken so Annise and I had to learn to see each other without seeing. Right now just hearing her voice I can tell you if something is wrong, I can even tell what it is that's wrong. That is because I learned to listen to her... I was forced to listen to her; she imposed a 90 day rule that meant no sex, or any talking about sex. What that did was allowed us to truly get to know one another without the pressure of sex and all that came with sex. After sex, people change; it's that simple. The curtains come down and the real you is revealed. So it's no surprise things don't work out because you had no idea who she was before you slept with her. For us we had to learn who the "man" behind the curtain was before we jumped into bed. So now if I call and she doesn't answer I am not worried because I know her. So how do I nurture Annise? I give her the space she needs, I allow her to vent and not take it personal, I understand her ups and downs, and I know when to step in and when to leave it alone. I follow up on the things I say I will do and I project trustworthiness into our relationship. I am strong enough to lead when she needs me to, and strong enough to follow her when she takes the lead. Lastly I say what I feel openly and honestly with love.
How do we stay connected: Annise:  We talk on the phone...a lot; and, we Skype, and we Facebook, and we email and we text. When you think about it, how we stay connected is the same as how any couple stays connected. We have a private Facebook room for just the two of us so that we don't fill each other's timelines with all of the "mushy" stuff that most of our friends really don't want to see; and, Benny always sends me either a song for the week or in the beginning it was a song for the day. We also play a song game called Wicked Ways Wednesday on our Facebook wall and this is where we battle each other in songs. I never realized how much other people were paying attention to what we did until someone sent me a message one Tuesday evening and it said "Looking forward to tomorrow!" I responded back "What's tomorrow?" The reply “Wicked Ways". You and Benny crack me up with some of the songs ya'll come up with and the things ya'll say."

Benny: Laughter is my love language and music is hers, so we are Bi-lingo (lol). She knows when I post a song to listen to the words I am telling her something and I know that she expresses her pain, fears and hurts though comedy.  She will take what should be a sad event in her life and turn it into laughter. Oh, and we compete with each other - good old fashion competition, yes even in the bedroom lol.
In your opinion, what are the pitfalls to a LDR? Annise:  I'm going to be honest--there aren't a lot of pitfalls for me. I have am the owner of Back2Us Radio Network.  I homeschool both of my children, I care for both of my aging parents (and my dad has Alzheimer’s). Honestly, this is why I wanted a long distance relationship because I needed a love that could fit into my life not me having to fit my life into my love. There are some nights when I get a quiet moment that I miss having Benny beside me or waking up snuggled in her arms; but, at this stage of my life, that type of relationship simply doesn't fit my life. What I love about Benny is she is very supportive. Benny: Of course I miss waking up to her, and falling asleep next to her. This may seem strange but when I am sleeping I still feel her next to me. 

With the distance, how do you maintain intimacy: Annise:  We talked about the different levels of intimacy early in our relationship—sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, and spiritual intimacy.  I have always had relationships that had good sexual intimacy but and for the longest time I thought this was enough.  I often blended emotional intimacy with sexual intimacy but it wasn’t until I began dating Benny that I realized there was a distinct difference—like the difference between sweetened Almond Milk and unsweetened Almond Milk.  Both taste like Almond Milk but there is a distinct difference in the two but you never notice this until you have had the opportunity to “taste” both.

Spiritual intimacy is by far our most interesting intimacy.  Benny is a minister and I am so far on the opposite end of the spectrum that I told her “God’s got jokes”.  We are respectful of each other’s beliefs and supportive of each other’s spiritual needs. 

I must confess-- one of the best things about being in a long distance relationship is it feels like we are on forever honeymoon.  Now some would say that this isn’t a realistic way to live but let me explain.  When we are always searching for new, romantic places to visit or to spend the night at when we are together.  For example, our one year anniversary is coming up on Aug 24 and my 40th birthday is Aug 28.  Benny knows that I love historic hotels and quaint bed-n-breakfast inns so she has booked a romance package for us at one of the oldest hotels in Oklahoma.
Benny: Intimacy is like the five senses we all have. It is nice to have all five (sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch) but when one sense is lost the other four heighten. The same with intimacy.  When sexual intimacy isn't as big a part of your relationship, then emotional and spiritual will fill the void. One must allow that to happen.  Most times we get caught up in the physical and miss the emotional support and spiritual side. We never allow the latter to grow so we stay stuck on physical; but, it takes a balance of all three.  I know when she is thinking about me and she knows when I think of her. I can get up look at my phone and it will ring or she will text me and say you are not feeling well today.
Your LDR has an added variable. How do you manage that aspect of your relationship? Annise:  Benny and I both have chronic, progressive illnesses.  I have CIDP, a rare auto-immune disease that attacks the muscles of the peripheral nervous system.  It is often nicknamed “the red-headed step child of MS.”  Benny has MS.  We live with the reality that one day these diseases are going to consume our bodies, that we will both need either assisted living or a personal care assistant, and that these illnesses leave us fatigued.  This fatigue can sometimes impact our sexual intimacy; so, that is why it is so important that we have strong emotional and spiritual intimacy bonds with each other.

Benny: Watching her run those 5ks inspired me. When you are diagnosed with any illness you try to live inside the boundaries of that disease. Annise has shown me that MS does not define who I am. I have MS, MS does not have me. So now I live outside that MS box. I plan to run with her. 

What do you most love about her? Annise: What I love the most about Benny is her ability to calm the chaos and to make sense of my endless chatter.   I am disorganized yet focused; and, when I become single focused I have a tendency to get all wound up in the feeling of that project.  Then like a rubber band pulled too tight, I snap.  Until Benny, no one really knew how to handle “the snap”.  Benny: Her wit.
What one word most captures your love for her and why? Annise:  Believe.  As an educator, I have spent my whole life telling everyone else that they had the power to achieve their dreams; but, it wasn’t until Benny came into my life that I had a partner to say  “I believe in you”  and put actions to words to prove it.   I also want to add Trust—because I didn’t realize it until writing this that a lot of my insecurities were a result of trust issues.  I mean really trusting that my partner is going to be there the way she said she would when she said she would.  Benny: Surrender. For the first time I am able to let my walls down.  I feel secure; my flaws are safe in her hands. I can be me once again.
What advice can you give to couples embarking on a LDR? Annise: Long distance relationships take 3c's--courage, commitment, and communication. You have to have the courage to hold on to your relationship in a society that operates with a microwave mentality. You have to have the courage to know that there are going to be a lot of nights and even social events where you will be a single person w/o a partner—and you somehow have to find your peace with that.  You have to make a commitment to stay the course.  Some days it will be a lot easier to be committed from a distance than others; and, on those days when it’s not easy—you have to be comfortable enough in your relationship to say “This is not easy.  This is what happened today. This is how I feel.”   Finally you have to communicate and I mean really communicate—beyond the “I miss you” and  beyond the “I want you here”.  You have to communicate when you have plans to see each other but the money isn’t coming together to make the travel possible; and, you both need to make sure that you can each fund your own travel so that the burden of the travel doesn’t fall on one person.
And I also want to add—do a 90 day stay—meaning for the first 90 days that you stay away from anything sexual—having sex, talking about sex, songs about sex—this will allow you to approach the entire situation with eyes wide open.
Benny: Keep it simple, let go of the traditional idea of what love looks like. If you have a bike, ride that bike.  Don’t put 22in rims on your bike because that doesn’t work( lol). So stop putting other people’s ideas on YOUR relationship; just get on it and ride.

Benny and Annise can be found here:


Lezmysterybox has been online for 19 years and has over 100,000 items.  But we wanted more so we  also have agreements  with Aslan Leather, Orgasmatronics Inc (aka the bionic strap on) and Pleasureworks.  

We thank you for sharing your love with us at Create Love! Your story will encourage, inspire and uplift other couples. We wish you continued success and happiness.

Create Love Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finding The One Part I: I Am One

She’s not going to come into your life until you have done the self-work you need to do to be ready. A potential One may come, but if you’re not ready to receive her at your highest, best self, the connection won’t likely be what you want or need it to be.

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
--Helen Keller 
The above quote may seem strange to connect to finding “The One” in the dating quest. But when I re-read it (it’s one of my favorite quotes), I thought about how important it is to do one’s part in being available, willing and ready to enter a relationship. So I interpret this to mean: I am responsible for who and what I bring into a relationship. I can’t change anyone but me. I will actively work on me—especially when I am bothered by something in HER. Some things I won’t be able to heal in myself until I get into a relationship.

First, I’m clear that the optimal relationship is one that brings me compatibility and companionship. I have been dating and loving myself. So I am looking for the right woman to complement me—not complete me. I am committed to self- awareness and seeking self-actualization. So, I am not needing validation or approval of who I am. I also want to offer the same affirmation and support to her. I believe that we will be good to each other, good with each other and good for each other.

Secondly, if I can easily spot her faults and flaws, it may be that those things are reflecting, highlighting or triggering flaws, character defects or issues in me. And because I can’t change her, I need to change my response to her and make sure that I’m not labeling her as difficult just because she’s different than me. I certainly need to be honest about anything that I am doing to contribute to the difficult behaviors. It’s kind of like playing a game with someone and realizing that they are breaking the rules or perhaps just not playing like you like to play. You can always take your ball (or dolls) and stop playing. In other words, if she does something that automatically draws a certain reaction from me, and I continue to react in the same way each time, now I’m playing a significant part in the difficult behavior.
Finally, there some personal habits, some reactionary patterns and some interpersonal dynamics that can only be addressed in the context of a relationship. It could be something simple like how you sleep in your bed—in the middle versus curled up on one side. Or something ongoing like what you do as a part of your weekend routine. And it could be something bigger like your values around friendships and family; or your spending habits. The way you deal with those things individually could be different than the negotiation and compromise that is required in a relationship. I also believe that the best way to learn to trust again, is to try trusting. And intimacy with another person can’t be achieved in isolation or just being with yourself. Plus, creating new love and new experiences can be a great way to provide contrast to painful pasts and unpleasant memories.

So as I explore myself and others in the dating process, I look for opportunities to grow. Even if a connection with someone doesn’t lead to what I call “intentional dating’ to see if we are each other’s one, I can always use the encounter to learn more and better prepare for the real thing.

Gwen Thomas is the author of The S.H.E. Experience, a woman’s perspective on self-actualization. She is also the President and CEO of The C.A.S.T. Company, which provides training, consulting and professional coaching to individuals and organizations. As speaker and consultant, she presents various professional development and personal growth topics. She has provided training and motivational speaking throughout the United States, in the Caribbean; a total of 7 countries on three continents.

She has experience and expertise in leadership and organizational development, communication skills and women’s professional and personal growth. She has spent the majority of her professional life motivating and teaching others in workplace settings and in spiritual environments.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Create Love: Money Tips

Ruth's tip: Enroll in your employer 401(k), if they offer it, as soon as you can to take advantage of the benefits. If you have a traditional 401(k), your contributions are taken from pretax dollars. Employers automatically deduct from your paycheck, helping you maintain the discipline to keep contributing. Many employers will match a certain percentage of your contributions, so at a minimum, try to contribute enough to earn the full match. That match is part of your compensation, so don't leave that money on the table.

Ruth Jacks is a Sr. VP at a national bank and is the Co-Founder of jTruth, a financial consulting firm. Thanks Ruth for sharing with CREATE LOVE!


Felicia's Tip: Determine how long it takes for your money to double? 
As you are planning for retirement, taking a look at your age and determine how old you will be when your money doubles will help you determine 3 things:

1.      Are you saving enough each month
2.      Is the interest rate you are getting enough to meet your goals
3.      Approx how old you will be when your money doubles

The Rule of 72 is a simple calculation to help you determine how long it will take for your money to double.
  • Divide the interest rate you are earning by 72. The result will be the number of years it will take for your money to double.
  • Assume your interest rate = 6%. Divide 72/6 = 12 years
  • Assuming you have $25,000 invested at 6%; you will have $50,000 in 12 years.

A 6% interest rate is often found with Mutual Funds, Variable Annuities, and individual stocks.  6% is NOT typical with checking, savings, CDs or money market accounts.  See chart below.

This financial tip was brought to you by Felicia Lewis, Co-founder of jTruth, Inc.
Thanks for sharing with CREATE LOVE!