Me, MomSelf and I

Life's journey is full of twists and turns and sometimes we get lost. This is my journey to rediscover myself.


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Father Figures

1149629_10201364221443877_2121992537_oFather’s Day is the one day we pay homage to the men who raised us. For me, it is about acknowledging the father that is no longer here in the physical form, but is with me everyday and everywhere I go. My dad who was as lenient as they come, who would do anything for his girls that he could. And sometimes, he couldn’t. My dad was an alcoholic for most of my life. But that didn’t stop him from going to work faithfully everyday for 40+ years for the United States Post Office. It didn’t stop him from coming to my school concerts in which I always had a solo, even if it meant him being tipsy. It didn’t stop him from trying to make things right when he knew he messed up. And I love my dad, but he wasn’t the only male figure in my life growing up. Thanks to him, there were a host of characters, friends, family, that would all commiserate at our house after work. The post office crew, who would sit around the dining room table to complain about work and that micromanager supervisor they all detested. There was Mr. Grier, Jay Adair, Clayton, Cecil, Newt, and a few others. I would come home from school and put on the radio, WZAK for the latest R&B hits, but Clayton would always come change the station to jazz. (We would go back and forth, fighting over the radio like two kids! He’d tell my dad that he needed to discipline me and my dad would just brush it off.) Then there was the family that would come over on the weekends for a “taste” and stay way past the time they should, but they seemed to have too much fun to leave. My Uncle Jesse, Uncle Ali, Uncle Donald, Cousin Leon, Artis, ¬†Gene the Gasman (cause he worked for the gas company), Tony Clark, Uncle Wilbur, Uncle Bill. Those were all the men on my dad’s side. Sometimes my mother’s brother, Uncle Eddie would also hang. It wasn’t always the same group but every weekend, some of these men were there. Now as I’m grown I wonder how did my mom deal with people being at the house all the time? She didn’t say much about it, though sometimes as she moved through the house, I could feel a chill in the air. But I imagine some part of her had to think it better for my dad to be home and have company than to be out who knows where. She’s always been more quiet and reserved, whereas my dad, if you can’t already tell, was the center of the party. He was funny and lighthearted and honest and grounded. People felt comfortable around him because he made them feel that way. I think he made them feel needed and let them feel he needed them. I would listen to them tell stories about the old days (since most of my dad’s friends knew him since childhood.) They loved to rehash the off the wall tales of my dad crashing his car with him and the car being suspended in a tree on Martin Luther King Jr.¬†Boulevard and how the firemen got him down. Or the multiple times he fell into Lake Erie while fishing and his friends swearing he walked on the water to get back to the boat (he never learned how to swim, but somehow always managed to get out of that water!) They would crack themselves up as the drinks would flow as easy as the stories. And I listened.

One time my mother had gone out with her friends, a super rare occurrence. So my dad and my Uncle Donald were home watching my sister and I. Well, I got into my mom’s whole jar of noxema and was covered in it. When my dad discovered me, he scolded me in his gentle way. My Uncle Donald thought daddy was going to easy on me. He convinced my dad that he needed to spank me with a brush or run the danger of me being a spoiled little brat and my dad being a softy. Not wanting to look bad in front of his twin brother, he told my sister to grab the brush and sure enough, he spanked me in front of his brother. I’m sure I cried because my dad had never hit me before and I could not believe my uncle could influence him that way. Looking back, I’m positive my dad hated to do it just as much as I hated to have it done, because he never hit me again.

When I was about 17 my driver’s license got suspended because I had too many speeding tickets and I had to go to court. Instead of telling my parents, I called my Uncle Ali and asked him if he could take me, which he did. I’ll never know if he told my parents because they never said a word to me about it. I had the type of uncles who made me feel that they could keep my secrets. I was incredibly lucky to have some many strong, black male figures in my life. All I knew were strong black men who worked hard to support their families.

There were always men around the house. All of them someone else’s dad and all imperfect. But for one reason or another, they loved my dad and he loved them, therefore, I loved them. Mostly all of them are gone now, but each one has a special place in my heart. And when I reflect on Father’s Day, I think of each one of them.


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Body Image

I got on a bicycle today, which might seem like no big deal. And it wasn’t really, except that it was my first bike ride in about 6 years. And only the 3rd or 4th time I was on it in the 11 years I’ve owned the bike. I’m trying to find a form of exercise I don’t despise. It was pretty hilarious though to see how worried the kids were that I would hurt myself. It felt like Freaky Wednesday where they were the parents and I was the child! “Mommy, be careful!” “Good luck mom!” I managed to make it around the block without incident. However, I did not lose weight with that bike ride.

I don’t know many women who DON’T complain about their weight. And I try not to unless I’m prepared to do something about it. Which I am not. But I will complain anyway. I’ve made the same resolution every December 31st for the last 30 years (save for my junior year in high school when I lost a bunch of weight basically because I stopped eating. Thanks depression!) Then, I inevitably find myself with my hand in a bag of potatoe chips or on my 3rd slice of pizza and into the 3rd week of January say, well, I’ll start fresh next month after the gym clears out. Fast forward to the beginning of summer when I can’t hide behind layers of clothes and reality of my undiscipline eating habits smacks my jiggly thighs and I think, “oh no, the season of exposure!” I would love to be one of those people who accepted themselves in all their glorious body. And sometimes I am. I mean, I’ve posed nude twice in the last year!  I admire people who don’t let their extra weight stop them from living life. I am just not that person right now.

A friend of mine who I don’t consider overweight at all lamented to me recently about how disappointed she feels about her post baby weight 2 years later. Yet she told me that she looks at me and thinks, “Darlene looks great at any size!” We both found it interesting that despite having very different bodies, and despite other people’s perceptions, we both struggle internally with the same exact feelings. So it all comes down to body image. What is body image?

Body image=The mental image of one’s own self, or the picture you have of yourself. Basically, it’s what you think you look like. The problem I have is that I’ll think I look good (in my mind) until a mirror tells me otherwise. The mirror is like my 6th grade bully pointing out each and every flaw and laughing at me for having the audacity to imagine I looked anything other than fat. Sometimes I feel embarrassed and ashamed that I can’t live up to the image in my mind. And I wonder what my kids think of my body? (Though with the amount of times theyplay with my belly and tell me I look pregnant, I have a pretty good idea.) Bottomline is, I know I’m not the best me I can be at this weight. I don’t play with the kids like I want to and I don’t wear certain clothes like I want to. And logically, I know the importance of getting to a healthy weight for me, for medical reasons. I understand what it takes to lose weight. All the resources are out there from online diet programs to streaming workouts, couch to 5ks and motivational daily texts . But like anything else, until you are ready to commit to the work (not the program or the trainer-but the work of change) you will remain stuck. Which is where I am with my hand in a bag of chips.

I believe that one of these days I will get it together. I mean I have to! But apparently I’m pretty stubborn. I just hope I can make it sooner rather than later. I’ve taken some baby steps, like climbing on that bike. And maybe this December I’ll have a new resolution like, jump out of plane next year! because by then, I could fit in the harness.


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What’s in a Name?

I was at a party the other day, working the room like I tend to do. “Hi, I’m Darlene. And you are…?” 

I’ve never been a fan of my name. Most of my life I was always mistakenly called Danielle or Denise. They knew it started with a D but I guess Darlene just wasn’t memorable enough. So I would be renamed-but never nicknamed. 

I always wanted a really cool nickname, but there isn’t a naturally shortened version of Darlene. Both ‘Dar’ and ‘Lene’ feel incomplete. ‘Dee’ just doesn’t seem to fit me. Maybe its too simple and I’m too complicated. I’m not sure. But Darlene always felt like an old person’s name to me. The only other Darlene I knew when I was young, was my Aunt, who was grown. But I was actually named after a young person, a tv character-Darlene from The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950’s, played by Darlene Gillespie. My mom thought her name was just ‘darling’. But here I was, born 20 years later when noone under 30 got the reference, so my name was often forgotten.
Maybe that is why I work so hard to remember names, (though now I have my own aged Darlene brain to contend with making it more challenging than before.) As I mix and mingle with 14 Amy’s, 8 Jen’s, and 22 Laurie’s,  I wonder how they feel about their names? One of the Jens I meet tells me her mom’s name is Darlene.  (Yes, that sounds about right, I think to myself.) And while I’m still not necessarily a fan of my name, I’m mostly comfortable with who this Darlene has become: friendly and charismatic, one who rarely forgets a name, and can strike up a conversation with anyone. Mickey Mouse would be proud!

Comment your thoughts about your name below.