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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Heavy

This is not a happy post. This is not a Susie Sunshine post. This is a heavy post. Heavy with despair about the state of America. Heavy with the grief of so many black lives that didn’t matter to the point of their murder. Heavy with the accepted racism that is rearing its ugly head instead of staying hidden just beneath the surface. (Was that any better?)

I’m supposed to be working right now, but I can’t. I’m just too heavy. I’m supposed to be happy right now, its a “New Year, New You!” But I can’t. My year is just too heavy. My safety and security have been shook. I have seen myself reflected in too many who have lost their lives over a bag of skittles, a toy air soft gun, a loose cigarette, a pack of cigarillos, words. Words. I’m a writer, so I cherish words. So when I see a woman, not unlike myself, questioning a police officer about why she was stopped, using her words, and then see this woman murdered because of her words, I’m heavy. But then when I hear things like “well, if she had just kept her mouth shut…” or “just like a black woman, talking too much…” or “all you have to do is listen to the officer and respond to his questions and nothing will happen to you” type of words, this heaviness becomes too much to bear.

I have been asleep, dreaming that I was like everyone else. Dreaming that because I grew up in the suburbs and went to college that I had assimilated. Dreaming that because I grew up with a father and a stay at home mother, I was acceptable. Dreaming that because I spoke well, and had a diverse pool of friends that I was alright. Dreaming that because I was married, with a house and 3 kids and a dog, and working a full-time job I had achieved the American Dream. Dreaming that because I’m registered to vote and recycle and work in social justice, that I was honoring all those that gave their lives in the Civil Rights Movement. But then Trayvon Martin happened. And then Eric Garner happened. And then John Crawford happened. And then Mike Brown happened.  And then Freddie Gray happened. And then Sandra Bland happened. And then Tamir Rice happened. And countless others happened. And then #blacklivesmatter happened. And then #alllivesmattered happened. And then I woke up.

I woke up to a nightmare. We talk about progress to appease ourselves so that we feel accomplished. We tell ourselves, Martin Luther King Jr. dreampt of equality and now that we have a black President, we’ve achieved it. And that is a lie. I’m heavy with the lies. The level of disrespect he’s been subjected to as the President of the United States is unprecedented. And the disrespect is accepted, because he’s black. Right now today, there is an American City that is poisoning its residents. The poisoned water in Flint, Michigan has been acceptable because it’s mostly being given to poor black people. That water is heavy. Heavy with lead. #FlintWaterCrisis. It’s been 76 years since Hattie McDaniel became the first (of only 12 African Americans) to win an Academy Award yet, here we are in 2016 with no black nominees because #OscarsSoWhite. Some will say, “maybe blacks just haven’t been good enough to deserve a win.” More lies. The justifications for racism always fall back on “blacks aren’t good enough.” No matter what we do, or how we speak, or how we walk, or how we perform, or how we drive, or how we shop, or how we play, we simply are never good enough to deserve equal treatment. The racists say we want special treatment. Perhaps that is because they realize how special they are treated. #WhitePrivilege.

Being awake is not quite as comfortable as being asleep and dreaming. And now I fear I have insomnia. I’m irritable, uncomfortable, angry, sad, discombobulated. I’m heavy. I can’t go back to sleep.

 


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Where are they hiding the black people?

Warning: Awkward Blog post below!

Attention Black People: Come out come out wherever you are!

I am a people person. I love meeting new people and I place friendships high on my important life pyramid, directly below myself (not selfishly, but in the healthy way) and my family. But I’ve come to the realization that my group of friends is pretty homogeneous. In other words, they are predominantly white. That in and of itself does not bother me. I grew up in an integrated community and learned early on to judge individuals by their character and behavior and not by their color. I’ve had friends of various races and ethnicities. What bothers me is the seemingly few black friends I do have.

I went to college with my best friend who happened to be African American. And she was, (and still is) everything to me, so I didn’t feel a need to collect other friends (until much later when she moved away.) I also had many males friendships in college. But somehow as people joined with their significant others, opposite sex friendships became taboo and tended to dissolve. (In my experience, it seemed to bother the women that their boyfriends/husbands were friends with me.) Also, the college I went to was more of a commuter school. A lot of us came downtown to go to class, then went back to our lives elsewhere, so I think I missed some of the camaraderie that usually accompanies college life. I wanted to join a sorority ever since I saw Spike Lee’s School Daze, but their presence at said college was minimal. And even when I did discover the few there, my parents were not into fronting me the money for pledge fees. Towards the end of college, I started doing internships. It was almost culture shock. That was the first time I really realized I was living in a white world. At each different internship, which later turned into jobs, I was struck with the question over and over again of: Where are they hiding the black people? Just about every job I’ve had, I’ve been either the lone black person, or one of a very few.

Once I started having kids, my social circle prominently featured “parent friends”. Most of these friendships developed as a result of school functions, parent committees and the kids sporting activities. I have been very deliberate in making sure my kids attend integrated schools like I did, because I value that experience. But continually, I find myself asking, where are they hiding the black parents? Now, I don’t believe the black parents are absent from parent committees because they don’t care, or not at the sporting events because my kids play “white sports” i.e. soccer, swim team. I believe that they are absent for the same reason my husband is, they are working really hard, sometimes 2 and 3 jobs to allow their kids to have these experiences. They just can’t necessarily be there.

There is something beautiful about having children that forces you to take a closer look at your life and your decisions. I do not want my kids to look at my friendship circle and see this imbalance as a slight to people who look like them. So I realized I have to take action. Which seems kinda crazy to me. I never thought I’d be in this position. But here it is: I am a black person looking for more black friends. And some of my white friends have expressed a sincere interest in expanding their black friends circle beyond me.

Friends ratios

Ironically, I currently live in the 7th most segregated metropolitan city in the country. In my professional life, I educate people on the effects of housing discrimination on our society. Studies show that people benefit more from diverse communities than segregated ones. Because where we live affects who we know, and who we become comfortable with. For many, growing up in a segregated community limits your exposure with dissimilar people. And this goes both ways. If you are black and grow up in a black community, you might be less comfortable around white people because you’re not used to interacting with them. Similarly, if you are white growing up in a white neighborhood, attending a white school, and your only experience with people of color is what you see on TV, then there may be some awkwardness when you encounter them in real life.

All that to say, growing up in an integrated community, I’ve always felt that I could interact with and befriend anyone. So it surprises me to have this particular challenge. (By the way, none of this is meant to discount other races, because I also have those friends, as well as some black friends.) And don’t get me wrong, I have been accused of “acting white” about as often as I’m accused of being “ghetto.” (None of which bothers me. As someone who strives for balance, I consider myself a success!) But what I’m most concerned about is being a great role model to my children. And for them to appreciate all races and cultures including their own, they need to see me not just talk about it, but be about it. So I’m taking suggestions on where to find black people because I’m making a conscious effort to make my friendship circle more diverse. I’m not trying to start a black friends thermometer, (only 14 more black friends to go to reach our goal!) but I do want my kids to see equality in my inner circle.


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Twelve Years of Marriage

There is something to being in the club of “the marrieds.”

I fell into the trap. You know the one where society tells young women that they must find a husband and be married by the age of 30, or risk forever being branded an old maid. I mean, once you’re out of college and enter the workforce, if you don’t already have a significant other, it seemingly becomes harder and harder to naturally meet someone. For me, my partner would either come from the bars and clubs, coworkers or mutual friends. Internet dating had not yet hit its stride and was still somewhat of a novelty.

I remember being in such a hurry to get married. We had lived together for 2 years and I felt like, why am I still auditioning? I should already have the part! (Because subconsciously I knew the clock was ticking until my 30th birthday.) And J’s attitude was, what’s the rush? I’m not going anywhere. I’m all in. Why do we need the pomp and circumstance? (That is not the only time I wish I had listened to him.) And it’s not that I would’ve made a different decision about marrying him. But I would’ve taken some time to find out what it meant to me to be a wife and what being a wife meant to him. We had the boyfriend/girlfriend thing down. But being married was more of a challenge. Years 1 & 2 were us trying to navigate the transition from 2 individuals becoming a united entity, and neither of us knew how to do that. So we hit some bumps. Then when we thought we had it figured out (although we didn’t,) we decided to start a family. I was reluctant, despite wanting to be a mother my whole life, only because I took it so seriously. I didn’t give being married much thought because I assumed once you found the person you were supposed to be with, everything would magically fall into place. All you need is love! J convinced me to start our family by saying both of our parents were getting older and he really wanted them to see and know their grandchildren. I couldn’t argue with that. So I threw myself into an intensive 13-month parent training. By the time Xander was born, I felt pretty prepared to be his mother. And its safe to say that the next 9 years of marriage that includes 2 more kids, 2 deceased grandfathers and a dog have been a blur. J’s father passed away 2 weeks before our first son was born and my dad passed 1 week before our second son arrived.

There are so many articles and books about how women can have “it all.” (Ironically, none about how the family can have it all, so much responsibility put on the woman-or that we assume.) Of course I’ve been too busy to read them anyway. I realized I did all my preparation on how to be a parent and barely any training on how to be a wife, let alone a wife raising children. Hence the reason I started this blog. I am on a quest to discover how these roles can best work together: wife, mother, individual.

In this day and age of 72-day marriages, 12 years is a long time. But its really all about perspective. If you’re miserable, then 12 years is forever. If you’re happy, 12 years is but a day. My parents were married 41 years, my husband’s parents 28. You don’t get to 20, 30, 40 years of marriage without some ups & downs. Some marriages are better than others, just as some kids are better behaved than others, some houses are nicer than others or some jobs pay more than others. And no one ever really knows what goes on in a marriage except the 2 people in it. The one thing I know about myself is I’m a long haul type of person. I want to be that couple holding hands and comparing  memories of our 40 years together.

Traditional 12th anniversary materials are silk and linen, representing luxury and comfort. While we definitely are not living in the lap of luxury, there is comfort in knowing someone else is in this life with me. Someone else has chosen me. It is a luxury to share responsibility of parenting. There is comfort in knowing someone has my back. It is a luxury now to be able to say to him “remember how we felt when so and so was born, or when we decided to…” Those shared memories and experiences, that commitment to be here day in, day out, this love that is real and complicated and fun and hard and luxurious and comfortable, this is what marriage means to me.

So, on this day, through:

12 years of Marriage
11 hairstyles
10 cars
9 years of parenting
8 weddings attended
7 funerals of family members
6 job transitions
5 family vacations
4 hospitalizations
3 amazing kids
2 places called Home
1 new dog
and countless “I’m sorrys” and “I love you’s,” I say thank you for asking me to be your wife 12 years ago, for giving me the best 3 gifts of my life, and being my partner in crime. Happy Anniversary Honey!wpid-20150613_211125.jpg


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Nostalgia [no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-] noun 1. a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time

DNE age 7

As summer winds down and the kids head back to school, we fall into my favorite time of year. But the arrival of cooler temperatures and changing leaves always makes me nostalgic for my childhood, of which there are two versions. Today I’m yearning for the idealistic one. The one where my sister and I were home for the entire summer break, (which used to be closer to 3 months and not this “barely there” summer vacation our kids get!) The summer where we built popsicle stick houses and raced our Charlie’s Angels van against our Barbie corvette down the driveway. The summers that included playing with all the kids on our street until the sun went down, which is when we should make our way back home. The summers where we rode our bikes to the mall, and walked to the library. The days when I could follow my dad on his mail route, which just happened to include our street and surrounding ones, where neighbors would yell, “Hey little David!” because I was his mini me. Or the days when my mother would put on a .45 record and get her groove on to Minnie Ripperton or the Bee Gees, and I would sit and watch her, taking in the words and sounds. I couldn’t fully comprehend the meaning, but today when I hear “Back Down Memory Lane”  or “How Deep is Your Love” I can close my eyes and transport to my easy childhood.  Now, when I reread my childhood diaries, they are filled with angst about being in love with just about everybody, being overweight, overdeveloped and bullied. But nostalgia is funny in the way that when you replay the events of your past, it can be as though there is an instagram filter, shading the not too pleasant parts and illuminating the wonderfulness of the moment. Middle class life in suburbia. Ahh, good times, good times. If only I could have cherished it more.

I’m sure one day, years from now I will look back on this time and remember how great it is. Raising my beautiful kids, finding my voice, building a community. But more often than not, I find myself saying,  “I don’t want to adult today!”  I long for those simple times when my meals were cooked for me, my clothes were washed for me and I was given allowance on my Dad’s payday. I possessed a talent that granted me confidence despite the bullying. I was known as “the girl who could sing.” I didn’t have to do anything but be me.

Now ‘being me’ means worrying all the time about everything! How can I stretch this money until next payday? (Nevermind, I’m buying shoes!) How do I get the kids to learn responsibility and do chores (unlike myself growing up)? How do I give my kids all of me without losing myself? How do I stay connected to my husband when we’re both so busy trying to make a better life that we hardly see each other? How do I comfort friends and loved ones through illnesses and unexpected losses that usually come around this age? How do I keep us safe in a world where black people can’t even be happy without getting in trouble, let alone drive, walk down the street or enjoy a friend’s pool party? It’s no wonder I sometimes need to bury myself in nostalgia-it’s self preservation!

Adulting is hard. But there is something redeeming about being grown and that is the gift of wisdom and perspective. I know, having lived almost 42 years that things always get better, that you can’t live in the past and that as an adult, you can choose to keep the parts of your life that you like and disregard the parts that you don’t. I am responsible for creating the life I want. And that is both hard and simple.


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My Stint as a Stay-At-Home-Mom

spent

Its been almost 2 months since I lost my job and about 3 weeks since the kids have been out of camp. As a working full time mother, I used to fantasize about being home with the kids and I’d concoct a whole agenda for our days: we’d do storytime either at the library or at home, then we’d go to the playground or the rec center so we could get some exercise. We’d follow that with a healthy and nutritious lunch, some quiet time in the afternoon for reading, writing and puzzles. Then while I prepared dinner, the kids would have some free time to play or watch a couple of their shows. We’d sit down to have a home cooked meal and have our bedtime wind down activities. Ahhh, dreams!

What has actually happened is quite ugly and very different from what I just described. Xander the early bird, usually wakes up on his own before everyone, so he sets himself up with his TV shows of Pokemon and Bey Blades, while I sleep in. Then Addie and Andrew wake up, they all fight over who’s turn it is to watch their show, nobody takes the dog out (oh,we got a dog!) and then Drew wakes me up to say that Mimi pooped on the floor. I get up, clean the poop, then try to make a healthy breakfast, which hardly anyone eats, because while I slept, they gorged on fruit snacks and poptarts. Then I shower and figure out what we need to do that day. And its always the same, either grocery shopping, laundry, or somebody’s appointment somewhere. Then I have to scramble to figure out lunch, because by now everyone is starving. In a panic, I resort to hotdogs or chicken nuggets and argue with them over whether or not they can have juice, which I try to ration out every couple of days, trying to explain to them how important it is to drink water. By now, they are bouncing off the walls, as am I because I’ve already heard “mommy can I have….” 1,600 times. At this time, I need to start thinking about dinner, so as not to find myself in that last minute food panic again. I run through the options of who will eat what based on what we’ve recently had, with Drew’s allergies. Contemplating dinner alone is exhausting. I am overwhelmed, not just with food options but with the stink that is coming off these kids. How are they so funky when they’ve barely done anything all day? I dread the fight that’s coming later when I force them to take showers, which they will debate is unnecessary because they aren’t going anywhere.

Rinse and repeat. For 17 days. We manage to squeeze in a mini vacation which is a wonderful break from the monotony described above, but as we return, school begins the next day. A whole new kind of crazy is set to begin.

My conclusions are that this shit is hard. Parenting that is. Whether you stay home or go away to grown up land, its all hard. Trying to produce happy, healthy, productive little people, and create a clean, happy home, while maintaining a bit of sanity is hard. Because while all this stuff is going on, there’s more real life stuff also happening. Like unexpected deaths, birthdays, bills to pay, hair to wash (believe me, for a naturalista that is a job in and of itself,) work to be done on the house, jobs to apply for, etc.  I’m always striving towards balance and as of yet, I have not found it.

We always think the grass is greener on the other side.  Oh, if only I didn’t have work in the way, I could be a better mother! I could get so much accomplished and be present for family! Remove work and there are still the same 24 hours in a day. Its not until you are on the other side that you realize that most of the grass is brown on any side. It comes down to what color tint is on your sunglasses.

I could judge myself harshly for what’s gone down these past few weeks, (which I’ve done) or I can look at it as the break we all needed. I’ve been going, going, going trying to be a super hero for my family since its inception in 2006 and sometimes, you need to let crazy happen. Without those poptarts, how will they learn to appreciate the home cooked meals? I push them while they’re in school, so a few weeks of Uncle Grandpa won’t undo their intellect. I’m often the last one to go to sleep and the first one up during the school year, so I deserve those days of sleeping in.

My stint as a stay at home mom won’t last too much longer because I actually got my old job back, holla!! But for the time I have remaining, I will embrace those messy days and ugly moments because that’s part of the balance, and this whirlwind called life.


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What If I Died That Night?

When I was 16, I got my first speeding ticket about half a mile from my house. The police approached my car, asked for my license and asked me to step out of the car to place me in the police car. Maybe because I’m always running late, that was not the last time I got a speeding ticket, nor was it the last time I was placed in the police car as the ticket was written. I thought that’s just what happened. But when I told that story to any of my white friends, to which I had many, they said it was crazy. None of them had ever heard of someone being placed in the squad car as a ticket was being written. They also said as a female, it was crazy that I would get a ticket. I was told if I ever got pulled over again, I should do a number of things to avoid getting a ticket: cry, tell the officer I was on my period, be really apologetic, play dumb, beg. Each subsequent stop, I followed the advice of my friends. Surprisingly, none of it worked, for me.
Sensing a real disparity, with the police and more general situations, I became angry and frustrated. Especially when I watched the Rodney King beating on TV during the LA Riots in ’92. Those feelings are probably why I gravitated toward gangsta rap. My run – ins with the law were very minor in comparison to the experience of NWA, GETTO Boyz and Ice T, but I certainly understood the sentiment in Fuck Da Police!
See, growing up in a racially diverse middle class suburb like Cleveland Heights, I grew up thinking me and my white counterparts were virtually the same, save for our skin color. But the police taught me I was different and should be treated as such. As a threat to be contained.
Once when I was sitting in a police car as the white officer ran my license, and when I was old enough to know better, I ran my mouth. I said, “don’t you have anything better to do, like catch some rapists or murderers, than write me up for not making a complete stop before making a right turn? I guess this makes you feel like a real man to have a young woman handcuffed in your cruiser late at night huh?” I went on and on. And then he took me to jail.
I could have easily died that night. I could’ve been #SandraBland. She was me. At 26 years old, I had seen and experienced enough to justify my anger at the police. I was bold and educated and spoke up for myself. And had I died in jail that night waiting for my parents to bail me out I would never know the pain of a broken heart. I would never know the meaning of soulmate. I would never feel the indescribable bond with a first, second or third child. I would never have met some of the most wonderful people I get to call friends today. I would never understand my place in the world and in my body as a strong black woman. These things came after 26. And it sickens me that Sandra Bland was denied the opportunity to know these things.
The Plain Dealer’s headline back in July of 1999 could have read Darlene Norwood found dead in her jail cell from an ‘apparent suicide.’
I grew up thinking the Civil Rights Movement was so pivotal, so spectacular that most of the fighting for equal rights had been done. That it was smooth sailing for mine and future generations. It wasn’t until my 30s and now 40s that I understand there are all kinds of movements that have to happen before full maturity is reached. We’re in the midst of a growth spurt with the first African American President of the United States and the right for ALL people, regardless of sexual orientation, to marry. But growth doesn’t come without pain and it doesn’t come with out struggles and stumbles. We have to push through the uncomfortableness to become fully realized. There is so much more work to be done, movements, fights, conversations, growth. And since I didn’t die that night I went to jail, it’s my obligation to do what those who did, can’t. Fight.Against.Injustice.


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Today was a Good Day

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I got a call this morning around 8:30 saying my therapist had a cancellation and would I be interested in an appointment this afternoon? Last I saw my therapist, we talked about me losing my job and releasing my fear of following my passion to become a writer. At the end of our session, we both expressed excitement for this opportunity in front of me and were eager to start the work. Before I left, I tried to schedule my next appointment only to find that she would be booked for the next month. So I was ecstatic to get the news that I could see her today! I also had an appointment later with a friend who recently started blogging. We were going to talk writing.

Therapy was amazing as usual. The same way I wish everyone would do yoga, I wish everyone went to therapy! It literally is therapeutic. I was challenged to face all the excuses and obstacles I create to block my writing. (If I don’t try, I can’t fail, right?) Great session, but I’ve still got a lot work to do.

Then later in the evening, I met up with my friend to talk writing. And again, it was amazing! She had a laser sharp focus about what she wanted and did not want to write about that left me in awe. I already admired her for her passion in life and compassion for other human beings. But talking to her this evening was just what I needed to get serious about my ambitions. She shared with me valuable resources like books I should read and websites and blogs to visit. She gave me ideas about where my voice might fit in the landscape. We talked about different ways to make money from writing. (I fear I got more out of the meeting than she did, but luckily, we are implementing a writing process, so hopefully I can return the favor soon.) We agreed to meet regularly to bounce ideas off one another and challenge each other to write beyond our comfort level. I know she will make me a better writer. I hope I can do the same for her.

Years and years I’ve been lamenting about how I wanted to become a writer, but it wasn’t until I lost my job that I declared this is it! Now is the time! I can’t keep longing for it. I have to make this happen right now! And a funny thing happened. “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Continue reading


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What’s Next?

I was recently laid off from a job. The question on everybody’s mind, including my own is: what’s next? File for unemployment? Immediately jump into the job search?  Start my own consulting business? Dust off my massotherapy license and practice? Panic?????

In the weeks leading up to this life event, my 3-year-old was desperately unhappy at his new daycare. He’d transitioned there after his former one closed a little less than a year ago. We started the daycare search, again. We were on the waiting list for 2 different schools. In the months leading up to my lay off, I was fiercely looking for a new job because I saw things going in a direction I didn’t agree with. But I couldn’t find anything that really got me excited. In the years leading up to now, I H.A.T.E.D. my boss (a sub par replacement for “the best boss in the world,” who relocated for his wife’s new job.) This boss was passive aggressive, and took pride in manipulating people. She lied to everyone, so I couldn’t trust anything she said. She created an environment that ran off 2 amazing employees and broke the spirits of the rest of us on a daily basis. It was torture to walk into work each day. While I liked the work I did, I didn’t like the person I was becoming-someone filled with anger and hate and letting work consume me. My blood pressure remained elevated. On a conscious level, I knew her actions were due to issues she had with herself that she projected onto the rest of us, but it was hard not to let it affect me. So many times, work comes to define us. I regularly received praise from people I engaged with in the community, but I would return to my office to be belittled, micromanaged and pitted against other coworkers. I prayed for relief for me and my workmates. I prayed for relief for my son at his school. In therapy, I begged for help in overcoming my fears in order to really pursue my lifelong passion to write.

So here I am, immersed in the relief I asked for. The question remains what’s next?

What I’ve chosen to do for now is withdraw my son from daycare so we can spend quality time together. I’ve renewed my blog. I registered for a writing workshop. And I have applied for some jobs. But the most important thing I can do right now is breathe. Take a moment to decompress from the toxic situation I’ve been in and embrace what my life is today. I believe that struggles exist to make us stronger and push us closer to our purpose. And life events, like losing a job, not only show us how fortunate we truly are, but force us to acknowledge what we’ve chosen to ignore in the struggles. I needed to get out of that job, I just didn’t know how. I worried about what the next job would be like. What if it was worse than where I was? How far away would it be from my kids’ school? What if I didn’t like my coworkers as much? What if it called for more time away from my family? Or what if I was bad at it? We make unlimited amounts of time for worry and stress, but none for processing and living. Today, I will surrender to this moment in my life and l will decide what’s next.

Stay tuned!

Times, They Are a’Changing

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Autumn Sky

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The weather is beautiful as the warmth of the sun energizes you in the day, while the crisp nights make for perfect sleeping weather.  The landscape transitions as the leaves start to change into vibrant oranges and reds and deep shades of brown. The air is full of hope with a new school year and a new football season. Fall is also when my birthday is.  Because I love it so, I chose to get married around this time.  I almost named my daughter Autumn.

But recently I realized that I’m not as comfortable with change in reality as I am in theory. And this time brings about a lot of change. In rapid succession. The jump off point is my baby’s birthday, followed by my husband’s a week later. Two weeks after that is our wedding anniversary (the big 1-0 this year!) Two weeks after that is my oldest son’s birthday, followed by my birthday a month later (another big one this year, the Big 4-0!!) In the midst of that is the start of school and at work, a new grant cycle.  Trying to keep up with it all, I’m spinning. I feel like I can’t even catch my breath….

Besides me not liking change, I put a lot of pressure on myself to plan the perfect birthdays for everyone to make them super special. So then I get overwhelmed. And exhausted. Then irritated. And resentful.  I invest all this time and energy into everyone’s else’s happiness, that by the time my birthday caps off the season, and no one has invested the same amount of time and energy into me, I feel let down and angry.  It’s a vicious cycle.  But this year, this BIG year will be different because I recognize the cycle. Which means I can stop it.

I can accept the inevitable transitions and embrace them as my life moving forward the way it’s supposed to.  Yes, my children will continue to get older (God willing) as will I (God willing). I will be thankful for each year I get to have a partner and be loved by my husband and celebrate another year of commitment. I will take pride in the time and effort I put into creating these wonderful memories my family will have of their birthdays and first days of school that they can hold in their hearts long after I’m gone.  And I will, like the trees losing leaves, release the things that no longer serve me in this time to make room for the greatness that is to come.


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Generation X’s Legacy

 Thank you Past Generations

My grandparents were from the “silent generation.” I can only assume they were called that because it was the era of ‘children are to be seen and not heard.’  I guess it’s good they weren’t talkers because they were doers.  They seemed to be all about their business.  I could never really get good stories out of my grandparents or older aunts and uncles until very recently.  I think they’re tired of being silent. They took things very seriously and worked really hard.  They were also called “The Greatest Generation.” Great Depression babies.  If they were depressed, they took it like men. They didn’t wallow in their own self pity like subsequent generations. They believed in this country and its preservation. They also popped out babies like they were going out of style.

Baby Boomers. They grew up without much of anything, so they decided they wanted everything. All about revolution and change.  Fighters.  They knew what they wanted and deserved and they demanded it.  Civil Rights. Free Love. To be young forever.  They were so caught up in themselves and their movements, I think they were too busy to raise their kids.  Or if they weren’t, they seemed to have the motto that they weren’t going to let kids get in their way. I mean, I can’t really blame them.  They had a lot going on, putting people on the moon and what not.  But the generation that followed-my generation, the generation of latch-key kids, got lost in the shuffle.

Generation X.  X, as in Who are we? What do we stand for? X marks the spot where we got lost, I say.  The 1960s was such a time of upheaval, that my generation were left to deal with the fallout.  Perhaps we should’ve been called Generation “C” for consequences. The consequences of all that free love was AIDS. The consequence of the Vietnam war (among other things) was a disproportionate ratio of women to men, and who subsequently had to re-think the whole ‘finding a husband game.’ The consequence of all that liberation was we were free to do anything……or nothing.  For years they called us the slacker generation.  It felt like our parents changed the world, so there was nothing left for us to do. We learned about all of the people who died for our luxury of opportunities.  Then we watched the Spaceshuttle Challenger explode in front of our eyes. To me, that almost represents what happened to us.  We were primed and ready to blast off into the next stratosphere and then in an instant our dreams were dashed to pieces.  It’s as if Generation X suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Is it a coincidence that most of the people I know from this generation are either social workers or in therapy themselves (or both)? At least  we can say we created reality TV (no doubt an off-shoot of all those social workers wanting to study ourselves!) And we create Hip Hop.  I’m very proud of that.

Then here come the Millennials, who are all “selfies!” and social media mavens and “I can be/do anything I want to.”  Almost as if they’re what Gen X was supposed to be. Which is so annoying! But it’s also what I admire about them: their fierce determination and feistiness.  They declare themselves something and pretend like they are until it becomes true.  That is a useful skill.  They have so much self confidence. Self promotion is a way of life. They are always camera-ready.  Does anything embarrass them? I don’t think so. I’m embarrassed to say I keep waiting for reality to smack them in the face.  But they operate with an alternative reality. I think they’re more likely to smooze reality up and make it their bitch.  They’ve got balls.  Where did this come from?

Nevertheless, I appreciate them all, despite Generation X’s wayward journey.  The Silent-ers taught my father to commit to a job for 40 years and provide a good, stable life for our family.  (You don’t see that anymore!) And Boomers paved the way for me to have options, like a career and to grow up in a diverse neighborhood where I didn’t have to use separate water fountains or bathrooms from white people.  Generation X gave the world Hip Hop and Reality TV (and some other things I can’t think of-I’m sure of it!) And the Millennials gave us facebook and twitter, and the audacity to have a second act in life. (I say, take a page from their book and become what you are!)

So here’s what I believe about Generation X.  Our legacy will be our children.  I think we are the best parents in the history of the world.  Maybe because we had more time to decide what it means to be a parent, many of us having children later in life than any previous generation. Growing up amidst all that change gave us permission to defend traditional ideals, while being flexible to make our own rules.  We chose to be involved in our kids’ lives, but have balance so that they don’t become our lives.  We learned how to reward our kids without spoiling, teaching them that hard work pays off in the end, but it doesn’t hurt to have some fun along the way.  We know how to discipline without beating the essence out of them.  We strive to teach them respect by respecting them as individuals.  We know when to speak up on their behalf and when to be silent, so they learn to fight their own battles.  We have an abundance of resources at our disposal, (including therapy!) We have fathers more involved than ever before.  I know so many wonderful Gen X parents!  We apply Depression-era work ethics and Boomer-style revolution to our parenting.  (We also learned from boomers how NOT to parent.) So, I think our kids will change the world the way our parents did, but waaay better.  Gen X was the recovery period, a regrouping, if you will. But when our kids grow up, by then, the world will be ready.