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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Being Bullied Made Me Awesome

Recently I had a conversation with a friend and fellow parent about classmates teasing. She relayed the advice she gave to her son who was teased about a bad haircut. She said, “I told him next time something like that happens, you tell him (or whoever it is) something like ‘my hair will grow back but you can’t fix your face.’” We laughed about the nice comeback. But then she went on to say something that triggered a funny feeling in my bones. She said, “see, I used to be a bully, so I know how to nip that in the bud. A good comeback is key to shutting a bully down.” My husband relates similar stories of him getting teased at times, but because he is quick and witty, his retorts always stopped a potential bully in his tracks.

A couple of weeks before this conversation, I ran into one of my bullies at my kids’ school. It just so happens that her son is in my daughter’s class. We had seen each other a few times last year and she hugged me and was very friendly. Shocked and surprised, I responded in kind. But this year at curriculum night, she said something that caught me off guard. We were laughing about how we keep running into each other when she said, “even though we didn’t get along when we were in school, somehow our kids insist on being together!” I chuckled in agreement, but in my mind, I was thinking, what did I ever do to you?

Yesterday, another friend posted one of those retro pictures of where we grew up on facebook. And it just so happened that the photo was of a department store that was on our way home from middle school. The parking lot of that department store is where seemingly everyone in my school would congregate to watch me get beat up.  There was a mean girls clique at school (some would say cool girls) and if I happened to do something to piss one of them off, the rumor mill would begin to swirl that they would be waiting to “jump” me in the May Company parking lot after school. The news bubble would swell with each passing period and culminate in the crowd waiting to see the fight. I was fortunate that my best friend’s mom would pick us up if we called and asked her to. On those days, I’d ask her to.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t notify teachers. My teachers said there was nothing they could do since it was just hearsay and because the fight was planned off school grounds. As you might imagine, it was pretty difficult to learn when you feared getting your ass kicked after school and had all day to think about it.  I was always looking for protection. My parents would tell me to ignore it and supplied me with dog spray if anything were to go down. (My dad was a mail carrier and kept the dog spray supply fully stocked.) It was then that I turned to religion. I learned to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘seek God first’. So, I prayed a lot and hard, and while the bullying didn’t stop, I never was jumped in the May Company parking lot.

But getting back to my friend and what she said, it made me reflect on my time being bullied and caused me to wonder if I’ve gotten over it? There’s plenty of research that talks about the long-term effects of bullying from low self-esteem and depression to anxiety, panic attacks and even suicide in adulthood. When I was going through it, my grades definitely suffered. I was often angry and contemplated suicide. I also contemplated homicide. Years later when the Columbine massacre happened and it was reported that the killers had been bullied, I knew exactly how they felt. If I had access to guns at the time, I might not be sitting here writing this article. Instead, I threw myself into my religious studies and waited for God to take care of it. I believe that God gave me the strength to endure so that I could learn from it and use it to fulfill my purpose.

There’s a Frederick Nietzsche saying that goes, “what does not kill me makes me stronger”. Do I wish I was never bullied? Hell yes! But none of us can change our past, we can only create our future. Being the victim of bullying bothered me for most of my life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But that turmoil made me approach the world from a place of compassion. It made me want to stand up for others. It’s probably what led me to work in social justice; to protect those not capable of protecting themselves. But I also know that going through that experience is what contributes to me being an awesome parent. It made me a fierce advocate for my kids and any other kid I come across who might be bullied.

Sometimes I think about looking my bullies up on google for a confrontation, telling them, “you know what you did, and I’m here to find out why.” I have wracked my brain trying to explain why I was picked on, why girls hated me, why people wrote “slut” on the bathroom wall next to my name when I was clearly a virgin, why people squirted ketchup all over my brand new pink jogging suit. The bottom line is at this point in my life, I don’t need to know. Because I love the person I am today and everything I went through, both wonderful and heartbreaking, contributed to who I became. Life is much too short to carry around heavy ass hate and hurt baggage and I have made my peace with it. So, to my former bullies who I may or may not run into, I say namaste and I hope you are happy with who you’ve become.


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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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My Stint as a Stay-At-Home-Mom

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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.