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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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

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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.


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Death, Birth, and Rainbows: All Love

My second son was born 7 days after my father died from a 14-month bout with throat cancer.  Part of the reason I wanted to get pregnant again was because I knew he was dying.  At the time, it seemed like the only way I could keep him alive.  It was during my pregnancy that I started therapy.  I figured I had a pretty good set up for postpartum depression, and I wanted to prepare for its inevitability. I was so convinced it would happen, I actually saw 2 therapists. One would listen and give me practical advice and the other would make me work to come up with my own answers.  I valued both.

As we were planning the funeral, we had to schedule the burial and the only day available was my due date. And the military cemetery was an hour away.  So I decided I couldn’t go. It rained all that day, which was appropriate, because my dad loved the rain, thunderstorms especially. Sure enough, that morning, as my mother and sister were driven to the burial site, I started having contractions.  They return literally in the nick of time.  My son was born at 7:17 pm and just minutes before he made his debut in this world, a bright, beautiful rainbow appeared outside our window.

As my son has grown, he has been fixated on pictures of my dad.  Since he began talking, one of his most repeated phrases is “Grandpa died.”  For the longest, I wondered, why does he keep saying that? It hurts me every time I have to explain to him that, yes, Grandpa died, but even though he’s not here, he loves you and your brother and sister anyway.  But what I now believe is that he says it over and over because he knows.  He met my dad in that space and time in the universe between life and death, and he is trying to tell me, Grandpa died, but his love hasn’t. Because it lives through him. He is Grandpa’s love.

So this year, as he turns 2 and we acknowledge another year since my dad passed, I will have a new perspective, a dual celebration.  I will celebrate my son’s birthday and the abundance of love that my dad still showers me with, through my baby.