Monday Intentions?

I’ve been slacking…

Every time I try to sit myself down to write a blog post, something comes up. What is going on in the universe? I think I may have to stop the Sunday intentions because Sundays are family days and by night fall, I’m just uninterested in opening my laptop. Sunday intentions have officially moved to Monday intentions. For example, yesterday we drove about 90 miles to see my grandmother, visit some museums and go eat in another city. It was so much fun! Like, a lot of fun and by the end of the night, I just wanted to snuggle with my husband.

Speaking of our weekend…it was AWESOME!!! My husband worked Saturday, so the kids had some friends over to play for the first part of their day. In the evening, we went to a Mardi Gras festival of sorts put on by the Recreation Center. I did not think it would be a ton of fun, but I was so wrong. My kids had a blast. They made masks, mini floats, and beads. The children were also able to participate in a parade where they got beads thrown at them…very New Orleans, but without the whole “show me your boobs” thing.

Since my husband worked Saturday, we decided to take the long drive down to Los Angeles to visit my grandmother and visit some museums with him on Sunday. Our logic was that most people would be home watching the Super Bowl and we could have the museums to ourselves. Thankfully, we were right. First we went to the African American museum. It was really artsy and I was a little afraid the kids wouldn’t get it, but they enjoyed it, especially my son.

After the African American museum, we went to the science museum and had a blast in there too. I love Los Angeles museums because the exhibits are so interactive. I wish I would have taken more pictures, but we were enjoying ourselves and the lack of crowds.

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I think the highlight of our day was going to a seafood restaurant down in San Pedro/Long Beach and getting to see a live Mariachi band play. My husband and children had never seen that up close and personal, so it was pretty cool. I did not eat anything at the restaurant because I’m doing the vegan challenge, so I enjoyed a Margarita (no salt). I thought that was what a good vegan would do. I did have lunch at a vegan spot in Inglewood called Stuff I Eat. The food is always good. I think I’ve mentioned them before in a blog post. I will always eat there when I’m in Los Angeles. I took pics of the paintings that are on the wall. It is quite interesting. I love the vibe there.

So…what does all of this have to do with intentions. On the surface, nothing. If you look deeper, it has a great deal to do with my conscious decisions on how I am choosing to live my life. Am I making time for my family? Am I making time for what I am passionate about? Am I living the life I want?

I was so present this weekend that it scared me a little. I looked at the children that came over to play with my own and felt gratitude that my children we experiencing these moments that I never experienced. I really enjoyed being with them at the Mardi Gras festival and helping them with their floats and seeing them happy. We weren’t in a rush to leave and we just lived in the moment. I couldn’t stop from smiling when my husband discussed art pieces with me  at the museum. He also told me about a museum he use to go to in Jamaica when he was young. The man a very few words had so much to say. We laughed and danced a little to the music of the mariachi band down in Long Beach. We lived.

My intentions are always to live and to appreciate every moment. I got a little sidetracked last week, but distractions, when acknowledged, have a way of pulling you back to center much more aggressively than when you veer off on your own. For just one moment, I started existing again. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to play with the kids. I didn’t want to deal with people. I forgot how far I came out of depression. I literally had to force myself to go to yoga. It’s so easy to forget what we want and who we are trying to be. My heart is so grateful and it is my sincere intention to always find the light in all things. I’ve been angry. I’ve been bitter. I don’t want to do that anymore. I have a great life as long as I allow it to be. There is always, ALWAYS something to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

Love and light y’all.

 

Yoga and stuff

Thoughts, poses, and quotes that have gotten me thru this week…

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. ~ Buddha

 
At the end of the day you are your longest commitment ~ Meagan 
  

I am most at peace when my vision is blurred

When my heart is my guide and my mind is free

When my eyes leave out prejudgment

and only God speaks ~ Andrea H. (Me)
Love and light y’all.

21 Day Vegan Challenge (Day 3)

Every now and again, I decide to do something crazy. A few years ago, I decided to go gluten free. I made the choice to go gluten free because I read that it would help in my thyroid function or rather slow down my immune system attacking my thyroid. It actually helped, but my thyroid was removed anyway. Going gluten free led me to the Paleo diet. The paleo diet was a drastic change, but I felt good on it. I was strictly paleo for about 18 months and then went on to eating paleo 80 percent of the time. I did a few stints of the Whole 30 diet. Actually, I did a Whole 90 while my husband was deployed and the results were amazing. If you have no idea what the hell I’m writing about, then consider yourself lucky or unlucky if you have a few issues with your health. I’ll just put this in the universe…the majority of your immune system is in your digestive tract, so your diet has a ton to do with your health. That’s it. I’m getting off my soap box.

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Breakfast (Tropical Green Smoothie)

Anywho, one weekend while I was in Los Angeles visiting family, I went to this vegan restaurant and the food was amazing. I also had the chance to meet the chef/owner and she looked amazing. Okay, this may sound a bit vain, but I was looking at her like what do I need to do to look like her when I’m 65 years old. Like, really she defied time. Her name is Chef Babette (google her!) and I spoke with her briefly and learned a little about the vegan diet. I’ve never wanted to go vegan. Oh, I forgot to mention in the beginning of this post that I use to be vegetarian too before I went into the Army. I know what being a vegetarian is like. I’ve even considered going back to being a vegetarian, but veganism has always seemed extreme to me. Like, no honey! NO HONEY! That’s just odd. Let’s not mention the whole cheese thing. It’s not normal for people not to eat cheese. I just never considered it and let’s not mention the fact that I think we are meant to eat meat. When I was a vegetarian, I never thought of eating meat as wrong. I just thought people ate too much of it.

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Lunch (Fried Plantains, Avocado, Veggie Quesadilla Filing, and Green Smoothie)

So, here I am on my third day of being a vegan and I must say it’s going quite well. I decided to take this plunge because of Chef Babette, but also because I really do feel like people eat too much meat. When I was paleo, I thought that it was a bit extreme to eat that much meat. Realistically, cavemen probably didn’t eat meat every single day. I’m going off topic. Okay, I’m also trying this vegan thing out because my heart has changed. Last year, I stopped preparing meat in our meals 4 days out of the week. The whole practicing of yoga and ahimsa makes you look at things differently. When you think about what you’re eating, what the animal is injected with, what they go through while they are being housed and slaughtered, and then the sheer waste of all this life without honoring it, it becomes a bit excessive. I couldn’t justify eating meat so often. My family usually eats halal, but even then we learned that kosher and halal markets aren’t keeping up to standards with some markets carrying the same practices as big grocery stores.

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Dinner (Spicy Kale and Quinoa Black Bean Salad)

My husband thinks I’m crazy. The kids are being patient and are happy I’m not pulling them in. My cousin decided to do it with me and me and my toilet have become fast friends. The plus is that I’ve noticed I’m less tired and I feel light. It’s only day 3! Let’s see how this goes. So far, I start my day with oatmeal or a smoothie. For lunch, I have a salad or leftovers from the previous night and dinner is usually a salad of some type or meal that has quinoa or black beans. Once again, I’m not against eating meat, but I recognize that there is a problem with how things are being done. Wish me luck because I’m going to need it. I think I’ll start a Pinterest page for anyone who may want to jump in with me or do it later.

Love and light y’all.

Motherhood Mondays (A conversation with Rosalind)

I asked my daughter what she thought of “single moms” and her response was, “a single mother is a very strong woman. She has to have a lot of determination because she does everything alone and she must love her children very much”. If only society viewed single mothers the way my 8 years old does… The reality is that single mothers are sometimes looked at in a negative light. People make a multitude of assumptions and even reduce them to baby mamas and not parents who actively play a part in their children’s lives without any help. Every situation is not the same, but I know a number of women who are single mothers for a number of reasons and they are my inspiration to be a better woman and mother.

Meet Rosalind, she is 49 years old. She is the mother of 6 children 4 daughters (ages 30, 27, and 14), 2 sons (ages 23, currently in college and 11). She also has one grandchild who is 7 years old. Rosalind has BA in Business and has been the owner of Lullaby 24 Hour Childcare for 18 years. She is the author of “The Things My Daycare Teacher Tells Me”. You can read her book for free here. Rosalind is also a single mother and she is doing a fantastic job. Here are her words…

What do you feel is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the notion that you have the most important job in the world. You are in charge of molding this human being into a loving, caring, well rounded, happy, and positive person. After it is all said and done, you then have the opportunity to sit back and watch them grow into something so big and special.

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Can you describe the feeling you felt after having your children?

At the age of 18, I had identical twins. My feeling was like, oh my goodness, what just happened! I didn’t know I was having twins until the doctor saw the feet of the second twin after the first twin came out. The main feeling after each time I have given birth was that I was so blessed and honored to be given another life long mission. I plan to not let my babies down and enjoy every moment of it.

What lessons have you taken from your own mother?

The lessons I have taken from my mother are to do right, do good to others, and find a reason to smile and laugh everyday. She also taught me to be a hands on parent and be totally involved with my children. From her I learned to tell my children that I love them and that I am proud of them. I have taken my mother’s lessons and flown with them.

How does a typical day look for you and your children?

I always say that we are not your typical family. The majority of my life decisions are made a certain way because of my children. I run a 24/7 childcare program from my home and also homeschool my two youngest children.

Morning:  I am working before my children get up at 9 a.m. We have breakfast together and my kids will tell anyone who listens that I make them eat porridge (oatmeal, grits, malt-o-meal). From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., I have an employee come in to work so I can homeschool. Homeschool starts with my two youngest checking their email for their class schedule and then onto math, language arts, reading, and science.

Afternoons: I continue working at my childcare business. My daughter usually gets on her kindle or tablet. My son reads on his iPad. He also could be found writing his 3rd book or working on his non-profit organization business. They both also just play around being kids, which sometimes includes video games.

Evenings: We make a point to sit down and eat dinner together. We talk and plan our weekend. We also play board games or sometimes we snuggle up in my bedroom and watch movies. My son always reads me a bedtime story. (Laughs).

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Is the father of your children an active contributor?

Unfortunately, the father of my younger children has chosen not to be an active contributor.

What challenges do you face as a single mother?

The challenges of being a single mother are nothing compared to the fact that we are totally blessed to have escaped with our lives from my past marriage. Anything else compared to the situation we were in is a very small challenge, if a challenge at all. A stable and healthy environment makes so much of a big difference in a child’s life. I bought my first home 19 years ago as a single woman and that continues to be where I raise my children and where my grown kids come home for the holidays. At times, it is challenging to find that work/life balance, but I’ve perfected the art of stepping back and asking myself, what will benefit my kids, then the so-called challenge is no more.

What do you think is the biggest misconception made about single mothers and/or your family dynamic?

The biggest misconception is that we are a dysfunctional home and family. Society refers to my type of family make up as dysfunctional. That is not the case. There is nothing dysfunctional about my family. I am a parent raising my kids and meeting their needs and a lot of their wants. We do family things together on a daily bases, including meals. I work hard and we depend on one another. My children do not miss out on anything just because we are a single parent household. Not every single parent is the same and that is because that is how they want it. You don’t just curl up in a corner and give up on yourself and your children because the other parent walked out and did not share in your vision and commitment for family and life. People and society have different views and different conceptions. There are no two people that are exactly alike, so there is no “normal”. We waste our time and life once we start focusing on what we think other people should do, should have, or should be like. I do not have any extra time to try to conform to society nor am I preoccupied with what others are doing.

How have your children adjusted to not having an active father in their lives?

Because of the way my children’s father left, without any warning, it has taken some time for them to adjust. My children, as they get older are more understanding. They realize that there is no competing with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness. I do not think people realize that when a parent abandons their child, a big part of that child dies. My son had the hardest time adjusting because he was very attached to his father. He thought the world of his dad. He just kept saying that his dad would be back or he would say, “mom don’t sleep on that side of the bed because that’s dad’s side”. I eventually had to change my furniture in the my bedroom. My daughter called her dad when she realized that he had left, she simply stated to him, “people move away all the time, but parents are not supposed to leave their kids”. My children required a few therapy sessions, but it was noted that going to therapy made them feel as if they had did something wrong or at fault. I had to become the listener throughout the next few years to help them heal. My children and I are very close. We talk about our feelings regarding that part of life that was snatched from them. We joyfully reminisce about all the good memories.

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What advice would you give to other women in your position?

Your life is what you make of it, not what society says it is or will be. You and only you have a say on what you can or cannot do. Stop and deeply realize that you have the power to be exactly what you want. What makes someone else happy may not be what will make you happy. You may hear negative opinions from society, but don’t listen to them. Find your happy place and stay there and excel from there. Single mothers, don’t forget you have your kids watching you and learning from you.

Any last words…

Take it personal! Take it very personal…your life and being a parent. Be your and your children’s biggest cheerleader. Embrace the life that God has granted you and keep building upon that. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so don’t panic over the little things. Do what you expect of yourself, not what others or society expects of you. Labels are for things, so when people try to label your family dysfunctional…peel it off and instead wear that ‘S’ on your chest. You are a superstar and have a spectacular family.

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A little honesty and reflection

I just got out of yoga and I was sitting here trying to finish a post, but I can’t help but to write about the interesting week I have had. There are a number of things I could reflect on and be upset about, but I’m choosing to let the anger go. I once walked around angry without knowing it. I was simply existing, wondering why I had been done a certain way. I wondered why my parents made the decisions that they did. I wondered why my “friends” didn’t seem to hear me. I wondered why the person I was with didn’t love me properly. I wondered why my health had failed me. I was a victim at every turn.

Those that loved me and could see through all the hurt and pain made a choice to see me through it. I am thankful. The reality is that I just got to the other side a few years ago. I made a conscious decision that I needed help. I sat in a therapist’s office guarded and after a few sessions started to come out of this cloud. I continued to go to therapy until last year because my old therapist left and the new one and I didn’t gel well. I read a book by Thich Nhat Hanh about healing the soul and started practicing meditation and yoga. I made the hardest decision of my life to cut off contact with my father who was a huge source of my resentment and anger. I started reflecting on how I made decisions and how my actions were the cause of certain things. I stopped blaming others and started really looking at myself. I did the work and continue to do the work. I cry often. I apologize even more than that when I am wrong. I somehow became an empath along the way. If you know me on a deeper level, you would no that I was the girl who NEVER cried, hardly apologized and could care less about the other person’s point of view. Funny, how things change.

I fall short a lot. I don’t always make the right decisions, but I know in my heart that my intentions are typically pure. Recently, I have been told that I was something other than I put out into the universe and the funniest part about it is that at every turn I was in this persons corner encouraging others to give her some time and that she obviously must be going through something. At every single turn I made a point of acknowledging her negativity amongst friends while also reiterating that her demeanor was a facade and what she really needed was time to build trust. I saw myself and a dear friend that I lost about 5 years ago in her. However, I think I saw in this person something that I am so far removed from that there was no possibility of friendship. That’s not a slight to her, that’s just being honest with myself. I wrote about this a while back and I guess it was a bit of foreshadowing on my part. My heart is heavy, but my conscious is clear. Everyone isn’t meant to see things from your point of view and you can’t make everyone your friend.

On a positive note, I still believe in sisterhood and friendship. I just know now that I won’t be politicking for a person who sees negativity in everything, loves being shady, and throws out subliminal messages on the Internet. I’m done son.

Love and light y’all.

Motherhood Mondays (A conversation with Jameelah)

I believe the American Muslim woman is very misunderstood. Society has attempted to identify these women as oppressed, weak, fanatical, and mysterious. I know a number of Muslim women, in fact, I grew up Muslim and I think people would be surprised at how wrong their misconceptions are. Muslim women vary in a number of ways and it is only through dialogue that ones prejudice ends. 

Meet Jameelah. She is freaking awesome!!!! She is a married, stay at-home mother to three wonderful children. She represents a face America typically does not see…she is Muslim, African American, and in an interracial marriage. Here are her words…

What do you feel is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the level of fulfillment it gives me. Nothing else I have done in my life compares to being a mother. Motherhood fills a desire in my life that I never knew I had. If I wasn’t a mother, I think I would know something in my life was forever missing.

What was your mother like?

My mom is great. Growing up, my mom worked and was a stay at-home mom for a portion of time. No matter what she was doing, she was always a mom. Now, I’m 35 years old and she still drops everything she is doing to be there for me. She doesn’t pry. She is just there whenever I need her, which is amazing considering she has nine of us. She has always been a mom. That has been the best thing about my life. If I can be half the mom she is, then I could look back and consider myself successful.

I hear you using the word “mom”. Can you define what “mom” means to you?

Well, I’m mommy in my house, but mom or mommy includes a connection of love and respect. There is a need and desire by both child and adult. The word mommy to me is like a type of completion. Being a mommy involves laughter and humility. This role breathes life into me. I am comfortable being mommy. There are days I don’t want to do anything, but when my kids call, I’m not resentful. Life simply starts when they call. I feel special that I was picked to be someone’s mom. Little ole me was picked. In all of my faults, I’m someone’s mommy. They wake up and love me. There is no judgment. I don’t have to put on heirs for them. I look at my children and think to myself, I did that; those human beings came from me. Mom or mommy involves this unique power that children have that can fill your heart and break it, all in the same moment.

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You’re Muslim, African American, and in an interracial marriage. It would appear that a lot is going on.

It is a lot going on if you think about. People look and want to ask how my husband and I happened. It’s not a lot. It is just life.

What has been one of your biggest struggles?

The biggest struggle is that I grew up in a Muslim household and my husband did not. Race is not a struggle for us. We have totally different viewpoints on things. There were conversations in the beginning that needed to be had. There was no religion in my husband’s household. They believed in God, but not in an organized religion. I grew up in a very religious household. We prayed 5 times a day, attended Muslim school, and fasted during the month of Ramadan. Our upbringings are very different. He goes off of what he knows and I go off of what I know. Simple things like when to start the kids doing Ramadan have the potential to become problems; however, when you get married you have to consider that person. It takes compromise.

What keeps you continuing to be Muslim?

There is a part of me that knows Al-Islam is my saving grace. My faith is the thing that has kept me from going too far off track. Al-Islam keeps me centered. It keeps me mindful of God. It makes me tolerant. It makes me patient. It makes me more accepting of those who are not like me. It is a part of who I am.

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What struggles do you face as a Muslim mother?

If I’m in a moms group, I have to decide if I want to participate in that Christmas or Halloween playdate. Those particular holidays are not in line with my faith. When I decide not to participate, some people continue to ask why or totally disregard the conflict. As a Muslim, I don’t feel heard. People continue to test limits that you have clearly set. There are incidents where people want to see how far they can push the Muslim thing. It is as if they want to see when you will go against your faith to be included.

What would like non-Muslim mothers to know?

I would like non-Muslim mothers to know that all I would like is to be heard. Don’t try to question my loyalty to my faith. When I decline to participate, don’t ask me why and continue to press the issue when I have already articulated my feelings. Respect my faith as I respect yours. You do not have to accommodate me, just accept my decision not to participate in things that go against what I believe.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a African American Muslim mom?

People think I’m militant because I’m black and I’m Muslim. They think I’m part of the Nation of Islam. Those aren’t my only options. People look at me and ask me what am I? When I tell them that I am black. I was born in the south and grew up in Compton, they say, “but you don’t hate white people”. Some people also expect this caricature of what Muslim woman are supposed to be. Either you have to be crazy hardcore or this woman who is hiding she is Muslim. They critique your actions, as you have to live up to this image in their heads that has nothing to do with your reality.

 

How do you prepare your children for the misconception people may have?

I tell my children to be good with being themselves. What others expect of you doesn’t matter. On top of being Muslim, they are biracial. Just be you, the rest of it is window dressing. It took me a while to get to a point of being comfortable with just being me. My mom promoted that growing up and I am promoting that in my children as well. I always tell them to not worry about others opinions. There is always going to be someone with a hang-up.

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What advice would you give to a mother similar to you?

Are you comfortable in your relationship? Are your happy? Don’t worry about the rest of the world. If you and your spouse are reading from the same book, don’t worry about everyone else. My family has faced some hardships because of our religion and my race. It has been both hurtful and eye opening. I always want to know how does my life affect someone else to the point of hate. Honestly, there are hateful people. You have to learn how to tune the hate out. You will go crazy listening to the worries of other people.

What would you like people to know?

I would like people to know that I’m a person. Take time to get to know people before judging them. I’m not an angry black woman. I’m not angry at all actually. I may be black, I can’t change that, but all of what you see about black women doesn’t define of us all. We are not all the same. I am a Muslim, but I’m still just a girl who fell in love with a guy and we are raising a family.

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Sunday Intentions (1/25)

As you can clearly see, it is not Sunday. Yesterday was one of those days where I found myself so tired by the end of the night that I could not even will myself to stay awake. I sat in my bed to watch a movie with my husband and next thing I knew, it was morning.

To be quite honest, I set my intentions for the week under the first full moon of the year. My cousin reminded me by showing her little set up in a text (pic below).

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As you can see from the picture, I forgot about the whole full moon intention thingamajig. My cousin is so much more into the concept of sending out into the universe what you want and then believing that the universe will conspire to make those things happen. I’m not quite there yet, but everything she has told me to do seems to be working and the proof is in how my Sunday went.

My intentions/goals were:

  1. To reconnect with my husband romantically.
  2. Continue to explore my writing by submitting articles to online magazines or blogs.
  3. To focus on my fitness and wellness.
  4. To find better ways to communicate with my children when angry.
  5. To be the friend I want others to be to me.

That’s it!

Maybe if I hadn’t forgotten, my list would be longer or deeper, but at that moment in time when I sat down to write out a list, this is what I came up with. I had spoken to my cousin and a friend about the first item on the list and I received some very good advice. My friend told me we needed some time separate from the kids, even if it was for a few hours. My cousin in all her unmarried wisdom told me to start being more romantic to my husband without the expectation of anything in return. To be honest, it took me a while to receive that one, but I got what she was saying. A few years back, me and a friend orchestrated this whole husband appreciation week where we surprised our husbands on different days with different things. We were new stay at-home moms and still in the stage of recognizing all that our husbands dealt with on a daily basis. Fast forward about 5 years later and I think that appreciation is still here, but not expressed. In a way, maybe I have begun to take him for granted. Not to say that we are arguing or not in a good place, but lately things have been feeling very “parenty”(that’s not a word, but you catch my drift) and that’s cool, but I would like to have moments where we remember why we like and love each other, separate from the kids.

So, I wrote it down on a piece of paper and you’re not going to believe what happened. Saturday night (the full moon night) I get a text from one of my favorite moms reminding me about a playdate we had sort of set-up for the next day. She has all girls, so we weren’t sure how my son was going to go for that, right? Sunday morning comes and he’s game for the playdate. We drop them off and just like that we find ourselves alone without children on a impromptu date. We just went to the mall and sat at Starbucks and talked, but boy was it nice. I got to hear him and it wasn’t about work, money, or the kids. Like, I really got to hear him and take him in. I also felt like he heard me. I didn’t have to compete with his phone and I could tell he was happy. We laughed and held hands. We did a little shopping for ourselves without anyone telling us that they were hungry. We sampled all the teas at Teavana without looking to see if anyone was breaking anything. Romance is different for different people, but that morning was a romantic time for me and it was just what we needed. You see how this universe stuff works? Crazy!

High five to the universe, but now I’m behind in my Motherhood Monday post, so I’ll get that out in a bit.

Love and light y’all.

Throwback Thursday

The following post is something that I wrote when the clouds of depression were lifting. My depression was at its worse when I was dealing with thyroid disease and the the after effects of my total thyroidectomy. Here is a peak into my brain at that time along with what I work to overcome constantly…

The clouds have come in…

An old friend has been lurking outside of my house for a few days now. I saw him peaking through the windows on Monday and I ran to close the blinds. I made a point of leaving my house with the hope that I could somehow trick him into leaving, but when I pulled out of my driveway, I saw him sitting at my front door step, as if saying that he would be there when I got back. Tuesday, I saw him again. He was knocking on my front door, a slow knock, not demanding, but a knock all the same. I rushed to play with my children. I ignored him. Wednesday, he had somehow made it inside of my house and he simply just sat on my couch as if he were waiting for me to join him. I sat with him for a moment and eased in how familiar it was to hold hands with an old friend and enemy. I got up when I noticed he was holding my hand too tight and ran to the bookstore. Surely there was something I could find at the bookstore that would help me get this dude out of my life for good. I bought a book, watched my children play, went to the store and hoped that he would be gone by the time I made it home. When I got home, he met me at the door and I ran to the phone to ignore this fool, hoping a friend would distract his impending presence in my life. I kept him at a distance and when night came, he sat across me, but refused to leave. When I got up on Thursday, he was in bed with me and I had given up chase. I allowed him to hold my hand and even get on my back briefly. My old friend was back in full force…

Me: Mr. Depression, why have you come back?

Depression: You asked for me, didn’t you?

Me: I have never asked for you. I have never wanted you as a friend. You aren’t even a friend I can depend on because you aren’t a constant. You keep showing up and then leaving.

He was silent after that exchange, but still there. By Friday, I had enough and alone in my shower I finally had a conversation that was long over due with my friend.

Me: Why are you here? I was doing so well.

Depression: You asked for me, didn’t you?

Me: NO! Leave. PLEASE.

Depression: Oh, but you want me here. You need to go numb for a while. You aren’t doing too well with all these emotions. I’ve always come to help you when reality gets too rough. You should really stop this whole healing thing. It’s not good for you.

Me: But, I need to heal. I’ve had a few rough things in my life that I need to overcome.

Depression: Oh yes, your childhood, the thyroid, and now you’re sick again. You need me here. Oh, and you must stop this yoga thing as soon as possible. Please stop reading that book too. I’m here now. You no longer have to feel.

Me: I want to feel.

Depression: Oh, really? Why haven’t you had a good cry in years? Wouldn’t that change what everyone LOVES about you? You’re so stoic and so strong. You’re reserved and funny. You tell jokes. You give good advice. How on Earth are you going to do that if you are feeling all the emotions you continue to stuff down inside of you? Oh my…how would you wear your smile?

Me: I understand that I have used you in the past to hide. We get along because when you are here I feel numb and can function, but I want to live in every moment now. I want to feel.

Depression: You still haven’t cried. You still hold back. You need me. You really don’t want me to leave. Now, clean yourself up. Put on your happy face and go to this play date with your children. All the moms will love you. You’re so charismatic. You’re so funny. Wait, maybe you shouldn’t go. Let’s get reacquainted for a few days and then you can go knock their socks off.

Me: I can cry. I can feel.

Depression: Oh, but you can’t. You poor thing. You need me.

Me: (Sobbing) LEAVE! You are no longer needed! I will heal without you. I am allowing myself not to be perfect. LEAVE NOW!

Depression: That Zen Master shit has really got you going. You think a little breathing and listening is going to help you. You haven’t got a clue how hard it is to find your center, especially for someone like you, but, I will leave…for now.

As I pull out of my driveway to go to a play date with my children, I don’t see my old friend. I feel as if I have won, but cry the whole way to the play date. As I get out of the car, I see him and I walk right pass him. I know I am not the same person while talking to these women. I am more interested in seeing my children play. I am less comfortable with conversation and more comfortable in watching my son make a friend. My heart smiles. I am the quiet weirdo, but for once I live in the moment. Every step is intentional. Every laugh and smile felt genuinely. Driving home, I remember every light and turn. I can feel that I am coming back to being conscious. I don’t want to live on auto-pilot any more. He, my old friend (Depression) is waiting for me at the door.

Me: Goodbye

Depression: I’ll be here when you need me, but I’m not leaving just yet. I won’t come in, but I will be close. Good luck my dear because you’re going to need it.

Perception is Reality

Do you ever pay attention to how people perceive you? I usually don’t care, but talking to my brother in-law made me do a bit of inventory on myself. My brother in-law came to visit for about a week, which is always awesome. He lives in England. He travels quite often and is just a super down to earth person. In fact, I’ve stolen him from my husband. He’s actually more of a brother than a brother in law. I enjoy talking to him because his perception of this place we call America is very different, even from what I think is progressive. You can just imagine what he has to say about Donald Trump and all the support he’s getting, but for the most part, he views America as a nice place to live. Our racism is quite different than racism in England, which includes roadblocks to excel. At least in America, you can find or make a way.

Although I believe that opportunity in America is different for different people; I would have to agree that this place can be what you make it. Our conversations on race, politics, relationships, and many other things were enlightening, but what stood out to me was his perception of me. It was an ever so slight comment. He, my husband and myself were looking for movies to watch and he commented that I would like a certain movie because it was an African American movie about Selma, AL. Of course, jokingly I asked him why would I like THAT movie and without missing a beat, he told me because I was pro-black.

Pro-Black? I’ve heard that before in many different ways. I was told once that I had an immense amount of pride for my race because I knew so much history. I was told once that it was unbelievable that I had dated outside my race because I seem to have so much pride in my own. (As if Black people in interracial marriages don’t have pride) I know my brother in-law did not make the comment in a negative way, but it made me think about what am I putting out into the universe that leads people to come to this conclusion about me.

I’ve faced some pretty ignorant people and maintained my smile, but the fact still remains that I come off as the Black girl with an Afro, wearing a daishiki while pumping my black fist in the air. Would it be better to ignore who I am or be ignorant of African American history for people to see me simply as Andrea?

I’m just Andrea. I’m a bunch of contradictions rolled into one human being. I’m a self-loving yogini who just had a tummy tuck. If that’s not a contradictions, I don’t know what is…

Anyway, if this would have happened with anybody besides my brother in-law, I doubt I would be writing about it. I think my brother in-law may be right about me and the real issue is that I am afraid that people will view my pride or pro-blackness as hate for another group. I don’t want people to perceive me that way, so the real issue is me. I need to find comfort in how I think and even how I may be judged. I have to learn to be comfortable with who I am. I grew up in a community that made a point of celebrating our culture and it had a lasting effect on me. My children do not and will not have that. There is no black history month in this city. My children learn about presidents who owned slaves during the month February. The only Black figure they will ever learn about in their school will be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Personally, I don’t think that’s right for black, white, Asian, Native, or Hispanic children. So, as a parent, it is my responsibility to instill in them the same things I had. I guess I just have to accept that I’m that girl with the fro, wearing the daishiki and keep it moving.

Love and light y’all

Motherhood Mondays (A Conversation with Bridgette)

My goal for “Motherhood Mondays” is to present different views of motherhood. The idea or concept of a “good mother” usually fits one mold and we all know that is not the case. Motherhood looks different to different women and if our voices are not heard or if we box women in to certain roles, we fail at building a community of support for one another. When reading this particular blog, I encourage you to turn off your judgement and open your heart and mind.

Religion, bias, or simple ignorance keeps people away from truly getting to know the heart and soul of those that are different from them. Today’s interview is with Bridgette. She is a writer, United States Army veteran of numerous tours, lover of the arts, committed partner, and mother. She is also a lesbian. She and her partner have a blended family of 5 very successful children. I must also point out that she is someone my husband considers a mentor. He credits her leadership with the success of his military career. Here are her words…

What is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the fact that you have this innocent person who has trust in you. It is unbelievable the trust that children have. People often speak about unconditional love, but I think it is the unconditional trust that is most fascinating about children. They come here and it is your job to guide them and have their best interest. They start out so innocent and it’s my job as a mother to preserve that innocence.

When I think about my own children and even the Soldiers I mentored, the best part about being a mom is seeing this person become a productive member of society. It is nice to see them become successful and live their lives in a positive way.

Can you describe the feeling that you felt after having your daughter?

When I had my daughter, I was 19 years old. I had been in the military for just two years. I was scared. There are no true handbooks for children and each child’s needs are different. I was very scared, but I was up for the challenge. I knew that it was my job to give her the best life.

I know that you are a veteran of the United States Army. How difficult was it to balance being a mother while in the military?

It was difficult to balance. My initial thought was to get out. My mom sat me down one day and told me that I needed to have a solid foundation for my daughter. She encouraged me to stay in. When my daughter was 2 months old, I was shipped out to Korea. My parents took care of her for me. It was a struggle because I missed her tremendously. I struggled with a number of conflicting feelings. I dealt with a lot of guilt during that time.

When I came back, she was 14 months old. She didn’t know me at all. It crushed me that she forgot about me. I worked to rebuild our relationship and when we reconnected we were inseparable. Even though I was back and rebuilt that relationship, I still struggled with the guilt of taking her away from my parents.

I could not have done it without the support of my family. My parents and my sister they were there for me.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a lesbian mother?

I think the biggest misconception is that you’re going to raise a gay child. I always made a point to be careful of what I did in front of my daughter. When she was in grade school, we sat down and talked about what gay meant. She told me that she knew what it was and did not want to be gay. It was important for me to tell her that she did not have to be like me. I told her that she needed to be herself and build her own legacy. As parents, we need to teach our children to be better than us and that involves all facets of who they are.

What struggles do you face as a mother?

Of course one of the struggles was the military, but also society’s perception of who I am. The perception of me being a tomboy lesbian. There is always that judgment that I’m trying to be a man. I’m not trying to be a man. I know and like that I am a woman. People look at me and make assumptions about me. They don’t know my story. I’m just trying to be me. I grew up with just my father and brothers until I was 13 years old. My father didn’t get married until I was 13. I grew up with boys. I wore boy clothes. That is how I feel comfortable. I’m raising young men. I am not a man, so I cannot teach them how to be men, but as a woman I can tell them what is expected from a woman.

Society as a whole thinks that same sex partnership is not good for bringing up children. People think we are going to change children. The reality is that you never look at the news or hear about our children committing crimes or being unproductive.

How do you feel about the woman that came into your life at the age of 13.

She is the mother that raised me. She loved me even though I gave her hell. She never held it against me. She loved 5 kids that were not her own. It was not easy for her. When we got punished, she always showed an immense amount of grace to us. We did not have to relive our faults over and over again. She is the greatest woman. She is such a lady. I let her know all of the time that I appreciate everything she did for me. She is a part of the reason I fell in love with the arts. I was a part of the orchestra. She taught us that there was more to the world than just being black. We were exposed to a lot of different things. Exposure, let’s you know that there is something more to the world than what you are surrounded by. I love her.

Do you model your parenting style after you mother?

Yes, I do. I also bring the military into it. I’m very strict and hands on. I’m Vice President of the PTA and my partner is the President. It’s important to me that my children are educated and doing the right things. All of our children are on the honor roll and we have one that will be graduating early. We make a point to be a team, especially since we are a blended family.

How did you meet your partner?

My best friend kept telling me to go this church and at the time I had been completely turned off by the church. I had some very bad experiences when I was struggling with my sexuality. Anyway, I went to the church and really enjoyed myself. While I was there, I saw my girlfriend. She was sitting in front of me and my friend invited her to a New Years party she was throwing that same day. She, my girlfriend agreed to come and she took my number. I’m a really shy person, so I didn’t want to call or text. When I finally decided to contact her, she was calling me. (Laughs) We began to talk and she came to the party. We’ve been together ever since.

Do you think it is harder being a black lesbian mother as opposed to another race?

I think it can be. We have the power to not make it so hard. It depends on how we present ourselves. I think we have the power to make things better for ourselves. We do have to prove ourselves more. We have to break the stereotypes that exist for us. We can’t be afraid to show our intelligence. Being a lesbian can create more prejudice. People make the assumption that homosexuality involves promiscuity, which is insulting. I’ve learned that you just have to have thick skin. You have to be very secure.

It is harder being black, especially when it comes to our boys. They are seen as animals and criminals. We see what they are going through, but we don’t know exactly what they feel because we are not men. I tell my sons to never give them a reason to bother you or profile you. As a black mother it is difficult to raise boys.

What advice would you give a young lesbian mother?

My advice to any mother would be to approach your children as human beings and not objects. You have to understand that your child isn’t a toy. They have emotions just like you do. Always keep their emotions in mind. You have to teach your children at a young age to communicate. Let them know that they have a voice. Let them express how they feel while setting boundaries. Children aren’t your property. When you teach a child that they aren’t an object, it gives them self worth. If you do not allow them to express their emotions, then you’re conditioning them to keep it in. They become emotionally closed off. When it comes to boys, they are taught not to cry, don’t teach them that. A real man can cry. It is okay to feel. Feeling emotions is being human. Whether man or woman, you are a human being.

As a parent, you have to be humble. You have to be able to apologize.

Bridgette and I spoke for a very long time and everything cannot be included in this post, but there is something that stood out to me. When we spoke about her journey to acceptance, she let this jewel out that I believe applies to us all. She said,

“You cannot shine if you don’t know who you are. I could not be something that I wasn’t. I decided that I was going to love me and live in my moment”

Love and light y’all.