The boy

Oh my…it feels so good to be sitting in front of this computer and typing. I’ve been taking a little time to be alone with my thoughts, figuring out what has been going on with me. I get into these little moments when I get quiet because the things that are on my mind are jumbled, almost like being in a thick fog. I have thyroid disease, so what I’m talking about isn’t brain fog per se, but a fog where so many tabs are opened that if I sat down to write, nothing would make much sense. It’s hard enough speaking with friends and trying to stay on track, let alone writing, which leads me to what is on my heart this evening.

I have these two beautiful children. A son and a daughter who are so different. One seems quite easy. She does everything correctly. She is respectful, kind, a good student, a motivated learner, funny, just a bright light and then there is the boy. The boy. The boy. The boy could care less about grades or being liked. He speaks to those he wants and sometimes downright rude. For awhile, I thought I had done something wrong in my pregnancy or something wrong in the earlier days to make him the way he is. The first few days of Kindergarten included a few notes home that led us to take him to see a psychologist. I knew the psychologist would tell us he was autistic or maybe ADHD, but instead she told us he was gifted. I was in the room during the evaluation and I saw something in “the boy” that I didn’t want to admit, but I can’t run from any longer. This little boy who was a surprise to our family is just like me.

It’s quite sobering when you figure out that the “difficult one” is you, but not you, because you are not your parents. When I was a child, I was quirky, but those little quirks were beat out of me. I wasn’t allowed to run around in circles like my son does to quiet my mind. Social cues were quickly learned by mirroring other people because family thought I was disrespectful and rude, which called for another beating. I was never really interested in school, but good grades kept the beatings away and made people leave me alone, so I followed suit. Also, school was never a challenge, so it was easy to just get along. All I ever wanted was to be left alone. I don’t remember being very happy. I had moments of happiness, but I also remember escaping to my brain a lot and being thankful for loneliness.

Now, I am raising me.When I let go of the fear of what others thought of him being a reflection of me, I saw myself in him. I saw how his brain opens too many tabs and needs a moment. I saw the anxiety. I saw the vibe feeler. I saw his genuine spirit. I saw his generosity. I saw his kindness. I saw his strength. I saw his humor. I saw his loving heart. I really saw him and I really had a chance to see me. I always use to wonder what life would be like if I grew up in another home and looking at my little boy, I can see that I would not have been so lonely. He attaches himself to the people who live within these walls and lets us know his innermost feelings, thoughts, and dreams. He is unashamed of who he is and he knows he’s different.

I believe that we all have the chance to learn so much about ourselves through our children. I’ve come to this place by raising this unique being of accepting people exactly where they are. I’ve been able to be so much more compassionate to other kids and other parents. I’ve learned to apologize without guilt to parents who don’t quite get my little boy and not see his behavior as some sort of failure on my part. I’ve learned to accept me where I am and that my parenting is about me, not about what perfect little beings I send out into society. I am learning to love me just the way I am while still being frustrated with me just the way I am. Oh…life sends you some funny shit, but one only lives if he or she takes the shit and makes something beautiful out of it. I’m choosing grace, compassion and love for my boy and for me…that’s a beautiful thing.

Love and light y’all

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Lessons from my Father

I needed a little break from writing. My energy has been so off lately. Not sure if it was the new moon or bad vibes, but I haven’t been in a good space.  I think I was a bit off because I’ve been doing this whole adult thing. Oh my word, no one tells you it’s going to be so hard.

Last week wasn’t a total bust though. I think it was Wednesday, but I’m not sure, I found myself calling my father. Funny how the universe works sometimes. He was happy to hear my voice and actually let me talk. I didn’t realize how much I had pushed down inside of me until I began to cry. I told my dad about the incident at the school with my daughter. I thought he would…well, I don’t know exactly what I thought he would do or say, but I didn’t expect the reaction I got. After I was done, he commented on how racism is a part of education and was a part of his education. He let me know that he intentionally sacrificed to send me to the school I went to because he didn’t want me to receive the same education. He then said something so eloquent that I think about it daily now. He said:

When I was in school, I had no images of myself. No history of myself. I was invisible, which is racist within itself. In a sense, it teaches you that you’re not a part of the story. You’re not human. You’re something else. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I hit my children. Spankings, hitting your children, is like stripping them of their humanity too. When you violate someones personal space or their person, you’re taking their humanity away. When you can look at someone as not human, then you can mistreat them. When a person believes they are not worthy of being treated like a human being, then they are lost, broken, without value. It’s quite easy to send that kid to prison or treat them sub-par because they aren’t human to you. People treat us that way and then because we’ve internalized that treatment, we turn around and treat our own children that way…then the cycle continues. The blessing is that you let Olivia know she is of value. You don’t strip her of her humanity. No matter what, she comes from a home of love. No one can break her because you all are there to build her up. Stay the course. You and your husband are doing an excellent job. She is in good hands.

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Apologies come in all shapes and sizes, but in my heart, this was an apology from my father. He admitted he was wrong for hitting me and that is worth more than I think he or anyone else will ever know. He also complimented my parenting style, which was pretty freaking awesome! We look back on our lives and wonder why certain things happen. We question why and then it all comes full circle.

So…for every person in my family who came before me, my ancestors who felt that they were less than human, those who were stripped of their humanity, beaten, bruised, and abused, it ends with me.

One of my favorite authors, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, that just like genes carry from one generation to the next, so does hurt and spiritual pain. When one can heal from his or her past hurt they can also heal those that came before them. It made sense to me then and it makes even more sense to me now. What an awesome gift to give my children and grandchildren. I have my dad to thank for reminding me.

Love and light y’all.

 

 

Racism aside, everything is going well

I’ve decided to let last week go. Anger is a terrible thing, especially when you volunteer in the class of the little kid who just hurt your child. You can’t trip him. You can’t give him dirty looks. All you can do is be an adult and sometimes being an adult sucks; however, time waits for no one, so an adult I must be.

It wasn’t that hard going in there today. I realize the teachers are doing the best that they can. My daughter was hurt, but she is moving right along and I am incredibly proud of her. The young boy with the not so kind words smiled at me today and although I got nauseous, I realized that he too probably learned something in all of this. He did write, well he typed, or maybe his parents typed a lovely letter of apology. We thought it best to keep it away from our daughter, but she saw it yesterday and she too thought it was complete bullshit. There was a line in the typed apology that was to the effect of, “after watching (insert black movie of struggle) I learned what I said was hurtful”. My daughter said, “mommy, why didn’t he know that was hurtful before watching the movie?”. I couldn’t answer that, but all we can hope is that he learned something and now we must let it go.

I read an article today about parents teaching their children to be “colorblind” and it said that when race or culture of others isn’t discussed then children form opinions based on what they see in video games, television, or surroundings. In essence, a family that doesn’t consider itself racist could have a child with racist views simply because the family chose to ignore race, deeming it a non-factor. I found the article quite interesting and more than likely true. We are at a stage in society where children are basically being raised by tablets and television, while parents bury their heads into cell phones. It’s quite possible we, as parents, have no idea what we are raising because we aren’t truly raising our children.

On another note, I got a call from a dear friend on Friday about his little one. Our children are in the same grade, but go to schools of opposite demographics. Last week, I thought I would give anything to be in his shoes, but as we got to talking, my opinion changed. He had just left the school’s morning assembly where the Principal made comments in reference to the day being the day Trayvon Martin was assassinated and references to the young men at the school having the same fate. It was a bit shocking to me because that would never happen at an assembly here and I got why my friend was upset. We both felt that it was an issue that should have been discussed at home by parents in the context that they saw fit. He went on to tell me of other occasions where this Principal made other comments that just weren’t appropriate and although they may have been in reference to issues that deal with African Americans, the issues were much too complex to be said at such a short assembly with no follow through.

After our conversation, it dawned on me that this parenting is hard. It doesn’t matter what zip code or demographic, it’s just plain hard. We try our best to shield them, but at some point we let them go out into the world and it is hard to accept that people will hurt them or even influence them negatively. No one tells you this when you’re buying the bassinet you’ll never use. Any who, all we can do is try our best and hope our children don’t talk too bad about us in therapy.

Love and light y’all.

Valentine’s Day

I’m not a Valentine’s Day type of girl. Well, I use to be, but then I realized all of the holidays were corporate holidays and decided that I wasn’t down with that. Like, I don’t want anyone telling me when I should celebrate my love because they want to make a profit. I appreciate the economy being stimulated, but don’t like the guilt that comes along with it.

Now that I have established that I am anti-Valentine, I love that my husband remembered. I’m such a hypocrite. He returned home yesterday after being away for about a week, which explains why I haven’t been writing. He came home with gifts for the kids and a special one for me too. The kids and I were happy to simply have him home. The gifts were like a bonus to an already special occasion and it was kind of nice that everything happened so close to Valentine’s Day.

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Going to pick-up daddy from the airport

All of this led me to think about what love really means. Of course I adore my husband. He’s the best partner I’ve ever had. I love the way he parents. I love the way he looks at me. I love that he has been attracted to me in my different sizes and moods. I love that he’s loved me when I was sick and healthy. I especially love that he’s put up with all my different dietary changes and the fact that I wear a fanny pack when I run. Even though I love him and love how he loves me, today I could not stop thinking of the moments in time where I truly felt loved.

There is a person in my life that has loved me like no other. She has held my hand and been a shoulder for me. She knows my secrets and she knows my heart. She loves my children as they are her own and she gently tells me when I’m wrong. I was born seven years before her and most of our time on Earth has been spent as me being the teacher, but recently, I have become the student. A willing student because I know she would never steer me in the wrong direction. I know she loves me no matter what and I hope she knows that I love her no matter what. My cousin, I know you never read these blogs, but if by chance you do one day, just know that I love you with everything I have inside of me. You are the best thing that has ever happened to my life. I appreciate you. I am honored to know you.

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Me and my cousin (side note, my hair is growing)

I only have a few real friends. The people I consider as friends are not the ones I talk to every single day (although one of them I do talk to almost everyday) and all of them have come into my life at very important times. If it wasn’t for the love and friendship I have been shown, I doubt I would be here living the life I live. I know what it feels like to be loved by strangers, who then welcome you into their hearts as family.

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Sitting here in my pajamas on a night where most people expect champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, I can only cry tears of real joy for the love I have been shown. From my mother and even my father, my husband, my children, my family, and my friends, I have been blessed with love.

 

Take a moment to acknowledge those who have been good to you and in return, try to put that out into the universe to others. I learned a few years ago that I only recognized the love that I put out into the world and everything else felt odd or extra. Not until I was able to love without fear was I able to receive what was always there. Love yourself and love will come to you in so many ways. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love and light y’all.

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.

 

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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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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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 Grandma)

In an effort to write more, I am going to attempt to start a series on my blog called “Motherhood Mondays”. It is my wish to have open and honest conversations with different types of mothers and write about that dialogue on this forum.

My first guest for “Motherhood Mondays” is my grandmother. My grandmother’s name is Rose. She was born in 1927 in New Orleans, LA. A number of the views that will be discussed in this blog reflect the times in which she was born and raised. If you follow this blog, then you know how dear my grandmother is to me. When I was about 13 years old, I went to go live with her. She saved me by letting me live in her home and keeping the person I was getting away from out of my life. Too many families turn a blind eye to abuse, but she did not and for that, I am a better person. I thought who better to start off this whole Motherhood Mondays with than my very own grandmother…here are her words:

What is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is watching your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren achieve the things they want. I like to see children going to school and learning new things. I like to see them go after their goals. There has always been this strain of giftedness in our family, but we have a problem with execution. Learning has never been a problem for the majority of our family, so I get happy when I see that giftedness manifest from generation to generation.

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What was your mother like?

My mother was the kind of person who did not think anyone was bad. Because she was so nice, people took advantage of her. She was friendly. She would do anything she could for you and she was mugged numerous times because of her personality. She didn’t have a good relationship with my daddy. He was a minister and had a mean streak. I had to watch out for her. She was protective of us, so we, my sisters and I, were protective of her. She was a strong women. She beat cancer, but she was too nice.

Growing up, did you want to be like your mother?

I am my mother in my later years. I realize, now, that people are not who they think they are. I am her.

What was your proudest moment?

I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade because I was the oldest and had to work to help my family. I went to work in a cafeteria and thought that was the end of that. When your grandfather and I moved to California, we opened up the little store and then the grocery store, which should have been my proudest moment, but it wasn’t. I went back to school at 55 and finished high school and then got my degree in nursing. School was always easy. I just needed the chance to finish and I did. I also appreciate my longevity of life and that I am of sound mind and body. I’m still independent.

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Did you have to deal with racism growing up or as an adult?

Of course! (laughs) It wasn’t like the stories you hear about being attacked. I was never chased or beat up. In those times, you knew what you could do or should do and that is what you did. I use to hear my father saying, ‘yes sir’ to those men while they called him by his first name, or nothing at all, and I would be so mad that my father was like that. I didn’t realize until he was dead and gone that he was playing them while they thought he was being subservient to them. He was protecting us. He had to do that in order to work or for our family to have things.

The thing about racism in the south is that you got to know these people and you got to doing what they thought you should do. When you act that way, you leave a legacy for your children. We went thru a lot. My parents and my grandparents took a lot, but they left the perception of respect and then the white people would leave you the hell alone. In a sense racism is whatever you make it. We always had a house. Racism instilled in you the things you wanted to achieve.

Wait, what grandma?

Yes, racism made you want to do better, at least in the south. When I moved to California, I could not believe what black people put up with compared to us in New Orleans. I grew up seeing black professionals, educators, and business owners. In the south, you knew that those people worked hard because it was twice as hard to get anything; however the black people in California had this false perception of freedom. When I would go to the hospital, all the service workers were black and the professionals were white. The neighborhoods that black people lived in were horrible. The schools were not much better either. Black people did not have to sit on the back of the bus, but they were being held back in ways that they we were not held back in the south. Racism made us work harder and look out for one another. I never much cared for going around people who did not want me around. These people fought to have everything integrated, even schools. Why would people fight for integration in schools? Our schools had teachers who cared, genuinely. Just because you send your children to school with white children does not mean their education will be better. In fact, their education may be worse because they are dealing with teachers who dislike them and want to see them fail. Back then, you knew who did not like you and now you do not have a clue.

What do you think the biggest misconception about Black women is?

The biggest misconception about Black women is that they do not take time with their children because they do not care. The truth is that they are too tired. I watched a young lady one morning on the bus stop with her child and the sun was not even up. This girl has to get up and take her children to the daycare on the bus, get back on the bus and go to work, get back on the bus to pick up her child, and then go home and do it all over again. By the time, she gets home she is too tired, worse if she is uneducated because she has been working on her feet. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they do not have any help. These women can only do the basic.

So, is that just a single mom issue?

Oh no…your generation is one that is starting to have active fathers, but all of the house and children duties typically fall on the women, even if she is married. I worked close to home and took less pay to make sure I could be a mother. I wanted to be there to drop off my children and pick them up. I wanted to teach them. I could not have done that if I had made different choices. Everyone cannot take less pay. I was married, but I was still tired and took on most of the responsibility when it came to the home and children. Your grandfather helped me, but most of it rested on my shoulders.

That’s the thing about dealing with black men, especially during my time. You have to deal with this black man being a man…anything untraditional to a male role, he feels slighted. Things go from one extreme to another. He gets it so hard from the outside world that you have to let him or give him the perception that he is in the lead. You have to learn how to balance. I had to learn to swallow my pain in order for him to be the man. I did not hear until 30 minutes before he took his last breath that he appreciated me. I had done everything I could for my family.

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Last question. If you could offer one piece of relationship advice, what would it be?

You have to be a team. Each person has to have a defined role. You have to be able to have a certain amount of respect for your husband as a man. You have to feel like a woman and not like a babysitter. Men need to be comfortable being the leader and know exactly what that entails for his family. Women need to let men learn and not try to take care of everything. Even when things get bad, don’t jump in and try to figure it out for the family or him. He will figure it out and be a better man for it. If men aren’t allowed to figure it out, then there will always be resentment and when that creeps in, everything goes wrong. Every family is different, so traditional roles may not work, but roles need to be defined. Everyone needs to play a part.

I always tell you that you’re blessed because you’re the first woman in our family who has had the chance to be a mother. You have been able to raise your children without outside influence. You know your children. It is a sacrifice, but your husband is better for it and so is your family. He does things your grandfather would have never done and you have to honor that.

Any last words?

My life was no bed of roses. Life is what you make it. If you don’t like the way it is going, change it.

Love and light y’all.

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My reality

I initially wanted to use Thursday’s to blog about the terrible reality shows I watch, but I’m not.  I may do it in the future, but today I want to write about my reality.

In previous posts, I have discussed my relationship with my father.  A quick recap is that he was a very active in my life, but he was also abusive to me and my mother.  I left his house the day after my junior high school graduation because he threatened to beat me with the buckle of his belt because I refused to wear a hijab (Muslim head covering). After I left, the relationship was strained, but we still communicated and saw each other quite often.  I kind of compare myself to someone with Stockholm syndrome in that I never realized how bad it was until I ended up in Iraq.  I recognized as a child how bad he was to my mother, but I always thought what he did to me was something I deserved.  I knew my mother didn’t deserve to have a bloody nose or mouth and surely I didn’t deserve to live in a house where I had to fall asleep to her cries, but at that point in my life it was all that I knew.

When I moved to Florida to be with my husband, he mentioned to me that he thought the relationship with my father was unhealthy.  I agreed, but had been raised that it was a sin to cut off ties with family.  One year, my father came to visit our family.  My husband didn’t want it to happen, but we both agreed that he was family and it would be nice for my daughter to meet him.  The visit was not the best and after leaving our home, he told people that we were struggling.  We were rationing water and air.  He told people that I wouldn’t be married long because I didn’t cook and that it was obvious that our home had no love.  It hurt to hear those things, especially since it wasn’t true, but I was not surprised.  The last straw for my husband came when he gave my cousin my husband’s personal information in which she used as a personal reference in a criminal case.  As I have stated before, my husband is in the military and we live off of his income alone, so to threaten his character or even his security clearance angered the both of us to the point of no return.

I continued to talk to my father, although it was more like listening.  I didn’t stop talking to him until I went to see a therapist and showed him my call log along with some of the messages that my father left me and he made a very strong suggestion that I no longer speak to my father.  The most amazing thing that happened when I took that route was that I felt really happy.  I felt like a weight had been lifted.  I was no longer irritated and in the long run, my communication and perception of my husband changed.  I often used my father as a point of reference in my marriage when my husband had never shown any sign of being like my father.  It’s amazing what can happen when you get rid of toxic people in your life.  Unfortunately, the toxicity came from a man that played a part in me being here.

So…why am I typing all of this tonight.  Well, I blocked my father off of my cell phone, but I can still listen to the voicemail messages that he leaves.  I decided to just delete them without listening, but tonight I listened to them and it confirmed to me that what I am doing is right.  There were about 10 message in a 6 day period.  One in particular stood out to me. He left a message saying that he saw me in traffic and that I seemed to look bigger.  The was the first lie because the last time he saw me I was about 40 pounds heavier and I live 90 miles away from.  It gets better.  Not only did he see me in traffic, but he also saw me in a car with another man and my children were not in the car.  He then proceeded to say that it was obvious that I was in a loveless marriage and I was cheating on my husband.  Wow!  Now, I’m a cheater and I’m in a loveless marriage.  He left a message right after that one saying that he understood why I cheated because I couldn’t be with a weak person and my husband was weak.  The last message was him saying that he thru up blood and needed help getting to the hospital.

It’s funny, because sometimes I feel guilty for not speaking to him.  It is unnatural to no longer have contact with a living parent.  During my last therapy session, I told the therapist that I felt cheated.  I had an awesome relationship with my grandfather and my children will never have that.  I use to romanticize the very small normal moments I had with my father.  I wanted a daddy daughter relationship and I still have this hope that he will change, but I kind of know he won’t.

It sucks.  It really sucks, but the moral of the story is to let the negativity go, even if it is a parent.  I think that toxic relationships need to be destroyed especially if it is a parent because the hurt is so much more deep. I can’t help loving him because he is my father, but his presence only destroys my spirit. Loving him from a distance is the only way that I don’t allow him to control my life and how I act or react to things.  I had a habit of relaying my past to present situations and making decisions based on my past.  Leaving my father alone has allowed me to live in the present. Because my father is such a negative fixture of my past and has not changed, speaking to him and having a relationship with him kept me living in the past. I know that he will now go to family members and members of his community and tell them that I am now cheating on my husband.  I don’t doubt it.  I know that if I continued a relationship with him my health, my sanity, and my marriage would suffer.  I also know that I need to change my number.  That is my reality. I have learned through all of this that I have control to create a positive life and positive surroundings. Unfortunately, a life without the drama does not include my father, but I owe it to myself and my children to live the best life ever.  I also owe it to this man who loved me through it all.

Good night, Love and Light